Wednesday, April 26, 2017

294. Four Things All Humans Need



         For a press release of my new novel, Bill Hope: His Story, go here.  This is the second title in my Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York.  The first in the series is The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), mention of which appears at the end of this post. 

         Bill Hope can be ordered from Amazon and will be shipped after the release date of May 17, 2017.  But the paperback, which goes for $20, will cost an additional $4.95 for shipping, unless you order books totaling $25 or more.  The book is also available now from the author and will be mailed immediately ($20 + postage).  And now, on to the four things.


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         It came to me recently out of nowhere, in a flash: the four things all humans need:

1.    To know fulfillment.
2.    To not be alone.
3.    To go home.
4.    To be free.

         This assumes that we have what I call the basic basics: food, water, shelter, warmth – which, in today’s world, is quite an assumption.  But given that we have these basic material needs, I see my four other needs as fundamental.  They can be interpreted literally or figuratively, since each is open to multiple interpretations.  Is “home,” for instance, a real place we remember and want to return to, or is it a place we have never in this life visited?  Does “not to be alone” mean we want company, or something else?  As for freedom, there are so many kinds.  And these four can overlap: home or freedom might be our fulfillment; to not be alone may mean going home; and so on. 

         But maybe I’ve left something out.  Ask yourself if these four are complete, or can you think of something else to be added?  Let me know, and if your suggestion doesn’t seem to fit into any of my four needs, I’ll add it.


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BROWDERBOOKS:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series,  tells the story of a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client   It is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.







         Coming soon:  As announced – I Hate Poetry.


         ©   2017   Clifford Browder

Sunday, April 23, 2017

293. Americans Are Pigs


          For a press release of my new novel, Bill Hope: His Story, go here.  This is the second title in my Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York.  The first in the series is The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), mention of which appears at the end of this post. 

         Bill Hope can be ordered from Amazon and will be shipped after the release date of May 17, 2017.  But the paperback, which goes for $20, will cost an additional $4.95 for shipping, unless you order books totaling $25 or more.  The book is also available now from the author and will be mailed immediately ($20 + postage).  And now let's have a look at litter.

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         Recently I visited the Jefferson Market Garden on Greenwich Avenue near Sixth Avenue in the West Village.  As I walked its paths, I noticed litter near the fence and picked up all I could.  The litter was only near the fence, where passersby on the sidewalk outside could toss it onto the grounds; the rest of the garden was clean, for people who visited it were not ones to foul it with litter.  But the litter near the fences reminded me of something the renowned theater director Harold Clurman once said, in commenting on a scene from a play about life in small-town Middle America: “Americans are pigs.”  He said this in a certain context, but it has stayed with me ever since.


File:Litter New York City.JPG
New York litter, as seen by a Dutch visitor.
Steven Lek

         Yes, Americans are pigs.  We have many redeeming qualities, but when it comes to litter and the environment, we are pigs.  We take gardens for ashtrays, and parks for dumps.  In my hiking days a trail sometimes went for a short distance alongside a highway, and always, without exception, the shoulder of the road was littered with plastic cups and spoons, tinfoil, crumpled paper napkins, cigarette butts, whatever, and the litter often went for eight or ten feet off the road.  People in passing cars toss stuff out the window and, for them, it is disposed of, vanished, gone.  Yes, it has gone, but it hasn’t vanished; it has added to the litter along the highway.  I experienced this especially on the Palisades and in Pelham Bay Park.

         Once, on Staten Island, I was hiking through the woods in Wolfe’s Pond Park, hoping for a bit of nature, but what struck me most was the litter.  Disgusted at first, I finally began to feel a weird fascination at the richness and variety of it, and began jotting down notes that would later become a poem.  Looking at that poem today, I find a chronicle of the specifics  encountered back then:

·      Cheese Doodle bags
·      Yoohoo bottles (“Five vitamins, three minerals”)
·      matchbook covers (“Finish high school now”)
·      Tangy Taffy wrappers
·      dented Budweiser cans
·      crumpled tinted tissues
·      soggy mattresses
·      Eureka disposable dust bag and filter packages
·      empty Merit and Marlboro and True cigarette packages
·      Snickers and Doublemint wrappings
·      Pepsi bottles
·      deranged grocery carts
·      bits of foam rubber and sponge

This list is, in its strange way, a comment on American consumerism, and as regards the culprits involved, the proximity of Tottenville High School is not irrelevant; the youth of our nation are just as culpable as their motorized elders.  But the presence of discarded grocery carts and mattresses incriminates the elders of the neighborhood as well, or rather, it incriminated them back then, since I don’t know what the situation is today.


