Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Millers Tale

I saw this headline and immediately thought of WMD Judy and Scooter's famous lines to her: "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them." Then I was disappointed to learn the article means another Miller, Bode Miller, the skiier - the Alpiine skiier, if you will.


I Netflixed the New-York-movie-from-a-one-act-play Heights tonight. Excellent little film. Great performance from Glenn Close. Cameo by Rufus Wainwright as well as the Big Cup. And a tightly written little script that impressed me so much I wish more movies could be so taut. It's familiar territory, but done with flair and style and without condescension. It doesn't offer much in the way of laughs, but it was riveting in its own way. Based on a play by Amy Fox. Directed by 27-year-old Chris Terrio.

The Philly Orchestra in D.C.

While I love New York, Philadelphia and its cultural gems (the Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute, the Pa. Ballet, etc.) will always have a warm place in my heart. One of those is, of course, the Philadelphia Orchestra, on a tour performance earlier this week in the nation's capital under the direction of its music director Christoph Eschenbach. WaPo critic Tim Page relishes the way the band made Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica") sound so new and alive:
[It] proved once again just how inexhaustible some music is. This symphony has been played almost constantly for two centuries now, and yet it all seemed new on Monday -- the still-shocking bray of dissonance in the opening movement, the wrenching and ever-more-affecting convulsions of pain in the "Funeral March," the bright, gentle scherzo that ushers in a new morning, and the final set of variations, simultaneously grand and comical. I've never found Eschenbach so convincing as he was in this "Eroica." He made full use of his wonderful orchestra and its large and lustrous string section, yet there was nothing "fat" about the sound. On the contrary, the playing had drive and sinew; fugal passages, in particular, brought to mind the grandeur and austerity of J.S. Bach.
Philadelphia's Drum Roll Before Its Main Attraction [WashPost]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gettysburg PowerPoint

Since I'm currently reading (and loving) Sarah Vowell's book of essays, The Partly Cloudy Patriot, which features a great opening piece on the Gettysburg Address, I have to link to this riff on the speech, which tries to answer the question: What if Abe Lincoln had used PowerPoint? Would it "add or detract" from his spoken address?
The Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation [, via Veritas et Venustas]
¶ Previously on CS: Sedaris and friends at Cooper Union

There's a conductor on the 1 train ...

Who makes me smile whenever I hear him come in over the speaker system. He puts a little extra into the announcement at each station, especially north of 125th St., where he says, "Home of the legendary Cotton Club in the village of Harlem." He continues:
137th St. City College.
145th St. Sugar Hill.
157th St.
168th St. Washington Heights. Audubon Ballroom.
181st St. George Washington Bridge. Yeshiva University.
Just a few added details, but enough to distinguish him from the rest.

This New Yorker review ...

Articulates something I felt after seeing the new Harry Potter movie this weekend:
Still, he cannot do much about the slightly tired sadism that is creeping into the cracks of the Potter franchise. The tournament, for instance, is hailed with rah-rah enthusiasm, like any other sporting event, yet it basically entails putting a bunch of young people through dragonish perils, and mortifying fear, all for the edification of the youthful masses and their freaky overlords. Caligula would have liked it.
The review goes on to mention how the teenager drama that fills the middle of the movie is one of the more endearing parts, and I'd have to agree as well.
The Current Cinema: Boy Wonders [NYer]

61 percent of people here ::heart:: NYC

"It's a metropolitan love affair – not just casual affection," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
New Yorkers love New York more than ever; satisfaction rate 1 point short of all-time high [QU]

Monday, November 28, 2005

Geocaching: Five years late on this trend

I felt a bit like one of those people who's never heard of blogging tonight, as D. mentioned to me how he and his brother went geocaching this weekend. It's basically a digital treasure hunt that mixes orienteering-type skills with modern-day handheld Global Positioning System receivers. And it's been around at least since 2000 [first NYT mention]. How come I've never heard of it? Could be that I've never owned a GPS unit and haven't ever really wanted one. They're cool and all, but not being much of an outdoorsman, I haven't seen the need.

For more details, check out the Official Global GPS Cache Hunt Site: Apparently, there are even caches hidden in the city here, so this isn't just a rural/suburban thing.

