A dad and his daughters, loving life in New York City

Tuesday, October 31

BREAKING: Massive, horrifying, fiery accident in the Village


Yeah, sorry. Will Smith and company's been shooting some sort of NYC-post-apocalypse movie on Washington Square North for a few weeks now, with interiors in one of those historic homes overlooking the park, and all kinds of bleak, charred chaos going on outside. I was walking by yesterday during what can only be called the "car wreck" scene.

And for your TREAT, please see below.

And have fun tonight.

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Newish, Dee-lish Ice Cream Flavors

This has been a banner time for new store-bought ice cream flavors. In fact, just about everything in Scoboco's freezer these days has come out in the past year.

Häagen Dazs has an impressive line up of seriously scrumptious new flavors, including Sticky Toffee Pudding (if you can't get to Schiller's Liquor Bar), Black Walnut (tres sophisticated, and best mixed with a chocolate-based flavor in your bowl), Black Raspberry Chip (refreshing rasperry sorbet, vanilla ice cream, rich chunks of dark chocolate), and, the best of them all from HD, Caramel Cone, which combines caramel ice cream, caramel swirl, roasted almonds and generous pieces of crunchy, chocolate-covered sugar cones.

Ben and Jerry's hasn't been slacking off either. Among the newer delights in Scoboco's regular rotation: Marsha Marsha Marshmallow (chocolate ice cream, fudge chunks, toasted marshmallow, and somehow-gooey and stunningly delicious graham cracker swirls), and the absolute single best flavor of ice cream available in stores today, the brilliant Vermonty Python, an impossibly smooth and creamy concoction of coffee liqueur ice cream, wonderfully textured with sweet chocolate cookie crumb swirl, and fudge cows for extra bite. Everyone I know who's ever tried this has fallen in love.

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Sunday, October 29


A couple of weeks ago I parlayed my sweet, sweet Film Forum raffle winnings for a night of free Spamalot with my man Jack. It was, astonishingly, my fourth Broadway musical of the year, and Jack's first-ever on the Great White Way. And you couldn't ask for a more over-the-top introduction to this, by its nature, over-the-top medium. The sets, the costumes, the staging, the songs, the Python's trademark incredibly silly jokes, incredibly stretched out: all of it waaaaaaaay over the top.

Spamalot basically follows the story of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and includes many of the movie's most famous bits: the Black Knight, "bring out yer dead", the Knights who say "Ni", the killer rabbit, the not-very-brave Sir Robin's minstrels, Tim the Enchanter, "what... the curtains?" the Frenchman's castle-wall taunts., etc. etc. Now, since I had just seen the movie in August with Bo and Co (and even that had been more of nostalgic experience than a laugh-out-loud one), I can't say I was exactly rolling in the Shubert Theater aisles at these well-delivered, cleverly-staged but by now 30-some-year-old gags. What I did enjoy very much, what felt most fresh and funny, were the musical numbers, especially those involving The Lady of Lake, who takes on a fairly large role here as Arthur's love interest and, as played by Lauren Kennedy, belts out several beautifully-done show-tune parodies like "The Song That Goes Like This" and "Find Your Grail." Other musical highlights included the maddeningly infectious "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" and the show's eleven-o'clock song (which is what insiders call the number immediately before intermission—thanks, Bo, for the lingo! UPDATE: NOT called this, but still a good tune—thanks Blog About Town for the lingo clarity!), "Run Away."

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Translations in Tupperware®

Just in case anyone forgot: bad things can happen when you put corporate flacks in charge of art/design shows.

On view for three days last week on the second floor of the Time Warner Center, the clunkily-named, heavily trademarked Translations in Tupperware® exhibit presented the 20 or so winners of an international design contest that asked "consumers to create a piece of art inspired by Tupperware®." Yes, it sounds kind of lame right off the bat, but when Time Out New York compared this to the excellent Canstruction (coming next month!), I decided to check it out last Thursday.

I should have went with my instincts.

