Saturday, December 30, 2006

My new favorite example of digital retouching


U2, "Window in the Skies"

Saturday morning chain letter

It's been a lonely week since Boxing Day, so why not reply over the ether to a chain letter from Jaime? (I guess I'm the someone she knows a little.) It involves books. And really with interweb chain letters, there's not even the pain of postage involved, so here are the rules:

Find the nearest book
Name the title and author
Turn to p. 123
Post sentences 6-8
Tag 3 more people

The Dissident by Nell Freudenberger (a Christmas present that I'm excited to read after I finish The Emperor's Children, another gift)

"Gordon agreed with her, but somehow he'd managed to show his distaste for it without actually offering an alternative. / She figured that Max had slipped out around eleven, just after she'd said good night and before they turned on the alarm. Gordon had already been in bed, wearing his Brooks Brothers pajamas and reading the AJP."

I like those last details. I guess I'll have to actually read the book to find out which American Journal ... that means.

So I tag: Fake Mustache. Caren. Kottke.

(I've met Meg, but can't remember meeting the man himself.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

HIMYM Blooper Reel!


Almost as fun as actually being there.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Barnes and Noble author appearances I may or may not get around to seeing

-Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children, with Todd Field, director of the recent movie: Jan. 8, Lincoln Triangle
-David Lynch, weirdo director: Jan. 11, Union Square
-Adam Rapp, playwright of Red Night Winter: Jan. 22, Lincoln Triangle
-Norman Mailer, literary legend: Jan. 25, Union Square

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Unsilent Spring

Hearing a commercial on WQXR for the Broadway transfer just before I left for Christmas with the family convinced me to buy the soundtrack to Spring Awakening, and I haven't been disappointed. It's the kind of album I can listen to, when I'm in the mood, from beginning to end without the desire to ever reach for the skip button. The music (Duncan Sheik) and lyrics (Steven Sater) are that good. They're catchy and rich and deliver extra appeal upon repeat listening. And apparently, I'm not the only one who appreciates it: It's No. 11 on iTunes' top listing of soundtrack albums, and had been higher recently.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Graded on a curve, a decent Holiday

The Holiday, which I can't help figuring was crafted to imitate the trans-Atlantic appeal and cast of Love Actually, isn't as funny as it ought to be, and you can never really forget you're watching perfectly made-up movie stars in drop-dead-gorgeous settings and perfectly calculated shots, yet I was willing to forgive it these faults for being downright sweet and charming by turns. I am of course more easily swayed by British actors swooning over Americans and also by little British girls in pinafores saying the cutest of things in the cutest of ways. But still, I think the movie deserves credit for creating some fun natural-feeling moments amid the more predictable and contrived ones: those moments when one thinks, "I do that. I'm like that sometimes. Even when I'm not imagining a movie camera hidden behind the teakettle in the reality show that is my life." Directed by Nancy Meyers, it includes a great performance by Eli Wallach as an old screenwriter from the studio-system days, whom I've known more from evenings of Selected Shorts at Symphony Space than from the big screen (this being my deficiency, not his). All the lead characters get to be wonderfully successful commercial artists of some kind (the Brits get the words, the Yanks get the moving pictures), and there is something fun about having the Cameron Diaz character randomly burst into mental trailer-mode, where her life is boiled down by the famous announcer guy. And Hans Zimmer, who wrote the lush score, had to love that Jack Black's character is a movie-score composer (Jack Black a music nut? Never!) who tells his girlfriend not to mess with the Morricone on the convertible's CD player. There were other small jokes that you'd be more likely to find in a novel than a Hollywood rom-com that made me want to cheer for the piece a little more. And I thought it ended just right, the way a lot of old movies did, before overdoing and without overly implying any happily-ever-afters.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

My 12 favorite live theater performances this year -- OK, it's actually 14

The Apple Tree, starring Kristin Chenoweth
Cagelove, by Christopher Denham
The Coast of Utopia (parts I + II), by Tom Stoppard
Company, directed by John Doyle
The Elixir of Love at NYC Opera
Orange Lemon Egg Canary, by Rinne Groff
Red Light Winter, by Adam Rapp
Spring Awakening, with music by Duncan Sheik (on and off Broadway)
A Stone Carver, starring Dan Lauria
Striking 12, starring Groovelily
[title of show] at the Vineyard
Well, by Lisa Kron

'Pull it into Hug Harbor'

Shopgirl

It's one of those novellas that's actually better as a movie. The book by Steve Martin's not all that bad, but it doesn't really add much if you've seen the movie, and whereas the movie knows when to end, the book goes on for about a dozen pages too long, threatening to ruin what goodwill it built up previously.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Shipwreck

Part dva of Tom Stoppard's Russian trilogy tonight at LCT. And I actually got to see the playwright himself in the lobby at intermission, along with Daniel Okrent, former public editor of the NYT (I'm pretty sure it was him). I was almost late as the friendly bartender at Bello Giardino topped up my glass of Chianti, and I had to rush over to make the curtain. On top of being slightly buzzed for the opening scenes, I was squished by my two neighbor theatergoers, who'd taken it upon themselves to totally hog the armrests before I arrived. Thus I didn't get off to a good start, and probably can't give a good accounting of the show. Jennifer Ehle and Brian F. O'Byrne as Natalie and Alexander Herzen are the stars of this installment, and they each manage to shed the problems I saw in the first one, turning in good performances that carry the show along. No one quite stands out quite like Billy Crudup did playing Belinsky in the first part, although Ehle does show her chops (and other things*) playing Natalie. For whatever reason, I didn't feel as connected to the characters this time, and more of the philosophy babble passed me by without sticking -- it stuck a little more in the second act, I admit. There's a line that Belinksy utters twice in the show (the scene's repeated in part) that goes something like, "I've had enough of utopias." I'm sad to admit that at that moment I was feeling similarly. But it wasn't all so tiring. The sets are used to even greater effect in this part, and the stage is opened up more to evoke the different settings across Europe. The serf statues that stood sentry in the back of the first part of the trilogy are gone for most of Shipwreck, but they are constantly mentioned as being one of the chief sources of Russia's backwardness. (Of course, slavery was still legal in the U.S. at this time as well.) The play highlights Herzen as a philosopher in exile who can do the most good when he is away from his homeland like an early Joyce or Hemingway.

*There's a creative scene in the play that recreates Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, reminding me of the tableau vivant scene featuring Lily Barth in The House of Mirth.

Monday, December 18, 2006

How's it gonna be?

If my memory from Curbed days serves -- I'm too exhausted to confirm -- this East Village church facade will someday be the partial front to a dormitory. I can't decide whether this is going to look really neat and post-modern, or just tacked on and sad. Are there other church-front mutant buildings I'm not thinking of right now?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Evening's viewing

A little bit o' quality mainstream prime-time and a touch of hipster heaven: Episode 109 of TheBurg: "The 90s" and episode 10 of Friday Night Lights: "It's Different for Girls."

Springtime for Broadway

I saw Duncan Sheik's Spring Awakening again with W. on Friday night, this time on Broadway. And while I had some reservations about the show the first time around, the slightly tweaked version feels more whole and less problematic. The frenetic choreography feels like it's been toned down to just the right amount and timing, although that may just be my bad memory. Plus, they managed to recreate the intimate feeling of the original set in the former church building in Chelsea. The show offers a fun, intense, touching and very tuneful night at the theater. The house was packed, post positive reviews, mostly it seemed with people under the age of 25. The show takes some risks, and it's a little more R-rated now, but they pay off, turning that hint of uncomfortableness we and the characters feel into truth. Plus, it's great to be able to leave a theater with several of the songs in your head, while also being able to pick up on subtleties in the book. Perhaps some of the reviews were hyperbole, but this really is a refreshing addition to the Broadway line-up. It feels like art as much as it does entertainment.

