Remember, They Say

September 10, 2011

Actually, I wish I could forget. But it isn’t possible; everywhere I look there are reminders, and this year their presence is especially heavy — even at home. This is what was in my personal email inbox this morning.

My-Inbox


AIDS Walk NY 2011

May 15, 2011

The weatherman predicted that it would be a rainy Sunday and he was right; we had a downpour. At times, the 47,000 people who participated in this year’s AIDS Walk NY were drenched.

But many of those who sign up for this, the world’s largest AIDS fundraising event, view it as more than just a charity fund raiser. In fact, quite a few of the participants – even those who can’t raise any money at all – consider participation something akin to a sacred obligation.

Regardless of the weather, regardless of their own disabilities or discomfort, they push forward on foot, crutches and in wheelchairs, uphill and down, and they somehow manage to complete the 10 kilometer trek around Central Park.

Just past the finish line, up a little hillock, large pieces of cardboard were hung under the shelter of a white tent. There, walkers used felt-tip markers to record their reasons for walking. Thousands stood in the tent and wrote until their messages overlapped and no empty space remained.

No matter why they chose to come out and walk on a wet gray morning, their determination helped raise a total of $6,214,768 and will bring us closer to a cure for the scourge that has taken so many lives and broken so many hearts.

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A walker writing on the hanging cardboard

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I walk for love

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I walk because I can

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I walk because my two kids need to grow up

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We walk for Grandma Shirley

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I walked … for all those who can’t

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I walk for the sake of my HIV patients

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I walk for Freddie – it’s been a long 20 yrs. without you

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I walk for my dad – and a cure

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I walk to help others in need

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We walk for all of our angels that left to soon

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I walked for the ones I lost

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I walk for Kenneth, John D., Michael, Bruce, John C. R.I.P.

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I walked for everyone

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I walk for a better world

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I walk for friends & family who died or living with HIV/AIDS

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I walk for life, I walk for love, I walk for my family

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I walked with a reason!

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I walk to make a difference

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We walked to create smiles, to show that we care

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I walk for Hernando, my bestie

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I walk for hope

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I walk in memory for all who lost their lives

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I walk for my generation

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I walk for my beloved mother, Damaris R.I.P.

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I walk because it’s the right thing to do

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I walk for my darling Francis. I love you

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I walk … so my grandchildren and great grandchildren won’t have to

AIDS WALK NY


01.01.11

January 1, 2011

I wasn’t thinking about the significance of the date when I made an appointment for December 31 on the Upper East Side. It was only when I was en route that I realized that to reach my destination, I had to change trains at Times Square. It was still early in the day, but the place was already a madhouse.

When I got to my appointment, I sadly told the person I was meeting that my route had taken me through Times Square. She laughed and said, “Now I know you’re a real New Yorker! Only New Yorkers try to stay away from Times Square on New Year’s Eve — the tourists can’t wait to get there!”

She was, of course, correct, and as soon as our meeting concluded, I made a hasty retreat to Brooklyn, where I spotted this reveler on Montague Street. Happy new year!

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Woman celebrating the new year in Downtown Brooklyn


Happy Freecycle Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

All over America, at this very moment, people are peeling, chopping, roasting and baking, busily preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals. But one person in Brooklyn is seeking an alternative to expending all that time, effort and money via a Freecycle Thanksgiving.

Freecycle, if you are not familiar with it, is a simple, rather noble concept: those who have things they can’t use give them freely, as gifts, to those who need them. The object is to reduce waste, save valuable resources and ease the burden on landfills.

Freecycle members contact each other online using message boards operated by the Freecycle Network. While most members post messages describing the items they want to give away, a few request items they want but don’t have.

This “wanted” listing, posted the evening before Thanksgiving, struck me as particularly ambitious and audacious, and I can’t help wondering what type of response it will generate.

In any case, however you choose to celebrate the day, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

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The notice on the Freecycle Web site

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A closer view of the post

Freecycle
Freecycle Brooklyn


Canon Expo 2010

September 2, 2010

Canon Expo is held once every five years to showcase the wide range of advanced imaging technologies from the Japan-based corporation’s divisions: Vision, Consumer and Home Office, Office Equipment Print Production and Graphic Arts, Professional Photography, Video and Projection, Broadcast and Communications and Healthcare Technologies.

The exhibit filled 150,000 square feet of the Jacob K. Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. Sections of the Expo were designed to replicate art galleries, research laboratories, theaters, printing plants, offices, stages, call centers, photographic studios, medical facilities, a football stadium, fashion shows, printing plants, a skating rink, stadiums and tourist attractions — the types of environments in which Canon products are frequently used.

