Wednesday, January 31, 2007

That big jackrabbit I take to work every day

There's a cute new "art card" in some of the subways right now. It's not up on the MTA's Web site yet, but it's in the same vein as the whimsical ones of the past. It shows a big long rabbit carrying smaller commuting New Yorkers on its back, with a saddle/apron-type thing that has all the famous 1s and As and Ns and Rs and 4s and 5s printed on it. There are slivers of two other rabbits seen in the picture, which is set against an amalgam of the city. The Triboro and other bridges (some of which are actually run by the MTA) and rivers and street lamps and such. The new Hearst Corp. tower near Columbus Circle is represented, as well as what looks a lot like the Starett-Lehigh Building in Chelsea, and two big thick buildings that might or might not represent the Twin Towers are right behind the big bunny. Look for it! And hold on to that ear!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The pendulum swings the other way

Two good pieces in the New Yorker and New York Times recently on the Robert Moses-mania sweeping the city in the form of three (count 'em) museum exhibits on the man whom Jane Jacobs stared down so famously. The general revisionist thinking? The guy wasn't so bad after all. Easy to say now that both subject and object in the famous "Ford to City: Drop Dead" headline -- the almost-bankrupt NYC and the ex-president -- are history, and large-scale development is de rigeur once more. While each article covers some of the same ground, I found them enlightening to read in tandem. I'm going to attempt to check out the City Museum exhibit first when I have some time and then go from there.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

One Pretty Good Docu Under God

So I downloaded onto my iPod and watched all six parts of the Sundance Channel's "One Punk Under God." And I really enjoyed it. It's well made, full of a lot of good life-affirming conflict and emotions, and not a soap opera that drags on forever. It's well worth watching. You can see all three hours for 10 bucks. But now that's over, I do actually kind of miss it. I want to know what happens. I kinda want to run into Jay or Amanda Bakker. I guess I need to go hang out in Brooklyn or down by NYU more often. They're small-time celebrities now. And I'd totally go up to them on the street if I saw one of them.

That said, I saw the stockbroker character from walking to the L train the other day. We totally made eye contact, but I wasn't quick enough to say hi. It would be even less weird since they know Mike Still and I'm on Mike Still's e-mail list and I've e-mailed with Thom, one of the creators, so yeah, next time I see one of them, I'm totally saying hi.

Options and futures

Like a stock, my mood sold off today in morning and early afternoon trading, hitting a recent low, then it rallied thanks to: A key phone call. Inspiration. An encouraging word. A bracing walk. A hot toddy. A bowl of tomato basil bisque. Chicken marsala. A warm welcome at an UWS bar/restaurant filled with regulars. Good conversation. A glass of wine on the house. An encouraging word from a new acquaintance. The recognition that life is good, despite its challenges.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A little ad intervention

I'm glad there are people out there who have the time, willingness, creativity and/or money to pull off stunts like this. For the rest of us, stuck in an office all day. From the Anti-Advertising Agency's Web site: "Our work will de-normalize 'out-of-home' advertising and increase awareness of the public’s power to contribute to a more democratically-based outdoor environment." Cool soundtrack, too! [Via Gothamist]

Monday, January 22, 2007

A little Monday night corporate M+A humor

Oh, to be poor again?

I used to make less, I used to have more time. I didn't always used to want to just come home and flop on my bed at a too-early hour. I used to take what little I made and enjoy it with the extra time I had. Or at least this is the story I tell myself. Perhaps we can look back at earlier entries and see if it was true. Am I getting any more enjoyment out of my life now that I'm making more? This is probably a perception skewed by my tiredness. I hope it's not true. I hope that life has improved with advancement and hasn't gotten worse.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Doug Aitken's Sleepwalkers

It's with a little bit of trepidation that I add to the writing about this latest artsy-thing-to-do-outside-in-the-winter-in-New-York. After all, I woke up yesterday morning to a great Fishko Files segment on WNYC about how being surprised by art, happening upon it without having known about it ahead of time, feeling the little thrill of discovery, is a rarer thing these days in the world of mass media. Rare but not entirely gone. I'd imagine there are still those who can happen upon the MoMA in the coming weeks and not catch the banners highlighting the name of the art and artist and be mildly perplexed at the images of five different actors "sleepwalking" through their days, projected on the outsides of the museum.

