February 29, 2008

All Aboard the Gentrification Train, Next Stop Ditmas

A new French Bistro, Pomme de Terre, is just one reason why L and I are feeling good about the choice we made to buy an apartment in Ditmas Park.

Where? Exactly.

But developments like this will make the area more attractive to Park Slope exiles like us and give us another place to walk to for dinner and, hopefully, for brunch, fully embracing our yuppie status.

Posted by Doug at 03:01 PM

February 28, 2008

A Cliche Continues to Grow in Brooklyn

Nylon Magazine joins the list of media outlets too lazy to come up with anything other than the "A _____ Grows in Brooklyn" template to describe the opening or expansion of a business in the borough of Kings.

The New York Times' City Room blog uses a variation of the headline today, but, to be fair, it's in relation to a story about planting a tree at the library described in Betty Smith's 1943 book.

A new Target is scheduled to open at the Flatbush Junction. Expect many "A Target Grows in Brooklyn" headlines when it does.

Posted by Doug at 09:21 PM

February 25, 2008

Waiting to See a Montage of Oscar's Greatest Montages

Considering that Jon Stewart joked about the Academy's plan to rely on pre-produced montage packages to fill out a potential writer-less Oscars, wasn't it weird that the show still had what seemed like a larger-than-usual number of montages? (I know that being green is all the rage in Hollywood, but did they have to recycle all of the montages they had produced just in case the writers hadn't come back?)

It's certainly funny to produce "Great Binocular Moments in Movies" as a joke or to show a montage of people waking up from bad dreams, but only if those are the only two montages you actually wind up doing. (Aside from the requisite and somber tribute to those who died in the previous year, of course.) But when you go to the trouble of producing a montage of insects in Hollywood movies -- introduced by Jerry Seinfeld's computer-animated "Bee Movie" character, so you know it couldn't have been something the writers came up with in the last few days -- the show becomes the joke.

I thought Jon Stewart did a great job hosting; his opening monologue played to his strengths when it felt most like he was doing desk bits from "The Daily Show." But there seemed to be a great disconnect between what he was doing and what was happening all around him. The fact that the producers cut off "Once" star Marketa Irglova before she could speak and that Jon Stewart later brought her back out seemed indicative of this.

After years of hosts such as Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, and, yes, David Letterman, one gets the feeling that the Oscars are so big that they swallow even the greatest comic minds whole. In politics, talents like John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama only come around once every generation or so. It's the same in Hollywood. Where is the next Bob Hope or Billy Crystal?

Another random observation and suggestion: Jack Nicholson has been attending the Oscars for, what, over thirty years? When will someone install a microphone at his seat or fit him with a wireless so that when a host makes a joke about him from the stage and the camera cuts to see Jack's response, we can understand what he's saying? Unless you happen to be sitting within five seats of Jack or can read lips, you're left wondering what he shouts back every time. So, Academy Awards producers, listen up: 2009 will be the year of the Jack-cam.

Posted by Doug at 11:40 AM

February 19, 2008

Just Words

I've been trying to articulate my support for Barack Obama to friends and relatives and thought that it would be worthwhile to write down a quick impression of the latest dust-up over the idea of words in politics.

Obama, whose rhetoric has been dismissed by the Clinton campaign as all style and no substance, has made the claim that leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, FDR, and Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the power of words quite well, using them to provoke and inspire. Could anyone argue away the Declaration of Independence, Roosevelt's first inaugural speech, and King's "I Have a Dream" speech as mere words? Obama might have also thrown his conservative supporters and critics a bone by mentioning Reagan's famous "Tear down this wall" speech, which didn't end the cold war by itself, but can't be discounted as inconsequential. It should also be noted that it is not a list of Abraham Lincoln's policy decisions that is chiseled into a wall of the Lincoln Memorial, but the texts of the Gettysburg Address and the sixteenth president's second inaugural address. "With malice toward none; with charity for all" hardly constitutes political substance, but it's been etched in stone for over 85 years. (I also wonder if Clinton or any Democrat would dismiss some famous negative statements -- "Bring 'em on." "Axis of evil." "With us or against us." -- as mere words.)

Clinton's line of attack seems to fall short, especially to anyone with any amount of historical knowledge, and certainly is not a strategy that can survive the logical counter-attack: more policy specifics combined with soaring rhetoric. As Obama continues to pepper his speeches with more details -- never minding that his specific policy positions can already be found by anyone with an Internet connection -- what will Clinton be left to criticize? If she responds to specifics, she undercuts her original critique. It would be as if Dorothy had uttered another famous quote, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," after pulling back the curtain herself. (I've found many of Clinton's strategies to be lacking in foresight; she's arguably the more experienced candidate when measured against Obama, but that advantage will be taken away as soon as the national campaign against John McCain begins. Will she try to position herself as the baby bear of politics, with just the right amount of experience?)

I wonder how much historical knowledge the Clinton campaign has as it employs these dismissals of Obama's gift for speech, for claiming the mantle of hope, and for inspiring young voters. Are they not aware that it was another 46-year-old presidential candidate who, understanding that inspiration is as important to voters as perspiration, called himself "The Man from Hope," and had a 14-minute video with that title produced for the 1992 Democratic National Convention? If one really wants to get hung up on specifics, it might be worth telling Hillary Clinton that Bill Clinton moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas when he was seven years old.

(Regarding the experience argument, here's Bill Clinton from 1992. It's almost as if the Obama campaign sent a Clinton cyborg back from the future to pre-emptively make the case for their candidate.)

Posted by Doug at 04:22 PM

Today Show video

MSNBC now allows websites to embed video from NBC shows. Since I never put this on my site, here's my appearance on the Today Show from the summer of 2006.

Posted by Doug at 01:21 PM