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Showing posts from November, 2007

Holiday Books: Tony Duquette, Andy Goldsworthy, Eric Clapton, Edith Wharton

Image: One of the windows at Bergdorf Goodman (754 Fifth Ave) inspired by the fantastical work of the California-born designer Tony Duquette (1914-1999). The lavish book, Tony Duquette, by Wendy Goodman and Hutton Wilkinson is published by Abrams.

Readers who like Walking Off the Big Apple may also enjoy the following books published in 2007.

Books of art:

Enclosure by Andy Goldsworthy
On Ugliness by Umberto Eco, Alastair McEwen (translator)
A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932 by John Richardson
A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren
The Writer's Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers by Donald Friedman

Also:

Two books about cultural ideas - Modernism: The Lure of Heresy by Peter Gay and Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture At Midcentury by Elizabeth Armstrong

Two autobiographies - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin and Clapton: The Autobiography by Eric Clapton

Two biographies - Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee …

How Not to Blow Your Diet During the Holidays, Illustrated

At this time of year I read many articles about unnecessary holiday eating and drinking, the kind that adds pounds that never come off. I can easily visualize the quantitative portions of various holiday desserts and appetizers that I should not consume, but alcohol is sometimes hard to ration.

Here, as illustrated in the photo, I've set out three different size wine glasses and poured one serving, or 5 ounces, into each of the glasses. The amount of wine appears different from glass to glass, n'est-ce pas? I love the short stemless glass in front, but the 5 ounces appear small in there. In the tallest wine glass at back, one serving doesn't even fill half the glass. The wine glass on the right seems perfect for one serving. By the way, I bought this particular wine glass at a restaurant supply store in the Bowery that's going out of business.

One serving of wine equals 100-120 calories, so walking off one glass will require walking one mile.

What did I learn from this ex…

Tickets Already Snapped Up For The New Museum Opening Marathon

Am I going to the opening of the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery this weekend? I wanted the answer to be "Hell, Yes!,"* but I've learned that all the time-allotted tickets for the Target-sponsored 30-hour opening marathon have officially been given out. According to the New Museum's website, it's possible that some tickets will be returned or unused, so you're free to show up and get lucky.

*Ugo Rondinone's sculptural rainbow, Hell, Yes!is currently installed on the front of the New Museum of Contemporary Art.

Image above: The New Museum of Contemporary Art as seen from behind an industrial mixer at a restaurant supply store across the street. WOTBA.

The Morning News: Curtains Up on Broadway and Stocks Soar

The Broadway Strike is Over: The Broadway stagehands and the League of American Theaters and Producers reached a compromise yesterday, ending the painful 19-day strike. (NYT story here.) On the other hand, the writers at CBS News look like they will take to the picket lines in December.

The Stock Market Soars: The American economy seems so pitiful that the Feds signaled that a further rate cut may be in order. (NYT story here.) Hence, the stock market posted a stunning one-day gain yesterday. Just because the market had a good day, however, doesn't mean that the American consumer had one. Consumer confidence is down, credit is harder to get, and home foreclosures are up 94% over a year ago. Sorry.

After a pipeline explosion overnight, oil prices went up, so that may make investors nervous. Traders figure that people will not spend as much on the holidays if they have to spend more cash on gas. I think people will still try to acquire items on their shopping lists, but they'll lo…

Walking Off Gramercy/Flatiron With Canadian Women

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A couple of weeks ago I took a large group of charming, adventurous, and educated women from Vancouver, Canada (and its extended geographical area) on a walk through the Gramercy/Flatiron neighborhoods. I am just now writing up an account of our stroll, and I've worried that I would forget some of the details. This modest walk works just as well, I think, for individuals who are not women from British Columbia. It's fun, though, to walk around with Canadian women who stop and notice beautiful buildings, ask a lot of questions and take about a million digital photographs. See if you can go find some.

Members of a book club, these women have known one another for years and so could handle the pressure of cramming every major New York tourist attraction into five days, sleep four to a room and still manage to stay friends. This group trip, a kind of Extreme Girls Night Out, was organized by a New York-crazed woman who had discovered Walking Off the Big Apple during…

Walking Off the Wall Street Bears: My Fundamentals Are Deteriorating and My Personal Expectation Index is Partly Cloudy

I have recently started reading the business sections of newspapers and online news sites every single day. This is a startling turn of developments, and I have just come to understand why.

