Saturday, January 31, 2009


Antibalas is the type of band that has the entire room dancing. They're an Afrobeat Big Band, complete with two saxophones, a trumpet, an amazing trombonist, and African drums. The vocalist, Amayo, blends Swahili and English and has the crowd singing along, never having heard the songs in our lives. (Well, I hadn't at least. And I sang the entire time.)

Keenan bought tickets for Alison as a Christmas gift and she graciously invited her i'll-do-anything friend Sarah. We saw Paul Simon's Under African Skies concert at BAM last winter with Keenan and Jill, and I can truly say that it changed the way I undersand music. It opened my eyes to African sounds and I have been craving another experience like that ever since. Antibalas did that for us, but in a much smaller venue where we could feel those trumpet chords in our chests. It was a stunning evening.

We left with huge smiles, sore thighs (all that dancing, yo), and African rythums in our years and on our toungues. We practically skipped home and you would have thought it was the middle of July, instead of the gloomy end of January. African music does that to you... it feels like summertime.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

Clinton Hill is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world. Mostly because I live there. The photo to your left is actually my home on Downing street where I live with my friend Katie and my cat, Nancy Drew (who isn't really my cat as much as she is the feral cat who lives at the bottom of my steps in a cardboard box. To be honest, someone threw away that box a few months go. So I haven't seen her around much lately. Bummer.)

I moved to Clinton Hill because I have friends in the neighborhood but love it because of c'ette brownstone and its proximity to Fort Greene. The neighborhood is strongly West African with a few of us young, struggling art-types straggling in.

The white girls like myself do worry me, ironically, because like so many neighborhoods in New York, CH is in danger of massive amounts of gentrification. And I'm part of that gentrification and that's scary. As it stands, Clinton Hill is incredibly local in its establishments-- there isn't a Starbucks to be found. In it's place are grass roots coffee shops and hole-in-the-wall African eateries. It is one of the cheaper neighborhoods that still retains a sense of pride and history.

However-- with gentrification ultimately comes a lower crime rate and that of course is a good thing. (Yes, there is crime in my neighborhood. It's still Brooklyn, after all.) This brings up a huge social argument centered around Alphabet City in the 70s. If you ever want to discuss it with me, I'm extremely interested in this sociological look at nostalgia and its price.

I love the bodegas (that's for you, Dad) and the dogs and the hardware store and the Pratt mansions. I love the front stoops and the friendly hello's and the frequent whistles (ha.) There are also many-a abandoned bulletproof store fronts and garbage piles. It is, after all, bordering Bed-Stuy and also retains a large sense of the ghetto in addition to its history and charm. Okay, its super ghetto. But we love it.

Sister's Hardware: This is my local hardware store where I buy things like bathroom sponges, paint, and bike locks. Alison once needed a ladder to paint her room and the owners suggested that she simply borrow their ladder instead of purchasing one of her own. Seriously!? Are there really people that wonderful out there still!? Warms my heart.

Met Foods: If you've been to Met Foods, you're probably laughing at this post because Met Foods kind of sucks. HOWEVER. They have a rockin' play list of early 90's pop music (Ace of Base, Celine Dion, Amy Grant, Lisa Loeb) and they sell illegal bootlegged DVDs for $5 at checkout. Funny. Worth a trip just to bee-bop to 'Heart in Motion' while buying whatever random yogurt they are selling on that particular day and having to go to three different aisles to find the cinnamon. It's great.

Olivino: My ADORABLE wine store. If you ever visit me, please get a bottle of wine from here because I really want to keep them in business. The people are so friendly and a pug is usually running around as I shop for the bottles with the best labels. My goal in buying wine is usually to find a label with a dog on it... and Olivino usually pulls through.

Olivino Wine Bar: Recently opened adjacent to Olivino wine store! I have to admit that I have a hard time going here only because the prices are double what it would cost to buy the same bottle next door but the cheeses are extraordinary and, again, the people are so nice. The last time I was in the owner told me that they are going to add more tapas to the menu soon, but for now the fresh bread (from Choice, I assume) and cheese selection are all you need. The decor is surprisingly chic for being located on a block housing mostly abandoned nail salons... I was shocked the first time I walked in. Light wood, soft lighting and clean lines. Its really quite gorgeous.

Locanda Vini E Olii: Oh my lordy, I love this restaurant. It's about a block from my apartment which is an extremely random location for a restaurant of this caliber (and these prices). It's an old pharmacy gorgeously transformed into an Italian restaurant while retaining its charm and apothecaric details. Like so many uber-cool Brooklyn spots, there isn't a sign other than 'Drug Store' to note its presence. You just have to know.

Choice Market: A lovely little French bakery just blocks up from Gates. They serve the freshest of baked goods along with whole Rotisserie chickens and the best breakfast sandwiches on this side of the East River. You can usually find dogs hanging out as well, which makes it perfect. NY Mag loves it too.

Outpost: My local coffee shop/hangout. My CH friends and I come here for lattes and the Sunday Times. We drink coffee and pass around the good sections (arts & leisure, style, metro, travel) until we lazily decide to do something like go to the beach or move to a wine bar for the rest of the day. Brooklyn living at it's finest.

John Varriano

Love this... a darling little story about the bartender from the Four Seasons restaurant who sketches his patrons while mixing their drinks, then goes home and paints them in oil. Such a nice break from the doom and gloom of this nasty recession, right? Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Mario Batali, you're kind of gross. Seriously.

But I like your food.

I had my favorite type of meal tonight with K and A at Mario Batali's cheapo resty, Otto... Lots of wine and lots of olives and espresso with two packs of sugar. YUM.

We talked about Mario's bizarro show Spain: On the Road Again in which he drives around Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow in a Mercedes convertible eating. I've yet to see it but absolutely love the idea. (NY Mag gave it a 'Highbrow Despicable' on the Approval Matrix for the very reason of being a show about driving around Spain in the Mercedes during a recession. Ha.)

It's a weird look into celebrity indulgence and a country in which I've become fascinated since hearing that gorgeous Spanish guitar music in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Maybe I'll buy it with my itunes gift card so that I can watch Mario and Gwen eat olives during my morning commute. Stay tuned.

At any rate, I love this restaurant... its very much a tourist trap but its near my office and its cheap Italian done well. Plus- there's always a chance of spotting those orange crocs. Ew.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

"What about little microphones? What if everyone swallowed them, and they played the sounds of our hearts through little speakers, which could be in the pouches of our overalls? When you skateboarded down the street at night you could hear everyone's heartbeat, and they could hear yours, sort of like sonar. One weird thing is, I wonder if everyone's hearts would start to beat at the same time... That would be so weird, except that the place in the hospital where babies are born would sound like a crystal chandelier in a houseboat, because the babies wouldn't have had time to match up their heartbeats yet. And at the finish line at the end of the New York City Marathon it would sound like war."

