Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Decent Republican

The irony could not be missed this week as all the top Republicans in Washington commented on the life and legacy of Gerald Ford. They praised him for being a man of decency, discretion and for his ability to unite a troubled nation. In a radio address someone else wrote for him, President George Bush said:
Providence gave us Gerald Ford's steady hand and calm leadership during a time of great division and turmoil. He guided America through a crisis of confidence, and helped our nation mend its wounds by restoring faith in our system of government.
Mr. Ford commented on Bush and his own former chiefs of staff, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in an interview with Bob Woodward to be released after his death. Of the troublesome trio Ford said:
Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction. And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do.
Take that, boys. And furthermore...

I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security.

Hmmm, Bush must have missed that day in "Leading the Free World 101"--if he ever took the course at all.

Of Dick Cheney who was made an honorary pall bearer for President Ford, he said
I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious.
I'll drink to that.

So we face 2007 after deadliest month in Iraq to date where the death toll stands at 2997 and now we have lost Gerald Ford, the last decent Republican. Who will heal us now? Dare we have the audacity of hope?

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Everyone's a Critic

File this one under "only in New York." While waiting for the number 1 train today I saw this ad for the Art Institute of New York City , pictured below. Although I believe the main focus of AI is The New York Restaurant School, they also offer some programs in art and technical design. This however did not stop an opinionated strap-hanger from scrawling his artistic criticism of the ad across it in magic marker. (Pictured in the second photo below.) In case you can't make it out, it says "This is an art school and this ad sucks. Agree?"

Though not the most eloquent critique I've ever read, I must admit, that yes, I do indeed agree with our unknown strap-hanging critic. The ad does suck.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Please Stand By

I'm sorry for the lack of posts lately. The holidays have kept me busy with four days of Christmas being celebrated with various branches of the family. It was all good though, truly: nieces, nephews, toys, cookies, lights, lasagne and mom's church choir. I'm expecting Scott back from Illinois in a couple hours where he spent Christmas with his family as well. At last we'll be able to have our own Christmas together later tonight.

A quick update on something else occupying much of my time, energy and therapy sessions lately--I'm applying to graduate school. Yes, it's true. After years of talking about it I'm finally moving on with the next chapter of my life. Anyway, most of the writing I've been doing lately has been along the lines of the "personal objectives and goals" essays one wonders if anyone actually reads but nevertheless "must be submitted with all application materials."

Wish me luck.

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Grand Daddy of them All

Perhaps the most famous Christmas Tree in America is the Rockefeller Center tree. An annual tradition since 1933 when construction workers building Rockefeller Center erected a small tree as a symbol of hope for themselves and others during those bleak days of the Great Depression.

Through the years the tree has always symbolized joy and hope for all New Yorkers. In 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the tree was allowed to stay lit because the lights happened to all be all on one switch and could easily be extinguished in the event of an air raid. During the remaining years of World War II there were no lights on the tree, but it stood year after year just the same. More recently in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks, the tree was decked out in red, white and blue lights as a symbol of patriotism.

For me as kid growing up no trip to New York at Christmas time was complete without taking in the view of the magnificent tree and filing past Sak's Fifth Avenue's windows on our way to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City.

Even today, hardened New Yorker that I am, there are other tourist sights I turn my nose up at or have never even seen, but the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is something I make it a point to see every year. It simply isn't Christmas without it.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Bryant Park Christmas Tree

Oh, Canada!

The newest addition to the holiday decorations around town is the Bryant Park Christmas Tree. It is the centerpiece of a the park's Canadian sponsored "Fetes de Noel" celebration for the second year in a row. In the ideal location of 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues the Fetes is part of the Brand Canada campaign to promote Canadian tourism. Also in the park just for the holidays is a FREE skating rink, a restaurant and dozens of tents selling hand-crafted gifts and jewelry.

The Quebec grown Christmas tree stands 15 meters tall (whatever that is), features over 3,500 ornaments and a 2 meter star on top. It was designed by Canadian designer Brian Gluckstein who "wanted it to be very sparkly." And indeed it is. You can't tell from this photo, but up close the tree is literally dripping with glittering icicles, ornaments and beads--it's really quite beautiful actually.

