Sunday, December 30, 2007

My favorite live New York shows of 2007

-New Jerusalem. New play by David Ives.
Still playing at Classic Stage Company.
-Spring Awakening. Music by Duncan Sheik.
Still playing at Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
-The Glorious Ones. New musical by Flaherty and Aherns.
Still playing at Lincoln Center Theater.
-Curtains. Starring David Hyde Pierce.
Still playing at Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

-Follies. With Victor Garber and Victoria Clark. City Center Encores.
-Gypsy. Starring Patti LuPone. City Center Encores.
-Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci. City Opera. New York State Theater.
-110 in the Shade. Starring Audra McDonald. Studio 54.
-La Vie. Spiegelworld. South Street Seaport.
-Eurydice. Sarah Ruhl. Second Stage Theater.
-Jason Danieley. Singing at Joe’s Pub.
-Talk Radio. Starring Liev Schreiber.
-Jason Robert Brown and the Caucasian Rhythm Kings. Birdland.
-New York Revels. Scandinavian Christmas. Symphony Space.

UPDATE: Gypsy's coming back for a longer run on Broadway.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Go see 'Juno'

If you liked Knocked Up and Superbad, check out Juno. It mixes some of the great elements from those two movies, including one of the actors, but it's less vulgar and more touching in the end. What's more, the screenplay gives the best laughs to the female lead character, which is a refreshing change of pace from a lot of the similar characters in other movies. Beware not the girl who's cute as well as funnier than you.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fort Tryon Tower

The on-again, off-again residential tower project for that cliffside corner of West 184th Street and Overlook Terrace, by the lower entrance to the 181st Street A station, appears to be on again. I walked by with coffee in hand today, and I probably should've taken a picture, but there's construction fencing up, heavy machinery on site, and permits and such posted all around. Fort Tryon Tower LLC is apparently rattling the neighborhood -- literally and figuratively -- from the sound of the gripes on local message boards. And along with it comes the obligatory Hudson Heights vs. Washington Heights debate. There's a rough timetable posted at the site that says it'll be done by mid 2009, which seems like a long time, but it isn't exactly your typical bit of land. (It's also been an interesting opportunity to read people's comments. Like this one, circa 3/18/06: 'Who's this "Jeremy" that wrote this bogus article? Next he'll tell us there actually are WMD, just hidden from everyone, delusional as W. Maybe he should write for The Onion?' Not exactly sure what was wrong about that item, but hey, that's the joy of free commenting.) The project's purported website looks like it's stalled in the early stages. Here's hoping that doesn't happen to the actual site.

UPDATE: Click through to Portfolio and Multifamily on Gertler & Wente Architects' website to see another pic of the tower, but little else.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Coney Island of the Mind

There's something truly otherworldly about this film, especially if you watch it without the canned sound; I love it. (I first saw it in the PBS American Experience film about Coney.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Transit nerd alert

I'm fascinated by the different ways we have of visually depicting the same underground system of subways. It's a great, concrete example of how subjective that modeling of the physical world can be at times. Being a writer, ostensibly of nonfiction, I see parallels with my work. What do you highlight? What do you downplay? All that said, check out the NYC subway redesign that Time Out New York features this week. It's called KICK, and while it may not include uptown Manhattan or much of the outerboroughs, it's a great taste of something new.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time to Make `Phantom' Go Poof

We saw the LONGEST RUNNING MUSICAL IN BROADWAY HISTORY! last night. Yes, on Halloween. It was pretty underwhelming. If anything was scary, it was how threadbare the whole enterprise looks these days. I feel an ounce or two of pity for any tourists who come to New York for the first time and see this show as their first musical and base their memories of Broadway off of it. This production is tired and should probably just disappear (Spoiler Alert!) like the Phantom does at the end. The special effects are eyepopping only in the sense that they blind you too often. And as for the famous falling chandelier? An NYTimes reviewer put it well when he wrote, "Musicals have opened and closed in the time it takes that chandelier to lumber to the floor." The theater itself doesn't look like it's been repaired or repainted much since the '80s when the show first opened. I couldn't shake the feeling of going into one of those seedy tourist traps in Niagara Falls or places with a similarly pitiful kitsch factor, the kind of attractions that subsist mostly on reputation and the promise of visitors being able to say they went there and did that.

Now I should probably note here that J.C. Superstar and Joseph have always left me cold and I walked out after the first act of Cats when I saw it live. That isn't to say I don't like Andrew Lloyd Webber's music. The guy's a great popular composer who's written tunes that will probably live on for many, many years. And almost all of the tunes in Phantom of the Opera were familiar to me without ever having seen it. (I used to play them from a book of sheet music for the clarinet when I was younger.) It was nice to see them sung on stage, but they weren't all that moving and the sound was poor. ALW's music, in recording and alternate performances, has attained a life that extends far beyond the professional theaters where his musicals are actually in production at any one time. So with grand orchestrations playing in the back of my head, I was kind of disappointed at the thin arrangements that surround the onstage singing. Maybe the actors were having an off night. Maybe the show is in the midst of a lackluster cast. Who knows? A part of me wondered what it would've been like to see it back in '88 when it opened with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. It must've had more of a spark back then. Now it's barely a glowing ember.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

'The Glorious Ones' - at last

Last night provided a satisfyingly rare moment of theatrical fulfillment. It began in February 2006, when I downloaded Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley's duet album. That recording, "Opposite You," took its title from a new song from a musical that hadn't yet premiered by the writing team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynne Ahrens (Ragtime, Once on This Island, even the movie Anastasia). At the time, I fell in love with the song and it seemed like forever before the show, The Glorious Ones, would finally make it here after a tryout in Pittsburgh. But the curtain rose and fell on many days since then, and finally this weekend we got to see the larger work fleshed out around that one great song. It's not perfect, and I might've seen it through anticipation-tinted glasses, but it's definitely worth seeing and paying full price if you must (as I did, and so rarely do, except that Lincoln Center Theater produces great shows, and I'm not usually able to locate discounts for them).

The show, which follows a band of commedia dell'arte players from 16th century Italy, actually reminded me a lot of The Fantasticks, although better. It works well in the smaller, more intimate Newhouse auditorium downstairs from the Beaumont, and focuses on a spare wooden stage with simple curtains and the musicians up on a scaffolding. The music and lyrics are wonderful, and there are several other songs that touched me as much as or more than "Opposite You." The story is about comedy, its beginnings and its legacy, but there are also tears to be shed along the way. One challenge of staging the show is to move gracefully between the backstage drama, which has a more modern, realistic feel, and the slapstick, stylized commedia performances of the characters, which we see in theme and variation throughout. I thought it flowed pretty well, but M. said she at first had trouble seeing where one ended and the other began. Going along with a theme of the show - life is a kind of improvisation - you might argue it's better that there isn't always as clear of a line.

The theme of the climactic song, "I Was Here," made me think of Sondheim's more delicate "Children and Art" from Sunday in the Park (which will be playing later this season in revival at the Roundabout), except that the former is more urgent and wrenching in its yearning for remembrance. The lead, Marc Kudisch, whom I've seen now in at least six different shows, in that song pulls the masterful trick of getting you to really want what he wants, even though his character isn't entirely loveable throughout. Because, what he's singing about is the hope of so many of those who believe in the promise of art or science, each defined in the broadest of terms: that promise of things-going-on even when you aren't.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Time Out New York syndrome

I may have written about this before, but it's worth repeating. Even though B isn't in my life really much anymore, two things she told me about living in this town resonate. Paraphrased, they are 1) You have to really want to live here. You don't just move here because there's a job here. You have to be about New York on some level. Be about this kind of living. And not necessarily in a snooty, it's-better-than-the-rest-of-America way. Things here can be a challenge. Things here can be distracting. Is the time and money you're going to spend going to be worth it for you? This place can really frustrate me, but not always because things are hard, more that there are so many things, or more often in my case, experiences to be had. 2) The days/weeks you spend circling items in TONY, the arts/culture listings magazine, and then actually getting out to do them will become fewer and more far-between after a while. I remember being that guy for a while. I still aspire to be him, helped by the fact that I've managed to get re-subscribed to Time Out with recalling ever giving them any more money. I was going to ween myself off TONY, focus just on the New Yorker and New York mag, which have consistently better articles and more select listings, but somehow all three of those local periodicals show up in my mailbox on a weekly basis now. But I also have a job that can be pretty exhausting. I work more than when I had an abbreviated-hours real-job with health insurance as well as a beer-money freelance gig online. So while the money bar chart has gone up, the free-time line has gone down. I liked spending part of each day being the social director of my own life, but now I'm just too tired half the time. Ugh! (This in part explains why I haven't been blogging as much recently. And yes, 43 percent of the blogosphere is filled with people apologizing for not posting more frequently.) All that said, I still do love this place at the end of the day, and it's hard to see myself living anywhere else, or if I were to move, it would be painful. And I still do get to see and experience a lot of great things that I'm thankful for.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The end of summer (weather)

