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Shirky Gives the Word at BHA Annual Meeting: the Internet Will Not Destroy Culture

March 4, 2014

A lot went on at Thursday night’s Brooklyn Heights Association Annual Meeting, much of which is touched on in our “Tale of the Tweets” coverage. I have a few points about the business side of the meeting to expand on. In addition to the awards for “best diner” to Clark Restaurant and to Patricia and John Duffy for their renovation of 265 Hicks Street, there was one to the extended Alperin/Lowe/Sullivan family for their various ventures, including Marissa Alperin Studio on State Street between Columbia Place and Willow Place (a frequent stop for your correspondent when shopping for presents for his wife), clothing store and art gallery Goose Barnacle, kids’ clothing shop Junior Lowe, both on Atlantic Avenue, and the re-opening of the Long Island Bar and Restaurant, also on Atlantic.

A new honor was the Martha Atwater Award, named for the Heights resident, TV producer, wife, and mother tragically killed just over a year ago when an out of control truck hit her on the sidewalk on Clinton Street. The first Martha Atwater honoree was Mary Frost, of the Eagle, who received the award in recognition of her coverage of the battle to keep Long Island College Hospital open. Finally, a “Best New Addition to the Neighborhood” award was given to Ted Zoli, with Brooklyn Bridge Park President Regina Myer accepting on his behalf, for his design of the Squibb Park Pedestrian Bridge.

Clay Shirky (photo above), who holds joint appointments as a professor in New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and as Distinguished Writer in Residence in NYU’s Arthur. L. Carter Journalism Institute, was evidently prepared (he is a former resident of the area) for an audience heavily salted with geezers, like your correspondent. Hence he saw his mission as dispelling any notion that the internet is leading to the End of Civilization as We Know It. But what is it destroying? There are some distinctions that it is seriously eroding, if not ending.

Shirky said he was sure we were all familiar with the Iliad, the classic account of men at arms and warfare, while a photo of the cast of Hogan’s Heroes was projected above him. Similarly, he said, we knew the Odyssey, the prototypical tale of adventure at sea and on unknown islands; this was accompanied by a photo of the Gilligan’s Island cast. He then showed a typical example of internet trivia: someone’s tweet of their fast food breakfast. Next he showed a page of a blog, NeverSeconds, started by a nine year old Scottish schoolgirl, Martha Payne, who would photograph her school “dinners” (lunches to us) and rate them for taste, healthiness, presence or absence of hairs, and other qualities. Her blog went along for some time, and gained fairly wide readership, with no reaction from school officials until it got mentioned in a newspaper. This caused her to be taken out of class and told she could no longer photograph her school meals. Her “Goodbye” post went, as they say, viral, and generated so much protest that the county council reversed its decision, and Martha’s blog, complete with photos, continues. Shirky said this illustrates one of the cultural changes the internet is effecting: an erasing of the professional/amateur distinction. Once, to reach a wide audience quickly, you had to be a professional journalist. Now, thanks to the internet, even an amateur can.

Another distinction being lost is that between public and private – as Shirky discussed in this chat a few years ago with “Switched”:

Shirky noted that tweeting on Twitter is often used as a means of chatting with friends, as oppeosed to e-mail or text messaging, but that it isn’t private, as e-mail or texting is.

As to whether the internet is oblivious to, or drowning out, “serious culture” (like the Iliad or Odyssey), Shirky noted that the printing press was invented in 1450, that the first erotic novel was printed in 1495, but that serious philosophical papers weren’t printed until the 1600s. So, just be patient. (Actiually, the first thing reported to have been printed by Johannes Gutenberg was “a German poem”; after that he produced the first printed Bible. He also printed papal encyclicals, church indulgences, and Latin grammars.)

Since I’ve used Wikipedia as a reference, it’s worth noting an interesting statistic that Shirky used in his presentation. The total person-hours used to produce and edit the entire content of Wikipedia up to a fairly recent date is approximately 100 million, but the total time spent watching TV over the same period of time (I don’t recall if he said, but I’m assuming this is worlwide) is estimated at 200 billion person hours. So, the time used by amateurs to produce an encyclopedia is, in shirky’s words, a “rounding error” compared to couch potato (or stationary bike/treadmill) time.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Arts and Entertainment, Brooklyn Heights

Cleaning Up in Brooklyn Heights

December 5, 2013

Brooklyn Heights has never felt so fresh.

Just in time for the holidays, the bustling Brooklyn Heights intersection of Clark and Henry is about to smell a whole lot better, thanks to local soap makers Ross Caudill and his fiancé Joanna Maltese. Named after the famed intersection, Clark & Henry recently opened as an online shop with aspirations of retail success selling soap and household objects in Brooklyn Heights.