Because Tupperware® is made out of cheap plastic, everything looks like it's made out of cheap plastic. Because Tupperware® comes in so many shapes, sizes and colors—utensils, plates and containers of all description—there's no real challenge here inherent in the material. Plus, you didn't even HAVE to use all Tupperware®, as long as your piece was "inspired" by the product, so basically you could physically make just about anything you could possibly imagine. The biggest problem: though the prize was a very generous $5000 PLUS an all-expense-paid trip to New York (and these "consumers"/artists were from all over the world), the level of creativity was pretty depressing. A non-working wall clock? A race car? A sailboat? A chandelier? Really? The whole thing seemed like something you might see in a middle-school art class (next year Bo and Co are definitely entering!), except for the ridiculous amount of money Tupperware Brands Corporation® obviously spent putting the show on (the printing costs alone for the heavy-duty, 18-page, oversized brochure must have been astromical).

These kind of corporate-sponsored events can be terrific: the entrants in DWR's champagne chair contest are always amazing; the Starbucks salon in Soho last summer was a model of branding-restraint; the aforementioned Canstruction—a charitable exhibition—is a must-see.

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Thursday, October 26

Masters of American Comics at The Jewish Museum

It feels a little gimmicky, like a ploy to lure families to the museum, maybe... especially since they seem to have chosen Superman as their primary promotional image. And there are definitely some unfortunate things about the Masters of American Comics exhibit—for one, Art Spiegelman bailed at the last minute because of space constraints, and they replaced him with a bland "heroes and villians" retrospective... hence the Superman promo; for two, half the show is in Newark. Now, it's unlikely Scoboco will be traveling across the Hudson for part two anytime soon, but there was enough unique, thoughtfully-presented art here at the Jewish Museum to have kept us happy and engaged for a little while on a chilly Sunday afternoon.

Even with Spiegelman gone, the line-up remains pretty stellar: Will Eisner (of The Spirit fame), Jack Kirby (Marvel books like The Fantastic Four, Thor and Captain America), Harvey Kurtzman (co-founder of Mad magazine), underground comix legend R. Crumb, punk comix legend Gary Panter, and Chris Ware, perhaps best know for his quiet Jimmy Corrigan book. Each artist's section is filled with printed pieces, original paintings, layout sketches, color tests, doodlings, pencil drawings and thoughtful commentary from... from whomever usually writes such notes at museum shows.

Highlights for us included the Kirby stuff (I was a huge Marvel collector from around 4th through 7th grade, and I always wondered why all of Kirby's characters looked so squatty, and how he fit so much more action into his panels than anyone else... the technical answer was revealed, all these years later, in the notes here: foreshortened perspective!); a couple of spreads of Kurtzman's Little Annie Fannie shown in four stages—from roughs through to color, to lettering, to final art—that really showed Bo and Co the creative process; some brilliant pencil work by Crumb (by the way, if you're at all a fan, and you haven't seen Terry Zwigoff's fascinating, hilarious documentary on this guy... well, I'm not sure what you're waiting for); and Panter's anxious, funny re-imaginings of the medium.

As I said, it's a small exhibit, so you have to decide whether 30 minutes of looking at comic art is worth the $10 admission. It was worth it for me, though I definitely regret not waiting until the "Alex Katz Paints Ada" show had opened upstairs. The Jewish Museum is on 92nd Street and 5th Avenue; the Comics show will be there until January 28.

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Sunday, October 22

El Centro

"Care for a little food with your garlic, señor...?"

Now, that's not entirely fair: there were plenty of other flavors—chipotle, chili, spicy mole—also fighting for my attention at El Centro, and they were fine flavors all... but I can't say I could really taste the food itself. Take my Roasted Pork Chilaquiles, basically a casserole of day-old tortilla chips and garlicky pulled pork, slathered in spicy mole, then topped with avocado, queso blanco and muchos chives. It felt good to eat, no question—hearty, crunchy, rich—but I doubt it tasted any different than, say, the Grilled Shrimp Cilaquiles. My Chipotle Caesar Salad was the same kind of thing... a large plate of romaine, garlicky croutons, and cheese that really all just served as a delivery vehicle for the intensely spicy dressing. My dining companion Jack devoured his plate of Cheese Enchiladas. Definitely no complaints there... but again, it all kind of felt like the food was just something to chew on so that we could swallow the sauce.