Also, Brantley seems to agree with me on the idea that the best part of Apple Tree is the beginning. Oh, and in part 3, Kristin C.'s supposed to be Jayne Mansfield, not Marilyn Monroe, apparently.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Holiday tip

If you haven't been over to Grand Central Terminal at all this season, make a detour for one of the every-half-hour kaleidescopic light shows. They do some neat things with common objects around the transit system that look more beautiful than you'd expect all mixed up and turned about. Half the fun is trying to figure out what objects and scenes the creators of the artful display used to make the seemingly abstract designs. It's on 11 to 9 every day through New Year's.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Late-night Wednesday

K. and I caught up after not seeing each other for nearly a month tonight at Henry's, which has wide-open floor space, high ceilings and nice holiday decorations. We ended up talking about how we were both following in our fathers' footsteps, career-wise, and how both sets of our parents had their first real dates in New York City: dinner and a show, each time. (The shows were, as we understand, Hair and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.) And now here we are each of us living in the city where we kinda sorta began. (Granted, Jersey is just across the water.) After we said goodbye, and after only one glass of wine, I spotted a trio of 20-somethings carrying a spindly little Christmas tree with a pair of 2x4s for its base, and I couldn't contain myself having just watched the Christmas special on YouTube the other night (it's all there, along with lots of parodies, just do a search), and I yelled out to them, "It's a Charlie Brown tree!" (It really did fit the part, even more so than the one I bought last year.) Earlier in the evening, I helped A. pack up her truck to move north to Mass. I don't think it's quite hit me that she's leaving, but I know I'll miss her. Still, it's only two states away from here: not that far.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Juggling Apples

There really wouldn't have been any other way to arrange the three stories in The Apple Tree, opening this week at Roundabout's Studio 54, I realize that. I mean, the stories go from Adam and Eve through sometime in the middle to the '60s of Marilyn and Lennon, and how could they have done it in reverse? (Could they?) It makes sense chronologically, and I guess you'd rather leave the audience with a smile instead of a tear, but still. As much as I thought the whole performance -- each story featuring Kristin Chenoweth, her ex-fiance Marc Kudisch and Brian D'Arcy James -- was pretty decent and inviting, I got the most character development and emotion from the opening story, which is based on Mark Twain's The Diary of Adam and Eve. The other two, while amusing and filled with some fun references in book, acting and music, just kind of seem lightweight and caricaturish after you've seen the first one, which ended up being rather touching and downright human.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crossing 59th and 5th tonight ...

I saw a guy on a Harley juggling a decidedly not-handsfree cell phone in the middle of the intersection. You can splurge for the pricey bike, but not the in-helmet Bluetooth headset? Come on!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fun words and phrases to say, or snapshots from the rest of my weekend

Scratch-off. Croissant. Rockefeller. Pescatore. Smithwick's. Matechino. Liturgical dance.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Austin Tobin Plaza

My personal memories of the original World Trade Center's plaza are hazy to nonexistent. I remember seeing the towers from a distance many times, but up close, all I can remember is riding an escalator up from the PATH train to the shopping concourse, and then an even fuzzier recollection of actually staring up from the street level, if not the plaza itself -- or I could be wrong, maybe it was any number of other skyscrapers. Still, I love pictures that are spooky because of what your mind connects with them. Polis has one such photo, in black and white. It's not scary or anything, but there's something about the wind-blown papers, the relative emptiness and what we know would come that adds up to a mildly chilling snapshot. What's even weirder about this photo is that it doesn't seem like one most people would take -- the composition isn't stunning, there's not much of a focal point. To me, it becomes truly beautiful only in retrospect, in the way that so many hum-drum pictures of a lost time or civilization -- the microcosm that was the WTC, say -- become things worth viewing and admiring for their innocence or perhaps obliviousness.

Spanish Painting: Time, Truth and History

One of my favorite games in looking at visual art is to find unexpected, seemingly anachronistic touches in different periods of art. I like when 17th-century art reveals a bit of the abstract, subtly foreshadows the distortion and change that would come in Modernism. And I like Modern art that looks back, paying homage to the more strictly representational work of the past. I like to remind myself that there was a broad spectrum of activity surrounding each piece in the art-history canon that you see in textbooks. I like knowing that what we think of the creative modern mind sometimes wasn't actually invented in the 20th century, that crazy and probing people have expressed themselves throughout time, regardless of their contemporary mores. The Guggenheim's latest survey of Spanish art ("From El Greco to Picasso"), on display now through March inside the cocoon that Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark building has become with all the scaffolding outside, offers a good opportunity for this kind of thinking. NYSun writer Lance Esplund noticed the same thing on one of the paintings that stood out to me for being a little different: "In Juan Carreño de Miranda's 'Inés de Zúñiga, Countess of Monterrey' (c.1660–70), the figure's broad hoopskirts and corseted, funneled waist suggest not a human form but, rather, a tiered wedding cake or a passing ocean liner." The layout of the Gugg's famous ramp allows for very transparent pairings and groupings of paintings new and old, often showing how much respect Picasso had for his forebears, or at least knowledge of and willingness to engage the older works, to update them, to recrop them and refocus them, and to make them more primitive in some ways, too. We also spent a lot of time in front of the tiny, fuzzy painting that gives the exhibit its name. Unlike many allegorical paintings, it took a while to figure out which nude figure represented which intangible. And even after we went through several permutations, the question still seemed to remain open. Oh, and last but not least, we couldn't help noticing that three of the paintings looked an awful lot like present-day celebrities. If you go, look for Julianne Moore, Peter Dinklage and Robin Williams as Osric (sort of) in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. Seriously!

Ah, unrequited love

That old familiar feeling returned again this evening, with a vengeance. I totally wasn't expecting to feel this strongly when I heard the fateful news of Another. Then it hit me with the kind of reaction I haven't felt in a long while. I guess it's good to know I can still feel this way, if only to assure me I haven't become totally New York jaded. But man, if it doesn't hurt right here [points to heart].

Thursday, December 07, 2006

What's the Big Le-deal-ski?

You can now officially put me in the category of people who don't absolutely adore The Big Lebowski. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood or with the right people to watch it. I can imagine I might've laughed a few more times -- and I did laugh a few times -- if I'd been in a room with a more appreciative audience. Maybe I'm missing the point or something, but it just wasn't all that funny and the story didn't totally come together for me. I wanted to like it. I mean, I love other Coen Brothers flicks like O Brother and Hudsucker. Perhaps there's a tao of the Lebow' and I'm just not clued in. (Feel free to try to convince me of its greatness.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Medium High Fidelity

Sometimes it helps to have low expectations. They're more easily exceeded! From the moment the swishy musical-theater-loving bartender at Wined Up on Sunday night cringed slightly at the mention of the new High Fidelity musical at the Imperial on West 45th, I feared for my semi-full-priced commitment this evening. I was pleasantly surprised with acting that wasn't that bad, songs that were well sung, a book that wasn't that painful, cool sets and a few blockbuster moments nearly worth the bust-out-laughter they produced ("We've got a 1-8-7 in aisle 4"). The first act spins its wheels a bit too much with the on-stage top-5 exes, but the second act delivers. Amanda Green's lyrics don't quite match up to her father Adolph and Betty Comden's, now both smiling down from that Great White Way in the sky, but they're not so bad that they get in the way of an otherwise decent show that deserves to run for a fair amount longer than lead actor Will Chase's last Broadway venture (Lennon). And the guy who plays the Jack Black character, Jay Klaitz, does a great job of nodding in Black's direction without doing a total copycat performance, and doo-wops his heart out in the finale. Nice pastiche moments (Neil Young, Springsteen...) the whole way through, and L., who was sitting in her first Broadway theater this evening, said the show did a good job of faithfully mixing elements from the Nick Hornby novel and John Cusack movie. Oh, and here's Jaime's recent four-item list of pluses.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The swinging L train


I love how, in this video, the one guy sitting down in the seat pretends to be totally oblivious to the novelty that's going on in front of him, like good New Yorkers are conditioned to do. Sure, you've seen a dozen people do flips on the subway for spare change, but how about a free portable swing, no panhandling involved? It takes someone from the opposite end of the car with enough latent innocence to join in before he breaks out his digicam to capture the moment. [Via Gothamist]

Over/still fresh for another week or two

I'm hardly one to be deeming what's over or not, but here are two totally random judgments based on recent experience.

Union Hall in the Slope: Over.

Wined Up above Punch in the land between Union Square and Flatiron: Still delightfully undiscovered ... for now.

You oughta be in blogging

Since they gave me some unexpected link love a few days ago, I guess it would be in the Christmas spirit to mention that New York magazine's homepage has gone all bloggy on us -- but don't call it a blog! -- thanks in part to the latest efforts of Gawker alum Jesse Oxfeld et al. Perhaps I'll break my quirky habit of only reading this rag (OK, it's a pretty decent pub) in a newsstand copy on my way out of NYC via plane, and start checking in more often. Still, who has the time for all these Johnny-come-latelies? Don't they know there's a finite amount of blog-reading/writing time in the day? And it all feels like they're eating outta the same trough sometimes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The love lives of public-radio music directors

It's nothing new for shock jocks to talk about their love lives on the radio, but there's something very sweet and innocent about a classical music DJ doing the same. George Preston, music director of WNYC, is hosting tonight as the public radio station does its Must Have Festival. Just before spinning a recording from Turandot -- specifically the last pages of music Puccini wrote on this earth, which just happen to include "Nessun dorma," some of his most beautiful music ever -- Preston mentioned that he's fond of this section personally, because of one time when he was "courting" a woman, had her and some friends over to listen to some opera -- as Eddie Izzard would say: "You know, like you do" -- and their eyes met over this tune and he knew they wouldn't be in the "friend category" for very much longer. The famous aria was only one part, but here: Go woo someone with this YouTube clip of Pavarotti. No worries if it also makes you want to go play some World Cup soccer.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Striking 12 at DR1

Can it be possible? Three amazing live shows in a row, each worth recommending? I guess that's what happens when you bite the bullet and pay real money for theater once in a while (although it's still never a guarantee). Company, Utopia 1, and now ... Striking 12, the rock concert cum holiday musical, now playing at the Daryl Roth on Union Square, is a feel good show with depth and humor and self-awareness. It's like a post-modern version of A Christmas Carol set on New Year's Eve. The show features as a story within a story the tale of the Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. It moves effortlessly between faux real life (the band named Groovelily doing "a holiday show for people who don't like holiday shows"), the world of the fairy tale, and the thinly veiled modern story of an office drone who says "Bah, humbug" to what he sees as New Year's pointlessness. It's just the three band members and a stripped down set, but it manages to captivate in that way that good live musical acts so often perform with a sense of theatricality. The backdrop is a web of what could very well be miniature Times Square balls on strings. Many of the lighting and staging choices adeptly work with the themes of the story. I didn't even realize it until now, but even the title puns on the "striking" of a match. If you like your yuletide spirit served with a lot of musical energy and a good helping of self-awareness, go see this show, which is playing, appropriately, through Dec. 31. Oh, and there is some amazing electric violin playing here by Valerie Vigoda. Makes me want to see the band perform a more traditional gig after this holiday run.

