Thursday, June 30, 2005
Getting these three systems on the same page would be a tremendous step forward, and it can't happen soon enough as far as I'm concerned. The different payment systems is a hassle for locals (especially those who travel throughout the tri-state area) and unnecessarily confusing for visitors. ("Can I use my PATH QuickCard the same as the MTA MetroCard or no? ... And why aren't the underground trains the Metro if it's a MetroCard?")
Someday, my friends, someday, the transit system will be as easy and satisfying to use as idealistic urban-planning students imagine it could be. Or not ...
The title quote is one of Foote's. Another great quote can be found at the end of this PBS transcript where he talks about how people once thought of the United States as being a plural, as deserving a plural verb, whereas "after the war, it was always 'the United States is,' as we say today without being self-conscious at all. And that sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an 'is.'"
An interesting tidbit from the article: The Empire Builder receives a $172 subsidy per passenger. And the southerly transnational route (the Sunset Limited from L.A. to Orlando) gets a whopping $466 for each butt in a seat.
One can see how politicians perpetually harping on maximum "efficiency" in government-subsidized entities would be peeved by such price tags, but maintaining a large (enough) and useful rail system is part of what a nation can do for its citizens. The Bush administration had been attempting to force reforms on the railroad by cutting its money, but isn't it possible to make the system better without shutting down huge sections of it first?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Based on a rough translation of an online post from his site [Info du Jour], it appears he's waiting for a favorable window to take another stab at the trans-Atlantic record, while MacArthur also has her eye on the same goal.
I snapped this photo late last week at the marina in front of the World Financial Center.
My Sweetheart's the Man in the Moon is at the 14th Street Y through July 10. The NYT review says the people behind this production certainly did their homework, but "its respectable tone" -- which the writer compares to PBS's "Masterpiece Theater" -- "seems to miss the point." He says there aren't enough whiffs of the scandalous stuff, which made the story so notorious in the first place, to have the story strike the right vibe.
And while I'm on the topic, here's a list of some buildings in the city (past and present) designed by McKim, Mead and White:
- Out of four, the 2nd Madison Square Garden
- The grand old Penn Station, which was demolished to make way for the 4th MSG
- Low Memorial Library on Columbia University's campus
- Strivers' Row in Harlem
- The New York/Manhattan Municipal Building at 1 Centre St., which actually inspired a lot of Stalinist (!) structures. (You have one near the heart of capitalism and several others near the heart of communism and they all look strikingly similar.)
- The Lamb's Club (now the Lamb's Theatre) near Times Square
- The New York Racquet and Tennis Club on Park Avenue, across the street from the Seagram Building
- And two wings on the Metropolitan Museum of Art
It's a narrow little bar with a few tables in back, but they have nightly jazz, fresh fruit cocktails, Guinness on tap, an assortment of wines, and a nice overall vibe. Around 10, a singer and a jazz combo set up in the front-window alcove and started playing. We didn't stick around for a whole set, but they seemed pretty talented. And if you wanted to talk, you could still hear each other, and if you wanted to listen, it was loud enough.
Monday, June 27, 2005
This utterly smashed-up BMW has been sitting outside a police station at 54th and 8th. It looks like a prop out of an action movie, it's so ruined. What happened?!?!?
The first time was on Governors Island. His famous architectural firm, McKim, Mead & White, which is known for many top buildings in the city, designed the massive barracks there known as Liggett Hall. Also dubbed Building 400, the 1930 structure -- which feels very collegiate -- was built to house an entire regiment. It stretches across a tree-lined walk, measures some 400,000 square feet in size, and was supposedly one of the -- if not the -- largest military building in the U.S. prior to the construction of the Pentagon.
Then I heard White's name again in Ragtime. He wasn't actually around when the big barracks was built, since he died in 1906. He was shot and killed in the second Madison Square Garden (a building his firm designed) at the hands of a millionaire who was married to one of White's former lovers, one Evelyn Nesbit -- a vaudeville actress and ripped-from-the-headlines character in the musical.
The murder was dubbed the "Crime of the Century," a name skewered by some lyrics in the show: "And although the newspapers called the shooting the Crime of the Century, [Emma] Goldman knew it was only 1906 ... / And there were ninety-four years to go!" Other subsequent crimes, such as the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, would receive that dubious title as well.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
The Brooklyn Bridge and an empty helipad visible through a ferry window.
Pulling away from the dock, you can see the two terminals side by side as well as the office buildings and hotels right above the Battery.
Another view of Lower Manhattan. The ferry ride only took a few minutes.
One of the structures most visible from Manhattan is the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel ventilation building. The 1.7-mile tunnel, finished in 1950, is the longest such passage built for cars in North America.
