Thursday, March 31, 2011

David Yazbek - 11 April Monday ay 92Y Tribeca - Lyrics & Lyricists

Our friend David Yazbek (writer of the songs and lyrics of the Broadway musicals Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and The Full Monty; and the writer and performer of several of our favorite CDs--"Evil Monkey Man," "Damascus," "Tock," and "The Laughing Man") is doing a gig with some wonderfully talented musicians (Maco Paguia [piano], Brian Hamm [bass], and Dean Sharenow [drums]) and singers (Sean Altman, John Ellison Conlee, Mylinda Hull), and Laura Benanti) and other assorted friends (e.g., director Jack O'Brien) in NYC:
11 April Monday at 7:30 PM
200 Hudson St., NYC
Lyrics & Lyricists™ heads downtown for an evening of intimate music and conversation with David Yazbek in the cabaret-style setting of 92YTribeca. Yazbek, the lyricist/composer for The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and most recently Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, is also a singer/songwriter of five CDs and an Emmy Award-winning writer for Late Night with David Letterman. Tonight, he's joined by a few of his favorite vocalists for an evening of songs and talk that will bare all
Check out David's website ( or go to or iTunes for CDs of his shows and music.
See you on the 11th!
  "Only two things are certain: the universe and man's stupidity; and I'm not so sure of the universe."
          -Albert Einstein


Lyrics & Lyricists Downtown:
Performers Set for One-Night-Only Evening of Music + Conversation at 92YTribeca
Sean Altman – Vocals
John Ellison Conlee – Vocals
Mylinda Hull – Vocals
Marco Paguia – Music Director, Piano
Brian Hamm - Bass
Dean Sharenow – Drums
With Special Guest
Laura Benanti - Vocals
Jack O’Brien - Moderator
Monday, April 11, 7:30 pm, $25
92YTribeca, 200 Hudson St.
Tickets + Information: | 212.601.1000
New York, NY: March 22, 2011 – Performers are set for the upcoming Lyrics & Lyricists Downtown: DAVID YAZBEK, the L&L™ series at 92YTribeca on Monday, April 11. In this one-night-only performance and conversation, Yazbek is joined by singers Sean Altman, John Ellison Conlee and Mylinda Hull with Marco Paguia serving as musical director/pianist, Brian Hamm (bass) and Dean Sharenow (drums). Tony Award-winning singer Laura Benanti, who garnered raves for her role in Yazbek’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, is a special guest performer. The evening is moderated by Broadway director Jack O’Brien.
David Yazbek – Composer/Lyricist/Vocals
Yazbek is the composer/ lyricist for Broadway’s The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and most recently, this season’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. He has also released five CDs as a singer/songwriter, performs in venues around the country with his band, and has two Tony nominations, three Grammy nominations and an Emmy win to his credit.
Sean Altman - Vocals
Altman was the founder and former leader of the vocal group Rockapella - star of the TV series Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego? - for which Altman co-wrote the famous theme song with childhood friend David Yazbek. He is a member of the Loser's Lounge series in Manhattan, and has also performed as part of the comedy song duo What I Like About Jew, and with his solo comedy song act, Jewmongous.
John Ellison Conlee
Actor/singer Conlee garnered Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for his role in The Full Monty. He has also appeared on Broadway in The Constant Wife and 1776 and TV viewers will recognize him from his recurring roles on Parks and Recreation and Brotherhood, among others.
Mylinda Hull - Vocals
Singer/dancer/actor Hull has performed on Broadway in Sweet Charity, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and 42nd Street. Her off-Broadway credits include I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change and Chef's Theatre, as well as regional theatre productions such as The Pajama Game, Chicago, and White Christmas.
Laura Benanti – Special Guest
Benanti won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for her starring role as “Louise” in the 2008 revival of Gypsy. She received Tony nominations for her performances in Into the Woods and Swing. Last year she reunited with her Gypsy co-star Patti LuPone in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
Jack O’Brien - Moderator
O’Brien is a multiple Tony Award winner and nominee, with Best Director wins for The Coast of Utopia, Henry IV, and Hairspray and nominations for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty. He is currently directing the new Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can, opening next month.
Marco Paguia – Music Director, Piano
Paguia worked with David Yazbek as associate conductor and keyboard player in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and also worked on Broadway in last year’s production of Everyday Rapture. He has also released a CD, Small Hours, with his jazz trio, and performed at Joe’s Pub with Everyday Rapture’s Lindsay Mendez.
Brian Hamm – Bass
Hamm’s Broadway credits include Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Everyday Rapture, Lestat, Starmites and Les Misérables. He has also backed Buster Poindexter as part of the band Banshees of Blue.
Dean Sharenow – Drums
Sharenow has played on Broadway for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Full Monty. He also co-produced the original cast recording for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and has toured with Joan Baez.
Lyrics & Lyricists Downtown features intimate, informal conversations with songwriters working in today’s musical theater, all in a nightclub setting (complete with full bar). The New York Times called last year’s debut “welcome” and noted that it “deserves to flourish.”
About 92nd Street Y
92YTribeca is 92nd Street Y’s downtown arts and culture venue in New York City. Opened in October 2008, 92YTribeca presents music, comedy, film, theater, talks, classes, family events, and Jewish community and holiday programs in a versatile, street-level, modern space at 200 Hudson Street.  For more information, visit
Since launching its first concert series in 1934, what is now 92nd Street Y Tisch Center for the Arts, which produces Lyrics and Lyricists, has presented acclaimed classical musicians and exciting newcomers; it is also home to 92Y’s winter and summer jazz series, guitar series, family concerts and the renowned Unterberg Poetry Center.
Founded in 1874 by a group of visionary Jewish leaders, 92nd Street Y has grown into a wide-ranging cultural, educational and community center serving about 300,000 people of all ages, races, faiths and backgrounds each year.  For more information, please visit

