09/04/09 12:00am

By LA Slugocki —
P.S. Bookshop, 145-A Front Street relocated to 76 Front Street, owned and operated by Yuval Gans, specializes in all things literary; used and rare books, first editions, reprints, high brow, low brow, the sacred, the profane, the ridiculous and the sublime, as well as a burgeoning children’s collection. But do not mistake it for The Strand. That, he said, is not my model. This is not a supermarket.

His model is the Gotham Book Mart, may she rest in peace (1920-2007). He remembers arriving here in 1993 from Israel, dropping his bags off at a hotel in Times Square, passing Radio City Music Hall, announcing Aretha Franklin tonight, and thinking, my God, what’s tomorrow, and heading straight to the fabled, now defunct bookstore. This is his model, his aesthetic; a bookstore with an affinity for the neighborhood, a bookstore that is a meeting place.

When I stopped by today to see if he had a copy of Jean Anouilh’s Medea, he was ringing up An Analysis of Three or Four Things I Know About Her, Jean Paul Goddard’s film. This woman had traveled from Mexico to buy this book for her son— who had located it online. Then Yuval led me to the back of the 2,000 square foot store, clambered up a step ladder and retrieved four anthologies of Anouilh’s plays. Sadly, not a one contained his adaptation of Medea. I said, well, where are the anthologies, maybe it’s one of those. It wasn’t, but I did find a copy of Sarah Kane’s infamous and posthumously produced 4.48 Psychosis, now out of print.

I’ve known Yuval for a long time, from back in the day when he worked at and designed the intricate labyrinth of books at Heights Bookstore, formerly on Montague. I loved his window displays, every month a different theme. This month marks his third anniversary in Dumbo. How did you create your inventory, I asked. He said, road trips, from here to Maine, scouring library sales, estate sales, country fairs, bookstores, and auctions where I would buy an entire lot.

When he opened his doors in 2006, he had one tenth of what is now on the shelves. Now, today, the books come to him. He got a 1st edition of Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York, and decided he would price it competitively just to keep it in the store for awhile. Alas, it still sold, almost immediately. The out of print market, he said, is flourishing. He is particularly proud of his collection of architecture and photography books, including several signed first editions by Horst and Avedon, among others.

But as father of two children, he may be the most proud of the children’s section. It’s housed in the central portion of the store complete with an indoor playground. Beginning in September, every Sunday at 4:00 p.m., the children’s reading series resumes, which includes music; sort of like karaoke for the Harry Potter and Hello Kitty set. Neighborhood children, of course, are big fans, but they come from all five boroughs.

Personally, I get a huge kick out the pulp fiction collection, titles like: White Trash, The Tigress, Love Hungry— oh, those man-hungry, slutty women from the 1950’s! Whatever happened to them? Seriously, they’re hilarious, and, by the way, priced to sell at around $20. On my way out, I saw Howl by Allen Ginsberg, a 4th printing. The price, $100. I hesitated, imagining the heft and the weight of the book in my hand, exactly where it would go in my library, how it would look and how it would feel— then decided, no. Maybe another day. I still had Euripides’ Medea (I settled for the original), a new Moleskin notebook, and an out of print play.

For more information: 718-222-3340 or info@psbnyc.com

Today’s guest blogger, LA Slugocki is an award winning writer and producer, has lived in New York City for twenty years.

Previously on DumboNYC: P.S. Bookshop Opens in Dumbo, 09Oct2006
P.S. Bookshop (psbnyc.com)
76 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tel: 718-222-3340
Open 7 days a week 10am-8pm

06/24/09 10:52am

(Photo: Yumi Janairo Roth, Paleta: Pallet (Made in Philippines) (2005), 3 pallets (46x40x6)

According to Smack Mellon’s press release, the title of the group exhibit, Beauty Underfoot comes from John Cage— apropos of Robert Rauschenberg, “Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look.” This aesthetic is precisely followed by Jeanne Gerrity, curator.

