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July 23rd, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Urban Life & New York City

Help Support Photographer Harvey Wang’s Upcoming Book, “From Darkroom to Daylight”

Harvey Wang is a photographer I admire, whose 2011 exhibit at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum I covered for this blog.Wang exhibit post

Wang had told me about a book he’s writing that chronicles the transition in photography from the darkroom era to the digital age we’re in now, and today I was glad to learn of a Kickstarter campaign he’s running to support publication of the book, which I tweeted about after contributing. Below, you can view a video about the book, and contribute to the Kickstarter via this link. The campaign is running one more week, until July 30.

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July 18th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

My NXNE Storify: “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014″


Storify screenshot

In completing my coverage of NXNE, the Toronto music festival I attended June 17-24 as accredited press, I’ve used Storify, the platform that lets bloggers incorporate social media posts in with their own writing. Once a piece is published on Storify, you can grab a handy embed code and paste it in at your websites, where it populates precisely as you assembled it. The piece is titled “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014,” “a collection of illustrated social sharing culled from my timelines 6/17-6/24, w/commentary; links to bands & venues; plus content I’m borrowing with acknowledgement of & appreciation for other music fans who shared about NXNE, creating a visual diary of the festival.” Please click here to read it on Storify, or here on Honourary Canadian. I hope you enjoy reading the piece which includes travel and tourism info about Toronto, offering some notes on restaurants, bookstores, shopping, and architecture, along with my music coverage.
 

 

 

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July 15th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling; Urban Life & New York City

Previewing Fall 2014 Books with NY State and NJ Booksellers


Audience at July 15 NAIBA eventHad a great time last night at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Soho, where a preview of two important Fall titles was put on by the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). As soon as I arrived I saw Eileen Dengler, Executive Director of NAIBA, whom I’ve known since my days with Undercover Books in Cleveland. Among many booksellers on hand, I met Heidi Shira Tannenbaum, manager of the Housing Works store; Margot Sage-El, Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, NJ*; two female staff members from Word Bookstore‘s Jersey City location; Todd Dickinson, of Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA; Ezra Goldstein of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn; Roy Solomon of Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, NY; and Bill Reilly of River’s End Bookstore in Oswego, NY, site of the US Army camp where during WWII nearly 1,000 refugees were brought for sanctuary by Ruth Gruber, then a member of the FDR administration. She chronicled this in her book HAVEN: The Dramatic Story of 1,000 WWII Refugees and How They Came to America (out first in 1985), which I republished in trade paper in 1999, when I was with Crown Publishing. Bill told me that HAVENwhich along with four other books by Gruber is now available from Open Road Media—is his store’s top-selling book of local history; indeed I found the Open Road edition featured on the left-hand rail of the store’s website. Though Bill’s store is in upstate NY, near Lake Ontario, he hadn’t even traveled the farthest to be at this gathering: that recognition went to a bookseller from Buffalo. I was also delighted to see longtime Random House sales rep Ruth Liebmann in the audience. A nicely stocked bar with appetizers was generously provided by book distributor Baker & Taylor.

The first writer to speak was Robert W. Snyder, Director of the American Studies Program at Rutgers. His forthcoming book is CROSSING BROADWAY: Washington Heights and the Promise of New York City, to be published in December by Cornell University Press. My first five years in NYC I lived in Washington Heights, on Bennett Avenue at 186th Street, on the west side of Broadway—still the defining artery of the neighborhood—so I very much enjoyed meeting Snyder, then hearing his presentation on the book. It chronicles the evolution of this northern Manhattan neighborhood over the past century, and how it stands todayas quite a stellar example of diverse urban populations living successfully side-by-side, even while it more and more faces the price of its own success, with gentrification, rising home prices, and distortions to the social weave that may already be diminishing its richness. I recall that when I lived up there my NY State Assemblyman was J. Brian Murtagh, a voluble Irish pol who was proud of saying that his constituents spoke some astonishing number of languages among themselves—more than fifty, I recall. The dominant groups had long been Irish, German-Jewish, and Dominican, but with many other nationalities, too. Separately, we spoke about upper Manhattan, which has been important in NY history since the Revolutionary War. I told him I cover it often here writing about the Little Red Lighthouse, underneath the eastern arch of the George Washington Bridge, aka the Great Gray Bridge, and High Bridge, where an original foot-bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx is being restored.