Their work is collaborative and the soap is a product of love. Both have a background in and passion for creation, Joanna is knowledgable in design and Ross is a multi-discipline artist. Yet at the onset of their soap-making project, neither really understood soap as a product. After months of research, reading, seminars, and experiments, they have honed the process of soap creation and are now packaging soap by hand in their Henry Street apartment.

Over email, Ross detailed the fascinating process:

A solution of sodium hydroxide is prepared separately. At the precise point when this is the same temperature as the oils they must be quickly mixed together to begin the chemical reaction which creates soap. After much blending, the exfoliants and essential oils are added. Finally the batch is cast into the molds. All of the components in the recipe are purposeful and curated for the attributes they bring to the final product. The fragrance is derived from the essential oils. The scrubbiness from the natural exfoliants has to be just right. The soap’s lather must be bubbly and creamy and cleansing, but also leave the skin feeling conditioned.

Joanna peels and prepares local cucumbers as Ross carefully tweaks the chemistry. Together they grind the exfoliant and prepare the casts. The result is a product and a business that avoids the potential pitfalls of artisnal pretense, yet remains charming and sincerely local.

Clark & Henry as an enterprise was in no small part inspired by the couple’s fondness of the neighborhood. Joanna smiles as she recalls returning to Brooklyn Heights after a brief stint in Park Slope, and how the couple’s product is created by hand with a ‘neighbors first’ attitude. “We wanted to make something to make our neighbors smile,” she told me over coffee at Vineapple.

Already considering creating a line of chairs, if the soap is successful the two would like to expand their product offering to include useful household items.

“We always feel a sense of accomplishment when we finish casting a batch of soap,” said Ross, explaining why they chose to start a business in Brooklyn Heights. Regardless of the success of Clark & Henry as a business, Ross and Joanna will continue to craft creative products in Brooklyn Heights for years to come.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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Brooklyn Heights, Landmark Preservation, Real Estate

NY Observer’s Deep Dish On Willowtown Mansion Sale

August 22, 2012

The manse at 40 Willow Place that sold for $7.3M, as we reported Tuesday, gets a deeper look in a story published by the New York Observer. It begins: “The modern masterpiece may not be able to command a sales price like some of its Brooklyn Heights neighbors—to wit, Truman Capote’s old abode at 70 Willow Street set a borough record when it sold for $12 million in March—but in the eyes of the tax assessor’s office, it is the finest in the borough.”

The Observer reports that new owners Charles Brian and Elizabeth O’Kelley, who moved from a West Village penthouse, will pay a heap of taxes for the 45-foot, 6,500sf home, which has an assessed market value of $6.35M (compared to the Capote house, valued at $5.14M). Sellers William and Kathleen Reiland bought the house for $3.1M in 2005.

Further, the property was first listed by Corcoran broker Deborah Rieders last October, asking $7.5M. It briefly entered contract in late fall, but didn’t close and returned to the market in April. She notes it is one of only three other modern houses in the neighborhood, all built on empty lots in the 1960s. Designed by Mary and Joseph Merz (among BHB’s Top 10 Most Interesting People in 2011), the home was featured in a 1966 issue of Architectural Record and is landmarked, despite its more recent vintage.

Rieders says that typically, it’s the older “grand dames” of the Heights that tend to fetch the neighborhood’s highest prices, in the $10M to $12M range. The five-bedroom, five-bath home has double-height ceilings with skylights, a 1,500-square-foot great room with a slate burning fireplace, a glass penthouse with a Japanese soaking tub and a rear curtain on the living spaces and bedrooms “that brings light streaming into the house all day,” according to the listing.

See more photos in the sideshow at the Observer here. (Photo: New York Observer, via Corcoran)

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

From the Web

Open Thread: Best Handyman Serving Brooklyn Heights

August 13, 2012

Last Thursday’s Open Thread on the Best Car Service serving Brooklyn Heights was an 8-cylinder success. We’ll keep this going every week from here on for as long as we—and you—come up with valuable goods & services that folks rely upon in the neighborhood.

Today: your recommendations for the Best Handyman… a guy (or gal) who can help out with those annoying little things that break in the apartment. Too small for a contractor, too big to DIY. Please share name, phone, where you found him and what he accomplished for you (and how much you paid, if you don’t mind).

My suggestion: Ed at 718 924 0265, who was recommended by a friend. Talkative fellow, but efficient and negotiable. I had him install a ceiling fan ($55) and then, on the fly, he realigned my shower door ($10), which had been off the track and driving me nuts for a month.

Coming soon: contractors, painters, locksmiths, dog walkers, veterinarians, dry cleaners… and your suggestions. Please feel free to contribute ideas in this post.

Source: Brooklyn Heights Blog

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