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Showing posts from April, 2008

Now Showing at the Tribeca Film Festival: Guest of Cindy Sherman (clip from You Tube)

As someone who occasionally ventures forth into the strange territory known as the New York Art World, but at a very subterranean level (I am unknown to most there), I would be derelict in my duties not to point readers toward this new film. I saw this documentary today, and I believe the film brings us to a moment in social and cultural history that is so of the moment that we can barely comprehend now its full significance. I know the clip here is a big tease to see the whole movie, and I hope you will, but this moment with the radio hosts at WFMU is one I particularly enjoyed.

There's typically an impossibly long lag time between the making of a film and its final release, in this case, Guest of Cindy Sherman, but here's the archived blog post at WFMU's website from January 16, 2005 by DJ Bronwyn C. discussing the filming of their re-enactment before the cameras of the phone call (and placing the original event further back in time) in the events you see before you.

Offic…

Walking Off the Tribeca Film Festival, Day 6

I'd like to make some general observations about my experience covering the Tribeca Film Festival.

• Already I am tired and behind on my schedule. Every morning I sit down with the list of movie screenings and scratch through the names of movies I didn't get around to seeing the day before.
• I have met a ton of nice people, most of them filmmakers and bloggers. Though I tried to stop meeting people a few days ago, I keep returning to the Target-Tribeca Filmmaker Lounge where I end up meeting more people and promising to see their films.
• When I make appointments with filmmakers to talk about their films, I pretty much have to go see the films before we actually talk. I don't want to have to start the conversation with "And what's it about?," followed by me saying, "And then what happens?"
• It's hard to find time to write and to go to movies on the same day. Plus there's necessary schmoozing and meet-and-greet opportunities. I hate to give the…

Waltzing With John Cage: A Performance of 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs

I'm hearing a taxi come rumbling up Jane Street, and it's going Ka-Thunk and Ka-Thunk and Ka-Thunk over a cobblestone stretch of the West Village. Now comes a pair of pedestrians, walking past me and chatting in a language I do not know, and when their shoes hit the pavement, one pair goes Clunk Clunk Clunk, and the other goes Swish Swish Swish. Here comes another taxi, going Ka-Thunk and Ka-Thunk and Ka-Thunk, and here comes a helicopter whirling overhead, blades going BOPBOPBOPBOPBOP, faster in tempo than the taxi and at a higher pitch.

As I'm listening to these sounds and many others - car engines, slamming doors, honk honks, along a block of Jane Street in the West Village last Saturday afternoon, I'm sitting on the top of the steps leading down to an unoccupied basement apartment. I'm recording the sounds on GarageBand on my MacBook, and I can watch the visual images of the sounds as they record. While taxis look like a blurry Rorschach blob, human steps rende…

WOTBA's Walking News Digest: Walking Off the Tribeca Fim Festival, Walking on Concrete at the Olympics, and Other Stories

The first news item is from Walking Off the Big Apple.

• Blogger Walks 15,246 Steps on First Day of Tribeca Film Festival
While walking from my apartment and back to attend two film screenings and one reception on the first day of the Tribeca Film Festival yesterday, I walked 6.73 miles, 15,246 steps, and burned 461 calories, according to my Omron pedometer. Wow! Audience applause, please! Entrepreneurial weight-loss gurus should look into opening film fat camps around the country.

• The UK's Superiority in Walking Culture
The UK, once again, shows up other parts of the world when it comes to walking appreciation. This article describes a 16-day walking celebration, one longer than the film festival I'm attending (but theirs doesn't include Lou "Take a Walk on the Wild Side" Reed) and features a veritable cornucopia of themed events including tight-rope walking and stilt walking." (Travel Connect website, UK)

• Walking Tour of Norwich, England's Architecture
H…

E. 13th Street, While Walking a Film Festival (Small Slideshow)

This week I'll be thinking and writing a lot about film, and as previously mentioned on this site, please visit Reframe and learn about that what exciting things they are up to. On Walking Off the Big Apple, I'm hoping to share what I learn as a pedestrian walking by the venues as well as to keep you informed of some fun public events.