Originally named because of its use as a colonial governor's residence, the island has been in the hands of the military for much of its history, until the Coast Guard, which had a major headquarters and training center there, left in the mid-1990s. Two prominent buildings include Castle Williams and Fort Jay, both completed around the beginning of the 19th century.
Castle Williams is visible from the Battery and somewhat resembles Castle Clinton. It used to be a particularly notorious prison during the Civil War days, but one of the redevelopment ideas on the table is to turn it into a theater akin to Shakespeare's Globe, designed by Norman Foster, who did the new Reichstag in Germany, the renovation at the British Museum and the London Millennium Bridge.
Overall, the island has a deserted feel to it -- only a few tourists and the odd security guard -- but while some of the structures are showing signs of wear, a lot of the buildings look like they were just used. Like people just left one day but kept everything as it was. The residences seem very inhabitable, at least from the outside, and there are some great views of Manhattan. Daryl said it had the feel of a college campus in summer. We were only allowed to roam around about 22 acres of the 172-acre island.
For more photos, check out Flickr. (Sorry it's brief -- I reached my free limit for the month. Maybe I'll try posting more later.)
An out-of-use bus stop on (currently uninhabited) Governors Island, off the tip of Lower Manhattan. Jersey City with its Goldman Sachs Tower are visible through the mid-morning Saturday haze.
The Trachtenburgs were pretty fun and quirky. I enjoyed their shtick and some of their music is kind of catchy ("Mountain trip ... to Japan ... nineteen-fifty-niiiiiine"). But -- I don't know whether the father in the band is just like this in general -- but he seemed rather embarrassed and nervous at times to be on stage in front of a sparse audience that didn't seem as thrilled by it all as I guess they should have been.
Governors Island was a peculiar experience -- an empty, deserted place mere hundreds of yards from the heart of the city -- but well worth a visit, I thought. Pictures and a slideshow to come.
Ragtime at the Paper Mill should be on your must-see list if you like musicals and a) you missed it the first time on Broadway, b) you didn't see any of the national tours, c) you enjoy a good, tuneful, coherent score with a well-integrated historical story that mixes facts and famous figures with fictional truth, or d) you enjoy seeing solid performances from not-so-well-known actors.
I also realized something again on Saturday: Don't book things too close together, especially if you're relying on weekend public transit schedules. I ended up seeing all that I'd planned, but I was late for the first morning ferry and also missed my first NJ Transit train at Penn Station.
Friday, June 24, 2005
Must be that whole nautical connection, I guess.
Basically, you gather photos and tidbits about the subject's life (either openly or in secret "detective" mode), send them off to Tucker, and he produces a one-of-a-kind work of art (he doesn't recommend actually playing with the action figures). Tucker says he aims for pieces based on somewhat truthful depictions of his subjects -- no (nonexistent) superpowers allowed, he insists during the interview with Andersen.
Some great excerpts: "WHEREAS, tater tots figure prominently in this film thus promoting Idaho's most famous export" ... "WHEREAS, Napoleon's bicycle and Kip's skateboard promote better air quality and carpooling as alternatives to fuel-dependent methods of transportation;" ... "WHEREAS, Kip's relationship with LaFawnduh is a tribute to e-commerce and Idaho's technology-driven industry" ... "BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we, the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate of the State of Idaho, advocate always following your heart ..."
What's great about this resolution is that it takes an already deadpan but wholesome script (which is lightly suggestive at times, but features no overt sex or violence), and takes it a step further by riffing on it with sincerity and in the voice of the nation's laws.
Tonight: See the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players (12 more shows through the end of next month) at the Lamb's Theatre.
Tomorrow morning: Explore Governors Island (open to the public through Sept. 3).
Tomorrow afternoon: Watch Ragtime (through July 17) at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ.
Tomorrow night: Eat/drink at the Gaslight Brewery in South Orange.
Sunday afternoon: Visit the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
I'm going to need another day off just to recover from the weekend!
Thursday, June 23, 2005
One need never leave the / confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes -- I can't / even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there's a subway / handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not / totally regret life.O'Hara (who died in 1966 at the age of 40 after a freak accident in which he was hit by a dune buggy on Fire Island) wrote one of my all-time favorite poems. It's called "Ave Maria" and it begins: "Mothers of America / let your kids go to the movies ..."
