Tuesday, December 29, 2009

High Society: The Philadelphia Story remake I never knew existed

Hello :) Welcome back to this little space after a few weeks of much needed hiatus and retreat. I have been away in Nebraska for Christmas, and no, I'm not really ready to be back in the city. But never mind all that, lets jump in, shall we?

I used to play a little game with friends and strangers called 'Let's recast The Philadelphia Story.' The Philadelphia Story, if you weren't aware, is one of my all time favorite films. You can read about it here. One of the many things that makes this film remarkable is that three of the biggest actors from the early 1940's star in it-- Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn.

So next comes the question of who would we cast in these roles if the film were to be remade? What actress could ever fill the shoes of Katherine Hepburn as Tracy Lord? Cary Grant as Dexter? (George Cluny, clearly. And perhaps Tom Hanks in the Stewart role. MAYBE Brad Pitt. Cate Blanchett as Hepburn could work. I'm open to suggestions.) Could it even be done?

Well APPARENTLY it has! Imagine my surprise when I opened my stocking to find High Society, a 1956 REMAKE OF THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. Mind blowing. (And thank you, Emily, for the stocking stuffer!) High Society, starring (are you prepared for this?) Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and to throw in an extra punch, Louis Armstrong.

High Society follows The Philadelphia Story's script to a T, with the addition of a few musical numbers (by the great Cole Porter) and a few minor plot shifts. The biggest addition is C.K. Dexter's reason for being on the estate-- a jazz fest. Oh, and that the story is set in Baltimore. (Which also explains the title change.) The Jazz fest does seem a bit disconnected from the rest of the script, and come to find out, it was only added to the film because the writer decided to combine two films-- The Philadelphia Story and a new film about the jazz scene in Baltimore. There ya go.

As for the cast change-- trying to compare makes me dizzy. Do we ask who is better? Bing Crosby or Cary Grant? Grace Kelly or Katherine Hepburn? Frank Sinatra or Jimmy Stewart? Ahh! It's a mean game of Sophie's Choice. I just can't do it. (Except, well, Grant, Hepburn, and Stewart. They win. There, I did it.)

That said, High Society is glorious. Glamorous, amazing, perfect. See it. When else will you see a duet between Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra? (Do you have chills?) Or, how about Bing Crosby and Louis Armstong!? Bananas. Craziness! Really lovely craziness. And a nice start to the New Year, don't you think?

Happy New Year, everyone :)

PS. A special thanks to my dear friend Amanda, who reminded me why blogging is good, and who has her own NEW little bloggy that I would like to share with you all: amandascates.blogspot.com Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day

I've never really been one for poetry, yet here I am with two poems in one month. Imagine that. I suppose that I don't understand most poetry but every once in a while something will jump at me and clutch my heart, making all the sense in the world. It happens most often when the rest of life isn't making much sense-- the abstract becomes so very clear.

And isn't that what poetry is for? Poems and paintings and songs are there to fill the voids that cannot be thought through with common words and voices? Well, this is one of those poems. An abstraction that understands all of my misunderstandings.

I actually sent it to Annie a few months ago, because it reminded me of her spirit and her sentiment. The last few stanzas (stanzas?) get to me, so if nothing else, skip over the first part about the warbler and spend some time with the lying in bed portion of the poem. (But then, of course, you will want to circle back and read the warbler part because the laying in bed portion was so very perfect.)

I think I first heard this read on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac, which if you don't already listen to, please start immediately. (You can, of course, get the podcast version if you don't listen to radio, so there are no excuses.)

So here you are, New York. Enjoy this poem and enjoy this sunny December day.

And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day
by Michael Blumenthal

Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. Take, for example, how the warbler, perched on a

mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. Nothing
I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily. Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling.
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Single Man

Movie Monday was resurrected last night with the stunning Tom Ford creation, A Single Man. Now, when I say stunning, I mean visually, and when I say creation, I don't mean movie. Because this wasn't so much a movie as much as it was a--- I don't know-- painting? photograph? vintage gown?

A Single Man was a chance for Tom Ford to visually create a world that includes all of the 'things he likes' for lack of a better phrase. It would be like me making a film about exposed brick walls, jars of white peonies, Brooklyn wine bars, Jimmy Stewart films, crackling fireplaces, and vats of salty olives. All the women would be very smart in turtleneck dresses with black tights and massive gold bracelets, and the men would all be funny. A bit indulgent, don't you think?

For his film, Tom Ford chose thin black ties, freshly pressed oxford dress shirts, square silver cuff links, and gin martinis. He also bowed toward beauty like no one has before. Super models played the extras, all the men had crazy tans and chiseled abs. The women were manicured into magazine cut outs who smoked pink cigarettes in their candy colored lips.

Mr. Ford also remained somewhat non-specific and general in his telling. Although based on a 1964 novel by the same title, Ford's adaptation wasn't deeply personal or too intimate, like we might expect a film-about-a-gay-professor-attempting-suicide-upon-the-death-of-his-young-and-charismatic-love to be. The film was a symphony, not a folk tune. This might help explain why it didn't feel like a movie to me-- it was removed, like how paintings are removed-- it was still, hushed, subdued.

