Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Go Obama!

Here's a bit of Hendrik Hertzberg's commentary on Barack Obama's "world tour" in this week's New Yorker
Obama gained nothing in the polls during his nearly flawless, arguably triumphant grand tour. Still, after seven years during which, even among our closest allies, contempt for Bush bled into resentment of the country that returned him to office, one would have to be an awful grouch not to be gratified by the sight of a sea of delighted Europeans waving American flags instead of burning them and cheering an American politician instead of demonstrating against one.

Back home, one such grouch had ample reason to be grouchy. McCain’s luck last week was as bad as Obama’s was good. McCain rode in a golf cart with Bush senior; Obama rode in a helicopter with General David Petraeus. Obama was hailed by the German multitudes; McCain, his planned photo op at an offshore rig preĆ«mpted by an oil spill and rained out by Hurricane Dolly, held a press gaggle in front of Schmidt’s Fudge Haus, in Columbus, Ohio. Obama got a big kiss (“Obama? C’est mon copain!”) from the new President of France, a dashing conservative with an exotic background and an unusual name; McCain stood athwart the cheese aisle of a supermarket, complaining.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Apartment

Speaking of public spectacles, I made it out to see The Apartment at Bryant Park as part of HBO's Monday night movie screenings. It was excellent. If you haven't seen it before (and why wouldn't you have? it only came out 48 years ago), here's an excerpt from the original New York Times review to whet your appetite:

YOU might not think a movie about a fellow who lends his rooms to the married executives of his office as a place for their secret love affairs would make a particularly funny or morally presentable show, especially when the young fellow uses the means to get advanced in his job.

But under the clever supervision of Billy Wilder, who helped to write the script, then produced and directed "The Apartment," which opened at the Astor and the Plaza yesterday, the idea is run into a gleeful, tender and even sentimental film. And it is kept on the side of taste and humor by the grand performance of Jack Lemmon in the principal role.
That's right. Taste and humor and one more elusive quality, ladies and gentlemen -- timelessness. What's great about The Apartment is that nearly 5 decades later, it retains just enough of the right cultural signposts to still resonate with an urban audience. The (mostly young, tipsy) Bryant Park crowd responded loudly when Jack Lemmon's Buddy Boy confessed what he paid for rent for his place in the Upper West Side. And Shirley MacLaine's sharpest lines (addressed to a lover) got a similar reaction. Apparently some things about 1960s New York are pretty much the same today -- like the desirability of prime real estate, the rituals of corporate culture, the hazards of dating, and the versatile wisdom of McLaine's final sweet words to Lemmon: "Shut up and deal."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Crowd Control

As a tourist to the city years ago, I remember peering out on New York from the World Trade Center. "There are six million people down there," my brother told me, so I took a good look at the little buildings and vehicles and trains below and tried to take in the millions of huddled masses spread across the five boroughs. Since moving to New York, that unnamed multitude (now 8 million strong) has remained a source of fascination for me. And after three years out and about in about in the city -- and plenty of hours on ACRIS and Social Explorer -- there's still lots to wonder about, especially on sunny days when public spectacles bring out city-dwellers (and visitors) in droves.  I'm talking about the free performances and movie nights and of course the annual Times Square New Year's Eve celebrations which fill public spaces with innumerable bodies.  There's something great about the fact that city officials have trouble keeping count of city revelers in public spaces, the fact that no one knows exactly how many people and which people come out to partake in the collective celebrations. I hope to never see that never change in this city. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On Reliable Sources

To round out the recent series of Wahoo-wa posts, I present to you this profile of Washington Post "Reliable Sources" columnist Amy Argetsinger which was recently published in UVa's Arts & Sciences magazine.  Backstory: A few years ago when I was finishing college and trying to figure out what to do next, I scavenged the alumni career database and found Amy's contact info (at the time, she was working for The Washington Post out of the west coast). Over a series of emails and phone calls, Amy proceeded to give me some very candid and useful career advice like, "The frustrating thing about embarking on a journalism career out of college is that the hiring process is much more slapdash than what you see your classmates heading for the corporate or consulting jobs are going through." And, "The ugly truth is that I spent nearly a year living with my parents and waiting tables and substitute teaching before I got that first job." At any rate, Christina Tkacik's interview (which first appeared in The Dec) brought me up to speed with Amy's thoughts on her new position as DC's gossip columnist extraordinaire. (Incidentally, Christina also gives pretty savvy advice herself --"The Mister Darcy Delusion" totally has the makings of a bestseller/feature-length film/TV series, no?)

Miss Hoo?