I started crying immediately upon reading this book... the first page. Maybe that's what happens when you become twenty-five. You learn how to cry and suddenly find everything in the world overwhelmingly beautiful. That's where I am at least.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a story about love. 9/11, New York City, and love. It's told by 9-year-old Oskar Schell, the best character I've read in a very long time. I loved this book. Loved it. It touched me quite truly and very deeply. It broke my heart into a million little pieces. I can't imagine anyone reading it and not being completely and utterly astonished. It's heartbreaking. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

The novel opens with a long passage that follows Oskar's train of thought... a racing freight of idea and invention. It's shocking at first and a bit unsettling. He is different from us, yet we can't pinpoint why. It isn't autism and it isn't Attention Deficit Disorder... its not Aspergers Syndrome or any form of learning disability.

Oskar is a brilliant mind, we discover slowly. And that brilliance is the difference. He is worlds smarter than a 'normal' nine year old and feels much deeper than you and I. He has the most sensitive reality and the biggest beating heart I have ever read. There is nothing wrong with him... he's just a very extreme version of everyone else.

We slowly crack past the differences between his mind and ours and rest at a place of compassion and love. I tried to pinpoint why this young boy touched me so very much, and concluded about halfway through that it's because his thoughts are so pure. Which is rare, I noted sadly.

He is brutally honest about his feelings and thoughts and never ever turns off his mind. This unfortunately and very naturally causes Oskar much pain. He often refers to having 'heavy boots'-- his words for the blues, or as Holly Golightly says, the 'mean reds.' This mainly stems from mourning the death of his father, who died in the twin towers on September 11th. Our first reaction to a nine year old having such deep feelings would be to diagnose him with some level of depression... yet Oskar absolutely understands why he is so sad.

The next morning I told mom I couldn't go to school again. She asked what was wrong. I told her... "The meat and dairy products in our refrigerator, fistfights, car accidents, Larry --"

"Who's Larry?"

"The homeless guy in front of the Museum of Natural History who always says 'I promise it's for food' after he asks for money ... How you don't know who Larry is, even though you probably see him all the time, how Buckminster just sleeps and eats and goes to the bathroom and has no raison d'etre, the short ugly guy with no neck who takes tickets at the IMAX theater, how the sun is going to explode one day, how every birthday I always get at least one thing I already have, poor people who get fat because they eat junk food because it's cheaper,

"... Domesticated animals, how I have a domesticated animal, nightmares, Microsoft Windows, old people who sit around all day because no one remembers to spend time with them and they're embarrassed to ask people to spend time with them, secrets, dial phones, how Chinese waitresses smile even when there's nothing funny or happy, and also how Chinese people own Mexican restaurants but Mexican people never own Chinese restaurants, mirrors, tape decks, my unpopularity at school, Grandma's coupons, storage facilities, people who don't know what the Internet is, bad handwriting, beautiful songs, how there won't be any humans in fifty years ..."

"Why do beautiful songs make you sad?"

"Because they aren't true."


"Nothing is beautiful and true."

See? Heartbreaking. (I realize that was an incredibly long quotation, so if you skipped over it, go back and read it again. It'll be good for you.) For he is ultimately sad for the loss of his father.

The story flips every few chapters to a new narration-- that of Oskar's grandfather and grandmother. His grandfather's story is told through letters written to his son, and his grandmother's is told through letters to Oskar. 'I hope you never love anything as much as I love you,' she says. Their devastation, like Oskar's, arises from a single horrible event: the bombing of Dresden, their home in Germany, during World War II.

This of course mirrors Oskar's invented realities of what his father's last few hours must have been like during the terrorist attacks... he invents a million ways his father could have died and drives himself crazy inventing ways he could have been saved... birdseed shirts, safety nets, elevators that bring floors to you instead of the other way around.

The plot begins when Oskar finds a key and decides to conduct a secret mission to find its matching lock that will ultimately lead him to his dead father in some unknown way. This gives this young boy a purpose, a raison d'etre (his word, not mine.) Oskar's trek becomes a sort of Odyssey who's surprising provider is revealed at the end of the story. (At which point I broke down crying on the subway. The homeless man across from me offered a kleenex, bless his heart.) Oskar travels the city's five boroughs just as Odysseus scaled ancient Greece... he meets demons, friends, and sirens along the way but in the end returns home to the comforting arms of familiarity. (Can you read my tears?)

The novel also repeatedly references Hamlet, a pointed symbol of Oskar's father's ghost haunting his journey. Hamlet's deeply philosophical thoughts on death and terror mirror Oskar's mind, though in a very normal tone as is his standard existence. He is constantly thinking of death and life and the meaning of if all. He is Godot, he is The Stranger.

Foer is brilliant in this telling. He doesn't give us a framework other than this quest that we know ultimately won't provide a real answer. Its a post-Modern novel in that it's very fragmented and quite unconventionally written. The book is packed with photographs and illustrations and a few blank pages. To be honest, this aspect interested me much less than I expected. The one illustration that caught my breath like a punch was the final flip book of a man jumping from the twin towers. Although in this case the pages were reversed so that the man seems to be floating up and back into the windows and back into life before tragedy. Oskar did that to imagine his father coming back. Tore. at. my. heart.

Like I said, this is a book about love. But the love folds itself into sadness... it has to. That is the great risk and the great sacrifice of giving it and accepting it in the first place. Agape, eros, philia, storge, thelema... they all hold weight.

Oskar is the anti-New Yorker when considering his heart and his sympathy. Power, drive, ambition, success... but we aren't great at loving thy neighbor. At the same time, Oskar explains why we do close ourselves off, why we do bask in becoming jaded. Becuase if we were to feel for each and every part of this city, our hearts would explode with grief. It's too much to handle. Of course we block that love from entering, of course we do.

"We need much bigger pockets, I thought as I lay in bed, counting off the seven minutes that it takes a normal person to fall asleep. We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families, and our friends, and even the people who aren’t on our lists, people we’ve never met, but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe."

I listened to an interview with Joan Didion this morning in which she spoke of her characters living only within the confines of the finished novel. She doesn't see their lives continuing in any way after the story ends or existing before it began. They live simply within the created time and cannot survive outside of it.

Oskar is the opposite for me. I left the book wanting to pull this young boy close to me... wanting to protect him and listen to him and hold him. I desperately want Oskar to be okay and don't know if he will be. He is a character whose story will continue on past the pages of this book an into New York City as a whole. He will grow up and converse and love and cry and invent. He will alter the universe... because how can he not.

