Archive for 92 street Y

Tony Blair in Person

Posted in politics, talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

92Y Tony Blair 1

Yesterday was exciting, not only did I get to while away the late night dancing to some determinedly old school djs at the Nightlife Preservation Community party, but I also was among the security cleared crowd at Tony Blair’s talk at the 92 Street Y.

Having been a History student and residing in the British empire during much of the reign of Blair, and most memorably during his decision to go to war in Iraq based on imaginary Weapons of Mass Destruction, I was very interested to see what he had to say for himself.

Charming to a tee, it was clear how he had managed (at least in part) to ascend to the highest level of office. Within the span of little over an hour he quoted Rabbi Hillel and Winston Churchill, did impressions of Americans who have mistaken him for the actor in The Queen and of his cockney friend who always gives him good advice.

Where was that helpful mate in 2003 when it came time to issue the command for war? Although Blair channelled him and his other cast of colorful cultural references to please the crowd, he was undeniably uncomfortable when Mathew Bishop the interviewer leading Blair’s Q&A asked him point blank if he regretted the decision.

Blair gripped his chair with both hands and stuttered through a long explanation of how he admits that the intelligence was faulty, but they believed it at the time and any way the world is still “better off without Sadam and his two sons ruling the country.”

When asked whether he thinks that the war in Iraq has actually increased Islamic fundamentalist terrorism and ill feeling towards the west, he said absolutely not. “The responsibility for terrorism lies in the hands of the terrorists.” he said.

At the moment the former PM’s main activities are his work with the recently formed Tony Blair Faith Foundation, the Africa Governance Initiative, the Climate Group and his position as a negotiater of sorts for peace in Israel/Palestine.

On climate, he seemed to grasp that it is a very real and pressing issue, yet one of the main solutions that he proposed is Nuclear power- in my mind a terrible idea.

On Africa, he said that aid alone is not enough, governments have to be taught (by him) how to operate. He proudly asserted that he is working on bottom up state building in Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

On the Middle East. “For Israel the only Palestinian state they will be able to accept is a secure and well-governed state.” Blair said. He is working on state building there as well. Well clearly Britain and its former leader know best. Perhaps those good old imperialist days are not yet over after all.

He said many additional things about religion, democracy and justice, but I am more concerned with what he didn’t say. Bishop actually selected my audience question, “What was the most significant mistake you made as Prime Minister?”  Blair’s response, “That’s for me to know and you to find out.” A chilling thought.

Ella at Howard Zinn

Posted in Book, ella, People of Color, politics, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I will just preface this by saying that as someone with a degree in History, yes not your typical socialite trade, nonetheless true…Howard Zinn is my idol. Take that American Idol, last week, while I was paying my dues in the country, Ella went to hear him speak along with a few other visionaries at the 92 street Y. Here’s her report back. R

Entering the 92nd Street Y last Wednesday, I may have been guilty of bringing more than a healthy dose of cynicism. Don’t get me wrong – I cried as much as the next liberal during Obama’s acceptance speech. But, well… I struggle with a lot of the liberal left’s self-righteousness and lack of self-criticism. Especially when confronted with it in its Park Slope post-hippie incarnation. And let’s be honest – if I struggle to stay polite to Park Slope liberals, Upper East Side liberals should entice me to set off fire alarms by smoking Marlboro Reds,  and to loudly proclaim my affection for clubbing baby seals.

Also, taking the subway from Crown Heights to 86th street is such a bizarre exercise in people watching.  Not a situation geared to inspiring faith in the existence of a post-racial America. Even in oh-so-liberal New York.

The high schoolers carrying AP-study guides and the people handing out fliers for every cause and demonstration under the sun did nothing to raise my spirits. I haven’t been grumpier since my mother forced me to take part in a Swedish outdoor Hannukah celebration.

Imagine my surprise when A Young People’s History of the United States
turned out to be the most inspiring and intellectually challenging event I’ve been to in a long time.

Howard Zinn, I shouldn’t have doubted you. Surprisingly tall and gangly, Zinn’s introduction to the evening showed not only that he’s still sharp and funny but also that he can command an audience without bogarting the stage. Despite the fact that the evening tied in with the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States, the self-evidently titled young reader’s version of Zinn’s non-fiction bestseller, it didn’t feel like an excuse to hawk books.

Instead, the evening introduced me to several historical speeches I’m going to have to revisit, and several performers I’m keen to check out again. Tim Robbins has been a long-term favorite of mine, but Avery Brooks is definitely someone I’d love to see act again. And I want to hear Shontina Vernon sing again and Staceyann Chin perform poetry.

For me, one of the very genuine effects of the evening was a return to the feeling that dissent and questioning of the ruling order can be intellectually satisfying. And that this doesn’t have to be done mockingly. The Martin Luther King Jr speech, Where Do We Go from Here?, performed by Brian Jones, was a picture of sincerity, while at the same time addressing the troubling link between race and class which was true in the 60s and has not yet been overcome.

