Friday, February 29, 2008

An Optimistic Interview with Brooklyn's Real-Life Ghostbuster

Katia at Pardon Me For Asking has a captivating post this morning about an ad she spotted in Carroll Gardens for "the brooklyn ghost investigators". According to the sometimes misspelled ad, which was taped to a traffic light on Smith Street, the investigators can determine whether you have a ghost, and if you do, take steps to remove the phantasm with techniques like "house blessing" and "american indian smudgeing (sic)".

Needless to say, The Optimist was too intrigued by Pardon Me's discovery to resist learning more about the Ghostbuster of Carroll Gardens, so I immediately called the number listed on the ad. After a bit of confusion on the other end of the line, I finally got a hold of Sal Ciccone, the founder and sole member of the Brooklyn Ghost Investigation Team.

Ciccone, 27, explained that he only just recently opened his business and has yet to have any clients respond to the ads he posted around Carroll Gardens. He was inspired to start his investigative service after a personal experience he had with the paranormal in his East New York home. Ciccone claims that one night he awoke at 3 a.m. to see a "figure going to the window." The phantom, a "tall, blurry" man, then turned to approach him, but "right when it was before my face it disappeared."

The visitation, which Ciccone decribed as "a little frightening", possessed him to believe that there must be other Brooklynites grappling with the supernatural. After reading a number of books on the paranormal, Ciccone was convinced he had the skills to help those in need of specter removal. Though he admits to not possessing any psychic or otherworldly powers that might assist him in his newly chosen profession, Ciccone isn't too worried about his safety because he considers ghosts "not really dangerous", though it "depends upon what type of spirit it is."

Ciccone's principal concern is that people who see his ads not misconstrue the Brooklyn Ghost Investigators as a "joke". He charges $20 per consultation and, like his fictitious counterparts from the movie Ghostbusters, is ready to spring into action as soon as you call.

Ciccone, who is otherwise unemployed, hopes that in time his business will grow to the point that he can open an office and create "a ghost hunting team". He is already seeking volunteers to work alongside him, particularly aspiring exorcists with a digital camera, EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recorder, or a car.

Those of you with no background in ghostbusting need not despair. Ciccone's recruitment ad for his team insists "no experience necessary." To hire the Brooklyn Ghost Investigators or become one of them yourself, call Sal's cell at (267) 804-5683 or email him at

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Excited Blogger

It seems like once every year that I swear off Hollywood blockbusters for good, vowing never again to be duped by a seductive trailer and ubiquitous publicity blitz.

But, once again, I have relapsed. This time the alluring culprit is the long salivated over "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". Have you seen the trailer? It's good. Not mind-blowing, but good enough for me to pay to have my hopes again crushed by a sub-par sequel.

It's times like these I wish I weren't so optimistic. It's far too easy to convince myself that this time things might be different. Then I have to wait another year to forget that all of the evidence points to more of the same.

See you at the movies!

Starbucks Enters Sinister Phase Two

When Starbucks closed on Tuesday for three hours allegedly to conduct "training" exercises, I was reminded of this prescient article from a 2001 copy of The Onion. It's scary stuff.

Prepare to pledge allegiance to Starbucks.

Is John McCain Not a REAL American?

Everyone knows that the Constitution bars Arnold Schwarzenegger (thankfully) from ever becoming our President because he was foreign born. But could uber-American war hero John McCain be disqualified for the same reason?

An article in today's International Herald Tribune points out the little known fact that John McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936. McCain's campaign says that satisfies the Constitutional criteria that only a "natural-born citizen" can become President, but to date, every President of the United States has been born within the 50 States.

It will be interesting to see if McCain's eligibility does provoke a Constitutional debate. I doubt it will, but it could prove a good strategical distraction for Obama to pursue if he wins the Democratic nomination. It could help him diffuse or, at least, counterbalance McCain's inevitable attack strategy of portraying Barack Hussein Obama as un-American.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Rove Tricked By Free Siegelman Banner

If you haven't followed the unbelievable travails of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, here's a good place to start reading.

In short, Siegelman dared to challenge the dirty tricks Karl Rove and his Republican opponent used to steal the 2002 gubernatorial election from him, and, as a result, wound up wrongfully accused of crimes like bribery, denied a proper trial, and subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison. Few examples of the Bush Administration's dark machinations smack so strongly of Stalinist Russia.

Amazingly, Siegelman was held incommunicado behind bars for over a year before reporters really started asking questions about the former governor's suspicious sudden fall from grace. Finally, the mainstream media and Congress has started to look into the case thanks to investigative reporting from the blogosphere, but it seems inevitable that Karl Rove will once again ooze his way out of trouble.

