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Downloadable Lost New York

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Thumbnail image for lost_new_york_cover.jpgThe Fales Library exhibition that accompanied our recent Lost New York conference will remain on view through November 6. If you're in the area, stop by the Bobst Library (Washington Square South at LaGuardia Place), tell the security desk that you're going to Fales, and head up to the third floor. It's a wonderful exhibit. You can read more about it in this post from earlier in the month.

While you're there you can pick up the volume essays that accompanies the exhibit -- not exactly a catalog, the volume takes both the exhibit and the conference theme as a point of departure.

If you aren't able to visit before November 6, you can download a copy of the volume here in PDF format. (The download is approimately 28.5 MB.)

And, for a limited time, readers of this blog can request a complimentary copy of the book itself, which is printed on glossy stock and makes a handsome addition to any library of books about New York. Just send an e-mail with your mailing address to

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Saturday, Oct. 10

NYU Tisch Performance Studies, 721 Broadway (at Waverly Pl.), Suite 612, NYC

9:30 - Coffee

ARbio.jpg10:00a-10:30 Keynote - Tim Lawrence, author of Hold on To Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene

10:30-11:30 Panel 1: Musical Variations

Chair: Sukhdev Sandhu
Peter Zummo: "Pop and the Multi-Pentatonic, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Whole Steps and Minor Thirds"
Elodie Lauten: "Lesser-known Relationships: In the Singing Tractors Nexus, a Sense of Freedom and Exploration"
Ryan Dohoney: "The Experimental Assemblages of Arthur Russell and Julius Eastman"

11:45-1:15 Panel 2: Arthur Russell: Recording and Legacy

Chair: Peter Gordon
With Mustafa Ahmed, Bob Blank, Joyce Bowden, Gary Lucas, Bill Ruyle, Peter Zummo.

2:00-3:15 Panel 3: Arthur Russell and the World

Chair: Simon Reynolds
Joyce Bowden: "Impermanence and Non-Duality: Buddhist influence in the music of Arthur Russell"
James Thomas: "I'm Sorry, But This Is How I Learn" (Theme: repetition and language in Russell's collaborations)
Ernie Brooks: "Arthur Russell: Creativity and the Business of Music, Resolving a Pursuit of the Ineffable with the Need for Recognition in Worldly Terms"
Daniel Portland: "I Touched You on the Arm: Cruising as Epistemology in the Life and Work of Arthur Russell

3:30-5:00 Wild Combination screening and Q&A with Matt Wolf

5:00-6:30 Panel 4: Remembering Arthur Russell

Chair: Steve Knutson
With Alan Abrams, Ernie Brooks, Peter Gordon, Steven Hall, Elodie Lauten, Tom Lee

6:30-6:45 Wrap-up ¾ Sukhdev Sandhu


7:00-9:00 Solo and duo performances of Arthur Russell music plus book launch

Reception & book launch at Housing Works Café, 126 Crosby Street, NYC, with performances by Mira Billotte, Alex Waterman, Nick Hallett, Rachel Henry, Peter Gordon, Peter Zummo, Joyce Bowden, Steven Hall and others. Tim Lawrence will read from his new biography of Arthur Russell, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene. $10 admission to benefit Housing Works, a nonprofit AIDS-service organization.

10:00-late Dance party with Arthur's Landing at Public Assembly

Play It Loud presents Arthur's Landing (with Jerry Harrison) at Public Assembly at 70 North 6th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Live dance music! $10 admission to benefit Gods Love We Deliver.


Alan J. Abrams is an independent producer, director, and writer with film credits including The Rook, Paradise Falls, Charles Bukowski's, 900 Pounds, and Larry Brown's Leaving Town. During more than 20 years in the industry has also produced Tibet, A Culture In Exile with Richard Gere and Professor Robert Thurman. His editorial credits include Academy Award nominees Never Cry Wolf, Blue Velvet, and The Mosquito Coast.

Mustafa Ahmed is a multi-faceted percussionist. Since the 1980's he has performed in concert throughout the United States and Europe with an eclectic group of composers, vocalists, musicians and dancers. He currently performs and records with the critically acclaimed gospel choir Total Praise, the jazz group The Phibes and Arthur's Landing.

