Friday, November 27, 2009

Up, Up and Away!

The museum where I now work is located on one of the blocks where the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons are lined up each year. The streets are blocked off, the balloons arrive from New Jersey, and then they're inflated. NYC citizens and tourists alike join a long snaking line to get an up-close view at some of our favorite characters, rendered 50 feet tall!

When I emerged from the subway during my morning commute, this is the scene that greeted me:

Here's the vantage point from the museum's entrance:
Spiderman weighed down by many sandbags, Pumpkins, KERMIT(!), and the Energizer Rabbit
(I think next year the Bunny and I should be Kermit and Miss Piggy for Halloween!)

The view from my boss' window:

Some of the friends we passed along the way:

The fine folks from Ritter even gave MVG and me some delicious chocolate in exchange for posing for photos with Ritter candy and making video holiday greetings.
Here's MVG, filming her segment:

We made sure to secure a delicious finale to our idyllic Autumn evening:
Pot Roast at Sarabeth's!

The crowds were a bit restless (especially with children in tow), and the volume of visitors was surprisingly large (even by New York standards). MVG and I joked that our float friends looked like giant caged animals, especially the ones with netting thrown over them; it's a sad thought, and in a way hampered my enjoyment of the experience. By the time we made it near the other street that showcased the remainder of the floats (like Hello Kitty, a character I adore, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, Shrek, etc.), we were exhausted and decided to call it a night. I won't be making an annual tradition out of this, but I think it's worth a visit at least once in your lifetime.

Because, honestly, who doesn't love a six-story-tall balloon?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Tent is Up!

A few weeks ago the Bunny said he had prepared a surprise for his sister and me.
Our instructions were to meet him at the fountain in Lincoln Center on a specific date at 6 o'clock in the evening.

I knew that the NYCB and ABT seasons had not yet begun, and that the showtime was a few hours too early for a Met opera performance or Philharmonic concert.

I had my suspicions about what it might be, but, unquestioningly, I showed up at Lincoln Center as instructed.

(Did you know that the New York State Theater, below, was recently rechristened the "David H. Koch Theater"? David is from Wichita, Kansas, just like me, and the second richest man in NYC, after Bloomberg. He and his brother Charles, who still lives in Wichita, are tied for #9 Richest American, and are the #19 and #20 Richest People in the World. Gives me faith in the kind of life I can build for myself in the future!)

When The Bunny and his sister arrived we were whisked off to the

This was the first circus I'd ever been to (not counting Britney Spears' concert) and was a little skeptical.
But two things gave me faith that it would be a fun evening:
#1) A glowing review by the New York Times, and
#2) The fact that our little friend, SMG, is in the TV commercial and she only works on the best projects!

We sat in the third row. As the commercial jingle notes, all seats are no farther than 50 feet from the ring so every seat is a good one.

Unlike Ringling Brothers, this circus focuses on quality over spectacle. The single ring, versus Ringling's three rings, means that the entertainment must be very focused, and the small arena ensures that each act must be magnificent.

The only animals in the show were domesticated: horses and dogs rescued from shelters. I'm sure I would love the appearance of an elephant or a lion at first, but thoughts of animal cruelty would quickly plague me. To see rescued dogs enjoying jumping around and dancing in the ring was so much fun.

The show's star is Bello, a seventh generation clown (yes, his family has been doing this for over 200 years). He isn't a scary white-faced, red-ball-nosed clown. Instead he's silly, funny, great with sleight of hand, and very acrobatically talented. Children, rather than being afraid of him, were in LOVE with him.

The entertainment included contortionists, jugglers, trapeze artists, aerialists, comedy routines from Bello and Grandma the Clown, and some amazing feats in and on the Wheel of Wonder.

The circus also features a live orchestra, which earned MAJOR points in my book;
nothing beats live music.

The circus is in town through January 18, and I highly recommend that you go.
With tickets in the $25-$89 range it's a great bargain and will be some of the most fun two hours you'll spend all season.
You'll be amazed by the athleticism, delighted by the showmanship, and pleased by the great comedy.

Don't stand there watchin' me/
Follow me/
Show me what you can do

If you go, enjoy the show!

Bibliophilia meets Librophilia

If you follow me on Twitter (@MurphysNewLaw), you may have seen my re-tweet of a friend's link to photos of beautiful libraries; I appended the link with the comment that these gorgeous locations were, without a doubt,
my idea of heaven.

My new museum job is a dream come true in many ways. The people there and the work itself are so fun and wholly fascinating, and I have the added perks of working in a gorgeous space right across the street from Central Park, and getting to conduct research at the New York Public Library.

Naturally, the NYPL system has many branches, but I'm talking about the motherlode: The Schwarzman Building. If you saw the Sex and the City film, you'll remember this as the place where Carrie and Big almost marry:

Or, if you love Breakfast at Tiffany's, this is the location where Holly and Jack request to see his book (watch from 0:40 to 2:45):

(The same system of waiting for your number to be called still applies today. Did you know that "57" happens to be my favorite number?)

