31 March 2013

Björk Before Midnight

Times Square is not a place where I usually hang out but last night after seeing a show (more on that later), I stuck around to see a special video presentation.

Every night this month at 11:57 pm, 15 of the largest digital screens in Times Square have switched from their normal advertisements to a count down for Björk’s “Mutual Core” video. Ending promptly at midnight, the video is from the Streaming Museum’s Nordic Outbreak, a touring exhibition of artwork by Nordic artists designed specifically for outdoor spaces.

Times Square is always crowded even, as these few photos show, at midnight. So while cars (and horses) blew by and tourists milled around taking photos, I joined a small group of Björk and art fans in the center of the Square to wait for the video to begin. 

It was pretty spectacular, even without any audio. The flowing lava looked very cool on the multiple screens, and I especially loved when Björk appeared above the Disney sign like some punk princess with blue hair. I just wish I had found out about this sooner; I would have braved the crowds to see it a second time.

The presentation was part of Midnight Moment, a program of the Times Square Advertising Coalition and Times Square Arts, the public art program of the Times Square Alliance, which brings innovative artists to the square. Last month the artist featured was Tracey Emin. Next month will be "The Power of Words," a birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela composed of quotes from his speeches.

To get a better idea of what the experience was like, check out this video.

Photos by Michele.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! To start the celebrations, I've already broken out my Vosges Barcelona Exotic Flop-Eared Bunny made of chocolate, smoked almonds, and sea salt (for other bunnies, visit here). And yes, he lost an ear right after I snapped this photo. Brutal but oh so delicious. Have a great day everyone!

29 March 2013

Mrs. Parker at Kate Spade

One of my dearest friends sent me the perfect birthday gift last week: a gold bangle from Kate Spade engraved with a quote by Dorothy Parker—"Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves." I absolutely love it. Everyone already knows how I feel about Mrs. Parker but I’m also a big fan of Kate Spade and on any given day can be found carrying my Kate Spade messenger bag along with my iPhone in a Kate Spade Scottie dog case. So naturally I jumped online and discovered not only bangles but bags and notebooks and phone cases as well. I want them all but think I shall settle on one phone case (“I’ve never been a millionaire but I just know I’d be darling at it.”) and the bag above. Thank you Kate Spade. Getting it right as always.

To check out all
of the Dorothy Parker items, visit Kate Spade here.

Spring Treat

"You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming."—Pablo Neruda

Spring may have officially arrived last week but New York didn't seem to get the message. So imagine my joy a couple of days ago when on my way to the Jefferson Market Library I turned a corner and was hit with a wave of colour from the florist shop. Buckets of hydrangeas, tulips, hyacinths, were all waiting to greet me with their vivid blues and purples and reds and pinks. And as if on cue, the sun came out. What a lovely sight.

It put me in such a good mood that I decided to stop by the Bee's Knees Baking Co., located behind the library (confession: I would have gone in, good mood or not, because I wanted something sweet). I had never been before but as a fan of the 1920s how could I not love its name? I got a coffee and a cake cup to go. That's right, literary cake in a cup. I chose the chocolate salted caramel, which was chocolate cake with a layer of caramel topped off with pecans. Absolutely perfect. To see all of the flavours, visit here.

So welcome spring. Please stick around for a while and don't let your cousin summer come rushing in too soon. 

iPhone photos by Michele.

28 March 2013

A Stroll Around the Meatpacking District

Sunday I thought I'd pick something up for dinner from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats, an excellent butchery in Chelsea Market. On my way there, I decided to take a stroll around the Meatpacking District.

The Meatpacking District started out as a residential area in the early 1800s. By 1900 it had turned industrial, teeming with slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants (250 to be exact, hence its name) as well as markets with produce and dairy, and other businesses like automotive services and printing. Yet by the 1980s the area, which had been in a decline for two decades, was better known for drugs and prostitution. In the late 1990s a change began when designers started to move in and today it’s home to fashion stores like Moschino and Tory Burch as well as nightclubs and restaurants.

On the edge of the Meatpacking District, which borders the Chelsea neighbourhood, is Chelsea Market. Once a National Biscuit Company factory (rumoured to be the birthplace of the Oreo), it is now home to a variety of food shops and restaurants as well as television offices including the Food Network. It can feel touristy but there are shops worth the visit like Buon Italia for all types of Italian goods, The Lobster Place (currently closed for renovations) that has amazing lobster rolls, and Chelsea Market Baskets where you can pick up some lovely Leonidas chocolates. Across the way Homestead Steakhouse, which was established in 1868, is a nod to the area's history with meat and has a pretty cool neon sign.