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Go to the Quilt Show at the Armory! -closes Wednesday

I have already sent around notification of this fabulous event (q.v., on my Blog version at, below); but, now that Nancy and I have seen it (twice, at this point....and once for three hours!), I realize how important it is for me to tell you--you NEED to go!  It does not even matter whether you are the tiniest bit interested in quilts (although, of course, if you are, this exhibition is mandatory):  "Infinite Variety" is a visual experience you simply should not miss.  And it is only here through this coming Wednesday (the 30th; specific information below)...
You can read all about the exhibition seemingly everywhere.  Yesterday's (25 March Friday) New York Times had two articles and a beautiful full-page ad.
What may not be immediately apparent, however, is that, the addition to the incredible beauty of these 651 red and white quilts themselves, the design of the exhibition--and, therefore, the incredibly effective overall experience of being within it--is one of the most astounding feats of design I have ever seen.  Tom Hennes and his team at Thinc Design--and especially his Design Director, Steve Shaw--have conceived and executed a true masterpiece of display art.  They have made the show come alive as a kind of three-dimensional quilt of quilts.  And, in doing so, they have utilized all of the three dimensional potential of this enormous space in a way that is totally brilliant.  Starting with the concept of the quilting circle--of a community of quilters, usually women, sitting around a circle, working together to sew these creative expressions--they created a circle of chairs with quilts draped over them.  Curving upward above this circle is a rising spiral of suspended quilts; and this all is enclosed in a larger circle of suspended quilts.  The majority of the remainder of the exhibition consists of a series of other "quilting circles" which lead the visitor through the exhibit.  There is also a powerful longitudinal axis from the entrance to the Armory, through the central spiral, down the length of the enormous drill practice room, and ending with a curving wall of suspended quits, which essentially receives the longitudinal movement down the center of the exhibition, and eventually heads one back along the south side of the exhibition, back to the entrance.  One of the main beauties of the Thinc team's design was the decision to use the quilts themselves as the structure of the architecture:  each circle is composed of ten vertical rows of suspended quilts (generally three quilts in height, with the exception of the entrance and exit from each circle, which lack the bottom quilt, and the central circle, which is four quilts in vertical height); and the "fabric" of the constructed environment is the quilts themselves, hanging from nearly invisible stainless steel cables, suspend over unobtrusive cylindrical tubes attached horizontally across pairs of cables, with two quilts suspended over each tube--one facing into the circle, the other facing out.  Everything but the quilts seems all but to disappear.  Another beautiful decision was to make the entire structure visually penetrable:  one is always able to see through each part of the exhibition into the rest of the space, and one's eye is drawn progressively deeper into and across the entirety of the space.  Finally, the incredibly successful decision was made to distribute the quilts with an apparently random mix (as opposed to grouping them by type, age, pattern, etc.; I say "apparently random," because great care and artistic brilliance went into the actual mixing and positioning--both on the part of the Thinc team, and if the exhibition's fabulous curator, Liz Warren.):  this created a visual richness and variety for every part of the exhibition that is one of the rewarding aspects of the experience, and creates a full and emotionally fulfilling expression to the title of the show, "Infinite Variety."  (In fact, one of my favorite facets of the experience of the show was that after concentrating on one sort of design--my natural favorite being the ones that were the more simple, geometric designs in red on a mostly white background--I would begin to be drawn to ones that were quite the opposite--sometimes ones that were predominantly red, sometimes ones that were more curvilinear, and even sometimes ones that were more intense and even mannered!)  The exhibition is also incredibly well-lighted:  each of the 651 quilts is illuminated separately and perfectly by a separate light from above.  (The structural decisions were also brilliant--partly necessitated by the fact that the entire show had to be assembled and mounted in just two and a half days!)
The quilts themselves span three centuries of American folk tradition, although most are from the mid-nineteenth century on.  The are not labeled; and, as Joanna likes to point out, these are "common" examples of this mostly female, folk tradition.  Nevertheless, they are astoundingly creative and beautiful.  You will be drawn to some as works of art that speak very specifically to you, whereas others may affect you less--although which falls into which category will be a highly personal thing.  But the overall experience will leave you profoundly moved, and quite dazzled.
Again, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity that Joanna Rose has provided for us.  Do not miss it!
Infinite Variety
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue (between 66th and 67th Streets), New York City