(HERE'S a list of other movies filmed in the NYPL.)

It's such a delight to research in this library, and I find myself frequently distracted from the core research because there's so much I want to learn; I'm frequently reading every detail of every page when I should just be browsing for specific information. Is there any greater luxury than education?

Anyway, here are a few shots of the Main Reading Room and third floor of the Schwarzman building, or, what I like to call my "other office." Hah.

Across Fifth Avenue on a little side street called Library Way, there are plaques on the sidewalk which showcase great quotes about learning. Here are two of my favorites:

Here's to wishing that the places in which you learn are as beautiful as the knowledge itself.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Whitney.

I believe that any difficult day can be salvaged if you either seek and discover beauty, or learn something new and interesting.

After struggling through a pair of long and trying days this weekend, I hit the jackpot in both regards when I wrapped up my Sunday with a trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art to view "Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction." My dear friend ALF pointed out that it was O'Keeffe's birthday (as well as ALF's herself), so I picked a fitting day to visit.

As a child I was influenced by my parents' tastes in art, primarily: Chinese watercolors, the three generations of Wyeths, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Chinese art hung in our house, and catalogues of retrospectives by the other artists littered our bookshelves and coffee tables. I pored over these works and came to know them like distant relatives. It may be obnoxious to say, but Georgia O'Keeffe feels very familiar to me.

In a way, then, seeing the Whitney's exhibit felt like a reunion of sorts. But, so importantly, I was exposed to much of O'Keeffe's work that I had never seen before, and learned about entirely new sides of the artist who is almost limitingly known for her vivid floral pieces and Southwestern landscapes.

The show was excellent. I've been grappling with wondering if credit is due to the Whitney's curation (and, certainly, they did a fine job of image selection), or rather, if it's because O'Keeffe's nearly seven-decade career evolved through many different phases and produced a tremendous portfolio of work. I think it may be the latter.

Even in its earliest form, O'Keeffe's work was abstract. The show begins with charcoals from 1915, and quickly leads into watercolors. I was fascinated by the work, and grateful to see these pieces since I only previously knew O'Keeffe's work in oil.

The most moving aspect of the show is the continual reminder of O'Keeffe's search for emotional expression through art. Lest we forget she experimented with radical ideas in the first half of the last century; it would be easy to convince someone that she was a liberated woman of the 1970s. A series of watercolors on display were painted after O'Keeffe's first meeting with photographer Paul Strand, which she described as "being not of Strand but rather of a feeling that he had aroused in her inner consciousness." To paint the feeling rather than the thing itself--it's such a magnificent idea.

Another idea that struck me as so funny (and reinforced the notion that one's experience and interpretation of the world is often quite different from everyone else's) was this quote from O'Keeffe:
"I have painted portraits that to me are almost photographic.
I remember hesitating to show paintings,
they looked so real to me.
But they have passed into the world as abstractions--no one seeing what they are."

The show does right by its viewers in explaining O'Keeffe's extremely important exposure to, and experimentation with, photography via Paul Strand and Alfred Stieglitz. The cropping she learned with photography led to her development of the hyper-magnified floral paintings for which she is best known.

And, knowing how to please their visitors, the Whitney certainly spoils visitors with O'Keeffe's sumptuous oils and magnificent colors. I know I love a painting if I want to eat it or live inside of it (note: we are each entitled to our unique visceral reactions!); I had this feeling on several occasions throughout the exhibit.

I avoided reading the NYTimes' review until after I saw the show I'm going to take a peek at what they had to say. But regardless of what any critics may think, I loved this exhibit. I love knowing more about what an amazing woman and courageous artist O'Keeffe was. And I'm already planning a trip to her New Mexico museum in my mind...

See it if you can. The show runs through January 17, 2010.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Trumpet of the Swan

I'm a little late to the game for a Halloween post, but it's my favorite holiday of the year so I hope you'll indulge me.

After contemplating some (in my opinion) excellent costume ideas, in the end I went for: BJORK!

-1 white bubble dress from Forever 21
-4 feather boas from a fabric store
-1 pair of white children's tights from The Children's Place
-The Bunny's white socks
-A little bit of ribbon and 2 buttons
-The insanity and drive to make this happen

It was a hit and I had a LOT of fun.
Seriously, I dare you to be an Icelandic musician for Halloween and NOT have a ball.

Impressions of Bjork. She's a true original....

I studied ballet for many years and it's one of the TRUE loves of my life.
No swan costume would be done justice without the opportunity of being photographed in the final pose of the "Dying Swan."

I was a pretty HAMmy swan:

The Bunny decided to be an egg, since Bjork laid an egg (or rather, an egg-shaped purse) at the Oscars during a Red Carpet interview; I think there's a Freudian message in there somewhere...
I went to Mood fabric and picked up some white felt and constructed a just-this-side-of-amorphic blob for him to wear. He was Grade A, all the way.

As for next year...
Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?
Geisha and American Businessman?
Oh, the possibilities!