No Judging About Gay Players on Basketball Courts

At the West Fourth Street basketball courts in Manhattan, which draw players from all over the city, Jason Collins's coming out raised few eyebrows.Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times At the West Fourth Street basketball courts in Manhattan, which draw players from all over the city, Jason Collins’s coming out raised few eyebrows.

The West Fourth Street basketball courts in Greenwich Village, known far and wide as the Cage, draw some of the toughest and best streetball players from across the city. And on Tuesday, as the sporting world absorbed the news that the journeymen N.B.A. center Jason Collins had come out as gay, the denizens of the Cage said, by and large, that it made no difference to them.

“His personal life is his own,” said a 60-year-old man who goes by the name Coach and has been playing and coaching at West Fourth Street for 30 years. “Nobody can tell me who in the morning I’m going to get up and smell their breath. We’ve raised gay people here. No jokes, no discrimination. I’ll critique your game but not your personal life.”

Across the East River at the Rodney Park North courts on the south side of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the reaction was much the same.

Here are some voices from the two courts:

From the Cage:

“There are a lot of gay players here but the only ones who admit it are the girls. But, still, today is better than yesterday for them.” – Vince, a coach and player from Jersey City in his 50s.

“It’s a great start, but they need a bigger star who’s more relevant to come out to really make a difference.” — Michael Watson, 23, who lives in Manhattan and works in a nightclub.

“I’d still play with him. I wouldn’t shower with him, though.” — Joseph Washington, 24, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

“I just finished playing with a gay guy here. It doesn’t change anything. He’s not changing the United States anyway, because everybody is going to have different views.” — Stephen Williams, 22, of the Bronx.

“He’s his own person. You got to be true to yourself sometimes. If he’s O.K. with it, everyone else should be,” — Shariff Webb, 21, of Queens.

From the Rodney Park courts in Williamsburg:

“It’s just something he’s had throughout his childhood, I don’t see nothing wrong with that. This is what Hollywood, the media, celebrities, does. But really it’s no big deal.” — Wady Capellan, 19.

“As long as he respects boundaries, it shouldn’t affect the basketball court.” — Bill Baez, 19.

“This is the South Side. We see gay people walking around all the time. It’s normal. If you’re gay, you’re gay.” — Ruder Perez, 17.

The TV Teaser That Depresses

It’s only Tuesday, but we can already declare a winner in the competition for the Most Attention-Getting Press Release Teaser of the Week. It’s Animal Planet, which on Tuesday morning sent around an e-mail with this in the subject field: “The Search Is on for the Best Hooker in America.”

Of course, Animal Planet also wins the prize for Biggest Press Release Letdown of the Week with the same e-mail, which it turns out is plugging a fishing show called “Top Hooker.” But for a brief moment, the mind raced with questions. How? What format? Would there be auditions? Who would judge such a contest? Perhaps the men from the repulsive Showtime series “Gigolos,” which claims to be a reality series about sex-for-hire studs?

The main question, though, is, Would someone actually make a talent competition show for prostitutes? And the dismaying answer is, do you even have to ask? It’s amazing no one has done so already.
Prostitution has certainly made its way onto television. HBO’s icky “Cathouse” franchise, about the Moonlite Bunny Ranch brothel in Nevada, has been going for years. Cinemax has “Working Girls,” a “Cathouse” spinoff of sorts.

These and other sex-fantasy charades, though, contain no more “reality” than “Gigolos” does, since central elements of the prostitution world — drug addiction, disease, violence, sexual slavery — are nowhere to be found in them. Yeah, “America’s Best Hooker” sounds like a terrific idea for a reality competition series, until you think about it too long.

Searching for a Fierce and Entirely Unwelcome Fish, the Snakehead

Anthony Lugo fished in the Harlem Meer on Tuesday, near a sign warning anyone who catches a northern snakehead, which is an invasive species, not to throw it back in the water.Todd Heisler/The New York Times Anthony Lugo fished in the Harlem Meer on Tuesday, near a sign warning anyone who catches a northern snakehead, which is an invasive species, not to throw it back in the water.
The northern snakehead, referred to by some as fishzilla, is a voracious predator, eating just about anything in its path.Jack Grubaugh, via The Commercial Appeal/University of Memphis, via Associated Press The northern snakehead, referred to by some as fishzilla, is a voracious predator, eating just about anything in its path.

The Harlem Meer, a lake in the northeastern corner of Central Park, has long been a refuge for city people looking to indulge their inner Huck Finns, whiling away a lazy summer afternoon fishing for bass, yellow perch and black crappies.

But late last week, signs started popping up around the lake notifying anglers of the arrival of an intruder. The dreaded northern snakehead, a fierce predator common in the rivers and lakes of Asia but considered an invasive species in American waters, had been spotted.

