Leave the Theory at the Door! Ethan Pettit Contemporary

Bent Arm Violin, by Ken Butler

Bent Arm Violin, by Ken Butler

Ethan Pettit Contemporary
119 Ingraham | Suite 312
Brooklyn, NY 11237

By William Allen

This group show, called “Wackadoodle,” thumbs its nose at highbrow irony and aesthetics, with seven artists steeped in the traditions of North Brooklyn (conceptual art, action painting, and sculptural collage). By design there is no theme, only fresh, bright painting, drawing, sculptures, video art, and prints.

The show features tiny TV sets with noisy bursts of expletives, from Henry G. Sanchez, evoking personal, voyeuristic leanings, a novel twist from this political and community-based artist.

Eva Schicker shows large Rococo-style, squiggly angel-like drawings that sprawl over Arches paper (the show’s title may come from her manic doodling). Three pint-sized paintings show us her serious side, with bits of text to say that poetry is in the air. A quick peek in print files reveals some geometric, meditative works on black that make me think Brice Marden.

Gili Levy has a thing or two on deKooning. By way of local action painters Chris Martin, James Harrison, and master-primitive modernist Alfred Jensen, she flaunts abstract expressionist practice with Brooklyn tints and dynamism. Vibrant cobalt blues, cerulean greens take on fleshy pink where bodies in motion float down stairwells.

Another non-objective painter is Alkemikal Sohsu, participating in the Brooklyn conversation from Katmandu. His organic work is studious, wildly cheerful, optically frazzled, while his prints, toned down, explore convergences of sines and cosines in fractal portraits of brainiacs like Leroy Neiman and Salvator Dalí.

Robert Egert’s biomorphic, blue chalk drawings took me by surprise – full of magma energy, wit, and speculations on the body, on science, on nature mimicking art. His images are Darwin’s dreams, Philip Guston’s party-jokes, or Frida Kahlo’s sighs of grief. They hold underworlds of swirly vessels, Klein bottles (non-orientable, mathematical surfaces), slaughterhouse slurry turned into bone meal, and pumping diastolic hearts. While classically beautiful, they shocked me to subservience – I was suddenly alone, at 30,000 feet, where I could hear a pin drop.

Ken Butler, physicist-poet-sculptor-harmonist lends several musical objects to the mix. Sound fairly pours out of them as they stand static mounted to the wall, resting in inertia, waiting for Cage to unleash a hundred cadenzas from a bent prosthetic arm, a praying mantis music stand, embodiments of made-up, backwards music that waits for the viewer to invoke it.

Jan Holthoff paints his way towards Knickerbocker Avenue from Dusseldorf, in the Romantic tradition of Neo Rauch and Mamma Andersson. Often working with monumental scale, here small works show picaresque figures in half- articulated moonscape, longing for something mystical, lost in a fiery midnight fog.

Is it unarticulated sound these artists share? Perhaps bewilderment, a manic cry for something more beyond the picture plane (or LED or viola fingerboard), an unheard utterance expressed in visual art?

They are zany doers and philosophers. But their thought is cast in cool and colorful objects, pleasing to the eye, generous to the conscience and the conscious. So please keep an ear to the ground and eye to the wall at Ethan’s place.

But once you’ve looked at the art and left, sit down and talk with friends, and ideas will unbundle all around you. The theory is here, it just hides behind the smarter sheen of well-made work. It’s just nice to look at—you can think about it later.

ethan pettit contemporary

Vote Early, Vote Often—a political déjà vu looms over the national political landscape

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By Albert Goldson

A disturbing case of political déjà vu looms over the national political landscape.  Its origins began here in the Big Apple a generation ago when on November 7, 1989 New Yorkers elected the first African-American, David Dinkins, in a close and hotly contested campaign over GOP candidate Rudolph Giuliani.  Dinkins secured the Democratic nomination after a series of scandals plagued three-term Mayor Koch (D).

Mayor Dinkins laid the groundwork that enabled the Big Apple to become a welcoming city for business, tourists and its citizenry.  This groundwork included the rehabilitation of housing in Harlem, South Bronx and Brooklyn on a constrained budget, enacted polices that decreased the homeless population, supported the Times Square clean-up and revitalization, and significantly increased law enforcement hiring.

But a funny thing happened on the way to City Hall four years later.  Once again Giuliani ran against Dinkins and this time defeated him by a razor thin margin, an unprecedented result in which the incumbent lost in the midst of an improving economy.  The reason?  Many of Dinkins’ supporters in 1989, figuring that Dinkins’ successes would carry him easily as an incumbent to a second term, failed to go to the polls and vote.  Additionally, despite the steady decrease in crime during the last 36 months of his mayoralty, the perception still persisted that crime was out of control and that Dinkins’ policies were failing which gave “law & order” Giuliani extra votes.

During Giuliani’s two terms, he utilized and took credit for all of Dinkins’ efforts for NYC’s resurgence to global preeminence.  Thus began an 8-year period of quasi-fascist repression, exclusivity, secrecy, favoritism and overall nastiness unheard of for a liberal big city.  Giuliani’s draconian policies were reluctantly tolerated only because of NYC’s dramatic economic resurgence and 1960s level crime rates.

This history lesson serves as an invaluable education for today’s young generation, a key electoral component, who has fuzzy memories as toddlers of this guy called Giuliani escorted by security through the fiery cauldron of 9/11.

President Obama, like Dinkins, was elected from the public’s outrage over the egregious deeds on Wall Street and following the three-term Bush administration (one for papa Bush, two for junior Bush).  Obama, like Dinkins, inherited an unprecedented economic mess.  Obama, like Dinkins, was the first person of color in this political office.  Obama, like Dinkins, has aggressively enacted numerous social and economic policies in place to halt the economic hemorrhaging, spur economic growth and reduce crime (killing terrorists).  Obama, like Dinkins, presides over an improving albeit far from robust economy and yet the perception persists that these economic policies aren’t working.

Like a typically awful Hollywood remake this gig has now gone national over 20 years later with Mitt Romney playing the role of Giuliani supported by the extreme right GOP vs. Obama, playing the role of Dinkins, the incumbent, America’s first elected person of color to the presidency.

