This is a big week for the comic book industry. On Friday (at midnight!), the first of the summer blockbusters, The Avengers, opens in the U.S. The Avengers is, of course, one of three superhero actioners to be released this summer, with The Dark Knight Rises and the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man on deck. Then on Saturday, it's Free Comic Book Day, with free offerings from publishers, big and small, hopefully drawing in hordes of potential customers to stores. As comic book writer Fred Van Lente told me, “It’s a good annual promotion to get fresh faces in the stores. I was flown in to at an event at [...]
You do not need the ghost of Andy Rooney to remind you that, if traveling by automobile is a big chocolate cake of frustration, then the tolls that may be collected from you are the frosting. These tolls are such an annoyance (if not an outright burden) that they're avoided as a topic by even the most amateur of our stand-up comics. And of the costs that are difficult to avoid in the day-to-day, these are definitely increasing, right? Increases mount, and what was once an afterthought, tossing some change into a basket, is now an expense to be reckoned with.
But even if we all agree that, yes, [...]
Shut up about Brooklyn already. We all know about Brooklyn, that shining city on the hill, where everything is made only of awesome. Yes, there are beards and clunky eyeglass frames and lawyers who skateboard and grandpas with noise bands. The hipsters run-off freely now, the cheesecake is largely appareled American and vice now has a market cap. There's even a successful sitcom that purports to be set there, which is as large a cultural signifier as anything—Brooklyn may be located on the western-most tip of Long Island, but where it actually lives is dead solid in the middle of the zeitgeist. It's now, it's hip, it's hot, it's happening. [...]
Sometime between July and September of this year, you may have heard that America’s poor are not really all that poor. Something like this bit of wisdom from Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector from July 27, 2011:
How poor are America’s poor? The typical poor family has at least two color TVs, a VCR and a DVD player. A third have a widescreen, plasma or LCD TV. And the typical poor family with children has a video game system such as Xbox or PlayStation.
My goodness, that almost makes you wish you were America’s poor, doesn’t it? (Or maybe you already are—congratulations!)
The implied redefinition of [...]
“Candy may be dandy…” Actually, that is not true. Candy is at all times dandy, and all of us can testify to that: we were children once, and young. When I was ten I’d bike down to the Open Pantry, and if there was allowance left over after comic books, I’d grab a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for a quarter (and, if in a shrewd frame of mind, not eat it directly but throw it in the freezer back home). It was a tiny luxury, only two bits.
Now, 30 years later, with childhood more perilous than ever (what with the confusion over the aims of Occupy Wall Street, and [...]
You may or may not have heard about this, but last month one of the Olsen twins was photographed with a handbag. I'm not making this up. And this is not like those other times that one of the Olsen twins was photographed with a handbag. No, forget about all those Yves Saint Laurents, Balenciagas and Chanels (as shown here). This specific handbag on this specific Olsen (Ashley) was an as-yet unreleased handbag from The Row, the Olsens' own fashion line. Additionally, this specific handbag retails at $39,000.
If the three most important things about opening a new business are location, location, location, then the location that brought Philly Pinoy, a new Brooklyn restaurant, into being is the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, where a couple of cruise liners pick up and discharge passengers headed for the Caribbean or a trans-Atlantic passage. Sit at one of the tables arrayed on the sidewalk in front of Philly Pinoy, you can look down the street and see the ship in port. If it's the Queen Mary 2, she's hard to miss, as she is as big as a skyscraper lying on her side. Philly Pinoy is both out of place and [...]
Top row: Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, Shirley Jackson, Gael Greene. Bottom row: Patti Smith, Susan Sontag, Tama Janowitz, Kate Christensen.
In 1967, Patti Smith wrote in Just Kids, she was considering a move to New York City. "I had enough money for a one-way ticket. I planned to hit all the bookstores in the city. This seemed ideal work to me." Twenty-seven years before her, in 1940, Shirley Jackson and her soon-to-be husband Stanley Hyman graduated from Syracuse and moved to New York. According to this biography, "For quite some time they had known exactly what they were going to do: move to New York [...]
We're entering the Year of the Dragon. Last night was the beginning of the new lunar year, which makes today what we call Chinese New Year (and what they call in China, New Year). It may seem pat to take this occasion to discuss our relationship with Chinese food, and the relative expense of it over time, but it's not meant to be. At feasts all over the world today, dumplings will be eaten for prosperity and noodles for long life. And while Americans use a different metric for determining what year it is, Chinese food is as mainstream in this country as French fries and buffalo wings (both [...]
The New York Times Best Sellers list has come a long way—so far, that it’s no longer just a list or two (Fiction and Nonfiction). Check in now and you will find that there are 21 separate lists, everything from Combined Print and E-Book to Manga. Manga! This is no longer the NYT Best Sellers list we grew up with, checking the paper each Sunday for (after we read the funnies in some other paper). It’s all grown up, and reading manga.
