Only The Blog Knows Brooklyn Serving Park Slope and Beyond 2016-12-25T19:59:23Z hourly 1 2000-01-01T12:00+00:00 Welcoming the Stranger on Christmas Eve 2016-12-25T14:34:56Z oldfirst2DSC04249

Welcome the stranger. Reverend Daniel Meeter affirmed that message during his homily on Christmas Eve at Old First Dutch Reformed Church in Park Slope.  “If you are Christian, Jew, Muslim or anything else; no matter your beliefs or even your lack of beliefs, all are welcome here,” he told the packed church.

As a Jew, I make a point of attending that church on Christmas Eve. And when Christmas Eve happens to be the first night of Hanukah all the better.

In these dark times, these days of division and demagogeury, it is more important than ever to enter spaces that bring people of disparate beliefs together in an atmosphere of light and introspection. Sitting in the balcony of the church’s upper church hall, I felt part of this incredible community celebration.

It was an evening of lessons and carols. During the first half hour, Old First’s remarkable music director Aleeza Meir led a small orchestra in festive music by Bach and Vivaldi. The church filled, the candles were lit, the lectors took their seats. It was a time of quiet chatter and meditation.

Then all rose for a hymn: “Jesus is our childhood’s pattern: day by day like us he grew/he was little, weak and helpless; tears and smiles like us he knew; and he feeleth for our sadness, and he shareth in our gladness.” 

Reverend Meeter’s homily continued on this theme of Jesus’ smallness, his vulnerability, his being like us. He even quoted the great Joan Osborne song: “What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus,” Meeter intoned. “That’s it. Full stop. Jesus was a passenger on the MTA.”

Throughout the service, the lector’s rose one by one and recited passages from Genesis, Isaiah, St. Matthew, St. Luke, and St. John. And following each reading there was music. Glorious music.

It is a tradition at Old Church for one of the lector’s to be a staff member from Congregation Beth Elohim, a synagogue just a few blocks away. This year, the church welcomed the virtuosic Cantor Josh Breitzer to the lectern where he read in Hebrew and English from Genesis 22:15-18.

It was a night of great music. Michael Daves, a talented bluegrass guitarist and vocalist, led the congregation in “Go Tell it on the Mountain” and featured vocalists including Evelyn Troester-DeGraf, Merrill Grant, Jennifer Cribbs, and Jeff Cribbs gorgeously sang songs by Vivaldi, carols, and poems set to music by Aleeza Meier. The variety and the beauty of the music lifted this  Christmas Eve service into the divine hemisphere.

And yes, the orchestra was beautiful.

Perhaps the most stirring moment of  a night of many stirring moments came late in the service, when all the electric lights were turned off and the church was dark except for the flicker of candlelight. Cantor Breitzer sang the first verse of “Silent Night” in German.

“Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! Alees schalft, einsam wacht..” 

The emotional cluster of hearing a cantor in a church singing “Silent Night”  on Christmas Eve. Well, you can imagine the ecstasy and the poignancy of that moment.

Soon after, the lights were back on and the orchestra and singers led the congregation in a joyous “Joy to the World” punctuated by euphoric and loud foot stamping. Even this stranger knew to stamp along.

The crowd streamed out of the church into the unseasonably warm Brooklyn night. Infused with light, the evening gave me hope that a future is possible even in these uncertain last days of 2016.

Teaching Blogging at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School 2016-05-13T15:05:08Z 0f062206988da2f7e5ce609399248f4535c7dea1-500

Earlier this week I was invited to speak about blogging to the seventh grade at the Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS) in Forest Hills.

According to the school’s website:

The school follows the Expeditionary Learning model (, in which students engage in learning expeditions and have multiple opportunities for hands-on learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. Students participate in fieldwork with civic leaders, industry figures, and environmental scientists to examine agriculture, architecture, city infrastructure, design, environmental policy, law, and planning. 

Talking to seventh graders. I must admit I was terrified. How was I going to make this subject scintillating to bunch of 12-year-olds? Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The kids at MELS are really smart, cool and engaged. They are also embarking on a really interesting project that involves blogging. And sacrifice.