Read this book. Immediately.

(Oh, and thank you, Katie, for this beautiful gift. I had no idea that any New York story could top Working Girl in terms of inspiration but this may have done just that. ha. :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Palazzo Chupi

As if my Schnabel obsession weren't creepy enough as it is, I discovered this today. Julian's recent hand-sketched and heartily manifested condo-palazzo in the west-West Village. Yum.

Not everyone loves it... but I do.

As quoted from the Times, 'On a recent Sunday, Mr. Schnabel, who was looking very much like a young Henry VIII (as dressed by Eddie Vedder, not Holbein, in a blue flannel shirt, white pajama bottoms and bright red socks) padded from one palazzo to another, with this reporter in tow. It took an hour and a half to wander from the swimming pool on the ground floor to the baronial living room of the vacant triplex, 170 feet above 11th Street.'

'Along the way, dogs appeared and vanished, along with Mr. Schnabel’s 22-year-old son, Vito, and a designer and raw food guru named Xavier Llongueras, who fetched new slippers for Mr. Schnabel when it was discovered he was tracking yellow paint everywhere.'

Oh... and Mr. Schnabel said he sketched its form in 15 minutes.
Can they get any cooler?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brooklyn Artists' Colony

New York is a finite space. It's a city composed of three islands. This is key to understanding New York's greatness. If there is anything that makes my stomach churn its sprawl (eww, sprawl) and New York has none of it. It can't. So instead of building outward, it must build on top of itself. And, to quote someone whom I know absolutely nothing about, necessity is the mother of invention.

Manhattan is done. Each inch is coveted and claimed and from here until eternity it will rebuild itself like a phoenix rising in flames. Re-birth, not birth. Stores will become cafes and cafes will become apartments and apartments will become showrooms and showrooms will become studios and studios will become historic landmarks until we conclude that history is less important than present and the landmarks will turn back into stores. It's fluid, changing, and transient. And this is what makes it great.

The art world was born on the Upper East Side, in small galleries with gilded gold frames and velvet curtains. It slowly trickled downtown via Midtown where Warhol set up his Factory, and settled in Soho in the late 70s. Everyone fled from Soho in the early 90s, and poured into old warehouses in Chelsea where they currently preside in perfectly stacked white boxes. There are over 500 galleries within 7 blocks and 2 avenues of Chelsea, but most people can't find a gallery if they try. I'm serious... this happened again this week, didn't it Annie?

The past few years (like, the past three years) have started pushing galleries and studios further downtown to the Lower East Side and Chinatown, and across the river to Brooklyn. When real estate increases in value, artists leave for somewhere cheaper. But the reason the prices went up in the first place is because artists were there and made it cool.

This is a point of great pride and great annoyance to all New York artists, I hear about it constantly. They don't actually want to be in the 'in', they want to be on the brink of the new 'in'. I watch it happen everyday at work. Which brings me to my point. Brooklyn still has undiscovered territory. It, unlike Manhattan, isn't done yet.

We are in the golden age of discovery and proclamation (will New York eventually turn into Target's and Costco's and Cheesecake Factories like the rest of the world? I think about this often and am so glad I am living now and not then.) There is still land to be tilled. And by 'land' I mean abandoned factories and dark streets and industrial linings.

Artists LOVE finding spots like this. They LOVE big, empty buildings with a dirty past like meatpacking or fish sorting. They like really old wooden floors and concrete walls that can be whitewashed and divided into little cells. I've visited a few artist colonies (how great is it that they are still called 'colonies') in Dumbo and Red Hook. They are some of the most depressing and inspiring spaces I've ever breathed in. Depressing because the artists all look bogged down, and inspiring because they're not.

A new colony of artists just stretched its arms in Sunset Park right by the water. It's coveted yet accessible and its surely going to start pumping out a little inspiration soon. But the best part is that it smells like vanilla.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Jason Wu

GOOD CHOICE, Michelle. Love it. LOVE it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a good day, America.

...On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness...

...What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath...

...America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Monday, January 19, 2009

She & Him

I listen to music like a crazy person. No, really I do. I don't know a particularly impressive amount about music, nor do I read about the scene or pay attention to what's new as I do in art and film. I fall in love with bands months after everyone else and never discover anyone new.

I can't stand half of what I hear, but when I like something, I LOVE it and can listen to it for days on repeat until its burned into my being. Last summer it was Paul Simon after I saw his masterpiece workshop performance at BAM. I clicked to
Boy in the Bubble first thing every morning for months and never tired of it. I love that song.

Then it was Martha Wainwright's sorrowful duet with Snow Patrol, Set the Fire to the Third Bar. Amazing. I have listened to one verse of Regina Spektor's On the Radio for hours in my ipod, focusing on her clarity of thought and perfectly said statement. (No, this is how it works/ You peer inside yourself/ You take the things you like/ And try to love the things you took...) When it's over I rewind and listen again because I want it embedded in my DNA. Crazy person.

Most recently (like, within the past twenty four hours) it's been She & Him. I LOVE them. Quite suddenly and quite fiercely.
Zooey Deschanel entered my life yesterday while watching parts of Failure to Launch (She is hilarious in that movie. If you haven't seen it, its worth watching for her character only, I'm serious.) and then looked down to find her face on a magazine cover on the coffee table. Sentimental Heart has been digging itself into my headspace ever since.

I like this band because they have a throw-back sound but I love them because they do it well. Deschanel's voice is very bright and sharp (is sharp a word I can use while describing music?), quite the opposite of her deadpan speaking voice. The sharpness (why not) elevates the interest and heightens the intensity. She carves out the lyrics and forms the sounds with intention. Baby it's Cold Outside was a lovely surprise in Elf-- jazzy and warm.

She & Him's debut album, Volume I (Love the title. Its like how only really cool and secure artists can get away with naming a painting of a black square 'Black Square' instead of something stupid like 'Thoughts on Enlightenment.' Sorry, Damien.) mixes covers with original songs that Deshanel (She) and M. Ward (Him) wrote collectively.

The sound is old but the feel is very new and original. It's what Michael Buble could do if he tried a little harder. Or if he collaborated with someone really edgy and mellow. Like Allison Goldfrapp. Or Seth Cohan.

My friends know that I have one playlist and one only. It's called Dinner Party and if you're at my apartment we're listening to it. Instead of making new playlists I simply add to my shuffle because I just don't tire of the things I like.

