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

Monday, January 29

Doug Aitken's Sleepwalkers on the MoMA

It may have been the least freezing night of the week, but it was still pretty freakin' cold out when Debbie and I showed up at the MoMA last Wednesday to check out Doug Aitken's multi-screen movie Sleepwalkers, currently showing on three sides of the museum's exterior. That we stood outside for almost an hour in the high-20s temperature watching a 15-minute silent film multiple times... well, it's a testament to just how visually clever and compelling Aitken's work actually is, and how well it plays in the space.

The "plot" is this: five different people—played by Donald Sutherland, Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power), Tilda Swinton, OC regular and NYC bucket player Ryan Donowho, and Brazilian musician Seu Jorge—wake up, get ready for their day, go to work, nearly fall into despair about the meaninglessness of life, reach out for an external something to save them, and then find relief in taking raw, visceral action, such as twirling, or drumming, or tap dancing. The five videos were shot separately, but are meant to be viewed simultaneously. For example, all five characters, on five different screens (though the most you can see at one time is three), take a sip of their morning beverage at the same time... they all see something in a store window at the same time... they all walk near a lighting fixture at the same time... you get the idea. Even more engaging, there are moments during each video which Aitken throws in a rapid-fire edit of objects from all five (the wheels of their morning mode of transportation; the faucets in their bathrooms, etc.). Plus, the whole piece really is beautifully photographed; Debbie said that it was far more graphic that she imagined, and that made her happy.

We watched two 15-minute cycles in the empty lot between 53rd and 54th Streets, from which you can see two screens at the same time. This is the darkest of the viewing sites, so the video is particularly sharp. We then went into the sculpture garden on 54th, where you can watch three movies at once, plus two "screens" running more generic images, for five screens total. Here you also get the nice added visual effect of the movie shown on the museum's windows, and your sight lines run through the bare branches of the trees. It's all very cool, it's free, and it's airing continuously every night between 5 and 10 o'clock, until February 12.

PS: This exhibit is co-sponsored by Creative Time, who also do the 59th Minute, which works like this: every day, a 60 second work of video art plays on the giant NBC Astrovision screen in Times Square during the last minute of (almost) every hour. The 59th Minute began in 2000; Doug Aitken's New Day is currently airing.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 27


Scoboco had a kind of group epiphany tonight, about a third of the way through our dinner at Righteous Urban BBQ, and it was this: in theory, we love barbecue, and get a craving for it every few months; in reality, the first maybe six or seven bites are amazing... and then it all sort of starts to taste the same, and that smoky sweetness (sweet smokiness?) frankly gets a little sickening. Or maybe not. After all, I loved my lunch this fall at Blue Smoke: the deviled eggs and saucy Kansas City Ribs and macaroni and cheese were all excellent. And the three of us have had several delicious meals at Rack and Soul (though mostly due to the fried chicken). So maybe we do like this stuff... just not the sort they serve at R.U.B..

Anyway, our dinner last night definitely had it good moments. The French Fries were nicely dense and potatoey and totally addictive, especially after we salt- and peppered the heck out of them. Our other side dish—Barbecued Baked Beans, chewy with chunks of pork—was also well done. For our main course, the three of us split the Taste of the Baron, an over-the-top platter of beef brisket, ham, pulled pork, a quarter chicken, turkey, pastrami, spicy sausage and a quarter rack of (dry-rubbed) ribs, all piled high on soggy white bread and finished with sweet pickle slices. The pulled pork was the best thing here, all tender and fatty and full-flavored. The ham, turkey and pastrami... were ham, turkey and pastrami: Bo and Co just finished a lunch of leftover sandwiches, and gave it two thunbs up, but none of us were too excited by these last night. Worse, the chicken, ribs and brisket—the heart and soul of the platter—were almost completely tasteless, and so needed lots of the sweet (garlicky?) table sauce, which is maybe what did us in. Did we just order wrong? Possibly. I have heard raves about R.U.B., but the next time Scoboco gets a hankering for some BBQ, we're going somewhere else.

Righteous Urban BBQ is on 23rd Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 25

MyMix 1.25

I make a new On-The-Go mix just about every morning. Here's what I listened to, shuffled, today.

