Sunday, July 22, 2007

Age Diversity II

Overheard at the movies: "I got out of the army when I was 23. I'm 73 now. Fifty years later, and I still don't understand the goddamn subway system."

Central Park Bat Walk


Continuing our avian adventures, we went on a nocturnal sojourn, hosted by the American Museum of Natural History, through Central Park, looking for bats. About twenty of us, from kid to senior citizen, roamed toward the west part of the Lake (where we disturbed a bunch of teenagers in the midst of their own nightly exploration) and over to Bow Bridge.

The researchers leading the walk had a few electronic apparatuses that could pick up bat frequencies, but in the (frequent) moments of silence, the researchers elucidated some facts: 9 species of bats live in New York State. It's not known just how many live in Central Park, but somewhere in the neighborhood of "a lot." Bats are mammals, just like you and me. And, last but certainly not least in the fun fact department, bats aren't blind.

While I heard some clicking on the bat radio, I only saw one, which looked nothing like those on the poster above, from an 1880 lithograph print included in "Johnson's Household Book of Nature," but something like a disoriented brown bird as it swooped, first one way, then another, between a cluster of trees.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge




More than 300 different types of birds migrate through or live in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of Gateway National Recreational Area, in Queens. It's one of the most important birding spots in the state. Alas, we saw only a handful during our 1.75-mile loop through the West Pond Trail--including osprey, ducks, geese (which use footpaths to cross from pond to pond), and gulls--and we missed the terapins too, whose habitat is closed off for research during the summer.

But we did spy the Empire State Building just through the marsh (you'll have to take our word for it, as the top photo didn't quite capture its tiny silver spire), as well as a flowering native cactus (yes, it's true--and it's called the prickly pear).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rowboats in the Lake


Central Park has a few bodies of water, including the 20-acre, aptly named Lake. At the nearby Loeb Boathouse, you can sign up for a ride in a gondola (don’t be surprised, though, when the gondolier speaks with a Brooklyn accent) or rent rowboats for $12 / hour. Any blisters from the wooden oars are worth it: you just can’t beat being on a rowboat on a beautiful day, looking up at the blue sky and views of fancy real estate on Central Park West.

Picture from: http://www.centralparknyc.org/virtualpark/thegreatlawn/lake

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Christian Tomaszewski at the Sculpture Center


Art installations are by their very nature slippery and somewhat disconcerting. After all, an artist takes over a space, transforming it into something it’s not, often relying on viewers to remember that everything they’re seeing is an illusion. “On Chapels, Caves and Erotic Misery,” the installation by Polish-born, New York–based artist Christian Tomaszewski at the Sculpture Center in Queens, is all the more disconcerting because it’s based on Blue Velvet, that creepy classic by David Lynch.

The exhibit begins downstairs, in pitch black. A screen simply states, “This film has been modified to fit your limits.” From here, a doorway opens to the left, into a long blue hallway—a cardboard replica of the hallway in Dorothy’s apartment building (see above)—or to the right, into a room filled with cardboard lamps and dioramas from the movie. There, we’re treated to Jeffrey’s view from the closet, screens that repeat stage directions, a neon sign for the Bang Bang bar that blinks on and off, a replica of the booth where Jeffrey and Sandy anxiously discuss recent events, etc.

Off of the hallway are various doors, most of which are locked but some of which lead into other rooms, filled with more art or scenes. Each door must be tried in order to figure out if it opens or doesn’t. We expected to see the final death tableau—with the Yellow Man and Dorothy’s husband—but didn’t. Sometimes the absence of something can be as unsettling as its presence.

The installation does a great job of showing the totality of Lynch’s world: Tomaszewski’s art reinforces the idea of Lynch as auteur. He masterminds everything, from the color of the booth’s fabric to the lamps used to light Dorothy’s hallway, and Tomaszewski can only repeat it, with varying degrees of success. For the real experience, the movie’s still the way to go.

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