I appreciated that in introducing Snyder my longtime book biz friend, Christopher Kerr, who reps Cornell University Press, voiced a brief shout-out to me, evoking the years I lived in Washington Heights, when amid the ravages of the crack epidemic, the nabe was too often known most for its high crime rate. Actually, my part of the Heights had little crime, and I was able to pay less than $600 per month rent, in 1985, for a comfortable 2nd floor apartment in a 6-story building. I also had the good fortune to buy furniture and bookcases from the daughter of the German-Jewish woman who’d brought them from Germany decades earlier. I still have the bookcases today, though I moved to the upper west side of Manhattan in 1990.

The second author last night was Emily St. John Mandel, a novelist with Canadian roots, having grown up in western BC, who then lived in Montreal. I met her briefly during BEA in 2013, at a Greenwich Village reception sponsored by the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC). I recalled last night that she said then she was finishing a manuscript, now completed, titled Station Eleven. Each of her three previous novels has received great reviews, like this comment about her debut book, from an erudite bookseller/reader at Rainy Day Books, a top indie bookstore in Kansas City, KS.

Last Night in Montreal took me by surprise in the most wonderful ways….From the very first chapter, I was drawn in to her provocative, delicately grim world full of wanderlust, betrayal, and the quest for answers. Each of [Mandel's] deliciously real characters are searching for answers to the questions of their lives, compelled to hunt them out no matter how shocking or painful those answers may be. Mandel’s novel, though relatively short, amazed me with its intricacies and complexities. As days go by, I find myself thinking of more and more reasons I so loved [it].”—Elizabeth Lewis, Rainy Day Books

St. John Mandel’s new novel will be published September 9 by Knopf in the US, then separately in North America by Harper Canada, and Picador in the UK.  I’d expect there will also be foreign language editions. It’s a very impressive book, and she spoke about it beautifully. St. John Mandel began by explaining that she’s always loved reading post-apocalyptic fiction, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and she wrote her new novel as a kind of love letter to the present, a meditation on what we would miss most if all that we’re used to went away, and what we would long for most keenly. In literature, she imagined that the sudden subtraction from our midst of the works of Shakespeare would be one of our greatest losses, so she conceived a traveling theater troupe who continue performing Shakespeare’s plays, even while the world around them is withering away. She had me at theatre troupe, as I quickly remembered novels I’ve enjoyed, like Robertson Davies’ early book Tempest-Tost, about a community group putting on “The Tempest,” and the funny, ribald, and wrenching Canadian TV series Slings & Arrows, which features recurring characters in a theater company staging “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and “King Lear” over three seasons. For the apocalyptic part, on the subway downtown, I’d been reading a battered copy of Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear classic, On the Beach, so you can imagine I was immediately eager to begin Emily’s book, leaving Shute’s book in my knapsack on the ride home. Station Eleven was a Buzz Book at BEA in May but I had missed the presentation given about it then by her Knopf editor, Jennifer Jackson, who introduced her author last night and has written an eloquent ode to the book for booksellers that’s printed in the ARC. On the subway I found myself immediately captured by the wistful voice and St. John Mandel’s exquisite sentence-making, where prop snowflakes stand in for the creeping coldness falling all around us.

Here are pictures from last night’s enjoyable reception, with thanks to all the booksellers, publishers, reps, sponsors, hosts, and authors.

* I was excited to discover on the Wachtung Booksellers’ website that NY Times reporter Harvey Araton—whose novel Cold Type I picked up at BEA, and which I loved reading, making it my #FridayReads on June 14—will be at the store in Montclair for a signing on July 23. I hear Montclair is a great town for books and reading.

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June 22nd, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Canada; Honourary Canadian; Personal History, Family, Friends, Education, Travels; Urban Life & New York City

Happy in Toronto at NXNE

For the fourth consecutive year I’ve traveled to Toronto for the North by Northeast festival (NXNE); to see my client ExpertFile.com; and hold some publishing meetings. I am having a great week and have been posting frequently on Twitter and Facebook about the great events I’ve attended, and on the sister blog to this one, HonouraryCanadian.com, where I wrote about comedian and podcaster Marc Maron’s rousing keynote remarks.