Cold War Kids: Hang Me Up to Dry*
The Fray: How to Save a Life
Camera Obscura: If Looks Could Kill
Of Montreal: Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games
Talking Heads: Animals**
Silversun Pickups: Lazy Eye
The View: Wasted Little DJs
Amy Winehouse: You Know I'm No Good
Fall Out Boy: This Ain't a Scene It's an Arms Race***
The Fratellis: Flathead
Nas: Hip Hop is Dead
Nelly Furtado: Say It Right
The Bird and the Bee: Again and Again
The Shins: Sleeping Lessons****
Trick Daddy: 10-20 Life
Destroyer: Painter in Your Pocket
The Coup: My Favorite Mutiny
Cowboy Junkies: Sweet Jane
Midlake: Roscoe
Beyoncé: Irreplaceable
The Pixies: Debaser

* Have you seen the video of their Letterman appearance?
** These guys have been On-The-Go mix regulars of late, and old passion first rekindled by NOT seeing the Loser's Lounge Talking Heads show last October... then, YES, seeing David Byrne dining at Waverly Inn two weeks ago, then reading that long article about him right after that in the Times, then buying tickets to his February 3 Carnegie Hall concert.
*** I heard this on MTV2 one morning recently and it was stuck in my head all day. Sometimes things are popular for a good reason.
**** So far the new Shins disc hasn't really grabbed me... except for this song, the opening track, which perhaps set my expectations too high for what follows.


Robert Wilson: Voom Portraits at Phillips de Pury

The press release for this vibrant, entertaining exhibit of video portraits gets all breathless about things like the "technical brilliance of the newest generation of television," and "the extraordinary potential of HDTV"... but, really? Though the images here are indeed remarkably crisp (as Debbie pointed out the next day, however, not really any more impressive than you can see in, say, the game department at Virgin), it's the people that make this show such a pleasure, both the celebrity subjects and, especially, the portraits' director, Robert Wilson.

Wilson's trademarks are in ample evidence here: minimal, slow, deliberate movements (he told his subjects "to think of nothing"); provocative costumes and unexpected music; and beautiful, brilliant lighting. The 30 or so videos have running times between 30 seconds and 20 minutes, and loop seamlessly; they are all presented on high-definition plasma flat-screen monitors, with surround sound; the gallery itself—Phillips de Prury, 450 15th Street—has been divided into many rooms, all totally dark except for the glow of the screens. The pieces are far enough apart that the music from one doesn't interfere with another, but as you wander from room to room, there are definitely a lot of strange melodies floating through the air. The overall effect is slightly mysterious, a little bit romantic, and very cool.

Among Debbie and my favorites here were Steve Buscemi, toe-tappin' behind a big hunk of meat; Robert Downey, Jr., as an anatomy class teaching aid; Princess Caroline, elegant in silhouette, gradually revealed with light; Brad Pitt, in his underwear, in the rain, armed and dangerous; an upside-down Marianne Faithful looking like a Saul Bass poster; Robin Wright Penn precariously perched and wind-blown; and William Pope L. as the King of... something, and his singing lamb. I liked the Porcupine, as well; though not so much the Dog (talk about "thinking of nothing!....").

The Voom Portraits (Voom is the HD company sponsoring the show) will be up through February 10.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, January 24


I was cold, I was tired, I was on a dreary stretch of 58th street, and there it was, like an oasis: the sleek design, the promise of hot caffeine, the cookies piled so high I could spot them from across the street... it was Fika, the Swedish Espresso Bar, and it was amazing.

This tiny space (there's one table, and a four-seat window bar) functions as a coffee house, a sandwich/salad shop, a chocolatier, and a bakery. I had a large Macchiato (basically an espresso with just a bit of steamed milk), and though I'm no coffee connoisseur, I must say it was the smoothest, tastiest cup I've had years, with perhaps only Joe coming close. Apparently the owner imports his beans from Sweden (where, by the way, "fika" is a verb meaning "to have a coffee break"), and in my opinion, it's totally worth the effort.

