RovingStorm has already made one comeback, but with Wordpress's superior capabilities and access to the domain name "LivingtheDream.org", this moment was inevitable. All future posts of politics, the open road, the wild frontiers, glitz and gloom in Gotham and much, much more will be going on at LivingtheDream.org. I'll keep this site around for archival purposes, but make your way across the web to an exciting new venture that I hope is the culmination of my years of stop and go in the blogging world.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
On next Tuesday, September 14, it is once again time to forget about the ugliness of politics and head to the voting booths. Even though New Yorkers can do little to stem the Republican onslaught across the country this November, on Tuesday’s primary, New Yorkers have the opportunity to nominate an excellent candidate for New York State Attorney General by voting for State Senator Eric Schneiderman.
You may not have heard of this guy- in fact, you may not have heard of this race. A Daily News poll showed that when not offered specific choices, only 20% of registered New York Democrats could name who they supported for Attorney General, and a leading 8% chose someone not running! But toiling away in the savage trenches of New York state politics, Eric Schneiderman has demonstrated himself to be a smart, progressive leader- someone who doesn’t just check the right box when he votes, but leads the troops into battle on the major issues of the day.
To back up, what does the Attorney General do? The Attorney General is a prosecutor, empowered to enforce state and federal law within the jurisdiction of New York state. Attorneys General Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo wielded this role effectively to crack down on Wall Street. The Attorney General directs approximately 500 lawyers who handle everything from organized crime to political corruption to white collar crime to non-profit fraud. The AG also must defend the state and its agencies when they are sued by individuals or the federal government. It is a great office that I sought the opportunity to work for, unsuccessfully, due to a recession-induced hiring freeze.
Eric Schneiderman spent much of his early career at a private firm, though he was an attorney or legal advisor to many progressive causes, including the “Clean Money, Clean Elections” campaign and the subway rider advocacy group, the NYPIRG Straphangers. Elected to the State Senate in 1998, Schneiderman immediately distinguished himself as a major defender of the environment, the right to choose and the right to organize. He spearheaded the successful legislative efforts to overhaul the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. He has been a major advocate for campaign finance and ethics reform, though he clearly faces strong opposition from his Albany colleagues. After the throat-slashing State Senator Hiram Monserrate became an embarrassment to the state of New York, Schneiderman oversaw the legal process to have Monserrate expelled from the State Senate.
More so than any of these individual policies or achievements, however, I respect Schneiderman's intelligence and convictions. Having met him in person and listened to many of his interviews, Schneiderman has always come across as too good for the zoo that is the New York State Senate. He is calm and thoughtful under pressure, and while virtually every politician claims to "fight for the little guy", he actually means it. Witness his incredibly strong support from New York City’s minority population and labor unions, and his opposition to corporate financed elections.
Every candidate agrees that this race is about reform in New York state politics, and there is little dispute that Schneiderman has the longest history of fighting for the reforms we need. Schneiderman’s opponents for the Democratic nomination range from decent to strong, but they fall short of his record of accomplishment, and kid themselves by suggesting the person known as the strongest reformer in the State Senate (Citizens Union, NY Times, etc.) should be disqualified simply because he is an elected official. If he was really "part of the club", he wouldn’t have been targeted for redistricting in 2002, though he won his absurdly shaped district in subsequent elections.
Eric Dinallo, the former insurance superintendent did well under Attorney General Spitzer, but has brought little energy to this race. Sean Coffey presents an interesting bio- working class kid becomes rich lawyer after serving in the Navy, but the “outsider” label is more helpful is you want to make speeches in Congress than if your job is manage 500 lawyers in a highly political position. Richard Brodsky has had a strong career in the State Assembly investigating corruption, including the Yankees Stadium deal and unaccountable public authorities like the MTA. He would probably be my second choice, though his crass political handling of the Islamic Center issue shows that he may be as vulnerable to caving as anyone when the stakes get high.
Nassau DA Kathleen Rice, the perceived front-runner, did not cast a vote until her late 30s, including a failure to vote in the 2000 election, when she lived in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. For someone aspiring to public office to think such little of civic duty astounds me. She did not declare herself as a Democrat until running for DA in 2005, which says more about her ideology than her carefully scripted campaign message. During the WNYC debate this morning she embarrassed herself by twice misstating the contours of the Attorney General’s authority. Backed by Cuomo to bring geographic and gender diversity to the ticket, she has been thoroughly unimpressive as a candidate.