Chris Thiele, Stars, Paul Simon, Ingrid Michaelson, Nickel Creek, Goldfrapp, Regina Spektor, Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis, The Killers, Van Morrison, A Tribe Called Quest, April March, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, and the Marie Antoinette Soundtrack. Over and over.

Old habits die hard
When you got, when you got a sentimental heart
Piece of the puzzle and you're my missing part
Oh, what can you do with a sentimental heart?

Welcome to the club, Zooey. You're in.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I Was Told There'd be Cake

'Being a New Yorker, I tend to instinctively value my belongings over my own life. I would never, say, liquor up my grandmother's china vase and send it by itself down Avenue D trying to hail a cab at 3 a.m.'
-Sloane Crosley
I was recently scolded for reading this book again when I have a stack of highly recommended novels, biographies, and non-fiction brilliance sitting next to my bed, waiting to be loved. 'Get some culture in your life,' scolded Al, who lent me White Tiger, one of the novels glaring at me as I write this. 'Read about something other than your own experience.'

She's a smartie, that Alison, and I really should listen. Because she's right... this book is about my life, about our lives... all of the young, bright-eyed, bushy tailed, twentysomething New York working girls who value our uniqueness. I'm a narcissist for loving it, fine. I'm gaining very little of cultural significance and learning nothing new. But Crosley's prose makes laugh like no other and getting into her world helps me take mine much less seriously. This is the third time I've read this book. And I kind of want to read it again.

I rarely laugh out loud when I'm reading, but I did so multiple times during my virginal read-through. I remember sitting at a coffee shop in the West Village laughing inappropriately over my latte and toast, knowing that I had a secret that they didn't. I had discovered this book before anyone else really gave it the time of day. I didn't want to get exit the train, go to sleep, or get off the treadmill... I just couldn't put this book down, as cliche as that makes me sound. I loved it.

Therefore, I all but forced each of my friends pick up a copy or borrow my own and smugly waited for their own reviews. I had discovered a true gem and I knew that they would very shortly be praising my recommendation. 'Sarah, you have the BEST taste, this book changed my life. How in the world did you find it? We will value your opinion forever and we want to crown you queen of the literary world.' Well, that was what I WANTED them to say... how I expected them to react. And with a flip of my hair I would gracefully shrug off their praises, channelling Violet in It's a Wonderful Life... 'Oh this old rag? Why, I only put in on when I don't care how I look.' However... as happens more often that not, my fantasy was proven very false. I was wrong. Most of my dearest friends gave this book a mere 'Meh. It was okay.'

Katie didn't think it was that funny, Alison thought it should have been a blog and nothing more. Lauren thought her writing style was tired, and the other Allison never got through it. 'That's it!?' I fired, 'What about the part when she talks about her parent's fascination with fire!? What about the butterfly exhibit essay... didn't you just die when she explained her need to volunteer?! Did you READ the part about her friend's wedding!?' I was shocked. So here I am, once again, telling the world (or my 20 followers) that this book is amazing and you have to read it. A few times.

Sloane Crosley grew up in Westchester County, went to a small liberal arts school where she studied English, and moved to New York to work in publishing upon graduation. She worked at Bebe in high school, and had various internships during college. She went to sleep away camp and traveled Europe with a friend. She lives in a studio on the Upper West Side and had a horrific first boss. She isn't unique... at all. And that's why its funny.

Crosley takes her bittersweet time getting through these fifteen essays, Mike Birbiglia style. She is self deprecating in tone while retaining an idealistic outlook. It's smart and sardonic. She is the girl that you want to have at a dinner party because she knows how to tell a story, how to narrate her way into a very funny situation. This book was actually the result of an email she wrote on her account of getting locked out of the same apartment twice in one day. Its smart because of the telling, not the situation. Again, she is so incredibly normal. And that normalcy is her main source of contention. Its brilliant. And I only wish I would have thought of it first.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Prime Meats

So excited. It's not open yet, but Frank and Frank of Frankie's recently purchased a new place in Carroll Gardens.

'After two years of feverish work including a trip to Germany to drink beer (research!), the Franks, Falcinelli and Castronovo, of Frankies Spuntino fame, are ready to unveil Prime Meats, their homage to the grand old New York restaurants of yore. The bar room, with its pre-Prohibition drinks and house-made Buddha’s-hand bitters, opens this month. Soon, they’ll add an adjacent 60-seat dining room, an upstairs speakeasy, and a retail shop.'

Can't. Wait.

And, Alison... I get the Frank on the left.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Olea is my favorite restaurant within walking distance of my apartment. I like it because of its beluga lentil salad and flamenco guitarists, but go there because I can walk.

Last weekend Alison and I were trying to pick a place to go while it was snowing and my only request was that it had to be within two blocks of our apartments. Olea didn't win that night because it's more like eight blocks, but I did walk home from Olea tonight which was the best feeling ever. Walking home was something I longed for in my pre-New York days when I was living in a strip mall.

I had dinner here tonight with Meredith, a college friend from my AmCon days, and Katie, a fellow Ole whom I actually never knew at Olaf. Much of what we talked about related to Olaf and the American Conversations program... our outlooks, our values, our goals. We live opposite lives, in all practical terms, but all maintain that ethereal bond of twentysomethings figuring these years out on our own.

I wouldn't trade my life right now for anything. Anything. I love that I'm left wandering, and I mean it. For even though none of us quite have it together, we are able to laugh at our struggles and hold pride in our situations.

We might not have heat in the middle of January, or a job during a recession, or a boyfriend... ever. But, lordy, its so much fun.

Thanks for a great night, girls. Um Ya Ya. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Wrestler

This movie was so sad. Ugh, it ate at my heart in ways that I hate. It wasn't sad like The Reader was sad, it wasn't sad like Marley and Me or Bridge to Terabithia (in which I cried my eyes out, remember...) it was worse. It was sad in the way that Freaks and Geeks was sad, if you remember that show. Like how my high school class tried to elect the Downs Syndrome kid as Homecoming King... not to be kind and generous, but to be mean. So they could laugh at him.

The Wrestler is a story about loneliness and rejection. It has actually taken me a few weeks to process this film because it was so sad and terribly realistic. Annie and Greg brought it over on a Sunday night, and we took turns covering our eyes and moaning No's to my tiny television. The worst part is that I know that people like Randy The Ram exist and it breaks my heart. Not because they are wrestlers, mind you, or because they live in such a different world than my own. But because they are lonely and hurting.

That said, this was a beautiful film. It was beautiful because of its heartbreak, because of its realism. Mickey Rourke won the Golden Globe for his role as The Ram on Sunday (he tripped on the way up to the podium, I could barely watch) which he absolutely deserved.