Bob Blank has been part of the New York music scene since 1973, and from 1976 till 1987 owned and operated Blank Tapes Recording Studios, where he produced or engineered 19 gold records for artists as diverse as Sting and Instant Funk. Bob's music production company, Blank Productions, makes music for TV and film, and has provided music for shows as diverse as American Idol and Dance Your Ass Off. Bob also dances, and he and his partner Martha Estevez have been US Over 45 Latin Champions twice. He was also a principal dancer in the Nicole Kidman film The Stepford Wives.

Joyce Bowden feels lucky to have known Arthur and to have worked with him in the 1980's. Arthur was an unflinching mentor and wonderful friend. Working at Circle Sound in Raleigh, NC, turns out to be to be one aspect of a continuous connection. Recent musical involvement includes Arthur's Landing as well as the Goodnight Graces and Recent Memory (both on Moon Caravan Records).

Ernie Brooks is a bass player and songwriter. A member of Boston band Modern Lovers, he met Arthur Russell at one the group's last concerts in spring of 1974. Ernie collaborated with Arthur in various projects, including bands Flying Hearts and Necessaries. He currently plays in ensembles with Gary Lucas, Peter Zummo, and Rhys Chatham, and performs as much of Arthur's work as possible in the band/collective Arthur's Landing.

Ryan Dohoney is a music historian specializing in American music and culture since 1945. He received his PhD in musicology from Columbia University in 2009. He is currently at work two book projects; a critical history of the life and music of Morton Feldman and a study of the downtown music scene glimpsed through the work Julius Eastman and his collaborators.

Peter Gordon is a composer, musician and producer known for the Love of Life Orchestra (which featured Russell in the original lineup) as well as for music for performance and media. Gordon met Arthur Russell in 1975 and they developed a friendship through shared musical interests. Gordon's performances and recordings with Russell include Instrumentals, "Clean on Your Bean", "Tell You Today", "Kiss Me Again", and the legendary John Hammond sessions. Gordon and Russell co-wrote the LOLO track "That Hat". Gordon is Associate Professor of Music at Bloomfield College.

Steven Hall was born in Scotland in 1957 and wore a kilt and played the bagpipes when he was a boy--he moved the the US at age 15--went to NYC where he met Allen Ginsberg and Arthur Russell at age 18--the rest is a blur...

Nick Hallett is a New York-based composer, singer, and curator working across a broad range of disciplines and genres. His music has seen recent performances at Joe's Pub, New Museum of Contemporary Art, The Stone, and ISSUE Project Room. He is composing the music for a theater collaboration with the artist Shana Moulton, playing at The Kitchen in April 2010.

Steve Knutson is the founder of Audika Records. A longtime admirer of Arthur Russell's work, and a music veteran of over 25 years, Steve Knutson, through his collaboration with Tom Lee has worked to bring the wide breadth of Arthur's musical imagination back to those that remember him, and introduce his music to a new audience.

Elodie Lauten, daughter of jazz composer Errol Parker, was born and educated in Paris. Moving to New York City, she graduated from NYU with a Master's in composition. She developed into a full-fledged composer with Lincoln Center credits, chamber and symphonic commissions, several operas, and 29 releases on more than 15 major and independent labels. She is on the faculty at the New York City College of Technology.

Tim Lawrence is the author of Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92, new out from Duke. His first book, Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79, was also published by Duke. He runs the Music Culture: Theory and Practice degree at the University of East London and is a member of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research.

Tom Lee is an elementary school teacher. He met Arthur Russell in the summer of 1978 and lives in the East Village, NYC apartment that he shared with Arthur since 1980. He is honored to be a participant in the enduring appreciation of Arthur's musical legacy through the film, book, and articles and of course the songs that serve to remind him of a very special time in their lives together.

Gary Lucas is a guitarist, Grammy-nominated songwriter, composer and recording artist with over 20 acclaimed solo albums to date. He has been called "The Thinking Man's Guitar Hero" (The New Yorker), and tours the world relentlessly both solo and with a variety of ensembles including his longtime band Gods and Monsters. He is responsible for bringing Arthur Russell to the attention of both Rough Trade Records and Upside Records and getting him signed to both labels.

