Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Who needs real TV when you've got this?

Williamsburg has its very own sitcom! TheBurg posted its first full-length episode ("Cred") online this week. Also, be sure to check out the hilarious teasers from the past month or so, including "Hip or Dangerous?" Plus, a pair of choice screenshots below. Who says summertime has to be the TV doldrums?
Brooklyn Vegan

Mike Still of A Week of Kindness and PSU fame

Another college connection or two: The co-creator of the project, Thom Woodley, is another Penn Stater, and I actually knew his band back in freshman year: a fun folksy sextet called Holy Mary Mother of Bert. Lindsey Broad, who plays "Spring," is a PSU alum as well.

Positive reinforcement

The most e-mailed N.Y. Times story of the moment, one of those Modern Love columns from SundayStyles, is a must read for anyone seeking a new spin on an old way of "training" a friend or mate. It's called "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage." The crux? "The central lesson I learned from exotic animal trainers is that I should reward behavior I like and ignore behavior I don't."

Dumplings, trivia

H. and I put in a valiant effort tonight at trivia, managing to avoid coming in last, depsite being a two-person team. (We were late, having taken our time after a Dumpling House visit on the LES.) My proudest moment of the evening was recognizing that the logo you see at left is that of the Albuquerque Isotopes, a minor-league baseball team in New Mexico. I'm not quite so sure why I was so excited to remember this, but I was. The visual round was all sports logos, including such obscure ones as the Bolton Wanderers, a Greater Manchester football club in the U.K. that's managed to secure a slot in the Premiership during recent years. Who knew? And I totally should've gone with UPenn as the answer for the first medical school in the U.S., since I knew it was one in Philadelphia and also both of the hosts tonight (Caren and "Bunny") are alumnae of the university, but instead I suggested "Pennsylvania Medical College," which was wrong and turned out to be a different school altogether. The Medical College of Pennsylvania was the first women's medical school, also located in Philly, and after many mergers and renamings, it's now Drexel University's College of Medicine.

Oh, and it was my second night in a row for a twist of Raspberry and "Milky Weigh" Likity Lite soft serve from Mary's Dairy on West 4th St. Does it get any better than that?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Restaurants in WaHI

Stopping by the New Leaf Cafe for a capuccino on Sunday, I picked up a copy of the Manhattan Times' Northern Manhattan Dining Guide (not online, unfortunately). It's a great little color booklet, shaped like a Zagat Survey, that features most of the better restaurants around Washington Heights, Hudson Heights and Inwood. I've eaten at nearly half of the places mentioned, but it did tip me off to a new eatery I'd like to try. It's called the Archway, and it's located in what used to be a small commisary in Hudson View Gardens, the Mock Tudor style co-op that stretches between Bennett Park and Castle Village on Cabrini Boulevard. The restaurant's address is 116 Pinehurst Ave., near West 183rd St., in Building C of the complex. The entrance is indeed through an archway. I took a peek inside and picked up a menu, which is also posted on the restaurant's website. Other eateries mentioned in the guide that I know and enjoy (besides New Leaf): 107 West, Bleu Evolution, Garden Cafe, Il Sole, Jesse's Place, Kismat, Next Door, and the Piper's Kilt.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

An admitted bandwagoner

I don't care about most sports—save for maybe PSU college football—to follow them with any diligence throughout a season, but I do hop on the bandwagon once in a while. So this morning, doing odds and ends around the apartment, I dusted off my old England football jersey from 2002 and watched the side's World Cup game against Ecuador. England won, 1-0, off David Beckham's free kick that curled above the defenders and down into the net during the 60th minute. Out around the neighborhood, walking in Fort Tryon, and shopping at Frank's Market, I got a few greetings because of my England jersey. One group of people asked for the result. Another guy nodded and said, "Good game!" And as a couple driving in a car with St. George's flags flying out the windows drove by, the guy caught my eye and raised his fist in a salute of solidarity. It's this communal aspect of sports that appeals to me, and why I got behind the football and basketball teams in high school and college. Why it made me smile whenever one of the Philly pro sports teams would knock at the door of greatness—and usually get turned away at said door. Why it's fun to be an Anglophile and have lived there and feel some tangential allegiance when they're doing well. I think back to how my flatmates used to watch and re-watch a videotape of the famous 5-1 trouncing of Germany by England during the late summer of 2001, and can only imagine how excited they must be to see their national squad doing well on the Germans' own turf. And taking a quick look at the bracket, it appears the first possible meeting of Germany and England would be in the final, which would certainly make for an amazing game, but that would require England to beat Brazil, which would be an even bigger coup.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A picnic and the Bard

