New York City

It Only Took about 15 Years

It’s because of Jack in the Box that I know how to pronounce gyro. It’s the first syllable that throws off most people. They pronounce gyro as in “shy” instead of pronouncing gyro like “jesus.” And, in the early 1990s, when the fast-food chain introduced their version of the venerable Greek sandwich to the Jumbo Jack faithful, they gave everyone a lesson on the proper pronunciation. A gyro is pronounced yeero.

Apparently, some New Yorkers didn’t get the same lesson from Jack. I saw the confusion firsthand and when a California friend came to visit me here in late-2002, he said, “I’m going to order a yeero.” I told him that he needs to order a chai-ro because nobody is going to know what he is trying to order. He didn’t believe me… until it happened to him. The confused guy at the counter didn’t understand what a yeero was until he changed his order to a chai-ro. He then got a gyro. With extra white sauce.

I hadn’t noticed until today that New Yorkers might be finally coming around to learning the proper pronunciation of gyro. A sign I spotted off Saint Mark’s Place today tried to explain that a yeero is a gyro.

No word if they’re going to each us how to pronounce white sauce.

The Smoker: A History of Stag Films at Light Industry, but No Smoking, Please

As I get older, I forget about some of the things I’ve done that not many others have. Case in point: I took two pornographic film classes as part of the my film studies curriculum.

The first was as an undergraduate at UCSB that was taught by Constance Penley, who Rolling Stone called a notorious professor in 1998. By the time I took the class, it had been taught several times and was not the hot-topic around campus as much as it was when it was first offered. Nonetheless, Penley ran the class as an historical survey of pornographic film, no different than any other professor would teach a survey of animation, documentary, or French cinema.

The second class was as graduate student at NYU, although our instructors were a bit sly about the subject matter of the class. They called it Explicitly Independent, insisting that we were studying experimental, independent film that pushed the boundaries of representing sexuality. This class was not meant as a broad survey of explicit film, as my undergraduate class was, but instead was meant to address a number of topics that our instructors were studying.

Both classes made clear a couple of facts about pornographic film:

  1. it has been around a long time: about as long as motion pictures themselves have been around.
  2. more people consume pornography than you think: it’s pretty much close to 100% of film viewers.
  3. a stylistic history of pornography tracks closely to the stylistic history of cinema at large: the golden age of pornographic film is in the 1970s, which is the same decade as the golden age of New Hollywood.

Light Industry is presenting nine short films on Tuesday, February 20, beginning at 7:30 PM: a program they call The Smoker: A Brief History of the Stag Film. The term “smoker” refers to the smoke-filled rooms where men—and only men—would watch sex on film as part of some weird homosocial ritual to prove that each guy wasn’t “a homo.” If you ever wondered what your grandfather did with his buddies at an Elks Lodge meeting on a Saturday night, it was probably watching these films.

As someone who watched a lot of these kinds of films with an audience that isn’t there for sexual gratification, I will tell you will initially feel a bit awkward when you recognize the situation of watching porn while sitting next to strangers.

Light Industry seems to recognize this. They will screen the films silent in the spirit of historically accuracy. It was common for men to hoot-and-holler while these films played, and indeed, Light Industry’s website notes “in the spirit of smokers past, we encourage attendees to provide their own soundtracks.”

I would go a step further and encourage you to provide your own beverage, too. But, remember that this is the twenty-first century: there no smoking during these smokers.

A History of New York’s Film Forum

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Venerable repertory film theater Film Forum has been operating in New York since 1970. That’s no small feat when you consider the various challenges such an institution faces, including new technologies—from VHS to streaming—that compete for cinephiles’ attention and the commercial real estate market in New York, where the life of a business is largely determined by the length of its lease. As an example of the latter, two movie theaters closed last month in Manhattan because the landlords did not renew their leases: the Landmark Sunshine will be demolished and converted to office space, and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas will undergo some kind of structural renovation to the building—and may again house a movie theater.

Film Forum’s Director of Publicity, Adam Walker, gave a presentation in Utah at Art House Convergence, a gathering of film distributors and exhibitors, about the history of Film Forum. Film Forum posted the presentation on their website The presentation describes several milestones: the various moves that Film Forum undertook that culminated in their current home on West Houston Street, their expansion from one screen to two screen and ultimately to three screens, and the addition of personnel that has shaped their history. The presentation also explains why you often have to sit behind a column when watching a movie there and the origins of their distinct printed calendars.