Rove will not emerge completing unscathed, however, thanks to a clever guerrilla prank pulled by Alan Breslauer, a guest blogger for The Brad Blog. In the video clip below, Breslauer tricks Rove into unraveling a "Free Don Siegelman" banner. Rove handles it Rovianly, but is clearly not amused. I wouldn't be surprised if Breslauer winds up mysteriously arrested too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Independents Best In Bed; Republicans Worst

Contemplating changing your party affiliation? Well, depending upon your libido you might want to consider becoming an independent.

According to a survey in the most recent issue of Playboy, more than 45 percent of respondents said that independent voters were the best at sex. Maybe it has something to do with flexibility?

Democrats need not feel too inadequate. 36 percent of those questioned picked the Dems, while their rivals in the GOP were only appreciated by a frigid 18 percent.

The survey reportedly compiles the opinions of 900 adults between the ages of 18- and 64-years-old. Raw Story has more on Playboy's results.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chris Owens Radios in to Air America

Brooklyn community activist Chris Owens has started a new gig as host of "Black Politics ... with Chris Owens" on Air America, the nation's only liberal talk radio station. This morning marks only Owens' third show, which broadcasts every Saturday between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m., but he has already had on some marquee guests like NY1 anchor Dominic Carter, Rep. Keith Ellison, the nation's first Muslim congressman, and jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who recently won a Grammy for Album of the Year.

Loyal readers will recognize Owens from my recent video interview with him about borough politics, but there's no official word from Chris yet whether he directly attributes his newest success to a "Brooklyn Optimist bump". Until I hear otherwise, I'll assume it was all the Optimist's doing.

Owens' show is broadcast on Air America's affiliates across the country, but it has not yet come to our local station WWRL AM 1600. New Yorkers aren't totally out of luck, though. You can listen to free podcasts of Chris' show here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Greenpoint's Gonna Get Funked Up!

In case you had maggots in your brain, The BKO wants to let all you atomic dogs know to get out out your flashlights because the world's most funkalicious band is stepping off the mothership in Greenpoint next week to tear the roof off the sucka.

Awwwwwwww, yeah! The one and only Mr. George Clinton and his Parliament-Funkadelic will be blowing Brooklyn's funkin' mind next Tuesday, February 26th at Warsaw on Driggs Avenue. No word on whether my man Bootsy's gonna be there, but The Optimist will be in the house either way.

I know tickets are still available
, 'cause I just got two!

Don't sleep on this weekend either. The living members of Bob Marley's legendary Wailers will be jammin' at Warsaw on Sunday.

My Morning Read

Bob Guskind at The Gowanus Lounge, who does the borough a daily service by sharing his expertise on building in Brooklyn, had an excellent article yesterday, illustrated by great graphics, about what's at stake in the battle for Bushwick Inlet Park in Williamsburg.

As I wrote yesterday, we can have a power plant or a park. Click on the link above to check out the proposed park's designs and then decide for yourself what you'd prefer. If we don't get involved, the choice will be made for us - and we all know how well that usually winds up.

On a more cheerful note, there's a new arts center for kids and their parents in the Slope that sounds like tons of fun. Now all I have to do is get some kids. Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn has the story about the Hootenanny Art House at 426-429 15th Street.

OTBKB also lists her top ten favorite stores that have opened (or are about to open) on 5th Avenue in the past year. #5 is Soula Shoes, the store where The Brooklyn Optimist got the cool sneakers he often receives compliments about.

Unfortunately, as new stores open, old ones disappear. Brooklyn Heights Blog has a troubling story suggesting that Armando's Restaurant Bar could soon be out of business. Armando's, whose famous sign has been a fixture on Montague Street since 1936, once enjoyed Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller and The Brooklyn Dodgers as regulars.

Twin Peaks fans will enjoy this piece over at New York Shitty. While you're over there, write Miss Heather a nice email about how much you enjoy her blog. She could use some cheering up.

The Gothamist interviews Matt Berninger
of Brooklyn's rising star indie rock group The National. The group's playing BAM this weekend.

And McBrooklyn's got cool photos of last night's majestic lunar eclipse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bill O'Reilly Implies "Facts" Could Justify a Michelle Obama "Lynching Party"

It's not Brooklyn news, but it's informative nonetheless. On a recent episode of his radio show, seasoned hatemonger Bill O'Reilly gave his audience a preview of the thinly-veiled racist rhetoric that will soon be far more pervasive in the conservative media if Barack Obama wins the Democratic nomination.