City of the world! (for all races are here; / All the lands of the earth make contributions here;) / City of the sea! city of hurried and glittering tides! / City whose gleeful tides continually rush or recede, whirling in and out, with eddies and foam! / City of wharves and stores! city of tall façades of marble and iron! / Proud and passionate city! mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Yes, it's taken me a decade to get around to it, but I finally ordered it from the library and watched it tonight. It's not a masterpiece, but it's definitely worth watching for anybody who's ever had newsprint running through their veins. That quote, spoken by Randy Quaid's character McDougal, is full of the rush of a hot story breaking on a tight deadline, and it was hilarious to actually hear it after all these years. It actually felt more like Quaid was quoting my friend, instead of the other way around.
The plot contrives one of those insane days where everything inside and outside of the tabloid newspaper world crashes together for several people typically chained to the newsroom. You can sort of imagine what's going to happen from the opening scene, when two (basically) innocent black teenagers happen upon a double murder of two white businessmen, framed to look like a racial slaying. There are a few surprises along the way, which keep it interesting, but it's mostly paint-by-numbers don't-you-love/hate-days-like-this drama.
As the film ages, a few things stick out for me:
- The murders happen in Williamsburg, which I guess at the time was not quite the hip hangout that it's become today, especially what with the talk of potential race riots occurring as a result.
- The newspaper's 8 o'clock deadline (which they shockingly(!) break during the course of the movie) seems extremely early by today's standards. Don't most mainstream big-city papers close a bit later than that each night, like 11 or 11:30?
- The "New York Sun" is still printed on presses in the basement of the main offices; and yet more and more big papers are printed offsite these days.
- During a scene with a police source, Keaton's character Hackett makes an awed mention of the Penn State Nittany Lions' football team at one point, which made me a little wistful. (They went on to have a massive unbeaten season in '94.)
- There's a two-scene appearance by Spalding Gray, who committed suicide last year. He plays a top editor at the impressed-with-itself "New York Sentinel," a stand-in for the old Gray Lady (get it). When Hackett is snubbed for a job there because he secretly snags a story tip from Gray's character during an interview, he is told that he won't get a chance to "cover the world." In a famous (profanity-filled) scene, Keaton yells back over the phone something like, "I don't live in the f-ing world. I live in f-ing New York City."
- And at the time of the movie, the Sun as a newspaper name hadn't been used in the city for decades. (Remember what Papa says? "If you see it in The Sun, it's so.") Today, there's an upstart broadsheet that goes by that name.
It's just not something you see here every day.
The bigger parks like Central Park and Fort Tryon Park, for instance, are not included in this survey, because I guess they're more than just neighborhood parks. And yet consider the ones at the top of the NY4P list: Bryant Park (with its wi-fi and free events) and Madison Square Park (with its Shake Shack), which both received perfect scores. I always think of them as drawing people from all over the city, even though they are technically in some people's neighborhoods.
Which parks need the most help? University Woods in the Bronx (a steep, forested slope overlooking the Harlem River) and Sperandeo Brothers Playground in Brooklyn, both of which received less than 10 points out of 100. Several parks also took huge leaps in grade: Captain Tilly Park and Hallets Cove Playground in Queens got B grades this year, up from Fs last year, but Irving Square Park in Brooklyn went the other way, from A to F, mostly because it started collecting a lot of trash, the water fountain didn't work well anymore, and the playground started showing heavy wear.
Bennett Park [PDF] in my neighborhood fared pretty well, moving up from a C+ to a B this year, with high marks for the playground, the immediate environment, drinking fountains and bathrooms. But the sitting areas need help as well as the pathways. And from a recent visit, I'd also say that the grass area around the flagpole could use some reseeding or something.
Yes, Marshall-Green really plays a shark, the kind with a fin on its back, but he's also a shark who finds time to leave the aquarium and go on a date with a nervous guy who has a history of falling for (and sleeping with) men who don't call him back. There are two other slightly more traditional couples: a pair of young women living together and fighting over whether to get married to each other (or committed, if you're not quite sure if it's legal yet in Rhode Island), and an older husband and wife whose relationship is on the rocks. And whose stage presence seems to be a bit lopsided: You get through half the play thinking he's going to be an entirely off-stage character, until midway through he appears bearing a big sign that declares his name: "Bob." Which I guess is necessary so you don't confuse him with his wife, whose name is "Barb," pronounced "Bawb" in their New England accent.
The play made me laugh at times, but probably not enough, because its tone for about three-quarters of the action feels like a skit -- and at its worst -- a bad SNL skit. There's a lot of spoken-to-the-audience title cards -- "Tuesday," "How to Fall in Love," "How to Pick a Ring" -- followed by one-line or one-joke scenes. There are serious moments and supposedly dramatic moments, but the characters only seemed to have two voice volumes -- regular and really loud -- so they just seemed more like caricatures. I almost felt like I was watching some latter-day version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
So the title implies that while the characters are "swimming in the shallows," there are deeper currents going on. The problem is, I didn't feel those deeper currents. The older married woman is aspiring to simplify her life by being like some Buddhist monks she read about who only have eight possessions in the world. This is supposed to be a more surface/shallow way of expressing the lack of satisfaction in her marriage. She says dumping all her things or giving them away to charity makes her feel lighter and more free, but what does she replace them with? What greater goal or need or desire or journey? She doesn't say. So while she's going for simplicity, I in the audience was just left with an empty feeling and the vision of an empty character.