For more information on the Fetes de Noel click here. Check it out if you happen to be near the park, eh?

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Mallification of New York

While I'm feeling curmudgeonly--it was announced today that the church building at the corner of Sixth Avenue and 20th Street which was once the home of famed nightclub The Limelight and more recently Avalon will undergo a renovation to be turned into a "mini-mall" of all things. Even the sound of it is repuslive. I ask you, how can something called a "mini-mall" be anything short of hideous? But I digress...

Back when New York enjoyed a reputation for having some of the most exciting nightlife in the world (IN THE WORLD!) the Limelight, which opened in 1983, was one of New York's premiere nightclubs. Like many nightclubs though it was not without its controversy, most notably manslaughter charges against club promoter Michael Alig who plead guilty in the death of a club-goer in 1996. Once the Limelight closed, the building changed hands a couple of times. During Giuliani's attempt to homogenize the city in the '90s every possible obstacle from restrictive and unrealistic noise ordinances with hefty fines to dozens of costly permits and licenses was put in place making new nightclubs virtually impossible to open. Supposedly this was done to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers and tourists. Apparently no consideration was afforded to those tourists or New Yorkers who come here for the nightlife.

During the Limelight's heyday the neighborhood at 20th and Sixth was a bit of a no-mans land. It was too far east to really be Chelsea, too far west for Gramercy, so in the late '90s realtors started to call it the Flatiron District after the Flatiron building at 23rd and Fifth. This gave a chic sounding name to the neighborhood where former warehouses were being turned into expensive condos. It wasn't long before neighbors who willingly chose to move in next door to one of the most famous nightclubs in the world started to complain about the noise and loitering around the club. (I know--it boggles the mind.) In an effort to appease these wealthy new home owners the city was constantly looking for reasons to shut the club down. Finally in 2002, as The Avalon, the old church building was shuttered up for good.

Well, we may not have any great nightclubs left in New York but at least we can all buy sweaters at the Gap.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past

After yesterday's rant on the Lincoln Center Christmas tree, I searched the internet for some photos of that tree in years past and posted them below.

In this first photo below, note the position of the tree. The perspective of the New York State Theatre to the left and Avery Fisher Hall to the right lead to the backdrop of the Metropolitan Opera House providing a dramatic frame for the tree with the fountain in the center. The beauty of Lincoln Center is being used to its full advantage here. All elements are part of a stunning overall effect. Also, in this position the tree draws passersby into the square rather than them being able to just lean out the window of a cab and snap a picture as they cruise by. In the photo below you can make out some of the illuminated musical instruments I mentioned in yesterday's post--an appropriate theme for Lincoln Center.
Finally, below you can see the shape and color of the clusters of lights on the tree which happen to echo the color and shape of the Met's famous Austrian Crystal chandeliers in the lobby. (Unfortunately you can't see them in this photo, so you'll have to take my word for it.) But it's obvious the chandeliers were considered in the design concept for the tree by a very thoughtful designer. Sorry to be such a Christmas curmudgeon about the new tree. I have strong opinions about design. Just compare these photos to the current tree in yesterday's post. Am I wrong?

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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Lincoln Center Christmas Tree

Seventeen years ago it was decided that there should be a Christmas Tree at Lincoln Center. And why not? Lincoln Center is a hub of music, culture and fine architecture all at the intersection where 65th Street meets Broadway and Columbus Avenue. It serves as a sort of elegant gateway to the residential upper west side even though technically the neighborhood begins at 59th Street.

The Christmas tree lighting ceremony takes place during an event called A Winter's Eve which includes entertainment from The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet and The New York Philharmonic among other local artists. ABC has a hand in it, too, as the tree lighting is broadcast live on WABC-TV, hosted by Good Morning America's Sam Champion and even has Mickey Mouse on hand to flip the final switch. In addition, the Winter's Eve celebration and entertainment extends beyond Lincoln Square itself to various locations around the upper west side, mostly retail stores no doubt to spur the holiday economy a bit.

When the Lincoln Center Christmas Tree made its debut in 1989 and for the 16 years that followed it was the showpiece of the neighborhood and a holiday must-see. Framed by the arches of the Metropolitan Opera House with Lincoln Square's famous fountain in the foreground the tree was decorated with colored lights and illuminated ornaments in the shape of musical instruments. Oh, sure, it was smaller than the Rockefeller Center Tree but it seemed to fit perfectly in its dignified setting.

