A New Blog

If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to, why I haven’t posted anything on this blog in such a long time, I will tell you. The first reason is that, since the Fall of 2014, I’ve been really busy at work. The second reason is this…

evt-image
Click the image.

Now that I’m looking at this blog again though, I’m inspired to start writing here again. I always thought I’d merge the two blogs eventually; maybe this is a step in that direction.

Noise Complaints

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

September 15, 2013

Back in August, Gawker ran a story on 311 complaints in New York City:
“Do You Live In “Loud Party” New York Or “Vermin Infested” New York?”.

I mention this because, while looking for information for my post
Keep The “East Village” Weird?, I came across this story:

portland-noise-response

I don’t know if the message is “As bad as things are, it can always be worse,”
or if this portends the future of the Lower East Side.

Pawn Shops

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

September 6, 2013

In the piece Quilas: Bike Sharer, I mentioned the web site Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. The current post on that day was Gramercy Pawnbrokers. He was concerned about a For Rent sign he saw over a pawn broker’s sign, and that they might be closing.

I commented that along with liquor stores and check cashing places, pawn shops are the scourge of poor neighborhoods. My comment was rejected. Here are some that were not:

jvny-pawnshops-1

jvny-pawnshops-3

Too many people don’t take the time to think about what it is they’re defending.

Gross Opportunism

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

August 27, 2013

I was walking home from work yesterday (Aug. 28) when a headline caught my eye (the way they’re meant to): “East Village raises $18,000 for florist hurt by drag racer”.

Instead of leading the story with something like “Lack of affordable health insurance leaves people vulnerable”, they write a self-congratulatory story about a fund-raiser for the injured person:

Among the many who gave funds to the campaign for Ali was Veselka restaurant, which made one of the biggest contributions at $500. The biggest donor, though, was a tattoo shop, which went only by the tag “STI,” which gave $1,000. … Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club also contributed, with the encouraging message posted on the GiveForward site, “Strength.” Activist and journalist Bill Weinberg, who leads tours for the new MoRUS museum on Avenue C, donated. Also giving was State Democratic Committeewoman Rachel Lavine, who lives in the West Village. … Katharine Wolpe, a leading member of Village Independent Democrats, pitched in $200. Fourth Arts Block also gave. The list goes on and on.

“I was kind of the catalyst for this thing,” [Chad] Marlow [a member of Community Board 3] said. “But I was one of 290 who gave. At the end of the day, a bit of the money is from me, just a bit. [Marlow gave $100.] I’m very grateful for having this opportunity to help. It’s been a bit of a healing experience for me. I walked past [the site of the crash], and it was all I could think about. I was really gratified that I could play a role. But it was really the East Village that did this.

This is sickening. Do they have no shame?

The article says that the injured person’s insurance was paying his hospital bills, but I seriously doubt that’s true. This is a guy whose job was “doing everything from making fresh-squeezed juices and salads to manning the flower stand.” There’s no question that the East Village Farm Deli didn’t pay for his insurance, which means he either paid for it himself, or had none. But The Villager has nothing to say about that.

All Art is Propaganda

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

July 17, 2013

In “No Local,” that I just finished reading, Greg Sharzer mentions George Orwell’s book “The Road to Wigan Pier”. Because I almost never buy books any more, preferring to borrow them from the library instead, I checked to see if the library near me had a copy. They didn’t. They did, however, have a collection of essays, that is itself a collection of previous collections of essays, titled “All Art is Progapanda”.

I liked the title right away, especially having delved into the ideological underpinnings of reform movements in this neighborhood. I didn’t think it would deal with art as a means of reproducing the ideology of any particular class, but more in the sense of Althusser’s dictum that ideology is material.

It was nothing of the sort. The title comes from the first essay, on Charles Dickens:

I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message’, and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message’, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda.

What I want to quote from here is from an essay titled “Inside the Whale”. He writes about Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”, but it’s as if he’s writing about the “East Village”:

During the boom years, when dollars were plentiful and the exchange-value of the franc was low, Paris was invaded by such a swarm of artists, writers, students, dilettanti, sight-seers, debauchees, and plain idlers as the world has probably never seen. In some quarters of the town the so-called artists must actually have outnumbered the working population — indeed, it has been reckoned that the late twenties there were as many as 30,000 painters in Paris, most of them impostors. The populace had grown so hardened to artists that gruff-voiced lesbians in corduroy breeches and young men in Grecian or medieval costume could walk the streets without attracting a glance, and along the Seine banks Notre Dame it was almost impossible to pick one’s way between the sketching-stools. It was the age of dark horses and neglected genii; the phrase on everybody’s lips was ‘Quand je serai lancé’. As it turned out, nobody was ‘lancé’, the slump descended like another Ice Age, the cosmopolitan mob of artists vanished, and the huge Montparnasse cafés which only ten years ago were filled till the small hours by hordes of shrieking poseurs have turned into darkened tombs in which there arc not even any ghosts. It is this world — described in, among other novels, Wyndham Lewis’s “Tarr” — that Miller is writing about, but he is dealing only with the under side of it, the lumpen-proletarian fringe which has been able to survive the slump because it is composed partly of genuine artists and partly of genuine scoundrels.