Julianne Moore completely stole the film, you have to agree. She was the red paint, the splash of color and noise. I am completely obsessed with her 60s eyeliner and redheaded up-do. (Can we please bring black coal back into rotation?--I've asked before and I'm asking again.) While George's home was rich brown and grey and ivory, Charley's home was decorated with orange trees, silk upholstery, and a peach colored crescent shaped sofa. In fact, I saw this film for one scene, as described in Vogue magazine as 'iconic 60s perfection'--- Julianne Moore and Colin Firth doing the twist. And, yes, it was well worth the other 100 minutes of viewing. As were the Gatsby eyes. (If you know what I'm referring to, you get a gold star.)

Did I love the movie? Well, no. Alison, Katie, and I kind of nodded afterwards, agreeing that we 'got it', that we understood what it was supposed to be, who it was for. (It was for Luke Foss, duh.) It was a absolutely stunning film, we cannot argue that. But after coming to these somewhat broad conclusions we moved right along, back into our silly lives on the C train to Brooklyn.

See it. But please don't take this film seriously. Like is too short to brood over starched collars and square cuff links. Just have a gimlet and a very Merry Christmas. :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Image: 'Tracks' by one of my very favorite printmakers, Richard Bosman, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I'm sure I'm breaking a million copyright laws by posting this, but after searching for a nice Grinch quote to match my gorgeous Grinch illustrations, I found the full text! My heart grew three sizes just reading it again this morning and I think we're all in need of some heart growth right about now.

The illustrations above are taken from the original 1959 text. Note that the Grinch is not green-- the green was added later to the cartoon movie version in 1966, then further shown in that terrible Jim Carey movie that I'd rather not think about. The original drawings by Dr. Suess himself were simply black and white line drawings with some bright Christmas red highlighting. I adore them.

I could go on about the morals of this story, or compare it to Dickens, or reminisce on the importance of children's books but instead I'll just let you read the story. Merry Christmas, everyone. Enjoy.

(Note: For those of you who think I overuse caps lock and exclamation points to convey excitement in my blogs and emails, keep reading. Looks like I'm not the only one! DR. SUESS seems to be guilty of this as well!!! I learned from the best.)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

by Dr. Suess

Every Who
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot...
But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
Did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Whatever the reason,
His heart or his shoes,

He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistleoe wreath.

"And they're hanging their stockings!" he snarled with a sneer.
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"
Then he growled, with his grinch fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find a way to keep Christmas from coming!"
For, tomorrow, he knew...

...All the Who girls and boys
Would wake up bright and early. They'd rush for their toys!
And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
Then the Whos, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they'd feast! And they'd feast!

They would start on Who-pudding, and rare Who-roast-beast
Which was something the Grinch couldn't stand in the least!

They'd do something he liked least of all!
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They'd stand hand-in-hand. And the Whos would start singing!

They'd sing! And they'd sing!

And the more the Grinch thought of the Who-Christmas-Sing
The more the Grinch thought, "I must stop this whole thing!
"Why for fifty-three years I've put up with it now!
I MUST stop Christmas from coming!

...But HOW?"

Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!


"I know just what to do!" The Grinch Laughed in his throat.
And he made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.

And he chuckled, and clucked, "What a great Grinchy trick!
"With this coat and this hat, I'll look just like Saint Nick!"
"All I need is a reindeer..."

The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer are scarce, there was none to be found.

Did that stop the old Grinch...?
No! The Grinch simply said,
"If I can't find a reindeer, I'll make one instead!"

So he called his dog Max. Then he took some red thread
And he tied a big horn on top of his head.


He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a ramshakle sleigh
And he hitched up old Max.

Then the Grinch said, "Giddyap!"
And the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whos
Lay a-snooze in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whos were all dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first house in the square.

"This is stop number one," The old Grinchy Claus hissed
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.

He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue
Where the little Who stockings all hung in a row.
"These stockings," he grinned, "are the first things to go!"

Then he slithered and slunk, with a smile most unpleasant,
Around the whole room, and he took every present!
Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums!
Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!

And he stuffed them in bags. Then the Grinch, very nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whos' feast!
He took the Who-pudding! He took the roast beast!

He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Who-hash!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
"And NOW!" grinned the Grinch, "I will stuff up the tree!"

And the Grinch grabbed the tree, and he started to shove
When he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove.
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Who!
Little Cindy-Lou Who, who was not more than two.

The Grinch had been caught by this little Who daughter
Who'd got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at the Grinch and said, "Santy Claus, why,
"Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?"

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a lie, and he thought it up quick!
"Why, my sweet little tot," the fake Santy Claus lied,
"There's a light on this tree that won't light on one side.

"So I'm taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
"I'll fix it up there. Then I'll bring it back here."
And his fib fooled the child. Then he patted her head
And he got her a drink and he sent he to bed.

And when Cindy-Lou Who went to bed with her cup,
HE went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took
Was the log for their fire.
Then he went up the chimney himself, the old liar.
On their walls he left nothing but hooks, and some wire.

And the one speck of food
The he left in the house
Was a crumb that was even too small for a mouse.

He did the same thing
To the other Whos' houses
Leaving crumbs
Much too small
For the other Whos' mouses!

It was quarter past dawn...
All the Whos, still a-bed
All the Whos, still a-snooze
When he packed up his sled,

Packed it up with their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!
Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mount Crumpit,
He rode to the tiptop to dump it!