There are voters who will vote GOP even if the Obama administration puts a Lamborghini in every garage and a Peter Luger steak on every plate.  The danger is that the GOP campaign has cleverly placed sufficient doubt in 2008 Obama supporters to steal this upcoming election.  A divide and conquer strategy includes portraying several symbolic personas such as Obama Girl and some  liberal minded celebrities who admitted that they are not as “enthused” about Obama as in 2008.  Elections have turned on symbols.

Regardless what the always unpredictable, volatile and frequently biased polls may indicate today with Obama maintaining a lead over Romney, it will be an extremely close election that will ultimately be decided by the 2008 Obama supporters and the end result of aggressive voter suppression.

The logical and moderate GOP has been silenced and politically hijacked by a GOP faction that dispenses historically unprecedented vitriol towards Obama.  And we all know what happens when things get hijacked.  The current version of the GOP is biting at the bit to complete the coring out of America – the liquidation of the middle class to create a de facto fiefdom consisting of the wealthy and permanent underclass – a first-world banana republic.

Become a 21st century storyteller like your grandparents of yesteryear and create your own social media blitz to tell your family, friends and contacts throughout the country the eerie parallels of NYC political history to the upcoming national elections and its potential consequences.  Déjà vu is not inevitable.  So remember on Election Day to “vote early, vote often.”

agoldson888@gmail.com

Who Knew Anyone Reads? Bookstores: 0 Before, 2 Now. Where? Bushwick

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Matthew Winn opened Molasses Books in Bushwick, last month. Photo by Allen Ying

By Jason McGahan

To the transplants who’ve lived in Bushwick the longest, the neighborhood’s grit is nothing short of a virtue, and its lack of creature comforts is a source of pride.

It must have something to do with the factories and cement yards, the scrawny trees and parks without pigeons or squirrels.

A 24-hour health-food store is no restriction on freedom. But with every new amenity the landlords make up reasons for the rising rents.

Artists who moved here to work 10 years ago are accustomed to not having late-night Thai food delivered. But more and more young people with college diplomas and money to spend are moving to Bushwick. And they have needs, too.

Wyckoff Avenue has a story to tell. Four of its darkened storefronts have turned into busy bars since June. The new beauty salon charges $350 for a woman’s haircut and $150 for highlights. Real estate sharpers rent out the Northeast Kingdom for powwows after Sunday brunch. There’s a new Italian restaurant, a new Mexican restaurant, a yoga studio, and three new places to drink a latte.

Around the corner from Wyckoff, they’re serving authentic Southern cuisine out of what was a vacant building at the start of the summer. A British pub is set to open two avenues away, on Wilson, in the fall.

That’s about the extent of the changes. No wait, the largest outdoor beer garden in the five boroughs is set to open any day now in East Williamsburg, which now—and it’s no surprise why—calls itself Bushwick. Down the street a new music hall brought to you by the Knitting Factory opened last month. Three smaller live-music venues likewise premiered in that part of town in the spring.

The reality is that life on Brooklyn’s western frontier is getting easier, and those transplants who’ve lived here the longest are afraid that it’s losing its edge.

Like anyone else, Matthew Winn can read the writing on the wall. He opened Molasses Books last month, and he thinks the timing is just right. Molasses is being called the first bookstore in Bushwick, which is to say it’s been so long between bookstores that no one seems to remember the last one.

But Molasses wasn’t alone for very long. Human Relations, the second bookstore in Bushwick, opened a mere five days later. Matthew wasn’t told about Human Relations until the grand-opening celebration for Molasses.

From zero bookstores in the past decade or longer, Bushwick now has two of them opening within a week of each other.

“It sucks to have to sound like an advertisement for gentrification,” Matthew says, “but here it is. When there’s enough college-educated people converging on one spot, it creates a market for bookstores.”

Matthew puts in 13-hour days, six days a week, to run the store by himself. And he’s not hiring.

Molasses occupies a storefront on the ground floor of a three-story brick apartment building on Hart Street between Wilson and Knickerbocker. The street is quiet and mostly residential, located just around the corner from Matthew’s apartment of four years.

The shop is stocked with Matthew’s own book collection, which he built up during the year he spent booktabling in Kensington and Park Slope.

“I didn’t open a bookstore because I’m conscious of some demographic shift in the neighborhood,” he says. “I did it because I live here.”

He bills the shop as a place for locals to gather, saying most of his clientele lives within two train stops. He sells drip coffee, iced tea and iced chocolate, and encourages visitors to sit and read at the plywood counter he and his brother built by hand. Molasses is also up for a beer and wine license Matthew hopes the city will approve by October.

Chloe Erskine rides her skateboard over to Molasses every week or so to browse. She graduated from NYU in May with degrees in education and Spanish.

The Fugs are playing on the record player. Chloe is leafing through an art book on ancient Pompeii she pulled from the dollar rack outside. She’s glossing over the images for a lesson plan she’s dreaming up.

“It’s relaxing here,” Chloe says. “Sometimes I come and hang out when I don’t feel like dealing with my roommates.”

Matthew says he buys books for 30 percent of the sale price. He keeps a small and eclectic collection, with shelves on film, philosophy, psychology, and esoteric religion. Nearly half the store is devoted to 20th-century literary fiction. Matthew curates a display table with books by recommended authors like Jean Genet, Andre Gide, Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Richard Wright, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Marquis de Sade.

Molasses Books is open weekdays, 8am-8pm, and weekends, 9am-8pm. It’s closed on Mondays.

Six blocks downhill from Molasses, on Knickerbocker Avenue, and across Flushing Avenue, sits Human Relations, the newest bookstore in Bushwick.

Human Relations offers by far the larger, more diverse book collection of the two stores, not to mention its Bedford Avenue pedigree. The store is owned by the sellers behind Book Thug Nation, a popular used bookstore in Williamsburg.

Corey Eastwood, one of four owners, says that he and his partners have been collecting and combining their inventories for 10 years. They met as apprentices on West 4th Street, running book tables outside the NYU library.

I want Corey to say why he and so many other business owners are relocating from Williamsburg to Bushwick.

“Williamsburg has changed so much in the last few years,” he admits. “We still like it there, but there is definitely more of an artistic youth culture here.”

Good enough. The Bushwick store is also 50 percent larger than the flagship on North 3rd Street, he says. The shelves hold somewhere around 12,000 books.