Sunday, March 27, 11 am–5 pm
Monday, March 28, 11 am–7 pm
Tuesday, March 29, 11 am–7 pm
Wednesday, March 30, 11 am–5 pm

Admission is free

Friday, March 25, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - 100 Years Later

[for a complete version, with photographs and text of the various articles, go to:]

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.  That fire was a horrifying tragedy, but it led to one hugely important positive outcome:  the growth and acceptance of the American labor movement.  In this age of wholesale attack on the labor movement, today is a crucial time to stop and remember the incredibly important function that labor unions have provided American workers—and American society as a whole.  There are, of course, legitimate criticisms that can be leveled at labor unions; but in the fervor to attack them, their opponents seem to forget all the legitimate value they bring and the vital gains they have achieved.  (And, it might be good to remember that the opponents also may be legitimately criticized for the abuses on the other side, despite what benefits they have achieved.)

I was speaking today to a young woman who did not know the story of this tragic part of our city—and country’s—history.  So I believe it is a good time to take a moment to recount it.  At the moment, there are two wonderful resources available online:  Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire: 1911—100 Years Later—2011,” at, put together by Cornell’s ILR School (formerly the NY School of Industrial and Labor Relations), which, in addition to a wonderful overall history of the event and its aftermath (included below), has primary source documents, photographs, and a list six previously unidentified victims (q.v., a very interesting and personal bit at the very end of this Alert);  and, a collection of articles from on the New York Times website, at

I begin with some photographs which appeared in the Times at the time, from a piece by David Dunlap, “Triangle Fire: A Frontier in Photojournalism,” who points out that among the reasons “the Triangle fire embed itself so firmly in the popular conscience…[were] the existence in 1911 of a growing photojournalism corps, ever-improving printing technology and a public hungry for images.  …Within 24 hours of the fire, candidly brutal pictures of the tragedy were in circulation… Within 48 hours, readers…could visit the gutted interior of the crucible itself to see pictures of a locked stairway gate.  In its sheer scope, coverage of the Triangle fire was one of the earliest such graphic, public, inescapable and almost instantaneous media assaults on genteel sensibility.”   I have included the following images from Dunlap’s article: 1) “American Press Association.Firemen carrying the body of a woman who jumped from the ninth floor,’ was the caption of this heavily retouched photograph that was published in The Times on Sunday, March 26, the day after the fire.” [at top, at right]; 2) “Credit obliterated, presumably American Press Association. The headline over this photo in The Times said, ‘Police numbering the bodies in the street.’” [above, at left]; 3) “American Press Association. ‘The gate that was locked to prevent theft of merchandise, and which caused many deaths,’ The Times caption said on Monday.” [at right]

There were 146 people who died that day, either burning to death or jumping to their deaths to avoid the flames. Most of the victims were recent immigrants, mostly Jewish (102) and Italian, all but 23 were women, mostly aged sixteen to twenty-three.  Many of the deaths occurred because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits.

The sad truth is that immigrants are still being shamelessly and dangerously exploited in the garment industry today.  As the ILS School document points out:

Even today, sweatshops have not disappeared in the United States. They keep attracting workers in desperate need of employment and illegal immigrants, who may be anxious to avoid involvement with governmental agencies. Recent studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found that 67% of Los Angeles garment factories and 63% of New York garment factories violate minimum wage and overtime laws. Ninety-eight percent of Los Angeles garment factories have workplace health and safety problems serious enough to lead to severe injuries or death.  []

And, as Nadia Sussman points out in the New York Times,
A century after 146 garment workers died in a fire at the Triangle shirtwaist factory, new immigrants still try to sew their way to the American dream.  But these days, especially in New York, garment work is hard to come by.  Safe working conditions and living wages in unionized factories are a legacy of the Triangle fire, but in other factories, day laborers from Latin America say they are treated poorly, paid less than minimum wage, or not paid at all.  That is, if they can find work. []
And it is not only in the garment industry that such abuses continue to take place.  