How I Met Your Pair of Theater Dorks


Two of my favorite things -- "How I Met Your Mother" and Les Miz -- in one package, on the Megan Mullally Show of all places. Thanks, of course, to Jaime for uncovering this gem.

Ice skating at night

Sure, the ice gets grooved and chipped all too soon by the hordes of people twirling around (and going in all sorts of other ways), but there's something about skating outside on the big Wollman Rink in Central Park: Midtown skyline the backdrop, new and old friends the company, Christmas the season.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Table, view for one

Another long day. End of the month. Paycheck. Day off tomorrow. Shifting gears next week. No one around. I decided to treat myself tonight. Walked across CPS and up to the front door of the Mandarin Oriental. The Lobby Lounge, while admittedly overpriced, offers a movie-like view of the city from the (sort of) 35th floor. (Sort of, because I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that there aren't actually 31 floors between 3 and 35, people just like to feel like they're higher up). A ginger-infused mojito and a panini and the chocolate-dipped strawberries the ladies at the next table left behind and offered to me on their way out, sitting in a bed of sweet white sugar pebbles. The view is somewhat marred by the constant in-your-face flickering of the CNN sign on an adjacent building (it is in the Time Warner Center after all), although maybe that was just my particular seat. The last time I visited here I was secretly bitter about the situation, but this time it was totally my own choice. A chance to kick back, to do it because-it's-there, because-I-can. I don't usually act like this, so indulgent without anyone to share it with, but no regrets this evening. Except maybe if you count the fact that I've now memorized CNN's evening line-up against my will.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Wednesday night workaholic* update

Ugh. Left work at 7:50 or so this evening. I repeat: Ugh. It's not like I want to be there that late, time just has a way of zipping by without my noticing. Which I guess is better than the alternative: bored clock watching. I've actually been OK with just going home the past three nights, because I'm so exhausted I can't even lift a finger to see a free show or nag a friend to hang out. Luckily, I have Friday off (of my own choice), so only one more day and then I can allow my social life to come back into the picture. Still, not all that bad of a way to end the evening: a nice multicourse (OK, multiplate) candlelit dinner for one, purchased from Fairway and prepared by yours truly. Proving once again that yes, I do cook at home for myself (I deserve a gold star, don't I?) even when there's no one to share it with. Broiled salmon, salad, fresh French bread with mozzarella slices on top (Fr-italian! Just like those DD's commercials), and Australian cabernet (so what if it's just Yellow Tail ... in a pinch, it's great). So I'm glad there was too much traffic on Fifth Avenue for tonight's Rock Center tree lighting, because it forced the cabbie through the park and into Fairway-land. Yum!

* Doing my best not to be one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I've got less time to surf these days

So that's why I love PopURLs, a list of the most popular links on some of the top aggregating sites like Digg and Delicious, mixed with great pics from Flickr and videos from YouTube. A browser's delight.

Monday, November 27, 2006

'Shipwreck' awaits

Even if I gave Voyage a qualified review, it seemed a foregone conclusion that I'd be ponying up for Part II. The opening of Tom Stoppard's trilogy in the hands of director Jack O'Brien (Hairspray, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) was a really satisfying night at the theater, and now Ben Brantley agrees, so I figured it was time to get a seat while they're still available (the marathon 1-2-3 days are already sold out, proving that there are people out there willing to pay for nine straight hours of theater). My ship's ready to 'wreck' Dec. 19.

Hot linkage, or where I've been surfing

Video of my new favorite song (love the way she riffs on the first syllable of "heart"). But is she hipster on the inside? Just like the New Yorker cartoon says this week: "I've been rich and I've been super-rich. I prefer super-rich." Bobby, baby, Raul, darling. Look up in the uptown sky: it's SkyWatch! Only slightly more obtrusive than Britain's CCTV cameras.

The Tao of PostSecret

The messages on PostSecret are usually pretty direct. I mean, you don't really ever know the whole story behind them, but you get the core of what's going on in someone's life or someone's mind. That's why I like this one. It made me laugh out loud when I saw it. It expresses a common human feeling without really letting on what's at stake. Sure, it might very well have to do with the car, and sure, cars + life can end in very unhappy ways, but you don't really know that. Instead, this struck me as mildly absurd in its incongruity, hence my laughter. Oh, and this week's opener about being afraid of Macaulay Culkin's a hoot as well.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The slow fade of love*

I found a lost cell phone on the steps of Low Library in Columbia today. Well, some other girls actually found it, and asked B. and me whether it was one of ours. So I picked it up and started flicking through the names in the contact list. I considered ringing one of the people up, but figured a text message would be better. But how do you choose who to contact? I was really tempted to send a text to the person labeled "Che Bella." But I ultimately settled on a msg to "Dad," hoping of course that the owner of the cell phone isn't horribly estranged from said father and the text msg of a stranger causes a family incident. If you're out there Mr/Ms Cell Phone Owner, I left it with the CU security guard at Broadway and 116.

*This is from a Rilo Kiley lyric -- thank you, Sarah -- and has no relation to this other moment from my Sunday, except that it's been a pleasant earworm since the song popped up on my iPod about 4 p.m.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Odyssey to Penelope

At long last, through many squandered attempts to eat at the great East Side hearth known as Penelope (at 30th and Lex), H. and I made it this afternoon, and there was no wait, and they sat us, and we dined on brunch foods and admired the comfort-filled ambiance, and it was good. Their pumpkin waffles with dried cranberries and apple butter and sprinkled cinnamon and drizzled maple syrup were just the kind of reward for which to be thankful after charting a rare course to Kips Bay. (OK, ok, this is getting cheesy, I admit, but my compliments on the food are heart-felt.) The waffles were so delicious I was able to look beyond the fact that they'd spelled it "punkin" on the menu. Oh, and they also serve apple cider mimosas. Yum!

Also yum? The new movie version of The History Boys for those who didn't get around to seeing the Broadway version. A really excellently written and acted piece of drama. Had me wistful for England at times, although not for those brutal essay tests they so adore there.

New York's little mysteries

What are all those cabbies talking about to each other constantly on their cell-phone earpieces in their various foreign languages? Why won't they share with us? Are they making fun of their passengers? Don't they run out of things to say to each other by the end of their shifts?

Packed House at the LCT

The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, the first part of Tom Stoppard's epic trilogy about 19th-century Russian intellectuals, offers a really engaging evening at the theater, and one that certainly entices you with the promise of more. It doesn't quite reach masterpiece status, but it's definitely one of the more commendable plays I've seen in a while. It draws you in the way a great multi-part period drama on public television might. And it wasn't too hard to bring something like the BBC's classic Pride and Prejudice (think Colin Firth) to mind, what with Jennifer Ehle emoting on stage. I really wanted to like her character and performance more, but it seemed like she was breaking into tears at every other moment. Granted, the play takes place over nearly a decade, so a little cry every other year doesn't make for a highly depressive case exactly, but still. I found it rather appropriate that Ethan Hawke was in the cast, since there were several times where I thought: Look, it's 1830's Russia's answer to the 1990's American slacker. All these wannabe and I guess to give them some credit actual philosophical types seemed so ineffectual in the way they're portrayed. Smart-ish people constantly spinning their wheels. The young Bakunin aghast at the possibility of having to study agriculture. Get a real job already! OK, perhaps a bit harsh, and missing the point. I mean we all waffle between philosophies at some point in our lives, no? The other thing I noticed was how impotent all the men seemed to be. Heads in the clouds, too often oblivious to the great and promising women in their lives. Probably the best performance and ultimately least impotent character of this installment arrives in the form of Billy Crudup playing Belinsky, the literary critic. I usually offer extra credit whenever I dislike an actor during his/her opening scene, only to become captivated by his/her performance before the evening is through. Thus could be said of Crudup's turn. I really found his first act entrance to be quite unseemly, but very soon, he has captured the audience's attention, eliciting a rare mid-scene round of applause, following a tour-de-force monologue that reveals his white-hot, choatic passion for philosophy, literature and the very future of Russia. By the second act, he became my go-to guy, the character to watch and cheer for, at the expense of his colleague and sometime verbal sparring partner Bakunin. There is no final flourish from him, but there are enough scenes of his to leave me satisfied. My only out-and-out criticism is that Brian F. O'Byrne manages to totally ruin his character's accent, and offer too much distraction in the second act. This installment ends with some resolution, and some simple symbolism and poetry, but not without leaving you wanting more. It left me feeling thankful: thankful that I've gotten to experience this show, and thankful that I have enough money to buy tickets to the second and third parts. Assuming, of course, they aren't totally sold out by now.

