Friday, December 31, 2010

Brooklyn Museum

I went with U-Chan and her mom to the Brooklyn Museum to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit. His works are a bit too archly sentimental for my taste, but it was interesting to see how he designed his pictures. He had his models pose over and over, variations on his chosen scenes, with a photographer snapping away. He'd then basically crop his favorite bits from multiple photos and project them onto the canvas for the final, detailed work. Very cool.

African Art

I like what they've done with their African gallery. This is an antelope headdress from Mali, from the 19th C but it feels very modern with the abstract but clean lines:

16th Century artifact, apparently one of the oldest known ivory carvings in Africa:

This face was beautifully rendered:

A chair for the chief:

A wooden mask:
A beaded elephant mask:

American Art

From the gallery of American art, I really liked this 2007 piece by Valerie Hegarty called "Fallen Bierstadt" (although I've only captured the top portion of the work ... the lower portion is a bunch of broken pieces on the floor):

Here's "Jonah and the Whale: Rebirth Motif" (by John Flannagan, 1937):

I believe this one is called "Cops and Headlights":

Better than a trip to the zoo, because the animals don't hide from you!

Fred Tomaselli

The serendipitous discovery of the day was the Fred Tomaselli exhibit. In a word: Wow! Or maybe: Psychadelic!

Most of his works were essentially collages and other layers (e.g., paint) embedded in resin.

Of the works we were permitted to photograph, here are some of my favorites.

Here's a closeup of one:

Many of his pieces evoke the feeling of mille fleurs, including this one (this is just a close-up):

Some of the more recent works involved painting over the front page NYT photo, often to amazing effects.

I liked this one because it superimposes an Asian style ocean scene on the tent compound; the tents are like barks offering shelter in the storm.

This photo of victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq was striking because I have seen old paintings of martyred Christian saints rendered in this sort of Byzantine style:

Some of the artist's NYT works were more overtly political in nature, such as laser beams coming out of the eyes of politicians of a particular party...

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It was a lovely Christmas. Presents were opened, movies were watched, books were read, puzzles were solved, games were played.

I watched The Secret Garden (1993), Children of the Stones (1977), Point Blank (1967), Cheaper by the Dozen (1950), and two others. The quality of the movies varied. I found Point Blank slow, repetitive and unsatisfying. Although Children of the Stones reminded me of Hot Fuzz (2007), the later movie was far more entertaining. By far the best movie of the week - and one of the very best I've seen all year - was The King's Speech (2010). In theaters now. Go see it.*

Books read or listened to: The Cat in the Hat (Geisel); Emil's Pranks (Lindgren); The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien); A Fly Went By (McClintock); The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me (Dahl); and Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat (Watterson).

Artists were commissioned for the occasion. Here we have a seascape:

And here a frostscape behind the antique bottles:
We also broke in a Wii which had been lying around for a year. So fun - and kinda addictive. Each game, even the non-competitive ones, had incentives to keep us playing. The whole family tried bowling, and everyone had a chance to shine. Sword fighting and boxing got my heart rate up... My back is still sore!

FN* Come to think of it, if anyone needs a living actor who could pull off the Frank Gilbreth character in Cheaper by the Dozen in a new remake that would be as charming as the 1950 version, I hereby nominate Colin Firth.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

I'm suddenly on a great productivity kick. I invented my own pumpkin soup recipe from odds and ends in my kitchen: 2/3 of a can of pumpkin purée, some vanilla soymilk and water to achieve the right consistency, thin slices of bell pepper and onion, then oregano, curry powder, chili powder, nutmeg, salt, and rosemary to taste. It was savory and delicious.

Meanwhile I got two loads of laundry underway in time to watch the finale of The Sing-Off in the lounge. (Just now Sara Bareilles was singing with the Backbeats - pretty cool.)

And did I mention I got the first 5 Christmas cards out the door this morning? Including the card to my visitee.

So it's all good.

Christmas Spirit

The entertainment this weekend was intensely Christmas-focused, with Handel's Messiah on Friday at Lincoln Center, Balanchine's Nutcracker on Saturday (also at Lincoln Center), and the annual FAPC Cider Sing on Sunday. Fabulosity!

