Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Spring Awakening

I'm happy to report that the former one-hit wonder Duncan Sheik has composed a really wonderful set of songs for the new musical Spring Awakening, currently in previews at the former church on West 20th Street that's the mainstage for the Atlantic Theatre Company, and the lyrics by Steven Sater definitely have their moments as well.

I wish I could say the same for Sater's adaptation of Frank Wedekind's oft-censored 1891 play about teenage sexuality by the same name. I've never seen Wedekind's play performed on its own, but I didn't feel like Sater was able to integrate the different modes and idioms of the play into a very coherent whole. The music and lyrics are decidedly contemporary, and they work well, I thought, but the spoken action seems to range from attempts at a period piece (German provincialism in the 1890s) to somewhat hokey attempts to bring the characters into the present. The choreography feels rather forced, highlighted as it is by a repeated sequence of arm movements that was probably intended to look nascently sensual but instead comes across like a bad riff on the Macarena; it looks especially silly when performed by the schoolboys, almost like a parody of itself. Also, the drama seemed neither serious enough nor funny enough to be what you might call tragicomic.

All that said, I did enjoy the music, and found it to be refreshingly original and rarely derivative, well sung by the various cast members, especially Lea Michele as the young female lead and Jonathan Groff as the male lead. And I'm pretty sure that Mr. Sheik himself was playing guitar, as promised, in the four-piece on-stage band, which also included bass, drums and cello. I sat in the front row, next to a guy named Chris who said he worked with Duncan on the music for the show during the development stages, but ultimately left the project to record his first CD for Absolutely Kosher Records, due out later this year.

Blogebrities in the New Yorker

One of the upsides of getting better acquainted with the four o'clock hour of the morning, around the time when dawn breaks these days, is that I get more reading done. When you've been awoken by pain, and the next dose of pills hasn't yet kicked in, you need something to distract you, I've found. Still being somewhat groggy, I did a double take when I saw a drawing in the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" section of a recognizable couple, half of whom I've now actually met. That's right, it's the unofficial recently married First Couple of Blogging, Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan, featured in a follow-up to Rebecca Mead's November 2000 article on the nascence of blogging as seen through the eyes of M. and J. — subtitle: "How to put your business, your boyfriend, and your life on-line." Turns out the pair broke up for a time early last year, before getting back together and then tying the knot recently.
· Dept. of Amplification: Meg & Jason [New Yorker]

UPDATE: Gawker has a funny riff on this growing microniche of the magazine's coverage.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Medicine on the UES, Wyeth in Philly

I'm beginning to associate the Upper East Side with sickness, because one of the most common reasons I find myself over there these days is to visit some specialist or get some medical procedure done. Today it was an X-ray and MRI at a place practically on the East River. I fell asleep for a bit during the MRI, and the technician could tell for some reason, and told me to stay awake. Eventually, I keep telling myself, I'm going to arrange so that I only see doctors on the West Side, whether uptown or downtown; the subways were just not built to accommodate east-west movement, and crosstown buses are not much of an option when you're hurrying in the morning.

I'm really glad we went to see the Andrew Wyeth exhibit at the Art Museum in Philly. I was really captivated, and ended up finding even more fault with that NYTimes review I wrote about last month. It was Memorial Day, so there were a lot fewer people in the museum than usual for a day off, but it wasn't entirely empty, either ... The dance we perform when viewing a sequential exhibit, measuring out sight lines, aiming to block others' lines as little as possible, getting up close to a work when no one else is looking, watching the people as much as the art, following certain others through the exhibit ... Growing up, we'd always seen a lot of the Wyeth family's works at the Brandywine River Museum, but this was probably the most coherent explanation of 82-year-old Andrew's themes and methods. The way he so often selectively removes people from his paintings, but allows the shadows and meanings to remain, tethered as they so often are to the objects upon which he fixates. The fine detailed brush strokes. The need for patience from models or otherwise the patience of a bucket, a hat, a house, a pair of boots. I really got the sense that A. Wyeth's work is a lot deeper than the "Pottery Barn" reviewer gave him credit for, and so what if the Chadds Ford and Maine coastline that he depicts are greatly shaped by his own selectivity. He's all the greater and more modern artist for it.