Origins of Film Forum Calendar

If you prefer experiencing the presentation in a slideshow format, you can also see it as a slideshow on Indiewire’s website.

Spoiler alert: There was one happy note at the end of the presentation that I am happy to relay. Film Forum recently extended their lease to 2035. This means they’ll likely be around for another generation. And because of this newfound security, they have begun renovating their current space and plan to open a fourth screen.

The L-Train Shutdown, or How I Will Stop Worrying and Love the Bus, the Bike, the Boat, and the G Train

Almost invariably, every time I meet someone new and tell them that I live in Williamsburg, I get asked this question: what ever will I do during the L Train Shutdown.

The “L Train Shutdown,” officially known as the Canarsie Tunnel Reconstruction project, will result in the closing of the Canarsie Tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn to repair the damage the tunnel sustained during Sandy in 2012. The closure will cease L train service in all of Manhattan and in Brooklyn west of Bedford Ave. The closure and repairs, announced at least a year ago, will start in April 2019 and are expected to last into summer 2020.

The shutdown will have a profound effect on the lives of thousands of people, and like an old boss of mine used to say, “shit rolls downhill.“ I expect the L Train Shutdown will disproportionally affecting New Yorkers depending on their class, similar to what happens after a blizzard or major snow storm. The poor will have to endure the trains and busses to schlep to work because they have inflexible work arrangements, while affluent professionals will be able to stay home and “remote” into work.

But for all its disruption, the L Train Shutdown could also be an opportunity to remake transportation in North Brooklyn and in downtown Manhattan. Earlier this week, we learned how the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation plan to implement numerous mitigations for those traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the fifteen months that the Canarsie Tunnel repairs will be underway. Many of the changes are additions that could very well make commuting between Brooklyn and Manhattan easier, even after the Canarsie Tunnel repairs are done.

In short, the two agencies plan to…

  • restrict automobile traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge to vehicles carrying three or more people, known as HOV-3, during weekday rush hours,
  • launch a ferry route between the North Williamsburg ferry terminal and Stuyvesant Cove in Manhattan,
  • add extra capacity on the J,M,Z C and G trains, including adding cars to trains and extending station platforms,
  • add a dedicated bus lane and Select Bus Service on 14th Street in Manhattan,
  • add protected bicycle lanes on Grand Street in Brooklyn and Delancey Street in Manhattan to accommodate twice as many bicycle riders as there are now,
  • build a two-way protected bicycle lane on 13th Street in Manhattan,
  • add bus shuttle routes from Bedford Avenue and Grand Street stations in Brooklyn to “key connection points” in Manhattan.

These are some pretty aggressive measures to transport people between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I hope that many of them stick around beyond 2020. For example, it would be great to have a dedicated right-of-way for busses on 14th Street even after the L train starts running again in Manhattan. There has been a need for a Select Bus Service route on 14th Street for as long as the MTA started SBS in 2004, and I’m glad to see it is coming to 14th Street. Also, the new protected bicycle lanes will likely remain in place after 2020 because everyone will just get used to them.

Imagine how many more people can travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn with these additional transportation options after the L train service resumes in 2020. Between this and being able to vote President Pence out of office, I finally have reason to look forward to the future. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

One can already see some of the changes taking shape. Many station platforms on the G line are being extended to accommodate more passengers and longer trains. The M line viaduct reconstruction is also happening in preparation to receive future displaced L-train passengers. And as I wrote earlier this year, there are new east-west bike lanes running on Meserole and Scholes Streets to handle the additional bicycle traffic the DOT anticipates during the L Train Shutdown.

Finally, if you are wondering what ever will I do during the L Train Shutdown, you won’t be surprised to hear that I plan to primarily use my bike. I only regularly travel to Manhattan on a couple of days per week and on most of those days, I ride my bike. Because the L Train Shutdown is starting in April, it only leaves about three winter months when there are days that are too cold to ride. Case in point: I rode yesterday and today because temperatures were in the 20s and 30s, but if this were December 2019 with no warm L train to zip me to and from Manhattan, I likely would have bundled up and gotten on my bike.

But 2019 is still 15 months away—as far away as the L Train Shutdown is expected to last. A lot of life changes can happen between now and then, and who knows if there even a need for me to worry about all this.