The collection at Human Relations is as varied as it is large. A quick perusal of the labels on the shelves shows that they sell comics, sci-fi, science-nature, poetry, history, classics, religion-philosophy-psychology, foreign language, New York, and erotica in a section labeled “filth and smut.”

Twelve thousand books is ambitious. And the selection is carefully curated. After I ask a few direct questions of Corey, being sure to use words like market and demographic, I watch his eyes glass over.

Didn’t they plot this Bushwick takeover like a military campaign? He shakes his head.

“It was totally just what-the-hell,” he says. “We’re not business people. We’re not marketing people. We’re just book people.”

Book Thug Nation had more inventory than its shelves could hold. Why not, the owners reasoned, rent a big storefront on Flushing, stock it with an exquisite selection, and wait for word-of-mouth to spread around Morgantown?

Still though, the bookstore owners are reticent to share much about the business end of things. Neither one of them keeps a shelf for business-related books. For the sellers in Bushwick, there is, after all, a measure of purpose to their work, a field preserved for noble ideals to coexist, however imperfectly, with a commodity being bought and sold.

I want Corey to admit that Bushwick is an emerging market for books. I want him to own up to having correctly anticipated the demographic shift.

“I actually think a bookstore can transcend demographics,” he says. “Sure, it might appeal more to a certain demographic. But everyone reads books.”

Corey could have said more, but it’s the end of his shift and he looks worn out.

On my walk home I think for the first time in years about the transformative power to be gained from reading the right book at the right time. A line from Milton comes to mind, the one that’s posted up in the New York Public Library:

“A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

Maybe the first-wavers have it right, and all that’s left for anyone in Bushwick to do is stand by and watch the whole thing get sold off to Disney. Except that what is happening here is the opposite of nostalgia. Property flips, values rise, leases aren’t renewed, and the compulsion is to sell what you have that makes you special. And yet gentrification has its perks.

Three Cuts Above Revisited! Barbershop Salons

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By Jon Reiss

As a man looking for a haircut in Brooklyn, one faces a quandary: barber or salon?  Barbers have been the go-to choice for men’s haircuts since Ancient Rome, and in the Middle Ages, barbers performed major surgeries. Today, they’re dependable for a quick shave and a haircut, often without an appointment, and are cheaper than a salon. However, there’s a tendency for barbers to have only two or three haircuts up their sleeve. And for a person with an oddly shaped head, or a flair for the unique, this just won’t do.

Salons, on the other hand, tend to give more interesting and creative haircuts, and sometimes even a little pre-haircut pampering. But a man is likely to feel a bit out of place at a salon, which tends to be filled with women and cost more than a barber. Your average barbershop cut costs somewhere between $8 and $30, while a salon cut can range from $40 to $500. Masculinity is also a factor. At your average barbershop, one might not feel masculine enough to live up to the often machismo-soaked standards of an old-school barbershop.

Fortunately, men across the borough, myself included, now have a third option: A hybrid of the barbershop and the salon. These establishments combine traits from both to produce the best experience for the hair-discerning male. Barber Shop Salons often are priced somewhere in between a salon and barbershop, and have a special focus on making men of all shapes, sizes, and levels of masculinity feel welcome. I set out to visit three of these hybrid “barbalons” in the span of two months, stating, each time I sat in a new cutting chair, “Do whatever you think will look best.”  The goal was to walk away from this assignment with a new go-to spot to get my hair cut.

Stepping Razor Barbershop
257 Varet St. Bushwick
(917) 586-7710

Danny Baptista is the owner of The Stepping Razor Barbershop as well as the singer/guitarist for Brooklyn psych-dub band The Cool and Deadly. Baptista opened the shop as a way to pull in money when he wasn’t away on tour. Baptista says there’s a number of different types of barbershops, including The” Greaser Barbershop,” which he characterizes as being inspired by 1950’s greaser culture. However, Baptista stipulates that The Stepping Razor is not one of them. “I like hot rods and stuff like that, and I do classic haircuts, but this shop is more inspired by low-rider and skater culture rather than greaser culture.” Located on Varet St., the Stepping Razor is a two-chair barbershop inside a backroom within the Post Bike Shop in Bushwick. Despite the notes of graffiti and skate culture, ever present at The Stepping Razor is that classic barbershop feel, with old style pomades, and barber tools at both stations.  Classic slick backs tapers, and high, tight side parts, are the haircuts Baptista’s been giving the most lately, cuts that are very much in his wheelhouse.

The Verdict: I learned two things at The Stepping Razor. First, that subculture can be an integral part of a barbershop, so it’s important to feel like one relates to the subculture reflected in the aesthetic of their chosen shop. I also learned that conversation is an important part of the whole experience. The conversation at The Stepping Razor is non-stop and before you know it, you’re all done. I walked out of the shop with a classic slick back, a cut similar to the one donned by Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire. For weeks I walked around with my hair slick, dressing in vests and button down shirts in attempt to match with my new cut.  I loved this haircut, however, I did find it was a style that needed fixing within a few weeks.

Price: Clipper Cuts- $20, Scissor Cuts- $25, Shaves $17

Defining Quote: “Conversation is an important aspect of it to me. I love that about the job, I meet new people every day and they open up. It’s never boring and I’ve learned to never underestimate people.”

Tomcats
130 India St. Greenpoint
(718) 349-9666

Joe Covington, co-owner of Tomcat’s in Greenpoint takes credit for bringing the hybrid Barbershop/Salon to Brooklyn. According to Covington, New York had nothing like Tomcat’s when they moved into Greenpoint in 2009. Having apprenticed as a barber for 15 years, Covington has a strong sense of what he’s going for and it’s certainly not the “emover,” a trendy haircut he refers to derogatorily marked by its sweep in the front that’s combed over the eye. Tomcat’s aim is to give “classic American haircuts.” The shop has a couple features that make it stand out from the rest, not the least of which is the cold fridge full of Pabst for waiting guests. Tomcat’s is clearly aimed at the manly male, with a 1950’s rockabilly aesthetic. According to Covington, “The Boardwalk Empire Haircut” is the most popular request he gets these days and it’s a cut he’s happy to give. It’s pretty safe to say that Covington is an expert at these cuts since many of his clients work on the HBO prohibition-era series, which shoots only a few blocks away in Greenpoint.

