10/21/16 11:32pm
The Guy (Ben Sinclair) gives us a peek into his own life for the first time in the finale. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

The Guy (Ben Sinclair) gives us a peek into his own life for the first time in the finale. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

One of the more commonly held themes (maybe even beliefs) about New York is that it is a pit of loneliness, where you can never feel more isolated while surrounded by millions of people. 30 Rock encapsulated New York’s uncanny ability to grind you down perfectly here. This can feel like a shitty city, especially during any given rush hour on the subway. In High Maintenance’s season finale, however, the final story they have to tell is about the kindness of strangers and acquaintances, that sprouts like weeds (nice) through the cracks in the pavement.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. After a season of stories all across the map, this episode focuses on one of its main, underlying themes. This is a city where people don’t just lock their doors, they often deadbolt and chain them. That can start to feel pretty normal after a while, even if you grew up in a rural area where people don’t carry around house keys because the door is always open, but it has a psychic effect as well: we become closed off, silos living in our own personal narratives. High Maintenance is actively trying to fight this mindset, to open us up to the world around us, to the human stories going on right under our noses. Most of all, it’s trying to open us up to our neighbors, either because they can help us, or we can help them. (more…)

10/14/16 11:32pm
Hannibal Buress (playing himself) and The Guy (Ben Sinclair) go deep on meta this week. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

Hannibal Buress (playing himself) and The Guy (Ben Sinclair) go deep on meta this week. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by media. Our interactions with the world are filtered through our phones, to the point that even television shows conceive of “second screen experiences” for us to look at and interact with when not watching the actual program. Most of us get our news through aggregators of news, repackaging content in smaller, easily digestible, easily forgettable pieces. When a friend tells us they’re “taking a break” from social media and deleting their accounts, it’s pretty commonplace, if maybe seen as a bit extreme. Is there any other technology in our lives that could feel so oppressive, we actually have to physically remove its presence? And yet media is so ubiquitous that we can’t actually escape it, so the result is a strange and tense relationship with media, as this week’s episode, “Selfie” illustrates.

“Selfie” goes heavy on the meta. It’s a creative reflection not just on the characters, but on the series itself. Given how politically fraught this year is, maybe there hasn’t been enough time for High Maintenance to go through the typical cycle of critical acclaim and then suffer the backlash of a thousand think pieces (we hope this is true, at least), but the show’s creators seem happy to confront their own demons before anyone else has a chance. This is a hard look in the mirror that they’re taking, asking themselves if their concept itself is problematic.

The episode doesn’t let us forget that the show traffics in privileged territory, where tales of a drug dealer operating in New York are allowed to be whimsical because the weed dealer, and many of his clients, are white. Whether critics give the show a pass on this or not, creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair don’t seem to want it. (more…)

10/12/16 12:44pm
Reductress' new book is finally going to give feminists something to smile about in the media

Reductress’ new guide to feminism is going to be your feminist bible.

Once upon a time, Reductress was just a humble satirical women’s lifestyle magazine with chuckle-worthy (if occasionally pointless) content. Deemed The Onion‘s feminist equivalentReductress could always be counted on for subversive headlines about Sex, Lifestyle and Entertainment that neatly mirrored the absurd demands of being a woman, such as “How to Fix Your Sad with Color Paint on Face” or “The Six Chillest Ways to Ask a Dude to Wear a Condom.” But since its humble beginnings in 2013, Reductress has grown into a haven of dark, topical humor for women and men alike who find the situation for basically anyone who isn’t a straight white dude in this country increasingly harder to tolerate.

When rape allegations against UCB comic Aaron Glaser divided New York’s community into opposing camps of victims’ allies and Glaser apologists, Reductress editors covered the site’s front page with punchy rape-relevant headlines, including “I Anonymously Reported My Rape for the Anonymous Attention.” When an unarmed Terence Crutcher was fatally shot by cops on the highway, the team worked quickly to publish “Black Man Arrested for Resisting Murder.”

Wired went so far as to call Reductress “the most brutally truthful comedy site out there.”

But with their latest book, How to Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having it All — And Then Some! out on Oct. 25, site founders and co-authors Beth Newell and Sarah Pappalardo are going back the Reductress‘s roots with a feminist bible for the ages. And when we chatted with them, they made it clear they were in it for the laughs as much as for the politics.

“Mostly we wanted to make people laugh,” Newell told us. “But if they learn a thing or two about feminism, that’s cool too.” (more…)

10/07/16 11:30pm
Kristen Hung, Clem Cheung. photo: Craig Blankenhorn

Joon (Kristen Hung) and Wei (Clem Cheung), two can-collecting parents in New York. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

A baby plays in the living room of a Brooklyn brownstone while her mother tells The Guy about their trip to Montauk and the tick that bit her daughter. She laments about how they didn’t even really want to go, and now a tick will “murder” their daughter. “Don’t blame the tick, babe,” her husband responds, “It’s the Lyme Disease inside the tick that will kill our daughter.”

