Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to friends all over the world!

Though it has nothing to do with the New Year, here are two views of a recent afternoon at MoMA...

Monday, December 27, 2010

The magic (before the nightmare)

I've got to confess I don't like snow. I don't mind the verb (as in snowing), which is beautiful, but the noun, trust me, it's an ugly thing. Well almost, most of the time, but not always. Snow, the noun, retains some of the magic of the verb for the first few hours of its life...

Harmony in gold and white (or as it happened)

Central Park: the morning after


Friday, December 24, 2010

New York: Here and somewhere

Yesterday was my first full day back in New York. I'm not counting the previous day because I managed to sleep half of that (a one-shot cure to jet lag as it turned out). I was itching to do something - perhaps go to the cinema or even the opera - and so I did.

I began with Somewhere, which I had been excited to see since Lola's preview from the Venice Film Festival. It is one of those films that I have enjoyed thinking back on even more than I enjoyed watching it.  Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it in the cinema. In real time viewing I enjoyed the hazy Southern California light evoked beautifully by Coppola and cinematographer Harris Savides. I enjoyed how the shots were framed, as if by a curious, sympathetic, slightly-too-insistent observer. The first time around it was really about a mood, a slowly evolving feeling -- malaise stretching into unease, into perhaps a ray of hope. But then thinking back on it (which is my "second viewing"), behind the seemingly lazy amble of scenes and episodes there was more purpose than chance. And the eye / camera really stays in the mind as the main character in the film: not only what is observed, but how long, which how much attention, from what angle, in what light. In this the film reminds me a bit of Antonioni (many thanks to Tony Scott for making this connection). And I'm sure a real second viewing would be very rewarding.

Then I went off to the opera, which turned out to be a perfect pairing with the film: Pélleas et Mélisande by Debussy. It's also more about a feeling than very much happening (at least for much of the opera, by the end there's a murder, a birth, and a death -- after all it is opera). The orchestra takes us through a subtle, evolving shade of feelings, like a dark grotto lit up by reflections and refractions from the water. There are ambiguities, elisions, uncertainties, all of which the orchestra traverses steadily and mysteriously. The spoken and sung words never resolve anything; they only magnify and punctuate feelings. And when things happen - and they do - they too aren't climaxes or resolutions, only knots in the wood. And making the connection to film, Mélisande seems like a precursor to the impossible enigmatic heroines of French film: she never answers a question directly, doesn't hesitate to lie, causes men to fall in love, falls in love herself, all without really saying what she means. Yet she is irresistible in her shifting ambiguity.

Just to bring some certainty to my day, I ate a slice of pizza on the way home - a glorious, non-gourmet, stomach-filling New York slice. I've "known" the man behind the register for years -- we recognize each other, and he has seen me in every possible situation: with friends, parents, friends, exes, hungry, angry, funny, sad, silly, drunk, sober.... But after these two subtle works of art in one day, I felt wonderfully in balance, and of course so happy to be back in New York.

Wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Years. Wherever you are, I hope you are with family, friends, loved ones, and surrounded by joy and beauty.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A life without Blogger, Facebook, and Google

A bit like that Christmastime classic, It's a Wonderful Life, one sometimes wonders what life would be like if some small, seemingly inconsequential detail were changed. What, for example, would life be like without Blogger, Facebook, and Google?

I got to run this little experiment during my week in China, since these three sites are blocked there. The middle of three seems the easiest to do without. After all, you can still e-mail your friends. The last was a handicap certainly. And the first -- outright painful! Yes, dear friends, I missed you all! And not only that, but I missed myself, if you know what I mean (and I know you all do): the act of writing is not only expression, but also creation. Describing what we see or feel, our musings, helps them take shape, forces a cloud of possibilities and probabilities to condense into a particular form.

Hope you are all easing into the holidays nicely. Look forward to catching up on some missed blog reading and writing soon!