Before I lived in New York, I rarely read the business section of a newspaper, I think, because I could take the pulse of the economy just by looking around. In a time when I actually owned a vehicle and a single-family house, I could easily visualize downturns and upswings in the economy by driving my car through neighborhoods and to stores. I could see how quickly the SOLD signs appeared on houses on the market, and I could watch new activity, or lack thereof, in new home construction. The health of the housing market could be quickly assessed by the length of the line at the cash registers at Lowe's or Home Depot.

I could often extrapolate how other middle class energy consumers like myself reacted when I filled the gas tank of my car. When I lived in Texas or the Upper Midwest or the Deep Sou…

Writer's Guild of America Solidarity Rally in Washington Square Park Today

Members of the striking Writer's Guild of America, East rallied in solidarity with other unions today at noon in Washington Square Park. Speakers included labor union leaders, actors Danny Glover and Tim Robbins, NY Congressman Jerry Nadler, Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi, and Senator John Edwards. The senator was the most well-dressed of the speakers, appearing in a handsome full length black coat. He scored some points with the crowd just by showing up, but he also drew applause when he said he would skip out on a scheduled televised Democratic Party debate in December should the workers from CBS stage a walkout. He also said he has canceled appearances on The View and Ellen in support of the current strike.

The speakers presented a coherent case on behalf of the strikers, arguing that the writers were not spoiled billionaires, as some would characterize them, but members of the middle class trying to stay that way.

The band that accompanied the rally played a nice renditio…

The Astor Family Saga, Abu Dhabi Gives Citigroup Some Spare Change, and the Decline of the New York Empire Within 24 Hours

The Manhattan D.A.'s office, in a script destined for Law & Order, will hold a news briefing today on the indictments of Anthony D. Marshall, 83, the only son of the late great Brooke Astor, and attorney Francis X. Morrissey Jr.* The briefing should reveal more specifics on the pending criminal charges against the two, the result of a grand jury investigation into the mishandling of Mrs. Astor's affairs and will. Philip Marshall, the son of Anthony Marshall, first raised the allegations that his father took advantage of his ailing grandmother and her fortune.

The painting at left, Childe Hassam's Up the Avenue from Thirty-Fourth Street, May 1917, also known as Flags, Fifth Avenue (1917)* plays an important role in the Astor family saga. Andrew Marshall sold the painting, one of his mother's favorites, for $10 million, and collecting a $2 million fee from his mother for all the bother. Personally, I would love to have this painting in my living room, so I would be ro…

Favorite New York and Texas Novels

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. - Ecclesiastes 7:4

This week, The New York Times publishes their 100 notable books of the year, and I always select items from the annual list to pass on to others for the gift-giving season. This way I get something more than dog calendars.

While I try to read new fiction, I am often inclined to explore a classic or some oddity outside the canon. For this holiday, I'd like to pass along the titles of the novels I love dearly, the ones set in the two places that will always hold the power to inspire my imagination and equally to break my heart.

Walking Off the Big Apple, or WOTBA, often a fiction of my exaggeration, is like Lily Bart (The House of Mirth) searching for status on the Balcones Escarpment, or Letty Mason Hightower (The Wind) looking for love on Bleecker Street.

The two lists that follow fall into the category of classics, to be sure.

NEW YORK NOVELS

Winter's Tale (1983) b…

This Week: Cyber Monday, John Sloan, Art Previews, Wall Street Walk Wrap, and more

Features coming this week on Walking Off the Big Apple include:
Holiday Reading Guide: Favorite Novels Set in New York and Favorite Novels Set in Texas (for Curious New Yorkers and others)The Conclusion of Walking Off the Wall Street BearsWalking Off Gramercy Park/Flatiron With 16 Canadian Women (with an interactive maple leaf map)For today, a busy shopping day on the Internet, look for unique holiday magic gifts at the new Walking Off the Big Apple Emporium at Café Press, NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS. The festive NY-themed red boots that grace the shirts, mugs, journal, etc. will last only through the season, so order your favorite gifts today.Art this week: So many exhibitions, but on my list - Merlin James, Paintings of Buildings at Sikkema, Jenkins & Co. (Nov. 28 - Jan. 12), Susanna Majuri, Saved With Water, Galerie Adler (Nov. 29-Jan. 19), and Emery Blagdon, Sandhill Healings, Cavin-Morris Gallery (Nov. 29-Jan. 12)
Knitting Sweaters for the Holidays in the Far FutureJohn Sloan's N…

