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Beast Mode Nation


Recently, at two a.m. Eastern time, a cold, calculated decision was made. The party in question had the chance to take a moral stand, but vanity and financial concerns ultimately drove the process. Yes, the owners of the Minnesota Vikings made a cowardly, middle-of-the-night decision to indefinitely suspend star running back Adrian Peterson after sponsorship pressure from Anheuser-Busch, Nike and Radisson hotels. But a few two a.m.’s prior, when Peterson’s playing status still looked favorable, I tried to add him off the fantasy wire. You may know Peterson as one of five active NFL players currently charged with or convicted of domestic violence, and one of two to say something incredibly stupid about disciplining a child. Given the photographs that have emerged, Peterson contending he’s “not a child abuser” is ridiculous. But what to make of Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush’s claim that he disciplines his one-year-old daughter harshly, but tries not to leave bruises? And what about the fact that I also own Bush on a team I named after my eight-week-old daughter? Fantasy football is growing exponentially every year, and with it the awkward reality of profiting from violence. In my league, each participant pays $20 at the start of the season, and the winner receives $280 for their months of fretting and lineup tinkering. Even beyond the cash prize, we derive a certain pride from predicting which large violent man will outperform his similarly brutal peers on Sundays. Prognosticating serves as a kind of magic trick of intelligence: We gawk at the faux-opulence of Vegas sports desks and think, why not us? Amidst the NFL’s domestic violence crisis, it has seemed natural to condemn individual players for their off-field brutality and individual administrators for their incompetence. After TMZ published videos of Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée, even Chris Brown told him he was in danger of “becoming a monster.” Commissioner Roger Goodell acted too leniently in assigning Rice a two-game suspension, and now is doing little more than holding press conferences full of platitudes and devoid of real answers. Media members and advocacy organizations have called for Goodell to be fired, and I can’t disagree with their sentiment. But what will the firing of one man do to quell the apathetic, jaded, narcissistic stew in which, to some extent, we all bubble? When New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand revealed sexist remarks made by her male colleagues, many questioned why she wouldn’t name them. She responded that these issues are systemic, and that outing a few individuals to “make examples of” does nothing to address the heart of the problem. It’s easy to look at the NFL and be disgusted by its nonchalant, dehumanizing violence. It’s more difficult to look at ourselves and see the same thing. Photo courtesy of Flickr CONNECTS_NFL

by Austin Murphy-Park

Oct 1, 2014

O Captain! My Captain!


When I introduced my future husband, Charlie, to my family as the love of my life, they didn’t bat an eye, but when they learned he was a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan who hated the New York Yankees, there were a few raised eyebrows. Knowing, though, that the only place to be in New York City this past Thursday was Yankee Stadium, for Derek Jeter’s final home game, Charlie spent a small fortune to buy six tickets for all of us. That’s the power of Derek Jeter. The rain finally stopped by 7:05 p.m., and Jeter stepped on the field for his first ovation of the evening. As video tributes from fans, teammates and rivals played on the gigantic Diamond Vision screen, we chanted, “DER-ek JEE-ter” and “Thank You, Jeter!” over and over. (He later described the game, fittingly, as an “out-of-body experience.”) It didn’t matter that Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda surrendered two consecutive home runs in the first inning to give the Baltimore Orioles a 2–0 lead; New York had already been eliminated from the postseason. This night was all about Jeter. Every time he stepped up to the plate, the Stadium erupted and cameras flashed as though it really were a World Series game. The Yankees took a 5–2 lead into the ninth inning, but relief pitcher David Robertson gave up two home runs, allowing the Orioles to tie. Yet Robertson’s blown save set up the perfect ending to Jeter’s Yankee Stadium farewell: In classic fashion, Captain Clutch hit a game-winning single on his final at-bat. The crowd exploded, the tears flowed, and another serendipitous Jeter play was added to “the Dive,” “the Flip” and the home run he had delivered as his 3,000th hit. stadium_insetWaiting to congratulate him on the field were his former teammates Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez—and of course his beloved former manager, Joe Torre. “They’re like my brothers,” Jeter said, “and Mr. T. was like a father.” As the crowd continued to roar and chant his name, Jeter crouched, seemingly overcome with emotion, at the shortstop position he had occupied for 20 seasons. Jeter arrived in New York in 1996 as a 21-year-old rookie; after 3,463 hits, 14 All-Star Games and five World Series wins, it was all over. “Everyone has a dream,” the perpetually classy Jeter said. “Mine happened to be playing baseball for the Yankees.” And now, at the age of 40, after giving his fans one storybook ending after another, Jeter will begin producing books in his own right. The first title for Simon & Schuster’s newly launched Jeter Publishing imprint, The Contract, will be a children’s book about his amazing life. The outpouring of love for Jeter during the game was palpable. Fans cried openly as Mr. November tried to keep his own emotions hidden. “Don’t cry!” Jeter replied when asked what he’d been thinking during his last Yankee Stadium at-bat. Modest to the end, he told the cheering crowd, nearly 49,000 strong, “I want to thank everyone here. I’ve said it time and time again. Everybody, the fans, are saying, ‘Thank you, Derek.’ I’m saying to myself, ‘For what?’ I’m just trying to do my job. Thank you guys.” As we left the Stadium, my niece Ashley broke down in tears, wrapped her arms around Charlie and sobbed out her thanks. Jeter told The New York Times he wants to steal the sign that hangs in the clubhouse tunnel, the one that reads, “I want to thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.” I don’t know if Jeter left with his souvenir, but I do know I thank the good Lord for making him a Yankee—to my mind, the greatest Yankee of all time. Photos courtesy of Colin J. Warnock CONNECTS_Derek Jeter

