Sunday, November 25, 2007

Magic Flutes and Haggis Lasagna

Disturbing how behind I am. Attended the famed Julie Taymor (The Lion King) production of The Magic Flute at the Met at the end of October. The opera, preceded by an excellent repast at the Opera Club with my buddy Patrick Butler, was quite well sung. The Queen of the Night (Anna Kristiina Kaappola, who was making her Met debut that evening) and Papageno were in particular outstanding. If you've not seen it, the production is fantastic in the far-fetched/fantasy sense of the word. But once you accept that, at least it's consistent throughout and it's kind of fun to suspend your disbelief even more. I've never heard a particularly good rendition of Tamino. He's never rendered in a particularly heroic way; he always sounds kind of milquetoasty, although it probably doesn't help that he faints as soon as he comes on stage. (And I wonder if Schikaneder had something to say about that so that his Papageno had no chance of getting upstaged.)

Saturday, November 2nd was the Scottish Ball. Great fun, and a great workout, if you've never tried it! There are three rehearsals beforehand, and you can learn the basic steps, reels, etc. If you have yet to see me in a kilt, check it out in the NYT Sunday Styles. (Thanks to my friend Erika Halford, who gave me the heads-up that I was in the paper.) It's a little hard to make me out, but my tartan is the Maclaren blue and green one and I am in the bottom far left and four over from the bottom far left. One of the best things about it is that it's all the Scotch you can drink, and yet you sweat/work it off with the dancing, thereby mitigating the intoxication. In addition to the usual Shepherd's Pie, there was a new twist on an old favorite: haggis lasagna. My purist sensibilities were a little offended, but it still tasted good. It was a lively, fun crew of fellow revelers, including the talented dancer Susan Wojewoda and Molly and Bill Ambler. A fun way to celebrate the 3 days of fall we got this year. (See the hilarious Onion article.)

FedEx/Kinko's Employees: Intransigent, Half-Witted, or Just Toying with Me?

OK, so I needed to get a document notarized for my never-ending lawsuit in Texas. After a couple of fruitless searches on Yahoo Yellow Pages, I looked, in an antediluvian fashion, in the physical yellow pages. It stated that the nearly two dozen listed FedEx/Kinko's locations (including the one by me on 78th and Lex) had notaries. Just to be sure, I called them and spoke to Gwen and asked if they had a notary on the premises. "Yes we do," she replied. As it appears, I was foolish to take her at face value. I went there and expressed my interest in a notary's services with the implicit and concomitant intention of paying for same. "We ain't got a notary here. You gotta go across the street to the optometrist." Huh? On a scale of one to non sequitur, that's like a 9.8. I informed her that Gwen had assured me that there was a notary on the premises. "Well, not here. We got a notary, but he across the street." I have to admire the mixture of scorn, condescension, and exasperation with which she was able to imbue her answer.

It reminded me of that scene in one of the Pink Panther movies, when Peter Sellers asks an innkeeper, upon seeing a dog at the check-in desk, whether his dog bites. The innkeeper replies in the negative. Peter Sellers goes to check in and is promptly bitten. "I thought you said your dog does not bite," he moans, clutching his ankle. "That is not my dog," rejoins the innkeeper.

In any case, FedEx/Kinko's (at least that one) is dead to me.

And a related incident from my friend Selene:

A friend went into a long-established popular deli/bakery for a sandwich. Several female employees stood about, basically ignoring him. Finally he said, "Does any of you work here?" After a bit of a silence, one of the women pointed with her thumb to another woman and said laconically, "She do."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Funny Video and the Infamous Quote Log, Part I

OK guys, take a look at this. The video itself (one of Will Ferrell's top picks, BTW) is almost as funny as Jonathan Funke's fake review of same.