Movies to See

Syriana, open
Good Night, and Good Luck, open
Memoirs of a Geisha, Dec. 9
The Producers, Dec. 16
The Family Stone, Dec. 16
Munich, Dec. 23
Match Point, Dec. 28
Tristram Shandy, Jan. 27

Quotation of the Day

"There are a lot of people under 40 who like to waste time during the day, and they like to waste their time on something that is relevant to them." -Anonymous blogger
· A Blog That Wall St. Can Call Its Own [NYT]

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Galatea's Shadow

Galatea's Shadow
Inside the Modern Art galleries of the Met Museum.

Decay in Japanese

Since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by urban decay and abandoned buildings. So I browsed with interest a Japanese site devoted to abandoned and decaying sites in that country. The fact that all the captions are in Japanese, which I don't understand, just adds to the sense of discovering some lost micro-worlds. I'm reminded of Jurassic Park and Miyazaki, too. [Via Tropolism]

Smoke train

Even as New Jersey considers whether to join the ranks of states and cities that've banned smoking in bars and restaurants, my grandfather was talking this weekend about the era when smoking was allowed on buses and trains. He spoke about the smoking cars on commuter trains that he took a few decades ago: You'd enter the car and the smoke might be so thick that you wouldn't be able to see through to the other door. The smoking cars would become so saturated that some smokers would choose to flout the rules and smoke in the non-smoking compartments, just so they could get some (relatively) clear air.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Switch

Little did I know, back when I was using Apple computers all through grade school (I learned how to touch-type on a Macintosh Classic in 6th grade), that one day, I too would make The Switch. (From Windows PC to Mac, that is.) But after two near-and-dears have been raving about Apple for so long, I decided it was time to buy a new computer - and this time around, make it a flashy new iMac G5. (It basically looks like a massive iPod that sits on your desk.) I'm sure it'll be a little while before I'm totally comfortable with all the new controls, but the transition hasn't been all that hard.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Kerry's trial

Having received a questionnaire from the court here recently (could my first-ever jury duty be far away?), I read with interest that John Kerry just served as jury foreman for a Suffolk Superior Court case:
"I just found him to be a knowledgeable, normal person," said Cynthia Lovell, a nurse and registered Republican who says she now regrets voting for President Bush in last year's election. "He kept us focused. He wanted us all to have our own say."
Forget who would you rather have a beer with, now it's who would you rather fulfill your civil duty with ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Pond at Bryant Park

The Pond at Bryant Park

Moby-Dick and The Wizard of Oz on Studio360

Besides reading, one of my favorite activities on the subway commute is listening to podcasts, especially the weekend public radio programs OnTheMedia and Studio360. And the latter has had some really excellent shows in recent weeks, looking at the cultural legacy of "American Icons" -- such as Moby-Dick and The Wizard of Oz. Neither of these stories was among my favorites before I heard each hour-long show, but now I have a better appreciation for them. I'm also excited about an upcoming one on Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, which is one of my favorites.

Strongly recommended, especially if you have an MP3 player and a 50-minute ride somewhere. (They're also available via iTunes.)

Gramercy Theatre

We just started a Curbed Group Photo Pool on Flickr. Hoping to solicit contributions and comments ...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Wine now

I had been laying off the booze while I was sick, fearing that I might be contributing to it by drinking, but then Beaujolais nouveau season rolled around and I couldn’t resist. (And after all, the occasional glass of wine didn’t seem to do anything one way or another.) I’m not much of a wine connoisseur; I know what I like. But this year’s harvest seems as good as any. And I’ve sampled from a few bottles since Thursday. Go out and get some if you haven’t yet. The bottles will be gone from most wine shops before you know it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two for the ages

I saw two of my favorite stories depicted this weekend:

First, Friday night, the Puccini opera La Bohème in the famous Franco Zeffirelli production at the Met, starring Ruth Ann Swenson, Paul Plishka and Frank Lopardo, among others. Such great music! Such wonderful lines. Two of my favorites: "To be alone in the winter is like death" and later "I wish winter would last forever." (They stick in the mind because of the context.)

Second, Saturday night, the latest movie version of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, starring British starlet Keira Knightley, who still has four whole months before she can legally drink in the States. The filmmakers did add a sappy and un-Austen-like smoochy scene at the end (see more in this Times article), but I thought it was earned. The film is a quick, satisfying adaptation that manages to sustain the spirit of the author's work while condensing it and, as the English might say, "sexing it up" a bit. I especially liked the way the camera roved around certain scenes, whether dress balls or evening chats, in a way that evoked the peering-in upon another world.