Canon displayed items that are currently for sale as well as models and prototypes of gear that may be available in the future. One of the most interesting gadgets exhibited was the Cross Media Station, a device still in the planning stages. Simply by placing still or video cameras atop the Station, a user could wirelessly download, view and transmit images — even from multiple devices — while simultaneously recharging them. The designers of the Station were present to answer questions (via a translator) and aid with the demonstration.

A fascinating area dubbed the Canon Gallery displayed outstanding photos as well as the work of the Tsuzuri Project, joint effort of Canon and the Kyoto Culture Association. The Tsuzuri Project is designed to preserve Japan’s cultural heritage by employing the most advanced technology to create and print full-sized high-resolution digital images of screens, paintings and other precious fragile cultural artifacts. The near-perfect replicas are donated to the owners of the original works, who put them on display while placing the treasures themselves in a safe, controlled environments where they can be preserved for future generations.

In another section, physicians (yes, real, licensed ophthalmologists) operated equipment that scans the eye and instantly provides information about whether a patient has, or is developing, a range of serious medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

I was delighted by the opportunity to use Canon’s professional-grade cameras and join the pack on mock-ups of a TV stage and a fashion show (first lesson: those professional cameras and lenses weigh a ton!), and I consulted with the product and technical geniuses about my next camera purchase. One of the most important features? It must be lightweight.

Towards the end of the day, a Canon rep who was answering my questions took me aside and, sotto voce, said, “I’m not supposed to talk about this, but …” He then told me about a camera that Canon is currently developing, noting that it will address just about everything on my “most-wanted feature list” and will be (almost) within my budget. I’m going to start putting my pennies aside for the camera that cannot say its name.

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The Expo’s slogan displayed on a wall

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Entering the Canon Expo

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Printing books on demand

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Attendees used HDTV cameras on the set

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In the Canon Gallery

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At the sports stadium

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A professional explains his techniques

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Model at the fashion show

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Model shot with Canon EOS 7D

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On the runway

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Model shot with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Canon Expo 2010
PC Magazine: Canon Shows Off Concept Cameras at Expo
The Tsuzuri Project (Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project)
Canon Unveils The Future Of Imaging At Canon EXPO 2010 New York
MarketWatch: Canon Unveils the Future of Imaging


Mermaids on Parade

June 19, 2010

This year’s Mermaid Parade was bigger than ever, possibly because this Coney Island institution featured iconic New York musicians Lou Reed as King Neptune and his wife, Laurie Anderson, as Queen Mermaid.

The sidewalks, fire escapes and rooftops were packed with viewers as hundreds, perhaps thousands of marchers, strollers and riders paraded along Surf Avenue. When they reached the police barriers at Astroland, they turned and began the parade again, this time passing through a long, narrow barricaded strip of the Boardwalk.

While the nautically-themed costumes were as clever, colorful and outrageous as ever, some of the participants opted to give their looks topical twists. These included not-so-subtle references to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico (mermaids smeared with black paint, pasties shaped like oil wells) and sly nods to this summer’s vampire craze (mermaids with fangs and bloody neck wounds).

But whether they are classic or trendy, flashy or subtle, one thing is certain at this parade: everybody loves a mermaid.

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Dick Zigun, unofficial mayor of Coney Island, leads the parade

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Laurie Anderson and Lou Reed under a parasol

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Banners for King Neptune, Queen Mermaid and the Royal Mer-Dog

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Spectators crowded onto every surface

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Yes, even elephants

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Mermaids get thirsty, too

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A pirate smiles on the boardwalk

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A mermaid with blue hair

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Colorful creature from the sea

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A crown of sea serpents

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Pretty in pink

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Vampire mermaid

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A blonde mermaid

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Lobsters, come out and play …

Coney Island USA Mermaid Parade


It’s Movie Time

May 3, 2010

Founded only nine years ago, the Tribeca Film Festival has become a major cultural and economic force in New York City. During the 12 days of this year’s Festival, a great swath of Lower Manhattan was filled with directors, producers, screenwriters, dealmakers, actors, photographers, reporters and volunteers, all rushing through the streets with their distinctive badges flapping in the breeze.

This year more than 5,000 films from around the world were submitted to the Festival. Of those, officials selected 85 feature length films and 47 shorts (amounting to 193.94 miles of film) from 38 countries.