In addition to fashion and food, the Meatpacking District has some darlings of the tech world for neighbours. Google's New York offices are in the former Port Authority building on Ninth Avenue and an Apple store on 14th Street always attracts a crowd.

Many of the streets in the Meatpacking District are wide for this part of Manhattan and some are paved with cobblestones. Brick tends to be a predominant feature, a relic of the area's 19th-century history.

While some buildings retain their traditional brick facades, others have modern additions like the Diane von Furstenberg flagship store. The perfect melding of old and new can be found on the High Line, a former elevated rail line that has been converted into a park in the sky. Beginning in the Meatpacking District at Gansevoort Street, it runs all the way up the West Side to 30th Street.

A big draw of the area is the Standard, High Line Hotel. Known for its exhibitionists (countless people have been observed engaging in all types of acts through the rooms' non-reflective glass windows), it's also a popular late night spot for celebrities and the fashion crowd. Outside there are changing sculpture exhibits that tend to be of the cartoonish nature.

Amidst all the glamour, there are a handful of meatpacking companies hanging on like the London Meat Co., tucked away behind the Standard. Others have left but their names remain (the Dave's Quality Veal sign is still painted on a wall though the company has moved). There's even a lumbar yard right across the street from Chelsea Market (love it). But no matter how much the area's occupants change or how many modern additions are made, the buildings with their wonderful architectural details will always serve as a bridge between the Meatpacking District's past and present. 

Photos by Michele.

26 March 2013

Cannes 2013

The official poster for this year's Cannes Film Festival is graced with an image of screen legends Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Hollywood’s golden couple had a long connection to Cannes, beginning when their first film together, The Long Hot Summer (1958), was in competition at the festival and won Newman Best Actor. The Effect of the Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972) and The Glass Menagerie (1987), both of which were directed by Newman and stared Woodward, were also in competition with Woodward winning Best Actress for the former. The festival runs May 15-26 with Steven Spielberg heading the jury. For more info, visit here.

22 March 2013

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday today! On the agenda is the "Impression, Fashion, and Modernity" exhibit at the Met and shopping at Tiffany's with drinks later at a local speakeasy. Should be enough to distract me from my descent into senility. Have a good weekend everyone!

19 March 2013

Sparkling Together

“Sparkling Together with Marc Jacobs” is a new collection of limited edition Diet Coke cans and bottles created by the designer to celebrate Diet Coke's 30th anniversary. Set to be released this month in Europe, the collection includes three designs that represent the 80s, 90s, and 00s. I'm not a huge soda drinker but was happy to see that one of the designs was of a woman with a black bob.

There's also a very charming video for the campaign, which you can watch here

18 March 2013

Picture Snatcher

One of the things I learned after seeing a James Cagney triple feature at Film Forum during their 1933 series is that I would watch Cagney in anything. 

Two of the films, Hard to Handle and Lady Killer, were run-of-the mill Warner pictures with Cagney playing a variation of the bad guy with a big heart. In Hard to Handle, which also stars the excellent Ruth Donnelly, Cagney is a con artist who must come up with a scheme to get money after his business partner skips town with their funds. In Lady Killer he’s a former crook who gets a second chance as an actor in Hollywood. Both were fun but forgettable.

Picture Snatcher was by far the best of the three. In it Cagney plays Danny Kean, a gangster who upon release from prison tells his former associates that he wants to go straight and sets out to prove himself as a newspaper reporter. He shows up at the offices of the Graphic News, a trashy tabloid, to see the alcoholic city editor Al McLean (Ralph Bellamy) who had sent him a letter offering him a job when he got out of prison. McLean turns him down but when Danny overhears the editor-in-chief Grover (Robert Barrat) bemoan the fact that no one has been able to get a photo of a suicidal fireman whose wife has died in a fire along with her lover, Danny sees his chance. Claiming to be an insurance adjuster, Danny weasels his way past the fireman and steals his wedding photo thus securing a job as a picture snatcher on the staff.

Danny soon meets Pat Nolan (Patricia Ellis) a college student on a tour of the paper’s offices. The two fall in love only to find out that Alice’s father, Casey (Robert Emmett O’Connor), is the police lieutenant who originally captured Danny after shooting him six times. Danny wins Casey over by getting a rival paper to print a complimentary story about Casey, which gets him promoted to captain.

The ambitious Danny takes Grover up on an offer of a $1,000 reward to the man who can get a photo of a woman scheduled to be executed at Sing Sing. Switching places with a reporter from another paper (the Graphic News wasn't invited), Danny manages to get a shot of the woman in the electric chair with a camera tied to his ankle (based on the true story of Ruth Snyder, who was executed in the electric chair for the murder of her husband in 1928). After a mad chase by the cops, Danny delivers the front-page image and gets his reward but it comes at a cost. Casey is demoted and Pat leaves Danny.