Late last night I lucked in to an impromptu show at the great venue the Cameron House w/one of my musical heroes, Matt Mays. He had been invited by frontman Sam Cash to sit in with his band the Romatic Dogs. Matt began by leading the band, and the audience, in Neil Young’s “Helpless.” Matt and I spoke afterward, exchanging heartfelt appreciations. I conveyed my condolences for the sudden loss last year of his bandmate Jay Smith. He thanked me for remembering his old friend. I told him about Honourary Canadian and gave him my card for which he thanked me and said it would be going in “a special place.” Here’s a shot of Sam and Matt from last night:

I’ll also be posting more here about NXNE after I return to NYC next week.

 

 

 

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June 5th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Fun Night of Happy Music with Brain Cloud at the Rodeo Bar

Brain Cloud is a happy music-making outfit, maestros of western swing whose infectious repertoire harks back to the music of Bob Wills, Patsy Cline, and early country & western radio. They are fronted by Dennis Lichtman, multi-instrumentalist (clarinet, mandolin, fiddle), while also featuring fab vocalist Tamar Korn, and hot sidemen playing lap steel guitar (Raphael McGregor); hollow-body electric guitar (Skip Krevens); and a solid rhythm section with a stand-up bassist and drummer who also played a washboard vest. They have so much fun playing their tunes, and with such good humor, you can’t help but feel good, even giddy, as you listen to them play. Licthman sports a very open personality on stage, offering polite kudos to his bandmates, and clear announcements of song titles and their origins, while Korn is a veritable vocal gymnast who uses her voice in skillful and surprising ways, often mimicking the sounds of the instruments near her on stage, and miming the fiddling of her stage partner, Lichtman.

The Rodeo Bar is a long-running NYC venue for live music. On weeknights there’s no cover charge in their music room, with a reasonably priced Tex-Mex menu on offer. Kyle and I ordered dinner (tacos and pulled pork), which was served quickly, and cleared off our table before Brain Cloud’s 9:00 PM set began.

Before the show, we chatted with Dennis, whom I had first met in 2011, when Brain Cloud played the Brooklyn Folk Festival. He also plays with the jazz combo, Mona’s Hot Four, an outfit that plays weekly at Mona’s Bar on Avenue B on the lower east side. In 2012, I attended a joint launch of a documentary and a CD about the jazz scene at Mona’s, and wrote about it here on this blog. In 2013, I attended a CD release party for Brain Cloud’s album “Outside Looking In,” also the title of a signature song of theirs that Lichtman explained was composed by Izzy Zaidman (and I note from the CD below, Lichtman and Korn), musician and leader of Izzy and the Catastrophics. Like much of Brain Cloud’s repertoire, this song sounds like it could come from the 1940s, though it’s a modern evocation of that era. They appear at Rodeo Bar many Wednesdays, I recommend you go hear them some time. Here’s what their CD looks like, along with pictures I took during last night’s show.

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May 31st, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Urban Life & New York City

Annals of Urban Wildlife—My Latest Encounter

Walking in Riverside Park tonight at dusk, at about 106th Street, I heard a scuffling nearby. Before I could actually walk up to the source of the noise, I spied what was making it: a raccoon feeding noisily on the contents of a decidedly full trash can. I stood a few minutes and took some pictures. Unconcerned about me, the animal kept angling for ways to get at the food scraps in the can. At first it was pulling stuff thru the steel mesh, then it got up on top of the can, dipping its head and torso in for maximum effectiveness. Quite a show of nimbleness. I was reminded of the time a couple years ago when I saw a baby skunk at the West Harlem Piers in Riverside Park at 125th Street, and my friend, CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence saw a white sturgeon in his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia. Click here to see all the photos I took of the raccoon tonight:

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May 28th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Art, Film, Photography, Fine Printing & Design; Food & Spirits; News, Politics & History; Urban Life & New York City

Blending New York City History, Anarchism, Contemporary Painting, and Home-brewed Ale

