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Monday, April 30, 2012

New York's Best Walking Trails

While much of what I write about New York requires a premium, there are several exceptional walks through our beautiful city which I highly recommend and come without a price tag.  Any walk in Central Park is enjoyable, but do take a jaunt around the reservoir (please no strollers or bikes) and venture into the magnificent conservancy on Fifth Avenue @ 105th.  There is a lovely walk along the Hudson River on the West Side, but I recommend commencing from the 60's and walking towards the George Washington Bridge to avoid the rogue bike riders.  If you make it up as far as the George Washington Bridge, I suggest you saunter over to the Jersey side (and then skedaddle back.)  The fairly new High Line is an ingenious addition to our city, providing a lovely stroll with a view of the Hudson surrounded by greenery and fascinating architecture.  Take some time to visit some of the galleries in the Chelsea area before or after.  Lastly, I would recommend walking around the lower East Village where there are plenty of interesting boutiques and cafes and great people watching.  I just want to let you tourists know that when you trod hand in hand you're like blood clots in the flow of our city.  But you tourists who take the bus tours around the city are just clods.  Hop off the bus and stretch those legs, it is priceless!

Wayne Shorter Quartet - Jazz @ Lincoln Center

Saturday night @ Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Wayne Shorter quartet played to a sold out house. Those of us who were fortunate to bag a ticket to this gig were privy to a living legend in the jazz world and his incredibly talented musicians.  Mr. Shorter who will be 89 this year, attended New York University while soaking up the Manhattan jazz scene.  Mr. Shorter has played along with other jazz greats such as John Coltrane, Maynard Ferguson and Miles Davis.  The entire program, played without intermission ran nearly 2 hours and was all Mr. Shorter's compositions and arrangements.  While Mr. Shorter did not have the full sound to his tenor sax, his soprano saxophone was resplendent.  Shorter allowed his gifted band members, Brian Blade on drums, John Patitucci on bass and Danilo Perez on piano to fully show off their musical talents.  The audience did not get any verbal exchange with the great Mr. Shorter, nor was it needed.  What we did receive was 2 hours of mesmerizing music and bragging rights for hearing a living legend in his 80's perform.  Jazz is one of the life's greatest celebrations, sound filled with impact and surprise.  "Jazz does not belong to one race or culture, but it is a gift that America has give the world," A. Alaadeen.  Jazz @ Lincoln Center is one of New York's great gifts to be treasured.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ailey II is Prime - (55th/9th)

"We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once." Nietzch - Last night's Ailey II dance program, MODERN MOVES, consisted of Echoes (2008), Boulevard (2006) and Reference Point (2011).  Echoes choreographed by Thang Dao, is ephemeral and poetry in motion; it took my breath away.  Mina Yoo's Boulevard is whimsical and energetic.  Ms. Yoo, an Isadora Duncan Dance Award recipient, was awarded a Korean Artists best choreography award for Boulevard.  The dancers dressed in jeans and t-shirts, evoke playground mischief and games with choreography that elevates play to a supreme art form.  The final piece Reference Point is choreographed by Troy Powell.  Ms. Sylvia Waters, Ailey II's Artistic Director, has been the driving force behind Ailey II since its inception nearly 40 years ago and will be passing the baton onto Mr. Powell. There are not enough accolades to bestow upon Ms. Waters for all that she has brought to Ailey and the world of dance.  Reference Point affirms the brilliant legacy of the Ailey II Dance Co. will continue to rein supreme.  The artistry and elegance of all the dancers is transcendent.  "To dance is to be out of yourself, larger, more beautiful, more powerful.  This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking." A. DeMille - Take yourself there immediately!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alan Gilbert conducts the New York Philharmonic