Oh, and a tip o' the hat of course to the bloggy peer pressure of Jaime, which encouraged me to go buy a full-priced ticket to see this.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

BFF = Ben Folds Forever

She saw the lights, she saw the pale English face / Some strange machines repeating beats and thumping bass --"Zak and Sara"

D. and I caught the last night of Ben Folds' multicultural fall tour (he's got a British drummer and a Spanish bassist now). Beacon Theatre: still ornate, but falling apart in the stairwells, recently bought by the Dolans. A great mix of new and old stuff. Some really sensational covers such as a certain Dr. Dre song that he's recorded, performed in that gentle, knowing, ironic tone; a version of "Such Great Heights" by the Postal Service, which he managed to kick up a notch; and Hank Williams' classic "Your Cheating Heart." All-around captivating piano (and synth) playing (banging?). Loved the Cage-ian hand-on-the-piano-strings touches now and then, as well as the occasional wordless instrumental vamps that I don't remember from previous concerts. Quirky singing-what-just-happened-to-the-band impromptu numbers. The guy's got the kind of talent that makes a live show that much cooler than just listening to the records. The audience participation on "Army" that he didn't even need to cue us for, that we remembered from previous tours. A youngish crowd, lots of high school girls dashing around the upper deck, chatting mid-song, but not so much that it totally ruined things. A longish set: two hours. Rounded out by a surprising first encore: "Narcolepsy," which I didn't love on the album, but can definitely appreciate in concert. Then "Rockin' the Suburbs" for the final encore, before Ben Folds ceremonially tossed his piano stool and the lights came up.

How's this for a conundrum?

Something I realized today. [Insert somewhat sad but also befuddled face here.] Each progressive job I've had since graduating, they've paid me more to write for fewer readers. That's right, my readership is going down as my salary rises. By the time I start making a million bucks (ha! like that'll ever happen), I'll be writing for roughly three-tenths of a person.

Monday, November 20, 2006

You know you're a transit nerd ...

When you get unnaturally excited to see one of the new subway trains (an N to be exact) entering the station. [Hey, if car owners can be excited about their new rides, why can't we do the same?]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Late Sunday afternoon

Two for four

I never did a bar tour when I turned 21, but as research for D. turning another age, we headed out to four watering holes in Brooklyn last night in search of just the right place to have it. What did he pick? You'll just have to wait to find out. On the itinerary: Floyd on Atlantic Avenue, Last Exit on the opposite side of the street (where the crowd at the bar was actually all in the same conversation for about 15 seconds at one point), Bar Reis on Fifth Ave. in Park Slope, and Union Hall on Union Street near Fifth, which already feels overexposed.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A night with Stevie

"Is that your father?" (pointing to a framed portrait of Stephen Sondheim) --Memorable line from an otherwise forgettable film about theater nerds (2003's Camp)

Saw Company tonight at the Barrymore. My fourth official on-Broadway viewing of a Sondheim. Not as powerful as seeing Sweeney Todd last year, but definitely a close second in terms of overall thespian-induced smiles. Like a lot of his work, it's a revue at heart, a combination of amazing songs on a common theme. I was pretty familiar with all the music, having listened to the soundtrack from the '95 revival with Veanne Cox in the role of Amy ("Not Getting Married Today") -- for whatever reason it's her I remember from the cast, maybe because she was in You've Got Mail and I've since seen her live, in The Wooden Breeks. The production is a first cousin to John Doyle's Sweeney in that the actors double as the musicians, carrying around various instruments, alternating between playing and singing. Once again, they do a good job of blending into the action, and it rarely feels forced. There are even some neat flourishes where the instruments are written to hit the grace notes normally reserved for the voices (like the trio of saxophones played by Robert's love interests in "Drive a Person Crazy"). And there's some fun choreography during "Side by Side by Side" where Robert -- played by Raul Esparza, who has a really great voice and cool stage presence, I now know -- appears to be drunkenly presiding over a marching band and then a carillon made up of his married friends. In terms of costumes, I really enjoyed Amy's black wedding dress, which works both as a comment on her character's marquee song and also blends in wonderfully with the style of clothes (variations on black) worn by the rest of the cast. There didn't seem to be any overt attempt to update the 1970 musical and at the same time no overt attempt to cover up its original references, unless I'm missing something, having never seen a staged production before. So much about love, marriage and New York hasn't really changed all that much in the past 36 years. And the comment about "Doesn't anybody smoke anymore?" still seems apt and funny. Definitely worth seeing as a New Yorker and/or Sondheim fan.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You know you spend too much time in front of a computer when ...

You're enjoying some wine with a friend after dinner, sitting on a futon with her two lovable dogs, and the sound of her wine glass clinking against something -- a dog claw perhaps or maybe a finger nail -- immediately reminds you of the sound your Gmail Notifier app makes when a new e-mail has arrived.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Despicably high/lowbrow

Via Polis, you can now make your own New York magazine Approval Matrix! Which has to be one of my favorite things to read while flying. (Yes, I have this strange habit of buying copies of the mag before I get on planes to leave the metro area, kind of like inoculating myself against whatever foreign influence I might contract outside the Independent Republic of NYC.)

Just reminding me that my life doesn't stink

Great evening out at a work function attended by many former co-workers. It was this fairly opulent Russian place in Hell's Kitchen that looked like it could've been an old mansion. More fun than a work-related cocktail and hors d'oeuvres party out to be, although -- sadly -- they were not serving any borscht shots this evening. Followed by drinks, jokes and supplementary snacks and food at an Irish bar on the same block. I drank a shandy with pride, because it was actually on the menu and it reminded me of England, taunts of fellow drinkers notwithstanding.

Update from last night

My Stoppard ticket has been confirmed! The night of Black Friday! In lieu of shopping I have officially splurged on a theater ticket. (Not like I never do that, but still ... I prefer the cheap to free variety.) Oh, and Jaime deserves a shout-out.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Will someone ever like-like me?

I had a really nice weekend. Let that be said before I start to rant. Got to see three great friends (one new, one medium new and one certified classic). The rain held off for much of Sunday. I mulled cider. I made pasta sauce. There were no dishes left over in my sink come Monday morning. I got to read aloud, which is fun and doesn't happen very often (I should've just been a librarian; that would've probably cured me of this desire). K. and I had an autumn-in-New-York moment on Irving Place. (Castles in Spain need not apply.) We finally ate/drank at Wine Bar attached to Vintage New York in Soho (wine: thumbs up; food: bland and not all that exciting). I went back to Old Navy and got what was coming to me (my full 20% discount). H. and I had yummy omelets (asparagus, swiss and salmon) at Viceroy in Chelsea. I started a new book by my new favorite author, Alain de Botton (thank you, public radio). Oh, yeah, I forgot to rant. Well, maybe things aren't as bad as I was going to make them out to be. I started this entry planning on complaining about how frustrated I've been with dating recently. And I have been. But I guess my reluctant optimism somehow managed to get in the middle, and instead I've ticked off some happy memories, even if at the end of the day I don't have anyone to dream about marrying and having kids with, like I wish I did sometimes. People used to make fun of me at work because I'd say how much I wanted to be married. And if I ever do get married, I'll probably look back on these feelings and laugh at how anxious I was to move onto the next stage of life. But I can't help feeling like lots of people have started their adult lives with someone they love, and I'm stuck in this protracted teenager-hood, where I'm doomed to have one person after another tell me they like me, but don't like-like me. Well, see, I did manage a little bit of rant, although I did it in the wrong order, no? I guess I was supposed to begin with the frustrations of being lonely, and then move onto the counting-the-blessings part. [Redacted] ... constant chatter about the theater world makes me go and do things like buy a full-priced ticket to Tom Stoppard's The Coast of Utopia: Voyage, which -- if I like it -- will no doubt make it harder for me to resist seeing parts II and III of this new epic. I probably shouldn't even be writing this, as my ticket reservation hasn't yet been confirmed, and I might not even get a seat, according to the automated e-mail I just got. We'll see. That said: This seems like the perfect time to remind myself of the mantra of the New York theatergoer with limited means or time: "You'll never be able to see everything. Neither will most other people."

Friday, November 10, 2006

Two for the road

It's late on a Friday night, and I'm too lazy to tell you exactly why these movies are so great, but go see Running with Scissors and Stranger Than Fiction at your local googolplex. Tell 'em Jeremy sent ya. They'll probably look at you funny, but at least you'll be in line for some good film action.