Some candidates, in desperation, are accusing Schneiderman as being unelectable against Republican AG nominee, Dan Donovan. Renowned Village Voice investigative reporter Wayne Barrett has suggested that Mayor Bloomberg is strongly pushing the socially moderate Staten Island District Attorney because he wants the next Attorney General to take the heat off of Wall Street after 16 years of Spitzer and Cuomo. The Bush years taught us that Democrats are at their weakest when they sacrifice their principles for nebulous “electability”, and this race is no exception. Furthermore, this is New York, and I will not shiver in my boots over Dan Donovan.
Lest anyone think me overly effusive in praising a liberal legislator who votes the right way, actually legislates and stands up for his convictions, those traits should not be considered exceptional. In New York state politics, however, they are, and hopefully the election of Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General and Andrew Cuomo for governor can not only bring good policies to Albany, but restore dignity to its politics.
On September 14, vote Eric Schneiderman for New York State Attorney General.
Unfortunately, the deadline to register to vote has passed, though my hope is that nearly everyone on this list would have registered for the mayoral election last year.
You can find your polling place here: http://vote.nyc.ny.us/pollingplaces.html
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
If I told you about a show that would be painful to squirm through, which would leave you feeling hollow and sad, would you watch it? Another summer of hype for Mad Men persuaded me to Netflix it up, but the result has been disappointment, or worse. The show, for the uninitiated, follows the professional and personal lives of marketers at Sterling Cooper. The show is set in the early 1960s, the calm before the storm, the last gasp of unfettered white, male privilege. Social conservatives often lament this “simpler era”, though the simplicity of rigid social castes is not appealing to most Americans today.
Mad Men’s star is Don Draper, a man of mythical statute both on the show and among its followers. The man has charm and good looks, seduces attractive women with relative ease, and from what one can gather, is one of the only talented people at Sterling Cooper. He has a “girls want him and guys want to be like him” quality, but his brooding nihilism is tiring. Like most of the characters, he is torn between loathing his daily existence and quietly accepting it, rarely cracking a smile. The show may have permanently lost me when Draper, who has shown little remorse for his rampant philandering or wretched treatment of his brother, has a near break down when the firm has to cut ties with a mid-sized airline company in order to pursue a bigger one. He feels anguished, even though the mid-sized airline company can just get a new PR firm. Not really a big deal, dude.
Despite his melancholy, Draper is the star around which the rest of this mid-sized firm orbits. Sterling, a partner, showers him with hyperbole that feels completely unsubstantiated for most of Season 1. The women of Sterling Cooper hammer away at typewriters (what could so many of them be typing?) while men smoke cigarettes, drink whiskey and sulk in their private offices. The show insists on creating a “Masters of the Universe” aura, which falls exceedingly short.
With the exception of Sterling, who at least has an entrepreneurial spirit to him, the grunts at Sterling Cooper think of themselves as “ad-men”, big time hotshots, without anything to show for it. As they clutch onto accounts they always seem to be on the verge of losing, worrying about making enough money to pay the family bills, they don’t realize how small and insignificant they are. People who work in advertising and marketing are, as a breed, highly replaceable, especially in an era where most advertising was just print copy. Their meetings, which often last mere seconds, produce nothing, and are followed by bouts of whiskey drinking which makes one wonder if any actual work is getting done at Sterling Cooper. I suppose this is the golden era people talk about, where sons of privilege get paid for doing nothing, where men have secretaries take off their hats, place their phone calls and hide their affairs for them. These men aren’t impressive, they’re pathetic.
The notion of a show about “ad-men” turned me off from watching Mad Men when it first began airing. The slovenly beatniks from Season 1 are meant to look and act like losers, but their withering critique of what advertisers really do- peddle lies- is rebutted meekly by Draper. There is little honor in selling worthless products, though so many of us are forced to do so at one point or another. This show does little to make advertising seem hip or worthwhile, even for its time. I mean, this was the freaking 1960s, and these guys are coming up with tag lines for lipstick.
Obviously a TV show is more than its premise- Arrested Development wasn’t incredible because it was about housing developers. Unfortunately, the characters that make up Mad Men’s core are a tortuous lot. Pete Campbell, a bratty looking fellow, is eminently unlikeable, and it is often difficult to tell the mediocrity you see before you stems from the actor or the character. Peggy Olson, the only female character to break the secretarial mold, is similarly awkward and difficult to root for. The much hyped Joan Holloway, she of the dazzling curves, has little to say beyond what you’d expect from the power crazy office manager we’ve all had to deal with.
