Monday, August 28, 2006

BAMN! Grand Opening

The automat has returned with the grand opening of BAMN! Drawing a big crowd on St. Marks Pl. this evening, people lined up to experience the pre-fast food phenomenon of dropping a coin in a slot and having fresh hot food appear like magic. According to a surprisingly good New York Sun article, in the 1950s there were 180 automats in New York and Philadelphia, feeding 800,000 people a day such things as beef noodles with burgundy sauce. The last automat, in Times Square, closed in 1991. The 21st century version -- complete with hot pink signage and even hotter concierges (click pic at left) -- will serve grilled cheese, pizza and dumplings with an Asian twist for $1.50-$2.50. Once the crowds disperse a little, I'll give it a whirl and write up a review.

Que Serra Serra

Andy Roddick - who is now receiving wisdom from the legendary Jimmy Connors - just pummeled Florent Serra (6-2 6-1 6-3). This is a decidedly better start for Roddick in Flushing, Queens than last year. After a big advertising build-up, he was dismissed from the US Open in the first round by a player ranked only 70th in the world. This year looks to be a whole lot different. With Jimbo in the house, not only is Roddick playing confidently, he got lucky with an easy draw. I predict he'll meet Rafael Nadal in the quarters (which will be a screamer of a match), and defeat him to go on to the face Roger Federer in the final. The downside: Roddick could face Agassi in the fourth round, at which point, Agassi will likely bid a a fond farewell (if he hasn't already).

The Times has a great piece about Agassi in a US Open supplement today. My favorite anecdote:

While playing a trivia game online to pass the time before a match, Agassi came upon a question he was sure he would ace: “Who is the only woman to win a Grand Slam final 6-0, 6-0?” The choices were Graf, Helen Wills Moody, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Agassi turned to Graf, who was in the room, and asked, “Did you ever win a Grand Slam final love and love?” She answered, “No, I do
n’t think so.” Agassi picked Moody, but the answer was Graf, who beat Natasha Zvereva at the 1988 French Open. Agassi turned to her and said, “How could you not remember that?”

There's also a good timeline about Agassi's career at the US Open. Click here.

Photo from Andy Roddick dot com.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

NYC Loves Agassi

Last year, I paid tribute to Agassi at the start of what was his 20th straight US Open showing. This year will be his 21st and final appearance. (He had a spectacular run last year, beating James Blake in a fantastic five-set match -- a la Jimmy Connors -- to make it all the way to the final, wherein Roger Federer sliced and diced him with the precision of a zen master.) Agassi will play opening night (Monday). Here's what I said last year, which is even truer this year:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Agassi, U Da Man

It’s easy to love Andre Agassi these days, this being his 20th straight appearance at New York’s Flushing Meadows (he won the US Open men’s singles title in 1994 and 1999). This wasn’t always so. He was often dismissed as all sizzle, no steak. People took his long-running advertising campaign for the Canon Rebel camera with its tagline “image is everything” a little too seriously. But as a full-fledged member of Generation X, Agassi has a well-developed sense of irony. (Of course, he’s very much an Xer in this sense as well: expressing apolitical rebelliousness with misguided fashion statements.) The ultimate irony is that he skipped Wimbledon from 1989-1991 because he refused to wear the required all-white uniform, but then made his grand slam breakthrough by winning the grass court title in 1992. That’ll shut up a few critics, no? But then he handed them a gift by getting fat on sprinkled donuts and losing his way with Brooke Shields in the mid-1990s. Schedenfreudians said his career was over. In one of the most humbling and determined comebacks in sports, Agassi hit the small and medium-sized tournaments and built his game back up from the bottom, becoming one of only five men to win all four grand slam titles (Wimbledon, French Open, US Open, Australian Open). Of course, everyone loves a comeback, especially one fueled by so much integrity. But with Agassi, it’s more than that. He is a truly charming and substantive person with a vast love of the sport that has treated him so well. Pete Sampras, his long-time rival who was always considered a substantive if not charming tennis player, might have won more grand slam titles and dominated the sport in a way that Agassi never did. But when Sampras rode off into the sunset with his model/actress wife never to be seen again except wearing a Movado watch, there was Agassi, still hitting the tennis courts because he loves the game, not just winning. And here’s the kicker: Mr. Image ended up married not to a waifish model, but to the least image conscious, most serious tennis player of all: Steffi Graf.

In retirement, Agassi will probably take a little time off to figure out how to reinsert himself in the game that he loves. But don't be surprised if, in the not too distant future, he's coaching the Davis Cup team, playing Team Tennis, coaching individual players (a la Brad Gilbert, who was instramental in Agassi's comeback), and/or supporting any number of other tennis related causes. In the meantime, it'll be a joy to watch him play his last US Open. Wish I had tix.

Friday, August 25, 2006

NOL v. WTC: The Truth Hurts

Chocolate City Mayor Ray Nagin throwin down! In an interview to be aired on 60 Minutes this Sunday, Nagin reportedly said, "You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed, and it's five years later. So let's be fair." Touche, Mr. Mayor. Touche.

Photo of WTC pit taken May 2006.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Cary of Visual Diaries started a unique blog while Polis was on hiatus, so I'm just getting to it now. The angle -- no pun intended -- is that he's a double shooter: pool and photography (works for the Village Voice and the Times, the latter is how we met). And now he's combined the two passions in a blog, Bank the Nine: Some Observations from a Pool-Playing Photographer. Who knew there were outdoor pool tables in Battery Park? Read all about it here.