Distraught and in trouble with the authorities, Danny hides out at the flat of Allison (Alice White), the Graphic News’ sob sister. Even though she’s dating Al, who Danny has become good friends with, she comes on to Danny. While in the process of rejecting her advances, Al walks in and catches them in an embrace. With no fiancée, job, or best friend, Danny must find a way to make amends and show that he’s more than just a picture snatcher.

Cagney is superb in the film. His delivery and energy are perfect and he injects just the right amount of compassion into the character, allowing the audience to feel sympathetic toward him. Ralph Bellamy, who I often find to be a bit wooden, is good here while the wonderful Alice White dances away with all of her scenes, especially when compared to the pretty but bland Patricia Ellis. She also takes her punches, literary. Poor Alice is shoved, punched, and thrown about by both Cagney and Bellamy. There is also a cameo by the always-entertaining Sterling Holloway as a journalism student who likes to pontificate about the grandness of journalism.

The script, adapted by Allan Rivkin and P.J. Wolfson from a story by ex-con Danny Ahern, is filled with snappy dialogue that keeps up with the breakneck speed of the film (which, by the way, was reportedly shot in 15 days). You get classic gangster gems like "That's the last rap I take for anybody. You crack and I turn canary." And racy ones like “I’m going to put on some silk so good that you can see right through it.” All of these are said in those classic New York accents that only seem to exist in films from the 1930s.

Picture Snatcher has it all—romance, gangsters, a sleazy newspaper, a nail-biting car chase, a major shoot out, and a character named Jerry the Mug. What more could you ask for?

17 March 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Isle of Innisfree, Lough Gill. Photo from here.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone! Today my thoughts are not of leprechauns and green beer (the horror) but of W.B. Yeats, my favourite Irish poet (perhaps my favourite poet, period). Here's one of his many beautiful poems set in Sligo, an area of Ireland very close to my heart (I studied his poetry there one summer many years ago). Bain taitneamh as!

The Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core. —W.B. Yeats

15 March 2013

Keep Away from Idiots

Dorothea Tanning by Robert Bruce Inverarity (1948)

"Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars,
 except when you need amusement."—Dorothea Tanning

This was painter, sculptor, and writer Dorothea Tanning’s response when asked about advice for good-looking artists (in her memoir she had written that in her day it was seen as "unnatural" if an attractive young woman wanted to do something serious) but I believe her words apply to anyone who is trying to be creative, regardless of their looks. Stay focused and don't allow yourself to be distracted (unless the movie star is, say, Jon Hamm, then by all means, keep your eye on him!).

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

14 March 2013

Liza & Alan

I just got home from one of the best nights of theatre I've seen in a long time (or maybe ever). Liza Minnelli and Alan Cumming at Town Hall, their second of two sold-out nights. It was in one word, amazing. For a little over two wonderful hours Liza and Alan sang, danced a bit, told some stories, and had everyone cheering.

Opening together with "Nowadays" and "I Move On" from Chicago, the two took turns entertaining the audience with Alan singing, among others, a mash-up of Adele, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga and "Falling Slowly" from Once while Liza sang some of her classics including "New York, New York" and "Liza With a Z." Between his songs Alan shared a few stories including how the show originated one hot summer on Fire Island ("Liza came to Fire Island. Can you imagine? It was like a Papal visit."). The two joined each other again for a selection of songs from Cabaret, switching the roles they're famous for with Liza singing "Willkommen" and Alan "Mein Herr" before they performed "Money" and Liza dazzled everyone with "Cabaret." They closed with a sweet rendition of the Gershwin's "Love is Here to Stay" and received multiple curtain calls.

Alan Cumming showed just how talented he is. From singing various types of songs to playing an original composition on the piano to telling hilarious stories, he was completely entertaining. I feel there's little he couldn't do and do well. Liza was simply Liza. She was out of breath a lot, mixed up the lyrics a couple of times, stopped to rip off her false eyelashes at one point, and spent a lot of time sitting in a director's chair (she explained that she had hurt her ankle). But when she was singing there was no doubt that you were watching a legend and a star (and one whose mannerisms more than once brought to mind her mother). Her every entrance on stage was greeted with a standing ovation as were most of her songs. The audience loved her, and she gave them her all.

Tuesday Liza turned 67. At the end of the show, Alan had the audience sing Happy Birthday to her. The whole night was one incredible celebration of musical theatre and two of its best. And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

12 March 2013

Gold Diggers of 1933

"We're in the Money" with Ginger Rogers.

