With Liberty and Burgers for All

December 30, 2006

Tonight, a minor commotion occurred outside the Burger King on 14th Street. A statuesque woman emerged from the restaurant and was immediately surrounded by people screaming, shouting and begging for autographs.

Leaning against the front window, New York Liberty Guard Loree Moore graciously signed napkins, menus and scraps of paper and posed for photos with her fans.

A star athlete eating burgers? Aren’t they restricted to diets of filtered water, vitamins, protein powders and tofu? Moore laughed, shook her head, and said that she eats what she likes and she prefers burgers.

Hmmm. A scandal-free professional basketball player and role model who loves burgers? Sounds like an endorsement deal just waiting to happen. Burger King, are you listening?

Loree Moore  Posted by Picasa

The star with fans  Posted by Picasa

New York Liberty
Loree Moore
Burger King

You’re in New York. Go in Style.

December 26, 2006

If you’ve spent any time in New York City, you know that clean, free public restrooms are almost nonexistent. And in midtown Manhattan, site of some of the busiest streets in the world, relief is frustratingly elusive.

However, in a brilliant marriage of public service and promotion, on November 20th Procter & Gamble’s Charmin brand toilet paper opened a public restroom in the heart of Times Square. Located in the Bertelsmann Building at 1540 Broadway, next to the Virgin Megastore, the Charmin restrooms are not only sparkling clean, they are actually entertaining.

The building, squarely in the center of a prime destination for millions of tourists and natives, has been staffed with dozens of cheerful hosts and attendants (many of them out-of-work actors and dancers) in blue and white uniforms.

Anticipating long lines, the planners equipped the waiting space with plentiful seating, plasma televisions, a disco-like stage where guests can sing and dance to the brand’s bouncy theme song, a nose-blowing lounge area stocked with boxes of facial tissues, a pair of fireplaces, stroller parking, tourist information and a photo corner for those who want a picture with Charmin’s mascot, a big, fuzzy brown bear.

The main attractions are even more impressive — 20 small, bright, private rooms, including some with disabled access and baby changing stations. All are equipped with sinks, soap and plenty of Charmin toilet paper and are hand-cleaned by an attendant after each use.

Sadly, this deluxe comfort palace is here only temporarily. Due to some baffling city ordinance or other, on December 31 the Charmin restrooms will close their doors forever. Unfortuately, it seems that sometimes even restrooms have to go.

Entrance under the arrow Posted by Picasa

The waiting line Posted by Picasa

Sign inside a stall Posted by Picasa

Inside a stall: lots of soap, mirrors & towels Posted by Picasa

Ceiling of a stall Posted by Picasa

Lounging near an electric fireplace Posted by Picasa

Posing for photos with the bear Posted by Picasa

Attendant photographing a visitor with the big bear  Posted by Picasa

The nose-blowing section Posted by Picasa

Charmin in Times Square
The Procter & Gamble Company
Bertelsmann Building
NY Magazine: Charmin’s Times Square Toilets
YouTube: Charmin’s Times Square Bathrooms
USA Today: Charmin Rolls Out 20 Restrooms

Fêtes de Noël at Bryant Park

December 23, 2006

European-style outdoor holiday markets are a relatively new phenomenon in New York City. In recent years these temporary marketplaces have appeared in several areas around Manhattan including Union Square (the oldest), Columbus Circle (the newest), the cafe at St. Bartholomew’s Church (the smallest) and Bryant Park (the most centrally-located).

Now in its fifth year, the holiday market at Bryant Park is officially known as Fêtes de Noël. The market includes over 100 booths with green and white striped canvas roofs arrayed around the fountain (turned off for the season) and the skating rink (erected for the season). Most of the booths offer specialty items and handicrafts ranging from stuffed toys to suits of armor.

Tucked among and around the booths are an enormous star-topped tree and a refreshment area complete with tables, chairs and snacks including hot cider, cocoa, hot waffles, candy apples, caramel apples and shao bings (Chinese buns).

If shopping, snacking and skating becomes boring, you can always duck into the New York Public Library — the main research library shares the block with Bryant Park and its closed stacks are located directly under this space.