In and around the Tribeca, from April 21 to May 2, banners hung from lampposts, streets were closed, theaters and auditoriums halted normal activities and just about everyone in the neighborhood became a movie-goer and a film critic — including me. Here are the films I saw this year:

  1. Visionaries
    Oscar®-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman brings alive the vibrant history of the avant-garde cinema. Through interviews with filmmakers and critics including Jonas Mekas, Kenneth Anger, Su Friedrich, and Amy Taubin, he reveals how this artistic movement highlights subjective vision, sensory experience, and dreams over plot and storyline. Workman couples these conversations with a dazzling array of diverse extracts from experimental films that illuminate for the general audience a qualitatively different kind of moviegoing experience.
  2. My Own Love Song
    In his English-language debut, Olivier Dahan (La vie en rose) sculpts a hyper-stylized and uplifting road movie about family, perseverance, and redemption. Wheelchair user Jane (Renée Zellweger, exceptional) is a fiercely independent ex-singer whose tough exterior hides a secret that has paralyzed her emotional life and career. When her zany neighbor Joey (Forest Whitaker) forces them to skip town, Jane must change her tune. With songs performed by Zellweger and original music by Bob Dylan.
  3. Big
    At a carnival, young Josh Baskin (Tom Hanks) wishes he was big-only to awake the next morning and discover he is! With the help of his friend Billy (Jared Rushton), Josh lands a job at a toy company. There, his inner wisdom enables him to successfully predict what children want to buy, making the awestruck, naïve Josh irresistible to a beautiful ladder-climbing colleague (Elizabeth Perkins). But the more he experiences being an adult, the more Josh longs for the simple joys of childhood.
  4. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (Winner: Heineken Audience Award)
    For fans and newcomers to the legendary Canadian band Rush, this is the music documentary to experience. Directors Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn embark on a comprehensive exploration of this extraordinary power trio, from their early days in Toronto, through each of their landmark albums, to the present day. Sit back and revel in the words, music, and wonder of Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.
  5. No Woman, No Cry
    More than half a million women each year die from preventable complications during pregnancy or childbirth. In her gripping directorial debut, Christy Turlington Burns shares the powerful stories of pregnant women in four parts of the world, including a remote Maasai tribe in Tanzania, a slum of Bangladesh, a post-abortion care ward in Guatemala, and a prenatal clinic in the United States.
  6. Into Eternity
    Three miles below the earth, the people of Finland are constructing an enormous tomb to lay to rest their share of humans’ 300,000 tons of nuclear waste. To avoid disaster, it must remain untouched for at least 100,000 years. In this poetic, hauntingly beautiful, and thought-provoking doc, Danish filmmaker Michael Madsen ponders how to warn future civilizations that the buried treasure of our nuclear era—unlike the pyramids and great tombs of pharaohs—must never, ever be discovered.
  7. Cairo Time
    In this graceful cross-cultural love story, a happily married woman (Patricia Clarkson) is separated from her husband in the overwhelming city of Cairo. While waiting for his return, she experiences the unique beauty of Egypt with his friend (Alexander Siddig). As their tender friendship blossoms, a series of small yet profound moments changes both of their worlds forever.
  8. Snap
    With a fresh and intense style, playwright-turned-director Carmel Winters composes a gripping psychological drama about three generations of a family poised to repeat the mistakes of the past. Aisling O’Sullivan (The War Zone) commands the screen as a calloused mother who will do anything to protect her son—even go as far to deny her own past. From the producers of TFF award winner Eden and the Academy Award® winner Once.
  9. I Scored a Goal
    In the history of the World Cup, there are only 55 men who have scored a goal in the final match, and only 34 of them are still living. “I Scored a Goal” is a series of thirty short films, each of which profiles one of these men. The narratives are told in the goal scorer’s own voice — they tell the story of their journey up to the goal, and what the goal meant for them, their team, the game and even their country.
  10. Last Play at Shea
    The intersecting histories of a stadium, a team, and a music legend are examined in a documentary that charts the ups and downs of the New York Mets and the life and career of Long Island native Billy Joel, the last performer to play Shea Stadium. Set to the soundtrack of Joel’s final Shea concerts, Last Play interweaves personal Joel interviews with exclusive concert footage—featuring guests like Tony Bennett and Roger Daltrey.
  11. Climate of Change
    A group of 13-year-olds in India rally against the use of plastics. A renaissance man in Africa teaches villagers to harness solar power. Self-described “hillbillies” in Appalachia battle the big business behind strip mining. Tilda Swinton beautifully narrates this rich and inspiring documentary—from the producers of An Inconvenient Truth—about a world of regular people taking action in the fight to save our environment. Executive produced by Participant Media and the Alliance for Climate Protection.
