27 December 2010

Seaport Surprise

The Peking, a 1911 barque at the South Street Seaport.

The South Street Seaport is a place in the city that I normally do not visit. Like Times Square, it’s where tourists go and therefore an area to be generally avoided. But a recent visit proved to be a pleasant surprise. For amid the chain stores and crowds is the South Street Seaport Museum, a small museum that puts on great exhibits, is home to a fleet of old ships, and has the coolest museum gift shop in the city—Bowne & Co., Stationers.

My visit was specifically to see the two current exhibits on display—“Alfred Stieglitz New York” and “DecoDence: Legendary Interiors and Illustrious Travelers Aboard the SS Normandie.” They were both worth the trip.

"Winter on Fifth Avenue" Alfred Stieglitz (1893)

The Stieglitz exhibit concentrates on images of New York that the artist made over a 40-year time span. His early photos from the turn of the century are simply amazing. The snow covered streets and horse drawn carriages seem to appear out of the mist and his nighttime shots have a dreamlike quality about them that our digital cameras cannot replicate. These photos are juxtaposed with images he took in the 1930s filled with gleaming skyscrapers and water towers, modern and bright. Together they show the growth of both a city and an artist.

The first class dining room on the SS Normandie.

DecoDence gives visitors a tiny glance into the glamour that was the SS Normandie. The idea of modern day cruise ships makes me shudder but I think I would have enjoyed sailing in the art deco splendor that was the Normandie. From her maiden voyage in 1935, the Normandie was arguably the most beautiful of the famed ocean liners that carried countless celebrities and others between Europe and America before the outbreak of World War II ended her voyages.

The exhibit includes items that would have been found on board, like the tiny Lalique designed bottles filled with a Jean Patou fragrance created just for the Normandie passengers as well as souvenirs that could be purchased like a handbag shaped like the ship (one of my favourites). There are also mini recreations of some of the rooms with furniture from the ship including a table and chairs from the famed mirrored-lined, first class dining room, which was said to be longer than the hall of mirrors at Versailles.

 Inside Bowne & Co., Stationers.

Across the street is the museum’s gift shop— Bowne & Co., Stationers, which resembles a print shop from the 1870s. In addition to selling an assortment of paper goods and general ephemera, the shop acts as a real letterpress, creating customized cards and stationary with the text set by hand. I could have bought everything in the shop, including the adorable tiny jars of ink that I have no need for but they were so pretty. I settled for some postcards.

The Stieglitz exhibit runs through January 10; the DecoDence exhibit through January 31. A ticket to the museum also allows you to visit the ships across the way (something I may do at another time).

 photos by Michele.

26 December 2010

The King's Speech

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech.

Lionel Logue: Why should I waste my time listening to you?
King George VI: Because I have a voice!
Lionel Logue: Yes, you do.

The King’s Speech is one of my favourite films of the year. The story of how King George VI (Colin Firth) overcame a debilitating stammer and went on to inspire confidence in his people and lead a nation into war is both compelling and heart wrenching.

The film begins in 1925 when the then Duke of York is asked to make a speech at the opening of the British Empire Exhibit. The scene is excruciating to watch as the Duke, clearly scared of the microphone, struggles to get his words out to an increasingly uncomfortable crowd.

The Duke and Duchess of York in 1923. Photo: E.O. Hoppé.

Years later, after the Duke has seen various doctors and specialists to no avail (some of their attempts included stuffing ones mouth with marbles and smoking cigarettes to relax the throat), his wife, Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter), finds a new speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Logue is an Australian and a commoner who insists that his patients follow his rules, royalty or not. The two clash at first—the future king is all about protocol and class structure while Logue is unconventional and irreverent—but eventually trust grows and a friendship is formed. Their sessions are finally put to the test when the newly crowned king is called upon to give a speech to his people after war is declared on Germany.

