Coney Island Film Festival Wrap #8!

The Fabulous Insectavora!
While the Coney Island Film Festival was a fun event you couldn’t help but getting a sad vibe when you looked around the area surrounding the Coney Island USA building. Although it is closed for the season anyway the vacant lots surrounded by chain link fences bulldozed by Thor Equities last year intensify a feeling of impending doom only amplified by the rainy weather. Coney was enveloped in a surreal mist for most of the weekend. Correct me if I’m wrong me but aren’t at least the Cyclone & the Wonder Wheel still operating on the weekends at this time of year?

I attended many screenings over the 3 days, unfortunately it was impossible to see them all as the screenings (over 125 shorts!) were done simultaneously between the Freak Show Stage and the Coney Island Museum but I managed to take in a lot.

The selections seemed a bit darker this year. Sunday afternoon’s Coney centric shorts viewing were bittersweet as nostalgia has set in big time already. Will the recent economic developments halt Joe Sitt & Bloomberg’s big dreams of condos and Nike towns? Save Coney Island by Peter LiPera is a doc (and winner of the festival!) chronicalizing the “Save Coney Island” Movement, from the organization of the protest at City Hall last year till the unknowing period of now. Of course it’s open ended as the fight is still going on. (go here to see what you can do to help.) One Coney short unrelated to the amusement park that I really liked was by Alexis Neophytides called “Coney Island’s for the Bird’s” a doc about the underground world of Brooklyn pigeon racing, looked like it was filmed on Neptune Avenue. And as usual the festival closed Sunday night with the filmmakers claiming their awards at Eldorardo Auto Skooters, as I am SURE they do in Cannes as well! Click here for the Coney Island Film Festival website for a complete list of winners!


Rattlesnake Now Available in Brooklyn

If you ever wondered what grilled rattlesnake looks like, look no further.

F.I.B was graciously invited to a “menu tasting” over at new Brooklyn “Pan-Southwestern” restaurant Ellis recently. As I am no expert on food (but I do like the stuff!) I had my dining companion, Jennifer Mitchell, an experienced food writer do the expose…..


Chef Ellis of the Southwestern/Native American “Ellis” couldn’t hide his enthusiasm as he welcomed us to his new establishment. His only lament . . . the hurricane prevented him from getting the rattlesnake he really wanted to serve, a big one, straight from Texas . Hailing from Arizona , Chef Ellis seems to know where the biggest snakes come from.

We weren’t complaining, though. Well, maybe twice, but that had to do with the “classic margarita” and the “berry crush margarita”, neither one up to par. However, the jalapeno caipirinha was a wonderful drink; make sure you have a taste for peppers and a flair for, um, savoring a drink, to truly enjoy it.

Our six course sampling was solid and refreshing with a couple of surprises along the way. Our first ‘course’ was the White Bean Soup with Bacon. Very simple, very straightforward and just plain good. Next, the citrus and blue cheese salad with sunflower seeds, golden raisins and sunflowers was tantalizingly sweet. Its honey and grapefruit balsamic vinaigrette dressing combined beautifully with the blue cheese creating a crisply refreshing and savory salad. A favorite with us.

If you love garlic (and I for one, do), then you would love Ellis’s cilantro lime pesto, served on either chicken wings or shrimp. Other sauces included a very sweet and spicy Chipotle as well as a sweet red pepper jelly that would make any southern woman proud to serve on bruschetta with cream cheese (which was, btw, one of the pre-party appetizers. Being decidedly southern, I was reminded of Christmas party finger food and very happy about it). It is surprisingly good on chicken wings, too.

Next came the rattlesnake skewers in a citrus and garlic marinade with grilled and perfectly crispy asparagus. Chef Ellis recommended we just pick up that rattlesnake with our fingers and dig in. My kinda chef. Never haven eaten rattlesnake, I didn’t know what to expect. It was very tender, and more akin to a filet mignon than one might have imagined. Recommended.

Our final main course offering was a pan seared catfish topped by a blueberry/red onion salsa served with homemade mashed potatoes studded by sweet and crispy corn. The catfish could not have been cooked more perfectly. It was a thicker catfish than I am accustomed to, but the meat was tender and flaky, the outside maintaining its crispness even with the juicy salsa. Being served catfish with a fruit topping was a first for this MS Delta born and raised girl. I’ll definitely be writing home about this one. The potatoes were both creamy and chunky and I think would have been outstanding if they hadn’t been a bit cold. Another favorite.

