On March 21st 2013 at the Union Hall bar, restaurant, and music venue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, comics creator and TRIP CITY co-curator Dean Haspiel and comedian/actress Katharine Heller launched what may be the first of several salon events featuring comics, comedy, prose, and musical performances entitled “NIGHT JOB”. Though it was a new venture, neither Haspiel nor Heller are strangers to the stage. They were joined by stand-up comedian and writer Molly Knefel of the internet radio show RADIO DISPATCH, indie cartoonist Meghan Turbitt, author Reverend Jen of the long-running “Rev Jen’s Anti-Slam” performance event. Also performing were political satirist and stand-up comedian Angry Bob, and the music group Two Beards One Heart, including Jeffrey Burandt (aka Jef UK of Americans UK), and Peter Boiko, supported by John Mathias and John Thomas Robinette III.
[Haspiel and Heller host the salon]
Though the salon opened to a full basement venue, audience members probably didn’t know quite what to expect from NIGHT JOB, however they might have known some of the performers by reputation. The term “salon” often implies multiple genres in the mix, and NIGHT JOB presented quite a range. Though each of these types of performance have the potential to be very entertaining on their own, it’s a challenge to combine them and create a sense of a cohesive event that, collectively, develops its own personality. NIGHT JOB found its way by emphasizing the raw power of very personal content from its salon members.
Knefel opened with a stand-up routine spoofing the “war on women” in congress last autumn, pointing out that a “war on anuses” would have had even the most conservative public official scrambling to sign up in protest. Her rapid-fire delivery and observational humor had the audience engaged from the outset, but her sense of personal commitment to the subject matter as a thinking person translating impressions of a bizarre world set the tone for the evening.
Heller read a selection from her recent project featuring “erotica” geared toward Republican sensibilities, “Tickle the Elephant”, and ingenious attempt to get inside the minds of what appeals to conservative women particularly. Turning the lingo of the senate floor and government catchphrases into turn-ons relentlessly, Heller narrated from the perspective of a conservative seduced by liberalism into a sexual common ground. Heller revealed a rather in-depth knowledge of politics on both sides of the party schism in her artistry, and in her mix of satire and humor, suggested dialogue is possible even in the most heated debates.
[A Turbitt comic panel]
Turbitt presented and performed a wide range of indie comix that appear online, increasingly irreverent to social taboos, particular in expressing women’s lives. From bathroom scenes of an intimate nature to things that most people find adorable but only annoy her, she pushed the envelope on expression and used the comic-panel reveal for shock-value. Her autobio approach struck many of the same chords as Knefel and Heller’s performances, bringing out the sense that discussing deeply personal subjects is still one of the most direct ways to reach an audience, who may be surprised to find out how much they have in common with the stories they hear and see.
Haspiel’s comix performance of “Awful George” from his series STREET CODE took the audience deep inside the strangeness, and the horror of urban stories, reflecting his own autobiographical reaction to witnessing a make-shift attempt to save a hoard of cats that had been wilfully neglected in an apartment, only to be topped by the discovery of a mummified corpse, begging the question, “How do you deal with these kind of realities?”
["Awful George" panel by Haspiel]
The answer from Haspiel is clearly “by expressing them and reaching out to readers”. His debut performance of a newly created Tommy Rocket comic, a spin-off from his BILLY DOGMA web comix, spoke to the twisted aspects of love, and the realities of failure and regret. Haspiel never pulls any punches in his comics, autobio or not, and these hammered home the role of authenticity in performance; getting up in front of a crowd to read your comics demands a kind of soul-baring stance that hits home for the audience.
Reverend Jen took soul baring to a whole new level by reading from her unpublished novel, memoirs of her life as a prostitute attempting to support her artistic endeavors as a painter. She’s known for her extreme honesty during readings, and her narrative plumbed the depths of tragedy and suffering possible in what seems like an everyday world. Her description of images, as well as emotions, made for a stellar performance of prose. Rev Jen’s motivation in performing, to “get stuff out” of oneself actually also served the function of engaging the audience emotionally and reminding them, perhaps, of human resilience along the way.
Angry Bob, true to his moniker, took on the role of voicing, like Knefel, Heller, and Turbitt, many of the things that people think, but don’t say out loud for fear of being ostracized as freakish. The truth, of course, is that they are not alone and everyone is wonder what’s considered “acceptable” to think or say in social settings. He described himself as someone “rooting through the garbage for shiny objects” like a racoon or other scavenger, and the objects he held up for inspection at NIGHT JOB were the ludicrous aspects of Reality TV, the curse of failed opportunities, and the general rage-inducing capabilities of young children, particularly in public. Angry Bob’s signature delivery, a high-octane rant that frequently addresses audience members directly, had their equally signature outcome: inspiring absolute hilarity at NIGHT JOB.