"A revitalizing contribution to the urban vocabulary of 'patois
physicale' " -- The New Criterion

"Paddy-Cake has never been so arresting, so visceral, so NOW" -- The
Gordon School Bee

"Not gay at ALL" -- The Washington Blade


“Airline flying now is like when I was a kid and would walk by the bus station.”
--Paul Christenson

“He's so far in the closet he's practically in Narnia.”
--as told to me by Deroy Murdock

“I don't usually blame others for my own excesses.”
--Stacy Monahan

Iceland: I feel like it's more trendy than awesome”
--Lauren Pearle

“The problem with hands-free headsets is that you never know if the person walking toward you is talking to someone on a cell phone or just crazy”
—Katherine Eldred

Charlie: “Were you a Tahoe girl growing up?”
Joan Burns: “Not so much. My Dad doesn’t like still bodies of water; he thinks they attract white trash.”

"Some of the most interesting people are the ones you didn't invite."
--Julie Lindsey

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Patriotism, Philanthropy, and Poor Programming

As much fun as this blogging thing is, it's easy to fall behind. Mea culpa.

Had a great evening with my friend Federico Cortese several nights ago at Agata & Valentina Ristorante on 79th and 1st--which is fantastic, by the way. He was born in Italy but has lived here for several years. His knowledge of our system of government and his well-reasoned opinions about same were challenging and intriguing. I have a few friends who are naturalized citizens, and the level of patriotism, love for our country, and engagement with its politics and policies are quite inspiring. Frankly, it even puts me to shame a little that I am not always as up on things as I ought to be. Plus you get to learn so much! Federico is a conductor up in Boston, and we had a very interesting discussion about the role of the State in sponsorship of the arts in Europe as opposed to the fact that here philanthropy plays a large role (whereas in Europe it is almost non-existent). One of the consequences of that is that, in programming a concert set or series, it is more important to take into account audience tastes and tolerance for things that are a little unusual. In other words, there is a certain extent to which market forces, if you will, affect the arts here. An obvious conclusion, perhaps, but the contrast is stark compared to Europe, where a music director could theoretically program 12 hours straight of Philip Glass and there would be no repercussions. Shudder.

A couple of weeks ago I joined the Stanford alumni team (along with my good friends Allison Amend, Danna Chung, and Lorri Elder) volunteering at New York Cares Day at a public school in Brooklyn. We spent the day reshelving books and generally organizing the library and sorting out a science closet. It was a very worthwhile experience. One thing really struck me: they honestly have enough books to have kept the Nazis busy for months. Nigh on 500 dictionaries, crates of children's fiction books still in the cellophane, etc. And this is at a relatively poor school. I'm clearly oversimplifying and don't have full possession of the facts, but it seems to me that at least some of the problem with public education in this country (which, while it may be a public good, is not a right enshrined in the Constitution) is a misallocation, rather than purely a lack, of resources.

Hard to believe it, but I had a disappointing afternoon at Carnegie Hall. The first piece on the program was Joan Tower's In Memory. OK, I swear to God I think this is what happened: she had a couple glasses of white wine and fell asleep in front of the original version of Psycho and then woke up and lifted the non-shower-scene incidental music, strung it together, and called it a composition. I am not alone in my opinion about this. Next was Joshua Bell playing Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto. As always, he played beautifully. But somehow the piece, except for part of the second movement, did not inspire me. The playing by the Orchestra of St. Luke's seemed lackluster all day. The next piece was the world premiere of a violin concerto by a 15-year-old named Jay Greenberg. Now don't get me wrong, I am 18 years past having something premiere as a mid-teen at Carnegie Hall, so Mazel Tov and respeck (to quote Ali G). That said, it was basically pretty ADHD and not amazing. My friend Jon Leaf was with me, and we found it hard to clap while most of the rest of the house gave him a standing ovation. I felt like something of a jerk. His comment? "I don't think that inferior work should be encouraged." A man of principle, and I admire him for it. All in all, a poorly done program.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I Oughta be in Pictures

My dear friend, Lis Fies, is currently making a movie entitled The Commune. Partly because we're such good friends, and partly because I have a very minor producer role for having enthusiastically invested in her movie, she cast me as an extra. Sadly, she chose to typecast me and so I play a malevolent hippie. No lines, just a creepy, appraising glance at a beautiful girl who's walking by. It's a very cleverly written film, the lead actress is stunning, and I wish them all the best! Oh, and check out my listing on (one of my favorite web sites, as it should be for any movie junkie).