Those of us wishing that summer wouldn't end sure got our wish this year, for better or worse. It lasted right through September and into the beginning of October. There was something slightly surreal about sweating our way around a fall festival with Christmas crafts and rows upon rows of candles in full array this past weekend. Still, what a treat to be able to swim outside many weeks after Labor Day. Dipping into landlocked freshwater still hasn't lost its novelty for me, so used to pools and the Atlantic of Jersey. This summer, it was Walden Pond in Massachusetts to begin with and Atwood Lake in Ohio to round things out nicely, just before it got autumnally chilly this week. I still think of swimming in that lake in Finland five years ago, as I tred water and spun around amid the irregular circle of trees.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Musical movies

I've seen two movie musicals in the past few weeks. Both are worth seeing. Across the Universe, with its big production values and marquee name director, is pretty good. Once, with its shoestring budget and lesser-known musician-actors, is downright wonderful. Julie Taymor's rhapsody on the Beatles canon as seen through life in archetypal '60s America is a paean to some of the best singer-songwriters ever as well as to the events and movements that defined the baby-boomer generation's passage from innocence into experience. Half the fun is trying to guess which song or which character is next to appear. Yes, all the main names are taken from songs and almost all the plot points are inspired by things that really happened. It's like a really well-made feature-length music video. The kind you wouldn't mind watching again. But not necessarily a totally unique work of art or one that inspires deep affection. Besides nostalgia, there's not much willing one moment into the next, and I couldn't help feeling the length of the film between scenes.

Where Across the Universe might fall short, Once succeeds with subtle, winning verve. Glen Hansard (of the Frames) and Marketa Irglova, singer-songwriters in real life, and now a real couple, express what it's like to create music, on your own and with others, and what it's like to fall in love with someone with whom you share that love of music. As H. noted after we saw it on Sunday, the film shows that love can reach fulfillment in different and just as powerful ways from the traditional story of cinematic romance. It's a tearjerker, but I found myself crying more because of how beautiful the small revelations it presents are than because of how bittersweet the story is. Early on in the film, which at an hour and a half is just right, there is a scene where Glen teaches Marketa a song he is working on. Some movies might begin this scene, then cut away to the next bit of action before it's through. But the camera patiently watches as the duo very believably grow the song from its seeds, building it up together. It's amazingly intimate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Main Street, a tram ride away from Midtown

One of the fun things about New York is getting to a place within the city bounds where you can say, "This is New York City?!?" City Island and Governors Island are two of my favorite places to do that. Yesterday, M. and I added another one to the list: Roosevelt Island. I work not far from the aerial tram, but it wasn't until this weekend that I finally rode on it. It's like a tourist attraction, but it's actually part of the public transit system. It's supposedly the only one in the U.S. that's considered merely a means of getting from point A to point B, where the scenic element is just icing. You pay with a swipe of the Metrocard, not any overpriced tourist admission. The island itself, especially along Main Street, gives you the feeling that you've slipped into a somewhat-dreary planned European town built during the 70s. The architecture of Northtown, the first group of buildings constructed after the island, once devoted to asylums and prisons, was redeveloped as a residential community, is, let's face it, kind of drab. But it has the benefit of being situated on such a cool, thin little strip of land. Main Street feels very un-Manhattan with its one-of-each uber-planned character: one cleaners, one salon, one thrift store, one public school, one library, one post office. Other developments north and south of the original residential enclave, such as the Octagon, have improved upon the look of the Northtown, and there's now a Starbucks and a Duane Reade in buildings that have gone up closer to the F subway stop. The market-rate rents are slightly cheaper than what you'd find in Midtown or the Upper East Side, but not all that much cheaper, from what we learned. I think I'd feel isolated if I lived on the island because there's no direct walking access to Manhattan. There's a bridge to Queens, the tram and the subway and that's it, as far as I could tell. And while the tram was fun, I think it would be a headache, literally and figuratively, on a more regular basis.

Monday, September 10, 2007

'Nothing will come of nothing'

I was lucky enough to score, at the last minute, a ticket to the sold-out run this month of King Lear starring Sir Ian McKellen and the Royal Shakespeare Company at BAM's Harvey Theater. Before the show even started, I was taken by the performance space. I've seen many shows at the main opera-house stage, but this smaller, more intimate setting wonderfully evokes a Greco-Romain ruin (with working electricity and gourmet concessions). The faded grandeur of the place seemed so appropriate to the theme of the play that I had to look it up afterward and confirm that the auditorium looks like that no matter the material on stage. But it was a great introduction to the space. I never read or saw Lear before last week, and while I can't say it's become my new favorite from the complete works, it's certainly stuck with me -- both the work and the RSC's execution of it. It's haunting and dark and the moments of goodness it does possess are fleeting. It's a reminder of how easy it is to let a grudge become devestating and a reminder that, as pat as it may be, actions speak louder than words. This is definitely one of those plays that I can imagine will disclose more of itself upon further viewings. And while I was disappointed to miss the two Shakespeare in the Park plays this summer, it was great to be introduced to a new one, especially by such a master as McKellen who takes on the old-king-gone-mad role with such stamina and brilliance.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Shows in August

La Vie at Spiegelworld: Proving that the So. St. Seaport is actually worth a visit now and then and that circus fun still thrills.
Deuce on Broadway: Starring the legendary Angela Lansbury and Marian Seldes, but I was hoping for maybe a bit more depth in the script.
The Recruiting Officer in northern Central Park: Restoration comedy via environmental theater; awesome but for the bugs.
Superbad at the movies: Funny, yes, but the pre-buzz-hype kept it from being superfunny.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

First of September (aka the blog returns)

Delicious and relaxing brunch with J. and W. at the Parish Diner, a five-month-old place near the Italian part of Graham Avenue, on the other side of the BQE from Greenpoint. The place used to be a garage, but it's near a church and has a lot of decor elements that make you think it might've been a church, despite the overall shape of the place. I liked the coffee-cup candelabras and the wrought-iron decorative gates. I also liked the pastry basket, bellini and frosted-flake french toast with caramelized bananas. They offered me a ride back to wherever, but it was such a gorgeous day, I decided to walk around and peek in at the hodgepodge that is the housing stock around that area.

Took the L back to 8th Ave. Got a ginger ale from the Chelsea Market and sprawled out on the astroturf of the Hudson River pier by the triad of Meier palaces. Strolled around the West Village, marveling, imagining, salivating a little bit, assuring myself that if I'd ever be able to afford living there, I'd soon take it for granted. Scouted single tables at sidewalk cafes. Mostly came up empty.

Ended up settling for a just-OK, nothing-great Italian place facing St. Vincent's: ArtePasta. The food -- an Italian wine and chicken penne with vodka sauce -- was good, but I was seated next to an annoying pair who went on and on about their jobs and then their exercise routines. They weren't that awful, I guess, just kind of grating. One was working on the Fashion Rocks concert for Conde Nast; the other was moving back to L.A. and breaking the news to her tearful co-workers. Sometimes you sit down next to people and can tell within a few minutes that they're not the type of people you'd enjoy chatting with.

As the sun set, I sat down to watch the ultra-indie Quiet City at the IFC Center. My first time there. It's one of these new movies that they wrote about in the Times recently, under the banner of "mumblecore." I saw Funny Ha Ha a while back and really liked it, despite myself. Then I saw Mutual Appreciation, another one by Andrew Bujalski, and liked it a little less. I guess my ambivalence about the genre comes down to the fact that I don't really hang out with people like the ones depicted in the films. They annoy me. And yet I'm strangely drawn to depictions of them. Perhaps because it provides a window onto a part of my generation that I know exists, or am told exists, but don't really interact with. I'm not saying that I have it all figured out or am always coherent or always know what to say in awkward situations. I sometimes just want to scream: Do something!

That said, there were things I enjoyed about the latest one, directed by Aaron Katz and shot entirely in Brooklyn. I liked the way it evoked the emptiness of certain parts of the city at certain times. One of the leads, Erin Fisher, has a nice screen presence, even if she's not a trained actress. The camera likes her, and tight shots of her face make up, oh, a good third of the film, which is just under an hour and a half. The movie manages to stay just ahead of the tedium curve. Just when I've had enough of one moment, something new appears, or a new topic comes up in the conversation and keeps your attention. Then about three-fifths of the way through, we get the benefit of a real belly laugh and release when the male lead and a guy at a party are sitting on a couch and they basically admit to each other that they don't really have jobs at the moment and aren't really doing much. I forget the exact lines, but it comes as one of those this-is-what-the-audience-was-thinking-most-of-the-time admissions. So I had to respect the filmmakers for having a sense of humor about their characters, who aren't the most interesting people when it comes down to it. There was another scene I really liked: The two leads and two friends of theirs are dancing under a loft bed in a cramped apartment. The music they are dancing to isn't the music that we're hearing on the soundtrack, but it could be. And you know what? They look happy. They look like they're actually having a good time and aren't embarrassed by their dancing or what each other might say or think. That wordless scene made me care about them just enough to recommend the film.

