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
air-in-blood
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

Wasabi-mnesia

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.