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

Friday, March 30


Never shy about sampling something new in the sweet treats category, last week Scoboco went to the spanking-new Yolato on Broadway and 82nd Street to see what the press-release fuss—complete with plans for rapid expansion in New York City—was all about. After trying at least 10 flavors of their stunningly bland and plasticky gelato (as well as both varieties of their better frozen yogurt), we're still trying to figure it out.

The store itself is very appealing, with its floor-to-ceiling white mini-tiles and mod, metallic-red stools. The staffed-up crew couldn't have been more friendly and patient (the place was pretty busy, even on a chilly, drizzly night). And the gelato definitely all looks tempting and nicely garnished and the different-colored handles on the scoopers signify your different options—regular, dairy-free, and sugar-free—and... yeah. Bo, Co and I really wanted to be enthusiastic. Unfortunately, the stuff just doesn't taste good.

The Chocolate was the worst—remarkably greasy and tasteless—and, sorry to say, we all ordered it. You get two scoops in a "Regular" cup, so I paired mine with Pineapple, which showed potential, with a nice bite that, sadly, concealed an unpleasant finish. Co opted for Nutella, which was almost a bland (and definitely as oily) as the Chocolate, and Bo went for her usual Green Tea, which she said was pretty good, but "fake tasting". About halfway through my gelato cup I gave up and ordered a Plain-flavored yogurt (they also serve Strawberry; their West Village location—at which the gelato is equally disappointing, report Debbie and her daughter—offers Plain and Orange) with strawberries and Hersey's chocolate syrup. This at least felt like a real dessert, and the yogurt had a nice sour tang, but it was still only about half as good as what they're pushing at Pinkberry.

By the way, all of Yolato's offerings are billed as low-fat, low-calorie, low-carb, etc., but that's no excuse. They also make crepes, which look pretty good, but I have my doubts.

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Thursday, March 29

The Wire: Season 2 on DVD

After the first 13 episodes (aka Season 1), I knew it was true: The Wire is the best TV show ever made ever, and is sharper, better written, and more consistently immersive than, say, 86% of the movies I've seen in the past few years. I know, it's kind of an unfair comparison... the narrative scope and pacing, the rhythms of the characters, the balance between exposition and style, are all inherently different in a two- or three-hour movie designed to be viewed in one sitting than in a 12-hour show meant to be seen in segments. But still.

So, really the only question was: could Season 2 possibly be as good as Season 1?

Yes. It could... and it may even be better.

I loved the sprawling new case in Season 2, involving hard-bitten stevedores and longshoremen, drug smuggling, a drunk duck, McNulty on a boat, slavery, stolen goods, RICO-obsessed FBI agents, the Greek mafia, wiretaps (of course), run-down old Baltimore Polish neighborhoods, and 14 dead young women. I loved the new faces, especially Amy Ryan's jittery but smart Officer Russell, and the beautifully played insecure insanity of James Ransone's Ziggy. I loved the way David Simon, Ed Burns and their guest writers (including George Pelecanos) also managed to keep the stories moving of all the old characters, cops and criminals, that I had grown so attached to in Season 1. And I really love that tonight I can start The Wire: Season 3!


Tuesday, March 27

MyMix 3.27

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

LCD Soundsystem: North American Scum
Peter Bjorn and John: Up Against the Wall*
Andrew Bird: Fiery Crash
The Talking Heads: The Big Country
The Killers: Read My Mind
Times New Viking: Little Amps
Akon: Don't Matter
Biz Markie: The Vapors
The Thermals: St. Rosa and the Swallows
Elvis Perkins: All the Night Without Love**
Phoenix Foundation: To a Lost Friend
TV on the Radio: Dirtywhirl
Seal: Crazy
The Presets: Girl and the Sea
Lily Allen: LDN***
Bloc Party: I Still Remember
The Arcade Fire: Keep the Car Running****
Tracey Thorn: Get Around To It
Superchunk: Mower
The Cloud Room: Hey Now Now
Morissey: Everyday is Like Sunday

* I can't get enough of this Swedish trio's CD, called Writer's Block. It's sweet, unbelievably catchy, familiar yet fresh... Bo, Co and I listen to it all the time at home, and I always put a song or three on my daily mixes. Objects of My Affection, Amsterdam, Paris 2004, The Chills, Up Against the Wall: these are all great songs. And Co, an excellent whistler, especially likes Young Folks.