This time, O'Reilly's target was Michelle Obama and the overhyped scandal du jour - Obama's grossly misconstrued comment that for "the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." Reilly, as he often does when spewing his most vile venom, feigned compassion to downplay the outrageousness of his remarks.

Media Matters has posted a video clip on their website nailing O'Reilly for his racist code language. Here's a lowlight of his assault:

"I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down."

Just so it's clear, O'Reilly is saying by extension that if there were "hard facts" that showed Michelle Obama really feels America is a "flawed nation" then the idea of going on a "lynching party" against her is "legit".


Expect plenty more of this excrement. O'Reilly and his buddies are just warming up.

How You Can Demand Parks Over Power Plants

I received an important email yesterday from the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks & Planning (GWAPP) about what we can all do to ensure Williamsburg gets a great park along the waterfront. The Brooklyn Optimist urges everyone to spread the word and help get involved making this park - the Bushwick Inlet Park - a reality. To join the Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park Committee, email

This is what you need to know from GWAPP:

For more than seven years GWAPP, NAG and other neighborhood groups have fought TGE's proposed 1,100 megawatt power plant on the Bushwick Inlet in Greenpoint/Williamsburg. On March 20th the New York State Siting Board is set to convene in Albany to determine the fate of TGE, the fate of the City's proposed 28-acre Bushwick Inlet Park along the East River.

Send a message to our state government in Albany to let them know that we demand a PARK not a POWER PLANT.

Click here to write our elected officials!

Not Enough Beauty Pageants?

Well, don't worry. Miss Brooklyn is back after a sixteen-year hiatus. According to The Daily News, seven young women will vie for the crown of borough beauty, though "only three of the seven contestants actually live in Brooklyn." What kind of a Miss Brooklyn title is that?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

An Optimistic Review: Theater Ten Ten's "The Importance of Being Earnest"

From Left to Right: Vanessa Morosco, Christopher Michael Todd,
Cristiane Young (seated), David Jacks, and Sheila Joon
in Theater Ten Ten's production of Oscar Wilde's
"The Importance of Being Earnest"
Photo Courtesy of LAB Photography

Oscar Wilde's play "The Importance of Being Earnest" subverts respectability, outrages convention, and makes all that is serious trivial. In short, it is delicious.

Theater Ten Ten's tasty new version of the classic play serves up two hours of sumptuous silliness. Rather than playing "Earnest" with a solemnly absurd decorum as many celebrated performances of the show have done in the past, Ten Ten sticks to farce, keeping the fare light and the pace buoyant. Thus, the show is over before you realize its begun, yet you still go home feeling satisfied and full.

I shall dispense with any lengthy synopsis of the play's ridiculous goings-on as by Wilde's own admission the "plot is slight" and any particular affinity for the story is of little consequence to our enjoyment of it. At its core, the play is an unraveling of society's deceptions, a task for which Wilde's lacerating wit was as ideally suited as Moliere's. On the surface, "Importance" sustains a bit about two do-nothing aristocrats masquerading under the assumed name of "Earnest", who fall in love with a pair of young women as shallow as themselves. The only problem is that once the dandies resolve to reveal their true identities they discover that their fiancées agreed to marry them in large part because they believed their names to be "Earnest". Of course, madcap machinations and hilarity ensues and everyone ends up married in the end.

Why, you may rightly ask, did The Brooklyn Optimist venture from his beloved borough to patronize a play in Manhattan? The reason is that Ten Ten's production is the collaborative work of a proud Brooklyn Heights couple, Judith Jarosz and her husband David Fuller. Jarosz, as director, along with Fuller, as set designer (and supporting actor), deftly orchestrate a simple staging of the play that shrewdly underplays its artistry so that their superbly selected cast can shine.

And shine they do! Most striking are the show's female leads, Vanessa Morosco and Sheila Joon. Morosco, who plays the socialite Gwendolyn Fairfax, is an arresting presence on stage, who rightfully exudes confidence in her craft. A relative newcomer to New York theater, Morosco radiates that ineffable quality known as star power - a quality that is certain to win her many more significant roles.

Joon, who slips into the part of Cecily Cardew, delights as the play's ingenue. Striking a nuanced balance between starry-eyed naiveté and nymphette sizzle, Joon is a smart comedienne, who is just as adept at making us laugh as she is at luring us into laughing at her.