The cast is outstanding. Colin Firth portrays George VI as a man who loves his country and family (the scenes with his daughters, the future Queen Elizabeth II and Margaret Rose, are warm and touching), and believes fully in doing ones duty. Firth makes the king flesh and blood, giving a humanity to the man most people know just from black and white photos in history books. The scene where the king confesses to Logue about the horrible childhood he endured is shocking and truly heartbreaking. It should win Firth the Oscar.

Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech.

Geoffrey Rush does well as Logue, clearly having fun with the tongue twisters he gets to recite while also evoking the feelings of being an outsider. And Helena Bonham Carter manages to express the queen’s love and concern for her husband with just her eyes (I think she would have made a great silent screen actress) and brings a liveliness to the woman who would become the beloved Queen Mum.

The other performances that round out the film are stellar, from Michael Gambon’s blustery King George V to Guy Pearce’s spot-on spoiled King Edward VIII.

The only time I was distracted was in the scene where the king meets Logue’s wife, played by Jennifer Ehle. I let out a silent squeal because all I could think of was “It’s Darcy and Elizabeth.” I’m afraid Colin Firth will forever remain Mr. Darcy in my mind.

So do go see The King’s Speech. You won’t be disappointed.

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

A Nor'easter is hitting New York with a vengeance, which means I'm staying inside and watching loads of films while drinking coffee and munching on Christmas chocolates. I should be able to catch up on some posts I've been meaning to write as well so stay tuned and keep warm wherever you are.

24 December 2010

Merry Christmas to All

A very merry Christmas to you my dear readers. I shall be back soon with some more tales but in the meantime please enjoy this Christmas scene from one of my all time favourite films—The Thin Man (1934).

21 December 2010

Three Wise Men

While shopping in the West Village, I came across these three guys waiting outside the health food store. They seemed undaunted by the cold and oblivious to the attention they were garnering. I especially like the black coat on the Weimaraner—it makes him look like a caped crusader.

Photo by Michele.

11 December 2010

Rescue Santa

Walking down 19th Street today, I stopped to join a crowd outside the Chelsea firehouse that is home to Engine 3, Ladder 12, and Battalion 7. Abandoned by his reindeer, Santa Claus had to be rescued from the rooftop by firefighters. Children cheered and waved as Santa descended on the ladder. Once on the ground, he invited the children into the firehouse to enjoy cocoa and snacks.

Santa will be "rescued" again tomorrow, December 12, from the roof of the New York City Fire Museum on Spring Street.

Photos by Michele.

10 December 2010

Measure for Measure

Earlier this week, after a quick bite at the Ottoman Cafe (delicious sandwiches and delicate cups of Turkish coffee), I saw the Public's Mobile Unit production of Measure for Measure at the historic Judson Memorial Church. 

While Rob Campbell was outstanding as the evil Angelo and Carson Elrod injected humour as the gadfly Lucio some of the other performances seemed off. Although the production was uneven, sitting and listening to Shakespeare's words about truth and justice and the powers of the court while the wind howled outside was still a treat (but then aren't Shakespeare's words always a treat?). 

When Claudio, who has been condemned to death for fornicating with his betrothed outside of wedlock, states "the miserable have no other medicine but only hope" he seems to be speaking on behalf of many for whom this production was intended. 

The mission of the Public's Mobile Unit is to bring Shakespeare to those who are unable to attend the theatre—the incarcerated, the homeless, the elderly, the disenfranchised. After a two-week tour of places like the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island and the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults in Queens, the Mobile Unit brought the production to Manhattan so that New Yorkers who can go to the theatre could check them out. I'm glad I did. 

Seeing the play has inspired me to revisit some of Shakespeare's plays that I have not read in years. I shall be adding that to my list of New Year's Resolutions (which is growing by the day). 

27 November 2010

These Are the Days

The fountain across from the Plaza.

Thanksgiving break is always a luxury—four days during which you’re allowed to overindulge and be a bit of a layabout without anyone pointing fingers. Here is how I've spent my break so far.

