Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Perception v. Reality: "Neighbors" by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

I like to think that ALL of my friends are amazingly talented, but some of my friends are granted special distinction by totally unbiased sources.
Such is the case with my brilliant buddy, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins.
In addition to winning a Fulbright Grant, a Princess Grace Foundation award and many other accolades, Branden can now add "professional/successful playwright" to his resume.

Last Friday I had the honor of seeing a production at The Public Theater (the powers behind Shakespeare in the Park, Hair, etc.) of a play Branden workshopped about a year-and-a-half ago, which I also attended.

Branden's show is called "Neighbors" or "N(E)IG(H)G(BO)ERS," and if you remove the parentheses you discover the play's central issues: race, racism, identity and environment. The New York Times wrote a feature article about the show which summarizes it better than I can: READ HERE.

I think what moved me so much about the show is the central idea that self-misperception and misperception BY others is hopelessly destructive. In a world that's often black and white, Branden's play blurs everything to gray.
And that struck a nerve with me.
  • I'm Chinese, but I'm also American.
  • I'm a Midwesterner by upbringing, but I never really fit in there.
  • By every right I earned a spot at Princeton, but often felt a sense of alienation at being only one of 6 people in my class from Kansas (and the only one from my city).
  • I feel in profound sense of belonging here in New York, but I've lived here fewer than 3 years.
How do people see me? And how does that matter?

These are questions I will continue to ask with increased urgency after seeing Branden's ingenious, inspiring and insightful play.

Hugging the playwright after the performance.

The play runs through March 14 but is virtually sold out for its entire run.
I still encourage you to try to get any tickets that might crop up.
Information is available on The Public Theater's website HERE.

This is only the beginning of a prolific and important career.
Bravo, BJJ!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vicky B. at B.G.

Tonight my friend A.S. and I attended an event to celebrate Victoria Beckham's new line of jeans and sunglasses at Bergdorf Goodman.

Victoria Beckham jeans featured in Bergdorf's windows.

I had hoped to see samples of the excellent pieces Victoria debuted at her Fashion Week presentation on Valentine's Day. I cannot express how I covet this gorgeous red dress:

(And I really like these as well. It's a fresh English twist on the Americana sexiness that Michael Kors so successfully achieves season after season.)

But alas, I will have to be patient.

Instead we were greeted by racks of skinny patched and slightly deconstructed jeans, versatile metallic knit tops, and a variety of vintage-inspired sunnies.

Modeling the latest Victoria Beckham sunglasses.

The event was busy but not over-crowded, and Victoria mingled with everyone.
Bergdorf buyers Sunni and Samantha, from MTV's "The City," were spotted on the job and in the dressing rooms; I don't blame Samantha for succumbing to the temptation to slip on VB's sexy jeans.

Victoria and A.S.
Prior to the fete on the 5th floor, A.S. and I dined on the 7th floor at BG.

After a delicious dinner in the ambience of Kelly Wearstler's decorative magic, and with the snow falling down on Central Park directly outside, we indulged in Mariage Freres tea and cookies.

A promotional cookie arrived with the check to remind us of BG's new children's shop: Little BG!

We took a peek. Isn't it cute? A bit like J.Crew's crewcuts store, but nevermind that; I can't ever get enough of childhood fantasy.

It was such a fun night of adding a little *spice* to my life.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Love You More than Valentino

He wouldn't be The Bunny if he didn't have a surprise up his sleeve.
(That reminds me, I need to share the story about "A Little Night Music"!)

Anyway, sneaky Steven told me he was taking me out for Valentine's dinner.
We walked to the street corner to "catch a cab" and he abruptly navigated me into the Cooper Square Hotel (located mere yards from the apartment), where a table at the hotel's brand new and well-received restaurant, Faustina, awaited us.

One of their specialities? BREAD.
Don't mind if I do....

Everything is tapas-style so we ordered several small plates to share:

Tuna and Avocado "Salad" with sea urchin viniagrette

Grilled Ciabatta with Poached Duck Egg and Fonduta//
Lardo Wrapped Prawns over Rosemary Lentils

Herbed Fries //
Black Truffle Risotto with Egg and Ricci di Mare (sea urchin)

Short Ribs of Beef and Spaetzle //
Stewed Eggplant and Pork Shoulder

Five-layer chocolate cake with mocha ice cream.