The dessert, a sopapilla style Navajo fry bread with honey and powdered sugar just did not do. I guess, then, a third complaint. We couldn’t decide if it was a mistake such as too much salt in the recipe, or just a good idea gone bad.

Over all, we were very happy with our meal and our experience at Ellis. When main ingredients were given a platform, with a bit of an accompaniment, that is when they shined: the rattlesnake skewers, the catfish and, interestingly, the salad come to mind. Other foods tended to be overwhelmed by the sauce. Don’t get me wrong: while Ellis’ sauces do taste good, they tend to be a bit too sweet, or a bit too smoky.

Ellis is a very welcomed addition to the expanding South Slope/South Slope South neighborhood. With bar activities most nights of the week, you can be sure that this will be a favorite with the incoming hipster with a job crowd.

Ellis is located at 627 Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets.


It's a Rainy Weekend! Go to the Coney Island Film Festival!

A blurry yet atmospheric photo of the fab entertainers of Coney Island Sideshows by the Seashore
A reminder that the Coney Island Film Festival is going on this weekend and with rain in the forecast for the whole weekend it’s the perfect thing to do. I attended the opening last night which kicked off with documentary short “Down the Hatch: The life teachings of John “Red” Stuart” and documentary feature “Sideshow Still Alive”. Both films were about the unique lives of the sideshow performer, I saw more sword swallowing, fire breathing, glass walking and nails hammered in to nostrils within 90 minutes than I have seen in my entire life. And it continued LIVE at the opening party entertainment provided by the performers of Coney Island’s Sideshows by the Seashore crew. Outside I schmoozed with filmmaker Juan C. Lopez and burlesque performer Little Brooklyn who performed an unusual and stunningly choreographed routine involving a gorilla and a banana at the party. As usual a friendly crowd and a splendid time appeared to be had by all.

So, it’s 1:30 pm on Saturday now (and FIB has no internet at home and is blogging from the library, now THAT'S dedication!) and there are still more than a 100 shorts, docs and features running through 8pm tomorrow night. Check it out! Here is the schedule! On my way back out there now!


Gowanus? Love Canal? NO! It's the Clap Canal!

The result of the vote on the resolution for the Toll Brothers spot zoning approval that occurred last night at the Community Board 6 meeting was basically a wash as there was no majority rule, it will have to be brung again before the board next month. More people were for the resolution to disapprove the spot zoning than against it. The board members for the resolution had legitimate reason to question this project. Environmental cleanup being number one. Many local residents spoke passionately and with concern about the project, no one I might add, was against something happening along the canal- it’s just that this particular project is not the right one. There are certain board members that have the twisted philosophy that in order to clean the canal you must build first. The ONLY folks in community who spoke on their side were union construction workers who basically used the guilt card that this project means jobs. Well, I have nothing against jobs but I would think that they wouldn’t want to be working on a job where they may be endangering their lives putting their hands in toxic soil. Does anybody recall the after effects of working down at the former world trade center? Hello! Cancer?! There is most likely asbestos and worse in the soil down on the shores of the Gowanus! They did have a representative to answer environmental cleanup questions but he was a tad casual and actually admitted that he “didn’t know much about that project” when someone brought up the languishing Whole Foods site. He stressed that there are broken ceramics in the soil more than heavy metals and other carcinegeous materials. And don’t get me started on their sewage solution. They are going to take care of their own shit. That board member also said that in order for the city to repair the strained sewage system on Bond Street, you must build first. (I want some of her drugs, or maybe the ones the woman who said the “canal has the clap”! and "let's get some "nice" people down there"!)

And again I have to say the most apparent thing about this meeting is that there were no REAL "pro" voices from the community other than members of the Gowanus Canal Development Corporation who for whatever reason have a huge hard on for this project, unknown health issues be damned! And oh yeah, Councilman Bill De Blasio made a brief appearance saying he is for affordable housing but if it’s not cleaned properly he’s not for it. Then he left and didn’t bother to listen to the community speak.

To read a much more detailed coverage of this three hour circus, click here to read the Pardon Me For Asking Blog’s coverage.


CB6/Toll Brothers Meet Thursday 6pm

Recently added to the building on 3rd and 3rd. Very timely.

The Toll Brothers comes before the Community Board 6 on Thursday night for the next round in the rezoning process. Be there if you care and you can speak for or against if you want to. Read the details below for the specifics.

Discussion and formulation of a recommendation on ULURP No. C090047ZMK, an application for an amendment of the Zoning Map.