The director, actors and producers were on hand for the screening, and thankfully, they were slightly more articulate than the characters on screen. I asked how much was improvised, and Erin said about 90 percent. Which was funny to hear after the director was going on and on about his script a moment earlier. Turns out the two leads didn't know each other very well before hand, so the awkwardness was real. Even though it wasn't an out-and-out depressing movie, I rode the A home feeling rather melancholy, with too many songs on my iPod bringing up pangs of sadness.

(I don't really mind being sad once in a while. I like it. It balances out the optimism I seek to carry with me as a rule. Also, I have to note that "Quiet City" is also the name of an orchestral piece by Aaron Copland and the Times reviewer compares parts of the film I saw to a series of Edward Hopper paintings. I have a warm place in my heart for both of those artists, and certain works by both Hopper and Copland evoke the kind of melancholy I often feel. So I guess it all comes together.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Posted three weeks too late: The blog is on August recess, kind of like the French or Congress. It'll return next weekend. Perhaps.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Headline: Buyers Are Finding Co-Op Values in Upper Manhattan

When did this article appear in the New York Times? Try 1983. Choice snippets: "PRICES, with upgraded kitchens and baths and other improvements, are in the middle to high $30,000 range for one-bedrooms, $40,000 to $50,000 for two-bedrooms and $80,000 to $90,000 for six-and-a-half-room duplexes." (Basically add on a zero to each of those prices and you're about where things stand today.) "Another recent co-op buyer was Celenia Olmo, an executive secretary who sold a house in Brooklyn. She said it took her a half hour to commute to the World Trade Center on the IND A train. ''I was looking to rent, but the rents in Manhattan were out of sight,' she said. Calculating that she would be paying in rent within a few years what it would cost her to buy, she bought a one-bedroom apartment in Park Terrace East for about $29,000."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Next week is August already

Recently: Top-floor terrace party, beautiful sunset, great friends in Park Slope. Vivaldi and Piazzolla's seasons at the old bandshell in Central Park with a wonderful subset of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. Reading on a rock by a waterfall in the relatively secluded northern woods of the park on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Patti LuPone belting it out as Mama Rose in Gypsy at City Center. Delicious cheesecake and cheese plate and steak frites at Artisanal.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You get what you pay for

Remember that story about the fistfight that broke out in Boston's Symphony Hall at the Pops concert recently? I was half expecting a repeat of that performance tonight at the N.Y. Philharmonic's concert in Central Park. This wasn't my first time at one of these, but it was perhaps the most fraught so far. Throw a free musical event in the park with fenced in areas for people to sit on a weeknight when a lot of people end up arriving late and you have a recipe for some pretty rude behavior. It amazes me how people who show up 15 minutes after the concert starts expect to find a seat in front of the hundreds of people already sitting down. There were certainly a lot of footprints on blankets and heated exchanges. At what point do you give up the illusion that you can somehow control the crowd around you? It's sad this has to happen at something I'd otherwise champion wholeheartedly. It's heartwarming on a theoretical level that all those people come out to listen to classical music. Of course it is an excuse to have a summer evening picnic with friends and family, see some fireworks and openly flout the open-container law as well, but the music's a big part of it. At least I like to think of it that way. Would it be better if say they charged a token handful of dollars to get in to keep the crowd down somewhat, I wonder. Eventually, things did settle down, and we got to appreciate most of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition without interruption.

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's too hot to blog

So some quick hits:

Absinthe at Spiegeltent: A must see! Really captivating acrobatic art mixed with some good ol' school falsetto channeling of singing divas spiced with some bawdy humor in one of the most amazing moveable cabaret tents around.

Surface to Air: While I usually love trips to Symphony Space (the Selected Shorts series being one of those nostalgic favorites that symbolized the bridge between my childhood and coming to New York), I have to say I was a bit disappointed with this "Summer Stock on Broadway" show. The house wasn't even half full and the show seemed to reflect that. It wasn't absolutely dreadful, but not really very winning either. There wasn't enough humor to balance out the weighty subject matter and the shouting match between father and son toward the end was too long. Plus, as M. noted, the play squandered the one moment of climactic pathos it might've been able to squeak out.

Transformers: I don't think I would've gone to see this on my own, but I have to say it beat my expectations. Which isn't saying much. Just that it's better than horrible. There were enough moments where you could tell the filmmakers were able to poke fun at themselves and the genre to make you remember the absurdity of it all, such as the scene where the soldier is trying to get a hold of the Pentagon and he gets routed through a call center in India. And the part on the teenagers' date when the lead actor whips out the "more than meets the eye" line. That seemed to separate the audience into those who grew up in the '80s and those who didn't. But the climactic fight scene was too long. (Then again, I usually think so when it comes to action movies. Hence why I'm more likely to see them accidentally than on purpose.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

What's almost better than getting an iPhone?

Learning that This American Life, the Showtime TV show, is now available for download on iTunes. For that amazingly high percentage of people who listen to public radio, but don't get premium cable channels.

Friday, June 29, 2007


Walking through the Dia Art Foundation's upstate Beacon location this afternoon, I was struck with a rather broad-sweeping notion: This site, this building, this repurposing of a '20s-era box-printing factory on a train line along the Hudson River, is a reminder of what civilization can be, of what civilization can choose to spend its time, effort and money on. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. Not with the whole darn-those-avant-garde-artists-and-their-collective-waste-of-space mentality, but in an impressed, thankful, blessed-feeling kind of way. I compare the experience to making a pilgrimage to a shrine in the woods and then walking the stations of the cross. Which is not to say that the artists represented are to be worshiped or anything. But the physical act of catching a train ride out of the city for the sole purpose of visiting this collection of art, arranged by artist, not period or genre or theme, then walking through the galleries and contemplating each artist's vision of the world, feels like a secular humanist's version of the religious trek mentioned above.

And just as doing the stations of the cross can be an exhausting and rewarding process, so to was my visit to the Dia:Beacon today. Part of it is that my concentration in art galleries starts to wane after about 90-100 minutes of focusing. I can only take in so much before it gets to be too much, and I start glossing over things. And this is true even though I love visual culture and seek it out whenever and wherever I can. I find it's especially the case when dealing with contemporary art that can be really opaque at times. That said, I really enjoyed my visit and gained a new or added appreciation for the work of On Kawara (with whom I share a fascination with the concept of time), John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Robert Smithson, and Michael Heizer. I was especially affected by Richard Serra and Max Neuhaus' pieces, both of whom also have works in New York City to be enjoyed.

I loved the Serra exhibit at MoMA and upon my return this afternoon I revisited Neuhaus' "Times Square" installation. It was one of those things I've noticed before without realizing what it was -- the low ringing-rumbling sound emanating from the ground in the middle of the square between 45th and 46th. It's so easy to dismiss it as some unknown vibration of the city if you don't realize it was placed there consciously as an intervention into the already cacophonous surroundings of the "world's crossroads." One of the reasons it's so appealing is that it's literally under your nose (and ears) in one of the most overly exposed intersections in the world.

The Dia in general champions art that breaks out of the box of the traditional museum: De Maria's Lightning Field and Smithson's Spiral Jetty are two of the best examples of pieces that truly do require dedicated pilgrimages. (They're not really on easily accessible train lines.) But even the Dia:Beacon, while one could argue it is a museum, doesn't feel that way. It's definitely worth the trip, even if I spent just about as much time in the space as I did getting to and from it.

A third station on my presets

One of the things I miss about Philadelphia is WXPN, the eclectic radio station run out of the University of Pennsylvania. Of course, I can listen to it online, but when my computer's not on, I just like to turn on the radio the "old fashioned way." But then I discovered WFUV, which is Fordham's station, and plays a lot of the same kind of music I used to hear on 'XPN. Yes, it's taken me three years to discover this, but it already has a proud place on my presets next to WNYC and WQXR.

