Standing On My SOPA Box

My job is in the music industry, and I have been working with independent musicians for 20 years. So naturally I was very interested in the recent hoopla over The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). If I’ve learned anything from the anti-SOPA movement, it’s that most “netizen activists” are either willfully blind or out and out hypocrites.

For the most part they nod and say that piracy is “bad” and “something needs to be done,” but when there is a law that might actually have the ability to curb piracy, they call it “draconian.” I think I’ve heard that term a hundred times.  Do any of them know anything about Draco?  As far as I know, there is nothing in the SOPA bill suggesting that copyright violators be sold into slavery.

They say SOPA will cause sites to self-censor the Internet, yet the same breath demand boycotts against companies that support SOPA. So censorship is ok, as long as its censoring the things you don’t like.

They say that the government should not have the power to decide what you can or cannot see, yet Google does that every time you search, basing your query returns on past searched and demographics. “In Google We Trust,” I guess.

They say that you can’t trust a bill that is sponsored by the big bad music and film industry. It’s big business against those mom and pops worth over half a trillion dollars (Google, Yahoo, Twitter and AOL.)

But then you usually get to the heart of the matter, people like getting music and movies for free.  They like that you can use someone else’s intellectual property anyway you want, whether it’s giving away an MP3 of your favorite song, or making a “mash-up” of the most recent internet meme using someone else’s creation. The truth is almost everyone has downloaded an illegal song or movie at one time.  You might feel a little bad about it, but you will come up with all the standard rationalizations:

“Most music sucks anyway”

“They charge too much.”

“I spent all this money in the past so I’m entitled to a freebie.”

“It’s too complicated to buy.”

“It’s unavailable legally, so I had to steal it.”

“Big companies are ripping off the artists anyway.”

SOPA and PIPA are not perfect bills, and a lot of the issues could be fixed by spelling out clear definitions of theft and modify the penalties. Maybe they can be modified and address people’s concerns but the knee-jerk opposition to it shows that internet companies and people themselves really don’t want to curb piracy and copyright infringement. The real reason people are so opposed to this legislation (other than the overstated claim of censorship ginned up by Google and Wikipedia) is that they like the internet being a lawless place, where all it takes is a little cognitive dissonance and a click of a mouse and you can have all your movies and music for free.

N.B.- For me this is not a thought experiment or playing devils advocate in a debate game. This is my livelihood. It was my parent’s livelihood. Intellectual property and copyright laws puts a roof over my head and feeds my children.  So please spare me the B.S. about the industry using outmoded business models and need to find a new paradigm to generate revenue.  Doublespeak like that is cold comfort after the Visigoths have sacked the village.


Ho Hos, Ring Dings, Ding Dongs, Lend Me Your Creamy Filling.

I Come to Bury Twinkie the Kid, Not to Praise Him.

With the the announcement of Hostess filing for bankruptcy, a lot of people have been reminiscing about Twinkies. The truth is, I was never a big fan of the cream filled spongecake (and frankly, Twinkie the Kid creeped me out, he seemed like a molester) but the with possible demise of Hostess, I will miss the the Hostess lemon pie, and the little powdered donuts.

Hostess lemon pie filling had the color and consistency of Vaseline, but a perfect sweet and sour balance, at least to the discerning tastebuds of a ten-year-old.

I recently tried a Hostess lemon pie again for the first time in over 20 years. It had the same semi- circle cardboard crust, covered in a thin layer of dried icing that resembled eczema more than sugar. But other than being slightly smaller, it looked as I remembered it. Just as it was when ate these after elementary school, the first bite was always a let down, mostly tasteless crust. But once I got to the filling, the lemon petroleum jelly really took me back. In my mind’s-tongue, I recalled them not being as sweet and the 2012 version, this may be just in my memory, but more likely an byproduct of hostess switching to high fructose corn syrup.

I next tried the little powdered donuts, Donettes, the tube of tiny white fluffy donuts, that never went stale. The powdered sugar was so fine, that inhaling while eating always produced a coughing jag, and always left enough powder on your face to make you look like an 80’s stockbroker.

The new donuts were definitely smaller that the ones of yore, but they were just as artificially fluffy as I remember, and just as dry, so much so that once I finished my coughing jag, I needed to chug a Fresca to wash it down.

As much as I like to wax nostalgic, I have to say I’m glad these tasty yet toxic near foods are not nearly as pervasive today. I don’t want my kids eating these things. And the fact that most parents would never even consider putting Ring Dings, Ding Dongs, or King Dons in their kid’s lunch today, something that was pervasive when I was a kid, I see as a real sign of progress.

