REQUIEM: Fallen Vietnam War photographers remembered

REQUIEM is now in Singapore. It is Horst Faas' and Tim Page's photographic memorial to the 135 photographers killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War. The exhibition is located at Campus 1 of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, entraance along Bencoolen Street, and runs till 13 August. We first saw this moving tribute in the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, and one is simply moved by the images of cruelty and bravery in the face of inhumanity.

The photographs are well annotated, occupying the whole of Galleries 1 & 2.

The horror...

Larry Burrowes's images always made front page news.

In memory of three brave Singaporeans killed in action: Charles Chellapah, Terrence Khoo and Sam Kai Faye.

The Vietnam War was so close to home, and we lived through its ramifications. We must never forget it, and never take the peace we have for granted. Don't miss this poignant memorial.

Singapore Architecture: From Niven Road to NAFA

If for any reason you need to be near the Middle Road or Selegie area, do park your vehicle along quiet Niven Road (where it is free after 5 pm, and whole day on Sundays and public holidays). It's still within the CBD, but that does not matter on a Sunday. A walk in this part of town used to entail a small amount of risk, but not any more. Its become quite chic to have a home here.

The now-gentrified Niven Road homes have a new air of respectability.

The art deco of Sophia Flats (1930), at the corner of Niven Road and Wilkie Terrace.

The grotty old Selegie Complex has been replaced by Wilkie Edge and the new Citadines Hotel.

More art deco, David Elias building and old Middle Road Hospital.

The new look of Middle Road.

Campus 1 of the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

A new coat of paint on the backpacker lodges of Bencoolen Street.

The red-bricked gem of Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church (1930), whose congregation of Straits Chinese date back to the 1840s. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Song Ong Siang.

Want to be a host family in a Chinese piano competition?

International piano competitions in USA are famous for the hospitality of their host families. Every video of the Van Cliburn competition shows the pianists lounging about in their hosts' palatial homes, practising on grand pianos, enjoying BBQs, sipping on pina coladas while lazing in swimming pools et cetera. Not so in Asia, where homes tend to be small, overcrowded, pokey, and most of all, messy.

However the Shenzhen International Piano Competition has taken upon itself to organise host families for the 40 or so pianists taking part. Given the increasing number of billionaires in modern China today, that certainly is a possibility in one of China's fastest growing cities. However, it is interesting to see the list of criteria below (from the competition's website, which host families have to fulfill to in order to be eligible. Every word is as quoted in the webpage.

The requirements of a host family are as follows:

1. Have relatively few family members with a simple family structure.

2. Have enough bedrooms or guest rooms.

3. Own piano facilities and enough space for practicing. (For those who meet other conditions but lack of piano, the organizing committee may consider allocating piano facilities.)

4. Own a private car and have a fulltime accompanier who can communicate with the contestant in English or other foreign languages.

5. Well-educated without any criminal records or harmful habits.

6. Love music. Have good cross-cultural attitude and be familiar with western etiquettes and customs.

7. Warmhearted, serious and have the sense of responsibility. Be able to arrange the daily life of the contestant and would like to be the cheering squad. Be willing to guide the contestant to city sightseeing during spare time.

I particularly like criterion No.5, which means that I should preferably have a PhD, and not smoke, drink, spit, gamble, bribe minor bureaucrats, deal in counterfeit Guccis and Pradas, or run a bawdy house. In other words, I should preferably not get hauled up and be executed with a bullet to the head during the course of the competition. So Communist party officials should be barred from being hosts!

In an effort to be helpful, I forgot to mention: Homes should preferably have seat toilets rather than squatting toilets, and all pianists should be spared the indignity of depositing their used toilet paper in pails, as opposed to flushing them.

VICTOR KHOR Piano Recital @ Yamaha Premium Piano Gallery

VICTOR KHOR Piano Recital
Yamaha Premium Piano Gallery
Plaza Singapura / Saturday (30 July 2011)

Singaporean pianist Victor Khor was invited to perform a short piano recital at the opening of Yamaha Music's Premium Piano Gallery,which also showcases the Bosendorfer grand pianos.