I also ate cookies, of course, starting with a superb Coconut Top, which was gooey and crunchy and rich and sweet and pretty much my dream macaroon come true. Then I had a heavenly Vanilla Dream, which melted away in my mouth in a swirl of buttery bliss; a Farmhouse, which was wonderfully hard and almondy; and an equally perfect piece of Shortbread, which the attractive, smiley and presumably Swedish counter people gave me for free. I can't wait to try their sandwiches, all of which sound good. This is the ideal spot for a post-MoMA pick-me-up.

Fika first arrived here (on 58th, between 6th and 5th Avenues) about four months ago, with plans to expand to other neighborhoods. I hope that includes everywhere I ever go.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 23

Workingman's Dead at the Winter Garden

"Deadheads doing the hippie dance" and "World Financial Center" maybe aren't the most obvious of pairings, but last Saturday night they went together just fine in the WFC's soaring Winter Garden, as a line-up of bluegrass and folky musicians played their way through the Grateful Dead's 1970 classic, Workingman's Dead. The concert was free, the audience was in the thousands (so packed, in fact, that they had to close the building to latecomers), and Debbie, myself, and gallery expert Eric enjoyed a pleasant, somewhat nostalgic evening amongst the palm trees and tie dyes.

Truth be told, I was never really into the Dead (I was more of a Stones/Clash/Talking Heads kid in high school), though I did see them once in the late 70s, probably at Giant's Stadium. This put me in the distinct minority at Saturday's show, during which a stunning number of people raised their hand to the question: "How many of you have seen the Dead live more than 100 times?" I mean, c'mon... I have family members I haven't seen more than 100 times!

Anyway, the Winter Garden concert was structured like this: eight different bands or ad hoc groupings were assigned a different song from Workingman's Dead, which they were encouraged to interpret any way they liked. Some rendititions were safe and breezy (Ollabelle's Uncle John's Band), some forced and clunky (The Klezmatics's Cumberland Blues), but in my opinion the true star of the night was Catherine Russell (pictured at top, thanks to the New York Times), whose powerful, soulful voice made her three songs by far the best of the night, especially her harmonizing performance with The Holmes Brothers on High Times. Also worth mentioning was the amiable emceeing of NPR's John Schaefer (Eric thought there was too much chatter between songs, that it broke the flow of the music; I didn't mind so much, and felt it fit with the casual vibe of the night), and an everyone-up-onstage encore of Knockin' On Heaven's Door, which got the whole crowd on their feet.

On Sunday a different roster performed the Dead's American Beauty, and last year there was a similiar concert here, in which Bruce Spingsteen's Nebraska was performed. These are fun, free, family-friendly shows, and definitely worth keeping an eye out for in the future.

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 18

Winter Movies: Part 1

I guess you'd call them holiday leftovers, these '06 releases which I didn't get to before New Year's. Debbie and I saw the first three on consecutive nights a couple of weekends ago (preceded by pizza each time!), and Co and I went to the last while Bo was at a sleepover.

One of the surest of bets for next week's Oscar nominations? Judi Dench, Best Actress, for Notes on a Scandal (see also: Helen Mirren for The Queen, Meryl Streep for The Devil Wears Prada... and, if it were up to me, Penelope Cruz for Volver and Maggie Gyllennhaal for Sherrybaby). In the end, Mirren will win the award, but Dench should be a close second for her wrenching, riveting performance here as the predatory, exceptionally unlikable high-school teacher who surreptitously blackmails Cate Blanchett into being her best friend, confidante and, in some delusion-fueled future, her lover. In fact, so miserable a person is Dench that I actually started to sympathize with Blanchett's also-well-played character, who lies to and cheats on her husband (Bill Nighy, in the film's good guy role) and shatters her family by acting upon her selfish desires and immature ennui by having an affair with a 15-year-old student. In the end, despite excellent acting all around, the movie's small stage, narrow narrative and what I thought were unfair leaps in emotional logic made this a good, not great, movie.

Speaking of strong performances, Naomi Watts may be the best reason to see The Painted Veil (the second best is the gorgeous settings), the story of a playful and independent young woman in 1920s England who, out of spite for her mother rather than love for the man, marries a repressed bacteriologist, nicely played by Edward Norton. Unsurprisingly, the union doesn't go well, and when Norton catches Watts having an affair, he volunteers his services to a remote village in China in the ghastly throes of a cholera epidemic... and, of course, brings along his unfaithful wife. But what could have been a murder/suicide mission turns into something else entirely, as the two come to learn both humilty and courage in equal measures.