Meanwhile, you have the absurdity of a young guy falling in love with a shark in a tank, who we're then supposed to believe is a good romantic prospect after their kissing spell on the beach and his call (!) the next day. Once again, where's the depth?
The play left me with a predictable ending (even Mamma Mia! at least plays with your expectations), no surprises, not much development, no greatly satisfying resolution, and a final line about cake that doesn't ring much of a bell with any other theme in the show.
My verdict? The title is all too literally appropriate.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Even if you're feeling lonely, you can get up out of your office chair at the end of the day or lock the door on your apartment and go out and find a good place to eat and sit there and watch a world of people walk by and have your coffee and then perhaps go to see a show. Granted, you can't do it every day (not on my budget at least), but once in a while, especially in warm weather, knowing it's all there, just a subway ride away, is a relief of sorts -- the idea that one can have a slice or two of vacation on a work night.
The title of this post is from E.B. White's Here Is New York, and while I do not always think of loneliness (or privacy) as gifts or "prizes," it's nice knowing they can be, if you so choose.
Instead, you can choose from the Stags (which is just too funny for a men's sports team), the Sliders (which sounds a lot like the Altoona Curve, which will own the new team), the RidgeRiders (which is a made-up alliterative name playing off the area's ridges), the Mountain Bats (another animal/baseball name), the Miners (State College is not in NEPA!), the Copperheads and the Black Bears (both of whom are supposed to be actually in the forests around town). You can vote here.
I picked the RidgeRiders because it sounds funny, but I bet the Sliders (which apparently is also the name of a turtle) will be the winner.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Sunday, June 19, 2005
It seems to be a compliment these days to say that a family film and especially animation appeals to both children's and adults' sense of humor, but I feel like so often these appeals are working on two different planes. With Miyazaki's films, it's all of one piece: They have an amazing ability to move between joy and sorrow, laughter and revulsion, reality and fantasy, within a few moments of a scene. The characters are alternately hideous and adorable. Spirits move in and out of humans' lives, and they aren't all bad or all good. The spirits especially seem to mix a lot of human traits into their make-up: laziness, vanity, caring, forgiveness, greed, altruism. One spirit, for example, begins as a benevolent helper to a lost little girl, then enters a bathhouse, gets gluttonous, devours three of the worker creatures, only to spit them up whole with the help of a little mystical ipecac, declare loneliness to be his driving motive, and end up happily befriending a thread-spinning grandmother in a thatched-roof cottage.
Something else that strikes me about Miyazaki's worlds -- besides their focus on resourceful young women -- is their interest in the everyday habits that keep us alive. He always makes sure that his characters stop to eat meals, to bathe, to clean their environments, to have a cup of tea, to lay down for sleep and wake up in the morning, to use buses or trains to get where they're going. I know people in other animated films do these things, but there seems to be such attention paid to them, for their own sake, almost, and not as merely a place to launch an argument, discussion or action sequence. In a way, it grounds his films and keeps them very real-feeling, even as the characters shift in shape, change into one another, take solemn oaths, break spells, and find their true identities. There are some echoes of this in the recent Pixar films, but something about Miyazaki's films make them feel innocent and unjaded despite their occasional moments of violence and gruesomeness. They can be funny and playful, but don't seem to me very ironic -- which in this case -- is a good attribute.
Howl, by the way, is now showing in about 200 theaters.
But you know he's talking about that train-wreck of a film, Showgirls. (Having never seen this movie, I take it on faith that it is bad.) The funny thing is that I remember her from an extremely popular if decidedly cheesy and predictable sitcom called "Saved by the Bell," which predates the-film-that-will-not-be-named by a good five years (1989).
Is this an age thing? Did you have to be under the age of 15 in the early 1990s to remember her as "Jessie Spano" -- she of the notorious caffeine-pill problem (see "Jessie's Song" on this episode guide) -- and not whoever she played in Showgirls?