UPDATE: What do these movies have in common? Kristin Chenoweth, aka the original Glinda from Wicked, has bit parts in both of them. She's also in Deck the Halls, that horrible-looking Christmas movie.

Know that feeling?

We all feel like that sometimes, no? I know I do, but not tonight. I just dug this up from my L.A. photos, and I love Pop Art.

Strolled through the tease of a warm evening, jacketless, with L., along University Place, comparing Italian joints. Sharing a bottle of wine and fried zucchini at Osso Buco, which has a funny in an immature fifth grader sort of way English translation, I've now learned. Delicious gnocchi. (I heart gnocchi. They remind me of Scranton -- one of the good memories, worth returning to.) Visiting the now famous Brooklyn Heights loft, lifting my chin off the floor. Heading back up the island. Watching the array of life on board.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Wednesday night fortunately/unfortunately

End of the workday before 6:30: good.
Soggy evening: bad.
Angelica Kitchen: good.
Three-bean chili with cornbread: good.
Vegan Boston creme pie: good.
Vegan Boston creme pie with hidden cashew milk inside: very bad.
Someone stealing your friend's $2 umbrella: bad and kinda pathetic.
End of the rain: good.
Tall weisse beer at the Thirsty Scholar: good.
Irish bartender who chimes in with Bono comments: even better.
Stomachache on the way uptown: bad.
Looking forward to a weekend without tree nuts: very good.

Election night ...

was fun and fruitful. I spent more of a single day at the office than I have since college, I think, or perhaps my first job out of college. I'm mostly out of words and steam. I plan to sleep in an hour or so later than usual tomorrow. It will be nice, I hope. Having a free evening to socialize again should be nice as well.

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Oak Tree at Barrow Street Theatre

an oak tree, besides sharing the name of a work of art in the Tate collection, also shares its belief or its expressed interest in the power of art to create an act of transubstantiation. An actor begins as a person who walks on a stage and reads lines. He may enter in his street clothes, it doesn't matter. He may require prompts now and then. But in the end he becomes the character. His or her will to become that character and our desire that he or she embody the character as fully as possible is a shared article of faith that can lead to the miracle of good theater. This of course has been challenged in the past century by works and artists who endevour to remind you of the artifice of theater. "Note to guy or gal sitting in that red-velvet seat (or peeling off-Broadway folding chair) there: You're in a theater. You're watching actors." One of the sucesses of Tim Crouch's play, in which he plays a struggling pub-and-church-hall hypnotist and a different actor every night plays his willing subject, is the way it nods in both directions: opening the fourth wall, yes, but also championing that transformative quality that makes for a lot of good drama. The actual turning of one thing into another without the physical properties actually changing. The father character during the play wills an unseen oak tree to become his dead daughter, killed in a car accident by the very hypnotist, despite the doubts and disbelief of surviving members of his family, played by the hypnotist in flashback/flashforward/flash-sideways scenes. The actor playing the father tonight when I saw the play was Steve Blanchard, who's playing the Beast in Broadway's Beauty and the ..., appearing sans hairy costume on a Monday night. And he actually found a way to channel that deep-voiced resignation that the Beast shows at various points in the movie (no, I've never seen the stage show) into effective touches in this show. I would've loved to see Laurie Anderson fill the changing role tomorrow, especially because of her experience in the world of experimental and avant-garde theater, but it's election night and art has to step aside for a time in my book.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

U.S. Air Force Memorial

Looming on a bluff overlooking the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery is the new United States Air Force Memorial, which was just unveiled last month. Here's how it fits into the D.C. area's relatively low profile -- between the Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial domes. The design is meant to evoke the "bomb burst maneuver" of the Air Force Thunderbirds, but I think it also looks a lot like the missing man formation, the fly-by salute for a fallen comrade, with the spire at the left zooming upward to a slightly higher peak. I also thought of Brancusi's Bird in Space series. The designer was James Ingo Freed, a partner in I.M. Pei's firm who died last year. He also designed the powerful U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, across the river in the district.

Beauty in the eye of the Starbucks shareholder

Outside the Phillips Collection in D.C.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

PostSecret of the moment

Off to D.C./NoVa this weekend

Also known as "Yes, I do leave New York from time to time." On the agenda: a new (for me) art museum, the Phillips Collection, and of course, friends, food, and perhaps a movie!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The joy of TAL

What's the greatest thing since sliced bread? A podcast of "This American Life!" Now updating at an iTunes near you.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Left coast cats

Despite being allergic to them, I'm still a sucker for pair-of-cats-in-a-sink photos like the one here from Emmy's blog, even if they are rascals. In somewhat related news, planning for the official third annual random PSU/Harrisburg connections ski weekend is getting rolling after tonight's phone call with K. This year -- tentatively -- Hunter Mountain!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

In no particular order

What a blustery weekend. Didn't let it keep me inside. Getting out, using those free museum admissions. The colors on the trees, the shading of the sky in Brooklyn. Farmer's market at Grand Army Plaza. Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights. The trains forever testing your patience. A great new book: The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. Tip o' the hat to Studio 360, as usual. Moving van: Manhattan Valley to Astoria. The view of the sky from down below the two seats. The wind sacrificing the particle-board bedframe. Watching a gritty scene unfold from the window of Dunkin' Donuts. Back to Rice in Dumbo, not as crowded, just as yummy. "The Richest Chocolate Cupcake in Brooklyn." Ginger lemonade, ginger candy. The chilly, but stunning view from the Fulton Ferry Landing, my first time there at night. A decaf cup o' joe in the Bklyn Ice Cream Factory. The elevator at Clark Street. Hearing about 1921 hallucinations brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning. The forlorn-looking ex-car wash and the question of what the future holds.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Going out of business sale

It was a flashback to early teenage years this evening as I stepped into Tower Records on Broadway and Lincoln Square, partly to get out of the rain, but also in search of bargains. I rode the escalator upstairs and headed for the glassed-off classical section, where classical music fans can listen to their chosen genre in peace. Growing up, it was always a treat to get to go to the Tower classical section. It was one of the more comprehensive out there, and a lot more satisfying than the kind I found at the Wall or Sam Goody, which always seemed to be dominated by the 100-some most famous works, the flashy new slickly marketed CDs, and little much else in terms of depth. Now, I'm not saying I was a fan of the most obscure or avant-garde music, but if you listen regularly to a decent classical music station for long enough, you're bound to hear something that isn't in the dozen or so feet of display space usually allotted to that genre in the smaller stores. So now Tower is liquidating. Even a behemoth with lots of stores nationwide can be brought low by the likes of iTunes and Wal-Mart. Tonight as I browsed, though, there was that unspoken (although perhaps whistled and hummed) cameraderie of hunting around for records to add to your collection, or hard drives, as the case may be, that's missing from the e-tailers, as great and easy as they may be. Now the discounts are decent, but not quite desperate just yet. I walked out with three discs for $25. The cashier claimed Dec. 1 was the rumored final, final day, but who knows if there'll be anything worth buying by then? Stop by now!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

There's another train, there always is

"Peachy" has a pretty spot-on analysis of train anthropology, specifically on the Northeast Corridor line, but probably true in general. Sample observation: "There are friends that you make on the train. And they are only your friends on the train. That's it. You can be commuting for 10 years and be friendly with someone for that long, but your friendship is defined and limited by your train ride."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday night

Once in a while a work day comes along that really reminds me why I like what I do. I'm just noting it here so I can look back and remember on days when I'm not as sure.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wherever they go, there they are

So J. is really truly thinking about starting her post-college life in B.C. Not just for the next nine months, but for the forseeable future. Her telling me this tonight was another one of those moments when you realize that in these highly mobile times, your friends really aren't always going to be nearby. They could be scattered to the four winds, and you will be just as near or far from them as they are from you. Guess this means I'll be planning a trip to Seattle and beyond one of these days. Which, you know, shouldn't really seem that far away now that I've officially made it to the West Coast for the first time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Building some mystery

Sarah McLachlan -- whom I'll probably always associate with my high school years, but can still appreciate to a slightly lesser degree now -- has a new album out, her first in what seems like way too long. And it's called Wintersong. Now as much as I love Christmas, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed that it's not more of her own stuff or the kind that you can listen to year-round. (Some people can listen to holiday music all the time; I just can't.) And while I'll probably buy a copy or more likely download it off you-know-where at some point, I just can't bring myself to hit the button this many shopping days before Christmas. It's not even Halloween yet! Why does the holiday marketing season have to keep getting longer and longer?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Trivial dilemma of the moment

So I hit up the Whitney today to see the Hopper and Picasso & American Art exhibits (which were great, btw), and I noticed a fellow museumgoer had a little sticker on the back of her sweater. You know, one of those tags the dry cleaners affix with a safety pin to keep track of whose stuff is whose. I know it's only marginally worse than having your tag sticking out, but do you go to the trouble of telling the person? Or do you just ignore it, and the person can go home and likely not even realize that she had it sticking out the whole day?