The characters in the story are so vivid, and there are qualities to admire (despite the obvious vices in the title) in the two main protagonists (Elizabeth and Darcy) as well as in Mr. Bennet. And this time around, I found myself with a strange sort of affection for "plain" Mary Bennet and her individuality, who at one point in the original narrative says, "Far be it from me, my dear sister, to depreciate such pleasures. They would doubtless be congenial with the generality of female minds. But I confess they would have no charms for me. I should infinitely prefer a book." I think, perhaps, she was played for more sympathy than usual this time around.
Meatpacking District, Sunday afternoon.

Friday, November 18, 2005

A fantastic failure of a story

Sometimes in the midst of attempting to be creative and poetic and attest to, say, the mythic stories of the city, a journalist is given free rein and allowed to write something that doesn't fit the usual newspaper rubrics of how to construct an article (inverted pyramid, etc.). And sometimes, that writer stumbles along the way, and files a story that is so filled with purple prose and allusions, and seems so enamored with itself that it fails to do the most important things a feature article should do: Tell a story and tell you why you should care about the story it's telling. " Tracing Steps of the Man Who Walked Away," in my opinion, is just such an article. Written by Michael Brick, and appearing on the front of the Times' Metro section today, it's so confusing that I've read it twice now and still can't tell you much beyond this: It's about a guy who witnessed a Brooklyn plane crash and then moved to Manhattan and never came back to the neighborhood and then died. I'm not even sure if that is even correct or gets the point. Where were the editors on this? Can I get a nut graph, a time element, a straightforward sentence .... Argh.

Recent Curbing

This Curbed post about police booths for foreign VIPs might be just a bit funnier if you read the Kofi Annan spam I posted below.

Other recent Curbed posts:

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Things fall apart

If there was any doubt that I walk a lot here and/or give my shoes quite a beating, a little trickle of rainwater seeped into my shoe this evening to remind me. I stepped out of work and realized after a block that my foot was feeling wet and yet I hadn’t walked through any especially deep puddles. On the train, I took off my shoe and saw that half of my sock had been drenched and that the bottom of my right shoe had worn down near the sole and cracked. These days it seems a rarer thing to use something up like that until you have little choice but to have it repaired or replaced. You can put your money on the latter for me, as these shoes were comfortable to wear but were not works of fine craftsmanship worth saving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I have to say that while not unexpected, it was still funny to see not one but two separate couples hailing cabs for the CMA Awards tonight. There were the women in their glitzy dresses, and the men done up in their suits, topped off - of course - by their nicest cowboy hats. Not something you see every day here.

(And no, the Naked Cowboy doesn't count.)

Spam as found political art

Spam is getting pretty preposterous these days. Behold:

From: "Dr.Kofi Annan" <>  

I Dr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, would like to ask your partnership in reprofilling funds over $250m in excess, the funds would be coming via a string of selected banks in Europe and Asia.

The Funds in question were generated by me during the oil for food programme in Iraq. I have been getting scandals/controversy in this regards, you can read more on the links below. [REDACTED]

You would be paid 10% as your management fee. Please do not write back directly to me via my official email address. All further correspondence should be sent to my private mail box ( As soon as you indicate your interest I will give further details.

Remember to treat this mail and transaction as strictly confidential. I will await your urgent correspondence via my private mail box

Dr. Kofi Annan.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Link-free S.O.C. babble

I should really read Moby-Dick. In Cold Blood too. Gaps in my reading of the classics. Glaring gaps. Not the only gaps. Only the latest ones to surface. Chris Ware is amazing. Should read more of his comics. Saw his work at Adam Baumgold. Bare empty room. Adam himself sitting at a card table in the room, not an alcove, actually in the room when I visited. Dictating a letter to someone on the other end of the phone. I left just as he got off. Was he feeling awkward because it was just me looking at Ware’s art and him talking on the phone, no one else. Ware’s comics also appearing in the New York Times Magazine each Sunday. Other graphic novels I’ve noticed recently and want to read. Was surprised to be reading earlier this month about pirates, real pirates, not copyright pirates, real ones, as in ship-bound thieves, threatening to board an ocean liner off the coast of Africa. Who knew? Moby-Dick. Have we lost a connection to the sea that once was? Read the opening lines of the book, have picked it up in stores, but have not purchased it yet. Opening lines about Manhattan and the water, about how man is drawn to the sea, whether to sail on it or to merely gaze on it, as I do so often when I can. Union League Club tonight. Dates back to the Civil War. Unresolved race issues. Gin and tonics. No tipping. Jacket and tie required. Walking home through Times Square, so often mistaken as Time Square, even on the poster in the elevator up to Fort Tryon, down to A train, the one by the MTA, or for the MTA, which should’ve known better, but what does it matter really. Artistic license and all. Landlord keeps shutting off the hot water. Keeps posting about it. Saying it’s going to happen from midnight until x-y-z tomorrow. Why wasn’t it enough the first time? How long till the hot water has been used up, drained from all the pipes? Shower tonight like I should or chance it and do it tomorrow.