I'm getting into the picnic groove this warm season. After not really ever going on many picnics at all, I've managed to enjoy two in the past month. Tonight, it was A.'s wonderful suggestion and preparation that found us dining on ricotta quiche from Whole Foods, seasoned rice, salad with strawberries and Goddess Dressing, raspberries, and pastries from Financier Patisserie, which I'd toted all the way from the opposite end of the island on the over-AC'd subway, which in this case was a good thing, as it prevented the treats from totally sagging in the heat. (And how much do I love the name Financier? It's near Wall Street and it's the name of a French pastry.) Oh, and wine! Red wine. A very nice bottle of cabernet with a penguin on the front. Waddle, waddle. Must reach mating site. Waddle, waddle. Must reach open water. Sorry, couldn't resist. Said picnic occurred on the Inwood Hill Park peninsula, where we enjoyed a free production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, performed by the Moose Hall Theatre Company, which has a logo as silly as you'd imagine it to be. The rain held off for most of the show, and the brave actors stuck it out even after the audience, stretched out on the lawn as we were, opened our umbrellas two-thirds of the way in. Luckily, the rain subsided and they were able to close the show under clear skies. It was a pretty respectable performance, all things considered. Once again, it's free and outside, so you try to ignore the boats and trains tootling along in the distance and the occasionally jumpy sound system.

Anyway, here are some great lines from the play: "Everyone can master a grief but he that has it." "He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man." "Speak low if you speak love." "Friendship is constant in all other things / Save in the office and affairs of love: / Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues; / Let every eye negotiate for itself / And trust no agent." "Is most tolerable, and not to be endured." "O, what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!" "The idea of her life shall sweetly creep / Into his study of imagination, / And every lovely organ of her life, / Shall come apparell’d in more precious habit, / More moving-delicate and full of life / Into the eye and prospect of his soul." "Condemned into everlasting redemption." And one of my favorite bits of wordplay, toward the end, after Beatrice and Benedick's secret letters to each other have been made public: "Here's our own hands against our hearts."

I was also reminded tonight of how in both Ado and Romeo & Juliet it is a friar who recommends faking death to achieve a union. In one play, it works, and in the other, it doesn't, thereby separating the comedy from the tragedy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This is old, but still good for a smile


Peanuts/Outkast mashup time!

I'm not giving up on NYC yet ...


But my "first" city has some pretty creative new ads out, aiming to attract young New York wannabes southwest a couple of hours, promising a lower cost of living and more unmediated edginess.
Candidates for an ad campaign [Philly DN via Gothamist]
Wanna Move to Philly? [MoveToPhilly.com]

A white piano in the East River?

This hipster "invitation" for an "event" in Williamsburg tonight arrived in my inbox last night. (Click to enlarge.) Perhaps I'm just being a stick-in-the-mud spoilsport, but isn't dumping a piano in the river, like, against the law or something?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

R2R Fest: Belle & Sebastian on July Fourth

I got a pair of the first 500 tickets to the Belle & Sebastian/Martha Wainwright show on the afternoon of July 4th at Battery Park. (How better to celebrate Independence Day than by listening to a Scottish band and a Canadian opener?) The show is free, but you need a ticket. They're handing out the remainder at various spots in Lower Manhattan next Tuesday.

Evening yachts in the North Cove

That's the tallest building in New Jersey off in the distance.

Great moments in caption writing

The photo caption, accompanying Joyce Cohen's latest Hunt column: "Hameer Ruparel in his new apartment on East 25th Street. The kitchen is small, but there is enough room for cooking." Click on the photo for a better view of this "cooking."
· The Early Bird Can Be Too Early [NYT]

B.C.—up north, not back in time

Having tonight met only the second person that I've ever known from British Columbia seems a good enough reason to recommend a great song about a place from that Canadian province: Departure Bay, one of my favorite originals by Diana Krall. Great lyrics, dark and touching melody, amazing how it can evoke a mood and a town and a life story, all at the same time.

Adorable translated cartoon of the moment

"And if it's Happiness?" [NewYorkette]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Scandinavian chamber music in the Heights

For the second Sunday in a row, I've happened upon musicians from the New York Scandia Symphony performing a free concert in Fort Tryon Park, in the grassy area overlooking the Hudson River below the Heather Garden. So I ended up having some musical accompaniment to my Sunday paper reading. Today, there were pieces for flute and clarinet in addition to the string quartet repertoire. The musicians are accomplished, and very amenable to the laid-back setting and audience. The planes flying overhead, the people occasionally coming and going, the clapping between movements—all of these things are easily forgiven. The concert series is free and sponsored in part by some of the local stores and restaurants. The third and final performance is next Sunday, the 25th, at 2 p.m. On the program, Rued Langgaard's Lenau Moods for voice (mezzo contralto) and string quartet, H.C. Andersen's "The Princess in the Pea" read by a narrator with music by Edvard Grieg, some Norwegian fiddler folk tunes, and two pieces by Jean Sibelius: Winter Song for voice and strings and a movement from Intimate Voices. There might even be refreshments from the 181st Street Starbucks next Sunday, although the sponsor of today's concert—Billy's Original Barbecue—was a no-show.

