Filler

Yes, this is filler, mostly.

I bought some clothes yesterday. I haven’t bought clothes in years! Most of what I have is either very old, and/or bought by others as gifts, and/or given to me (new) because it didn’t fit its intended recipient. I’ve been able to make it for years with this limited wardrobe, but recently it’s become unsustainable. With the end of Winter, but not yet the beginning of Summer, I was down to two pairs of pants. At the same time, I developed a hole in the sleeve of one of my black turtlenecks, and in the sleeve of my black, button shirt. (What do you call those? A shirt with buttons.) I’m down to wearing t-shirts to work, which I don’t really like to do, even though the ones I wear are decent enough, but I just couldn’t keep alternating between the same two pairs of pants every day. So I bit the bullet, took my wife’s advice, and put the purchase on the credit card. (I don’t like using the card because it’s high and I’m trying to pay it off.)

I went to a store somewhat near where I live. I’m not mentioning the name because: 1) it’s not important; and 2) Quilas doesn’t advertise! This store has a permanent Sale section, so I knew there was a good chance I’d find something less than the original price, if not downright cheap. When I got there, I saw they were having a 40%-off sale on nearly everything. Getting to the point, I bought two pairs of pants and three shirts. I figured I could make it on four pairs of pants for now; when Summer gets here, it’ll be five.

Now I get to the purpose of this piece. When I got to the register, the total, non-sale price was $236. When I asked the woman if I got a further discount for using the credit card of another store owned by the same company (that’s probably a give-away!) she said No, but if I opened an account there, I would get an additional 30% off. Well, sign me up, I said! When she checked, she found it was only 15%, but I wasn’t going to say no to 15%. That brought my total down to $135 (I bought some socks too, which were not on sale).

But wait, there’s more! For spending over $150 (the pre-store-card amount), I received store credit of $75! Unfortunately, I couldn’t apply it to that purchase — I have to wait until mid-May to use it. I also got a 10%-off coupon that I can use any time in the next 60 days.

So, here’s my plan: I go into the store in mid-May, go to the Sale section, where 20% discounts are not uncommon, get $104 worth of stuff, minus 20%, minus 10% equals $75, making the total savings $205 — a 60% discount! You can’t beat that with a stick.

Show me a “mom-and-pop” store that can do that!

***

The only drawback is that I now have a new bill. Putting the purchase on my regular credit card would not have affected my monthly payment, since I would have just paid the elevated amount due, as usual. Now I will have an additional bill of $135. As luck would have it, I recently reduced my bi-monthly expenses by that very amount, so there will be no difference in the pittance I have left after paying bills, but I was hoping to have that extra money to fix the Wii, which has needed repairing for as long as I’ve needed clothes.

Hyper-Gentrification

There is an anonymous blogger who goes by the name of Jeremiah Moss. His blog is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.

I’m not a regular reader of this blog. The first time I read it, he was lamenting a pawn shop on 23rd Street(?) closing. I commented to the effect that pawn shops, along with check-cashing places, were scourges of poor neighborhoods, but he didn’t approve it.

It’s mainly a nostalgia blog. I put it in the realm of the sites I’ve commented on, tirelessly advocating the position of the small business owners of the city.

He recently got a bit of extra notoriety for a piece he wrote on “hyper gentrification”. To his credit, he claims to take the position of Neil Smith. Unfortunately, he represents Smith poorly. For Neil Smith, gentrification was a class issue. Gentrification occurs when a working class neighborhood is turned into a non-working-class neighborhood. Once the area in question is no longer working class, gentrification stops. The job is finished. There are no “levels” of gentrification. There is no such thing as “hyper gentrification”.

To try to define gentrification as a steady process of “upscaling”, as a commenter here once commented, is to remove the class nature from it. By this definition, gentrification occurs any time land is capitalized. When the conversion of a working class neighborhood is seen as the same thing as a $10,000,000 penthouse being raised to $50,000,000, then it becomes synonymous with change itself. This is the position of the real estate industry.

This puts Moss squarely on the same side as Spike Lee, despite his claim to differ. Spike Lee does not think that he was a gentrifier, because he’s Black. For Lee, gentrification is a racial issue that started when the first gentrifiers found themselves priced out of their neighborhoods. It’s the same for Moss.