“Like a ticking time-bomb,” The Guy interjects with a grin at the pun. But is it a pun, The Guy? IS IT REALLY???

Though the title of this week’s episode “Tick”appears to directly reference that anecdote, The Guy’s word-association is a more appropriate interpretation for this episode. Through the juxtaposition of families, generations, relationships and even objects and technology, this episode presents a meditation on time, how the passage of it affects us all, and what we can and should expect waiting for us.

While it might seem downright morbid to think about time in relation to us (it keeps going, we don’t), and how one day it is we who will be out of touch with current trends and our own children, there’s a positive message in the image of recycling throughout the episode. Yes, it’s depressing to think about growing old and being out of touch, and more depressing that your attempts to hold onto youth are mocked, but it’s still possible to regain your youth and be transformed into something new, even if it means smoking weed and going to day raves. It’s possible to be recycled into something new, and it’s also possible to find a community of people who don’t care that you’re an Old who sometimes says “Ha-cha-cha-cha!” (more…)

09/30/16 11:30pm
Beth dances for Gatsby's love. via screenshot

Beth dances for Gatsby’s love in his doggy fantasy. Via screenshot

Well, fuck. I thought I had this series figured out. But episode 3 of High Maintenance just defied almost every convention set up by the series to date.

As we’re only three episodes into the season this statement may not bear much weight, but: “Grandpa” is the best and most beautifully complex episode so far. This week’s story introduces us to Gatsby, the dog who moves to The Big City from Indiana.

We had to know a transplant story was coming — it’s the tremendously incisive High Maintenance, after all — but this was an especially refreshing and original take on it (literally from a dog’s perspective) and there are some honest to god real emotions there. With that dog, man. That fucking dog has gravitas.

Gatsby is a listless dog who gets into trouble around the apartment, but only for lack of any real attention or affection from his owner, Chase (Ryan Woodle). Chase’s first response to the dog’s unruly behavior is to get him a dog walker, Beth (Yael Stone of Orange is the New Black).

Beth made brief cameos earlier in the web-series as well, selling mushrooms to Chad and The Guy in “Sabrina” and then buying weed from The Guy in “Esme.” In a stunning fantasy sequence that emerges through Gatsby’s patient gaze while he watches Beth drinking from a water fountain, we see the dog falling hopelessly in love with her (the way she “presents” herself to Gatsby in that erotic dance will always be the kicker for me). (more…)

Spookarama today. Photo by  Sarah Ackerman.

Spookarama today. Photo by Sarah Ackerman.

It pains me to say this but the days of many of our nation’s beloved amusement rides are numbered. One way or another, beloved institutions that make up Coney Island and other boardwalks will go away, either due to time, the distractions of Pokemon Go-style games, conversion to condos or the ever-rising sea levels that will soon turn ocean-front property into deep-sea property (but keep arguing about parking spaces, everyone!). With this loss go our memories of youth and first dates and lovably cheesy rides that remind us of a simpler time before paying $20 to see The Smurfs in 3D. We got a taste of this in 2012 when Sandy whacked the boardwalk in Coney Island, damaging many of the rides; at my hometown boardwalk in Seaside Heights, that kooz of as storm sent an entire pier to amusement park heaven.

Among the most endangered of these kinds of attractions are what’s known as “dark rides” like the Spookarama at Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park, those single-cart rides that take you through a haunted house full of ghosts and scares. They’re prime for teenage making out, have been around for 100 years — and they’re disappearing. Only about a dozen of the old-school version are left in the United States, according to one count. Joel Zika, a 36-year-old art and design university professor in Melbourne, Australia, has been fascinated with the dark rides for years, reveling their connection to early horror effects in movies. So he decided to document them in the only way that would truly do them justice: Virtual reality. He’s crowdfunding his project now and planning a trip to Coney in October to record the Spookarama in all its old-timey glory.

“It’s not so much that these are amazing experiences, but that they’re really unique,” Zika told Brokelyn. “All this stuff that’s really immersive, 360-degree experiences, some of them up to 100 years old. That’s fascinating, that’s something that may be more valuable to me than looking at old cinema.” (more…)

09/22/16 3:00pm
Homeless Comedy makes a house call.

Homeless Comedy makes a house call.

For the single New Yorker, comedy shows are one of the best excuses to get out of the house. There are always free or $5 shows out there, and one or two drinks will suffice to round out the night. But once coupled, comedy night becomes a date night, and going to shows can rack up quite a sum. If you’re treating your s/o to a headliner show with tickets, drinks and maybe a bite to eat beforehand, you’ll quickly come to spend at least $50 for an evening out.

Enter Homeless Comedy, a “New York comedy club without a home” founded by 38-year-old comedian Will Mars. Homeless Comedy provides the same comedy club experience, but as DIY living room entertainment in your very own apartment. You can drink your own booze and cook your own food; all you’re paying for is the comedy.

