Translation from English

Saturday, December 26, 2009

34th Street Shop Window

Just happened that this shop window, with all its jewelry and seashells etc. caught my eye on 34th Street...

This window is no big deal as Manhattan store windows go- -this city must have some of the best window -dressers in the world-- but I just found this one intriguingly different.

Will be looking now around the neighborhood for oddities and places that just interest me...they don't have to be "important" places.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cities Forced to Cancel Christmas | Lifestyle | Mainstreet

Cities Forced to Cancel Christmas | Lifestyle | Mainstreet

This is link to internet article about drastic measures taken in Chicago etc. to cut down the cost of Xmas celebrations-- budgets are tight this year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

American Academy of Dramatic Arts

Over at 120 Madison Avenue is the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, which claims to be the oldest acting school in the country ( or is it the whole English speaking world? Have to check the Wikipedia article again-- )

The building is the landmark Colony Club, designed by Stanford White. the Academy also has a school in Hollywood, on the site of the old Charlie Chaplin Studios.

There is an impressive list of alums in the Wikipedia article-- includes Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Diana Barrymore, John Cassavetes and all kinds of names you have heard of or maybe not. It doesn't say whether these people graduated with any kind of degree, only that they attended the place.

I knew the building was the old Colony Club but it wasn't until very recently that I learned it was also this Drama Academy.

New York has all sorts of places to study acting, notably the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU ( where my friend Cecil Mackinnon teaches). I wonder how well graduates of these places do on the whole...guess it's still true that it is such a competitive profession that there is still " a broken heart for every light on Broadway."

The American Academy of Dramatic Arts is celebrating its 125th year of operation in 2009.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mild December Day- What are these flowers?

It's December 4 and some hardly flowers are still blooming...what are these red flowers on Third Avenue and 37th Sreet?

Meanwhile, water project has been finished and you can now see Third Avenue...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Blind Side: Hollywood for the Holidays

I usually balk at happy-ending Hollywood concoctions, but "The Blind Side" is a nice story, told with a great deal of humor, and its uplifting qualities didn't put me off at all.

Sandra Bullock dominates this film, this is her movie-- as the believing Christian who tries and succeeds in turning a young rather hopeless black boy's life around.

Some people have complained that the movie is too much about her character to the detriment of everything else, but that didn't bother me--- nor did the happy ending. Also, I was relieved they didn't make a big deal of her religious beliefs.

The cast is uniformly good and includes Cathy Bates as an eccentric tutor ( you will remember her from "Misery") plus Tim McGraw as Sandra Bullock's husband. The violence in the story is all organic to the plot and is not overdone. Nice job of movie-making for the holidays!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November Song- November 15, 2009

We find ourselves at mid-November still enjoying a relatively mild Fall...

Produce markets, basketball players, ornamental kale all over the place, and the last of the flowers in bloom... a rather pleasant late autumn.

Taking a walk around Murray Hill on a nice Sunday like today, it is easy to forget all the world's problems.

Notice, of course, changes everywhere in neighborhood, some which have been there for a while-- like no more Maurice Villency furniture on Madison Avenue ( it is a Roche Bobois outlet now)--which was a fixture for so many years.

The old Roger Williams hotel has been gentrified into "The Roger" with a very swank lobby...

They closed down the Midtown tunnel today with no warning that I can remember and there is an immense traffic jam, which would be even worse if it weren't a Sunday.

Weatherman says real winter is still some time off...let's hope so, and hope nice weather continues. We need the sunshine.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen: Don't Bother

I just saw part of "Law Abiding Citizen," and this is one of those times I'd wish I'd read reviews beforehand-- so I wouldn't have wasted my time.

One of the aspects of this movie that annoyed me the most was the endless KA-BOOMS on the sound track to underline anything dramatic/violent that happened.  This is the cheapest kind of film making.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Short Lived Store

Halloween season inspires short-lived store at Second Avenue and 30th Street...
This is the site of the old Office Depot store that was once here...huge basement, now filled with masks and costumes and other Halloween regalia.
If I remember right, store opened about a month ago.
Asked employee if store closed on Halloween and he said yes.
I remember when I did public relations for a business association there was a lecture I covered on how to make a go of short-term businesses. This is one, I guess.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Clarks and Zappos.Com- Terrible shoes

Have just had terrible time with Clarks shoes bought from you avoid both.

Shoemaker told me Clarks shoes I had ( which cost $75) were terribly made and just designed to rub skin off of ankle.