Inevitably, such moments remind me of my freshman English instructor, who spent almost the entire class with a sticker from the Gap on her shirt (one that said her clothing size over and over again in vertical) until one of my friends quietly pointed it out to her. It's funny what you remember from certain classes. The other thing I remember about her is that she made us read a book by Dr. Laura.

Sunday night ironi-chic

So your Simpsons was pre-empted by some sporting event among Midwesterners. Luckily, there's a new episode of TheBurg.tv up and ready for viewing! (Condor scout to the rescue.) More fun than playing a game of "Greek or Cypriot?" with your doppelgangers up in Queens.

The Wined Up pitch

I remember being reminded recently somewhere that you can get better treatment if you make the effort to remember the names of the staff at places you like to eat and drink. This may seem like some "no, duh" advice, but I find it's easy to forget that in this town of a thousand eateries and countless servers. So tonight -- as H. and I were enjoying some delicious white wine (Viognier for me, Grauer for her), sharing an appetizer of procsciutto, buffalo mozzarella, figs and pine nuts, and finishing it all off with a good old fashioned brownie and ice cream -- I decided to ask the name of our server, whom I've seen on recent visits to Punch at Broadway and 21st St., up the street from Union Square. And as we were chatting, she let us know that the owners are opening a new wine, cheese and fondue bar upstairs called Wined Up. She didn't actually spell it for us, but to spell it any other way would just be wrong. It's supposed to open the second week of November.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Otto says greep grop

For a guy who supposedly likes words and deals with them on a regular basis, I've been feeling pretty inarticulate recently. (Is this nerve issue now affecting my head or my mouth as well?) Attempting to explain how I felt about Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette tonight, I kept coming up empty. The best thing I can say at this point is that I enjoyed the montage where the gambling chips, shoes, cakes and other fantastic embellishments were made to look interchangable, like everything looked good enough to wear and eat and caress. That, and I liked how it all felt like one big arc of a blow-out party. And it was a fun escape with gorgeous views. Easy on the eyes and the brain, I guess.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dispatch from the tube

Having a double MRI done near the end (but not at the end) of a long day of work is kinda like getting to take a nap next to a construction site. It's at once relaxing and jarring, as the noises rotate through their cycles, and you attempt to nod off, while also not moving at all. The last time I had an MRI done, I totally gave in to the lull of the variable but repetitive vibrations, only to be woken up by the microphone voice of the technician telling me to stay awake, thereby staving off those muscle twitches that happen as you're drifting off. This time I got nothing but praise and some friendly reassuring pats on my leg each of the two times they caged my face and neck with foam and plastic and slipped me inside the loud donut. There was even a little periscope-like mirror that allowed me to peek out past my toes at the technicians' window. The noises, if you listen long enough, start to take on the timbre of a computer or a robot speaking: rapper-rapper-rapper-rapper, whammy-whammy-whammy-whammy-whammy, butta-butta-butta-butta-butta, etc. And the strange warp in the space-time continuum, caused by that big magnet no doubt, that makes MRI time seem much longer than it should be. "This next one will be two minutes," I hear from somewhere inside my lit tube. What seems like a good five or six minutes later, she pipes up again, "You're doing great. Just two more of these." Four more later, and they pull me out. All in all, it's not that bad as procedures go, but I still had a slightly woozy, itchy-nose, wet-eyed feeling as I tossed out the ear plugs and reached down to lace up my shoes. At least, I'm told, my insides take a good picture.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The afterlife of a temp

One author at Sunday's Great Read in the Park who made a better impression was Adriana Trigiani. After saying how she didn't feel good enough to share the stage with her fellow panelists inside one of the event tents, she dispensed with any typical reading of her work, and engaged instead in what you might call book-dork sitting-down standup, riffing on her novels, her characters, her readers, her hometowns, etc. Among her fans apparently is actress of stage and screen Mary Testa, whom I saw last year at the Public alongside Idina Menzel, she of the penetrating gaze, in John Michael LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See, and then this weekend, three people over in the crowd. But the funnier moment came when a guy standing behind us yelled out to the humble author, "Were you a temp at Merrill Lynch?" Turns out Adriana did indeed handle office duties once upon a time at the investment bank, although she said she had something of a "don't quit that writing side gig" reputation. The guy must've had a good memory from the sound of it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

PostSecret of the moment

Calamity book readings

A bad live reading by a novelist can kind of sour me on a new book. At the NYTimes' Great Read in the Park (Bryant, that is) this afternoon, we heard Marisha Pessl read from her first book, the amazingly titled Special Topics In Calamity Physics. Problem is, her excerpt was way too long, wasn't funny, and didn't draw us into the story the way two other authors who read before her did. Granted, these were more seasoned authors with many years of writing and promoting under their belts, but still. If you're going to go to the trouble to create such a unique website and cover for the book, would it hurt to coach her a little on how best to do these readings, which are after all smaller scale advertisements for her product? I'm not saying I won't eventually seek out Special Topics, but I certainly didn't return to the sales tent today and fork over the $25. Anyone already read it and can offer a quickie review in the comments?

Brooklyn randomness

I was carried, willingly, across a street in Dumbo earlier today, Superman-style, by some strangers wearing reflective orange vests. I think it was supposed to be art. It looked kind of like this:

Down in Dumbo

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Elixir of Love at NYC Opera

Having grown up listening to classical music, if not full-length operas exactly, I find one of the exciting things about seeing an opera from the common repertoire for the first time is waiting for that moment of recognition when famous arias make their entrance. So it was tonight with Jonathan Miller's production of L'elisir d'amore at City Opera in the State Theater. Except that the famous tune I was waiting for, "Una furtiva lagrima," is sung by a lonely but hopeful guy in a cowboy hat and boots standing outside a roadside diner somewhere in the American Southwest. And the girl he's pining after? She's the Adina from the neon "Adina's Diner" sign that dominates half of the scenes, a great twist on the "wealthy landowner" description in the original setting. The updating of the story from the 19th century to the 1950s doesn't stop with the costumes and sets, however. After just the first few supertitles of this Italian opera, the Fifties-era slang starts to elicit laughs from the audience. I'm a fan of creative re-imaginings of classics, and this one definitely works. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief a bit, but that's really the name of the game even when you're performing operas in their original time periods. The wonderful spinning out of a mood, a theme, an emotion from the usually fairly thin plot is what makes opera such an escape when it's done well. It's melodrama at its most archetypal, and if you can fit beauty and a bit of knowingness into the production, all the better. So bring on the Elvis and Fuller Brush man references, the singing's just fine.

55 Bar

Just down the street from the Duplex, where I recall spending a few, fun showtune-filled evenings, is 55 Bar, a tiny basement jazz club founded in 1919 that I probably wouldn't have noticed if K. hadn't suggested it this evening. Even though tonight's set was not my absolute favorite, the cozy, reasonably priced ambiance of the place is definitely worth a return visit. Its name is its address: 55 Christopher Street.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

British Empire, St. Patrick's

Looking north from 7WTC

Requiem aeternam

Emotional day. Began it with a sad phone call, then a short glass of vodka and orange juice, listening to Faure's Requiem, up there with some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking music ever composed, remembering a great man. Tears on the subway, followed by smiles, and a series of stunning views from atop 7 World Trade Center, the Midtown skyline framed and arrayed so perfectly, the 360-degree feeling of being in the heart of the city, high above the idling swarm of motorcycles below. Coffee and a bagel with cream cheese at Wow. Another call, more stories. Life brought into sharp relief. Trying to see more clearly. Stopping by the office, seeing them putting in the elaborate flower arrangements that change weekly. Retelling some more memories, the things that made him special. Inside crowded St. Patrick's, more flowers, lighting a candle, closing my eyes, kneeling, blocking out the world, hearing it around me, writing names on an envelope. Drinks at the Living Room in the W. Pizza at John's on Bleecker. Cupcakes at Magnolia. Chatting about sports and politics, about the country and its breadth and what it holds. More drinks at Central Bar. Playoff baseball. Another friend, a glass of water, a walk around the park, a look back over nearly a century. Riding uptown, back by midnight. The moon, my key in the side door. The ticking clock, the humming fridge, the tap of keys, the pain in my arm, a sneeze, the remnants of tears, the promise of sleep.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dinner at home

After an especially long but satisfying day at work, free time in the evening becomes that much more valuable. A. and I met up at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods to pick up supplies, then headed uptown for: Cheese fondue with a fresh grain-filled French baguette, broccoli, red peppers, and apples; an effervescent Syrah Rosé brought all the way from the Santa Ynez Valley (yes, I do seek out and drink good Rosés); and a Cabernet chocolate sauce from Napa drizzled on angel food cake and strawberries. Ray LaMontagne on the stereo. Overall, tastier and more soul-filling than Monday night's take-out.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tuesday night lights

While I do enjoy me some Penn State football and used to spend many a cold fall Saturday in the bleachers of high school stadiums, I'm not especially enticed by typical Big Game narratives in movies or TV. But when the Times raves about a TV show the way they did today, I had to check it out. The score? "Friday Night Lights" is great television, gripping stuff, the kind that reminds you of what's possible. There are times when it feels more art than entertainment. The camera work, the music, the way we pull in and out of the action, one moment observing West Texas town life from a distance, the next moment observing tiny, telling character details. I can only hope that the rest of the season, or whenever I catch an episode, will be as good as this one.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday night, part ii

I'm not leaving after all. I don't want to move. I'm going to stay and pay them their money and sign their silly nine-month lease and enjoy the comfort of familiarity and a pretty nice neighborhood and my time-to-decompress commute. I'm going to listen to some Sufjan Stevens now.