Performing on a Bosendorfer 6-footer, his programme included the following works:

BACH-SILOTI Aria from Orchestral Suite No.3
SCHUBERT Impromptu No.3 in G flat major
ERKKI-SVEN TUUR Finale from Piano Sonata
FALLA Serenata Andaluza
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence
RADIOHEAD-O'REILLY You & Subterranean Homesick Alien

Victor acknowledging the applause with a simple nod of the head.

Victor meets with his fans.

At the recital was Singapore's premier piano duo of Dennis Lee and Toh Chee Hung. Appropriately, Dennis plays some Viennese waltzes on the Bosendorfer grand.

Fernando Wood -- finally on the big screen!

Well, obviously, I'm pretty stoked to hear about this. Fernando Wood, subject of episode #126, will be making his big-screen debut in Steven Spielberg's upcoming epic 'Lincoln'. Playing the nefarious mayor will be Lee Pace, star of the Tony-winning The Normal Heart and lead actor from the late, lamented Pushing Daisies.

Partially inspired by Doris Kearns Goodwin's classic Lincoln bio 'Team of Rivals', the Spielberg film already has a dream team lined up -- Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln, Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, David Strathairn as William Seward, and roles for Tommy Lee Jones, John Hawkes and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Dear Mr. Spielberg, please feature a scene of Wood proposing to the Common Council his desire for New York to secede from the Union.

Read more at the link below:

Twilight Saga Actor Lee Pace Joins 'Lincoln' [Deadline]

Lucky Lady!

So as you know, yesterday I headed to the beach to see Justin. I knew he would be at work when I got here and expected to lay my stuff down and head outside. Much to my surprise when I walked in I was greeted with streamers everywhere, 21 balloons, 21 candles, 21 coral roses and lilies, a huge card, a poster, a birthday cake, a crown AND a chilled bottle of wine. OMG, is this not the sweetest thing ever?!! Justin had snuck home on his lunch break and set all of this up. He must know the way to a girls heart! I can now say my birthday weekend/week got started in full force.

PLEASE ignore the non makeup-ed face!
I definitely wasn't expecting to see anyone!
The set up

These flowers are even more gorgeous in person.. I wish you could see them!

After his lunch break he had to head back to work so I spent the day relaxing. That night we went out to an amazing seafood restaurant and then took a walk on the beach. We ended the night by watching my favorite show Suits. It was the perfect day!

On another note. I'm a little frustrated! I have been to several stores trying to find sunscreen in the SPF I want. I CAN'T find an SPF under 30! WHAT?! I know I should protect my skin from the sun and use higher sunscreen protection but if a girl wants to tan, let her tan. I'm staying out of the tanning bed so please let me use my desired sunscreen! I always put 15 on my chest, 4 on my legs and 30 on my face. I'm in a dilema and not happy. [I have been mainly looking at grocery stores so I guess I will try a drug store next] Oh welllll, have a great day lovelies!

Musical interlude: My Cousin, The Emperor

I'm at the end of the painful process of finding a new apartment and haven't had a chance to write a new blog posting this week. So I'll end the week with a song by the Brooklyn-based My Cousin, The Emperor. Tom and I were invited by the band to attend their performance last night at the Gramercy Theatre**.

They just came back from a tour in the South where they listened to several of our podcasts while on the road. Our shows have been taken on many a roadtrip around the world, but I believe this is the first concert tour by credible musicians we've ever been on. Please search them out when they go back to the stage in a couple months. Have a great weekend!

**It opened in 1937 as the Gramercy Park Theatre, and for most of its life, it's been better known as a cinema -- first of art house fare, then many years of discount flicks. When I lived on this block back in the 1990s, the theatre exclusively featured Bollywood movies!

More Random Thoughts

It's really hard trying to be positive during this time of economic crisis. I worry about my mother who is dependant on Social Security. I worry about my husband and his job. I worry about my neice who is in the Air Force who won't get a check if America defaults. Its very hard. This economy is so bad it could get worse. Restaurants and other businesses could close. I think about the local grocery store we go to. It's so convenient to have yet if it closed we'd have to take the bus again. I don't want to do that.A modern depression would suck big time. I don't think Congress understands how serious this is. We can't afford another depression. We need to get out of Iraq and Afganistan and take care of our own. We need to take care of the elderly, homeless and children. Our educational system is getting the shaft because we can't afford to pay for it. There's so much waste in government we need to get rid of it and take care of those who are weak.