Daniel Portland is a conceptual artist and writer. He holds a master's
degree in arts politics from NYU and his research interests include queer time and space.

London-born but New York-based, Simon Reynolds is a freelance journalist and author. His books include Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-84, Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture, Totally Wired: Postpunk Interviews and Overviews, and Bring the Noise: 20 Years of Writing About Hip Rock and Hip Hop. He operates a number of blogs clustered around

Bill Ruyle has been a percussionist/composer/collaborator for new music, dance, and theater in NYC and abroad since 1974. He has performed with the ensembles of Peter Zummo, Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Bill Obrecht, Scott Johnson, Phillip Johnston, "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Bob Een, Naaz Hosseini, The Feetwarmers, The Manhattan Marimba Quartet, Last Forever with Dick Connette, Newband, Counter)induction, Arthur's Landing, Compton Maddux and the Dirt Simple Band, and The Hudson Valley Philharmonic. He first met Arthur Russell while studying at the Manhattan School of Music.

Sukhdev Sandhu is the author of London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined A City (2003) and I'll Get My Coat (2005). His latest book, Night Haunts: A Journey Through The London Night (2007), has been developed as a series of site-specific performances and soundworks in collaboration with Scanner. He is the Chief Film Critic for the London Daily Telegraph, and Director of Asian/Pacific/American Studies at NYU.

James Merle Thomas is a San Francisco-based curator, writer, and researcher. He is currently completing his PhD in contemporary aesthetics and politics at Stanford University. His most recent curatorial project, "I'm Sorry, But This is How I Learn" explores the relationships between repetition and pedagogy in art and performance, and is touring Europe and the United States throughout 2009-2010 (Kunstverein, Munich; Artist's Space, New York City).

Matt Wolf is a filmmaker in New York. His documentary Wild Combination about Arthur Russell was released theatrically and on DVD by Plexifilm and is currently airing on the Sundance Channel. He is finishing a documentary in collaboration with New York City Ballet Dancers about the landmark 1958 ballet Opus Jazz by Jerome Robbins for PBS Great Performances.

Peter Zummo is a musician focusing on the trombone, a composer of works and processes for interactive ensemble, and a band-leader, engineer, and producer. His work is informed by four decades of performing for other composers and band-leaders. He also collaborates with artists in theatre, dance, poetry, film and television.

The conference organizers Peter Gordon (Bloomfield College), Tim Lawrence (University of East London), and Sukhdev Sandhu (New York University) would like to thank Toriono Gandy (technical director) and Kit Fitzgerald (video documentation) for their help. They would also like to acknowledge the English Department at NYU, Bloomfield College, the Centre for Cultural Studies Research at the University of London, the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at NYU, the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at NYU, the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture at NYU, and the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for their help in sponsorship and space to support the conference. Thanks also go to the New Media Department at Concordia College, New York, as well as the Creative Arts and Technology Division at Bloomfield College for additional assistance. This brochure has been printed by Categrafica at Bloomfield College.


Marshall Berman has just finished reading from On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square, and now it's David Freeland's turn.

Freeland: I'd also like to read something related to a specific cultural site -- Harlem -- and I think this will give you an insight into my approach into writing this book. For those who have not read it, in Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan's Lost Places of Leisure, I uncover remnants of still-existing but little-knownManhattan buildings in order to explore lost cultural histories and human stories. All the buildings are related to different facets of our entertainment culture.

So I'm going to read something from the epilogue, which is actually the first time since the introduction that I step back into the first person and engage readers in questions about the future of our city and preservation. I hope that by this point, after exploring all the stories in the earlier chapters, people will have had the chance to think about some questions of their own.