The third movie Debbie and I saw that weekend was Perfume, a far too long and overly melodramatic adaptation of what I remember being a totally original and creepy novel. The story here begins with a birth, in an open-air market in 18th-century Paris, and the mother prompty tosses her newborn into a pile of putrid fish guts. From this most malodourous of beginnings, a miracle: the boy is saved by the mob, acquires the name Jean-Baptiste, and discovers he has been blessed with an extraordinary sense of smell (like, he can smell wet stones and frog eggs a mile away). After being rescued from a tannery by a perfume-maker (pointlessly played by Dustin Hoffman), Jean-Baptiste quickly aspires to create the world's greatest scent, and the movie's subtitle—The Story of a Murderer—comes into play. The film has its share of good moments, and the women are exceptionally well-shot, and the scenery vivid, but it's all just too much, and the silly rave/orgy ending had our theater laughing out loud.

Finally, Co and I crossed our fingers and went to the Holiday Season's big Hollywood family blockbuster, Night at the Museum... and, thank goodness, it wasn't nearly the disaster I was dreading. Here Ben Stiller plays the part he always plays (good-hearted misunderstood bufoon), this time wearing the uniform of the overnight security guard at the Museum of Natural History. What Stiller doesn't know when he takes the job is this: when the sun goes down, everything in the museum—animals, historical figures, dinosaur skeletons, ancient statues—comes alive. As you can imagine, mayhem ensues, some of it annoying (e.g., Robin Williams), some of it ridiculous (the whole Sakagewea subplot), but director Shawn Levy does keep the pacing brisk, and there's a surprising amount of genuinely amusing, clever, and even charming moments. Keep your expectations seriously low, and you and your kids should have some fun at this one.


Monday, January 15


Scoboco figures: if people are going to keep opening all these new restaurants that only (or primarily) serve beautiful, creative, lovingly assembled desserts... well, the least we can do is go out and enjoy them every once in awhile. And so Saturday night Bo, Co and I headed to the mod-cozy Kyotofu, and indulged in three remarkably tasty, Asian-inspired treats.

Before I go any further: I'm generally NOT a fan of Asian desserts, like those gummy bean cakes, or those bland almond things, or the grainy not-sweet ice cream. Believe me, Kyotofu is not like that.Take, for example, Bo's Warm Chestnut Mochi Chocolate Cake, a moist, semi-sweet cake with a gooey, nutty center, topped with creamy green-tea ice cream and served with an intense fig "yokan" (like a thick gelatin) on the side. It was absolutely delicious. Or my Ginger Infused Japanese Rice Okayu, a warm rice pudding-esque dish strewn with sour cherries, nicely sweetened with a generous dollop of something called kuromitsu whipped cream, and finished with a crackly, seeded wafer cookie and several pieces of perfectly complementary candied ginger. Totally yummy.

And Co? She had the best dessert at the table, a wonderfully rich and flavorful Toasted Walnut Tahitian Vanilla Parfait, with a hefty topping of maple soy-mascarpone mousse and a sticky caramel apricot sauce. And those three persimmon seeds weren't just toss-asides, for garnish, either, but rather stunningly perfect blasts of sourness. In fact, in each dessert the ingredients and flavors worked together in marvelous ways. These guys are true pros.

Even the pot of roasted green tea I had was exceptional (though it did get increasingly bitter, which, as Debbie pointed out to me later, I could have prevented by asking for more hot water). Make sure you go after 6:00, though. Kyotofu, on Ninth Ave near 48th Street, may be open all afternoon, for tea and cookies and the like, but they only serve the "real" dessert menu at night.

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 14

Simply Droog at the Museum of Arts and Design

First, an alert: today is the last day for this lively, provocative, excellent "greatest hits" exhibition from the Dutch design collective Droog, so if you're looking for something to do on what promises to be a rainy Sunday, let me just say that Scoboco had a blast talking about, exclaiming over ("that's so coooooooool" was a common Bo and Co refrain), or laughing at nearly every piece on display here.