I was shocked and saddened at what happened in Norway. I don't understand how such a nutball can grow in a country as benign as Norway. The horror this man caused just to make a point is terrifying. It reminded me of 9/11 and the bombing in Oklahoma. I just don't understand these fanatics who are bent on killing the innocent to make a point. I just don't comprehend it. It made me think about the existence of evil in people. People are going to be evil and do evil things and it's not going to make any sense. Evil people don't think they are doing evil. They justify it and try to defend their evil deeds. Hitler didn't think he was evil. Niether did Stalin. The insurgents who hanged an 8 year old boy didn't think they were evil. It boggles the mind. I've hurt people and at the time I didn't think I was doing anything wrong. I thought I was defending myself or taking care of myself. I felt like a victim so I justified it. Dr. Phil said that some people have a warrior gene that makes then especially agressive and violent. This kind of behavior must perpetuate because it ensures survival. I don't know how else to explain how people can be so evil.

This year has turned out to be a bad one for the economy. We need the government to come together and work toward the greater good. I am still hopeful that Congress will work out a plan and avert disaster. We need to tough it out for the next ten years and the government has got to learn to live within its means and cut waste.The government has to change the way it works. It's going to be hard but I think a balanced budget amendment is needed. I think we need the amendment as a form of self policing to get the government to live within it's means. We also need to reform the tax code so that it is fair.

I feel like as time goes on I lose things that used to give me pleasure. I used to sleep deeply and through the night. Now I takes naps during the day. I feel like I've been awake all the time. It's a frustrating feeling. I am diabetic so I can't have any sugar. I used to like smoothies and Starbucks and chocolate but no more. I can't enjoy reading the way I used to since my last manic episode. It's hard because reading books was such a comfort to me. I took pleasure in going to church to worship God but now I don't believe in God. It's really hard trying to be positive when the things that used to give me pleasure are out of reach.

I used to hate myself for having a sinful nature. I felt like I was crucifying Jesus all over again with my sins. I used to try so hard to stay sinless and faithful to God. It was excruciating. I couldn't always keep from sinning. I had to many weaknesses. I couldn't keep up with God's expectations. How was I supposed to keep joyful and thankful with this tightrope that I had to walk each day? It was impossible. I finally gave up. I couldn't stay sane and and a Christian at the same time. Something had to give. I thought being sane was more important that being a Christian.

I've been poor all my life. Life has been a struggle. I don't know why it is that people can suffer all their lives and other people have it easy. It's not fair. I guess that's why Communism developed. It was supposed to make it fair for everybody but that didn't happen. I'm used to going without and doing without things. I do miss working. I wish I had a part time job or something. It's hard because I don't sleep at the same time every day. I can't commit to a job right now. I don't see how volunteering would be any easier since I can't commit to a regular schedule. It's difficult living within my limitations.

If my diabetes gets worse we may not be able to afford the insulin. I don't want to be in that position so I will take care of myself and take my medication. I hate exercise but I will start today and go to the gym where we have a membership. Diabetes is a scary disease and I dread what it will do to my body. I try to do everything that I am supposed to do to manage my blood sugar but finances make it hard.

The Middle East is such a volatile place. We need to get out of there. We can't solve the problems that have been there for hundreds of years. I hope Obama gets re-elected so he can oversee the withdrawal of troops from that region. The hatred of us has just gotten worse over the years. I don't think being there any longer will fix anything. We can't play World Policman anymore we can't afford it. North Korea looks like our next problem anyway.

I don't know how much more I can take. The doctor said my cholesterol was very high and put me on a medication. I don't want to have a stroke or heart attack. I feel like this in inevitable because of my family history. I wish I could afford more medical treatment but it's out of the question. I wish the government would simply live within its means the way I have to. I just don't think it's in the cards for me to live past my 50th birthday.

I wish I could work so we didn't have to worry about money. We live paycheck to paycheck and can't keep a savings. We are barely living on one income. It's hard because one disaster to set us back and we would end up on the street. My anxiety about this is hard to live with. I worry all the time about money and having enough to cover our expenses. It's hard because I have so much time on my hands I just worry alot about our finances. I don't know what to do to get rid of this anxiety. I think I will always have this as long as I cannot contribute to our budget.

