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09/19/13 2:47pm

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Last Friday night, we gathered at Gowanus’ newest (and arguably, most beautiful) event space 501 Union to celebrate the realease of Brooklyn Magazine‘s Fall ’13 issue. It’s our annual fall fashion issue, and Weeds-actress (and brand new Brooklyn resident) Mary Louise Parker graces the cover. We toasted to the new issue with Prairie Spirits and Sixpoint beer, while Brooklyn bands Hippy and Haybaby christened the 501 Union’s stereo equipment. Thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate with us, and you’ll find the rest of the evening’s photos after the jump.

For invitations to future Brooklyn Magazine launch parties, click here.

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09/19/13 12:42pm

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  • DONNY TSANG

If, like us, you’re still nursing a bit of a food hangover from last weekend’s Taste Talks, now feels like the right time to take a quick trip down memory lane. And for a two day event, there’s a lot to recap! We ate a ton of pancakes, got a few tips from ?uestlove about how to make money in this economy, and strolled through East River Park learning how to pair exactly the right wine with ostrich burgers. Not a bad way to spend a weekend. Thanks to all of you who joined us and made the weekend what it was. We’ll see you next year!

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09/19/13 11:00am

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  • Adrian Tomine
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Adrian Tomine’s comic book, Optic Nerve, has been running for just shy of two decades. The California-born cartoonist began publishing it through Drawn & Quarterly in 1994, when he was just 20 years old. The beloved series, now on its recently published thirteenth issue, has spawned several acclaimed books collections of its stories, including Sleepwalk and Other Stories and Summer Blonde. His last graphic novel, 2007’s Shortcomings, compiled a three-issue storyline from the comics that dealt bluntly with issues of sexual and racial insecurity without compromising the mix of cutting humor, intricate illustration, and emotional gut punching that’s come to characterize his work.

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Now living in Brooklyn with his wife and young child, Tomine is two-thirds into a new Optic Nerve arc that’s seen him experimenting with format, style, and character voice. Newspaper funnies page comic strips share space with short stories rendered in lush, full color, next to page-long autobiographical sketches of dark and funny self-deprecation. This weekend, Tomine appears alongside dozens of noted authors at the Brooklyn Book Festival to promote his excellent new material. We talked to Tomine about the effect fatherhood’s had on his work, the stylistic shifts of his latest issues, and the persistence of physical objects in an increasingly digital world.

What neighborhood in Brooklyn do you live in?
I live in Park Slope.

Have you lived there since you moved to New York?
No, we’ve moved around to different parts of Brooklyn. We lived in Fort Greene for a while, too.

How have you liked Park Slope?
It’s good. We have a four-year old kid, so we’re kind of the target audience for the neighborhood.

How has having a kid effected your work routine?
Hugely. I work from home, so I’m just kind of always working around what’s going on with my kid. When she was a baby, I could really only get work done when she was sleeping, or if my wife took her out of the house for a little while. Now she’s older and she’s going to preschool, so I can have my days to get back to work again.

Do you think it effects the work itself, or mainly just the work routine?
I’m sure it affects the work itself in a variety of ways, too. For many years I was very comfortable doing the kind of work that I wanted, at the pace that I liked. Being able to support myself, basically. Now I’ve got more people to be responsible for, so that affects things to a degree. But also, most people will describe the impact on them as people once they have children, in terms of how you relate to the world and how you view your own parents. Hopefully, if someone has a good experience with parenthood, it can make them a more empathic person, which I think is very useful to artists or writers.

I think with some comics, it’s really easy to assume that characters are speaking in a voice that’s very similar to their creator. With your recent stuff, except for the brief autobiographical strips, that’s not the sense I’ve gotten. I was wondering how you go about building a character?
Gosh, I have no idea. I think if what you’re saying is true for some readers, that’s a good complement for me. That not every character just seems like a thinly-veiled stand-in for my own personality. To a degree they are. In the way that I work, where I’m doing all the writing and all the drawing myself, it is a trick to get other opinions, other thoughts, other voices in to the work. That’s the thing, especially with the last few issues of my comic, that I’ve been striving for. To not make it seem so much like the navel-gazing of one man. (laughs)

In Optic Nerve 13, the lead character’s dirtbaggy boyfriend guy, for example. I didn’t assume that was too much of yourself? Unless maybe there’s some dark current that you are exploring?
It’s sort of a long-standing line of inquiry, people kind of wanting me to describe how autobiographical each story is, or if I actually said that, or if I did that, or if those are my words, or whatever. I think part of the goal for me, especially with these last couple issues of the comic is to hopefully move away from that. I know I sort of set myself up for that with some of the earlier, more autobiographical stories that I did, and by some of the elements of the book Shortcomings, where it seemed as if it was autobiographical or that the character was more closely connected to me than he was. So, I understand that. I’m hoping that now people will start to be less interested in me as the person who created the stories, and more interested in the stories themselves.