The Result: I really liked the way my hair looked walking out of Tomcat’s. It didn’t look like any haircut I’d ever had.  I looked something like an air force pilot from the 50’s.  However, I found myself unable to look that way on my own in the days that followed.  Other people’s haircuts looked fantastic as they walked out of Tomcat, however, I was unable to find a style that really worked for me with this one.

Defining Quote: “Our clients will walk out of here looking awesome. People tell me all the time that my haircuts got them laid.” “With a good haircut you can style it multiple ways and look out of the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or 60’s without compromising youth or style.“

Price: Clippers- $20, Scissors- $30, Shaves-$30

Manetamed
41 Havemeyer St. Williamsburg
(347) 799-1849

Walking into Manetamed it’s impossible not to be struck by the loud and vibrant art that covers every bit of wall space. It’s not uncommon in Williamsburg to find in art where one might not expect it, such as coffee shops or bars. However, the art displayed at Manetamed seems expertly curated, with stunning collage work by Secret Project Robot artist Cameron Michel and paintings by artists like Michael Krasowitz and Eric Penington. Manetamed owner Magdalena Ryczko takes the art on her shop’s walls very seriously and holds regular shows to welcome new work as it comes. In a sense, the art is comforting. Walking into a new haircut place, it’s reassuring to know that the person cutting your hair has an eye for aesthetics. Polish-born Magdalena Ryczko opened Manetamed just over a year ago and has built a steady clientele since. Manetamed, at first glance looks like a salon, except for the classic barber pole and old-fashioned men’s hair products at the cutting stations. Ryczko explained to me that this is because she considers Manetamed “a barber shop at heart” and that she “prefers to cut men’s hair, or at least short hair.” She continued, “It’s easy to make a big difference with a man’s haircut and men are more loyal to their barbers, while women shop around.” Longer women’s haircuts and layering, on the other hand, are the specialty of Manetamed stylist, Ana Benaroya. Ryczko admits that she likes working with artists. “I enjoy cutting the hair of people who are willing to try unique and creative cuts.” Most of her clientele she says, are artists and musicians (including members of the band Hunter Valentine, recently featured on Showtime’s The Real L Word,) although she also does kids, mothers and people of all stripes. Also available at Manetamed are sugar face scrubs invented in house, which, after sampling, I highly recommend. My haircut with Ryczko had all the trimmings of a classic barber cut including a hot towel neck shave. Ryczko says she is extremely focused on delivering the best haircut for a person’s head shape and that she specializes, even takes pride in, hiding thinning and balding men’s hair.

The Outcome: Ryczko truly rejoiced upon hearing my “Do whatever you think will look best,” mantra.  I walked out of Manetamed, thrilled with my new cut. It was something I’d never seen on my head, looking like a Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell- style crop with layered sides and funky line work. There’s no other way to put it. This place was my favorite.

Defining Quotes: “I worked at salons for years but once I started working at a barber shop, I started to love cutting hair.” “It’s not about what you take off, it’s about what you leave on.”

Price: Unlike most shops, the prices at Mantamed are elastic.  Men’s haircuts range from $30-$40, sometimes more for intricate cuts.  Women’s cuts start at $50, unless you have short hair, in which case it’s the same as a men’s cut.

“iPhone 6” Debuts in Brooklyn

Leon Reid IV, "Leon Reid IV’s iPhone 6", iPhone, cast resin, steel, enamel, 8" x 3.5" x 3.5", edition of 15. Photo courtesy the artist.

 

“Leon Reid IV’s iPhone 6″ (detail), cast resin, steel, enamel, 8″ x 3.5″ x 3.5″, edition of 15. Photo courtesy the artist.

Two days before the iPhone 5 was set to land on shelves at Apple Stores, Leon Reid IV preemptively unveiled his “iPhone 6” last night at his studio in Greenpoint. Wearing his Sunday-best charcoal suit and red bowtie, the 33-year-old street artist gave a Steve Jobs–style PowerPoint presentation that revealed all the stats about his new device. For instance, he said, it’s “three-times heavier than the iPhone 5” and “starts at $799.”

So what exactly is this technological breakthrough? It’s a fully nonfunctional sculpture with a real iPhone for a body and cartoonish arms and legs made out of resin. The character cradles a miniature man in its right hand and ominously threatens to poke the poor guy with an extended finger, just as we do to our own phones. “One day, we will live in a world where our smartphones are smarter than us,” Reid explained, “and we will be the devices for our smartphones.”

While the piece might seem to express a hatred for digital innovation, Reid emphasized that he’s a firm believer in technology. As a kid, “I used to take apart calculator watches and put them back together,” he said. “I wanted to be an inventor of technology or an artist,” but “I wasn’t good at math.”

The “iPhone 6” cannot be found in galleries or stores; for now, the public relations–savvy artist is hawking it directly from his website, in a small batch of 15. As for Reid’s own handheld device, he carries in his pocket “a Samsung flip phone, circa 2007.” The same year the first iPhone came out.

 

“Leon Reid IV’s iPhone 6.” Photo courtesy the artist.

 

“Leon Reid IV’s iPhone 6.” Photo courtesy the artist.

Yoga and the Pelvic Floor

Marisa Sullivan in performance with a yoni yantra in background (female sexual organ and geometrical portrayal of energy).  Photo by Catherine Fagen

Marisa Sullivan in performance with a yoni yantra in background (female sexual organ and geometrical portrayal of energy). Photo by Catherine Fagen

Ultra Yoga  

The importance of the female pelvic floor (men not excluded) explained through a Yoga perspective

By Sally M. Rivertones

Marisa Sullivan has been teaching yoga for over 19 years. She was a student of pioneering yoga duo David Life and Sharon Gannon in New York City 21 years ago. She holds to many tenets of Jivamukti method and includes spiritual teachings in all her classes that range from Alzheimer’s residences to traditional gyms, “but the physical asana practice I teach is much slower, has many more ‘anatomical’ teaching points.”

 

WG—How did you get into pelvic health from your yoga work?

Marisa Sullivan—My classes boil down to mindfulness in body, mind, and spirit; deep listening to Spirit and Inner Wisdom; Love, for life, Self, and the world around us. These concepts naturally lead to and unfold from physical practices that encourage breathing, sometimes sweating, unearthing strength, releasing, stretching, and relaxing.

