Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Who Cares How Many Children Live in San Francisco? 

My younger brother’s job is relocating him to New York City after several years living abroad. Married with three children, he’s discovering what many New Yorkers (and many ex-New Yorkers) already know—raising kids in the city ain’t cheap. Less appreciated is that the cost of family formation has a profound effect on our politics. As commentator Steve Sailer has shown, in places where family formation is relatively cheap, people tend to vote Republican. And places where family formation is expensive tend to be dominated by Democratic voters. The affordability of family formation looks to be the best explanation for the gap between the blue and the red states.

Today Steve links to a story about the results of San Francisco’s inhospitable atmosphere for families—just 14.5% of San Fran’s population is under 18-years-old. That’s about half the average for California. It’s easy to see why children and parents who live in San Fran object to this situation. It deprives the kids of playmates and the underlying causes of family flight must make life pretty difficult for those families that decide to remain behind. But let’s not get carried away with our sympathy for the plight of these parents. After all, many of them could also move away, but choose to stay because they want to enjoy the pleasures of a urban life.

What’s a bit more of a mystery is why San Fran’s political structure regards this situation as a problem. The Associated Press story described San Fran mayor Gavin Newsome as “determined to change things” that have led to family flight from the city. But why should San Francisco strive to keep its population of youngsters up?

It’s not as if San Francisco is in danger of depopulation. After all, one of the things driving the families out is the ever-increasing price of housing, driven by ever-increasing demand. Unlike many urban areas, San Francisco has actually seen its population grow over the last twenty years (after a long period of steady or declining population after World War II), primarily due to the influx of gays, Asians and Hispanics into the city.

I've got a couple of ideas I'm playing with, but I wonder what you think. Why is this an urgent issue for San Francisco’s political machinery?

[Oh, and this is as good a post as any to wish the premier chonicle of New York real estate, Curbed, a happy first birthday. Congratulations, Lockhart.]

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The No Data Prom was the last on a long list of parties I attended Saturday, so I'll start out by apologizing to everyone who had the misfortune of running across me in that condition. It was a terrific party, with wonderful people, and I'm sorry I probably ruined it. Also, I owe someone a bottle of scotch apparently. Thanks everyone for putting up with this drunk one more night.

Various collections (in no order whatsoever) of pictures from the night: Youngna's Flickr, Youngna's Photoblog, Jessica's Flickr, Janelle’s, Morph’s, Essel's , Avid Marxist's, KrispyK's, Dianne's, Becca's and Jake's.

Friday, May 20, 2005

I've Got Two Dollars, Where Do We Party? 

Vice Magazine's Gavin McInnes shows how the reporter for New York Magazine's wet-eyed tale of the plight of illegal immigrants in New York City got taken for a ride by the subject of her piece.

Proving once again Manhattan Transfer's first rule of journalism: any piece touching on an issue of public policy that focuses on a sympathetic individual is probably a pack of lies. Either the individual in question doesn't exist, is a shill the reporter was set-up with by some serving special interest or is conning the white-guilt ridden gullible reporter who cares too much to ask real questions. Be especially wary if the reporter doesn't reveal how they got the story in the first place.

All that aside, this whole paying $2 bucks to dance with hot Latin chicks sounds like a good deal.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Free Drinks 

Negotiations regarding "Happy Krucoff"--the forthcoming documentary in which Andrew Krucoff eats nothing but food from various NYC happy hours for a month--continue. In the run-up to that, I'll post a list the best happy hour bars.

Until then, New York magazine has put together a handy list of where to find the best open bars. As everyone reading this knows, the best open bar deal is the Cellar on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where $10 bucks gets you all the draft beer and well-drinks you can drink between 9 and midnight. (There's also a two-for-one happy hour from 5 until 8 on Tuesdays, and $2 off all whiskey on Wednesday). A close second is Tuesday night at Doc Hollidays, where a fiver will get you all the bud light you can bury in your belly.

I don't usually go in for the open bar deals. I'm a whiskey drinker, and the rot-gut well-whiskey you can get on these "all you can drink" deals results in hangovers that cost far more than the price of shelling out for a good glass of Jameson's. But the bars can be fun on these nights. The crowds get rowdy. The girls get friendly. Someone usually falls down or gets pushed down.