Already returned one pair which was rubbing skin off my toes.

Payless Shoes has erratic quality and they don't last long, but they are much more comfortable.

Would be getting some Nikes or something except they are so expensive and no good once there is rain and snow.

If you know of some good reliable shoes, let me know.

Also, avoid Zappos...they have terrible quality control.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Where the Wild Things Are"--Deep Fantasy

You may or may not like "Where the Wild Things Are." I was bored by this well-made movie but the audience around me seemed to be enjoying it...

The movie version is supposedly very close to the book, so if you liked the book you'll probably like the movie. I have never seen the book.

"Wild Things," though very imaginative, is just not my cup of tea.

Suggest you see it via Netflix unless you loved the book-- then would be worth going to a theatre.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Convenient location...Murray Hill

Big apartment buildings at 34th Street and Park Avenue are prime Murray Hill locations...

A short walk from such places as the Empire State Building ( entrance shown with tourists flocking around)-- and Grand Central area, these buildings also are good for public transportation.

Apartments in these buildings vary...I have been in the building in the center here ( 40 Park Avenue) and was surprised on smallish nature of living is a great looking building the top floors have big penthouse like apartments.

Air quality is a problem for people who are sensitive to city pollution I guess. Suppose you can always buy an expensive air filtration system...

Lots of shops and restaurants around but is something of a hike to nearest supermarket ( at 32nd and 3rd)...not that bad, really.

Wouldn't mind living here if I had the air filter system.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Is America Losing Its Faith in Itself?

The Marble Collegiate Church at Fifth Avenue and 28th Street is famed as the home of Norman Vincent Peale...

Peale, if you are too young to remember, was a wildly successful motivational speaker who encouraged "The Power of Positive Thinking," and was part of the official optimism of the country during the 50's and 60's and even later.

His book sales were enormous as he urged people to positively think their way to a world and country where all things were obtainable.

Now the church's gate in front is draped with "Peace Ribbons" commemorating  military people fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as prayers for peace in general. 

The recession has hit hard and everyone knows it will take some time to emerge from it. But, on a deeper level, have Americans lost their traditional faith in the inevitable success of America?

Surely, there is no lack of immigrants who are searching for the "American Dream." And Obama's slogan of "Yes We Can" seemed to be a great protestation of faith in America's potential.

But you sense really negative undercurrents these days which contradict that American Dream idea. ( I remember one scene from an episode of "The Sopranos" where a Russian mob--related woman says to Tony Soprano, " Americans always act so surprised when things don't turn out for the best. In the rest of the world, people expect the worst, and they are usually not disappointed."

Noticed on my walk around Midtown the other day that new buildings are still being put up, and in the beautiful autumn sunshine the City looked so pleasant and appealing...

But New York has certain advantages other places do not. Consider the plight of Detroit or Newark. Does anyone really expect life there to realize the American Dream?

And the ravings on the Right get more and more strident and doom laden.

Finally, there is another big scare about the world coming to an end in 2012 (supposedly because of Mayan calendars ending then and some super-rare convergence of stars)-- there will even be a much ballyhooed motion picture about it.

Somehow, as during Vietnam, America isn't a very confident country these days and it looks like it's going to take a long time for that to change.

"Julie and Julia" -- Unbelievable

The new Meryl Streep film "Julie and Julia" is such an over-the-top sugary chick-lit fantasy that it is unbelievable.

Julia Child was quite an enjoyable personality and I remember seeing her on TV years ago. I didn't watch all that closely because I wasn't that interested in cooking...

This movie is not for anyone who has at least one foot planted on the ground.

It is ultimate in what the Irish and British call "twee"-- so cutesy and arch that it is painful.

I sort of sat through this movie in stunned silence because I couldn't believe it was headed the way it was... it is so sappy, so saccharine ....

The men are like the guys in teen-age girl romantic fantasy comic books.

Meryl Sreep does a pretty good imitation of Julia Child.

And that's about it. 

Miss it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ricky Gervais Strikes Out

I left after the first third of "The Invention of Lying" and I don't really care what I missed...

Not in the mood for this movie today. It has one basic comic idea--the invention of lying in a world where lying is unknown-- and that's pretty much it.

Having people blurt out all their thoughts and feelings uncensored all the time gets to be boring. As someone has pointed out, no world could really exist if people did that. It would cause too much social disruption. 

White lies are a kind of social glue found the world over and we can't do without them.