Wednesday night's program included Berlioz's Le Corsaire Overture, Mozart's Violin Concerto #3 with violinist Lisa Batiashvili and Debussy's The Sea, 3 symphonic sketches.  For me, the price of admission (only $42 for an orchestra seat) was worth it for the Mozart violin concerto alone; played elegantly by Ms. Batiashvili.  Besides being a bargain, the performance on Wednesday nights begin promptly @ 6:45PM with no intermission.  Not that I was in a rush, but it's a bonus to have the performance over by 8PM.  The NY Philharmonic @ Lincoln Center is one of the big apple's tastiest tidbits.  Even a jaded New Yorker like me, a.k.a. A Know it All, learned a great deal about the composers.  In addition to being a piano virtuoso, Mozart was an accomplished string player and a concertmaster in his native Salzburg.  Berlioz, a genius composer, never learned to play the piano.  His father sent his son to medical school in Paris where he dropped out and pursued musical studies instead.  Berlioz's Le Corsaire is not often performed yet it is packed with an exuberant spirit.  Debussy musical studies began only after serving time in prison for brawling.  Upon release he was steered to the Paris Conservatoire where his musical career began.  Needless to say, you don't have to be an Einstein in order to appreciate beautiful music.

BEST MAN gets my vote for BEST PLAY

Playwright Gore Vidal is one our country's most prolific and revered author/playwright.  I was curious if his revival of BEST MAN in our presidential election year would be prescient and relevant today. Having been written in the 1960's, James Earl Jones as the current President was a stroke of brilliant casting.  But other issues such as gays in the military or women's access to birth control are thankfully, dated and non sequitur issues today.  However, this luminous play is most definitely relevant because of the solipsistic mentality that has led to a winning at all costs society.  Bullying may be a the hot topic in schools today but let's not forget that "power is a weapon," and the fish stinks from the head down.  John Larroquette and Erick McCormick play rival candidates for their political parties nomination.  Mud slinging is the modus operandi for success, collateral damage be damned.  Their is redemption in Mr. Larroquette's resolve but it is painfully clear that "doing the right thing," is not the way to get ahead.  The acting is all 1st rate and it is a always a treat to have Mr. Jones & Ms. Lansbury light up the stage.  BEST MAN gets my vote(s) for Best Revival and is a must see experience for all thespian lovers. I also cast my vote for ejector seats for anyone whose cell phone goes off during the performance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Film "The Three Stooges"

I admit I was a fan of the original 3 Stooges when I was a kid.  Unfortunately, back then there wasn't a disclaimer attached:  "Don't try this at home kids."  While I found their literal "slapstick" humor to be fun, I learned the hard way in kindergarden that slapping other kids across the heads was not acceptable behavior and it didn't win me too many friends.  At least, I was able to practice their routines on my younger sisters at home: yuck yuck.  Now as a mature adult, I found myself laughing out loud to many of their antics, especially when Larry David, who plays a cranky nun, is the target for much of their physical shenanigans.  Kelly Lynch plays mother superior and Jennifer Holiday sings gospel which add more pleasure to the movie.  However, now as a mature adult the relentless eye poking and hammer head hitting did grow wearisome.  Fans of the original 3 Stooges will not be disappointed in the least by the actors playing Moe, Curly and Larry.  Take your kids and fear not, the Farrelly brothers will make a public service announcement at the end of the film that it is never okay to poke someone in the eye or hit anyone over the head.  The movie had me laughing which put me in such a good mood, it made me want to get together with both my sisters or at least bring their heads together.  YUCK YUCK YUCK

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Barnes & Noble Event, The Bully Society by Jessie Klein

I came to hear the author of The Bully Society, Dr. Jessie Klein, who said she wanted to address "the  epidemic of bullying for our generation."  Having seen the documentary BULLY which Klein called "painful to watch," I was looking for ways to build a kinder, gentler society.  What I heard from Dr. Klein who has her PhD. in Sociology and 20 years experience as a social worker & professor, is that our society has placed inherent pressures on our youngsters to overachieve, causing pent up frustration resulting in aggressive behavior.  Media was also blamed for creating gender pressures; males to be macho and girls to be princesses.  Dr. Klein claimed the average child today is "anxious," and believes in "success at any cost."  Children are not learning how to forge friendships and there is a vicious cycle of the bullied becoming the bully.  What I did NOT get from listening to Dr. Klein, were positive suggestions for teaching empathy or how to mitigate the cruelty that has become so prevalent.  I was disappointed not to come away with  positive steps or disciplinary measures.  I did however, come away with school supplies for my students @ EHT (shout out to students/staff @ East Harlem Tutorial,) and the 1st prize in the drawing, $500 gift certificate to EHT @ Barnes & Noble.  Thank you very much!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