The Bunny and I both agreed that it wasn't the best meal we'd ever eaten (partially due to the service), but we feasted like kings and had a great time together.

Immediately following the end of our dinner I noticed a voicemail on my phone.
It was nothing short of a singing telegram from my friend AWC, who is a MASTER in the craft of wordplay.
Here are the outstanding lyrics to my singing Valentine:

Christine, oh, Christine, oh
I love you more than Valentino

On this Valentine's Day
I just wanted to say
That Christine, oh, Christine, oh
You know how much you mean, oh
To me

Now before I leave
Please also say hello to Steve
I hope you are filled with joy
for that boy

Re: "That Boy"? I definitely am.
I hope everyone enjoyed the day whether with lovers or friends.
After all, love is love.

Foxier than Boy.

I'm verging on redundant here, but honestly my third haircut with Julie Dickson of Fox & Boy was so fun (and so damn good) that I'm promoting her handiwork YET AGAIN.

Behold the shine and luscious layers:

If you live in Manhattan and you need a coiffeur (or coiffeuse, as it were), give Julie a call.


Xin Nian Kuai Le!

Here's what's fun: Being a kid raised in America's heartland who also happens to be, randomly, half-Chinese.

Here's what's better: Living in NYC and having an Aunt and Uncle in Connecticut (conveniently one hour north) who invite you to Chinese New Year dinner.

Here's what's best of all: Having the Aunt and Uncle cook, so you're not left to your own devices regarding ringing in said cultural heritage via gourmet tradition.
(Honestly, I wouldn't even try to cook; I'd give my friends at Grand Sichuan a call.)


May the year of the tiger be a great one for you.
(aka Dan Xiao Ying)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Crafty Cupid

When it comes to holidays, I can be a bit of a fair weather fan.
If I have a great costume idea and diverting plans for the evening, Halloween takes the cake.
But when Valentine's Day rolls around several months later I want nothing more than to inundate my friends with cards and trinkets, and submerge myself in a world of pink roses.

As a kid, I had more fabulous holiday-specific hair bows, necklaces, sweaters and tights for Valentine's Day than any other holiday. At this time every year I long for those accoutrements and the feelings they imbued me with.

Because of those positive associations, I think Valentine's Day is an utterly LOVABLE event (even when you're single). Afterall:
  • It's one of the few occasions in which pink and red colored paper is festive enough to warm hearts and set the tone for a whole party.
  • It's a free pass to gush about how much you love the people in your life (and force them to accept it).
  • Whereas Christmas offers opportunities to fantasize about the idyllic Victorian lifestyle depicted in Currier & Ives prints, Valentine's Day allows us to actually LIVE OUT those romanticized moments: Swapping locks of hair, hand-stitched cards, and decorating with lace, lace and more lace.
I used to make by hand every single Valentine that I distributed.
Were it not for limits in time and, more truthfully, in crafting/storage space, I think I still would.
The February issue of Martha Stewart Living was an annual treat that provided me the best inspiration for V-Day projects.

In honor of one of my favorite pastimes I'm sharing here some of the loveliest Valentine's crafting ideas from Martha's website (click on any photo to be redirected to full instructions):

Handmade Heart Doilies

For Secret Messages...

Chocolate Wrapper // Valentine Flowers (I wrote poems on these in 7th grade)

For that Heartfelt Homespun feeling...

Heart-Shaped Soap // See-Through Valentines

For a little Tea and Sympathy...

Heart-Shaped Tea Bags

For Creating Paper Magic...

Cobweb Valentine // Lace-Print Stationery

Think (and wear!) Pink.
Make the Boys Wink.
happy <3 day. Cxx.

(All photos via

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Central Park Comes to Life: Snowmageddon 2010

As most of you may have heard -- and some of you have experienced -- NYC is currently in the middle of a blizzard. This being the city that never sleeps, not much changed today other than schools being canceled and my haircut getting rescheduled.

Since school children were out for the day, however, this meant a lot of sledding, snowball fighting and snowman building in Central Park. I took a little stroll to check out the scene.

The hill at the 77th Street entrance.