I had heard bad things about this movie but wanted to see for myself. If I had been in a more tolerant mood, I would have stayed for the whole movie-- there are chuckles here and there.

Save your time and money for some other movie!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Living Among Skyscrapers

Living among skyscrapers becomes second nature if you live in the inner part of New York or Chicago...
But, interesting as it may be to a tourist, you get fairly jaded about it as a resident.
There is one immense apartment building, about 50 stories tall, across the park from where I live...
At night you see scores (hundreds?) of lit apartments, and it suddenly dawns on you again that each one of them represents a home, a life, somebody.
Meanwhile, on the street, you just dodge traffic and other pedestrians and silently curse the ones who cut you off on the sidewalk or who stop abruptly without warning right in front of you... all this congestion makes me long for Cape Cod again!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MacArthur "Genius" Award for Deborah Eisenberg

Recently the MacArthur Foundation announced its 2009 "genius" of the winners was short story writer Deborah Eisenberg.

Deborah Eisenberg, whose last book of short stories  "Twilight of the Superheroes" was published in 2006, has been teaching courses at the University of Virginia for the last 15 years.
She is the partner of Wallace Shawn, the avant garde playwright. 

Eisenberg was quoted as saying the award "means time" -- she writes very slowly-- someone estimated about a story per year for many years....

For personal information about her, I refer you to the latest Wikipedia article on her.

People find it difficult to say exactly what it is about her work that is so unusual, but most often refer to its way of articulating subtle psychological moments.

As I have written before, she is not an "easy read" and most people will find her challenging ...
no one else is writing quite like her I think-- and she thoroughly deserves the award for originality in short story writing ( she has also won the Rea Award, a Guggenheim grant, and  several O. Henry prizes). 

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"The Informant": Caveat Emptor

"The Informant" is a difficult movie to write about because you don't want to spoil the impact...

This rather slender tongue-in-cheek movie seems more European than American ( maybe French or even Czech) and I think the reason I enjoyed it so much was that I knew so little about it when I saw it. 

My guess is this movie was only made because Matt Damon ( who is excellent) agreed to do it.

It takes a lot of cliches and plays with them, the way I think "Duplicity" wanted to do...

Warning: don't go to this movie expecting anything earth-shaking. And as I said, the less you know about it before you see it, the better... 

Set in the Midwest in the 1990's, it takes corporate greed and price fixing for granted and shows how since the schemes of Madoff et al., we are not going to be surprised by anything.

Again, this movie is enjoyable but not that important.... you could wait for the DVD if you really wanted to.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer's End

"Autumn is here and the sadness is upon us.."--Irish Saying

Summer 2009 was very mixed for me. I spent a good part of it involved with my broken right wrist ( still in therapy and trying to avoid an operation).

Was cheered up mercifully by trips to Cape Cod and New Hampshire ( pictured is Lake Winnipesaukee).

Frustrated and discouraged by the whole fracas over health care reform.

Was so tired of summer in New York a few weeks that it's fading, I am already beginning to miss it. Sort of. I like fall and the cooler, brisker temperatures. It seems to bring in a new year, ( incidentally, the Jewish New Year has just begun-- Happy Rosh Hoshanah to all my Jewish friends).

Lots of personal aggravations I will spare you and just say wishing the best to everyone for a new season. Still recommended: " The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and her niece Annie Barrows--and, for the more adventurous,  Ali Smith's "The First Person."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Books: Wartime Guernsey and Modern Britain

I find some literature more challenging than others. In this posting I am alluding to a recent novel and a book of short stories, by two different authors...

The novel first: " The Guernsey  Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," published after the death of writer Mary Ann Shaffer --apparently also worked on by her niece, Annie Barrows-- is an entertaining ( but sometimes grim) account of how the inhabitants of the Isle of Guernsey adapt to German occupation during World War II.

The story is told from the point of view of an English journalist, one Juliet Ashton, who in early 1946 stumbles on information that leads her to become interested in Guernsey and its inhabitants and how they survived ( or didn't survive) the war. The peculiar Society of the title is part of this tale.

This book verges dangerously on " Chick Lit," I think, but has enough literary value -- as I said, it is definitely entertaining-- to recommend it. 

It seems well researched and has convincing if a little too convenient ( and a little stereotyped) characters-- this is a book that wants you to like it. In this, it was a success for me and I hope other people who are looking for a "good read" will check it out.

Something totally different is the collection of short stories " The First Person" by the writer Ali Smith.

