Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Philippe de Montebello Years at the Met

To send off their boss, who’s retiring after 31 years as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, several curators put together this exhibit of 300 works, selected from the 84,000 works acquired under Philippe de Montebello’s tenure. The photos, paintings, furniture, sculptures, and other objects are grouped by date of acquisition, which practically guarantees exciting juxtapositions, such as the correspondence between the steel-and-diamond curves of a Russian table and the fleshy curves of Avedon’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe or the contrast between the rigid pins of an African statue and the fluid drips of a Pollock.

Museums tend to segregate work by medium, by artist, or by date of composition; this exhibit shows just how fascinating it is to contemplate work that is connected only by happenstance, the date it happened to come to the Met. Tethered by chance, the art as it has been placed here reminds us of all the thematic, formal, social, cultural, etc., etc. connections that we can't always see due to the museum's necessary but nevertheless limiting organization. The exhibit thus lauds PdM's contributions while subtly critiquing its ordinary modes of display.

And if you'll pardon the cheese factor, we'll take this opportunity to say goodbye to PdM and to 2008. Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holiday Spirit in Gramercy Park

OK, it's not as impressive as our tree, but it does have the Chrysler Building as a backdrop, which surely counts for something.

Christmas from the Greenmarket

Raised on Charlie Brown's Christmas Special, we couldn't resist this scrawny, gappy tree when we saw it at the greenmarket in Union Square.

Snow in Central Park

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Best Things We Ate in 2008

Inspired by our friend Howard, we decided to devote a post to the best things we ate all year. In no particular order, here they are:

*Caramel chocolate dome, Bar Room at the Modern
*Gujarati thali, Chennai Garden
*Spaghettini with lobster + 12-month cured culatello, Babbo
*Scallop ceviche + “shellfish duet,” River CafĂ©
*Pizza, Franny’s
*Scallop appetizer + grass-fed sirloin steak + chocolate-and-peanut butter cake, Cookshop
*Elotes (grilled ears of corn with cojita cheese and red chili powder), Vaquero Fruit Stand at the Red Hook Ballfields
*Crab cakes wrapped in zucchini blossoms and truffle butter + pounded tuna with fig compote, Le Bernadin
*Sheep's milk dumplings with pine nuts, tomatoes, and lamb sausage, Kefi
*Veal testa and lamb sausage charcuterie, Applewood
*Porkchop with rosemary and fennel, Little Owl
*Award-winning oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies

So, in sum, vegetables be damned --- we'll take seafood and meat!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

State by State / Jonathan Franzen Reading

When asked to contribute an entry on New York that combined reportage and memoir to State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, Jonathan Franzen went the slightly untraditional route and wrote a play about a literary writer named Jonathan Franzen trying to interview New York State. During a performance Friday night at the New School, he played himself, plaintive nasality and all, Parker Posey played a hyper publicist, Sarah Vowell played a historian, writer Ellery Washington played a geologist, and acclaimed actress Maria Tucci played the great state herself. It was big fun.

In the play, New York State is shielded in a maze of cubicles, her time protected by various people publicizing, photographing, documenting, and studying her. When Franzen finally arrives in her office, simultaneously shell-shocked by a long discourse about the Revolutionary War and fired up about Manhattan schist, he discovers a wise, stately woman who cuts through the BS and refuses to reminisce about the good old days. Of course he came here as a young man looking for fame and romance, she acknowledges, and of course on his first visit to the city he met the man he wanted to become. And yet. “Money,” she reminds him. “It was always about money.”

Photo: thanks

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New York Magazine's Reasons to Love New York II

Yup, we discussed this last year, but new reasons merit a new entry . . . This year's reasons include:

--We fight over cultural spaces as if they were Bosnia.
--Our pregnant women kick ass.
--New York has become a world capital of philosophy.
--You can catch a world-class fish in the shadow of skyscrapers.
--We're highly receptive to bold, brilliant, mildly lunatic public art.

Excellent writing, excellent reading, this. Isn't New York awesome?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Train Show at the NYBG

We made our annual trip to the holiday train show at the New York Botanical Garden, where we saw festive directions, elaborate gingerbread houses, speeding model trains, and some of New York's most famous structures brought to life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Wild Winterland at the Bronx Zoo

Striving to be ecologically sensitive, the Bronx Zoo has replaced its usual holiday light show with daytime activities this year. Horse rides, caroling, and--most importantly--presents for the animals may be less twinkly than usual, but the lights were always outshone by the residents anyway.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Sheet Music at City Opera

There are myriad thrift stores in New York, but one of the more interesting is the City Opera Thrift Shop, which raises money for its namesake. Their wares include the usual thrift store finds--dull vases, chipped furniture, odd-smelling clothes--but also musical memorabilia. Their windows are currently stocked with holiday sheet music; while they don't rival Macy's or Bloomingdale's window displays, they do create an appealing pocket of seasonal nostalgia.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Origami Tree at the AMNH

For more than 30 years, members of OrigamiUSA have decorated a huge tree in the basement of the American Museum of Natural History. This year the theme was "Folding the Museum": the 500 ornaments depict dinosaurs, fossils (including a skeleton of a dodo), animals, birds, baskets, many stars, many twinkles, toys, masks, and a tiny green baby dino emerging from its cream-colored shell.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Polar Rink

Ice skating is a quintessential New York winter pastime; the Central Park and Rockefeller Center rinks are so popular that at peak times one does considerably more ice standing than ice skating. This year, the American Museum of Natural History has joined the seasonal festivities for the first time in its 140-year history. And though the museum is an old institution, its rink is decidedly innovative--a completely ice-free synthetic surface made from recyclable materials and requiring no cooling. How does that eco-friendliness affect the skating experience? Well, if we were capable of skating more than 10 feet without looking like we were trying to shake frightened weasels out of our pant legs, we'd tell you. As it is, all we can say is that it's definitely slick.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Wild Turkey in Central Park

Stepping out of the Ramble in Central Park today, we encountered this wild turkey, who was as curious about us as we were about her. She strutted and posed and fluffed herself, placid even in the face of a stunned labrador retriever. But when she finally did take off into the brush, she did so in a hurry.

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