Coney Island’s Grand Past: A Requiem for an American Icon

Coney Island’s Grand Past: A Requiem for an American Icon

Coney Island is nearing its final days, swirling ever-more deeply into a dismal state of disrepair.  Soon the bulldozers will be back again, pushing over the last weathered links to the past, spelling the demise, once and for all, of the city’s most iconic neighborhood.  Coney Island was always a place where you could drink beer, “shoot a freak,” see a geek, see a burlesque show, see fish, catch fish, eat fish, ride the Cyclone, ride the waves, win a kewpie doll, play Skee-Ball, go to a ballgame, see a band and lie on the sand.  It was the last stand of the morally doubtful, the last place where one could feel the openness and energy of New York City in the 1970s, but stripped of the accompanying dread of crime and decay.

Now the city administration and wealthy developers have set into motion their master plans to rescue everyone from all of that, constructing at least four luxury hotels as high as 30 stories tall and as many as 26 residential towers to house wealthy residents paying top dollar for their condos.  The real tragedy of Coney Island’s destruction is one that carries a much broader social message, it symbolizes the devastation of what had been since the mid-1800s a haven for waves of immigrant peoples, for the poor and for those who have been forced to exist on the outer-margins of society.  And that is the real catastrophe.

Bruce Gilden: Coney Island’s Darkly Humorous Scenes and Characters

The Spectacular Coney Island in 1940: A Documentary

Bob Dylan: Beyond Here Lies Nothin’

Lou Reed: Coney Island Baby

Slide Show: Coney Island’s Grand Past/A Requiem for an American Icon

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Photo of the Day: The Flying Spirit of Ecstasy

Photo of the Day: The Flying Spirit of Ecstasy

Photography by:  Joseph O. Holmes, NYC

The 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost: World Premiere

The 1958 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud

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Matthew’s Secret: The Blind Girl and a Magical Unicorn

Matthew’s Secret: The Blind Girl and a Magical Unicorn

El Secreto de Mateo (Matthew’s Secret) is a heart-warming short film produced by Greg Fay for the Philips Cinema Project.  In the film, a boy leads a young girl, who appears to be blind, up into a building in a housing project to show her his secret.  The girl is introduced to a donkey, which the boy tells her is a unicorn.  The young girl is filled with fulfillment and delight, as she feels the magic of the moment in a life that has offered her so little.  However, the joy is short lived, as we are shown the difficulties of growing up when a group of bullies taunt the pair.  The boy stands up for his younger friend, but afterward it all seems too much as the brave boy is left to cry quietly in the corner.  Unaware of her friend’s pain, the little girl turns her attention once again to the beauty of the animal.

Matthew’s Secret: The Blind Girl and a Magical Unicorn

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Faulkner at Virginia: Prophet and Poet

Faulkner at Virginia: Prophet and Poet

In February 1957, when he arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia, to occupy his position as the University of Virginia’s first Writer-in-Residence, William Faulkner was 59 years old.  He had already published sixteen novels, five volumes of short stories and a dozen other books, but had only recently begun to be known as the country’s greatest living novelist.  In 1949 he became just the fourth American author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and earlier in the same year the American Academy of Arts and Sciences awarded him the Howells Medal for Fiction.  In the next five years he also received two National Book Awards (1951, 1955) and a Pulitzer Prize (1955).

The University of Virginia has just published an online audio archive of the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s two-year term as writer-in-residence at Virginia during the late 1950s.  In the recordings, Faulkner talks about his books, his career and events of the day.  The entire archive of Faulkner’s material can be accessed here.

A Word to Virginians

Faulkner was not afraid to challenge his audiences at the University of Virginia, as became clear when he decided to begin his second Spring semester in “Residence” by delivering “A Word to Virginians,” a nine-minute speech urging them to help solve rather than exacerbate the growing crisis over court-ordered integration in the Jim Crow South.  To 21st century listeners, his exhortations may sound more like temporizings, but at the time they were controversial, and to some in his immediate audience, as you can hear for yourself, unacceptable:

William Faulkner: A Word to Virginians

A Word to Young Writers

In his talk entitled A Word to Young Writers, Faulkner stated, “I have not read all the work of this present generation of writing. I have not had time yet.  So I must speak only of the ones I do know. I am thinking now of what I rate the best one, Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, perhaps because this one expresses so completely what I have tried to say.  A youth, father to what will—must—someday be a man, more intelligent than some and more sensitive than most, who—he would not even have called it by instinct because he did not know he possessed it because God perhaps had put it there, loved man and wished to be a part of mankind, humanity, who tried to join the human race and failed.  To me, his tragedy was not that he was, as he perhaps thought, not tough enough or brave enough or deserving enough to be accepted into humanity.  His tragedy was that when he attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there.  There was nothing for him to do save buzz, frantic and inviolate, inside the glass wall of his tumbler, until he either gave up or was himself, by himself, by his own frantic buzzing, destroyed.”

William Faulkner: A Word to Young Writers

The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner: A Reading of The Sound and the Fury

William Faulkner at the University of Virginia

William Faulkner: Prophet and Poet

William Faulkner: Nobel Prize Speech (1950)

Slide Show: Faulkner at Virginia/Prophet and Poet

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Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photo of the Day: Melancholy Shades of Blue

Photography by:  Glenn Losack, M.D. (NYC)

Can you now recall all that you have known?
Will you never fall
When the light has flown?
Tell me all that you may know
Show me what you have to show
Won’t you come and say
If you know the way to blue?

-Nick Drake, 1969

Nick Drake: Way to Blue (1969)

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Fear/Love: A Tale of Identity, Fear and Self-Destruction

Fear/Love: A Tale of Identity, Fear and Self-Destruction

Fear/Love is  a new short film directed by the veteran English street artist and urban videographer Rob Chiu, aka The Ronin.  The film was made in collaboration with an urban youth program called the I Care Revolution, which encompasses a multitude of talented artists working together to empower young people to make a difference in the lives of others.

Set against the harsh backdrop of inner city London, Fear/Love interweaves the lives of three adolescents who never really meet each other, but whose actions intersect and interpenetrate as they struggle with who they are, who they want to be and who they are becoming.  Their lives enact the central quest for the ever-evasive heuristic sense of identity, whether that means not knowing your identity, being ashamed of who you are, trying to become someone else or looking for acceptance.

Their intertwining journeys take them down paths mixing visions of potential identity with yearnings for love, wishes for intimacy that are inevitably thwarted by their fears of others.  Ultimately, decadent overindulgence gives rise to self-destructive acts, leading up to a horrible event.

Fear/Love: A Tale of Identity, Fear and Self-Destruction

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The Poor in America: Friends and Neighbors in the Heartland

The Poor in America: Friends and Neighbors in the Heartland

For some people, our economy may be turning around, but millions of families are at risk of going hungry, in one of the richest nations on earth.  The poorest people in America are those who are the first to feel the downturn, and will be the last to feel the country’s financial recovery.  The hardworking poor in America’s heartland, with their long and deep traditions in mining, manufacturing and military service, are increasingly seen in food pantry lines, feeling ashamed and angry.  Their stories and images push beyond stereotypes and reveal a hidden America of families living in poverty, which is both surprising and haunting.

Friends and Neighbors: The Recession’s Unseen Victims

Poverty in the Hills of Central Appalachia

A Hidden America: Children of the Appalachian Mountains

Kris Kristofferson: This Old Road

Slide Show: The Poor in America/Friends and Neighbors in the Heartland

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