Let me take the easy way and quote from blurbs on the jacket that I agree with: "  (She) is a wonderful ventriloquist, adept at throwing her voice into an astonishing array of characters"-- Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times.

A little too fulsome in praise but headed in the right direction is the quote from  The Times  of London: " Joyous...Smith plays dizzying games with her story and language: she bends and buckles her prose, breathes fire into it, lets it cool, swirls it up into unimaginable shapes. This is writing as pure rapture, as giddy delight."

I don't know about all that " giddy delight."  I think Ali Smith is a difficult modern author ( like Deborah Eisenberg) and is a challenge to take on.

Her stories wander all over in theme and approach-- my favorite was " The Child", in which a baby that appears suddenly in a woman's shopping cart ( and she gets stuck with, at least for a while) is angelic in appearance but who speaks like a hilariously politically incorrect adult and tells jokes at the woman's expense. Just how she handles the problem of getting stuck with the child is very amusing and I invite you to read the story to see how it all happens. 

Ali Smith has won a lot of prestigious prizes and is aiming at a more intellectual audience than Mary Ann Shaffer.  Shaffer's book is easier to read, as I said, but if you like to be challenged then I would try to see how you deal with Ali Smith. I have a feeling Ms. Smith is going to be around for a while. 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Health Care- Something is Better than Nothing?

Like a lot of people, I am curious just how the health reform bill is going to evolve in Congress and am resigned to it not being an optimal piece of legislation...

Fact is, we live in unsettled and uncomfortable times, and people are wary of new undertakings that they don't fully understand or believe in.

Some kind of bill will be worked out, that is probable; but it still is going to be an enormous fight. Health care reform has been tried and failed before.

All the special interest groups such as insurance companies are going to use every bit of power they have ( and with their literally thousands of lobbyists, this is considerable)...

Also, right wing radio and other reactionary forces are going to counterattack after President Obama's skillful speech which basically hit the ball back into their court.

Expect more distortions and outright lies, not fewer.

These people will seize on every flaw and fear the American people have... let's face it, this is going to cost a lot of money, and just how the financing of health reform is going to be successfully effected has yet to be really presented convincingly.

The program that emerges will ignore such basics as eyeglasses and dental care, ( this is socialized medicine? Ha!)-- and will simply provide a safety net and needed reforms.

We have millions of people without health insurance, but the fact is that polls keep showing that the great majority of people who have insurance are afraid of some kind of tampering that will affect them adversely. They are being blinded by fear bred by the times and right wing propaganda.

The fight is just being joined, and I look forward to Obama keeping up the pressure on the Republicans and fighting as hard as he can... this is an historical moment that cannot be missed.

Something is better than nothing, and liberals will have to accept that in this time and place, enacting basic legislation -- the "half a loaf" or maybe even the "third of a loaf" --will be a major and decent accomplishment.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Health Care: The Cost of Doing Nothing

America is more split on the Health Care Reform debate than any issue since Vietnam, and President Obama has to win the trust of the American people.

Why are so many people mistrustful of Health Care Reform? This has to be addressed -- the cost of doing nothing is obvious but not being accepted by the independent voters who made Obama president.

This is the time for Obama and the Democratic party to really start convincing people that doing nothing is going to be worse than passing a Health Care Reform bill. 

More efforts are scheduled for the near future, with more speeches by Obama. I'm beginning to wonder if he and the people around him realize just how critical the situation is.

Certainly, a more effective appeal has to be made than has been so far-- or we are going to be stuck with a national health fiasco as well as a political fiasco for the Democratic Party. Both are unacceptable.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rediscovering "Dubliners"

During an otherwise uneventful sojourn to Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, ( at the country home of someone I had not seen in 42 years)I re-read some of James Joyce's short stories in the collection "Dubliners."

It's really something to rediscover writing I haven't seen since high school.... and discover again what a fine writer James Joyce is when he wants to be ( I am one of the people who find "Finnegan's Wake" to be a terrible blunder and tragic waste of talent). 

In particular, the story " An Encounter" shows how Joyce can tell a curiously gripping tale made up of the slightest of incidents-- the meeting between a boy off on a larky expedition with a schoolmate in Dublin with a strange and creepy old man-- and interweave it with all sorts of fascinating detail that reveal a much wider look at a whole society.

The story is so rich in material about the place and time,-- I had forgotten that. The other stories in "Dubliners" are equally resplendent in what you could dismiss as "local color" but to me are like fascinating snapshots of an earlier ( and SO lost) time and place... you can smell the smells and taste the atmosphere....really entrancing.