** This guy sound so much like Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel I almost don't even believe they're two different people. Here's a warm and friendly video of this bittersweet song. And if you're curious about those lo-fi, Elephant Six hipsters NMH, check out In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, or Song Against Sex.

*** I love this song's juxtaposition of sunny melody and grim lyrics. And she's totally cute in the beginning of the video.

**** I think this album's excellent, but doesn't the cover remind you of Tempest?


Monday, March 26


For two years in a row now I've trounced Debbie in our Oscar pool. And though I have to wait until 2013 to collect last year's prize, this year we kept it pretty simple: winner picks the restaurant; loser pays. Which is why I would like to thank the Academy for the terrific Italian feast we enjoyed last Saturday evening at Morandi, the newest creation from Keith McNally, who already packs them in nightly at Schiller's Liquor Bar, Balthazar, and Pastis.

And it definitely was "evening": apparently the only two-top available at Morandi for people like us (i.e., not famous) was at 5:30, which is fine by me in terms of dining, but definitely diminished our chances for some celebrity spotting. No matter: the staff was friendly (though overly aggressive with the plate clearing); the warm, pretty dining room nearly full and definitely buzzing by 6:00; and the food delicious, up and down the menu.

We started with the excellent Finocchio Alla Cenere, a pile of perfectly grilled fennel and orange slices, bathed in bitter honey: the sharp citrus, mellow licorice, subtle sweetness all working together nicely. Then came the best dish of the meal—and another early contender for my favorite plate of the year—Polipetti E Sedano, an amazing grilled octopus sitting atop celery bits and black olives. It was lemony, oceany, oily, unbelievably tender, totally transcendent. Really, I was tempted to order another as soon as I was finished.

Next up were our main courses. I went for the Polpettine Alla Siciliana, which was five fat and flavorful meatballs, juicy and rich and stuffed with pine nuts, raisins and, as Debbie helpfully pointed out later on, garlic. This was a beautiful combination of flavors, made into a complete meal by my side of bright and nicely bitter (and thankfully not garlicky) Broccoli Rabe. I've read that chef Jody Williams brought these meatballs with her from her former job at nearby (and quite good) Gusto, and I'm glad she did. Meanwhile Debbie was loving her Pici al Limone, dense tubes of hand-rolled spaghetti given both zing and bite by lemon peel and plenty of parmesan. Finally came dessert, an almondy cake with berries that I'm struggling to recall more about, other than I thought it too ordinary, too dry, and the only weak spot of the meal.

Morandi is on Waverly Place and Charles Street, right near Seventh Avenue South. I hope to get back there soon... and definitely before my certain triumph on Oscar night, 2008.

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Friday, March 23

East Village Ice Cream

On the first really warm night of pre-Spring last week, Debbie and I strolled on over to Avenue B to sample the sweet treats of East Village Ice Cream. Newly opened by a former chef at the very good Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (no relation to the very very good Chinatown Ice Cream Factory), this bright little shop features 10 or so freshly-handmade flavors, mostly of the classic variety.

I had a double scoop of Butter Pecan, which was fine and appealingly creamy, and Chocolate Chocolate Chunk, which was absolutely superb: dense and (not overly) sweet and authentically chocolatey. This flavor alone would be worth a return trip, maybe next time paired with Strawberry. Debbie had a cone of Vanilla Chocolate Chunk, which was nothing special, she said, but that didn't stop her from finishing the whole thing. We also had several tastes, of Pistachio (nice and nutty, said Debbie) and Coffee (nice and rich, said me) and Mango. The owner was so excited about this last flavor that he gave us each a cup's worth right out of the machine in back before it had time to... ummmm... creamify. He should have waited.

So the ice cream ranges from ok to fabulous, but as far as atmosphere goes.... the delicious mango-y paint job and enthusiastic, smiley service is unfortunately undermined by the depressing found-objects decor—a sad-looking ice-cream-cone pinata hanging here; an ugly strawberry-shaped cookie jar sitting on the counter there—complete with a couple of ratty door mats randomly placed on the floor and rickety old patio furniture serving as your seating. Not a deal-breaker when it comes to getting a sweet treat on a summer's evening, true, but not a real incentive to go out of your way, either.

East Village Ice Cream is located on Avenue B between 14th and 13th Streets.