"Pooh-pooh to the Whos!" he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!
"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
"The all the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!"

"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch,
"That I simply must hear!"
So he paused. And the Grinch put a hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.

It started in low. Then it started to grow...
But the sound wasn't sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so!

But it WAS merry! VERY!
He stared down at Who-ville!
The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook!
What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

And what happened then...?
Well...in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch's small heart
Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn't feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

And he...
The Grinch carved the roast beast!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sufjan Stevens: Come Thou Fount

Well, it's December, folks. Christmastime is here. And before I dwell too much on the glory of December, let me paint you a few pictures of the holiday season here at 50 Downing Street.

Scene 1: Annie, Katie, and I were gathered in my bedroom in the late evening sometime last week. Annie and Katie were laying on my bed, drawing magpies and swallows and other birds of doom, while I was at my sewing machine, messing around with bits of fabric and paper. The mood was an attempt at optimism, although notably somber.

Our discussion somehow suddenly shifted from bird allegories to that silly yet relevant discussion where one gets to imagine big things, out of the realm of reality that we would wish for had we the chance. What would you wish for if you were granted three wishes? (If you don't remember the rules from grade school, you can't wish for money and you can't wish for more wishes.)

Lots of big, heartbreaking wishes were thrown into our little world framed by my bright blue walls and all-white linens. The wishes hung there in the middle of the room like clouds for us to ponder their possible shapes and meanings. We wished for love, wished for understanding. We wished for clarity and talent. I wished for a washer and dryer.

But my favorite wish of all was Katie's wish for the fronts of houses to be set on hinges. She wished that we could open up all of Brooklyn like a dollhouse, and observe the little worlds inside. We could pick up chandeliers like jewelry and watch first hand discussions on little things like paint colors or movie choices to big things like mortgages and marriage. We could learn so much by what is kept indoors and not shared in outside conversation.

Well, fast-forward to scene 2, same apartment, a week later. I found myself standing on the hardwood floor of our little attic apartment, with the proverbial rug pulled out from under me, thinking of Katie's dollhouse wish. Had 50 Downing street been set on hinges, the world outside could have observed the same three girls, the same somber faces (I promise that this post will become less doomy. Bear with me.) all staring at strong and handsome Irishman hacking at the trunk of a 6-ft Christmas spruce with a kitchen knife and a hammer, completely humbled by his kindness.

I'm not going to even attempt to share with you how we got there, who the Irishman is, and why we remained so gloomy (one highlight: me putting the finishing touches on my lovingly dressed tree only to have it topple over immediately, revealing my complete incompetence in doing things like 'putting a real live Christmas tree in a stand with water.') But what I will share is this: what started out to be a miserable evening turned out pretty okay. Nice, even.

I found myself in the third scene, a few hours later, surrounded by my make-shift Brooklyn family of four (John came up after a bit), eating fish sticks and 1/8 of a frozen personal sized pizza off a card table in the middle of the room (we replaced our normal table with a Christmas tree, ha). Sufjan Steven's Christmas album was playing softly behind our laughter.

I hadn't listened to this particular album in a while, and was shocked and so very pleased to hear 'Come Thou Fount', one of my very favorite hymns (one of everyones favorite hymns?), stuck there between 'Angels We Have Heard on High' and 'I Saw Three Ships.' It isn't even a Christmas song, not in the least, and I'd like to think that Sufjan stuck in there because of the word 'Ebenezer' in the second verse. I always thought of Dickens too.

In that moment, surrounded by friends' stories and the heavy scent of evergreen, Sufjan's version of Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing kind of saved my life. Well, it didn't save my life, I really am okay. We're all okay. But it did, at the very least, save my evening. Hello, glorious December. Looking forward to whatever you may bring.

Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy grace I come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Meet Me in St. Louis

Remember reruns? Remember coming home after school and watching reruns of the classics-- Saved by the Bell, The Brady Bunch, Friends, The Wonder Years?

There is something nice and comforting about reruns, I'm coming to realize. It's nice to know what you're getting. No surprises. Just old friends saying lines you've heard before, never missing a beat. We know when Rachel is going to declare her love for Ross. We aren't in shock when Winnie kisses Kevin in that cold barn in the rain for the last time. Of course Jan will make the cheerleading squad, we've seen this one before.

The days of reruns have oddly passed, as I don't watch tv unless its streaming onto my computer, and reruns don't really exist online. Those of you who have Tivo will edit your tv watching to only the essentials, none of that random riff raff. And there isn't a web channel that plays one random episode of The Brady Bunch at a time, now is there? (Is there?! If so, I hope its the Hawaii one.)

However. The past week has brought armloads of reruns into my life-- they entered like huge bouquets of white peonies, bobbing their snowy heads, nodding hello. As I sat down to write a little bloggy post, I realized that I could just display some reruns of old posts. Like this one. Or this. Or this goody. Those are the things I've done.

I've been re-watching, re-reading, and re-living my favorites this week. It's that time of year. I've been going back to all the things that would go into the Sarah Box, if one existed outside of conversation. It's a strange little box filled with Jimmy Stewart films, food memoirs, strands of gold jewelry, and a perfect mix of early 19th century British landscape paintings and contemporary installation work.