The warning to anglers was clear: If you catch this fish, do not release it. Contact the authorities immediately. It does not belong and could radically alter the local fish population.

The snakehead is a relentless and efficient predator that devours just about everything in its path — fish, frogs, crayfish, beetles and aquatic insects. And it does not meet death easily; it is able to survive under ice or live on land for days in damp conditions. It has been called Fishzilla.

“I would describe them as the freshwater fish equivalent of a tank,” said Ron P. Swegman, a fly-fishing expert and author whose writings about fishing in Central Park include an essay, “Bright Fish, Big City.”

“They are heavily armed,” he said, “strong, and can cover almost any territory, aquatic and — at least for short periods — on land.”

Anytime something truly wild makes an appearance in this city built by man, it attracts attention. Give the creature a torpedo-shaped body that can grow to more than three-feet long, a jaw that stretches back well beyond its eyes and a reputation for being both a voracious eater and prodigious breeder and you can set off, well, a feeding frenzy of curiosity.

Mr. Swegman said that the local fishing community was obsessed with the fish, with regulars even wagering on who would be the first to catch a snakehead.

When he was fishing with a friend on the lake Friday, just as the signs started to appear, the friend claimed to have hooked one, reeling it in close enough to see, before it escaped. “That is a true story,” Mr. Swegman said.

On Tuesday night, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will begin a survey of the lake. They will try to verify the sightings, determine how many snakeheads there might be and gauge the threat it poses to other wildlife.

State wildlife officials will use an electro-fishing boat,which releases electric current just beneath the vessel to temporarily stun nearby fish. The fish can then be scooped up in nets and examined on shore.

The results of the survey will not be finished until later in the week, said Melissa Cohen, a regional fisheries manager for the department.

“We got a call few months ago that an angler might have caught one,” she said, but that report was unverified. More recent reports prompted park officials to put up the signs.

If snakeheads have established themselves in the lake, she said, someone probably released the species into the lake, perhaps hoping to create a population for later fishing.

The northern snakehead is common in the lakes and streams of China, Korea and Russia but they are not native in American waters. The threat posed by the fish should not be underestimated, wildlife officials said.

The possession, sale and transport of live snakeheads was prohibited by federal law in 2002.

However, they remain a persistent presence in Chinese fish markets across the city, officials said. For many, the fish is prized not only as a meaty, savory ingredient in stew, but for its supposed healing properties.

After the seizure of 353 live snakeheads at Kennedy International Airport on the eve of the 2010 Chinese New Year, an investigation led to the arrest of a local wholesaler in 2011 who illegally imported thousands of snakeheads and sold them from a shop in Brooklyn.

Ms. Cohen said a single snakehead turned up in the Harlem Meer in 2008 and that the fish has recently established a presence in Meadow Lake in Queens.

It remains unclear why the snakeheads in Queens have not decimated the other fish population, but Ms. Cohen speculated that it could have to do with the relatively high salinity of the water. The Meer has a much lower salinity level and therefore could be more conducive to the snakehead.

Since there is not much likelihood that the fish will migrate out of the lake, Ms. Cohen said, if snakeheads are found they will be monitored rather than eradicated.

That is a less aggressive approach than authorities took in 2008, when they found the snakehead in Ridgebury Lake and Catlin Creek in upstate New York. Authorities, fearing that the fish could migrate into the waters of the Hudson River and wreak havoc in the ecosystem across the state, used an aquatic pesticide to kill the snakeheads.

Still, the snakeheads in the Harlem Meer threaten many other fish in what has become one of the city’s most popular fishing holes since it was renovated in the 1990s.

“It has a very wild profile,” Mr. Swegman said. “There are reed beds, lots of curves, nooks and crannies. It is not like you are fishing a swimming pool, it actually has the profile of a really natural lake.”

And the signs warning of the snakehead lent the Meer a touch more of the wild.

On Tuesday, many of the regulars had a tale to tell about a snakefish spotting. And while some hoped to be the first to catch one, others preferred to keep their distance.

Dwayne Coleman, 53, said he preferred more docile fish like bluegills, bass and carp.

“I don’t want to see them!” he said, as he tossed a sunfish back in the lake. “Scared of ‘em.”

If he lands one of the sharp-toothed invaders?

He smiled.

“I’m going to run,” he said.

Vivian Yee contributed reporting.

An Evening with Salter, Ford — and Bascombe

James Salter, left, speaking with Richard Ford at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night.Nancy Crampton James Salter, left, speaking with Richard Ford at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night.

The acclaimed novelists Richard Ford and James Salter shared the stage at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night, accompanied by a surprise guest —Frank Bascombe.

