Friday, March 30, 2012

New York Street Art Takes Many Forms

An Occupy Wall Street Protester
at Union Square
A simple, yet elegant black frock that can be worn for both day and night.

A Park Gate Near the
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Street art in New York City takes many guises: monuments, sculptures, fountains, and of course buildings. But street art can also be clothing, fashion models being photographed, actors being filmed, or just about anything. Here are a few examples of street art taken on my recent trip to New York City. 
Fashion Model Striking Just the Right Pose
A Really Beautiful Public Restroom Near Central Park 
(Inside is clean too!)
An Upper East Side Town House
Ready for Spring

A Temporary Art Installation
at Union Square:
Gran Elefandret 2008
Miquel Barcelo
Actors Resting Between Takes of
Law & Order
Bird Sculpture Outside Upper West Side
Subway Station

Monday, March 26, 2012

Watch This Movie Before It's Too Late

New technology has made it possible to download or stream movies right into your home. No other company has done this better than Netflix. Unfortunately, Netflix and the companies that license movies to Netflix have the power to stop streaming a particular film when they decide to do so.

Tonight, I watched The Public Eye, a 1972 movie directed by Carol Reed, with music composed by John Barry. It stars Mia Farrow, Michael Jayston, and Topol. It's currently being streamed on Netflix, but only until April 1, 2012, and it's not available in DVD format. That's frustrating. This is one of the best romantic films I've seen in a long long time. It's almost impossible to write anything about this movie without sounding cliche. Simply put: it's wonderful! 

The movie starts out fairly predictable: husband suspects his wife of cheating and hires a public eye/private detective to follow her. Then the movie takes an unexpected detour. Farrow is cast perfectly as the young Californian wife and Jayston is just right as her uptight accountant husband. Topol is utterly charming as the irresistible detective.

The movie is a treat. It's funny and romantic; and, it says something deeply profound about the need to keep romantic relationships fresh and alive. Above all, the movie imparts the importance of sharing while taking nothing for granted. It made me think about my own relationship. Perhaps I'm becoming too much like the accountant.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cindy Sherman at the MOMA

Cindy Sherman is an art photographer who takes pictures of herself. A few days ago, I saw the Cindy Sherman Exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. I was completely unfamiliar with her work, but a friend of mine had strongly recommended that I see the exhibition. I'm glad she did. 

Almost all of Sherman's photographs are of herself. She is the photographer, model, wardrobe supervisor, make-up artist, and hairstylist. By carefully manipulating the camera, using photoshop, and employing costumes and make-up, she creates a different persona and story in each of her pictures. The MOMA is exhibiting several of her photographic series in which she explores gender, class, and the role of women in society. 

Sherman's early work includes the Complete Untitled Film Stills. In this series of photos, Sherman poses herself as a B-movie, foreign film or film noir actress of the 1950s and 60s. The photos are in the style of movie publicity stills, but they really tell the story of how the media stereotypes women according to a set of expectations.

For me, the last gallery of the exhibition is the most poignant. Here, we have photos of rich middle-aged women (women of a "certain age") clinging to youth through cosmetic enhancement, too much make-up and opulent clothing. We see tragedy and resignation in their materialistic shallowness. They are trapped in a set of expectations demanded of them by their class and society.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Iconic Buildings in New York City

New York Skyline from Central Park
The last few days in New York City have shaken off my winter blues. It feels like summer. Spring is definitely in the air.

When I'm walking around New York, I particularly enjoy the architecture. When you think of iconic buildings, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building certainly come to mind. However, there are many significant buildings in New York that are also worth a visit. Here are some of my favorites.   

The Ansonia

The Ansonia is located on the Upper West Side at 2109 Broadway, between 73rd and 74th Streets. Erected between 1899 and 1904, the Ansonia was NYC's first air-conditioned hotel. It's designed in the Beaux-Arts style with a mansard roof and turrets. Babe Ruth, Theodore Dreiser, Enrico Caruso, Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman, and Eric McCormack have all lived at the Ansonia.

In the 1960s, the building was scheduled for demolition, but thanks to its residents and concerned citizens, the Ansonia was saved. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Ansonia housed the infamous gay bathhouse, the Continental Baths, where Bette Midler and Barry Manilow got their start. 

Today, the Ansonia is a condominium. The TD Bank located on the ground floor plays a short video, which covers the history of the Ansonia. Try and visit the Ansonia's lobby by discretely entering on the 74th street side. There's an interesting display of Ansonia memorabilia. 