So here I'm turning to the scene of one of the sites that I've discussed earlier, the former Nest nightclub on 133rd Street in Harlem, which opened in the early 1920s and became a place that nurtured so much of what we've come to know as performance culture in the city -- and in the country. The Nest Club and 133rd Street as a whole was a precursor to "Swing Street" -- as 52nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues became known, beginning in the 1930s and lasting until the 1950s. (Ironically Billie Holliday and other musicians referred to [133rd Street] as the copy of 52nd Street.) . . . As some of you may know, aside from the old 21 Club, [52nd Street] is all  office towers now, while elements of the original 133rd Street have survived, even though there are no plaques or signs to mark the spot.

Berman: It was under the radar.

Freeland: That's right.

Freeland then began his reading. Click the continuation link to read the passage that he chose. We'll let the conversation between Berman and Freeland begin tomorrow.


Our final session featured a conversation between Marshall Berman, the author (most recently) of On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square, and David Freeland, author of the recently published Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan's Lost Places of Leisure.

It began in unexpected fashion -- with a screening of the closing scene from Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1935 -- the fabulous "Lullaby of Broadway" number. Take a look below (the clip is split into two parts on You Tube):

When the lights came up, Berman began to dicsuss the genesis of his book On the Town, holding up a photocopy of an illustration from the book's preface (shown below) and describing it to the audience:

times_girl.jpg"I discovered this in the Museum of the City of New York. It was a souvenir postcard made in 1903. It's a photo of the Times Building in 1903, when the exterior was completed, but the inside wasn't. The hardest thing to build was the printing press, because it went in the basement, and it was very close to the IRT subway, which was also in the basement level. They both opened in the winter of 1904-1905 with tremendous fanfare. Some people were worried about accidents and catastrophes below, but it never happened.

"This [card] shows Times Square when there is only one big building in it, and the rest of it is nineteenth-century tenements. Eugene O'Neill was born in one of these tenements, which were then called 'theatrical boarding houses,' [because] actors, and actresses and theatrical people tended to live in them. This building creates a new scale for Times Square -- something like the scale we know today. For many years, this was the tallest building in the world. This was when skyscrapers were just being invented.

"So the building was a new scale -- and the girl was a new scale too. It's a montage: a photo of a building and a cartoon of a girl. And the girl is like a showgirl -- if any of you are fans of Degas or Manet or Lautrec, you've seen plenty of representations of her in nineteenth-century Paris in what's now called 'La Belle Epoque.' But in American popular culture, you won't see her at all. No doubt there were women like this, but they weren't in public: they were in the shadows, and they certainly weren't usually sent through the mail as souvenir postcards. And she's in a very insouciant pose, she's in deshabille, you know this kind of unbuttoned --  everything is falling out -- and basically it's like she's in her dressing room or in someplace private into which she's letting us come.

"It's about the interaction of this kind of sexuality and this kind of public space, and that's what makes the card so special. And I called her -- since this is the Times Building -- as soon as I saw the card, the "Times Girl," and that made me think I had to write this book."

What followed was a reading from the fourth chapter of the book -- "Times Girl and Her Daughters" -- in which Berman analyzes the dynamics of "Lullaby of Broadway." Click the continuation link below to read the excerpt, which served as the basis for Berman's conversation with Freeland. (We'll offer Freeland's introductory remarks tomorrow.)

More Lost Downtown

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We want to take special notice this week of a rapidly approaching conference co-organized by our colleague Sukhdev Sandhu, also to be held at NYU: Kiss Me Again: The Life and Legacy of Arthur Russell. The conference will take place primarily at 721 Broadway, Ste. 612 -- Tisch Performance Studies -- with other events happening at Housing Works Cafe, Public Assembly, and Bar 169.

Russell lived and worked in New York from the early 1970s to his AIDS-related death in 1992. He was instrumental to a range of music scenes downtown, from his work as a curator at the Kitchen, to his recording of underground dance music under the names Loose Joints and Dinosaur L, to his performance with vocals and cello in the ghostly compositions known as the World of Echo. Although his work and influence was far-reaching, only recently has he begun to receive widespread public recognition, including the release of many long-lost songs and new interest in his biography by Matt Wolf, Tim Lawrence, and others.