Then, last year the Department of If It Aint Broke decided to "improve" the tree. Gone were the famous illuminated musical instruments and replaced with what I guess are supposed to be snowflakes. Blue snowflakes. The tree has been moved to the very edge of the driveway which runs parallel to Columbus Avenue, perhaps to make it more visible to the traffic whizzing by. In its new position the tree blocks the view of the fountain entirely and seems to stand completely out of context from the rest of Lincoln Square. The blue lights make it look as if the tree is being lit by the same kind of gas jets you find on your kitchen stove--an unsettling image to say the least. If you look closely at the picture above you can make out blue ornaments inspired by Wedgewood, the maker of the official Lincoln Center holiday ornament. The Wedgewood blue ornaments are completely lost in the dark unfortunately but at least they provide some explanation for the use of blue lights.

A 50-foot Colorado Spruce from upstate New York was chosen for the tree this year which you'll note from the photo above lacks that ideal Christmas tree shape--unlike a Norway Spruce for example which is the variety always chosen for the Rockefeller Center tree. This will undoubtedly ensure the Lincoln Center Christmas tree's status as second banana for yet another year. (Note its rather bulbous shape in the photo above. Sad.) I just hope we don't have to wait another 15 years before they decide to "improve" the tree again--because this time it really needs it.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

City Lights

Last night I met Scott after work. We schlepped around to all the tourist landmarks snapping photos of the holiday lights, me for the blog and him for the cover of the annual Christmas CD he burns for his family every year. It was a fun way to get into the spirit of the season. But after about two hours of fighting crowds and being pushed and prodded by tourists, we ended up at the Hell's Kitchen eatery, Vynl, where I had two much needed glasses of wine with dinner. Cheers!
Radio City Music Hall
Sak's Fifth Avenue
Macy's, Herald Square
Macy's Herald Square Columbia University Quad

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Today's Dose of Crazy

Oh, no!!! A Devil Food is Turning our kids into HOMOSEXUALS! Click here for today's dose of crazy.

Seriously, where do they find these people?

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Happy Merry!

Here we go again. Last night ABC news opened the great Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debate. Retailers, in an effort to be inclusive and make money from ALL the gift-giving holidays of the seasons are saying "Happy Holidays" as they greet customers. This naturally has all the bible-thumpers starting their annual "Christmas War" to keep Christ in Christmas. After all, what better way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace than with a war, right?

There is a very simple reason retailers say "Happy Holidays." Allow me to explain this in the clearest terms possible just in case any Christian Fundies are reading: NOT EVERYONE CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS.

Growing up as I did in New Jersey and living as I do in New York City, this is not a difficult concept for me to grasp. In fact, I can remember as a kindergartener being aware of this situation in our society. In my neighborhood we had Jewish neighbors across the street and next door. About a third of the kids I went to school with were Jewish and certainly by time I was in high school I had classmates who were not only Jewish but Hindu, Muslim, even Sikh. So saying "Happy Holidays" is nothing new for me. In fact, I'm not sure why this is a new concept for ANYONE. As far as I know greeting card companies have been printing cards saying "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" for decades and only now is it supposedly a threat to Christianity.

The message of Christmas as I've always understood it is "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men." So doesn't "peace on earth" mean not starting a culture war? And doesn't "good will toward men" mean including ALL people in the warmth and charitable spirit of Christmas?

Might I be so bold to suggest that those who fear retailers like Wal-Mart or Target saying "Happy Holidays" will somehow rob them of keeping Christ in Christmas don't have a real firm grasp on their faith to begin with. Might I also suggest that it is up to the individual through his thoughts and actions to keep Christ in Christmas.

To further illustrate my point, allow me to quote the great Dr. Seuss from How the Grinch Stole Christmas:

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!"

Why is this complicated?

"Yahoo Doray" everyone!

