Monday, October 31, 2005

'Put it on Judy Miller's tab'

Don’t look now: Drudge is having a Maureen Dowd caption contest.

Halloween update

Three trick-or-treaters arrived! They rang all the bells on my floor like crazy until they got some people to open their doors. But that may be it for the evening …

Halloween

Not having grown up in the city, I still don’t have a handle on whether and how city kids go trick-or-treating. I went out to replenish my candy supply tonight, but I have a feeling that I won’t be getting many takers tonight. I saw some costumed kiddies outside on the streets, but not in the building at all. Then again, there aren’t many children living here to begin with - that I know of, at least - so it’s probably going to be a quiet night. Oh, well, I guess I’ll just have to eat the chocolates myself.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thriving here without being rich - one way

I was having a conversation the other day with a colleague who lives in a trendier neighborhood than me and thus pays a lot more in rent. I thought about what sacrifices I’d have to make if I wanted to live in a similar situation on what I make now, and realized it would be very hard, if approaching the impossible. The solution for many people is to find roommates, but I enjoy living alone, and don’t want to give that up – it’s something to which I’ve become accustomed for five years now. So instead, I live farther away from the various centers of action, and wake up to a more peaceful setting (except for the occasional car alarm and drag race) but also a longer subway ride.

For me, the key to enjoying this city on a small budget is traveling a lot within the city limits, habituating different neighborhoods on a weekly basis: living one place and working in another, shopping for food in one section and worshipping in another, going to see movies and shows along one set of subway lines and visiting friends along another. This lets me indulge my curiosity and my aspirations to be around nice things all the while getting by on less than the average salary here. It’s possible to do this especially here because so many grand things and well-known people are brought into close proximity with one another, on the street, on transit, in restaurants and stores and auditoriums. And what I do not spend on rent, I can spend on memberships to this museum or tickets to that show or the occasional dinner out somewhere nice. Also, cultivating a frugality about certain things and noting shortcuts and semi-secrets and discounts here and there pay off, too.

Of course, if it weren’t for the subways and the buses (but mostly the subways), this lifestyle wouldn’t be as possible, and I’d probably have to spend more time in one part of the city. I take cabs when I need to or feel like they would be worth it, but if I had to own and maintain a car here, I wouldn’t have enough to go out nearly as often. Public transit is something I’ve been nurtured to love over the years, by my perpetually commuting parents, by a year spent abroad in which my family was car-less, and by an adolescence in which I began frequenting buses before I learned how to drive.

At the end of the day, I can accomplish this lifestyle while working in a field that I love and going to a job that I don’t mind. I could be making buckets more money toiling for some Wall Street firm, but then I’d likely be carrying a BlackBerry (i.e., tether to work) and having to go into work on Sundays (and/or Saturdays) and the richer worlds of the city would be more within my reach, but then I wouldn’t have as much time to walk this fine line between feeling poor and experiencing things I want to experience.

Don’t get me wrong: There are times when this city gets me down and I feel lonely and anonymous and unconnected. But those have been outweighed so far by moments when I utter in my head that cliché of an ad slogan: “I heart N.Y.”

The bearer of sad letters?

LaChiusa at the Public

I had a front-row seat to Michael John LaChiusa’s new musical See What I Wanna See at the Public Theater tonight. The big name in the show is of course Wicked superstar Idina Menzel, and while she was great throughout, and had an especially fiery number in the first half, the real showstopper, I thought, was Broadway veteran (and Philadelphia native) Mary Testa with her book-end songs, “The Greatest Practical Joke” and “There Will Be a Miracle” during the second half. The play consists of two New York stories, past and present, introduced by a pair of grace notes from medieval Japan. As the title suggests, the play deals with truth and perception – how the same events can be recounted and felt in different ways. The first is a murder story set in 1951 and the second a post-9/11 tale about faith and belief. The music ranges in quality from pedestrian but endearing to accomplished and touching. While the stories aren’t exactly groundbreaking, the book and lyrics sustained the piece well, and they kept me wrapped up in the show.

One interesting and not altogether unwelcome distraction was the way at least two of the five actors in the ensemble, including the ravishing Ms. Menzel, would at times seem to look directly at me sitting there in orchestra seat A-1, enjoying the show. The Anspacher is a theater in the round, and the stage for this production is set at grade with the front row without any physical separation. Do you stare at them intently, a consummate theatergoer, welcoming the connection from mere feet away, or is it proper to avert your gaze? Do actors ever get distracted by staring at particular audience members? Or do the better ones manage to focus so well that they could stare at a man snoring loudly in his seat and still not be put off or miss a line or inflection? Is there any particular etiquette to reference here? Anybody?