Arrangement in Blue and White

Paula West and John Pizzarelli

Well, it did rain Wednesday night. Or at least it was threatening to do so around the time the two jazz artists listed above were to take the stage at Rockefeller Park downtown in the B.P.C. But luckily, nearby Stuyvesant High School's auditorium was employed as the rain location, just like last year's Maude Maggart River-to-River show. And as much fun as it is to see a free show outside, you're able to focus more on the music when you're inside. So what you lose in summer-evening ambience, you gain in appreciation for the artists on stage. I knew Pizzarelli as the son of Bucky and the husband of Jessica Molaskey, two great musicians in their own right, and mostly from hearing work by the three of them on the weekend afternoon shows hosted by Jonathan Schwartz on WNYC.

JP did not dissapoint. He does this pretty amazing scat singing while in tune with vamps on his guitar that's quite exhilarating to watch. I liked his solo-heavy version of "I Got Rhythm" as well as his quieter rendition of "God Only Knows" and an Italian bossa nova tune called "Estate." Plus, I enjoyed hearing for the first time "Manhattan" sung live.

The opener, Paula West, was quite a treat as well. You know it's a good show when you can honestly say you'd come back just to see the first performer on her own. She opened with the extremely catchy and wonderful-mood-settling Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Waters of March" ("A stick, a stone ..."), another tune I heard first on Schwartz's programs. And I also really loved her singing of "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered." Her band was led by pianist George Mesterhazy, who adds such a great kick and twinkle to a lot of her songs.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

O for 2 ...

On the Central Park entertainment front so far this summer. La Boheme by the Met? Rained out. Romeo and Juliet at the Public tonight? Really rained out. (Or at least it was still pouring when I left after half an hour.) What next to be rained out for me? Oh, right, the Philharmonic!

It's off to Boston this weekend, then down to the Jersey Shore and up to Beacon next week. Plus John Pizzarelli at Rock Park downtown: yet another opportunity for Mother Nature to ruin my free arts.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Building talk at 125th and Lenox

During my early years in New York (OK, that's stretching it a bit, I realize), I spent many a bus-waiting moment at the corner of Lenox Ave. and 125th St., often staring up at that big, mostly vacant edifice that took up the southwest corner and for much of the time acted mostly as a billboard for Adidas or whatever. Headed over to meet H. at El Paso in SpaHa on the bus tonight, I actually did a double take when I realized ... it's gone! The multistory building that used to house several shuttered shops is no more. All that remains is a thin layer of rubble. (Kind of like the one behind my apartment building lately.) So what's going up there? I'm so out of the loop these days I don't even know if it's been mentioned on you-know-where. And even though I spend so little time over in that neighborhood now, I have to hope it won't lay fallow as long as the old Harlem Park site has.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Really amazing restaurant

Before I forget and the week gets away from me, a quick pick for a special dinner out. Just around the corner from the occasionally delightful tackiness of West 4th Street in the Village is Perilla. On Jones Street. Not to be confused with Great Jones Street, we learned.

I'll admit that I was a bit hesitant when I heard the resto's claim to fame is that its chef won the first season of Bravo's "Top Chef." But I have to say Harold Dieterle deserves whatever recognition he's gotten or will get. An almost divine dining experience. Mouthfuls of joy. Decor and space could be a smidge better, but that really doesn't matter when you're eating such wonderfully prepared foods. The lamb was some of the best I've ever tasted: no joke. Oh, and one of their signature cocktails: the 9 Jones? Officially on my top five list of best drinks ever tasted. Is there anything ginger doesn't make better?

Missed connection

I got on the 1 train at 110th St. tonight. Our eyes met. I knew her. Did she remember me? She was the best friend of someone who played a not inconsequential (or so it seemed at the time) role in my life for a year or so (more?) of my teenage life. I'd spent some time with this best friend as a part of her group of friends. How much? I can't quite recall, besides the instances she showed up in pictures from the time. But I know it was more often than just those times. I sit down in the only empty seat on the train. It is opposite hers, but there's someone in the way. It's not really her, I say to myself, doubting that first impression. But before I can think for very long, we're at 116th St., the Columbia stop, and she's getting up to leave. Not a glance in my direction. I follow her with my eyes as she walks away from the train. For a second or two, I consider leaping out and tapping her on the shoulder. Were you friends with ... ? Because I still can't remember her full name, although I have an inkling about her first one. I hesitate. I'm headed farther uptown. I hesitate some more. The doors close and I miss my opportunity. There is a good chance it would've been awkward. Then again all this happened several years ago now. Still, I kind of wish I hadn't hesitated. You never know who you'll see or what part of your past will be resurrected on the subway.

Friday, June 08, 2007

"Jerry Likes My Corn" and I loved this show

I've been singing the praises of Spring Awakening the past few months, and I was really planning on pulling for it this Sunday at the Tonys. But now having seen Grey Gardens, I have to say, Sarah was right. This is a really great show. And while it doesn't make Spring any less fresh, I have some deep respect for Christine Ebersole's amazing work in this musical, inspired by the Maysles documentary about the Beales. Oh, and it has one of the quirkiest songs I've ever heard -- see the blog title -- fully explicated here on the TheaterMania site.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Recent highlights

Massive, space-carving, slightly dizzying Richard Serra steel sculptures in the garden, second floor and sixth floor galleries of the MoMA, along with a feature on Picasso's Les Demoisells d'Avignon at 100. ... Celluloid Skyline exhibit at Grand Central Terminal, including some great "reality" footage of New York circa many, many years ago and some original faux backdrops used in movies like North by Northwest (the scene at the UN). Oh, and a repeat visit to the Whispering Gallery outside Oyster Bar (still works). ... Sushi, tea and beer in the East Village: Shiki Kitchen, Sympathy for the Kettle, Stillwater. ... Thai and ice cream in the West Village: Isle, Mary's Dairy. ... RELATED: The Serra Tilted Arc kerfuffle.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Three years a New Yorker ...

And running into people on the street whom I know without even trying to is becoming a much more common occurence. This place feels like home (as if it didn't the first month I moved here).

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Creepy patents

Google has slightly tweaked its world-beating home page, you might've noticed, and now you can get to most of their various web services from that same starting point, including Google Patents. Which made me, for whatever reason, immediately think of one of the creepier inventions out there. Something I remember learning about somewhere along the way. It's an "apparatus for signaling from graves," according to the description. Yep, two guys from Lake Charles were so worried about being accidentally buried alive back in 1903 that they created a way to alert the rest of the living and get some oxygen while you're waiting for people to dig you out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Last time for who knows how long

An expanse of green in a land of blue and white. Back up to the alma mater for grad weekend to see the sis get her diploma. The campus just keeps sprouting new buildings, most of them designed tastefully and arranged in harmony with what came before. It's a true "red brick university," to use the Brits' term. No Harvard/Cambridge, but the next best thing after that, and one focused especially on real-world application, with the American version of that building material to match the sterling reputation. It will probably be the last time I go back for what could be many years, now that I don't know anyone who is a student there any longer. That thought along with the emotion of one of the ceremonies -- experienced now as an observer, not a distracted participant -- brought a tear to my eye. The college campus, especially that one, as bucolic as it is, only coalesces into something more when you are a part of it somehow, when you know the people, have a reason to be there, etc. While there is the potential to be a part of the tailgating football tradition, I don't think it will be the same and I don't see it happening for me. Walking by the dormitory where I spent three and a half great years, my mind leapt from one memory to another, most of them happy and more vivid than I'd expect. The campus is littered with those kind of connections, but at the end of the day, it's all just a shell waiting to be filled up by the late-night walks, the snowbound play, the early morning rushing, the emotional gatherings of the students of today and of tomorrow.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

10 Million Miles

Belonging to a comp-ticket club, you have to know how to divvy up the potentially good from the likely awful. So today when I noticed a new show pop up on the queue and I hadn't heard of it, I relied on the see-we-told-you-so reputation of Atlantic Theater Co. as a good bellwether, and I wasn't disappointed. The company that spawned Spring Awakening, now nominated like crazy for Tonys on Broadway, is doing another musical, this time featuring songs by Patty Griffin. Now, I'd been familiar with her genre of music, but didn't know enough of her songs to figure out whether they were all new (a la Duncan Sheik and Spring) or just chosen from her catalog. And even though it turned out to be the latter, I thought the show managed to avoid feeling like a bland jukebox musical. Perhaps because Griffin's songs are pretty heartfelt and amazing and not over the top or cliche. True, there are a few bits of the plot that I now realize were wedged in to match the lyrics of different songs, but overall, it felt pretty organic.