NYC: Nature Thrives, Development Idles

The Times has a great little slideshow about nature adapting to the urban world, from flowers poking through cracked cement in Williamsburg to monk parakeets nesting on power poles -- which, according to legend, arrived in the region in the 1960s when a shipment of the birds fell off a plane at Kennedy Airport. To view Andrea Mohin's slideshow, click here.

Prefer your news a little more hard boiled? The Times Metro section is chock full o' fun today, with three different stories about how to stop anything -- good, bad or ugly -- from ever happening in New York City.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Script Doctor in the House?

So good to be back in NYC after a hiatus in Cleveburgh (my hometown, see below). A quick tour around the nabe yielded sights, sounds and smells that can only be had in the E.Vil., including this sidewalk trash montage that looks like one of those faked photo-ops that newspaper journalists used to stage back in the day. The streets of the E.Vil. are littered (literally!) with failed screenplays, as seen on E. 9th Street (note the Mud to-go coffee cup). I googled the authors and the screenplay title but alas, did not come up with much. Here's a thought: The first open-source screenplay writing contest. Start with the title Super Duper and take it from there. Or not.

P.S. I've been posting about redesigning Polis for awhile now, and I'm a little confounded about what is the best approach after discovering that the MAC iWeb software SUCKS. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know. I'd like to launch a website that Polis can be incorporated into (along with a home page, a photo page, a bio page, etc.), but I'm not the savviest tech person. Thoughts? Email me:

Monday, August 14, 2006

Vanilla Ice, Cleveland Style

So the story goes like this... Denny Blaze aka "Average Homeboy" from Cleveland, Ohio sent in a demo tape to MTV some 20 years ago. Someone there was cleaning out a closet and decides to post the video on YouTube and next thing you know, Blaze is a freakin' YouTube "star." Check these sizzling hot rhymes: "As you can see, I'm not black. I don't do drugs and I'm not on crack." ... "I don't have a butler or a maid. My exterminator is a can of Raid." ... "For enjoyment I like to shoot some hoops, but not until I eat all my Fruit Loops." Imagine a low budget David Hasselhoff with a learning disability trying to make it as a white rapper circa 1985. And he's still at it!
Yo, check it, Blazin' at the Rock Hall:

Friday, August 04, 2006

Spanning the Cuyahoga

As I already mentioned, the river that divides the east and west side of C-town (putting the cleave in Cleveland, I suppose) is called the Cuyahoga, which is an Indian word for crooked because the river takes several crazy turns through downtown and further south. There are more than 330 bridges spanning the river, many of them quite beautiful, especially the moveable ones. Not all are still in use, such as Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Bridge called a jackknife (pic above taken this afternoon), built in 1956. Below is a view I took from the Center Street bridge, one of the few swing bridges in the country that is still in use -- although it's been rebuilt several times, the current version completed in 1901. It was originally wood and became the central point of contention between eastsiders and westsider, who fought a war with each other over which side of the river downtown Cleveland would be established. The eastsiders won, and downtown can be seen looking east, with views of the B&O on the left; Key Tower in the center (the tallest building in Cleveland, designed by Cesar Pelli); and a glimpse of the Detroit-Superior Bridge on the right, completed in 1918. Not that you want to, but to read more about The Bridges of Cuyahoga County, click here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hot But Not Burning

One of the reasons Polis is on summer hiatus is because I'm actually not in New York, but in Cleveland. The above photo is where Moses Cleaveland* landed in 1796, taken from the Detroit Superior Bridge, which spans the Cuyahoga River. The Cuyahoga -- an Indian word for crooked, the river does a loop-d-loop through downtown -- became infamous in 1969 for catching on fire. It actually had caught fire many times, but this particular fire was covered by Time magazine, which described the Cuyahoga as the river "that oozes rather than flows," in which a person "does not drown but decays." The Clean Water Act and other environmental laws were subsequently enacted, and it has been cleaned up considerably, as have many other urban waterways as a result. But the metaphor of a burning river lives on. There's the Burning River Fest, a music fest with an environmental awareness mission; a really good beer made by Great Lakes Brewery, Burning River Pale Ale; and a book entitled Crooked River Burning. Sadly, when a performance artist once proposed an event to recreate the river catching on fire, the city didn't see the humor in that and nixed the idea.

More Fun Facts: A few years after the river caught on fire, the mayor set his own hair on fire while attempting to use a welder's torch at a ribbon-cutting. As if that wasn't enough to make Cleveland a regular Johnny Carson joke, the mayor's wife declined an invitation to the White House because it was her bowling night.

Maybe I'll just blog about Cleveland for the next couple of weeks... plenty more where that came from.

*In 1830, the first newspaper was established, called the Cleveland Advertiser, which dropped the 'a' because it didn't fit in the masthead.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hip or Dangerous?

While I'm taking a break from Polis (see below), here is a seriously fun time-waster. My friend Jeremy alerted me to The Burg, a web-only TV series made by a group of Williamsburghers that makes fun of hipsters in Williamsburg (very meta). One of my faves: a short entitled, "Hip or Dangerous?" where two of the characters decide if various people on the street are either hip or dangerous. It's a question that could be asked of the series itself. The ultimate procrastination tool.

The episode below, "Project," is where Courtney tries to turn her new Wall Street boyfriend into a hipster, among other hipster projects (such as actually going to the "projects" to buy drugs). There's some awesome original music, too. Just watch (click Play in Pop Up below to make this work, or go straight to the burg).



project: | Play in Popup