Dada at MoMA

The Dada show opens today at MoMA (on Dad's Day, no less), but H. and I got a preview last night at the members' reception. The invitation said "cocktail attire," so we did it up stylishly: her in a stunning dark red cocktail dress, me in my linen suit with a new pink shirt and textured pink-striped tie. A good amount of people had chosen to dress up, but there was of course a sampling of those who either a) didn't put in much effort at all and looked casual or b) wore a hipster outfit that probably required a fair amount of effort but still looked casual. Either way, Dada was an art movement (late teens, early '20s) about breaking the rules, so they weren't going to very well turn people away at the door. Apparently, this is also the case at many of the city's top restaurants. "Jacket and tie required" has turned into a more fungible thing. Still, I've enjoyed getting dressed up for years now, so if given the opportunity, I run with it. I think I'll have to come back and see the exhibit again, but it's installed with a decent amount of whimsy appropriate to the mood and tone of the work. Not quite as frenetic as the Paris show, according to the Times, but still noticeable, compared with, say, the Munch exhibit that occupied the space previously. One of the revelations I got last night amid the party atmosphere was that a lot of the work is in fact very beautiful to admire. Even if the forms were avant-garde, the artists did not scrap the aesthetics entirely. Even the readymades, which are usually what come to mind when I think of Dada, have a way of presaging the 20th century's interest in design and mass-market products. I look at Duchamp's Fountain and think: They don't really make urinals that small any more, and aren't its curves kind of appealing?

By the time we got back downstairs to the main floor, most of the wine bottles were empty, but we located a few holdouts, took a few last sips, and then headed off to Candle 79, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant off Lexington. We had a booth on the second floor. The decor was earthen-toned and cozy, but sleek and not shabby. It's the kind of restaurant where they take the crafting of fine food from tofu, seitan and tempeh very seriously, so we got a little spiel as we ordered. Eating at vegetarian places, I sometimes feel like I'm hemmed in on one side since I'm allergic to many nuts. So I was navigating toward a tempeh dish with quinoa, when the waiter asked whether I'd had tempeh before. Apparently, because of the way it's processed, it's the kind of food that requires something of an acclimation period. This was news to me, but in the end, I was very pleased with the waiter's direction, which was toward another seitan dish. We each had one, and loved every bite. I love when you know you're in good hands culinarily speaking, and can dig in and trust that you'll be welcomed with a wonderful palate of flavors. Growing up, I'd often steer toward more conservative, more bland foods, because they're what I knew and they filled me up. But ever since I started coming to the city three years ago, I've taken more risks and—except for those moments when I found that I was allergic to raw mango and lychee—I've been happily surprised. For dessert, we crossed the park, staying about the same latitude, and headed for Cafe Lalo. It was crowded as all get out, so we selected a pair of cake slices—Bailey's Irish Cream and Black Forest—from the display case and headed out with our plastic forks to the benches around the Natural History Museum (same street, second night). A sweet ending to the evening.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Obituary as street art

Somebody must really want to make sure that this guy is not forgotten. I've noticed it posted in several places around City Hall and Tribeca.
Matt Kennedy, 101, Dies; Stalwart of Coney Island [NYT]

My Bloomsday, with links and a fuzzy photo

I still have never managed to get to a Bloomsday reading on June the 16th, but oh, well, God willing, there will be many more chances. Perhaps next year I'll have finished Ulysses and will actually make it to such a celebration. My Bloomsday, like most days, included travels all across the island of Manhattan. I began the day, as I almost always do, near its northern peak. Before midday, I'd made it to the bottom of the island. At lunch—a rather late one, mind you—I found myself right by the water's edge, the meeting of the East River, the Hudson River and the harbor. Evening, I walked up Broadway to Soho. Ate a light dinner at Le Petit Cafe, chatting up a French couple who's actually lived here for a year or so, the guy working for E&Y, the woman stepping out through the storefront window to smoke. (And here I'd imagined them to be French tourists, happening upon a cafe that plays French music on the sound system and serves French baguettes filled with mozzarella, tomato, and basil, just like I had in Paris and Nice. Turns out it was their first time there, and they live in the neighborhood.) And the guy even ordered a Coke ("un coca," if you will). When he asked if I'd like to practice my French, I demurred, instead paying my bill and hurrying off to meet J. for a show around the corner at the Ohio Theater, one of those where you have to walk across the stage to get to the seating. The play: Alice the Magnet. Flashbacks to public speaking class. No drinks afterward, as we'd considered. Instead, up to either side of the park for us, separately. Remembering how I'd suggested to L. that I'd see her at her new Thai resto/bar, Rain. A Thai Blue Julep and a Lychee Sunrise for me at the bar. Chatting up the middle-aged couple next to me, recognizing Matthew McConaughey on TV, wondering at how Roger Clemens has been playing in the minors recently, talking about how so many of our friends weren't actually born in New York. Then off to North West, across from the A.M.N.H., where we saw Liev Schreiber eating with a clan of people. Liev (above, wearing a baseball cap and climbing into a Mini Cooper parked outside the restaurant), who is currently playing Macbeth with Shakespeare in the Park. L. had a martini, I had a drink called the Langham, and we shared a plate of calamari, my first in a while. Later, we hit up a deli for some beer and wine, and joined a small gathering on the roofdeck of a luxury apt. building on West 89th. The river, the places all along CPW, Midtown in the distance. The Flaming Lips (for the second time that night) on the sound system. Stella, kindergarten, real estate. Finally, after 2:30, catching a cab from the UWS to the homestead. Good to be home. Great day after all. Yes I said yes I will Yes.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Cagelove