Mr. Ford appeared first, sending a charge through the crowd when he announced he would be reading from a new story starring Bascombe, which he started writing in January. He called the story “Falling Forward.”

Bascombe, often compared to John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom, another American male searching his way through life over the course of several novels, has appeared in three books: “The Sportswriter,” “Independence Day” and “The Lay of the Land.”

In 2007, Mr. Ford told an interviewer, “This is the end of this particular movement in my life, to write about Frank and New Jersey. I’m not going to do that anymore.”

Last seen, Bascombe was 55 and the country was living in the turbulent wake of the Bush-Gore election. In the excerpt Mr. Ford presented on Monday night, Bascombe is 67, retired from the realty business, narrating his life in the weeks before Christmas and after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Mr. Salter, 87 and in fighting shape, read an extended passage from “All That Is,” his first novel in nearly 35 years, and afterward sat with Mr. Ford to discuss their craft and answer a few questions from the audience. As they settled into their chairs in front of a large audience that had already given Mr. Salter two sustained ovations, Mr. Ford said, “So I guess the whole ‘writer’s writer’ thing is over now?”

“I hope so,” Mr. Salter replied.

Mr. Ford said that he regularly feels his novels are too long, and that the great American novels are on the short side, including Mr. Salter’s earlier works and books like “So Long, See You Tomorrow” by William Maxwell and “The Great Gatsby.”

“I am definitely miserly in trying to write a novel,” Mr. Salter said. “I don’t have an abundance of it. I’m trying to write longer, if you’re trying to write shorter.”

Reunited Neutral Milk Hotel Announces Limited Tour Dates

Neutral Milk Hotel, the 1990s indie-rock band known for its experimental sound, obscure lyrics and cult following, is reuniting for the first time in over a decade for a series of shows next fall, the band announced on its Web site.

The band went into hibernation after releasing “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” in 1998 and finishing a tour to promote the album. For years, the band’s frontman, Jeff Mangum, was a recluse in the indie-rock world, but he resurfaced for some solo tours over the last two years. Now it appears he has reassembled the lineup of the band that emerged after 1996’s “On Avery Island”: Scott Spillane, Jeremy Barnes and Julian Koster.

The band says some of the proceeds from the concerts will go to Children of the Blue Sky, a charity that helps street children in Mongolia. So far the tour is very limited: The first two shows will be held in Athens, Ga., at the 40 Watt Club and a third will take place in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, N.C. Two more shows are planned in Taipei, Taiwan, and Tokyo in late November and early December.

Next Concert Season at the Met Will Include Music in Galleries

The major shift of emphasis that the Metropolitan Museum made in its concert series this season, the first programmed entirely by Limor Tomer, as general manager of concerts and lectures, will carry at least through another season and seemingly far into the future, Ms. Tomer announced on Tuesday. She has largely abandoned the traditional series of classical recitals and chamber concerts in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in favor of nontraditional events related to Met exhibitions and, in many cases next season, actually taking place in the galleries.

The “gallery-hopping,” as a news release calls it, begins on Sept. 17 and 18, with “The Grand Tour,” celebrating completion of the museum’s new European Paintings Galleries, 1250-1800, with four early-music performances, successively featuring the ensembles Tenet, Dark Horse and Quicksilver and the harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, each in a different gallery. It continues on Sept. 28 with a day devoted to the composer and performer John Zorn (who will celebrate his 60th birthday on Sept. 2).

Mr. Zorn, an inveterate Metgoer since childhood, says he has drawn inspiration from a number of specific artworks there, and his day will consist of 11 performances in 11 different rooms, in some cases before the very objects that inspired him. This will allow attendees, Ms. Tomer said, “to see the Met through John Zorn’s eyes,” not to mention hearing it though his ears.

A cycle of Bartok’s six string quartets by the Calder Quartet in the Rogers Auditorium might at first glance seem a throwback to the old regime. But the works are presented in three concerts intended to show “Bartok’s debt to the human voice,” in Ms. Tomer’s words, variously including a work by the Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos and performances by David Longstreth, the founder of the rock band Dirty Projectors, and the innovative Czech vocalist, violinist and composer Iva Bittova.

The Met will also plunge into the world of chamber opera, and the artists in residence will be the new-music ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

Reunited Neutral Milk Hotel Announces Limited Tour Dates

Neutral Milk Hotel, the 1990s indie-rock band known for its experimental sound, obscure lyrics and cult following, is reuniting for the first time in over a decade for a series of shows next fall, the band announced on its Web site.

The band went into hibernation after releasing “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” in 1998 and finishing a tour to promote the album. For years, the band’s frontman, Jeff Mangum, was a recluse in the indie-rock world, but he resurfaced for some solo tours over the last two years. Now it appears he has reassembled the lineup of the band that emerged after 1996’s “On Avery Island”: Scott Spillane, Jeremy Barnes and Julian Koster.