The personal storylines in Mad Men are no more gripping, a cross between Desperate Housewives and the old high school drama Fifteen. Like the show’s in-your-face sexism and racism, the painfully repressed sexuality is a paean to a different era, but that doesn’t make it fun to watch. The most overused line from Season 1 is either “I should go” or “You should go.” The way characters drunkenly make out at parties reminds me of junior year of high school. Everyone is lonely and wishes they got laid more, but can’t, because they married young and are unhappy in marriage. What a downer.
The saddest of all is Betty Draper, a ray of sunshine in a sordid cast. Beautiful, a little weird, and one of the few sympathetic characters in the show, Betty is an example of a woman trapped by her time, destined perhaps for great things if she hadn’t resigned herself to being a housewife in her young 20s. Her yearning leads to some of the few poignant moments on the show, as do Sal Romano’s tribulations as a closeted gay, fitting for a show that peddles sadness.
One can watch entire episodes without so much as a chuckle. I can’t remember the last time I watched a show in which I laughed so rarely at explicit jokes made by the characters. Am I supposed to? I never know what emotional chord this show is aiming for. Is the constant cigarette smoking and whiskey drinking supposed to be comical? Are the racist and sexist jokes “edgy”, a way to make the script accurate, or what?
Finally, what is with the grandeur? Mad Men has been talked about as one of the best shows of the decade, but in what ways is it great? It’s a good drama, but it’s not even in the same conversation as The West Wing, let alone The Wire. The characters are largely mundane and unlikeable, the plot grinds along tediously, the wit is sparse, and most fundamentally, it doesn’t really matter what happens. Oh, they are bought up by a British parent company? They split away and form a small boutique firm? Jesus, how can anyone care?
This was written after battling into Season 2 out of some hope that I needed more than 12 hours to warm up to the show. It ends with a warning for those on the fence about whether to commit their Netflix queue to Mad Men:
Ultimately, this is a show about mediocre men and fake women sleepwalking through their depressed, unimpressive lives, lying and scheming to get one extra rung up the endless ladder. Unfortunately, we already have seen this show- it’s called life, and it’s kind of a downer. Let’s stick to putting something better on television and the internet.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
When Lebron James announces his new basketball home on a maudlin hour-long special, live from Greenwich, Connecticut, he will end an ugly saga that betrayed how brutally unprepared our country is to deal with matters of consequence as technology uncontrollably lurches forward.
On July 1, Lebron James became a free agent. In the preceding weeks (if not months and years), speculation had run rampant, but on that day his free agency became one of the biggest news stories of the Twitter era, rumors exploding from every corner of the internet. Journalists, fellow players, anonymous front office executives, friends of restaurant owners- anyone who could claim a degree of separation from the Source, advanced definitive clues to where Lebron was heading. No entity was more crippled by this phenomenon than ESPN.
ESPN’s embarrassing coverage demonstrated that despite being one of the world’s major news organizations, it was unprepared to handle a mega story that it has known was coming for two years. Desperate not to be scooped, its writers displayed a complete inability to decipher fact from rumor, or fact from relevant fact. Writers lunged from theory to theory- 'Lebron is going to Chicago', 'Lebron is going to New York', 'Lebron is going to Miami', often without any actual developments to bolster their case. One tweet lamented the news that Lebron’s agent had changed his LLC address to Chicago. Another gushed of Lebron’s reservation at a steakhouse in New York.
Information on flights, meals, hotel bookings and phone calls were bandied about, along with deep ruminations on Lebron’s inner psychology. Aware of the tenuousness of their claims, writers deftly pulled Orwellian hijinks with each new 'development', reflecting, 'Lebron was always going to stay in Cleveland', 'Miami was a done deal from the beginning,' 'the Knicks were never in play', only to discard such claims in subsequent posts. During rare, sane moments, a writer would admit that Lebron probably hadn’t made up his mind at all.
There are at least two reasons the complete botching of this story is more important than basketball.