16 Public Golf Courses in NYC - Surely You Jest

Don't believe me?  Go on line or let me save you the time.  There are 4 public courses in the Bronx, 2 in Brooklyn, 6 in Queens, 4 on Staten Island and last but not least 1 in Manhattan on Randell's Island.  Should you go on line, you'll find that NYC resident's pay for 9-18 holes, $18-$39; seniors and juniors (16 & under) rates start @ $7.75.  There is a $20 fee for your permit. This requires a photo I.D. and a copy of any public utility bill which can be presented at any of NYC's public courses.  They even provide power carts & reservations for a nominal fee, along with parking.  So as an avid golfer & NYC resident, what do I say to this, "Bah Humbug!"  I prefer to play @ Spook Rock Golf Course in Ramapo just over the G.W. bridge in NY State.  It has a beautiful 18 hole course with a large driving range & practice putting green.  The catch is, if you don't live in Ramapo (even though you live in NY) your rate is $65 vs. $26 for Ramapo residents.  I asked the charming starter, why do us city slickers get penalized for playing here, I told him he could come into the city & I wouldn't charge him to play in central park.  I got a nice laugh from him but no dice on the discount.  Any chance of a discount now that I've given you & your legendary golf course a plug?  I'm not kidding - "No?"  Bah Humbug!

The KNICKS could not cool off the HEAT

The Knicks never controlled of the game.  The 1st 1/4 was all Miami; we trailed by 11.  By 1/2 time we pulled within a basket.  The 1/2 time entertainment consisted of a Chinese acrobat who rode on a high unicycle and flipped bowls on top of her head; something i've never seen before, nor need to again.  Bring out the cute Knick City Kid Dancers - the next generation of Knick City Dancers for entertainment.  And, let someone lucky fan try to win $1,000 & possibly a car by shooting free throws.  The fan did earn $1,000 by making 5 free throws but his mid court shot for the car was a dud.  Speaking of free throws, that is what the coach is going to make the team work on, they shot 58% from the line.  The 3rd period the Knicks came alive and finally had some leads, though never more than 3 points.  Carmello & J.R. Smith brought the fans to their feet but the 4th period belonged to the Heat.  Cleveland is still crying over Lebron James who wowed even the Knicks fans and Duane Wade was awesome under the basket.  Come on Knicks, small ball wins games.  Novak, my hometown player, you played better against the Bucks. Knicks, too many turnovers & lot of your shots were just not falling in.  Let's go Knicks.  We want a playoff spot.  But thanks for the orange Knicks T-shirts and Jeremy Lin, you looked hot in your suit & tie.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Play Tribes -"wanna be like you hoo, talk like you, walk like you

Tribes is an intelligent, compelling new play by Nina Raine @ the Barrow Street Theatre.  It has the common theme of family dysfunction, (as in Other Desert Cities) with a pompous, self-absorbed father, an overbearing mother and 3 grown children who have not yet flown the coop.  One of the two sons, Billy, is deaf.  Most scenes revolve around hostile bantering at the dining table while benevolent Billy, tries or not, to become part of the conversation.  His parents raised him to read lips and not learn sign language to assimilate him in the hearing world.  Billy soon meets Sylvia, a child of two deaf parents who signs but is soon to lose her hearing.  Billy is smitten with both Sylvia and her deaf social of friends.  He quickly picks up sign language and happily gains acceptance within Sylvia's tribe of deaf friends.  Billy brings Sylvia home to meet his family and informs them, through Sylvia's voice while he signs, he will no longer speak to them until they learn to sign. As Billy points out, his father is learning Chinese.  Sylvia is rapidly losing her hearing and assures Billy's family, "being deaf is a handicap."  Which raises the question, is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved?  The point being, one has the right to grieve for that which is lost.  Sylvia knows all too well what she is soon to forego.  Friends and family need to respect this grief and not minimize it.  Music plays a vital role in this play, a gift not shared by the deaf. The song from the Jungle Book, "I wanna be like you hoo...is poignantly played at intermission.  This play demands to be seen and heard.  Everyone wants to fit in and everyone should see this play.