Christopher Michael Todd and David Jacks, who portray the two foppish faux Earnests, enjoy strong chemistry with their love interests, and often the play is strongest when the couples are left alone on stage. The men also provide a fine counterpoint to one another, Todd with his repertoire of wonderfully befuddled expressions, and Jacks with his devilish delivery of the preposterous epigrams that inspire them.

The supporting cast deserves praise too. Greg Horton is particularly funny as a country vicar, making the most of a small role that could easily have passed unnoticed. David Fuller craftily incarnates two distinctly different butlers and Talaura Harms is amusing as a governess on the verge of spinsterhood. Last, but not least, Christiane Young, who as the dread Lady Bracknell has many of the play's funniest lines, well incarnates what P.G. Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster often describes as the type of formidable aunt who chews broken glass and howls upon the occasion of a full moon.

My fellow Brooklynites, unless you are utterly averse to laughter, it's worth braving Manhattan for Theater Ten Ten's "The Importance of Being Earnest". The play runs until March 9th at 1010 Park Avenue between 84th and 85th Street. For tickets, visit Ten Ten's website or call the theater's box office at 212.288.3246 ext.3.

My Morning Read

Good Morning! Here's what's on tap this A.M.

It's the end of an era. Fidel Castro has officially stepped down as President of Cuba.

City Limits has a story on a new, largely Brooklyn-based organization called Respect Our Vote, aimed at lobbying the nation's superdelegates to side with whichever candidate wins the most state delegates at the close of the Democratic Primary. is enacting a similar campaign on a countrywide basis. Both movements have The Optimist's support 100%. Our votes must count!

On a considerably lighter note, City Hall has an article about the trials and tribulations of dating life for politicians. Would be first ladies and first gentlemen, here's your chance to find out who's available!

Brooklyn Heights Blog has the skinny on next week's annual meeting of the Brooklyn Heights Association. New York Times reporter Clyde Haberman will be the keynote speaker at the event. The meeting, which is open to the public, will take place in the St. Francis College Auditorium at 180 Remsen Street next Tuesday, February 26th at 7:30 p.m.

The Gowanus Lounge reports on some new (and newly deceased) restaurants in the Slope. Welcome to Earth Tonez, a new vegetarian and vegan cafe on Fifth Avenue. Adieu Cocotte.

And DUMBO NYC details how the Marrakesh Express restaurant on Jay Street has been revamped.

Monday, February 18, 2008

One More Thing To Digest

Brooklyn's got a $4 slice of pizza now.

My Morning Read

Happy President's Day. I hope everyone has the day off! My poor fiancée had to slog to work, so I figured I'd bite the bullet too. But for those of you at home, here's some stuff to occupy your time:

Via Katharine Jose's morning round-up at the Observer's political blog, I found this story in the Washington Post about Governor Spitzer's proposed tax on illicit drugs. The idea isn't quite as wacky as it sounds, but it's still leaving lots of people in Albany, like Brooklyn State Senator Martin Golden, scratching their heads. Look for this to end up the latest legislative (and public relations) disaster for the Spitzer Administration. It's already being derided as the "crack tax".

Mole333 reports at The Daily Gotham that Gloria Steinem is hosting a fundraiser on February 27th for Democrat Steve Harrison in his bid to oust Republican Congressman Vito Fossella of Brooklyn and Staten Island. Suggested donations start at $100.

"Breakfast Beer Run in Brooklyn Turns Heroic". The Gothamist's headline says it all.

Pardon Me For Asking informs her readers that the films of comic genius (and the world's first action star) Buster Keaton are coming to Cobble Hill.

The much-anticipated 15th Annual Book Sale at Park Slope United Methodist Church is this weekend, so sayeth Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.

The Purchase Building in DUMBO will soon be leveled to improve the view of the planned Brooklyn Bridge Park, according to McBrooklyn.

And Rumproast has ten reasons why life is worth living.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Morning Read

On this sleepy Sunday morning, there's a lot to discover from the comfort of your home:

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn writes about "Definitely, Maybe"
, the latest movie lensed by Park Slope cinematographer Florian Ballhaus.

Miss Heather at New York Shitty has an adorable kitten named Hooper in need of adoption.

Hideyoshi at DUMBO NYC has a bunch of cool links to neighborhood events, including an invite only Erykah Badu show.

The Brit in Brooklyn's got a spectacular desktop image of the Williamsburg Savings Bank Building.

And even Republican Congressman Vito Fossella is appalled by President Bush's proposed $200 billion cut to Medicare's funding, according to The Brooklyn Eagle.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Big Vote Miscount in Brooklyn Favors Clinton

What do Americans have to do to make sure our votes count?