Weekend Frivolities: Making Holiday Gifts - The Classic Wax Paper Placemat Updated

Many should remember how to make wax paper placemats from elementary school days, but I would like to update the classic. Continuing the Weekend Frivolities theme from yesterday, when we learned how to make southern funeral fans, this edition suggests new ideas for the wax leaf placemat.

First let's review what many of us learned in elementary school. Walk to a place with lots of falling leaves - I found an abundant variety in Washington Square Park this morning, select the prettiest leaves, and go home and turn on your iron. Roll out two rectangular pieces of wax paper, place one of them on an old cloth, shiny side up, arrange your leaves and whatever else you choose, and then place the other piece of wax paper over that, shiny side down. Iron the two together so that the two pieces of wax paper adhere.

I decided that I would make a placemat for myself that warns of overeating during the holidays, so this placemat would be inappropriate to give to a friend, even one that is overwei…

Weekend Frivolities: Making Holiday Gifts - Handmade Fans on Sticks

This year I harbor a fantasy of making gifts for friends and family instead of giving them what they want. I know many people crave popular electronics, but I think in the long run they'll appreciate homemade craft items, especially if the giver makes something precious and a little weird. The worst thing that can happen is that the recipient will hide the touching and eccentric homemade gift in the closet until the creator passes away. Then no one will care.

HOW TO MAKE A SOUTHERN FUNERAL FAN

The thought of passing into the next life provides the natural segue to the first type of gift I'm going to teach everyone how to make this weekend - the Southern Funeral Fan. I possess a modest collection of authentic fans, the kind sponsored by funeral homes in states such as Mississippi and South Carolina. Typically, these fans consist of an image printed on a curvy 8 inch square piece of sturdy paper (#12 card stock) and then stapled to a wavy wooden fan stick.

Fans made like these are …

Walking Off Thanksgiving Dinner: Prepare For a Day Hike

If you enjoyed a large traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner yesterday, a feast of 2800 calories, give or take a 1,000, you may want to walk it off today. So, here's how to keep those extra pounds off. Lace up some sturdy hiking boots, walk out the front door, commence walking, and then return home 7 hours later.

Sorry about this. Depending on individual weight, walking speed, and terrain, walking burns an average of 100 calories per mile. That's not much. So, consuming even a few more hundred calories a day would necessitate a few more hours of daily walking in order to keep extra pounds from piling on.

I need to visualize what my walk would look like if I want to seriously contain holiday overeating, so I've plotted a 15-mile course through Manhattan. Just to walk off HALF of the calories I probably consumed yesterday, I would need to start in Washington Square Park at the arch, walk up Fifth Avenue all the way to 110 St. turn left, walk back down the west side of the park, …

Happy Thanksgiving: A Warm Day in NYC, The NYT Adds WOTBA to the City Room, and Texas Caviar

Greetings to all on this Thanksgiving Day in New York City.

What a fine and weirdly warm bright morning it is here in the Big Apple! Crowds have gathered along Central Park West and Broadway, Wall Street is thankfully taking a day off, and at 4 p.m. yesterday the august New York Times added Walking Off the Big Apple to their City Room blogroll. A parade is in order, don't you think?

Seriously, I am thrilled that The New York Times added Walking Off the Big Apple to their pages, and especially thankful they've listed this website in the category for Listings and Resources. Here, WOTBA joins the prestigious New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Library, and the Queens Library. So exciting! I feel suddenly so bibliographic! Start spreading the news!

I'll be joining friends in the Tribeca neighborhood for the holiday feast today. I'm bringing Texas Caviar, a zesty and spicy concoction of marinated black-eyed peas.