The four-performer cast is split between a young-ish couple and an older man and woman who play rotating male and female roles of people the couple meet or see along a road trip up the East Coast. Both Matt Morrison (The Light in the Piazza), with his military buzz cut, and Irene Molloy are decent singers - although Matt's the superior actor. But the real core of the show rests in Mare Winningham (Susan Grey on "Grey's Anatomy"), who not only navigates several different personas - from waitress to drunk divorcee to late-shift mother to old cat lady - but channels Griffin the best. Her renditions of "Kite" and "Making Pies" are especially heartbreaking. I really think this show has potential, and hope it gets a good reception. It's open in the neat former church building on West 20th Street through July 1.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The big electromagnet under Central Park

It always seems to happen this way. Just when I've lined up three weekends in a row where I'll be out of town -- just when I'm glad to be leaving the city and seeing other parts -- my life turns a corner and suddenly I'd rather be nowhere else in the world. (Which is usually how I feel, but more so currently.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sunday! Sunday! Sunday!

"Sunday in the Park with George," one of my all-time favorite musicals and a Sondheim to boot, is coming to Studio 54 next winter. Tickets go on sale in September.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Gates revisited

In case you can't recognize them from this fuzzy non-flash photo from the Tribeca PAC, that's Albert Maysles in the white hair and Jeanne-Claude in the red. (Christo couldn't make it since he was somewhere in Europe attending to one of the couple's museum exhibitions.) They spoke after the premiere of the documentary about the February 2005 draping of Central Park in a particuarly memorable shade of orange.

I thought the film was funny, gave a sampling of the different views expressed back in the late 70s and early 80s and then again in the 2000s, hit upon a few recurring motifs ("You gotta think about who might hate it"), and delivered that touching moment akin to one I remember from Maysles' doc on The Umbrellas, which I saw on PBS, where it hits you: this is/was beautiful. The art, as wonderfully shot by Maysles' crew, and people's reaction to it gets under your skin, bypassing any logic centers, and affects you. I do think the cut of the film was a bit long. (They could've trimmed maybe another 10 minutes off the 100-minute runtime, perhaps.) But I went with J., who wasn't in the city that month and didn't feel the need to venture in to see the spectacle. She found the movie especially persuasive, and now kinda wishes she had seen it.

The next chance to see a Christo and Jeanne-Claude "installation" might not come until 2011, but it might just be worth a visit to the Arkansas River in Colorado to see it. Over the River is currently in environmental impact study mode, according to an employee of C+JC who spoke last night at the gala premiere.

It was at first annoying to me, but later sort of sweet the way that people clapped at different points throughout the screening whenever certain people appeared for the first time, as if this were a stage show. There were a lot of participants in the audience, I realized, and the showing of the film had a feeling of a celebration/reunion two years on. One guy who got a lot of cheers was art-lover Mayor Mike who was the final "gate" through which the artwork passed -- withouth much contention -- before it became a reality.

The Gates was/were one of the first things I wrote about on this incarnation of the blog. Check out the February 2005 archive and scroll down to the bottom.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

High and low brow

So it turns out I will be seeing Spider-Man 3 tomorrow night, followed by Maysles' The Gates gala premiere on Saturday night: from blockbuster bread-and-circuses to a documentary that probably won't even get a theater distribution deal, maybe some late-night HBO or PBS showings if it's lucky. And yet I have higher expectations for the latter.

In other news, that Columbia-area Thai restaurant Lime Leaf has opened up a downtown (direction, not neighborhood) outpost. Unfortunately, they haven't gotten their liquor license yet at the 72nd St. location. It's a rare occasion when you sit down to eat here and order a beer and they can't oblige. Except for Angelica Kitchen, which I'm angry at currently because of their poor management of wait times, and BYOB places, which I don't frequent very often, it's just not that common, I've found. The extra kind waitress (she just moved here from the Midwest and hasn't become hardened yet) assured me, however, that the bar will be up and running in two weeks or so.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend quick pics

>> The latest Lady Chatterly: Cesar award-winning French version of a famous British story, U.S. premiere at Tribeca, wider release in June.
>> The Vik Muniz exhibit at P.S. 1. Amazingly detailed and really rather funny homages to famous images captured in diamonds, caviar, a warehouse full of junk, clouds, little plastic soldiers, lint, dust, vending machine trinkets, wire, peanut butter and jelly, ink droplets, chocolate.
>> The Hoax: Great performance by Richard Gere, and a fun caper that ultimately sheds some light on a lesser known Watergate detail.
>> Trailer for Across the Universe. Releasing in September.
>> Bistro Ten 18. Not a Columbia neighborhood college bar as I'd initially understood, but all the better.

Panic button

In the P.S. 1 playground

Friday, April 27, 2007

A simple little musical

A great night out with S. and her mom. First, vodka tonic and sesame crusted big eye tuna at Blue Fin, which is a real gem of a place amid the hubbub of Times Square. Then, fifth row to see Audra McDonald in 110 in the Shade on Broadway. One might be tempted to call her a diva because of her great reputation as a singer, but she really immerses herself in this role and proves once again how wonderful of an actor she is. The performance and the singing meld wonderfully, and I never got the sense of her forcing things. Even the signature number, "Simple Little Things," comes across like it's all occuring to her just then in the moment. It's that kind of nightly magic that makes for a truly great performer. It's interesting to compare Roundabout's earlier musical this season, The Apple Tree, starring another diva, Kristin Chenoweth. While I enjoyed parts of that piece, I can't say I ever really forgot that Kristin with a big fat K was there on stage performing for us. Perhaps it was the nature of the piece: three vingettes with a common theme. But either way, Audra's turn as simple spinster Lizzie comes across as much more naturalistic. Yes, there are moments in the show -- some of the ensemble work -- when you can't help but realize you're watching a revival of a '60s musical, but there's enough fresh and vital stuff there to captivate. We laughed, we cried, we loved it. Kudos also to the basic but elegant set done by Woody Allen fave and theater legend Santo Loquasto, which is dominated by a big flat screen disc that hangs down over the stage, representing the blazing sun at first, then turning all mood ring on us as the play progresses. The one bit of irony is how cold it was in Studio 54 during the first act -- brrr. Still, I have to give Audra most of the credit for those occasional outbreaks of the goosebumps. Opening night is May 9.

UPDATE: I had to go finish up some work after the show and missed a chance to meet Audra!

UPDATE 2: Designer and UWS'er Santo Loquasto is featured in a weekend Times piece.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bowling Green canopy

The MTA takes a (pretty cool) page from the Metro's handbook with this canopy. I know these are supposed to go up over the new station entrances to the 7 train extension and some of the Second Ave. stops, but wouldn't it be cool to see more of these on the existing lines? There aren't enough above-ground structures to punctuate the system IMHO. Spotted on a Sunday night walk with L. from E.Vill. down the Bowery to the Battery.

42nd Street is falling apart

Shopping spree weekend

What is it about wonderful spring weather that makes me want to go out and support the economy? New shades, new bag and new camera have been acquired, so photos other than the MySpace snapshots of recent weeks will be returning to this space. Once again, I sought advice from CNET, settling on the editors' top-rated 7-megapixel point and shoot, one of the latest in Canon's PowerShot line.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Spring is in sight!

NWS forecast says temps here are going to break 70 on Saturday for the first time since March. This April's been too cruel for too long.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Looking forward to next season

"Friday Night Lights," one of my favorite TV serials, has been re-upped for at least another six episodes next season. Here's hoping it makes it through to the end just like it did this time around, despite having low ratings. There are a lot of solid fans for this show out there, and I'm one of them. Another one writes for the Onion's (not-fake-news) AV Club Blog, as you can see from this recent rundown of why the Peabody Award-winning NBC hour-long drama matters. No. 7 hits upon a good point that may explain why it's not more popular and why I especially like it: "It is and isn’t about football." Now, I went to a football-obsessed high school (although not quite like the fictional Dillon) and an equally obsessed college, so I can definitely identify with that sense of spirit with which a game fills a place. But in general, I wouldn't say I'm a sports fan. I usually treat them more as current events and less as sheer entertainment. And this show gets that on some level. Football's there, but so is the rest of life. It just punctuates it when it's fall and you live in a town that takes it so seriously. That doesn't mean you pay attention to all details of it, or follow every minute of every game religiously, or devote more than the necessary amount of time in any given episode to on-the-field scenes. That's what makes it so palatable: the football doesn't get in the way of the drama. That said, I have to say I was a little disappointed by the final episode of the first season. But I understand why, on some level, it couldn't be as good as the earlier ones. The threads of each story are left hanging, but not in the satisfying cliffhanger way of 1 through 21. More like: If this is the end for us, then it was a good run, but if it isn't, then there's lots more to be done and said next time around. All 22 episodes are there onlne for your perusing. No Netflix, no DVD required. As promised by the critics' early glowing reviews, watch the first episode and you might be hooked.