Discussion and forumation of a recommendation on ULURP No. C090048ZSK, an application for a special permit to modify height and setback requirements, rear yard regulations and inner court regulations at 363-365 Bond Street (Block 452, Lots 1, 5, 15, 19 and Block 458, Lot 1).

Also! Has any one read this pro-Toll Brothers editorial in the Brooklyn Paper? I always knew they were all for it as their journalism has been slanted throughout (under reporting the amount of people that show up for community meetings for one example!) They claim that the Toll Brothers are saving "the soul of the Gowanus"! What a load of raw sewage Batman!

Read the crap here and prepare to roll your eyes.

The meeting is being held at:

P.S. 32 - Auditorium
317 Hoyt Street
(Union/President Streets)

6:00 PM

Photo compliments of Brian Berger.


Coney Island Film Festival Next Weekend!

The 8th Annual Coney Island Film Festival is happening next weekend (weekend of the 26-28th) opening with some sideshow related documentaries, "Down the Hatch" and "Sideshow is Still Alive". I highly recommend taking the trip out to there to experience this unique event. As usual tons of films, shorts and docs of all genres. After the premier you MUST attend the always fantastic opening party. This year it is at the recently finished Freak Bar at Coney Island U.S.A. I attended last year (in the museum) and had a most excellent time and at 25 bucks it’s the bargain of the century as it includes drinks, live burlesque and sideshow performers! Hosted ny the Great Fredini! The whole sha- bang is worth every penny, so go!

A portion of the press release:

8th Annual Coney Island Film Festival announces lineup. One hundred twenty five films plus special events.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY, September 15, 2008 -- The 8th annual installment of the Coney Island Film Festival hits the shores of Coney Island from Friday, September 26th through Sunday, September 28th. This year's festival features one hundred twenty five films from around the world; a stunning array of high and low-brow fare, as diverse as the neighborhood it represents. Subjects range from the profound to the profane, showcasing the independent spirit and irreverent nature of the one and only Coney Island.

This year’s centerpiece film is Peter LiPera’s, Save Coney Island. Working with a small crew for over a year, director/cinematographer Peter LiPera paints an intimate portrait of Coney Island’s first annual last season. SAVE CONEY ISLAND shows a group of boardwalk friends’ journey over the course of a year as they try to preserve what they can within the ever-changing, ever-fading, atmosphere of Coney Island.

Click here for full schedule and film descriptions.

Click here to read and see F.I.B's coverage of last years festival.


Fishing the Gowanus with Weah

Yesterday afternoon as I crossed the Carroll Street bridge I stopped to chat with this guy who was fishing for something in the canal. I was relieved to hear that he had no plans on eating these fish he said were called "spearing fish". These fish are also called Atlantic Silversides which according to Wikipedia are the most common fish in the Chesepaeake Bay. What he does is sell them on the fishing pier of Coney Island for bait at 2 dollars a bag. He was surprised that he was catching so few today as other times he said he can fill his whole bucket in an hour and he was particularly surprised because the tide was high after the rains on the canal. Weah has lived in the neighborhood since he was a child (he went to PS 32 at Union & Hoyt) we chatted about all the marine life and changes in the canal he has seen through the years. It's gotten a lot better but there is still way more toxic sludge, plastic and sewage than there really should be. Apparently they sell spearing fish in Chinatown for over two dollars a pound, hopefully they were not caught in the Gowanus!

Also! If your motorcycle needs a tuneup or fixing, Weah is a Motorcycle Technician. He can be contacted at Robertsreplicas(at)aol(dot)com.

Donald O'Finn Screening Saturday Afternoon in Red Hook @ 2pm!

Donald O'Finn, the guy who makes those great videos that play at Freddy's Bar & Backroom and an artist in his own right makes a rare daytime appearance and is hosting a screening of recent work ³Psycho Recut² at the BWAC Screening Room in Redhook Saturday afternoon at 2pm. I'll be there, will you?

From the press release:

Donald O'Finn, the master of repurposed footage, counterpoints the Hitchcock classic black and white film with Gus Van Sant's color re-make andre-purposes scenes of the two films into a stunning work of art.

Mr. O¹Finn will introduce the Art piece which will then run for one hour. He will take questions after.

The BWAC Screening Room is located at 499 Van Brunt St., Red Hook, Brooklyn, inside the BWAC Art gallery, across from the new Fairway and two blocks from the new Ikea.