I hope to enjoy the calorie blowout. I'll walk it off tomor…

Pre-Holiday Roundup: A Report on Stephen Colbert at Times Talks, Wall Street Jitters and Parade Balloon Inflation Information

• Last Friday I went to see Stephen Colbert at the Times Talks series, sponsored by The New York Times at The Times Center. Colbert was interviewed by Deborah Solomon, a writer for The New York Times. Stephen Colbert showed up as himself, the nice and smart satirist and human being, as opposed to the bombastic right-wing nut he hilariously plays on TV.

In answering Solomon's questions, Colbert was relaxed, genuinely funny and keenly intelligent. Solomon tried a bit too hard at times to be funny herself, a mistake, and I think she missed a few opportunities to follow up on some of Colbert's comments. Some of the more interesting subjects of discussion included his Catholic faith, the rigorous work schedule of his Comedy Central show (that's now in reruns due to the writer's strike), and his admiration for Jon Stewart. As he clearly displayed a strong sense of ease with himself, I was struck, too, with his skills as an actor, as he can clearly differentiate himself from t…

More on the 2008 Whitney Biennial Selections: The Global M.F.A.

In a previous post I noted, with jolly and jealous sarcasm, that many of the artists selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial are in their 30s. I think it's not surprising that many are recent M.F.A.s, too. While a few Yale M.F.A.s will grace the festivities, the graduates of California art schools predominate. Most of the selected artists have embraced the international nature of the art scene, and many are already experienced in previous global biennials.

After having seen and read about some of these artists, I am impressed with their ambitions to cross traditional boundaries. As M.F.A.s, with the required courses of study, they're also clear in shaping their individual messages. I do believe that the installation and collaborative-heavy exhibition at the next Whitney Biennial should be exciting. The fact that the biennial will feature so many professionally tracked thirty-somethings with M.F.A.s and international experience does not reflect on the quality of the artwork, whic…

Present Unreal Conditional: Why the New York, New York Song Depresses Me Sometimes

(Ed. note update 2.6.2008. A reader left a comment on this post suggesting that I need to brush up on my "conditionals." Please read the comment, because I'm willing to concede to a higher authority on parts of speech. So, this post should be titled "Real Conditional Present." But the song still makes me depressed sometimes.)

As the holidays arrive, I get hung up like everyone else on the greeting- card expectations of the season. Large cheerful families gather in warm and toasty homes, everyone hugs, and husbands surprise their wives with diamonds. The Budweiser Clydesdales wait just outside the door.

Popular songs fuel many of these images of holiday expectations. I can't begin to tell you how disappointing it was for a little Texas girl, basking in the heat of a December day, to wait around for someone named Jack Frost. More like waiting for Godot. So I've come to define happiness during the holidays in modest, personal ways.

Though not a holiday song, …

Dining in the District: Support Restaurants During the Strike

Now that the talks between the Broadway stagehands and producers have broken down again (NYT), it's important to consider the consequences of the strike beyond the dark theaters. The restaurants in the theater district are facing a serious decline in patronage. Everyone should know by now that the restaurant business is a precarious one, so the prospects of losing traffic during the strike affects restaurant owners and their staffs.

The website for NYC & Company lists good ideas for alternative events, and importantly word of the Dining in the District program. Through November 25 (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day), many of the area's most celebrated dining establishments are offering 15% off lunch and/or dinner. You'll find a PDF of the participating restaurants at the NYC & Co. site. So if you're making lunch or dinner plans, think about supporting the restaurants in the theater district. This presumes, of course, that you are actually in NYC and are hun…

Walking Off the Wall Street Bears: Confessions of a New York Consumer

Consumer spending drives approximately two-thirds of the United States economy, so it follows that Wall Street will become nervous if people stop buying all the stuff they would like to have but don't need. Thus, a quote,

"The other big concern is where is the consumer. Starbucks released earnings, and they said they ratcheted down estimates because of the softening consumer market. That's what the market does not want to see." - Andre Bakhos, president of Princeton Financial Group quoted in a story by Reuters and published in the November 16, 2007 edition of the NYT.

I hate to say it, but the softening of the consumer market usually begins with me. As a New Yorker who wants to support the local economy, I often feel guilty that I do not shop enough, especially for clothes. I am not a fashion plate, content as I am to walk the streets in last year's Ralph Lauren jeans or an Ann Taylor suit or, more typically, several interchangeable immortal outfits from a decade …

Best Chance to Get Into the Whitney Biennial? Don't Turn 40

Today, the Whitney announced the artists selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial, the much-balleyhooed survey of the state of contemporary art. I like to peruse the list, crunch the numbers, ascertain significant patterns, and then move on to something more important.