First, we have long recognized that in most news reporting, the immediacy of the 24 hour news cycle is dangerous, allowing for little fact-checking. This problem has only been exacerbated by explosion of Twitter and the increasing number of professionals religiously consulting their iPhones and Blackberries. If the whole world can learn the one sentence synopsis of a story as it is happening, news agencies must have some substance to offer immediately as well. News organizations were all over the Stanley McChrystal story- before the Rolling Stone story was fully published. Most were reacting to excerpts or paraphrased summaries of the article. That is how the important point of the article- the collapse of our Afghanistan war strategy, got lost in the shuffle.
A less recent but even more poignant example would be the ‘balloon boy’ story, during which television news converged on live coverage of a boy in a runaway balloon- only there wasn’t any boy in the balloon. The rush to war in 2003 was bad enough. Can you imagine if rumors related to Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction had proliferated more quickly and more wildly than they had? But examples should not even be necessary in stating a most obvious principle- a world in which newsmakers have no time to reflect before speaking, and policymakers have no time to reflect before acting is highly dangerous.
Our faith in experts is equally misguided, and in the case of 'political analysts', equally dangerous. In sports, inaccuracy is usually of no consequence. Neither the passive fan nor diehard junkie really cares whether someone on NBA.com accurately predicts the outcome of a game. It can be startling to see so-called experts predicting NFL outcomes with the same accuracy as a coin toss or doing worse in fantasy sports than the average online participant. But because such few figures in sports can tell longtime sports fans or former athletes information they don’t already know, the ‘experts’ main role is entertainment rather than analysis.
In theory, the purpose of political analysts is also entertainment. Listen to someone like ‘strategist’ Donna Bazile, for example. Has she ever said anything particularly insightful? In truth, anyone who reads history, frequents multiple new sources daily and owns the right make-up kit could make at least a guest appearance on a cable news show. Analysis is generally trite, with even smart guests stunted by the short, adversarial format. Yet, in contrast to their mastery of sports, most Americans are tragically dependent on the political news establishment. More Americans can debate Federer-Nadal on their own than critique Thomas Friedman’s inane observations on globalization. That is why Friedman is read all over the world as an economic and foreign policy expert despite being wrong with confounding frequency.
It is too late to wish for a world in which people do not crave penetrating analysis of events that have just taken place or hunger for further information that simply does not exist. As sports fans, our shortcomings in this regard have made the Lebron James saga particularly painful. Even as I write this, I peruse Twitter for clues that I know are ultimately meaningless. But at least basketball fans understand the sport well enough to ignore the chatter and make their own reasoned predictions. In politics, most Americans lack the educational background and interest to inform themselves. And so they recline on the couch, and let the talking heads yammer away.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Being in Liberia, for all its wacky adventures, has properly served its purpose as a self-imposed exile from the daily grind of New York City life. Things had hit the wall by January, when I could be found cursing loudly on subway platforms every time I narrowly missed a subway. I needed to get away and think, recharge, and pick up some good stories. So far, all has gone according to plan, sense of purpose is renewed and all that. But, like Dylan once sang, “I’m going back to New York City; I do believe I’ve had enough.” That’s from “Just Like Tom Thumbs Blues,” a stellar track of Highway 61 Revisited. When I was in the band George Carlin Must Die (don’t worry, he was already dead), we covered the song for our album, Jesus Freak Meth-heads. The band was only together for about six hours, but man did we rock.
I can’t wait to stomp through clouds of volcanic ash to get back to the New York scene. New York usually does the whole late spring/ early summer thing with superb gusto, and 2010 will be no different. My perspective on the local and national mood might be a little warped, but thanks to the magic of the internet I am probably reading the same garbage that you are, and I too live in fear of coming face to face with an earnest looking Wolf Blitzer every time I flip on my television.
Because lists are ideally suited for the 140 Characters or Less Era, I’ve compiled my “Reasons the Summer of 2010 is Going to Awesome.” My own biases shine through- I’m not sure how many of you will really stand to gain much from my high school reunion, for example- but this list ought to fire up any soul who just lived through an urban winter.
20. Midnight Spin (all summer): One of Brooklyn’s most rocking new bands, these guys are going to have a big 2010, and this summer you can catch them on the rise in NYC, Boston, D.C and wherever else. I’ll be road-tripping with them for at least one weekend this summer to write a dispatch on the dudes, who know how to have a good time on stage and off it.
19. Williamsburg (all summer): While Wburg is always intriguing, the lack of accessible subway stops can make it a brutal winter destination. Action spills onto the sidewalks, fun things go down in the parks, and Williamsburg is positively hopping and full of energy during the summer. After two summers as a resident, it’ll be a sweet homecoming.