Overall, I felt this was a successful new musical, and while I didn’t walk away humming any of the tunes, I wouldn’t say no to hearing several of the numbers again if possible. The official opening night is later tonight (Sunday), and it runs through Dec. 4.

Also, without giving too much of the plot away, I enjoyed the word play in the titles of the two New York-based stories: “R Shamon,” the ‘50s story, because an ‘A’ was missing from a cinema marquee for Rashomon. (The musical itself is said to be inspired by the stories of Ryunosuke Akutagawa, who wrote the story of that film.) And “Gloryday,” playing on the Latin “Gloria Dei,” or “glory of God.”

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Van Gogh's Drawings at the Met

Vincent van Gogh’s images are so wonderful, accessible and influential – and thus so readily reproduced on anything from mouse pads and mugs to bags and scarves – that the new exhibition of his drawings at the Metropolitan Museum is quite a surprise at first. Throughout the early rooms, there are no “famous” images – unless of course, I’d imagine, you’re a van Gogh scholar or have visited all the major museums that collect his works. It isn’t until you start to move through the later rooms that some of the more iconic pictures start to appear, and then only as a means of comparison to the drawings in ink, graphite and the occasional watercolor.

What the exhibit showed me was that the man who’s known now for his thickly textured oils full of fantastic color really knew how to draw with the most basic implements. The first pieces, arranged chronologically, are very representational, and while they are skilled, almost seem to have been created by a different artist. Then as you progress, more air gets into the pictures, the lines spread out, and you can see how he was moving toward a more impressionistic approach – although he is usually classified as a Post-Impressionist.

A NYTimes editorial today highlights the use of a reed pen, which shaped the strokes of his later works. The amount of ink the pen could hold, I imagine, helped to dictate the short, stubby, repeated and often parallel lines he used to create the larger images – mostly of the quiet, but not inactive, pastoral scenes he saw in France. Looking at his more fully realized oils is then such a more powerful experience, as the exhibit has revealed where he came from, where he began in his artistic life as well as in the lifetime of individual scenes appearing first in line form and later as paintings. There are even some great sketches on display that show how van Gogh penciled in the names of the colors (in French, I’m pretty sure) that he was planning for the later execution in oil.

Well worth a visit if you get a chance. The exhibit is open through year’s end.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Inside the Met.

Outside the Delacorte Theater, all closed up for the season.

The 55 Water St. beacon, quiet and alone, just after dusk.

Lisa Loeb ate my pancake

I was eating outside one of my favorite L.E.S. holes-in-the-wall (which shall remain nameless) last night, when I noticed a small film crew arrive. I continued chowing down, not having recognized any of the on-screen talent. In New York, I've learned, there are so many people swinging cameras around, you can't always tell how big-name an operation it is. Well, this one seemed like some blind-date type show. A girl and a guy yammering on about nothing while the cameras rolled. I'm going to gloss over some of the details here, but basically, I found myself interacting with this couple and eventually sharing a bite or two of my food with the woman. I wasn't very funny or witty, because I still thought it was some two-bit operation at this point. Anyway, the shot finishes, the talent moves on, and I find a waiver form passed my way.

Apparently, I'd just shared a few words with the singer Lisa Loeb, fresh off her recent appearance on "The Colbert Report." Totally did not recognize her in the moment. So anyway, I might or might not - depending on how unfunny I was or vital to the story flow that shot was - appear momentarily on an as-yet-untitled E! reality project.
The Pumpkin House is on the market! Only $3.45 million.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Dispatch from hurricane-battered Palm Beach County

Old friends of mine currently working for the Palm Beach Post sent a dispatch last night from the wake of Hurricane Wilma. Their words follow to the end of this post:
 
Currently, we have no power and no water at our house. Officials say it could take as long as four weeks to restore power to everyone, though we are hopeful it will take far less than that.

As for the water ... All of the city's pump stations died, so they cannot pressurize the system, therefore no water through the taps at home. We will get bottled water until then from the grocery store down the street, which is on generator power. Shopping by generator is quite the experience. Cash only. They padlocked all the freezer units shut, and there is a line to use the one payphone (remember those?) outside the store. Oh yeah! We also have no phone service by our regular land line or by cell phone. Who knows when that will be restored. ...
 
