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Showing posts from April, 2009

Further Reports From Film Camp

Over the last few days, I've either squirreled myself away in movie theaters to watch a few films in the Tribeca Film Festival or retreated to a room to write about them. When I'm not in the theater or writing, I take long walks, and fortunately, I've needed those transitions to figure out what I want to say. I'm also an emotional mess after watching some films, so I truly need to walk them off. A film that I wrote about this week, Only When I Dance, made me cry so much that I thought I would embarrass myself in the theater. During these interstitial walks between films, I've been taking many photos, mostly in the Tribeca neighborhood. The image here is from this morning. It's a little park below Canal that I often cut through while walking south along West Broadway. It would appear that some blue sprite or Tinkerbell-like creature lives there. Soon, I'll share more from the walks through Tribeca. In the meantime, excerpts from two longer essays on Reframe

WOTBA New York Events Calendar: All Parks Edition Monday, April 27 - Monday, May 4, 2009

Enjoy the blooming season, this special time to visit the parks. Head to the northern parts of Central Park to wander in the woods, or get lost in the Ramble. This calendar takes us into May. Fancy that! I have a secret to share - the summer in New York is my favorite season, and the recent warm weather makes me long for even hotter weather. Sorry about the swine flu. The New York Times published a story today, Europe Urges Citizens to Avoid U.S. and Mexico Travel , reporting that the EU's health commissioner has urged Europeans to avoid nonessential trips to our shores. What a drag. But, isn't enjoying NY parks in bloom an essential visit? Who's going to take pictures of our squirrels? In the spirit of nature, warm weather, and springtime, all selected events this week take place in New York City parks. • Monday, April 27. Hanami: The Cherry Blossom Viewing Season. 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn • Monday, April 27. General Grant's Birthday C

On Reframe: Screens Big and Small, and Quentin Crisp's New York

I wanted to remind readers of Walking Off the Big Apple that this week and next I'm writing about aspects of the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival (now in progress through May 3) for the website, Reframe , an online project of the Tribeca Film Institute . As I write this, I have two new posts in progress - an interview with Austrian filmmaker Gustav Deutsch about his film, FILM IST. a girl & a gun, as well as a report on a special screening of Stanley Kramer's Inherit the Wind. Look for those shortly. I've already posted two essays that may interest readers. Following is a preview, with links to the remainder of the posts on Reframe. • The Tribeca Film Festival and Reframe: Screens Big and Small At the opening press conference for the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, a reporter asked Spike Lee to explain what having two of his films in the festival (Passing Strange, Kobe Doin' Work) meant for him. He responded by simply saying, "Film needs a venue." On the surface

Mapping Out the Tribeca Film Festival

The first question someone asked me yesterday during the course of covering the first full day of this year's Tribeca Film Festival was where to get good Italian food near Union Square. Thousands of film writers, producers, and directors have converged in lower Manhattan for the festival, now through May 3, and between premieres, they're looking for a good but quick place to eat. I do my best to help, but I'm one of those types that has a hard time deciding on restaurants. When I make suggestions, I often get in trouble. While I love beautiful restaurants with accomplished chefs and well-appointed rooms, I often have low-brow cravings that lead me to other places. So, for example, when I offer a suggestion about a diner that serves good tater tots, someone may roll their eyes and think of a place with more refined fare. Back to the subject of the film festival, my questions now usually involve the issues of getting from here to there. As I'm starting to write about the

New York Trees in Spring Bloom: Images and Links

Click this link for the 2011 updated and expanded Spring Calendar - A New York Spring Calendar . • Citywide Blooming Calendar from New York City Department of Parks & Recreation • Heritage Crabapple Trees. New York City Department of Parks & Recreation • Sakura Matsuri May 2-3, 2009. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Rain or Shine. Celebration of Japanese culture and the blossoming of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's 220 cherry trees. Also, see the garden's Cherry Blossom Status Map • Website of The New York Botanical Garden , Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road Bronx, • Walking Off the Big Apple's favorite spring walk: Wandering in the Ramble, Central Park . The closest thing in New York to the back nine at Augusta. A favorite for birdwatching. • 2009 NYC Grows Garden Festival Sunday, April 26, 2009. 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Union Square Park. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation's annual NYC GROWS Garden Festival, where members of the public can come