Issues 12 and 13 of Optic Nerve seemed to bring a real switch in format, a different way that they look and are set up. I was wondering if…especially with issue 12…if shifting the style to a more traditionally cartoony look was part of trying to get a bit more distance in the way that people perceive it?
Yeah. To me Optic Nerve #12 is like the first real work of cartooning that I did after finishing Shortcomings. I had a couple other books come out in the interim that were either collections of illustration work, or reprints of other stuff. But to me, when I started working on issue 12 of Optic Nerve it was sort of a new starting point. I wanted to do something that could be criticized in a variety of ways, but not for being a repetition of the work that I’d done prior. I had a sense that people might not like this, or it might not be funny, or it might not be good, but it won’t be the same. That was kind of comforting to me as I slogged along on it.

How do you think about balancing a single issue with different stories, and what effect the combination of those different pieces will have?
It is something that I think about, and it gets a little more complicated with each issue. I’m working on issue 14 now, which will be the third in this series that I’m doing. When you start a new story you’re sort of considering what else might be in that issue, but you are also considering what else might be in the previous issue or the next issue, because these stories will all eventually be collected in one book. When I started issue 13, I thought, “Well I don’t want to do something in the format of a newspaper comic strip, because I just did that in the previous issue, so I’ll just rule that out right now.” When this book comes out collecting these stories there’s not going to be one kind of coherent overriding theme to the whole thing, but there will be sort of a rule that I placed on myself that each story will be set up or told or drawn or colored in a different way from the others. I am trying to avoid that repetition from story to story.

Can you give us any insight into the process that goes into a New Yorker cover? Are those pieces always solicited by them, or do you ever just bring them things that you think might work?
It’s both. There have been times when I’ve been given a specific theme to consider, and there’ve been times when I’ve just had an idea out of the blue that might work for them. Or some combination thereof.

Do you give a certain significance to folks like yourself, Chris Ware and Dan Clowes all occasionally giving covers to the New Yorker? Does that lend a certain amount of status or respect for underground comics, do you think?
Well, unfortunately, I don’t think me, Dan, or Chris would consider ourselves underground anymore.

Sure, but that was your start, at least.
The New Yorker is interesting because it has this position as being kind of a well-respected literary magazine. I think there’s a tendency to think of that as at odds with cartooning, which is considered more low-brow art form or something, but the truth is the New Yorker has had a very long history with cartoonists, and cartoons since its inception. I think that there might be some people who’ve been reading my work or Dan’s work or Chris’ work or, you know, Robert Crumb’s work from the very beginning, so they see some sort of arc from the point of where we first started getting published to being on the New Yorker cover. But everybody who’s in the New Yorker had some sort of humble beginning. I don’t think that there’s anything particularly unusual about it.

There seems to be a real tension in music or comics or whatever, between people who are still really enamored with physicality and people who are fully embracing “the cloud,” like we’re all sort of pushed to. Or who are actually now sort of turning against the real world. I’ve seen people who are really against paper now, and they love their e-books so much. There’s strong opinions all around.

Your strong opinion, I take it, is still strongly slanted towards the physical?
Yeah, but I’ve gone past the point of trying to will the world into the place that I want it to be. From my own personal reading and viewing and listening, I don’t feel impeded. I can buy all the books that I want. All my favorite cartoonists are still working on paper. I can buy records very cheaply if I want to. You kind of have to be realistic about things. If I’m just kind of looking out for what my own tastes and interests are, I think things are fine. In terms of society in general? Things are changing rapidly and there’s nothing that can be done about it, really. So there’s no point in complaining about it too much.