We saw ... The Postmarks ... and ... Smoosh ... perform at ... The Knitting Factory. It was in Tribeca. It was cool. In the audience, there were the dad and the kid from ... The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players ... (L. and I figured that teenage girl rockers must have a listserv or something) ... and Amanda Bakker, wife of Jay Bakker and co-star of "One Punk Under God." See, I knew I'd run into one of them eventually. And I totally went up and said hi!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Remains of the past few days

Bagels and coffee at Paterno Trivium. Having the time to walk across Central Park from Natural History to the Plaza instead of rushing around to the East Side via cab or subway. Focusing on my breathing. Realizing I don't visit the Strand nearly enough. Loving 55 Bar even more. Three faves: Isle, Bleu Evolution, Punch. One to skip in the future: Metro Cafe. One amazing new sushi place to add to the roster: Kanoyama overlooking St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery. And a solid cafe nearby: Orlin. Top of the Rock at night for the first time. Followed the next day by an ESB jumper. Shopping thrift stores for an old-school TV. Beginning the regular search for a new just-right messenger bag: that all-important everyday accessory. Watching The Devil Wears Prada finally. An unexpected few-day connection full of warmth and smiles. Later, an all-too-realistic, burst-the-bubble phone call. Feeling mentally exhausted. Wanting to cry, to release some toxins and angst, trying a few times, not being able to. Water, water everywhere. Yearning for the emotional equivalent of May flowers. ... Just now recalling how touching these stories can be: finding some small relief.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Off to Trafalmadore, perhaps

Yesterday on one of many stops for our Ferris Bueller's Day Off: NYC with J. and B. Edition, we checked out the Strand. I bought a black and red canvas bag in an attempt to start eschewing plastic and also picked some books to put in it. One of the books I picked up and flipped through was one by Kurt Vonnegut. Shaving this morning, I flipped over my NYTimes and felt a pang of sadness to see that he just died. Among the pictures the online Times obit features is this one of the man himself standing in front of the dollar racks outside that great book store. He will be missed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

[insert weight-associated epithet*] John Hodgman on this week's "This American Life"

Speaking to a live audience in Los Angeles about getting noticed now that he's a TV star:
The Apple Store. Soho.
[audience laughs]
General storewide freak-out.
[even more laughter]
There are waves of double takes as I walk to buy a cable. The store greeter cannot believe it is me. She jumps up and down. The staff starts to play the ads that I'm in on a giant video screen. Suddenly I am like a mascot walking around a theme park ...

* You gotta listen to the whole bit to get this.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hidden in plain sight

Inspired by a recent episode of Studio 360's great "American Icons" series, I picked up my old, trusty, highly legible $1.25-on-the-cover, thrift-store paperback copy of The Great Gatsby and started rereading. I can't remember if I've reread it since moving to New York, but I have to admit something already sticks out at me. Tom and Myrtle's illicit but not-so-secret lovers' apartment is on 158th Street, way up here in the Heights. There are some pretty attractive looking facades over by Riverside Drive around that street, although I wonder if Fitzgerald had any particular "long white cake of apartment-houses" in mind when he set the scene there.

The Gates is coming! Again!

A year and a half after I'd expected it, Albert Maysles' documentary of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates is having its premiere in a few weeks, and I've got a pair of tickets to one of the showings. (Anyone want to join me?) So many of us were there for the finale, those two weeks in February, but it'll be interesting to see snippets from the 26 years in the making. (Almost as long as the Second Avenue subway, right?) Saturday was the first day Tribeca Film Festival tickets went on sale for regular AmEx card holders, and since - I'd imagine - this isn't exactly a small subset of the filmgoing population, the website and phone bank were overwhelmed. Sunday, things opened up. This Friday, "downtown" residents (below Canal Street) without AmEx cards (do any exist?) can start buying tickets, and Saturday, everyone else can do so.

Speaking of Maysles Films, Albert and his late brother David filmed the original Grey Gardens upon which the hit musical is based. (S. has seen it three times!) Still need to see that myself ... perhaps as soon as Wednesday!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

JRB at last

After what seems like half a dozen failed attempts at seeing Broadway/jazz composer/singer Jason Robert Brown perform, I caught his second set Thursday night at Birdland. And you know you're just setting yourself up for disappointment after trying and failing to see someone sing not just once but several times. Well, I wasn't totally disappointed, I just realized something about his music: I prefer the pieces for female voice. And some of the duets. And one, maybe two, of the pieces meant for solo male voice. But most of the stuff he sang that night, sitting at the piano, backed up by two (are there more?) of the Caucasian Rhythm Kings, his band, didn't really do it for me. While he's a talented musician, I don't always love listening to his voice, and the stuff he writes for himself to sing isn't as good as the stuff he seems to write for others. So Laura Benanti's great but too-short appearance during the set was a nice change of pace that allowed me to see what it is I like and don't like about JRB. Although to his credit, I did enjoy "Someone to Fall Back On," even if B. insists that the Brian Nash of Duplex fame version is better.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Notable Peabody award winners this year


This American Life: Habeas Schmabeas, public radio
StoryCorps, National Public Radio
American Masters: Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, PBS
Friday Night Lights, NBC

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Four days, four new (to me) dinner spots

Sunday: El Paso Taqueria - East 104th and Lex in Spanish Harlem. Delicious enchiladas. L. sympathetically mourns for my avocado allergy while neighboring diners chow down on the fresh guac.

Monday: Petite Abeille - West 17th btwn Fifth and Sixth near Union Square. Menu is full of meat and seafood dishes, as you might expect from a French place, but W. makes a go of it after asking politely for the veggie options. We split a framboise. Salade nicoise arrives with a substantial helping of white tuna.

Tuesday: Tello Ristorante - West 19th btwn Seventh and Eighth in Chelsea. The crazy waiter H. promised me is not working, but the Italian food, ordered from oversized menus like out of a cartoon, is crazy good. Fried zucchini, one of my new favorites, and rigatoni with sweet sausage, tomatoes and peas. Yum.

Wednesday: The Holy Basil - Second btwn Ninth and 10th in the East Village. This Thai place, just a stone's throw from L.'s new crash pad, stands apart for being up a flight of stairs and set in what looks like it might've been a big old apartment with high ceilings back in the day. Dimly lit, but in a good way. If it were a date, I'd've called it romantic. Was feeling in a comfort food mood, so I stuck with the pad thai and wasn't disappointed. Satays for starters and Singhas to sip.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

How long before Showtime puts the This American Life TV show on iTunes for purchase?

Until then, there's the first episode at least for free online. Act II features Improv Everywhere! Er, Humor in Public Places (HIPP). Yea, obscure '80s improvisational jazz group legal action!

UPDATE: April Fool here. I was gullible enough to think that there was actually a lawsuit over Improv Everywhere's name! Turns out it was just a 4/1 ruse.

Identical twins!

Not every day you get MySpace friend requests from two girls who look the same and pose for the camera the same and want to be your friend at the exact same minute but have different names. Oh, wait, that does actually happen every day. Thank you MySpace for filling my life with even more delete-worthy moments.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Gramercy Theatre update

Looks like someone finally got around to turning that old theater on East 23rd St. that I first saw more than a year ago into a performance venue. Albiet with some early hiccups.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Mutual Appreciation

Like one of the characters in Andrew Bujalski's films, I'm having a hard time putting into words what makes his stuff so unassumingly satisfying. Just watched the follow up to Funny Ha Ha. This one takes place in Brooklyn, stars the delightfully dorky director again in a starring role, focuses on his character's amateur-rocker friend's arrival to town. It's shot in grainy black and white. The script feels improvised at times, although what I've read says it's actually pretty well thought out. And if that's the case, you can tell by the end, because scenes that seem like they might be throw-aways actually come together in the end and do a good job of making you care about the characters. What makes the film -- which you might be tempted to call a nothing-happens flick if it didn't seem so well made in its own indie way -- so above-average is the way the actors manage to fill the moments with that realistic swirl of mixed emotions. And not in the typical torn-between-two-poles way. More like the: I'd like to kiss her but she doesn't totally seem into it so I'll brush her arm and then tell her I can stop if she wants and then laugh nervously when she acknowledges it then freak at the silence and pause and start to pull away and worry what would happen if I take a risk and ... You know that mix of emotion. That's a scene in the movie, with none of those exact words spoken. And the funny thing is that the medium does such a good job of conveying all that and putting you in that halting, um-yeah mode that I'm not being able to express myself very well here. But it's late on a Friday after being stuck in a big magnet for almost two hours after a long day of work, so that might be it too. But the movie's good. Netflix it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ten years since Titanic

It took this story on CNN to remind me that it's been a decade since that big ship of a movie came out. I had a somewhat embarrassing obsession with the movie and saw it seven times in the course of a year or something -- mostly for a reason I can tell you offline, if you don't already know. At this point, I don't want to see it again until I have kids and I can do the whole when-I-was-your-age thing. But still, it's cool that Kate and Leo are reuniting for another movie. Mendes is directing. Could be good, if only because Kate's performances are almost always top notch, something I sensed a long time ago, even if the movies she's in are good only about 3 out of every 4 times.

