Monthly Archives: March 2015

Something not everyone knows how to love

“For Women Who Are Difficult to Love” – written and performed by Warsan Shire

You are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.



Lost Splendor 

On a snowy night in February, two graffiti writers used the cloak of winter to gain access into the Loew’s Canal Theatre — not to bomb it with aerosol — but to restore its former glory. Rather than desecrating the monument, they paid respects to it.

“The project was just a random idea that came to life immediately after seeing yet another beautiful NYC landmark and architectural masterpiece being neglected and left for dead,” said 2ESAE of collective UR New York. “Hence why we decided to create a homage to the space.”

Together, he and SKI created Art Deco-inspired custom posters that featured 20s-era figures appreciating the theater in its heyday. They wheat-pasted the site-specific work in giant frames that used to display old movie advertisements. “That’s like me breaking into your house, bro,” joked 2ESAE, “and then like painting you and your family on the wall.” All the art referenced the Loew’s Canal Theatre.

The posters recaptured the original dreams of the theater, once destined for great things. It was founded in 1927, the same year that the Yankees swept the Pittsburgh Pirates and aviator Charles Lindbergh made the first solo cross-Atlantic flight. Loew’s Inc. hired Thomas W. Lamb — a noted architect responsible for building some of the city’ s most striking venues — to design the magnificent 2,314-seat auditorium located on Canal between Ludlow and Essex Streets. Although the neighborhood was bustling with movie houses catering to the rise of motion picture and the neighborhood’s dense immigrant population, this theater was particularly grandiose. The building’s ornate four-story, terra cotta facade was festooned with mythical creatures and eagles. Its palatial interior was highlighted by lavish chandeliers, flamboyant carvings and decked out in Baroque style. Lamb had set out to create a lasting masterpiece.

Sadly, that didn’t happen. Almost a century later, it sits abandoned and forgotten, save for the occasional urban explorers, many of whom are shocked by the well-preserved elegance and charm. 

Although the theater survived the Great Depression and a rapidly changing demographic in decades to follow, it was shuttered in the 1950s and sold in the 1960s. It is in this era that the demise of the theater became official. It eventually was transformed into a appliance store/repair shop, but that reportedly closed in the late 2000s. Remarkably, despite all the years of neglect and misuse, the theater decayed rather beautifully. Although it would need a full renovation, the space was still in relatively good condition; the architectural embellishments that made it so unique were still very apparent. 

In 2010, the lobby portion of the theatre was designated a landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission and a study was done by a local group to try and restore the location into a performing arts center. That never happened, and, like so many abandoned buildings, it seemed fated to turn into condos. But the NYC Department of Buildings blocked that move, and since then, the auditorium space has been used a warehouse. The lobby remains empty.

“It would be wonderful if it were converted back into a theatre or a community outreach or youth center which gives back to the community rather than lay dormant,” said the writers. “Keep the arts alive. Save Old New York!”


Art gives value to survival.

C.S. Lewis memorably wrote that art and philosophy — in other words, the substance of what we call human culture — have no survival value but, rather, give value to survival. The kind of value he had in mind, of course, was spiritual. And yet half a century later, we’ve stifled our way into a system that assesses art and philosophy and human culture for their economic value as market commodities — they’ve been reduced to that depressingly derogatory term for cultural material: content.

As a consequence of the Internet, it is assumed that traditional gatekeepers will crumble and middlemen will wither. The new orthodoxy envisions the Web as a kind of Robin Hood, stealing audience and influence away from the big and giving to the small. Networked technologies will put professionals and amateurs on an even playing field, or even give the latter an advantage. Artists and writers will thrive without institutional backing, able to reach their audiences directly. A golden age of sharing and collaboration will be ushered in, modeled on Wikipedia and open source software.

In many wonderful ways this is the world we have been waiting for. [But] in some crucial respects the standard assumptions about the Internet’s inevitable effects have misled us.

Many of the problems that plagued our media system before the Internet was widely adopted have carried over into the digital domain — consolidation, centralization, and commercialism — and will continue to shape it. Networked technologies do not resolve the contradictions between art and commerce, but rather make commercialism less visible and more pervasive…

The pressure to be quick, to appeal to the broadest possible public, to be sensational, to seek easy celebrity, to be attractive to corporate sponsors—these forces multiply online where every click can be measured, every piece of data mined, every view marketed against. Originality and depth eat away at profits online, where faster fortunes are made by aggregating work done by others, attracting eyeballs and ad revenue as a result.

The truth is subtler: technology alone cannot deliver the cultural transformation we have been waiting for; instead, we need to first understand and then address the underlying social and economic forces that shape it. Only then can we make good on the unprecedented opportunity the Internet offers and begin to make the ideal of a more inclusive and equitable culture a reality. If we want the Internet to truly be a people’s platform, we will have to work to make it so.