One fantastic deal that I hadn't heard about before is tequila hour at Plan B. Unlimited free tequila from 9 till 10 on Thursdays. See you there tonight.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Broad Channel 

PBR in Broad Channel

Two years ago I had a dream. I was at a first communion which was taking place on a dock for some reason. Across a stretch of water, I noticed my father, so I got up from the pew, jumped into the water, and swam across to him. Afterwards, my father and I went to a party in a dockside eatery near where the first communion took place.

The dream was so vivid that I ended up telling my friend Sully about it the next day. He asked for some more details about the setting and decided I had dreamt of Broad Channel, a little island community in the middle of New York City's Jamaica Bay. So the following day I skipped work and took the subway out to Broad Channel.

It was summertime, and most of the residents were enjoying themselves out on the bay, so the island felt abandoned. We walked around until we found a small saloon. The bartender was a woman in her middle ages. She had gone past being motherly but was not yet grandmotherly. The only other customer was another woman, and old friend of the bartender.

After a couple of drinks with them, I told them about my dream. They decided that the dream was a sign from God. It certainly had sacramental elements. Baptism, communion and, in their opinion, the party was a wedding. This meant I was supposed to marry a girl from Broad Channel. They offered to help arrange this.

I hadn't thought a lot about my trip to Broad Channel since. I had planned to go back but the opportunity never seemed to arise. What's more, I was not convinced that Broad Channel was the community of my dreams. There are other seaside and bayside New York City communities I thought I needed to visit before I could know for sure.

The wonderful spring weather we've been having and Youngna's recent visit to Broad Channel, however, got me thinking that it's probably time to return.

Monday, May 16, 2005

My Coat Tale 

The other day I followed some friends over to a bar in Brooklyn that I hadn't been in since December. The bartender recognized me immediately.

"Hey, you're the Jameson's guy," she said.

"Uhm, might be. Depends. What did he do?" I said. Fuck did I get thrown out of here?

"You were fantastic. We talked about you for a week afterwards. When you took over DJing and then..."

She rehearsed a list of activities. I did not remember any of them. At some point there was mention of group trips to the bathroom, smokes, pills, powders, a broken mirror, locking the doors, drinking past dawn. At least when she was done talking she was still smiling.

"Hey, did you know you left your coat here? Look." She pointed to a long, black coat that I used to own. Until I saw it attached to the ceiling of the bar, I was pretty sure I still owned it. I don't remember losing it. I somehow made it through the winter without missing it.

"Uhm, how'd it get there?"

"Oh, well, we saved it for you for a couple of weeks, but when you didn't come back, one of the other bartenders decided we should memorize the night by making your coat part of the bar," she said. "I guess I can take it down if you want it."

"No. That's okay." I said. "I'll just have a Jameson's on the rocks, thanks."

[Inspired by Isabella's coat tale.]

Old Boys Club 

Steve Sailer helpfully pointed out that a few years ago USA today published the secret membership list of the Augusta National Golf Club, host of the annual Masters Golf tournament.

The list is a who's who of the American corporate and political elite, so I thought readers of Manhattan Transfer might want to check out which New Yorkers belong. (Full disclosure: I'm actually related to one of these fellows through my mother's family, but he didn't return my phone call when I asked if we could play a round together at the club.)

William R. Acquavella Acquavella Art dealer 64
Kenneth I. Chenault American Express 51
Theodore N. Danforth Retired 77
D. Ronald Daniel McKinsey & Co. 73
Louis V. Gerstner Jr. IBM 61
S. Parker Gilbert Morgan Stanley Group 68
Edward D. Herlihy Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz 55
James R. Houghton Corning, Retired 66
John F. McGillicuddy Manufacturers Hanover, Retired 71
Douglas D. Mercer 66
Thomas S. Murphy Capital Cities/ABC 77
Peter G. Peterson The Blackstone Group 76
Richard I. Purnell 84
James D. Robinson III American Express, Retired 66
Whitney Stevens 75
Robert G. Stone Jr. Kirby Corp. 78
Douglas A. Warner III JP Morgan Chase, Retired 54
Sanford I. Weill Citigroup 70

No doubt this list could be more complete since so many folks who live or work in New York use other states as their official residences to avoid New York taxes.

Naming the Nabes 

Curbed has the lowdown on the folks who want to rename a swath of the East Village and Lower East Side Alphaville.