A Stroll Through the East 60s

The walk on the Upper East Side this past Saturday, the one in which I retraced Walker Evans and his photographs of a block on E. 61st in 1938 , took me on a longer stroll. Thanks to the picture-perfect weather, I also walked through the small but lovely Treadwell Farm Historic District, a neighborhood of well-preserved row houses and tree-lined streets on East 61st and East 62nd streets between Second and Third Avenues. Many of the houses were originally built in the custom Italianate and neo-Grec styles of the day but were later modified, often by stripping the large front stoops, to give them a neat, flat appearance on the street. The elegance attracted several celebrities, including Montgomery Clift, Tallulah Bankhead, and Eleanor Roosevelt , who chose to live along these blocks. View A Walk in the East 60s in a larger map I passed through the historic district on my way to the more prosaic block of Walker Evans and then doubled back toward the west on E. 62nd St. Near the in

Walker Evans, a Block on E. 61st Street in 1938, and a Visit in April of 2009

Walker Evans (1903-1975), a documentary photographer best known for his depictions of southern sharecroppers during the Great Depression, store signs and street signs in cities and towns, and the whole of American vernacular, spent a morning in the summer of 1938 taking photographs, for reasons not entirely clear, of a street block on E. 61st Street in New York. By the time he took this stroll and shot these pictures, now housed in the FSA-OWI photo collection of the Library of Congress , Evans had already left the Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration, under whose employ he had famously photographed the plight of southern farm workers. Evans was back living in New York, preparing for an exhibit of his photographs and working, along with James Agee, on the upcoming Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941). Apparently, he was also in need of income that summer of '38, and letters indicate that Evans worked out something with his former government boss, Ro

Literary DUMBO: An Afternoon Walk Under the Bridges in Search of Books

Along with the possibilities of ice cream, chocolate, drinks at reBar, lying down on green grass and views of two bridges and Manhattan, this book-oriented walk has added perks. Throw in a beautiful day, and I can't think of a better quick escape than a jaunt to this area of waterfront Brooklyn. A photogenic neighborhood comprised of converted warehouses and new construction, DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) also appeals to fans of heavy infrastructure and engineering. These bridges look tough from underneath, and you definitely hope they are. My blogger friend Rob (see his terrific book-loving site, RobAroundBooks ) clued me to the existence of Melville House, a publisher of quality books that is now housed on Plymouth Street at the intersection with Pearl in DUMBO, and I've been wanting to get over there for a long time. Rob, who is based in Scotland and knows about quality literature, had written about their line of novellas, one of my favorite literary gen

Starring New York: New York Films at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival

For those who enjoy depictions of New York on film, several movies in this year's Tribeca Film Festival (April 22-May 3, 2009) give New York a featured role. Though not surprising for a festival that was created to reinvigorate lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11, the festival's New York-centered films sprawl out across the five boroughs. Glamorous Manhattan is still the backdrop for Steven Soderberg's The Girlfriend Experience , and Wall Street and the East and West Villages get their star turns. But other films include City Island, set in the Bronx, The Exploding Girl and Off and Running , set in Brooklyn, and Entre Nos , with Queens as the setting. And yes, Staten Island features in a spooky real-life tale with the film Cropsey . Features • Blank City . Encounters. Feature Documentary, 2009, 106 min. Directed by: Celine Danhier. East Village art scene of the 1970s with everything-goes film movements such as "No Wave Cinema" and "Cinema of Transgressi