BONUS! Two of my favorite actresses in the same photo!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

No, that wasn't a dream

I really did hear "Oh Mandy" on NPR's Morning Edition the other day.

Other random public-radio moment: I actually heard someone reference a "This American Life" episode to a friend in the elevator at work today.

Monday, March 19, 2007

PostSecret of the moment

No tax time blues

Thanks to the computer program (hmm ... guess which one) having my return from last year saved off on a server somewhere, it took me less time to do my taxes tonight than it did to wash and fold a few loads of laundry in my four-hopper apartment-building basement laundry room: 20th century laundry facilities, 21st century online tax filing software! And what's more? I'd been putting it off for this long because I feared having to pay the various authorities. But no! The little refund tickers at the top dwindled, dwindled, but did not go into the red. I'll be getting enough of a refund to pay the friendly little tax-o-bot its due, with a few shekels left over, to boot. While there may be something exciting about getting a bigger refund from the IRS et al, that's actually a sign that you gave the Feds a sizeable interest-free loan, when you could've invested it and made some extra money in the meantime. Of course the other extreme would be not to let them withhold enough throughout the year and get slapped with one of those nasty underpayment penalties. The government knows when YOU are borrowing interest-free out of its coffers, and does something about it in the end. So ideally, you want to get as close to zero without going over, or just going over a tad bit, so everybody's happy and doesn't lend too much of their money without their consent.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Fika pause that refreshes

The other day I was off and found myself walking on West 58th Street behind the big construction site that is The Plaza Pied-a-Terre, as they're calling it now. I'd seen this little espresso bar before, but for some reason thought it was Japanese. Turns out it's called Fika and it's Swedish. Like Stockholm, where Cait is at the moment. Fika, I've now learned, is like what the British (or, well, Paddington at least) used to call Elevensies. It's about taking a break from work to have a coffee and a snack with friends: simple, universal enough concept, no? (And yet how refreshing to make it into an institution like siesta or something.) This being the case, most of the clientele of the shop are people who work around that area, between Fifth and Sixth. So I guess I stood out as not being a regular when I walked in, because the cute Swedish girl behind the counter remarked on the fact that I hadn't been in before, and she was right. I then intended to ask how long the shop had been open, but instead -- me the native English speaker -- wasn't precise enough in my wording, and she thought the "you" in my question meant her instead of her cafe. So she told me in nearly accent-less English that she's been here for eight weeks. After she'd poured a wonderfully well-made cup of cappuccino and I picked out a Swedish cinnamon bun (slightly different than the ones I'm used to, but all the better for it), she went back to chatting in Swedish with the other people in the shop. Score one for coffee diversity. I'm always in search of great coffee shops that aren't Starbucks, and this one certainly fits the bill. More at restaurantgirl.

Monday, March 12, 2007

"Echocardiogram" by Suzanne Cleary

How does, how does, how does it work
so, little valve stretching messily open, as wide as possible,
all directions at once, sucking air, sucking blood, sucking
how? On the screen I see the part of me that always
loves my life, never tires
of what it takes, this in-and-out, this open-and-shut
in the dark chest of me,
tireless, without muscle or bone, all flex and flux and blind
will, little mouth widening, opening and opening and,
then snapping
shut, shuddering anemone entirely of darkness, sea creature
of the spangled and sparkling sea, down, down where light
cannot reach.
When the technician stoops, flips a switch, the most
unpopular kid in the class
stands offstage with a metal sheet, shaking it while Lear raves. So
this is the house where love lives, a tin shed in a windstorm, tin
shed at the sea's edge, the land's edge,
waters wild and steady, wild and steady, wild.

Empty streets

L. and I ate at Momofuku last night, which was packed as usual, even late on a Sunday, but we still managed to get seats right as we walked in. Afterward, we took a stroll and once again I was struck by that weird feeling of seeing New York streets pretty empty. It's like the extras on this movie set packed up for the night and went home. And it's not like these were neighborhoods that are at all normally empty: East Village, Union Square, Flatiron. It's not enough to make you feel unsafe, since somehow that feeling of safety lingers in places where you know people go and have been and will be again, but it reminds you of how comforting crowds in a city can be. How important they are to what it is.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Online meeting/dating: Mainstream or still worth fibbing about?

I was a little surprised the other day to hear from not one but two friends still bothered by admitting when you meet someone online. Doesn't it happen all the time now? Hasn't it reached a critical mass? We do so many other things online now -- why not this? Discuss.

UPDATE: Sarah makes some good points in the comments.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

As in blogging as in life

There are always people out there who are living more interesting lives than you and blogging about it and Flickring and YouTubing about it. And there are always people out there who are living more boring lives than you and blogging about it and Flick- ... but how often do we really ever spend time on the latter?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Small town alert

So isn't it funny that I see one friend and then another this week, each of whom I haven't seen since my birthday extravaganza, and I end up visiting a relatively new wine bar with one of them -- Riposo 46 -- on Sunday and then meet up at another wine bar with the other one -- Bar Veloce -- on Wednesday, and it's important to note, these two friends met and ended up chatting much of the night at the aforementioned birthday night-out, and then tonight friend B casually mentions that she likes visiting Riposo 46, which I just visited for the first time the other night with friend A, and they hadn't spoken at all since then? OK, so it's not so unbelievable, but it seemed pretty cool at the moment.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Time check

So I was talking to a high school teacher the other day -- about my age -- and the topic of mixtapes came up. He mentioned them, I guess, in class one day, and the kids looked confused. Turns out cassette tapes for them are almost what vinyl records were for us. As in: Things of the past. Today's high schoolers were, after all, born around 1990: the year I got my first CD player. The last mixtape I remember recording on an actual cassette? It was the one I made for my high school graduation.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Endangered species

I didn't think these folding-door phone booths still existed in the wild. What a find! Spotted on a walk down West End Avenue. For as much time as I end up spending on the Upper West Side, I so rarely ever find a reason to venture over that way (Riverside Park isn't my favorite). I felt like I was the only single person on the street this afternoon. Every other walker seemed to be part of a couple or a family or a group, many of whom looked to be heading off to parties or gatherings, clutching presents, wearing costumes. Then I had a Gentile dope slap moment when I realized: It's Purim.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


For the second time in the past few days, I went off in search of one restaurant and found another one in the same neighborhood and cuisine that was just as satisfying. While I work in Midtown East, I so rarely ever want to eat over there because things always seem overpriced for no other reason than they're near Suitland. But I can now add another sushi place to the few eateries in that area that I'd go back to. We went in search of Seo, but ended up eating at Tsushima, which just happen to be mentioned in the same breath at Chowhound. Also, I came across this great by-neighborhood listing of NYC sushi places, text-focused and designed for Palm/Berry/Treo-ing.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

10 Mount Morris Park West

I stopped by a part of Harlem I haven't visited as much in the past year, and which I probably won't be seeing much of anymore after Saturday, and thought I'd check out that old prison they're turning into con-dos. Seems to be coming along nicely. Corcoran-approved banner out front? Check. Website with sufficiently hip lounge music? Check. Street-level glass-door entry to a unit's kitchen and dining room? Uh, check? I understand there used to be some flashing that went on from this building, but do they have to keep that spirit alive?

It seems pretty rare to have an apartment with such a direct connection to the sidewalk. How hard is it going to be to sell that ground-floor unit? Do people really want to a see-into eating area on West 121st Street? Suggested pitch line: Get that sidewalk-cafe feeling every day! Whether you like it or not!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

From Bauhaus to Philip's House

Sure, it's a little obvious, but I really like the placement of this painting in the MoMA (seen above). And it was a gift of Philip Johnson, one of the designers of one of the iterations of the museum, which seems all the more appropriate.

Earlier Saturday, I caught the members preview of the new Jeff Wall exhibit on the sixth floor, open to the public beginning today. Definitely the best I've seen there since the Munch last year. Forty large-scale photographic works arranged chronologically: I felt like I could spend a good moment with each one before moving on, something I don't always get in traveling exhibits that inundate you with stuff to look at. I inevitably feel like I've walked through and missed something. Yes, there can be always more to see, but at least in this kind of hanging I feel I've given each work a chance.

The artist's name probably should've stuck in my head better, because there were at least five or six works in this show that I've seen before: at MoMA, at the Philly museum, at the Met, at the Tate in London. I guess I didn't realize Wall was so closely associated with the large-scale photo transparencies in illuminated metal box frames, but thought they were different artists presenting work in the same medium.