Life is a struggle and not always fair. If we default we will survive but what kind of nation will we be? I don't want to go there. I don't want to see the financial disaster that will happen. I don't want to end up on the street or see anyone I love end up there. It's really hard to get through this week without thinking about the worse case scenario. I just don't know how to get through this week except to take it one day at a time and hope for the best.

I'm thankful that my husband has been able to work and keep us off the streets but I need to find a way to make a living somehow so we can build a savings. I just can't stand the stress of living the way we have to because I haven't been able to work. I have to do something to change our financial situation. I will research writing and getting a part time job doing something I don't know .

Just expressing some random thoughts and feelings as we go through this stressful week. I really hope things work out and we can go forward. It's hard because I can't see the future. Even if I could see the future could I change it? I don't think so.

A ROMANTIC REMINISCENCE / Singapore National Youth Orchestra / Review

Singapore National Youth Orchestra
Esplanade Concert Hall
Thursday (28 July 2011)

This review was published in The Straits Times on 30 July 2011 with the title "Conductor's energetic debut".

High-flying Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang (left) was appointed Music Director of the Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO) late last year, but audiences had to wait some eight months before his first concert with his charges in that capacity. It was well worth it given the new found energy and vitality that possesses the ensemble.

The opening bars of Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture made its mark immediately. The turbo-charged pace from the outset seemed initially implausible, but this high wire act seemed to thrive on a surfeit of adrenaline. Stunningly accuracy at high velocity, with the strings singing with natural and unfettered ease, gave this opener the stamp of greatness.

More followed as the orchestra partnered local virtuoso Lim Yan (left) for Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, a second performance of this rare gem within the space of two weeks. For certain, young Lim yielded nothing to the stupendous reading by Russian veteran Nikolai Demidenko with the Singapore Symphony a fortnight ago. Only the approach was radically different.

While Demidenko highlighted its tragedy with far slower tempos, Lim’s more sprightly account brought out the implicit irony and satire. When it came to the crunch of the gargantuan first movement cadenza and rapid-fire cascades of notes, the younger man matched blow for blow and came off with fewer misses. These two brilliant performances were the stuff of dreams.

In terms of instrumental achievement, the orchestra’s view of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony will have to take some beating. Conducting completely from memory, Ang honed a tight and urgently driven traversal, yet one that was never hectic or harried. Always allowing the music to breathe, there were long stretches of seamless beauty and utter coherence that held the work together.

Strings were particularly mellow, with a homogeneous refinement and suppleness that reminded one of the far more experienced SSO. Also highly confident were the wind and brass solos, with Alan Kartik’s French horn (left) in the slow movement being the pick of the crop.

The valedictory final movement summed up the group’s enormous potential. No longer were notes being dutifully churned out but actually breathed and cherished, and the nail-biting lead up to the triumphant climax had a feverish quality never previously realised. A strong SNYO can only mean a better future for classical music in Singapore.

CD Reviews (The Straits Times, July 2011)

ROSSINI Stabat Mater
Soloists with Chorus & Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Academy
EMI Classics 640529 / *****

From the same forces that produced one of the great Verdi Requiem recordings comes an equally enthralling performance of Rossini’s Stabat Mater. Although a setting a 13th century Franciscan liturgical text about Mary’s anguish at the foot of the crucified Jesus, it did not prevent Rossini, who had retired from writing for the stage, from giving his patented full-blown operatic treatment. After a serious opening, the second to fourth movements resemble pure musical theatre.

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee clearly relishes the march-like swagger of Cujus animam gementem before nailing the high D flat with great gusto. Soprano Anna Netrebko and mezzo Joyce DiDonato sensuously blend as one in their duet Quis est homo, while bass Ildebrando D’Angelo gloriously relives buffo roles in Pro peccatis suae gentis. Together the vocal quartet shines in Sancta Mater, pulling it off with irreverently delightful chemistry. Rossini does however provide moments of sobriety from the excellent choir, and closing with an infectious fugal Amen. If you love opera and choral music, do not hesitate checking out this unusual masterpiece.

It's Thursday

Hey ladies! It's Thursday and this is random! I don't know about you but Thursday is always one of my favorite days of the week! The weekend is SO close yet fun activities seem to begin. As we speak my weekend is beginning and I am off to the beach. Yipee! I have been waiting ALL summer for this beach trip and can not wait to let the fun begin!!