In recognition of the steadfastness of the New York Times Best Seller lists, let’s see what books were topping it, going backwards in time, and use the [...]
"Marlene Dietrich once said that if she heard an American man rave about a meal, she knew he must have eaten a steak," says A Treasury of Great Recipes. Published in 1965, the book was written by Vincent and Mary Price (yes, that Vincent Price, or that one, maybe you remember). Price drops the quote in a section on great New York restaurants. And it’s not just the American men who thought this (though more on that below): restaurant critic Ruth Reichl in a 1994 steakhouse round-up wrote, “But there is one thing I have no doubt about: steak is a New York tradition, and when I [...]
We all know that our movie stars are not only a precious natural resource, but also a group of individuals that are very highly compensated, not just now, but even back then, when we were just figuring out what to call them (moving picture heroes? Lumièronauts?). We also all know that this compensation has increased as the years tick by and the Oscars are doled out. But do we know exactly by how much?
Characterization of the NASA's Space Transportation System, what we commonly call the Space Shuttle program, as nothing but a glorified Greyhound—even better yet, "space carpooling"—is common. Even today, as the shuttle program wraps up for good, it’s hard to escape a certain feeling of underwhelmed-ness, especially if you try to review all of the accomplishments of the program. (Give it a try.) What did the Space Shuttle do besides carry things back and forth? Well, obviously carrying things back and forth has its importance, but considering that our space program has long been a point of pride, what are the high points to which we can point proudly?
The insider term for the goal of those who produce reality television shows, those who assemble the footage into episodes, is a profane one. I learned this from a reality television producer (who wished not to be named so as to continue being a reality TV producer). "We in reality TV talk about 'shit to gold,'" RTP said. This is the mechanism by which some soul is given an opportunity to overcome an obstacle. "The audience loves seeing shit turn into gold." Objectively speaking, they certainly do.
It was Tuesday night, April 2, 1974, and America and various other parts of the planet were knee-deep in the telecast of the 46th Academy Awards. David Niven (co-hosting with John Huston, Diana Ross and Burt Reynolds) was introducing Elizabeth Taylor, who was to present the Oscar for Best Picture, only to be interrupted by a young man running across the stage behind Niven. The man flashed the peace sign and kept running. He was wearing no clothes. And Niven noticed, and paused to acknowledge the amusement of the audience, and said something Niven-y and withering. And the live broadcast continued. (The Sting won!)
This event is notorious, and often [...]
One thing aspirin is not: polarizing. If you are going to have a tiff with a friend, aspirin will not be the topic. Aspirin is actually a great unifier—it’s one of the sundries that can be found in every home across the country. Aspirin is easy to find, and it is here to help. With all sorts of things, of course, but between you and me, mostly hangovers. And people who are paranoid of incipient heart disease, they also are big aspirin fans.
It's gift-buying time, for whichever ecclesiastical reason you personally buy your gifts. So here’s a nifty trick question for the daughters/nieces in your life after they’ve opened their presents: how old would Barbie be in real life? The easy answer is that she would be 52, as she was introduced in 1959. But not so! She was introduced as a teenager, of course (let’s say sixteen), so the actual year of her birth would be 1943. And do you know who else was born in 1943, do ya? This guy.
Oh, that should be a good one.
But if you are shopping for young kids of a certain age, [...]
They called themselves the Bonus Expeditionary Force, or the Bonus Army or Bonus Marchers for short, and in 1932 they set-up semi-permanent encampments in Washington D.C. Nearly 80 years later, people are occupying Wall Street, and many, many other places around the country. And as loud as the shouts of deliberate mass media ignorance were a month ago, the Occupy movement is not all over everything, and it’s as difficult to avoid coverage now as it was to find it then. It seems to be a unique construct, a product of now—nonviolent, persistent and inchoate in the sense of there's too much to say (rather than not being able to [...]
Outside Denny’s Steak Pub, in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, steps from the Church Avenue F stop, a would-be customer, wearing a Yankees T-shirt and a bit of a haunted look, shuffled back and forth, focused on the scratch-off lottery tickets that trailed behind him like exhaust. He ducked his head in every once in a while: “Six dollars!” His buddy called out, “Don’t come in,” and Scratcher nodded sadly, and waited for his pal on the sidewalk. “You’re still 86ed,” the bartender added, not unkindly. Scratcher was still a regular; he just wasn’t allowed to come in to this particular old man bar this particular afternoon.
Yes, it's hot outside. It's summer, so hopefully no one is shocked by that. But it's still awful, a travail that everyone expects but nobody likes. But do you know what's cold? Or, what will be cold in a short minute? Your blood will be cold, because we have gathered legitimately scary ghost stories guaranteed actually to have happened! And they're scary!
They’re not as good as central air, or winter, but it is you, the reader, that we love, and one small way we can show our appreciation is to scare you with real-life stories of the unexplained to the extent that you forget about your earthly-plane problems, like [...]