I would climb into that box, if I could, and settle there between Eloise and William Turner, Tilda Swinton and Estella Havisham. I'd have dinner with Alfred Hitchcock, tea with Jo March, and swap clothes with Katherine Hepburn. We'd all camp out in that box until morning comes, not daring to peek out at that scary outside world. (Bear with me here.)

Last week my amazing sisters Laura and Emily sent a hug in the form of dvd's to my desk. Julia Child's PBS Special was in the mix (I watched that this morning before work while eating leftover apple crisp and sipping french press coffee- love that Julia.) as was a collection of old song-and-dance musicals from the 1940s. I opened the package to discover Judy Garland's familiar (and bizarrely heart-shaped) face smiling back at me beneath that terrible wig and loud dress and tugged the dvd case to my heart. Meet me in St. Louis is one of my (our) all time favorites. I was so glad to see it again.

It's a odd little film. And truth be told, I rented it a few weeks ago, before La and Em sent the package, with someone who was watching it for the first time. The oddities never occurred to me until I saw it through another's eyes--Those children are morbid! That dancing so saccharine! But I love it. Why? Because it IS a rerun. I'm not seeing it for the first time at 26, shocked by the bizarre costumes, the corny dialogue. It all makes sense because I fell in love with it when I was 10 years old.

Meet Me in St. Louis is the story of a city as told through a family. My friend Sarah Meyer mocks this film for its lack of conflict, but I say the conflict is real. Esther, Agnes, Rose, and Tootie have a palpable love for St. Louis and the thought of leaving absolutely breaks their hearts. The story is based around this love, and I get it. I love a city too. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, the most heartbreaking of all Christmas songs (save for Joni Mitchell's River, perhaps) was written for a city and the heart that was leaving it behind. The love is real and so is the hurt.

And, like most 40s era musicals, this one has a very happy ending. So even while watching hearts break, this audience of one was okay. I knew they would stay in St. Louis-- can't fool me. I knew that Esther would end up with that total bore next door, John Truit, whom she happens to find so charming. I knew that Tootie wouldn't have to dig up her cemetery of dead dolls. That, dear friends, is the best thing about this classic film-- I've seen it before.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Neko Case

Well, it's been a big week here in Sarah-and-Katie-Land. The women of 50 Downing Street have lived through famine, fire, and flood. (Flooding is actually true-- a radiator pipe burst and soaked my bedroom in water. But at least the heat is working now!)

And who better to understand our desperate travesties than the Middle Cyclone herself-- Neko Case. Neko performed yesterday on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and guess who won 2 tickets to stand and awkwardly and sway in the background during the taping? Her biggest fans and redheaded comrades, Sarah and Katie.

I've told you before why we love Neko. Her strength is something we seek. Her lyrics shoot through us right to the heart of our struggles. 'She gets us,' says Katie, every morning, with a smile.

Come on Sorrow, take your own advice.

***NOTE: We left this taping so embarrassed and giggly that we swore to never show the video to the world. Luckily you can barely see us. (We are on the back riser, in the front row, on the left, behind the drummer in matching green shirts with black cardigans.)

It's REALLY AWKWARD to be filmed while watching music. What do you do with your hands!? Do you sing along? Lordy, that was a test of our strength if nothing else.

Also, they stood me next to the SHORTEST, TINIEST woman I've ever seen, making your girl Sarah look even more like a giantess than I normally do. I definitely did the aforementioned slump-and-lean not out of respect this time, but out of self preservation. So not only was I feeling awkward in my own skin, but was then forced to DANCE to a live filming of one of my favorite songs ever written.

Television tapings are not for the weak of heart.

Oh, AND, the matching outfits were my idea. Looking back, I don't necessarily see the point either.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ines de la Fressange

When I'm 51 I want this haircut too.

Our favorite artist/interiors blog, The Selby, recently let us into Ines de la Fressange's home, furthering my SWINTON-like facination with France's own Marianne. Is there anyone more glamorous?! Dying for those pepto pink walls. Love.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Regina Spektor

I saw Regina Spektor at Radio City a few weeks back and have been trying to sit down and write about my experience and her work ever since. Where did all of my time go? Finding this video last night gave me a reason to revisit the topic.

Gorgeous, right? I like this video. I LOVE the song. And I am in awe of the girl who sings it.

(But the REAL reason to celebrate is that I finally got a youtube clip embedded into this here bloggy! Good girl, Sarah. You figured something out.)

Well, THIS is good news!

Looks like our little namesake resty is open for business! (Here, read this. Then this.) And it re-opened on my BIRTHDAY, no less. I am obviously taking this news as face value: New York clearly gave me a birthday gift, just when I needed it most.

What a lovely day this is turning out to be...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Broken English

I watched Broken English for the third time tonight. (First and second times were not tonight, they were months ago. I just couldn't figure out how to word that sentence.) I started it this morning, and finished it while making pasta for a very small dinner party, and I fell in love with it all over again. Have you all seen this film?

Katie first introduced it to me last winter, and the two of us firmly established it as part of our roommate canon. (Other films include Two Lovers, Before Sunrise, and After Sunset.) Parkey Posey stars alongside a cast of tired and worn New Yorkers that create a fairytale story just sad enough to be believable.