Christopher Denham and Adam Rapp, the star and playwright, respectively, of Red Light Winter, have another less-publicized collaboration up Seventh Avenue a few blocks at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. After getting an extension, Cagelove, which Denham wrote and Rapp directed, will end up closing the same day as the other play: June 25. I have to give the latter show, which I saw last night, a fair amount of credit for creating a palpable mood of suspense that's not always easy to create in the theater. The action, featuring a couple engaged to be married and the fiancee's sister, traces the aftermath of a rape suffered by the fiancee and its effects on the three characters. The play definitely has its gripping moments, where I was afraid of what was about to happen next. The problem is the final scene does not deliver the kind of revelation or catharsis that I'd been hoping for following all the buildup. The other issue was the scattering of moments throughout the play when I seriously doubted the couple's love for each other, not just in terms of how the events were putting pressure on their relationship, but doubting they ever loved each other to begin with. And in order for the play to really work, I felt like you needed to believe that they still wanted to make their relationship work. Even without the rapist ever actually appearing, the final scene manages to ruin the great off-stage/on-stage tension that had been working considerably well up to that point.

This blog takes obsession to a new level

You think The Shiela Variations is a little excited about Bloomsday? Just a little?

Happy Bloomsday!

The most famous holiday ever to commemorate a first date.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

'Tana Hoban is an exciting new voice!'

Kudos to Jaime for Googling up some greatness with this LJ page by that somewhat-known actor of stage and screen, James Urbaniak. You might remember him as R. Crumb in the movie American Splendor or the originator of Thom Pain (based on nothing), that one-man show that played at the DR2 last year. Hence forth he shall be known as the guy with funny-named fraternal twins and a knack for witty caption writing. Get ready to snort some milk.
Gratuitous Cuteness, with obligatory captions [Urbaniak]

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion, Katz's

I really wanted to like the PHC movie, directed by Robert Altman, I really did, probably out of an allegiance to the radio show upon which it's based. But when you have so many fond memories of listening to the original, it's hard for the movie version to live up to that standard—kind of like seeing a favorite book made for the screen. It's not a bad movie, it's just not as good as I'd hoped it would be. It was funny, and had its touching moments, but not enough of each. I'd imagine the movie might be better appreciated by someone new to the Prairie Home Companion phenomenon, who could then turn on their radio some Saturday night and appreciate the show in all its not-dead-yet glory. Another reason I probably wasn't entirely won over by the movie is that it makes only the most passing reference to Lake Wobegon, which in my book is the cornerstone of the show. That 15-minute monologue that Garrison Keillor ("GK" in the movie) does is by far the thing that I'd recommend for the time capsule. The next best part of the radio program is the fake commercials he does for Powder Milk Biscuits and Be-Bop-a-Roo-Bop Rhubarb Pie and the Society of English Majors and the Ketchup Advisory Board, only the first two of which were featured in the movie. In short, there was too much music, and not enough talk for my liking, at least based on what elements of the program I like the best. Overall, I'd say it certainly feels like Altman was making his own eulogy of a film—what with the specter of death and endings overhanging the production, right down to Lindsay Lohan's "Extinct is Forever" T-shirt—and GK, who wrote the screenplay, was imagining the inevitable end of his own work (i.e., the radio show). But something felt lost in the translation.

Afterward, the five of us walked down Houston from the Sunshine to eat at Katz's Deli, a first for me. I was a little baffled why we all had to take tickets on our way in, but I soon realized it's their method of collecting money from you. You order your food from various spots along the counter, and they scrawl the total on the back. There might've been a time when the cryptic numbers on the front were used for this purpose, but they just write in their own totals now. Daryl kept reminding me, "Don't lose your ticket!" He went on: "Do you have your ticket? Don't lose your ticket." I suggested it was like the Turnpike and you had to pay the highest possible fee if you did, and he said, "No, they've got a holding cell in the back there for people who lose their tickets. ... It's like college when you don't return all your library books, they don't let you graduate." I had matzo ball soup and a vanilla egg cream, and also ate the end of Jes' last half-sour pickle. On the way out, after paying, I tried to leave through the locked door, then started banging on the glass to Daryl and Rachel outside, mouthing, "I lost my ticket!"

Two great British heds in the NYT

¶ "Mad Dogs and Soccer Fans Go Out in the Midday Sun"
¶ "For England, Hard Times Give Way to Greater Expectations"

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

De La Vega at the Museum Mile Festival

The artist: James De La Vega
The site: Fifth Avenue.
The text: The world doesn't always make sense at first glance.

The Guggenheim or the Globe?

The Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue is looking kind of like the Globe Theatre these days, what with the cylindrical wooden scaffolding around Frank Lloyd Wright's iconic building. "The repair and repainting is expected to be completed by the end of 2007, in time for the building’s 50th anniversary," says the official site.
Restoring a Masterpiece [Guggenheim]

The Light in the Piazza on PBS

If you didn't get a chance to see that great new musical The Light in the Piazza live on stage at the Beaumont, you can check it out on PBS' Live From Lincoln Center this Thursday night at 8.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Detail from the 9/11 Firefighters' Memorial


I couldn't help but notice—this evening as I visited the newly unveiled 9/11 Firefighters' Memorial at "10 House," across Liberty Street from ground zero—how the area around many of the names had already begun to lighten after just one round of the victims' families and friends taking rubbings, the way they do at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. In Washington, the material is granite; here, it is bronze. I wonder if the artist knew how quickly the touching hands and the paper-shielded pencil strokes would alter the color on the surface.
A Hands-On Tribute to the Pain and Valor of 9/11 [NYTimes]

Quince on the vine

In the herb garden at the Cloisters.

The ringtone that 'adults' can't hear

So I've been wondering whether I'm now too old to hear the cellphone ring that supposedly allows students to get text messages in class without letting the teacher know. The verdict? I can hear it, and it's certainly pretty annoying. Test yourself here. (And make sure your speakers are working before you try.)
A Ring Tone Meant to Fall on Deaf Ears [NYTimes]

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Cloisters


Long before our heads were filled with the acronyms of modern computers and all their accessories, there was a technology to be acquired in the medieval herb garden. Centuries ago, cooks, healers, artists, would-be alchemists, magicians looked to the diversity of plants to aid them in the goals of a pleasurable aroma, a pleasing color, a healthier patient. J. and I lingered in the Cloisters' garden this beautiful afternoon, reading the names, sniffing the scents, avoiding the poisonous ones. Such wonderful names. Reminds me of the "language of flowers" ... the language of herbs. It made me yearn for that old kind of knowledge. To employ those herbs, if not in a potion, then at least in a poem. So evocative they are: Comfrey, Feverfew, St. John's Wort, Winter Savory, Ragged Robin, Hen-and-Chickens, Oleander, Apple Mint, Foxglove, Mandrake, Quince, Marjoram, Fennel, Marsh Mallow, Chamomile. The list goes on. Next time I'll have to bring a pen and paper.

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Central Park Picnic

Ever since I moved here, I've wanted to take a nice summer day, spread out a blanket, and picnic in Central Park, and while today was a little breezier and cloudier than I would've hoped, my first C.P. picnic was still a success, thanks to the wonderful company of H., a delicious lunch from Whole Foods' extensive take-out bar, and a rich and tangy lemon tart from Bouchon Bakery upstairs. Accessories making appearances: playing cards, postcards, journals, iTunes, and one errant frisbee toward the end.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Magic, art, music

I had only one thing planned last night right after work. But it ended up becoming a whole evening of fun after I ran into some college friends on my way to a Curbed meeting at that popular Lower East Side neighborhood bar, the Magician ("The d├ęcor is roughly L.A. noir") on Rivington St., where drinks were $3 or $3.50 during happy hour. Before I knew it, five of us were off in a cab to a silent art auction in a former industrial space down by the river on Kent Ave. in Williamsburg, where A. Harvey and N. Kalina were among the artists selling their work. Later, it was back to the L.E.S. to see the indie powerpop group The Spinto Band play at Bowery Ballroom, only my second time at the venue ever. Amazing show, lots of energy and good tunes, had me up and energized the whole time. Both at the rock show and the art show I ran into random people from my past whom I hadn't seen in a long time, one that I've occasionally wondered about, and another whom I've been trying to contact here in the city for a while. Home around 2, working on the beginnings of a project I'd like to attempt to connect certain alums and people in the media industry. Look for an e-mail eventually from me if you're part of said group. Recent photos posted up at Flickr.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Otto, Apple

Upon the recommendation of a new friend, K. and I met for dinner at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria tonight, one of the stars in the Mario Batali constellation of restaurants. It's more reasonably priced than, say, Babbo, but the food, decor and service still make you feel like you're eating in a place that was thought out a little more than most. (It also has the great address of 1 Fifth Ave.) The menu consists mostly of pizzas, pastas and antipasti, and fits all on one page. I had the penne puttanesca, which I've definitely ordered at other places before, but this dish was unique in my experience. I had a red Montefalco wine, which was good—not exceptional, but decent.

The most interesting part of the meal was actually the cheese plate we shared for dessert (I'll have to come back again and try their gelato some other time). We had three cheeses, one each from goat's, sheep's and cow's milk. One actually came from the Coach Dairy Goat Farm, Batali's wife's family business, something I only discovered afterward. Served with the cheese were three sweet garnishes for dipping: honey with truffle shavings, an apricot and white wine compote, and a black cherry sauce. Such amazing combinations of flavors from the mixing and matching of these pair of trios. And for the first time, I realized how similar fruit-flavored ice cream is to this kind of cheese plate—one's just more on the sweet side and the other on the savory. I've always had such a sweet tooth that I usually fly right over the cheese-as-dessert option, so I'm glad K. convinced me to go in a different direction tonight.