At the cider sing, our director wanted us to alternate sacred and secular songs, but we didn't have quite the hoped-for selection of secular songs in our packet. So we added in two from memory: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (very successful! many of us know all the interjections as well!) and Frosty the Snowman (we mumbled our way through the chorus and the first verse). We'll rectify that next year. The crowds were smaller than in previous years, but no less appreciative. And it was nice having Nathan right in front with his amazing voice to guide us and wow the passers-by.

In any event, the NEXT/Family Ministries cider sing was my third caroling event of the season - and as always my favorite. We celebrated with burritos afterward.

Christmas Obbligato

This year, I've been much more organized than usual in terms of buying gifts. I was done weeks ago. (Whether the recipients will like the gifts is an entirely different question -- inspiration was a bit erratic.) And they are all wrapped. And some have even been given already. But I've been weirdly unmotivated to do a lot of other things. Like packing for my trip. Or figuring out whether I'm taking a bus or renting a car from Boston. Part of the problem is that my hosts will be coming back from their travels the same day that I've planned to arrive on their doorstep -- and I don't know what time they will be back, or even whether they might (for example) like to have a day to themselves before I show up.

But the lethargy is a bit more far-reaching and insidious than this narrow issue. I feel like I have no energy. All I want to do when I'm not out at some organized activity is crank up the heat to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, eat, sleep, and read the final Harry Potter book in French. In particular, I have been desperately avoiding writing and sending Christmas cards (really, any excuse will do). Also a bit of minimal clean-up and organization of my stuff seems incredibly daunting. (Really? In a Manhattan studio apartment? How extensive can it be???)

The mindless snacking habit is a dangerous one to foster, though luckily I have a lot of carrots, spinach, and romaine lettuce to snack on....

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Musical Weekend

Everyone scheduled their Christmas parties for Friday night, so I went to the one that was most likely to feature riotous dancing. The music was actually somewhat less conducive to dancing than I anticipated... but on the upside, I was invited to a concert Saturday night.

I quickly scuttled my original plans for Saturday because the concert was pretty much one-of-a-kind: a concert for the composer Elliott Carter's 102nd birthday. I am not particularly plugged into the world of modernist classical music, but I just happened to know about Mr. Carter, in particular, by sheer happenstance. (A year or two ago, I once randomly ran into a friend on the subway late at night, and she told me she'd been at an event for Mr. Carter and explained who he was. It made quite an impression!)

This particular "community orchestra" is made up of professionally trained, professional caliber musicians - most of whom are pursuing other high-profile careers. So when they convinced Mr. Carter to show up as the guest of honor, they pretty much pulled out all the stops. The location was both swank and intimate (the Stanley Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center). At the entrance, there was a lovely chocolate cake, home-made by one of the orchestra members and hand-decorated with metric modulation motifs. After the show, each concert-goer could take a cupcake (in a nice cupcake box) in honor of the birthday boy.

The program was more challenging than I'm used to (I take my classical music very classical, thank you very much), but I really enjoyed the Carter works in the first half of the program. The clarinet concerto was playful and even funny at times. Mr. Carter was sitting two rows behind me, so I went up to him at intermission and just smiled and said Thank you, I'm really enjoying your works. The Carter works in the second half were equally interesting but more lugubrious. They were flanked by Stravinsky and Ives, which I liked.

All in all, an extraordinary evening.

So that was Saturday night. Sunday morning I was up bright and early for a service of lessons and carols at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. I went there with friends since I'll probably miss the Travelers' Christmas Eve service at my church this year. I didn't know what to expect, but imagine my delight when I walked in and saw the Redeemer Symphony Orchestra on stage. A full orchestra and a chorus to sing Christmas carols with us and perform Christmas anthems for us. Yes!

After that, I caught up with some folks from my church to sing Christmas carols for the homeless at my church's party. We sang two sets, including secular and sacred favorites ranging from Jingle Bells to Joy to the World. (Hmm. That sounds like we only sang songs that began with a "J", doesn't it?) Probably Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer would have gone over well with the crowd, too, but we didn't sing those.