Sunset behind the Pumpkin House.

Spotted outside a green patch in Tribeca. Pretty attractive sign for an unattractive problem, eh?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Holiday bonuses for the huddled masses

The MTA has posted details about its "holiday bonuses" promotion. Here are the basics: If you pay per ride, it'll only cost you $1 every weekend from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day Observed (Jan. 2), including Nov. 24-27. If you use unlimited ride MetroCards, you'll get extra days added onto your normal span when you start using them between Nov. 24 and Jan. 2: for the 30-day cards, 4 bonus days, and for the weeklies, one bonus day. Or you can buy a special holiday unlimited MetroCard for the price of a 30-day ($76) and use it from Nov. 23 through Jan. 2.

Top of the Rock Observation Deck

Saturday, Cloisters Lawn, Fort Tryon Park.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

UES restaurant, lounge to recommend

Worth checking out on the Upper East Side:

1) Uva, a midlevel Italian restaurant with a rustic, homey feel. Very popular, but not so loud that you couldn't talk. M. and I shared a bottle of Tuscan Sangiovese. She had a spiral sausage and polenta dish, while I had ricotta gnocchi with chive and truffle sauce. Delicious, and very rich. Starters are $10 and under. Entrees $15-$19.

1486 Second Ave., near 77th St.

2) Stir, a martini lounge that offers about 20 different specialty cocktails, many of them with candy coatings around the rim: pixie dust, Smarties, Jolly Rancher shavings, Pop Rocks. The bar is dimly lit, contemporary couches with pillows line the walls, and the music doesn't drown out the conversation. Martinis run $9-$12.

1363 First Ave., near 73rd.

Friday, November 11, 2005

"Cheese, Gromit!" and lots of empty seats

Saw Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit with D. last night: Very funny, well-made, and full of subtle jokes, including lots of visual and literary ones. We were almost going to be the only ones in the auditorium, but a few other people showed up at the last minutes of the 2WENTY, that block of commercials before the movie at Regal screens that they tell you so straight-facedly not to miss by arriving early to the theater, and which has a handy little recap at the end to remind you of your take-home marketing messages. This cinema that was so empty on a Thursday night was the Regal Battery Park Stadium 11 - located in a rather nice neighborhood (B.P. City) that is nonetheless separated from the rest of Lower Manhattan by the West Side Highway and ground zero and also happens to be missing one of its nearest subway stations at the moment (Courtland Street). So if you enjoy that pick-any-seat feeling and live anywhere nearby, this might be a theater to check out more regularly.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Caption Contest: Where are the New Yorkers?

Ever since the New Yorker magazine started its caption contest, I (and others) have noticed something: a glaring lack of New Yorkers among the three finalists for each cartoon. Why is this? I realize it's a national publication, but isn't it more heavily skewed toward metro area subscribers who are more able to take advantage of the listings that appear near the front of each issue. Is it that people sitting in the Rest of America just have more time to sit in their armchairs and come up with funnies? Are they actually more clever? Any other ideas?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Poet Billy Collins and his delectable 'trouble'

Ex-Poet Laureate Billy Collins read tonight at B&N Union Square. I'm going to go out on a limb and say he's one of the funniest and most accessible literary poets out there today. He had the audience laughing the whole way through - from his wry but affable introduction through the slew of poems that he read, some from his new book, The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems, but lots of others that he's written since the latest collection was compiled or older ones.

His poems are among those that can be easily grasped upon first hearing/reading, but also reveal deeper layers upon further reflection. Many of them problematize poetry or others' ideas about poetry, often to the readers' amusement, but end up championing the art by their very success. At times, he is like a perfumist who knows how little of each ingredient is necessary to create the right scent. Not too sarcastic, not too sentimental. So often: Just right.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Leaf peeping

Remember that part about autumn in New York? Well, the nip in the air may still be M.I.A., but the leaves have finally turned. I went up to Fort Tryon Park today to snap a few pictures.