The evening’s performances closed with the strikingly independent tones of Two Beards One Heart which also managed to match the ambiance of the previous salon members’ presentations. Not just in musical composition, whose sounds were so original as to suggest that the “personal” can be evoked as equally in sound as in words and images, but also in lyrics, Two Beards managed to create their own singular message.
[Two Beards One Heart]
Their first song illustrated rising angst through lyrics despite its melodic construction, while the second contrasted the poetic, upbeat aspects of love with bigger realities and banal conflicts. Burandt’s vocals, far from predictable, were particularly engaging, and contributed to a sense of individualistic expression of life’s perplexing highs and lows.
One of the most winning aspects of NIGHT JOB, aside from his cohesion as a salon of the personal made public, was the fact that Haspiel asked, repeatedly, if anyone else would like to perform their work, friend or stranger alike. It suggested an open-door to artists of any genre who also had something to share. The tone of the evening, celebrating unique perspectives with communal implications, was as well suited to comics as music and comedy.
[Haspiel delivers an open invitation]
Setting comics alongside other genres in performance is not a new practice, but it’s becoming increasingly popular, perhaps because of the rise of self-publishing and internet sharing of creative work. As comics find their footing among other artistic modes, it’s appropriate to start asking what comics have in common with other formats of expression, and what makes them particularly powerful for self-expression. NIGHT JOB did an excellent job of illustrating the point. Performance art forms are about a meeting of minds between the performer and the audience, and many genres already push the boundaries of inter-personal communication, comics included.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
What kind of crazy things happen at a brewery bar? What is some of the interesting stuff you can do with beer? What’s proper beer etiquette? If you don’t like beer, what beer should you try? How do you become a brewer? How do you break into the brewing industry?
Interviews with the Eric Peck, Brooklyn Brewery Tour Guide and Bartender, and Tom Price, Brooklyn Brewery Brewer and Lab Manager, reveal life inside a brewery. Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Companion to Beer, Garrett Oliver is brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and is the foremost authority on beer in the United States.
Interview with the Brooklyn Brewery Bartender
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Interview with a Beer Brewer and Lab Manager
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Garrett Oliver, editor of The Oxford Companion to Beer, is the Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and author of The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food. He has won many awards for his beers, is a frequent judge for international beer competitions, and has made numerous radio and television appearances as a spokesperson for craft brewing.
The Oxford Companion to Beer is the first major reference work to investigate the history and vast scope of beer, featuring more than 1,100 A-Z entries written by 166 of the world’s most prominent beer experts. It is first place winner of the 2012 Gourmand Award for Best in the World in the Beer category, winner of the 2011 André Simon Book Award in the Drinks Category, and shortlisted in Food and Travel for Book of the Year in the Drinks Category. View previous Oxford Companion to Beer blog posts and videos.
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Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena and bookstore will launch a second brick-and-mortar store in Park Slope. According to The Brooklyn Paper, the Eighth Avenue shop will open in October, filling a space that used to hold a video rental shop.
To help differentiate between the two stores, powerHouse plans to load the shelves at the Park Slope location with more YA, living, style, cooking, and decorating books. However, Park Slope will mimic the original DUMBO location with a children’s section and kid-friendly events.
Here’s more from the article: “The arrival of powerHouse won’t be quite as significant as the discovery of the printing press, however any new bookstore is a big deal for lit-lovers in the neighborhood, which once boasted four booksellers on Seventh Avenue alone, but now has just two. Barnes and Noble’s debut, coupled with rising rents and the advent of the e-book, forced many of the community’s book peddlers out of the neighborhood or out of business — leading some to claim that Park Slope had lost its crown as Brooklyn’s marquee literary neighborhood.” (via Publishers Weekly)
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Last week, Barclays volunteers visited PAVE Academy in Brooklyn, NY to read with students and hand-deliver brand new books from First Book.
Volunteers visited the Howard and Syracuse kindergarten classrooms to read four different books to 50 excited students, including the Barclays special branded edition of Berenstain Bears’ Dollars and Sense, a great title focused on financial literacy for young readers. At the end of the reading party, the kindergartners were excited to discover that they were each taking home copies of the four brand new books in a Barclays backpack.
The reading party marked the third consecutive year that Barclays volunteers have visited PAVE Academy. Volunteers will continue to visit K-2 students in the New York metropolitan area throughout 2012, bringing new books to every school.
Since 2009, Barclays and First Book have distributed more than 75,000 new books to children in need across the country. In addition to hosting reading parties, Barclays is also working with First Book to develop the financial literacy and college readiness sections on the First Book Marketplace, launch a new program with Teach for America’s New York region, and provide college readiness grants to 10 middle and high schools. Each element of our partnership with Barclays is helping First Book to reach more students with more valuable educational resources.
Documentary filmmaker Julia Marchesi and public artist Leon Reid IV hope to raise $13,000 on Kickstarter to install a library-themed public sculpture called “The Hundred Story House.” Above, we’ve embedded a video about the project–what do you think?