Hopefully this will be me all day/everyday

I have always been afraid that my hair would end up damaged since I use a pretty hot straightener on a daily bases. (on top of my hair dryer and the sun!) After I colored my hair for the first time last year I am now super scared my hair is going to end up in a dry frizzy mess. I do use Treseme heat protector spray before I dry my hair everyday, as well as a leave in conditioner. I came across some more hair advice though to hopefully protect my locks and am going to give them a try.

1. Rinse your hair with cold water before you hop out of the shower. They say it "
helps seal the cuticle, adding a sleek finish to your locks"

2. DON'T wrap your hair in a towel while you do your makeup. It just causes frizz!

3. Apply products 10 minutes before you style. This will let your strands get the full benefit or the product!

And lastly, just for fun! If you love the song Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show you might get a giggle out of this!

Thats all, have a lovely Thursday!



Lee-Hendrijanto Duo Recital
4 August 2011, Thursday, 7.30pm
Esplanade Recital Studio
Tickets at $20 (free seating, $12 for students, $6 with Tote Board subsidy)

For tickets, please contact:

TCHAIKOVSKY (Arr. ECONOMOU) Nutcracker Suite

DEBUSSY Prélude l’apres midi d'un faune

ANANDA SUKARLAN The Humiliation of Drupadi

BERNSTEIN (Arr. JOHN MUSTO) Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Original Variations & Paraphrase on 'I Got Rhythm'
(featuring guests pianists Frances Lee & Song Ziliang)

Pianomania is fortunate to have Singaporean composer-pianist Denise Lee speak with us about the début of her new piano duo, in tandem with Indonesian composer-pianist Elwin Hendrijanto.

Denise is Singaporean, while Elwin is Indonesian. How did the two of you get to meet?

We met at the Royal College of Music, London, where we were studying. In fact, we both started College as first-study pianists, but quite swiftly got increasingly involved in composition. I was working in the classical contemporary idiom, while Elwin discovered a massive talent for film composition. However we both remained committed to piano playing, and have been leading very hectic lives trying to develop both areas as much as possible.

When was the first time you discovered that the both of you could "click" as a piano duo?

This concert marks our first artistic collaboration. We had never really worked seriously together as pianists before, but had become familiar with each other's playing and musical personalities through concerts, endless discussions, and of course, through the music we write. In casual reading sessions at the piano, it didn't take too much effort to understand what the other was doing, which was encouraging! As pianists, we also much preferred performing chamber music to solo recitals. We decided it would be a nice idea to do some concerts together back home in Asia - one in each of our home countries - and thus this concert was created.

Performance on two pianos requires a great degree of give and take. How did you manage problems of coordination and balance in this special artform?

As with anything involving music, I think the golden rule is to simply use your ears, and to use them scrupulously well. Balancing sound at the piano, let alone two pianos, requires a solid understanding of the nature of the instrument, as well as the way sound itself works. I find that in this respect that being a composer is implicitly useful. Paying close attention to detail in pedalling goes a long way, as does with articulation. Coordination has not been a major issue given our general music like-mindedness, but I do find that conviction and clarity in phrasing helps the other pianist understand your musical intentions.

Your concert pieces, strongly influenced by dance and drama, is a very interesting one. How did you arrive at such a programme?

From the outset, we were adamant about not giving a concert with the standard classical repertory In Singapore. As an educator and musician, I often think people who are not yet properly initiated into the world of art music are not given sufficient opportunities to do so in a non-alienating manner. We felt it important to create a program with immediate appeal, and yet containing music of uncompromisingly high quality. We also wanted to celebrate the wide variety of colours and styles the piano is capable of articulating.

Music associated with dance and drama naturally embodies a certain directness about it, and is often evocative. Such qualities provide something tangible for the listener to enjoy, which is one thing the newcomer will find tremendously helpful, and more importantly, encouraging to them as a listener. Tchaikovsky Nutcracker is a wonderful curtain-raiser, with its attractive character pieces. The Debussy provides an opportunity to recede into a subtler, more softly-hued sound world, while Ananda Sukarlan's piece reveals yet another harmonic palette. The jazz-inclined second half explores rhythmic excitement and a harder edge, with plenty of drama and dance energy thrown in for good measure.

Tell us a little about Ananda Sukarlan's (left) new work, and the Gershwin Variations for 8 hands.

