Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

This year, a friend hosted dinner for six in Brooklyn near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, and then led us via the scenic route to see the fireworks over Prospect Park.

This was pretty, covered with red velvet bows. 
A sculpture by Tom Otterness (there's a real manhole cover very near by).

There were a number of figures posed atop the train cars (now repurposed as shops in the DeKalb Market).
They looked like they were made of duct tape, but I imagine it was sturdier stuff.

The fireworks were nice, and the evening was mild - good for standing around and enjoying the free concert as well.  (Although it sounded like the band members were already well into their cups.)

I loved the heart-shaped fireworks, which I don't recall ever seeing before.  Here's a short clip that includes the heart at about 1:05 - so cool:

Afterward, we joined in a group hug (not usually my thing, but it works on New Year's Eve) and shared wishes for 2012.   

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jim Henson & the Islanders

In the afternoon, I headed into Queens for the Jim Henson exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image. On display were program proposals for a wide variety of programs (including some that were never produced), props, video clips, storyboards, and preliminary sketches, along with photos and writeups.

Of course, some of the preliminary sketches were pen or pencil on ruled notebook paper, etc.  Surely Mr. Henson would have laughed to see them professionally framed, matted and curated for his admiring fans to contemplate.  (It reminded me somehow of the fans' reverence for the muppets themselves -- essentially an inability to separate the muppet bodies from the performances that bring them alive -- and the puppeteers' clear-sighted understanding that these were just bits of fabric and styrofoam that could be thrown ignominiously into a drawer when not in use.)

Shortly after I started the circuit, right by the exhibit of Miss Peggy in a wedding dress, I saw none other than Frank Oz!  He was present solely in his capacity as a member of the museum-going public, with two companions (perhaps family members).  I might not have noticed, except that two kids approached and asked him if he were Frank Oz.  He admitted it, but asked them to keep it quiet.  They shook his hand and gushed about what he'd meant to their childhood (!).  He seemed pleased, but very worried about attracting attention.  The kids got in one question (why he performed his characters so rarely these days) which he answered (he said they don't ask him to).  Of course I found myself wondering how Mr. Oz felt seeing his former collaborator getting all the glory these days, but of course it's posthumous glory and so I'd say right now Mr. Oz may have the better deal.  (In the usual course of things, I suspect that Mr. Oz's friends and supporters will arrange retrospectives and fully celebrate his contributions only after it it too late for him to enjoy or be troubled by it.)  He agreed to a quiet photograph with the kids after they left the exhibit area.  He came across much as he did in the interview, as fully gracious and slightly reserved, and perhaps even slightly baffled at the attention.   I was tempted to say hello, but decided to honor his desire for anonymity and so kept quiet and just smiled to myself throughout the remainder of the exhibit.

It was neat to see some of Jim Henson's earliest work, from high school and University of Maryland (he apparently started up a poster company on campus), as well a photo of the pre-adolescent Jim posing as a snake charmer with creative use of a garden hose!

I enjoyed seeing some of the early commercials, and their storyboards. One of them was a spoof of Hansel and Gretel for an anti-shrink item (it makes sense: dryer = oven). This was quite timely given that I'd just seen one of my FAPC buddies perform in Opera Manhattan's show (music by Engelbert Humperdinck).  My favorite commercial: A muppet with a big old-fashioned camera announces he's going to shoot people who haven't tried product X; when the subject says "I haven't tried product X", of course the camera blows him off-screen; and then in a lovely twist, the muppet turns the camera to us and asks if we've tried product X.

I also liked the "visual imagination" video in which jazz scat takes over... and the main viewing area with extended clips from a good cross-section of the muppet show and others...

In the computer video gallery, I ran into G and her family - this serendipitous encounter resulted in (among other things) my stopping and enjoying a few episodes of Monsterpiece Theater (gotta love their version of Gone with the Wind), as well as a wonderful counting cartoon that takes us to the number 12.

Finally, I had to skedaddle to meet U and her family for my second-ever hockey game.  I made it just in time to U's place... but it turned out I needn't have hurried, since C was delayed getting home after work.  In the mean time, I was able to enjoy some homemade vegetable curry - yum!

Notice the new Jack Spade knit cap with built-in sunglasses!

So in the end we got there a little bit late, thus happily managing to miss the traffic and mayhem - and we snagged a wonderfully convenient parking spot!  We also had great seats:

When we first arrived, Calgary was leading 1-0.  This soon changed (thanks to #91, whose jersey now graces H's wardrobe) and eventually the Islanders won, 3-1.  

