Wednesday, April 30, 2008
-The restaurant Le Cirque: Thumbs up, if you don't have to be the one paying. The food is good, the space is light and airy, and the stuffiness is bearable. First time I've actually eaten there since attending the opening party a few years ago.
-The soon-to-be-released book Slackonomics: Thumbs up, even if you're not actually a Gen X'er. (I'm sort of on the cusp by some definitions). Trenchant and amusing portrait of an underappreciated generation.
-The old book Liar's Poker: In a roundabout way, the most convincing reason yet for why I didn't join a fraternity - or anything like one.
-The somewhat new movie Married Life: Didn't know a thing about it when I noticed it was playing at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, except that Patricia Clarkson was in it, and I have yet to see a film starring her that I didn't like. Turned out to be a lightly satisfying hybrid of '50s period piece, understated thriller and comedy of manners, all with a respectable cast of some big names (Chris Cooper, Pierce Brosnan, Rachel McAdams). I'm glad I was ignorant of its middling score on Rotten Tomatoes, as it might've prevented me from liking it as much as I did. (I'm so easily swayed by that site sometimes.)
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The first was MultiStages' production of a new musical play, The Judas Tree at Teatro La Tea. Inspired by the true crimes of Dorothea Puente, it follows the story of Elena Fiero, a charismatic woman, a drifter once herself, who took some of society's outcasts into her boarding house and - to put it bluntly - helped them to die: sort of sexy Earth Mother meets Dr. Kevorkian, if you will. The book is imbued with the kind of Garcia Marquez-type magical realism that is wonderfully at home on the page, but can be a challenge to bring to the stage. That said, I have to say this production rises to that challenge admirably. The magic is mostly embodied by a team of five dancers that act like a Greek chorus of flowers in the main character's lush garden (she uses "natural" fertilizer that stinks to high heaven). The retired detective who is sent to investigate disappearances at the boarding house - and becomes deeply attracted to Elena - also sprinkles the action with fantasy, as he narrates part of the tale as the Judas tree of the title. Elena believes that she is bringing peace to troubled souls and reuniting them with the earth in the most wholesome way. The people of California, in a courtroom that frames the story, believe she committed premeditated murder dozens of times. Both views, one could argue, end up having their day. (Full disclosure: My girlfriend assisted on the show.)
High-wire artist Philippe Petit (with microphone) told us this afternoon - after the Tribeca Film Festival screening of Man on Wire, a documentary of his memoir - that he has been arrested hundreds of times, but it's usually for something fairly petty like trespassing, disorderly conduct or performing without a permit. The film follows his superior achievement, his "coup" of clandestinely rigging a wire between the top of the two tallest World Trade Center towers in August 1974 and dancing across them one morning. This is one of those moments in history that I've been fascinated by for years now. The latest film does a thrilling job of elaborating and expanding upon the feat that was such a touching part of Rick Burns' history of the trade center, "The Center of the World." That earlier film revealed Petit's walk in the clouds as the heartbreaking high point in the history of the buildings.
All references to 9/11 in Man on Wire, by James Marsh (in white shirt), are indirect and subtle: basically the appearance of airplanes at certain moments. Still, they are just enough. The film focuses on the joyful achievement. But that isn't to say it doesn't have dark undertones. Chiefly, the understanding that the clandestine preparations that Petit and his motley crew undertook to get him up there that morning 34 years ago has parallels with the terrorists who ultimately destroyed the towers and so many of their people. The secrecy, the planning, the obsession. I say this by no means to sully the work of Petit and his compatriots, which I would say ultimately added to the goodness in the world and this city, only to show how there is more in common between the towers' highs and lows than one might first imagine.