Yumi Janairo Roth recontextualizes shipping pallets, objects so commonplace, so functional— they are almost invisible. Roth, however, builds them herself, and then embellishes them with hand carved designs, or inlays them with mother-of-pearl. Much of the technique she employs in Paleta: Pallet (Made in the U.S.A.), she learned while participating in a residency in the Philippines. Not rough hewn and thrown out with the trash; the pallets, in this exhibit, are defiantly elegant.

In Charwei Tsai’s video installation, a fish, projected on an artificial beach of the gallery floor, struggles to breathe, as the artist paints calligraphy on its belly. There is a tension created by the undeniable beauty of the image— the sand sparkles; crystalline and pure. It’s hauntingly ephemeral. This is contrasted with the fish; desperate to escape. It seems to be trying to move off the page.

Hood, by Fawad Khan, is the result of his first foray into integrating digital media and wall painting. His large scale painting of a car, cartoonish and joyful, shimmies and shakes with real time animation. Yet for all its playfulness, there is a not quite hidden malice, something tricky and deceitful: this could blow up in your face at any time.

All of the work in this exhibit also seems to reference, in spirit, the much larger exhibit at The New Museum, Generational:Younger Than Jesus— artists responding to a culture that is beset and besieged by images, by content. A world exploding with information. The work is performative, narrative. It is brash. Fearless. While not every piece in Beauty Underfoot succeeds— every voice is clear.

The exhibit runs from June 20th to August 2nd, 2009.

Smack Mellon
92 Plymouth Street (@ Washington St), Brooklyn, NY 11201
Gallery hours are Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6pm.

Today’s guest blogger, LA Slugocki is an award winning writer and producer, has lived in New York City for twenty years.

05/08/09 3:41pm

Brooklyn Blogfest 2009

The second I walked in the door to the Brooklyn Blogfest 09, with friend and literary agent, Deirdre Mullane, I found myself deep in conversation with a charming and passionate politician-in-the-making. Medhanie Estiphanos is running for New York City Council to represent District 35. He said the public school system is broken, and as an educator in the CUNY system, I agree. In his words, “We need to instill a culture of accountability.” Truer words were never spoken, my friend.

Next I looked for the free white wine, but instead found water and raffle tickets. I prayed for the digital camera. Melanie Hope Greenberg said hi, even though I had never met her. She’s read my posts on arts and culture in the 11201 and beyond. She writes a blog called Mermaids on Parade. I took her card as D. and I found our seats in the cavernous Powerhouse Arena Bookstore; the festivities were about to begin. The crowd was humming, a baby was crying, a man on the floor was twittering.

Louise Crawford of Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn took the stage. I thrilled to the words, cash bar and free food at Galapagos. She said in the year 2006, 100 bloggers attended. From the size of the crowd around me, this had certainly changed. It was a sea of bloggers in the bloggiest burb in America. She said we do this, the blogfest, for insight, to continue to create community for writers— and that this year the evening was dedicated to the memory of Robert Guskind, and his amazing blog, The Gowanus Lounge.

Next up: Picture Brooklyn: A Tribute to the Borough’s Photobloggers by Adrian Kinloch, Brit in Brooklyn. My favorite was a shot of a storefront, Lone Wolf Liquor. Loved it. Loved all the images— the yellow Volkswagon, the Coney Island Wedding, the Smith Street Subway mosaic. I loved Blogs-Of-A-Feather; group sessions led by notable bloggers like Jake Dobkin of Gothamist. I ran into an old friend of mine, James M. Vogel who now works for Senator Velmanette Montgomery from the 18th NYS Senate District. Back in the day, twenty years ago, we were on tour together with the cheesiest Broadway revue ever.

Final Stop: Galapagos for the after-party. The pizza was excellent. I didn’t win the camera, but I did get a chance to meet the faces behind the URL’s at The Brooklyn Heights Blog. Yes. The Brooklyn Blogfest 09 fulfilled its mandate. As a newcomer to this arena, I had fun, felt part of a larger community, made new friends, found old friends. I was a Blogfest Virgin, and I still had a good time.

This review was written by guest writer, LA Slugocki (laslugocki.blogspot.com). Hide of the Dumbo blog attended, but felt crappy from a flu, so unfortunately had to leave early. Hope to meet other bloggers sometime soon. Thanks to LA for the review. For anyone who attended, how did you like the event?