The daylong conference on Saturday, beginning at 10 am, will feature Mustapha Ahmed, Bob Blank, Joyce Bowden, Ernie Brooks, Peter Gordon, Steven Hall, Steve Knutson, Elodie Lauten, Tim Lawrence, Tom Lee, Gary Lucas, Simon Reynolds, Will Socolov, Peter Zummo & others, including a screening of the recent Arthur Russell documentary Wild Combination (filmmaker Matt Wolf will be on hand for Q&A). I can't praise this movie enough and really encourage anyone who hasn't yet been exposed to Russell to take advantage of this screening. (The movie's also readily available on DVD.) The prior evening (Friday) at 9 pm Steven Hall and Joyce Bowden will perform Arthur Russell songs at Bar 169.

Saturday evening, from 7 to 10, Housing Works Cafe will host more performances of Russell's music -- by Mira Billotte, Joyce Bowden, Peter Gordon, Steven Hall, Nick Hallett, Rachel Henry, Alex Waterman, Peter Zummo and others -- along with a booklaunch for Tim Lawrence's  Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92, which will be officially released by Duke University Press next month. From 10 pm to 4 am, Public Assembly (70 N. 6th St. in Williamsburg) will host a dance party, with a $10 donation at the door to benefit the AIDS charity God's Love We Deliver.

If you can make it to the 4:05 mark in this song and not spend the rest of the day smiling, I'd suggest you've got some work to do. Then again, who among us doesn't?


Lost New York: Thanks!

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Many thanks to those who turned out for, helped to organize, or in any other way pitched in to make last weekend's conference a success. We were pleased that so many people turned out, especially from the community. Many expressed a desire for ongoing events along the same lines: for now we'd refer them to the Vanishing City community events that have happened time to time at Dixon Place, to to the ongoing activities of the Lower East Side History Project, and to the Tenement Museum's speaker series. (Tonight's talk features authors and bloggers Michelle and James Nevius of Inside the Apple.) Meanwhile we'll look forward to more ways to bring people together on these themes.


For the full Lost New York program click here.

The session titles below link to extended descriptions of each session.

All sessions are free and open to the public.


(Fales Library, 70 Wash Sq South, 3rd floor)

Joanne van der Woude (Harvard University)
Elizabeth Bradley (New York Public Library)
Lytle Shaw (New York University)

5:30 - 6:30 PM -- RECEPTION AND EXHIBITION OPENING: "LOST NEW YORK" (Fales Library Gallery)

SATURDAY, 3 OCT. (13-19 University Place, room 102)

9:00 AM:
Coffee and tea


John Easterbrook (New York University)
Kristen Doyle Highland (New York University)
Jane Greenway Carr (New York University)
John Melillo (New York University)


Daphne Brooks (Princeton University)

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM Lunch


Sukhdev Sandhu (New York University), moderator
Lost City
Ephemeral New York
Flaming Pablum: Vanishing Downtown
Bowery Boogie


Marshall Berman (City College of New York and Graduate Center of the City University of New York)
David Freeland (independent writer, New York City)

Conference sponsored by the Department of English and Humanities Initiative at New York University. Organized by Cyrus R. K. Patell and Bryan Waterman.

For the full Lost New York program, click here. Friday afternoon's session and reception will be held in the Fales Library and Special Collections (70 Washington Sq. South, 3rd floor). Saturday's sessions will all be held at 13-19 University Place, room 102 (first floor auditorium). All sessions are free and open to the public.

We're pleased to have, as our final keynote session at the conference, two writers whose work we much admire, and who offer, we think, complementary approaches to the conference theme.

marshall.jpgMarshall Berman, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, has an extraordinary track record commentating on -- helping us to read, really -- New York's changing landscape, particularly in the twentieth century and beyond. His classic exploration of modernity, All That Is Solid Melts into Air, with its final chapters on New York in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, has provided many, including the documentarian Ric Burns, with a template for narrating the city's post-war history, especially the conflict in the 1960s between Robert Moses and downtown residents and preservationists led by the Village activist Jane Jacobs. (Berman's appearances as a talking head in the late episodes of Burns's New York are among that series' highlights.) Widely regarded as an urbanist and political theorist, Berman is at once a careful critic of New York's ever-changing landscape and a relentless optimist about the possibilities for creative living this and other cities afford their inhabitants. His recent work includes Adventures in Marxism, On the Town: One Hundred Years of Spectacle in Times Square, and, as co-editor with Brian Berger, New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomburg. Click here for an interview with Berman in the aftermath of 9/11, in which he considers the city's changes in the late 20th century and the impact of the World Trade Center's rise and fall.