Nowhere in Moss’s piece do you find the word “worker”, or “working”, or “class”, or “Volume 3″. For Moss, and so many like him, gentrification is bad because it affects small business owners and their “buy local” customers, not workers.

To his partial credit, he writes:

I want to make one thing clear: Gentrification is over. It’s gone. And it’s been gone since the dawn of the twenty-first century. Gentrification itself has been gentrified, pushed out of the city and vanished. I don’t even like to call it gentrification, a word that obscures the truth of our current reality. I call it hyper-gentrification.

Gentrification is not over. Gentrification is not a one-time event. It’s over in some neighborhoods, but it’s still going on in others. There are slums in India that are being gentrified, due to their proximity to wealthier areas. The favelas of Brazil are also being eyed by real estate interests there. And cities like Detroit and Cleveland are already in the sights of developers, waiting for circumstances to change in their favor.

I’m not saying that there’s no reason to track the increases in wealth inequality, just that the problem doesn’t start when the first round of gentrifying small business owners are affected.

Robert Ashley, 1930–2014

He works with forwardness, and backwardness. He works with what things are ahead of us, and with what things are behind us. I guess the other kind would be… to work with things that are along side us.

Yesterday (March 4), I learned from WFMU’s tweet that Robert Ashley died.
(The link in the tweet is to Peter Greenaway’s documentary on Ubuweb,
“4 American Composers”, that includes a segment on Ashley.)

I first came to know Robert Ashley (’s music) through my then-girlfriend, back in the mid-1980s. She had a Master’s degree from UW-Madison in Piano Technology. I mention the degree only because, for her recital, she was permitted to play a prepared piano, “like John Cage and Robert Ashley”. She had a cassette tape of her favorite pieces from Ashley’s “Private Lives” that I listened to often.

Eventually, I no longer had access to that tape. Time passed, and one day in the early 90s I decided to buy the opera on CD. Quite by coincidence, it was in 1991 that it was first made available on CD! (I must have sensed it.) I went to J&R Music, and when I couldn’t find it, I asked the sales guy if they had it.

“Oh, that’s Lovely Music,” he said.

“Whatever you might think of it, it’s not lovely,” I thought to myself. I didn’t know that Lovely Music was the publisher!

They didn’t have it, but he was able to give me the address of Lovely Music’s office, which was not too far away, on West Broadway. I walked over there and bought a copy from them.

I never get tired of listening to this. Every now and then it goes back into rotation. This is one of those CDs I still quote from. I even use it on my Flickr profile page:

robert-ashley-flickr-quote

***

Robert Ashley was probably the first of the contemporary classical composers that I became familiar with. And as much as I liked “Einstein on the Beach” or “Music for 18 Musicians” or “Dolmen Music”, “Perfect Lives” resonated with me in a way the others didn’t, quite possibly because: 1) it has lyrics; and 2) it tells a story; and 3) sometimes it’s laugh-out-loud funny.

In the preface to the libretto, Melody Sumner writes:

robert-ashley-libretto-quote

There is an absoluteness to surprise, he thinks. He applies this simple thought to the problem of how to move the shot. Incredibly slowly our view begins to slide, but “begins” is a problem. We are enchanted by the park and all its details: timeless, broken on the right edge by the body of the person, very close blur, moving rhythmically. How can it begin to change? How can the beginning go unnoticed? How can we pass from one state to another? Is it possible, if one already has a certain experience of life, to start directly on the path, or is there danger involved in trying to do advanced practices without having the proper foundation? And they came to believe that, unless one has actually gone through the preliminary experiences, conclusions may be drawn on the basis of insufficient information, and that these conclusions may produce just the opposite effect of the one which is intended.

In other words: one never knows.

I do this. It’s probably a Midwestern thing.

***

You had to know I would include a video clip at the end of this! I thought about putting the last movement, which is my favorite, but I decided against it. It’s the conclusion of the journey by one of the characters, and her transformation should not be your introduction. The introduction should be your introduction! So here is the introduction to Robert Ashley’s “Private Lives”:


 
***

You might think that a moment like this would be a good time to contact my then-girlfriend. I had the idea, but I’m not going to. It’s not that we don’t speak, we just don’t keep in touch.