The disparity of wealth in out country continues to widen; and, while there are more people living at levels of affluence heretofore unheard of in the world, real wages for the vast majority of people in the United States have been declining for decades.  (After steadily rising for decades, beginning in 1974, real wages have steadily declined [except for a temporary reversal in the late 1990s].)

Here follow the two important histories, the first told by Joseph Burger in the New York Times, the second, a far more complete overview—including the legal aftermath of the event and a very informative look at how the event illustrates the exploitation of garment workers then and even now—was done by the ILR School at Cornell.

Triangle Fire: A Half-Hour of Horror


ILR School at Cornell

And, as for that recent discovery of the identity of the six unidentified victims, here is the IRL School piece about it ( :


Of the 146 fatalities in the Triangle fire, several victims could not be identified by the time of their burial. These garment workers were buried in a quiet ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery in which Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant religious services were observed since the faith of the deceased could not be determined. The husband of victim Catherine Maltese identified one of her effects shortly after her burial and she was reinterred next to her two daughters that had also perished in the fire. In the weeks that followed, other families came to the painful realization that their relatives were among the remaining unidentified. But those discoveries did not receive the media attention that the initially identified victims did and their names were lost to all but their families.
Lacking this information, later historians had assumed these were young, recent immigrants without families or anyone that could identify them. That explanation never satisfied independent researcher Michael Hirsch, who has spent several years poring over manuscripts, newspapers, and official records to sift through the information and misinformation that had grown up around this tragic event. The Kheel Center is one of a number of repositories and agencies that has been honored to work with Hirsch and exchange information and contacts with him. As a result of his tireless research, Hirsch has recently rediscovered the names of the six unidentified victims.
The Kheel Center is honored and humbled to add the following six names to the Triangle Fire website victims list. For more information on these individuals, please watch Triangle: Remembering the Fire premiering March 21st on HBO. The Kheel Center and Cornell University thank Michael Hirsch and HBO for allowing us to add these names so they can be commemorated with the 140 other victims on the centennial of this senseless tragedy.

Josephine Cammarata

Age 17
Engaged to be married on Easter Sunday, she lived at
18 Cornelia Street
along with victim Concetta Prestifilippo, listed below. The two may have been cousins.

Dora Evans

Age 18
An engaged Russian immigrant, she lived at
239 Watkins Street

Max Florin

Age 23
A Russian immigrant, he was recognized as missing in the aftermath of the fire but his family and friends held out hope that he was still alive. A news story carried a plea from the family as to whether he was staying with friends. He was said to have been engaged to the Jannie Blanck, the cousin of Triangle owner Max Blanck. He lived at
171 Broome Street

Maria Giuseppa Lauletti

Age 33
The Kheel Center became aware of her when we were contacted by a descendant. Hirsch's own research also found and confirmed the name independently. She was survived by five children but her younger sister Isabella Tortorelli died in the fire.

Concetta Prestifilippo

Age 22
Listed in various places as Mary or Rosa Prestifilippo, she lived at
18 Cornelia Street
along with victim Josephine Cammarata, listed above. The two may have been cousins.

Fannie Rosen

Age 21
An immigrant from Kiev who had been in the country for six months and had worked at the Triangle factory for two days. She lived at
716 E. 5th Street
and had changed her name from Faiga Resnik.
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And, as for the personal piece, it turns out that the last of these, Fannie Rosen, was the great aunt of Judy Zimmerman, wife of my dear old friend and Rabbinical School compatriot, Shelly Zimmerman!  Here is an email I received from Shelly two days ago:

It is amazing how just an article in the New York Times can change a family's profound sadness and its narrative.  !00 years ago my wife Judy's great aunt perished in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy. For years I had heard the story of how she came to NYC, how she managed to get a job at the Triangle factory just two days before the fire and that she perished in that fire.  Judy's grandfather was part of the family that was brought over to see his sister's gravesite. They then stayed in North America.

But for some unknown reason her name was not on the lists published in the latest book.  140 names are on that list - but 146 people perished.  A short time ago in the New York Times an article was written about Michael Hirsch's attempt to find out the names of those buried under a common stone in a New York cemetery.  He wanted to identify those buried there and was able to discover all the names and information and identify much abut them from archival materials in the Forward and other newspapers.