“Just clear out a corner of your main room, turn the seats to face it, invite a bunch of friends around, and we’ll turn up to do the rest,” Mars said.

Mars spoke to Brokelyn about his idea for the group, and how he thinks it complements an already saturated comedy scene in NYC.

“I noticed that most of the exciting comedy clubs and things that were sprouting up had been comic-driven, one-off bar shows,” Mars told us. “Everything more exciting is in Brooklyn and Queens right now [because] it has more of a community feel. And I just wanted to take it a step further, like why don’t we see about putting shows on in an apartment? A bespoke comedy night, just the audience and the comedians.” (more…)

09/20/16 3:47pm
Doomocracy: A terrifying real-world political haunted house is coming just in time for Halloween

Make America horrified of real-world scenarios again. Via this Photoshop design challenge at DesignCrowd.

You’ve already felt like this election cycle is a nightmare situation. Now you get to experience it up close, just in time for Halloween. Mexican artist Pedro Reyes – with the help of needed Kickstarter backers – is working on (what he considers) a terrifying exhibition set to debut at Brooklyn Army Terminal this October, the subject of which he hopes will instill fear in even the most relaxed of citizens: politics.  It’s a terrifying tour of “the haunted house that already exists in our minds,” exposing us to “a new kind of monster, this is a monster that is actually chasing us in real life,” according to the campaign.

Doomocracya new immersive installation, will see the blending together of two events “haunting the American cultural imagination: Halloween and the nightmare that is the U.S. presidential election,” according to its Kickstarter page.

The installation, done in collaboration with public arts nonprofit Creative Time, is planned to run from Oct. 7 and through days before the election, and promises to “shock, amuse, provoke, even disturb.” (more…)

09/19/16 4:04pm
The Guy (Ben Sinclair) dons a stage wig during the High Maintenance premier. Via screenshot.

The Guy (Ben Sinclair) dons a stage wig during the High Maintenance premier. Via screenshot.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” So says the bard (Geddy Lee), but Friday’s series premiere of the new HBO series High Maintenance added a new spin to it. We’re all pretty aware that New York, the home of 30 Law and Order spinoffs, is a city of infinite stories. We read and share Humans of New York, a blog that has been trafficking in true resident stories for years, and we’re always surprised at the perspectives they uncover.

But for all the stories that this city gives us, there is ever-present the lesson in humility that we’re not as quick to take in, no matter how often it burns us: everyone is playing a part, and things are rarely what they seem. And this series premiere, following the travels of a pot dealer as he delivers to his clientele, is quick to teach us that lesson right from the start. (more…)

08/29/16 3:59pm
2016 eagles lit prize landscape 1200px

The 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize Shortlists were announced today.

Brooklyn is probably second only to Manhattan when it comes to literary cachet — though you’ll find plenty who say Brooklyn has taken over the top spot in recent years. The borough is crawling with literary stars and wannabe authors who are clearly writing what they know. Brooklyn is so woven into the fabric of modern letters that almost everyone knows what you mean when you call something a “Brooklyn book”. Or do they? What makes a book très Brooklyn? Is it just using the borough as a backdrop? Is it the anxious internal ruminations of Ben Lerner’s characters or mysterious foreboding of Paul Auster’s Cobble Hill? Or is it the autobiographical Williamsburg novel à la Tropic of Capricorn and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?

Today the Brooklyn Public Library announced the short list for the 2016 Brooklyn Eagles Literary Prize, which takes on the challenge of answering that very question. Now in its second year, two prizes are awarded to the “most Brooklyn” fiction and nonfiction books recently released. The winners each get a $2,500 prize and bragging rights for being most in tune with the city’s most populous borough.

We asked the shortlist committee chairs, Krissa Corbett Cavouras (fiction) and Mark Daly (nonfiction) what they thought made the books on their list deserve this distinction. Both are Brooklyn Public Library librarians, both serious readers, both lovers of Brooklyn, and both well-qualified to know the essence of a Brooklyn book. The two committees Corbett Cavouras and Daly chaired were made up of Brooklyn librarians who volunteered for the task of choosing three books for each short list. They read all 13 books nominated by Brooklyn bookstores in their category and convened to debate which ones should move on to the final judging.

“Each of these books has something to offer, a new way of looking at the world, a new way of thinking about Brooklyn,” Daly said of the two long lists. Corbett Cavouras said “that in a couple of years [these lists] will be a mini collection of great books that speak to Brooklyn themes.”

The committees evaluated their books based on three criteria: whether the book is set in or about Brooklyn; whether the author a Brooklyn native or resident; and the most subjective: does it embody the “Brooklyn spirit?” None were absolute requirements, but Corbett Cavouras and Daly both found determining the Brooklyn spirit was the most important — and interesting — to consider. (more…)