This little girl was half of a pair of adorable twins, both of whom wore ballet pink Moncler jackets and ski pants. So New York.

My Bean Boots put to good use.

Snowmen of all varieties were on display:

In the Spring and Summer months I spend a lot of time in this particular section of the Park, called Cedar Hill. I pack a lunch and read on the benches while I eat. Sometimes I even take a nap in the sunshine on this exact knoll (I hope this news won't worry my mother; I haven't been murdered yet.). In fact, I've experienced some of the most restful sleep of my life in this very spot.

In the snow, however, this location that I know so well and frequent so often is wholly transformed. My sudden consciousness of this fact today made me realize that the versatility of NYC's landmarks is one of the things I love best about this city.

Just beyond these Park walls are two of the places where I work. Whereas this part of the Park often serves as my lunch spot or after work stop, today it felt like a playground designed exclusively for winter sporting fun.

This statue of Alice in Wonderland is often crowded by tourists in warmer months but was reclaimed today by native New Yorkers.

And the Boat Basin -- which in the summertime is full of electronic toy sailboats, and a point of convergence for ice cream-eating visitors -- was transformed into a place for quiet reflection today.

Any geographic location that experiences seasons undergoes this kind of transformation from month to month, but because many of those places (I'm thinking of my homestate of Kansas) are car-based societies, one's experience doesn't change from Autumn to Winter to Spring to Summer. In New York, you live outside and every change is felt in wholly-consuming and wonderfully metamorphic ways.

As I left the park I passed a father pulling his children in a sled across a Fifth Avenue crosswalk.
Only in New York.


One in a Million

Today is the birthday of one of the very best friends that life has gifted to me:

An old favorite from 2007: EMW, me and MBS

M and I first met in 4th grade, so it's an understatement to say that she knows me well.
She has seen me through thick and thin, and supported me in the very worst moments of my life.
I am indebted to her for those reasons and millions more; I love her for loving me.
But I love her for JUST BEING HER because she makes smart choices and loves fully every single day of her life.
She is truly one in a million.

Happy Birthday, M. I hope this is your best year yet.


Friday, February 5, 2010

New York Wonder Women: Donna Karan and Julie Gilhart

One of the things I love best about fashion is its history of propelling great women to prominence. This doesn't mean that the pioneering female designers, editors, directors had an easy ride. Rather, it seems to be an organic "fit" that people accept, even while they resist women in the boardroom and in the courtroom. Thus, with fewer impediments to the mere fact of their gender, these brilliant women are able to simply be PEOPLE WITH MASTERY OVER A CRAFT and an INDUSTRY.

Recently I was able to enjoy an audience with two such women. In honor of their new exhibition about design and sustainability, the Pratt Institute held a panel discussion featuring two designers of sustainable clothing lines, Caroline Priebe of Uluru and Mary Ping of Slow and Steady Wins the Race, along with Julie Gilhart, the Fashion Director of Barney's.

Julie has an amazing story, which my friend MVG would be happy to tell you. MVG positively idolizes Julie because they're both from Texas and both love fashion. Having seen Julie only briefly in "Seamless," a great documentary about the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Prize, I was anxious for her to prove her worthiness of being a high-powered woman at one of the most important department stores in the U.S. She absolutely delivered the goods.

In a Dries Van Noten jacket, embellished with fair trade beads from Africa, Julie Gilhart discusses sustainable fashion.

Julie went right to the heart of the matter of why sustainability matters: Basically it's an issue of prioritizing QUALITY over QUANTITY (something I've ranted about before). Fast fashion may serve a certain purpose, but it's incredibly wasteful because the clothes aren't designed for longevity; as my dear college friend, DAW, used to say "Yeah...those clothes WON'T last Forever...21." In addition to being wholly disposable, there's nothing LUXURIOUS about those pieces. Life is miserable and predictably awful much of the time. If we have the option and opportunity to inject a little luxury (and to effect conscientious change for our planet) then we should take full advantage. As Julie said,
"I want GOOD FOOD,


After the discussion ended, MVG finally chatted with her hero! Feeling like a proud mother, I snapped this shot of the two of them walking down the stairs together. MVG even snagged Julie's last business card before JG jetted off to see the Paris shows.