What I like about his work is how much it draws upon and comments upon the sweep of art history. Certain pieces explicitly evoke their forebears in their titles: A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai), for instance. But even when Wall isn't being that clear, there were resonances between his pieces and the composition and imagery of famous works that preceded him. Wall's piece showing one slightly bent lip on an outdoor wall of otherwise orderly white vinyl home siding reminded me of Lucio Fontana's work. And another photo in the exhibit, called Tattoos and Shadows, made me think of Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe, transported to a suburban backyard. There are also works whose titles specifically reference literature, such as a stunning work evoked by Ellison's The Invisible Man in which we see a man sitting in a windowless room lit by hundreds of old bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. Most if not all of these works are staged, even if they appear to be taken from uncoached life, but there's something more real and less creepy than Gregory Crewdson's work, which I also enjoy. Crewdson so often pulls in fantastical elements that remind you that it was all staged. And while there is that element here too, it's less so. In both artists' work, I love the sense that you're watching the whole of a movie in one perfectly focused frame.

UPDATE: Haven't read it yet but Jeff Wall is the topic of the cover story on the NYTM today.

Swimming to Minetta Lane

W. and I checked out Spalding Gray: Stories Left to Tell, a posthumous collection of the monologuist's work that mostly manages to avoid getting in the way of Gray's words. There might be some kinks to work out before it opens March 6, but it was a satisfying show. I never saw Gray live and haven't seen his personal movies either, but I've heard what an impact he had on the form for which he became so strongly known. This show gave me a sense of his humor, insight, vulnerability and strength, and how he used those aspects of himself to captivate on stage. Richard Kind, whom we remembered as "Paul" from "Spin City," guest starred this week, including last night and today. It's at the Minetta Lane Theatre, around the corner from where I took this afternoon shot.

Other highlights of the evening: Dinner at Cafe Centosette, which was a new-to-us Italian place in the East Village, if not THE new-to-me Italian place I had in mind on the phone, and then couldn't find again; and drinks at the East Side Company Bar, which has really gotten kind of overrun since last I visited more than a year and a half ago, but still manages to maintain its fun, secluded, laid-back atmosphere. And it didn't hurt that we snagged a table for two just after finishing our first drinks. I had a gimlet and some gin fixes garnished with berries, still as well mixed as I remember even amid the hubbub of the bar.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Free on-demand for sick at home nights

My hand and shoulder issues have been flaring up again, for whatever reason, so I've been home the past two nights (and probably should've just gone home the second half of the previous night). But no worries, as long as there is free TV to stream on the internet. Who needs to pay for On Demand when some great shows are available on the web whenever I'm free? One of the most satisfying TV shows in recent memory is "Friday Night Lights." Every episode leaves me with the kind of satisfaction usually reserved for great movies. It's that good. It manages to take what could be a fairly cliche topic -- high school drama in a small town -- and turn it into something more, with realistic characters, good writing and great performances.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

She/this makes me smile

I have to see her next time she comes to NYC. (She is playing up at Purchase College next month, but I mean, she'll probably come down here eventually, right?)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

L train disappoints, among other things

You know it's been a lame night at the bar when you're actually excited to go check out the new L train signs at around midnight. So imagine my disappointment when I learn that they haven't installed the next-train-will-arrive-in-x-minutes signage in every station, just the big ones. Perhaps I wasn't reading those stories closely enough: Did they mention this fact? And tonight was a night we could've used such a sign. The train was forever in arriving, then -- and I guess the sign wouldn't have told us this -- it took forever to get from 3rd Avenue to 8th. Like forever as in I could've walked across the island quicker. Sure, it was fun to see M. and her crew again, but it wasn't the same without K., and I'd had my first drink at 6, back in 55 Bar where I saw Kate McGarry's first set at the early show. What a great little bar. I guess I should've known I wouldn't be able to make it the whole night, even having drank a lot of water in the interim. And on top of that, the Croc is just not my scene. And when have I ever actually met anyone interesting in a loud Saturday-night bar? Sure, interesting people go to such places, but I don't usually meet them there. At least it's a three-day weekend, and there's more leisure time to be had tomorrow (well, technically, today) and Monday.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Avenue Montaigne

In these days of perpetual hype and omnipresent media, it's refreshing to know you can still hear the barest amount about a movie, take a little risk, fork over your money on a Friday night, sit down in the theater and hope for the best. Or just hope for a little entertainment. That's exactly what we got tonight with this French film, which isn't being advertised as Orchestra Seats, even though it's Fauteuils d'orchestre, but as Avenue Montaigne instead. A small matter. This bubbly ensemble piece is cute and charming without feeling too contrived or cloying. And it stars Sydney Pollack, acting in something other than that silly Cingular ad ("Is my directing interrupting your phone call?") before the trailers. Sure, it exists in a Paris -- nary a chain store in sight -- that American Francophiles imagine exists enticingly, waiting to be discovered, but isn't that what you hope for in the movies sometimes?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


In the tradition of resyFEED:

Moran's -- 212 732 2020 -- two rings, we've got a prix fixe tonight, 7 works, you know we're downtown at 103 Washington, right?

So it's not the hippest of joints. At least it has a fireplace, and making a reservation evidently got us the prime spot right in front of the hearth. L. and I made last-minute plans to have a non-Valentine's Valentine's night dinner, braving the slushy, blustery wilderness of what I've seen being referred to recently as FiDi, aka the greater Wall Street area -- or my old favorite, NoBaT (north of the Battery tunnel). The comfortable bar food was decent to a cut-above, the place was warm, the company was great, and the tavern, where I've drank before in bloggier times, was just busy enough to avoid feeling empty.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Encore, encore!

Too often, it seems, I read about some amazing show that I'd love to see, starring great performers who deliver stunning performances, and then time passes, circumstances intervene, and I don't get to see it. Tonight was not one of those times. I had the tickets to one of just six performances of Sondheim's Follies at City Center. The glowing reviews came in. And then I got to see it. And it was lovely and goosebump-inducing at all the right moments. What a treat to see Victor Garber, Victoria Clark and Donna Murphy sharing the same stage. And the audience -- clearly filled with some major theater fans -- absolutely loved it, applauding like mad after almost every song. The standing ovation at the end, for a change, felt like the most natural thing in the world and totally earned.

[For a bit o' fun looking-back, check out Frank Rich's 1985 review of the similarly staged concert performance of Follies starring Barbara Cook, Carol Burnett, Lee Remick, Elaine Stritch and Mandy Patinkin. The making-of video from that version was my introduction to the musical, but it was much more satisfying to see it all the way through instead of cut and spliced docu-style. It's fascinating to read of what a flop it was, and yet what a treat it was destined to become.]

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Things that are still there

I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's again, part to and part from the ski weekend, on the bus, thanks to the magic of iPod. Something that struck me was how certain scenes could be filmed today and not much would have to be changed. The main floor of Tiffany's still looks pretty much the same as it did 46 years ago. Ditto for the Seagram Building, which was just a few years old at the time when they filmed Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard sitting out front of it, toward the end of the film, and "Holly" remarks that she loves New York and will take her imagined children back to see it after they've grown up in Brazil.

While I can't think of too many specifics right now, I know it's been featured in many movies and even a few songs made during the decades that followed its construction in the late '50s. There's a line in Sondheim's Company (1970), currently in revival on Broadway and featured in this recent Times article, that goes: "You know what comes to my mind when I see him? [Bobby] The Seagram's building. Isn't that funny?" I guess it doesn't hurt that it's named after a liquor company.

Another thing that's still around, although it remains off screen in the movie, is what they call Hamburger Heaven, now shortened to Burger Heaven, an Upper East Side mini-chain institution.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Good Girl/Bad Girl

It'll be three years that I've lived in the city come spring, but it's only now that I finally got around to one of those quintessential NYC experiences I'd seen in movies and read about in the Times: seeing a cabaret singer while sipping a cocktail in a secluded old hotel lounge. And I wasn't disappointed. I only wish I could've shared it with someone else. I saw Maude Maggart (Fiona Apple's sister) sing in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel. The experience was transporting, and so much fun I didn't want it to end. I think it's taken me this long because I don't always recognize the names of the people performing in such cushy venues, but Maude I've now seen three times -- the last time being a free River2River show in the Stuyvesant High theater last summer. She was great then, but even more in her element tonight. I sat next to a couple who said they remember being neighbors with Maude (born Amber) and Fiona, back when they were toddlers. They kept insisting that Maude/Amber was either 40 or in her late 30s, which is funny because of all people, they should realize she's younger than that: just 31. But she's definitely got an old soul, and often speaks about her grandmother, who was a Broadway dancer back when many of the songs she sings were first written. Next on Maggart's sked: London and Chicago. But she's back to New York in June. I should really just go ahead and buy tickets now.