Over IM, some friends came up with other suggested names:

For The neighborhood east of Alphaville (basically the sliver from D to the East River): D-Town. Or Drivertown.

For the neighborhood east of Avenue B: The Beast.

Anyone else got suggestions?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Gin Juleps on a Saturday 

I sat on the back porch of my parents' Westchester home watching my forearms turn pink in the spring sun. It was the first Saturday in May and the house was full of guests for the annual Kentucky Derby party. Beside me, on a slight wicker chair my mother had purchased at an auction in the Catskills, sat Katherine with restless legs stretching out from within her Imitation of Christ tennis whites talking about how she financed the sixth-year of her undergraduate education. I closed my eyes and felt the heat of the sun against their lids, and smelled the bourbon and mint and burnt nicotine in the air.

“I raffled off a motorcycle. A 1946 Indian. A classic. The tickets were beautiful. Works of art really. Each had a full color picture of the Indian, and the picture was taken in the badlands of South Dakota. There was not a man alive who wouldn’t see himself riding through that weird landscape past herds of semi-wild buffalo toward a rally in Stirges. We sold close to two thousand tickets, at five dollars a piece,” Katherine said.

“Fantastic. Where did you get the bike?”

“You have too little imagination, MT. There was no bike. There never was a bike. Or, rather, the bike exists, the picture was real, but I never had such a beautiful thing to raffle off.”

“Weren’t you worried you would get caught?”

“I never worry about such things. Who could catch me? Only the winner. He was the only injured party, and the only person who needed to be told that he could not have the bike. I gave him his five dollars back, and thus made him whole. What else could he ask for? This drink is fantastic, by the way.”

I had declined the mint juleps, on the grounds that they had too much sugar for anyone raised north of the Mason-Dixon line to tolerate, and so we were drinking a cocktail of my own invention. It was simply a dry gin-and-tonic with a bit of mint crushed into the bottom of the glass. It was to the northern shore of the Long Island Sound what a mint julep is to Kentucky or a Mojito is to Cuba.

“Glad you like it,” I replied. Before settling on these, we had tried to match the day with various drinks. And when I say various drinks I am giving away the Rosetta Stone of my life. “How do you have the nerve for your scams?”

“I have a secret defense--I am interested in life.”

“Of course. So am I, but…”

“You are interested in a person, not in life. What is the phrase? ‘A respecter of men.’ And people leave us—they die, they graduate, they move to Los Angeles. Our search for divinity runs aground the shitty little mortality of others. In short, other people are a constant disappointment. I am interested in the greenness of mint, and sharpness of tonic. Every drink ends with an empty glass or half-melted ice but I have discovered the immortality of life itself, of creation, if you will.”

Katherine shook her empty glass. I took the glass from her hand and walked into the house. Behind the bar was Danny Red, a huge boulder of a man who had been serving drinks at this party for a dozen years. He poured me a pair of the drinks. “I’m thinking of calling these Stingers. After the things that wasps have,” he said.

In the next room the gamblers were lined up to place bets with my brother, who played the bookie of the party. The odds were calculated on lap-top computer, and Patrick took the bets and handed the bettor a slip of paper with numbers indicating the size of the bet, the number of the horse and the win-place-or-show outcome. Although this was a social event, the guests took the placing of bets very seriously. Even more so the collection of their winnings when they picked the right horse. I did not envy my brother this task.

My responsibility at the party was much simpler. I ran the pools. There were two five-dollar pools and two two-dollar pools. The lettered tickets were sold by pretty girls as the guests passed through the Doric columns at the top of the front steps to my parents' house. You didn’t know which horse you were going to get but the odds were good: for a five-dollar ticket you stood to win ninety dollars in an eighteen horse race. And for most people, betting blind was not much more of a handicap than betting ignorantly on a horse they chose. After all the tickets were sold, we revealed which letters corresponded to which horses.

I held the money after the tickets were bought and before the race was run. It amounted to two-hundred and fifty-two dollars. I watched the bets being placed, and thought about Katherine and about Katherine’s legs and about the way Katherine always had money but never worked for it. Someday she would marry someone fabulously rich and then he would die and she would spend years in court battling his progeny from his first marriage, and each day in court she would wear a different, stunning outfit. This was one fate for her, but I was beginning to imagine others.