Broadway in the Garment District

Monday, May 29, 2006

Manhattanhenge

I'm still in Philly until later this evening, but here's an amazing "Manhattanhenge" shot—by Flickr user ianqui—from the sunset last night in New York, one of two days a year (the next one's in July) when the setting sun aligns itself with the island's cross-street grid. This was 34th Street from Park Avenue.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Spider-Man, Liberty, Beach

Unstoppable photoblogger Will Femia is on the scene: Spider-Man 3 is filming in the Financial District, and Liberty Plaza Park is opening Thursday, June 1, at noon 11 a.m., well ahead of the first official day of spring. I noticed the signs as I was headed out of town Friday evening.

Meanwhile: awesome day down the shore today at Bradley Beach. Warm sand, cool breeze, 60-degree water, just warm enough for a few bracing moments in the surf.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Future home of NYPL's Mulberry St. Branch

Libraries come in all shapes and sizes. This one's going in on that tiny Soho alleyway known as Jersey Street, one block south of Houston between Lafayette and Mulberry streets and just behind the Puck Building, recognizable to watchers of the recently concluded "Will and Grace" as Grace's office building. More at Curbed.

Liberty Plaza Park

Nearly ready for its unveiling this summer. Located downtown across from ground zero. The 70-foot-tall red sculpture's called Joie de Vivre, and it's by Mark di Suvero. I shot this through an opening in the construction fence.

A respite from my complaints

Another largely sleepless night. Getting up every hour or so because of the pain. How do insomniacs function? I so need my sleep. On the plus side, H. called at the end of yesterday, and we met up in the sunny evening for Monster Sushi in the West Village—we walked right by it at first, it blends in so well with its surroundings. Then we checked out that corner-storefront coffee shop I've always admired from the street, but never visited: Doma Cafe & Gallery on Perry Street. Delicious flourless chocolate cake. Great conversations as always.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pain on a sunny day

Just when so many things feel like they're going right, you wake up at 3:30 in the morning with excruciating pain, and can't fall back asleep, and pace your apartment, unable to get comfortable, sitting, standing, lying down, debating calling anybody to do phone triage. The pain drug they gave me did not reproduce that nice blissful feeling I had when I got my wisdom teeth out; it's merely allowed me to forget about the pain for a few minutes at a time, making things borderline bearable. Still, by late afternoon, I got up enough energy to go back out and walk (slowly by my standards) around the neighborhood, get a coffee, see life among the non-working public, wander around Fort Tryon Park and take in the Hudson and the flowers, even commiserate with J. for a few minutes by phone. She assured me I'm young, and I probably won't need surgery, but still: Will I wake up feeling this bad again tomorrow?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sea, seeing again

Saw my very good friend K. again for the first time in nearly two years. She's back in the city, for good this time. It is a rare thing when you can say that someone is your oldest friend, and it's even better when you can reconnect with that person after time apart. We ate at Sea, the great and reasonably priced Thai food place on North Sixth St. in Billyburg. Haven't been back to that block in ages, it seems, and it's become even more overrun with hippness in the interim. After dining, we hit up one of the many bars (this one had a Polish-sounding name, but it was obviously not memorable enough for me to recall) that have blossomed in the area. I remember Sea as being one of several outposts off the main drag of Bedford; now the area's started to fill in much more, and the clothing and interior design shops seem to be jockeying for space with the meatpacking establishments and other bits of light industrial. I wouldn't mind living in Williamsburg, but I wonder if the constant stream of hipsters would bother me, and the L train, while featuring fancy newish subway cars, also boasts some pretty obnoxious delays at times.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Highlights from the Book Review

I usually skim the NYT Book Review, but today, sitting in Central Park with the Sunday paper stacked beside me, I found myself poring over several good reviews and articles, and of course the stack of books-to-read piled higher in my head.
Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?
A.O. Scott's excellent essay on "In Search of the Best"
Peter Carey's Theft: A Love Story
A very funny review of Douglas Coupland's jPod that had me laughing out loud; actual headline, which riffs on the form of this novel itself: 'Insert: headline/jpod-coupland.rvw'
Lucy Kellaway's 'e-pistolary' novel Who Moved My BlackBerry?
¶ Also, a promising review of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel, which didn't seem to make it online for whatever reason.