Six of one… two times three of one… five plus one of one… nine minus three of one… half a dozen of another.

She’s Midwestern too.

Promoting Ukrainian Fascism – Part 2

I hope this doesn’t have to become a regular series.

Here’s a quick look at some headlines from the past week from sources outside of the “East Village”:

ukraine-2-dream-deferred-0227
dreamdeferred.org.uk

ukraine2-daily-beast-0228
The Daily Beast

ukraine2-time-mag-0301
Time Magazine

ukraine2-counterpunch-0303
Counterpunch

So, how is this being presented in the “East Village” you ask?:

ukraine2-evg-0223
EV Grieve

ukraine2-villager-0227
The Villager

ukraine2-dnainfo0227
ukraine2-bob-holman-antisocialist2
La Mama, via DNA Info

To their credit, The Lo-Down and Bowery Boogie have not been propagating this. It waits to be seen if The Shadow will write anything in their next issue.†

* * *

A musical about current events is not necessarily a bad thing. The San Francisco Mime Troupe had a musical called Steeltown, about the rise and fall of steel-worker jobs in this country. And while searching other blogs for this piece, I came across something The Lo-Down wrote last January about The Living Theater’s performance of “Here We Are” (from their promotional material):

    In the show, the international (and multi-generational) company “visits the Anarchist collectives of France, Spain and Ukraine [Emphasis mine–Q] for the 19th and 20th centuries, and finds (them)selves transported to an immersive and participatory underground outdoor/indoor crossroads of our present moment. The ensemble and the audience work together to manufacture and perform the potential creative possibilities for a post revolutionary world of beauty and non violence.”

Of course, that’s not what this performance is about.

ukraine2-lamama

Headlines like:

ukraine2-nytimes-0226

And then! In a flash of total-recall, I totally recalled this, from an EV Grieve piece written last January:

[Bob]
ukraine2-bob-holman-antisocialist

Socialist post-modernism? It’s fine to dislike Avalon buildings, but to throw in “socialist”, when socialism had absolutely nothing to do with the topic (1st meeting of the No 7-Eleven group), makes his position then, and now, all the more suspect. Interestingly enough, this was written at the same time of the performance of “Here We Are”.

=-=-=-=-=

† After a ten-year (?) hiatus, The Shadow recently published a new issue. I meant to write something about it but I haven’t got around to it yet. I even paid a dollar for the paper! I don’t remember ever having to pay for The Shadow before.

Promoting Ukrainian Fascism

I woke the morning of February 21 to see that local blogger EV Grieve had posted this:

ucca-evg

Signs posted outside the Ukrainian National Home list three sponsors: Ukrainian Congress Committee of America; Organization for Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine; and Federation of Ukrainian Student Organizations.

A bit of history:

    During the rise of European fascism after World War I, some Ukrainian nationalist groups tied their hopes to fascism as an ideology, and then collaborated with Hitler and Nazism in World War II.

    One Ukrainian nationalist group was the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) which split into two organizations: a less militant wing, led by Andrew Melnyk and known as OUN‑M, and the extremist group of Stepan Bandera, known as OUN‑B. The Nazis preferred the radical nationalist OUN‑B. During the German military occupation, the Ukraine witnessed terrible atrocities against Jews and other groups targeted by Nazi policies. The OUN‑B organized military units that participated in these atrocities. With the collapse of the Third Reich, many Ukrainian collaborationists fled their homeland.

    [...]

    The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) [emphasis mine] is described as heavily influenced but not totally controlled by the OUN‑B. Supposedly an umbrella organization of Ukrainian-American groups, there are groups within UCCA that are complete OUN‑B fronts. (For example, the Organization for Defense of Four Freedoms for the Ukraine (ODFFU) [emphasis mine], according to confidential interviews with OUN members. Ukrainian Review is published in the U.S. by ODFFU and the editor is Slava Stetsko†.)