On Thursday, after a nice lie-in, I went to the cinema to see the newest Harry Potter. I enjoyed the film although I did miss seeing Hogwarts. Afterwards, there was a leisurely dinner sans the traditional turkey (steak was on the menu this year), which was enjoyed with loads of champagne and adorable pumpkin tarts. 

On Friday, after another lie-in (I could really get used to this), I headed up to the Plaza and then strolled slowly down Fifth Avenue, looking at the Christmas windows. Regardless of the crowds of tourists, there’s something so quintessential New York about gazing at the windows. The stores go all out with their displays with some succeeding better than others.

Tiffany & Co.

I always love the tiny lights that drape the entrance to Tiffany’s and the huge red bow of lights wrapped around Cartier’s is a stand out. Yet I always seem drawn to the same block each year.

Some of the theatre goers in the Van Cleef & Arpels windows.

Van Cleef & Arpels has tiny windows but they pack a wallop. This year, sea-themed theatre sets complete with silhouetted theatre goers in the balconies were the stage for some stunning jewels including a gorgeous ring that made it's debut inside a large oyster shell that opened and closed.

A few of Bergdorf Goodman's stunning "Wish You Were Here" windows.

My favorite windows always end up being Bergdorf Goodman’s and this year’s “Wish You Were Here” theme did not disappoint. Vintage-styled travel scenes with a fantastical bent were stunning (their website includes a short video on the making of the windows). My photos don’t do them justice (shooting windows is always a tricky thing) but I hope these convey a bit of the magic on display.

After much window gazing, I headed to one of my favorite places in the city. Oh Public Library, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I have spent many hours in the main branch (officially the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building), combing through documents and books in some of the special collections, writing in the main reading room, or enjoying a  great exhibit. Part of what makes the library such an enjoyable place to visit is its Beaux Arts design and numerous art works (including a portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft in the reading room, which I always find comforting to read under). And the library is especially lovely when it's decorated for the Holidays.

The tree at the main branch of the NY Public Library.

On this visit, I viewed the exhibit “Recollection: Thirty Years of Photography at the New York Public Library.” The black and white images on display were a wonderful example of the best of 20th century photography. Many were grouped together by theme like dogs, where a joyous image of a man with two dogs, “Chester and His Hounds” by Shelby Lee Adams, was juxtaposed with the more distressing Weegee image titled “"Ritz, the puppy belonging to William Kinsman, was one of the casualties of the two-alarm blaze at 157 W. 74th St. yesterday, February 1, 1944." I, of course, had to research little Ritz and was relieved to find another caption that continued, “Noticing the dog had a broken leg, a fireman wrapped him in a blanket and took him to the street.” Hopefully Ritz survived his ordeal. And an exhibit of some of the greats wouldn't be complete without images of Atget’s prostitutes. Love them. The exhibit runs through January 2 so do try and go.

Enough of my rambling dear readers. I still have two more days to enjoy before returning to work. More later. In the meantime, have a lovely 

Photos by Michele.

24 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my dear readers here in the States, have a lovely and relaxing Thanksgiving (and if you live somewhere else, have a good week as well). At least one turkey can breathe a sigh of relief as turkey is not on the menu this year at Mrs. Parker's. I have loads planned for the next four days so will, hopefully, have some stories to share with you soon.

18 November 2010

Dickinson's Garden

I love this time of year save for the lack of flowers in bloom. So I thought I'd share some images from a special exhibit, “Emily Dickinson’s Garden: The Poetry of Flowers,” which I saw last spring at the New York Botanical Gardens.

Emily Dickinson, the reclusive poet who famously spent her later years sequestered in her bedroom, was a well known gardener in her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts. Dickinson loved flowers and could often be found in her garden, sometimes even gardening at night with the aid of a lantern. 