So, if you want a chance to experience Dublin "in the rare old time", take a look at "Dubliners"--it's well worth the visit.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Late August Street Fair

The torpor of a Sunday in late August seems ideal for yet another NY street fair...

Summer dresses and other items that haven't sold all season are still around, plus the usual food merchants.

Saw only one clothing display for men-- a rack of rather cheap looking polyester ties. Very few people outside of the hard core business types are wearing suits and ties in late August. What you mostly notice is the variety of gym bags and knapsacks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Time for Democrats to Fight

I have grown sick and tired of the relentless campaign by rabid right wing radio, insurance companies, oil companies and the usual suspects to sabotage completely all attempts at social reform in American society.

I accept capitalism as our economic system, but Karl Marx and others were exactly right about capitalism's pitfalls. We have to reform our system, to insure a just and humane country that gets its priorities straight and is concerned about the decent treatment of the great number of Americans who are getting swindled and bamboozled by rapacious special interests.

It is typical that the tycoon who owned a lot of hospitals and was fined a billion dollars for all kinds of malfeasance now funds the most rabid anti-health-care reform group.

Insurance companies published their "game plan" about health reform a long time ago-- pretend to approve of it, and then whittle away and obstruct it as much as possible, playing on people's worst fears of "socialized medicine" and "government bureaucrats.'

It is high time President Obama and other progressive leaders realized that the Republican party is not seriously interested in bi-partisanship and negotiation but is bought like the proverbial sack of potatoes by Big Money and special interests...and will know no limits to play on people's worst fears.

The moronic Sarah Palin and her palaver about " death panels" is a great example of this.

I intend to write to Obama and other elected officials and tell them of the need to stand firm against the right wing onslaught that has always triumphed over every attempt to make sane policies for this country-- including their opposition to clean and renewable energy, for instance.

It is easy to be cynical about the Democratic Party, but it is the only party that can effectively fight for real social change for the better in this country.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My August Malaise

Meant this posting to be about re-reading James Joyce's  "Dubliners,"...

but August malaise has got me. Heat wave here has been terrible.

My blogging of course has been crippled by having a fractured wrist and my inability to move around and take pictures.

For instance, there was just a tremendous storm which savaged Central Park--hundreds of trees destroyed-- and ordinarily I would have  run an article on that, with photos of devastation and clean-up activities.

Today my Physical Therapy session resulted in my wrist feeling something like "normal" for the very first time.. still stiff, but it is finally coming back.

Just started swimming at the 14th Street Y here... unfortunately, pool is mobbed by people trying to escape the heat and swimming conditions are far from optimal ( I don't like freezing water,but why is the water in the pool so warm?). Also, the last time I swam it made my wrist hurt a lot--as opposed to swimming in the ocean, which was soothing,

In nine days time I am leaving to visit an old friend at his family's summer place on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire... will be able to get photos and story of that.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dog Days In New York

The depth of summer has arrived and the city is steaming...

There's that old saying, " It's not the heat, it's the humidity." In Manhattan these days it's both...

You have to go out very early for errands or very late or you will suffer the misery of these "dog days."

Hard to think Labor Day isn't that far off...

Looking forward to escaping to New Hampshire at the end of August. Meanwhile, just try to stay cool!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Vacation in Cape Cod

Finally got a vacation outside of  New York City...

Visiting my sister  and  her family at their summer house on Buzzards Bay on Cape Cod ( Falmouth).

House is right across road from bay...beautiful 1920's Arts and Crafts place with a three storey atrium and period details.

Went swimming a lot and just generally enjoyed being with whole family.

Temperatures on Cape were almost same as NYC but felt about 20 degrees cooler...sea breezes versus city pollution?

Bus ride was semi-enjoyable....rode up sitting next to man who lives with wife on Cape and commutes into NYC every week.  He had an i-phone gadget that showed maps and details of traffic jams we are in. Receives satellite signals.

He is IT guy... sometimes didn't understand what he was talking about in terms of his work!

Traffic extremely heavy on Cape-- has that in common with NYC. Got caught in traffic jam near Bourne Bridge that seemed endless.

Feels weird to come home from my sister's cool, immaculate house to my cluttered, hotbox apartment!

Hope to start on Physical Therapy for my wrist SOON.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Barry vs. Cop"

I usually don't write about politics, yet current flap over Obama and his remarks about the Cambridge police can't be ignored..

