Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NOW this is a show I wish I'd seen


Pictures of the Day

Leonardo Suarez / Reuters
Flying High
Dancers attached to a crane perform during the South American Games closing ceremony in Medellin, Colombia.
Tuesday, Mar. 30, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

COOL Photo Puppy LOVE

As it should be:
Time Picture of the Day March 24, 2010

MAURICIO LIMA / AFP / Getty Images
Puppy Love
In southern Afghanistan US Marines give a stray puppy some cereal.

Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Strand and Magnolia Bakery in two favorite places on the planet

I made a quick trip into "The City" on Monday from Long Island to visit my two favorite places: The Strand Bookstore and Magnolia Bakery both in the Village.

It was worth every too short, New York minute. It was drizzling and a perfect day.

The Strand sells new and used books and is the ultimate bookstore for me. In my previous blog entry, I shared the Top 10 bookstores in the world according to a writer for London's Guardian newspaper. The Strand was conspicuously absent! The Strand is simply heaven. I wish I could work there.

Magnolia Bakery, for those of you who are unfamiliar, came to fame in Sex and the City television series. They are famous for their incomparable cupcakes (I prefer the vanilla...with that butter cream frosting). But I also tried this time the red velvet cupcakes which were also delicious. My friends with whom I was staying in Long Island, Shelly and Patti, told me that the bakery has something that is even more fabulous than cupcakes these days and which happens to be one of my most favorite desserts: Banana Pudding. And they were right. Banana Pudding is either really lousy or really spectacular, IMHO.

Magnolia's Banana Pudding is simply one of the most heavenly, spectacular culinary experiences you'll have in your lifetime. I moaned and sighed and sobbed through my two experiences thusfar. Last portion will be served tonight. I'm already weeping at the thought. (I even brought home Banana Pudding and cupcakes to share with The Bug.)

After the two visits and the walk in the drizzle to and fro I took the LIRR back to Glen Cove. What a perfect day!

Magnolia Bakery (this is the original downtown location but they have two other locations)
401 Bleecker Street
(212) 462-2572

Strand Book Store
828 Broadway
(212) 473-1452
Get directions

Saturday, March 20, 2010

TOP 10 book stores in the world

Thanks to my beloved friend Carla Tourin for this article.

According to Guardian (where in the hell is The Strand?)

Top shelves

Every booklover has their favourite shop, and while it's true that many independents have been driven out of business by online sales and supermarket bestsellers, you still don't have to look too hard to find one that's thriving. To prove it, Sean Dodson chooses the 10 bookshops from around the world which he considers to be the fairest of them all.

1) Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastricht

What does a city do with an 800-year-old church with no congregation? Well, it could make like the Dutch and convert it into a temple of books. The old Dominican church in Maastricht was being used for bicycle storage not long ago, but thanks to a radical refurbishment by Dutch architects Merkx + Girod it has been turned into what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all time. The Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, which opened just before Christmas, retains the character and charm of the old church, while being fitted with a minimalist and modern interior design that overcomes any suggestion of fustiness. From the images you can find on the web you can see that it is a bookshop made in heaven.

2) El Ateneo in Buenos Aires

All the world's a page at El Ateneo, a bookshop converted from an old theatre in downtown Buenos Aires. As you can see from this photomontage the El Ateneo has retained its former splendour, with high painted ceiling, original balconies and ornate carvings intact. Even the crimson stage curtains remain part of the show. Comfy chairs are scattered throughout, the stage is utilised as a reading area and café, and even better, the former theatre boxes are used as tiny reading rooms.

3) Livraria Lello in Porto

Proving that purpose-built bookshops can be every bit as beautiful as converted buildings, the divine Livraria Lello in Porto has been selling books in the most salubrious of settings since 1881. Featuring a staircase to heaven and beautifully intricate wooden panels and columns (see for yourself with these gorgeous 360-degree views), stained glass ceilings and books - lots of lovely books.

4) Secret Headquarters comic bookstore in Los Angeles

A mere profiterole to the fabulous layer cakes of Porto and Buenos Aires, but the Secret Headquarters more than holds its own. Nestled in the creative cluster of Silver Lake, just east of Hollywood, this boutique store offers a sophisticated alternative to most of its rivals and has a reputation for being one of the neatest, friendliest comic stores anywhere. Canadian science fiction author Cory Doctorow rates it as the finest in the world.