The Wrestler traces the life of a former professional wrestler whose fifteen minutes passed decades ago. We understand immediately where he was and where he is. We was famous in a certain sect, and now not so much. He obviously burned bridges, obviously lived recklessly, obviously assumed invincibility.

He's now in a trailer park, alone, his only friends being the 12 year old's who play Nintendo with him. Yet even THEY feel sorry for him. 'Can't you stay for one more game, don't you want to beat me?' 'Nah... I have to be home for dinner. Maybe tomorrow.' Oh my golly, its so sad.

The story begins with a heart attack and and an understanding that he can never wrestle again. I would have expected him to ignore the doctor, but he gets on a pay phone during his break at the grocery store and calls his bookings and cancels his appearances. He decides to accept things as they are and retire gracefully.

He makes various lovely attempts to do so... calls his estranged daughter (who hates him), asks a girl out (a stripper, the talented Marisa Tomei, the only girl to pay him any attention), and gets a new job (at a deli counter, where he cheerfully scoops yellow potato salad and slices processed meats for blue haired old ladies.)

Just when we start to smile at his new outlook, his fresh start, we get hit by a wave of loneliness, a mountain of hurt. First someone recognizes him at the deli counter with a hair net on, scooping coleslaw. Aren't you The Ram, the wrestler? Akk, it hurts.

Then he attempts to mend the terrible relationship with his daughter by buying her gifts... really sad, clearly wrong gifts. He wants to buy her clothes, and picks out a lime green jacket and used pea coat. She's clearly embarrassed and has no mercy for this man who has abandoned her time and time again. It's killer.

Randy the Ram makes a heartbreaking choice (am I using the word heartbreaking too often? Can anyone think of any synonyms for that phrase?) at the end of the film, and we, like Marisa Tomei the stripper, can do nothing but close our eyes and bury ourselves in a hole. For we feel true compassion for Randy. Our hearts bleed for him and we desperately want him to be okay.

The Wrestler is good because it breaks that boundary between movie and reality. Although uninvited, it leaps out and attacks our heartstrings. This movie made me feel something... albeit, something bad... and I'm a slightly changed person because of it. And this, my friends, is why I love movies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Golden Globes

I love award shows. And I love movies. And having girlfriends who will cheer at the television as if it were a sporting event means the world to me.

We couldn't get over Sally Hawkin's too-skinny arms and couldn't stop gawking at Drew Barrymore's rat nest. We wished they would have better wide angle shots of Angelina's gold gown and pointed out J. Lo's back fat in unison. We LOVED Collin Farrell and of course Kate and Leo.

We also, if you were wondering, did do our own ballots and attempted to pick the winners. And Yours Truly over here-- the girl with the movie blog-- scored dead last. Maybe you should stop reading. I would.

Here we go... the SMtFiLW favorites of 2008:

1. Happy-Go-Lucky
2. Rachel Getting Married/Vicky Cristina Barcelona tie.
3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Revolutionary Road
5. Slumdog Millionaire
6. The Reader/Milk tie
7. Marley and Me
8. The Wackness
9. The Wrestler
10. The Dark Knight

Yes, in my award show ties are allowed and instead of trophies I would give slices of homemade pie (for Sally Hawkins, right Al?) and acceptance speeches would have no time limit (cry as long as you want to Kate Winselt, we'll eat it up).

Can't wait for Oscar season. Go team.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stephen Sprouse

Stephen Spouse has a lovely little show right now at Jeffrey Deitch's Soho project space. I went to the 'opening' with co-worker Alex on Friday only to discover that it was a big fat fake opening, wildly overshadowed by the REAL opening the night before. We, apparently, weren't invited to the opening where Debbie Harry performed in a dress looking vaguely like a squirrel and where Marc Jacobs toasted champagne with Louis Vuitton himself. WE went to the opening that served only free postcards and florescent lighting. Ho hum.

But come on... Stephen Sprouse is completely wrong in florescent lights. His work should worn in the dark at 3am by a too-skinny model and a side of cocaine and not in bright lights at 5:30pm by a too-skinny mannequin with a side of small talk. The show wasn't brilliant... but the work was.

If you don't think you know who Stephen Sprouse is, you actually do. He trademarked the sharpie-scribble that we commonly associate with sharpies and nothing else. Marc Jacobs designed a collection of handbags showcasing the scribble inspired of Sprouse a few years ago for Louis Vuitton. This was unfortunately replaced by the horrific Takashi Murakami bags (blechk) and then again for something resembling spray paint. I, reader, actually have no idea what I'm talking about when it comes to fashion, so I'll stop here.

What I do (kind of) know is art, and without any prior knowledge, both Alex and I were pointing out Sprouse's peer influences the entire evening. We could see Gilbert & George, Keith Haring, Warhol (obvs.), and even Giotto (stretch? maybe.) Together, they held a clear world view wrapped around Studio 54, eyeliner, neon, and the New York City 'in'. (Hence Debbie Harry.)

But to me, what made this show so very fascinating was Sprouse's extreme success in such a narrow niche and seemingly lack of depth. He scribbled repeated words on Van der Rohe chairs and blew up pink Polaroid snapshots of speakers and tabloids and stood back in awe of his own brilliance. Warhol had already announced his own presence and Sprouse simply designed around an era. His muse was a decade, not a thought or a lyric. But his work is about the party and a party it was.

And if Spouse's world was about the 'in', Alex and I clearly didn't have it. And maybe that was the point. To truly experience Sprouse's greatness, we needed an in. And as we left with our free postcards and our coats never-in-check we suddenly turned into the girls who weren't invited to the party. Two confident, independent, semi-smart women immediately shrunk into the girls watching the red carpet from the sidelines, lame as can be.

And looking right through us were the original New York City glamour kids--Sprouse, Warhol, Sedgwick, Harry, and Duran Duran. Perhaps I'm biased because I don't like Jeffery Deitch (well, no one actually likes Jeffery Deitch.) but we did feel slightly taken. Yes, Sprouse succeeded in the end. His point was clearly met. For he trumped us. For sure.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hedda Gabler

Hedda Gabler is my very favorite type of female character-- beautiful and mean. She follows in line with Estella, Scarlet, Blanche, Tracey, Ingrid, and Elizabeth. (A gold star for the first to place each name. One isn't actually a character, but a real person. That is your only hint.)

Mary-Louise Parker, who I'm obsessed with, is starring in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler on Broadway. And I sat fifth row center last night. (This is why I live in New York. Because I can read about something on the train, then have an opening preview ticket in my hand thirty minutes later. This alone makes all the bad stuff worth it. It just does.)

