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09/18/13 3:44pm
09/18/2013 3:44 PM |

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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 11:57am

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Oh, just an unsettling, clown-related update from Bushwick: a store called Broadway Electronics was robbed for $4,400 worth of merchandise earlier this week, in broad daylight and by three men in clown masks “wielding pistols.”

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“It’s a shocking thing,” the store’s owner said. “There were three guys with guns dressed as clowns. They even took stuff from the customers.” Apparently, it’s part of a string of bad luck for the business. “It’s crazy, that store has been robbed four or five times over the years,” an employee of the 99 cent store next door told the Daily News. One likely reason: its total lack of functioning surveillance cameras, which they may or may not be addressing (the store was temporarily closed “for renovation” as of Tuesday).

Security cameras or no, nobody deserves to be robbed at gunpoint by a clown (or by anybody), and it would have been nice not to have my fondest memory of walking down Broadway—the time I saw a guy relaxing on a stoop at like 10pm in full clown regalia—not be permanently tainted. Anyway, probably good to keep an eye out for these guys. They’ll be easy to spot, at least.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/18/13 10:15am

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Granted, there are a lot of places in Brooklyn that are rightly considered literary landmarks, whether they’re former homes of beloved authors, the bars where said beloved authors went to unwind, or places where literary culture is still unfolding as we speak. If you’re looking to go on even the most casual of self-guided tours, there are a lot of options.

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And there’s a strong argument to be made that none of them are quite as uniquely satisfying as the ones that offer actual participation, where you can sit down, grab a few drinks or a bite to eat, and feel that you’re actually taking part in an experience or a place you’ve always read about. Not that we aren’t fully in favor of standing reverently outside historic buildings (we definitely are), but when you’re done with that for the day, you can still kick back with a beer, content in the knowledge you’re doing something culturally significant. Go ahead and feel smug about it.

09/18/13 10:00am

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Writers do not become writers because they want to get rich. Or, at least, while some writers, at some point in their careers (usually at the very, very beginning), might fantasize about selling a debut novel for a high six-figure sum, or imagine falling into an editorial position at a venerable magazine like the New Yorker or Harper’s, those sort of outsized dreams usually dissipate not long after they’re conceived. It is very rare to become wealthy from writing. It is also very hard work, and usually takes some time—time being a luxury, of course, one usually only afforded by money. And then still, it is very rare. There are no guarantees. And that’s why, here in Brooklyn, for every Jonathan Safran Foer, there are scores of freelance writers who churn out content for little or even no money, hoping that it will lead to a job. And for every Jennifer Egan (who, it should be pointed out, did not experience anything resembling overnight success) there are dozens of recent MFA-weilding adjuncts who count among their limited possessions crippling student loan debt and a dozen unfinished Word docs with titles like “thissucks” or “fuckwritingfuckitforever.” But so how do aspiring (or even actual) writers survive in Brooklyn anymore? Is it even possible to be a struggling artist in a place where studio apartments go for $2,000 a month? And how can anyone pay that kind of preposterous rent when the only writing they’ve had published is a handful of “It Happened to Me” stories for xoJane in which they recall the time a guinea pig crawled up their butthole and died?

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Well, actually, I don’t really know. I don’t really know how most aspiring writers survive out of the gate because it seems like it’d be pretty close to impossible. Or at least, if not impossible, it has become increasingly difficult to make a living or start to make a living as a young writer without some serious help. Easily one of the more controversial topics of conversation these days (ranking right up there with politics and religion and Ben Affleck as Batman) is that of the unpaid internship. The debate goes a little something like this: one side says that unpaid internships are inherently unfair because they privilege wealthy young people who can afford to work for free in order to get a foot in the door, while the other side says, sure, but it’s what we’ve always done and stop whining you spoiled millennials, why do you need to work for money anyway?(Full disclosure: Northside Media Group employs unpaid interns, so, yeah.) The problem, as I see it, with this argument though is that it’s a total straw man. Is it always unethical to have anyone work for you for free? At the risk of sounding spineless, I’d have to say, not necessarily. Not if the interns are given an opportunity to learn important skills, gain experience and connections that could help them get a job later, and are not over-worked. That said, should interns earn a salary? I tend to think they should. But here’s the problem, especially in a city like New York: even when interns are earning a salary, it’s rarely more than minimum wage which isn’t, in this city, a living wage at all. So the issue isn’t even about paid or unpaid internships, it’s about the injustice of having entry-level positions (whether paid or unpaid) in any industry that are perpetually out-of-reach for anyone who isn’t getting additional financial support, whether in the form of other employment, or in the form of help from family. If it’s a question of which is worse, an unpaid intern who earns college credit and works 25 hours a week and gets valuable experience versus a low-paid entry-level worker who clocks in at 40+ hours a week, I’d actually go with the paid worker as having it worse.