Do you take comfort in something like the Brooklyn Book Festival where everybody is sort of geared towards celebrating real things?
Yeah, I do. I have been a guest at other literary festivals, or comic conventions or things like that, but it’s interesting to me that the name of this has the word “book” embedded in it, so that it’s not about any one kind of content. It’s not about literature or children’s books or comics, or anything specific. It’s about the format, and it’s a format that’s very dear to me. It’s an event that I sort of look forward to every year, not necessarily because of my own professional involvement in it, but just as a person who really loves books. I don’t know, there’s some sort of life-affirming experience to seeing that many people of all different backgrounds and ages choosing to spend their weekend afternoon looking at books.

The 2013 Brooklyn Lit Supplement is presented by NYU MS in Professional Writing.

09/19/13 10:00am

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  • Image via Etsy

Well, far be it for me to begrudge anyone their weird side-hustle. Rent is high and the economy’s still rough for most people. And, as Gothamist points out, Justing Gignac’s “cube of NYC garbage” thing has been successfully going for a while now, though that actually does qualify as a fairly interesting art project. This new thing? It is literally a pebble in a plastic box. But it’s a Brooklyn pebble.

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Floyd Hayes, a UK-to-Brooklyn transplant who’s been peddling the “piece of Brooklyn” rocks on Etsy for $4 apiece, markets them as a “100% genuine Piece of Brooklyn as hand-picked from the streets of the coolest borough in the world.”

From the Etsy description:

For the price of a cup of joe, people can now have their very own, 100% genuine piece of Brooklyn and contribute to the creative energy the borough is famous for.

Each piece is totally unique and would make the perfect fun gift or keepsake.

So! I guess we could get up in arms about this as an avatar of something or other—capitalism? Etsy? the relentless, soul-deadening culture of “branding?”—but then, Hayes is donating $1 from each sale to the Brooklyn Arts Council, which is a pretty nice thing to do. Also (and maybe more importantly), as of this posting, it appears that only four of these have been sold so far. Seems pretty manageable to me.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/19/13 10:00am

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It might be unfair to assume that everyone pursuing the writer’s life (whatever that even means) considers pursuing an MFA these days. In fact, many writers are vocally against immersing themselves in what is sometimes referred to as a writers factory. Both the pro- and con-MFA camps offer valid arguments. And we sometimes wonder ourselves if deciding to pursue an MFA is worth it at all. Sure, it may give you hope, and may finally validate your efforts into something more concrete (i.e., your book- length thesis) than your two part-time service jobs. But at what cost? At the very least, there will be a literal cost in the thousands of dollars for grad school tuition, but is there a chance your writing would also suffer? We don’t know! We wanted to find out, so we went in search of degree holders and seekers to inform a rounded answer to this fundamental question.

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09/19/13 9:30am

Brooklyn Book Festival BookCourt Bookend Event Coffin Factory
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On Monday, our culture editor Henry Stewart participated in a Brooklyn literary trivia contest at BookCourt. The Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend event—one of dozens of literary events held in the run-up to Sunday’s festival—was hosted by Coffin Factory, the locally based literary magazine. Here, he recounts what happened.

I might be the only Bookend participant who starts the night at a bar. I get to BookCourt early, at least a half an hour before the trivia game begins, so I duck across Court Street into a bar called Cody’s. I like Cody’s. The seats are almost all full-up, populated by conspicuous regulars who chat and joke with each other. They seem like old friends, and the place looks older. I have a beer, drink it quick, ask for another, and drink it quick, too, staring up at muted ESPN. The bartender doesn’t seem to like me.

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Across the street, everybody likes me. Randy and Laura from Coffin Factory spot me right away, and we make funny small talk, like “didn’t we see you outside an events space in Gowanus last weekend?” I meet Julia Fierro of the Sackett Street Writers Workshop for the first time, and she tells me I look so young—that she knew I had a beard, and so she thought I was, like, 50. “Are you young?” she asks me. I recently turned 30. I don’t know how to answer that question anymore.

Randy and Laura assure me, as they’ve already assured Penina Roth, the Franklin Park Reading Series curator, by email, that the questions won’t be too difficult, that the trickiest ones have been cut, and that most of them come from “Evan Hughes’s book,” Literary Brooklyn. This means my bet has paid off: the only studying I’ve done over the last two weeks, since I looked at my Google calendar and thought, “oh shit, that thing is coming up! I better go to powerHouse and buy that book!,” is reading this book and memorizing where Richard Wright hung out and the blocks where Walt Whitman used to live, which all turn out to be useful. I get a lot of questions right.