Upcoming events in Hudson Heights

Noticed on fliers around the neighborhood today:

1) Commemoration of the 229th Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Washington. Sunday, Nov. 13. Noon to 3. Cafe Lawn, Fort Tryon Park. Re-enactors will set up a campsite to show how the Continental Army functioned during the Revolutionary War. Spinning and blacksmithing. Colonial arts and crafts. Live musket demonstration. Historian to speak.

2) A pair of chamber concerts in the Heights at Fort Washington Collegiate Church. 729 W. 181st St., near the A stop. Wed., Nov. 9, at noon and Thurs., Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. Mozart, Hindemith, Dussek, Abrahamsen. Music for violin, French horn, and piano.

Hudson View Gardens gate

190th Street A station

Water Tower, 5.15pm, West 96th Street

Bright Lights, Big City, Part 1

I got around to starting Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney this weekend, passing the time during some especially lengthy subway delays. I feel a little strange reading a book that depicts the World Trade Center towers on the cover but isn’t actually about them. It’s like a piece of historical fiction in a way. During the ’80s, this book was touted as tapping into the zeitgeist of the era – and is almost always classified by that word.

I’m sure it was mildly controversial when it came out – or perhaps shocked, shocked the literate masses – but the whole prevalence of cocaine throughout the novel feels a bit precious to me now. Not necessarily because it’s any more or less prevalent or more or less mainstream (I’m innocent enough of the whole scene as to not know for sure), but the incessant joking references to “Bolivian marching powder” aren’t as funny anymore. These days, late-show hosts make fun of President Bush “meeting in closed session with the President of Colombia,” and we don’t bat an eyelash. Maybe at the time they seemed fresh, maybe this book actually sparked the jokes: I can’t say.

Other things that are a bit dated are the main character’s tools of the trade as an employee of the Department of Factual Verification for a New-Yorker-like magazine: nary a computer in sight, just lots of books and yellowing already-underused archives and lots of phone calls. This was of course 1983-4, before even the introduction of the Macintosh, so it’s understandable. It’s just strange to read a book that’s ostensibly so contemporary, and yet harkens back to a pre-digital age. On a related note, I kept figuring the euphemistic title of his job and his department would eventually devolve into “fact checker,” but neither the narrator nor his co-workers seem ready to call a spade a spade. Perhaps this too is meant as a bit of light satire.

One other historical note: Being a fan of Philippe Petit, I had to laugh when I came across the passage where he makes an unnamed appearance. The narrator (referred to in the second person: “you”) happens upon a tightrope walker in Sheridan Square, and a member of the crowd turns to the narrator’s companion to say: “He did that between the towers of the World Trade Center.”

Keep in mind, I’m only halfway through the book, so I’ll have to see if any of my observations fall apart or change by the end. With any luck, I’ll write a part 2 to this.

Glass' Symphonies No. 8, 6 at BAM

I saw an artistic idol of mine for the first time Friday night: contemporary classical composer Philip Glass. There he was walking around the auditorium of the Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, looking a little grayer than most recent pictures of him, and then later on stage after the concert with conductor Dennis Russell Davies and the Orchestra Bruckner Linz.

But the problem with idols is that you expect a lot from them, so the bar is higher and harder to match at times. Thus was the case with the first half of the evening’s program for me: the world premiere of Glass’ Symphony No. 8. The composer’s music has been distinguished over the years by prolonged repetition of distinctive arpeggios and other motifs followed by the successive change and modulation of those elements over time. This latest work was all about change, however. There was little if any time for each melody or chord to stay fixed in your mind. It was constant motion, but not motion to any satisfying conclusion. Instead of following the typical fast-slow-fast model of three-movement symphonies, the third movement is so haltingly slow that I felt like I just wanted it to be over before long. At a pause in the middle of the piece, one congested audience member could be heard to wheeze a bit and utter “Oh vey!” The whole work seemed so watered down and formless, which only compounded its forgettable nature.

But the second half proved worth the price of admission. It was Glass’ earlier symphony – No. 6 – for orchestra and soprano. Lauren Flanigan, who premiered the piece in 2002, was back to perform the vocal duties for the text by Allen Ginsberg that also gives the work its subtitle: “Plutonian Ode,” a poem that mixes scenes from ancient mythology with the modern monstrosities of nuclear proliferation and war mongering (“Is there a new thing under the Sun?” it asks.)

