It's Back To School Week in NYC!
I hope you're taking notes. Here, I'll write it in bold for you: Fire Principals. But don't expect to be spoon-fed like this after graduation. It's not like there's, say, a glossy magazine that tells people who lack critical faculties where to go and what to do. (Think they'll do a feature this week on the 10-day San Gennaro Festival? 9/9-19 on Mulberry St.)
The Heimytown faculty spent its summer on a research sabbatical, excavating notices about edifying events. What we discovered will shock you: Starting this Friday, there will be, at the Goethe Institut, a display of pencils from the private collection of Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell. "The World's Most Beautiful Pencils" (in celebration of Faber-Castell's 150th year of business in the U.S., 9/10-18, 1014 5th Ave. at 82nd St., 439-8700) includes the oldest known pencil in existence and pencils used by Ulysses S. Grant and Otto von Bismarck, respectively (the pencils used by both of them weren't all that beautiful, I guess). Count Anton Wolfgang von Faber-Castell will not, unfortunately, be on hand to receive thanks from America's students. Just remember, children, that he who owns these pencils is not only (maybe) the man who made SATs possible?he was also (perhaps) the inspiration for Sesame Street's beloved Count. Talk about your Masters in Education.
Another great teacher who reminds me of a Muppet is Flavor Flav of Public Enemy. Flav laughed like the Count during "Welcome to the Terrordome," but it's the less terrifying "Fight the Power" that represents P.E. on the new compilation of political hiphop selected by Flav's partner, Chuck D, for Rhino. Louder Than a Bomb hits stores this week, and it's a text you can dance to, with classic cuts like Stetsasonic's "A.F.R.I.C.A.," B.D.P.'s "You Must Learn" and Paris' "Bush Killa"?which might prove relevant again very soon?riding shotgun with Dr. Dre's "The Day The Niggaz Took Over," Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." and Jeru the Damaja's "You Can't Stop the Prophet" (Pete Rock Remix). The latter features a Count-like laugh by Jeru's nemesis, Mr. Ignorance, that chills the spine. Jeru's Black Prophet character was, of course, endowed with "super-scientifical powers" when "struck by knowledge of self." God I love that song.
And it's true about knowledge of self giving you power. Let me take a second to tell my own people that for those who don't know squat about our culture and heritage, the American Jewish Heritage Organization's annual High Holyday services for beginners will be held on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur mornings at the Loews Tower Theater. (Sat. 9/11, 10 a.m., 3rd Ave. at 72nd St., 439-8754; Yom Kippur service 9/20 at 10 a.m., same location.) No tickets or reservations necessary, and you might run into someone you recognize from Mount Sinai, where all Jewish souls gathered back when God gave the Torah to Moses. Or maybe that's just the guy who works at your drycleaners?I dunno, you tell me.
Saturday is also the National Day of Art to Stop the Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal?a holiday almost as old as Rosh Hashana but not quite. Let's just say that if poetry readings freed prisoners, Mumia would be as unleashed as Lenny Kravitz by now. (Lenny, incidentally, will perform his Nissan sport utility vehicle commercial and other songs Weds., 9/8, at Madison Square Garden, 32nd St. at 7th Ave., 465-MSG1, $35-65.) I don't want to sound like I've been hanging out with Mr. Ignorance, and I'm against the execution of Mumia because I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I can say with certainty that free-Mumia activists as a whole don't cut it as educators. None of the many I've heard from over the past few years even tried to convince me he didn't kill that cop. I'm supposed to join in telling the world he didn't do it just because he writes books and wears dredlocks. I don't think that's what Chuck D meant when he said "follow for now."
Chuck included my all-time favorite underground rap act on Louder Than a Bomb, and they're also down for the Mumia cause?knowing, I hope, a hell of a lot more about it than I do. I'm talking about Poor Righteous Teachers, the reggae-hybridizing Five Percenters from Trenton who made some of the hottest, least compromising hiphop of the pre-Wu-Tang era but never got much credit for it. They'll perform Friday night at a show for Mumia at Wetlands, opening for Dead Prez, who are renowned for their live act, and Heltah Skeltah, along with one of the scrappiest underground rappers of the moment, J-Live. (Fri., 9/10, 161 Hudson St. at Laight St., 386-3600, $15.) Not what my rabbi wants me to be doing on Erev Rosh Hashana, but at least it's a benefit.