42nd Street entrance to Bryant Park Posted by Picasa

Booth selling goods from Thailand Posted by Picasa

Candle booth Posted by Picasa

At a jewelry booth Posted by Picasa

Food booth: apples on the right, bings on the left Posted by Picasa

Hot apple cider – $3.00 a cup Posted by Picasa

The skating rink Posted by Picasa

Kids skating class Posted by Picasa

A little skater and friends Posted by Picasa

Skaters in view of the tree  Posted by Picasa

Greenery & booths around the fountain  Posted by Picasa

Women’s clothing booth Posted by Picasa

The stands at night  Posted by Picasa

The Bryant Park tree  Posted by Picasa

NY Magazine: Fêtes de Noël
Fêtes de Noël
NY Magazine: Bryant Park
New York Public Library stacks
NYC Nosh: Bings
Roll and Dough
NY Times: Unique Pastry Bing

Art Beyond Measure

December 20, 2006

“Look, it cannot be seen — it is beyond form. Listen, it cannot be heard — it is beyond sound. Grasp, it cannot be held — it is intangible. These three are indefinable; therefore they are joined in one.
– Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

First identified by Chinese philosophers 3,000 years ago, Tao is “the infinitely powerful force containing the truth and existing before the world was created” — indescribable, beyond the constraints of time and space, sound and vision.

It is believed that each person imagines Tao according to his or her own nature. A wise person sees Tao as wisdom; a kind person believes that Tao is kindness; a merciful person understands Tao as mercy.

From December 7 to December 29, the Taipei Cultural Center is hosting an exhibit called Beyond Measure. The show features eight artists sharing their own visions and understandings of Tao, and each work is illustrated with a verse from the Tao Te Ching.

The artists come from Taiwan, Japan, China and the United States, they are all currently based in New York and they are united in their desire to show the invisible, define the indefinable and measure the immeasurable.

Works on mezzanine Posted by Picasa

ON Megumi Akiyushi’s “Flower Gallery” Posted by Picasa

ON Megumi Akiyushi’s “Flower Gallery”/Jon D’Orazio’s “Drala Crests III” Posted by Picasa

Jon D’Orazio’s “Drala Crests III” Posted by Picasa

Jon D’Orazio’s “Jade Mirror 41 CL1” Posted by Picasa

Hai Zhang’s “Culturally Appropriate” Posted by Picasa

Section of Yo Yo Xiao’s “Dance With Death” Posted by Picasa

Section of Yo Yo Xiao’s “Dance With Death” Posted by Picasa

Still from Cecily McKeown’s “Tao #204” video Posted by Picasa

Still from Cecily McKeown’s “Civilization #56” video Posted by Picasa

ON Megumi Akiyushi’s “Coffin for the Living” Posted by Picasa

Huang Shih Chieh’s “BSB-Side View” Posted by Picasa

Chin Chih Yang’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” Posted by Picasa

Chin Chih Yang’s “Blind Buddha” Posted by Picasa

Lobby with Chang Lishan’s “Light” Posted by Picasa

Taipei Cultural Center
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York
ON Megumi Akiyoshi
Jon D’Orazio
Hai Zhang
Huang Shih Chieh
Chin Chih Yang
Chang Lishan

Union Square Holiday Market

December 19, 2006

Over the past decade it has become a holiday tradition: late in November, the air is filled with the sounds of saws and hammers as red and white striped tents are hoisted, tiny lights and boughs of greenery are draped over fountains, lampposts and statues, and the southern section of Union Square is transformed into a bustling Holiday Marketplace.

Now in its 11th year, Union Square Holiday Market includes more than 100 vendors selling handicrafts, foods, holiday decorations, antique prints, jewelry, toys, clothing and more. During the month that it is open (November 24 – December 24), the Marketplace is busy night and day. On a clear night like this, passersby are enticed by the distinctive sights, sounds and aromas of New York during the holiday season. Hot apple cider, anyone?

Sitting on the fountain Posted by Picasa

Shoppers at a jewelry booth Posted by Picasa

At a booth selling decorations Posted by Picasa

Jewelry vendor’s booth  Posted by Picasa

Paper goods’ vendor’s booth Posted by Picasa

Examining handmade earrings Posted by Picasa

Crowding around a booth Posted by Picasa

Rack of knitted hats Posted by Picasa

NYC Parks Dept: Union Square Holiday Market
NYC Parks: Union Square Holiday Market

Cadman Plaza Dressed in Holiday Style

December 17, 2006

Cadman Plaza is the closest thing to a “town square” in the borough of Brooklyn. Named for the Reverend Dr. Samuel Parkes Cadman, an early 20th-century Brooklyn minister, the Plaza is located on Court Street at the border of two historic neighborhoods: Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn.