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Thursday, March 22

Top Five Winter Movies

I saw 20 movies between New Year's Day and the Vernal Equinox. These were my five favorites:

1. Zodiac
2. The Lives of Others
3. The Namesake
4. Notes on a Scandal
5. Breaking and Entering

Honestly, though, Zodiac pretty much blew everything else away. Number one with a massive-caliber bullet.

Did I miss anything?


The Decemberists at the Landmark Loews Theatre

Colin Meloy and his merry band of Decemberists kicked off their 34-city spring tour tonight in, of all places, Jersey City, and I was lucky enough to be there, right in the second row... and even more fortunate to be joined at such a lively love-fest of a concert by Debbie and her beautiful daughters.

First, let me just say that if you ever get a chance to see a band at this crazily ornate, seen-better-times old movie house, take it: it's right across the street from the Journal Square PATH station, the best seats were under $30, it's insanely cool in an almost-spooky run-down sort of way, the staff was super-friendly, and the sound system from where I was sitting was loud and sharp. Note: The Decemberists play here again Thursday, March 22, and there are probably still tickets available.

Second, let me also just say that The Crane Wife was in my Top-5 favorite CDs of 2006, and I've never seen them play live, so I was definitely predisposed to love this show. Which I totally did. Meloy was charming and chatty, the band energetic and tight, the audience with them all the way.

Anyway, here's the set list of the 90-minute show, with a few random thoughts:

The Crane Wife 1

July, July!

The Infanta

Yankee Bayonet
Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond (the opening act) gamely tried to sing the female parts of this bittersweet, romantic song, but her voice was way too low to really pull it off.

"Cut 'Em Up Boy"
Is this a new song? Meloy didn't say, but did offer that it basically encourages murder.

On the Bus Mall
Perhaps my all-time favorite Decemberists song (after more than two years, it still gets onto my on-the-go mixes at least once a week), unfortunately marred by the too-loud levels of the electric guitar. Still gave me goosebumps, though.

O Valencia!

The Island
This might have been the highlight of the entire concert... nearly 15 minutes of glorious, proggish, rocking out. The crowd was going nuts.

The Mariner's Revenge Song
A theatrical staging of this most theatrical tale, complete with a dance routine, propping, and audience participation. Almost ruined, however, by drummer John Moen's WAY overly-hammy goofiness.

The Legionnaire's Lament was in there somewhere, too, as was another song or two from their first two discs that I can't remember right now.

A "traditional song" with Meloy solo on acoustic guitar with lyrics that spoke of how every day feels like Sunday, so cold and grey. This was beautiful.

The Crane Wife 3
This is Debbie's favorite song, so I'm glad they played it, but, really? I was positive (and hoping) they were going to send us home with Sons and Daughters, one of the greatest album-ending songs of all time.

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Wednesday, March 21

Winter Movies: Part 4

Spring is finally here! Warm sun, evening light, Bo and Co running up the block in t-shirts, after-dinner walks for ice cream, lots of Debbie kisses on the street... and it all starts riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight NOW! But before I get too ridiculous with spring fever, here's a look at the final five movies I saw this winter:

Although it lacked some of the power of the excellent book, The Namesake was nonetheless a moving, warm, entertaining movie about the connections of family, about growing up, about the immigrant-to-America experience, about loss and pain and sweetness and love, as it takes us through the lives of a family that begins with an arranged marriage in India, and ends with a funeral in suburban New Jersey (or perhaps it's Queens?). Anyway, the trailer gives away some of the most tender moments, as well as a few of the biggest laughs, but even those spoilers don't diminish the overall appeal of this simple story, elevated by strong performances throughout, especially from Kal Penn as Gogol Ganguli—the son, and the namesake of the title—and even more especially from Tabu as the wonderfully underplayed homesick, determined, old-fashioned, bemused, deeply loving mother.

You won't see a better looking movie this year than The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and not just when our tweedily-dressed heroes and villains tromp and train and fight and kill their way through the lush Irish countryside. Even the interior shots are beautifully lit... heck, even the scene where someone gets their fingernails ripped out is easy on the eyes. That said, this is the famously (left-leaning) political director Ken Loach's often intense, unbelievably depressing story of the repression, betrayal, violence, fear and death that surrounded the founding of the IRA in 1920s. Like most war movies, there is little to distinguish the individual characters from one another here, though Cillian Murphy makes a strong presence as the apolitical-doctor-turned-Brits-out-radical (it's the first time I felt like he wasn't relying so heavily on his eyes to do all the work). And I wish I knew more Irish history, to get a sense of the bigger picture that these twenty or so young men were operating within. Also: it's almost impossible to penetrate the Gaelic accents in certain parts, further adding to my (and Debbie's) overall feeling of frustration with the film.