    The UCCA has also played a leading role in opposing federal investigations of suspected Nazi war criminals since those queries got underway in the late 1970s.1

In July 1952, the preliminary steps toward the formation of the Federation of Ukrainian Student Organizations (SUSTA) began with an initial organizing meeting held at the time of the UCCA convention in New York City.2 They promote the same aims, presumably without the baggage of their elders.

Yesterday morning, the fascists took control of Kiev. By the end of the day:

ukraine-haaretz3

    The Ukrainian nationalists see a Ukrainian state under their control as having “ethnographic borders,” as was originally proclaimed by a OUN‑B Manifesto in December 1940. Put more simply, the OUN‑B sees Ukrainians as a separate, classifiable race that have a right, when in power, to exclude others from the Ukraine’s borders. The realities of that formulation were made blood‑chillingly clear to the Poles and Jews in the region when the OUN‑B had temporary power six months after the Manifesto was issued.4

=-=-=-=-=

† Slava Stetsko: OUN-B member, married to Yaroslav Stetsko, who briefly established himself as a pro-Nazi premier of the Ukraine under German military occupation.5

1Russ Betlant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party (Boston: South End Press, 1991), 69-71.
2SUSTA The Federation of Ukrainian Student Organizations of America” last modified February 8, 2014.
3Ukrainian rabbi tells Kiev’s Jews to flee city
4Russ Betlant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party, 73.
5Russ Betlant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the Republican Party, 67.

Veselka Supports Fascism in Ukraine

This past Sunday [February 9], a friend of mine and I ate at a restaurant called Veselka, on East 9th Street and Second Avenue. When we were finished and leaving, I noticed this sign:

veselka-euromaidan

Since most “East Villagers” don’t know anything about what’s happening in the world, for their benefit, I will introduce “Euromaidan” to them:

veselka-the-nation1

and

veselka-ibd2

and

veselka-rev-news3

That’s it, in a nut shell. Connect to the articles footnoted below for more information.

So here it is, in the heart of the “East Village”, an open advocation of fascism, and what do you suppose the local reaction is? Well, as I already said, most people don’t even know what it means. But of those who do? Or should? Newspapers, and the like? This is how The Villager soft-pedaled efforts here to advance the fascist effort, in a January 20 article:

veselka-the-villager

An “awareness campaign”!

It’s not surprising that The Villager either doesn’t know what “Euromaidan” is, or worse, supports it. The social composition of fascist movements have historically been the small capitalists that they champion.

So on February 12, I posted this photo on Twitter, and @’d local news organizations/bloggers:

 
(Cue crickets.)

OK, not crickets exactly. EV Grieve posted something about Veselka yesterday:

veselka-evgrieve

=-=-=-=-=

1The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of ‘Euromaidan’
2Euromaidan: The Dark Shadows Of The Far-Right In Ukraine Protests
3The Ukrainian Euromaidan: The Solution to Putin, or Just Another Fascist Political Coup?

N7E Pays Tribute to William Burroughs?

On the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday, the people over at No 7-Eleven NYC paid tribute to William Burroughs this morning:

n7e-illiterates
Screenshot taken 8 Feb 2014, 09:37:09

So, in Quilas fashion, I will pay tribute to him also.


William Burroughs and Karl Marx

What’s that?! William Burroughs and Karl Marx? Yeah, the internet is a funny place. I did a search for images of William Burroughs, and up pops one with Karl Marx beside him. Naturally, I followed the link. Now you can too!1

Maybe they meant Burro President?

burro-marx
Burro and Karl Marx

Burrow President?

burrow-marx
Burrow and Karl Marx

Who knows?

How do they expect people to take them seriously when they think the city is divided into Burroughs?

nyc-burroughs

=-=-=-=-=

1Short Approach to the Notion of Commodity for William Burroughs and Karl Marx

Class Struggle on First Avenue

On August 22, 2013, a week before the first national fast food workers walkout, Saru Jayaraman wrote in the New York Daily News:

    “Throughout his life, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders spoke out for racial justice and economic justice — seeing the two as inextricably bound together. When King was assassinated, he was in Memphis supporting striking sanitation workers, who were demanding a living wage, safe working conditions and an end to racial discrimination on the job. The fast-food workers staging walkouts across the United States today are the inheritors of that legacy.” 1

On the occasion of Martin Luther King Day, I have a story about this very struggle taking place in the “East Village”.