Yes, the story is depressing beyond all means, but the acting is superb and if you squint hard enough and focus your senses you will find the hidden satire in Posey's character Nora. It's a funny movie hidden in a mess of sleeping pills and anxiety attacks.

And even in this small jaded indie film we find a happy ending. Because we're here just like Nora--out swimming through this city-- looking for our own.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy SWINTON Day!

Guess who's birthday we almost forgot!? SWINTON'S!!!!! Let's all celebrate by putting on our most avant garde skinny sweater-dress-bustier and toast with something much more interesting than champagne, like absinthe. Or Turkish delight.

Then let us all gather together to protest something really important... like Roman Polanski's arrest! Or Donald Trump's horrifying golf course. Better yet, lets visit her group art exhibition at the adorably named LaMaMa Galleria in the Village this weekend. I'll be there, absinthe in tow.

Happy Birthday, Tilda. Here's to 49 more.

Monday, November 2, 2009

1000 Words

Well, this broke my heart. I have no time to post today, and I am too tired to think of anything clever to write here, but read it. Sharp writing, clear idea, heartbreaking prose.

I actually read this particular short story a few months ago, but the part below has been rolling around in my mind ever since, and I can't seem to shake it:

Tomorrow is Labor Day, and she wonders if he'll ever kiss her again. Labor Day will make twenty-seven days since she decided to stop kissing him because it doesn't mean anything and wait for him to kiss her, because then it might.

Its terribly depressing, I know, but its also beautiful. Beautiful to get something that raw SO very right.

(I'll be back soon for more thoughtful posts about the lovely life I've been living, I promise. There is much to say. So sorry for this long absense, but don't you worry, I am okay :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Raven Smith

Here is something more suitable for starting off our week on a happy note-- Raven Smith's '...and I' series. Click here for more. Fantastic, right?

Happy October, everyone.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wilfie & Nell

Does Wilfie and Nell in the West Village remind anyone else of Williamsburg? Not Hipster Williamsburg in Brooklyn, but the original, colonial style Williamsurg: Williamsburg, Virginia.

Low beamed ceilings, butcher block tables, mix-matched cloth napkins, juice glasses in place of stemware, armchairs in hidden corners, dark dark lighting, exposed brick on every wall... I kept waiting for a Martha Washington historical reenactor to come around the corner, chattering about the revolution before exiting onto a street of wooden carts and marching soldiers and sunburned Midwestern tourists.

Oh, I love Colonial Williamsburg! I might be the only 25 year old to admit that, but come on, its great! The pie alone is worth the trip. Lets all go for a fall road trip, wanna?

Until then... Wilfie & Nell is a nice substitute. (If only they served things like 'spoon bread' and 'rum cream pie' and 'venison stuffed Guinea hens'. Love me a good themed menu.) I went to Wilfie & Nell last Saturday night with one of those groups that expands and deflates and expands and deflates as the night goes on. I arrived with John and Alison around 10 and stayed until probably 3am as 4 different groups of people ebbed and flowed from our perfect corner table by that sneaky front window.

Katie and Maria came, as did Bruce and his killer stories. Katy and Val wandered in, making me scream with laughter as they always do. We made friends with the people around us, arguing over the masculinity of a gold watch or the correct pronunciation of 'Carolina Herrera.'

So it wasn't Virginia and it wasn't the 18th century but the sentiment was there. A long night in a cozy bar with 30 of my dearest friends and acquaintances. Let us all go back soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Trust me, I am just as shocked as you are to be writing about this movie. So shocked that this post could easily morph into something more akin to a graduation speech, a motivational conference, or a Lutheran sermon. Something with a theme along the lines of 'not judging a book by its cover' or 'stepping outside of your comfort zone' or 'the world is full of surprises.' It was just THAT inspiring.

I have never had any real interest in animated movies (well, not since Disney's princess collection came to a halting screech just as I left my childhood behind and entered junior high in 1995. Come on, we all loved Ariel.) I went because I was offered a free screening ticket. Simple as that. Free things are nice. And it was Movie Monday after all.

Alex and I settled into our 3-D glasses in a theater packed by press and their children, with the lowest of expectations. I loved the children's book as a child, and he knew little about this movies save from a few flying cheeseburgers. But we sat through Ice Age: 3 and we could sit through this.

What came to follow was an hour and 48 minutes of laugh after laugh after laugh. The humor was right on target, the animation gorgeous, and the actors outstanding. Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Andy Samberg, and the treat of all treats--Neil Patrick Harris-- as Steve the monkey. No, we did not see that coming, and yes, we gasped in sheer delight when we saw his name in the credits.

I will spare you the 'don't judge a book lecture' if you promise to give this splashy animated feature film a chance. Then, once you've seen it, do as we did and walk to Madison Square Park's Shake Shack for burgers and fries-- you will want one too after seeing burgers float to the ground like manna from heaven in the first food storm.

Real laughter, a long walk, and Shake Shack. A Movie Monday for the books.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Blue Hour

Well, this makes me insanely happy.

Pay attention to how he talks about New York as the seasons change. He writes about this city with respect and awe and complete sincerity. (There's that sincerity thing again. I'm hoping it catches on.) Refreshing all around.