When we're not back at the home cleaning up, we are here at the paper, busily trying to stay on top of things. ... We have a blog that we are using to handle all the openings and closings of anything in the paper's coverage area and then some. ... We also still have reporters out in the damage sending us feeds via e-mail that we post right away. For a while, we also offered a free video stream from our TV partner, but their roof caved in yesterday, and they have no idea when they will be back on the air.

To actually print the paper, we are running on a massive generator and a feeder line from the power company, which is basically a glorified extension cord. Unfortunately, it is only enough power to operate one press, so it takes four times as long to print an entire edition. Thanks to that, we are operating on early deadlines, pages must be done by 9 p.m., which is a huge jump up in terms of a deadline at any paper.

One cool thing to come from all the damage is that you can really see the stars at night. With no power to anything for miles, it looks really cool. We are running a constellation guide for those that want to know more about the stars.

Great works by Steve and Stephen

(Probably shouldn’t be staying up so late to write this, but the blog cries out, FEED ME! FEED ME! And it must be fed, like a Tamagotchi kitten, squealing away.)

Two quick picks, along with accompanying quickly banged-out reasons:

The movie Shopgirl written by and starring Steve Martin. A gem of a movie. A jewel box with a lush transporting score. It nonetheless manages to convey the real awkwardness and rush of romance while harkening back to older narratives such as Sister Carrie and La Traviata. In less able hands, the movie would’ve groaned under the simplicity of the plot, but instead, the music is earnest and sweeps you away. So there is this strangely alluring combination of verisimilitude and fantasy wrapped up in a modest but touching work. I may not know Martin’s work very well, but this was certainly a pleasant surprise.

The new production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd, in previews now and opening next week. A dark, dark tale with only the slightest sprinklings of humor and delight. Another case of a story that could easily fall flat in less able hands. Having never seen it before, I came to this 25th anniversary show fresh and ready to be wowed. And I was. I’m not usually drawn to such macabre things, but accompanied by Sondheim’s dense and captivating music, it works so well. Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris - the first more experienced, the latter just recently attaining real fame - both feel like they’re at the top of their game, and seem to revel in the complex characters that are staged here. The set doesn’t move, the actors play the instruments on stage, and the killings are evoked by a loud screech and a wash of red light, so we’re left to ponder the mixed-up lives of the characters without any unnecessary embellishments. It’s gripping stuff that doesn’t ever feel exploitative. It’s a horror story less for your guts than for your mind.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


In the 145th St. subway station.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Yes, Hudson Heights

Where do you live? I could answer any number of ways: Upper Manhattan, Upstate Manhattan, Uptown, North of 96th, WaHI, Washington Heights, Hudson Heights. I usually prefer using the last two, but I’ll admit that the last name – which is a more recent invention – hasn’t quite caught on just yet the way Tribeca or Nolita have downtown. But anyone who’s visited this area will likely accept that Hudson Heights could be thought of as distinct.

According to most, the neighborhood is bounded by 181st Street to the south, the Hudson River to the west, Fort Tryon Park to the north and Broadway to the east. Most of this section is considerably higher than its surroundings, except for Bennett Avenue, which connects to 181st but slopes downhill as you go north, while the more westerly streets (Cabrini, Fort Washington, etc.) rise to form the highest natural plateau in Manhattan. Highlights of the neighborhood include Bennett and Fort Tryon parks, the Cloisters, the Mother Cabrini Shrine and High School, and one of the few uptown Starbucks. There are about a dozen restaurants, a few supermarkets, a selection of other stores, some realtors, and of course, great views of the Hudson and the G.W. Bridge. Yes, this is also where the big retaining wall fell.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The abandoned 91st St. station

I’m often intrigued by forgotten, decaying places AND I take the 1 train all the time, so I was a little surprised that I never noticed the abandoned station at 91st Street until just recently when I overheard another subway passenger point it out to his friends. It’s located, as you can probably imagine, between the 89th Street and 96th Street stations on the 1, and on sunny days when the train is moving slowly, you can pick out the graffiti-covered walls of the abandoned subway stop, now closed for more than 40 years. [More at NYCSubway.org and Abandoned Stations.] Since first spotting it, I’ve been trying also to locate any above-ground remnants of the station’s entrances, but I haven’t had any luck yet.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Car-less ain't so bad

At home outside Philly for part of the weekend. Driving my grandparents to a family celebration through pouring rain, I realized: I don't really miss driving all that much. I mean, occasionally, I guess it would be nice to just hop in the car for a set of errands or something, but long-haul driving? I'd much rather be the guy conking out in the backseat, lulled by the motion of the car. I've always loved falling asleep on the road, while someone else is doing the driving, and especially when I'm not feeling 100%, those memories and tendencies return.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


The "Beacon" all lit up, doing Christmas ... or Valentine's Day.