In both stories, I was struck by how Elena and Philippe were able to get other people to believe in their visions, however crazy they might seem.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Now, I've considered myself a fan of Philip Glass' music for more than a dozen years or so. I'm familiar with a lot of his work, and enjoy listening to it from time to time. But it's almost always in an audio recording or during a film (gotta love that cameo in The Truman Show). And there are times when I find the repetition and resistance to traditional dramatic arcs too much to take, too boring. Last night was one of those times. As much as I respect the Eastern tenets that inspired his approaches, sometimes - I agree with the New York mag review - I need some more Western-style progression, more purposeful direction, something to hold onto and move forward with. I believe this might be a case where I have to be in the right, receptive mood or circumstances to be able to experience the whole piece. And this was all the more disappointing because I wanted to learn more about Gandhi's life, and the structure of the work doesn't really share it with you if you're not already familiar with the particulars.
With all that said, I do still like Glass' music, but - perhaps I'm realizing - on my own terms and in my own timeframe. With that in mind, check out this cool online applet called the IBM Glass Engine that allows you to browse through his oeuvre by different criteria.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
-Overlook Terrace and West 184th Street: Formerly a rocky hard-to-develop hillside. Construction started on One Bennett Park (f/k/a Fort Tryon Tower): 25 stories, 114 units, fall 2009 move in. Next to the northeast entrance of the 181st Street A station.
-St. Nicholas Ave. and Audubon Ave. and West 165th Street: New home for Alianza Dominicana community services. Opening 2009.
-203 Cabrini Boulevard: Stop-work order in March for lack of a permit on a site planned to hold a three-family home.
-210 Bennett Avenue near West 190th Street: Permits have expired at site where property owner had planned 40 units of housing in December.
-Dyckman Street Substation near Henry Hudson Parkway: Plans by the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Economic Development for a cultural arts center in an Art Deco building that's been abandoned for more than 20 years.
-Broadway and West 192nd Street: Luxury condo with 63 units, first-floor retail and second-floor community space. Late '09.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
To begin with, she was rather late arriving on stage - no brisk, on-time appearance from the wings followed by a swift downbeat the way you can often expect from, say, the New York Philharmonic. Strangely, the theorbist, who was to accompany her during songs by Henry Purcell of the English baroque on an instrument that looks like a long-necked lute, came out first and started strumming lightly for a little bit, as if he were some sort of impromptu opening act. Then about a minute or two later, Ms. Battle walked out to thunderous applause, even an ovation from some in the audience. M. turned to me and said, "She hasn't even sung a note yet." Sure, she's a diva, but shouldn't people do a little work to earn it. She was wearing a black dress with a cape-like pinkish train that began at her chest and trailed off behind her like a wedding dress. Except that she didn't have any attendants to lift up the train, so she kept having to kick it out of the way at intervals. Distracting to say the least. And it didn't end there.
Now, I don't go to a lot of vocal recitals, and apparently neither did a lot of the audience members, because they clapped after the first of three Purcell songs. M. told me later that you're supposed to withhold your clapping until the end of a set, even if it isn't an official prescribed song cycle. That set the tone for the rest of the performance, which seemed to make Ms. Battle even more uncomfortable than she already looked at times. She was hesitant to fully embrace the audience's ardor between songs of a set.
She sang a lot of art songs, which can be beautiful and moving, but weren't so much so during the first half. I enjoyed the Mendelssohn and Faure pieces after the intermission. Throughout, she had this habit of pausing for longer than necessary between songs, of turning her back on the audience literally and figuratively, of staring up at the ceiling as if searching for divine help. She reminded me of a batter stepping outside of the batter's box, gesturing to her accompanist, another musician who played the piano for most of the program, as if to the umpire and pitcher to give her another few seconds to compose her self. She adjusted her dress and kept kicking the train out of her way like one might tap his baseball bat against home plate and grab at the shoulders of a sweaty uniform.
Did she sing well? I guess so. She really didn't move me until her a capella version of the great Holy Week spiritual "Were You There?" The problem was, her body language was so distracting, I couldn't focus on her singing. Back at home, I read about how she had a reputation for being "difficult," and supposedly "unprofessional behavior" was the reason she got the pink slip from the little opera house down at Lincoln Center. It would seem she has the tendency to be her own worst enemy in terms of overall poor presentation detracting from her musicianship.