18. The Flaming Lips (July): They are touring this summer. If you don’t know why this is so exciting, do yourself a favor and hit the Youtubes to see why they are considered one of the bands you have to see before you die (or, I suppose, before they die).
17. Financial Reform (May-June): Really, Republicans? The party of corporate thugs has always had masterful snake oil charmers, but this May we’ll have the pleasure of watching Republicans trying to fundraise on Wall Street while simultaneously blocking financial reform as a “giveaway to the banks.” The mental gymnastics required to execute this strategy are simply beyond the abilities of this Republican leadership, and should lead to some entertaining moments, provided corporate Democrats don’t ruin the fun like they always do.
16. All Good Music Festival (July): The preeminent jam-band festival for the laid-back, hang-out scene, this festival brings bands like Parliament and the surviving members of the Greatful Dead to the mountains of West Virginia. West Virginia is one of three states east of the Mississippi River that I have not partied in, and I’d like to check it off the list this summer; I’m currently 35/50, and #14 on this list will bump me up to 37.
15. West Coast Road Trip (August): For someone who loves the open road and adventures away from home, I’ve been shielded from the Left Coast for years by some mystic force. Other than a single night in Los Angeles on a 2007 wedding trip, I haven’t been to the West Coast since 2004. I haven’t been to Portland or Seattle at all, to my great regret, though in my defense, that is only because my car broke down on the 2004 Great American Road Trip. This lazy August jaunt should be a chance to reconnect with peeps, see some great progressive work happening on the ground and soak in two of America’s top cities for the first time.
14. Baseball Season (all summer): Baseball games have gotten too expensive, plain and simple. I’ll still try to get out to some good matchups this summer, but gone are the days of hopping on the subway spontaneously with a friend and grabbing an Upper Deck ticket to see the Mets battle whoever was in town. At Citi Field, a stadium name I won’t ever get over, the cheapest seats are called “The Promenade”, and they are not cheap. Nevertheless, baseball is still the ultimate background television dive bars, and it’s good to have it back. On the heels of my fantasy basketball success, I declined to enter a fantasy baseball league, and will thus be able to relax and enjoy, instead of being glued to my laptop to make seismic roster moves every few hours.
13. High School 10th year reunion (May) : Has it really been ten years? Yes, it definitely has. A full decade has passed since the Collegiate Class of 2000’s reign of terror ended with a wild and tumultuous spring of WWF-inspired populism and Gatsbyesque parties. If Facebook profiles are any indicator, the fifty some boys who made up that graduating class have largely gotten their shit together, which will make for a great contrast with the fifth year reunion, which was something of an unemployment bash.
12. Silk Road Palace (all summer): It’ll be another summer at the Silk Road Palace, one of my very favorite New York institutions. A Chinese restaurant that serves unlimited free boxed wine with every entrée, this place has been the bedrock of many a Friday and Saturday night for the crew over the last decade. I’ve celebrated at least part of my birthday there in 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. The typical Silk Road dinner involves 12-18 people from all different circles coming together to bond over a raucous dinner, replete with fun toasts and boat races. What makes it particularly fun in the summer is that when pre-seating gets too crowded you can wait outside, and likewise, once the meal is over, the buzz-killing cold doesn’t rush you into a hasty post-Road decision. This summer the Road will once again be the place to be, particularly with me moving within closer striking distance to the Upper West Side restaurant this June.
11. The U.S Social Forum (June): On June 22nd, progressive groups are gathering en masse for an organizing conference in Detroit. I could not be more fired up. Activism has deservedly taken its lumps for its disorganization and fractured nature, but thanks in no small part to online organizing, an enormous roster of standout local groups is getting together in one of America’s most beleaguered cities, one I’ve been meaning to visit for years. Did you know that New York to Detroit is only a ten hour drive? And that large organizations attending are told to consider buying a house rather than renting a lot of hotel rooms? This is a rare conference actually worth going to.