To get into the mind of Mr. O'Finn click here to read an interview by that brewer of controversy, Brian Berger, of the Who Walk in Brooklyn blog that occurred a few months back.


Important F.R.O.G.G Meeting Tuesday!

This Toll Brothers rep is just SO excited to build build build on toxic land! Say good bye to that background cause it's gonna be all glass and steel if he gets his way!

If you live in the Gownaus Canal area and care about the POSSIBLE upcoming zoning changes which would allow some very large condominiums to be built starting on Bond Street with the Toll Brothers, I urge you to attend a meeting held by local citizens activist group F.R.O.G.G. (Friends and Residents of the Gowanus Canal) on Tuesday. To be discussed is the upcoming meeting with CB6 Land Use Committee meeting on Thursday, Sept. 25. regarding this matter. F.R.O.G.G has been pouring over the Enviromental Impact Statement that the Toll Brothers have released (which is the size of two phonebooks by the way) and this will most likely be the major topic. From what I hear it is not complete. Traffic rather than environmental issues seem to be more important to them. To quote a F.R.O..G.G member who has been studying the tome since it's been released.

"525,309 zoning square feet, 447 dwelling units with 268 Parking spaces and all they need to do is get the DOT to adjust traffic light timing. (Oh and of course, make sure that the DEP rehab's that Flushing Tunnel so the concentrations of hydrogen sulfide in the air is brought under control--they hope.)"

F.R.O.G.G Meeting: Tuesday September 16 at 6:30 in the back room at Smith & Vine, 268 Smith Street.

Also check out this excellent but chilling video posted over at Pardon Me For Asking regarding another toxic brownfield site in the hood called Public Place - Brownfield of Dreams.

And another thing, if someone invites you to the Gowanus Dredgers Benefit "Bacchanal" sponsored by the Toll Brothers amongst others, don't go. It happens to be on the SAME night as the CB 6 land use committee meeting by the way! They will do anything in order to have a dock and storage area like even believe that corporate developers will clean up the canal correctly! If i had the time I want to photoshop into their invite which depicts a peaceful moonlit canoe ride with low buildings along the canal and replace it with the cold glass structures that MIGHT be built.

F.R.O.G.G Meeting: Tuesday September 16 at 6:30 in the back room at Smith & Vine, 268 Smith Street.

Photo from the New York Times


Open Call for "Brooklyn 111" Art Show

Yes this is an actual bag/ Photo taken in the Coney Island train station.

Another P.S.A! Passing the word on here for another good cause. Brooklyn Art Gym otherwise known as B.A.G is having a national open call for art in ANY media.

In anticipation of Brooklyn’s 111th year as a New York City borough, BKLYN: 111, is a question and dialogue about the environment, urban spaces, and creative process. This is a national call for original work in ANY medium.

In 1898, Brooklyn transitioned from being an independent city to becoming a borough of New York City. Brooklyn, in its 110 years as a borough, has had immeasurable impact on the shape of New York City. Brooklyn is the most populace borough that would qualify as one of the United States’ largest cities, and maintains its own unique culture, art scene, and history. Brooklyn is adored by writers, painters, and filmmakers, and often credited as a source of inspiration. Many would argue that Brooklyn is the “heart of the City”.


1. There is no entry fee.
2. Submission deadline is September 19th.
3. Notices of acceptance go out October 3rd.
4. Work accepted in the show should arrive ready to mount.
5. Work should be dropped off or shipped to BAG Gallery between October 6th and 11th
6. BKLYN: 111 is a fundraiser so all work accepted in the exhibition that sells will benefit The
BAG Fund.
7. The exhibit will open during the 12th annual A.G.A.S.T studio tours (Annual Gowanus Artist
Studio Tour), a highly attended open studios event held on October 18-19th.
8. The exhibit will close with a fundraiser event on Saturday October 25th.
9. BKLYN: 111 is one of several exciting events being held this fall to benefit The BAG Fund,
including the inaugural fundraiser, Shades of Green to be held at the Center for the Urban
Environment in early November.

Send low-resolution jpegs of your work to show@brooklynartistsgym.com with “BKLYN: 111” in the
subject field. For additional more information please call 718.858.9069.

Brooklyn Artists Gym is located at 168 7th Street Brooklyn, click here for more details.


Volunteer For Free Arts NYC NOW!

EXTREMELY URGENT! Have you always said, "I would like to volunteer somewhere?" Well, NOW IS YOUR CHANCE!