For the exhibit, Dickinson's imagined garden (no evidence of the original garden exists) was created inside the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory with a path running between the recreated facades of the Homestead, the Dickinson home, and the Evergreens, the home of Dickinson's brother Austin. Outside, a poetry walk included 35 of her poems and the museum displayed some of  Dickinson's letters and a reproduction of one of her famed white dresses.  

The creators of the exhibit turned to Dickinson’s writings, which include many references to her beloved flowers, to find flowers and plants to include. The rest of the garden was filled out with flowers that would have commonly been found in Massachusetts in the 19th century. 

Foxgloves and delphiniums, hyacinths and my favourite, hollyhocks, filled the conservatory (one very wise little boy pointed out to his mother that foxgloves can kill you. A future gardener if there ever was one). I could have stood in there all day breathing in their beauty. My only regret is that I missed the tulips and daffodils by a few weeks. The path that wove between the flowers led me to the tiny replica of Dickinson's bedroom where a small desk and chair were placed beneath a window just like the one she would have sat at, able to gaze out at the world.

I don't remember the name of these airy beauties above. Does anyone know what they are? There were so many lovely flowers I wish I had taken more photos to share with you dear readers (I'm afraid I went a little crazy with shooting the Hollyhocks). All and all, a great exhibit filled with enough colours to carry one through some grey months.

Photos of the New York Botanical Gardens by Michele.

14 November 2010

The Girl With the Bob

I wear my hair in a short, dark bob. Some think it’s a nod to my favourite decade, the 1920s. But it’s really because of Louise Brooks. Ever since I saw her in Pandora’s Box when I was a teenager she’s inspired me (see the photo I used in my first post)—not just her hair but her strength and originality.

Today would have been her 104th birthday. Born in 1906 in Cherryvale, Kansas, she would spend most of her 78 years battling something—studios, authority, alcohol, poverty. Louise was a born rebel. She never backed down, always sticking to her guns even when her choices hurt her in the end. The woman who once said, "I have a gift for enraging people, but if I ever bore you, it will be with a knife," may have been hard to like sometimes but her determination is something to be admired.

Members of the Denishawn Dance Company. Louise is second from right.Louise escaped a self-absorbed mother and the Kansas plains when she was just 15, moving to New York to join the famed Denishawn Dance Company. “I wanted to be a great dancer like Martha Graham,” she would say later in life. “That was my ambition.” She would last two years before one of the company’s founders, Ruth St. Denis, dismissed her for wanting “life handed to you on a silver salver.” It was not the last time that her brazen personal life would get her in trouble (she was asked to leave her room at the Algonquin after neighbors complained she was doing exercises on the rooftop in her pajamas) but this slight would continue to sting until the end of her life. She went on to take Broadway by storm, starring in the George White Scandals and Ziegfeld Follies, before one of her numerous beaus, Paramount Pictures producer William Wanger, insisted she do a screen test. She passed and made her screen debut in Street of Forgotten Men (1925).

She photographed gorgeously. In an era where blondeness still dominated the landscape, Louise's “black helmet” of hair and sleek boyish figure stood out and made her a favorite of photographers. As the 1920s progressed, she helped to shape the image of the flapper. She even had the perfect flapper attitude. Whereas “It” girl Clara Bow was privately insecure and fragile, Louise oozed self confidence and disdain. The woman who said “Love is a publicity stunt, and making love, after the first curious rapture, is only another petulant way to pass the time waiting for the studio to call,” was no shrinking violet. She was a true flapper, down to her hair. Colleen Moore is often credited with inventing the bobbed look for flappers, but all one has to do is look at photos of Louise as a child to find the same black bob with stick-straight bangs framing a devilish face. Her hair, combined with her alabaster skin (which in real life was dusted with freckles) and what Christopher Isherwood described as “that fine, imperious neck of hers,” would turn her into an iconic image.

Louise in a scene with Richard Arlen from Beggars of Life.