The genesis of the piece, which was originally going to be for piano alone, began while Ginsberg was alive. But Glass resurrected it for orchestra and soprano (instead of Ginsberg’s own voice) a few years after the poet’s death in 1997. Flanigan was really reveling in the piece, looking truly passionate as much about the words she sang as the music the players were creating behind her. On stage she motioned, looked surprised and elated, signaled with her hands to the audience and made other impassioned faces throughout. It could’ve been a bit distracting if I hadn’t been looking down at the program to follow along with Ginsberg’s text for much of the time or if she hadn’t seemed so sincere about it all.

The highlight was the third movement, which begins in a mode so familiar to Glass fans. If I were to compare the feeling of tension and sublimity to an older classical piece, it would have to be the very opening of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D minor, before the soloist comes in. Out of the six sections of the evening’s music, this was the one I enjoyed the most, that reminded me most of why I enjoy listening to Glass. The momentum, the rise and fall like waves of the orchestra’s volume, the pressure and release, all punctuated by the clearest and most accessible of the lines in the soprano. Now that’s a way to end a program. And thus by that point Glass and the performers had truly earned their standing ovation.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Stop the presses! Ben Brantley of the NYTimes actually liked a new musical (well, it's a revival of a Sondheim classic, but still ... good nods from him are hard to come by these days). Which makes me want to rush out and see Sweeney Todd again, if possible.

[Previously on CitySpecific]

Saturday warming

So warm for a weekend in November! A day like this makes you wish you didn’t have to be underground so much to get where you need to go. At brunch, sitting outside without a jacket, I imagined it was New Year’s Day in Florida somewhere without the humidity. But then the 4 o’clock hour rolls around and the sun starts to dip low and you realize the weather is deceiving. Dusk will be here before long.

Tomorrow I want to remember to snap some photos of the leaves, as the trees here have finally started to reach their peak color after staying green for so long.

Friday, November 04, 2005

NYPL's Allen Room

At a party tonight, I spoke with a writer who told me about how much he loves working in the Frederick Lewis Allen Room of the grand main branch of the New York Public Library. It's a space in the library set aside with study cubicles for writers on book contracts to go and do their thing amid other great minds. It's free, but there's an application process. Go there these days, I was told, and you're likely to find Pulitzer Prize winners researching and writing. Robert Caro, for instance, wrote that 1975 Pulitzer Prize winner about NYC icon Robert Moses, The Power Broker, while in the Allen Room. Interesting to know that there are these free places available at a time when such for-a-fee spaces like Paragraph are opening. Still, the writers-on-contract stipulation is somewhat self-selective to begin with.

Can one contain one's glee?

When it comes to getting all squishy about animal photos, I choose my moments. This is one of those moments. Ain't it just the cutest thing you've ever seen? [Via Gothamist's Jen Chung, who appears to be mildly obsessed with pandas.]

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Kidd, Ware

The NYT's House&Home Section spotlights Penn State grad and book-designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd amid his stunningly cool home and collection of memorabilia. He's got a new book of his designs out and a gallery show on the way (Nov. 17 to Feb. 4 at Cooper Union). He's also friends with another master of pop-culture design, cartoonist Chris Ware, who also has a new book and a New York exhibition (through Dec. 3 at Adam Baumgold Gallery, 74 E. 79th St.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

CommonCensus Map Project

I've been meaning to link to this interactive map called CommonCensus ever since I saw it on It's a way of mapping the country based on where people's cultural and geographical allegiances are. It's an interesting project that implicitly argues that despite everything we hear today about edge cities and exurbs, many people still define themselves by the big city off in the distance. I added my data, although it relies more on people who live outside the actual borders of these larger cities to register the pull they feel, as seen by all the different colored "spheres of influence" on the map above. Look at how much physical space is encompassed by the Denver and Salt Lake City spheres - and Boston even, in the more tightly packed Northeast. And one of the most Balkanized parts of the country seems to be the greater Ohio River Valley.

Zagat, Rufus

Got a free 2006 Zagat Survey tonight: what a very cool idea for a N.Y.C. party favor!

Then ready to head home, I scored a free seat to the first of two Rufus Wainwright shows this week at the Beacon Theater on the UWS. First time for the artist and the venue for me. What a huge place that is, hidden behind a modest-looking façade. Watching the concert, I realized I’ve been out of the loop on a lot of Rufus’ newer material. But I recognized at least a third of what he sang. Sound quality was a little off at times – maybe it was the seats, maybe the mixing. But hearing him do Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” really made the concert for me.