I remember wincing when that last question came up at the Press Conference and President Barak Obama-- whom some people think it hip to call "Barry"-- made his famous remark about the actions of the police being stupid. Oh, no, I thought, this is going to be trouble...

Have known a good number of cops -- this sounds like a mammoth cliche, but some of them were very admirable people and others were very much less than admirable...

Response of right wing radio is so predictable, and it is sickening how angry mood of American people is being channeled into to the issue of Obama's remark.

Totally ignored, as has been repeatedly noted, is the issue of health care reform-- and how pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies are once more getting their way to the detriment of the people as a whole.

"Lack of respect for cop" is one of the worst sins "civilians" can make as far as most cops are concerned... many cops have martyred feeling they are hampered from doing their job by a coddling of criminals.

And huge numbers of people in middle America agree with them. This is an event just made for the demagogues of right wing radio..

Can all this be settled with a "beer summit" and everyone be satisfied? Probably not.

Someone made the trenchant remark that " Americans have just realized that they really do have a black president."

Myself, I think both the professor in question and the cops over-reacted-- in a way, again, that seems like cliche behavior. 

My biggest anger is first at the media for mining this for all its worst aspects and secondly for the broad mass of Americans who are letting their frustrations take an easy and unproductive avenue of expression...

Luckily, people like Al Sharpton --who I do not like-- are not involved in this. 

But how long do we have to endure right wing radio foaming at the mouth that "Obama hates white people and white culture" and all that rubbish? For a long time, I suppose.

The old saying holds true that you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink....  Americans are going to have to start facing up to realities of the environment, energy sources and the wars we are fighting as well the out-of-control capitalism that has gotten us into an incredible mess.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Heavy Going With 19th Century Thinkers

John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" is the kind of book you were probably supposed to read in high school or college and just skimmed through, if you read it at all...

Irony is, of course, Mill's book is one of those seminal works that are part of "climate of opinion" for most liberal Western thought.

Mill is surprisingly modern yet shows a cultural bias that would brand him today as politically incorrect. 

He would, I think, consider most third world countries not ready for democracy- -or freedom--
and just casually denounce the Taliban as barbarians... would also have harsh words about countries like Saudi Arabia and say they treated women as slaves.

Well, who says a mid 19th century writer is to be judged by the catchwords of today-- you have to see him in historical context,

Much of what Mill writes isn't all that well organized and sometimes seems to pose more questions that it answers. This is definitely not light reading.

To me, one of the best endorsements for Mill is that he enraged Carlyle. I had to read the pompous, reactionary Carlyle in college-- had idiot teacher who worshipped him.  Didn't say right things about the "Master" and didn't get a very good grade...this was before I learned a basic trick of college: if you have an idiot teacher, simply parrot back their ideas to the jerks and you will be rewarded with praise--such comments as "brilliant insight" will be typical.

Why is Mill important? He helped shaped the everyday thinking of most Western democracies in a very basic way... and, is as often the case, you could quote Mill to justify or condemn Bush's invasion of Iraq, for instance.

Mill caught on to something a lot of earlier Enlightenment authors missed: the majority is not always right and cannot ride roughshod over the views of minorities or "eccentric" individuals.
Mill takes the right to dissent as a given.. and would be appalled, but not surprised by the way dissent is being treated in such countries as Iran.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Street Sculpture

Remember what a "trompe l'oeil" effect this sculpture used to have...

Discoloration over time by grime and elements have made it less startlingly realistic. Still appears very unexpectedly on busy thoroughfare.

Artist at work on 34th Street in Midtown doesn't have any obvious markers as to who created it.

Reverse view shows imaginary landscape artist is painting.

This kind of representational art is almost sort of corny, but it is somehow vaguely reassuring in its familiarity and human scale...

Other cities have street art too, wish New York had more of it-- particularly the representational kind.

There are occasional street exhibits that are interesting in this way... one was of dozens of cows, all the same basic sculpture but painted in different ways by different artists, posted all over Manhattan.

During a serious recession like the one we're having, this can all seem a frill. But "man does not live by bread alone."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Morgan Museum and Library; wrist update

This picture is deceptive... the Morgan Library and Museum,
which is on 36th Street between Park and Madison, is a big complex of connected buildings,

The original Library building , shown here, built about 1900, is just the entrance. The complex includes a four storey atrium with natural lighting, the better to look at manuscripts-- the museum specializes in manuscripts, but has a lot else to offer as well. Check out their website...