Typical of Hollywood, they didn’t know what to do with her. So they threw her into a bunch of comedies playing the ingenue. It wasn’t until William Wellman’s Beggars of Life (1928) that she was given a role she could really sink her teeth into. Playing a young girl who disguises herself as a boy and takes to the rails to escape a murder charge, the film was a reality check for American filmgoers about the lives of tramps and hobos. It would be her last good Hollywood role.

Hollywood publicity still.

The arrival of sound in 1927 with The Jazz Singer spelled the end of many careers in Hollywood. Studios, having to incur huge costs to build new sound stages, began using the line “we don’t know how your voice will record,” with their actors, offering renewed contracts without pay raises. Most went along but not Louise. Called into the office of B. P. Shulberg, the West Coast head of Paramount, Louise was told “You can stay on at $750 per week or leave.” She turned him down flat and left Hollywood. Fortunately for film buffs, she had an offer waiting in Berlin.
Louise made three films in Europe—Pandora’s Box (1929), Diary of a Lost Girl (1929), and Prix de beauté (1930)—but it was the first that would earn her a place in film history.
Louise as Lulu in Pandora's Box.
Pandora’s Box was based on two 18th-century plays by Frank Wedekind—Erdgeist (Earth Spirit) and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box). The character of Lulu, a young woman whose sexuality causes the destruction of those around her, was infamous in Germany. Director G. W. Pabst had been combing the country looking for his Lulu, something akin to David O. Selznick’s later search for Scarlett O’Hara, when he settled on Louise. When it was announced that he had chosen an American the German people were incensed but they soon got over it.
Louise spoke no German and Pabst little English, but the two hit it off immediately. Pabst knew instinctively how to handle Louise and got the performance of a lifetime out of her. She later wrote “In Hollywood, I was a pretty flibbertigibbet whose charm for the executive department decreased with every increase in her fan mail. In Berlin, I stepped onto the station platform to meet Pabst and became an actress.”
Lulu's triumph backstage.

In Pandora’s Box, Louise is Lulu, a young dancer and prostitute who is having an affair with Dr. Peter Schön (Fritz Kortner), a wealthy, older man whose son, Alwa (Franz Lederer), is also infatuated with her. One evening back stage at the theatre where Lulu is performing in a revue, she and Schön get into an argument. After a struggle in which Louise scissor kicks her dancer’s legs divinely, they kiss only to be interrupted by Alwa and Schön’s fiancée. Schön is devastated but Lulu is triumphant. The slow, sly smirk she aims at the camera screams of victory. Later, Lulu and 
Schön marry but when he discovers Lulu with his son, he tries to get her to commit suicide, only to end up dead himself. Put on trial, Lulu manages to escape and winds up destitute in London with Schigolch (Carl Götz), an old pimp, and a broken Alwa. Left alone, she goes out and brings home a man she meets on the street—Jack the Ripper. As Louise describes Lulu’s death scene that follows, “It is Christmas Eve, and she is about to receive the gift that has been her dream since childhood: death by a sexual maniac.”

What is most striking about Pandora’s Box is how modern it feels for a silent. Much of this is due to Louise's acting style. In an era when the norm was to overreact to compensate for the absence of sound, Louise just reacted. Her approach was so subtle that many critics at the time thought she wasn’t acting. Louise was simply ahead of her time. She later said of her Lulu: “She’s just the same kind of nitwit that I am. Like me, she’d have been an impossible wife, sitting in bed all day reading and drinking gin.”

Louise in a scene from Diary of a Lost Girl.

By the time Louise left Europe sound was king and when she refused to return to Hollywood to dub her role in The Canary Murder Case (1929), which had been shot as silent before she left, she put the last nail in her coffin. If she had gone along with the studio heads, she might have become one of the great stars; her departure for Berlin coincided with the peak of her popularity (the year she left, only three other stars had as many magazine articles written about them). She made a few more films but they were mostly insults to her talent and intellect (but did prove something Louise had known all along, her voice recorded fine). Her career was finished before she was even 25.