5) Borders in Glasgow

The might of the Michigan-based megastore may make a lot of independent booksellers fearful, but few book lovers can fail to be beguiled by the neo-classical architecture of its behemoth Glasgow branch. Originally designed by Archibald Elliot in 1827 for the Royal Bank, Borders has occupied a prime spot on Royal Exchange Square since the millennium and won over many of the city's book lovers. People reading on the steps outside have become as much a feature of Glasgow as the traffic cone on the head of Wellington's statue. Well, almost. Would have been higher on my list if the aesthetic magnificence of the building had in any way been matched by the interior.

6) Scarthin's in the Peak District

Of course, others might prefer the altogether more earthy beauty of a shop like Scarthin Books in the Peak District. Scarthin's has been selling new and second-hand books since the mid-1970s. It has rooms full of new and old books, a delightful café and what can best be described as a small exhibition of curiosities on the first floor. It is a bookshop so beloved, that it advertises local guest and farmhouses on its websites where devotees can stay overnight.

7) Posada in Brussels

Located in a dear old house near St Magdalen's church in Brussels, Posada Books is as famous for its pretty interior as it is for its collection of new and second-hand art books. Has a remarkable collection of exhibition catalogues, which goes back to the beginning of the last century, and holds occasional exhibitions too.

8) El Péndulo in Mexico

The Polanco branch of Pendulo in Mexico City has long been known as one of the best ways to beat the heat in the largest city in the world. Although it only has a small English language section, its open architecture populated with several trees makes for an excellent afternoon's escape. In honesty, as popular for its excellent cafe as it is its books.

9) Keibunsya in Kyoto

If you love bookshops even where you can't read the language, then Keibunsya in Kyoto needs to be on your list too. Some say it's the lighting, others the well-proportioned panels around the walls. Or perhaps it's the little galleries embedded in the bookshelves. Most agree it's just the quiet dignity of the place that's hard to beat. Lots of pretty Japanese art books to marvel at and a few English language ones as well.

10) Hatchards in London

Although the bookshop of Cambridge University is technically the oldest bookshop in Britain, Hatchards of Piccadilly, which has been trading since 1797, is definitely the most aristocratic. Not only does it boast three royal warrants, meaning it supplies books to Her Majesty, it has counted Disraeli, Wilde and Byron among its regulars. Today it retains the spirit of days past, with an interior described by one follower as "reminiscent of being inside a rambling old house, with six floors of small rooms all linked together curling around a central staircase."

This article is at, Friday 11 January 2008 10.11 GMT

Friday, March 19, 2010

Heading from Baltimore to NYC

I'm on Amtrak heading from Baltimore back to NYC. I love riding trains.

Where I live in Southern California train travel is a rarity. When I lived in San Diego I used to take Amtrak periodically from San Diego to LA for business.

There is nothing more civilized than train travel. I know commuters who do it frequently travel via train might think differently. But try commuting for hours in a're so limited in how you can utilize your time. You certainly couldn't blog like I'm doing least until they've eliminated the need for fingers for computers and replace it with voice commands.

But I love to travel by train. By plane, in fact. And by boat. I guess I'm not very earthbound. I'd rather be going to, traveling to something and I'd imagine that is the appeal that boats, planes and trains have for me.

I get to ride the train so infrequently these days that it is a true pleasure to do so.

After dinner tonight, I'll head out to my deahest friend, Shelly Mullen's home in Long Island for a long weekend which I am eagerly looking forward to.

Have a great weekend too!


Sunday, March 14, 2010

I'm off to NYC tomorrow for a week

Will blog while I'm gone. But I'm heading to my favorite city in the world. Here I come The Strand and Magnolia Bakery.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cool PHOTO Like Mother, Like Daughter

TIME Picture of the Week
Itsuo Inouye / AP

Like Mother, Like Daughter
A 27-day-old female Reticulated Giraffe stands beside her mother at Kanazawa Zoological Park in Yokohama, Japan.

Friday, March 5, 2010

PRECIOUS a phenomonal film OSCAR countdown

The Bug and I went Wednesday to see Precious. Which means that we've now seen all of the films that include Best Actress nominations and all Best Picture nominees, except for two.