Last night, MVG and I rendezvoused at Parsons to celebrate their new MFA program and to hear Donna Karan speak about her life experiences.

I had previously seen, but not heard, DK at Fashion's Night Out. I grew up loving DK's gorgeous draperies and her distinctly urban style: to me, she is the personification of New York City. She spoke of working for Anne Klein, and creating her first collection when she was pregnant and Anne was diagnosed with cancer and dying in the hospital. Donna literally worked on the collection until she was 9 days overdue, gave birth, and then Anne died the next day. It aroused in me the awareness (that I have yet to fully experience myself) of how bittersweet the struggles to be a successful woman can be: to lose a mother-figure, to become a mother yourself, and to have to fight to keep your business afloat. But Donna did it all, and in that particular instance she did it in the course of a few days.

As a natural caregiver she also touched on the ideas of socially responsible and sustainable clothing, and, even more importantly, about social consciousness itself. She said that it wasn't enough to join a charity in which you can be abstractly involved, but rather that social consciousness means being aware of the person sitting next to you and respecting their life and their story and the things that are happening to them. In a way, it's a QUALITY vs. quantity approach to human relations and one's day-to-day existence.

On a less serious note, she admitted to failing her "Draping" course at Parsons and being forced to take the summer school course; obviously she has more than compensated for that short-coming!
Sometimes I allow myself to be confused and incorrectly believe that New York is dominated and driven by the social set. Discussions like these with Julie and Donna remind me that women with sharp minds, a keen eye, and a clear voice are truly the ladies who rule New York.

Thank God.

D.C.: The Place to Be (sans below-freezing temps...)

Last week I enjoyed the incredible opportunity of traveling to D.C. with curators from my museum in order to view object candidates for our upcoming exhibit.
Several years ago I interned at an auction house and worked hands-on with many pieces, but something about the idea of a trip that incorporated in-person art observation along with scholarly research was particularly enticing; it felt like my first real steps in a curator's shoes.

When I departed NYC it was snowing, as you can see from my view of Central Park. Since there was no snow in D.C.'s forecast I felt assured it would be warmer. Oh, the folly of assumption...

I arrived in The District to a lovely welcome from Union Station.

I set off straightaway into the cold to visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery. They boast an excellent art collection that structurally coalesces around Norman Foster's gorgeous Kogod Courtyard:

Following my afternoon spent at S.A.A.M., I met up with two D.C.-based childhood friends for dinner at Georgia Brown's!
WRG and PMH happily settled into heaping portions of sumptuous soul food...

The cornbread is molded to resemble actual corn on the cob!
It's a cute, somewhat kitschy detail in an otherwise elegant restaurant.

They also serve up some of the finest fried green tomatoes known to man:

Like any respectable D.C. institution, Georgia Brown's played host to a political fundraiser taking place mere feet from our table. It was just what I'd expect from a place that was (supposedly) Bill Clinton's favorite D.C. haunt!

I spent the following morning conducting research at the Archives of American Art.
It was an intellectually electrifying adventure. I read an RSVP that was written by Letitia Baldridge on behalf of Jackie Kennedy, and touched correspondence--from mundane receipts to major planning documents-- that shaped a crucial event pertaining to my exhibition. Had I known how to research this efficiently when I was 21 I would have savored writing my Princeton thesis.
Alas, I'm grateful for finally having acquired this skill set pre-grad school!

After wrapping up my queries I visited the Corcoran Gallery and was given a behind-the-scenes tour, and a peek into the conservation lab at a painting of particular interest to my project.

In taking the scenic route from the Corcoran to my next stop, the National Gallery of Art, I passed by the White House. Is it possible to feel anything but complete patriotic adoration at the site of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

I submit that it is not!

I also took a quick stop to admire the skaters at, and the sculptures around, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink.

Anyone who's visited the Princeton Art Museum in the last few years will be struck by the familiarity of Magdalena Abakanowicz's contribution to the garden:

My final destination, the NGA, was a complete delight. Highlights from the Dale Collection merely underscored the astonishing breadth and depth of the museum's collection, and I think we should all be very proud to call these our NATIONAL holdings.

It was a short but worthwhile visit. I look forward to returning for more art, more research and more good time with friends (Miss Mindless, this means You!).