She retreated to New York and the bottle, gin becoming her best friend. There she wallowed in a self-imposed exile until some film historians, led by James Card of the George Eastman House, started viewing her films and “rediscovered” Louise Brooks. In her later years she took to writing about the art she had never really cared for at the time, culminating with a collection of essays, Lulu in Hollywood. She died on August 8, 1985, a rebel until the end.

So Happy Birthday Louise. You continue to inspire.

To find out more about Louise Brooks, check out the Louise Brooks Society or read Barry Paris' biography and Louise's Lulu in Hollywood.

(This post is largely taken from an article I wrote about Louise Brooks years ago so my apologies if it sounds familiar to any of you dear readers).

11 November 2010

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day in the States, a holiday that honors all military veterans. But before 1954, it was observed as Armistice Day in memory of the end of World War I (the Armistice was signed by the Germans on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, formally ending major hostilities). 

The “War to End All Wars” did everything but end all wars (many would argue that it led directly to World War II) but instead marked a loss of innocence and the arrival of the modern age. So today, lets not forgot those who originally inspired this holiday and remember the sacrifices they made on the fields of Europe and elsewhere.

07 November 2010

Don't Worry

In a letter to his daughter Scottie dated August 8, 1933, F. Scott Fitzgerald laid out some advice for her to follow. The letter alternates between lighthearted sweetness (he addresses Scottie as both Pie and Halfwit) and genuine concern for her future. It also gives some insight into Fitzgerald’s own character (he confesses to not believing in happiness). Reading the letter today, it’s interesting to note how much of what he says still rings true (Save for the part about insects. There I would have to disagree with him). What do you think dear readers?

Things to worry about:
Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship

Things not to worry about:
Don’t worry about popular opinion

Don’t worry about dolls

Don’t worry about the past

Don’t worry about the future

Don’t worry about growing up

Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault

Don’t worry about mosquitoes

Don’t worry about flies

Don’t worry about insects in general 

Don’t worry about parents

Don’t worry about boys

Don’t worry about disappointments

Don’t worry about pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:
What am I really aiming at?

How good am I in comparison to my contemporaries in regards to:

(a) Scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

02 November 2010


It's Election Day in America so don't forget to go out and cast your ballot and make your voice heard.

Photo from the Library of Congress.

31 October 2010

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween dear readers! As a special Halloween treat, below is an excerpt from David Ogden Stewart’s tongue-in-cheek book Perfect Behavior; a guide for ladies and gentlemen in all social crises. Written in 1922, the book includes many helpful tips including suggested games for a Halloween party. Enjoy!

After the guests have sufficiently amused themselves with the ghosts and witches it will be time to commence some of the many games which are always associated with Hallowe'en. "Bobbing for apples" is, of course, the most common of these games and great sport it is, too, to watch the awkward efforts of the guests as they try to pick up with their teeth the apples floating in a large tub. I know of one hostess who added greatly to the evening's fun by pouring twelve quarts of gin into the tub; the effect on the bobbers was, of course, extremely comical, except for the unfortunate conduct of two gentlemen, one of whom went to sleep in the tub, the other so far forgetting himself as to playfully throw all the floating fruit at the hostess' pet Pomeranian.

Most Hallowe'en games concern themselves with delving into the future in the hopes that one may there discover one's husband or bride-to-be. In one of these games the men stand at one end of the room, facing the girls, with their hands behind their backs and eyes tightly closed. The girls are blindfolded and one by one they are led to within six feet of the expectant men and given a soft pin cushion which they hurl forward. The tradition is that whichever man the girl hits, him will she marry. Great fun can be added to the game by occasionally substituting a rock or iron dumb-bell in place of the romantic pin cushion.

No Hallowe’en is complete, of course, without fortune telling. Dress yourself as a wizard and have the guests led in one by one to hear their fortune told. Hanging in front of you should be a caldron, from which you extract the slip of paper containing the particular fortune. These slips of paper should be prepared beforehand. The following are suggested.

