Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunday in the Sun

Yesterday Cory and I met Rashmi, Mark and Michele out at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow for the practice day before the tournament started today. It was a beautiful day, though a hot one, and we had a a great time running around the grounds, watching some top players and doing some stargazing.

One of the highlights for me was seeing one of my personal tennis heroes out of retirement and in action (at least for the moment.)

Yup, that's Johnny Mac himself, whacking a serve. He was playing an informal game with some guy nobody seemed able to recognize. I'm thinking maybe a contest winner, silent auction for charity, something like that. The guy was pretty good too, but what a treat to see one of the guys who got me really into tennis in the first place.

We moved over to the Louis Armstrong stadium and saw Dinara Safina hitting with Carla Suarez Navarro.

It was just practice, of course, but that's the number one women's tennis player in the world and we were there on a beautiful day watching her for free. Pretty rad.

I like this shot a lot. [As usual, clicking on these shots lets you see a bigger, more detailed image. I recommend it.]

And over on the practice courts there was some guy who really grabbed Rashmi and Michele's attention:

Ok, ok, he's not just 'some guy.' That's Marat Safin, Dinara's older bro, and a former U.S. Open Champion and World Number One himself, walking onto the court with his hitting partner. I guess for some reason certain people find him sort of watchable, because there were some fans tucked into a little corner where there was a gap in the hedge bordering the practice courts, and a whole group of fans crowded up to the top of the bleachers for court 4 that let you peek over that hedge.

I eventually got tired of slipping on all the drool that was collecting on those bleachers and wandered around the compound on my own a little.

Fun way to spend a Sunday. Thanks to Rashmi for the invitation!

Food and Where It Comes From

As I was browsing the papers on the internets, I was drawn to this Op-Ed from the Times. Guess it makes sense that as I ramp up for my trip out to visit the remnants of the family farm I'd be susceptible for articles about food and farming.

If Americans want their fish pre-filleted, their chicken breasts excised from surrounding bone and conveniently packed, their offal kept from view and the table,and any hand that touches a slice of ham or lox sealed inside a glove, it is because fear of the innards that will not speak their name, the guts that reek of life, and the germs we all carry has become rampant.

Not sure that I buy the whole nationalist perspective of Cohen's piece (there are Americans who take a holistic view of food and aren't freaked out by its origins) but he is certainly on to something in terms of the cultural approach to what one eats and how the consequences ripple out from that approach. He also left an important point UNmade in terms of the antibiotics, hormones, feed and conditions used in the raising of animals in Agribusiness farms (again, common to America, but not exclusively American.)

Anyway, I'm very psyched about our trip to the farm located in the heart of Little Norway, (although in addition to Norwegian my family is made up of a typically "American" mix of ethnicities: German, Scottish, and even the dreaded French.) I'll surely have pix to share when we get back from that little reunion...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More Adventures in Video

Perhaps you enjoy the music of the Beatles.

It's possible that you harbor some fondness for the Muppets and their Show.

Maybe, just maybe, you like BOTH of those pop culture touchstones.

If so, look no further. The good people at Saturday Morning Central have put together a collection of the Muppets covering Beatles tunes on their TV show. Well worth a click.

The Rumors are True

Bob Dylan will be releasing a Christmas Album this year.

There are skeptics, and they have plenty to say, I'm sure. My attitude toward that (said it before, I'll say it again): Dylan's musicianship is singular, and off the charts. If you listen, you'll probably get it. If you sneer dismissively, you probably won't. No matter what you do, I can't make you get it.

So, maybe you'll be excited to hear the singing cowboy strum his way through "Here Comes Santa Claus" and "Little Drummer Boy," and maybe you won't. It comes out on October 13, which is too early for a holiday record, in my opinion, but all Dylan's royalties are going to Feeding America (and he's also partnering with international hunger relief groups) so if the Columbus Day release helps that cause, I guess it's ok. I guess.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fun with Health Care Policy

Had enough of the Health Care "Reform" debate? Hope not, because it would seem that it's nowhere near being resolved.

Glenn Greenwald published a pretty good piece on Sunday.