Speaking of college compatriots, the other day my brother forwarded along news that Miss New York is a UVa '07 grad (theater major) and former Miss Hampton-Newport News who seems to have grown up in my neck of the woods (looks like we probably squared off on the field hockey or soccer field at one point).  Also, she lives in Manhattan, but actually won her state pageant crown (tiara?) by way of a victory in the Miss Brooklyn competition a few months ago.  At any rate, she's clearly a winner. Congrats Leigh-Taylor Smith! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go Obama!

This afternoon Leah alerted me to this week's Talk of the Town. It showcases the GMail account of one of our college compatriots who opted to claim the address "" when he realized that all common permutations of his own name were unavailable. "From the beginning, I had no intention of manipulating anyone," Guru Raj tells The New Yorker.  But then ...

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Museum Block Party

This weekend The New Museum, the Bowery Poetry Club, the LES Tenement Museum, Chinatown's YMCA, Bowery Whole Foods and others are throwing a free block party.  It's Saturday from noon til 7p.  I hope they serve watermelon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Real Lemons, Real Sugar, and Ice

This week's New York Magazine features a series of interviews with lemonade stand proprieters on how to cope with the squeeze of rising lemon prices. A random slice of the cuteness (from 10-year-olds Elinor Weissberg and Oliver Goldberg-Lewis) below:

How do you make the lemonade?

ELINOR: Real lemons, real sugar, and ice.

Do you sell anything else?

ELINOR: We sometimes tell people’s fortunes.

What kinds of fortunes?

ELINOR: We usually pick bad ones. Like this woman walked up and we said, “You’re going to grow a beard.”

Where do you put the money?

OLIVER: In a jar, but you have to hide it under the table. Otherwise, they will say, “Oh, you already have too much money! We’re not going to buy lemonade!”

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Philharmonic in the Park

Last night at Manhattan's biggest and baddest tailgate, the New York Philharmonic in the Park, conversation turned to Didi and Oscar Schafer, the generous sponsors of the summer series whose names graced the cover of the concert program. How much does it take to sponsor such an event? According to the program, the Schafers contributed over $500,000 -- their exact gift, I confirmed today, was actually ten times more than that. Curious about these philanthropists, I dredged up their 1964 New York Times engagement announcement (click to enlarge) this morning. For the extra nosey: The wedding announcements of the parents and children of these long-time New Yorkers can be found in Times archives too. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What the Midnight Can Show Us

By happy coincidence, I ran into Julia on the way home from work -- she said she'd just been scoping out Museum 52 on Rivington between Orchard and Ludlow, where several of her paintings will be on display as part of the gallery's What the Midnight Can Show Us exhibit (running July 16 through August 13). Now I'm having flashbacks to the art classes we took together as kids. Wild. In any case, I'm very much looking forward to the exhibit's opening!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The 14th of July

From McSweeney's Bastille Day Party how-to by Jim Stallard: 

The final event is obvious: Let them eat cake! If you're ambitious, you can serve it dressed as Marie you-know-who. Just make sure each "peasant" gets a fair portion or you may find a barricade in your driveway! 

Yeah, that's a guillotine cake. Happy Monday!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Amigo! Amigo!

This man puts the lame in lame duck like no other. From today's Times
“Amigo! Amigo!” Mr. Bush called out cheerily in Spanish when he spotted the Italian prime minister. “How you doing, Silvio? Good to see you!”
 More from Matthew Yglesias and ThinkProgress via my brother.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Go Obama!

I don't know where my brother finds this stuff (click here for more Abraham Obama).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Eat More Beet

Last week beets made the Well's list of The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating. Since I've recently been all about culinary experiments -- and I like beets -- I took it as a challenge and grabbed a bunch of them at the grocery store this week. But what to do with them? For starters, I rooted through the fridge and assembled a salad (spinach, beets, oranges, tomatos, feta, walnuts), and since the only dressing in the fridge had coagulated beyond rescue, I added some mustard to a bastardized microwave version of this recipe to make a honey mustard vinegarette. So far so good, but there are still 2 more beets in the fridge. Beet palaya is a simple classic, and the kind of dish that's hard to mess up. But if I had the time -- and one of these swish Benriner spiral vegetable slicers -- I would totally attempt this tasty-looking Beet and Feta Tart.