But so let’s take a look at a hypothetical intern at a successful online publication. First of all, congratulations to this young writer! Even getting one of these positions in a competitive place like New York is winning a lottery of sorts. Not the kind of lottery with a big payout, but still. Anyway, if this person is interning and working 25 hours per week and getting paid minimum wage, they have two choices, work another job or be rich. I mean, choice number two, right? But let’s say this intern can’t just choose to be rich. Bummer. And so they get another job. And they work 30 hours a week at that job probably not making much more than minimum wage, but they don’t have the mental energy to invest in their internship the way that some other intern, who doesn’t have to work another job and doesn’t have to carry the unbelievably oppressive burden of living in debt on their shoulders and can instead invest time and energy into doing extra for the job where they’re interning or starting out in some other entry-level capacity, who do you think is going to be more successful? Nine times out of ten, it’s gonna be the wealthy kid. Obviously.

09/18/13 9:30am

91 Remsen Street Henry Miller Brooklyn Heights
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It’s Brooklyn Heights that put our borough on the literary map: it was home to Henry Miller, Arthur Miller, Hart Crane, Truman Capote, Thomas Wolfe, Richard Wright, John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer, Paul Bowles and WH Auden; they lived near each other, with each other, knew each other as faces in a hallway or by the mailbox before they published the books that would make them famous. Thanks to a map in the front of Evan Hughes’s indispensable history Literary Brooklyn, we wandered around the neighborhood, taking photos of the buildings where writers lived and wrote—where history was made. Here they are, with gossipy anecdotal information mostly culled from Hughes’s book, which you really should buy.

09/17/13 3:58pm
09/17/2013 3:58 PM |

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Well, as much as I like to make jokes about teenagers being the worst, this is genuinely pretty terrible: Pardon Me For Asking reports on a recent uptick in violence in Carroll Park, the result of what locals have been describing as a possible “turf war.”

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One reader emailed the site with the following warning:

“Brooklyn friends with kids: there is some kind of turf war going on in and around Carroll Park in Carroll Gardens. Tell your kids to steer clear. My son was with friends and they were attacked by a bunch of other kids with weapons. The cops said that later today, shots were fired as well. Max is okay after being knocked out by a blow to the back of the head and about 4 hours in the hospital. He’s home now. But there’s a Gowanus-Red Hook battle going on that kids need to keep out of. Sadly, the cops who took his report seemed not up to the task of keeping people safe and honestly, less intelligent that my 17 year old son. It kinda pissed me off. But most importantly, spread the word.”

Reports have also been circulating of a stabbing in the neighborhood, and local police confirmed to the site that they’ve been “aggressively” investigating the incidents, though currently see no connection between the fight in the park (at which they say no weapons were present) and the gunshots later on. Regardless, they’ll be patrolling the area until things are resolved, and park regulars would be well advised to be a little more careful than usual.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.

09/17/13 3:25pm

Haha. This was a movie! A real movie. What. Ha.

  • Haha. This was a movie! A real movie. What. Ha.

Dating, man. It’s rough, isn’t it? Ha. I don’t know. I eschew all romantic attachments because I have emotional intimacy issues that I am not prepared to talk about now, or possibly ever. But also, I’ve heard that dating is rough even for people who aren’t emotionally dead (I’m assuming those people exist?), or that’s what I’ve known to be true anecdotally. Well! Anecdotal evidence can now go to hell because there is finally proof (scientific proof!) that dating in Brooklyn is hard, not because of intimacy problems, but because women in Brooklyn are super-picky. That’s right, ladies, the problem isn’t them, it’s you.

