Monday, June 5, 2006

Prodigal House For Sale Pick - $750,000 (Stapleton)

The lovely couple we bought our house from owned today's Prodigal House Pick before they moved into ours. They obviously have good taste. We toured this 1908 Victorian house last fall, and found that it has stunning views of the water and of the Verrazano Bridge. It also looks out onto a fine stone church across the street, and what could easily be mistaken for a turn-of-the-century San Francisco street scene. This huge home has four floors with 5 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, 2 libraries, butler's pantry, formal dining room, kitchen, and a double parlor with a fireplace, for a total of 3,500 square feet (not including the full basement). The plot is 59 X 120 and is fully landscaped. Some highlights of this pretty house are its entry stairway with a lamp growing out of the banister, an old kitchen stove, a cozy porch, original wood, plaster detail, and stained glass aplenty. If you are looking for a large Victorian with views, this house is for you. I recommend that the new owner paint it a few different colors to bring out its beauty. Victorians have too much detail to be painted white. This one is a blank canvas for the right person. Street: 344 Saint Pauls Ave. (Mud Lane historic district) Phone: For sale by owner 718-727-5622 or

Witch Hunt of the Week: Let's Hate Those who are Different

I've been honestly disgusted by the unwarranted media trip through the mud Ganas has taken this past week. It all started with New York Magazine's genuinely informative but sensationalized article about the group. The story's salacious title, Big Love on Staten Island, made reference to this season's new HBO series about polygamy. The article's shameless subheader tantalized readers with tales of "open relationships, little people," and "100 kooky housemates" even though the aticle itself had no actual content about sexual episodes at the commune. Call me crazy, but branding someone's predilection for communal living as "kooky" doesn't qualify as evenhanded journalism last time I checked. And since when was living with someone who is vertically challenged an item of prurient interest? We'd expect more from New York. Wait until they break the story about all the wild left-wing things going on at the Park Slope Food Coop. They'll have the good people of our city on their knees.

In hindsight, unfortunately, I can see that New York was being kind. Their chiding was tame compared with what's been going around in the city's papers since the Jeff Gross shooting. Last time I checked, "open relationships" or even blatant wife swapping (if that were even going on there) didn't qualify as kinky. Perhaps I'm a libertine, but I'd reserve "kinky" for anything sexual involving fecal material, asphyxiation, or electrocution.

What a surprise that the New York Post was morally wounded by what they called the Ganasian lifestyle of "pill-popping and wacky sex sessions," (airing the views of one crazy accused murderer and another disgruntled former member as though they were fact). Who is the Post kidding? This from the newspaper that can't resist running a story about a story about how "stall-sex" isn't just for homosexuals anymore as though it were a news item.

The Staten Island Advance has been pretty fair, actually, perhaps out of superior journalistic ethics, or perhaps because of a home-borough protectiveness. My guess is that it's because, like most of us who live here, they've had some contact with members of Ganas (turns out we're friends with the spouse of a prominent member) and found them to be perfectly normal people who happen to participate in an unorthodox economical and social arrangement.

The New York Times, we're not surprised, was above name calling. Aside from one matter-of-fact reference to "wife-swapping", they told it like it was at Ganas: "The bloodshed has brought unwanted attention to a group of people who have long struggled to show outsiders that they are a civic-minded, environmentally friendly collective of lawyers, doctors, teachers and real estate brokers, not some zany cult of vestigial hippies living on the fringes of the city." Otherwise, they stuck to the attempted murder.

The New York Daily News has fallen somewhere in between, using the word "kinky" but portraying at least a sympathetic portrait of Gross, sensationalizing the murder rather than the commune (fine by us). Oddly, though, the News story is the one that's been taken and rebroadcast all over the Internet by conservative and religious news sites, bloggers, and even a pro gun website. All this attention has meant that Ganas has closed its weekly public meeting, which in turn means Ganas is less like Ganas than it used to be. We have no personal stake in their community, but we do have a major stake in the community as a whole, and as such we find this all very sad.

Photoblogging As Fine Art

Jake Dobkin of Gothamist fame invited Kevin Walsh of Forgotten NY, Jay Parkinson, Photojojo, and Matt Weber to present slideshows as part of his series of "NYC Photobloggers" at the SoHo Apple Store on Friday, June 2. We at Prodigal were there. First up was Parkinson. He makes pleasantly unnerving, well composed portraits of wannabe fetish models. I really enjoyed his work and his insight into the world of fetish modeling. Afterall, I was a real fetish model a few years back but that is another story. The audience asked him some bizarre questions that didn't really focus on the fact that his work was quite good. One audience member asked him about model releases. When Parkinson stated that he did not have them but he could easily obtain them because he was friendly with these girls, the audience member rudely said, "My face is sardonic." Kevin Walsh showed some great slides, but I have pored over Forgotten NY for hours, and I know that he has thousands more he could have shown. He should do a longer presentation of a tour that spans all five boroughs. I did get to peek at his upcoming book which was exciting. Photojojo was funny. His site offers up unique tutorials such as how to turn your photos into edible sugar treats. Matt Weber's work had a handful of shots that are truly stunning. I recommend taking a look at his site if you like artfully taken documentary style photography. I direct a gallery in Manhattan and after seeing this presentation I feel like I should curate a show of some of the best photoblog pictures at CVB Space in the Meatpacking district.

One of Kevin Walsh's slides of the Meatpacking district.