What the Heck

From Andrew Sullivan's blog comes this bit of news about a technology being developed by the military. According to Wired:

The project is known as MEDUSA – a contrived acronym for Mob Excess Deterrent Using Silent Audio. And it should not be confused with the Long Range Acoustic Device and similar gadgets which simply project sound. This one uses the so-called "microwave auditory effect": a beam of microwaves is turned into sound by the interaction with your head. Nobody else can hear it unless they are in the beam as well.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Snail Mail

I spotted this map stationary on Polly's lovely blog, Poor Couture (which, I should warn you, is full of all sorts of fun and eye-catching goodies). This envelope and letter paper set caught my eye because I totally had one just like it as a kid! In this era of GPS and email, it now strikes me as very quaint.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Yesterday my brother emailed me the text of President Lyndon Johnson's remarks at the signing of the Hart Cellar Act, writing: "So, Dad was able to come to the US in 1969 as a result of the Hart-Cellar Act (also called the INS Act of 1965). It abolished the national-origin quotas that had previously existed. I came across President Lyndon Johnson's remarks at the signing of the bill in New York on October 3, 1965, and thought they were pretty good." I agree. Here are a few highlights of the remarks Johnson made on Liberty Island more than 40 years ago (the full text of the speech can be found on the LBJ Library's website):

Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide. The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources--because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples. And from this experience, almost unique in the history of nations, has come America's attitude toward the rest of the world. We, because of what we are, feel safer and stronger in a world as varied as the people who make it up--a world where no country rules another and all countries can deal with the basic problems of human dignity and deal with those problems in their own way.

Now, under the monument which has welcomed so many to our shores, the American Nation returns to the finest of its traditions today. The days of unlimited immigration are past. But those who do come will come because of what they are, and not because of the land from which they sprung. When the earliest settlers poured into a wild continent there was no one to ask them where they came from. The only question was: Were they sturdy enough to make the journey, were they strong enough to clear the land, were they enduring enough to make a home for freedom, and were they brave enough to die for liberty if it became necessary to do so?

And so it has been through all the great and testing moments of American history.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

What You Looking At? NYT Style Edition

Lan: do you think this guy is Indian
or did they just spray tan a model and send him down the runway?
b/c he looks a little orangey to me
me: he does look orangey
I vote whitey
Lan: so odd
oh fashion

What You Looking At? Fox News Edition

True story: After New York Times reporter Jacques Steinberg reported that Fox News has been struggling to keep its ratings up, Fox and Friends aired photos of Steinberg photoshopped to transform him into a yellow-toothed ogre. And then they touched up his editor's mug shot too. From Media Matters (via my brother):

Fox News gave no indication that the photos had been altered. After putting up the photos of Steinberg and Reddicliffe, Fox & Friends also featured a photograph of Steinberg's face superimposed over that of a poodle, while Reddicliffe's face was superimposed over that of the man holding the poodle's leash.

What You Looking At? Scar Jo Edition

True story: When I saw this cover, my first response was to feel bad about the modest but steady improvements to my figure that 6 months of good gym/food habits has bought. Because crickey, that waist-line is inhuman! Or ... photoshopped. Though I was hoping this link (via Jezebel) would provide even more concrete proof of photo tampering, the spread of non-glossy candids pretty much convinced me that Scar Jo is a real person who, you know, likes to eat cheese sometimes.

"Thirteen Hundred Rats"

From the T. C. Boyle story in this week's New Yorker:

When he came back into the room, I thought at first that he’d slipped into some sort of garish jacket or cardigan, but then I saw, with a little jolt of surprise, that he was wearing a snake. Or, that is, a snake was draped over his shoulders, its extremities dangling beyond the length of his arms. “It’s a python,” he said. “Burmese. They get to be twenty-five feet long, though this one’s just a baby.”
I must have said something, but I can’t really recall now what it was. I wasn’t a herpetophobe or anything like that. It was just that a snake wasn’t what we’d had in mind. Snakes didn’t play fetch, didn’t bound into the car panting their joy, didn’t speak when you held a rawhide bone just above shoulder level and twitched it invitingly. As far as I knew, they didn’t do much of anything, except exist. And bite.

“So what do you think?” he said. His voice lacked enthusiasm, as if he were trying to convince himself.

“Nice,” I said.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rats with Wings

About a year ago, Washington Square saw a spate of pigeon kidnappings. Ladies and gentlemen, this episode of "Law & Order: Avian Victims Unit" is over! The pigeon poaching perps have been caught! Or have they? Apparently the pigeon-snatching underworld is pretty extensive; the Upper East Side avian traffickers may be different from those downtown. But, uh, birds of a feather flock together, so maybe the mystery of the Village villains will be resolved soon.

Page Turners

Last night I saw a very large, sturdy (and presumably IKEA) wooden bookshelf on the curb on my street and had to be talked out of bringing it home to join the ranks of the apartment's sundry adopted furnishings (the strays we currently shelter include 3 chairs, a toaster and a shower curtain).  If I had another bookshelf I would stock it with Asterix & Obelix, Tintin and of course, Amar Chitra Katha comics.  It would be great.