E. 13th Street is still find of funky/pretty Village in spirit, even when near to Fifth Ave. Today, I walked from the Tribeca hub-hub filmmaker and press offices to see a screening at the Village East Cinemas and then back again. The opulent theater at the corner of 2nd Ave. at 12th St. opened in 1926, in the heyday of Jewish Rialto District, and it still maintains a lot of its early aura. The last time I was in the theatre was to see Brand Upon the Brain, a mind-blowing experiment in contemporary silent cinema by filmmaker Guy Madden. His new film, My Winnipeg, showing at the festival, is a part-fictional homage to his hometown, mixing differe…

Walking Off the Big Apple's Squirrels in New York You Tube Film Festival

I'm getting ready for the Tribeca Film Festival today, organizing a daily schedule of film screenings, roundtables, and press events. I am one of 2,000 accredited press people, by the way. As I mentioned, I'm writing a second blog about film matters for Reframe, a website of the Tribeca Film Institute. This morning, after filing a post on the Visual Artist as Documentary Subject, I walked up Fifth Avenue to check out the Target-Tribeca Filmmakers Lounge, a meeting place for badge holders. I found a dazzling room of contemporary furniture and lighting, buzzing with pre-festival action and bathed in Target's emblematic reds and target shapes.

It takes a lot to organize such as festival. Then I thought, "How about if I started a modest online festival, one perhaps built around a NY theme that would be accessible to the whole wide world?" After almost no time at all, the idea came to me.

Walking Off the Big Apple's Squirrels in New York You Tube Film Festival



There …

Elizabeth Peyton's Snapshot Romanticism: New Work at GBE (A Review)

"Snapshot romanticism" may seem like an oxymoron, but it was the first phrase that fired in my brain while thinking of Elizabeth Peyton's small paintings and drawings currently on exhibit at Gavin Brown's Enterprise on Greenwich St. Her use of photographic sources, especially the snapshot genre, with its qualities of chance and candid gesture, and her thought-out brush strokes, belying the choices of a careful painter, combine to create intriguing small portraits. They all pack a lot of punch for their size.

I remember seeing one of Peyton's portraits in MoMA just after the museum reopened and thinking how well she held her own in a room full of super-sized art. I think a big Andreas Gursky photo was nearby. At the GBE gallery, the paintings and drawings are more in competition with themselves, with most holding up under scrutiny. One of the largest paintings here, titled "The Age of Innocence," at 14 1/4 x 10 inches, an oil on board, revels in the beaut…

The Upcoming Tribeca Film Festival, Reframe, and Introducing a New Blog

Holy WOTBA double blogging! Today, I am happy to announce to Walking Off the Big Apple (WOTBA) readers the launch of a new blog titled "Shoe Leather" over on the website, Reframe. A new project of the Tribeca Film Institute, Reframe will become an intelligent place for film conversation not found elsewhere. TFI, a nonprofit organization designed to broaden and increase support for media artists, engages in many activities based in communities in New York, and it makes a lovely arrangement for us to be working together.

I'm starting the Shoe Leather blog on the occasion of the imminent Tribeca Film Festival, April 23-May 4, and readers are invited to go over to Reframe to read posts about what I'm seeing and doing. The blog will extend beyond May 4.

"But, hey, what will happen to WOTBA?," you might ask. I'll still be here, like always, most every day, as I never seem to run out of things to say. The additional adventure should be a wonderful learning expe…

Spring Art Cleaning: Out with the Junk-Yard Aesthetic and In with the Small Paintings

Can you smell the roses and linseed oil? There's a linen-fresh and sometimes, new mossy scent in the spring art air this week, a sign that this season's winter of artfully messy assemblage has started to off-gas a little and will soon be dragged back to the street from whence it came. At least that's the smell I'm picking up from the big boys and girls of New York's art critical print press, many of whom are publicly exhaling their weariness with the Unmonumentals and Whitneys of our late winter's discontent and are now bathing in the refreshing glows of Olafur Eliasson and elsewhere, all the small paintings. Smells like teen spirit!