After a meal like that (which can take days to stop tasting), I needed dessert, and to my surprise, the kitchen totally came through with a reasonably scrumptious take on a s'more: gooey marshallow melted onto a sugary graham cracker topped with dense chocolate ice cream. It wasn't subtle, but it definitely did the trick. And speaking of not-subtle, the undeniably appealing and festive decor—the tables are bottled caps under glass; the chandeliers are made of Corona bottles; the lamps, crowns of apple juice containers, and the entire North wall is filled with tin ornaments depicting Mexican tarot symbols—also makes El Centro, on 9th Avenue and 54th Street, worth putting into your mix of Hell's Kitchen, pre-theater dinner choices.

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Thursday, October 19

Fall Movies: Part 2

So far the film to beat this fall, and by a fucking mile, is The Departed, Martin Scorsese's crisp, violent story about two deep-undercover rats: one's a cop who has burrowed into gangster kingpin Frank Costello's inner circle; the other's a Costello stooge who has risen through the ranks of Boston's elite organized-crime fighting unit. The set-up is well-paced, believable and engrossing, but the real fun begins when both moles realize the other exists, and so try to ferret each other out without giving themselves away.

The writing here is tough-guy heaven, the editing rapid-fire and creative without sacrificing clarity, the soundtrack pitch-perfect, the camera work loaded with classic Scorsese touches, and the whole cast is outstanding. Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello actually does some acting (for the most part) instead of simply being Jaaack. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon are terrific as the two rats, dealing with the nearly unbearable tension of their situations in different but credible ways. Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg are given the film's best lines, and they steal every scene they're in; Martin Sheen is perfect as the slow-boil Police Commissioner; and Vera Farmiga more than holds her own as the therapist caught in the middle of something she doesn't understand. A terrific movie, from start to finish.

The Last King of Scotland features one of the best performances of year—Forest Whitaker as the charming, demonic, childish, heartless Idi Amin—but, unfortunately, the rest of the movie can't keep up. Whitaker totally nails Amin's unpredictable brutality, his political savvy, his temper tantrums, his playfulness, his self-delusion, his sadism. Much less compelling—the weak link that, sadly, also drives the picture—is James McAvoy as Nicholas Garrigan, a Scottish doctor who travels to Uganda on a whim and, after flukey circumstances find him treating Amin for a sprained hand, becomes the personal physician for this self-proclaimed "Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea." Seduced by Amin's money, charisma and power, Garrigan is at first the Supreme Ruler's Great White Apologist, until even he can't ignore the fact that everyone who speaks out against Amin seems to disappear. It's at this point that the film turns into a pretty effective thriller, punctuated by a scene of horrifying, explicit torture. Definitely a good movie, but also one that could have been a lot better.

My expectations couldn't have been lower for The Guardian... really? it hadn't even crossed my mind to see it. But it was a miserably rainy afternoon and I had three hours to kill, and the showtime and theater location were perfect, so why not? And I must say, although a complete cliché from start to finish, this story of Coast Guard rescue swimmers Kevin Costner (gruff legend/mentor forced to teach at "the academy" after harrowing save-gone-wrong) and Ashton Kutcher (brash talented recruit with a secret motivation for becoming "the best") was surprisingly entertaining. Not a great movie by any means, but a total pro job by everyone involved.

Yes, there is quite a bit of hardcore pornography in John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus, but it's not a terribly sexy movie (most of the money shots are too perfunctory to generate any real heat), nor, in the end, a terribly interesting one. There are definitely a number of sweet moments, and the gay couple known as "the Jamies" are cute (the sex therapist who's never had an orgasm, less so), and the energy picks up considerably whenever a scene involves Justin Bond as the emcee of the sex club Shortbus (so named because it's filled with misfits and outcasts... like that shorter yellow bus that drives the mentally/physically challenged kids to school), but in the end it all feels too amatuerish, too inconsistent, too self-congratulatory.