In a normal drive-in movie of Americana, you pull up to a big open field laid out before one screen on a warm summer night and get the audio track pumped in to your car, one way or another. In this New York version of a drive-in, you walk up, are faced with multiple screens that you can never see all at once, showing a silent series of interlocking films, and you get to stand around outside in the cold that's finally descended upon the city, just in time for Aitken's exhibit.

My favorite contrast was how the people sitting inside the pricey, candlelit, glassed-in Modern restaurant must've felt at the sight of us outside in the dark, the bundled observers, allowed in to the scuplture garden for free to witness some (but not all) of the screens flickering above the diners. The idea of "sleepwalkers" takes on another mythico-cinematic element in us, who were like zombies pacing around in the gloom while the elite sit inside and try to pretend the world (or the world of some imagined movie) isn't coming to an end. I also liked seeing tiny puffs of cloud floating through the viewing space immediately above the two middle screens and carved out by the Museum Tower condos and adjacent buildings, especially when they'd happen to appear in tandem with clouds in the art.

The movie, again, is silent, yet I craved some sort of soundtrack. My first thought was Philip Glass' Koyaanisqatsi, another wordless film with moving images of people and landscapes, although on a much grander scale. I selected it on my iPod, but found it disappointing. The mood was wrong. Glass had failed me! I hit Shuffle. Gounod's "Ave Maria" seemed like a plausible alternative, but it turned out to be too uplifting and hopeful for a media work that's mood is more middling in perspective, the characters more this-is-what-I-do-I-do-not-question-it. Finally, I hit on a somewhat cinematic-sounding excerpt from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 by Villa-Lobos (it was "Dance. Memory of the Desert" for those keeping score at home). This at last was the closest thing I could get to matching how it felt to watch Aitken's work. There were even times when the rhythm of the music synched with the cuts on screen. I'd be interested to know if other people have iPod-ed this art on their own, and what pieces they've come up with.

The thing I came away with from the work was this sense that we all do things -- as in small actions, movements, gestures -- every day that are analagous to those of other people, perhaps at the same time of the day, perhaps not long before or after. Aitken makes this obvious in some ways at the beginning of each 13-minute cycle with actors doing the same exact things: opening their eyes, moving their hands, lifting themselves from bed. But I liked it better when the connections were more oblique. When Donald Sutherland was tap dancing on the roof of a cab. And Cat Power was pirouetting. And Seu Jorge was twirling a lasso. And Tilda Swinton was bowing a violin. And the other guy was drumming on industrial buckets. OK, so it's just slightly less obvious than before, but there are other subtler moments throughout that highlight the invisible connections that create patterns in all our lives.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Invincible Summer

I loved the k.d. lang album by this title and I loved Mike Daisey's one-man show too. It opened tonight to a packed house at the Public Theatre for an eight-performance run through the end of January as part of the Under the Radar Festival. I'd seen him before, performing in the spangly Spiegeltent at S. St. Seaport, alongside One Ring Zero and Amy Sohn and Ned. Thus, who should I run into tonight but Ned and friend. I haven't seen a whole lot of monologues performed live, but Daisey's proved to me it can have all the drama of an ensemble piece. His narrative embraces weddings, Seattle, subways, the New York summer, one horribly memorable New York summer day, the Jersey shore, his parents' divorce, New York's obsession with itself (which prompts a very funny bit about Paris Hilton), and general existential dread (hence the Camus reference in the title). The work is paced like a great memoir should be and features recurring motifs such as private moments of emotion he's seen in public places or social moments. He walks a satisfying line between cynicism and hope, between seen-it-all-before and isn't-this-amazing. Definitely worth seeing, and almost as cheap as a movie at $15.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Everything comes down to Stephanie D'Abruzzo

A friendly scatalogical reminder that the "Scrubs" musical episode, written by the Avenue Q guys, premieres tomorrow night!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Birthday celebrations continue!