Overheard Conversations

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

One of the Categories I created when I first set up Quilas was “Overheard Conversations”. These were to be snippets of people’s conversations out of context, the way they are when you pass someone who is talking. I didn’t pursue this category, though. Maybe I will going forward.

* * *

January 21, 2013
Overheard on Avenue C

    She looks better than her being a female, but she’s still ugly.

* * *

January 22, 2013
Overheard at MoMA

    The Scream is the scream of desperate isolation in industrial society.

[This wasn’t really overheard — it was spoken to me by a friend,
when we went to see The Scream at MoMA.]

* * *

March 16, 2013
Natalie du Prés Says

Regarding the book “The Collins Family in America”:

    “Josette, I don’t understand it. What I don’t understand, I run from.
    Is that wrong?”

[This wasn’t overheard either — it was just funny. I was watching the old Dark Shadows TV show during this time.]

Release the Kraken!

Well, it might not be as dramatic as that. The Kraken in this case is the body of unfinished pieces in my Drafts folder — mentioned in Adding Insult to Injury — that I’m releasing today. By the end of the day, I hope to publish or delete everything that I don’t intend to work on further.

For your convenience:

Oh Boy… Right Again

I met this guy – and he looked like he might have been a hat check clerk at an ice rink. Which, in fact, he turned out to be. And I said: Oh boy. Right again.

It’s funny how some things stay with you forever.

Back in February of this year I wrote:

    It’s ridiculous that this effort is hailed as being in the “spirit of the East Village”. People in the “East Village” organized to demand jobs, to demand affordable housing, to stop evictions. … I can’t wait until the “spirit of the East Village” is invoked to oppose increases in the minimum wage!

Well, no spirits were invoked, but the position has been staked by the writer of the blog Save The Lower East Side:

sles-contra-minwage-1

I don’t feel like responding to it now. It’s enough that it happened. I’ll just leave you with Laurie Anderson:

Workers Need Not Apply

There are a number of web sites that report on news of the Lower East Side: The Villager; The East Villager; The Lo-Down; NoHo News; to name a few. There are also more personal-type blogs that cover local events. Of all of these, only one reported on the recent walkout by fast-food workers that occurred on August 29, even though there are twenty fast-food restaurants in the Houston-to-14th, Avenue D-to-Broadway quadrangle. That site was Quilas.

The Villager is owned by NYC Community Media LLC, which owns the following papers: Chelsea Now, Downtown Express; The East Villager; Gay City News; and The Villager. Not one of these papers mentioned the day of walkouts, neither announcing that it would occur, nor reporting on it afterwards, despite the number of fast-food restaurants that exist in this area:

local-newspaper-map

Although these papers position themselves as neighborhood newspapers (with the exception of Gay City News), they are relatively uniform in their reporting (many of the same stories, written by the same people), and absolutely uniform in their endorsements of political candidates for the primary election:

endorsements

NYC Community News is itself owned by Jennifer Goodstein. Through each of these newspapers, they demonstrate their hostility to workers’ interests. In their endorsement of Christine Quinn for Mayor, they write:

    She would be a tough negotiator with the unions, which will be critically important for the next mayor.
    The East Villager, The Villager.

    …the city wrestles with fundamental questions about how policing is carried out as well as critical challenges regarding affordable housing, schools, healthcare access and public employee union contracts [Emphasis mine –Q]
    Chelsea Now, Gay City News.

    She also understands the city’s budget process, and is an experienced hand who can run the difficult labor negotiations to come. [Emphasis mine –Q]
    Downtown Express

Both of these papers (The Villager and The East Villager) also recently ran an article titled “Will a Democrat for mayor stand up for small stores?” followed-up a month later with “Who has the guts to fight for our small businesses?” Advocating for small business is a coded way of attacking workers’ rights. Small businesses don’t want the minimum wage to increase, nor do they want paid sick days. Neither do large businesses, but they can’t very well advance their agenda by writing: “Who has the guts to fight for our large businesses?”, or “Who has the guts to fight the increase in the minimum wage?” They know that if fast-food workers are successful in achieving their goal of $15/hour, it will have an upward push on their own workers’ wages.

Interestingly enough, through The Villager and The East Villager, NYC Community News endorsed a Republican candidate. They describe him as “a self-made man,” which is true only if “self-made” means on the backs of his workers.

***

The “personal-type” blogs didn’t write anything about the walkouts either. In their effort to oppose chain stores, they cannot bring themselves to support the people who work in fast-food restaurants (unless they can use it as a cudgel against the chains themselves). For that matter, they don’t support the workers who work in the small businesses they favor. It’s as I wrote before, workers are not a part of the “community”. Community members are shopkeepers and their customers, only. But even that’s tenuous, as I will discuss in a future piece.

When I first started writing Quilas, I wrote that some day the banner of “East Village” activism would be raised to fight the increase in the minimum wage. I think that day is drawing near.

Six Months of Quilas

It’s hard to believe, but Quilas turns six months old today! Yes, it’s been six months since my first post, Quilas. It seems like just yesterday!

To celebrate, we are conducting a survey, to see what our many readers have to say about Quilas. Please take a moment to respond. Thank you!

[Survey closed.]

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