10. Sandinista (always): The Clash’s fourth album is so drenched in epic music and context that it remains one of the best things about the coming summer, thirty years after its release. Thirty years ago, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones spent much of the spring and summer throwing together 36 bewildering tracks that became the greatest triple album ever, and my favorite album, which Mick Jones called “a good choice.” The opening track, “Magnificent Seven”, is probably the first “white rap” song ever released. The album dabbles in dub reggae with Mikey Dread at the helm. It rocks out with “Police On My Back” and goes into a “Revolution #9” like sound collage on “Mensforth Hill”. It goes super political with “Charlie Don’t Surf”, a song that predicts September 11th, “Something About England”, which documents the collapse of national morale in England during the 20th century, and “Washington Bullets”, a song about American Cold War imperialism in Latin America, with a simultaneous rejection of Soviet, Chinese and British foreign policy. I mean, honestly, who the fuck writes songs like this anymore? And don’t say Immortal Technique. Titus Andronicus is only two albums into their young careers, so they could conceivably dig deep down the road and make an album this deep and spectacular. The Clash released Sandinista as a triple album (36 songs) so that they could escape their terrible record contract faster, a move that did not escape the record label. In the eventual compromise, the Clash gave up a large percentage of their royalties in return for the label’s pricing it like a double album, to make its purchase accessible to Clash fans. One of the disappointments of 2009 was our failure to put together a proper tribute concert for the 30th anniversary of London Calling. Well, we have a shot at redemption on December 12, for Sandinista’s official 30th. It’ll be a weirder, but more magical show, and we have a summer to plan it.
9. The U.S Open (August): It feels weird to rank a single tennis tournament over the entire baseball season, but the U.S Open has a trump card- the chance to see Roger Federer in his prime one more time. In the last twelve months, Federer has resolved the question of whether he has bested Sampras for the title of best tennis player ever (Yes, see French Open, 2009) and has set his sights on the next level, “Greatest Athlete of Our Time”. Federer’s prime has already lasted at least a year longer than most expected, and in a sport like tennis, you have to wonder how much longer R-Fed will be out there, now that he has statistically nothing left to prove. The heroics that the great ones summon at this stage of their careers, slightly past their physical peaks, are sometimes the most memorable- think Jordan’s Finals performances against the Utah Jazz.
8. Pick-up Basketball (all summer): Between devastating injuries, the bar exam and assorted trips abroad, I haven’t been in a regular pick-up basketball groove in years. While part of me feels that I’ll never be quite the same player post-knee surgery, I’m still not a guy you want guarding you. Sippy and I first took the street-ball court together fifteen years ago, and its long due we racked up some wins on 76th street along with the surviving members of the Hung Jurors, and whoever else is around.
7. The Death of Conservatism (all summer): Conservatism is wrecked. A total joke. Remember when conservatives you knew would bask in their intellectual superiority, snide oozing with every painful conversation. Unfortunately, a combination of world class bumbling by President Bush (How’s that Project for a New American Century going?) and the recent decision to sell their intellectual capital for some short-term Tea Party outrage has left the conservative movement bankrupt in every sense of the word. Now I’m no fool, please don’t mistake my claim to suggest that Republicans will never return to power. Massachusetts voters elected Scott Brown to “break the gridlock in Washington”, when the strength of the Republican opposition is the source of gridlock, a lapse of rational thinking that just makes you have to sigh and get back to work on that civic education. But when the Republican base is a throng of backwards, bigoted fanatics, driven by irrational fear and dare I say, loathing, their days as a majority party are forever threatened.
6. The NBA Play-offs (May and June): The caliber of play in the NBA right now is simply at a level unmatched since I became a fan of the game in 1992. Everyone is hoping for the Kobe v. Lebron matchup that Nike promised us with its incessant commercials last year, but there will plenty of intrigue on the way, including the last gasps of the 2008 champion Boston team and the 2007 champion Spurs team, and the post-season debut of Kevin Durant, perhaps the most prolific young scorer the league has ever seen, and the captain of my 2009-10 championship winning fantasy basketball team. Ultimately, however, the biggest spotlight will be on Lebron. The chattering classes have been waiting two years for this moment (See #4 below).
5. Marathon Day III (May): This twenty-six drink romp through all five boroughs of New York is a day absolutely unlike any other. Conceived of as a way to celebrate my 26th birthday, the tradition is now in year three. There is nothing like the anticipation of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal at 10:45am on a Saturday as the team, a mystery till boarding time, assembles for the first leg of the journey. Did you know that not only is the Ferry free, but you can buy cans of beer for $2 and drink them on the deck? Marathon Day takes about 14 hours, and it has only been completed by three people, but the ebb and flow of merry travelers is part of what makes it special. Sign up to join here!