Victory was sweet!  We were true Islanders fans for the evening, except for our inability to join in the gratuitous cries of "Rangers suck!" after the game.  All the way home, C led us in a rousing chorus of call-and-response:  "EYYYYE-land-ers!" "YEAH!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Vaughan Woods, ME

Frost heave - ice crystals growing and pushing up the soil. 
Soft pine needles, gnarled roots.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Letterboxing / Boxing Day

My first-ever letterboxing adventure took place, appropriately enough, on Boxing Day.  It was the warmest and sunniest day of the long weekend.  

We started by climbing up a hill and crawling through the branches of a large dead tree on top.  

The first clue was not entirely accurate - the words on the rock are different from those described - but that just made it more rewarding when we finally managed to track down the hidden box.

The boxes are tupperware containers hidden from view, marked prominently with words such as "THIS IS NOT TRASH".  Inside each box is a sealed plastic bag which contains a logbook and a stamp.  

We looked though the log book - one of the prior visitors had this beautiful stamp.

Returning the box to its hiding place.
After the first two boxes, we lost the letterboxing trail, so we just wandered down for a walk on the beach.

Holey tree!

The rough and the smooth.

Natural fault.

Scylla & Charybdis?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tidings of Comfort & Joy

Christmas tree with gifts - watercolor on stock paper (gift from the artist, 2011)

Christmas tree with ornaments - wood, metal, and plastic (gift from G ca. 1991);
Additional ornaments - various materials and provenance (gifts from M, L)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quick Recap - Music

Thurs - Handel's Messiah at Lincoln Center.  I love how everyone stands up for the Hallelujah Chorus - it's sort of the 7th inning stretch.  Of course, my friends didn't think much of my suggestion for installing a  JumboTron in the concert hall.  Nor did they agree that we should "Occupy the Messiah" and make this a sing-in.  But there was one elderly gentleman in the balcony somewhere behind and above us who clearly agreed with me.  His voice, frail and thin and slightly off-key, floated just above the voices of the professional singers during the Hallelujah Chorus.  I'm sure he thought he was singing inaudibly, but it carried just enough for the folks in my section to hear it, and I couldn't stop smiling.  It reminded me so beautifully of my maternal grandfather, one of the sweetest men I've ever met.

Fri - University of Chicago's Motet Choir at FAPC.  All a cappella, a nice mix of secular, Christian and Jewish music, with a mini sing-along at the end (yippee!) of the two Christmas carols for which "everyone knows" a verse in another language.  For those keeping score at home, that would be a reference to O Come All Ye Faithful (Latin) and Silent Night (German).

Sat - no concerts, but my iPod came through with a very pleasing assortment of fabulous songs in Shuffle mode.  This was a relief, since recently I've found myself wondering whether I own any songs that are even vaguely tolerable.   Also saw the latest Twilight movie, which featured an exciting new trailer for the Hunger Games movie.  The Twilight movies have been a mixed bag (OK, the ones I've seen have been downright hokey with just a few redeeming moments), but I am very much looking forward to seeing the Hunger Games.

Sun - Christmas pageant at my church (spreading good cheer in endlessly new ways as children so often do) ...

... followed by our annual cider sing (yes, I will again appear in many tourists' photo albums).

This in turn was followed by a wonderful concert with the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony (their last hurrah before they leave for a concert tour in China).  I went to the concert because a friend of mine was their featured soloist for some selections from Carmen, but they also had a Christmas carol sing-along at the end.  Or nearly the end.  Because while we were all busy singing along with the orchestra, the conductor was busy off-stage... donning his DARTH VADER OUTFIT.  Total awesomeness.  He came back to conduct the final piece - John Williams "Star Wars" theme - in full costume, mask, cape, and all.  And he replaced his baton with a red light saber.*  So fun.

This clip captures an appropriate part of the theme (along with the back of someone's head, sorry about that!) ...


...while this clip gives perhaps slightly better glimpses of the conductor as he turns to acknowledge applause at the beginning and end of the segment:

*FN: Or at least it looked like a light saber.  I can only hope he had all necessary licenses to possess, carry and brandish such a weapon, given New York City's reputation as a "No-Issue" jurisdiction.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Still Miss Zuccotti Park

They've turned on the lights, at least, but with the metal barricades and Police Line Do Not Cross tape, I still can't walk across my beloved park at night:

Meanwhile, advertising in a nearby subway station is targeting a particular demographic:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Falling Snowflakes, Running Deer

About five minutes into today's hike, a deer ran right across the path, form and white under-tail visible as it sprinted through the bare trees and out of sight.  Throughout the day, the slightest possible snowfall with the teensiest flakes.

Free parking!

This green plant seems to think it's spring!

A little bit of ice.

Mixed messages.

This guy and his friends were a bit camera shy.  I used the burst-shot setting to capture this.

On this tree, the fungi are growing only in the crevices of the bark.

An old greenhouse.   

A bit of a fixer-upper, this ample mansion boasts excellent air and light.  

Sandy beach.

Is this possibly Diagon Alley?

Merry Christmas!