As I got into my practice, after seven years or so, I discovered that my sexual life was hugely expanded. There was much more going on that I was directly participating in—I had more pelvic awareness. That moved me to explore the history of both female sexual anatomy and various spiritual sexual practices throughout history. I started teaching workshops and coaching women on their sexual anatomy and yoga and energetic awareness practices that lead to greater sexual self-empowerment, and sometimes greater orgasmic potential. About five years ago I found Leslie Howard, an incredible pelvic floor and Iyengar yoga teacher based in San Fransisco. Her teaching has greatly expanded and deepened my pelvic health work. Now the work I am doing is about the pelvic anatomy as a whole, not so much centered on the sexual piece.

Pelvic health is not a common subject, it might even be considered too adult for public consumption. What do you think?

It is and it isn’t common. Women quietly joke about it frequently and widespread throughout various ages and communities. There is the constant referral to women losing a bit of pee when they laugh or sneeze, but then the real knowledge of what is happening as we age, give birth, and practice trying to “get a flat stomach and tight butt” in ways that affect the long term health of our pelvic floor is not so well understood and less so the fact that we can so easily help our own pelvic floor systems through very specific exercises that teach anatomical awareness. One problem is that many of our medical practitioners have become so compartmentalized, we go to one doctor for this organ and another for that organ, but the body is much more interconnected.  And of course the pelvic floor has these holes—where we pee, poop and have sex—places that culturally, sadly, many have considered ‘dirty.” We shut out the sexual organs into a darker, more private, sector, when they are just too connected to all our parts to do that, and by doing that we suffer needlessly. I remember some useless physical therapy I was getting for my hamstrings, I said to my physical therapist, “I think this has much more to do with my levator ani, (a deep pelvic floor muscle, in under the sacrum and the glutes).” She laughed and said, “I don’t go to those dirty places, you must go to a specialist for that.” There are extraordinary pelvic floor physical therapists, but it is hard to get a prescription to see one, they rarely are in network, take few insurances, and so women (and men) who could use one can’t always afford or even ever find one.  In most countries in Europe, women get six weeks of pelvic floor physical therapy and reconditioning [after they give birth]. In this country we get nothing. Even the majority of women who have real post-birth issues are rarely informed about the possibility of getting pelvic floor physical therapy

Why is pelvic health important, and for whom?

Pelvic health is important because our pelvic floor is the bottom of the bag, so to speak, the floor of our organs, without a vital healthy pelvic floor there is little chance for our lower abdominal organs, or our diaphragm, to have any chance of being their fullest health and greatest efficiency. Pelvic health is important to everyone—I do believe many men suffer from poor pelvic floor health, most notably relating to prostate health, sexual issues, and low back pain, but women are more susceptible to pelvic floor issues because, while men have only one hole at the bottom of the bag, women have three. Pelvic floor health is especially important for women with fertility issues, post partum healing, and men and women who have any history of sexual abuse. It is important for people who sit all day—as sitting in a chair is the worst position for our pelvic floor. It is important for New Yorkers, because we have such a tendency to live stressful, striving, lives and have to hold it all in and live so close to one another. Many mysterious, misunderstood problems in the pelvic floor come from not a weak pelvic floor, but an overly tight pelvic floor. And many workouts and incorrectly taught Kegels that have women just randomly “squeezing and tightening” “down in there” lead to excessive tension and holding that is just as harmful and can cause incontinence as much as a weak pelvic floor.

You once spoke about how men sit with their legs wide open and let everything “hang out,” why is this an advantage over women?  And what can women learn from this?

That is funny that you remember that image so well. I think it is incredibly empowering and healing for women to recognize that our sexual organ is as big and potent as the male organ. The cultural conserve carries language and imagery that the female sexual organ is inferior and small compared to the male. I love to imagine a little embryo with all the cells to make up all he or she will be, and as male and female embryos differentiate the female erectile tissue doesn’t get smaller, or get thrown away, it is just hidden and spread around inside in all sorts of smart and healthy helpful places. As one of my favorite sexual anatomy writers, Rebecca Chalker says, “The clitoris is just the tip of the iceberg.” I tell women to think of those men who sit on the subway with their legs spread as if their male organ is so big that they have to take up more space and to own that sense of bigness inside of themselves. I have observed much healing in women understanding this concept. Connecting to that image during sex brings greater orgasmic potential and that in hand does wonders for urinary health as much of the erectile tissue is a padded barrier to protect the urethra and urethra opening during sex and if a woman engages in certain activities before she is fully aroused in all her tissues then her urinary organs are susceptible to infection.

The pelvic area includes a complex set of muscles, would you describe them.

There are a bunch of muscles and some have big complicated names, but there are a few simple images that open many doors to understanding. I do highly suggest reading some books on the pelvic floor anatomy and getting a clearer picture for oneself as a path to healing for anyone who is having issues. For the rest of us just having a few images will go a long way to better understanding. One thing that is helpful is to have a picture of the pelvic diamond, the area of the two belts of pelvic floor muscles that make up the bottom of our bag, and where they intersect. Muscles must attach to bone, so from sitting bone to sitting bone is one set of muscle that runs left to right, then the second set of muscle runs from public bone to tailbone, front to back.  Picturing the space between those four bones as a diamond and then working with that area being able to release and lift evenly is very good start to a healthy pelvic floor.

What are the most important things women can learn from pelvic work?  

The most important thing women can learn is that we must take an active part in our pelvic floor health. The benefit is that when we do we can avoid many surgeries and external medicine.  There is much internal medicine we can unearth in becoming fully aware of our pelvic floor anatomy and our tendency to hold tension in one place or another and have weakness in one place but be crazy strong in another. It is equally fascinating and depressing to learn that urinary doctors used to teach women how to correctly do Kegels many decades ago. Then they discovered that when women could care for themselves they lost money in surgeries that were no longer needed.  So the doctors stopped teaching the exercises. Now there is a big recall on the netting used in surgeries given to women to hold up their bladders and hold back incontinence.  The netting cuts into the organs and causes far worse damage than was there before.

What are some books that would be good know about?

The Female Pelvis by Blandine Calais-Germaine
End Pelvic Pain by Isa Herrera
The Clitoral Truth by Rebecca Chalker

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned from this work?

I still can’t get over that most women I talk to don’t know the double anatomical function of the G-spot and its great importance to our urinary health. The first function is the erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra and the urethral opening, protecting it from banging, and fluids from entering the urethral opening. Second function is female ejaculation, expanding orgasmic horizons!