For the next few weeks, every one in the seventh grade is giving up one thing for the environment. Some kids are giving up meat or dairy. Some are going vegan. Some are giving up plastic bags or air conditioning. Some are going to walk rather than use cars or public transportation. And they’re going to blog about the experience every day.

The kids seemed really psyched about their sacrifice and very receptive to what I had to say. I was happy to fill them in on what they needed to know.

Their teacher, Mica Fidler, asked me to give the kids a brief history of blogging. I told them about the early days of hyper-local blogging in Brooklyn. I talked about the Brooklyn Blogfest. I told them about Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn. The kids were really interested in why I started the blog, what I hoped to accomplish, the challenges, how I monetized the blog, and how I dealt with negative comments.

We also talked about writing for a blog and the importance of voice. I told them the most important thing is that spelling and grammar matter. There’s nothing worse than having a spelling error pointed out to you by one of your readers. That said, it’s really helpful because if you’re like me and terrible about proofreading your own writing, it’s great that someone else is catching the mistakes.

All in all, it was a great day at MELS and a satisfying one for me. As I said to the kids, “What you do with  your blog can enhance your life and change the world.”

Dec 23: Best Free Political Comedy in NYC at Beauty Bar 2015-12-22T15:24:37Z The best FREE political comedy show in New York City presented by The Laughing Liberally Lab at 8PM on December 23rd, 2015 at Beauty Bar in Manhattan.

Hosted by comic, writer, and filmmaker Katie Halper, featuring comedians from Comedy Central, MTV, David Letterman, Funny or Die, The Onion, MSNBC, and the Huffington Post.
Katie Halper – WBAI’s Katie Halper Show
Justin Williams – Laughs on Fox and Men’s Health Magazine
Dean Obeidallah – Host of Sirius XM radio’s The Dean Obeidallah   show
Frank Conniff  – Mystery Science Theater 3000, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell
And more performers TBA
Beauty Bar, Backroom, 231 East 14th Street New York, NY 10003

Pamela Katz: Confronting Evil, Again 2015-12-01T18:56:45Z 29HANNAH-master675

In a column on Psychology Today, Pamela Katz, screenwriter of the film Hannah Arendt (pictured above) and author of the book The Partnership: Brecht, Weill, Three Women and Germany on the Brink (Doubleday/Nan A. Talese) asks :”Why do people commit acts of evil? How can we stop them? What are the social conditions permitting an organized group of people to justify—even celebrate—murder and destruction?”

In her compelling essay, Confronting Evil, Again, she cites Hannah Arendt, the sub ject of her critically acclaimed and award-winning film:

“Philosopher Hannah Arendt’s phrase, “the banality of evil,” famously defined the concept of how hundreds of thousands of “ordinary’ citizens could participate in World War II’s genocide. When Arendt was witnessing the trial of Adolf Eichmann — a Nazi who organized the transportation of innocent civilians to Hitler’s extermination camps — she raised the question still confronting us today in the aftermath of Paris, Mali, Beirut and most recently as we held our breath over Brussels: how do we simultaneously acknowledge the “unspeakable horror “ of the crimes committed against innocent non-combatants, with the apparent ordinariness of those who initiate and carry out such unspeakable atrocities?”

Read more here.

Gina Barreca and Katie Halper: Where are All the Female Political Comics? 2015-12-01T18:21:54Z hartnews-gina-barreca-20130507

On Wednesday, December 2, at 6PM, Katie Halper interviews Dr. Gina Barreca on THE KATIE HALPER SHOW(WBAI). They will discuss the dearth of female political comics. A Professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut, Dr. Barreca is the author of It’s Not That I’m Bitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Visible Panty Lines and Conquered the World (St. Martin’s). She has appeared on 20/20, The Today Show, CNN, the BBC, Dr. Phil, NPR and Oprah to discuss gender, power, politics, and humor. Her earlier books include the bestselling They Used to Call Me Snow White But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use of Humor and Babes in Boyland: A Personal History of Coeducation in the Ivy League in addition to the six other books she’s written and the sixteen she’s edited

A Podcast of the show will be available on Katie Halper’s website. 