Tiramisu on the house at Bello Giardino, then Julie Taymor's spectacular (truly) The Magic Flute at the Met with W. on Friday. Thai delights at Land on the UWS and the hilariously adorable Spelling Bee at Circle in the Square with J. on Saturday, then well-mixed drinks with L. at Rain afterward. More drinks with the crew Sunday night at the window-front table in Bua on St. Marks. Boo-yah!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

'Neruda Songs'

On the subway home tonight, I listened to a really touching NPR story about the setting of five Pablo Neruda poems to music by Peter Lieberson for his wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who died at such a young age last year. There's something about Neruda's work that captures people's imagination about love and passion and makes them want to incorporate it into their own art. After all, I first became aware of his poetry through that little Italian movie Il Postino in 1994, another happy story with a sad ending. I of course had to download the Lieberson piece after hearing snippets of it on the radio segment. (I just happen to have an iTunes gift card for my birthday, too.) I'm not all the way through yet, but it's pretty affecting. I'm such a sucker for well-reviewed art on public radio: Play me clips of something great or interview an author or talk up a neat exhibit, and I'm there.

These five-day weeks

sure do take it outta ya. Luckily, there's another four-day week coming up next week to take the edge off things. :)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Author photos

I love author photos that make it feel like you're the one that's causing the inconvenience, you there opening up the back flap of the book to stare at the sour look of the man who's angry at you for making him write 538 pages of intermittently incomprehensible verbosity, just so you have something to make you feel a little literary each night before you turn out the light, that frown that seems to say he's not doing this for his health, that on the whole, he'd rather be digging trenches or greasing machinery or counting the unknowable days until black lung seizes him from within, oh, please, don't do him any favors, pausing to stare at his squinting eyes for any extra second or two, you're not going to get what he meant by it all anyway, or get that he didn't mean anything by any of it at all, that or your friend is going to smile pleasantly for a few moments, then shelve the unwanted gift for a few years out of guilt before it ends up, still dusty, in a wine box destined for some ignoble thrift shop, you needn't trouble yourself, really, he's angry enough as it is, can't you see, for suffering the imposition of sitting for the inept shutterbug they sent over, who wouldn't be able to capture true grit and gravitas if it fell on him from the heavens, or spewed upward from the other place, which is likely where this particular scenario was thought up, to pose and make him feel even more put upon than he'd thought imaginable to this point, when you walked in to the store and demanded to see the twisted and unspeaking lips of the man whose voice you'd like in your head for the next 47 nonconsecutive evenings devoted to the great task of reading, which isn't even what you're doing now, you're looking at a picture that's crying out, dear mercy, close this book and get on with your life.

Monday, January 08, 2007

If New York didn't exist, Woody Allen would've invented it

(Comforting truth that makes me feel a little bit younger despite that upcoming birthday: This clip's older than me.)

Whenever I hear the Prelude to Bach's Partita #3 in E Major

I can't help thinking of the plinky little MIDI version that came with one of the early versions of SimCity. Timeless classical music and a computer game series that spawned a revolution: like peanut butter and chocolate.

I got my hand X-rayed today

Sometimes I feel like it's my job to go to the doctor's. I mean, there are weeks where I literally visit a place of medical practice every single day. I feel like the old people at the end of the Seuss book, Oh the Places You'll Go. And why do they make appointments for noon if they know they can't really see you until 12:35? While pondering such realities, I noticed an older woman patient come back into the lobby and then ask a staff member near the desk for her technician by name, the way you do after a haircut or a manicure, and I could see what was coming. The woman wanted to give her radiology technologist a tip. Which was sweet I guess, but hadn't she been around long enough to know that you just don't do that. The poor staff member had to refuse the woman's offer like two dozen times, saying, Thank you, that's sweet, but it's against policy. And everyone in the waiting room could hear, so even if the technician secretly wanted to take the woman's money, she couldn't, because it was all out in the open.