The three of us loved everything about the show, from the clever product groupings ("Simplicity", "Familiar—not so familiar?", "Use it Again", to name three) to the way the room-by-room "blueprints" are laid out with tape, with black rubber silhouettes on the floor standing in for the missing items; to the superb little booklet they hand out with liner notes explaining the function of and the creative process behind each and every one of the 120 pieces. It's a near-perfect job of organizing and displaying the products, and enhancing the viewer's enjoyment and understanding of the experience.

In Dutch, Droog means "dry", a word which, in its many meanings, informs the sensibility of the collective's work: these designs are unadorned, simple, but almost always with a wry twist, or a bit of dry wit. Because this is a best-of show, there were certainly many familiar things here, but they're so beautiful and/or clever, we didn't mind seeing the likes of the milk-bottle hanging lamp again, or the waterfall shower, or the "Do Break" vase, in which a porcelain exterior is lined with silicon, and "you can break the vase after buying it. The silicon holds the bits together and you own a vase like no other." And I was delighted to come across one of my all-time favorite pieces, the "Come a little bit closer" bench—you sit on plastic discs which glide effortlessly back and forth over hundreds of glass marbles—which Debbie and I had played on a couple of years ago at a 67th Street Armory show.

Of course, there was also plenty that I had never seen before, such as the digital cuckoo clock, half-hidden inside a nest; the pantone mugs; the "handy burners", which turn your countertop into a stove; the parrafin table, complete with a dozen or so wicks embedded into the surface; the bath mat with built-in slippers; the dress made out of designer labels; and on and on and on. Really, I think the three of us spent at least a moment or two chatting over almost everything here. Simply Droog promises to encompass "10 + 3 years of creating innovation and discussion", and it definitely delivers.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 12

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Life changes fast

Life changes in an instant
You sit down to dinner, and life as you know it ends...

I kept going back to these lines, printed on the jacket, as I tore through Joan Didion's intimate, intelligent, heart-wrenching memoir of deepest love and deepest pain; I kept reading them again and again and again, there below the picture of her with husband John Gregory Dunne and daughter Quintana Roo Dunne, taken in Malibu, 1976, a time and a place when change was only exciting, and there was no thought of life ending. I was drawn to those lines, which also open the book, because to me they so beautifully encapsulate life's hard turns and sudden, violent collisions. One minute things are one way, the next, they're another way altogether. As Didion points out, have you ever heard a sad story that didn't begin with some form of "It started out just like any other day..."?

This is what happened to Didion in December, 2003, the starting point of The Year of Magical Thinking: five days after their only child Quintana slipped into a coma due to complications from pneumonia, Didion's husband of 40 years had a massive coronary failure and died in their living room as she was making dinner. Nearly a month later Quintana finally awoke, and Didion had to tell her the horrifying news.

How does one deal with such a thing?

That's what Didion tells us here: how one deals with such a thing. She self-examines the difference between grief (immediate, sharp, painful) and mourning (deep, long-term, aching), and the necessity of experiencing both; she openly describes her rage, and insanity, and emotional instability; and she shares her realization that her need to find out every detail of Dunne's medical condition (he had had heart problems for years, but still she asked for an autopsy to be administered), and to remember every minute of those last few weeks of his life ("was it two days before he died that he said this, or was it three?"), and little things like being unable to get rid of all of his shoes ("he'll need at least one pair when he comes back"), that this wasn't obsessive, or "wallowing"... it was more like, if she could just understand everything, she could change what had happened—through magical thinking, she could give that December night a different ending.

The book moved me in so many ways, but perhaps what has stayed with me the most these past few weeks is Didion's heartfelt portrait of her and Dunne's extraordinary love for each other, and their constant companionship, and respect, and friendship, which shine through all of her reminiscences of their four decades of marriage. Deepest love; deepest pain. The Year of Magical Thinking was the last book I read in 2006, and it was also quite possibly my favorite of the year.

PS: Today in the mail I received an announcement that Vanessa Redgrave is starring in Didion's theatrical adaptation of Magical Thinking, which will go into previews in March. I'm buying tickets tonight.