UnionDocs is Looking for Winter-Spring Interns, Apply by November 17

UnionDocs, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn–based center for documentary video production, is looking for interns who work in “some aspect” of film and video: curation, production, or film theory. Interns help with realizing UnionDoc’s mission to foster nonfiction media, programming, events, production, and storytelling.

Interns would have responsibilities that including:

  • event documentation
  • event planning
  • social media marketing
  • programming support

Interested students can read more about it on the UnionDocs website and complete an application. The Winter/Spring internships run from mid-January through mid-May. The deadline to apply is Friday, November 17.

Apply by November 17

Introducing Empire Rye

When it comes to whiskey, there’s a common misconception that bourbon must come from Kentucky in order to be called bourbon. But that’s not true. Bourbon whiskey is basically American whiskey, with a few other conditions:

  1. it must be made in the United States of America
  2. the mash bill must contain at least 51% corn
  3. it must be aged at least two years in a newly charred oak barrel
  4. it must be distilled to less than 160 proof and bottled at more than 80 proof

The last two decades has seen a rise in the status and the demand of bourbon whiskey, which may have caught a few distilleries by surprise.

Bourbon whiskey’s close but spicier cousin is rye whiskey, and it too has enjoyed a renaissance over the last two decades. To both capitalize on its resurgence and to differentiate it from other rye whiskies, distillers in New York State have banded together and devised the label “Empire Rye.”

This regional variety of rye whiskey must meet four criteria:

  1. its mash bill must contain at least 75% New York State–grown rye
  2. It must be aged at least two years in a newly charred oak barrel
  3. It must be distilled to no more than 160 proof
  4. It must be put in a barrel at no more than 115 proof

As luck would have it and by designation of the New York State Assembly, this week—between October 16 and 22—is New York Rye Week. Eight distilleries throughout the state, including three from Brooklyn, will be introducing their own versions of Empire Rye whiskey for sale on Saturday, October 21, at the New York Distilling Company in Williamsburg. There are a bunch of other events as well, including a pig roast and a walk-around tasting.

The great thing about distilling now is that it has been around long enough so that we can get properly aged rye whiskey, not just the harsh “unoaked” moonshine that a new distillery was forced to offer while their whiskey aged.

J. Hoberman Presents “Against Riefenstahl” at Light Industry

It’s been a while since I’ve linked to an event at Brooklyn’s Light Industry. That’s partly because I don’t live within a two-minute walk, and I have an evening class on Tuesday nights, which is when their events are usually scheduled. If I can’t attend, how can I reasonably expect you to attend?

But this coming Tuesday, October 17, there’s a pretty special event. Celebrated film critic J. Hoberman will be at Light Industry to present three World War II-era film in a program titled “Against Riefenstahl.



The first film is an abridged version of Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 cinematic love-letter to Adolph Hitler and the Nazis as they consolidated power in Germany. The notes on the website detail how the film reached the attention of American film viewers, including Iris Barry, the first film curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The films that Barry curated are considered the first canonical works of film scholarship. MoMA edited a 45-minute version—a kind of “documentary of the film itself”—that circulated throughout the US in the 1940s.

The film apparently caught the attention of Hollywood film director Frank Capra. According to the screening notes, Capra regarded the edited version of Triumph as the “most impressive propaganda movie he had ever encountered,” incorporating material from the film in his own Why We Fight? series of propaganda films made for the US military between 1942 and 1945 to train newly enlisted and drafted US soldiers.

The film also caught the attention of Charles Ridley, of the British Ministry of Information, who edited a print from the British Film Institute to create a satirical look at Hitler and the Nazis: The Lambeth Walk (1940). This short film that includes and manipulates segments from Triumph and sets it to a song from the time to create a humorous “dance” film, where Hitler and Nazi soldiers appear to “dance” the Lambeth Walk, a popular dance of the time. Having screened this film in class several times, the films retains its sharp comedic and critical bite, nearly eighty years after it was made.

The program will look at these three “derivative works” created from one of the most notorious films ever made: an extremely beautiful and well-made film that celebrates the most evil and murderous regimes in history.

Against Riefenstahl

  • October 17, 2017
  • Light Industry, 155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn
  • $8.00

Watching the Partial Solar Eclipse in Washington Square Park Was the Best Lunch Break I’ve Ever Taken

Yesterday was the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017, and although Megan and I had considered flying to her hometown in Oregon, which was in the path of totality, for the occasion, we never got it together to make the necessary arrangements. Instead, we spent the day at our respective offices in New York. We didn’t even get around to buying eclipse glasses. Sad.