They tried for a lot in Two Weeks—the dynamics of adult siblings, with all the old jokes and resentments and familiar roles; these same adult siblings dealing with the death of their mother, the person that has held them together all these years; the feelings of determined courage and self-pity and anger of said Mom—and, ultimately, they missed. And, yes, the humor was often played way too slap-sticky for my taste. But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy big sections of this weepie in which Sally Field dies of cancer surrounded by her four grown-up children. And if any of the above sounds at all appealing to you, it's definitely worth a rental.

In Hustle and Flow, writer/director Craig Brewer did a terrific job making the "mid-life crisis" of a two-bit Memphis pimp not only believable, but also totally engaging and even sympathetic. Brewer attempts a similar feat in the deliberately (overly?) provocative Black Snake Moan, but this time isn't nearly as successful. Cristina Ricci is cast in one of those "brave" hyper-sexual roles, and she does a mostly admirable job of screaming in her panties, but her battles with nymphomaniacal demons were just silly, I thought. And Samuel L. Jackson is competent as the old, bitter, recently-cuckolded blues singer who "cures" Ricci, but, honestly, it was much more fun to recently "see" him in this clip.

Finally, my last movie of the winter was also my least favorite, though plenty of otherwise-reasonably-intelligent critics seem to disagree. I thought The Host—the South Korean monster movie—was just stupid. The characters were stupid. The humor, stupid. The story, SO stupid. The message, so obvious it was stupid. But that's just me.


Tuesday, March 20

Gordon Matta-Clark / Lorna Simpson at the Whitney

One of my favorite things about going to look at art is how unpredictable the experience can be. Take the two big solo shows currently at the Whitney, where Debbie and I went last Saturday, and at which my expectations going in were basically the opposite of how I felt when we left. Pretty much: disappointed by the Gordon Matta-Clark; delighted by the Lorna Simpson.Don't get me wrong... there's a lot about Matta-Clark's work that I found extremely appealing: it's subversive and defiant and playful; there's a certain element of street theater to his pieces; he was daring and principled and smart and creative. But maybe the nature of his art makes it better suited to be explored in a book, rather than a museum show. For example, often times Matta-Clark's ideas are cool, but the visual representations are sort of ho-hum, as in his "Fake Estates" project, for which he bought, at city auctions, odd real-estate lots—such as a 355' x 2.33' section of a driveway in Queens—created by anomalies of zoning and surveying. That's funny, I think, and says something about our worship of property, but in a museum it amounts to a few framed deeds and some photographs of... a driveway in Queens.

Or take his 1971 art-piece/restaurant on Prince Street, called "Food", at which he served all kinds of interesting things (including an all-bone meal) AND at which Debbie thinks she may have actually eaten with her parents, proving once again what an amazingly cool woman she is. Anyway, I'd love to read a chapter in a good book about this place, as I imagine the stories are fascinating and many, but at the Whitney what we get is not much more than a photograph of a storefront. One more illustration of the exhibit's lack of visual punch might be Matta-Clark's "Day's End" (below), for which he surreptitiously sliced a huge, ovalish shape into an abandoned warehouse on the Hudson River. This must have been amazing to witness, and the way the light streamed in surely created an ironic cathedral-esque atmosphere to the decrepit space, but the video of the guerrilla cutting is small and silent, and the photographs, while slightly larger, don't really do the project justice either.

What we DID especially like about Matta-Clark, the museum show, were his collage-y, hand colored prints in the Office Baroque series, as well as the disorienting photographs of his 1972 Bronx Hole set, for which he would break into abandoned buildings in the South Bronx and cut circles in the walls and floors, famously oblivious to the dangers of that time, and that place.

After Matta-Clark we stopped into the fourth floor to see what Lorna Simpson was all about, and were both totally taken by her large-scale, symbolic, often repetitious photography combined with simple phrases. One of our favorites was "You're Fine, You're Hired", in which a black-and-white photograph of woman lying on her side has been severed into four parts, flanked on the left by doctor's-office style gold plates that read "blood test", "urinalysis", "ekg", and other clinical terms, and on right with the words "Secretarial Position." This work was apparently inspired by the application process Simpson was subjected to—including all those medical tests—in order to get a job answering phones. After being hired, Simpson realized that no other employee was black, and that no other employee had had to undergo a physical examination to work there.