In reading the article in the NYTImes, I saw that one of the photos bore the name Fannie Rosen, the name of Judy's great aunt.  It also indicated that her name had been Faigele Resnick (the earlier family name that had been changed).  I jumped up, informed Judy, We called the newspaper and were given a way to reach Michael Hirsch.  Judy was able to put him in touch with her mother Ida, now nearly 90 years old and another aunt and the rest of the family who live mainly in Toronto and a few in Detroit. They filled out so much of the story for him.

For many years in the family, the narrative was part of history but no one knew where she had been buried.  Judy's grandfather was very young and had no idea.  So for years the family could just remember the story.  but it lived.  And now finally thanks to Michael Hirsch and Joe Berger who wrote the article the family can visit her final resting place, recite kaddish and remember this young woman and two of her now elderly nieces and great nephews and nieces could close the circle.  Faigele Resnick , Fanny Rosen, aleha hashalom, your tragic death brought Judy's family to the USA and Canada where they now live.  The circle is finally complete. We remember you in love.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Directors/New Films Festival -FIlm Society & MoMA

Last evening was the Opening Night of New Directors/New Films, an annual festival of films from new filmmakers, co-produced by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art.   The list of famous directors who earlier in their careers had films in this festival is astounding (e.g., Pedro Almodovar, Spike Lee, Atom Egoyan, John Sayles, Wim Wenders, Wong Kar Wai. Richard Linklater, Sally PotterKelly Reichardt, and Steven Spielberg, to name a few!  Opening night (as will also be the case with Cloising Night) took place only at MoMA, followed by a fun party in the grand entrance of the museum.  Other films in the festival receive two screenings:  one at MoMA, and the othe at the Film Society's Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center.  New Directors/New Films runs through 3 April Sunday. 
Opening Night's film, Margin Call, was written and directed by JC Chandor and has a great cast, all of whom give extremely good performances:  Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, and Aasif Mandvi.  It is a grippingly intense, totally absorbing drama that takes place within the tight time confines of a single twenty-four hour period, essentially within the narrow spatial confines of the trading floor of an investment bank in 2008.  Within this restricted time and space, the largely verbal action exposes layer upon layer of greed and miscalculation, nefarious plots and desperate schemes that end up jeopardize the entire fabric of the banking system.  The film is fast-moving and suspense-filled, despite the fact that we all know exactly where it is going and how it will all end.  What the film lacks is depth in its characters:  most of the characters are just shallow, undeveloped and essentially static types; the most developed of the characters, Sam Rogers (wonderfully portrayed by Kevin Spacey--who does an excellent job, in a way reminiscent of the acting of Jack Lemmon; which reminds me that there was also something about Margin Call in that was in general reminiscent of James Foley's 1992 film of Mamet's Glengary Glen Ross--perhaps in the emotional intensity both achieve through a very talky vehicle) simply did not work coherently in a way I could buy; and, in the end, I could feel terribly much with--or even about--any of them, since none of the characters really worked as human beings.  And, there is not much substance to the story content, either.  Nevertheless, the film as a whole does work in an extremely successful way, creating an incredibly well-sustained level of tension, effectively moving the viewer along, keeping the viewer emotionally engaged, and throughout providing an experience that one does have feelings about and for.  Margin Call is going to be released by Roadside Attractions, so you will have a chance to see this one theatrically--and you should.  It is well worth seeing.
There are several films we are eager to see this year in addition to Margin CallPariah by Dee Rees (screening on 26 March Saturday at 8 at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center & 28 Mar Monday at the Museum of Modern Art), Hospitalité by Koji Fukada--mostly because it is being shown with Miyuki, a 9 minute short by our friend and former FSLC employee Will McCord--(2 April Sat at 5:15 at MoMA & 3 Apr Sun at 1:00 at WRT), and Closing Night's Circumstance by Maryam Keshavarz (3 Apr Sun at 7 & 7:30 at MoMA)...although there are many, many other wonderful films in the festival you should also consider seeing.  Tony Scott had an article in yesterday's New York Times about some of the more anticipated films of the first half of New Directors/New Films at (there will be an article on Monday about the films of the second half of the festival).  One can get tickets for these screenings, and they are always worth seeing and great fun.
For a complete listing of all the films, along with descriptions, screening times, and access to buying tickets: .  Here is a description of New Directors/New Films  from the Film Society website:
Celebrate 40 years of premieres by film’s most promising new directors!