We had a quick after-dinner drink at Apple on Waverly Place. It's a Vietnamese restaurant too, but most of the patrons this evening had congregated on the couches and at the bar and around the outdoor tables. K. remarked on how nice it is to go out during the week, when every place isn't so mobbed like it is on the weekend, and I agreed. Sometimes, in fact, I feel like my weeknights are more booked up than my weekend is. Thankfully, gone are the days when the word "school night" was used as a serious deterrent from going out Sunday through Thursday.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I tried to go in to Al Gore's new documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, with the mind of a skeptic and came out almost completely won over. This hour-and-a-half riff on a lecture about global warming that he's done for audiences around the world, by his own estimation, more than a thousand times is surprisingly affecting and hit me with an emotional appeal I wasn't at all expecting. Now I'll admit I do cry at movies once in a while, but I didn't realize I'd end up with tears after this one. I came away with a greater respect for the guy who still jokes that he used to be the next president of the United States.

Some have criticized the film for its minor forays into the life of Gore and his family as being campaign-bio fodder, but I didn't feel they were entirely out of place. They brought out Gore's own vulnerabilities, and his own struggles with the tall orders he's making in the movie about the actions that need to be made. The part where he spoke about how his family used to live off tobacco crops was especially effective, I thought. That and all the driving around he does in the movie sort of highlight the fact that he's not a saint or absolute sage; he just wants people to realize the gravity of what he's been captivated and horrified by, lo, these 30-plus years. One of the emotional focal points of the doc is an image of Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts. It's one of those iconic images so widely reproduced that you forget when and how it was made, but seeing it again, it really made sense to me when Gore asserted that "the modern environmental movement" would be born partly out of the understanding that basically all of human history had occurred in a space that could now be contained within one frame of one photograph. Powerful stuff.

(On a related note, I came across this really interesting video of Gore and his family from 2000. I don't remember the backstory about who filmed it or why it was ultimately scrapped, but it says DNC/Spike Jonze on it. Could Jonze have been behind it?)

If there's anything negative about this experience, I'd just have to reiterate something I heard on an NPR analysis of the doc: If Gore has been such a passionate advocate for action on global warming all along, why couldn't he have done, or didn't he do, more while he had all that access to the White House for eight years?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Two outta the blue

Today I heard from two people whom I hadn't heard from in a while—each from different parts of my life. What these two renewed lines of contact will mean going forward, I can't say for sure right now. But it definitely goes to show me that you shouldn't totally write things off. It's a good idea to be open to what comes. And at the same time, not wish for too much, but be present in the moment.

Like GK said last night, when asked how he does it all now: Just take one day at a time, do one thing at a time, and then do something else. (He also said he sleeps less now, but that's OK because he spent a lot of time in his 20s and 30s waiting for the phone to ring, so he had ample rest back then.)

Also, if you didn't get to see the NYT Home & Garden piece on Keillor's seven-bedroom Georgian house in St. Paul, Minn., check it out. Headline? "Where All the Rooms Are Above Average."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Risque red-shoed Garrison Keillor

Yeah, yeah, so I was too much of a wimp to actually go up closer—thereby admitting my true fawning fandom—to get a clear photo of the great Garrison Keillor at Barnes & Noble tonight, so this blurry job will have to do. But you're not missing much anyway, people; remember: this guy really does has a face for radio. Nonetheless, you can make out Keillor's red sneakers. (Why does it seem like I see famous people wearing incongruous red sneakers all the time? Is it a secret code or something? Like, I'm the famous one, so I get to wear the red sneakers that don't match my outfit.)

Sartorial quirks aside, it was amazing to be in the same room as the Voice for the first time. He stepped up to the podium, and launched into one of his trademark monologues, this time about the experience of making the movie of A Prairie Home Companion, directed by Robert Altman, out this Friday. The bookstore was hawking bound copies of the screenplay, and Keillor suggested that you could save on movie tickets, recreating the drama in the privacy of your own home with little cutout figures of Lindsay Lohan and Kevin Kline and eating your own popcorn, etc. He spoke of how he wasn't allowed to see movies or watch television as a child, and now here he was actually staring in one, and for years, has stood at the helm of his own radio show. He said these rules were to prevent the media from awakening carnal desires in him. Of course, Keillor said, those desires "were awake, dressed, and waiting for the bus to come" already, without much help from the movies. The first of many risque jokes he was to make during his standup.

Later, he mentioned how Virginia Madsen, who plays "Dangerous Woman," in the movie, appeared at the New York premiere the other night wearing a dress that was "cut as low as New York City municipal regulations allow." He went on: "It made you nervous that the mooring would suddenly come loose. You wanted to be nearby in case it did, to lend a hand." Keillor later described how "easy" the movie-making process really was, what with the multiple takes on every single little scene so that very little practice was necessary, the copious amounts of food available around the set, the line of town cars around the block, the cadre of female production assistants asking you if there was anything they could do for you. He spoke of sitting in a posh hotel room as a parade of TV journalists each got their seven minutes of face-to-face time with him. You sit in one place, he said, while they come in one after the other, and they tell you how much they loved the movie, and you try to make them happy in return. He said it was an activity that reminded him too much of the world's oldest profession for his Midwest sensibilities, and many times throughout the filming and promotional tour, he said he has half hoped for a mother, an English teacher, an aunt, anyone of authority, to come upon the scene and slap him with a word of reproach.