4. Lebron Lebron Lebron!!! (July): On July 1, Lebron James will become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career, giving him his first opportunity to escape the dregs of Cleveland and make his mark as the biggest sports icon in the world, holding court at Madison Square Garden 41 nights a year (plus playoffs) and single-handedly save the Knicks franchise. Nor is this just a sports story- the allure New York has on Lebron has little to do with basketball; in fact, joining the Knicks would probably be a career setback. But at the last Cavs-Knicks game at the Garden, Jay-Z, Spike Lee and Chris Rock schmoozed with members of the championship Yankees team, which was honored during the first quarter, with Grand Master Flash dj’ing. You just can’t have moments like that in Cleveland, and Lebron knows that. When he visits New York this July, he will be a highly sought after recruit for the whole city, which is guaranteed to put on a spectacular show for him.
3. The World Cup (June-July): Part of me is shocked and disappointed that I won’t be in South Africa to witness this spectacle in the flesh. South Africa, aware of its product, has priced people like me out of attending, but no matter. The quadrennial event that pits nations against each other with much more nationalistic potency than the Olympics will be coming to a local pub screen near you. There will be a lot of subplots at work- for Americans, the desperate need to atone for our dreadful performance in 2006, and a spotlighted June 12 match against England that hundreds of millions around the world will be watching. The World Cup also always has its share of the “traditional powerhouses” vs. “upstart nation” subplots, and with the Cup being hosted in an African country for the first time, a run by Ghana or Cameroon would be particularly awesome. South Africa is expected to fare worse than any host country in the Cup’s history. Even from our far away perch in New York, the World Cup will be thrilling to watch. I’ve even imported a Brit from Liberia to educate us on the finer points of the game. Cheers!
2. Bonnaroo (June): I assume folks have had at least had the decency to ogle this year’s lineup. It actually be less impressive than last year’s unhuman roster, which included an evening of watching Al Green, the Beastie Boys, Phish, Nine Inch Nails and MGMT back to back. It wasn’t even fair. When you’re too wiped out from watching Wilco and Bruce Springsteen to finish watching Public Enemy perform “It Takes A Nation of Millions”, it’s time for karma to spread itself more equitably. This year the headliners include some busts (Kings of Leon?), but it’s hard to argue with Stevie Wonder, Jay-Z, Weezer, and, wait for it- the Flaming Lips, who will be performing their own set and also covering Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety. If that’s not the place you want to be on Earth, I don’t know what is. It makes the entire festival worth it, even if you aren’t sold on the best punk act of its era, the Dropkick Murphys, one of the best young bands in America, the Gaslight Anthem, or John Fogerty, all of whom will be there. Even Conan is listed as a headliner, though I don’t know what he brings to the table. Maybe they’ll pair him with Dave Matthews Band, though in fairness to the long loathed dudes of DMB, we’ve all grown up a little, and I just might give ‘em a look from the back of the crowd. I am sure that some of the Roo faithful will read the previous paragraph with some disgust. After all, Bonnaroo was supposed to be the mecca of jam bands, where people in tie-dyed shirts got stoned and nodded their heads every now and then to 15-minute cover songs (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Things were awkward for a few years- did Radiohead really make sense as a headliner? Rap, too, was brought in gingerly. But all things must pass, and ‘Roo is not really a jam band festival anymore. It is, however, a great time with great people, with enough great music that everyone in attendance will find a reason to make it one of the most memorable experiences of 2010.
1.Bull Moose Movement (all summer): Zombie parades, working with community groups, generating camaraderie across the digital divide…there is so much to look forward to in the nascent Bull Moose Movement. The project is a collaboration of progressive activists across the country, centered in Brooklyn, which seeks to empower communities against corporate influence through civic education. And it will be epic- as any group named for Teddy Roosevelt’s renegade third party candidacy would be. Did you know that the Wizard of Oz is an allegory for 1890s anti-corporate populism? Come find out when we screen it at the Bull Moose Tavern, our hub pub in Hell’s Kitchen.
Progressives are back in a big way right now. We all stumbled a bit in the transition for George Bush to Barack Obama. But the this summer should feature some strong activism, including the teachers movement, which is pushing back hard against the ridiculous charter school impositions from on high, and the citizens united against Citizens United, who are calling on Americans to rethink how corporations should be treated under our laws while they seek to undermine our democratic process. The Bull Moose Movement will be partnering with plenty of sweet groups along the way, and celebrating an optimistic future along the way. Dear Summer of 2010, Let’s do this. Sincerely, Janos and Friends