Film Forum’s 1933 series ended last week and as I could have predicted, my plans to attend most of the screenings were overly ambitious. Still, I did manage to see some of the films and enjoyed them quite a lot, even the few stinkers, and the whole series left me wishing for more (like 1934, 1935, etc.).

On day two of the series I saw Gold Diggers of 1933, a Mervyn LeRoy musical about three actresses trying to make it in New York during the Great Depression. Torch singer Carol King (Joan Blondell), ingénue Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler), and comedienne Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon) are out of work after their show, which hasn't even opened yet, gets shut down because the company can't pay its bills. Fellow actress and rival Fay Fortune (Ginger Rogers) shows up at the flat that the girls share with the news that producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) is putting on a new show. Carol leaves to find out more information and returns with Hopkins in tow who promises parts for all of them. Hearing Polly’s boyfriend and next-door neighbour Brad Roberts (Dick Powell) playing a song he's written, Hopkins declares “Warren and Dubin are out” (the names of the real composers of the film) and promptly hires Brad. When Hopkins confesses that he still needs to raise money (he could get by on $15,000), Brad offers to get it for him as long as Polly is cast in the lead. Unknown to everyone Brad comes from a wealthy Boston family and is living in New York under a pseudonym as his family doesn’t approve of his career choice. Hopkins agrees.

Opening night of the show Brad replaces the ailing juvenile in the lead and receives rave reviews in the press. His true identity is also revealed, prompting the arrival of his straitlaced older brother, J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William), and his lawyer with the very Boston sounding name of Faneuil Peabody (Guy Kibbee). Lawrence warns Brad that while the family may make allowances for his working in the theatre, he must give up Polly or lose his inheritance. Brad storms off and Lawrence heads to the girls’ flat, a much grander one now that they’re making money, to confront Polly. There he mistakes Carol for Polly, who he declares to be a gold digger before she can correct him. Angered, she and Trixie, who has already zeroed in on the lawyer, set out to make them pay “right through their checkbooks.” Lawrence’s attempts to turn Polly’s affections away from his brother don't exactly work out, and he ends up falling in love with her (Carol that is). By the end, the three couples are together, the “gold diggers” having gotten their men.

As to the star-studded cast, Joan Blondell is a better actress than I had thought, Warren William makes a great leading man, Guy Kibbee is hilarious, Aline MacMahon should be better known, Ruby Keeler can’t act to save her life, Dick Powell is fine but boring, and Ginger Rogers, not yet a major star, steals every scene she’s in. Rogers, who is delightful here, moves up my list of favorites every time I see one of her films. In fact, I think I saw more films in the series with her in them than any other star. While she normally receives credit for her dancing (rightly so), I don’t think enough is said about her skills as a comedienne, which she exhibits here, holding her own against the very funny MacMahon.

While the laughs may be plenty in the film, the Great Depression is never far from the minds of the characters. The girls’ lack of funds (they must resort to stealing a bottle of milk from the neighbours for their breakfast) and their inability to find work is explained simply by Fay: "It's the Depression, dearie." When Barney tells them that the new show is “all about the Depression,” Carol responds, “We won’t have to rehearse that.” The big numbers that open and close the film are also Depression-themed. In the opening number, Ginger Rogers and a bevy of dancers clad in large coins sing about breadlines and Old Man Depression in the upbeat “We’re in the Money” (Rogers actually sings one verse in Pig Latin). “Remember My Forgotten Man, ” the closing number, is a more serious acknowledgement of the dire times. Featuring Carol as a woman of the streets who’s been abandoned by her man and the amazing Etta Moten, they sing about the man who went off to fight for his country (“You put a rifle in his hand; You sent him far away”) and is now forgotten. After soldiers are shown marching off to war to the cheers of a crowd, we see them wounded, marching in the rain (on stage no less), returning only to wind up in a bread line.

Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler are "Pettin' in the Park."

Even with the comedic moments and love affairs, Gold Diggers is above all a musical and this one goes all out with four lavish numbers choreographed and directed by Busby Berkeley. In addition to the “We’re in the Money” and “Remember My Forgotten Man” numbers, there’s the visually striking “The Shadow Waltz” in which dancers with neon-violins glow in the dark against a black backdrop, ultimately forming the shape of one giant violin. And then there’s the naughty “Pettin’ in the Park.” Sung by Brad and Polly, it features a bevy of girls with their beaus making out in Central Park (“First you pet a little, Let up a little, and then you get a little kiss.”) along with famed little person Billy Barty as a pervy baby who escapes from his carriage so he can ogle the girls. After the skies open up, the drenched girls come in from the rain to change behind back lit screens, allowing viewers ample glances of their naked silhouettes. They reemerge, wearing metal dresses, whose removal is quickly solved when the baby hands Brad a can opener.