The Humiliation of Drupadi, written in 2009, is one of several ballet collaborations between Chendra Panatan and composer-pianist Ananda Sukarlan. It is based on an ancient Indian Mahabharata epic, but the harmonies are reminiscent of gamelan music, thus pointing towards the Indonesian origin of this music.

As for the Gershwin, we felt it would be a shame if a duo recital by two composers did not feature something of their own. We decided that the best way for a collaborative composition - one that allowed for individual stylistic flexibility, yet overall coherence - would be a variation form of sorts. I Got Rhythm was chosen for its simple and direct charm, and the ease with which it lends itself to elaboration and paraphrase. Gershwin's own set of variations for piano and orchestra testifies to this. For two composers working in vastly different fields - myself in concert music, and Elwin with screen composition - this proved to be a madly fascinating endeavour. Fortunately, it was also one which we both enjoyed very much. Initially, we sketched out the overall design together, agreeing on the big shapes and rough characteristics of each section. Then we wrote our individual variations, put them together, and smoothed out the bumps. The result is quite an eclectic mix, but one we hope presents a positive union of our musical personalities.

As a composer yourself, what do you seek for in writing something new based on something already quite familiar?

The advantage of using pre-existing material as base material for a composition is that it becomes a quite easily perceived reflection of the composer's unique stylistic characteristics. With something familiar - and therefore, taken for granted - one can focus on the composer's treatment of raw material. I think this can reveal really interesting insights to one's musical approach. I speak for the composer as much as the listener. This has been a fascinating exercise that has exposed certain artistic inclinations I have, the awareness of which is invaluable.

So this is going to be your official debut. What does the duo plan to do after this concert? What next?

Both of us have an interest in outreach, and would like to organise more performances with repertoire such as this. Hopefully, this will not only help develop a habit of concert-going in the younger generation, but also chip away at the perception that art music is some esoteric, impenetrable world, only available for appreciation to a select few.

We also hope to draw on our ability as composers to add an innovative and creative edge to our future performances. We also want to centre our musical partnership in our immediate region, so hopefully somewhere not too far from home!

Denise Lee was interviewed by PianoManiac.


HAS SINGAPORE ARRIVED when your local NTUC Fairprice Supermarket stocks copies of Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine? By the way, the copies of BBC Music Magazine in Bukit Timah Plaza's Popular Bookstore have all been sold out. Obviously someone other than Phan Ming Yen, Marc Rochester and yours truly have been reading these publications.

Can you spot Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine among the National Enquirers, Australian Women's Weekly, FHM, Men's Health and Match of the Day?

Here they are. At this moment, Lang Lang seems to be selling better than Anna Nicole Smith.

Super Local: Captain America and New York's other heroes

A 1940s antique store carries more than dusty lamps in the summer superhero film, 'Captain America: The First Avenger," which transplants its hero's origins from the Lower East Side to downtown Brooklyn.

I know I can be a bit fanatic in my New York-centeredness, but this statement I can make with fact -- the comic book industry was born in New York City. One of the earliest publishers, George Delacorte (familiar to visitors at the Central Park Zoo), founded Dell Publishing in 1921, producing pulp magazines and, eventually, comic strip collections. The publishing precursors to both DC and Marvel Comics got quiet starts in small offices in New York, and both slowly grew to dominate and define the superhero universe.

More importantly, several key comic artists and writers found inspiration in the city. Bob Kane and Bill Finger, the creators of Batman, and the hero's first artist Jerry Robinson cooked up the character in the Bronx. Martin Nodell dreamt up the Green Lantern from inspiration found at a 34th Street subway station. A bespeckled boy from Brooklyn, Gardner Fox, ditched a law career for a typewriter where he created The Flash.

None are perhaps as famous as Stan Lee, born on the Upper West Side, and the father and co-creator of an entire stable of Marvel Comics' classics, including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Hulk. And one of comics' most influential artists, Jack Kirby, was born and raised in the tenements of the Lower East Side.

At the start of World War II, Kirby met writer Joe Simon, a photo retoucher living in Morningside Heights, and the two found success in creating a host of classic comic creations. Chief among them was the patriotic themed Captain America. Steve Rogers, a meek young illustrator, wants to fight for his country but suffers from classic comic-book weakling syndrome. A government experiment grants Rogers superhuman powers and a flamboyantly bright uniform, the better to fight Nazi and various supervillians.