You'll be tempted to see Little Children. The reviews have been great; the trailer makes it seem like an intelligent, psychologically-rich portrait of what drives good people to adultry; Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly are beautiful and talented, etc. So go see it. Just don't blame me when you realize that fully a third of the movie is a WAY over-the-top subplot about a pedophile, just out of prison and back home living with his mom; that Patrick Wilson as the stay-at-home dad who winds up rutting with Winslet in the laundry room is one the most (deliberately?) boring characters of the year; and that the screenwriters have sucked any tension out the film by making Winslet and Wilson's respective cuckolded spouses so horrible that you in no way care if they get hurt. This one's a big miss.


Wednesday, October 18

Bebo Valdés at Jazz at Lincoln Center

It wasn't my idea to go see Bebo Valdés last Friday night—honestly, I had never even heard of the man before the day of the show. But it still felt like an honor to see the 88-year-old Mambo/Afro-Latin jazz legend perform in the striking Rose Theater, if only because he was so obviously venerated by all the other musicians on stage.

Valdés has a great story: the pianist at Havana's fabled Tropicana Hotel in the 1940s and 50s, he was among the group of musicians credited with inventing the Mambo, which became Cuba's signature sound. Fleeing Castro in the early 1960s, winding up in Sweden, falling in love with an 18-year-old at the age of 44 (they're still married today), Valdés then disappeared from the music scene for decades, only to reemerge and win two Grammys in recent years, including one for Suite Cubana, which he sometimes played, sometimes conducted, in the show we saw.

My ignorance of the genre made me more of an appreciative outsider than a real fan (of which there were many on hand), but I will say I liked the show's first half—heavy on the percussion, piano and guitar—better than the second, which amped up the brass considerably and at times sounded a little too big band for my taste. We were perched high over the stage (that's my terrible, surrepitious photo below; the above is from The Times), which gave us a great vantage point to watch Valdés's amazingly long fingers as they ran lightly over his keyboard, as well as offering an entertaining view of the many older patrons in attendance mamboing in their seats. Given the highbrow venue (the theater is really quite spectacular: modern and pretty, though DGlass felt it lacked warmth), I assume the musicians of the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra who played with Valdés are among the best of their craft, and they certainly sounded good, especially bandleader Arturo O'Farril's piano and Jimmy Delagado and Tony Rosa on percussion. And as for the composition itself, well... what's not to like about this kind of music? It sounds like smiling; it sounds like innocence, and hope; it sounds like any number of early '60s sitcom theme songs; it sounds like heat, and the old guys on my block, and cerveza, and the sun.

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Monday, October 16

Bouchon Bakery

"Maybe we ordered the wrong thing," said DGlass after three of us spent about $85 for a dinner of, essentially, soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. "But I think the emperor has no clothes."

The emperor in question here is all-star chef Thomas Keller, and his nakedness—or, more accurately, our willing blindness—is exposed, maybe, at Bouchon Bakery. Located beneath the Samsung sign on the third floor of the Time Warner Center, this is Keller's admirable go at uplifting "mall-food" to tasty new heights, as well as giving us all a chance to sample his magic at something less than than the $210 he charges for a meal one flight up at Per Se.

So did we just mis-order? I am always loathe to blame the user, but DGlass and I both had the Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese, and it was exceptionally ordinary. The soup was totally scalded, and so had little flavor besides "hot". The sandwiches were no different than what you'd get at a place like EJ's, or Silver Spurs. I also had the Roasted Beet Salad, with Marche, Goat Cheese and Roasted Hazelnuts, which was small and bland and sounded a lot more exotic than it was. Our companion Argentina Ana had the potato soup, which she proclaimed to be "tan rico," and perhaps it was, but out-of-town guests getting treated for dinner are unlikely to say anything else.