Evidence abounds:

• "Stand Still; A Spectacle Will Happen," a review of the Olafur Eliasson retrospective at MoMA by Holland Cotter (and an excellent use of the semi-colon in headline, btw) for The New York Times.
Quote: "What a relief. Near the end of a decade crammed with junk-art collectibles geared to junk-bond budg…

A Lazy Day on the Hudson: New Yorkers Go Outside

All week the weather in New York has been "drop dead gorgeous," as many would say it here, with each day progressively warmer. The winter, suddenly gone, with its distinction between New Yorkers at work and visitors on vacation, gave way to an atmosphere of beach-time laziness for all. The West Side piers along the Hudson draw many New Yorkers, especially those living in the West Village. The Hudson River Park affords views of big sky, passing boats, the Jersey shoreline, and off to the left, outside of this picture, the Statue of Liberty in the distance. I was out there, too, today. It was a little hazy, but I was happy for the warm sun. Many, like me, are still a little pale. If I've been slack in my posts this week, you now know why.

Image: Hudson River Park, April 19, 2008. For additional NY pix, visit Walking Off the Big Apple's new photostream on Flickr.

Someone To Watch Over Me: Outdoor Advertising on Houston Street (A Slideshow)

I walk along or cross Houston Street almost every day, and I find it hard not to notice the outdoor advertising placed along the exterior street-facing walls of the buildings. These mega-size ads have become part of the visual culture of the contemporary megacity's landscape, insinuating themselves into the edges of our consumer desires. I like to think myself immune from such displays, but I caught myself this morning desiring a white dress shirt. Hmmm...Where did that come from? Let me see...er, Gap ad?

The ads along Houston are meant for a couple of consumer groups. Houston is a busy street for automobiles, and so the ads work for drivers zooming by. Pedestrians also would pass by these looming images while crossing south into SoHo's shopping mecca. The scale of these ads is impressive, for sure. Four- and five-story ads make for gigantic looming figures.

Sometimes the ads spoof the conventions of fashion modeling. The frog in the LifeWater ad poses like a fashion model,…

The Shadows Cast Upon the Wall: Paul Chan's Luminous Narrative at the New Museum

When I walked by St. Patrick's Old Cathedral on my way to the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery, I had little idea that I'd soon find a relationship between the aged church with the exhibit I would soon see in the museum. Yet, while contemplating the secular and worldly engagement of Paul Chan's The 7 Lights, with its digital projections of falling objects in the light and darkness, I fell into a state of meditation that, while not worship, was like a religious pilgrimage in search of the truth. I could have been in a church, I thought, or at least the kind Le Corbusier would have designed.

Chan began the project of these digital projected loops of Lights, deconstructed with this titular strikethrough, in 2005, and the assembly of seven of them here, placed well on the smooth floors and finished walls of the third floor of the museum, creates an effective and moving exhibit. Framed as the lights and camera obscura images of the shadows cast through a window, the …

A Walk in NoLita, Sometimes Speaking French

To get to the New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery from where I live in the Village I walk through the precious neighborhood of NoLita. I say "precious," because this neighborhood North of Little Italy is home to many attractive small boutiques and stylish bistros, and it feels like it could be bottled and sold for a large price. In fact, that's happening. The prices for several new condos in the neighborhood's attractive renovated Victorian-era buildings start in the six- and seven-million dollar range. And the proximity of the New Museum solidifies NoLita's stature as a hot neighborhood, with galleries, shoe boutiques and other art-friendly places popping up here and there.