File:Wolfes Pond jeh.JPG
Wolfe's Pond Park in 2008.  There's hope: I see what looks like only one small bit of litter.



File:CEMENT LITTER BASKETS-A KEEP-NEW YORK-CLEAN INNOVATION ON FIFTH AVENUE. THE WEIGHT DISCOURAGES THEFT. SALE OF... - NARA - 549806.jpg
An attempt at better in New York, courtesy of the EPA: a cement trash
can, not easily overturned or stolen.  But have you seen one lately?
This was back in 1973.

         Our litter can sometimes achieve the status of surreal.  The French Surrealists of yore imagined a locomotive abandoned in a forest as surreal, but in this country their fantasy has become only too real.  While hiking the Blue Trail in the Greenbelt of Staten Island (with apologies to the responsible citizens of that borough), I crossed over the Staten Island Expressway on an abandoned highway ramp known as Moses’ Folly, a relic from an attempt by Robert Moses to ram a highway right smack through the Greenbelt, a project that was stopped by local opposition.  The abandoned ramp, lunging high in the air to nowhere, is surreal enough, and the graffiti covering it do not detract from the victory, literally monumental, of the embattled local residents and environmentalists.  But after crossing the expressway on the ramp, the Blue Trail turns sharply to the left and steeply descends a wooded ravine to a trickle of a stream, before climbing up another steep incline to another abandoned ramp and continuing on its way.  In that wooded ravine are found numerous abandoned cars, overgrown with vines almost to the point of vanishing: litter on the grand scale, if you like, and absolutely surreal, but litter none the less. 


File:Abandoned Taunus TC2.JPG
Tommi Nummelin
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         On Broad Channel in Jamaica Bay, Queens, while accessing the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, I once also encountered an abandoned car and, incensed at this violation of otherwise unspoiled nature, relieved my bladder on the offending vehicle.

         Visitors to our cities have commented on the prevalence in the streets and parks of used condoms and orange peels, concluding with some justification that Americans have a great propensity for making love and eating oranges.  I would add plastic as well: plastic cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons that I have found fouling the most delightful vistas of natural scenery, not to mention the gutters and abandoned lots of our cities.  And in winter, when the trees are stripped bare of foliage, one can see, impaled high up on twigs like tattered ensigns, a host of plastic bags.

         Yet Americans, when they set their minds to it, can do better.  The state of Maine, where I have often vacationed, has highways free from litter.  The moment you cross the state line, you notice the change, the result of a statewide campaign to keep Maine green.  And here in New York City, the volunteers of various conservancies and neighborhood organizations have done wonders in cleaning up our parks and public spaces. 

         “Keep Britain tidy” read signs that I used to see during a visit long ago to England.  “Tidy” is not a concept to be applied to the United States, a vast nation stretching the width of a continent; we’re just too big to be tidy.  But if every citizen picked up a single bit of litter every day, the result would be astonishing.  For years now I have made it my concern to pick up bits of litter in a little public garden near pier 46 and the Hudson River, determined to at least keep this one small bit of nature untainted.  But beyond that, I won’t hold my breath.  Humans are capable of keeping their cities clean; a world traveler of my acquaintance assures me that Tokyo, with a much greater population than New York, is spotlessly clean and unlittered.  But here in the U.S., except for a blessed minority, we are too hurried, too involved on our busy lives, to be distracted by such trivia.  Yes, alas, Americans are pigs.

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BROWDERBOOKS:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series,  tells the story of a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client   It is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.







Coming soon:  I Hate Poetry.

©   2017   Clifford Browder


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

292. Fearless Girl vs. Charging Bull: the War of the Statues


          Once more, two LibraryThing early reviews of Bill Hope: His Story, and then we'll get to the war of the statues.

graham, March 30, 2017:  I sat down to read this book around 6 p.m.; it's 11:20 p.m. and I've just finished it. I couldn't put it down. This is a very engaging, fast-moving first-hand "biography" of a turn-of-the-century petty thief turned con man which held me enthralled from start to finish.  

terry, April 7, 2017:  Engrossing novel that makes you want to continue reading in order to find out what happens next in the life of Bill Hope. Many ups and downs make it a truely enjoyable read, about a bygone time.


           For a press release of Bill Hope: His Story, go here.

          This is the second title in the Metropolis series of historical novels set in nineteenth-century New York.  The first in the series is The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), mention of which appears at the end of this post. 