This is the week that Lincoln Center gets under way with its new season, and while there is an event there I want to highlight let me first list all the advertisers in Lincoln Center's Sept./Oct. stagebill: The Mall at Short Hills. Range Rover, Lancome Lipstick. United Airlines. It's a haiku, you see. Now for that event: on Tuesday Nat Hentoff moderates a "Jazz Talk" between George Avakian and Teo Macero on "The Recorded Legacy of Duke Ellington." (Tues., 9/14, 7 p.m. at Lincoln Center's Kaplan Penthouse, Rose Bldg., 10th fl., 165 W. 65th St., betw. B'way & Amsterdam Ave., 875-5599.)
During the last year, Hentoff's Voice column offered the most compelling arguments yet raised against school choice. The reporter actually documented the existence of several excellent New York City public schools that would likely lose funding under the proposed voucher plan. It's hard to argue with what works.
That's exactly what a group called the American Menopause Foundation is trying. Declaring September "Menopause Awareness Month" (for those keeping score at home, a Heimytown pause for review: July was Hot Dog Month, and August was Anal Sex Month), this cabal of doctors sent out press releases apparently designed to coerce magazines into scaring menopausal women away from self-medicating with herbs. They offer an easy-to-read table titled "herbal medication toxicity," with column heads, "Common Name," "Botanical Name," "Purported Use" and "Toxicity." So reading across for, to take an example, "Passion Flower," it goes, "Passiflora caerulea," "Sedative" and then "Seizures, hypotension, Hallucinogen." Such bullshit! Pharmaceutical companies get not only doctors, but reporters, too, to slander their relatively safe, cheap and effective competition! For me, this?the medical/pharmaceutical monopoly?is our time's big issue, linking education with the health care crisis, racism (the drug war stems from it), the death penalty (why would a state so bad at deciding what substances are okay for citizens' consumption be any better at determining who should die?), school violence (the pharmaceutical co.'s don't want you to know about Harris and Kleibold's prescriptions?while it's obvious from their musical taste that those two needed a bonghit) and neocolonialism.
You won't see me bringing this shit up at the annual symposium of the American Menopause Foundation (9/13, 5:45 p.m. at Hotel Intercontinental's Astor Ballroom, 111 E. 48th St., betw. Park & Lexington Aves., 714-2398, $50 incl. buffet dinner), because I'll still be hungover from trying to save Mumia. But here are two facts. When the American Medical Association achieved, through an act of Congress, their monopoly on the right to practice medicine in the U.S., they were bloodletters. Write this down: bloodletters. Secondly, there are time-tested herbal treatments for the discomfort associated with menopause (and a lot of other ailments) that are at least as potentially beneficial as, yet far less likely to do harm than, the pill products pharmaceutical companies so effectively hardsell. Read books by Dr. Andrew Weil to learn more.
Now that I sound like a card-carrying member of the hemp movement (there're actually very few of those, because they tend to smoke their cards), I might as well promote Transportation Alternatives' Century Bike Tour, which is on Sunday. Chose from 35-, 50-, 75- or 100-mile routes, all featuring rest stops at zoos and parks, with refreshments donated by Ben & Jerry's, Krispy Kreme, Gatorade (now there's a nutritious meal) and others. At the end you get a free massage, courtesy of FingerWorks, and an organic cotton t-shirt, courtesy of Patagonia. It's $40 to participate ($45, day of tour)?call 629-8080 or check www.transalt.org to sign up.
I agree with Transportation Alternatives that cars are the public school administrators, the American Medical Association, of our city streets. There's an institution of utter nonsense illegitimately ruling the public indoors in New York as well?it's called the cabaret licensing law. I'm happy to report that one former "no-dancing" bar recently made its way through the labyrinthine trials of this absurd statute. Baktun will mark the occasion in the most appropriate way, "hold[ing] a party/gathering so joyful and full of dance that unreasonable ordinances and archaic laws will be reduced to a bitter memory." It's a 48-hour marathon, starting with the N'ice party (deep house) on Friday, getting more into techno all day Saturday with Matt E. Silver and Khan, Dirty and Rebecca Swift of Temple Records, then "Direct Drive" (jungle) on Saturday night, with DJ Wally, Cassien, Seoul and others, then the "Nice n' Easy" crew (featuring Kienyo & Tomo) riding out Sunday with triphop and abstract beats. (9/10-12, 418 W. 14th St., betw. 9th Ave. & Washington St., 206-1590 or www.baktun.com, $10.) On that note, be aware of Friday night's set by DJs Tayla and D.R.S., of the UK's Goodlooking records, offering a rare Stateside dose of the "rolling" (i.e., jazzier) jungle style they do over there. That's at the "Above the Clouds" party at Speeed, and it's a benefit for AIDS awareness charities. (9/10, 20 W. 39th St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves., 252-4480, $12.)
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