Walking along Prince or Spring toward the museum, I have several old and new, ecclesiastical and secular, places to note along the way:

Buildings: The St. Patrick's Old Cathedral at Mott and Prince, served as the Roman Catholic Cathedral until the big St. Patrick's was built …

Walking Off the Big Apple: A Reader's Guide

With the passing of the 400th post on Walking Off the Big Apple, I thought it an appropriate time to pass along the history of the site and some recent updates.

History: In late May of 2007, after a day at Yankee Stadium eating hotdogs and drinking beer, I woke up, weighed myself, and screamed. I decided to walk out the door and keep walking, and then walk some more until I looked and felt better. I brought along a journal to record my daily walks and to sketch places and things (example here). I started eating real food. By mid-July I had lost 17.5 pounds. My notebook, filled with sketches and commentary, looked good enough to put on the World Wide Web.

In July of 2007 I launched Walking Off the Big Apple as a website to share my walks and experiences in New York. While early posts and many later ones concern walking, diet, and exercise, the later posts evolved into commentaries on just about everything I felt competent to handle. My academic background in American Studies and experie…

The Free Range Rooster and Hen of Greenwich Village, with Update

Many of the sleepy, late-arising citizens of Greenwich Village awoke this morning to the alarming and seemingly unbelievable sounds of "Cockadoodledoo!" Arising early myself, as is my habit, and strolling the non-farmed streets of Bleecker and LaGuardia with the twohounds, I encountered a disheveled black rooster, cockadoodledoo-ing away, at full register, in the midst of the LaGuardia Community Gardens. Greeting passersby on the way to the Morton Williams Supermarket, the rooster seemed happy struttin' its stuff amidst all the well-tended perennials. I chatted with a man peering through the fence who said he was just awakened by this loud "Cockadoodledoo!," and he said his wife told him he was dreaming.

But, wait, there's more! In another little fenced enclosure, at the very SE corner of Bleecker and LaGuardia Place, roamed a little white hen. So, they're a couple! But how did they get there? Last year, we enjoyed the presence of a wild turkey for a few…

WOTBA's Walking News Digest: Walking in Tehachapi, Walking Robots, Clinton's Walking & Dissing Exercise, and Much More

I bring you fresh walking news from WOTBA's Google "walking" alert. With tax day here, coupled with increasing news of contracting retail sales (NYT story, and, by the way, I saw the whole subprime mess coming in late 2007, with Walking Off the Wall Street Bears), perhaps many will seek in walking a less expensive form of transportation.

• Wednesday, April 16 is the launch of the American Heart Association's National Start! Walking Day. It's time to remind you that Donny Osmond will be present on the AHA website to help you along on your walking journey. If you would like additional motivation to walk, please feel free to read all 402 posts on this website.

• The Google "walking" alert always brings encouraging news of new walking tours of towns both great and small. In evidence, downtown Tehachapi, in a sunny, and here, specifically windy, part of California. Note the picture of muscular guys working on a picket fence. (Tehachapi News)

• Galveston, Texas…

Classic New York: A Walk, and a Map

The walk described here is based on a series of posts relating to the New York of Auntie Mame (see related posts following). I took the walk myself over several days, rather than all at once. I consider the walk as a series of experiences. Trying to enjoy Macy's, Times Square, the Algonquin, stores along Fifth Avenue, the Plaza Hotel and the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis in the same day would be too daunting and exhausting. And expensive.

I'm already thinking about returning to the St. Regis.

This walk serves as a companion to the Walk in Turtle Bay that includes 3 Beekman Place, the fictional home of Mame Dennis. The walk also intersects with other themed walks such as the New York of Raymond Hood, Architect and Fifth Avenue and the High Road to Taos: Mabel Dodge, Georgia O'Keeffe, and New York City.