There was one unqualified hit: the moist and delicious Nutter Butter, an over-sized cookie sandwich starring two cakey, sweet, nutty ovals surrounding a rich and creamy peanut butter filling. Honestly, it gives the City Bakery chocolate chip some competition for best cookie in town. I will absolutely go back to Bouchon Bakery for the Nutter Butter and maybe to try the food again... though this time I'll spend a third less money and wait for far less time and just go to the take-out window.

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Friday, October 13

Hollywood Classics at the Ziegfeld

It's a beautiful, bright Sunday afternoon... so what do you do: Go to the park for picnic? Sit in a cold, dark theater to watch a 45-year-old movie? Last weekend, Bo and I opted for the latter and went to the Ziegfeld to see West Side Story, part of the cavernous theater's classic movie series that ends next Thursday, October 19.

The Ziegfeld may be the last single-screen theater in Manhattan, and I had forgotten just how huge a space it is... and how strongly it reeks of faded glory (it's been more than seven years since my last movie there, which was The Phantom Menace, which was also the last night I smoked a cigarette, among other things). Anyway, in its six-week run the Hollywood Classics series has featured some great movies to see on this massive screen—The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and The Wizard of Oz were the other two that caught my attention, but had to miss—and it begins its final week tonight with three of Hitchcock's best. (There's a full schedule here.)

As for West Side Story, this was Bo's first time, and I hadn't seen it probably since I was her age. We both loved the music (it's funny: nearly every month or so since I was a teenager these songs come out of nowhere and get stuck in my head); Bo really enjoyed the dancing, I totally cried at the end; and—it must be said—we both thought it was absolutely one of the gayest movies ever made. Bo's exact comment was something like: "Yeah they're supposed to be all tough but then they're always breaking into these sissy dance moves!" And I got a kick out of the way the camera lingered lovingly over the Jets and the Sharks super tight pants—heck, whole shots were framed by a butt and a pair of packages! Didn't anyone in 1961 get it... I mean besides the unspoken intended audience? But whatever... we had a great time, me and Bo, soaking in a piece of a cutural history.


Thursday, October 12

MyMix 10.12

I make a new on-the-go mix just about every morning. Here's what I was listening to, shuffled, today...

The Decemberists: The Perfect Crime*
CSS: Alala
Joseph Arthur: Black Lexus
The Ballet: In My Head
Jawbreaker: Ashtray Monument
R.E.M.: Sitting Still
M. Ward: Chinese Translation
The Thermals: Pillar of Salt**
I Know You See It: Yung Joc
The Rapture: First Gear
Beiruit: Postcards From Italy
The Roots: In the Music
Justin Timberlake: Damn Girl
New Order: Age of Consent
Beck: Elevator Music
Spoon: Jonathon Fisk
Ursa Minor: ShanAmericana
Terence Trent D'arby: Wishing Well
Cold War Kids: God Make Up Your Mind
Basement Jaxx: Where's Your Head At
Bloc Party: So Here We Are
Shakira: Hips Don't Lie***
Iron and Wine: Love and Some Verses
Smashing Pumpkins: 1979
The Beastie Boys: Shazam!

* From the excellent, exuberant new Decemberists disc The Crane Wife, this song will remind you more than a little bit of The Talking Heads (specifically, of Life During Wartime), but made wholly unique by Colin Meloy's staunchly old-fashioned wordsmithing and vocal style.

** Awesome new-ish punk stylings from the Portland, Oregon crew, highlighted by Hutch Harris talking/screaming/whining lyrics like
"We built too many walls...
Yeah, we built too many walls!
And now we've got to run:
A giant piston's out to crush us."

*** "Better than 'Promiscuous'", says the lithe and lovely dancing machine DGlass.


Monday, October 9

Kid Robot rennovates, reopens

Uh oh.