Barrio Closing? Park Slope’s Restaurant Bermuda Triangle?

One of my favorite local restaurants seems to be in limbo.  The windows of Barrio have been papered up for the last week.  Rumor is it’s closing, and although some say that they are just “renovating” it seems odd.  If they were renovating you’d think they would have something about it on the door (which they do not.)

Well, I hope they are renovating, they may not be El Buli, but they were a good standby with solid margaritas and a great staff.

What is with that corner?  Restaurants open, seem to be doing fine, then disappear overnight.  Barrio seemed to do a decent business and now might be gone. Catty-corner, Sette, recently shut their doors after 5 years. And I don’t know how long Cheeburger, Cheeburger is going to last with 200+ burger places within 5 blocks, but that location has been at least 6 places in the last 10 years.

I hope Barrio fares better than the USS Cyclops. If not, hopefully they’ll make an “In Search Of” episode about the corner of 7th Avenue and 3rd Street.

Peanuts Special Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

ABC is recalling some of its Peanut Christmas and Thanksgiving Specials because of possible salmonella contamination. The New York based network says the specials covered would have been aired during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

A spokesman for the company was quoted as saying, “Wha-wha wha whaw, whaw wha wha wha.”

Salmonella is bacteria resulting in fever, cramps and nostalgia that lasts for several days and can require hospitalization and the learning the true meaning of Christmas.

Overused Internet Phrases

I think its time to put a moratorium on the following cliched, unfunny internet memes (truth be told, these really weren’t clever when they were new):

FAIL- This seems to be the internet equivalent of the “asshole” chant from the high school cafeteria when someone dropped a tray. One word taunting of someone’s misfortune generally come from mooks and frat boys. (Did anyone really think “Not!” as an insult was ever clever?)

[BLANK]-porn– (ie food-porn, real estate-porn, cabin-porn) Please, when I’m trying to look up porn, I don’t need to get bogged down with pictures of quaint country homes next to scenic lakes.

[BLANK]-mageddon (snowmageddon, carmageddon , trainmageddon) Trust me, when the Four Horsemen come, they won’t be talking about snowstorms or traffic delays.

EPIC– (Often accompanied with FAIL) Unless you are talking about The Divine Comedy, Ernest Shackleton or a David Lean film, then find another word.

More to come…

The Parking-Savant on Residential Parking Permits

Have you ever complained about how cold it was only to be rebuffed by a friend from the mid-west or upstate who would say something like, “This is nothing, 20 degrees is a warm spring day in St Paul”?  Well, when it came to finding a parking in spot in Park Slope, I was the guy from St. Paul.

After college I lived in Hoboken for a few of years, and I can say with complete honesty, finding a parking spot in Park Slope is a piece of cake compared to getting a legal spot in Hoboken.  The average search time there was 45 minutes, and that wasn’t just looking for the “dream spot” in front of your building, your search radius had to be at least 10 blocks if you realistically wanted to find a space. Circling for 90 minutes was not unusual in the Mile Square City.

I don’t bring this up to say that The Slope has it easy on the parking front, we don’t. Parking here bites.  But I mention it because of recent talk about Brooklyn getting residential parking permits.  Parking has always been bad here but this is being discussed now because people are concerned about the influx of cars to the new Barclay’s Center. With residential parking permits, local residents would pay a yearly fee, and parking spaces would be allotted as resident parking only.

It looks good on paper, but Hoboken had residential parking, and it didn’t help at all.

I’m not entirely opposed to a residential parking permits, but I doubt they will be a panacea for the parking problem in Park Slope. The truth is there are more cars than there are spots, so there is now magic bullet to fix the problem.  But since I consider myself a parking-savant, I’ll propose my ideas on what could be done, long-term and short-term, to ease the parking burden.

More to come.

[UPDATE] Pre-K FAIL- A letter to the NYC DOE

The letter many parents received from the DOE.

UPDATE: Shortly after sending the letter (below) expressing my frustration with the NYC Pre-K admissions, I was contacted by someone from the DOE who apologized and helped me find a pre-k seat for my son.  They directed me to a new CBO that had just opened in our area. We were able to visit the school and we like the program and the teacher. My son attended his first day at pre-k today, and he said he had a great day.  This experience has given me a new hope in the New York City Public schools.