The band says some of the proceeds from the concerts will go to Children of the Blue Sky, a charity that helps street children in Mongolia. So far the tour is very limited: The first two shows will be held in Athens, Ga., at the 40 Watt Club and a third will take place in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville, N.C. Two more shows are planned in Taipei, Taiwan, and Tokyo in late November and early December.

Next Concert Season at the Met Will Include Music in Galleries

The major shift of emphasis that the Metropolitan Museum made in its concert series this season, the first programmed entirely by Limor Tomer, as general manager of concerts and lectures, will carry at least through another season and seemingly far into the future, Ms. Tomer announced on Tuesday. She has largely abandoned the traditional series of classical recitals and chamber concerts in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium in favor of nontraditional events related to Met exhibitions and, in many cases next season, actually taking place in the galleries.

The “gallery-hopping,” as a news release calls it, begins on Sept. 17 and 18, with “The Grand Tour,” celebrating completion of the museum’s new European Paintings Galleries, 1250-1800, with four early-music performances, successively featuring the ensembles Tenet, Dark Horse and Quicksilver and the harpsichordist Jory Vinikour, each in a different gallery. It continues on Sept. 28 with a day devoted to the composer and performer John Zorn (who will celebrate his 60th birthday on Sept. 2).

Mr. Zorn, an inveterate Metgoer since childhood, says he has drawn inspiration from a number of specific artworks there, and his day will consist of 11 performances in 11 different rooms, in some cases before the very objects that inspired him. This will allow attendees, Ms. Tomer said, “to see the Met through John Zorn’s eyes,” not to mention hearing it though his ears.

A cycle of Bartok’s six string quartets by the Calder Quartet in the Rogers Auditorium might at first glance seem a throwback to the old regime. But the works are presented in three concerts intended to show “Bartok’s debt to the human voice,” in Ms. Tomer’s words, variously including a work by the Hungarian composer Peter Eotvos and performances by David Longstreth, the founder of the rock band Dirty Projectors, and the innovative Czech vocalist, violinist and composer Iva Bittova.

The Met will also plunge into the world of chamber opera, and the artists in residence will be the new-music ensemble Alarm Will Sound.

An Evening with Salter, Ford — and Bascombe

James Salter, left, speaking with Richard Ford at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night.Nancy Crampton James Salter, left, speaking with Richard Ford at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night.

The acclaimed novelists Richard Ford and James Salter shared the stage at the 92nd Street Y on Monday night, accompanied by a surprise guest —Frank Bascombe.

Mr. Ford appeared first, sending a charge through the crowd when he announced he would be reading from a new story starring Bascombe, which he started writing in January. He called the story “Falling Forward.”

Bascombe, often compared to John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom, another American male searching his way through life over the course of several novels, has appeared in three books: “The Sportswriter,” “Independence Day” and “The Lay of the Land.”

In 2007, Mr. Ford told an interviewer, “This is the end of this particular movement in my life, to write about Frank and New Jersey. I’m not going to do that anymore.”

Last seen, Bascombe was 55 and the country was living in the turbulent wake of the Bush-Gore election. In the excerpt Mr. Ford presented on Monday night, Bascombe is 67, retired from the realty business, narrating his life in the weeks before Christmas and after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Mr. Salter, 87 and in fighting shape, read an extended passage from “All That Is,” his first novel in nearly 35 years, and afterward sat with Mr. Ford to discuss their craft and answer a few questions from the audience. As they settled into their chairs in front of a large audience that had already given Mr. Salter two sustained ovations, Mr. Ford said, “So I guess the whole ‘writer’s writer’ thing is over now?”

“I hope so,” Mr. Salter replied.

Mr. Ford said that he regularly feels his novels are too long, and that the great American novels are on the short side, including Mr. Salter’s earlier works and books like “So Long, See You Tomorrow” by William Maxwell and “The Great Gatsby.”

“I am definitely miserly in trying to write a novel,” Mr. Salter said. “I don’t have an abundance of it. I’m trying to write longer, if you’re trying to write shorter.”

How Are You Celebrating Queen Beatrix’s Abdication?

Farewell, Queen Beatrix.Jerry Lampen/Reuters Farewell, Queen Beatrix.

Subjects of the Dutch colony of Nieuw-Amsterdam, arise! After 33 years as your benevolent overseer, your queen has forsaken you.

Queen Beatrix is queen no more.

Maxima, the queen consort to the new king, Willem-Alexander, may take her spot as reigning female personage. But Beatrix shall not be replaced, not now, or ever.

And so we ask, City Room readers: what are you doing today to mark Beatrix’s exit from the throne?