Walking the Street, and the Rhythms of New York City

Dutch artist Piet Mondrian spent the last four years of his life in New York City, and several of his last paintings, like Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-1943) (inset), respond to the frenetic pace of the city and its danceable sounds. Boogie-woogie, a piano-centric twelve-bar blues form, migrated from Southern honky-tonks to 57th Street's Carnegie Hall in the late 1930s, when a series of concerts introduced a range of musical styles to the big city. The music still matches the pace of Broadway, the city's great avenue that boogies down a great swath of Manhattan. The ambient sounds of the city inspired John Cage, a non-traditional composer, to compose 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs , an ode consisting of simultaneous "happenings" across the vast metropolis - from a cobblestone street in the West Village to the Long Island Expressway. The choreography of the streets can be found in Leonard Bernstein's On the Town and West Side Story , in John Kander and Fred Eb

A Day in the Village and on Fifth Avenue

Early this morning I walked around the Village with my dogs, returned them to the apartment, went back out, bought some hot cross buns at Bruno Bakery, and then checked out why a large contingent of firetrucks were arriving near Bleecker and Thompson. No one seemed to know the exact problem. Neighbors gathering at the scene passed on rumors of hot spots in a couple of places. I haven't had a chance to go back to find out what happened. Later in the morning, I went to church on Fifth Avenue for Good Friday services, but not before I walked a few blocks north to see what was happening at Fifth and 13th Street (image directly above). I learned via Twitter that New School students had taken over one of the university buildings and that police were posed for arrests. Earlier this spring semester, I had watched a similar occupation at NYU, but this protest seemed more advanced, and the police response proved more intense. By the time I arrived, it was mostly over. I walked back to

"You Got the Wrong Broadway, Mister:" Exploring the Other Broadways, East and West

In lower Manhattan, in order to trap visitors into staying longer and spending tourist dollars in our shops and cafes, we have added two additional streets called Broadway to confuse everyone. On several occasions I have seen a group of visitors standing on a corner somewhere on W. Broadway, and they've got that unmistakable look of being lost. People who get confused just sort of stand around, and their eyes wander off in despair. Someone will pull out a map, and then the whole group looks over the person's shoulder. Of course, these people want to be on plain old Broadway, which is conveniently east of West Broadway, but us wily Villager types have entrapped them into spending time in our world. I try to help these lost souls, because they look pitiful. West Broadway doesn't make too much intuitive sense either. Unlike a numbered street labeled West, like West 26th, West Broadway runs south by southwest. It goes all the way down to the World Trade Center site. I wouldn&

The Lomo/Leica Walk

LOMO : Several years ago, around the spring of 2005, I got caught up in the Lomography craze. I bought one of the Colorsplash cameras, took a bunch of fun images with the interchangeable filters, and took the film (yes- FILM!) to the developers. I enjoyed the counter-aesthetic of the company, the "rules" that encouraged shooting from the hip, making the plastic camera part of one's adventurous life, and indeed, ignoring the rules. Lomos defied the hegemony of some members of the photo establishment that insisted, among the other things, that you had to focus and divide the image up into three parts. But then, one day, the rewind button on my Lomo just snapped off, and I was emotionally crushed. I carefully buried it in my memorial photo box of fallen cameras, letting it rest in peace alongside two Yashica Electro 35s, a Canon Elph, a Polaroid, and my recently-departed Nikon CoolPix. My interest waned in Lomos, content just to remember the good times with a few snapshots

Winston Churchill in New York: Sir Winston Churchill Square, New York's Downing Street, With a Note on the Opening of Topshop

For children growing up in postwar America, the real-life British action figure known as Winston Churchill looms large. We knew him on this side of the pond as a portly and clever world leader who smoked cigars and saved his country (that we got to know in lit classes) from Nazis. Even little Texas kids like me knew by heart some of the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech from June 4, 1940. Librarians and teachers encouraged young Boomers to read one of the many biographies of Churchill written for young people. He wrote books of formidable size on many different subjects, and he would have been the ideal uncle to any of our Jack and Jills or Tom and Hucks. We could imitate his accent and flip the V sign. Winnie. While shopping on the foodie blocks of Bleecker , I frequently like to stop and sit in the charming Winston Churchill Square ( NYC Parks page ) near the meeting of Bleecker Street, Downing Street and Avenue of the Americas. When I was there yesterday, I realized