04/17/09 10:27am

Yes, yes, yes.

Whenever a woman artist grabs hold of a female stereotype and shakes it out to dry, it’s cause to celebrate. Ana Isabel Ordonez, created a montage of gangsters’ molls and fallen women from the classic noir tradition for a jazz/film event— Shades of Jazz On Noir at Galapagos Art Space on Wednesday, April 15th During the film, Freak Lip Kill Jazz Trio improvised providing drama, pathos, and romance. The women were the same women we’ve all come to love and fear, iconic women; Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead, Janet Leigh, and a very young Simone Signoret. They were tough dames and they meant trouble, with a capital T. But they were also vulnerable. They just needed a strong man.

In the opening scene, a terrified woman runs down a lonely highway; chic and disheveled in a belted trench. Gorgeous and dangerous. It’s classic noir. But instead of the classic soundtrack— a very modern accompaniment of saxophone, bass, and guitar. The marriage of film and music really worked, it played both with and against the genre. Then the screen went blank. The trio stopped playing. The audience heard a woman, a voice-over, telling the tale of a modern day love story. She’s a real woman. She’s not a stereotype. She’s smart, she’s strong, she’s sexy. She’s so 21st century. The images are not. The juxtaposition is startling. The performance alternated, back and forth; film/music, then voice-over.

Originally, of course, the noir women were filmed from the male gaze. Ordonez reframes them literally with the montage, the modern voice-over and the music. Alexis Cuadrado on bass led the narrative, along with Brad Shepik’s guitar and Adam Niewood’s saxophone. There was a stunning shot of Lana Turner’s legs— the camera literally caresses them. Then it traveled up those celebrated gams accompanied with a sharp and almost discordant sax solo. Other images included: Rita Hayworth flipping her hair, Lauren Bacall batting her lashes at Bogie, Barbara Stanwyck in a tragic kiss with Glenn Ford. It’s hot stuff, made even hotter with the music.

Galapagos in Dumbo is a gorgeous space; islands of red curved banquettes— floating in shallow pools of water. The maritime theme echoes throughout the cavernous, two story space with state of the art sound and light equipment. The programming is artsy, eclectic, and pop cultural as well. On any given night, there might be a film premiere, nerd speed dating, stripping, or an opera. The ticket prices to these events are very inexpensive. The staff is lovely. The neighborhood is grand.

Today’s guest blogger, LA Slugocki is an award winning writer and producer, has lived in New York City for twenty years.

03/16/09 8:27am

(TransBeMan: James Remar and Jane Kim)

Transformer Films, in Dumbo, is across the street from the transformer, at the dead end of Jay Street, against the blue ribbon of the East River. Helmed by Eric Nadler and Bob Coen, they like to joke that this is where they get their power. Their latest film, TransBeMan, a sci fi thriller, directed by Richard Kroehling, asks the provocative question; once you remove death and mortality, what happens to the human experience? Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, would be proud. The premise is life can live on in virtual reality— once we get rid of our cumbersome and mortal hardware, our bodies.

The film had its genesis in 2005 in Caracas, Venezuela at the World Congress of Transhumanism. So the film is rooted in scientific fact as crazy as that might sound. It wasn’t too long ago that the idea of a self-aware computer, our friend Hal (“I can’t do that Dave”), seemed preposterous. Now we are wedded to our virtual lives; our cars, our computers and our homes talk to us. According to Coen and Nadler, there is a huge sub-culture of post docs at MIT and Harvard University who are experimenting with and investigating the post-human condition through genetic engineering. I went to the premiere of this film at Galapagos Art Space on February 15th and walked away very impressed.

This compelling feature typifies the type of brainy, cerebral filmmaking of Transformer. Their next film, Anthrax Wars, is a documentary about the 2001 anthrax attacks and a trail of dead scientists. Bruce E. Ivens is one of them. He made national headlines when he was accused of being the anthrax killer. He allegedly killed himself in August 2008. I write allegedly because the Coen and Adler believe otherwise. This material is so combustive that the making of the film is now a book, Dead Silence: Fear and Loathing on the Anthrax Trail, soon to be released by Counterpoint Press from Berkeley.