New Directors/New Films introduces New York audiences to the work of emerging or not-yet-established filmmakers from around the world. Presented jointly by The Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, this renowned festival in past years has uncovered talents like Pedro Almodovar, Darren Aronofsky, Nicole Holofcener, Courtney Hunt, Spike Lee, Kelly Reichardt, and Steven Spielberg.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s stars in ND/NF’s 40th-anniversary season, with many screenings introduced by the directors.
For complete info, please visit

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Infinite Variety" -Joanna Rose's American Quilts at the PArk Avenue Armory

Our dear friend (of four decades), Joanna Rose, is having an exhibition of 650  of her red and white American quilts at the Park Avenue Armory.  The exhibition, mounted by the American Folk Art Museum, is entitled, "Infinite Variety."  As the publicity mentions, "It will be the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in the city."  The exhibition, which is free, is open to the public for six days only, 25 -30 March, 11 AM-7 PM daily.  Don't miss it!

Infinite Variety

Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue (between 66th and 67th Streets), New York City

Friday, March 25, 11 am–7 pm
Saturday, March 26, 11 am–7 pm
Sunday, March 27, 11 am–5 pm
Monday, March 28, 11 am–7 pm
Tuesday, March 29, 11 am–7 pm
Wednesday, March 30, 11 am–5 pm

Admission is free.

For six days in March, the American Folk Art Museum will dramatically transform the Park Avenue Armory’s historic 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall with the installation of 650 red and white American quilts, all of which are on loan from the collection of Joanna S. Rose. It will be the largest exhibition of quilts ever held in the city. As an extraordinary gift to the public, entry to this unprecedented event is free. A café and a book and gift shop will be open during show hours.

The museum is presenting three programs at the Park Avenue Armory in conjunction with the exhibition. For details, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Liszt film and piano performance by Yerushalmi - This Thursday!

Our friend Ophra Yerushalmi is screening her new film, Liszt's Dance with the Devil, and performing two piano pieces this week at the Hungarian Consulate.  (Ophra suggests we come early to insure good seats)
Liszt's Dance with the Devil
a film by Ophra Yerushalmi
Piano performance by Ophra Yerushalmi
Liszt's Two Serenades and Die Lorelei
Introduction by Volker Berghahn (Columbia)
24 March Thursday, 7:30 PM
Hungarian Consulate
223 Eat 52 Street, NYC
The evening is part of a two-day event, Franz Liszt and the Birth of Modern Europe, sponsored by Columbia University, The Harriman Institute, The European Institute, and the Consulate General of the Republic of Hungary.  (See for details.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Two Spectacular events today! Giant Full Moon & Great Abbas Kiarostami Release

There are two amazing things worth viewing today (19 March Saturday):  The first is, which I shall deal with second below (because it is not a one-night-only event...although it may not last long), is the release of our FAVORITE film from this past year's New York Film Festival, Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy. (Copie conforme).  The second, which I shall deal with first, is the fact that tonight's perigee Full Moon will be among the biggest and brightest of all time!  I cannot tell you how much I think you should go out an see both of these visual events.
Perigee Full Moon
The juxtaposition below of two photographs of Full Moons demonstrates the approximate difference between how a Full Moon looks when the moon is at its perigee (point at which its orbital position is lowest [i.e., closest to the Earth], at left) and at its apogee (point at which its orbital position is highest [i.e., farthest from the Earth], at right).  [The photograph is from an extremely informative article on this subject, "Inconstant Moon: The Moon at Perigee and Apogee," available at Another good sight for information about this event is NASA's]