The Dorilton
The Dorilton is located at 171 West 71st Street, at Broadway. While taking a picture of the Ansonia, a man came up to me and started talking about historic buildings in the neighborhood. His favorite Beaux-Arts building is the Dorilton. Built in limestone and brick, with sculptures, wonderful balustraded balconies, and a slate mansard roof, the Dorilton is one NYC's most flamboyant buildings. It turns out that this man was a real expert on NYC architecture. A lifelong resident of the city, his enthusiasm for the Dorilton rubbed off on me. I'm a convert. I love this building. 

A View of the Eldorado from the J.K.Onassis Reservoir

The Eldorado at 300 Central Park West, on the Upper West Side is my favorite example of the Art Deco in NYC. It was was constructed between 1929 and 1931 and fills the entire block front between West 90th and West 91st Street. Residents of the Eldorado have included Alec Baldwin, Fay Dunaway, Moby, and Sinclair Lewis. Its futuristic detailing and geometric spires have been likened to a Flash Gordon movie set of the 1930s. 

The Dakota
I remember reading about the Dakota in Jack Finney's wonderful science fiction novel,Time and Again. As a teenager, I was fascinated with this building and its history.

The Dakota also has a dark side. The building was the home of John Lennon and was the location of his murder in 1980. Yoko Ono still has several apartments in the building and each year on the anniversary of John's death, she lights a candle that is displayed in the window. 

Flatiron Building
The Dakota was constructed between 1880 and 1884. It's located on the corner of 72th Street and Central Park West in the Upper West Side. It's designed in the German Renaissance style.

The Flatiron Building is located at 175 Fifth Avenue. It's an excellent example of early skyscraper architecture. When it was completed in 1902, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. Its name derives from its resemblance to an iron (the kind you press clothes with). It's been used as a backdrop for numerous movies, TV shows and commercials. After the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, the Flatiron is one of NYC's most famous buildings.

The first time I ever visited New York, in 1979, for a job interview, I stayed at the Olcott Hotel. It may not be one of NYC's iconic buildings, but it has a special place in my heart. 

Located a few buildings down from the Dakota, the Olcott was a pre-war building that included all the latest amenities when it was completed in 1930. By the time I stayed at the Olcott, it was worn around the edges and was showing its age. Nevertheless, I enjoyed its character and flair, even the roaches didn't bother me. (I was young then.) In 2006, it was converted into luxury condos.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

54 Degree Heat Wave and Wolfe's Neck

Wolfe's Neck
Yesterday, it seemed like summer in Portland. People were out in shorts, t-shirts, and sandals. The thermometer read 54 degrees (12 C), and in Maine that constitutes a heat wave, at least in the month of March.

Wolfe's Neck
In California, 54 degrees means winter. People bundle up, wear gloves, and don fur lined hats.

Today, the temperature in Portland reached a sweltering 65 degrees (18 C). You can use your imagination of what happened.

BTW: If you're in the Portland area, I would recommend a trip to Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park. It's about 25 minutes north of Portland and just outside of Freeport. A great place to wander and enjoy spectacular ocean views. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Doonesbury and Abortion

A Reference to How Illegal Abortions were Preformed.
This past week, the Doonesbury comic strip has been commenting on abortion, and, to their shame, many US newspapers have decided not to publish this series of strips.
Over the years, many US states have tried to limit the rights of women seeking safe and legal abortions. Recently, the state of Texas has introduced legislation seeking to limit and discourage abortion. The proposed laws would require a woman who wants an abortion to undergo an ultrasound scan, a sonogram and other invasive procedures to make her reconsider her decision. For many pro-choice advocates, these laws are just another attempt to shame and humiliate women who are already dealing with a painful decision.  
I'm old enough to remember when abortion was illegal in most parts of the USA. Of course, women who had enough money could always obtain abortions by traveling to states where abortion was legal. However, for the vast majority of women, abortion was unobtainable. Many desperate women sought "back street" abortions, which often resulted in severe medical problems and even death. Moreover, strict criminal penalties associated with illegal abortions discouraged women from seeking immediate medical attention. For women unwilling to risk an illegal abortion, the fate of the unwanted child was adoption, foster care, and sometimes child neglect.   
I don't want to return to a time when a woman had no control over her body. It's appalling that Texas is considering such an action.
However, what I find more frightening is that many US newspapers have refused to publish this series of Doonesbury strips for fear of alienating religious and conservative groups. Has the religious right gained so much power that meaningful discussion is now pushed out of print media?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Grannies Raise Russian Hopes for Eurovision Win

Eurovision is back. Here is the 2012 Russian entry: the Buranovo Grannies. The average age of this girl band is 75 years old. Cutting edge music or just schlock? You be the judge.

