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

MyStump

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.

Tonight

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

[x]

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.