The photos are stunning, yes. But its the sentiment that gets to me. Thank you, Brian, for restoring hope in a city that eight years ago today was crumbling. Thank you for reminding us why it is still so good.


Chelsea Gallery Openings

Yigal Ozeri at Mike Weiss Gallery
Will Ryman at Marlborough Gallery

Barthelemy Toguo at Robert Miller

It was a lovely fall evening in Chelsea last night. After a long and desperate summer, galleryland pulled itself together for a stunning evening of art and celebration. The streets were packed and the art was good. Somewhat safe, if you ask me-- but good. Highlights were the Yigal Ozeri show at Mike Weiss, the Will Ryman sculptures at Marlborough, and Toguo's watercolors and installation at Robert Miller.

We even came across a crazy performance piece(!!!) of a Russian woman ranting about men while throwing coffee on white graffiti covered walls. Both boys I was with rolled their eyes while exiting the crowded gallery but it was a total treat.

The evening concluded with a walk along the Highline, ducking into the Brass Monkey to beat the rain, and then running into Allison "fashionista" Fry at DVF during the highly anticipated Fashion Night Out. Its a small town after all.

Hello, fall. Welcome back :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Dirty Urchins

The last days of summer-- or, as I prefer to call them, the first days of Fall-- are upon us. The rain has slowed, the weather has cooled, and evenings outdoors are begging my attention. Alex and I spent last evening in Central Park, strolling and picnicing, observing the lovely weirdos who roam Manhattan's largest park during the Blue Hour. Ourselves included, I suppose.

Just before sundown we stumbled upon a band playing at the fountain (the fountain with the angel from Angels in America) and enjoyed what we heard immensely. They are called the Dirty Urchins (fantastic band name for a band who plays most of its shows for dollar tips in central park next to break dancers, sidewalk artists, and that crazy guy with the pink poodle and tutu around his neck) and they cracked me up.

We found ourselves smiling the 'Paul Rudd' smile, as we call it (watch Role Models if you haven't yet) to the folky lyrics of 'Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down', a lovely little tune about-- among other things-- lowering your standards.

They are fresh, they are real, they are enjoyable. And Dirty Urchins, if you're out there-- keep doing what you're doing. And I hope you got lots of beer last night with that tip money.

American Wife

A lot of you have been asking me for a summer book rec. And although I do realize that we have almost hit Labor Day, I would like to share with you the book. The next book you should read and the next book you will tear through. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I will give credit where credit is due-- this was originally my dear friend John's rec to me. John lived in France last year (he now lives downstairs!) and the two of us often exchanged emails stating only what we were reading, watching, and listening to. I suppose we found culture more interesting than our own lives, because we really never felt the need for further updates. I like that about us.

For example. An email set from earlier this year:

movie's i've seen:
mysteries of pittsburgh: WORST movie i've seen this year.
valentino: amazing, you should see it.
hair: awesome. (its from the 70s, really funny)
hook: so into that right now
witches: also really into that (roald dahl)
duplicity: meh.

mysteries of pittsburgh: contrary to the above movie opinon, LOVE the book. which is why the movie is so depressing
the history of love: married to jonathan saffron foer, book is really similar to him.
hugh hefner bio: just ordered it, really excited to get to that one.
never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro: also just orderd it, really excited to start it, it was rec. kinda science fictiony but looks good

really into neko, but that was your rec sooooooo thanks!
love the new pornographers (again, your rec i think, so thanks!)
love that new ingrid michaelson album, esp. 'me and you'. it reminds me of you because it says 'the south of france' in the lyrics.
love the arcade fire song that goes with the Where the Wild Things Are Trailer.
i should probably look into more of their music, huh?

in all reality, i need music recs from YOU because all my stuff is the same right now.
missing you much!

And his reply:

i have decided that i did really like 'rachel getting married'. super depressing but it stays with you for a long while after.
have you seen 'the wackness'? i'm watching it right now...not really feeling it. kinda boring i think...thoughts?

off to paris on tuesday...i want to catch 'wendy and lucy' and perhaps a few other films while i'm there...but 'w and l' is at the top of the list.
other films seen lately...

italiens-loved it
heat-quite good
the dark knight-(again)...brilliant
magnolia-amazing...the acting is supurb

also, i am reading the best book right now...you would love. zoe heller's 'everything you know'.
i loved the book 'mysteries of pitts'. don't really want to see the film. i just finished his novel, 'the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay' and it was AWESOME.

you will love 'never let me go'...it is one of my favorite novels. i liked 'the history of love' but def not as good as her husband's writing.

i'm obsessed with the new camera obscura album.
really really into old yo la tengo esp albums 'painful' and 'i can hear the heart beating as one'...totally briliant
and i love love love the new/now almost a year old lil wayne album....so good.

So that was a long way of telling you that even if you don't trust my taste, trust John. Or trust Allison, Alison, Katie, Kelly, or Meghan-- all of whom have already taken this rec and will tell you the same thing. The book is worth your time.

Its a novel based on the life of former First Lady Laura Bush that reads like fiction, because, of course, it is... but this doesn't take away the 'OMG' reaction of peeking behind closed doors. Its a free ticket into the life and mind of a woman whose public interaction is no more than a sweet wave, conservative red suit, and an annual Today Show special on the White House Christmas decorations and gingerbread houses.