The "Beacon of Progress" and the skyline at dusk.

The approach to the redesigned public plaza at 55 Water Street has a great feel - you walk up through a small park and rise to meet Brooklyn's skyline, fairly high above the street and the FDR and the East River.

Rachael Ray's amazing rise to fame and involuntary excitement on the Food Network

Reading the lengthy but captivating NYT profile of Rachael Ray on the train today, I was reminded of an impression I've gotten from what little I've seen of her Food Network shows. Simply put: I get the sense that when she is actually doing the cooking, her more masculine side comes out - her voice deepens, she starts using her slangy, made-up words, and she swings around the kitchen like it's a sport, which is Food Network's specialty and key to its appeal among many men. But when she's out tasting other people's food - on the show "$40 a Day," say - her voice rises in pitch, she coos and giggles over the fun things she's eating, and she generally acts more stereotypically feminine. So she pulls out different sides of her personality to match whatever she's doing, which is probably why the network loves her so much and is giving her a fourth show. Look for more gender/sexuality under- and overtones in the article.

On the same topic, Frederick Kaufman spoke to OnTheMedia earlier this month about his Harper's mag article that explores the exploitation of "involuntary excitement" in media today as well as the Food Network's use of "automatic nervous response, as opposed to a more thoughtful process," more specifically. [Warning: text includes intellectually charged adult language, straight from public radio.]

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

"Late Night With James Joyce"

I saw a sketch comedy show late tonight at the People’s Improv Theater (the P.I.T.), a small upstairs theater and workshop above a sushi place in the Fashion District. It featured some people I knew from college, and it was pretty darn funny - even if I hadn’t know them, even if they hadn’t made me laugh on many (free) weekend occasions back in the day. The troupe is called A Week of Kindness. They’ll be performing again next Tuesday, same bat time, same bat channel.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Someone oughta tell the people at Zoni Language Centers that in English, we spell the word "association" with two S's, not one.

"All but one of his fires out"

I saw not one but two dead birds on the street today, intact but lying lifelessly with their little birdie feet stuck in a final pose until wind or water or car wheels or the street cleaner sweeps them away. One was in Midtown and the other not far from the Battery. What with avian flu in the news these days, I poked around on the internet, and found a page where you can report dead birds to the New York City health department. I did so for one of the birds - the brownish downtown one, not the yellow-speckled one farther uptown. If I were a better bird watcher, I could probably tell you what they were specifically, but I’m not. I didn’t get a call from the department, so I’m not sure whether they went to pick up and test my dead bird. Sorry I didn’t snap a photo, but you can use your imagination.

The title is from Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” The full quote is: “I would scour the swatched town for news of the little world, and find always a dead bird by the Post Office or by the white deserted swings; perhaps a robin, all but one of his fires out.”
Remember Lt. Josh Rushing, the Marine spokesman and unlikely free-thinking hero of Control Room? Well, you might say he's switching to the other side: Rushing has taken a job working for a new global, English-language channel planned by that love-it-or-hate-it, helping the terrorists or liberalizing the Arab world - take your pick - TV network Al Jazerra. [Via OnTheMedia and Romenesko]

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Below Union Square on Sunday afternoon.

The line outside Magnolia Bakery on Saturday afternoon was crazy, stretching around the store and down the block. Perhaps it's always this busy on the weekends or maybe there was just a lot of pent-up cupcake demand because of all the rain.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Two shows to watch

I’m not a very committed TV watcher in general. I’d much prefer to be out in the city most nights that laundry doesn’t need to be done or dishes cleaned. But being sick recently has kept me at home more weeknights than usual. So I’ve started watching two new shows if I’m home. Monday night, it’s “How I Met Your Mother” at 8:30 on CBS. It’s a story that mostly takes place in the present day, except it’s narrated by Bob Saget as if he were a father telling the eponymous epic story to his children 25 years in the future. If that premise alone weren’t enough to lure me, there are Alyson Hannigan (playing a slightly sweeter and less raunchy spin on her American Pie character) and Neil Patrick Harris (channeling his unabashedly straight Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle character) to enjoy. And on Tuesday night, there’s “My Name Is Earl” at 9 on NBC, with the actually rather charming Jason Lee. As I read one reviewer describe it, this is the kind of show that hits you with those after-laughs – things that aren’t necessarily knee slappers the moment you hear them, but which arrive a moment or two later. Also, there’s the idea that Lee’s character actually believes that Carson Daly invented the concept of karma, which drives the show’s storyline.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Truman show

I saw Capote tonight at the Angelika.