One of the reasons Keillor is so effective is that while his topics and observations range from the tearfully sublime to the mildly naughty, his basso profondo voice stays on a relatively even keel the whole time, like a rowboat on placid, imaginary Lake Wobegon. He is truly a living treasure, little boy humor and all.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Wordplay

It was another here-you-are-in-New-York treats this afternoon to see New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz in the flesh on stage at the CUNY Graduate Center in the shadow of the ESB. His name has been atop the daily puzzles ever since I started attempting them, with a big dose of help from my mom at first, and later on my own. To kick off the event, he showed us some clips from Wordplay, the documentary due out later this month about Shortz, his daily product, and his fans, both famous and otherwise. We got to see interview clips with Jon Stewart as well as Bill Clinton, who could probably be pretty competitive in those speed-completion crossword races according to Shortz. Stewart, in classic fashion, had the room roaring. He admitted that he does occasionally do the USA Today crossword if he happens to be in a hotel. "But I don't feel good about myself," he added. Clinton, meanwhile, spoke about the amazingly creative puzzle that appeared in the newspaper on Election Day 1996. One of the clues was supposed to be the winner of the presidential election, and the puzzle constructor created seven "down" clues that allowed either CLINTON or BOBDOLE to work as answers, which produced a lot of puzzled calls and letters from NYT readers. Shortz said that puzzle was one of his all-time favorites.

During the Q&A, Shortz also told the audience that the people who create the puzzles are paid a mere $135 for a weekday puzzle and $700 for the Sunday, but he claims to be constantly lobbying to increase that rate. The second half of the event resembled a live, in-person version of the Sunday Puzzle segment he does on NPR's Weekend Edition. I have to say the event attracted some pretty quick minds, because I was left in the dust on a lot of the quick-response questions, but I did manage to offer one or two answers for our side (it was the Across team vs. the Down team). Good times, good times.

Tomorrow night, with any luck, I'll get to see another childhood media hero of mine, Garrison Keillor, who'll be appearing at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. The question on my mind: Will he attract as big a crowd as David Sedaris or Tom Wolfe did, or no?

Bill, Ted, Jason, Napoleon

Since I seem to be on a "mediocre entertainment from my childhood" kick this early morning, I guess it's worth noting that Kottke has given Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure five stars. Mostly because he and his friend watched the movie "every single day for a span of 2 months" as kids. He goes on: "If there were a Broadway production of this movie, I could slide effortlessly into the role of either Bill S. Preston, Esq. or Ted Theodore Logan, no rehearsal needed." I can't say I ever had a videotape that I wore out like this, but I know it's common when you get to be a certain age and happen upon some movie that grabs your young mind. I'm pretty sure that The Wizard of Oz and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were two that fit this bill for people around me growing up.

The topic of Bill and Ted randomly popped into conversation yesterday at the Met after we saw a painting of Napoleon in the Girodet exhibit—sample line: "Do you realize you have just stranded one of Europe's greatest leaders in San Dimas?"—at which point I wondered: Whatever happened to Keanu Reeves' blond co-dude ("Bill S. Preston, Esq."/Alex Winter)? What's he been up to? Turns out ... a few movie projects, but not so much. He never quite made it to heartthrob status.

Cali's Pants, Pants, Pants

My friend from college, Adam, recently switched coasts, trading in the wilds of southeastern Pennsylvania for Berkeley, California, and he's keeping a blog to document this weird and wonderful new place they call the Bay Area. Among the more weird and wonderful things he's discovered? The band Pants, Pants, Pants. Writes Adam: "We squeezed with Uncle Joey, but he said 'cut-it-out.' Naturally, the requisite hand gestures were made during that last line. This is San Francisco, after all. This show is deeply ingrained in the city’s cultural lexicon." This wacky band has also recreated, shot-for-shot, the two opening-credits sequences for "Full House" as a music video for another one of their songs. Watch and be mildly amazed. My favorite part is the use of a stuffed otter toy in a dress to represent the Mary-Kate and Ashley character of Michelle Tanner (above). In the second sequence, the otter is used as a full-head mask because Michelle gets old enough to do things on her own and the stuffed otter still lacks this capacity. Brings back memories of late-afternoon reruns. To think what time we devoted to (wasted on?) this silly show in our younger days.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A British kind of day

We put in our name this afternoon at Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter II, on East 64th, and they told us it would be half an hour to 45 minutes. We turned around and a woman at the entranceway said something to the effect of "This place has gotten so popular, you need to call two weeks in advance to get a reservation." And it didn't seem like she was joking, even though you could totally read that last sentence and think otherwise. There is a way that some people say such things about restaurants here that makes them proud of the inconvenience. This is one part of New York I can't quite buy into. Maybe if I had more disposable income, I'd be into playing this game. But there are so many choices here in the city—if I ever were to happen upon a restaurant that has a two-week waiting list, I'd probably just ditch it and find somewhere else.