In a way, I guess she could be embarrassed by both early credits, but all that aside, she's actually been having a go on the Broadway stage lately, and Isherwood says she has some talent: last season with Sly Fox, and currently over at Hurlyburly, which is a play set during the Hollywood excesses of the mid-'80s and reminds me even more of "Saved by the Bell," because the sitcom just couldn't shake that big-hair feeling of the decade it was launched in.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
I first encountered his work during an art class in college. I was flipping through art magazines and came across some of his photographs. I love art that cries out to have a story attached to it, and Crewdson's shots are often like that. He depicts small-town or suburban settings (often at night or twilight) with solitary individuals or groups of people seemingly detached from one another, many of them pausing in life, looking stunned or haunted by something that's never quite clear. In past series, he's shown beanstalks that rise up in quiet backyards, rolls of sod piled up in a garage, a woman floating Ophelia-like in a flooded living room. Often, he draws on well-known actors and actresses like Julianne Moore and William H. Macy to pose in the photos. [A few years back, the NYT ran a behind-the-scenes slideshow of one of his "productions."]
So it was exciting to finally see his prints up close. I thought today was going to be the last day to see Crewdson's latest exhibit, "Beneath The Roses," at the Luhring Augustine Gallery [site is a pop-up] on 24th Street in Chelsea, but it turns out they've extended it through the end of June. You really can't do the photographs justice in online reproductions, but that said, I was somewhat disappointed by the latest works. Perhaps he raised the bar so high in the past -- with the level of mystery and fantasy thrown into down-and-out landscapes -- that the current pictures seem more banal in a way.
There is still a strong helping of the dramatic, though. An older woman stands naked in a motel bathroom, the hint of blood seen dripping from her. A man stands outside in the rain in the middle of a ghostly street, with his car door open and his briefcase soaking up the water. A group of youngish men and women stand around with flashlights in the woods, gazing into space with several dark holes visible in the brush. A naked couple lie together facing out on a naked mattress in a trash-strewn backyard.
The cinematic and staged quality evokes Cindy Sherman's Untitled Film Stills writ large, while the content of dazed and hollow-eyed Americana is almost Hopper-esque. Some criticize the work for its overabundance of detail, but I really enjoy that level of direction. Still, I almost felt like his style works better when the scenarios were even more over the top and fantastical -- the flower gardens growing inside, the secret world beneath the house, etc.
Sometimes when my eyes are redIt was written in October 1958, at a time when the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center (now the G.E. Building) boasted the second highest observatory deck on the island. A decade and a half later, it would become the third highest. But now, when it re-opens to visitors this fall, the G.E. view will be the second highest again, as David Dunlap points out in this Times article.
I go up on top of the RCA Building
and gaze at my world, Manhattan --
my buildings, streets I've done feats in,
lofts, beds, coldwater flats
--on Fifth Ave below which I also bear in mind,
its ant cars, little yellow taxis, men
walking the size of specks of wool-- ...
Friday, June 17, 2005
Apparently, only a small place in these subjects' brains was affected by the stroke -- a small area above and behind the left ear -- and as a result, they offered very basic, literal interpretations of these sayings that can be important elements of our human world, our art and culture, our literature and language, our heritage.
I made it to the box office of Avery Fisher Hall just 10 minutes before showtime, but they still had single seats left as far up as the third row of the orchestra. This was my first time being in the hall, and while I know people still complain about the acoustics sometimes, the latter-day reflective devices that they installed all around the stage, which I thought were attractive to look at as well, probably improved the sound a good deal.
I was a bit confused when the orchestra started playing Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, because that wasn't in the printed program. I was also confused because the guy on the podium did not look old enough to be Lorin Maazel. Luckily, the guy next to me was in the know: Turns out Maazel got sick earlier this week, and David Robertson, music director designate of the St. Louis Symphony, had to fill in, changing two of the program's pieces in the process.
As a result, you could've called the program "Fire and Ice" with two rich, powerful pieces employing all of the orchestra's color and fire as bookends (Apprentice and Firebird) to the icy coolness of the Sibelius concerto and his Swan of Tuonela with solo part for English horn.
Gil Shaham, who's probably one of the 10 best violinists playing today, was soloist on the concerto. (Interesting parallel: Shaham was born in the U.S., but moved to Israel for part of his life; Portman was born in Israel, but then moved to the U.S.) He really seemed to be enjoying himself up there, smiling and sawing away. I love the way the piece opens: the soft, shimmering strings like a snowy Finnish landscape awaiting the icy sunrays of the solo part, sliding in over top, introducing the earnest but passionate first theme. Shaham got a standing ovation at the end, and the audience wouldn't let him leave until he played an encore: a gavotte in rondo form by Bach.
The Firebird was also great. One of the movements really packs an opening punch, which often shakes people out of their chairs and takes you a bit by surprise even if you're familiar with the piece. My favorite movement is the last one, which builds so simply to finish in such triumphant, swooping form.