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Monday, December 11, 2006

More from Blue Jersey

Think Equal Ads #3 and 4:
Below are the two remaining ads in Blue Jersey's Think Equal ad campaign I first wrote about last week.. Enjoy.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Much Ado About Hudson

The blogosphere has been buzzing about Jennifer Hudson's stand-out performance in Dreamgirls ever since the film's premiere earlier this week. It has been reported that her performance of the showstopping "And I'm Telling You I'm not Going" received a standing ovation mid-screening at the Ziegfeld Theatre here in New York the other night. This has had everyone from Rosie O'Donnell to Michael Musto predicting an Oscar in Hudson's future. Certainly with endorsements like that and her image gracing the covers of both HX and
Advocate magazine, her status as a gay icon is in the bag.

Or is it?

You may have read bits and pieces of an interview with snarky gay Dallas reporter, Daniel Kusner, in which he clearly baits Hudson, questioning her Christian past. Hudson admits to getting her start singing "for church conventions." He then goes on to congratulate himself on his reporting skills saying "I had a hunch that Hudson was religious."

Gimme a break! This is newsworthy? Find me an African-American singing diva who DIDN'T get her start in church. Gospel music is well respected cultural tradition which has proven an excellent training ground for singers from Aretha Franklin to Fantasia Barrino.

Kusner pushes a gay-hating litmus test throughout the interview prompting an off-guard Hudson to respond at one point "No one has ever asked me these questions." He then goes on to quote her out of context saying "according to the way we're taught and what it says in the Bible--it (homosexuality) is (a sin)."

Now, I have a big problem with a small time reporter trying to make a name for himself by undermining the success of a 25 year old kid in her first big break since being prematurely voted off American Idol two years ago. I suppose Kusner was hoping to create the same kind of flap Kaizaad Kotwal did with his Carol Channing interview a few weeks ago. I am well aware of those who disagree with me, but I believe Kotwal stumbled upon Channing's anti-gay remarks innocently where clearly Kusner is going for the jugular with Hudson. Follow the link above and read his whole article if you don't believe me.

Baited or not, Kusner's interview created a mild firestorm among gay bloggers over the last couple of days which prompted a well timed statement from Hudson in which she said among other things:
(The Bible) teaches us to love one another as God loves us all. I love my sister, my two best friends and my director dearly. They happen to be gay. So what? While some search for controversy, I hope that my friends and fans who know me, know where I stand."
So just calm down everyone and be nice! By the way, don't get me wrong, I adore Carol Channing, but you'll note that Hudson's statement stands in stark contrast to Channing's rather obtuse one following her little slip-up.

I realize all this seems like old news, but something has struck me ever since Mandisa got the pink ax after her "lifestyle" remarks on last season's American Idol. What would make a venerable Broadway veteran like Channing scramble to save face with her gay fan base? What makes a diva-to-be like Hudson release a statement to the community she knows could catapult her to super-stardom? Why has Anita Bryant not had a professional gig since her stint as Florida orange juice spokeswoman in 1978?

It's simple. You just can't get away with this kind of thing anymore. Whether it's because of the changing political climate or our legendary impeccable taste and "disposable income," people care what we think. We matter. We have power. And that, my friends, is progress.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

This Irresistible Paris Original...

Okay, I can't resist reporting on this one.

Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center Awards, no less than THREE other women showed up in the same red Oscar De la Renta dress as First Lady Laura Bush. The color no doubt chosen for her party's red state affiliation.

Ever the gracious hostess, Mrs. Bush went upstairs to change in the middle of the evening to "take the heat off the other women" according to Letitia Baldridge, Jacqueline Kennedy's former chief of staff and White House social secretary. I have no idea who the other women are, but at least Laura can take comfort in the fact that she looked the best in it.

Had they really been thinking though, the four ladies might have emerged from their fashion faux pas gracefully by breaking into a chorus of "Paris Original," the musical number from How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. (Pictured below)Another notable faux pas of the evening took place during the portion of the awards honoring Dolly Parton when Jessica Simpson sang Parton's 1980 hit song "9 to 5" flubbing the lyrics and giving up in defeat before the end of the song. Even more gracious and generous than Mrs. Bush, Parton turned the situation around in a statement to People magazine saying:

"Jessica is so talented that I'm sure that someday they will be paying tribute to her and I would be honored to perform for her, but I'll probably be so nervous that I'll forget my wig!"

The Kennedy Center Awards committee released a statement saying they plan to honor Ms. Simpson in the Spring of "when hell freezes over."