I wasn’t as blown away by it as I thought I was going to be, after reading all those glowing reviews. It’s another quiet but confident movie, and as I’ve written in the past, I’m not always in the mood for such films, especially now feeling as I do, physically, and have been for too long. But still, I greatly appreciate that these kinds of movies are out there and continue to hope that they find an audience so that filmmakers keep making them. Perhaps it’ll grow on me, as some are wont to do, and I’ll come to realize its excellence with time.

I did, however, have an urge to run out and finally read In Cold Blood. I feel like a bad student of writing and American literature and journalism for not having read it by now, but hearing Philip Seymour Hoffman read from Truman Capote’s writing during the movie made me realize that his prose is so alive that I shouldn’t have been put off by its content. My introduction to Truman’s work – a story I’ve told many times – was a TV version of “A Christmas Memory” that we watch every year, which is sweet and sappy and sad but no less powerful in its way than I imagine his “nonfiction novel” to be. And also, I have to admit that despite having heard Capote’s real, live voice squeaking out the narration to “Memory” so many times, it still took me a few scenes to warm up to that strange timber that Hoffman obvious channels so well.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Media mania

In a study that surprised me at first, but that became all too believable after I thought about it for a while, Ball State's Center for Media Design reported late last month that our No. 1 activity as a society - surpassing even sleeping - is using media devices. To think that it should come to this. As recent as half a dozen decades ago - before television, before phones were ubiquitous, when radio was still mostly treated as a focal point, not background noise - it would've been shocking to think that media would so consume our lives.

Of course, it's not all bad: We have never before been so connected to whatever it is that interests us. And that's key: what interests us, not necessarily the world at large. Because what media have done is allowed us to choose like never before who we want to talk to and when and where, what we want to listen to, what we want to explore, what kind of news we'd like to read, perhaps to the detriment of a more generalist approach to absorbing the current moment. We can be entirely consumed by various forms of media, and yet at the same time - because of our careful selection - NOT hear much if anything about, say, the earthquake in Central Asia.

All of which reminds me that as much as I love being plugged in, as much as I love having all my interests piqued by daily and intraday reports and dispatches and snippets, the unplugged world holds an even greater poignancy.

Speaking to people face to face, whether friends or family or work colleagues ... listening to live music ... watching live theater ... singing in church ... eating a meal without the TV on ... walking outside, especially in the greener spots ... reading a book ... exploring places in person ... enjoying your health or learning to bear things gracefully ... just closing your eyes and listening to your breathing.

It can be hard to focus on these things - especially when you live alone and find that media can be ways to keep you company or connect you to others - but tuning out at times is important, even vital, to staying balanced.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Little Red Lighthouse

The George Washington Bridge, from the New York side.

In the library of the Masons' Grand Lodge of New York, 23rd Street, Chelsea.
That notable-in-some-quarters scribe of Brooklyn-based coupling Amy Sohn has a new baby! No, not another book. A real, live, swaddled bundle of joy. Or make that a bundle of potential rivalry, according to her latest NYM column. And there's more at her site: "In the meantime I am spending my time breastfeeding on demand, which is more time consuming than any writing project I have ever done." [Via Gothamist]

Chrysler Building fun fact

The distinctive recessed lighting that's featured in the lobby of the Chrysler Building -- and which anticipated the popular lighting technique aimed at minimizing computer glare and eye strain in offices everywhere today -- uses neon, not fluorescent bulbs. The iconic skyscraper opened in 1930, and the first practical and viable fluorescent lamp didn't arrive until 1938.

[Photo from Flickr]

Dear readers

You might (or might not) notice a slight drop-off in entries posted here shortly. Reason? This week, I'm going to be contributing to another blog: Curbed.com. And I want to get it right, and not be banished from the site or anything. So I'll be exporting a lot of my usual observations on city life, neighborhoods, and the buildings we inhabit to this other site, which is well worth reading -- praise I would've offered even before I got this opportunity. See you over there! Direct any related intel to tips@curbed.com.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Along the Hudson River Greenway.