View Larger Map

The walk is approximately 1.6 miles. What I consider Classic New York is more vast than this walk. It would include Tiffany's, for example, but I'm savi…

The Classic New York of Mame Dennis: A Coda, on Bank Street

At the time I set out on the recent Mame walk (see related posts following), I was trying to decide between Mame Dennis and Lily Bart, the heroine of Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, for the walk's theme. While exploring the places Auntie Mame worked following the stock market crash of 1929, I realized that both Mame and Lily share one thing in common, a crisis of social status. Mame's story of finding herself ill-equipped to fulfill the basic job requirements in the Depression echoes Bart's similar lack of preparedness at the turn of the century. But with her spirit of adventure, Mame knows how to play roles to survive and get along. Lily Bart, on the other hand, can not see her way out of the constrictions of social class and status. Doors opened for Lily, but she did not enter. Mame, as we know, opened all the new windows and doors.

In the late 1920s Patrick Dennis' aunt, Marion Tanner, the purported role model for the character, bought a handsome house on Ba…

Classic New York: 59th & Fifth (with Slideshow)

I spent the late morning in the vicinity of 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, the epicenter of Classic New York. After visiting with the carriage horses parked at Grand Army Plaza, I walked into the restored Plaza Hotel where I drank a cup of coffee, looked around at the new furniture and floor coverings and then gazed out a front window.

It was my first time back in the Plaza Hotel since the soft reopening, and I was disappointed that the place didn't smell like its older self - that mix of irises, spilled champagne, musty drapes, lingering cigar smoke, coffee, chocolate, and Joy perfume that I so strongly associate with my memory of the hotel. This morning, I smelled more fresh paint and sawdust than anything, and my attempt to enjoy a cup of coffee was interrupted by sounds of electric saws and shrill experiments with the hotel's PA system. I knew I was going to be a hard customer for the reopened Plaza, but many like myself associate great moments of our lives with this once…

Classic New York: The Algonquin

From Times Square, making my way east along 44th Street, the crowds dispersed as I crossed 6th Avenue. It was a noticeable break between Frantic and Serene. The block along 44th, between 6th and 5th Avenues, regains the polished luster of Classic New York. Of course it does. It's the block, among other things, of the Algonquin Hotel, at 59 W. 44th.

Mame Dennis once worked as a personal shopper at the Algonquin, but, according to Patrick Dennis, the hotel didn't fare well enough in the poor days of 1931 to keep around a woman with expensive taste. He writes, "So she passed most of that spring chatting with old friends in the lounge."

The doorman opened the door for me, and I had to adjust my eyes to the dark surroundings. At around 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon, the lobby was in full swing, with couples and larger groups chatting around cocktails, giving the impression they had been there since breakfast. The first creature I noticed was Matilda, the Algonquin Cat, …

Classic New York: Times Square

The Times Square area, famously cleaned up from its XXX days, to some people's chagrin, still attracts visitors like lemmings. I don't have many occasions to walk through this dizzying streetscape, but when I happen upon Times Square, my stress level hits at least the orange zone.

It's hard for my brain to handle all the multiple moving images projected onto jumbo screens, the crawling ticker of news items, the flashing colors, and the onrush of pedestrians. One day I will spin into a vortex, collapse upon the pavement, and succumb to massive trampling by high heels, boots and sneakers. If I survive, I will move to Iowa.

Leaving Macy's, I headed up Broadway at 34th St. and then through Times Square to 44th Street. I wandered around the Theatre District for awhile, fighting for a bit of the pavement with those leaving the theaters after matineés. I encountered many tour guides attempting to keep their groups together, confusing when everyone seems to be a part of some …

Classic New York: A Visit to Macy's, in April

The "magic of Macy's" is normally wrapped up in the holiday season. Immortalized in pop culture with the movie, Miracle of 34th Street, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and for NPR listeners, with David Sedaris' wicked experiences as Crumpet the Elf in his "Santaland Diaries," Macy's department store on Herald Square attracts hordes of shoppers beyond the tinseled season. For New Yorkers, it's a common place to shop.