Now, after all that set up about New York's importance to comic-book creation, Rogers actually represents the top of a rarer class -- superheroes who are actually born in New York City, according to their origin tales. Rogers, much like his creator Kirby, is from the Lower East Side.

In the new movie, "Captain America: The First Avenger," the creators have transplanted the origin of the hero -- as well as his sidekick Bucky -- to Brooklyn*. Not only is Rogers from the mean streets of downtown Brooklyn, but the Army has a super-secret laboratory hidden within a dusty old antique store. (Talk about adding some pizazz to the Fulton Street Mall!)

In the film, 1940s Brooklyn is actually played by Manchester, England, and quite well in my opinion. But it does beg a question -- in the various fictional comic book realms, how many superheroes are actual New Yorkers?

The first place to look is amongst the roster of Marvel Comics heroes. DC Comics originally set many of its tales in fictional cities -- Metropolis, Gotham City, Keystone City, Star City -- and many of its greatest characters are from otherworldly locations (Krypton, Mars, the island of Themyscira). Lee's philosophy with the creation of Marvel Comics was to root heroes in realistic places and problems, a reaction to DC's fantastical remove.

The Lower East Side's Captain America was inherited by Marvel in the early '60s, but the company created many of its own local heroes. A small sampling includes:

-- Peter Parker, transformed by radioactive insect bite to become Spider-Man, is perhaps New York's most famous native, a resident of Forest Hills, Queens

-- Another Lower East Side native was scrappy young Benjamin Grimm. He befriended Columbia University college student Reed Richards, who had fallen in love with Long Island girl Sue Storm. Along with Sue's brother Johnny, the quartet were bathed in cosmic rays to become the Fantastic Four, who donned fabulous blue costumes and set up headquarters in midtown Manhattan at the Baxter Building, overlooking Grand Central. (By the way, Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is also a Long Island native.)

-- Meanwhile, over in Hell's Kitchen, more radiation -- how is it safe to live here?! -- blinds the son of a noted boxer who is later killed by gangsters. (I haven't seen the original issue, but I'm guessing he fought at Madison Square Garden, located in Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s.) That child, Matthew Murdock, grows up to develop extra-sensory powers and a taste for red spandex, as the Daredevil.

-- I'm imagining that young Daniel Rand grew up on the Upper East Side somewhere when his wealthy father took him to the mystical disappearing city of K'un L'un, where Rand develops superhuman martial arts abilities and renames himself Iron Fist. Back in 1970s New York, quite naturally he pairs with Harlem gangster-turned-dogooder Luke Cage. Occasionally, the duo run into that Brooklyn-born hothead Ghost Rider.

-- Then there's that constant reminder of the dark, crime-infested side of 1970s New York with the vigilante called The Punisher, avenging the death of his family in Central Park at the hands of a bloodthirsty mob boss.

By the late 1970s, there were at least a good couple dozen superheroes flying over the heads of New Yorkers. And other heroes from other comic companies soon joined them. DC Comics saw the benefit in entering the world of actual cities by the early 80s. The popular Teen Titans housed their curious T-shaped headquarters on an unnamed island in the East River. In the alternate universe inhabited by the Watchmen, this team not only watched over the city, one of them eventually destroyed it!

By the mid-'80s, independent publishers began to creep into territory dominated by DC and Marvel, presenting starker, edgier tales. The most successful of these, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were characters literally born in the New York sewer system. The comic itself, however, was created in Massachusetts.

With the development of companies like Dark Horse and Image, the modern comic book industry has developed far afield of New York.  But just in case all of New York's caped crusaders are otherwise engaged, we always have Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters -- the headquarters for the X-Men -- just up in Westchester County!

*Apparently, Steve Rogers actually does moves to Brooklyn at some point in his long career. Red Hook, in fact! Perhaps they sell one of those nifty shields at IKEA...


I just love this! I think it is so true

I have been so busy! It just hit me that I have to get everything ready for a week long beach trip but ALSO begin the tetious task of packing everything up for the move to the new house! I can already tell that the move in this heat is not going to be fun. I have gotten a few things together but am now going to put it on hold so I can enjoy the vacation and worry about it when I get back. I have had time to do a little relaxing though and have to tell you about the book I just read! It is very popular and you might have heard of it. Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo.