freeland Headshot.jpgDavid Freeland is a freelance journalist and historian of popular entertainment, whose writing includes Ladies of Soul (two chapters of which center on New York performers Maxine Brown and Timi Yuro) and the recently published Automats, Taxi Dances, and Vaudeville: Excavating Manhattan's Lost Places of Leisure. In that book Freeland leads readers through a series of locations in which forgotten forms of popular nightlife entertainment are still visible to careful observers, from the 1893 Chinese Theater, to Tin Pan Alley, to Horn and Hardart's orignal Times Square automat. Freeland models for readers a practice of careful observation of our many-layered urban environments; as he peels those layers back he makes it possible for us to regain cultural memory of a lost city and its anonymous inhabitants. Freeland maintains a blog related to the themes of his recent work -- which coincides neatly with our conference topic -- at His writing appears regularly in NY Press and elsewhere.

On Saturday afternoon each speaker will offer us an inroad into his recent writing before engaging in dialogue with one another and the audience.

Previously. And.

For the full Lost New York conference program, click here.

Saturday, 3 October (13-19 University Place, room 102)


Sukhdev Sandhu (New York University), moderator


Lost City
Ephemeral New York
Flaming Pablum: Vanishing Downtown
Bowery Boogie

When Cyrus and I were narrowing the theme for the conference this coming weekend, our imaginations were led along the lines suggested by diverse a group of blogs that dealt with neighborhood scenes, New York history, and, more often than not, the link between the two. Some of them were more straightforwardly historical: our long-time favorite The Bowery Boys, for instance, or Kevin Walsh's Forgotten NY. Others leaned toward the goings-on of particular neighborhoods or boroughs: Bushwick BK, Uptown Flavor, Bronx Bohemian, or Washington Square Park Blog. Some limit themselves by activity or mode of transport rather than a particular neighborhood landscape: Second Avenue Sagas, for instance, or Walking Off the Big Apple.

In the case of many -- though not all -- New York blogs, we find a new kind of urban literature emerging, much of it focused on nostalgia for a lost city and a desire to create and preserve cultural memory. Around other sites, we see the emergence of literary community as well. "Literature" here is broadly conceived: we take it to include a range of artistic productions, considering the electronic medium for blogging is as distinctly visual as it is, often but not always, verbal. So hybrid art forms emerge as well, such as the many photo blogs New Yorkers have established. (For a representative favorite, see Greenwich Village Daily Photo.)

With some difficulty narrowing things down we made an initial round of invitations to bloggers to participate in the conference on a panel devoted to this emergent form of New York writing. The four panelists we've ultimately lined up suggest a well-rounded quartet of types.


Lost City, the name of which resonates clearly with our conference theme, is one of the granddaddies of New York anti-gentrification blogging (est. 2006). Manhattan User's Guide, which lists it as a favorite New York website, describes it this way: "It's the vestiges of Old NY v. the real estate market. Guess who wins?" The narrative voice for Lost City is one Brooks of Sheffield, a food/restaurant critic, neighborhood history buff, and parent based in Brooklyn but ranging far and wide throughout the city. He seems to know every old bar and comfy diner and has his eye on the same properties developers do -- though with a preservationist agenda. He makes no bones about his disdain for the reigning mayor and his plans for a third term. Earlier this year the blog Who Walk in Brooklyn ran a terrific interview with him. If the jeremiad, as the literary critic Sacvan Bercovitch long ago argued, is a persistently powerful form of expression in American writing, Lost City Brooks is one of a growing number of city bloggers carrying that torch.