Kevin Walsh holds up a galley copy of his forthcoming book.

Matt Weber with a slide of one of his photos where an old woman's cane looks like a "1" and a little girl's hoola hoop looks like a "0". Thus the photo is called "10".

Matt Weber's gripping black and white photo of the World Trade Center disaster.

Lost Ferry?

One of our favorite bloggers, Gothamist, posted that the ferry appeared to be lost last night. Nope! He beat us to the post -- it was actually the inaugural Staten Island Film Festival closing party and award ceremony cruise. Of course, we at the Prodigal were there and we took some pictures, accepted some awards (for absentee winners), watched fireworks with the Borough President and partook of the free food and drink.

Among the evening's highlights: Russell asked the Borough President, James Molinaro, if it had been he who sponsored the fireworks; "Yeah," was Molinaro's reply. "And for $12,000 they better be good." At one point, we happened upon a three-foot-square pile of crabmeat flanked by crackers. All in all it was a fun party and we thank Wilder Selzer and his wife, Ann Marie, for inviting us.

Photo: CVB, A view of Manhattan and the Empire State Building.

Photo: CVB, Governor's Island from the Brooklyn side.

Photo: CVB, Red Hook.

Photo: CVB, Red Hook.

Photo: CVB, Sunset Park.

Photo: CVB, Open bar.

Photo: CVB, Free food.

Photo: CVB, A happy award winner.

Photo: CVB, The proud award winner.

Photo: CVB, A curator from The Staten Island Museum.

Photo: CVB, The Brooklyn Bridge.

Photo: CVB, The Brooklyn Bridge.

Photo: CVB, A view of New Jersey with an intriguing building.

Photo: CVB, Cesar Claro of Staten Island Economic Development Corporation at the award ceremony podium.

Photo: CVB, An award winner, hospitality director Ann Marie Selzer, and Prodigal Borough's Russell Farhang, with the award he accepted.

Photo: CVB, An award winner and yours truly, CVB (on the right).

Photo: CVB, Russell Farhang of Prodigal Borough, a woman in a yellow rain hat, and the borough president, James Molinaro watch $12,000 fireworks.

Photo: CVB, Russell Farhang of Prodigal Borough, a woman in a yellow rain hat, and the borough president, James Molinaro watch fireworks.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Nautical Architectural Details

When we were on our house search we tended to lean towards waterfront neighborhoods such as Vinegar Hill, DUMBO, City Island, Red Hook, Gowanus, etc... The one thing that we kept seeing were brick buildings with these wrought iron stars on them. There are some buildings with them near my studio on West Street in Manhattan's Meatpacking district as well. We even considered buying a building with stars across from the Brooklyn Navy Yard (we passed because the area was too isolated). I did a little research and I found out that the stars actually hold the brick onto the facade. Why stars? We are not sure why but they do look good. I snapped these pictures near the St. George ferry terminal. I'm unsure as to what these red balls are but they appear to be some type of nautical anchor. Sadly, the buildings behind this brick wall near the water are derelict. The one on the right looks similar to the Sailor's Houses in Snug Harbor. This is going to be the lighthouse museum area but why are these buildings left open to the elements? They should at least be boarded up. This is a major problem with city owned historic properties. They won't sell them but they don't take care of them either. If anyone has any more insight on the brick stars or red balls let us know.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

S.I. Film Festival Opening Night in Saint George

The incredibly ornate Saint George Theater was a packed house for the opening of the Staten Island Film Festival on Thursday. This was the first time we at Prodigal actually had actually seen the inside of the theater (other than peeking in the front door). It's like a jewel box in there! The film on offer was "The Celestine Prophecy," based on James Redfield's alternately loved and hated pop-spirituality book by the same name [ point / counterpoint ].

"The Celestine Prophecy" reminded me (and a few others informally surveyed) of a 1970's made-for-TV movie. So it wasn't a surprise when I later discovered that one of director Armand Mastroianni's past projects was a TV dramatization of Danielle Steele's The Ring (not to be confused with the Japanese horror film by same name). In fact, TV seems to be Masttroianni's preferred medium. Not that we mind this per se. And in fact, the film had high production value for a network television show ca. 1983 (think A-Team goes to Peru), and the actors were real actors rather than someone's relatives (Hector Elizondo and Joaquim de Almeida the most notable). The dialogue was severely clich├ęd, telegraphing intentions and doubts, and being sure to underline every plot twist that was already glaringly obvious. Let's just say that I haven't read the book, and this film didn't make me want to.

We're not criticizing the festival at all here -- in fact, we strongly encourage you to attend some screenings this weekend. When I have attended festivals in the past, the films showcased on opening night weren't necessarily promoted as the best in show, only the most commercial, biggest budget offerings. We'd welcome any comments and reivews from fellow festivalgoers about any other films, we're sure there are gems.

On a related note, your Prodigal webmasters have been asked by our friend Ann Marie, S.I. Film Festival hospitality director (pictured below with her husband, Wilder, on the red carpet), to accept awards for a couple of foreign filmmakers unable to attend. We're looking forward to receiving our undeserved swag, especially since the party will occur on a ferry riding around the harbor.

Photo: CVB, On the red carpet.

Photo: By CVB, The fellow who runs the Coney Island Film Festival.

Photo: By CVB, The theater lobby.

Photo: By CVB, Wilder Selzer and Russell Farhang on a balcony in the lobby.

Photo: By CVB, Wilder and Russell up close.