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Blue Jersey

One of my new favorite blogs, Good As You , has hipped me to a website called which has put together some great ads illustrating the reasons it's important to fight for marriage equality rather than civil unions. Enjoy.

Think Equal Ads #1 & #2


Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

By now you have undoubtedly heard the news that our Vice President's lesbian daughter Mary Cheney will be giving birth to a baby in late spring. Ms. Cheney will be sharing the parenting responsibilities with Heather Poe, her partner of 15 years. (Both pictured above looking as if they are enjoying courtside seats at a WNBA game.) What a conundrum for the Bush administration who's official response to the situation was "Doh!"

Other conservative groups have been more vocal on the subject. In an article entitled "Mary Cheney's Pregnancy Affects Us All" (because everything is their business apparently) Janice Shaw Crouse of who is part of a conservative "think tank" called Concerned Women for America said:
"Mary Cheney is contributing to a trend that is detrimental to all Americans who will live with the ramifications of millions of children whose anger and frustration at not knowing their father will be felt in the public schools and communities of our nation. "
Crouse however does not comment on the anger and frustration of children who are the product of miserable heterosexual marriages that stay together "for the kids" or children forced to live up to their parents rigid conservative ideals.

Carrie Gordon Earll of the ever-so-enlightened group Focus on the Family focuses on the Cheney family declaring the pregnancy "unwise" saying:

"Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea."

And finally, Bree VanDeCamp-Hodge of Wysteria Lane was reported to have said on the subject "No father? No baby gift."

Indeed, the identity of the biological father of Mary's baby is being withheld leaving one to conjure up visions of a virgin birth so close to the holidays--perhaps a bone being thrown to the Christian Right.

Poe and Cheney make their home in Virginia, one of 27 states with a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynn, are said to be looking forward to the arrival of the little bastard who will be their sixth grandchild.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"It's Christmas time in the city..."

Last night after a dinner at Hi-Life, one of my favorite neighborhood eateries, Scott and I made our way up Amsterdam Avenue snapping pictures of signs of the season along the way.
Outside Cafe Lalo (of "You've Got Mail" fame) at 83rd and Amsterdam.
A Christmas Tree vendor at 99th and Amsterdam.
A festively decorated trailer from the same tree vendor where presumably he lives during the Christmas season selling his trees from upstate.
125th Street decorated for Christmas. Note the marquis of the Apollo Theatre in the background.
Columbia students sell trees outside the Met Grocery at Amsterdam and 123 St.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ready or not....

I ran out of coffee last Sunday so I ventured out to the grocery late that night to stock up for the morning. As I rounded the corner of 84th Street I found myself in the pallid glow of a string of bare light bulbs and overcome by the unmistakable aroma of evergreens. Though we had barely finished the Thanksgiving leftovers I soon realized that I had stumbled upon the first Christmas tree vendor of the season. Oh, goody.

Even though I was caught off guard it wasn't a completely unwelcome sight. I'll admit it even put a spring to my step as I entered the grocery to buy my coffee. Over the PA they were piping in Christmas music. "Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays"--Perry Como I think. I whistled a descant along to Perry's mellow tones and the chorus of 40s-sounding back-up singers. I smiled goofily at other customers, bought my coffee and went on my merry way.

Monday brought the lighting of the Lincoln Center Christmas tree hosted by New York's favorite, handsome homo-weatherman, Sam Champion. He wore a snug fitting turtleneck and flashed his professionally whitened smile as he lit the tree. Ta da! But honestly, Sam, don't you find it a bit difficult to get excited about all the festivities when it's been an unseasonable 70 degrees all week? What's up with that, anyway???

Despite the warm temperatures each passing day this week brought yet another sign of the season. The tv has been a constant barrage of holiday commercials, tree vendors are sprouting up like weeds on all the usual corners and in the subway Salvation Army Santas have begun making their presence known with their usual incessant clanging of bells. For the first time in recent memory the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was lit--in NOVEMBER! And did you know that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has already aired this year? GOOD GRIEF!!!

I have no lists made, my family hasn't even chosen Secret Santas and I have yet to place a single order with Can we all just slow down a bit, please? At this rate I'll be having my annual Christmas melt-down a full week ahead of schedule.

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