As it turned out, there were two tables outside, under the awning, in from the rain, so we whiled away the time until our number was called, and they escorted us upstairs to a nice table in front of a bank of windows that filled the room with a lot of light despite the drizzly day. The tea was delicious, even without milk or sugar. Ditto for the chocolate peanut butter scone and the somewhat spicy (crustless) tuna salad sandwich. I'm always amused by the variety of people you see in Alice's—from a party of little girls and their moms to a table full of UES ladies and everyone in between. Both U2 and Rufus playing on the sound system.

Another highlight of the afternoon was the AngloMania exhibit at the Met, a crazy mix of haute couture and punk-rock style on mannequins positioned in irreverent poses around the English period rooms. I've never been to a runway show, but this gave a nice flavor of the experience. All manner of materials for mohawk headpieces: broken vinyl records, plastic dolls' legs, and yes, even tampons. Plus, there's an audio recording by punk icon Johnny Rotten up on the museum's website: "The Sex Pistols have had an enormous influence ... Everybody's copied from us and nobody's really acknowledged where those ideas came from." He then goes on to tick off the problems that hampered Britain during the '70s and helped lead to the rise of punk. Nothing groundbreaking, but still fun to hear the guy doing an art guide recording.

Get some Listerine, girl

Old advertisements often fascinate me, perhaps because of the way they spoke so directly and usually unironically to their audience. Take this one for instance, which I found on Flickr. It's for Listerine, made by the Lambert Pharmacal Co. before it became Warner-Lambert in the '50s. It's supposedly from a 1935 copy of Time magazine. It's titled "Often a bridesmaid but never a bride," and opens with a short anecdote about a woman who's as pretty as her peers, but can't get a guy, and "her birthdays [are creeping] gradually toward that tragic thirty-mark." Then there's a pause in the copy, and it launches into: "That's the insidious thing about halitosis (unpleasant breath)." The ad doesn't mention our poor bridesmaid again, but it certainly implies that the men in her life are being turned away one after another because of her bad breath, and if she would just buy some Listerine—"Your druggist ... sells lots of it"—her luck would change. Ads today continue to imply similar such laughable promises—drink light, watery beer or spray on husky scented deodorant, and hot women will be uncontrollably attracted to you—but sometimes it takes looking back at the way they did it years ago to remind ourselves of the absurdity.

And while we're on the topic, check out this cool looking Art Deco Listerine bottle, probably from around that era.

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Drunk by 8:30

Riding uptown on the A train tonight, after a visit to the Apple Store, I looked up from my book about college shenanigans (yes, I finally settled on devoting the time it'll take to finish Charlotte Simmons) to see a couple hugging one of the subway poles. There was something about the girl that seemed a little off, and then I realized: She seemed awfully tipsy, like she'd had a little bit too much fun at some happy hour. The guy, on the other hand, didn't seem too bad, as he steadied her occasionally with his hand. And for whatever reason, the couple at the pole never sat down the whole way up to the Heights, even after they had lots of seats to choose from. If I'd seen this back in college, I wouldn't have thought twice. But something about it felt out of place here. Do people just handle their liquor better? Feel less obligated to make a scene? Do the really far-gone ones just take taxis, thereby weeding out the intoxicated who actually end up riding the subways?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

'Double Check'

Recognize this sculpture? It's one that survived 9/11, and ended up being heavily photographed all covered in ash and debris. It also became one of the makeshift memorials around ground zero. It was returned today to a newly renovated public plaza—on Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan—that's been renamed Zuccotti Park. See more of my photos from this evening over at Curbed.

Later, I met L. at the newish Mexican place El Centro on Ninth Avenue for Coronas and enchiladas, as well as two baskets full of chips and salsa. It's located in the corner space formerly occupied by the retro Thai diner Vynl, which moved down to around 51st Street. The new place seems just as popular as the old place: It has a good location, great decor, reasonable prices, and a nice selection at the bar. Tonight, I sat down to eat right as the dark clouds started to roll in over Hell's Kitchen, and soon enough, the heavens opened up and there was thunder and lightning galore, all nicely visible from the big windows in the restaurant. We had hoped our dinner would outlast the storm, but it was still coming down as we ducked into a taxi and then headed our separate ways.

Favorite spots in NYC

One of the keys to enjoying New York on the cheap is making the city itself your living room. With that in mind, here are some of my favorite places to hang out, read, people-watch, etc. They are all independent coffee shops or outdoor public spaces.
» The Elevated Acre at 55 Water Street in the Financial District
» Fulton Ferry Landing and the nearby Brooklyn Heights Promenade
» Sympathy for the Kettle, the tea room on St. Marks Place in the East Village
» Piers 45 and 46 in Hudson River Park
» The lawn and promenade benches in Union Square
» 71 Irving Place, the coffee shop near Gramercy Park
» Lots of places in Central Park, including Belvedere Castle, the lawn in front of the Pond, the outdoor tables by Columbus Circle, the massive rock overlooking the Lake, Bethesda Terrace, and the Sheep Meadow
» DTUT, the coffee shop and bar on Second Avenue between 84th and 85th on the Upper East Side
» The Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights
» Bennett Park, the highest natural piece of land in Manhattan
» The Heather Garden, Linden Terrace and the New Leaf Cafe in Fort Tryon Park, WaHI