Since 2000, this has become an increasingly infuriating question for voters across the States. But the latest to be disenfranchised - at least, for the time being - seem to be the people of New York City.

The Times has a devastating story today revealing that in 80(!) election districts, including many in Brooklyn and Harlem, Barack Obama was initially credited with a whopping zero (that's "0") votes on primary night.

Upon actually tallying the numbers, Obama's vote count has grown dramatically, but apparently not yet to the point that he has won in any of the districts previously called for Clinton (although some are VERY close). Nonetheless, the discrepancy does matter, especially here in Brooklyn where Clinton eked out a margin of victory of less than 2%.

Delegates are allocated according to the vote count in each Congressional district. If Obama's vote totals continue to rise in our borough, he could take away one or two of the delegates previously thought to be won by Clinton.

And at this point in the race, every delegate counts a lot.

School Shootings Strike Home Again

As soon as I read yesterday afternoon about the school shooting on Thursday at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, I called my cousin, Malinde Caldwell, who is a senior at Northern. I breathed a sigh of relief the second she picked up the phone. She was shook up, but fine - as were her friends.

Malinde, who has nearly completed her study to become a special education teacher, was off campus at the time doing her student teaching. Since the shooting, though she lives only a few blocks from the University, she hasn't been back on campus. It's not that she wants to avoid the reality of what occurred in the auditorium in which she has had many classes over her time at Northern. That would be impossible. Her apartment is next to DeKalb's sole hospital, which has been overwhelmed since the shooting by a volume of dead and wounded far beyond what the tiny hospital could ever have conceived of having to treat.

For me, the shooting at Northern was a bracing reminder of last semester at St. John's University, where I work as an adjunct professor. Fortunately, the University's alert campus police aided by some courageous students were able to diffuse that incident before anyone was hurt, but what might have been was a horrifying image lost on no one at the school. Since Columbine, we Americans have become all too familiar with how this type of madness looks.

This was no less than the fourth school shooting in the U.S. within a WEEK. Since she was in a position to understand this latest headline on a human level, I asked my cousin why it was she thought these massacres are occurring so frequently in our country. She responded that since the gunman at Northern, unlike the one at Virginia Tech, demonstrated no real sign of being disturbed prior to Thursday, she didn't blame the University at all for failing to stop the senseless slaughter of her classmates.

The preventive measure that she said was "obvious" was stricter gun control laws. I couldn't agree more. If only this conclusion were as "obvious" to our elected officials!

All of the guns used by the perpetrator were purchased legally - two of the four within the past week. No questions asked. For a small wad of cash, a would-be murderer had all he needed to kill six innocent kids and forever mar the lives of many more.

We are far past the point of pushing for background checks and waiting periods to ensure people who might misuse guns won't get their hands on them. At this point, the alleged right to hunt and bear arms is dwarfed by the right of our citizens not to be hunted - the right to life, so to speak.

I was disappointed by the reaction of our presidential candidates to the shooting at Northern. Senator Obama said existing guns laws need to be strengthened and bullets need to be traced as they are in California. Senator Clinton said "we’ve got to figure out how to get guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, gang members and people with mental health problems". I couldn't find any comment online from Senator McCain.

It is time that our politicians stop pandering to the nation's gun lobby. I am not sure what Senator Obama means by strengthening our gun laws, but I am certain it is inadequate by my standard. And as for Senator Clinton, there is a simple solution to getting guns "out of the hands of criminals". America must make it illegal once and for all for private citizens to own automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, and, yes, even handguns, as is the law in England and many other countries with startlingly fewer incidents of gun violence.

Gun vendors are not psychologists, nor should they be expected to be. And our government has proven far too many times that it is ill-equipped to or incapable of deducing whether an aspiring gun owner will one day turn out to be a murderer.

The only way to rid our society of gun violence is to rid it of guns.

How many more children need to die before this point becomes as "obvious" to our leaders as it is to the victims of these crimes?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Borough President? Try "Assemblyman" Charles Barron

A lot has been made in the press about controversial councilmember Charles Barron's 2009 bid for Brooklyn Borough President, but Barron might not go through with it after all.

The Brooklyn Optimist's inside sources tell him that Barron might opt out of the race for BP to run for embattled Assemblywoman Diane Gordon's seat if Gordon ends up in prison after her pending trial on extortion charges. Gordon, who represents parts of East New York, Brownsville, and Canarsie, was indicted in 2006 for allegedly offering contractors her favor in Albany in exchange for a $500,000 bribe.