Thank you, Marisa! Is there anything you would like to add before we conclude our interview?

I love the work I do, and I love sharing it with people. I run workshops, teach privates on a sliding scale and will be starting “clinic” afternoons once a month or so where I do low fee 30-minute consultations as well as full hour sessions. Keep in touch through my website at www.marisasullivan.org

 

Taste-Maker Mark Mangan on the Relaunch of Flavorpill

Mark Managan, founder of the popular culture website Flavorpill. Photo by Mike Mabes

Mark Mangan, co-founder of the popular culture website Flavorpill. Photo by Mike Mabes

By A.P. Smith

“Culture is a broad, broad word,” says Mark Mangan, 40, Co-Founder and Product Chief of Flavorpill, the hugely popular events listings website. “Some early definitions of culture refer to the evolution of the self.  ‘Culture,’ by one definition, is the shared understandings and learning of a people… the ability to learn and evolve the self, whether it be through books or films or performances.”

It’s a philosophical concept to take in early on a Saturday morning on only one cup of coffee. We sit on the rooftop deck of Mark’s Williamsburg apartment on N.6th St., overlooking Tops Grocery. Mark says, “Flavorpill has always been about helping you to live a more enriching, fulfilling cultural life.  And I hope that it can help to spread good ideas and log those good ideas and allow for people to communicate and collaborate.”

For a brand that operates in seven U.S. cities (8 if you count Brooklyn and Manhattan) and also London, Flavorpill does a decent job of “spreading good ideas.”

Flavorpill.com, the local events listing site, and Flavorwire.com, the national blog, together receive 1.5 million unique visitors each month.  And 500,000 people subscribe to the Flavorpill email newsletter, which is how this whole business got started. And now, more than a decade after its founding, Flavorpill is transforming, transitioning into an open source events listing, lead by its Co-Founder and Product Chief, Mark Mangan.

Mark Mangan, 40, was born in Queens and raised in the suburbs outside Philadelphia and attended The Episcopal Academy where, Mark says, “I wore a coat and tie and went to chapel three days a week and studied Latin and Greek and all that.”

He went to college at UVM in Vermont where he studied English, Philosophy, and French, spent a year studying in Paris. After graduating, Mark returned to Paris and worked for a year as a bartender. “A young man in Paris,” Mark says with a glint in his eye. “I recommend it.”

But compared to the United States, Mark says, “France is like a socialist country. In New York you can create a company for, like, $100. But unlike Paris, where you can get by living in a chambre de service, living in a maid’s room and eating baguettes… here, if you want be to close to the center, you have to make it work. You have to make it happen for yourself. You have to make enough money or you’re going to be ejected. There’s no little cheap maid’s rooms in New York.”

Jump cut to 1993: Mark lands in New York City and rents an apartment on 13th Street and Avenue B.  While walking around one day Mark runs into a friend of his from UVM. “I remember he was rollerblading down the street,” Mark says, “And he showed me this report, which talked about this new thing called the world wide web and Mosaic web browser created by Mark Andreeseen.”

Mark was intrigued. “I went looking for it,” he says. “I took my dad’s old computer out of Philly and plugged it in. It didn’t have the capability to go on the web but I found, like, Archie and Gopher and these other services.”

Very quickly Mark began to simultaneously navigate the World Wide Web and New York City. That same UVM friend got him a job working at a software recruitment company where he worked to make their first website, which was to help people get jobs.  “Hell, they could’ve been the first Monster.com,” Mark says. “But they were so focused on their core business, which was humans on phones recruiting people.”

After that, Mark worked at Agency.com and as the company grew and eventually went public, Mark incubated his first company: NetSet, NetSetGoods.com, an e-commerce website, which, for 1998, was pretty novel. “It was like Fab.com,” says Mark. “I started it with a friend of mine who’s a stylist to billionaires and an amazing character, Jason Campbell. He would go around the world and curate all these amazing things… I stitched [it] together, hunted down a merchant account. These days you can just use Shopify.  But back in 1998, it was hell.”

And that’s when Mark first cut his teeth as a businessman. He figured out how to balance a P&L, learned how retail works, inventory, shipping, raising capital. “I raised my first $10,000 for the business and I thought I could put that in and convert that and go from there,” Mark says. “I was naïve.”

That first influx of cash to the business came from the childhood best friend of Mark’s best friend from college. That friend of a friend was a man named Sascha Lewis and this business venture would be the beginning of a long, continuing partnership.

The two men ran NetSet out of Sascha’s apartment. They shared one computer to manage the site and used Sascha’s extra bedroom for inventory and shipping.

“We shipped to all 50 states and 15 counties and got written up in all the magazines,” Mark says. “But retail is hard; particularly if you’re going to try and hold the inventory.”

The whole operation was exhausting. Sascha, running the marketing for the company, was tired of sending emails advertising free shipping and other hooks, so to keep himself happy he started another email, once a week, listing just three great electronic music shows in New York City.

“No pitch, no sale,” Mark says, “Just something to keep the community going and people dug it. He’d write it, I’d edit it, and we’d push it out.”

This was 1999, the end of an era, and, as Mark put it, “the nuclear winter of the first .com meltdown. We couldn’t raise any more money, we were a couple months behind rent, just looking down the abyss… Those last few days I just grabbed anyone who was left, pulled them into a corner and asked them if we were to reinvent, what would we reinvent as?”

And that was when the idea gelled together: instead of curating and filtering product, why not curate community and content?  The name they came up with was Flavorpill and decided to christen Sascha’s electronic music email as such.

“There was Daily Candy and that was it,” says Mark.  “We just keep sending out this email.  It was text and there was no money to be made from it, but as we built it, more people were into it, and more people asked to be signed up for it, and that’s what drove us. People dug it, so we just kept doing it.”

Through this digital newsletter, which was very innovative at the time, they taught themselves how to send, deploy and track their emails. And that was how they first made money: operating and analyzing email programs for companies like The Tribeca Grand and The SoHo Grand.

“It took us about a year and a half to make money with Flavorpill,” Mark says. “The first ad to pay was Bloomberg.  They gave us $20,000 for a month of newsletter advertising.  We took that money and launched Flavorpill San Francisco.  That was 2002. And we just kept launching new cities.”