Emphasizing the role of young people in shaping the world, Evann Orleck-Jetter, the twelve year old girl whose testimony helped sway the Vermont state legislature to allow equal marriage rights, read the piece she’d delivered early this year, as well as a document against child labor from 1913. I was worried for a while that this would be gimmicky and embarrassing. Instead, her calm performance was a restrained tear-jerker –- impressive in anyone and incredibly dignified for someone that young –- which highlighted Zinn’s argument that the study of history should inspire people to participate in the struggles of their own age.

The evening inspired me to email one of the poems performed to an old teacher of mine, from back when I was a super idealistic teenager. She wrote back, thanking me, saying she’d needed it that day. I guess the evening brought back those feelings of I matter-ness that otherwise tend to get trapped beneath my everyday life. Maybe, sometimes, the enthusiastic young person in me needs to be given space to push the post-ironic jaded city dweller aside.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

Matha Stewart-Living

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Martha Stewart has an amazing ability to ignore any question that she doesn’t want to answer. She is a walking talking-point, anecdote heavy, she will spin almost any question into either a product plug or a self-aggrandizing comment. I can’t really hate on her for doing this though, after all she is a brand. Here is a summary of my favorite Live-Martha Stewart-Living quotes from last night at the 92 Street Y:

When asked what her approach to time-management is, the guru of healthy living said,
“I get up really early and I go to bed really late. Sleep is just not that important to me. It’s not that important, it’s secondary for me, no it’s tertiary.”

When asked if she is tough to work for,

“I have people who have worked for me in my home for 25 years. I have cats who have worked for me for 17 years. That is a job you know, they do work. My dogs have there own blog now, did you know that?”

When asked to respond to comments made about her on Gawker,

“Oh Gawker, do you know how many page views they get? Only about 20, 000 page views a day!” To the interviewer she said, “Only people like you read Gawker. Do you do that on company time? I don’t read Gawker, it’s a waste of my time.”

About TV news,

“I prefer to read newspapers, TV news needs to get better, I get bored when I watch it.”

About the value of being a locavore, she referred to Lamb from New Zealand as, “Soaked in oil,” agreeing with her vegetarian daughter that it is better to buy local.

Concerning  how he market will be a few months from now, she said something to the effect of,  ‘If things turn out the way we think they will, there will be a lot of money to be made.’

After jail, and the plummeting value of stock in her company, she remains optimistic. The more inspiring gems of wisdom that she shared with us were her conviction to reform the prison system, details about the Martha Stewart Living center that she funded/founded in Mount Sinai Hospital  and one final tidbit: not only will Martha, “sweep the floor if there is no one else there to do it,” but she also has a habit of  stopping of at 86th and 3rd for her treat of coconut milk and a hot dog. If you see her there, say hi.

Agent Angie reads to us

Posted in Book with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2008 by thebrooklynsocialite

This has been quite a week of readings, providing events so diverse, from Opium Magazine’s unorthodox literary death match to 92nd Street Y‘s uptown and kinda uptight Jorie Graham and Yusuf Komunyakaa reading.


And in the middle, Wednesday saw the 85th anniversary reading of Weird Tales Magazine at KGB Bar. The magazine brought three of their favorite authors, Micaela Morrisette, Jeffrey Ford, and Karen Heuler. Morisette started things off with the weirdest of the night, a story about ritualized cannibalism. Her reading of it was disturbing; she described her characters devouring their meals with such a plethora of adjectives and in such a soft and captivated voice, fetishizing the concept. I felt like I was listening to a harlequin romance about craving human beings for dinner. Unsettling? Yes. Not exactly my cup of tea but compelling nonetheless.


My favorite part of the night was when Stephen H. Segal, the editorial and creative director of the magazine, did a reading of Weird Tales’ readers’ submissions of 500 word stories inspired by a spam subject line they found in their inbox. He read three of the honorable mentions throughout the night. They were awesome.

Those were the highlights of the evening. KGB Bar is so far my favorite readings venue. It is surely the most intimate, being so tiny that there were people overflowing into the hallway. Predictably, everything is red, with busts and portraits of Lenin galore. The disappointing beer selection, offering only the usual suspects was a downer for me, but its atmosphere, authenticity, and tininess get it on the GL of NY bars and reading venues.


The next night came 92nd Street Y’s Jorie Graham and Yusuf Komunyakaa reading. Sometimes I wish the Y could loosen itself up a bit. I’ve been to one other reading there, and both times I nodded off at some point during the event. It’s not intimate by any stretch of the imagination (I’ve found that intimacy is best for readings so that one can absorb and thus more easily follow what the writer is reading), the seats are not too comfy, and it’s not a place where I feel relaxed.


Graham read first, and sadly, it was tedious. Her voice was very abrupt and breathy when she read. It was very “poet-like;” the stereotype that inserts pauses in odd places for effect, and pauses at the end of every line. I hate when people read poetry that way. It makes poetry sound foreign, validating the preconceived notions some have about the inaccessibility of poetry. She read solely from Sea Change which didn’t thrill me. I had trouble associating any of the words she was saying together. I felt like I needed to have the book in front of me and follow along to grasp the meaning behind her words.


Yusuf Komunyakaa on the other hand had a beautiful reading voice. It was very soft and deep. He recited Rs with a unique flair and had a bluesy lilt to his voice. My favorite poem of his was called “Requiem,” about New Orleans after Katrina.