Parker was phenomenal. As predicted. As told by NY Mag, in the past decade no fewer than three major names have played Ibsen's manipulative leading lady here: Kate Burton (acclaimed on Broadway), Cate Blanchett (ditto at BAM), and now Mary-Louise Parker. Its said to be the single most sought after role for female actors today, and I can see why. Its a firecracker role. And Parker stunningly ripped it to shreds with her perfect timing and biting glances. She made the role fresh, big, and contemporary. We couldn't take our eyes off of her.

Now, Henrik Ibsen was a big deal at my college... the Scand's LOVE him. This of course made me reject him for many years, I found the Ibsen-gush-fests incredibly boring. He was, to me, the tip of pretension and it made me yawn. I know I wouldn't have seen this show had Mary-Louise not taken top billing, and I have to admit that I did swallow a bit of my better-than-Ibsen mantra and completely enjoyed the script. He knows how to write a leading lady.

In Hedda Gabler, Ibsen explored psychological conflicts that transcended a simple rejection of Victorian conventions. This was shocking at the time, and still quite shocking today. While we have just about had enough of crazy-suburban-entrapment stories, we don't often see a housewife shinning her pistols and shooting at the neighbors for fun. Its delicious theater.

Parker's deadpan annoyance and flat sarcasm juiced up Hedda like never before. The curtains open to a seemingly hung-over Hedda waking up to a room filled with sheet-covered furniture. She stands up slowly and begins to fling off the sheets with disgust, pushing around chairs, and clearing off tables with a fell swoop. She walks lazily and bored, but with fire in her eyes.

She speaks to her dewy-eyed husband with clear annoyance and curt responses. She offends everyone accidental-on-purpose, and shoves bouquets of flowers to the floor before torching their greetings in the wood burning stove. See... you would want to play her too.

The twist in Hedda comes from the idea that despite her awfulness, her terrifying meanness, we want Hedda to come out on top. We are cheering for her to escape her suffocating marriage to the boring, academic, bald man and to run off with her crazy and unstable old flame. But she doesn't. As I've said before, stupid Melanie Wilkes will always get Ashley. Hubble will never chose Katie. The boring nice girl will come out on top and the terribly gorgeous vixen will remain alone and fiery and ever-angry.

But that's okay... in the end, Ibsen gave us something even better than love. He gave us freedom and bravery. Sure, it was in the form of suicide (ha.) but it was an absolute triumph for our femme fatale. That gunshot made our mouths water.

In addition to one of best plays I've seen on Broadway, my evening was capped by lovely surprise. I scored a new best friend. Her name is Bubbles and she's 80 years old and she wears sparkly gold glasses and a fur coat. I had already made up my mind to NOT talk to those around me... I wasn't in the mood for chatter. But when I stood to let this tiny white-haired woman take her seat, she exclaimed something that I took as, "My, you are tall!" (I get this ALL of the time. Like, three times a day.) To which I gave my current automatic response... a bored "Yep, I know. Very tall." To which she responded, "No, I said you're gorgeous!" to which I responded, "Well, I like you." The rest is history.

We talked about New York, and shows we've seen and her failed attempt at an art gallery and her summers on the cape. We talked about how sad it is that publishing is taking a hit and may never recover, and about our shared love for the Times Art section (its the only section I read daily, we both admitted.) We agreed that seeing theater alone is the only way to go, yet we're seeing Becky Shaw together sometime next week. The crazy adventures of Bubbles and Sarah: more to follow.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Performance Art: An Explanation.

New York Magazine, who never fails me, published a FANTASTIC article this week explaining performance art. I have been wondering about this forever, and finally got a good explanation this morning on the train. How do you sell a kiss? How do you buy a scream? How do you price an overnight stay in a gallery without food or water and only a knife ladder for days on end?

Contemporary art is retail... people always forget this. Money has made the art world what it is today and money is what will keep it pumping for the next bajillian years. In order to become a someone you must sell your work. That is a fact. Yet post-post-Modernism brought an array of artists who created intangible pieces of phenomenal worth. They made art out of action and made the Dadaists look like stuffy antique dealers. But the problem remains... how do you sell as kiss?

Turns out... you start a conversation with the most brilliant and influential minds living today and figure. it. out. See below.

Collecting Smoke
How does a museum acquire art that vanishes the moment it’s made?
Erica Orden
Published Dec 28, 2008

You might think of Pipilotti Rist’s show—a multimedia installation with much of the room-dominating quality of performance art—as a teaser for MoMA’s huge new commitment to performance. MoMA will in late January launch a two-year series of live pieces, both new and re-created. It will all culminate in 2010 with a retrospective devoted to Marina Abramovic, the self-described “grandmother of performance art.” And last June, MoMA quietly bought its first pure performance work, Tino Sehgal’s Kiss.

Klaus Biesenbach, who curated the Rist show, is the man charged with acquiring this kind of art—and doing it soon. After all, the first generation of performance artists appeared 40 years ago, and MoMA wants to make sure their work outlives them. Which can be tricky. “How do you create, conserve, preserve a moment?” Biesenbach asks. In some cases there’s nothing to buy: no film, no props. MoMA was stumped, and so is nearly everyone else. (The Tate, in London, and the Walker Art Center, in Minneapolis, are also going down this road.) “There are no precedents here,” says MoMA’s director, Glenn Lowry.

So the museum marshaled some troops—namely, 80 of the most influential forces in art—and, last March, started scheduling private workshops to figure out some rules for preserving ephemeral art. Biesenbach invited in artists (like Abramovic, Matthew Barney, and Francesco Vezzoli), curators (the Whitney’s Chrissie Iles and Shamim Momin), and performers of all kinds (Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, Laurie Anderson, Jason Sellards of the Scissor Sisters). “The sessions go on forever—like, hours,” Biesenbach says. “People just do not leave.” They addressed everything from the discrepancies between a performance and its remnants to legal quirks to the appropriateness of an institution’s owning work created to subvert institutions.

Purchasing Kiss was especially complex, because the hallmark of Sehgal’s work is that it’s undocumented. (In the piece, couples dance, touch, and make out for two choreographed hours.) There’s no script or manual. The how-to is passed on orally, like a folktale—which is how MoMA sealed the deal, with a spoken contract. The artist will explain its workings to a curator; he or she will pass it on, down the road; and MoMA will have the rights to reproduce the performance forever. (The work is an edition of four; two other museums have bought it so far. And it can be lent, like a painting.) Will that be the norm? “This may sound like a cop-out,” Momin says, “but you can’t answer these questions with a general rule. You have to be specific for each one.”