This is a quick read and definitly worth it. If you haven't read it yet you HAVE TO. It is about a four year old boy who during emergency surgery actually dies and goes to Heaven. He then returns to life and lives to tell his story of what he saw in Heaven. There is such an innocence about his story that is very eye opening. I have always been a Christian but after reading this book I have felt the urge to develop a stronger relationship with the Lord. I hope this book inspires you as it has me! Has anyone else read it? What were your thoughts?

Notes from the Podcast (#127) The Civil War Draft Riots

The New York draft riots of 1863 were both a distraction to the actual battles of the Civil War and the purest embodiment of underlying Northern viewpoints, violently displayed. Producing this show was not a lighthearted task, and we clearly needed to check our usual conversational demeanor at the door. Hopefully we presented the riots in a believable and respectful manner.

The other draft riots: Given the New York-centric nature of our program, I should note that draft riots occurred throughout the North that week, and even earlier. Yet none were of the intensity as those that occurred in Manhattan. In Boston, for instance, mobs stormed the famous Faneuil Marketplace and an armory on Cooper Street. But troops quelled the violence early, and only eight people died. [Read more about this even in the Boston Phoenix.]

And events were sparked in the future boroughs of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island as well. You can read more about them in this blog post.

Morbid misspeak: Thankfully I said the phrase 'Invalid Corps.' correctly twice before mis-pronouncing it a final time where I say 'invalid corpse'. Ick. And, to my ears anyway, it appears I said 'a computation fee' instead of a 'commutation fee', but the context should have made the mis-statement obvious. Did I mention we were recording this without air conditioning?

Further Reading: For more information on the Draft Riots, you can turn to several sources, based on your level of interest. My favorite is Barnet Schecter's 'The Devil's Own Work' which gives a gripping chronological retelling of events. He really manages to tame a chaotic tale in a way that neither confuses nor oversimplifies. I used Schecter's 'Mrs. Hilton' anecdote from this book, and his book is chockful of other individual tales like that one.

If you prefer something a bit more analytical, there's Iver Bernstein's 'The New York City Draft Riots' which tries to parse who exactly the rioters were. Of course 'Gotham' by Edwin G Burrows and Mike Wallace have a nice, compact recount with plenty of context. The City University of New York's 'Virtual New York' web resource has a timeline with maps.

The Gangs of New York: Perhaps the most famous depiction of the riots occurs in Herbert Asbury's classic 'The Gangs of New York'. The film version, directed by Martin Scorsese, takes quite a few liberties with the facts of course. The placing of candles in windowsills and the fire at Barnum's American Museum, for instance, did not happen during the riots. But those are based on true events that happened in New York a year later. We'll cover those events in our next show.

Next Podcast: Due to some scheduled vacation time and an upcoming apartment move for myself, the last entry in our Bowery Boys Go To War! series will be available on August 26. If the sober tone and raw nature of this current show bummed you out, don't worry -- humor as well as some genuine oddness returns with the next one!

Image above courtesy Library of Congress

So Much To Look Forward To!

Bachelorette thoughts?! Hm, I don't know what to say! This entire season has been so dramatic. While I'm not really an Ashley, Ben or JP fan I still can't seem to not watch. I think I am more excited for the reunion of all the men on Sunday night than I am for the finale on Monday! Eeek! Okay, enough of reality T.V. I have a few things on my mind that are causing me to become WAY to excited, I can't focus on more important things. I can't wait to share about all the fun things in my near future!!

2 Days
Until I head to the beach to begin the Birthday Celebration!
I will be spending the weekend with Justin before I meet up with
my family and some friends! I can't wait!

6 Days
Until my 21st birthday. Am I excited?! Yes! Am I way TOO
excited?! Yes! I was talking to a friend today who told me she
thinks we have been waiting for this day since we were 16,
and now it's so close!

10 Days
Until I head to the Kenny Chesney concert thanks to the bff
Ashley! (The same one who made the above comment)

15 Days
Until I move into my FIRST house! I have lived in apartments
and the sorority house before but never my own house! (Still with a 
roommate though) I can't wait to see what this year
has to offer! I know it's going to be amazing!

Now do you see why I am so excited for the next two weeks?! Yay!