Three big musical events in one weekend? Sheer bliss.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My First Hockey Game

My R.A. in my freshman year in college was a big hockey fan, and she awoke in me an urge to see a hockey game. Not an I-must-see-it-now urge, nor even a I-must-see-it-before-I-die urge, but more of a feeling that this would be something fun to do some time with friends.

But in all the years since, though I floated the possibility from time to time, I got no takers. (Z did promise to take me to a hockey game, one of several unsolicited promises he made.)

This Thanksgiving, however, I happened to mention to my parents that I'd never been to a hockey game. We went from talking about it to buying the tickets within 30 minutes! Two days later, we were at a UNH hockey game: UNH vs. Merrimack College!!

It was a blast, and the UNH band was one of the real highlights of the occasion - great spirit and great tunes. My favorite was their cover of a Lady Gaga song:

Although a close runner-up was the Darth Vader theme they played at another point in the game:

The UNH goalie Matt DiGirolamo made an amazing 41 saves over the course of the game, allowing Merrimack College just one goal. As this statistic may suggest, the rest of the UNH team didn't quite have its act together in the first half of the game. It seemed like every time they tried to pass the puck to each other, it went to a Merrimack player! But luckily UNH pulled it together and got two goals in the third period, leading to a 2-1 victory.

All in all, it was an exciting game, especially in the final 2 minutes when Merrimack replaced its goalie with another player and put all their efforts on offense. They kept the puck near the UNH goal and kept going at it, again and again - but to no avail. (Hooray!)

One interesting phenomenon - the crowd chants. It seemed like part of the UNH fans' team spirit involved telling the opponents "You suck!" Really? Seems a little unsporstmanlike, but maybe I misheard.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Gone with the Wind

A colleague gave me a copy of Gone with the Wind and so, despite its daunting bulk, I decided to give it a shot.

What did I know about the story, going into it? I knew that it was supposed to be a sweeping romantic saga set in the antebellum south. I knew the names Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara, and I knew that the former said to the latter something along the lines of "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." I knew there was an unauthorized parody (or putative parody) from a slave's perspective called The Wind Done Gone, which was at loggerheads with the author's estate in the copyright arena. And that's about it.

One of my high school friends was crazy about the movie and had watched it many times. (This same friend used to invent variations on the plot and characters from the original Star Wars trilogy, which had similarly captured her imagination; I have the impression she did the same with GwtW.)

So. Some reactions. To be perfectly honest, the writing is risible at times -- the opening paragraphs are filled with clumsy and unnecessarily specific detail in the style of "I'm so happy to survey my plantation, Tara, with its red clay soil and 327 slaves, Scarlett O'Hara thought, as she put her lily-white hand on her 16-inch waist. For her mind could not handle complex thoughts, a quality she inherited from her irascible father, Gerald, who had killed a man on the corner of Walk and Don't Walk back in his small Irish hometown of Incroyable, as opposed to her saintly mother Ellen who would have died rather than speak harshly to another human being." In fact, the Scarlett-Rhett interactions remind me of Bella and Edward from the Twilight series, in that the characters flip back and forth between just a few basic settings rather than a fully nuanced, compelling range of emotions. But still . . . somehow . . . I found the story compelling.

I spent most of the book thinking Scarlett is evil . . . and yet, though I didn't like Scarlett, I still wanted her to figure out that Rhett was the right match for her.* At about the half-way mark, when it looked like Scarlett was going to marry anyone and everyone but Rhett, I skipped ahead to find out the context for his famous quote. I'd always figured it was a reckless, devil-may-care, passionate statement (i.e., I want to be with you, I don't give a damn what anyone thinks) and was shocked to see it was just about the opposite.

This slowed down my reading considerably, now that I knew that all the misery Scarlett was going through was not even going to be redeemed by a union with the man who was made for her.

But still I had to come back to the novel. The tragedy here, for me, is not the loss of the amazingly gracious and civilized antebellum south. It's Ms. O'Hara-Hamilton-Kennedy-Butler's total inability to see the difference between real love and her fantasy of what love is supposed to be. Ashley never gives her any reason to believe they would be a good match. Not one. And yet her stubborn devotion to her idea of Ashley destroys her chance for real happinesswith Rhett.