AleA fascinating slice of synchronous civic history was on display on the Lower East Side of Manhattan recently. At 50 East First Street, on a one-of-kind block tucked just north of East Houston, is a new gallery/activist venue called OSMOS Address. Kyle and I enjoyed the exhibit at the purpose-driven space run by socially conscious curator Cay Sophie Rabinowitz. The show features the paintings of Peter Dreher, who for forty years has devoted himself to painting domestic objects—a water glass and a chalice, for instance—in an ongoing series of meditative still-life works. Along with Dreher’s mesmerizing paintings, the evening offered visitors to the gallery the chance to taste a savory reddish pale ale—brewed by Austin Thomas, artist, gallerist and craft brewer—with aromatic fresh-baked bread from Table on Ten in Delaware County, New York, each small loaf sporting a sprig of rosemary—serving as an earthy tasting companion to the ale.Bread

Quoting from a handout distributed at OSMOS Address, the small batch ale was brewed as part of an homage called “Beer on Sunday,” honoring a distinguished nineteenth century tenant of this same address, “a German-American anarchist named Justus Schwab, who kept a ‘Beer-hole’. . . where writers, artists, radicals and other misfits met to drink and talk in to the night.”

The free-thinking anarchist Emma Goldman (1869-1940) knew Schwab well and said this about her close friend:

“Schwab was the traditional Teuton in appearance, over six feet tall, broad-chest, and strait as a tree. On his wide shoulders and strong neck rested a magnificent head, framed in curly red hair and beard. His eyes were full of fire and intensity. But it was his voice, deep and tender, that was peculiar characteristic. It would have made him famous if he had chosen an operatic career. Justus was too much the rebel and the dreamer, however, to care about such things.”

A reprinted article on hand, originally appearing in the New York Times of March 7, 1879, chronicled a criminal trial in which Schwab was the defendant. He had been arrested at 50 East First on July 22, 1878, accused with dispensing alcoholic beverages at his Beer-hole shortly after the clock turned midnight and ticked over in to that early Sunday morning. Arrested at 12:15 am, Schwab was charged with a violation of Sunday closure laws—aka “blue laws”—a sign of churches’ influence on local regulations, which were still on the books in many municipalities well in to the twentieth century. Hearing the case, a three-judge panel found in Schwab’s favor, pointing out that the law as written forbade the serving of alcoholic beverages between one o’clock and five o’clock in the morning, and made no mention of midnight as the cut-off. Schwab was acquitted and the judges ordered court costs to be paid to him by the arresting officers. A pretty big win for the activist who not only kept beer taps in his establishment, but also operated a printing press with which he issued broadsides and political pamphlets in service of the causes embraced by Emma Goldman and other radicals of the time. The plaque about Schwab at 50 East First Street relates a friendship he shared with keen misanthropic writer Ambrose Bierce, a writer primarily identified with San Francisco, whose later disappearance during the Mexican War remains a mystery. I was unaware he had spent time in NYC.Schwab plaque

Cay Sophie Rabinowitz and Austin Thomas presented all this lore alongside the works of Peter Dreher in an adroit blend of hitherto hidden history and adventuresome aesthetics. I look forward to attending other events at OSMOS Address—where Rabinowitz told us she plans to set up a printing press—and at shows put on by Austin Thomas of Pocket Utopia. Kyle and I also enjoyed meeting longtime residents of 50 East First Street, artists Christin Couture and William Hoise, keen appreciators of nineteenth century aesthetics and collectors of objects and antiques from the era.

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May 25th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Music, Bands & Radio; Urban Life & New York City

Ewan Turner at the Bitter End, 7PM May 25/Updated w/Photos

As I’d tweeted earlier tonight and shared here, Ewan Turner was going to be playing at the Bitter End tonight and it turned out to be a terrific night. The venerable music room—which has hosted such legendary performers as Joan Baez, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and Miles Davis—was quite full, and attentive to Ewan’s songs. He did six of his own songs, and he had time for one cover, Dylan’s “Abandoned Love,” a song that he told the crowd he’d learned Dylan had performed only once live, at the Bitter End, back in 1975. Here are images from the evening, beginning with a shot of an old poster in the club window, indicating many of the people who have played the venue over the years.Bitter End lineup

IMG_2331Set list

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