Which reminds me of another story related to tipping, one I heard in church last month: An apartment dweller finds a card on his door around the holidays. It says, "Joy to the World. From the custodial staff." The apartment dweller smiles, and forgets about it for a week. Then, he returns home again to find another card, same design, taped up to the door like before. It says, "Joy to the World. Second Notice!"

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm losing track of time

I sent out a letter in the mail earlier in the evening, and just realized I put the wrong date on it. I wrote the 9th, and said I regretted it not arriving in time for the 10th, but now it'll arrive one of those days, most likely, and might cause some momentary headscratching. I don't think the recipient of the card reads this space anymore, but if you do, please realize that I just made a mistake. Who needs to date stuff anymore? Checks and handwritten cards, both going by the wayside more and more in my life, although not entirely.

Our blog archives are the selves you weren't yet around to know

So many of my blog posts have been vacuous recently, I feel the need to reflect for a moment: When you meet someone new, it's like drawing a point on a page and extending a line in one direction. Maybe it's a continous line, more likely it's dotted or dashed. But it goes in just one direction: the one way time is all dragging us. But then there are blogs (or journals or letters or books or stories before them). Unedited, they sit out there in cyberspace, inviting you to find out what it was like to have been there earlier. If you are really taken by a person, you might be jealous of the past for not having been there to have drawn a line through that earlier time. Or otherwise you're left feeling retrospectively paralyzed for not having been there to try to make things a little easier at the time, to offer a hand, a word or two. Each unedited, unredacted post is potentially a letter to the future people we haven't met yet.

Capsouto Freres

For this first time in our 12-year up-til-this-summer-mostly-long-distance friendship, K. and I got to celebrate my birthday together. We met up for a late dinner at Capsouto Freres, which is way down there in the northwest corner of Tribeca. The dining space is refreshingly open, thanks to the almost-on-the-river location, and the service was great. I had a really interesting appetizer as a part of their prix-fixe menu: Terrine Provencale, a thin layering of eggplant, zucchini, red peppers and other veggies interspersed with savory pastry. The grilled mahi-mahi, which for some reason I only ever seem to eat on special occasions, was wonderful, and the blueberry crepe topped everything off just right: that perfect feeling of having eaten just enough quality food but not too much. Plus, my decaf capp. was served with these fun little candied lemon rinds that I've never seen before. I drank a sauvignon blanc with dinner, which is really a great go-to white wine, if I'm ever in doubt. Earlier in the day, I had my first tarte flambee since Strasbourg. For whatever reason, it was listed on the bar menu in a French-themed watering hole as flammkuchen, the German word for the Alsatian standby.

A bittersweet thing about global warming

is that while the trend has potentially dreadful consequences, it can be so lovely in the meantime to experience temperatures in the high 60s during the middle of January. To walk around in short sleeves and feel a warm breeze catch you on the street corner. To feel more like you're somewhere in Latin America instead of the Northeast. What a memorable day.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

'So it turns out Macs are for lazy people, not stupid people'

And she's OK with that. This, from a certain someone who made fun of my iMac months ago, and then proceeded to play with the Photo Booth function and have a good time, and now is an owner of a MacBook Pro! Stuff I learned last night ... from a video chat between Macs.

In other news, H., C. and I ate at the We.Vill. Chinese cafeteria tonight (aka Mama Buddha on Hudson) and then had Magnolia cupcakes (little pieces of heaven), appropriately enjoyed in (unofficial) Magnolia Cupcake Park, the one with the chess benches and the trash cans filled with square cardboard bakery boxes right across the street.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Brain gender

I remember a time in college when those Spark personality tests were all the rage. Here's one backed up by a little more evidence from the BBC that attempts to figure out whether your brain is more masculine or feminine. I fell in the middle, about 1/4 of the way from the male average and 3/4 of the way from the female average.