But we meet young Alice (as she is renamed for the book's sake) and walk with her through a life so ordinary in its inception, aching to understand how this young librarian from the Midwest ended up First Lady. How her dufus of a husband became our President. It is interesting. You'll think so too.

There is a quote in there somewhere that will stop you in your tracks, nothing the writing, not solely the story. Its when Alice reaches the point where she is no longer a 'yogurt and cereal girl'. A perfect description of girls in their mid-twenties who--without knowing it-- are waiting for their lives to begin. Katie read it aloud to me the other night, and we both moaned, knowing how crazy accurate her observation is. Sittenfeld cracks open this fragile stage in life of girls like us--girls who legitimately have no idea where their lives are going-- with grace and confidence and a shuddering sense of truth.

I will stop there, not ruin it for you. Go get this book. Then let me know what else you're reading, watching, listening to.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

W.P.A. at Joe's Pub

We have yet to discuss my favorite band. Seems a bit peculiar, as I have almost 150 posts about 'things I like.' You would think that Nickel Creek would be one of them.

I think Laura first told me about them. She must have burned me a Nickel Creek cd, like a good sister would. La, do you remember? Em? Somehow we got ahold of their first album and listened to it until we knew every string, every pluck. Its bluegrass reinvented, like nothing I had heard before. It was heartbreaking music. But it was also fun and fast and lovely and sounded like something from another time, another era. We like things like that.

I first saw Nickel Creek in concert in Minneapolis for my 22nd birthday. Laura drove 9 hours from Nebraska to surprise me and Emily (although Em was in on it, as I later realized.) I remember first hearing them live and feeling like my heart was physically expanding. That this music was somehow made for the three of us.

We then saw them live in Lincoln the next year at that old theater downtown. We ran into the band on the street afterword, and after thanking them for a beautiful show, Chris Thile looked me dead in the eye and said, "Third balcony? First row?" (Yes, Chris Thile! I WAS in the third balcony, first row! And you were clearly singing to me the entire time!) That was a nice moment.

I saw them again in Central Park two summers ago for their 'Goodbye for Now' tour with Fiona Apple, who is a crazy person. It was titled 'Goodbye for Now' as a way of announcing a Nickel Creek recess in which they would all explore solo careers. Since then, Chris debuted one of the most GORGEOUS albums I've ever heard. Its called How to Grow a Woman from the Ground Up and makes me ache for my early days in New York, as for a few weeks it was the only friend I had (go ahead, laugh at that statement. But you know how that is. Music as a prescription for loneliness.)

Sara Watkins introduced her own solo album this year, a softer compilation of old bluegrass tunes and a few gospel melodies. Sean has been around the world and back, lending his talent to different projects, new voices.

And now this. W.P.A. (named for the Works Progress Association, which was part of Roosevelt's New Deal. Love that.) is a new band composed of eight musicians with crazy talent. Sara and Sean Watkins are two of them (as is Glenn Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket) and this was only their fifth show ever performed. And the place was packed. A very interesting-- and dare I say rare-- experience to sell out a show on your fifth performance as a band. Also rare to be in the audience. It was a priviledge, a treat.

I can't say that the evening was perfect. If I were in California and this was November I would blame the Santa Annas. If I believed in astology I would blame the New Moon that hit last night's dark August sky. But this is New York and we don't believe in silly things like that. (Perhaps I can blame this long August heat though. Its getting to us all, isn't it?)

Joe's Pub is a fun place to see a show. Its a dinner theater setting, which I wasn't exactly expecting. It's part of the Public Theater, the same people who produce Shakespere in the Park and lots and lots of new talent. Its a tiny little space, which of course can create tension it itself.

We agreed, Al, Annie, and I, that Sara and Sean Watkins were the clear talent. They outshone Glenn and Luke and the four other members whose names I won't remember. They had the gut, they had the gusto. Sara belted 'Long Hot Summer Days', a song from her solo album, until the hair on the backs of our necks stood up. You couldn't be in the room and not get it, not understand how good that was. It is a rare thing, that talent. (Go download it. Download it right now.)

The evening made me miss my sisters, as I probably could have predicted. It made me wish they could have been there with me, in excitement and appreciation. But Laura is off delivering babies and Emily starting her first week of grad school and we will be together again soon I'm sure.

But the moment Nickel Creek gets back together for some sort of 'Hello Again' tour, you can bet your bottom dollar that the Butler girls will be there listening. Third balcony. First row.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cafe Vivaldi

Cafe Vivaldi is a small jazz bar tucked off Bleecker in the West Village. Alison and I came across it after getting pizza with Katy, Anna, and Val at the pizza place across the street from the best pizza place in New York (ha.) We were tired from a long day of painting in the August heat and were ready to go home to bed in Brooklyn. But for some reason we paused for a moment in front of this lovely brick lined cafe with an old wooden bar, candlelit tables, and a jazz quartet playing in the corner.

It all looked so Old New York that we cringed when we realized that the entire audience was what looked like a band member's enthusiastic girlfriend, the bartender, and the bus boys. No one else was there. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and decided to be the audience they needed.