Puck Building

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Apple 24/7/365

For the city that never sleeps, Apple is capturing a time-lapse video of the first 24 hours of its new we-never-close store on Fifth Avenue. Above, a screenshot from the 5 o'clock hour early this morning. (Dawn was 5:03 a.m.) Also, Kottke spots one of the marriage proposals.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Pour your own drink at Gawker HQ

A round of bottoms-up pour-your-own Tanqueray and tonics to kick off the weekend at Gawker Media's headquarters on Crosby Street between Spring and Prince. The place was, you might imagine, crawling with bloggers, invited for the shindig. The first of many on-site happy hours, perhaps? The whole "Hi, I know lots about you through your blog, even though we've never met" phenomenon was definitely in effect. Finally got to meet Jake and Jen of Gothamist. Others in attendance and a handshake away: Larry of This Is What We Do Now. Nick Denton, Mr. Gawker himself. Meg of the unstoppable Meg Hourihan/Jason Kottke duo. Plus, good times with two Harlem bloggers: Rachel of Bagel in Harlem, who once did a stint in Billings, Mont., and Chris of Harlem Fur, who, yes, takes his cat outside. [If you two are wondering, here's a page defining bebop jazz: it actually dates back to the '40s!] Also, congrats to The Sun's Meghan K. for her Phillips Foundation fellowship.

Le Cirque


We crashed the opening party for Le Cirque last night, which was actually more of a reopening party, since this is the third incarnation of Le Cirque since the '70s. I remember passing its second home, in the New York Palace Hotel on Madison, many times, but it closed there before I could get a peek inside. The latest location is inside the base of One Beacon Court, looking out at the seven-story open-at-the-top glass rotunda. The interior feels a little cold, but perhaps that'll change once they bring in the tables. There are actual "circus" touches, including tent-like fabric panels in the main dining room and Calder-esque wire sculptures of acrobats and animals and such set into the wall above the banquettes. It's a little hard to judge a restaurant's food just on the hors d'oeuvres, but everything I ate was delicious, especially the lobster ceviche and the "famous" creme brule. Fame is of course the buzzword at a restaurant that's "most famous for being famous," so there were lots of celebrities on hand last night. Those whom I saw: Joan Rivers, Martha Stewart, Tony Bennett, Michael Shvo (famous in real estate circles at least), and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly. Bill Cosby and Mayor Bloomberg himself were supposedly there as well. The toilets were very nice too: marked W.C. and all individual rooms.
Le Cirque Starts Third Life at One Beacon Court [Bloomberg]
¶ More from Eater here and here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Momix at the Joyce

I figured seeing Momix would be a weird and wonderful experience, but I didn't realize how weird and how wonderful. Perhaps that article I read that associated it with Cirque du Soleil threw me off a bit, because this was considerably different. As I watched the show this evening at the Joyce Theater with M., I kept coming up with different reactions: "This is crazy." "This is weird." "This is stunningly graceful." "This is spooky." "This is grotesque." "This is strange." "This is strangely funny." I'm serious: each new segment in the 90-minute program just added to the feeling that what I was watching was otherworldly. Yes, the ensemble's work is grounded in dance, and the show is running at a theater devoted to dance, but Momix is as much about illusion as they are about captivating movement of the body.

The work we saw, "Lunar Sea," really does make you feel like you're watching a dance on the moon. A transparent scrim stands at the front of the stage throughout the performance, and trippy, kaleidoscopic gradually changing images are projected onto that scrim. This slight blurring of the rest of the stage really allows the "dancer-illusionists" to employ unseen harnesses, wires, stairs, curtains, and scooters (I think) to produce stunning and at times seemingly weightless designs. Most of the evening's costumes were partially black and partially covered in white, luminescent fabric; the black was barely visible at all — it blends in with rest of the darkened stage — so the white is all you see. There are of course moments when you can see the harnesses or the different people in black working together to create the illusion of floating in air, but so often throughout the show, I was just dumbfounded, thinking, "How are they doing that?"