I was walking home from work last week, and I found myself walking eastwards on 7th Street. I don’t remember why I was this far west this evening — I’m usually at least on Avenue B by this point — but as I was crossing First Avenue I heard a lot of shouting from in front of the McDonald’s at 6th Street. It didn’t sound like frantic shouting, and remembering the walkout of December 5, I thought there might be something related taking place. So I walked down to see.

ev-mcdonalds
Outside McDonald’s, First Avenue, NYC, Jan. 14, 2014

There were about a dozen protesters outside the door of the McDonald’s. I stood back a bit, took my picture, and then asked the nearest person holding a sign if they had just walked out. I don’t know if she didn’t understand me, or just didn’t want to answer questions from someone she didn’t know, but one of their group came over and told me they were there to demand the job back of a worker who had walked out on December 5. We talked for a couple of minutes, I gave him my contact information so he could let me know of other events taking place, and I continued home.

As soon as I got home, I tweeted and emailed this photo, with a description of what was happening, to local bloggers and newspapers, those who routinely post information they receive about events taking place in the area. The only response was that one of them “favorited” the tweet, but did not retweet it. None of them reported it.

* * *

This is the neighborhood where workers are routinely vilified, when not ignored. Before the 7-Eleven opened on Avenue A, blog commenters wrote that they had no sympathy for the people who worked there, who would soon have to clean up the messes that they intended to make inside the store. As soon as it opened, they began to accuse the workers of harassing business owners in their vicinity, as I wrote about in Class Struggle on Avenue A, and later this:

evg-7eleven-worker-attack-20131213

Fantasy aside, this is a neighborhood that prides itself on desecrated restroom walls!


Mars Bar2

Meanwhile, in Washington Heights, when workers at Domino’s Pizza were fired after the walkout, local residents came out to support them, and the local newspaper reported it!


Domino’s Pizza, West 181 St., NYC, Dec. 9, 2013 3

* * *

At the same time, there seems to be no end to the reporting on the woes of Jerry Delakas, the owner/operator of a news stand at Astor Place. Over a dozen posts combined, this month alone, with appearances by CB3 representatives, City Council representatives, even the new Mayor granted him an audience! Of course, it’s all crass opportunism. It’s easy to come out in support of one individual, whose victory, if he wins, will not resonate any further. Whereas if one nameless worker’s rights are recognized and this worker is reinstated, the precedent will be set for the reinstatement of all of the workers who walked out, and walking out to protest low pay and unsafe working conditions will have the sanction of city officials. That’s not something that’s going to happen in this neighborhood!

This is the kind of story they have to be careful about covering. On the one hand, they’d like nothing more than to use low pay and arbitrary firings as a cudgel against a chain restaurant like McDonald’s, but they have to be careful not to actually advocate for workers, because the small businesses they champion engage in worse practices.

=-=-=-=-=

1Fast-food workers carry King’s dream
2I am endlessly haunted by a sense of saudade and sehnsucht…
3Dishing it out at Domino’s

Notes on the Last Day of 2013

I guess there’s always a catch.

I reported in Debt and Caruso that I was going to get a free copy of Janet Abu-Lughod’s book “From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side” (UVEV) from Amazon, by using points I had accumulated on my credit card. I ordered it on December 23 and the package arrived on December 26 (coincidentally enough, the same day I wrote “Debt and Caruso”). I was psyched about receiving this book, after reviewing the Table of Contents on Amazon:

Part 1 – “The Past is Still There”

  1. The Changing Economy of The Lower East Side
  2. The Tenement as a Built Form
  3. A History of Tompkins Square Park
  4. Deja Vu: Replanning the Lower East Side in the 1930s

These are all of the things that are overlooked ignored by unknown to most local reporters, in their ruthless defense of everything that exists, or that existed up to the line they drew in the sand. I have great hopes that the second piece, “The Tenement as a Built Form”, will be helpful when I finally start working on the piece I have planned, tentatively titled “What Are We Defending When We Defend Working-Class Neighborhoods?”