A phalanx of old Checker taxicabs pulled up outside Our Lady of Pompeii Church in the Village this afternoon for a wedding. Out popped a few bridesmaids and various nears-and-dears of the bridal party. We could see the bride sitting in the back of the green and yellow cab. For whatever reason, she didn't alight just then, but instead had the driver take another spin around the block. We wondered: Are cabs cheaper than limos or horse-drawn carriages?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gooooooo State!

We knocked off Ohio State, 17-10, in front of an ecstatic hometown crowd! (I only wish I could've been there.) Woo-hoo. It's just such a great feeling to be back -- to have a team that could possibly be a Top 10 team once more. WE ARE .... PENN STATE!

Spotted Saturday afternoon during OpenHouseNewYork inside the (rather empty) penthouse loft of V Studio of the Walker Group, 95 Morton Street in the West Village.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Meatpacking District: Soon with less beef

The Real Estate says Markt is eyeing a makeover. But something that's not in the new designs for that corner location on West 14th Street is any room for the Western Beef supermarket that I thought always added a nice counterpoint to the hip eatery next door. Which makes me wonder: How many businesses in that neighborhood still deal in raw meat as opposed to just serving it on expensive plates? And no, meet markets don't count. There's a colorful graph in this somewhere.

Hurricane portraits

New Orleans' Times-Picayune will be publishing "Portraits of Grief"-style pieces about those who died in Katrina's wake. Editor Jim Amoss told OnTheMedia's Brooke Gladstone that the smaller newspaper's task will be an even more difficult undertaking than it was for the New York Times, since many of the victims' survivors were displaced by the storm themselves. The interview, dated last Friday, noted that the feature would be launching "next week," but I haven't been able to locate it on the paper's site. Please post a link if you can find one.

"I will suddenly and unexpectedly throw in an unrealistic weight requirement."

I'm not sure whether this list represents actual personal ads from Craigslist, but if they're not fact, they at least sound all too true.
 
From Austin: "Craig's List (sic) Top 10 M4W Personal Ads."

Autumn arrives for real

After that little bit of summer that snuck its way into October, it looks like fall is making its presence felt. It’s supposed to be a pretty rainy weekend – unfortunately for OpenHouseNewYork – the leaves are changing on the cliff outside my apartment, and the daily highs will not be breaking the 70 mark much anymore. Break out your long sleeves and umbrellas.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What are we supposed to do ...

Walk everwhere?
 
"New York subway system on alert" [CNN]

Paternoville

Sure, it doesn't have quite the rebellious-college-student feeling that actual tent-city protests of recent years had, but it's still pretty amusing whenever a bunch of Penn Staters forsake their cozy wired dorms and apartments to brave the elements for some cause, even if it is just a sport. This week, PSU has football fever, so Camp Nittany has sprung up outside Beaver Stadium. Both the Collegian and the university's PR team are covering the action.

You gotta wonder, though, whether those who came up with the Paternoville name realize its somewhat unfortunate association: I'm thinking of Hoovervilles, those shantytowns that formed during the Great Depression in places like Central Park. President Hoover wasn't exactly the darling of those encampments, whereas Joe Paterno is the unironic conquering hero of this village's name.

Previously: Go State!

UPDATE: Once and future blogger Daryl informed me tonight that camping outside the stadium isn't all that uncommon really. When the team is doing well, there are usually a few dozen hardcore fans who aim to stake their claim at some front-row seats as early as possible in the week, so thus they pitch their tents and wait until gameday arrives, when they will be ushered in to not-so-warm but still very choice ... bleachers.

Still: I never remember them giving the tent city an actual name.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Look! There, off to the left of the Time Warner Center. It's a news content provider ... providing a few morsels of ... news and content. Of course, a minute later, the screen went back to flashing Aaron Brown's knowing smirk. But you gotta give them some credit for actually using their building-top space for something other than more house ads.

OMG Harriet Miers is soooo excited to maybe get to be a SC justice soon

At least that's the sense you get from reading "her" blog. [Via Blinq]
 
A choice excerpt: "Im just writing this really quickly... Andy Card came in when I was blogging and saw it even though I minimized it really quick, now he's talking to Karl ... I hope they don't withdraw my nomination, this is so so so bad"

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

(Good) comedy show tonight

I haven’t seen much stand-up comedy at all since I moved to New York. Perhaps it’s all those walks through the Village and Times Square getting bombarded by fliers and cries of “comedy show tonight!” that turned me off to listening to some struggling comedian.