How incredibly depressing.


FN* C.S. Lewis explored the distinction between liking someone and caring about their well-being in his discussion of the mandate to Love thy neighbor as thyself:
[W]e might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbor as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself?

Now that I come to think of it, I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently 'Love your neighbor' does not mean 'feel fond of him' or 'find him attractive'. ... In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do. ... However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. ...
Even while we kill and punish [evil-doers] we must try to feel about [them] as we feel about ourselves -- to wish that [they] were not bad, to hope that [they] may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish [their] good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving [one's neighbor]: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.

(Mere Christianity, Book III, ch. 7).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Wish List

My mom asked me over Thanksgiving what I wanted for Christmas, and I couldn't think of anything. All I could say at the time was I have everything I want or need (with the silent qualifier, ...that money can buy). My mom was disappointed with this response, and I felt bad about it too. But who wants more stuff to store in a NYC apartment??

Now that I'm shopping for the rest of my family, however, I can think of a LOT of things I want. Neither extravagant nor routine, but perfectly suitable gift items that would be useful and enjoyable, a real treat. And it's too late! My parents are incommunicado until just before Christmas.

It's all I can do to keep my self-gifting to a minimum. The secret (I think) is to keep a running list of what I want so I will know the next time people might want to get me something.

Monday, November 22, 2010


I was thrilled to accept an invitation to a sneak preview of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (scheduled for release 12/10/10). It turned out to be a day and time that did not work well for a lot of people, but I was able to get there an hour and a half early! I was 10th in line. The folks behind me were church planters of Presbyterian and Baptist origin, and I enjoyed eavesdropping on their conversation for a while, when I wasn't busy watching the small child in front of me who was using his dad as his personal jungle gym. The church planters were not current Redeemerites, but were certainly familiar with the church.

Picking up the tickets went smoothly, and I was able to give my guest ticket to a friend who ended up sprinting across town, racing the clock to get to the movie before the lock-down.*

To my surprise and delight, Kathy Keller introduced the movie. She said that as a child, she'd had the impression that C.S. Lewis was her great discovery, and she'd written letters to C.S. Lewis in hopes of encouraging him as a writer. (This was apparently toward the end of his life, when he and his works had been well-known for decades; they just were not known to her to be well-known.) She speculated that she'd been invited to introduce this screening of Voyage of the Dawn Treader because she had similarly pestered the movie-makers (albeit with a different motive - to help them get the important details right in translating the book into cinematic form).

The movie was a delight from the very opening credits. It starts with an idyllic animated scene which gradually becomes real-life action.

What was right with this film? Where to start? The characters were immensely appealing. I think I liked Lucy better in this film than in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Also liked Reepicheep better than in Prince Caspian (or indeed, in the original books - I'd always found him shrill and annoying, even in print); I think they took care to humanize the rat in significant ways in this film.

And Eustace was absolutely perfect. From the very beginning, he is an unbearable snot; creepy, selfish and vicious. This inner nature is soon revealed externally as well, as he is transformed into a dragon. Over the course of the movie, he is un-dragoned and is eventually revealed as a warm and genuine human being. The actor (and heck, probably the director and screenwriters, credit all round!) did an amazing job at communicating this change in a deeply convincing way.

In the book, Eustace is un-dragoned by Aslan. There is no other way. He tries to peel off the dragon skin himself, and is encouraged by the ease with which he can do it... only to realize in dismay that there are more dragon layers underneath each time. Aslan's claws are needed to perform the necessary surgery -- painful, but thorough -- to strip away the dragon skin. In the movie, Eustace is still un-dragoned by Aslan, in a brief and gorgeous CGI scene, but it does not carry the same focus and emotional resonance. (I have a feeling that we may owe Kathy Keller a debt of gratitude for making sure that Eustace at least explains what happened afterward.) In fact, the movie seems to show two, possibly as many as three, potential causes for the un-dragoning of Eustace. One, the proximate cause, is Aslan's removal of the dragon skin. However a second, and almost equally significant cause, is the courageous and generous friendship of Reepicheep. It is clear in the film that Reepicheep loves and seeks after Aslan; and surely such persons can do Aslan's work in loving and encouraging those whose true Narnian nature is hidden under hideous dragon skin.