There are many elements in Gold Diggers that would never have been allowed after the enforcement of the production code the following year. Along with the suggestive lyrics and staging of the girls in the above-mentioned number, there are sexual innuendos made throughout the film, some revealing shots of Blondell as she gets dressed, and even a scene where one of the male characters wakes up after a drunken night believing he’s slept with one of the girls. All of these things would have been censored. In fact, “Pettin’ in the Park” was later removed, left out of early prints for television.

The racy scenes and dialogue combined with the over-the-top musical numbers and comic antics make for one hell of a film and maybe one of the best films of 1933. 

08 March 2013

Be the Heroine

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”—Nora Ephron

Among the many words of advice that the wonderful Nora Ephron left us, these are perhaps my favourite. They're from a commencement address she gave to her alma mater, Wellesley College, in 1996 and are a powerful reminder to all women, not just graduating seniors, that we all need to take charge of our lives. It's a line that we should memorize and repeat to ourselves whenever we're faced with a challenge or even when we're just having a bad day and feel like throwing in the towel. In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend.

To read the full speech, go here. And to read a very moving piece by her son, Jacob Bernstein, go here.

07 March 2013


The Oyster Catcher, Mousehole, Cornwall. Photo: Unique Home Stays.

Recently I broke down and joined Pinterest. The reason I held out so long is I knew I would love it and that once I started, I would be going down the proverbial rabbit hole on a daily basis. I was right. I do love it and have already spent way too much time pinning images of Louise Brooks and homes I want to live in; the Oyster Catcher, a stone house in Mousehole, Cornwall (a village that I've actually visited and loved), is just one of many I've been admiring. Give me a couple of months and I'll probably have a board going on every esoteric subject I can think of. So for now on if I'm late posting new tales you'll know why—I'm busy picking out art deco furniture and gazing at glorious cakes over on Pinterest. 

To find me on Pinterest click here or on the Pinterest button on the sidebar. 

05 March 2013

Marie-Antoinette Treat

Sunday I was on the Upper East Side, which meant a stop at Ladurée. My normal go-to macarons are the caramel à la fleur de sel and pistache but this time round I had to branch out and try the Marie-Antoinette, a seasonal special. Coloured a Tiffany's blue, it's flavoured with Marie-Antoinette tea—a combination of rose petals, citrus, and honey. It was light and delightful. I also picked up a Les Merveilleuses box to add to my collection. It's a good thing that I don't live closer otherwise I think I'd spend a fortune there every month.

Photo: Michele 

04 March 2013

Grand Central Celebration

At 12:01 am on February 2, 1913, Grand Central Terminal (commonly referred to as Grand Central Station) officially opened its doors. Last month I stopped by for the official start of this year's celebration of the station's centennial.

Normally when I take the train, it’s Amtrak to Boston or Washington, DC, which leaves from the God-awful Penn Station. The place resembles a giant box of concrete and feels like a prison. In comparison, the Beaux-Arts designed Grand Central is a jewel of a train station. With a marble staircase based on the Paris Opera House, a famed opal and brass clock, and a ceiling painted with zodiac constellations and 2,500 stars by Paul Helleu, the station is a grand tribute to the age in which it was built.

After its opening, Grand Central became the busiest station in the country and an iconic image of the city. Yet time was not kind. Decades later the place was in decay, with rusting steel and its prized ceiling black from tobacco smoke. By 1975 plans were proposed for the station's demolition. In stepped Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who successfully led the charge along with other New Yorkers to save Grand Central. Finally in the 1990s, after extensive work, the station was restored to its former glory.

The celebrations  kicked off on February 1 with a re-dedication ceremony featuring special guest speakers like Caroline Kennedy and former Mets player Keith Hernandez. Throughout the day there were musical performances and dancing. Many of the station's vendors sold items for 1913 prices like a cup of coffee for $.05 or oysters for $.13 (I tried to grab a loaf of rye for $.06 but they had run out). I didn’t stay very long but it was nice to be reminded of the beauty that exists in this city and to be part of the celebration.

Other events are continuing throughout the year. For more information, visit here.

Photos by Michele.

01 March 2013

Hello March

Hello March. A very important month around here what with the official arrival of spring, Easter celebrations, and my birthday to look forward to. As for this weekend, I plan on taking in a triple feature at Film Forum (part of the 1933 series) and getting some much needed sleep. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Image from the New York Public Library.


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