Gordon has pleaded not guilty to the charges, but her prospects in court look bleak, since it appears that the Assemblywoman was caught red-handed on tape soliciting the contractor. You can judge for yourself:

If Gordon were to end up out of office, Barron, who is immensely popular in his district, would certainly be a favorite for her seat if he wanted it. Moving to the Assembly would let Barron, who is term-limited out of the City Council, stay an elected official without having to pull off an unlikely win in a costly and bitter primary battle for Borough President.

Of course, nothing is certain with Gordon, who was re-elected in 2006 despite the fact that she was already indicted, but even in Brooklyn, the law seems to catch up with crooked politicians eventually. Just ask Clarence Norman, Gerald Garson, and Angel Rodriguez.

The Optimist stops short of an outright prediction, but if Charles Barron winds up an Assemblyman, remember, readers, you heard it here first.

Pitchers and Catchers Hurl Away the Winter Blues

Will all the election hubbub, I've scarcely had time to give my beloved sport of baseball its due. Yesterday, America's pastime was once more dragged through the muck, but today the promise of spring again warms the wintry hearts of its devoted fans.

This morning pitchers and catchers report to camp!

And though last season was outrageously, mind-boggling depressing even for us die-hard Mets fans, who long ago learned to accept misery, hope always returns in time for Opening Day.

This year, at least, I'll know what to call that hope: Johan Santana.

Manhattan's President Coming to Brooklyn

Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer will be the guest speaker at the next monthly meeting of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats (IND), the Carroll Gardens-based Brooklyn political club.

Stringer's February 28th appearance at IND fuels suspicion that he might be thinking of vacating his post as Manhattan BP to seek Citywide office, most likely as Public Advocate - a job he lost out on when he ran for it in 2001. Were Stringer to do so, he would set off a flurry of activity among the many term-limited and would-be public officials vying for new jobs. Many soon-to-be out-of-work councilmembers doubtlessly covet Stringer's current post, while undeclared candidates still considering a bid for Public Advocate in 2009 might think twice about running if Manhattan's BP throws his hat in the ring.

You can catch all the pre-campaign action on the evening of February 28th at IND, which is located at 489 Court Street. For more information, call 718.875.2312 or email

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Brooklyn's Mysterious Superdelegates

With all the national talk about the role superdelegates will have in deciding who will be the Democratic nominee for President, you might just forget that our borough has its own fair share of these shadowy power brokers.

Brooklyn's superdelegates are Reps. Yvette Clarke, Anthony Weiner, Nydia Velazquez, Edolphus Towns, and Senator Chuck Schumer. Guess who they're all supporting?

If you answered Hillary Clinton, you're a winner. (And I guess Hillary is too!)

Brooklyn's superdelegates didn't exactly go out on a limb. Every superdelegate from New York who has pledged their support for a candidate so far has gone for our state's junior senator. The fact that Hillary has in her corner her colleagues from New York's congressional delegation is no surprise. After all, every superdelegate from Illinois, save the Mayor of DuQuoin, Illinois John Rednour, has already weighed in on Barack Obama's side.

It looks like Democrats will have a deadlocked National Convention to look forward to in August. Who knows? Maybe Brooklyn's superdelegates will end up tipping the nomination in Hillary's favor. We could be like Florida in 2000!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Greenpoint Food Pantry Needs You

Since its inception at the end of October, the Greenpoint Food Pantry has gradually expanded to help more of our neighbors get a good meal, but it still needs your help.

The Pantry, which was created by the Greenpoint Reformed Church, operates every Wednesday out of the church between 4 and 7 p.m. It is constantly in need of non-perishable food donations to distribute to impoverished and homeless Greenpointers. Peanut butter, canned meat (tuna, salmon or ham), pasta, rice, cereal, soup, and canned vegetables and fruit are among the foods you can donate to make a difference.

Many local residents and businesses have already generously come to the Pantry's aid. Ann Kansfield, co-Pastor of the Greenpoint Reformed Church, enthuses, "The response rate has been tremendous - overwhelming in ways that I never could have imagined."

Last week, the Pantry was able to give out 92 bags of groceries to those in need. Many of the beneficiaries are hardworking community members, who have simply fallen on difficult times, exacerbated all the more by the general economic hardship plaguing our nation. Co-Pastor Kansfield finds it easy to empathize with their misfortune. "I could see how I could be one of them if circumstances were different," she says.

In addition to donations of food, Brooklynites can help the Pantry by volunteering their time either to prepare meals or clean-up after the 7 p.m. closing time. Polish-speaking volunteers are particularly needed, since 30%-40% of those who receive assistance from the Pantry are Polish - and many of those recipients struggle with English.