But tonight I saw a real professional, whom I figured would be pretty funny. Graham Norton doesn’t have quite the following over here that he does in Britain, but he’s not exactly unheard of, either. I remember looking forward to catching his talk show (“So Graham Norton”) on British television when I could, while I was studying there a few years ago, and I even shelled out some money for one of his stand-up audiotapes on my way out of the country. His show tonight kept me laughing the whole way through with his slideshow of craziness ripped from the (mostly British tabloid) headlines and the inevitable British vs. American humor.

He finished out the show with one of his trademarks – making prank calls live. Tonight, he called a gay chat line, and after a few hiccups with the automated system, patched it through to the public audio system and managed to elicit a lot of (restrained) laughter from the audience as he spoke to various callers – despite their dullness. The best conversation he had was probably the one where he said he was Irish and came over to America with a production of Riverdance and never left, but has recently taken up professional roller skating.

My favorite call ever would have to be the one he made to a for-hire Terminator impersonator (for birthdays and bar mitzvahs) while he had Linda Hamilton on his TV show. The guy, who advertised his services on the Web, thought he was being put on for so long until he finally heard Linda talk for a while and was just blown away.

Norton’s show is called Know All and he’ll be at the Village Theatre through Oct. 22.

Oh what a difference a year makes

At last year's OpenHouseNewYork weekend, eager archi-nerds hoping to get a glimpse of the High Line (but not eager enough to trespass on the CSX-owned tracks for some real up-close-and-personal as several notable photobloggers have done) had to climb the stairs of an abandoned meatpacking plant to get a legal peek. This year, the Little Community Initiative That Could is movin' you on up to "the loft gallery of the Phillips, de Pury & Co. auction house" at 450 W. 15 St. in Chelsea. There must be something about a plan to reshape the city that feels so blessedly free of controversy and promises to boost property values through the roof (ignoring that pesky "bubble" for a moment). Click and scroll down to site No. 64 under Manhattan at OHNY's site for more info on this weekend's luxe viewing op.

Safer bicycle seats today for tomorrow's generation!

This report in the Times about how heavy amounts of bicycling can lead to reproductive health issues, especially in men, is a little bit funny at first, but mostly rather sad and disheartening: Here's a wonderfuly fun and healthy activity that lets you commute, travel and recreate in an environmentally friendly way, and now we have to tell people that it could actually be hurting them in other ways.
 
I'm actually a little surprised it wasn't written by Times science writer Gina Kolata, who recently has been a messenger of such "everything you know is wrong" articles as "Study Says Echinacea Has No Effect on Colds" (July 28) and "Which of These Foods Will Stop Cancer? (Not So Fast)" (Sept. 27).

Monday, October 03, 2005

New York weather fun fact

According to Gothamist, this year's span of June through September was the warmest four consecutive months ever measured in Central Park. And this, as we enter October still wearing short sleeves, and seeing forecasts of highs in the 70s at least until Thursday.

In semi-related news -- unseasonably warm weather or no -- fall foliage time is just around the corner. The Weather Channel is always a great source for the current and typical peak-color maps for the Northeast. According to the "normal" map, NYC is scheduled to hit its peak in late October, as with all the other major cities nearby: Boston, Philly, D.C.

A night of timeless gestures in our time

This evening at my church, I attended a very special service called the Transitus. It’s a commemoration – based loosely on the Mass, but without a consecration – of the last night of St. Francis of Assisi’s life on earth, spent – as the story goes – with his brothers and the sisters of St. Clare. It’s celebrated on the vigil of the feast of St. Francis each year by many communities dedicated to his memory.

It was an hour full of symbolism and ritual. There was a flaming torch lit at the beginning of the service, standing at the altar of the darkened church, illuminating a San Damiano cross. There were readings and prayers in English, Spanish and French (to reflect the diversity of this particular church). There was a priestly blessing and the breaking of bread. Toward the end, there was even the lighting of individual candles, representing the transfer of spirit from the central torch to the community. And of course – my favorite part – there was lots of touching music, provided by a very talented pianist and singer along with help from the congregation. She even sang a version of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables, which I’d never heard before in a liturgical setting, but found very fitting.