In speed-reading my way through the list announced today, I began to hallucinate the crumbling of the Nixon empire, disco inferno, the fall of Saigon, the Jonestown massacre and our nation's Bicentennial. For indeed, a little more than 50 of the 81 chosen few are little babies of the Me Generation, born during the overly colorful and raggedy late 1960s and 1970s.

Oh, to be an artist in one's 30s now and living either in New York (40 or so of them) or Los Angeles (20 or so of them), maybe even in Chicago or Miami (a smattering)! You are the favored ones! Enjoy your time in the sun. Oh, and there appears to be more artists within this age group in their early 30s as opposed to their late 30s. During one's late t…

The City That Sometimes Sleeps, and I Am Legend, the Movie

Look at this photo I took of the Washington Square Arch at 7 a.m. this morning. Do you see anyone? I don't see anyone.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming Will Smith vehicle, I Am Legend, scheduled for release on December 14. During the shooting of the production in Washington Square Park, I encountered all kinds of stretched cables, fake trees that blew around in bad weather, burned-out cars, and weird greenish lights. Fortunately, I knew it was just a movie.

The premise of I Am Legend is that the lead character, Robert Neville, a scientist played by Smith, finds himself the only person (maybe!) living in New York, immune somehow to a deadly virus in the wake of an epidemic. In the trailer of the film, we see the character trudging through the grassy High Line, driving a sports car past empty skyscrapers, and walking his likewise immune dog through the streets. As someone who lives the lonely life of a morning person in New York, with two dogs, I know exactly how he feels.

It ha…

On My Agenda This Week: Downtown Art Galleries, Career Anxiety, Pre-holiday Preparations, and more

I'm skipping out early today to catch up on some items on the following To-Do list:

1. Visit interesting art galleries downtown, and their current exhibitions (See ArtCal for full listings):
• apexart, 291 Church Street: Land Grab (through 12/22)
• Art in General, 79 Walker Street: Judi Werthein, Corporate Logo (through 12/15)
• KS Art, 73 Leonard Street: Ashtray (through 12/01)
• Lower Manhattan Cultural Council: Redhead Gallery, 125 Maiden Lane, 2nd Floor: The Shape of Things to Come (through 12/14)
• Pace University's Peter Fingesten Gallery, 1 Pace Plaza, B Level: This is That (through 12/03)

2. Write up the exciting details of My Walk Last Sunday Through the Flatiron/Gramercy neighborhood with 16 Canadian Women Who Love to Read Walking Off the Big Apple and Wanted to Meet Me in Real Life.

3. Explain why the New York, New York song by Kander & Ebb depresses me.

4. Maybe get a job, persuading prospective employers that I would not be a LIVE WIRE within their organization.

5. Set …

Walking Off the Wall Street Bears: With George, and a Rally!

How spectacular Wall Street was this afternoon and prime for a little rally! I spent much of my time soaking in just a taste of afternoon sun that broke through the clouds, strolling up and down the short stretch of this expensive and historic real estate. Wall Street is cavernous and narrow, but the light that filters through on the east and west provides for some sexy lighting. Tiffany's has joined the street, very near a Starbucks, so there's much caffeinated glamour to take in.

I sat for awhile behind the statue of George Washington in front of Federal Hall and pondered his left foot. Across the street sits the House of Morgan, so it was the perfect place to contemplate the founding of the United States of America and the flourishing of the capitalist system. I reached no conclusions. I did venture into Federal Hall to look over the preview of the coming National Archives presence in the main exhibition halls, and I was excited to see many important documents of American hi…

Walking Off the Wall Street Bears: A Subprimer

I am no financial genius, but the colonel and I sold our happy little bungalow in the American South a couple of years ago, a time of a local bubble, and we made a bit of money, albeit a pittance compared to New York real estate profits. * We also got rid of our cars. We were moving to Manhattan, after all, where bungalows do not exist, although I think they would make a charming addition to the landscape, and cars seemed way too much of an inconvenience.