by Colin J. Warnock

Sep 30, 2014

Long Live the Queens


Is there any performing art more exciting, fun, engaging and glamorous than drag? With RuPaul reigning over the airwaves, Hedwig dominating Broadway and Conchita Wurst in first place at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, drag is in the spotlight. That’s certainly true in New York City, where many queens get their start and where Wigstock, the first major drag fest, rocked the East Village throughout the 1980s and 90s. Wigstock’s days are, sadly, behind us, but thankfully, Bushwig, a Brooklyn-based drag fest that this month held its third celebration of all things outré, has taken up the cause and is quickly burgeoning into a tradition beloved throughout the borough. Held at Secret Project Robot in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, the fest attracts queens and queers who eschew garden-variety cabaret acts for weirder material. Performers range from downtown mainstay Penny Arcade to recent Paper magazine cover girl Merrie Cherry, and the dress code includes everything from glittery beards to wigs fashioned from household goods to nothing at all. In addition to local news outlets and even a documentary crew working on a feature-length film about the festival, this photographer was on hand during the peak moments of Bushwig 2014. BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH1 A demure queen greets the crowd channeling Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH2 Drag queen Biblegirl666 (right) channels Adore Delano and Bianca Del Rio—or is it the other way around?   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH3 As readers may imagine, this robe didn’t stay on for long.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH4 Bushwig regular Didi Boniva looks like Edith Head’s hot daughter.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH5 A flawlessly coiffed audience member throws some charming shade.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH6 A color palette like a Jack White music video, a seamless eyebrow coverup and redraw, and perfectly matched wig and facial hair? Helvetika [sic] Black gets a 10 for makeup!   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH7 Bushwig mainstay Untitled Queen, who last year performed Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” as the Wicked Witch of the West, turned the tables and appeared in fairytale princess garb.   BUSHWIG_NORTHCAVANAUGH8 Bushwig admission is discounted for everyone arriving in drag. Photos courtesy of Scarlett North-Cavanaugh CONNECTS_Bushwick-Bklyn

by Scarlett North-Cavanaugh

Sep 30, 2014

Recovered Memories, Hard Truths


Last year, that redoubtable rag The New York Review of Books—what my grad-school chums used to call “The New York Review of Each Other’s Books”—celebrated its 50th year of publication. Tonight, HBO will broadcast The Fifty-Year Argument, a documentary directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi feting the journal’s founding, history and legendary editor, Robert Silver. I discovered NYRB in college; it was where I first saw the name Jacques Derrida. I immediately stole the public library’s copy of Of Grammatology, which I won’t pretend I read, back then, with even the petite-est soupçon of comprehension. It was in the NYRB’s pages that I first encountered poems by C.P. Cavafy; one, “The Bandaged Shoulder,” instantly taught me that poetry could set my mind and soul on fire and give me a hard-on, all at once. And the NYRB introduced me to Stephen J. Gould, Garry Wills, Cynthia Ozick, all sorts of writers I never met up with on my syllabi. I think every college student ought to be given a subscription, gratis, on the day he or she matriculates. But enough praise. When assigned this post, I found that thinking about the NYRB tripped two memories I’d plumb forgot I had. The first is both amusing and not. Back in pre–internet dating days, NYRB was renowned for its personals, which purportedly enabled like-minded intellectual types (mostly hets) to hook up for romantic walks on Hamptons beaches and “maybe more.” My dear friend the late Romanian poet Nina Cassian, who 25 years ago was exiled in New York, lonely and hunting for a husband, decided she’d give the Review’s personals a try. Rather to her amazement, her ad worked: She landed scads of dates. But the guys were invariably widowers or divorcés who just wanted to snare a replacement wife to cook for them, vacuum the apartment, do the laundry, etc. They all seemed fundamentally uninterested in a glamorous, scintillating, accomplished, witty, sexy woman who was constitutionally incapable of household drudgery. Nina’s stories about these losers were hilarious, but it was also depressing to learn that most men are pigs—even NYRB readers. (Nina did eventually find herself a suitable mate, but not through the New York Review.) The second memory concerns David Levine, who produced thousands of caricatures (like the one pictured above) for the Review from just after its founding until shortly before his death in 2009. It suddenly came back to me that once, with a mutual friend, I visited Levine’s studio in Brooklyn Heights. How could I have forgotten such a privileged and interesting experience? Levine was grumpily charming and disheveled (as was his studio), and he was timidly eager to show us his “real” work, opening flat-file drawers and pulling out dozens of muddy-hued watercolors—portraits, crowd scenes, beachscapes—that were both delicately rendered and psychologically disturbing, like Prendergasts painted with Daumier’s palette and sensibility. They were really very good, but Levine wasn’t famous because of them. The caricatures were his paying gig, and he seemed to resent it. Maybe I had my first glimmer, then, of the hard truth that what you’re paid to do—especially if you’re great at it—can rob you of who you want to be, and what you’d like to be known for. In The Fifty-Year Argument, writer Colm Tóibín, himself a frequent NYRB contributor, says of his early experience of the journal, “The New York Review of Books actually mattered, as a crucial part of our lives.” I feel similarly. The NYRB opened worlds to me, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from it, both directly and, as you see, indirectly. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia CONNECTS_NYRB

by James Waller

Sep 29, 2014