Some Christians - perhaps especially Catholics? - might see a third possible "cause" for the un-dragoning, based on the good works that Eustace does as a dragon. This too is a deviation from the book. Eustace spends a lot of time in the movie as a dragon, cajoled on to acts of heroism by Reepicheep. He saves everyone from destruction several times using his dragon powers (he lights a fire on the beach so they don't freeze to death; he pulls the ship when they're stuck; he knocks out a sea monster temporarily with a fire-blast to the face; and he is the one to break the spell on Ramandu's Island). So he has seemingly redeemed himself, in some sense, by saving everyone. There are some advantages and disadvantages of this choice; certainly it makes more for more cinematic excitement to have Eustace banging around as a dragon for an extended period. And there's a great scene where he grabs Edmund and swoops with him over the island so he can see the words "I AM EUSTACE" written in flames on the barren land.

There's more to say on this, maybe after December 10. Some more initial thoughts and impressions, to be fleshed out later:
  • I wasn't entirely convinced that Edmund's temptation would still take the form of the White Witch. Surely the evil forces could have come up with something better than that?
  • Interesting to replace Lucy's "innocent" magic spell gone wrong (the spell to hear what people "really" think of her, which exposes her to nasty gossip), with a more popular be-yourself message. However, the way the new spell works is very intriguing -- her wish to be as beautiful as her sister results in an alternate reality in which Lucy becomes Susan. I thought this was going in one direction, with the perils of vanity, but we quickly learn that in this alternate reality, Lucy herself does not exist. Her brothers and she are all in America (since she has no sister) and they have never heard of Aslan or Narnia, since it was Lucy who discovered the wardrobe. I'm getting shivers just thinking about it.
  • There are a few sops to feminism or modernity (I think) which seemed a little unnecessary. For example, a little girl who has no real reason to be on the boat other than the fact that she is female. And a comment by Caspian to Lucy about how grown up she is, which seemed designed to fend off a rather idiotic but oft-stated theory about why Lucy gets to go to Aslan's world while Susan doesn't.
  • The entire dufflepuds scenario was beautifully realized. I love the big reveal when they are finally made visible - some cute and clever choices, visually, that C.S. Lewis probably never dreamed of.
Oh, there's more. This was a good movie, and a lot of fun. Looking forward to watching it again.

FN* And indeed, there was a bit of a lock-down. Even though the preview audience was composed primarily of church groups, they were not taking any chances. Our instructions said not to bring any recording devices, including camera phones. Really? Who can spend a day without their mobile phone? And who can even find a camera-free mobile phone these days? Even the free phones that you get for signing a 2-year contract have cameras in them. So the bottom line is, they confiscated everyone's phones at the entrance to the movie theatre. (If you paused to think about whether you had a mobile device with you, as I did, they went ahead and waved a wand at you and detected that there was such a device in your purse.)

Luckily, they'd thought through the logistics and had a check tag for each person to take, and each phone was wrapped in the matching receipt, secured by a rubber band. They also had ziplock bags -- just in case someone had a multi-part recording device of some kind, I imagine. I didn't see any cameras on the table, just phones. So that speaks well of our collective law-abiding intent. Or at least I know that my phone is incapable of taking a device that could in any way undercut the demand for any movie. Even in good light and focused on nearby unmoving objects, the resulting low-resolution, blurry images could be pretty much anything.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Be Thankful, Or Else.

In my life, there can be long stretches without any particularly big Social Occasion. I'll always find something to do, of course, but it's nice to have something Really Official now and then.

So I was happy when one of the co-leaders of my home fellowship group offered to host a Thanksgiving Luncheon at my home on November 20th. (This is more generous than it sounds, because he is living there at the moment, and therefore has full right, title and possession of all cleanup duties.)

Then, a week or two later, I was invited to another early Thanksgiving Feast! This through my church. How exciting! Except... how strange. Also on November 20th. Well, at least this would be a Thanksgiving Dinner. With a full seven (7) hours between the start of the Thanksgiving Lunch and the Thanksgiving Dinner, I was optimistic that I could enjoy both.