Much of the worries on Wall Street these days stem from the crisis in subprime mortgages, risky loans to often credit-risky individuals to buy homes for themselves. However, these individuals found themselves overwhelmed financially with often high adjustable rate mortgages, and they faced foreclosure. Some of the lenders are also up a creek. All this is just sad. Manhattan, on the other hand, does not see much subprime action at all, because people buying condos and townhouses at 4 to 6 million and up are not financing these purchas…

Walking Off The Big Apple Contemplates Going On Strike

Maybe. The Writer's Guild of America is on strike, so late night TV talk shows are in reruns. The Broadway stagehands are on strike, so much of Broadway is dark. So we have much unrest among the creative classes these days in ole New York. So maybe the lone website workers like myself can just quit typing on the laptop, too. Unfortunately, I have no one to strike against or protest. I stay home wearing my fingerless gloves and developing carpal tunnel syndrome, and I have no Scrooge to blame.

"What are some of the ominous portents of a serious economic downtown in the future?," you may ask WOTBA. "And what does it have to do with The Daily Show being in reruns?"

I am glad you asked. Workers of the creative world are on strike because the distribution of wealth has once again been stacked in favor of the HAVES. The writers would like some of the money from DVD sales and the re-use of their material on websites. I don't have any DVDs, but I can attest that I ha…

Walking Off the Wall Street Bears: Before the Opening Bell

As mentioned in a previous post, I'm visiting Wall Street this week to take some snapshots (more mental than photographic) of the looming economic crisis. I want to see if traders, fund managers, and other workers in the financial sector reveal any outward signs of distress. Will they walk and talk a different way? Will they be nervous and spilling their coffee on the sidewalk? We'll see! As with the other walks, I'll be commenting on buildings, restaurants, etc., but I'll also be chiming in with my amateur economic knowledge to translate the mood of the Street.

Let's begin with a few quotes, shall we?

"Of a Sunday, Wall-street is deserted as Petra; and every night of every day it is an emptiness. This building too, which of week-days hums with industry and life, at nightfall echoes with sheer vacancy, and all through Sunday is forlorn. And here Bartleby makes his home; sole spectator of a solitude which he has seen all populous—a sort of innocent and transforme…

In the Study Today, and Goodbye, Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

Walking Off the Big Apple has vanished into her secret study to research the next walk.

Farewell, Norman Mailer, who died early today at the age of 84.

Movie Feature Dedicated to All Righteous Girlfriends of WOTBA

The following New York-themed film of the WOTBA Cinema Magique goes out to all the girlfriend readers of Walking Off the Big Apple, especially those with their own websites. You know, some readers come and go, self-interested parties will google themselves and find you and then leave you, but all the girlfriends, and this includes me, and some men, enjoy following your story all the time, with heart-felt admiration and deep appreciation, until the very end. And may that not be anytime soon.

Prego y Gracias: Tosc-Mex Dining in Alphabet City

This past week I met friends for a festive birthday party at Matilda, the new Tosc-Mex place on E. 11th near Ave. C. This particular fusion is not a gimmicky trend but just the happy marriage of two chefs, one from Italy and one from Mexico. I enjoyed very much my bowl of homemade gnocchi with basil and cilantro pesto. The person seated next to me ordered the salmon with tequila, and it looked scrumptious, too. We all shared the appetizers, the highlight of the experience - guacamole served with chips and focaccia, bruschetta with a topping of Italian and Mexican ingredients, and some fruity pico de gallo. Matilda's wine list is very nice.

The decor also successfully blends the elegance of a modern Italian bistro with textures and colors I associate with Mexican architect Luis Barragan.

Matilda is located at 675 E 11th St. at Ave C. Cash only.

Walking Off the Wall Street Bears: Coming Soon

Walking Off the Big Apple likes to stroll where the mood strikes her. So, upon hearing of the demise of stocks, the worsening crisis in the subprime housing market, the various markdowns, the arrival of the "Pain Threshold," as reported earlier in these pages, WOTBA will soon embark on a Walk of Fame upon the wobbly cobblestones of Wall Street. There, she will encounter her evil twin, Dagny Taggart of Atlas Shrugged fame, window shop at the new Wall Street branch of Tiffany, eat some lunch, and visit upon Lower Manhattan her uninvited commentary on the contemporary visual culture of the American economy in crisis.