As co-founders, Sascha Lewis and Mark Mangan ran Flavorpill “like a two-headed beast,” Mark says. But at one point, their advisor recommended one person take the reigns and so Mark held the title of CEO until last year. Sascha is now the CEO and Mark is the Product Chief, responsible for a team of six who are working hard to continue to cultivate the network and product that is Flavorpill.

And this new Flavorpill is a big change from what Mark and Sascha raised and developed, not unlike a child, first as an email and then in adolescence, a blog and events company.  But even as big as Flavorpill has grown, it’s still very much a closed circuit of tapped curators with specific aesthetics and preferences selecting only a few events each day. It’s limited. And that balks at the very nature of the freedom and versatility of the World Wide Web as we know it today.  And Mark understands this.

“We provide a trusted list, and people trust Flavorpill,” says Mark.  “But at the end of the day, as good as we’ll ever be, we can only ever hope to be second best.  We can only be number two.”

Who’s number one?

“Your friends,” Mark says. “I want to create an open tool that leverages the audience we have already and the aesthetic we have already,” says Mark.  “We’re re-launching all of our products, re-launching the emails, doing a full redesign of the blog and re-launching that.”

The new product, currently in beta, is called Flavorpill G.E.L., which stands for Global Events Log. “The core of it is based on your interests,” says Mark. “You can follow certain curators, topics, and venues. Anyone can add anything to it but the only things that will surface are the events that are relevant to you.”

Talking with Mark about this change for the company and the brand, I can’t help but compare it with the changes that I’ve witnessed in Williamsburg.

“In New York you have to just embrace the change and hope that people do it right,” says Mark.  “Apparently the Empire State Building was put over this magnificent, amazing hotel.  Transformation—it’s part of New York.”

Having moved to N.6th Street in 2008, Mark said some of his friends told him the neighborhood was played out.  “No way,” Mark says. “This thing, this neighborhood still has so much juice in it. I think that Brooklyn, in particularly Williamsburg into Greenpoint into Bushwick is the most creative part of the most creative city, arguably in the world. And a lot of the reason why I live here is to be part of that, to be in the center of that.  In creating this new Flavorpill I brought my team out of the office and into my apartment here.  Because I wanted it to start here.”

And not Paris?

“Ya know,” Mark says, “Paris is great.”  And while looking around from his roof at the steel structures of rising, neighboring buildings, he adds: “but it’s a bit of a musty museum—nothing ever changes.”

Shopping Bags Filled with Receipts? No Prob for Greenpoint Accountants

Greg Austin and Ted Wozniak, accountants willing to hold your hand if you get audited by the IRS . Photos by Ben Rosenzweig

Greg Austin and Ted Wozniak, accountants willing to hold your hand if you get audited by the IRS . Photo by Ben Rosenzweig

By Keith R. Higgons

April 15th is one of the most dreaded days on the Gregorian calendar.

Embedded in Greenpoint, at 125 Nassau Avenue, in the DMZ that is currently Nassau, is A&W Tax Service. The owners, Ted Wozniak and Greg Austin, work to do the impossible: they work to “humanize taxes.”

They met working for one of the large tax firms and witnessed things they didn’t really like. They decided they could do better. It wasn’t simply a matter of charging a more reasonable fee; it was about understanding and treating clients better.

I walked into their office and was met by two attractive and friendly receptionsts. Just as I sat down, out bounded Wozniak, disarmingly dressed in jeans and a collared shirt. Not an accountant’s uniform. We shook hands and walked into the office he shares with his partner, Austin, who was dressed in khakis and a polo shirt. Wozniak’s desk was covered with papers and notes, and Austin’s was neat and orderly. I was immediately struck with an “Odd Couple” sort of vibe, but soon realized it was more than that: it’s like an accounting yin and yang.

The duo likes to break their business down to two types of people, “Those you can work with and those you can’t. It’s that simple,” says Wozniak. Between the orderly and stoic nature of Austin and less orderly and gregarious Wozniak, I’d be curious to meet the person that they couldn’t work with.

The rapid growth of our area is no surprise to the affable Wozniak, a local guy who has lived in Greenpoint for over 40 years. He loves the influx of new residents for the diversity they bring; not only the mix of personalities and cultures, but also the small business mix .

Wozniak and Austin would like to reach out to some of these new residents and businesses. In particular, those still compelled to send their taxes back to Manhattan, Westchester, or wherever. It’s not that they’re looking to disrupt a long-standing relation ship; it’s more about continuing the sense of community they believe in. They’re also genuinely curious guys and want to know what they can do.

Listening to Wozniak talk, you can see the pride has has watching his neighborhood grow. Of course there are growing pains: the construction, the traffic, the mustaches. But overall, he views all of these as good things, even the mustaches.

When I asked Wozniak some of the key things he advises his clients, he leaned back, thought about it for five seconds, and simply said, “Don’t’ be dumb.” He leaned forward and went on to explain that owning a business or being incorporated is not something you should treat as your personal bank. He used disgraced former Tyco head, and poster child for piggish corporate behavior Dennis Koslowski, as the perfect examples.

A&W Tax Services does it all: start-ups, large businesses, small businesses, partnerships, LLCs, business plan financials, personal taxes. They won’t turn you away.

Of course there are plenty of tax preparers and CPAs in the area, and both Austin and Wozniak are quick to point that out. Their goal is to walk clients through the arcane U.S. tax code to maximize its complicated avenues. Or as Wozniak said, “Anyone can enter numbers in a computer. That’s not what we do.”

Whether you file quarterly or annually, Wozniak stressed the importance of “understanding his clients’ needs,” in order to structure their filings effectively.

And should one of their clients ever find themselves being called before the IRS for an audit, these guys welcome it. They’ll go with you and hold your hand through the process. A typically stressful situation, Wozniak will disarm it and find the proper resolution for his clients.

The two men pride themselves on their deep understanding of the tax code and their ability to decipher and explain it. They invite you to meet them for a free consultation. The office offers multilingual services, with English, Russian, and Polish spoken fluently.

It’s never too early to start planning for the tax season. So if you are wondering whether that pink Izod you bought for the Come-dressed-as-your-favorite-Thirtysomething-character-BBQ is tax deductible, Ted Wozniak, Greg Austin, and the team at A&W Tax Services will help you navigate the labyrinth of our tax code and find out.