...The co-op plan which Daschle is advocating to Obama and which the White House and Senate Democrats are now leaning towards "happens to dovetail with the interests of many [Daschle's] clients, like the insurance giant UnitedHealth and the Tennessee Hospital Association." What a weird coincidence; it's like those companies won a Bingo game (can you believe our number happened to get called?!? what awesome luck we have).

That's why there's such fervent demands (sic) for a "public option" -- because it's the only thing that can keep costs low and thus prevent this bill from being nothing more than a glorified bailout of the insurance and drug industries, which is exactly what will happen if 50 million people are forced by law to buy their products with no cost-control mechanism but ample government subsidies. Yet still, the prevailing Beltway narrative continues to be that it's those loser fringe Leftists who are impeding true reform by demanding a "public option."

That's just a taste. Go ahead and read the piece. He makes good points about political language: how "Getting Things Done" can usually be equated with acting in the interests of big business.(and, unsurprisingly, the business-dominated media embraces that equation)

Try to bear in mind that opportunities lost are only worth remembering if they represent lessons learned. We can lament that the administration didn't frame this debate with a single player plan as a more loudly-stated goal, thus allowing them to accept the public option as the compromise (which it is). But the more important question is: what's next?

Visiting Hoosiers

My friend Tim was in the city from Indiana for a theater conference, and he brought two of his daughters along with him.

Here's Keri Lynn

And here's Lauren.

I got out of work early one afternoon to show these two around a bit. It was HOT that day, but we covered ground like troopers. Met them in Herald Square, took them through Macy's (hey, it's kind of a big deal for some people. And there are those fun wooden escalators.) Then we got on a subway and went down to Canal Street to shop for souveniers for their family and stroll through Chinatown. Gave them an unintended "real New York moment" by needing to fight with a vendor over a refund (turned out fine.) Then more walking, through Little Italy and the Bowery over to the Lower East Side, where we went to Economy Candy for some vintage fun and goodies for their littlest siblings, and then a quick stop at the Tenament Museum and super yumminess Laboratorio Del Gelato. Then even yet still more walking, back to Little Italy to meet with Tim and one of his friends for some really good pizza.

And that was just one of their afternoons. They'd also hit the 'boken, and done the TKTS booth, and seen In The Heights, and walked around Hell's Kitchen with Cory and me, and gone out for other great meals. We like to take care of our visitors, especially when they're as great as these guys.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Purple Rain, etc.

Cory and I met with a friend who was in from Western Mass (she lives in one of the smaller towns in the Berkshires; I can't remember the name right now) who had been to the Purple Rain singalong screening at Mass MoCA. She had a fantastic time (as much from making fun of the movie's sexism as anything else) but said that there wasn't much of a turnout. Which kind of broke my heart a little bit.

So I wanted to have a private singalong screening at Cory's place (Cory never having seen this movie, much to my shock), and I went to the video store in her neighborhood to get the DVD. I asked the clerk where the musical videos were and she said "We don't really have a musical section - what movie are you looking for?" Putting aside my disbelief that there would be no musical section in a video store (in Chelsea yet!) I told her Purple Rain, and she went off to search for it on the computer.

She came back in a few minutes with a puzzled expression on her face. "This musical, is it, like, a drama musical?"

She had never heard of Purple Rain. I once again swallowed back my disbelief and said "It's Prince!" Fortunately, she had heard of Prince. Not that that helped much, except to restore a very small fragment of my faith in humanity.

File under "Fame is Fleeting"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Somerville Eats

UPDATE - Steve set me straight on the name of the restaurant we went to in Union Square, Somerville. It was the Highland Kitchen, and it was a fine meal indeed. Bitchen mussels, a curried goat stew that was delicious, if a little oily. The waiter was a little clueless (he went a little over the top warning me about the spiciness of the stew, and when I asked him if the goat was grass-fed and humanely raised, he was all "Uhh... sure! yeah!"), but not bad. The bartender was fab: I had a stellar cocktail that was similar to a Manhattan, but was made with rye and cynar. Really good beers on tap too. Didn't take much of a look at the wine list, but I think it'd be safe wager that there's some good vino on there.