Thursday, January 11

Waverly Inn

The non-stop celebrity sightings... the secret phone number... the $55 plate of macaroni and cheese... the five-star rave from Time Out NY... the bitter pan from The Post... if nothing else, Graydon Carter's Waverly Inn (formerly Ye Waverly Inn) has got the town talking. Through an unusual set of circumstances (I have an inside man), Debbie and I scored a table in the Inn's front room last night and had a great time peeking at the stars (two), the high-end media types (several) and the rubberneckers (many) and, most satisfying, enjoying a truly delicious meal.

The place itself is very pretty, cozy and clubby, with creaky wood floors and rounded red banquettes and a long mural by Edward Sorel in the front; fireplace and ivy-covered walls in the back. The servers are friendly and low-key, the patrons unquestionably fabulous, the atmosphere buzzy and festive and hyper-aware: EVERYone seems to spend their entire meal looking around the room to see who's there, and who's where. Really, I've never seen so many people get up and stop by other tables for a quick kiss and a backslap and a "What ho!" It's exciting; it's exhausting.

The preview menu (officially the restaurant is still in its "soft opening") sounds pretty basic, but the four dishes we ordered were all handled exceptionally well. Debbie and I split an excellent Tuna Tartare to start, the creamy, vividly-flavored fish sitting on avocado pieces and a well-placed mustardy blast.

We both liked our entrees a lot, too: I had the Chicken Potpie, filled with juicy meat and bright vegetables enclosed in a perfectly gummy/crusty pastry; Debbie tucked in to her tender Braised Short Ribs, glazed rich and sweet, and placed atop a delicious celery root puree. For dessert we shared the Creme Caramel... again, not an unusual dish by any means, but prepared here with considerable care and skill.

Add the nice, warm corn mini-scones at the beginning and the sweet treats (almonds in cocoa powder, almond brittle, almond butter cookies) that arrived with the check, and the whole experience was tasty, fun, lively, welcoming and, especially considering the size of the bank accounts of most of the people in the room, a surprisingly good value. If you can go, you should go.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 10

Art Shows at PS1

First things first: if you're planning a trip to New York City, with or without (older) kids, put the PS1 Contemporary Art Center on your list of cool things to do. Because no matter what the art is like on any given day at this public-school-turned-museum—and, as Debbie and my visit last Saturday indicated, it can definitely be hit or miss—the physical space has such character and NYC flavor that a trip here always makes for a memorable couple of hours. I love the stairwells, caged in that inner-city way and featuring soaring wall murals; the installation rooms on the third floor that you can pop in and out of, like the offices they once were; even the unisex bathrooms are fun. Best of all is the sprawling courtyard and wide ampitheater-like steps out front, site of the fabulous Warm Up party every summer Saturday afternoon, which is an absolute must for anyone with any sort of hipster leanings. All in all, this is definitely one of Bo and Co's favorite venues for looking at art, on par with the Guggenheim and its looping ramps.

Anyway, getting back to last Saturday, when Debbie and I caught the tail end of several of the museum's fall shows...

Music is a Better Noise is all about art works created by musicians, which is a fun idea in theory, but, in this case, not really too compelling in its execution. Although there were a couple of good things here—Debbie and I both liked the dreamlike pinhole-camera photographs of Barbara Ess (who has "made records" with bands called Y Pants and Ultra Vulva), and the trippy line drawings of Devendra Banhart—most of the art betrayed these often extremely talented musicians as the amateur painters/sculptures they are, good examples being Sonic Youth's lackluster entries: Kim Gordon's glitter-on-black elementary school art project and Thurston Moore's nothing-new collages. The show runs through January 29.

The Gold Standard, in which every piece—some commissioned for this exhibit—offers commentary on the precious metal, was even less engaging, I thought, both the art itself and its mostly predictable message... except for Alfredo Jaar’s mesmerizing video "Introduction to a Distant World", in which exhausted, mud-drenched laborers trudge up and down the slippery sides of a Brazillian open-pit gold mine. An ant hill comes to mind, naturally, as do imaginings of vast slave camps in ancient times. Through January 15.