Free Arts NYC, a great organization that I have been a weekly volunteer for about 2 years (1 evening a week) is in desperate need of volunteers to work as Art Mentors for their P.A.C.T (Parents and Children Together) program. The program has expanded to many other areas the city this year hence the need for more volunteers. I personally worked at the Community Roots Charter School in Fort Greene and there are slots open there as well as other locations in the city. I know once a week sounds like a major commitment but it will soon become one of the highlight of your week. Training sessions will be held soon.

Click here for more information about just what the P.A.C.T program is.

If interested contact PACT Program Manager Rachel Brandoff ASAP at Rachel(at)freereartsnyc (dot)org.

Program trainings for volunteers who have not yet worked in the PACT Program will be held on September 16th and September 22nd from 6:00- 9:00 PM in the Free Arts offices. Rachel asks that if you have a friend or colleague who might be interested, please refer them to her.


The Death of Brooklyn

What does it mean? Brooklyn died a long time ago?

F.I.B spends some time at the Bay Parkway subway station a couple times a week. For those that don't know it overlooks Washington cemetery. The cemetery is densely packed with the tombstones on land divided in half by the subway/Bay Parkway and bordered by a sanitation station, housing and ironically a "Wholesale Liquidators". This particular tombstone is a mystery to me. Most of the people buried here are jewish, going back to the early 1900's. The newer stones have photographic images on them, mostly Russian Jews.
Reserve your spot now!

R.I.P - Astroland.

I guess as Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote there is a part of Cony Island that is of the mind and I feel that is a major part of it's mystique. Hopefully that spirit will not be overtaken by Niketown although it wouldn't suprise me if some corporation would co-opt the beat poem into their ad campaign eventually.


Astroland's Last Day Open is this Sunday.

So in response to my earlier post, former Astroland owner Carol Albert did not receive her lease from Thor Equities yesterday and true to her word has thrown in the towel, rather than shut the park as usual in October this Sunday is the last day for Astroland as we know it. In a word - sad. (and why the hell did she sell it?!)

Art Parade 2008 Saturday @ 4pm

It's supposed to rain HEAVILY tomorrow but if not, head to Soho at around 4pm for a truly unique parade. Read the details (ooh Karen Black is performing again!) here and check out my coverage from last year here!


Found on Bond Street

all the way from Panama!


So What's Up With Coney Next Year?

The last firework show for the summer at Coney Island. The view from in front of Ruby's was primo!!!

I haven't said much about Coney Island's potential doom this year as last year there was so much drama about it closing and then it ended up being open for another year. I suppose I fell victim for what the powers that be like to do, BEAT YOU DOWN! Anyway, Carol Albert, whose family has operated Astroland for many years chose to sell Astroland to developer Joe Sitt about two years ago and afterwards had second thoughts about what hand she dealt to the NYC public as far as the future of Coney Island. Now she is saying if she doesn't get a 2 year lease by September 4th at 1pm she is shutting it down. Thanks Carol. For all your wise moves. Anyway our current Mayor Bloomberg (I hope to GOD he doesn't get his wish of extending his Mayorship!!) has big plans involving Niketowns, multiplexes and all the things you don't need to go to the beach for to visit. HELLO!!! Oh YEAH it's gonna bring minimum wage jobs for the locals and shut down the unique family businesses such as my friend Desree's Pina Colada Hut on Jones Walk. The area needs to be rezoned for this plan to happen and that is going to take some time. The only shining light in this situation is that Coney Island USA owns their building and I give them ALL the credit in the world for rejuvenating Coney Island over the last 20 years. Go to the Coney Island Message board here for all the news.

It would be a shame if Astroland shut down next summer, the way I see it, so many people enjoy it and it has so much history, why ruin it? Greed at the expense of others is something I will never understand as a hand to mouth life loving resident of Brooklyn and the world. Don't these politicians see the UGLINESS IN THEIR PLANS? Why no! Because it's not anything that they would participate in. They spend their leisure time in the places you see in Travel and Leisure Magazine completely out of touch with the average Joe who they think live to shop in malls. SAVE CONEY ISLAND!!!!!

Sell Your Stuff & Help A Community Garden!

A friend of mine alerted me to this flea market that's happening next Saturday at her local community garden. Money from table rentals go to the Clifton Place Memorial garden and you can keep the proceeds from what you unload while spending the afternoon in the garden! Should be fun! The garden located on the corner of Bedford and Clifton place, one block from the Bedford/Nostrand G train. All you need to know is on the sign above.