Changed planes in SF yesterday. This was the view. Almost makes an 11 hour flight worthwhile!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lisztomana or Lost in Translation

I feel like one of the characters in Lost in Translation. One - which one -  perhaps both.

I am sitting in the airport in Hong Kong. I got up at 3.30 am today, without an alarm, left the friends with whom I was staying [I added an extra day to my work trip so I could walk around a little - the office generously expropriated only half of my day off] by 5 am, only to discover at the airport that my flight was canceled and I had to wait until noon.

I talked my way into the pre-flight lounge and found myself pondering the following after my second cup of coffee:
  • What do the lyrics of Lisztomania really mean?
  • Is it wrong to drink before noon 7 am? (And I don't mean when you've stayed up all night - in that case if you are still capable of drinking then I think you've earned it.) This is one of those moments where I wish I were standing at the bar in some small town in Italy in December where the old men don't doubt the good sense of getting a shot of grappa in their espresso.
  • What does it all mean? No, I don't mean life, but I mean my Google and Blogger tabs which have all kindly been translated into Chinese for me.
A few postcards from the last few days. Hope you're easing into the holidays. A few more days for me and then home!



Monday, December 13, 2010

New York Remembered

One of the reasons I enjoy taking pictures in New York is that (almost) no matter where the lens points it finds something that looks instantly timeless, New York remembered as it always was and always will be. This is probably because even for those of us who live here we are more used to remembering New York through just such images.

Sitting here in Hong Kong (pictures certainly to follow!) here is the New York I remember (from last week and from always)...



Saturday, December 11, 2010

Home away from home

I know I've written about this before, but I am still always taken by it. You get on a plane, fly 7 hours, and then fly 14 hours more. You are disoriented. Sleep not enough or too much. You wake up dehydrated and with a headache. Feeling a little displaced. And you crack open your computer... and you feel at home right away. Is it beautiful, this modern virtual existence of ours, where our friends are online and where the the desktop is the home?

Yes, and a little sad as well. Because as much as these images and words bridge time and space, and as much as I believe that oldest virtual world and connection of all (ideas and images which we hold in our mind) do the same, there is no substitute for local living.



Not sure why I love the grime and decay of New York, but I do.

Hang on Emmy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

On the road, BB edition


I am back on the road for the next days. In some ways exciting (frequent flier miles - attempted exclamation point), in other ways not (14 hours sitting in a middle seat anyone?)

Being more flugelbindery than personal, this trip may not lead to many exciting posts, but it will lead to me being back, and more posts in that sense (if this makes sense - no it does not).

So wish you all a great week or 10 days. Will try to post from the road, but if not, then see you very soon.



Friday, December 3, 2010

Super sad true love story

Every returning New Yorker asks the question: Is this still my city?

I have a ready answer, cloaked in obstinate despair: It is.

And if it's not, I will love it all the more. I will love it to the point where it becomes mine again.

*           *             *

We were walking hand in hand now along the vast grassy Sheep Meadow, which felt comfortable and familial, like a worn rumpus-room carpet or a badly made bed. Beyond it, on three sides, lay the constellation of once-tall buildings, the old ones mansard-topped and stoic, the new ones covered with blinking information.

*           *             *

Gray clouds bearing some kind of industrial remnant moved into the foreground; a yellow substance etched itself into the horizon, became the horizon, became the night. As the sky darkened, we found ourselves enclosed on three sides by the excess of our civilization, yet the ground beneath our feet was soft and green, and behind us lay a hill bearing trees as small as ponies. We walked in silence...

*           *             *

It was time to leave. We headed south, and when the trees ran out the park handed us over to the city. We surrendered to a skyscraper with a green mansard roof and two stark chimneys. New York exploded all around us, people hawking, buying, demanding, streaming. The city's density caught me unprepared, and I reeled from its imposition, its alcoholic fumes, its hubris, its loud, dying wealth....

-- from Super sad true love story: a novel, by Gary Shteyngart

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