Anyway, if you're thinking about a Boston trip, the Highland would be a worthy stop for dinner.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Vineyard

Monday, I had to choose between getting up at dawn and making a ferry at 9, or sleeping in a bit and catching a boat at 2. Given the night we had on Sunday, it wasn't a particularly hard choice. Teeny bit of drama in Woods Hole when the main parking lot was full and I had to go to an alternate lot, but I caught the shuttle to the ferry to the island just in time to make the 2 o'clock departure for Vineyard Haven.

That first afternoon, after a delicious lunch courtesy of SaraJane, we drove to Edgartown and had a good walk on and around the main strip. Got some really good iced coffee, and headed to the coast.

The 'On Time' Ferries to and from Chappaquiddick, passing in the canal. (They go back and forth pretty much constantly, so timeliness would seem to be a fairly manageable factor.)

Isabella and Madeleine watching the ferries.

A lighthouse near where SaraJane got married.

The kids had a bunch of fun playing near that lighthouse (and during the whole downtown venture.) You can't really tell, but this photo shows Isabella during one of their favorite games du jour: throwing around a teddy bear. The bear did not seem to mind.

Fish tacos and good wine for supper. The next day, SJ, Cory, Madeleine and I took a jeep to one of the beaches where you can, well, drive a jeep on the beach.

This, it must be said, was tremendously fun.

I'd never gone four-wheeling before, and there aren't any photos because, well, I was in the jeep. We all took turns driving - too inexperienced to do anything fancy, especially given that we had a 2 1/2 year-old with us, but still - way fun.

Here's one of my favorite shots from the trip: Madeleine in all her beachy glory.

The rest of the trip was full of lots of the kinds of things you'd associate with Martha's Vineyard: farmers' market, Boggle and Scrabble, more good food and wine (I made a lobster feast one night), more time on the beach, in Chappaquiddick this time, ice cream and iced coffee, blowing bubbles on the deck.

It was a pretty estrogen-y household: 6 gals, ages 10 months to 41 years, 5 of them related to each other, and me. It's been said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Now, I don't hold much truck with that proposition, but if we grant it for the sake of argument, I'd like to think I speak Venusian as well as the next guy, and better than most. But even for me, this was a lot of chick energy. This is not a complaint! It was a great vacation. In fact, it was kind of wonderful - exactly the thing for a long summer weekend.

We also took a walk through a quaint and well turned-out town square, ending up at one of Madeleine's favorite places of all: the Flying Horses carousel.

Here we are getting ready to ride. It was fun - very old school. There's a spot inside and one outside where the riders try to pluck rings off the wall. Now I'm not saying that I was the best at that game or anything, but only one person on each side of the carousel gets the coveted brass ring that wins you a free ride, and guess who grabbed it on the outside?

No, I didn't keep the free ride for myself! I gave it to Madeleine, of course.

Given the opportunity, what wouldn't you do for this one?


My friends Sue & Steve had just moved in to their new apartment in Somerville the week before I visited them. It was super-exciting, as it's a great place, lots of space and light, beautiful woodwork typical of those robust Boston houses.

If you're thinking of moving to Boston (you know who you are) you could do a lot worse than Somerville - it's on the T Red Line, and they'll be extending the Green Line there too before long. Great neighborhoods: lots of life but not too crowded, some really good restaurants and plenty of good pubs and bars. Don't know anything about the school system, but I dare say that's easily found out. I'm just sayin'.

At any rate, I drove to Somerville on Sunday, the morning after the Bang on a Can Marathon, and after getting the lay of the land with Sue and Steve, we picked up Laura for brunch. Afterward, I lent Laura my car Lola so she could get back to work without taking a cab, and join us for a nitecap at the end of the evening. Then we watched the end of the Red Sox game and took a walk around a couple neighborhoods before meeting Robin for a drink and some dinner. Robin is a great old friend that I've seen far too little of in recent years: he's now a nurse with three (count 'em, three) kids, and doing better than ever. He has begun a tradition for himself of having his children write their names in magic marker on their 5th birthday, and having the signatures tattooed on his arm. He's got one so far - the other two will come as they learn how to write and turn 5. Pretty cool.