Besides their own bodies, the dancers use puppets the likes of which I've never seen before. They aren't anthropomorphic like you'd normally imagine puppets to be, but instead they create lit, geometric designs that bob and weave and twist and grow and shrink as if they were being controlled by a laser machine in a planetarium. That's one of the sentiments I kept coming back to: Here are visual spectacles that look like they had to have been produced by some computer somewhere, and yet it's all done with light and dark, people and costumes and practically invisible sets and physical puppetry. The tickets were a bit pricey, but by the end, I felt it was totally worth it: How often do you see something not quite like anything you've seen before?

Peace Tower outside the Whitney

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stanley Kunitz, 1905-2006

A great, gentle, tenacious man with whom I spoke on the telephone one summer several years ago. Named poet laureate at 95, he was still active, long after most poets have passed away or moved beyond the public eye. He will be missed.
Stanley Kunitz, Poet Laureate, Dies at 100 [NYT]
"Halley's Comet" by Kunitz [PoemHunter]

Monday, May 15, 2006

Fin de semana: L Q 4 Q Q Q

At the Union Square station.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Scenes from the Biennial

It doesn't seem like all that long ago that I was visiting 2004 Whitney Biennial, and already it's two years later. Seeing the 2006 collection of exhibits, subtitled "Day for Night," after the Truffaut film (which I've never seen), was actually not as perplexing as I thought it was going to be. There were still a lot of baffling works, as I often find in contemporary art, but it seemed slightly more accessible this time around. A few scenes:

» Urs Fischer's The Intelligence of Flowers, which consisted of massive big-enough-to-step-through, jaggedly cut holes in the white gallery walls, exposing the inner metal brackets. Inside these huge openings was Untitled (Branches), a pair of silver-painted branches, each suspended from the ceiling, parallel to the floor, balanced with a burning candle at one end and a group of silver chains at the other end. Small motors in the ceiling make the branches spin ever so slowly, and as each candle burns down, it drips its wax onto the floor, creating a large Venn diagram type design on the floor. While I was near the gallery, I noticed a woman, likely a Whitney Museum employee, carrying a pair of white candles and a blowtorch. She reached into a utility panel behind a handle-less door, and shut off the branch-spinning mechanisms. Then she went to replace each candle in the artwork, using the blowtorch to melt the wax along the bottom and help the candles adhere to the branches. We the museum-goers watched this woman's work as if it were the performance part of the exhibit.

» Kori Newkirk's Glint. A four-sided curtain of hair beads, showing different abstract designs, created in response to the seeming obsession of tennis writers, fans and commentators over Venus Williams' own hair beads, and the likely paranoid fear of what might happen if her beads were to fall out during a tennis match.

» Fake, imagined obituaries for Rod Stewart, Nicole Kidman, Bill Clinton and Jeff Koons, using real facts and details but obviously not correct on the dates of death, blown up to wall-size proportions, at the entrance to each gallery floor by Adam McEwen.

» Nari Ward's Glory. A tanning bed (a thing of the First World), created out of battered oil barrels and other castoffs reminiscent of the Third World, and printed with stars and stripes on the glass inside, so that if someone were to actually tan themselves in the contraption, they'd be marked like an American flag. From within the device comes a recording loop taken from a CD intended to teach parrots how to speak English and whistle tunes like reveille. Sequences like: "(Laughter) You've got to be kidding. (Pause) (Laughter) You've got to be kidding. (Pause) (Laughter) ..." A reaction to post-9/11 nationalistic fervor, as stated on the title card.

» Francesco Vezzoli's much-talked-about, pitch-perfect, and pretty funny Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s “Caligula,” which runs five minutes and 35 seconds, and shows in a screening room with plusher seats than most others used for film/video works. The work seems especially of the moment, as trailers for fake movies like Titanic 2: The Sequel and Brokeback to the Future are making the rounds on the internet.

The overall experience of seeing the Biennial continues to strike me as walking through a funhouse made for adults, although there were several kids there today. The muted cacophony of audio tracks from the various multimedia works around the gallery floors are really kind of absurd when mixed together. But it's different from the feeling you get from walking through the hallways of a multiplex. There, the context of each vocalization or sound effect or musical cue is supposed to be obvious to the viewers in each individual auditorium. But the noises playing inside the Whitney feel even further removed from their sources. Whereas Hollywood filmmakers aim to obfuscate and deny the artificiality that goes into making their work (even as they follow such obvious formulas), so many visual artists today are focused on highlighting that same artificiality in their constructs. These aren't exactly new ideas about the entertainment vs. art debate, but they came to mind for me while walking through the carnival funhouse that is the Whitney through May 28.