Sam Samore's The Suicidist is a clever, borderline creepy series of self-portraits immediately following the artist's self-inficted death, usually by such unconventional means as sucking his life out with a vacuum cleaner, strangling himself with a phone cord, or crushed by a test-your-strength "guillotine". What makes this exhibit especially interesting is that one set of photographs were all taken when Samore was a bushy-haired kid in the early 1970s, and then he shot a second set over the past few years (now he's a balding middle-aged guy), so we can see the suicidist all grown up.

I didn't understand John Latham's Time Base and the Universe at all—and, frankly, if his "unified theory of existence" is any indication, the guy is nuts—but it definitely provides a visceral viewing experience, especially the many works which to me read like the aftermath of violent collisions between charred old books and jagged, shattered glass.

Our favorite of the big exhibits that we saw (somehow we missed Defamation of Character, a post-punk show about fame that runs through January 15) was Altered, Stitched, and Gathered, curated by the museum's assistant staff. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any pictures at the time (security was too vigiliant in these rooms... and though I actually asked for a press pass at the museum's front desk, my request was refused), nor could I find anything online, but make sure to go up to the third floor for this exhibit. Several massive works were particularly impressive: a recreation, in huge panels painted in a multitude of styles, of a photograph of a bunch of bare-chested navy guys; a 40-foot-high wall-hanging that looks like a Klimt knock-off from a distance and turns out to be made from flattened bottle caps; a kaleidescope-y wallprint created with bits of typefaces stolen from product names arching over the room's main doorway. I also liked the Rambo movie made old-timey, complete with melodramatic piano music and title screens. Through January 22.

Finally, don't miss Katrín Sigurdarodóttir's High Plane V, which requires that you climb a (surprisingly steep) ladder and poke your head through the ceiling of the museum's second floor, and into the middle of the landscape she's created on the third. Through May 7.

PS1 is located in Queens, which makes it sound far away, but it's an easy subway ride from Manhattan on the 7 or E/V trains.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 5

Rai Rai Ken

I was in the East Village last Saturday afternoon, just killing some time solo before going to an early movie, when I got hit with a hankering for some ramen. Sadly, it was still too early for the great Momofuku to be open... happily, I live in a city with many, many eating options, and so I used the opportunity to finally sit at the battered bar of Rai Rai Ken, and for the first time sample some of their much-lauded noodles.

There are only about 15 seats here (they may have some tables out back in the summer), nearly all of which were taken at 4:00 in the afternoon. I asked the chef which was the best of the three soup options, and took his suggestion on the Shoyu Ramen, with, I think, mixed results. The rich, aromatic, soy-sauce based broth was eminently slurpable, and the generous tangle of ramen noodles was terrific: tasty and with just the right amount of snap. The toppings, however, failed to keep up with the soup's strong foundation: there were a few soggy bamboo shoots; one smallish, sad-looking piece of roast pork, which had me longing for the braised neck meat of Momofuku's beautiful Berkshire swine; too many scallions; a half of a hard-boiled egg (not to belabor the comparison, but the poached egg at Momofuku contributes a lot more flavor and texture to its dish); some scattered spinach leaves, no promised fish cake, and one dried seaweed square. I also ordered the Gyoza dumplings which, although appropriately greasy and plump with a vegetable and pork filling, mostly just tasted like scallions.

I don't mean to sound too negative, as this was not a bad meal by any means, especially for the $12 price tag. But there was nothing here that got me too excited, either. Rai Rai Ken is on 10th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues... right around the corner from Momofuku.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 4

My Favorite Movies, 2006

I saw 77 movies in the theater this year. These, I think, were the ten I liked most, in alphabetical order:

1. Children of Men
2. The Departed
3. Flags of Our Fathers
4. Half Nelson
5. Inside Man
6. Little Miss Sunshine
7. Pan's Labryinth
8. The Prestige
9. United 93
10. Volver

I also enjoyed these movies a lot:

Akeelah and the Bee • Casino Royale • The Good Shepherd • History Boys • The Holiday • An Inconvenient Truth • Infamous • The Last Kiss • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest • The Queen • Sketches of Frank Gehry • Stick It • She's the Man • Stranger Than Fiction • V is for Vendetta • Wordplay

Am I wrong? Did I miss something good?