Mitt Romney and His Love of Grits

Check out Mitt Romney's new southern accent and his affinity for grits. I wonder if this kind of thing works in the south? 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stylish Shoe Car for International Women's Day

Photograph: Krishnendu Halder/Reuter
The Guardian UK
I want this! A worker in Hyderabad India test-drives a car in the shape of a high-heeled shoe. It's a creation of car designer Sudhakar Yadav to mark International Women's Day (March 8th). The car can reach a maximum speed of 28 mph. I wonder what kind of gas mileage it gets?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

They're Scared of Limbaugh

I find it sadly predictable that no prominent Republican has unequivocally condemned Rush Limbaugh's recent statements regarding Susan Fluke. Ms. Fluke is a student at Georgetown Law School who was denied the right to speak at a congressional hearing on contraception, in which she planned to discuss a friend of hers who needed contraception to prevent the growth of cysts. As you recall, Mr. Limbaugh, stated:
"What does it say about co-ed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex -- what does it make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps. The johns, that's right. We would be the johns. Well -- yeah, that's right. Pimp's not the right word."
And while public personalities such as Mr. Limbaugh and other political figures open themselves up to a certain degree of name calling, Ms. Fluke was merely an ordinary citizen seeking to testify before a congressional subcommittee. 

While Democrats have fiercely condemned these comments, Republicans have been significantly mute on the subject. Do Republicans agree with these disgusting and vile statements or are they afraid of Mr. Limbaugh? For example, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated that Mr. Limbaugh's statements were
"not the language I would [sic] used. I'm focusing on the issues I think are significant in the country today, and that's why I'm here talking about jobs and Ohio."
"Not the language I would [have] used," what kind of response is that? Doesn't Mr. Romney think Mr. Limbaugh's statements are blatantly offensive and inappropriate? Don't such statements deserve a straightforward condemnation? 

Where is Mr. Romney's courage to condemn this buffoon? This was Mr. Romney's defining moment: his opportunity to stand up and say this was wrong. His chance to show leadership -- pure and simple. Sadly, he failed to rise to the occasion. It was just another example of his lack of mettle.  

Likewise, Rick Santorum commented that Mr. Limbaugh was being "absurd." And even Ron Paul, the so-called "maverick" Republican candidate, stated that Mr. Limbaugh's comments "were in poor taste." Is it just me or do these responses seem hollow and wanting? In other words, just plain political "namby-pamby."

Well, at least one old-time conservative, George Will, believes that the "Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh." Referring to House Speaker John Boehner's statement that Rush's language was "inappropriate," Mr. Will stated that "using the salad fork for your entree, that's inappropriate. Not this stuff." Mr. Will went on to say, "And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

All this left me thinking of a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Out of Touch and Out of Step

What more can be said about Mr. Limbaugh.
It's sad that many people listen to this creature.
It's impossible to believe that contraception has become a political and campaign issue in 2012. The Republicans claim that this is about religious freedom, as in "Why should the government force religious organizations to provide their employees with health insurance coverage that includes contraception?" Yet, isn't it odd that these religious organizations never seem to complain about the tax breaks and other benefits they obtain from this same "obtrusive" government. 

It's demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, and to a lesser extent, Mitt Romney that have made this an issue. For the vast majority of Americans, contraception is a routine fact of life, not a political issue. Virtually all American women (more than 99 percent) aged 15-44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method. This percentage even includes American Catholics. This is just another example of how the current Republican party is out of step.

The Republicans better watch out. Remember their stance on Terri Schiavo. In that case, a husband made the decision to stop life-support for his brain dead wife, and the Republicans intervened making it a national political issue. A special session of Congress was convened to protect the "sanctity of life" and "save" Ms. Schiavo. There was even talk of having the Florida National Guard "rescue" Ms. Schiavo from her nursing home to prevent her "murder." When the Republicans realized they had gone too far (that is when their polls numbers started to plummet), they immediately back pedaled and forgot the issue. 

Will there be a backlash this time, and will voters react negatively against a party that wants to get between them and the pill, condom, or the diaphragm? I hope so!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winter Comes Roaring Back

The Portland Head Light with Snow
My Front Door
It's the first day of March and the early spring we've been enjoying over the past month is over. A snow storm hit earlier today bringing 10"-14" inches of snow to Portland.

February was unusually temperate with little snow and temperatures in the 20s and 30s-not bad for February. Oh well, back to reality.
A Warmer Time: Last November in Australia

A View From the Porch

Me Enjoying the Storm