Monday night

The cheap, slightly sour smell of Chinese take-out from the "No. 1 Chinese Restaurant" around the corner, one of a dozen or two in the city with that name, no doubt, hangs in the air, silently accusing you, reminding you that you were too lazy to make your own dinner on one of the few weeknights, perhaps multiplying now with the nine-plus-hour days and new, especially taxing iteration of physical ailment, that you didn't eat out, until you can't take it any more and have to go and cinch the bag and take out the trash, flicking on the oscillating fan as you go. Hey, at least you're doing your own laundry.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Monarch in Ft. Tryon

Upcoming

Oct. 3: Beck's new album, The Information, comes out
Oct. 6: Little Children, based on the book by Tom Perrotta, hits theaters
Oct. 7-8: Open House New York weekend
Oct. 10: Merce Cunningham's eyeSpace at the Joyce
Oct. 11: "30 Rock" debuts on NBC
Oct. 13: Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams, opens
Oct. 13: Infamous, the other Truman Capote movie, opens
Oct. 20: Marie Antoinette opens
Oct. 25: "Americans in Paris, 1860-1900" at the Met
Oct. 26: Opening night of the Tharp/Dylan musical
Nov. 10: Fur, starring Nicole Kidman, opens

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fun music site of the moment

Just started fiddling around with Pandora Internet Radio today. You type in a song or artist you like and they start playing a string of songs you might also like. A great way to discover new music, I'd imagine. Plus it's free!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

One run, no hits

That was the Yankees' box score at one point this evening during a weird game -- my first ever at The House That Ruth Built as well as my first live baseball game in quite a while -- in which the only way the hometown team seemed able to get on base was through the mistakes of the Orioles, who'd racked up three errors but several runs by then. Overall, it was a fun night, a good authentic New York experience to notch up, even though my fandom has waned quite a bit since the Phillies lost the World Series in 1993. Breezy, but not too cold. Overpriced domestic beer and peanuts and a good view from up behind home plate and some loudmouth but good-spirited fans sitting behind us. And the ride home -- D to the A -- was so easy it makes me wish I was actually a Yankees fan.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Henry's

My new favorite chill, somewhat rustic, but not overly pretentious place to get a drink between 96th and 110th on the UWS. Broadway at 105th to be exact. Where even if the bartender doesn't know what a "lagered ale" is, he'll make something up for you as he pours. On the soundtrack tonight: Cake's "I Will Survive" and Guster's "Fa Fa."

Earworm

I've had the catchy wordless theme to that old French film "Un Homme et Une Femme" in my head all morning. Go listen to it, if you're not familiar, and then maybe it'll be stuck in your head too!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ugh!

The landlord's jacking up my rent 45%. The pain of a weakening sales market rears its ugly head on the rental world. Commence arduous and fraught apartment hunt.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

33 Union Square West

Watching Ric Burns' typically excellent documentary on Andy Warhol tonight, I was fascinated to learn that it was actually on the sixth floor of the Decker Building, where Union Square Wines used to be before it moved earlier this year, that Warhol was shot, after riding up in the elevator with his would-be assassin, then had to be carried down the steps by the paramedics, and was basically declared dead by some in the ER before he was revived and underwent a successful five-hour surgery. And that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated days afterward, as Andy was recovering in the hospital, going in and out of consciousness, unsure of whether he himself were alive or dead.
Streetscapes/33 Union Square West; Islamic/Venetian Sliver, With Minaret [NYT]
Decker Building, 33 USW [NYCJPG]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

We were Mortified!

If you could pay $15 to laugh nearly nonstop for 90-some minutes at touching yet hilarious childhood moments, would you bite? Amy and I did tonight at the latest installment of "Mortified," now produced in five cities across the U.S. (She first heard about it on an episode of public radio's "This American Life.") Think of it as adolescent reality stand-up comedy. The entire show consists of people reading from their childhood journals, diaries, essays, school assignments, and even pass-'em-under-the-desk notes. Some embarrassment and lots of hilarity ensue. Here in NYC, it's hosted at the Tank, a small black-box theater on Church Street in Tribeca. We missed out earlier this summer, but made it in tonight, which turned out to be another sold out show. It was strangely therapeutic, and full of ample late-'80s/early-'90s cultural references: "Ice, Ice Baby," "OPP," Cabbage Patch Dolls, and "Family Ties." And priceless lines like: "She won't save enough to go on the Florida trip. She'll probably blow all her babysitting money on gum." Also, mad props for the resurrection of the term "like-like"—as in, "Do you like-like Jimmy?"—in the show's program handouts.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The unabashed kitsch of Solvang

Monday, September 18, 2006

El Camino FLW?

As different as they may seem, I saw a lot of similarity between the exterior design of the traditional California missions, such as the one at Santa Barbara, and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center. Do you see what I mean? The long row of arches, the colors, the highest point(s) and dome(s) off to one side ... Also, the sense that it is a multipurpose center of the community. Once spiritual, later secular.

Looking down at Moonstone Beach

Highlights from the California trip

The first views from SFO. "South San Francisco The Industrial City." Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. The Cheeseboard and its well-worth-it line around the block. In SF: Ferry Building. Cable Car to Lombard Avenue. Chowder at Boudin's. The outdoor Ghirardelli chocolate fair. The arduous but satisfying hike up the Greenwich Steps to Telegraph Hill. Coit Tower and its murals. City Lights Bookstore. The Transamerica Building. The countless clothing exchange shops on Haight Street. Delicious tacos at an award-winning taqueria in the Mission District. The Golden Gate. The fog. Marin County Civic Center. The open freeways. Bistro Don Giovanni in the Napa Valley. Stopping in for a peek at and a drink in Yountville. The Mondavi tour. Opus One and its funky contemporary building: home of the $25 single tasting. The Rutherford Grill. The Silverado Trail. Stunning view after stunning view. The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. The Monterey Bay Aquarium. Sipping wines while overlooking the bay. Excellent tilapia from the Sea Harvest, a local seafood house in Monterey recommended by someone behind the wine counter. Sunset over Highway 1 south of Carmel. Stopping at every other turnoff to take it all in. The thick fog, again, that descended on the twisty-turny one-lane road after dark. The slightly worn around the edges but still welcoming glorified motor lodge that is Cambria Pines Resort, complete with an obviously unused par 3 golf course. Hearst Castle and the amazing collection of fine art and decorative art arrayed inside; imagining what it would've been like to be there as a guest in the '30s. Once again, the views. Dinner at a basic but decent Italian place in Cambria. The coarse, pebbly sand of Moonstone Cove, down the hill from my motel. Sixty-ish degrees and foggy again, walking out for the complimentary breakfast, before heading back onto the coastal highway. Watching the sun come out miraculously as I came up and over into the Santa Ynez Valley for more wine tasting. Quick lunch in the faux Danish village of Solvang. Some great sips, talk of Sideways. On to the Santa Barbara Mission, one of the most famous along the Historic El Camino Real, marked off at regular intervals by the poles with the hanging bells along the freeway. Rolling into L.A. County. Winding along Mulholland Drive for the outlooks and the expensive homes and the pricey cars in front and behind. The Hollywood Bowl from above. The Hollywood sign in the distance. Staying steps from Hollywood Boulevard. The next day, reveling in the glory of Los Angeles' own acropolis, the Getty Center atop one of the Santa Monica peaks, between Brentwood and Belair. Spending most of the day there, not wanting to leave. In-and-Out Burger. A fair to good sushi place in the Hollywood and Highland complex. The Walk of Fame. The handprints. The Chinese Theater. The cheesy tourist souvenir shops, like Times Square, but slightly seedier. Strange how the N.Y. crossroads feels more Disneyfied than the one just over the hill from Burbank itself. The L.A. County Museum of Art, free after five. The beach at Santa Monica and the chilly but swimmable Pacific. Fish tacos and wheat beer on the bike path. A random cruise through Beverly Hills. A final stop at the beautiful Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on a typical sun-drenched SoCal Sunday before heading to LAX to fly home.

Back from CA

Fuller recap to come; not enough time or energy now. I successfully transported seven bottles of California wine, and have about 300 digipix I need to weed through. Will likely be sharing some of both with you before long.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Great pizza in Berkeley, Calif.