“Belvedere” Real Estate Developer’s Path to Yoga and Wellness

Mariola Zaremba, creator of Awakening, left a successful real estate business to dedicate her life to the business of holistic healing. Photo by Ben Rosenzweig

Mariola Zaremba, creator of Awakening, left a successful real estate business to dedicate her life to the business of holistic healing. Photo by Ben Rosenzweig

By Mary Yeung

Early this summer, a new wellness center called Awakening opened at 605-607 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. It is the brainchild of real estate developer, certified yoga teacher, and licensed esthetician Mariola Zaremba. She and her instructor partners have created a full-service center that offers spa treatments, exercise and meditation classes, and life coaching.

Zaremba, who’s 46, is a walking advertisement for Awakening. She has radiant skin and boundless energy. She also has a compelling life story to tell. Twenty-one years ago, she immigrated to the U.S. from Poland and settled in Greenpoint. Shortly after she arrived, she ended her first marriage and became a single mother of a one-year-old baby boy. To support herself, she worked as a home health care attendant and a waitress. “I have a masters degree in Special Education from a University in Poland, but I needed to make a living right away.” A couple of years later, her entrepreneurial spirit led her to open an employment agency, and later, an importing and exporting business. “I was exporting construction materials to Europe,” she says.

In 2002, she realized that real estate prices in Greenpoint were rising, so she teamed up with a friend, Chris Rostek, and started a real estate development business. They tore down old buildings and replaced them with modern condos they called Belvedere buildings, which residents watched pop up over the years with some amusement, as the buildings featured the same name, with increasing roman numbers. They worked together for three years before parting ways, but both wanted to retain the Belvedere brand. Today, Rostek is the head of Belvedere Bridge Enterprises (comprising the odd numbered buildings), while Zaremba owns Belvedere Partners, Inc. (the even numbered buildings). “Belvedere means ‘Beautiful View’ in Italian, but it is also the name of a very famous historical building in Warsaw,” Zaremba explains.

After forming her own company, Zaremba developed 10 Belvedere buildings in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The latest are Eco-Belvedere and Eco-Belvedere 1, a conjoined building that includes sustainable materials, water conservation facilities, a green roof, and an interior painted with VOC paint. Zaremba housed the Awakening Wellness Center on the ground floor and in the basement. “Eco Belvedere was awarded a Silver LEED certification,” says Zaremba. “We are the first company to build eco-friendly buildings in North Brooklyn.” But this was her last real estate project. She wants to focus on the Wellness Center.

One of the catalysts for Awakening happened in 2006. “I was diagnosed with melanoma,” she says. Suddenly, she had to slow down and take care of herself. She took up yoga and frequented spas wherever she traveled for business or pleasure. She took stock of her life. “Even before the illness, I felt I was missing something. My business was doing well, I’m married, and I have two beautiful sons, but the real estate business was very stressful. I felt I needed something more spiritual,” she says. “I have a lot of fire in my soul, and I’m in a business that generates a lot of anxiety. Yoga helps me relax and feel more grounded.”

Although she is completely healthy now, Zaremba’s brush with skin cancer gave her the idea of opening a wellness center for the community. Awakening has two spacious exercise and meditation areas, several well-designed massage rooms, healing rooms, a steam room, and an organic cafe where anyone can drop in and get a salad, fresh squeezed juice, smoothies, and sandwiches. It’s healthy and tasty food prepared by Chef Kyle Lowe.

Zaremba says she wants her wellness center to serve people from all walks of life. “Businesses are so segregated in Greenpoint,” she says. “There are places that cater just to hipsters, places just for the Polish. I want to welcome everyone: hipsters, locals, business people, artists, the young, and the old. I designed the center so everyone will feel comfortable here. This is a great place to meet your neighbors.” she says.

At Awakening you can get spa treatments like massages, facials, and steam baths; exercise and meditation classes, including yoga, tai chi, dance, and Pilates; and life coaching for weight management, substance abuse, and goal setting. Other exotic treatments include Vishesh and Shirodara treatments, Ayurvedic Face Treatments, Marma Chikitsa, and Garshana Abyangha. For those in search of a more mystical experience, Awakening also offers shamanic healing sessions with shamanic master Phillia Kim Dawn. “It’s a 5,000-year-old Peruvian practice,” Zaremba explains.

Zaremba says her own daily regimen includes Tibetan ritual yogic exercise. She takes probiotic supplements and juice, all on an empty stomach, to start the day. She drinks fresh juice to get vitamins instead of using vitamin pills. She also does cleanses. She says that since she started taking care of her body, she has lost weight and has more clarity in her thinking.

One of Awakening’s signature services is the full-body massage, performed by Ira Macner, who trained at the Swedish Institute and teaches at the Finger Lakes School of Massage in Mt. Kisco. “We combine many techniques in our massages,” says Zaremba. “They’re customized to your needs.”

A professional massage is one of those treatments that is very difficult to duplicate at home. At Awakening, you’re treated to candlelight, new age music, hot towels, and aromatherapy. Spending an hour with Macner is like taking a mini-vacation. You emerge from the experience feeling loved and re-invigorated.

Since its opening, Awakening has attracted many clients who are visiting a wellness center for the first time. “They tell me, ‘I never knew what I was missing all these years,’” says Zaremba. She touches on a story about a friend from Germany who had just gone through a bad break up and was emotionally and physically a mess. Zaremba designed a wellness program to help her heal. She was put on a juice cleansing treatment for 10 days, undertook an exercise regimen, received an anti-cellulite treatment, and underwent sound therapy involving crystal balls, gongs, and chanting. She also received shamanic healing, nutritional counseling, and massage. She went back to Germany and has since taken up yoga training. Zaremba believes that with so much stress in modern life, everyone could use a little holistic healing.

Awakening will offer weekend retreats in the spring. The center can be rented for bridal showers, community meetings, and wellness parties. Prices for spa services and exercise classes are quite reasonable. There are free trials, drop-in and membership classes, and special events and programs for children.

“Everything I’ve learned from my life has brought me here, from Special Ed teacher, to health-care attendant, waitress, and real estate developer. I’ve come full circle.” Zaremba believes that providing a sanctuary for people to heal their bodies and spirits is the most fulfilling work of her life. “I have found my calling,” she says.

Check awakeningny.com for class schedules and upcoming events.