Then, about 10 days before the the Great Events, I was invited to a friend's birthday dinner, with karaoke to follow. Isn't that nice? But - oh, horror! - also on November 20th. In the evening. At the same time as the Thanksgiving Dinner. I had one hope - the guest of honor was already planning to attend the Thanksgiving Lunch. Surely the birthday hosts did not wish to overwhelm her by non-stop festivities throughout the day? Alas, they did wish to overwhelm her. The birthday girl was totally on board with the plan. And so was the host of the Thanksgiving Lunch (who was also invited to both events). I did my best to salvage the evening - I would at least attend the Birthday Karaoke after the Thanksgiving Dinner, energy permitting.

As the Magnificent Events loomed ever larger in view, one more email crossed my inbox. Aaack! No! It can't be! But alas, yes, as fate would have it. One of the Thanksgiving Dinner attendees was also born on November 20th! So she wanted everyone to stick around for Birthday Dancing after the Thanksgiving Dinner.

But seriously, it was a lovely day. I had time in the morning for a few errands. The Thanksgiving Lunch was a dream of elegance and delight. Amazing to see my old place with a banquet table covered in fabric. The food was delicious, the company delightful. I especially liked the carrot soufflé (it wasn't really a soufflé from a technical perspective, almost more of a pudding, but really, really good). I ate a little of many things, but more than I'd planned. We played movie charades afterward, with some gender-bending highlights. Jenn got us to guess the first syllable of "Pee-Wee Herman's Big Adventure" by miming the use of an appendage that she does not have. Ryan got his team to guess the last word of "There's Something About Mary" by miming the Passion, and then miming childbirth. We could not stop laughing about that - there were surely easier and less graphic ways to get across the concept of motherhood, but there are probably not funnier ways to do it. That was a classic.

My main contribution was putting the first word Throw and last word Train together to guess (correctly) Throw Momma From the Train. My teammates seemed astonished by this act of mindreading, but it seemed pretty straightforward to me at the time.

I ended up acting out my film title by simply looking sad and encouraging my team to come up with synonyms (crying! melancholy! depression!) until someone stumbled on the blues - I gave this a big thumbs-up, and Jenn immediately made the mental leap to The Blues Brothers.

After this, I went home and took a nap, but I was still too full for dinner when I finally got to the Thanksgiving Dinner. I didn't need to worry about duplication; the event was very different in venue, form, and feeling from the Thanksgiving Lunch. It had more of the feeling of a cocktail party and buffet, assisted by a very cool cocktail lounge area under the front lobby of Matt's building. The lounge opens to the lobby for a very spacious feeling - but it also meant that the moment I entered the building I knew where the gang was, as I heard familiar, well-carrying voices wafting up from the common room. That was a fun time, and the Birthday Dance celebrant pretty much convinced me to abandon the rival Birthday Karaoke event by the simple expedient of announcing that the dance party would continue at Matt's place rather than a club. Wow! A brilliant coup. The scheme would have worked ... I was going to stay and dance and then see if I still felt like going to karaoke ... except that Ryan called to see if I was still coming to the Birthday Karaoke and to tell me they only had the room for 2 hours. Rats. He called my bluff.

So I didn't end up dancing at all, but instead went off to karaoke in K-town. A strange but wonderful day.

I was so tired Sunday, which was also a full day. On duty at church, a weird tell-two-strangers-about-your-biggest-faith-struggles conversation, watched Fair Game, and then enjoyed pizza and conversation with friends in Brooklyn Heights.

A lot to be thankful for. But I just realized this turned into kind of a Brooklyn weekend as well. There's really no escape, is there?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Writers Mtg I

fluorescent glare
chocolate headache
a long string of tables
skittering of keyboards
among the sighing of paper
heads bowed
in reverence to the written word
the word being written
our words, or thine

Veterans Day at the Chocolate Show

I'd never been to the NYC Chocolate Show before -- the few times I'd stumbled across it or thought of attending, the lines were rather daunting. But at 4:30 pm on Veterans Day, there was no line to get in, and the booths were not excessively crowded.

The William Dean chocolates were pretty.