Kid Robot has long been a must-visit every time Scoboco goes to Soho. Sometimes to buy,* much more often just to see what's new in the art and design of vinyl toys. (If you don't what I'm talking about, see here.) Yes, there are other good spots for get your toy fix: Toy Tokyo on 2nd Ave., near 7th St.; YoYaMart on Gansevoort, near Hudson, to name two. But Kid Robot has so far been our main supplier. Up until now... ?

The tiny Prince Street store (between Wooster and Greene) had been closed for rennovations for about a month, so Scoboco was thrilled this afternoon to see that it had finally reopened... and stunned to see that they've now given fully half of the space to their new lines of Kid Robot apparel, shoes and accessories, like bags and hats. And because of the new configuration (the toy display cabinets that used to jut out into the store's center are gone, replaced by benches, presumably for trying on shoes) I'd estimate that they lessened their toy-selling space (and so, stock) by at least 60%. For example, there's no more of the non-blind packaged toys that used to fill the back wall, and far fewer of those larger, big-ticket toys on display.

To be fair, the store looks pretty great. And obviously owner Paul Budnitz is betting big on the clothing as a way of extending the Kid Robot brand (a la Bathing Ape) much further that three-inch vinyl figures ever could. But, really, how many "urban" clothing stores are there in Soho these days, as opposed to places where you can buy Munny zipper pulls, Smorkin Mongers, Ice Bots, Kiiros and Dunnies? For serious design-y toy browsing—and buying—YoyaMart may be the new place to go.

* We're currently collecting Dunny Series 3, the complete set of which includes 17 three-inch figures, each designed by a different artist, such as Tokidoki, Tado, Mishka and Huck Gee. Like most collectible serie in the vinyl toy world, you buy these "blind," and so have no clue which figure is in that box you're paying $5.95 for... which means, yes, getting "doubles" and "triples" is definitely a problem. But when you get a new one... when you get one you've particularly coveted (the whole set is pictured on each box)... when you get a RARE one ... that is a sweet, sweet feeling indeed.

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Sunday, October 8

Cézanne to Picasso, at the Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art trots out its big brand names for its big fall show... but really, it's the person in the subtitle that makes this exhibition interesting.

Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant Garde offers the hordes that will surely come a fairly routine collection of works by, obviously, Cézanne and Picasso, as well as Van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin, Derain, Bonnard and more (there are a few Matisses here, but even the museum's own notes can't get too excited about them, admitting that they're from a "between styles" period). But the hook, and it's a good one, is that everything on display was bought, sold, commissioned or exhibited—and often for the first time—by a single, visionary Parisian dealer, the aforementioned, subtitled, Ambroise Vollard.

And so you have a show that's as much about commerce as it is about creativity: just about every work is discussed in the context of how much Vollard made on its sale, or failed to make because he couldn't sell it, or how much he potentially could have made if he held on to it a little longer. It's intriguing stuff (how often does a museum talk so openly money?) and gallery junkies will eat it up, but I thought it got a bit repetitive. More amazing is to imagine how this one man managed to have relationships—ranging from affectionate, long-term creative collaborations to quick professional transactions—with so many of history's all-time greats.

No question, Vollard's must have led a heady, fascinating life (the two-minute movie of him chatting and smoking with and an aged, painfully arthritic Renoir is priceless), but can it sustain a major museum show? Well... yes and no. I wasn't bored, exactly—that was Co yawning and giving the "can-we-go-now" eyes, not me—but I wish the art itself had been more immediately compelling. Yes, there are some breathtaking pieces here: a couple of perfect Cézannes, a gorgeous Van Gogh triptych, two or three nice Picassos (I had never seen Crazy Woman with Cats before, and I loved it); Derain's bright London landscapes that almost look like they were done in crayon. And the room of Vollard portraits (Picasso's is below) is a clever idea, well executed. But given the show's rules of inclusion, there's also quite a bit here that feels like filler.

Cézanne to Picasso will be at the Met through January 7, and with the museum's continued suggested donation policy, there's really no reason not to go see it at some point between now and then.

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