The interactive art piece will be made in the shape of a brownstone row house and located in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill Park. It will contain approximately 100 books for people to borrow based on the honor system. The funds will be used to cover materials, fabrication, transportation, installation, maintenance, removal, documentation, insurance, permit fees and awards for Kickstarter supporters.
Here’s more about the project: “The Hundred Story House is a piece of interactive public art. It is a miniature Brooklyn brownstone whose windows open upon shelves of books (about 100 of them) which can be borrowed by the community. Situated in the Cobble Hill Park on Clinton Street, the House is a tiny lending library open to all and operating on the honor system — take-a-book, leave-a-book. This is an effort to celebrate the BOOK as a physical object, and the pleasure of holding one in your hand. Or better yet, placing one in someone else’s.”
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
I always have stacks of books to review for this blog, but sometimes one or the other gets bumped to the top because someone else has requested it from the library, putting a stop to my endless online renewal activity. Such is the case with Amy Hest's How to Get Famous in Brooklyn. That's okay, though. It comes at a good time as one of my favorite book bloggers, Even in Australia just wrote a post about Brooklyn books.
Amy Hest's books have appeared here at Storied Cities before, and in How to Get Famous in Brooklyn, the author continues her love affair with the city. Janie, our narrator, takes us on a tour of the famous borough, where "everybody knows everybody else's business, and that's all there is to it." She points out the various colorful characters, the best places to get black-and-white cookies and describes her daily activities at school and around the neighborhood. Janie writes down all of her observations in what she calls "her spy notebook". So how does she get famous? Well, that's a secret you'll have to read the book to find out. (Or you can just cheat and take a peek at other online reviews.)
Linda Dalal Sawaya's illustrations are as colorful as Janie's observations and many places in Brooklyn are depicted, from the neighborhood streets to the docks on the waterfront. Brownstones are teals, purples and orange and streets, shops and subways are filled with animated people.
This is a longer than average picture book. The concept of spying on and writing about one's neighbors is a theme in many other children's books so the specificity of Janie's Brooklyn neighborhood should not be a barrier to one's enjoyment of the book.
I've also reviewed these Amy Hest books: When You Meet a Bear on Broadway, The Purple Coat, Jamaica Louise James.
Visit the illustrator's website.
Read another book about writing in the city (Manhattan, this time): N
Last year New York City finally made beekeeping legal, although there were already many "secret" hives on roofs scattered across the landscape. This may freak some people out, including my 6 year old, to whom I am constantly issuing the reminder, "the bees are interested in the flowers, not you." I, however, think rooftop beekeeping sounds wonderful. But, then again, I'm not allergic to bees.
Lela Nargi's The Honeybee Man celebrates the tradition of urban beekeeping. Fred, our Honeybee Man, is a balding older gentleman who wears blue house slippers and drinks tea on the rooftop. With his cat and dog, he reminds me a bit of Mr. Putter. On the roof of his Brooklyn brownstone he houses three beehives, for Queens Mab, Nefertiti and Boadicea. From his perch high above the city, he watches his bees work and imagines the places them might go. One day it is time to carefully harvest the honey, which he puts into jars and generously shares with his neighbors. The end pages give some additional and interesting information about bees.
I have a super soft spot for well-done collage illustrations and Kyrsten Brooker's shine. The color scheme, which makes the sky rather teal and the buildings a palette of browns, blues and purples is unexpected, but worked for me.
The city is a key player in The Honeybee Man and Brooker gives us multiple perspectives of the rooftop hives and the bees' journey around to the neighboring yards and plants. Nagi reminds us that the city offers a rich experience for our senses. The smells of maple leaves and gasoline, rivers and dust mingle together. Natural worlds come in large and small sizes and growling machine noises contrast with the gentle buzzing of bees. Nagi describes the intimate, tiny detailed world of the bees in the context of a larger city scape which buzzes with people. Brooker's cross section of Fred's home, divided into rectangle-shaped rooms reminds us later of the bees' homes of wood panels filled with tiny hexagonal wax rooms.
A sweet way to learn about beekeeping.
Trees don't really do that in California.
Long Island City
Cafe Habana corn!! Oh brother, hell yes!
Mmmm.. My days are passing in NYC and tomorrow I depart. So gotta make it count today! The plan is to venture to powerhouse
, one of my faaaavorite bookstores in bk, paint by the bridge & enjoy ice cream & shake shack (again?!) with lovely friends. Weeeeee!! Goodness, I have to stop falling in love with every city I visit. New York is special though & definitely deserves an indefinite revisit.
Warning! Most of the pictures are of TREES & what they're supposed to look like in autumn.
I traveled to one of my favorite spots in New York... Dumbo, specifically the area by the park & Powerhouse.
Mmmm... look at that orange!
I sat down on the rocks, used the crevices as my cup of water & started painting.
A gent from the NY Daily News was snapping pics of me as I painted. It was very awkward & flattering.
Yay powerhouse arena! Infinite love for his place.
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