UPDATE: Just now reading the Times review of the recital. ... "More or less a re-entry recital." ... "Relative quiet was the rule on Sunday." ... "a few odd stage mannerisms." ... "Much of her music’s effect lay in the accompaniments." So, somewhat similar observations, I'd say. Although did the review get it wrong, saying that it was "Good News" that was unaccompanied? She went off program and slipped "Were You There?" in before the final two spirituals in the printed book, and I thought that was the one they went crazy over. Does someone need to brush up on their spirituals or am I not remembering correctly?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Monday, April 14, 2008
A few spoonfuls in, a girl in going-out mode approached me at the corner of Bleecker and Carmine to ask where Greenwich Avenue was. I told her it was about six blocks north of where we were, which turned out to be a pretty decent snap estimate. She looked at me as if I'd just told her she was in the wrong borough entirely, and proceeded to yell to her friends that they needed to get a cab. Now, I've never walked around in heels, but really. At the speed that the Saturday night traffic was going, they probably could've walked there faster.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
There were three or four kids at the table as well, all a lot more well behaved than the ones on the subway at midnight last night, during what I've taken to calling "third rush hour." The first two rush hours on the subways are obvious; the last one starts around 10 and extends until about 1 on weeknights, later on weekends. People coming home from or heading out to evening activities.
The park itself is starting to show signs of life here and there. And while it felt a little damp, the rain held off. The wait staff at New Leaf were wearing baseball caps emblazoned with MillionTreesNYC, the city's initiative to plant and care for a million trees in the next decade.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
-Accidentally getting caught up in the mafia
-Not finishing papers on time
-Talking to girls
-Being taunted about my wristwatch
-Having to speak in another language
-Watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
-Getting tooth filings
-Diving into a pool
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The opening acts were pretty cool, and the headliners' set began promisingly, with one band member saying, "This is the biggest show we've ever played." A few minutes in, though, things got loud. Really loud. And the problem is, since the band is so driven by morphing soundscapes, loud stays loud for a while. Distortion persists. I don't know who's fault this is in the end: the musicians or the venue. But I had to wonder whether they compensate for their lack of vocals by jacking up the volume. For me, intensity doesn't have to translate to turning the knobs up to 11. I think I'll continue to appreciate their recorded work, but won't bother to see them live again. Which is a pity, because a lot of their songs are so cool and trance-like.
The other thing that tonight's show taught me: I'm not a salesman. I couldn't find anyone who was free to join me, so upon arrival near the entrance to the venue, I gingerly held up my extra ticket. A guy who looked stoned yet determined - if that's possible - asked me if I'd take $5 for it. I hesitated, told him $10. He started to walk away. Two seconds later, I gave in for the lower price. I'd paid about $23 with fees included. I wonder if he actually used it or scalped it after me. I had a hunch it was the latter. The $5 just paid for one of the tasty empanadas that they were selling inside plus a dollar tip.
Monday, April 07, 2008
Saturday, April 05, 2008
We understand the inconvenience of having a construction site next to the area where you live and work, and promise to make every effort to make this process as inconvenient as possible.Um, yeah. Luckily, I haven't been awoken by any construction noise yet, knock on the wooden plaque full of city building permits.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Walked out carrying a big white box. Cabbed it home. Plugged things in
and within a few minutes, I was up and running again. For some reason,
Blogger's been crashing Safari a few too many times for my liking.
That's been about the only hiccup so far in terms of setup. Guess I'll
have to download Firefox and try that out. The display is much bigger
than my last one and the keyboard is much thinner. I'm still annoyed
at the whole situation. But I bought renter's insurance from Geico
today in all of about 10 minutes, so next time (heaven forbid there is
a next time) I'll be better prepared. Ugh.
after I mused on the wording of some other poor victim's lost-laptop
poster. The sad thing is that my thief will probably get something for
my computer since it's still in pretty good shape, despite being about
two and a half years old. Which makes me wonder: What is the average
useful life of computers these days? Any suggestions?