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.