The maunscripts, by the way, range from medieval illuminated ones to scraps of paper Bob Dylan used to write down lyrics of "Blowin' in the Wind," and "It Aint Me Babe."

WRIST UPDATE: Cast comes off in a week and then they'll put something on wrist and schedule me for physicall therapy.  Hope to be in shape to visit my sister and her family on Cape Cod at the end of July/beginning of August.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

NOT Russia; My Many Complaints

Authentic looking Russian Church is in Manhattan--
St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral is at 15 East 97th Street..

Tsar Nicholas II gave money to help build it about 1900. It follows classic seven domed configuration of Russian churches.. is open to public now, no admission fee (see their website--google it up).

During cold war, particularly during McCarthy era, everyone connected with cathedral was suspected of being a Russian spy.. some probably were! Relations with community are much more cordial these days...

My Many Complaints:  fractured right wrist continues to heal very slowly. Have new fiberglass cast for another five weeks.. everyday living is a real travail...had terrible time getting one week of prescription painkillers. (saw big TV show about the evils of vicotin the other night..leads to heroin they say, etc. Almost as bad as smoking)-- by the way, am now smoke free for three months and have no desire to smoke whatsoever.

Annoyances of not really being able to use right hand too numerous to mention, so I won't even try.

Will put up some more postings on irregular basis as healing continues.

Friday, May 22, 2009

blog hiatus- last post for awhile-- "SOFIA"

This was posting I was working on before accident..covering area once dubbed "SOFIA" (South of Flatiron Area),

Here, old commercial buildings have once again been gentrified... commercial establishments as I remember were hodgepodge of businesses, including import-export and some garment factories.. and who knows what else.

People who live here now seem young and well-heeled and enjoy a lot of nice shops and the occasional outdoor cafe restaurant.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Madison Square's Main Attraction

If Herald Square is a center of shopping, and Union Square is the home of the Greenmarket, then Madison Square's main attraction is the "Shake Shack."

Approaching  along 23rd Street towards the square, I was struck by the large number of people standing about there. What was it? A rally?
Street theatre? 

No, it was mostly a huge crowd of people waiting patiently to be served at the "Shake Shack," a fast food establishment focused on liquid refreshment...

Of course, some people were there near the fountain simply enjoying the greenery...and a lot of people just seemed to be passing through with the kind of grim determination that marks a lot of New Yorkers going about their business.

Noticed some changes around the Square...there is a very tall new building that has risen up that seems to equal the old Met Life building in height. Myself, I prefer the campanile tower of the older tower to the simple rectangular lines of the new one. The old building, completed early in the 20th century, is a landmark--- the new one is just some kind of commercial ( and maybe residential) development. 

New York has enough skyscrapers that could be in Houston or Melbourne or some other metropolis -- the architectural character of the city is very diverse, but can't we have more towers that are somewhat more distinguished?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Murray Hill Tunnel, Park Avenue South

Murray Hill Tunnel starts at 33rd Street and runs to 40th Street...this is shot on lower Park Avenue looking north towards Grand Central Terminal and the Met Life Building -- which some people still refer to sometimes as the Pan Am Building!(its original name).

Park Avenue and Park Avenue South have a complicated make it simple: thoroughfare was originally called Fourth Avenue--which now only exists below 14th Street.

Because of plantings in median strip, upper area of Fourth Avenue became to be known as Park Avenue...which sounds a lot better to most people.

Park Avenue starts at 33rd Street..stretch below that down to 17th Street was originally Fourth Avenue but was changed to Park Avenue South in 1959 by the City Council, apparently after petitioning  by property owners who wanted a "better address."

For a long time, Park Avenue South ( below) was home to big photographic studios, Printing establishments, and other businesses-- then in the 1980's began to be gentrified...with some commercial buildings being turned into apartments. In fact, there used to be a "Photo District" which included Park Avenue South further down, and there still exists a journal called "The Photo District News". At one time half of all the professional photographers in the United States worked in New York...(don't know what the figure is now, but the City is still a photography capital).

Lower Fifth Avenue ( from 33rd to 42nd Street) has always been a mix of office buildings, apartments and hotels. Rents have risen dramatically over the years and there has been some new construction....people have always lived here because of proximity to so many places in Midtown ( which is true of Murray Hill neighborhood generally). 