Guide to Hudson Heights/Fort Tryon

Since people sometimes happen upon this blog by searching for info about my neighborhood, I thought I'd go ahead and note what this place has to offer. I've written before about Hudson Heights, but this is an attempt to put more info in one place.

Hudson Heights is a relatively recent name (within the past 15 years or so) that was invented to differentiate the section of northwest Washington Heights from the rest of the neighborhood, which generally extends from Harlem to Inwood. Most define its northernmost boundary as Fort Tryon Park. It extends from the Hudson River to Broadway. Its southernmost boundary is usually defined as 181st Street, but some would say it extends to just north of the George Washington Bridge approach and the bus terminal. North-south avenues include Cabrini, Pinehurst, Fort Washington, and Bennett, as well as Magaw Place and Overlook Terrace. The main commercial strip besides Broadway and 181st Street is at 187th Street between Fort Washington and Pinehurst.

Food markets: Key Food on Broadway. Associated on Fort Washington. Frank's Market on 187th Street. Karrot Cabrini on 181st (Fair Trade).
Pizza places: One on Broadway, another on 187th Street, and three on 181st Street.
Major co-ops: Castle Village. Hudson View Gardens.
Restaurants/bars: New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park. Bleu Evolution. The Monkey Room. Hispaniola. Jesse's Place. 107 West (Tex-Mex). Healthy Habits (Organic/Vegetarian). Kismat (Indian).
Pharmacy: Hilltop at 187th and Fort Washington.
Parks: Fort Tryon, featuring the Heather Garden and the Cloisters, plus views of the Hudson. Bennett Park, site of the highest natural point in Manhattan as well as a Revolutionary War battle.
Subway stops: A train at 181 (entrances at 181st St. and 184th St.) and 190 (Fort Washington Ave. and Bennett Ave.)
Schools: PS 187, Hudson Cliffs School. Mother Cabrini High School.
Starbucks: There's one at 181st Street and Fort Washington Ave.
Movie theater: One on 181st Street.

There's also a U.S. post office just beyond the borders of Hudson Heights to the north. It's Fort George Station, at 4558 Broadway.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Twin Coronas


Also known as 1600 Broadway, luxury condos in Times Square.

Crobar

It was loads of fun to finally get out on a dance floor and go wild like old times again tonight at Crobar in West Chelsea. The fun began up in the red room, where Ned was hosting a book/birthday party. In attendance were Daryl, Caren, and Robyn, among others. The free wine flowed, the cheesy music played. Then we got a chance to hit up the main floor for a little bit, where the aforementioned dancing occurred. Wearing my new shirt and new shoes, purchased earlier in the evening. A few of us left before it got too crowded, and ended up at the Moonstruck Diner on 23rd Street. On the bill? Two chocolate egg creams, a Greek salad, a cheeseburger, and a belgian waffle with ice cream. You'll have to guess who had what.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Review: Well at the Longacre

It's always a little disheartening to see good plays close on Broadway well before their time has come. Such is the case with Well by Lisa Kron and starring her. Great reviews, but anemic ticket sales. I guess the situation's sort of analogous to independent films and blockbusters. If people are going to pay Broadway prices, they want to see a Broadway show. And Well, which had a great run at the Public Theater, located downtown on Lafayette Street, is more of an Off-Broadway play: less over-the-top in terms of production values, and more meta- than your typical juke-box, Disney, or star-studded fare. There's even a line in the play about the show's "downtown"-ness.

All that said, the play is really funny, and very touching, and if you'd thought about seeing it at all this spring, hurry out in the next three days, and see it before it closes on Sunday. Tickets in the three-tiered theater's balcony are $25, and there was no shortage of empty seats tonight.