meonslide.jpgEphemeral New York, our second panelist, has a distinctive, straightforward methodology for her site: she simply takes an old photo, a postcard, a faded ad on the side of an old building, a scrap of newsprint, and from that bit of ephemera extracts a bit of information about the time and place that produced it, perhaps something about the people who were involved as well. The posts are short; the stories stick. She describes her own project as "chronicl[ing] a constantly reinvented city through photos, newspaper archives, and other scraps and artifacts that have been edged into New York's collective remainder bin," and describes herself as someone "from the West Village who recalls stepping over winos to enter the Grand Union on Bleecker Street, a happily chaotic class packed with 35 other first graders at PS 41, and that Mays, not Whole Foods, was once the flagship shopping destination of Union Square." Other blogs out there follow a similar formula, at least part of the time, but ENY has perfected it -- each daily dose is equal parts surprising and intellectually rewarding.

WTC.jpgFlaming Pablum comes closer to the genre of the personal blog -- a life chronicle -- than any of the others on our panel. But several things separate "Alex in NYC" from the legions of other livejournalists out there: his deep attachment to multiple neighborhoods (the Upper East Side of his childhood; the upper Greenwich Village where he now lives with is family), which allows him historical perspective on a changing city; his training as a journalist; and especially his eye as a photographer. "My Vanishing Downtown" was the first section of Flaming Pablum I stumbled upon: in one stunning photo after another it chronicles building after building now lost to developers' bulldozers (or other disasters). He recoils instinctively from the thought of John Varvatos hawking high-fashion rock nostalgia on the Bowery in the old CBGB space. He is suspicious of the new bike lanes (though I think he'll relent when his kids start riding on their own). He carries his camera when he walks his kids to school and comes home with whole photo essays ready to upload. In addition to blogging contemporary life and chronicling parts of old New York now gone, Alex has been a witness to the city's music scene (and record stores) for decades, and his passion for rock and roll of the 1980s nearly matches his passion for the city. In many posts -- and, recently, in the group-blog The New York Nobody Sings -- those twin loves converge. Alex in NYC has been writing Flaming Pablum since summer 2005. Check out his other hits and misses here.


Bowery Boogie does exactly what a neighborhood blog should: it chronicles openings and closings, street fairs, changing signage. It patrols mainstream web and print news sites for stories about the neighborhood. It help makes up a web of likeminded blogs in adjacent neighborhoods. No detail is too mundane, and as a result we find persistent aspects of the old city still rearing their heads from time to time:  Pirated electricity on the Bowery fueling an old-school boom box! Who's filming what where? (Useful info when you want to avoid a crowd -- or alert your teenagers to Gossip Girl's whereabouts.) Other bloggers frequently throw out the term "intrepid" to describe BB: he or his operatives seem to be everywhere at all times, day and night. As a result he's scooped the mainstream media more than once, most memorably with the fire that destroyed the Hong Kong Supermarket last spring. Searchable street by street, BB helps create the feeling that life on the other side of Bowery hasn't been completely lost to gentrification, even if the threat is ever-present.

What do these writers have in common, and what windows do their sites offer onto New Yorks lost and found? In what ways is blogging a twenty-first-century New York literary scene? Our moderator Sukhdev Sandhu, no stranger to electronic explorations of urban environments, will help provoke answers to these and other questions.  

This is a bit of a precursor to the next annotated conference program post, which I'll put up this afternoon. Before I introduce the bloggers we've asked to talk on Saturday afternoon about the relationship between blogging, literary culture, and cultural memory, I wanted to offer a sort of umbrella view of the NYC blogosphere, at least from where I sit in downtown Manhattan.

Over the last year or so, on the links page of my personal website, I've gradually accumulated a hefty set of links to NYC-oriented blogs. I don't claim to be comprehensive: I generally make a quick pass through a site I've stumbled across and give it a quick thumbs up or down based on a few set criteria. Is it oriented toward a specific neighborhood or borough or the city in general -- or even toward a particular aspect of the city -- as much as it is toward the idiosyncratic details of the blogger's day? (I don't have the time or space for every New Yorker's livejournal, in other words.) Is the blog fairly active? (If the most recent entry is already a month old I won't include it.) And does its take on the city comport with the roughest outlines of my own? Now, that last question may sound a little harsh, and when you see the list below I think you'll find that my umbrella is pretty broad. But I am aware of at least a few blogs geographically and/or spiritually rooted in certain neighborhoods I don't really care for, or focusing on items such as cupcakes or high fashion that really don't float my boat, and I've simply chosen not to include them. As Cyrus repeatedly reminds me, attempts at cosmopolitanism aren't the same thing as an uncritical cultural relativism. Maybe there's a place for pink blogs about shoes written by Carrie Bradshaw wannabes on the Upper East Side, but that place isn't my own personal links page.