This movie , like another nominated Best Picture, The Hurt Locker, is utterly unrelenting and unflinching in its depiction of shocking and horrifying circumstances. In this case, it is the physical and sexual abuse of its heroine (and in every sense of the word), Precious, a teenage girl who lives a living nightmare in her apartment with her monstrous mother, played by Mo'Nique.

Hand Mo'Nique the award for everything because that is the most electrifying, perfectly realized performance in the history of film making. There is nothing likable about this character. And yet Mo'Nique delivers a performance that is so tragic, so frightening, and heartbreaking.

I must say as fair warning: this movie deals blatantly and candidly with incest/rape/physical abuse. It is not an easy movie to watch in this respect. And yet the movie is a work of intense dark beauty.

Precious, played brilliantly by Gibourey Sidabay (such a beautiful name), is the most abused person I think that has ever been depicted on the screen and yet somehow this character finds a way to move forward, and is certainly the most unlikely candidate. Precious is an obese teenager, who with a push of good intention from her High School principal is sent to a school which is designed to educate students with the same challenges as Precious. It is through this school that Precious, in spite of horrific acts of abuse, learns that she is a precious one of god's creatures and after having given birth to her second child (Precious' father was the father of her two babies) finds the courage and strength to walk away from her mother.

This movie is still resonating in my mind. I literally at moments during the film screamed or cried "NO!" it was that astonishing and unrelenting.

So, for my Oscar predictions/preferences. I ultimately think, having seen all of the Best Actress nominees' performances, that the race is down to Sandra Bullock and Helen Mirren (Carey Mulligan maybe). Ms. Sidabay gives a landmark performance, yes. But compared with MoNique's interpretation it isn't landmark enough, IMHO, to rate as Best Actress. I'm rooting for Sandra at this point!

See this movie. Lee Daniels also certainly deserves to win Best Director. But I think that honor will end up going to the director of The Hurt Locker.

What are your thoughts/predictions?

Tomorrow morning I'll go to see the last film I'll be able to view before the award ceremony Sunday evening. That's A Single Man.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hysterical PHOTO Drag Race TIME Picture of the Day

This made my morning. You gotta love those Aussies. They have such a great sense of humor. Go Girls!

Time Photo of the Day
Drag Queens race on the main straight of the Randwick Horse racing course during the Pink Stiletto race day in Sydney, Australia.

Friday, Feb. 26, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The LAST STATION Another fabulous movie

Boy, what can I say but 2009 was truly a distinguished year, IMHO, for movies. At least the movies that are up for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The problem is, while this select few represent a really interesting spectrum of subjects/topics, there is really a dearth of quality movies made these days.

In fact, there is a dearth of films made these days, period.

Anyway, the Bug and I toddled on over to the Cinema Palme d'Or yesterday to catch The Last Station which is one of the last Best Picture candidates that we hadn't seen. Neither of us had a clue about what the movie was about. We knew only this: it was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress and its cast included the goddess Helen Mirren and that hottie James McAvoy.

I seldom read film reviews because I couldn't care less what a critic thinks of a movie. If I wish to see a movie, then I'll see the movie, critically drubbed or not. I don't watch tv. So I learn about new films and their subject matter by trailers or online or occasionally the Sunday newspaper.

But I somehow knew nothing about The Last Station (actually the same was true for An Education....I only knew vaguely that it took place in the 60s). How fun is that? What a wonderful surprise we had.

The Last Station is about the final months in the life of Leo Tolstoy, in early 1900's. Christopher Plummer, nominee for Best Supporting Actor, portrays the master writer and his wife, Countess Sofya Tolstoy, is played in usually brilliant fashion by La Mirren (who is nominated for Best Actress).

And then there is that remarkably fetching and talented James McAvoy. What a wonderful string of films he has made (my favorite film last year, Atonement, before that, The Last King of Scotland. Oh, and one of my other favorite movies, Becoming Jane). He brings an earnestness to the character of Valentin Bulgakov, who is Tolstoy's secretary (everytime he sneezes my heart breaks). This is an interesting character and I can't think of any other actor who could have brought a better interpretation than McAvoy. Valentin is an idealistic Tolstoyan, a practicing virginal celibate, who passionately believes in the tenets of the Tolstoyan Movement: brotherly love and world peace through pacifism, and a denouncement of material wealth and physical love.