So who are these men? Eric Nadler is an award winning author, journalist and filmmaker. He has written for Rolling Stone, Harpers, The Nation, and Mother Jones, among others. He has produced programs for PBS FRONTLINE and was the investigative editor for the Peabody Award-winning South African Now. Bob Coen is an award winning journalist and filmmaker from Zimbabwe whose work has been broadcast on PBS, National Geographic and Channel 4, UK, among others. In 1997, he was awarded the Bayeux Award, for Television War Correspondent of the Year.

They like to call Dumbo the “back lot.” They love the energy here; the photo shoots, the artists, the sweeping views of the East River from their production office. They love the local businesses, including, It’s the Sound, Galapagos and Rice. They want their neighbors to know that in addition to being passionate and intelligent filmmakers, they also know how to recycle. Up next they’re working on Pinky, Pinky. Pinky is a ghost. A South African golem who lives in the toilet and attacks young girls. We have our urban myths— the poodle in the microwave, the dead hitchhiker, but nothing like this. I pitched them Ten One Night Stands; my series of webisodes, edgy and erotic, about the new sexual dynamic between men and women. I hope I get to work with them. I hope you see their movies.

Today’s guest blogger, LA Slugocki is an award winning writer and producer, has lived in New York City for twenty years. Her credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, NPR, Salon.com, and an MA from NYU. Her interests are literature, theatre, music and art.

03/09/09 12:29am

(Nutria NN performance at Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY. Artwork by Blane De St. Croix. Image courtesy of Smack Mellon.)

When I first walked into Smack Mellon Gallery in Dumbo last Thursday night, for its Press Play Series I saw a wall. For a second, I wondered if I had gotten the date wrong. I wondered if the gallery was still working on the installation. The bisected cavernous space looked completely different. And of course that was the point. I was looking at, confronted by Blane De St. Croix’s installation, Broken Landscape. It is an almost literal rendering of the Mexico/US border, over eighty feet in length, in the main gallery space— but monumentally miniaturized. The wall itself is chest high, perhaps a foot wide.

Reaching down from wall, as if a giant knife has sliced through the earth, the piece reveals the underlying geological stratum as neatly and as scientifically as a textbook. The terrain is haunted. It is devoid of human habitation. The border is a ghost town. On the one hand, it is an intimate portrait of the unfriendly, almost menacing topography of this region, and on the other, a charged political statement. The end of the wall is a bisected overpass of a highway that begins and ends in mid-air. In contrast, the beginning of the border resembles the badlands, an almost primeval landscape. It eventually evolves into civilization, the floating highway— yet both look dangerous.

In the smaller gallery is Carlos Motta’s, The Good Life. This is an installation with a multi-channel video presentation with 12 monitors mounted on a four part, two tiered structure. From his notes, this structure references, “the theater and general space of the Athenian Agora, in which citizens were entitled to meet, debate and participate in legislative decisions.” When I walked into this gallery, another confrontation— but this time, highly populated and very vocal. The artist interviewed pedestrians on the streets of South American countries between 2005-2008 on democracy, US involvement in their countries and the idea of leadership. In particular, a man spoke about the horrible conditions of a local hospital. He talked about the flies that landed on his mother’s body. Another woman suggested the US government sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong.

As I peered across the divide, past the badlands, the music began. Nutria NN is the stage name of Christian Torres-Roje. Technically, the music is Chilean folk rock, but obviously fused with other cultures and styles. I loved Tristeza de Lota; a moving anthem about being “lonely, lonely, lonely down in the mines.” The songs were subdued, poignant, melodic— a fitting and apt counterpoint to the politically infused installations. Once again, Smack Mellon has succeeded in curating an evening of music and art that not only reference each other, but illuminate and enrich as well. Once again, superior local beer by Kelso was on hand, and this time, now March, it was warm enough to walk home. Excellent.

Our guest blogger today, LA Slugocki is an award winning writer and producer, has lived in New York City for twenty years. Her credits include Broadway, Off-Broadway, NPR, Salon.com, and an MA from NYU. Her interests are literature, theatre, music and art.