Friday, April 13, 2012

NEW JULLIARD ENSEMBLE or NEW MUSIC

Last night @ Alice Tully Hall, the NEW JULLIARD ENSEMBLE performed 5 orchestral pieces; 2 World premiers and 3 Western Hemisphere premiers.  The composers, were from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Holland and Poland.  All 5 composers are contemporary; 2 of whom are in their twenties.  Three of the composers were present and acknowledge in the audience following their compositions.  While all pieces were orchestral, the nomenclature for this style of music in our 21st Century is not classical, but "NEW MUSIC," as stated in the program.  There was a similar theme among all the piece a "concept of space," rather than music "defined as an art of time."  Hmmm...Well, Toshi Ichiyanagi whose piece, BETWEEN SPACE & TIME, explained, "I wanted to try to exploit the space concept and to strengthen the time element."  Sun-Young Park stated, "Most Korean music is quite spare and in a way spatial."  The use of pauses and lack of a discernible melody were prevalent.  There were also a plethora of percussion instruments used, including cow bells.  As Will Ferrell always says, more cow bells!  To be able to hear these new and exciting pieces for the 1st time was a privilege.  The only problem with space were the many empty seats in the house.  Tickets are free, and to quote my grandmother, "What is wrong with you people!"

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The film "Damsels in Distress" is hard to digest

There are many fan's of Whit Stillman's movies:  Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco.  I however, am not one of them.  The inane plot revolves around 4 female roommates at a formerly women's only college who find the male student body inane and malodorous.  Their self-proclaimed mission is to impugn the hygiene of the male student body, prevent student suicide and create a new dance craze.  The ring leader of the pack, Violet, becomes seriously depressed herself or as she likes to call it, "in a tailspin," after a recent break-up.  The dialogue is preposterously precocious.  In one of their many bedtime talks, one roommate drones on relentlessly utilizing the word precocity twice in one sentence only to realize that two of her roomies have fallen off to sleep, leaving only Violet, the depressed, self-proclaimed insane bunkmate up begging her to continue...
Exactly!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sylvie Guillem 6,000 miles away @ Lincoln Center

L'toile of France performed @ the Koch theatre and lit up the stage.  Ms. Guillem's dancing left no doubt as to why she is one of the world's most revered and decorated dancers.  Her artistry and technique deserve the highest of accolades.  C'est incroyable given that Ms. Guillem is nearing 50.  The program started with Rearray, a pas de deux with Guillem and Murru.  The Choreography was by William Forsythe.  Unfortunately, his lighting distracted from his dance with too many black outs and pauses.  27'52" was a hostile and aggressive dance by Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian. Both the male and female dancer tormented each other but in the end one could not live without the other.  The piece d'resistance was the  solo piece performed by Ms. Guillem and choreographed by Mats Ek of Sweden.  Ek collaborated with filmographer Elias Benxon for a visual effect that was witty, mystifying and totally captivating. Dance is the body's expression of joy and awe.  Tonight's performances were the pinnacle of artistic expression.  My only pithy complaint is that taped rather than live music accompanied the program.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Juilliard Dances Repertory 2012