Modest, indie and infectious

I Netflixed Funny Ha Ha last night. It wasn't in theaters very long earlier this year, but it was out long enough to get raves from a lot of critics. It's a great, small film, but not necessarily one of the kind that I'm always in the mood to watch -- Junebug comes to mind. But last night I was in just such a mood, and therefore found the 90-minute piece to be probing and realistic -- especially being of similar age as many of the characters in the movie -- without being obvious or heavyhanded. The film, shot on 16mm in the suburban Boston area (but could really be anywhere nondescript), follows a recent college graduate and her circle of friends and acquaintances as they hang out, flirt, drink beer, go to temp jobs, get fired, etc. 
 
It's one of those movies that may not be captivating in the first few minutes but manage to get under your skin if you're patient with them. The seemingly random nature of the scenes and the dialogue belie their underlying shape in the same way that nervous, noncommital language sometimes used by people our age alterately hides and reveals what it is we're trying to actually do -- often, connect with others or get in touch with ourselves.

Dumpster diving with Douglas Elliman

Spotted Friday night: Discarded in the shadow of the Flatiron Building at 23rd and 5th -- like an offering to the gods of New York real estate -- was a stack of perfectly fine looking business cards for one particular higher-up at Douglas Elliman. (I expunged as best as I could all identifying marks to protect the potentially innocent.) Why were a pile of this person's cards tossed away in a (well-located, at least) public trashcan, in plain view, atop newspapers? Was it said person who did the deed? Or someone who managed to get a handful of them? Were they left over from an open house somewhere? Were they thrown in disgust? Or glee? Or desperation? Is it guerilla marketing? Is the firm replacing everyone's cards, and if so, how did they end up here? Was the office trash not good enough? I'm sure there's a semi-logical explanation here, but it just baffles me.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Reading Lewis Mumford: Then and now

I’ve been reading a collection of essays by architecture critic Lewis Mumford – mostly his Sky Line articles for the New Yorker – and I came across his piece on Rockefeller Center in Midtown, written in mid-1931. In it, he bemoans the lost opportunity that was this massive planned development project, and while he doesn’t pan the project entirely, he does see it as a typical example of business interests superceding public good and architectural aesthetics.

At one point, Mumford writes: “Real-estate experts, salesmen, radio executives, and miscellaneous roxies dictated the number and kind and height of buildings that would be immediately profitable, according to their usual short-sighted and somewhat superstitious canons, in Radio City: there was nothing left for the architects and Mr. Rockefeller except the trimmings.”

Here was a great swath of land that came available during a building boom and Mumford – along with many others, I can imagine – saw it as a chance to break from the higgledy-piggledy creative process that created much of Midtown today and instead paint some broad stokes that would testify to the city as a public place, worthy of higher ideals.

It’s enlightening to find out about these early complaints, and how they compare to the debacle that is current planning at the World Trade Center site. The details are different, of course, but the basic idea – a large space on a crowded island, suddenly open to new development – is the same. For all the criticisms that might be laid at the feet of the various Rockefellers and their aspirations to reshape areas of New York, one can at least congratulate them for getting things done. Just as they were behind “Radio City,” they were also instrumental in conceiving of and getting the twin towers built in the first place. But this time around, their leadership – whether visionary or dictatorial – is absent. Instead we have a rabble of greater and lesser political, state, interstate, federal, commercial and what-have-you players fighting over the site.

And while Rockefeller Center may not have been the great urban-planning success that Mumford had hoped, its buildings and plazas are still attractive in a certain light and do draw crowds – both locals and tourists – and have become a valued part of New York life. So even as I read of an old critic disappointed, there is also hope in knowing that whatever will get built there at ground zero – whenever it all gets built – will eventually find its way into the hearts of the people who live here and those who don’t live here but love it all the same. Just as people finally became fond of those supposedly ugly towers long before September 2001, so too – I like to hope – we’ll eventually learn to live with what the many forces ultimately hew from the ruins.

Go State!

I've gotten into the habit of not staying glued to PSU's football season these past few years as the team has foundered. So now I feel bad that I've been missing out on what's turning out to be their best season since I was in school there. (Penn State beat Minnesota 44-14 yesterday.)

Here's a choice quote from the Inky's Sunday morning recap: "Penn State's seven-game winning streak is now the third-longest in the country, behind only Southern Cal's streak of 26 games and Texas' string of 11."

It's not every day I see my alma mater mentioned in the same breath as those powerhouses of the gridiron.

Hail to the Lion!