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Dating website Are You Interested (AYI) released data culled from over 50,000 single Americans that conclusively proved one thing: women in Brooklyn are more selective than women anywhere else in the entire country. Even in the tri-state area, women here in Brooklyn are far more choosey than those hoydens over in Murray Hill or, like, Jersey City. Which, obviously, right? New York magazine reveals that there are, in fact, some other places in the country where women are kind of picky (Detroit, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and Los Angeles) and other places where women will sleep with basically anyone (Miami, St. Louis, Las Vegas, and Portland, Oregon), but nothing beats Brooklyn in terms of highly selective women. To which I say, good for you Brooklyn women! Good for you for not settling for some dude who tries to get your attention by sending some lame message like “whatsup” or “hey, your cute.” Those men should never be encouraged. Demand poetry. And I don’t mean repurposed Bob Dylan lyrics (even though, sometimes, that can actually work really, really well. See also: Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire”).

Anyway, even though AYI didn’t reach any conclusions based upon this data, I have to say I think we should all be especially impressed with these statistics. Because if there’s anywhere in this country where women shouldn’t be too picky about finding a mate, it’s Brooklyn. Why? Because it’s so fucking expensive here, that it is shocking that more people don’t just match up haphazardly in order to move in together and save on rent. Because if people in Brooklyn did do that, it would be totally understandable. It costs a lot of money to be single here! And yet, despite the odds being stacked against them, Brooklyn women still won’t settle for less than they deserve. This is awesome. Keep on being awesome, Brooklyn women. Sure, you might die alone and broke. But that’s better than being attached to some douchebag who doesn’t deserve you.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

09/17/13 10:45am

He would have been great at this.

  • He would have been great at this.

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If there’s one medium in this world that tugs at the heartstrings, educates, and quietly expands our inner lives in much the same way as thoughtfully crafted longform writing, it would be Twitter. At least, that seems like a fair assumption given the amount of time Brooklyn’s literary community (and the book world at large) seems to spend there.

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And really, besides being a legitimately useful place for authors, publishers, booksellers, and their audiences to connect, it’s also just a pretty solid way to kill time (and an easier one to get away with than, say, dropping everything you’re doing to quietly blow 45 minutes reading a book at your desk while your boss looks on, angry and bewildered). As such, we took it upon ourselves to put together a selected crash course, presented in no particular order, of essential Twitter feeds to help you keep tabs of the local (or locally relevant) lit community, whether your interests lean towards readings, jokes about industry controversies, long reads, or creepy vintage book covers. If you can think of a more productive way to spend a work day, we’d very much like to hear it.

09/17/13 10:15am

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Writing is hard. Or, no, wait. Writing is easy. Everyone can write. But not everyone can write well. And because we are interested (very interested) in people who can write well, we decided to ask some of our favorite writers what their secrets are. As expected, the answers we received varied greatly, and are very specific to the writer at hand, each of whom is pretty wildly different from the others. Some of the Brooklyn writers we spoke with are novelists, some are memoirists (some are both!); some are comedians, some are bloggers (again, some are both!); all are intelligent, astute, successful, and are, at times, just as tortured by the words they put down as are the rest of us. And so, in the spirit of torture and creation and other good things, may we present ten of our favorite Brooklyn writers and the secrets behind how they write.

09/17/13 9:30am

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  • Image via WSJ

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Even if your at-home work space somehow has the ideal combination of privacy, natural light, high speed internet, and proximity to snacks and a coffee machine, if you spend any significant amount of time writing at home, chances are you’ve experienced your fair share of cabin fever. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Some would even say that a desire to go outdoors, interact with other people, and eat something that isn’t a sad cobbled-together meal of leftovers from your fridge is a healthy thing. Whatever your particular motivation, finding just the right place to situate yourself for hours on end while nursing the same cup of drip coffee can be surprisingly difficult—I once saw the owner of Athom Cafe kick a guy out of an otherwise empty seating area just for pulling a laptop out of his bag. Different people have different policies. Now, if your preferred method really is longhand and your day-to-day work doesn’t require internet access or any kind of outlet, then by all means, go find the shadiest tree in Prospect Park and go to town. But for the rest of us that are hopelessly tethered to these kind of amenities, here are ten of the best places to hunker down when working from home has lost all appeal.