The Cheeseboard Pizza Collective! Which only makes one kind of gourmet pizza a day, but commands Magnolia-cupcake-level lines out the door. Plus free jazz entertainment while you wait! Friday's pizza was topped with Mozzarella, Yellow Onion, Fresh Corn, Fresh Red Bell Peppers, Feta, Garlic Olive Oil, and Cilantro.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Headed West

I'm off to California for 10 days tomorrow. I probably won't be blogging much, but we'll see if the West Coast spirit moves me toward an internet connection at one point or another. In the meantime, have you heard about Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror, which is coming to NYC's Rock. Center on Sept. 19?

A pic of Kalina a day for six years


The incomparable photog/artist/bon vivant Noah Kalina, unearthed on LAist of all places.

On the set with Jodie Foster

The Times the other day did an interesting piece on the filming of The Brave One, which has been going on around New York, including the Heights, this summer. The reporter stakes out a late-night shoot over in Spanish Harlem, and mentions "those giant white cube-shape helium balloons that are the rage now on nighttime shoots."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chinatown to State College!

It's not every day that news-I-could-use arrives by handwritten letter, but that was the case this afternoon when I opened a note from one of my old professors, who passed along word that a particular Chinatown bus company—Dragon Deluxe, from what I can tell—is now running service from New York City to State College, filling the gap left after Greyhound canceled its service to nearby Milesburg, Pa. Round-trip price tag: $50. Perhaps I'll have to check it out at some point this football season.

Internet absurdity of the moment

An oldie but goodie: Zombo.com (pronounced "zombo-com"). And the mostly humorless explanation at Wikipedia. Remember: Anything is possible ... at Zombo-com.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Where I'm from

H. asked me today on the train back what they call where I grew up, and I realized there are actually three answers: The name of the post office associated with my old zip code is different from the name of the local government, neither of which are the name of the village I think of when I think of home. So can you blame people when they say they're from just outside Philly?

Earlier in the weekend, as the remnants of Ernesto drenched the region, we visited the Michener Art Museum, a just-the-right-size collection of galleries in Doylestown, Pa., across from the Mercer Museum, and ate a delicious dinner at Bell's Tavern in Lambertville, N.J., catching a bit of Penn State's successful opener.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Sept. 1, 1939

Another NYC reference in today's "Writer's Almanac," this time from W.H. Auden and his poem upon the beginning of WWII: "I sit in one of the dives / On Fifty-Second Street / Uncertain and afraid / As the clever hopes expire / Of a low dishonest decade: / Waves of anger and fear / Circulate over the bright / And darkened lands of the earth, / Obsessing our private lives; / The unmentionable odour of death / Offends the September night." This poem was apparently spoken about a lot after 9/11 as well: You've got the September date, New York as a setting, the end of a certain era, the way the news invaded "our private lives," etc.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Raw meat (OK, not actually raw)

One of the things I've really come to appreciate since coming to NYC is the joy of vegetarian cuisine. But every once in a while, I get this craving for a really good burger. This afternoon, after some appointments over on the East Side, I stopped by one of my three favorite burger places: Prime Burger at 5 East 51st St., right across from St. Patrick's Cathedral. It had a prominent spot in my rotation of lunch joints back when I worked in that neighborhood. And there was something really satisfying to go back there again, like seeing an old friend who moved away, although in this case I guess I was the one who moved away. My other two favorites? Burger Joint, hidden inside Le Parker Meridien between West 57th and 56th near Seventh Ave. And Corner Bistro, down in the West Village on that weird corner near the intersection of West 4th, Jane, and Eighth Ave. Of course, I'm always looking to add a fourth, fifth or sixth burger place to this list. Got any suggestions?

UPDATE: It occurred to me today (Friday) as I was passing Madison Square Park on a bus that there was a glaring omission in my burger triumverate: Shake Shack!

What's cold, $15, and tastes better when guzzled before the audio/visual rounds?

Why, it's a bucket of Rheingold at Tuesday Night Trivia served by your waitress Stephanie at the Baggot Inn. TNT returns from its summer hiatus, according to Caren, next Tuesday, Sept. 5. Woot! (But really, Caren, isn't the Baggot a little too close to Washington Square Park to call it the West Village? NYU land is more Central Village, no?)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

James on returning to NYC

There's a great mention in today's Writer's Almanac of Henry James' famous return visit to the U.S., which began on this day 102 years ago: "James chose to spend his last few weeks in the United States in New York City, and he planned to use that time to gather memories for a possible memoir. But he found that the city was so different from the one he remembered that he almost didn't recognize it. When he went to find the house where he'd grown up, it was gone, having been demolished by the expanding New York University. He remembered a church being built near his house when he was a kid, but that church was gone too. New buildings were being constructed all over the city, and it seemed to James that all the new buildings were uglier than the old buildings. ¶ Those last few weeks soured his whole experience. He began to think of America as a place where all the glorious traditions of the past were being destroyed in favor of the new." Funny how this is such a common sentiment, shared by so many people today. And yet it may be that some harken back to the very period that James found revolting as a grand era worth preserving. I always wonder how much of this nostalgia is the mythologizing of the past and how much could be argued on more empirical grounds. And yet isn't it usually a value judgment, and thereby hard to measure?

ConEd mystery

Regular readers of the site might recall my shock at receiving a $131 gas/electric bill last month. Well, I was shocked once again tonight after I picked up my latest bill. But in a good way. Because it came in at a mere $33, well below what I normally pay. Could this mean there was some mistake last month and they're now correcting things by charging me less? The bill doesn't say. And these are actual readings they're basing things on, not estimates. So between the two months, I'm now averaging $82 a month, which is still high for this apartment, but not as bad.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Not working update

Good news from the extended break between jobs: I'm actually checking off some of those things on my to-do list that never get done, like uploading a year's worth of digi pix to get printed—twice, because it failed the first time.

Bad news: The day goes so quickly! I thought I'd have an abundance of time, but each day starts getting eaten up little by little until I don't have nearly as much at all. Perhaps being expected at an office every day isn't so bad; at least you feel like you've accomplished something. What's that old saying? "Got something you need done? Give it to a busy person."

Monday, August 28, 2006

BAMN! ready to kick the automat up a notch

Lisa's on the scene at the opening of St. Marks Place's newest eatery: a Horn & Hardart for the 21st century, complete with hot pink signage and hot pink staff members.

The Sony Building's policy

Saturday, August 26, 2006

PostSecret of the moment

Neko Case at McCarren Park Pool

No diving!

Thursday night, I got to partake of the new Brooklyn concert venue that's started to come into its own this year: the Depression-era McCarren Park Pool in Greenpoint, where the audience stands in the empty pool with its peeling-paint bottom and the band plays opposite the grand but dilapidated red entrance canopy. Neko Case was the headliner, with elfin harpist Joanna Newsom and singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright as openers. I'd see MW on July 4, opening for Belle & Sebastian, so her set was mostly familiar to me and pretty enjoyable, despite the rain. I remembered an umbrella this time, and yes, it is a little funny to see a crowd standing in an empty inground pool, hoping to avoid getting wet. At one point, I think I heard her say, "We should've brought our bathing suits." During her performance, a red and white ASCAP golf umbrella appeared next to me with a familiar face: It was Jimmy Fallon, I finally realized, after several minutes of metnal SNL cast list searches. Didn't recognize the friend he was with, though. Mike Myers was also in attendance; I saw him between sets getting a beer bracelet and shaking a bouncer's hand and then H. pointed him out watching from the wings during Neko's set. He was with a woman, whom I'm going to assume was not his wife, as they are currently getting divorced, according to the celeb press.

JN's set was so-so—I wasn't as familiar with her music, and thought it was a little incongruous to have play such a large venue as the second of three acts. But she seemed to have a somewhat devoted following among the crowd. She plays the kind of music that I wouldn't necessarily mind listening to while puttering around the apartment, but which doesn't quite sustain the energy needed to make an interesting concert. For Neko's set, we made sure to get up fairly close and thus the venue size didn't seem as pertinent to me. She had some wacky between-song banter going on about unicorns and magical unicorn oracle cards, which had its funny moments, but her singing and playing were just as intense as I'd hoped. Her new stuff especially epitomizes that "country noir" label I remember her mentioning in an interview when I first got turned on to her music. There wasn't as much improv as you might get from a jazz or jam band, but there were a few really great solos by the dobro player who earned some cheers.

As H. pointed out to me afterward, the pool as venue still feels like a work in progress. She said it feels like the place can really sustain larger acts that would fill the pool with paying customers. I said I wondered whether the organizers were trying to go for a distinctly indie feel by signing the acts that they have this year. But she did have a point that the concerts can lack a little bit of energy because of the stage placement and number of attendees who end up filling the space, which is comparable to three Olympic-sized pools. Could the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Ryan Adams pack 'em in out in Brooklyn? It'll be interesting to see if or how the lineup of performers changes next year.