Called “smart and funny” by People magazine and “Very, very funny. For a woman,” by Dave Barry. Dr. Barreca was deemed a “feminist humor maven” by Ms. Magazine and Wally Lamb said “Barreca’s prose, in equal measures, is hilarious and humane.”

Katie Halper has been “cute and somewhat brainy” by The National Review (of all people). She is a new kind of radio personality. A mash-up of Bill Maher and Emma Goldman, she uses humor as a portal to serous issues and serious issues as a portal to humor. In the process she eviscerates as she illuminates.

Halper’s weekly WBAI show (6 pm on Wednesdays) takes a humorous look at the news, politics, pop culture, and the arts through news segments and conversations with writers, journalists, activists, artists and political comedians. In addition to interviews with guests like Margaret Cho, Ta-Nehisi Coates , Halper writes and performs sketches like “Excuse You,” “Right Wing Erotica,” “Family Values,”  and “The Sixty-Second Rant.”

            About Katie Halper

Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comedian, writer, filmmaker and history teacher based in New York. A co-founder and member of the comedy ensemble Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, and The Nation Magazine Cruise. Katie’s writing and videos have appeared in Salon, The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Jezebel, Guernica, Alternet, Raw Story, Feministing and more. Katie appears regularly on HuffPost Live as well as MSNBC, RT, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once).

Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, the Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit.

Katie attended the Dalton School, where she has taught history, and Wesleyan University, where she learned that “labels are for jars.”

More about Gina Barreca:

Her books have been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Spanish, Japanese, and German. Gina, whose weekly columns from The Hartford Courant are now distributed nationally by the McClatchy-Tribune Syndicate, is a Professor of English and Feminist Theory at the University of Connecticut. She won UConn’s highest award for excellence in teaching and has lectured worldwide as the authority on gender difference in humor. Barreca has delivered keynotes on this topic at universities from Princeton to Perth. Her greatest strength, however, is connecting with her large and growing audience. She has delivered, often as a repeat guest, keynotes at events organized by The Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, the National Writers Workshop, the Women’s Campaign School at Yale and the National Association of Independent Schools, The Chicago Humanities Festival, Women In Federal Law Enforcement, Chautauqua and The Smithsonian–to name a few.

Barreca’s B.A. is from Dartmouth College, where she was the first woman to be named Alumni Scholar, her M.A. is from Cambridge University, where she was a Reynold’s Fellow, and her Ph.D. is from the City University of New York, where she lived close to a good delicatessen. As a columnist and blogger, Gina writes regularly for Psychology Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Huffington Post; she has also written for The New York Times, The Independent of London, Cosmopolitan, and The Harvard Business Review. A member of the Friars’ Club, a “Voices and Visions” honoree of the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame and the first female graduate of Dartmouth College invited to have her personal papers requested by the Rauner Special Collections Library, Gina can be found in the Library of Congress or in the make-up aisle of Walgreens.


When Kingsley Met Toni: An Excellent Interpreter of His Songs 2015-11-03T17:50:08Z toni headshot august 1small

Michael Kingsley has been writing, arranging and producing music for over twenty five years His songs are about “romance and love and the vagaries thereof,” he says. Some of the songs have spiritual subject matter. “Other songs are pictures taken in the moments of people in especially poignant situations,” he adds.

As a producer, Kingsley has worked with singers in almost every genre – classical, pop, rock, jazz, r&b, country, musical theater and hip hop.

Along came Toni, a German actress and singer from East Berlin. When Michael met Toni in November 2013, he was impressed by “her husky, smoky voice somewhat reminiscent of a young Marlene Dietrich with echoes of the Weimar cabaret period with a very slight sprinkling of a German accent,” he says. Because of her unforgettable instrument along with her personal depth and her ability to “alternately seduce you and break your heart in the same song”, the composer found in Toni an excellent interpreter of his songs.