To Chancellor Walcott and the Office of Early Childhood Education:

As many of my friends and family have received an excellent education from New York City public schools, I have a great deal of respect for its teachers and administrators. But after receiving my second “we are unable to offer you a placement ” letter while trying to enroll my son in a New York City public pre-kindergarten, I cannot express my dismay enough in the New York City Department of Education. We applied to the maximum 12 schools in both round one and round two, all in our district or in the adjoining one (Brooklyn district 15 and 13), and we did not receive placement in any of them. We did not put all our eggs in one basket, hoping to get into one of the more competitive schools, we applied to nearly every school in the area, 24 in all. There is nothing I would have done differently, except put any faith in the NYC Department of Education.

I attended to the information session about New York City pre-kindergarten, so I know that there are more applying students then there are seats, but here are my main complaints with the way Pre-K admissions are handled:

* The DOE says pre-K is where children “develop skills that form the foundation for reading, writing, and mathematics.” You should not tout how important pre-k for a child’s development and then not make it available to one-third of the people applying. (And please do not blame it on budget constraints, if its so important, you should offer only half day slots, but twice as many!)

* In both rejection letters you say “There are still pre-kindergarten seats available at Community-Based Organizations (CBOs).” This is either willfully ignorant or a blatant lie. There are NOT seats available at our local CBOs. Why? Because you send admission notifications so late in the year that the local CBOs are already booked, not to mention any other private pre-ks, even if one could pay the tuition. Some private pre-k schools start this week!

* You should not have a “lottery” system with weighted criteria (sibling, zone, district, borough, etc) and then not be able to explain exactly how that criteria apply to the lottery process. At the information session, I asked exactly what method and from which pool the computer picked from first, as to make an informed choice as to what schools I should consider. No one was able to give me a straight answer. “Just pick the schools that you would like your child to attend” was the answer they parroted. I listened to them and went oh for twenty-four!

* You should not cut pre-kindergarten classes to make room for kindergarten class. Are you going to start cutting kindergarten classes to make room for the extra first graders next year, and the cut first grade classes the year after that, and so on? (Maybe you are hoping an increased drop-out rate will take care of this by high school and the cuts can end there.)

In your own pre-k literature, you state: “What happens in Pre-K matters!” “Our pre-kindergarten program will help prepare your child for school success.”

The only silver lining I can take from this experience is that the New York City Department of Education is so poorly run that those statements are merely platitudes, and my child is not at a severe disadvantage.

I honestly do not know what my son will be doing this fall. I put my faith in the New York City public education system, and it has failed me, and in doing so I have failed my son.

Brooklyn Bolsheviks Are Tough SOBs

I finally caved. Seeing the positives of the Park Slope Food Coop, I decided I’d like to join. Which is easier said than done. You need to attend an orientation before you can join, and you can only register for an orientation online, but every time I went to the site, all the orientation slots were filled and I was told to keep trying.  It felt like Marxist Mean Girls! But like a good proletariat, I persisted, and eventually got a slot for 4PM August 28th. “He who does not work shall not eat!”

While preparing my notebook (made from salvaged recycled paper) to take notes at the orientation, something caught my ear on NPR.  They said hurricane Irene was going to hit New York City around 4PM August 28th! Mayor Bloomberg was telling certain neighborhoods to evacuate, and the subways were shutting down at noon on Saturday. Surely my orientation would be canceled?  I called the Food Coop just to check.  Apparently my orientation is still scheduled for 4PM this Sunday.

Maybe I can canoe home with some organic kale?

New 5 Guys on Flatbush Makes 9 Burger Joints in Park Slope

This burger craze has officially gotten ridiculous.  The Patch reports that another 5 Guys Burgers is opening on Flatbush and &th Ave.  Including the 2 McDonalds, that make 9 restaurants selling exclusively hamburgers in Park Slope, and that isn’t even counting the dozen or so of diners, grills, and restaurants that mainly sell burgers.

I guess the burger Bürgermeister’s believe that they have a few years to clog the arteries of the youth of Park Slope before they start dropping off, or their parents get wise. Mark my words, in response to this I expect a spate vegetarian restaurants opening, either that or Zocor and Lipitor stores will start popping up.

According to my calculations the next burger place should open on the corner of 7th Avenue and Berkeley. The former La Taqueria space is still for rent, I'm talking to you Bobby Flay!

9 Burger Joints…and counting
5 Guys 7th Ave, 5 Guys Flatbush, 67 Burger (opening soon), Cheeburger Cheeburger, Corner Burger, Brooklyn Flipsters, Bare Burger (opening soon), McDonalds 4th Ave, McDonalds 9th St.