We had a great dinner at a place whose name I can't remember. Then we went back to the new House to wrap up the night. As it happened, rather than showing up for an end-of-evening revel, Laura called to say that Lola wouldn't start. I have the habit of turning the lights on when I drive, even in the daytime, because it makes the car more visible. And Laura isn't in the habit of driving at all, and didn't take note of the lights when she parked on a sun-soaked road. Soooooooo, Sue and Steve and I piled into one of their cars and drove over to Bay State Road to give Lola a jump. Fortunately, she started up right away, so we didn't have to deal with buying a new battery first thing Monday morning or anything like that.
That little wrench in the evening out of the way, we said good night to Laura (who wasn't up for coming back to Somerville at that point) and drove back, found parking (not a small task at that time of night) and let our very small party tick away on the pegs of a cribbage board. We finished up with Sue and Steve singing some of the new songs they've written for My Own Worst Enemy - see them at the Cantab if you're around.

Next morning was my trip to the Vineyard... good material for the next post.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Massachusetts Trip

Those of you who've been keeping score at home might remark along the lines of "Ummm... wasn't that trip like two weekends ago?" Well, yes it was, but I've been busy, and away from my apartment/computer/camera a lot lately. Leave me alone.

Here, finally, is the first installment from my New England Whirlwind. Most of today's post will be devoted to the trip Kevin, Max and I took to the farm/petting zoo.

Max really liked the goats.

He wasn't so interested in the piggies, but Kevin and I were impressed.

You can get a sense of how stunning the day was; it had rained buckets the day before. So much so that they had closed roads for flooding, and I still had to drive Lola through a pond of a puddle.

We all loved meeting this calf. Not a newborn the way some of the animals were, but fun for Max to say hello.


The whole time I was in Williamstown/North Adams was fantastic. SO much fun getting to know the little man, and see him interact with his folks and everybody else (including the animals).

And of course we got to go to Mass MoCA for the Bang on a Can marathon. Which was awesome, natch. The Sol LeWitt retrospective was brilliant too. But you'd better hurry if you want to see that: it'll only be in Mass MoCA for another... 24 years.

I'll leave you with a shot of lilies and shadows from the side of Sue & Kevin's house.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back, Kind of

Yes, I have been on a bit of a hiatus. I couldn't blog until the Red Sox finally won a game. (Thank you, Detroit.)

So, perhaps you've heard that David Ortiz has been directly implicated in the steroid scandal. Sigh... Even though you know most of my opinions on this steroid business, this is sad news. Papi has been such a goodwill ambassador for baseball, no one wants to see him tarnished (well, short of a bunch of cold-hearted ogres, I suppose.)

Still, in the wake of it all, some cooler voices are prevailing. One of my faves comes from the Times (Thank you, Bob Costas):

"Texas didn’t win anything during that period of time, and it’s pretty clear that Texas might have led the league in massive steroid use."

We still love you, Papi. And thanks for the RBI last night. We'll even overlook that crazy baserunning error. Especially if you start hitting again...

I'll post some images from the trip to Massachusetts soon, as well as a couple from my friends' visit to NYC this week. Just need to have the stars line up a bit...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Holiday Music News

Yes, I'm back from New England. And I'll have more to share once I'm a little more caught up, but for now - this post is for everyone, but especially for those near and dear to the 'boken.

Firstly, it has been reported in American and British music press that Bob Dylan may be releasing a Christmas Album. Consider the subject open for discussion.

Secondly, and this is the part for Hobokenites, and those who love them, Yo La Tengo will not be doing Hanukkah shows this year, because they'll be in Japan. Very sad news for us who aren't, you know, actually in the band, but a pretty cool reason for it, I must say. Their ONE show this fall/winter in the greater Big Apple Metropolitan Area will be at Roseland on Sept. 25, and all but general admission is already sold out.

Don't say nobody warned you.

Re. the one-night-only aspect of it all, Ira writes: "We'll do our best to cram eight nights of nonsense into one evening. After all, Anson Williams only turns 60 once, so you know we're going to pull out all the stops."