If you live in Brooklyn for any length of time, you will surely have to pass through Cadman Plaza to take care of some sort of business. Nearly every subway and bus line stops here and the Plaza is surrounded by government office buildings including Borough Hall, federal and state court buildings and the main branch of the Brooklyn Post Office. Nearby are the Business Library (a branch of the Brooklyn Public Library), the offices of the International Red Cross and the headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Plaza is only a few minutes away from the Brooklyn Bridge and it serves as a gateway to historic Montague Street and its wealth of brownstones, small shops and restaurants. The space is filled with memorials, statues, benches, fountains and flags and includes lawns (currently being replaced), greenery, trees, shrubs and borders of fragrant roses. This is the location of a year-round Greenmarket and the site of many public protests and community events.

In a community as diverse as Brooklyn, it shouldn’t be surprising that various groups choose to celebrate the season in the ways that fit their beliefs. Here are some of that holiday decorations that Brooklynites have placed on Cadman Plaza.

Christmas Tree sponsored by the Brooklyn Terminal Markets Association Posted by Picasa

Menorah sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch and Congregation B’Nai Avraham Posted by Picasa

Nativity scene sponsored by the Catholic Lawyers Guild Posted by Picasa

Menorah in front of Borough Hall steps Posted by Picasa

Cadman Plaza and Borough Hall Posted by Picasa

NYC: Cadman Plaza Park
Wikipedia: Cadman Plaza
The Business Library

Don’t Knock, Shout

December 16, 2006

Today this sign was posted on the front doors of the Iglesia Antioquia, a Pentecostal church on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue.

Sign on church door  Posted by Picasa

Music at the MetLife Building

December 14, 2006

Originally known as the PamAm Building, the 58-story MetLife Building is adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. During the holiday season, the building hosts a series of free concerts by high schools from the surrounding region.

I was passing through the lobby today when this group, which was visiting the city from Connecticut’s Stamford High School, began a performance that included songs about Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwaanza.

The Stamford High School choir Posted by Picasa

Part of the orchestra Posted by Picasa

The string section Posted by Picasa

Singers Posted by Picasa

Strings players Posted by Picasa

Two members of the choir Posted by Picasa

Harmonizing Posted by Picasa

The violinists Posted by Picasa

A singer Posted by Picasa

Two players Posted by Picasa

A singer Posted by Picasa

Stamford High School
The MetLife Building
Wikipedia: The MetLife Building

The Gift of Music

December 14, 2006

This afternoon, on my way to catch the 1 train, I ducked into the Duane Reade drugstore at the corner of Broadway and 50th Street to buy a roll of tape.

As I stepped through the entrance, I nearly tripped over a man who was fiddling with wires leading to a large speaker on the floor. The man adjusted the connection, shifted the speaker and a clear, high voice surged through.

Going inside, I couldn’t fail to notice the vivacious woman in bright red who stood beside a folding table covered with stacks of CDs. As I moved closer, the woman smiled brightly and told me that she was there to promote her new Christmas recording; her name was Lyza Wilson and she was the singer whose voice I was hearing.

I left the store with two of her CDs. It wasn’t until I was on the subway heading downtown that I realized that I’d completely forgotten the task that led me to the drugstore: I still didn’t have any tape.

But I had something better; I’d received the gift of music — all the better because it came at such an unexpected time from such an unlikely place. And although she was singing in a drugstore instead of a theatre, this afternoon Lyza Wilson truly was a star on Broadway.

Lyza Wilson holding her recordings Posted by Picasa

Lyza Wilson
Duane Reade

Blood Diamond

December 4, 2006

New York is filled with famous, glamorous people leading exciting, glittering lives. I’m not one of them. However, on rare occasions, I manage to find myself in their midst. This evening was one of those times.

Tonight Marie Claire magazine held a cocktail reception and screening of the new adventure film “Blood Diamond.” The screening was followed by a discussion featuring Brooklyn native and star Jennifer Connelly, director/producer Edward Zwick and the magazine’s editor in chief, Joanna Coles.