  12. Get Low
    In 1930s Tennessee, backwoods recluse Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) is feared and shunned by the local townsfolk. Then Felix decides to plan a living funeral to lay his own legend to rest. But behind this surreal plan lies a devastating secret that must get out…. Academy Award® winner Aaron Schneider makes a confident feature debut with this engrossing and slyly funny folk tale of forgiveness and redemption. With Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, and Lucas Black.
  13. Please Give
    Death, materialism, liberal guilt, adultery, midlife malaise… writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Friends with Money, Lovely & Amazing) makes such topics sing with earnest emotion and devastating humor. Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt star as well-to-do Manhattanites waiting out the death of their crotchety neighbor so they can take over her apartment. Things get messy when they try to make nice with the old lady and her granddaughters (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall).
  14. Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll
    Mat Whitecross (codirector of The Road to Guantanamo) paints a stylized, ripsnorting portrait of mercurial British punk rock pioneer Ian Dury (flawlessly portrayed by BAFTA nominee Andy Serkis). From a troubled childhood and a battle with debilitating polio to the effects of fame on relationships and fatherhood, here are the highs and lows of a life lived sneeringly, unapologetically out loud. With Olivia Williams, Ray Winstone, and Naomie Harris.
  15. Ondine
    Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan (The Crying Game) weaves a visually arresting tale of a lone fisherman (Colin Farrell) who pulls in the sweetest catch of his life—a mermaid-like beauty. But as their passion grows, their dark pasts come to light, and the real world begins to threaten their fairy tale romance. This stunning film will challenge your senses and imagination as fantasy and reality clash on the big screen.
  16. The Space Between
    Lonely flight attendant Montine McLeod (Academy Award® nominee Melissa Leo) becomes responsible for a 10-year-old Pakistani-American boy traveling solo when news of the 9/11 attacks grounds their flight in Texas. After learning of the boy’s direct connection to the tragic events, McLeod musters the compassion she could never afford her own family, and the two embark on a heartrending road trip to meet an uncertain future in New York City.
  17. The Infidel
    Mahmud Nasir (comedian Omid Djalili) may not be the most observant Muslim, but deep down he is a true believer. His life is turned upside down when he learns he was adopted-but most scandalous is that his birth mother was Jewish! And his given name was Solly Shimshillewitz! As Mahmud tumbles into a full-scale identity crisis, a true comedy of religious errors unfolds. With Richard Schiff and Matt Lucas.
  18. William Vincent
    The versatile James Franco (Milk, Spider-Man) stars in the story of William Vincent, a quiet and peculiar criminal uninterested in the fruits of crime. When he falls for a gangster’s (Josh Lucas) favorite call girl (Julianne Nicholson), William is forced to flee New York. But after four years in exile, William secretly returns, intent on rescuing the woman he loves from her dangerous fate.
  19. Yanqui WALKER and the OPTICAL REVOLUTION
    This film explores a now-obscure American expansionist and military dictator, William Walker, who through military force and coercion became president of Nicaragua in 1856. The film blends found footage, documentary photography, ethnographic inquiry, and personal travelogue with experimental film techniques such as hand-processing, optical printing, and time-lapse to detour and derail the various approaches to history-making that have been applied to this story.
  20. The Travelogues
    In The Travelogues, Dustin Thompson creates a more personal story. He travels with his film camera across two continents and compiles a series of mini-narratives, suggestive of loves gained and lost. He generates lyrical images, shot at oblique angles and developed with shifting camera speeds; in each scene, the heightened film grain tends to move the depiction of the natural universe toward abstraction. From the prologue through to the epilogue of his journey, this artist travels a fine line between real and imagined worlds.
  21. The Arbor (Winner: Best New Documentary Filmmaker)
    Brilliantly blurring the borders of narrative and documentary filmmaking, artist-cum-director Clio Barnard beautifully reconstructs the fascinating true story of troubled British playwright Andrea Dunbar and her tumultuous relationship with her daughter. Working from two years of audio interviews, Barnard uses classic documentary techniques, actors, theatrical performance, and Dunbar’s own neighborhood to generate a unique cinematic feast while unraveling the truths of a dark family past.
  22. The Two Escobars
    Born in the same city in Colombia but not related, Andrés Escobar and Pablo Escobar shared a fanatical love of soccer. Andrés grew up to become one of Colombia’s most beloved players, while Pablo became the most notorious drug baron of all time. While adeptly investigating the secret marriage of crime and sports, Michael Zimbalist and Jeff Zimbalist (Favela Rising, TFF ’05) reveal the surprising connections between the murders of Andrés and Pablo.