I cooled my throat with the mint-blanched gin and walked in front of the betting table. “I will take two hundred and fifty-two dollars on Smarty Jones to win,” I told Patrick. Smarty Jones was from Philadelphia, and no horse from Pennsylvania had ever won the Derby. This meant that Pennsylvania was due. The soundness of this logic was proved last year when Funny Cide won, claiming the roses for New York for the first time. My brother looked at me incredulously. He knew where the money I was betting had come from. “This is what is called leverage,” I told him. “Simple financial leverage. I owe this money, true, but those debts don’t come due until the race is won. At which point I will have won far more from you. You will learn this if you ever go to business school.”

He scribbled the numbers on my ticket beside a large W. I didn’t tell Patrick the other thing I knew. I had bought a pool ticket with the letter ‘O’ which turned out to be the ticket for Smarty Jones. I was placing all my eggs in one basket, counting my chickens before they hatched, preferring the dozen in the bush to the one in hand. The wisdom of the world was against me.

I won’t try to build suspense about the race because everyone knows who won on Saturday, with Smarty Jones surging ahead over the sloppy track and beating out pacesetter Lion Heart. It was a good race, and I had made a good bet. The odds were good even though Smarty Jones was a favorite, and my leveraged gamble put a good piece of cash into my pockets.

After the race I looked for Katherine to tell her how things had turned out. The spot on the porch where we had spent the afternoon was taken by Dan Red and his sister, busily chatting about a guest who had been discovered passed-out in the bathroom. Katherine had already left with a few of the other guests for late dinner party in Manhattan. She had left a note with the simple message: “Congrats on your winning. Sorry I had to run. xoxoxo--Kat.” Despite my daring bet, I was still a respecter of persons.

[Note: As you may have noticed, this was written after last year's Kentucky Derby. I had a lucky streak again this year, which I'll hopefully get around to writing about later this week.]

Why I Am So Clever 

Every drunk I know is completely up-to-date on one branch of the health sciences: the branch that tells us that drinking makes us healthy. Apparently drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can reduce a drinkers chances of suffering from heart disease, arthritis, cancer, Parkinson's disease, stroke, and senile dementia.

What's more, a lot of this "moderate" business is bunk. The beneficial effects of drinking don't simply stop after two glasses of wine. More wine might be even better for your heart than less wine, but it's harder on other organs and is connected to social pathologies, so doctors are reluctant to tout the benefits of binge drinking. For the average person, the risks of drinking more probably outweighed the benefits. But if you've got a weak heart and a liver of steel, that extra glass might save your life.

Or maybe not. Just as I was preparing for a three pinot grigio lunch over at the MoMA's Modern this afternoon, I stumbled across this article by Dennis Mangan (via Steve Sailer). Lab scientist Mangan points out that there are more drinkers among highly educated and high income people than among the less educated and poor.

And all of those highly-educated, high income earning people are also more intelligent. They have better health, fewer accidents, and greater longevity. And they drink. Therefore, I would suggest that the higher IQ of all those drinkers is the 'fundamental cause' of their better health."

So, we're going to live longer because we're smarter and richer not because we're drunker? On the one hand, for a contrarian student of human diversity, this kind of hypothesis is inherently attractive because it breaks the official tabby against talking about the importance of IQ. One the other, well, I'm not giving up my the old family remedy of Jameson's over ice that easily.

So I want to propose a third alternative. What if we're smarter, richer and healthier because we drink more? I don't think that this is any less plausible than the idea that television and video games make us more intelligent.

Let's be clear about this. I'm not talking about the old barfly theory that because drinking kills brain cells, the process of alcoholic selection leaves only the fittest and most efficient brain cells surviving. In fact, recent studies have shown that drinking may improve cognitive function by doing exactly the opposite: by increasing the production of brain cells. More than one study has indeed found increased cognitive ability in drinkers.

Steven Johnson's theory about brain boosting media posits a theory of "cognitively demanding leisure." Perhaps, however, IQ can be increased by "relaxing leisure." If increased psychological stress might has deleterious effects on mental development, perhaps a couple of glasses of good whiskey puts the brain back on track.

A recent study of the brains of Buddhist monks found striking differences in the brain functions of those with the most experience with meditation. "Activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the locus of joy, overwhelmed activity in the right prefrontal cortex, the locus of anxiety," the New York Times reported. Might not regular drinking cause a similar shift in the way the brain functions and repairs itself?