The event ended when the star was reminded that she had to leave; she was due at a taping of the Conan O’Brien show. As the attendees went out into the cold December night, we were given copies of the January issue of Marie Claire featuring Jennifer Connelly on the cover.

Producer Marshall Herskovitz, Jennifer Connelly, Joanna Coles, Edward Zwick, Publisher Susan Plagemann  Posted by Picasa

Jennifer Connelly with Marie Claire cover  Posted by Picasa

Blood Diamond
The New Yorker: Review of Blood Diamond
Amnesty Magazine: Blood Diamonds
The Kimberley Process
Marie Claire
Conan O’Brien

The Independent and Small Press Book Fair

December 3, 2006

This weekend the Small Press Center, a non-profit educational organization for independent publishers, sponsored its 19th annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair.

A program of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, the Small Press Center serves those “driven primarily by a desire to publish what interests them, what they believe in” regardless of whether or not large publishing houses consider it commercially feasible.

The Small Press Center is housed in a landmark Victorian structure at 20 West 44th Street in Manhattan. Built in 1893, it was designed by architects Hugh Lamb and Charles Alonzo Rich to house the Berkley School (at the time, a private school for boys). The General Society moved here in 1899 and designated its central space, a three-story, skylight-topped expanse, as the main reading room for their members’ library.

The library was the site of the Book Fair, with most of the 100 or so publishers in attendance exhibiting their wares in the main reading room or on the surrounding balconies. In addition to the books, the Book Fair included readings, talks and panel discussions with authors, editors, illustrators and publishers.

Author Emily Jenkins Posted by Picasa

Illustrator Tomek Bogacki Posted by Picasa

Poet/TV personality Ira Joe Fisher Posted by Picasa

Literary anti-hero Amiri Baraka Posted by Picasa

Author Colin Channer Posted by Picasa

Graffiti artist Savager Posted by Picasa

Graffiti artist Erni Posted by Picasa

Graffiti artist Smith Posted by Picasa

Graffiti artist Lady Pink Posted by Picasa

Small Press Center
Book Fair Schedule of Events
Emily Jenkins
Tomek Bogacki
Colin Channer
Amiri Baraka
Smith and Lady Pink
General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen
The General Society Library
Lamb and Rich Architecture

The Rink and the Ring

December 2, 2006

At this time of year I’m always of two minds regarding midtown Manhattan: I’m anxious to see the fabulous, elaborate holiday decorations but I also want to stay far away from the hectic, bustling crowds that overflow the shops and stores and make the sidewalks impassable.

This evening I was in midtown, only a few blocks from Rockefeller Center, when I decided to take a short detour and get a quick look at its legendary massive Christmas tree (currently an 88-foot tall Norway spruce from western Connecticut) and fabled ice skating rink.

I slowly waded through the masses in the Channel Gardens that lead from Fifth Avenue to the holiday display, snapped a few photos of the tree, and moved forward towards the skating rink. Despite the patient, smiling security guards, the throng around the railing was at least 12 deep and many were trying to push and plead their way to the front (“We came all the way from India for this!” “We flew here from Texas just to see the ice rink!” “Please let my sick little boy through to see the skaters!”).

I extricated myself from the crush and started to walk towards the subways when I saw a spot, right near the elevator, where relatively few people stood. I headed there and squeezed in between a large family from Connecticut, another from Russia and an excited group from Italy.

As I leaned towards the railing to take some photos, the surrounding crowd jostled me and I concentrated more on keeping my balance than watching the action on the ice. When I looked up, I noticed an attractive young couple standing stock still in the middle of the ice. I took a couple of shots of them, a few more photos of the crowd in the rink, and left.

When I got home and looked through the images I’d taken, I realized what I’d inadvertently captured. Since they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll let the photos (sorry for the poor quality) tell the story of the boy with the blond hair, the girl with the pink scarf, the rink and the ring.

The 88 foot tall tree at Rockefeller Center  Posted by Picasa

Looking onto the skating rink Posted by Picasa

The ice is crowded Posted by Picasa

A couple skates to the center of the rink Posted by Picasa

He drops down on one knee Posted by Picasa

The clinch; looks like she said “yes” Posted by Picasa

He presents the ring Posted by Picasa

They don’t even notice the gathering spectators Posted by Picasa

They skate off as the crowd applauds Posted by Picasa

The Rink at Rockefeller Center
Rockefeller Center
WNBC’s Tree-Cam

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