Paul Giamatti is brilliant as the Movement's villainous leader, Vladimir Chertkov.

But this move is absolutely astonishing because of the dueling tour de force performances of Plummer and La Mirren.

I have to say that Mirren, in my opinion, is the only other Best Actress nominee, besides Sandra Bullock, who should win the award based upon performance. I haven't seen Precious yet, will see it this afternoon. So I may have to revise my opinion. But I still think Bullock will win. Mirren already has a Best Actress and I think Bullock will win because this is her one true shot at the award and she also set such a huge example for female stars with The Blind Side, which is the highest grossing film starring a major female actress, currently at $250million (domestic).

I haven't seen Jeff Bridges performance yet. He's my sentimental favorite. But Plummer should win Supporting about a career! Father Von Trapp needs and Academy Award.

GO see The Last Station. A beautiful, magnificent film.

One observation for those more well-versed on Tolstoy or Russian History. After seeing this movie, I'm wondering if the Tolstoyan Movement didn't pave the way for the Russian Revolution? Anyone have anything to add. It seemed that, as depicted in The Last Station, that the Movement was anti-religion, anti-Tzar. Given that Tolstoy was so beloved by the people, he was even considered Saint-like, that kind of power and influence would have been the only thing capable of undermining the monarchy and the Russian orthodox church.

Tell me if I'm right/wrong.......Interesting thought though.

Monday, March 1, 2010

AN Education A TRULY FABULOUS movie

Well the final countdown is on. Only a few more days until my favorite show (along with the Tony's): the Academy Awards.

The Bug and I went to see An Education yesterday. Absolutely perfect film and completely original and unique, as are most of the nominated Best Films of the year. From my perspective, based upon the films up for Best Picture, this has been a great year for the industry (I do NOT concur with this conclusion when I visit a video rental store).

This film is magical and its lead actress, Carey Mulligan, gives a performance that is incandescent and on the level of Holly Golllightly by Audrey Hepburn. The comparison with this screen goddess are numerous. But unlike the flighty (in one of my favorite films of all times, Breakfast At Tiffany's see previous blog post). Holly, Jenny, although a bit naive is quite grounded. This almost 17-year old is more mature than all of the other adults that surround her.

The movie is a coming of age film of a young, beautiful and precocious girl, Jenny, growing up in the 60s London who falls in love with a playboy almost twice her age. The young girl, who is attending a prep school in preparation for Oxford, enters a sophisticated world that is at first enchanting and that is completely enchanted by Jenny.

This film benefits from a brilliant script by Nick Hornsby (based upon a memoir by Lynn Barber). The bon mots are numerous and I laughed and cried my way through this movie, much as I did with Up In the Air and The Blind Side.

This film, also benefits from a tour de force ensemble cast: Emma Thompson, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, and the delicious eye candy Dominc Cooper. Rosamund Pike gives a brilliant performance as Helen, a not so dumb, dumb blonde.

The thing that I relish about this film is that our heroine, Jenny, is smart, extremely sophisticated (precociously), funny, fun-loving, principled teenager who navigates her way through a despicable, albeit appealing cast of characters.

So, the real question is: Who shall be the Best Actress winner? Carey certainly deserves it. But my money and opinion is still on Sandra Bullock. That performance was career defining especially after a very lengthy run. Ms. Mulligan I hope has a similar long career ahead as well with more Oscar possibilities. This actress is truly unique. She has a similar quiet intelligence, beauty and humor truly evocative of Audrey Hepburn. It might have been the script and great casting but somehow I think this was a unique alchemy of a good script, a good casting agent and an actress who had the awareness and that certain je ne cest quoi, to bring magic to an already magical movie (even the scene above is evocative of Breakfast At Tiffany's when Holly came to visit George Peppard through the window of his bedroom).

And the Soundtrack is amazing. Thanks to my friend Staci Pope in the beautiful city of Austin for sending me the soundtrack.

Bug and I also rented and watched Coco Before Chanel. It was my second time to see (see previous post) but it was equally as compelling. A brilliant performance by Audrey Tautou.

I hope to see these films before Sunday: The Last Station, Precious, A Single Man.

What did you think of An Education?