Toni, who has released two singles with Kingsley (the third one is scheduled to come out at the end of November) has been waiting to receive an artist visa for the USA for over fourteen months. Kingsley says that even though “the commercial sensibility in Europe seems to be more open to poetic expression than in the US, New York offers the most stimulating artistic environment there is. “For Europeans, it might also be a way to a freer, classless feeling with fewer limitations on the artistic self,” he says.

Kingsley believes that Toni brings a certain “Europeaness” to his songs and that she provides “a strong but delicate and incredibly honest and tender reading for the ballads and a playful, sensual, edgy attitude for the rhythm ballads and uptempo songs.

At his studio in New York City, Kingsley is currently working on the arrangements of two additional and “distinctly different” songs that he composed for her. “A brand new melody that I hear her voice on just came to me this morning,” he says. He believes that Toni is definitely is on her way to “stir up New York’s music scene with her “disturbingly beautiful timbre that is hauntingly delicate. Listener, beware.”

You can hear Michael and Toni’s music here:


Skip Kid: Daily Adventures by Brooklyn Neighborhood 2015-10-29T02:23:18Z halloween-kids

Someone told me about Skip Kid and I just had to have a look. I’m not in the little kid business anymore because my children are 18 and 24 but I still like to help out the parents with young kids I know. So here’s the story of how Skip Kid got started.

Two moms met eager to get out of the house with their little ones, they searched online for local activities

“I wonder what’s happening in my neighborhood today…”

They found information that was out of date and incomplete; they found activities too far from home.

“We’ll never make it all the way to another neighborhood between naps!!”

“This information is from 2010!!!”

So they determined to do it better, they set to work creating skipkid, an up-to-date drop-in activity guide for parents and caregivers.

The line about “This information is from 2010!!!” really cracked me up.

Just saying.

I checked out the Skip Kid blog and it’s chock a block full of activities for parents and kids all over Brooklyn. At the moment they’ve got lots of stuff about Halloween. Reading the blog was a trip down memory lane reminding me of the stuff I used to do with my kids when they were little.


Skip Kids wants to make the lives of parents and caregivers a whole lot easier. Parents can check in daily for drop-in activities in neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn so everyone can have more fun.



Nov 5: I Loved My Cellmate and Other Tales of Love and Desire at Babeland 2015-10-28T14:51:54Z sexybook

Don’t miss the sexiest literary event in the borough! On November 5 at 7PM, Books in Babeland  (462 Bergen Street, between Flatbush and Sixth Avenues, BK 11217, (718) 638-3820) presents writers Katie Halper, Athos Cakiades, Karen Ritter and Gabriel Arana, who will read while you enjoy cocktails and sweets. Cakiades reads “I Loved my Cellmate” about an unlikely affair with his cellmate in a maximum security prison in Miami.

Fasten your seatbelts. It should be a great night. RSVP for this free event at Eventbrite. 

Arrive early; the first ten guests will receive a free gift. Curated by Louise Crawford.

About Katie Halper: Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie is a A New York based comedian, writer, filmmaker and history teacher, Katie is a co-founder and member of the comedy ensemble Laughing Liberally, and has performed Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, and The Nation Magazine Cruise. Her writing and videos have appeared in Salon, The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation, Jezebel, Guernica, Alternet, Raw Story, Feministing and more. Katie appears regularly on HuffPost Live as well as MSNBC, RT, the Alan Colmes Show, and Sirius radio (which hung up on her once).

About Athos Cakiades: A freelance writer who spent ten months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, Athos acted as a reference for a DVD rental machine (similar to a Redbox), though he didn’t own one, after being told it was not illegal. He helped to sell 3.5 million dollars worth of the machine even though he had never seen one in operation. He was twenty-three years old at the time. Acting and comedy are things he does now. He has studied acting at T. Schreiber Studio and improv at The Magnet, The PIT, The UCB. He hosted an indie improv night at The Queen’s Secret Improv Club. His one man show featuring nine original characters, “Cock of the Walk,” was a critic’s pick in Time Out New York. In addition to his prison memoir, “Exconomy,” he is also working on a YA novel.