The Philharmonic will be performing the same program later this morning (quick turnaround, right?) and Saturday night.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
This is like the third time in the past year or so. It was intermission tonight at the New York Philharmonic concert, and I was headed for the concession table when I see a familiar-looking shaved head right in front of me in the throng. Gradually, I realize, down to the beauty mark on her cheek, yes, it's Natalie Portman, all right, just with less hair than she usually has.
She was with a middle-aged woman and a balding but youngish guy with glasses. I want to say they were all related somehow, but I wasn't sure. I only heard Natalie speak for a bit -- she wasn't talking very loud -- but I think the other woman (who may have been her mother, I guess) was asking her about some upcoming trip to Spain. Natalie was wearing a grayish peasant shirt and jeans, and carrying a kind of patchwork-quilt handbag. During the second half of the performance, she and the guy sat one in front of each other in the third and fourth row of the orchestra, and the mother-looking woman sat near me, off to the left of center -- all separate for some reason.
I tried to contrive some reason to talk to them, as they were right next to me a few times: walking out at intermission, then in line at the concession stand, sipping their coffee, and then finally leaving when it was all over. But no; didn't happen.
Can celebrities meet new people, I wonder, without having their celebrity be a major part of the introduction, of the attraction, of the basic interest in getting to know someone?
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
My favorite is the Welsh writer and poet Dylan Thomas, who wrote of such innocence and magic in "A Child's Christmas in Wales" and yet lived a nasty, brutish and short life, collapsing at the age of 39 in the famous hotel and dying at nearby St. Vincent's.
Another name on the blog's list of Chelsea authors is Ethan Hawke, who indeed has been published, but whose place in the literary canon ... uh ... hasn't yet been assured.
London was on the jury who selected the books, and he manages to dance around taking very strong stands on books that he didn't actually vote for. And you can just hear Garfield trying to prod him into saying something funny or something he'll regret (especially considering the supposed weight of the topic). Here's a choice interchange:
BOB GARFIELD: Well, it - apparently there was some sort of consensus on the jury. Do you know why [Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male] was deemed to be so harmful?Earlier, they have a slightly less cheeky discussion about whether books really hurt people or people hurt people. London maintains that books can in fact be very dangerous. [The full transcript is here.]
HERB LONDON: Well, probably because conventional notions of sexuality were changed and the relationship between men and women changed in the process. Normative behavior became very different as a result of the Kinsey Report and what was alleged to be the great changes that were occurring in American sexuality.
BOB GARFIELD: And next thing you know, you got, like Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is talking about ... man on dog sex.
HERB LONDON: Well, I won't even comment on that. I'm not going to dignify that comment, but [Garfield's LAUGHTER] I, all I'm saying to you is that if you're looking at normative behavior, clearly it changed as a result of the Kinsey Report.
Joking aside, I wondered how dangerous such books could really be without guns and ammunition, overly ambitious leaders, changes in law and science, and new and powerful inventions, etc. thrown into the mix? And yet, on the other hand, many people could make arguments that certain works of literature can actually be seen as sources of great good. (Remember: "Does Writing Change Anything?") So could a person support a top 10 list of the most helpful books of recent history while chiding a list of the 10 most harmful ones? Would a left-leaning publication ever find itself coming up with a top 10 "harmful" list? Or what would a Human Events "most beneficial" list look like?
"And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound ..."
They are Sony's "High Peformance" earbuds, gratuitous code number MDR-EX71SL (white). Setting aside for the moment the realization that I could've gotten these for at least $10 cheaper if I'd actually waited a few days instead of hurrying off to the sleek Apple Store on Prince Street, these headphones rock. They are a marked improvement over the cheaper brands. And while they're not as cool as the much-pricier Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones, they approximate some of that block-out-the-ambient-patter feature. The subway sounds especially are cut down heavily once you've snugged the little buds inside your ears. They're comfortable, and have different sizes of ear cushions, too. The music and words themselves come through much clearer, so much so that I can hear more imperfections on some of the tracks that downloaded from the internet back in the day. But the burned-from-CD tracks and downloaded-off-iTunes ones come through really well.
My only complaint so far is the cord length. The headphones are attached to a short cord, which can then be connected to an extension to make it longer. The short cord is almost too short and the extended version leaves too much slack. I've found at least that I can slip my iPod into my chest pocket with the shorter cord length if I'm wearing a button-down shirt and still have enough room to take it out and switch songs.
Overall, though, I'd say these earbuds are worth it, although you can probably find them online for cheaper than going to most stores.