The Greenpoint Reformed Church's Food Pantry is located at 136 Milton St. between Manhattan Ave. and Franklin St. If you are interested in volunteering your time or contributing to the Pantry, you can contact Co-Pastor Kansfield at 718.383.5941 or by email at Food donations can be dropped off at any time in front of the church.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Enough Already With the Hillary Bashing

The Optimist has made no secret of his support for Barack Obama's candidacy for President, but that doesn't mean that he'll sit idly by as the mainstream media mercilessly skewers our Senator without reason.

The Times has an excellent opinion piece by Professor Stanley Fish today analyzing the "vicious and irrational" attacks heaped upon Hillary Clinton by her rabid critics on both the left and right.

Now, I take issue with Hillary's vote for the Iraq War and her inexcusable support for the appalling Kyl-Lieberman amendment on Iran, but beyond that I don't really have too much else negative to say about Senator Clinton.

What Fish makes clear in his article is how groundless, if not outright silly, the criticisms levied by Hillary-haters are. Really, beside some visceral emotional dislike some of you may have for our Senator, what has she done to justly earn your ire?

I've met Hillary in person. I found her to be positively charming and warm. Certainly not the soulless Gorgon Chris Matthews would have you believe.

State Assembly Coffers Smell a Ratner

It turns out that Forest City Ratner is not going to stay out of politics after all. An excellent exposé by the Atlantic Yards Report today demonstrates that developer Bruce Ratner's company has violated its pledge not to influence our elected officials with campaign contributions.

Taking advantage of a campaign finance law loophole, Forest City Ratner lined the pockets of the Democratic Campaign Assembly Committee last month with a hefty $58,240 donation. The Atlantic Yards Report speculates (!) that the sum "may be payback to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver", whose support was critical to the approval of Ratner's master plan to build a host of high-rises downtown and an arena to host his NBA team, the current New Jersey Nets.

Ratner's most recent largesse may not be the first time he's skirted his promise not to buy the favor of Brooklyn's leaders. A September 2006 article in the Atlantic Yards Report pointed out that the developer's brother, lawyer Michael Ratner, and his brother's wife, Karen Ranucci both made campaign contributions to local politicians using Forest City Ratner's Brooklyn building as their return address. Among the beneficiaries of these (probably coincidental) donations were Congressman Edolphus Towns, who has been a proponent of the project, and State Senator Martin Malavé-Dilan, also an advocate of the Atlantic Yards.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

February Brooklyn Blogade Recap

I enjoyed myself immensely today sharing the company of my fellow borough bloggers at this month's Brooklyn Blogade. Expertly hosted by Eleanor Traubman and Michael Sorgatz of the Creative Times blog, this month's lunch blossomed into a brainstorming session as to how Brooklyn bloggers could work collaboratively to enhance each other's work and the services we offer to you, our readers.

The Optimist was pleased to join the conversation, as there are many ideas that I have been wanting to share about the bright future of our borough's blogs. I mentioned that I thought our blogs should pool our content to create an independent wire service that all of the borough's blogs could draw upon in the way that newspapers subscribe to Reuters or the AP for content. I also proposed that we use our collective voice to galvanize community activism projects, such as the Kent Avenue litter clean-up that I will soon be asking you to join me in performing.

I was pleased that these proposals were well-received (as well as my suggestion that we publish a "Best of Brooklyn's Blogs 2008" book), but I was even more excited to hear my fellow bloggers articulate their wonderful visions. Xris, the Flatbush Gardener, spearheaded the idea of an annual Brooklyn blogger conference to complement the Blogfest. Katia Kelly, of Pardon Me For Asking, advocated for using our blogs as a vehicle to get our elected officials on record about their positions, so that they could be held accountable to the voters they serve (a passion of the Optimist's!). And Petra Symister, of the much beloved Bed-Stuy Blog, asked how blogs could build their legitimacy as publications, a question that sparked everyone's interest.

I should have taken more notes, but my attention was a bit diverted at times by the savory cuisine cooked up by the owners of Faan, the excellent Asian restaurant at 209 Smith Street that our hosts chose to stage this month's Blogade. Little Buddy Biscuit Company, chef Peter Solomita's sinfully-good, homemade Park Slope cookie corp, and the charming Blue Ribbon General Store at 365 State Street, also generously played sponsors to the event.

