So we recently talked to musician Rufus Wainwright about his new big plan for the summer solstice, or, as he calls it, Blackout Sabbath. He wants everybody to turn off all their lights and unplug everything in their house for twelve hours, in order to better think about how you personally can save the environment for the next year. He's even been collecting magnets so that people can hang their ecoresolutions on the refrigerator. "In American culture, the fridge magnet and things that are on the fridge are really a strong indication of what is going on in one's life," he told us. "It has a certain status in the household. It's almost like a little biblical in terms of, like, you know, This is the decree! Stamp it on the fridge with the magnet!" Indeed. We told Rufus we were impressed with his efforts to save the world and asked him about his efforts to save Britney Spears. He has said he is "probably the one person who can really help her." That's two awfully big goals! "Britney Spears is basically an analogy for the world. Whereas Judy Garland was an analogy for the world in the fifties and sixties, Britney is now," he explained. "Save the whale! Oh, God, that's awful."
Related:Rufus Wants You to Do It in the Dark [NYM]
One of the things that we love about Mayor Bloomberg is that he always makes an effort during speeches. He always has a joke handy, he's personable, and crowds always eat him up (who doesn't want to eat up a munchkin?). So it was last night at the Global Green USA Awards. "When I first got elected mayor, [my mother] said to me, 'Now don’t try to be witty or clever; just be yourself,'" Hizzoner cracked, to much general amusement. Then he went straight into his eco-themed speech, which touched upon a lot of his PlaNYC initiatives. And then he threw down the gauntlet to PepsiCo, of all people. "Coca-Cola Enterprises has developed a hybrid delivery truck," he explained. "This new truck produces zero emissions when it’s going very slowly, which is the only thing it’s ever going to do in our city … If I can start to get people saying, 'Hey, Coca-Cola is a responsible company,' then it’s good for Coke. They will make more money, and they will have an increased interest in investing in our future. And other companies will hopefully follow suit. After all, if you were PepsiCo., what would you do?" Um, bring back that commercial where Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Pink are gladiators? Is that the wrong answer? —Robert Fischer
• Two firefighters died Saturday in a blaze in the abandoned Deutsche Bank building adjacent to ground zero. The pair "walked into a horror show," as Spitzer put it, when they met a maze of protective polyurethane sheets that may have made the fire harder to fight. [amNY]
• With Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan dead, the finger-pointing begins in earnest. Mayor Mike decries Albany's lack of "guts" while state officials accuse the mayor of springing a fully formed proposal on them at the last possible moment. [NYT]
One advantage of that flooding that's bound to overtake New York? Deeper waters will presumably make it all the more difficult for oil tankers to run aground off Coney Island, as this one, the White Sea, did this morning. (Reportedly no oil was spilled.) See, a benefit to global warming: It'll make it easier to import oil. Perfect!
Oil Tanker Runs Aground Off Coney Island [AP via Crain's]
The conventional wisdom on Live Earth, last Saturday's Al Gore–wrangled series of eight concerts around the world, is developing: It was a big, fat flop, conservative commentators are saying — and they're gleeful about that, because, they say, it's upsetting Gore's supposed "grand plan" (Oscar win to Live Earth to Nobel Prize to presidency, natch). "The organizers … were hoping to attract 2 billion viewers to their cause but managed a slender 2.7 million," writes Nicholas Wapshott in today's Sun. And, yeah, wow, that's quite a failure. Except that Wapshott's number is totally wrong. He cites only the U.S. ratings for the Saturday-night broadcast on NBC. Though a relative disappointment in the United States, the concerts were seen in 178 countries on an array of platforms. Bravo, which carried the shows, registered its best-ever Saturday; on BBC1 in the United Kingdom, it snared 4.5 million viewers against Wimbledon. The shows also set records online, including an all-time viewing high on MSN with 30 million streams. Last but not least, there were also eight stadiums' worth of live viewers. In short, those hoping that Al Gore will "grow another beard," as Wapshott puts it, and skulk away will have to wait a while longer. Until a voting-machine mix-up in Stockholm County sends his Nobel to Rupert Murdoch.
Cringe-Making Concerts [NYS]
'Live Earth' Concerts No Big TV Draw [AP]
Another day, another company going green: Today it's Bloomberg LP (which, frankly, was a bit of a surprise; we'd assumed Mike's moneymaker has long been running on, oh, let's say discarded trans fats). It was only a matter of time, then, before we'd see some sort of backlash from the "traditional" utility forces. In California, L.A.'s Department of Water & Power (yes, the corporate villain of Chinatown) has pulled the plug on Gore Vidal's home solar-power plant, literally ripping out the wires and taking down the panels. Supposedly the system was improperly installed; now Vidal is back on the grid like a good little customer.