Robert Taplin

Aaron and I hit up Chelsea last night for a long overdue evening of gallery hopping. Of the many galleries we visited, Winston Wachter's Robert Taplin show clearly stole the evening.

Taplin presented a crazy show based on Dante's Inferno in a series of nine dioramas, for lack of better terms, in a super-surreal, trippy perspective. He highlights Dante’s role in the narrative by portraying his figure in full color. The rest of the characters and figures, including Beatrice and Virgil, are cast in resin and appear to be glow-in-the-dark (I hope they really are, but I couldn't tell.)

A few noted changes in the gallery world post-recession:
1) More galleries offer free wine/beer at openings. To lure 'em in. It works.
2) The free wine/beer is gone faster at openings, as people are taking advantage of these free drinks. We arrived around 7 and only stupid Perrier was left. Not interested.
3) WAY more group shows... this is the gallery equivalent to a 'warehouse clearance sale.'
4) Safer shows, oftentimes more cynical shows (Taplin was of the later)
5) More people in attendance, but there to look, not to buy (like me.)
6) Doomsday tones. (Me: Love the show! How is everything in the new year!? Every galleriest in Chelsea: Well, I'd be lying if I said it was good.) Ugh.

There are also more people at Half King, which, lets be honest, is one of the best parts of gallery openings... the re-hash afterwards with whoever we find in the area... last night we ran into Sabrina, ALWAYS a blast. We argued about Doubt, about Slumdog, about art and life and relationships. We drank free beer on my trade account and made friends with our friends' friends. I love New York.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Vito Schnabel

I only read celeb gossip on airplanes about twice a year. This surprises most people, I don't know why. However... work today involved hassling the Schnabel fam, and I couldn't help but look this kid up. 23 year old Vito Schnabel is so cool that his website only says this.

He reps Ron Gorchov and is currently showing Terence Koh's Flowers for Baudelaire in (ready for some name dropping?) Richard Avedon's old studio. Anna Wintor, Simon dePury, Agathe Snow, Rita Ackerman, Mary Boone, and Thaddeaus Ropac were also in attendance. Damn.

He is projected to be one of the best art dealers of our time. AND he is (was?) dating Elle McPherson. So cool.

Is anyone wondering what the Schnabel Family did for Thanksgiving? I am!

This Thanksgiving, paterfamilias Julian Schnabel gathered the clan to his Montauk home for the feast. That would be his three children—Vito Maria, 20, Stella Madrid, 22, Lola Montes, 25—from his first marriage to clothing designer Jacqueline Beaurang, and his twin boys, Cy and Olmo, 13, from his current wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia.

“My dad will cook a ham and Oltaz will make the chickens—this year, she also made some delicious risotto. My dad doesn’t eat birds,” said Vito Schnabel by phone on Dec. 11. The budding art dealer-curator was in Miami, where he had spent a week at Art Basel Miami Beach in search of the “next young artist.” “We enjoyed some wine and then jumped in the pool,” he said. “Later, we sat by the fire.”

“We talk about all kinds of things. Art, movies, people, family, everything …. I don’t know—what do you talk about with your family?” said the young Mr. Schnabel.

“There are a lot of strong personalities in the family,” he said. His sister Stella is a poet and an actress. Lola is a painter and filmmaker. The twins, well, they’re 13—but no harm in prospecting.

“My little brother Cy loves to paint. He did a great painting of his dogs that hangs about his bed,” said Vito. “Olmo is a film nut. We’ll be watching The Deer Hunter, and he’ll be able to recite the whole cast and knows the movie backwards and forwards.”

Some celebrities are interesting. I can't help it.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Go here. And get the antipasta plate and the $5 house red. Kim, Al, and I had a lovely late dinner at Frankie's in Brooklyn on Saturday. Its Alison's favorite and it absolutely lived up to her high praises. They have a second location on the Lower East Side, with four tables and a long wait, but we prefer the Brooklyn local for its humble sweetness. Its off the beaten path, somewhere in Carroll Gardens but not the cool part.

We had a blast eating olives off each other's plates, arguing about Philip Seymore Hoffman's level of attractiveness, and listening to Interpol on Kim's ipod until 12am. Late long dinners=my favorite thing.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Everyone has been telling me to see this movie, and the post-holiday-everything prevented me from going until now. I saw Benjamin Button in the village this afternoon and wowza, this film deserves merit. I fell in love with it.

Its a grand film, in line with Forest Gump, as they share writer Eric Roth. Roth adapted the tale from a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of my very favorite writers. Its the most nourishing and satisfyingly long film that I've seen in a while. It had that grand swoop that kept us interested and climaxed just when we were ready. We left full and content, with the sweetest of tastes left lingering.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a film about time, a relatively neutral idea until thought about backwards. Its that very simple concept of time that kept our attention for the entire three hours as we understood that this was a movie about a lifetime... it wouldn't end prematurely.

We held our breath as Benjamin and Daisy grew closer in age, knowing what was coming. The meeting was nothing short of spectacular. I can say with complete sincerity that the love shared between these two characters for that brief span (of, what, fifteen years? ten?) was one of my favorite love stories. The shots were gorgeous and life filled and completely joyous. I realize that the brevity is what made it such and that's okay.

Sometimes the best love stories are those that remain rose-colored and cherished simply because both players know what's fleeting. A clarity of what's important, what matters, and what constitutes priority is much better understood with a deadline involved. Love can be acted out in its fullest because the maybes are removed. When we know it can never last, we want it that much more. However, because of the finality, because of the known end... they are the most heartbreaking as well.

The animation was incredible. I didn't know what to expect and was prepared to be weirded out by 80-70-60 year old Brad. But he played it well and the make-up/digital team deserves props. Brad successfully aged backwards not only because of the special effects but also because of his placement. He was placed in a fairy tale, not a gritty, uber realistic world. We believed it as we believe in Pinocchio or ET. Because its a mere story and why not just go with it.

Speaking of Brad... has anyone ever been that attractive?! I don't remember the last actor that mesmerized us in the way that 40-20 year old Brad Pitt did. We were anxiously waiting for him to reach the Brad we know and when he finally settled into self I GASPED. Even better looking we were anticipating. GORGEOUS human being. He was Robert Redford reincarnate but with more chiseled features and a saucier smile. YUM.

Cate Blanchett was also the textbook definition of beautiful, with her long red hair and graceful lines. She moved like a dancer and talked like a performer, and each age was captured with such dead-on gusto. 20-something New York Modernist Cate reminded me a little too much of myself with her naive passion and undeserved resolution. At the same time, 35-45 year old Cate was who I want to become... someone who understands what is important and what is deserving of her time and energy. I loved that they spent most of their time on that mattress... laughing, dancing, kissing, talking, reading, loving. The 'duplex years' was such a fantastic sequence.