At its most basic, the play is about the relationship between the daughter character Lisa Kron created for herself and that of Ann Kron, her mother, played with a disarming lack of self-consciousness by Jayne Houdyshell, who's the real star of the show, because she seems to do so much to avoid the spotlight. The show is also about the struggle to put life experiences into nice and easy boxes, and the tug of war that happens between life and art, and mother and daughter, when each party is always interrupting the other to try and tell the story better. Houdyshell—in her utter embodiement of a mother who's done good and satisfying work in her life, but has also been hobbled by sickness ("allergies") and now sits on a big recliner most days, watching tapes of ice skating ("I watch a little, and then I doze, and then I rewind it and watch it again")—plays that mom whom all the neighborhood kids love, who manages to steal the stage from her daughter without even trying. Kron plays the daughter who demands control in her life and her art, now that's she's "well" and far removed from the Lansing, Michigan, of her youth where her mother still holds court in her own small way.

You can see from early on how the character Lisa plays is destined to fail at keeping control over the "multi-character theatrical exploration" or keeping her mother in her armchair and out of the mix. The clash of theatrical constructs and parlor-room storytelling is dramatized most hilariously when the stage goes black and Lisa steps into a square spotlight to explain to the audience that she refuses to confront her mother in a real conversation here and now, using that time-honored device of freezing dramatic time and opening the fourth wall. But the mother character gets fed up with things, and calls out from her darkened recliner to stop the silliness and deal with the real crux of the matter. The stroke had the audience in stitches.

It was such a powerful moment because it managed to make me love the ideals of theater and life all the more, even as it brought them into stark comic relief. It was also a moment that made me feel sympathy for the character, who so dearly wants to live a creative and original life and so often trips up hilariously along the way, but also admiration for the playwright, for putting herself in an eloquently crafted position on stage that lays bare her own failings and struggles. She is living up to that great maxim of writing: Say the hardest thing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Reading conundrum

I have a habit of reading multiple books at once, and also of going in spurts, where I'll read only newspapers and magazines and the web, but then realize I'm missing out on lots of good books, and start attempting to devour them again. Problem is, I'm a slow reader and can be easily distracted. Plus, I reserve library books online, never quite knowing when it'll be my turn to get them. So it is for these reasons that I find myself in the following predicament: I have now started reading five different books — two nonfiction, three fiction — but am nowhere near finishing any of them, not to mention I have another thick fiction book out from the library. I've been trying to focus on finishing the other shorter library novel, but I've gotten 100 pages in and I'm wondering if the story's going to start getting more interesting or not. So instead of just slogging through this novel, I'm at another crossroads where I feel I might want to put it down for the longer library novel. Grrr. Why can't I finish what I start? The books in my perplexing pile are: I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe, The Modern Library Writer's Workshop, Adverbs by Daniel Handler, Love in the Time of Cholera by Garcia Marquez, The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, and Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu — the last of which I'm carrying around with me, and the first of which I haven't started yet.

Horsemen of the Esophagus

I saw former Penn Stater Jason Fagone read from his first book last night at a very packed KGB Bar on East 4th Street (two other authors and their fan base were on hand). It's called Horsemen of the Esophagus: Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream. He read a very funny scene that captures the drama behind that watershed moment in the "sport," the July Fourth that Japanese 23-year-old Takeru Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, using the new technique of snapping the dogs in half and shoving both halves into his mouth. It would become known as, yes, the Solomon method.

Note: As happens sometimes in the publishing industry, two books with similar angles have been released around the same time. Don't confuse Fagone's book with Eat This Book : A Year of Gorging and Glory on the Competitive Eating Circuit. Fagone's cover shows weiners in Oscar-Meyer-esque wrapping, whereas the other book, by Ryan Nerz, shows three dogs in their buns. Fagone's is by Crown/Random House; Nerz's is by St. Martin's Griffin. Both, however, seem to be the same number of pages: 320. Amazon.com is even offering a discount if you buy both, under their Better Together deal, so you can gorge yourself on competitive eating books.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Remains of the weekend