  23. Gainsbourg, Je t’Aime… Moi Non Plus (Winner: Best Actor in a Narrative Feature)
    From a young man in Nazi-occupied Paris to the sultry crooner who bedded Brigitte Bardot and married Jane Birkin to the vulnerable poet hidden behind a shroud of provocation—Serge Gainsbourg’s is a life large enough for grand treatment on film. One of France’s greatest mavericks is brought back to life (uncannily, by Eric Elmosnino) in this imaginative and visually flamboyant film debut from one of France’s greatest cartoonists.
  24. Just Like Us
    Egyptian-American comic and first-time director Ahmed Ahmed takes us on a hilarious tour from Los Angeles to Cairo, Dubai to Beirut, Riyadh to New York with a gaggle of other stand-up talent, including: Maz Jobrani, Tom Papa, Ted Alexandro, Tommy Davidson, and Omid Djalili (The Infidel). Along the way, taboos of culture and geopolitics are exploded, and a younger generation of both comedy talents and audiences is born.
  25. Monica & David (Winner: Best Documentary Feature)
    Monica and David are in love. Truly, blissfully in love. They also happen to have Down syndrome. Alexandra Codina’s affectionate and heartwarming documentary is an intimate, year-in-the-life portrait of two child-like spirits with adult desires. Supported (and, for more than 30 years, sheltered) by endlessly devoted mothers, Monica and David prepare for their fairy tale wedding and face the realities of married life afterward.
  26. Legacy
    British-Nigerian director Thomas Ikimi builds a thrilling psychological drama around an all-consuming central performance by Idris Elba (The Wire). Black ops operative Malcolm Gray is returning home after a botched mission in Eastern Europe. Holed up in a rundown Brooklyn motel room, he is torn between retribution and personal salvation as he mentally unravels. When the walls close in, his story may be all he can leave behind….
  27. Meet Monica Velour
    In this quirky comedy, Tobe (Dustin Ingram, perfectly cast), an awkward teenage aficionado of 1980s soft-core, sets off in his grandfather’s (Brian Dennehy) used Weinermobile to see his sexual idol perform at a strip club in Indiana. After defending her honor against ruffians who taunt the aging erotic starlet (Kim Cattrall) off the stage, he negotiates his unripe romantic impulses with the reality of her anything but glamorous life as a trailer-park single mother.
  28. Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives
    When a group of transgender women are violently beaten and left for dead, the violated vixens turn deadly divas in this hilariously campy homage to the exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s (“Transploitation,” anyone?). Loaded with bodacious bods and extreme violence, this revenge fantasy proves that it takes more than balls to get even.
  29. Gerrymandering
    This wake-up-call doc exposes the hidden history of our country’s redistricting wars, mapping battles that take place out of public scrutiny but that shape the electoral landscape of American politics for decades at time, posing a threat not just to democrats and republicans, but democracy as a whole. Featuring stories from nine states, Gerrymandering takes a hard look at the framework of our democracy and how it provides our politicians a perfectly legal way to control electoral outcomes.
  30. The Trotsky
    Like most high schoolers, Leon Bronstein (Jay Baruchel, Tropic Thunder) is having an identity crisis. What differentiates Leon, however, is that he believes he is the reincarnation of Soviet thinker Leon Trotksy and predestined to follow the same path as his namesake. Tackling issues from students’ rights to semi-formal dances, this “revolutionary” comedy will have you united in laughter.
  31. Spork
    Junior high isn’t easy for anyone— especially if you’re a frizzy-haired, pink-cheeked hermaphrodite like Spork. But when the talent show shines a chance for Spork to show up Betsy Byotch’s mean girls gang, her recently best-friended trailer-park neighbor Tootsie Roll steps up to coach her in booty-poppin’ moves. This ’80s-inspired dance send-up is littered with colorful dialogue from a tween cast with mouths beyond their years.
  32. The Woodmans (Winner: Best New York Documentary)
    The Woodmans are a family united in their belief that art-making is the highest form of expression and an essential way of life, but for photographer daughter Francesca, worldwide acclaim came only after a tragedy that would forever scar the family. With unrestricted access to all of Francesca’s works and diaries, The Woodmans paints an incisive portrait of a family broken and then healed by its art.
  33. Monogamy (Winner: Best New York Narrative)
    Exhibitionism, voyeurism, jealousy, lust. Brooklyn wedding photographer Theo’s (Chris Messina) side business shooting surveillance-style photos of clients on the sly takes an unexpected turn—and creates a rift with his fiancée (Rashida Jones)—when he’s hired by a provocative mystery woman (Meital Dohan). The first narrative feature from Oscar®-nominated director Dana Adam Shapiro (Murderball), Monogamy effectively fuses an absorbing mystery-thriller and a taut relationship drama.

Tribeca Film Festival
NY Times: 12 Days, 132 Films, 38 Countries
Time Out New York: Tribeca Film Festival: The must-sees


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