"You will meet a well dressed, good looking man who understands you better than your husband. How about Thursday at the Plaza?"

"You are about to receive a shipment of Scotch whisky that you ordered last month. And it's about time you kicked across with some of your own."

"You will have much trouble in your life if you lie about your golf score as you did last Sunday on Number 12."

For the older members of the party, the host should provide various games of cards and dice. In keeping with the ghastly spirit of the occasion, it would be well to have the dice carefully loaded. Many hosts have thus been able to make all expenses and often a handsome profit out of the evening's entertainment. 

And finally, when the guests are ready to depart and just before they discover that you have cut cute little black cats and witches out of the backs of their evening wraps and over coats, it would perhaps be well to run up stairs and lock yourself securely in your room.

30 October 2010

Here Lies the Body

In the heart of New York’s financial district stands Trinity Church whose gothic spires make a striking juxtaposition with the surrounding modern buildings. Originally built in 1698 (the church is in its third incarnation; the first was destroyed in a fire and the second was damaged from snow), Trinity received its charter from King William III in exchange for an annual rent of one peppercorn to the crown. 

While the church is beautiful, it is the surrounding Trinity churchyard that holds my interest. A quiet oasis away from the crowds, the grounds contain the remains of Revolutionary War heroes, Congressmen, and famed inventors. 

Alexander Hamilton's grave.

Probably the most famous resident of the churchyard is Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury and a founding father who lost his life in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. I wonder what Hamilton thinks about being across from a men's clothing outlet store? More interesting than his monument, in my opinion, is the simple grave of his wife, Eliza, who lies next to him. She outlived her husband by 50 years, always defending his image and refusing to the end to acknowledge his philandering or his responsibility in the duel. She died at the incredibly old age of 97.

Many of the tombstones, because of age and wear, are difficult to read. But you can still make out the names on some and the designs that help date them. Skulls or death’s heads, a common symbol in the 1700s, were stark reminders of death and suffering. Later in the century cherubs, who were kinder in appearance (sometimes downright funny), replaced the skulls, offering up reminders of the rewards to be found in heaven.

Although there are many famous graves at Trinity, the smaller stones tell the stories of other New Yorkers who, while maybe not remembered today, are still important to New York history. 

Dear readers, as promised, I will try to write something other than cemetery reviews next time round.
Photos by Michele.

26 October 2010

The Game is Afoot

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in Sherlock.

It was with some trepidation that I tuned into Masterpiece Mystery the other night to catch the first installment of a new Sherlock Holmes series simply titled Sherlock. The big difference between this version and the dozens that have come before it was that now the famed detective was living in the 21st century. Would it work? I had my doubts but those were squashed upon viewing the show. Holmes is definitely a detective made for modern times.

Played by the uniquely named Benedict Cumberbatch, Holmes still resides at 221B Baker Street with the faithful Mrs. Hudson fussing over him. And yes, he can tell a person’s background by just looking at them and is always one step ahead of those around him. Only now Holmes, a consulting detective, taunts the police with text messages and writes a blog on the science of deduction. Instead of smoking a pipe, he indulges in nicotine patches. His trusty sidekick, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), is still amazed by Holmes' intellect and continues to question some of his flatmate's more peculiar traits. But in this version Watson's military background, so often glossed over in the past, is made an important part of the story. He’s been wounded serving in Afghanistan and is dealing with both the physical and emotional scars of battle. This makes for a more complex and interesting Watson than we've seen in a while. 

The show has a bit of a Doctor Who look to it (not a bad thing in my book). No big surprise considering co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss also worked on Who. This along with the strong rapport between Holmes and Watson and the clever nods to the Holmes canon make this one enjoyable show to watch.

Sherlock airs on PBS October 31 (how fitting) and November 7. Please watch. It would be a crime to miss.


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