More useful is the free whiskey Randy and Laura have procured. A few drinks make it easier to perform in front of a crowd, though I can’t tell if I’m being a jerk or charming. (My friends tell me the latter; I’m sure the commenters here will tell me the former.) After Randy and I have a heated disagreement that almost comes to blows about the pronunciation of Pete Hamill’s name—and, for that matter, Mark Hamill’s—I ask if we can have more whiskey (“speaking of Pete Hamill…”), because then I know I won’t care even if it were Pete HAM-eye-uhl. Laura kindly brings it to me and fellow contestant John M. Cusick. Poor Penina is off to the side, trying to crane her neck around so she can just see the screen and read the questions before I “buzz in” by blowing into my noiseless noisemaker. Everyone’s points climb. “Darren Aronofsky!” “Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever!” “1856!”

09/18/13 3:44pm

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Oh, what, you were managing to go about your daily commute without a crippling fear that the very ground beneath you would collapse and plunge you into filthy waters (or worse)? Well, no more. The Daily News reports today that more than half of the bridges in Brooklyn are in need of major repairs, and of those, 15 are currently deemed “structurally deficient” and “fracture critical” by the Federal Highway Administration. To be clear, this is really not good.

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So much so that an expert told the paper the classification “means that a bridge could fall at a moments notice” and that “it’s extremely dangerous for people going over bridges” like the Mill Basin Bridge, the bridge over Shore Parkway in Bay Ridge, multiple bridges crossed by the Q train, and several others on Belt Parkway.

The good-ish news here is that the government is actually paying some attention to the problem—during his tenure, Bloomberg’s administration has spent over $6 billion fixing decrepit local bridges, with over $500 million allocated to the Brooklyn Bridge alone, and $365 million more set aside for the troubled Belt Parkway structures. “We all know those bridges are the worst of the worst,” City Councilman Lew Filder told the paper. “Those bridges have launched the careers of so many personal injury lawyers.”

So, good that they’re sort of on top of it, I guess, even if the lag time involved is perturbing. And maybe the kind of infrastructure issue to keep in mind next time we get too wrapped up “New York was better when it was shitty and bankrupt” nostalgia? Or just another thing to be scared of on a day-to-day basis. No need to choose just one option here.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/18/13 1:22pm

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  • travelandtea.com

For many, the ultimate indication of the start of autumn is the reappearance of pumpkin spice lattes at the local Starbucks. But for others, it’s the beginning of Oktoberfest (held from September 21st to October 1st this year), a 16-day celebration of Bavarian culture as expressed through beer drinking, pretzel-eating, and dirndl-wearing oompah bands. And while we absolutely recommend devoting a day or two to trolling beirgartens, your festivities don’t need to be limited to ingesting exorbitant amounts of Hofbräu. Especially since there are plenty of great borough restaurants serving elegant, Oktoberfest-worthy fare. Guten appétit, and bitte leiten sie den senf (please pass the mustard).

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09/18/13 12:45pm

Sweet, glorious beer champagne. c/o 40ozmaltliquor.com

  • Sweet, glorious beer champagne. c/o 40ozmaltliquor.com

On my birthday this year, everything was going great until I read Deadspin’s ranking of 36 cheap American beers. Cue tailspin: there’s no way that Natty Light (or Natty Ice for that matter!) could beat out Yuengling. They got cheap American beer all wrong.

The tailspin continues with this little bit of news, and it hits home: The owner of Bed-Stuy’ Black Swan, Sureshan Pather, is selling something criminal at his new bar/venue Beast of Bourbon: a 40 oz. of Miller High Life in a brown bag for $10.

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The 6,000 square foot space serves over-the-counter BBQ and features over 50 domestic beers on draught, reports DNAInfo. The news site also points readers to this photo hosted on the bar’s Facebook page, and it is almost painful to accept: I’m pretty sure 22’s of High Life cost about $2 at the bodega. You know, the bodega that is down the street.

I’m pretty stoked for everything else that the bar has to offer, though: 50 beers, BBQ from Black Swan chef Adam Schere, and a jukebox with over 100 CDs running the punk rock gamut. But if Pather wants the place to be very DIY, as he says in the DNAInfo piece, the juxtaposition of a “DIY” band at a place that has a 500-700% markup on a $4 beer feels forced and gimmicky. Yeah, yeah, everybody’s got a gimmick, but: $10? Are you really going to ask the 22 year old with the Wipers pin to pay $10? The 35 year old with the X pin? Or, is the problem that the 22 year old is naive enough to fall into that trap? I mean, I… no words.