Some of their chocolates were actually airbrushed (I'll upload that picture later).

My favorite sample was actually a plain chocolate truffle from Fifth Avenue Chocolatiere, made with creme fraiche and served slightly cool. Absolutely delicious.

The price is a bit steep (I don't think I sampled anywhere near $30 worth of chocolate), but I did enjoy the samples and some demonstrations.

I left in time for a writers group meeting, which was focused on the concept of "holy ground" and the nature of a calling -- the discussion was organized around the story of Moses and the burning bush. (More on this later.)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

JP Morgan Museum & Libraries

For the afternoon, we went to the Pierpont Morgan Museum and Library. None of us had been there before. We liked the permanent collection best.

The library was pretty cool, especially with the free audio guide to explain some of the more subtle features and history. I just wish they had opened the bookcases so we could actually see the hidden spiral staircases!

In the study, they had some delicately carved cylinder seals and other ancient collectable items.

The cranes on these cups were really cool, very naturalistic. On the lower cup, one crane appears to be eating a plant (maybe a cattail?) while the other seems to be interested in a snake:

We enjoyed a light lunch and vintage cocktails (a Rob Roy and a Grapefruit Gimlet), then tackled the special exhibits. We got through those fairly quickly, then wandered around outside the building.

There were some big cats behind the fence, which is appropriate for a library in New York:

But these were not lions like the NYPL:

I think they might be lionesses - unless someone can identify the cat?

We really liked the ironwork:

We had a bit of extra time to fill on our way to the restaurant (appropriately enough, Il Gattopardo - The Leopard), so we stopped into the NYPL to see the photography exhibit on the 3rd floor. It filled our purposes very well, and for exactly the right price! Some of the photographs were pretty interesting, and there were some nice groupings (e.g., people caught in mid-air; people raising their hands; dog pictures).

We also saw this statue of a girl crossing a log:

Dinner was nice and unrushed until we realized two hours had rolled by and we needed to make our way to Studio 54 for a revival of Brief Encounter. En route, we saw fireworks!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ghouls and Gourds and Pukk

After a good sermon today (sermon title: "Spit"), I picked up some stuff from the container store and then headed home. Before I could unpack or install the stuff, I got a very strong urge to go to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. After reflecting for about 30 milliseconds, I called Diane to see if she'd like to meet me there in 45 minutes, checked that the place would still be open when we got there, and headed off to Brooklyn.

It was one of those amazingly right decisions. We stumbled on their annual fall festival for families. There was great fiddle music on the main lawn:

And everywhere, kids in adorable costumes. I loved this interracial grouping: a Dragon, Supergirl, and a Candy Corn:

As the fiddling concert ended, we saw that a band called Slavic Soul Party was playing at the other end of the green. So we started making our way over to see them.

We missed most of the crafts, but we saw their pumpkin & gourd artwork:

LOVE the tiger outfit with the ginger hair. Too cute!

They had a book barn, with painted animal reader scenes. The horse here is reading "Animal Farm":

While the pig is reading "Brick House Building":

Slavic Soul Party was so much fun! They had the whole crowd bopping and jumping. We ran into several people that Diane knew, and one of them mentioned that this band plays every Tuesday at a local club. I'll have to check it out.

In this picture, I was trying to capture the kid being hugged by the green spider (he was also carrying a bucket of eyeballs, how cute is that?!) but I really liked the protective gesture of the older sister here:

Holy cow!

Once this concert wrapped up, we continued our exploration. Some lovely gourds:

A few chickens were loose, but they didn't seem to be causing much trouble:

But we didn't get far before the sound of drums and the sight of pageantry brought us right back to the main lawn. Sargent Pepper led the Halloween parade:

He was followed by folks on stilts:

It made me think of a medieval religious procession:

Except with giant puppet costumes:

I think this is the kid of Diane's friends:

Water lilies:

The pageant from another angle:

A gloriously uplifting and fun afternoon. Just what the doctor ordered!

After this, I met up with U-chan and Hika-chan for dinner... and Len and her boyfriend Mike were able to make it too! We went to Pukk, a Thai restaurant which turns out to be 100% pure vegetarian. Including the chicken and duck.