Image: Little grizzly bear. Sketch by WOTBA. American Museum of Natural History.

In the meantime, there shall be a potpourri of posts.

See Walking Off the Wall Street Bears.

Too Much LOGO and Not Enough LEGO at the Center for Architecture

If you think I write too much, then you will be amazed at the amount of wall text wrapped around the interior walls of the Center for Architecture's new exhibition, Berlin-New York Dialogues: Building in Context. If you do visit the Center's compare-and-contrast Berlin-And-New York-Are- Sometimes-Alike-And-Sometimes-Different exhibit, please be prepared for an onslaught of information.

Photographs and architectural renderings of ongoing design projects in both cities accompany the words, and I think the exhibition tries hard, almost to a fault, to include everything. The enlarged photos of city streets and corners that do "speak" without words, unfortunately, are sited in the dead cul-de-sac zones of the space, and the POVs of these images are from the center of the road and not from the perspective of the pedestrian. Very un-Jane Jacobs of them.

The very notion of "dialogue" should stimulate the exchange of ideas, and, indeed, the copious amount of Berlin-…

Walking with Seurat in the Deepening Darkness

Georges Seurat's drawings at MoMA, which continue to haunt me now that I have seen them, trumped so much of the art that I passed leaving the museum that I couldn't bear to look at much else on exhibit (except Martin Puryear's Ladder to Booker T. Washington). This assembled gathering of over a hundred of Seurat's exquisitely crafted drawings of figures in the darkening urban twilight (and other dramatic hours) and rendered in black conté pencil on textured paper must count at the top of any exhibition of drawings I have ever seen.

On the afternoon I attended the exhibition, several visitors, including myself, brought their drawing materials with them to get a sense of Seurat's method. These drawings are so seductively tactile that I wanted to feel some of their material power and energy by attempting to copy some of his shapes and lines. Those lines! Some swirl randomly in interlocking passages, while others cross-hatch into the darkest blacks. And Seurat must be t…

Seurat Out Walking and Drawing on an Ordinary Sunday

Many people probably think Georges Seurat looks just like Mandy Patinkin, having become acquainted with the late 19th century French painter through Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. While on my way to the Museum of Modern Art the other day, I remembered the dramatic spine-tingling dramatic sequence in the musical, hearing the music, too - "People strolling through the trees....Of a small suburban park....On an island in the river...." - when the actors slowly move to their assigned positions to assume roles within the tableau vivant of Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte–1884... "On an ordinary Sunday." Gives me chills just thinking about it.

MoMA's exhibition Georges Seurat: The Drawings opens up several avenues of peripatetic inquiry, so I've been hitting the books and scholarly literature to learn more about the late 19th century's craze for walking. Last night I read and underlined every word of "Everyday Life in Motio…

LEGO Copenhagen: Architecture for the Danish Welfare State

The other day I was trying to pass some pedestrians near Kenmare Street when I accidentally catapulted myself through the pivoting doors of the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Once landed, I spent a long time looking at the current exhibit, The Copenhagen Experiments: 5 New Architectural Species from the Danish Welfare State. These projects by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), all at different stages of the planning and construction process, address how to build contemporary Denmark through a social consensus rather than imposing some god-like architectural solution from the drafting boards on high. The challenge, as I understand it, is to stimulate the many voices of Denmark into articulating an ever-evolving dialectic of better and better taste. Or something like that.

The project, LEGO: Modular Mania, a mixed use high-rise development that serves as a paean to modular construction itself, is sure to delight the juvenile builder in all of us. The project calls attention to the fact tha…

Standard Time: Adjusting to Life in Greenwich Village at Night

I would describe myself as a "morning person," but with this week's return to standard time, I have become "a middle of the night person." Because of some lifelong habits, ones that stretch back to my teen years when I would get up early to read novels before school, and because I am now a grown woman with dogs, I usually get up at the crack of dawn. Now, however, with the clocks turned back, I get up in some creepy liminal space that is neither night nor day.

Do you know how bad it is for a resident of Greenwich Village to be a morning person? Seriously bad. Let me tell you. First of all, GV should now be renamed The Place Where People Come to Drink Too Much. It's not unusual for the multitudes visiting our historic bohemia to stroll and loiter on the sidewalk, especially outside our window, into the wee wee hours of the a.m., singing and cursing themselves through delirium splendors.