More years ago than I care to remember, I visited the apartment of family friends who lived at 17 Park Avenue--it was much more affordable then. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Estonia House, East 34th Street

I don't know how big the Estonian community is in New York, or if there are any neighborhoods with high numbers of Estonians.... have only met one Estonian- American in New York ( who lived in Queens).

Beaux Arts building on 34th Street was built as the Civic Club ( a reform organization) in 1899 and became an Estonian Cultural Center in the late 1940's.

Activities include an Estonian language school.

As I remember, the Estonian language is something like Finnish...and Estonians tend to look like Finns, with many of them having very fair hair. 

As one of the "Baltic States" ( along with Lithuania and Latvia), Estonia was coveted by the Russians and occupied by them for a long time. By most accounts, the Russians were rather ruthless colonizers there...but present day Estonia is inevitably linked closely to Russia economically, although it is part of the European Economic Community and home to some very high tech enterprises.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Appreciating Abstract Art

As I thought I might, I've been warming to this piece of abstract sculpture over time.

It's on Second Avenue not all that far from where I live...part of the fun of viewing sculpture is to see  how it changes as you move around it, and so a simple photo like this can't give you that kind of experience.

One aspect I've noticed with this piece is how it reflects light differently at different times of the day ( when hit sideways by early evening light, it looks the best). It and fountains are lit up at night.

Modern Art as we have come to know it through Picasso and others seems preoccupied with the element of design. Formal elements are more important than representation of something familiar we can relate to. Often I think this is something of a disaster, such as in the works of Alexander Calder and Jackson Pollock ( his paint dribblings were not random, he was looking for a certain effect). 

As I get older, I am more appreciative of abstract art in general ....but I still prefer older works that combine craftsmanship and a more easily understood sense of what they're about, such as the Schott sculpture in Central Park ( below), which seems more complete to me as a work of art.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Demise of Low End Discount Stores in Manhattan

Discount and low-end retail merchandising has been savaged by rising rents in Manhattan...

Oh, if only Woolworth's were still around! ( They only closed in Britain recently).

Manhattan used to have all sorts of great discount retail stores-- like Odd Job Traders and National Wholesale Liquidators--that are no more.

Also disappearing are the 99 cent stores...though they remain in Spanish Harlem and in the boroughs to some extent.

The desirability of these places comes to mind when you just want to get something simple like pretty decorated plastic place mats... 

The big Jack's 99 cents store near Herald Square is still going strong, it seems--it's packed to the rafters with customers at midday. Seems to me the selection of merchandise isn't as good as it used to be, but nothing is ever like it used to be...particularly when landmarks of a kind have been driven out of business  by the forces of gentrification and rising rents.

Will also never forget the bargain vacuum cleaner I got once at Odd Job Traders... that's when I had a rug. I don't have one now in my apartment for all sorts of reasons ( and they aren't required in this building as they are in some). 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Herald Square Madness

People take refuge from busy Herald Square in landscaped traffic islands as the incredible hustle and bustle goes on about them at midday....

Wouldn't stay in Herald Square too long-- there were studies showing that air pollution there was so bad that people who worked at street level --particularly outdoors-- were breathing in the pollutants equivalent to two packs of cigarettes a day.

Try to keep people from Herald Square,'s where subway lines cross and always busy. Midday, is of course the worst, with tourists and shoppers flocking to stores like Macy's.

Have to say, I have never liked Macy's that much. And years ago I met an investigator for the City who was really down on the place...said they inflated their prices right before sales, so the  "40% off" wasn't what it seemed to be.

Until their economy turned sour, Macy's was a magnet for tourists from the United Kingdom who for a while found shopping there a real bargain...

Saw a sign that said J.C. Penney is coming soon.  Suppose economic downturn has taken its toll on Herald Square shops, but you'd never know it on a typical day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Exit street canyon, "found" still life

People are always comparing narrow streets in Manhattan to canyons, and this exit street from the Midtown tunnel certainly has that feeling...( I have a calendar on my wall with the May picture being a panoramic shot of the Grand Canyon, as it happens).

Dreary, drizzly chilly days in New York...

Recently took a virtual tour of Nevada City, California...easy to do if you know how to use Google street views. Nice, prosperous hilly town with huge pine trees.

Wish I had a polarizing filter or something to improve picture of store window on Second Avenue which is partly cleared out during a move, leaving an unexpected sort of "found" still life behind. 

Lots of stores are moving these days (some closing) due to the economy....guess really damage is not so much what you can see as what people are going through around you that you can't see--worrying about their jobs or having been laid off.