So, we saw the Moon last night, and it was really something...and tonight, 19 March Saturday, should be the best (weather permitting, of course).  Tonight's Full Moon Perigee will make the viewed size of the Moon an amazing 14% larger than the smallest apogee versions we sometimes see, because this Full Moon is occurring within an hour of the Moon's Perigee, a coincidence that only happens this closely approximately every 18 years.  (By the way, while the size difference is impressive, the brightness difference between perigee and apogee full Moons is even more impressive:  it's approximately 30% brighter that at the other extreme!)  When I was first told that there would be this extreme a difference in the viewing size of the Moon, I was skeptical...and even seeing it did not convince me, until I carefully re-considered what I know of the astronomy--mostly with relation to its effect on the tides (q.v., below).
I have long known that the height of the Moon in its orbit above the Earth has a powerful affect on the tides:  The mean tide rise (the distance between mean high and low tides) in Wellfleet, MA, is 10 feet; but the current lunar conditions are resulting in tides rises of ~15 feet (a +12.66 foot high and a -2.24 ft low being the most extreme of the period)!  This alone should have clued me in to the fact that there was veracity in the claims that tonight's Full Moon Perigee would be visually significant.
The factor that fundamentally causes the tides is the Moon's basic position in its journey around the Earth, and that factor has twice the effect as the next most important factor:  high tides occur diurnally (in general) when the Moon is over a particular spot on the planet, and again when it is directly opposite that spot (the latter for reasons of centrifugal force...but that's another story).  Of the other factors that affect the tides, the next most significant is the phase of the Moon, relating to the degree to which the Moon is in line with the Sun in relation to the Earth or perpendicular to it (full and new Moon "spring tides," when the gravitational pull of the Sun is additive to that of the Moon, being the most extreme tides of the orbital journey, while half Moon "neap tides," when the gravitational pull of the Sun counteracts that of the Moon, are the most minimally different).  The next most significant factor--and the one relating to tonight's event--comes from the fact that the Moon's orbit around the Earth is elliptical (ranging from 252,000 miles at apogee down to 221,000 miles at perigee...which is a difference of more than 14%), and so when perigee coincides with a full Moon, the result is more extreme tides (and, conversely, when it occurs at apogee, the tide rise is at its most minimal).  The third factor is the inclination of the plane of the Moon's orbit around the Earth to the plane of the Earth's equator...but this is of far less significance.  (Actually, the current tides are not as extreme as they sometimes get, which I assume [I don't have my astronomical tables with me at the moment...nor do I feel "inclined" to research it online right now...] means that the inclination/declination effect is not near its maximum.)  Suffice it to say that, at times of syzygy (now there's a Scrabble word for you [I know, I know, there are only 2 y's in the game...but there are still opportiunities]), when all of these astronomical factors are perfect alignment, there have been tide rises of ~18 feet in Wellfleet!.  (q.v., , for a more extensive discussion of this interesting tide stuff.)
Anyway, the result of all this is that it makes perfect sense that tonight's Full Moon, occurring as close to perigee as it is, will be larger in the sky--and that 14% is a perfectly reasonable factor for this.  It also makes sense that the height of the Moon is it's orbit would have an even greater affect on its brightness on Earth--as it also does on gravitational pull, and therefore tide height--as these differences are dependent on the relationship between distance and force, which vary inversely with the square of the distance.  On the other hand, if we are so lucky to see it, the Moon will look particularly large as it is just rising over the horizon; but this (like the larger appearance of the Sun at sunrise and sunset), is for an entirely different reason... 
But, on to cinema...
You can read below my full review of Certified Copy. (Copie conforme) from its screening at the NYFF, or you can just click here for it:; but this is a film you will really want to see.  (Well, if you just like plot-driven adventure movies, I'd actually avoid this film like the plague...) This masterful film, written and directed by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, is his first shot outside of Iran.  We have always enjoyed his films (as writer and director, and as writer of films directed by another favorite Iranian director of ours, Jahar Panahi), but Certified Copy is far and away my favorite of his works.  It is a effectively intellectual and subtly emotional exploration of relationships and of the interactions of individual perceptions within them.  The film centers on the relationship between an English writer James Miller (effectively played by William Shimell) and Elle (the marvelous Juliette Binoche), an antiques dealer in Florence.  They meet at a lecture James is giving in the Uffizi in Florence.  His thesis revolves around the question of what is real in art, and what the relationship might be between that reality and the assumed realities of the perceptions of art.  What ensues--wonderfully set in Florence and the surrounding Tuscan countryside--is an incredible playing out of the disparate perceptions of the relational realities of James and Elle, very powerfully reminiscent in the most wonderful ways of Alain Resnais’ marvelously reality-bending  Last Year at Marienbad—although Certified Copy is played, as it were, in a much lighter and more enjoyable register.  As I said above, it was our favorite film in this year's NY Film Festival...which makes it extremely special!  I suggest you see it.  And I suggest you do not procrastinate, as films that are this good usually do not stay around very long (unfortunately)...
This film is now currently playing in the NYC area at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (Broadway Between 62nd and 63rd), IFC Center (323 Avenue of the Americas), Kew Gardens (81-05 Lefferts Blvd., Kew Gardens, Queens), Clearview Claridge Cinemas (486 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, NJ); in California at The Landmark (10850 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles), and Laemmle's Playhouse 7 (673 East Colorado Boulevard 2 Blocks West, Pasadena); and at a number of theaters in Connecticut (our friend Arnold's Madison Arts Cinema at 761 Boston Post Road, Madison), Criterion Cinemas at 86 Temple Street, New Haven, and the Avon Theatre at 272 Bedford Street, Stamford).
Below is my NYFF review, which has much more to say about the film.  I only warn you that, near the very end of it, there is a bit (clearly marked as a "SPOILER ALERT")  that gives away a small piece of the plot--even though the plot is not all that important to this magnificent film.