Mame Dennis, making ends meet following the crash of the 1929 stock market, sells roller-skates in Macy's toy department, the place where she meets her future southern husband. Walking in Mame's steps, I visited Macy's yesterday afternoon.

The Herald Square flagship, the largest department store in the world, features nine floors sprawled over two connecting buildings on 7th Avenue and Broadway and accessible by elevators and a vintage wooden escalator system. I gradually made my way up the chunky noisy escalator to the 8th Floor,…

Classic New York: Henri Bendel

UPDATE. Henri Bendel will close all of its stores in January 2019.

After leaving the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, making my way back through the lobby and into the sunshine of 55th Street, sunglasses back on, I couldn't recollect if I had spent twenty minutes in the bar or over an hour, most likely a magic time distortion brought on by the merry old soul in Parrish's mural. Whatever time it was, it was no time to go home and walk the dogs. Flushed from a merry bar conversation, I decided it was time to shop.

Mame Dennis, for one of her short stints in the real world, modeled tea dresses for Henri Bendel's store. After "an ugly contretemps" in which a rich old man pinched her in the rear and she said something back, M. Bendel let her go, offering her the advice that the best career for her would be marriage. Walking along Fifth Avenue, I saw the Henri Bendel storefront, so I wandered in to get a look.

After the indeterminate number of minutes or hours at the St…

Classic New York: The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis

A 20-dollar bill doesn't go far in Manhattan, but it's enough to cover the price of the signature Red Snapper at the King Cole Bar inside the St. Regis Hotel at 2 E. 55th St. and over which you can see not only Maxfield Parrish's sublime and recently restored Old King Cole Mural above the elegantly paneled bar but also the means by which you can experience New York through rose-colored glasses.

The "Red Snapper" is the name for the St. Regis Hotel's "Blood Mary," the now-ubiquitous concoction the hotel introduced to the United States. When I visited the bar yesterday afternoon, I already knew I wanted to try one, rationalizing mid-day vodka consumption with the conviction that tomato juice and pepper would help me get over the final stages of a cold. Amply served in a tall curvy glass and with just the right amount of peppery spice, the drink, accompanied by bar snacks of wasabi crunches, pretzels, and mixed nuts, along with the visual wonder of the …

The Classic New York of Mame Dennis

Patrick Dennis, a pseudonym for writer Edward Everett Tanner, gives the straight and narrow an alternative role model with his witty 1955 bestseller,Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade. When young Patrick arrives at Beekman Place, the door opens to his aunt's unconventional bohemian life in the glitzy New York of the Jazz Age, and, by example, to a different way of being. A party is in progress: "They all used funny words, like 'batik' and 'Freud' and 'inferiority complex' and 'abstraction.'"

Patrick soon grows accustomed to his aunt's nocturnal habits (where 9 a.m. is "the middle of the night"), her glamorous theater friends, her preference for Bauhaus decor, and the experimental schools, psychotherapy, and all matter of fads and crazes (all of which Mame tries). Beekman Place is no place to be square.

Busted for placing Patrick in an experimental school (where all children were stripped of their clothes and expected to make…

The Blogging Stress Story, and Manhattan, the Skinnier Borough

I am compelled to comment on two articles published yesterday in The New York Times.

Bloggers Have Health Issues. In an article published in The New York Times on April 6, "In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop," Matt Richtel reports on the untimely death of a couple of high-profile bloggers. In describing the stress-inducing culture of the blogosphere, one in which bloggers feel they need to write timely posts to stay ahead of the game, Richtel suggests a correlation between this new type of exhausting work pressure and the rise of serious health issues.

It's true. Early last summer, before I started Walking Off the Big Apple, I walked around New York with a backpack filled with a notebook, bottled water, granola bars, and art supplies. Over the course of two months, I developed shapely legs and a glowing tan, and I lost 20 pounds. As soon as I decided to share my city experiences with the world in the form of a blog, however, I went downhill. When I st…