Lovely to have J. in town for a few days. The debut of the H&M linen suit was a success. The Hungarian Pastry Shop and the Times on Saturday afternoon, before the good ol' P.A.B.T. at 3. For the graduation celebration, the Blue Water Grill was hopping and as delicious as I remembered it. Reveling in the great flavors, loving every bite, not wanting the plate to be empty. I had Alaskan halibut for the first time, won't be my last. Pancakes and eggs this morning. "Sheep May Safely Graze" at church. Broadway street fair. Strawberry and apple crepe. Lemonade. Falafel sandwich. Like ol' Arts Fest, but much cheaper. The horse riders, the community garden. Into the park around 90th St. The reservoir, her fascination at seeing so many people out on the trails, on the sand-less beach, everywhere. Trying to imagine how many are in the park on a given warm-weather Sunday. As many as a million? Enjoying the view atop Belvedere Castle, seeing the turtles swimming around in the water below. The various musicians, the string trio by the Sheep Meadow, the skate-dance congregation. F train to Brooklyn. Slice of pizza. Caren's reading. The "curator" herself filling in as well very ably. Dinner for five at Bar Toto. Ride for five back north, then west, reminiscent of riding around in cramped high-school backseats.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Firemen’s Memorial


100th and Riverside.

Recently on Curbed

WTC Chaos Update: 'Memorial Mess'
255 Hudson Party Report: Easy Access to Wilmer, Jersey
Pier 57 Update: Cipriani Hitting the Da Vinci Road
Thursday AM Linkage: Greenpoint Ashes Edition
Red Hook Fairway Update: May 17 Feeling Right
City Opera Cancels Production with Kalimian Realty
LPC Goes on Village Landmarking Spree
WTC Chaos Update: Starchitectural Collection Complete!
Gratuitous Non-NYC Sci-Fi Fantasy: Dubai in the Sky
Ikea Red Hook Update: I Want My, I Want My I-TV!
181 Sullivan Street Update: Fifth Fantastik Unit!

ESB at 75


The Empire State Building — once again the tallest building in New York, but currently only the 9th tallest in the world — turned 75 this month. This is one of my favorite views, from the Flatiron Building at Broadway and 23rd Street. My favorite nighttime view is down in the Village, walking west along West 3rd Street at either MacDougal or Sullivan, where the lit ESB appears, framed perfectly, like a painting of itself.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Under 66th Street


Detail from Nancy Spero's Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers (2001).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

David Blaine, Lincoln Center


"Mommy?"
"Yes, honey."
"Why's the crazy man stuck in a fishbowl?"
"Because his mommy didn't let him keep goldfish when he was a boy."
"Mommy?"
"Yes, dear."
"Can I have an fishbowl?"
"Maybe when you're older."

PostSecret event at the TWC Borders

Frank Warren, the humble, unassuming artist behind the international phenomenon that is PostSecret, spoke tonight at the Borders store on Columbus Circle, which saw a standing-room crowd of about 200 people. He came across as a very thoughtful, giving person who speaks of the project "choosing him" instead of the other way around. I missed the first 10-15 minutes of his discussion, but I was there for a good part of it.

Some of the things I learned: He still lives at the address that was printed on the cover of the PostSecret book, despite jokes by his wife that they'd have to move after the book came out. He said they've only ever received one unannounced visitor at the house, just someone who wanted to drop off their secrets in person. He said he took a leap of faith in humanity by putting his postal address out there in the hopes that people in return would trust him enough to send along their secrets, and he's been pleasantly surprised to find little if any trouble because of it, something he called "cooly karmic."

Despite the growth in popularity of the Blogger-hosted website (he said about 70 to 80 people visit a minute), it's still just a one-man operation, which he championed as a rarity in today's world where so much entertainment and creative content is, if not entirely produced by committee, then edited and shaped and marketed heavily. He spends a few hours each Saturday scanning a selection of postcards to put up on the blog, and if they're not up there bright and early on Sunday morning, he usually gets bombarded by e-mail from people wanting to know what's wrong. He said he's had to schedule vacations around that Sunday morning post time as the site has skyrocketed with visitors during the past months. (Not sure what he does for his day job.)

He spoke of how the project has a very human quality to it, because it mixes old technology (sending postcards through the mail) with new technology (posting images on a blog) to reach out to so many people. He also made a gentle suggestion that a lot of the relief and catharsis that people possibly get from sending in their secrets might be recreated by sharing things with others in real life. He said that loneliness, thoughts of suicide, and instances of self-hurt, whether cutting or anorexia or the like, were some of the troubling themes that often arise across many of the cards he gets. He suggested that these problems might be improved by getting them out in the open more and talking about them.