We also really liked the photographs that appear to have been developed onto felt, as in the "Wigs" series, above, as well as several of the other works that used type and body images, and are pictured in this post, the names of which escape me. Also engaging (up to a point) were Simpson's videos, including a huge eight-screen piece that features people fading in and out of different domestic scenes; and "Easy to Remember", composed of 15 sets of lips humming something that sounds like Ode to Joy.

The Gordon Matta-Clark show is at the Whitney until June 3; Lorna Simpson's exhibit is up until May 6.

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Sunday, March 18

Caffe Falai

Debbie and I first tried to eat at the bright new Caffe Falai about a month ago, showing up at around 7:15 on a Sunday night, only to be told that the kitchen was closed. It was their opening weekend, they said. They had been really busy, they were tired, they were shutting down early. I didn't realize at the time that the kitchen stops taking orders at 8:00 even when they're not tired, but still... I don't think I've ever heard of a New York City restaurant turning away people because the chefs wanted to go home.

Be that as it may, we tried again on a recent Sunday evening (it's in an excellent post-Angelika location, on Lafayette, just south of Prince), got in just under the wire, and totally enjoyed a tasty, relatively inexpensive meal. First came the bread, which was excellent and plentiful: two different kinds of rolls, plus several warm, freshly pressed thick slices. Next up was a delicious Ricotta Flan with roasted cherry tomatoes and arugula drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The ricotta was somehow both creamy and airy, and, no surprise, went well with the sweet tomatoes and bitter greens.

We both had a pasta for our main dish. Debbie's Papardelle with Cauliflower and Mushrooms in an almondy, buttery sauce was delicious: full-flavored, well-balanced, rich and creamy. The only downside was that the noodles weren't hot, or even warm... as if they had been cooked some time ago, and the kitchen figured that dousing the dish with a hot sauce would suffice. It did not. Meanwhile, I was tucking in to my Potato Tortelloni with Bolognese, and loving every bite. The sweet, meaty sauce made for a nice counterpoint to the soft spuds tucked inside the chewy pockets of pasta.

I've read that Caffe Falai is really more of a breakfast and lunch place, and that may be so... but I doubt the waitress hands you a goodie bag filled with two free loaves of bread during the day, as they did to us when we left at around 8:45 at night.

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Thursday, March 15

A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon

Though not nearly as tour-de-force-y as his remarkable debut, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother is nonetheless a reasonably brilliant and mostly engaging observational novel that takes us deep into the at-times seriously deranged psyches of the Hall family. Set in what seems to be the suburbs of present-day London, here is the story of:

• George Hall, deeply uncomfortable with the world, the patriarchal retiree who'd sooner putter alone in his garden than interact with people (including—especially?—his family), and who falls into a slow but quite complete mental breakdown (all very politely, of course) after discovering what he believes to be a cancerous legion on his leg.

• Jean Hall, George's slightly clueless (though usually well-meaning) wife who can't help but say the wrong thing... and who's in the midst of an utterly surprising affair with one of her husband's former colleagues.

• Jamie Hall, their amiable, somewhat befuddled gay son (George and Jean have NO idea how to deal with that) who, fearing love, throws away his boyfriend Tony, only to realize (too late?) that he just blew the best part of his life.

• Katie Hall, the caustic daughter with young son Jacob, whose impending, on-again-off-again wedding to the dull but capable and loving Ray provides much of the book's narrative structure.

Haddon is an entertaining, confident, intelligent writer who knows how to paint a character or a scene with just a few quick strokes. And though I felt like the book's middle got a bit saggy, there are so many juicy little observations AND big, heart-wrenching moments that I know that these very human Halls, with all of their flaws and good intentions, will stay with me for some time to come.

Here's a sample of Haddon's voice, chosen almost randomly:

"He decided not to mention [his public panic attack] to Jean. She would only want to talk about it and that was not an appealing proposition.

Talking was, in George's opinion, overrated. You could not turn the television on these days without someone discussing their adoption or explaining why they stabbed their husband. Not that he was averse to talking. Talking was one of life's pleasures. And everyone needed to sound off now and then over a pint of Ruddles about colleagues who did not shower frequently enough, or teenage sons who had returned home drunk in the small hours and thrown up in the dog's basket. But it did not change anything.