Still, I love the fact that this set of links constantly expands in size and in the breadth of material it takes in, from Central Park birding photos to love-hate relationships with The New Yorker. As Cyrus and I have tried to map out what our own single-volume cultural history of New York will look like, we've confronted head-on the difficulty of reining in so much culture. What's not going on here, I ask you? And then there's the five borough problem: I've tried to maintain -- and to publicize, though my occasional Friday links posts -- a handle on blogging that's rooted uptown or in outer-boroughs, though my daily reads tend to gravitate toward neighborhoods and interests adjacent to my own. Is that provincial?

Enough preamble. What I really want to put out there is the list. So take a look. Tell us if there's something here you particularly like. Or hate. Or if you have a blog we should note or know of one you wish had been included. I'd like to compete with City Room for the most comprehensive city blogroll. Well, and still maintain my standards of course. If you'd prefer to see the links in a single column, click here and scroll down until you've passed the NYC Cultural History Resources.

NYC blogs

AIANY Blog Central Animal New York ArtCal ArtSlant Art Fag City Be in Brooklyn Bed-Stuy Banana Bed-Stuy Blog Bitch Cakes Bitch Cakes Commutes Blah Blog Blah Bloggy Bowery Boogie The Bowery Boys Brokelyn Bronx Bohemian Brooklynometry Brooklyn by Bike Brooklyn Diners Brooklyn Parrots Brownstoner Burn Some Dust (Blog) BushwickBK The City Birder City Room (NYTimes) City Snapshots Civic Center Residents Coalition Colonnade Row Curbed East Village History Project Blog East Village Idiot East Village Podcasts Eating in Translation Emdashes Ephemeral New York EV Grieve Fading Ad Blog Fecal Face NYC Flaming Pablum Forgotten New York Found in Brooklyn Free NYC Fucked in Park Slope The Girl Who Ate Everything Gotham Lost and Found Gothamist Gowanus Lounge Greater New York Greenpointers Greenwich Village Daily Photo Harlem Bespoke Harlem Hybrid A History of New York Historic Districts Council Newsstand Holla Back NYC Hotel Chelsea Blog Hunter-Gatherer Idealist in NYC I Hate The New Yorker I Shot New York I Spy NYC Inside the Apple Inwoodite It Was Her New York John Egan Harp Lens liQcity Lower East Side History Project Blog Kinetic Carnival Knickerbocker Village Lost City MaNNaHaTTaMaMMa The Masterpiece Next Door The Met Everyday Metroblogging NYC Mommy Poppins My NYC in Color Neither More Nor Less Newyorkette NewYorkology New York Daily Photo The New York Nobody Sings New York Portraits New York Shitty New York Yak Not for Tourists NY Art Beat NYC Garden NYC-grid NYC The Blog NYC Rhymology Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn Plain in the City The Origin of Species Out My Window NYC Queens Crap Roosevelt Island 360 Roosevelt Islander Runnin' Scared (VVoice) Save the Lower East Side Scouting New York Second Avenue Sagas Second Circuit Blog Sense & the City Shooting Brooklyn Slum Goddess Streetsblog Street Level Stupefaction Subway Blogger Tenement Museum Blog Today in NYC History An Unamplified Voice Untapped New York Uptown Flavor Urban Hawks Urbanite (AMNY) Vanishing New York Walking Is Transportation Walking Off the Big Apple Washington Square Park We Heart New York What about the Plastic Animals? Who Walk in Brooklyn Williamsburg Is Dead Writermama Young Manhattanite

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