You can imagine how this mechanism could develop through evolution. In the primordial environment of human evolution, conservation of biological resources would have been very important. During periods of drought or famine (or other stressful events), when survival depended on just gathering enough fruit and killing enough antelope, it might have been advantageous for the brain to slow down its cognitive repairs, especially since there might not have been enough leisure time for higher cogntivie functions to produce any real pay-off. But during periods when dangers of perishing were less immediate, it would have been advantageous for the brain to switch back to cognitive function upkeep. When leisure was available, there would be more time for problem solving and more rewards for increased cognitive function.

If this is right, drinking might be a way of fooling the body into thinking a stressful period of life is actually leisure time, thereby causing it to continue its brain boosting work.

Finally, I know for a fact that heavy drinking has made me smarter, because I don't remember ever doing anything stupid while blacked out.

Monday, May 09, 2005

It Was Andrew Krucoff's Idea First (Or Maybe Sac's) 

Admit it. When you first took a look at the Huffington Post, you thought it was an obituary blog. Walter Cronkite? Arthur Schlesinger? The guy from Better off Dead? Aren't these guys just Old Media guys who died recently?

Turns out they are alive, more or less. And they're writing posts about timely topics. Like Yalta. And taking acid at Hunter Thompson's place.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Dignity of the Office of the President 

LBJ orders a pair of pants

We're Going To Kick His Ass For the Crack About New York City Hardcore in the Eighties, Though 

If your searching for Andrew Krucoff today, he's not over on that new blog he started. He's back over at his old blog, inexplicably reverting to the mp3 blogosphere with a huge post laying claim to vast swaths of post 1970 American music.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Dating Advice For Bloggers 

I'm not sure why Nerve didn't ask me to contribute to the dating advice from bloggers column.

Maybe it had something to do with this.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Tonight's Debate. 

Debates are the new readings, and it's time for the monthly Jinx debate. For some reason it's on Tuesday this month, rather than Wendesday. Here are the details:

DEBATE: “Does Poetry Still Matter?”
YES: Francis Heaney, author of Holy Tango of Literature
NO: J.R. Taylor, of New York Press
MODERATOR: Richard Ryan, of Verse Theatre Manhattan

DATE/TIME: 8pm, this Tuesday, May 3

PLACE: downstairs at Lolita bar, northeast corner of Broome and Allen St. on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, one block south and three west of the Delancey Street stop on the F train (free admission, cash bar).

[Thanks to s94850458 for the reminder.]

Corrections: The Climate of Man, Part III 

An article published in the May 9, 2005 issue of the New Yorker, The Climate of Man, Part III: What can be done?, made use of the following quote to imply that drastic reductions in carbon emissions are feasible.

Slavery also had some of those characteristics a hundred and fifty years ago. Some people thought it was wrong, and they made their arguments, and they didn't carry the day. And then something happened and all of a sudden it was wrong and we didn't do it anymore."

Upon further reflection, the deadliest war in American history is probably not the best example of politically feasible policy changes.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Bright, Confident and Wrong 

There's no question that Harvard graduates tend to be very bright people but that doesn't mean they know much about the way the world works. Thanks to Steve Sailer, I just watched this fascinating video in which graduating Harvard students reveal a surprising ignorance about some basic astronomy, such as why we have seasons and what causes the phases of the moon.

During my brief, inconclusive stint at Harvard, I remember having discussions with classmates about the teaching of evolution in public schools. I tended to defend the creationists even though I wasn't a creationist myself, partly out of sheer contrarian instinct and partly because I think parents should set the educational agenda for their children. As far as I could tell, my classmates were opposed to any compromise with creationists at all.

In response to their arguments, I would typically ask them to give a quick explanation of what evolution was and how it worked. More often than not, the explanations were confused. Often they were very far off the mark. In other words, these people knew that evolution was right without even knowing what it was.

Update: A quick survey of two friend who happened to be on IM when I posted this revealed that only 50% of them could correctly explain the seasons, and 100% incorrectly explained the phases of the moon. I'm curious about other readers. So before you click on the links above, go ahead and leave your answers to the questions "Why is it warmer in summer?" and "What causes the phases of the moon?" in the comments. Feel free to be anonymous if you aren't confident of your answers.

Update Update: Might as well go whole hog and ask for explanations of evolution also. The fewer words you use, the more points you get.