(Title quote from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury)
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Monday, June 13, 2005
The DVD of Glass has one of the better extras I've seen recently: the "60 Minutes" interview with Glass from Aug. 17, 2003. In it, they show the stock newsmagazine scenes of Glass looking like he's doing normal everyday things: typing on his computer, walking around his New York apartment, cycling at the gym while wearing an ironic "Eat Krispy Kreme Doughnuts" T-shirt. He talks about how he fabricated so much in the most earnest tone, and then -- just under 10 minutes into the clip -- they show him stepping outside of an unmarked green door next to a very distinctive-looking sculpted wall. If you've ever driven between the Williamsburg Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel, you might recognize it. It's the Storefront for Art and Architecture at 97 Kenmare St. Which makes me wonder: Perhaps Stephen Glass lived or still lives (or works or works out) in an apartment/space above this SoHo landmark.
OK, I'll taking off my Obscure Semi-Celebrity Stalker hat right now.
So who owns IFC? Rainbow Media, which is a subsidiary by Cablevision Systems Corp., owners of Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and Clearview Cinemas (which owned the Waverly Twin), and recent vocal opponents of the Jets planned invasion of their Midtown turf. So when they say Independent Film Channel, they really mean small appendage of a major media conglomerate.
What I want to know is: Will you have to cross the picket line (or in this case, brush past the picketing gaggle) if you go to see the premiere of Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know this Friday night?
"That man was shot in Harlem! Gosh, thank goodness, I'm safe here in Hamilton Heights."
What outsiders may consider splitting of hairs, we might consider peace of mind. And when the person is shot, but does not die (thankfully), we seem to take even more license in having our minds wander to the pressing question of neighborhood, as seen in this Gothamist post, which starts off discussing how a tourist from Baltimore was shot and ends up musing on what section of the city it happened in. Flatiron? 20-something? South Koreatown? NoFlaB: North of the Flatiron Building? NoMad: North of Madison Square Park?
Oh, and here's a strange detail from the Newsday story: "As she was being wheeled off on a gurney for an X-ray yesterday, [the victim] appeared alert and even smiled." She must've been thinking of the T-shirt she could make: I Hit Up New York on a Bus Trip and All I Got Was This Bullet Scar.
(Why does living here bringing out the gallows humor in me?)
Here's what I've got so far: A cover of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" by Ben Folds and an original by him from one of his EPs called "Rent a Cop" as well as a cover by Folds and two other Bens (Kweller and Lee) of the Hedwig song "Wicked Little Town." Also, the original movie version of "Wig in a Box." (You can sort of see my progression of logic here, right?) Then two new Coldplay songs, even though it seems like the thing to be trashing them these days: "What If" and "White Shadows." I think I'll save the rest for later ...
Sunday, June 12, 2005
If you haven't heard the music yet, there are clips of "Dividing Day," "Say It Somehow," "Love to Me" and "Octet" available here. My favorite songs are actually the (somewhat bittersweet) ones sung by Victoria Clark who plays the mother: "Dividing Day," "Let's Walk" and "Fable" -- the finale -- although "Say It" and "Love to Me" are close runners up.
Ventured to distant but pleasant Bay Ridge last night. Off to Jersey today. Forecast high? 90 again!
Saturday, June 11, 2005
It begins as a deceptively simple coming-of-age story about a young girl on the brink of teenagerhood, moving with her teacher father and housewife mother to Rome from an area known to her future big-city classmates as "hillbilly haven." The movie then explores the similarities and differences between the contemporary left and right of Italian politics through a few families of the movers and shakers in Rome. First one side latches onto Caterina, then the other, in the way that established "cliques" -- whether teeny-boppers or adults -- are interested in winning over their newcomers. Caterina is constantly branded as "old-fashioned" because she hasn't yet started to affect the city's cynicism. She likes choral music and conducts unabashedly to the singing in her headphones, much to the delight of an Australian boy (who speaks very good Italian) who lives across the courtyard and later reveals to her the secrets he has discovered about her family. The father meanwhile is a hopeless social climber, who at the same time is tactless enough to rave madly from the audience of a TV talk show about how the established elite keep new ideas (and him) out.
After getting so tired sometimes of our culture wars here in America, I really enjoyed how the movie portrayed similar (but different) wrangling in modern-day Italy and what it had to say about the debates. There's a really revealing scene where a government minister from the right and a faded philosophe from the left find themselves in the headmaster's office trying to reconcile their daughters after a schoolyard fight. The session ends with the daughters insulting each other, but outside the fathers, who are supposed to hate each other, shake hands and joke about the world Caterina's father can only dream about.
At times, Caterina's father seems a bit too much of a caricature, but the rest of the characters are rich in detail, multisided, and fun to watch. And Caterina manages to retain an individual and innocent charm throughout the tug of war among other girls at school.