The jazz was outstanding. Just gorgeous. We sat in a corner table surrounded by old photographs of 19th century composers with strong beards and high collars. The room was very dark save for the candles on our tables and the soft spotlights on the base and grand piano. It was cozy and warm and perfect. In fact, we were so taken up by the romance of it all that we decided to abandon our usual order of wine for me, beer for her, in favor of an after dinner drink. The conversation is as follows:

Me: (to Alison) I think I'll have the port. Do I like port? Yeah, I'm pretty sure its sweet, I think I like port.

Alison: Oh, I'm getting grappa, I always get grappa when we get after dinner drinks.

Me: Sick. I used to have to drink that sometimes after dinner in Florence with my host family. It takes like windex.

Alison: No, its super sweet! Way sweeter and better than port.

Me: Really?! It must be different in Italy, where its like really strong whiskey.

(Our waitress enters.)

Alison: Is grappa sweet? Or is port the sweet one?

Waitress: Well, I don't like either, but yeah, they are both sweet. Grappa is sweeter.

Me: The port, please.

Alison: I'll have the grappa.

Minutes pass and Alison and I enthusiastically clap for the band as we are STILL the only patrons at Cafe Vivaldi. The band introduces themselves but its very clear that while the audience is composed of two tired and clueless twenty five year olds and a handful of bus boys, they are pretending to headline at the Blue Note. They bow to a pretend audience, hold for a pretend applause, and look no one in the eye. Alrighty then!

Our waitress comes back shortly thereafter with two tiny little flutes of our aperitifs. Lovely! I sip my port, its nice and sweet and syrupy. Alison looks at her crystal clear liquid, takes a big sip, and her head then proceeds to explode.

Alison: Oh my god! (cluthing heart) My heartburn! This is awful, I am going to die!

Me: (trying to muffle my laughter in fear of the poor band hearing. We can call this 'church giggles'.)

Alison: Try it!

Me: (like the idiot that I am) Okay!

I take a tiny little sip. The liquid hits my tongue, expands to every corner of my mouth and burns all the way up to my eye balls. It tastes, as I remembered, of windex, if windex were on fire. We had to ask our sweet little waitress for port instead, explaining that it ISN'T sweet, and they graciously gave her the exchange.

What did we learn from the experience? Other than the difference between port and grappa? That while we like to play the refined, knowledgeable New Yorkers, we aren't really that at all. We are still two Midwestern girls who are learning as we go along. Also-- that fun is always on the other side of a yes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In Defense of Gwyneth

Gwyneth Paltrow rocks. And I mean it. She is a gorgeous actor, a loving mother, and a rare soft voice of domesticity and patience in a world of fast moving sex pot celebrities. She is more introspective than you and I will ever be and is consistently thoughtful in the literal sense. (I do have a point, bear with me.)

While I've always thought her lovely (since, what, Emma? Hook?) I embarrassingly feel I've gotten to know her through my very favorite television show, Spain: On the Road Again. I love that she starred in a PBS special about Spanish cooking and culture and I love that she did it on her own audacity, without motive or angle. She did it because she simply loves Spain and relished the opportunity to travel it with Mario and Mark (at least I like to believe so) and let us watch.

Through Spain we learned that Ms. Coldplay speaks fluent Spanish. She watches Dora the Explorer with Apple and Moses and didn't cut her hair for a long while because of her dead father. She was humanized for us in a way that we rarely see beneficial (think: any other celebrity reality show you've EVER seen.) She was kind and interested and sincere. And, as I've said time and time again, I think our world could use a little more sincerity.

Yes, I've fallen with the rest of the dreamy twenty or thirty something waspy New York minded girls, into Gwyneth-envy and into Gwyneth-mode. We LIKE Goop (see it there, on the side bar?). Its fascinating that this classically trained actress decided one day to Martha Stewartize herself with a blog about anything but her films and her career. It's really quite unique and fairly odd when you stop to think about it. Academy award winning actress turned blogger? Really?

But, being impressionable girls, we like her fashion hints and her book recs and her fancy fresh recipes. We like that she wears soft, lovely clothes and then tells us where she buys them. We wear leggings too! And belts with white dresses! And big chunky gold bracelets! And jumpsuits! (just kidding about the jumpsuits, we don't go that far. We also don't buy into the Kabbalah or the weird juice diets. There is a line, after all.) But we like her approach, we like her livelihood. We do.

However... we aren't really the popular vote on this. Gwyneth gets a lot of slack here in the big city. She has critics galore who think she is sappy and insecure and nonsensical. It is really cool to 'not like Gwyneth' and to laugh at Goop. She is an easy target because she does take herself slightly too seriously. Sincerity isn't funny because it doesn't laugh at itself. Whoops.

In fact, I have a few friends who watch Spain simply to laugh at GP. If I posted more posts about how lame Goop is, I might be more popular. You all might think I'm funnier and more clever than Goop ever could be. And I get that, we can trace it back to high school. But I'm not gonna call it lame. I'm not going to roll my eyes at her attempt. I think this world NEEDS Gwynnie and her thoughts of lavender. We need a svelte blonde actress to help us roast chickens and assemble salads. We are the better for it!

I like her. I admire her. I reach to emulate her.

THAT SAID... this is hilarious. Watch this and then this.

You can't take it all too seriously, now can you?