The Julliard Modern Dance performances were held at the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, March 28-31st.  The choreographers were Jose Limon, from Mexico, Nacho Duato from Spain and Ohad Naharin from Israel.   Mr. Limon who passed away in 1972.  His dance, the Waldstein Sonata, was completed posthumously by Daniel Lewis.  The Waldstein Sonata was the only piece accompanied with live music.  Pianist Yuxi Qin played Beethoven's Sonata #21.  Unfortunately, the pianist was the highlight of Limon's choreography.  Perhaps, that is why Limon left this piece unfinished.  Both Duato's Gnawa and Naharin's Secus made Limon's piece appear both dated and dull by comparison.  I enjoyed the dancing in Gnawa despite some hokey trappings of lit candles and a water/animal soundtrack.  Naharin's choreography was like nothing I have ever seen before.  I wouldn't know how to describe the infinitely varied movements and dance steps.  The only repetitive gait was a stoic march on and off the stage.  The dancers shifted their clothing to pose and display parts of their bodies, proclaiming dance is the art form which utilizes the body as its instrument with endless, creative possibilities.  I didn't want the dancing to end.  I'm betting the Julliard student's dancing careers are only just beginning.

the documentary film "BULLY" with a red slash through BULLY

This heartbreaking movie is essential viewing for all middle schoolers and up, their parents and school administrators.  Alex, a benevolent boy of 12 in Sioux City, admits to having large "fish lips," and no friends.  Alex is subjected to pencil stabbings, punches & non-stop verbal insults on the bus ride to/from school.  His attacks are captured on video.  No one come to his defense,  yet there is encouragement for  the bullies while the cameras are rolling.  How sad for Alex and tragic that our society has become inured to being filmed, no matter what the behavior.  Kelby, a 16 year girl from Tuttle, OK, is shunned along with her family, by her church and classmates when she comes out as a lesbian.  Ja Meya, 14, endured relentless abuse from her classmates until pushed to her breaking. She brandishes a gun on the bus in recourse.  Several vital messages are to be taken from this film.  The first is to encourage everyone to stand up against bullying.  Secondly, victims of bullying often resort to violent retaliation or suicide.  As the father of Tye, who killed himself at age ll says, "I will be my son's voice to speak out against bullying, but Tye will always remain 11." Lastly, people are capable of change, as Tye's only friend says, "I used to be a bully myself in 2nd grade until I got to third grade and realized what a jerk I was."

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Friends with Kids" - or Friends with Benefits

In this hilarious and touching comedy, two long time best friends who maintain a platonic relationship, decide to have a child together (the old fashioned way,) without the ties of couple-hood and split the expense & work 50:50.  The audience is geared for: chicks 30 and over (which just puts me into that category.)  However, guys, if you're looking for brownie points, or get dragged to the film, there is plenty for you to enjoy, but maybe not 50:50.  First, the ensemble cast brings together many from the Bridesmaids cast, including Kristin Wig, Maya Rudolph, Cris O'Dowd and Jon Hamm.  The female lead is winningly played by the talented actress and screenwriter, Jennifer Westfield, who also directs on this film.  The couple pairings are skewed from those in Bridesmaids.  Maya Rudolph is married with kids to Cris O'Dowd and Kristin Wig and Jon Hamm are happily and then very unhappily married with kids.  In real life, Jennifer Westfield and Jon Hamm have been a long time couple (at least by Hollywood standards - maybe because they do not have kids.)   Although this is a familiar scenario: best friends of opposite sex take too long to figure out what the audience already knows, that they are perfect for each other.  This time, however, the scenario balances humor, angst and love with perfect proportions.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Say it ain't so Joe - Is Linsanity Over?

Oh no!! Did it have to be you?  Jeremy, the loss of coach Dantoni was no loss, but YOU; boo hoo. Just when the getting was going & the team was pulling as a team & we Knick fans had something to crow about, you go and blow your knee out.  Is there anything I can do?  Bring you flowers, books or brownies to speed up your recovery?  Just let me know where, meantime, hurry-up and come back, you're not the only one majorly disappointed.  We're not ready for the Linsanity to end.