After the movie, people enjoyed it so much that they clapped. And as the classical music played and the credits rolled, some girls of indeterminate age got up and started dancing and improvising ballet-style in front of the screen. Those still left in the seats also found this pretty funny and clapped for the dancers.
Before the film, in the men's second-floor bathroom, where there is only one stall, and two urinals, a bit of an old man's cockfight ensued as a frustrated guy standing on the outside of the stall yelled in to the toilet's occupant, "Aw, hurry up already." Less than a minute later, we heard a flush and another old man stepped out to the sink area and said something along the lines of: "Were you talking to me? I had to wait just like you! You shouldn't've sat there in the theater, reading all those credits you don't understand, and instead, come out sooner like me." Another guy in the tiny restroom who'd been hearing all this was beside himself with laughter and looked at me as we were leaving: "Drama in the men's room!" he said.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
President Bush is supposed to be speaking at Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium next week, according to the CDT. His topic? Yup, you guessed it: Social Security. And since his audience will be the Future Farmers of America (now renamed to just the FFA -- sort of like how the AARP is no longer officially the American Association of Retired Persons), someone better get him up to the Creamery for some of that delicious ice cream a la Clinton and Spanier (seen above in a '96 Penn Stater magazine photo).
There's a new lead in the case of missing State College-area DA Ray (Gricar). The AP is reporting that he might have been spotted in Michigan in late May.
And founding dean of the Schreyer Honors College, Cheryl Achterberg, is stepping down from her post at PSU to head out to the Midwest and be the founding dean of the new College of Human Sciences at Iowa State University this fall.
If you're in the Financial District, there is a choice spot for drinks right in Battery Park, across from State Street and not far from South Ferry. Formerly known as American Park, it's been renamed Battery Gardens and the patio bar out back is just a few feet from the waterline and gives you full unobstructed views of New York Harbor, with the ships and pleasure boats scuttling about in clement weather. I haven't eaten there, but the food is supposed to be very good as well, though I don't know how expensive it is.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
The local Newspaper Guild, representing journalists at Reuters in New York, took out a pretty amusing advertisement in the Wall Street Journal the other week to highlight on-going union contract negotiations and call attention to the kind of embarrassing errors that have reportedly popped up on their wire ever since the media company has started outsourcing some photo editing duties to India -- and more recently, Singapore. I don't think this Buffett mix-up is an actual error, but it's not so far from the actual ones.
See this line from a Newsday story: "The errors include misidentification of the Polish city of Krakow as being in Portugal and saying Army Reservist Lynndie England, who was involved in the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, was commander of her unit rather than a private."
You know, like mistakes that most national-caliber journalists aren't likely to make if they're at all paying attention.
I'm more likely to feel the latter these days, but I still argue for pushing little-heard-of musicians, especially if audio samples of their music are available somewhere online for free. I admit that talking about the NY (especially Off-Broadway) theater scene can seem a tad obscure from time to time, if you're nowhere near or have never been to the city, so I can appreciate some of that vibe.
But nonetheless, here are six songs I enjoy at the moment:
1) William Shatner's cover of the Pulp song "Common People" featuring Joe Jackson
2) "End of the Movie" by Cake
3) "Departure Bay" by Diana Krall
4) Seu Jorge's cover of the David Bowie song "Life on Mars?"
5) "Not Going Anywhere" by Keren Ann
6) "Give Judy My Notice" by Ben Folds
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
The big contraption of mirrors and green dashes along the spiral walkway were less than illuminating until I read the printed guide at the base of things, which explained that it's the artist's experiment in bringing an actual corner of the rigid rectilinear and glassed-covered skyscraper grid of the city into Frank Lloyd Wright's soaring atrium. Thus, one could argue, temporarily "ruining" one of the great places in the city that does not confirm to the otherwise grand aesthetic.
It all felt more like a parlor trick grown to museum-sized proportions -- a less-than-captivating intervention in the space, which has been the site of more interesting works in the past.
Video projections on a screen above the band tonight just contributed to that feeling, especially one that tells a bittersweet picture story about a Humpty-Dumpty-looking fellow growing up, seeing his mother die, and trying to interact with the girl in the florist where he goes to buy flowers to put on his mother's grave. Two other image sequences were timed to match their songs down to the closing seconds.
It's not that I didn't like hearing their music live or enjoy myself, but there was something of an incongruency about the venue, the band's songs, the fans and their reactions. It's like a lot of people really love several of Keane's anthems, such as "Everybody's Changing" and "This Is The Last Time," which are excellent songs, no doubt, but at the same time, they aren't quite sure what to make of the rest of their music, which can be slow, synth-heavy and more introspective.