About Karen Ritter: A veteran of advertising (and Books in Babeland), Karen has squandered decades crafting copy for clients as diverse as Dunkin’ Donuts and Weight Watchers. Persuading some people to gain weight and others to lose it eventually created a psychic split, galvanizing Karen to take refuge in fiction. She currently divides her time between two novels, The Other Ingrid Bergman and The Rabbi’s Assistant. Her humor pieces have been published in The Morning News and The Big Jewel.

About Gabe Arana: A senior media editor at The Huffington Post, Gabe’s work has appeared in numerous publications including Salon, The Nation, The American Prospect, The New Republic, The Atlantic, Slate, and The Daily Beast. He is the recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalist Association’s 2014 award for feature writing and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for his feature on the Proposition 8 case in California in 2010. He has been a guest on television and radio talk shows including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, CNN’s Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien, and NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Gabriel holds a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Yale University. He is a native of Nogales, Arizona and lives in New York City

About Babeland: Claire Cavanah and Rachel Venning opened the first Babeland store in 1993 in response to the lack of women-friendly sex shops in Seattle. The store offered top quality products, a pleasant place to shop, and most of all information and encouragement to women who wanted to explore their sexuality. The store’s popularity with both women and men has led to stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, plus a thriving and educational website.

About Books in Babeland: A thrice-yearly series at Babeland Brooklyn presenting authors on sex, love, and desire curated by Louise Crawford.

Oct 17-18: Visit Bernette Rudolph’s Studio 2015-10-13T15:30:57Z jungle04-small

This weekend (October 17-18, noon until 6 p.m.) my neighbor Bernette Rudolph will open her studio for all to see as part of the annual Gowanus Open Studios 2015.

On your visit, you will get to see how this artist transformed her typical Park Slope apartment into a working studio. In addition, you will experience the unique artistic point of view—in sculpture and prints—of this elderly artist of great distinction.

Rudolph’s basic medium is wood. Over the past fifty years, she has pursued many themes and subjects for her work, researching and exploring ideas that were meaningful to her at various stages of her life. “Wood has always been part of all my work, used for itself or as a component of the image,” she writes

She is expert at both a band saw and a scroll saw and uses fine wood, as well as discarded wood found on beaches. “Wood presents a challenge that continues to test my skills,” she writes.

Rudolph is also a master printmaker. In addition to being an exhibiting artist, she teaches art to children in her home. Her studio is located at 457 Third Street betwee Sixth and Seventh Avenues For more information, go to Bernette or bernette(at)earthlink(dot)net.

To learn more about the Open Studios, which are in Gowanus, Park Slope and Windsor Terrace and all the participating artists, click on this link:




PoetryFest at Irish Arts Center: Nov 6-8 2015-10-07T16:18:53Z  


Immerse yourself in poetry the weekend of November 6-8, 2015.

Irish Arts Center presents the seventh annual POETRYFEST celebrating Ireland and America’s great literary connection by showcasing an array of superb poets from both countries. The only New York festival of its kind, PoetryFest brings audiences and poets together for three days of readings, conversations, and signings in the intimate atmosphere of Irish Art Center. 

Here’s what makes POETRYFEST special:

—New York’s only three-day festival of poetry

‚—Most of the events are FREE

—Curated by poets Belinda McKeon and Aengus Woods.

—Presented in association with Literary Hub and Glucksman, Ireland House at NYU.

—Listen and converse with acclaimed poets in an intimate setting.

—Enjoy Friday night’s gala of favorite Irish poems read by all the poets and specially selected celebrities (to be announced). This event is not free, it’s a fundraising gala.

—Hear and meet acclaimed and award-winning Irish and American poets, including Fiona Benson, Ciaran Carson, Elaine Feeney, Leontia Flynn, Alan Gillis, Kerry Harle, Lucy Ives, Alicia Ostriker, Connie Roberts, Tracy K. Smith, Vijay Seshardri, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Wendy Xu

—After each event the poets will gather in the gallery to mingle with the audience and sign books.