Second, once I am up and drinking coffee, I take the dogs out in the wee w…

The Glass Curtain: Promiscuous Conspicuous Consumption

People who live in glass houses should zip up their pants.

Penelope Green's exposé, "Yours for the Peeping," in the Nov. 4 edition of the NYT poses an insightful connection between the vogue for glass apartment buildings and the loss of privacy in a connected transparent society. I immediately thought of Greta Garbo and her quest for solitude within the fortress-like walls of the Campanile building on E. 52nd St. and while walking on the streets of New York. Green's essay ends with a hint of a return to privacy in our era.

Who knows? Erecting brick walls again may literally and figuratively come back in style.

Image: sketch of lobby of Edward Larrabee Barnes' IBM building, 590 Madison Avenue.

Weekend Frivolities Para Todos: Texas, New York

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In the previous post, I introduced you to the town of New York, Texas and its world famous New York Texas cheesecake. In this second edition of Weekend Frivolities, I point you to the existence of the hamlet of Texas, New York. Actually, Texans don't know much about hamlets other than sorry young men who get bent out of shape over family matters.

I can't get a good fix on Texas, NY, other than the eye-popping fact that apparently Texas is part of the larger town of MEXICO, NY. As someone who grew up in the once Republic of Texas, this is hard to understand.

I don't think there's much happening in terms of viable economic activity in the Texas, NY hamlet, although I've been reading that people like to flock to the nearby shores of Lake Ontario up there in Oswego County.

They need at least one roadhouse that serves some bbq and longnecks. Maybe a jukebox and some sawdust strewn on the floor. Obviously, as they are still part of Mexico, there's no ment…

Weekend Frivolities, Y'all: New York, Texas

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The article Texas Haute Country by Jim Atkinson in the NYT's Travel section on November 2, 2007 made me homesick. Just reading about the pleasant hamlets of Marble Falls, Fredericksburg, and Utopia turned my thoughts away from the Big Apple and south toward home (a Willie Morris reference). Back in college WOTBA had some friends who smoked something they shouldn't have in Utopia, and after their arrest and release, they printed up T-shirts for the whole gang that read "Busted in Utopia."

When I visit a Whole Foods Market in NYC, I rewind the memory tape to the original Whole Foods on Lamar Blvd. in Austin, Texas. The store was sited in a low-lying area and was prone to flooding. The atmosphere was excessively friendly. When I bought groceries there, the clerks would comment on every item and ask what I planned to do with it. This atmosphere does not prevail at the NYC locations, where the efficient check-out procedures make me feel jumpy, like I'm a…

The Bowery 2007 Walk: Chinatown

You may remember that scene in the infamous final episode of The Sopranos when one of the guys walks out of a Little Italy restaurant and then the camera pulls back with a wide shot of the street to show Chinese businesses closing in on the old neighborhood. If you didn't see it, never mind.

When I walk south along the tenuous and uncertain blocks of the northern Bowery these days, I get a feeling that everything is up in the air, unsettled. No one building, either built or under construction, makes a definitive statement. It IS like the current state of the New York Yankees, one that has finished the season but will try to be different next year. That was the point I was trying to make in a post the other day. Anxiety and uncertainty, along with too many choices, leads to a depressing state of affairs.

When I reach the transition of the northern Bowery to the owned and operated Chinese blocks to the south, I immediately feel better. First of all, we have colors - reds, greens, pink…

The Bowery 2007 Walk: Upscaling the Flophouse

The Bowery's northern blocks, from Cooper Square south toward the Kenmare-Delancey intersection, embrace the majority of the area's new construction. The most controversial new building, the Cooper Square Hotel, looms out of scale on 3rd Avenue, just yards before the Bowery technically begins.

I've passed through the area many times, and I often see people standing across the street from the hotel looking like they want to tear it down with their bare hands. I talked to one guy the other day who wanted some affirmation that the building was "ugly." I've seen design professionals waving their arms and shaking their heads. The hotel will market itself as "downtown luxury." There's no stopping it now.

Farther to the south, The Bowery Hotel at 335 Bowery, in business for several months now, strikes me and many others as a successful design. Handsome on the interior as well as exterior, the hotel builds upon and improves a pre-existing structure, expa…