Al Gore's multi-continent, multi-hour Live Earth concert on Saturday was an impressive event for an impressive cause. But two days later, we're still trying to figure out just how impressively green it was, at least at its New York outpost at Giants Stadium. Gore, to his credit, rode Amtrak up from Washington, but, well, let's just say we're not sure everyone else made such an effort. At least some box seats at the stadium, we were told, had no glass enclosure — which meant that to keep VIPs cool, A/C was blasted on high throughout the concert, into the open air. The press was relegated to an aptly named media bubble, a giant off-white tent in the parking lot, which also offered A/C. (Not that we're complaining!) Volunteers stood by the trash cans, helpfully directing the garbage into one of three piles: compost, recycling, and “waste,” 90 percent of which, a sign promised, would be diverted away from the landfills. A man wandered through the tent, dispensing yogurt smoothies from a backpack connected to a squirt gun. There was no vegetarian option on the snack table — just ham and American cheese.
When we heard there'd be a "bazaar" to celebrate the green lifestyle at the new Theory store on Gansevoort Street, we hoped to find a carnival-esque atmosphere. Pin the Tail on the Kyoto Treaty. Bobbing for litter. Al Gore in a dunk tank. We were disappointed.
Though the vegan, soy-and-dairy-free ice cream from Pure Food and Wine was divine, the party the other night felt, well, earthly -- packed, as most parties are, with a bunch of people standing around and drinking. And listening. There's no surer way to kill a buzz than a long and impassioned lecture from Robert Kennedy Jr. linking our failure to combat global warming to a failure in national security.
Jay McInerney broke his foot running to hail a cab. Outside the Waverly Inn. Martha Stewart and Cosmo editor Kate White were among Glamour's "Top 10 College Women." Pete Wentz and girlfriend Ashlee Simpson cut the bathroom line at Wentz's bar, Angels and Kings. A documentary adaptation is being filmed of Crimes Against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s indictment of President Bush's environmental policy. Hugh Hefner praised a story in Elle that trashed some of his girlfriends, even though he told the girls he'd write a critical letter to the editor about it. Katie Couric had breakfast with Ted Koppel.
• Nine New York universities, including Columbia, CUNY, NYU, and Pratt, have signed on to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent by 2017. This exceeds Bloomberg's PlaNYC goals and should, the mayor says, "make a sizable dent" in the city's carbon footprint. [amNY]
• A 15-year-old Connecticut girl who disappeared a year ago was found alive, apparently imprisoned in a secret room of her parents' acquaintances' house. [NYP]
• Someone is destroying entire print runs, and harassing the editors, of the city's two Urdu-language weeklies that cater to Pakistani-Americans. This is perhaps an inopportune moment to say it, but how cool is it that we have two Urdu weeklies? [CPJ]
• More mayhem: A "strapping" and "burly" (in the Daily News' oddly swooning description) ex-con prowled the 2 train for a week, stealing iPods and gold jewelry plus kissing and exposing himself to women. [NYDN]
• And Frank Gehry is going to design a playground in Battery Park, as a "gift to the city." Aw, you shouldn't have! As opposed to Miss Brooklyn, which you really, you know, shouldn't have. [NYT]
A little freaked out about the 10 million gallons of toxic sludge lurking under Brooklyn and seeping toward the surface? Afraid it might be oozing toward you? You'll be thankful, then, for the efforts of Michael Heimbinder, a Fort Greene resident and member of the Newtown Creek Alliance. He's created an interactive map of Greenpoint, the most affected neighborhood, on which you can learn all about the occasionally escaping sewage and pinpoint known polluted spots. "I wanted to take the opportunity that the Internet offers to create the connection between what's happening in the city — air pollution, water pollution — and what's happening in New Yorkers' apartments," Heimbinder explained. Now you can know all too well. —Rebecca RuizExplore Newtown Creek [HabitatMap.org]
The Ooze [NYM]
Al Gore spoke at the 92nd Street Y last night, and crowds thronged the Upper East Side institution's Lexington Avenue entrance in advance of the talk. There were a handful of Gore 2008 campaigners, a group of enthusiastic — if basically nonsensical — Lyndon LaRouche supporters, (none of whom came from New York and most of whom were dressed in fat suits and leaves), and a great number of enamored New Yorkers. They stood around, confused and bemused by the LaRouchies, waiting for friends to arrive — mostly, alas, in cars — for the lecture. We asked them about their thoughts on Gore, the election, and their carbon footprints.
Who says the press doesn't like good news? Mayor Bloomberg's announcement today that he'll force the city's 13,000 yellow cabs to go hybrid by 2012 is, we'd say, splendid, sterling, superb. Some will argue he should have acted sooner; those people are small-minded. Some will say that this is all part of the grand scheme to raise Bloomberg's national profile in service of his 2008 presidential run; those people are thinking too hard. This is simply a rare case of a good idea whose time has come. Not that there aren't some politics at work: City councilman David Yassky, who was frustrated when the administration diluted his green cab proposal back in 2002, kept the issue alive. And by doing ecofriendly things that are under the city's control, Bloomberg adds some momentum to the push for his 2030 sustainability package, whose biggest transformations require the action of state and federal officials. Next up: Look for a Bloomberg biofuel initiative. The mayor inherited a city where public schools still burned coal. He may leave one that smells like soy. —Chris SmithBloomberg Proposes Energy Efficient Taxi Fleet [NYT]
Related:Uncool New York [NYM]