Part 2 – “The Process of Gentrification”, deals with much of what I’ve already read on the topic of gentrification, including a piece by Neil Smith. Part 3 – “Contesting Community: The Issues and Protagonists” also looks interesting, but Parts 1 and 2 are definitely my main draw. The book is organized exactly the way I would read the pieces if I happened onto them randomly (except the History of Tompkins Square Park, maybe) which is a big part of my attraction to it. Anything organized the way I would organize it has to be worth reading!

So where’s the catch, you ask? I opened the package as soon as it arrived, only to discover:

I contacted the seller, who just happened to be on Staten Island, of all places, and am arranging its return. If I hadn’t been sick all week, I would have taken the ferry over and returned it in person!

***

It’s probably just as well that this happened, because I also recently received Robert A. Caro’s “The Power Broker”. Given my nearly-absolute lack of time for reading, and the immensity of this book, if I had put off reading it until after “UVEV”, I might never have got to it, and it would have moved from the mental list of books I want to read, to the actual stack of books I want to read, someday.

I might write about my progress reading this, maybe in weekly installments. We’ll see. I have a problem with biographies, in principle. Abstracting an individual from the social forces at work, showing how he made the times instead of how the times made him – it creates a false history. Plus, I wonder: to what degree does the biographer create the man? Does Caro create the early Moses in order to posit the later Moses against him? Can you accurately write the beginning when you already know the ending, without it all being a fait accompli? Biographies of aristocrats make sense, for the reason that the King is born the King. Bourgeois biographies are not the same; everyone knows now that history is the movement of class forces, and withdrawing one man from his milieu… well, as I said, it creates a false history.

I’m still reading the book though. I read elsewhere that Caro incorporates a lot of New York history into the book, and you certainly can’t write a 20th-century New York history without Robert Moses.

Debt and Caruso

People with credit cards are probably aware, and people without credit cards might be aware, that credit card companies, in their effort to entice you to spend more money, offer “points” for every dollar you spend. These points accumulate, and eventually you can use them to partially offset the cost of new purchases. Or, if you have enough points, to offset it entirely.

I was never good at using my points. During the 1990s, I had Sprint as my phone company, and Sprint bequeathed points for usage. I had an account that allowed unlimited calls to Europe (for a higher price than the regular account) because I called Europe frequently at that time, so I started accumulating a lot of points. You could redeem a small number for useless tchotchkes, but if you held onto them, the top prize was a round-trip airplane ticket to anywhere in North/South America or Europe.

This was during the time phone companies would call and offer you money to switch to them. You might get a call from someone offering you $50 to switch your service to AT&T, and then another call offering $50 to switch back to Sprint. You would lose your points, however, by doing this. I held out all through this time, sacrificing this money because I wanted that ticket. By the time I moved in 2001, I had long since stopped making frequent calls to Europe, and I had forgotten all about my points. When I closed the account, they vanished forever.

Fast forward to the present. I was unemployed from October 2008 to July 2010. During that time, I was one of those people you may have read about who used credit cards to buy groceries. This was going along fine until one day I got a letter in the mail telling me my credit limit had been lowered to an amount that effectively prevented me from ever using the card again.

I had accumulated a lot of points by this time, and I would see them listed on the bill when it came, but I never thought about how to go about using them. Then, when I was checking on Amazon for the publication date of Palestinian Rights: Affirmation and Denial for my post on Janet Abu-Lughod, and found a copy of her book From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side for a whopping $4.81, I suddenly remembered those points!

Seeing that after this purchase I would still have points left, I went back to my “shopping cart” and added the Enrico Caruso: 21 Favorite Arias CD that’s been there for over a year. So both the book and the CD were free! And guess what? When you buy a CD from Amazon, you get MP3 versions of the songs as well. Luckily for me, I paid attention to the web page I landed on after the purchase, and saw the Download button.

So here, for your listening pleasure, is “Je Crois Entendre Encore” from Georges Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles. (Unfortunately, I can’t upload MP3s, so this is the YouTube version):

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.