         The book can be ordered from Amazon and will be shipped after the release date of May 17, 2017.  But the paperback, which goes for $20, will cost an additional $4.95 for shipping, unless you order books totaling $25 or more.  The book is also available now from the author and will be mailed immediately ($20 + postage).  And now let's have a look at a new version of the Beauty and the Beast.

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         A favorite tourist attraction in Manhattan for the last 27 years has been sculptor Arturo Di Modica’s “Charging Bull,” a huge 3½-ton bronze bull, head lowered with flared nostrils, pawing the ground and ready to charge, which the artist planted in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Broad Street without permission on December 15, 1989, as a Christmas gift to the city.  Hundreds of people had seen and admired it, before the police arrived to haul it away.  Howls of protest immediately erupted, so the chastened authorities relocated the statue to nearby Bowling Green, where it stands at one end of a little  park, facing up Broadway.  Tourists from all over the world have flocked to see it ever since, a bold image of dynamism and virility, of massive and perhaps dangerous power.  Mr. Di Modica says that it conveys his feelings following the 1987 stock market crash: a salute to a resurgent (i.e., bullish) stock market and nation.  Onlookers snap photos of one another posing with it, children crawl over it, and adults touch the nose, horns, and testicles for good luck.  It has become a symbol of the city, some even comparing it in this regard to the Statue of Liberty.


File:Wall Street Bull - panoramio.jpg
Gabriele Giuseppini

         But now the plot thickens.  On March 7, 2017, the night before International Women’s Day, another bronze statue was placed directly in front of the bull: “Fearless Girl,” a four-foot-tall girl, chin up, feet apart, hands on her hips, standing defiantly as if confronting the bull.  Once again, a surprise installation without a city permit, and once again an instant hit with the public, who have flocked to see, admire, and photograph the girl, and celebrate her feminine, indeed feminist, challenge to the snorting maleness of the bull.  Designed by artist Kristen Visbal, the work was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors and the advertising firm McCann as part of a marketing campaign for SSGA’s index fund investing in companies with women in senior positions.  Says a plaque below the statue, “Know the power of women in leadership.  SHE makes a difference.”  (SHE, be it noted, is the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol.)  Another instant hit with the public, “Fearless Girl” has been granted a city permit allowing it to stay on the site until the next International Women’s Day in March 2018.    Once again, a dramatic sculptural coup-d’├ętat has succeeded.

         Or has it?  At a news conference in Midtown Manhattan on April 12, Mr. Di Modica denounced “Fearless Girl” as an insult to his bull, whose message, he insists, is not male power and domination, but “freedom in the world, peace, strength, power, and love.”  Confronted by “Fearless Girl,” he says, the bull has been transformed into “a negative force and a threat.”  While he insists that he is in no way hostile to gender equality, he wants “Fearless Girl” to be moved elsewhere, and he and his lawyers –  he now has a team of them – have sent letters to this effect to the mayor and to SSG, McCann, and other relevant parties.  But the mayor has already hailed “Fearless Girl” as a symbol of “standing up to fear, standing up to power, being able to find in yourself the strength to do what’s right.”  And he sees the statue as especially relevant in the light of Donald Trump’s election, and the women’s rights marches that followed his inauguration.  Which is a lot of relevance for a four-foot statue of a little girl facing down a massive bull on the verge of charging.  And Mr. Di Modica, while hoping for a peaceful resolution, does not rule out the possibility of litigation, the threat of which only brings more gawking tourists to Bowling Green and its two bronze antagonists.

         So who is right?  Opinion seems to be divided, some agreeing with Mr. Di Modica that “Fearless Girl” ’s presence alters the meaning of the bull and thwarts the sculptor’s intent, while others hail “Fearless Girl” as a symbol of scrappy feminism and women’s newfound right to challenge the dominance of males.   But some observe that if it came to a dust-up between the two, “Fearless Girl” wouldn’t stand a chance; her precious little torso would be hideously gored by the bull’s sharp horns.  The solution, many assert, is to simply remove her to another site, so each of them can have his/her own space.

         Personally, I agree with Mr. Di Modica: the intrusion of “Fearless Girl” is an unwarranted challenge to his work and therefore merits removal to another site.  And aesthetically, I opine that when it comes to “looks,” “Fearless Girl,” scrappy and defiant though she is, can’t hold a candle to the massive dynamism of “Charging Bull.”  And there are those who question whether an index fund and an advertising agency are appropriate vehicles for conveying  the message of female independence – a debate that will probably rage fervently on, while the tourists continue to flock.


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BROWDERBOOKS:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), the first novel in the Metropolis series,  tells the story of a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client   It is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.






Coming soon:  As previously announced, Americans Are Pigs.

©   2017   Clifford Browder