Next month's Blogade is being organized by Joyce Hanson of Bad Girl Blog. Stay tuned for more details on this affair. None other than Your Friendly Neighborhood Optimist will be playing host to June's meet-up. No specifics on this one either. I'm still looking for a suitable site in Williamsburg or Greenpoint. Any suggestions?

A Mea Culpa For My Daily Optimists

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time this past week to inquire (some of you, very insistently) as to where your daily dose of optimism has been. It is so heartwarming to know that though I've only been writing this blog for a little over a month that I could already be missed.

For those of you who feared that some misfortune had befallen me, let me put your minds at ease. The Optimist is well and as optimistic as ever! Multiple factors contributed to my absence, but for the most part I just wanted to enjoy more time with my lovely new fiancee. Can you blame me?

I did have a bit of a post-Primary hangover too. After two years of expectation, the anticlimactic resolution of Super Tuesday left me drained. It was only yesterday when the caucus results came in from Louisiana, Washington, Kansas, and the Virgin Islands, that I felt my temporary political apathy recede.

But now I'm back and I have a lot on tap this week for all of you, so don't worry. There's plenty of cause once again to be optimistic!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


After many months of talk, it's finally time for action! Regardless of your choice for either the Democratic or Republican nominee, The Optimist urges you to take a few moments today to exercise your most important right as an American.

Democracy starts with you. If you don't vote, you forfeit your voice.

The Optimist already cast his vote today, heading down to P.S. 110 on Monitor Street in Greenpoint to do so. The election inspector who signed me in described turnout so far today as "fabulous", which did not surprise me, but heartened me nonetheless since I've gone to the polls many times in recent years and found myself the sole voter in a large, desolate room.

Since the Democratic field has been winnowed to two candidates, some Brooklyn voters may have found themselves surprised by the wealth of options they faced in the booth this morning. Along with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, and Dennis Kucinich were all still on the ballet.

In addition, Brooklynites who favored Obama or Clinton were asked to approve a slate of five delegates to stand for their candidate of choice at the Democratic Convention. On my ballot, Obama's five delegates were Paul Newell, a community activist who has taken on the mammoth challenge of trying to unseat the Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver in this September's primary; 23-year-old Rachel Lauter, who has been a very active member of Brooklyn for Barack; prominent local gay issues and AIDS activist Daniel Tietz; Matthew Cowherd, an attorney with mega-firm Skadden Arps; and Allison Davis.

As for Hillary, her delegates of choice were State Senator Martin Dilan; Councilmember Rosie Mendez; Luis Garden Acosta, a community activist and founder of Williamsburg's El Puente; Chung Seto, a former Executive Director of the New York Democratic Party; and Charles Obe.

In the last few weeks, the polls have shown a narrowing of Hillary Clinton's once insurmountable lead over Barack Obama in New York State. Who will win depends solely upon you.

Remember the words of former U.S. Treasury Secretary William Simon: "Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote." Simon was one to know. He served under Nixon.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Brooklyn Optimist Endorses Barack Obama

I am excited about Barack Obama. Who isn’t?

Even a Republican political pundit I caught on the radio the other day said that anyone who hears Senator Obama speak in person who is not moved by his startling oration should check themselves for a pulse.

To be honest, I never thought I’d see a candidate of Obama’s strength, intelligence, and dynamism come so close to the Presidency in my lifetime. I had resigned the idealism of the 1960s to a past too long ago to rekindle and too far away from where our country has fallen to reinvigorate.

Even in my optimism, I could not envision a progressive candidate who could so captivate Americans with the pure brilliance of his promise that they would come to the polls in record numbers to affirm their belief in him.

Even in my optimism, I could not conceive of a candidate with the potential to convince Americans that it is not our system of government that is inadequate, but the elected officials who we have settled on to manage it.

Even in my optimism, I could not imagine a candidate who could simultaneously unify our deeply divided nation, while at the same time restoring our integrity and esteem on the world stage.

Even in my optimism, I could not expect Barack Obama.

Of all the endorsements that heaped praise upon Senator Obama, none articulated and understood his qualities as eloquently and precisely as the letter of support Toni Morrison released this week. What was different about the Nobel Laureate’s evaluation was that it did not resort to tired criteria like “electibility” and “experience”, but invoked words we long ago gave up trying to apply to politicians – words like “virtue” and “wisdom”.

Though I have never met the man myself, I am convinced, like Ms. Morrison, that Barack Obama is both a man who is virtuous and wise. These are the words that I would use to describe Jefferson, Lincoln, and Dr. King.

These are the words I want to use to describe my President.

I ask you to join me on Tuesday in voting for Barack Obama.