Certified Copy. (Copie conforme).  (France/Italy, IFC Films)  We have enjoyed the films of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami in prior NYFFs (as writer and director, Ten  in 2002, and Taste of Cherry in 1997; as writer of films directed by another favorite Iranian director of ours, Jahar Panahi, Crimson Gold in 2003, and The White Balloon in 1995), but Certified Copy, written and directed by Kiarostami, is his first shot outside of Iran, and it is far and away my favorite of his works—and my favorite of the entire NYFF this year.  Juliette Binoche was at her wondrous best as Elle (she won Best Actress at Cannes this year for her portrayal), an antiques dealer in Florence, who brings her early adolescent son to a lecture at the Uffizi by an English writer, James Miller, effectively played by William Shimell.  There were those who felt Shimell’s performance was too stilted and unnatural; but I believe that whatever his flaws in this unaccustomed role as a film actor (Shimell’s career has been as an operatic baritone), he was perfect for this character—whose fiery (operatic?) emotionality is supposed to exist deeply covered and restrained within the confining rigidity of his obsessive intellectual personality.  In fact, I think there actually is a subtle symmetry here:  while I very much love Juliette Binoche in many roles, I actually find her acting somewhat flawed by an overly emotional—often almost cloying—quality that often creeps in; but, in this role, it is perfect for the character she is portraying, in much the same way as Shimell’s reputed shortcomings as an actor are perfectly suited to his role.  In the wonderful and amusing opening sequence of the film, James is delivering a lecture—to which Elle arrives late, and her son even later—based on his recent book, Certified Copy.  His thesis, while never fully articulated, seems to revolve around the question of what is real in art, and what the relationship might be between that reality and the assumed realities of the perceptions of art—as, for example, the status of a work that was revered for centuries as real, that turns out to have been a copy or forgery.  (A key moment later in the film involves a story about a woman talking to her young son in front of the well-known copy of Michelangelo’s David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.)  The plot reality, as introduced in an early conversation between Elle and her son, is that Elle has just met James for the first time at this lecture,  and she is accused by her son of looking to pick James up, not to interact with him professionally, and that the son has witnessed this sort of performance from her before.  Everyone who has looked carefully at marriages and other deeply personal relationships knows that each participant in a relationship has a separate view of the reality of the events of that  relationship—even to the extent of having a different sense of the facts of what has occurred between them.  Thus, a story in which a wife experiences her husband to be emotionally distant from her and an absent father to their children, while the husband experiences his wife to be overly emotional and needy and never satisfied with all that he provides demonstrates a level of divergent realities that is completely par for the course in relationships—even to the extent that the participants can have separate views of the facts of their joint history.  In this film, however, the marital relationship in question is that of Elle and James. Elle takes James for an afternoon drive outside Florence, and, early in the drive, a waitress at a café mistakes the pair for a married couple, and Elle pretends they are—with gusto and deep emotional response.  This pretense continues through a series of meetings with other people—often couples in different stages of their own marriages, but always (as was the case with the waitress) people who have something meaningful to offer in terms of what marriage means—and at times James joins in the pretense, and at times he opposes it.  The pair alternately connect and bicker as the outing progresses, certainly appearing like a married couple; and progressively it sounds like they are arguing about past events in a history they have shared—or, at very least, may have shared; and James becomes every bit as involved as Elle at times in the reality of their marriage.  [SPOILER ALERT: I liked this film so much, and it is so unclear whether you’ll have a chance to see it, that I’m going to say more about what happens than I usually like to do in my reviews.  The “plot” is not the point in this film, so it probably won’t matter in any event; but, if you like to discover how a film plays out without any foreknowledge, DO NOT READ FURTHER.  Just accept that it is a fabulous, fun film, and see it if and when you can.]  Progressively, it becomes clearer that the discrepancies in their different experiences of their relationship are not merely different perspectives, but substantially alternate realities.  The conflicting realities of Elle and James in the end are irresolvable—actually raising questions about whether there is any objective reality at all.  The film was reminiscent in the most wonderful ways of Alain Resnais’ marvelously reality-bending  Last Year at Marienbad—although Certified Copy is played, as it were, in a much lighter and more enjoyable register.  Suffice it to say, this was my favorite film of the NYFF; it was a complete joy; and it ended perfectly—something I often feel films fail to do.  In addition to everything else, the scenery of my beloved Florence and the Tuscan countryside outside it made the film an even more rewarding treat.