My lunch break at NYU-TV coincided with the most exciting part of the eclipse, between 2:00 and 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time, as maximum eclipse was to occur over New York City at around 2:44 PM. I took my camera to nearby Washington Square Park and snapped photos of the revelers.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

I really enjoyed watching everyone devise creative ways to fashion pinhole projectors and watch the moon partially block the sun.

Perhaps the most expert model was the camera obscura boxes that were distributed by online glasses outlet Warby Parker.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Others made their pinhole-projectors own with cereal boxes.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Others used colanders to see dozens of crescents projected on paper or on the ground.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Yet others used the front-facing cameras on their smartphones to view and photograph the eclipsed sun.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

One guy used two sheets of paper: one with the pinhole and one as a screen.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

There were some viewers using dubious “safety” equipment, such as a perforated black sheet of paper.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

And one trio using strips of unexposed, unprocessed photographic film.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

I hope all these people are okay today.


One of the most enjoyable parts of watching the eclipse in the park was the community among strangers. Many shared safety glasses with each other.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

After I snapped a photo of this undergraduate looking at the eclipse, he asked if I could send it to him.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

I transferred the photo from my camera to my iPhone and emailed him the photo. While we waited for the transfer, he offered to let me look through his glasses. I took him up on the offer.

What I saw was a wisp of a cloud overlapping with the eclipsed sun. It was an indescribably beautiful image, and I was happy to have that as my first view of the sun. Sorry, I don’t have a photo of what I saw, but I don’t think I’ll ever forget it and who needs a photograph?


This being New York, of course, there was an enterprising woman selling glasses for $20.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

At 2:40 PM, just a few minutes before the maximum coverage, I bought a pair.

Twenty bucks seemed a bit steep for a pair of glasses that will have about an hour’s worth of utility, but I I earned some karmic equity by sharing them with my coworkers after my lunch break had concluded.

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

Solar Eclipse 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City

As countless of people have commented, including me in an Instagram post, this was a rare moment where we gathered together and forgot about our problems and our differences. We gathered together and shared watching the spectacular cosmic dance between the sun and the moon.

View my album on Flickr

Go Back to School with Anthology Film Archives

Anthology Film Archives is arguably one of the most important institutions for film in New York City, and with the back-to-school season upon us, Anthology Film Archives is offering a substantial discount on one book relevant to their mission as a home of experimental and avant-garde cinema.New and renewing members can purchase one of the following four books at a 50% discount:

Support Anthology Film Archives, get free admission to Essential Cinema screenings, and enjoy discounted tickets to all screenings by becoming a member. Regular memberships start at $70 and student/senior membership cost $50. Also, student members will receive two bonus months of membership for free.

Roll of the Die

I never got to go to Cassette in Greenpoint before they abruptly closed. However, since then Purslane Catering took it over as an extended “pop-up” featuring Threes Brewing, and it’s a lot more convenient for me to go there than to trek to Threes’s brewery in Gowanus.

In any case, Threes’s Greenpoint location has some pretty intriguing specials, in addition to the weekday happy-hour specials, including:

  • Teacher Appreciation Day: $35 margarita pitchers, Fridays from 5 to 7 PM
  • Take a Chance: Roll a Die, What You Hit is What You Pay, Sundays from 5 to 8 PM

IMG 7988

What struck me, aside from the $35 margarita pitcher because I know of a similarly classy joint that offers them for $20 at all times, is that, with the right roll of the dice, you can buy a draft beer for as little as $1. (Their drafts are usually around $7 but can sometimes cost more.) But I wasn’t sure if they meant one die or two? What’s the difference between “die” and “dice”? It’s one of those things that I thought I understood, but now that beer is at stake, I really need to know the difference.

I did a little—and I mean, very little—research, and here’s what I found:

  • die is always singular. It’s as simple as that.
  • dice is the plural of “die,” but today, we usually use this term to refer to either one, two, or more die. In fact, it is so common that we don’t use the term “die” to refer to a single die anymore. We use “dice.”

It’s nice to know that they are referring to a single die (or dice) and even use the always-singular “die” for the sake of this “Take a Chance” contest. I would hate to pay $12 for a beer because of an unlucky dice toss.