It was clear that many in the audience respected the project, and Warren said that he's tried to see where the project leads him instead of having a big master plan for what it should be. One recent pattern he's seen is people sending in cosmic replies to secrets posted on the site, such as one writer who teased and abused a childhood friend but still feels really horrible about it years later and another postcard submitter saying s/he was teased and abused by a childhood friend but that s/he forgives that person.

Warren had the audience laughing when he said that sometimes his wife tries to secretly submit postcards to see if they'll end up on the site, first actually mailing them, and later slipping them into his Saturday pile. He said he thinks he's always caught her. One recent one? "I want to sleep with Richard Gere."

He said an episode from his childhood that might've inspired the art project involved him sending a postcard home to his parents from camp and actually getting home himself before the card arrived — thus the feeling of sending a letter to yourself.

When asked about what's next, Warren said there are four more PostSecret books coming out, with the themes of "teenagers/young adults," "men," "women," and "older adults." While it's exciting to see that this guy's getting book deals, I had to laugh a little, because it sounds like it's becoming a Chicken Soup series. He also said that a secret to uncovering old postcards that aren't on the site anymore is to type "PostSecret" into Google Images, and see what comes up. As of the moment, there are nearly 1,000 images, most of which are PS cards.

Frank Warren, PostSecret [Defunktion.net]
Postcards Feature Secret Messages from Strangers [NPR]
For Md. Postcard Artist, Mystery's in the Mail [WaPo]

Too funny not to post

This is a few months old, but ... two pairs of little kids have done their own versions of the now-legendary SNL short "Lazy Sunday." One pair does an audio track, the other mimes their way though the video's scenes. (Oh, and it appears the language on each one has been appropriately censored for PG audiences.) Crazy delicious!
Nick and Amelia's Lazy Sunday [Waxy.org via JessicaCoen]

White Horse

I stopped by Lisa's happy hour in honor of Jane Jacobs yesterday evening at the White Horse Tavern, where there is a sign at the bar that says something like: No howling will be tolerated; if you want to howl, go to the zoo. WNYC's Andrea Bernstein was there with her microphone. So were some nice people from Project for Public Spaces (the group has a blog here). Hanging out in the Villages a lot recently has made me realize: a) We don't have any good local bars in my neighborhood, and b) It's usually a lot quieter up here. In blogging news, Movable Type is making for some Curbed headaches this morning.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Blogger weddings are the new white


I've only met these lovely people once before in the real-o-sphere, but I respect their online work a whole bunch, and my estimation of them rose even higher when I saw how they celebrated their impending nuptials: a wedding parade through Red Hook with a marching band and photoblogger friends in tow! Click through for a bigger photo.
Celebration, Part I [Callalillie]

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Atelier on West 42nd St.


Future residents of the Atelier on far West 42nd Street will be literally a three-minute walk from the Circle Line terminal and the Intrepid. The main thing separating the new 478-unit condo development from the West Side Highway and the Hudson River is the Chinese Consulate, seen out of the left side of the frame. Not pictured is the Atelier's welcoming committee — the banner-holding Falun Gong protesters who can usually be found on the opposite side of the street from the consulate. More at Curbed.

My Da Vinci blackout

I'm sure there are those out there who'll accuse me of being a book snob when I say this, but I refuse to read The Da Vinci Code — or see the movie for that matter, as much as I would ordinarily love watching Audrey Tautou and/or Tom Hanks. There was a time when I used to devour Michael Crichton books, but I've rarely ever read any John Grisham or Stephen King, and I'm not reading any Dan Brown. I realize this is a sort of an irrational and somewhat closed-minded choice, and as an observer of current pop culture, I should probably bite the bullet and begrudgingly hand over an evening or two to this guy, especially now that the book's out in paperback. But no. Like Bartleby the Scrivener, I will say, "I'd prefer not to," and stick to my personal, semi-thick-headed boycott. I don't think Mr. Brown will care one way or another ... Of course, now that I've posted this entry, international authorities know my weakness, and can eagerly prepare some Clockwork Orange-esque torture in which I'm threatened with having to read the dreaded Code unless I give up whatever information they'll be trying to get out of me. That's a price I'm willing to pay.