The secrecy of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely. How anyone could work in the same office for ten years or bring up children without putting certain thoughts permanently to the back of their mind was beyond him. And as for that last grim lap when you had a catheter and no teeth, memory loss seemed like a godsend."


Wednesday, March 14

Milk and Cookies

Scoboco was rolling with Jonathan and Claire last Sunday when the need for a sweet treat hit us like a... well, like the need for a sweet treat. Earlier in the afternoon the kids had gone to—and really enjoyed, though Co thought it "scary"—Call Me Elizabeth at the IFC Center (part of the New York International Children's Film Festival), and we all had just polished off a five-pack of paolitos at the under-appreciated Puff and Pao on Christopher and Bleecker. So although there are any number of solid dessert choices in that general vicinity (Chocolate Bar, Lilac and Cones came to mind), I suggested Milk and Cookies, an almost-too-cute little cafe/bakery on Commerce Street, just west of 7th Avenue South. I had been—and been disappointed—a couple times before, with Debbie, but that was at least a year ago, and Bo and Co were eager to check it out (not surprising: after all, it is called Milk and Cookies), so I figured what the heck.

I wish this place were better. They have a terrific selection of cookies (13 standard choices) and other baked goods. If you're willing to wait, you can even customize your own dozen (choose a base—vanilla, sugar, chocolate, oatmeal, etc.—and two of some 25 fillings), and they'll bake it for you right then and there. And the place is extremely (little) kid-friendly, with chalk-board table tops and games to play and balloons to blow up and bounce around and books to read.... it's all very warm and inviting, but, honestly, the cookies really just aren't that good. We had about eight different kinds and to varying degrees they were all surprisingly bland (or, at least, very one-note, and that note was "sweet"); too cakey and dry. My favorite by far was the Oatmeal Butterscotch, but even that wouldn't be worth a special trip. Except...

Except that Bo, Co and Claire LOVED the place, which we had entirely to ourselves, and they spread out and got super silly and happily munched their cookies and drank their milk and felt like they had found someplace really special. So: friendly, fun and a guaranteed kid-pleaser? Absolutely, yes. Tasty sweet treats? Unfortunately, no.

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Sunday, March 11

Comic Abstraction at the MoMA

After seeing the excellent Jeff Wall show last weekend, Debbie and I got a members-only (thanks, cutie!) sneak peek at the Museum of Modern Art's Comic Abstraction exhibit. This is a small show—maybe 25 pieces by 13 different artists—and we weren't totally convinced... neither by the work itself, nor, really, by the premise of the exhibit: art that uses slapstick, cartoons, comic strips, animation, etc., as "springboards for abstraction." Nevertheless, there certainly are a few appealing, engaging works here, and if you're at the MoMA already, it's definitely worth stopping in the I think second-floor gallery (the one at the end of that long hallway, heading east) for a look. Anyway, here's a few of our favorite pieces from the show. You can find more images at moma.org, as well as lots of in-depth commentary.

Phillipe Parenno's fun and clever Mylar Word Bubbles cover the ceiling as you enter the gallery.

Just a small sample of Rivane Neuenschander's striking contribution to the exhibit: a wall filled with these spreads, which she created by taking an actual copy of a classic, 1940s Brazilian comic book— Carioco, about a green parrot who embodied all the stereotypes of the Rio de Janeiro dweller: "street-smart, lazy, a lover of soccer and samba, a flirt and a swindler"—and overpainted the word balloons in white, and the figures in bright, solid colors. Debbie and I agreed that this was the best thing in the show.

We both really liked this floor piece—called Blossom, in a nod to the Power Puff Girl—and were fascinated by artist Polly Apfelbaum's technique (how did she get each of those small sections to have the exact same sized white border?)... and not just because Polly is a good friend of gallery expert Eric!

We didn't really get this piece at all—Franz West's Mirror In a Cabin With Adaptives, in which you grab a weird, maybe Flintstone-looking "tool" and enter a newspapered chamber—but it made for a good photo-op.

Finally, this cracked me up. Juan Munez's Waiting for Jerry sits by itself in a dark room with a loud, cartoony, sound-effects soundtrack. The noise and the darkness make you think you're walking into a video installation, but all there is this mousehole... and your own dashed expectations of cartoon mayhem.

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