The accident scene was also lovely, as it brought light to the idea of human connectedness. It demonstrates how every little thing we do does affect everything else... the It's A Wonderful Life theme on scary-true terms. Had the woman not forgotten her coat, the cab driver not stopped for coffee, the store clerk not broken up with her boyfriend, the gift had not been wrapped... Daisy would not have been hit by a car.

It isn't an extraordinary idea, its the most common truth of all. We know on some level that our lives are the result of others, we just aren't able to track it as Benjamin did for us. When we see each step that lead up to a pivotal moment, we understand that everything is an intersection of lives and incidents.

Benjamin and Daisy eventually did pass to a place where the love affair had to end. As I said before, we knew it would come and so did they. The story wrapped up quickly from there, aging Daisy and taking Benjamin far from his self and his mind. It definitely alluded that we enter and leave this world in the same state. They have seen everything, know everything, and have survived everything, yet all they want to talk about is the weather, observes Benjamin.

The film touched on very profound truths about life and death and endings and beginnings. This was only palpable as it was piggybacked by wonderfully light interludes like the man being struck seven times by lightning, and Benjamin's deadpan explanations of his condition. They say I will die soon... but maybe not.

Some will say that this film was too long, but I disagree. It needed the length for breathing room and fullness. My only real complaint is how they told the story... I don't think that Daisy in the deathbed during Katrina was necessary. I would have preferred an unseen narrator to the daughter's stale prose. I simply don't understand how those scenes added to the film or to the story. If only they asked me first... :)

Benjamin Button will stay with me for a long time. Everything from Queenie's heart and generosity to Daisy's self involved grace touched me to the core. I loved the themes of acceptance and longevity and connection. It was done very, very well. However, we are obviously left with the question of what we would do... could we love someone that we know would have to leave us? The answer is simple: If he looked anything like Brad Pitt, even a moment would sustain us for a lifetime. Amen.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This American Life

This American Life is truly one of my favorite things in the entire world. Its on the same list as the Brooklyn promenade, my sisters, and snow. Just to be clear, I am talking about the radio show, not the television show. No disrespect to the television show, but I've only seen it three times and each time it was the SAME episode. The one with Improv Everywhere and that weird bull with the hanging skin. You know what I'm talking about.

The radio show is many, many kinds of brilliant. Its a very simple concept. As stated at the start of each episode, each week they chose a theme, and tell a variety of stories on that theme. Its a pointed look at the everyday and not-so-everyday people and places and things observed by smart minded people. Its an escape to a different way of looking and thinking, and we are better for it.

If you don't listen to This American Life, its probably because you don't think you like radio. I suppose there is a giant leap that goes into listening to radio for the first time (although its also a podcast) and if you aren't an NPR fan (you should be!) you don't understand how fantastic it is. Most New Yorkers claim that they don't listen to radio because they don't drive. Well, you can get all of the episodes online and listen on your ipod on the train-- best thing EVER. Not only is it escapist, but its a completely zen experience.

Radio allows a state of relaxation by combining the best aspects of reading and watching. It encourages imagination by not giving us any visuals, yet doesn't ask us to put in any effort during the process. In that way it is a completely indulgent and decedent experience. Have you ever sat across from someone on the subway smiling and laughing to herself with an unfixed gaze? She is absolutely listening to This American Life.

Start listening to the radio, America. You will be better for it. Below is my list of the best episodes, although its much more extensive than this. Start and the top and work your way down because I have thought about the list a lot and its the way to go. Like I said, its one of my very favorite things in this world. And, like every other liberal-arts-influenced-twenty-something-female in North America, I have a huge crush on Ira Glass.

Best of This American Life
Kid Logic- I think about this episode a lot in terms of how our brains function and how absurd it is to think that we, as humans, believe that we have it all figured out. That we can have it all figured out. The tooth fairy story is amazing. It is the first This American Life story I came across on NPR and was thrilled beyond belief that I had discovered a radio show that told stories. This is where it all started for me.

Break-up- The Phil Collins story is my FAVORITE ever to be told on This American Life. Its so funny and sadly quite autobiographical in my life. But Starlee Jones helps me take myself less seriously and her song really does heal. The story of the young girl asking the mayor for advice is also heartbreakingly raw and real. This is a great episode.

Switched at Birth- SHOCKING. Its just how it sounds, this episode tells the story of two girls actually switched at birth who find out as adults. Everything about this episode is crazy-interesting, I think about it often.

What I Learned from TV- Sarah Vowell has a fantastic essay on Thanksgiving episodes of sitcoms, and Ira Glass talks about The O.C. and makes me MELT. The story on the guy who doesn't watch TV and laughs hysterically at America's Funniest Home Videos is hilarious. This is one of the all-around best episodes... every story is amazing.

Notes on Sleep- This is where I first heard Mike Birbiglia. SO FUNNY. The last story about understanding death through sleep also unfortunately rang true for me. I had no idea that other people had experienced this before, its super interesting and incredibly scary.

A Little Bit of Knowledge- Fascinating look at how our minds and worlds are formed and what happens if something is randomly missed. Like a normal, smart, educated twenty five year old asks one day at a party if unicorns are extinct or endangered. The story of the gay couple raising the young boy is also crazy-interesting.

Allure of the Mean Friend- We've all had one. This episode offers an inquiry as to why this bizarre phenomenon is so common.

Notes on Camp- This is Lauren Hoffman's favorite episode. You can always trust her taste.

Dreamhouse- The story of the father who decides to build his house stuck with me for a long time. It is told in a similar tone of The Glass Castle, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Its about trust and dreams and how far both can stretch and how far both should stretch.

Going Big- Touches on big social ideas like bettering entire communities in Harlem through babies and tells the story of a daughter going to prison to be with her mom. Heartbreaking and beautiful.

How to Talk to Kids- Similar to Kid Logic, but told in a more serious, anthropological tone.

Act V- Inmates at a high-security prison rehearse and stage a production of the last act -- Act V -- of "Hamlet." It's a play about murder and its consequences, performed by murderers living out the consequences. (I stole that description from itunes, but its wording was much better than mine.)

The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar- I wonder if The Changling with Angelina was based on this story. Its a similar idea, and equally terrifying and unbelievable.

Ruining it for the Rest of Us- Mike Birbiglia is back for this episode- YAY. He tells the story of why comedy is bad for cancer benefits. Cracks me up.

There are many, many more but thats a start. I love you, Ira.