Category: Out & About

Relatively Speaking

When Woody Allen, Ethan Coen, Elaine May and (director) John Turturro team up for a series of one-act plays, you’re damn right I’m gonna try & get my parents to buy me tickets.
Steve Guttenberg, Julie Kavner, Richard Libertini (look him up, you know him, trust me), Mark Linn-Baker, Marlo Thomas, the guy who played Sy Ableman, Danny Hoch and other That Guys appear in this not-quite-memorable night of theater. Woody’s one is the best, but it is just nonstop zing, not much of a real story. About a decade ago I saw a similar event, swapping out Ethan Coen for David Mamet. That one, I think, had a little more going on.

Adam’s Asia Adventures

The great Adam Levbarg and his lovely S.O. Eva have started leg one of their 6 month journey — Los Angeles to Taipei. You can follow their travels on their new blog.
My favorite story is from Day Three — and I think this will be fascinating, even if you don’t know Adam:
I experienced my most profound case of culture shock the other day when Eva’s friend and former junior high school teacher asked me to speak in English to her class so that they could have some experience speaking with a foreigner. Although Taiwan is ethnically diverse with Japanese, aboriginal and ethnic Chinese minorities, there are still very few western people here, and this is especially so in the smaller towns like Taya. Eva related to me her first experience as a child seeing a Westerner as something of a strange combination of wonder and intense curiosity. She had prepared me for the fact that people would stare at me, however at Eva’s junior high school, it went beyond staring. I was a superstar.
As I would walk past open classroom windows, dozens of students would turn their heads and stand up, yelling heavily accented “Hello!”s and “How are you!”s and then giggle wildly before I could respond. One classroom burst out into loud applause and uncontrolled laughter when I said back to them in Chinese “Very well, thank you.” Most students however appear to be quite shy, and would never have the courage to speak with a foreigner outside of the safety of their student enclave. Consider this history when I walked into a classroom full of uniform-clad 13 and 14 year olds (see photo). I spoke for 40 minutes, with Eva serving as translator. They asked me about what I thought of Taiwan, what sports I played (I said miniature golf, and the concept fascinated them), and whether or not I liked stinky tofu (see photo). One girl proudly declared that her favorite food was McDonalds, and I found out later from Eva that telling her I did not eat at McDonald’s was a confusing blow as she was most likely trying to impress me with her love of American food.
The bell rang, class ended. The students did not want to leave. About a third of the class pulled out their camera phones and in an instant I was bombarded with a cloud of notebooks, arms shoving pens and pieces of paper at me as they clamored for my autograph. Several people wanted real photographs with me and I posed for the teacher who took three group pictures with the kids pushing in to try and get closer to me.

Strange Plates V: Strange Journey

You’ll recall the Hatian Strange Plates I, the Thai Strange Plates II, but Ann and I missed excursion III (Ghananese in the Bronx) and IV (Italian in Dyker Heights). Excursion V was a trip to the vaguely French Aesop’s Tables in (please inhale) Staten Island! (Now exhale in shock!) We had to ferry, then cab. (We bussed it back to the ferry, and coulda done so there if we knew where we were going.)
I didn’t take that many photos of the food (the setting was too nice for that behavior) and most of my shots on the Ferry came out blurry. But anyway —
Welcome to New York! Here are your guides. From L-R: Tony DiSante, Mahalia Stines, Jordan Hoffman, Mark Levy, Sean Parrot, Gideon Levy, Andy Sydor.

Kim is freezing.

Rob is freezing.

Before the ferry I made mine a Guinness at the White Horse. No not that White Horse. This White Horse.

Ann vogues at the White Horse.

And here are the snails that I ate. Yum factor 12.

Denise’s Mad Scientist Laboratory

Last time I went to the Met I called up Denise to see if I could see her place of employ. After entering through the basement and going through many secret hallways lined with dusty books and thousands of cryptically labeled artifacts (well, not really, but play along) we went to the paper conservancy lab.
Here is Denise hard at work doing what she does.

This piece had been eaten away by critters and needed some mending.

This is a book about the Amistad rebellion from 1840 that needed some touching up.

The big hose is called an elephant trunk. It provides light and sucks up vapors and smells if you are using chemicals with your paper repair.

Caution: Art Below! With all of today’s technology, sometimes ya just have to stick your piece under a heavy rock and wait.

This microscope is looking at a page from a many-centuries-old Islamic manuscript. The detail of this work is staggering, there are artistic touches the naked eye will never see at first glance. When this piece will be put up, magnifying glasses will be available to museum-goers.

More hardware.

Denise stands before one of the pieces she restored as part of the Pearls of the Parrot of India: The Emperor Akbar’s Illustrated “Khamsa,” 1597–98 exhibit. Try and check it out — alas, it closes soon!

Maxine Steinman and Dancers at the Harkness Dance Festival

I can’t say I know a lot about modern dance. In fact, it is surely the artform I have the least amount of exposure to, that’s why I wanted to go see some. There were three short pieces and one long one as part of “Window Stories,” performed by the Maxine Steinman and Dancers group. The first one was very graceful and interesting. I found myself thinking, “hey, this is really terrific! I’m so glad I’m here!” The evening then degenerated into what basically felt like a bunch of people rolling around on the floor.
Now — I don’t know if it actually became worse as time went on, or just that my tolerance level is very low because I didn’t know what I was looking at. All I know is that if all I saw were the first 20 minutes, I’d be screaming about how great this was. The truth is, last night, I was offering prayers up to every known deity for the show to finally, finally end. And eventually, the people on the stage stopped rolling around on the floor and took a bow. Whew.
One thing I can say for sure is that the Indonesian restaurant Bali Nusa Indah continues to impress. I’ve been there many times, but they kicked it up a notch. The group of us shared 3 apps, 3 main courses and a “side dish” which was the same size as a main course. Everything was terrific. How does Indonesian food differ from, say, Thai? Basically, things are a little wetter. That’s the main factor. And string beans. I like string beans! Anyway, I see myself going back there again. We all ate a tremendous amount, had beers, and got out of there only $22 lighter.

Ed Koch at MCNY

This picture had the caption “On St. Patrick’s Day, call me O’Koch. At the Puerto Rican Day parade, call me Eduardo.”
Finally made it to the Ed Koch exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York. Like Koch himself, it is very entertaining. Will we ever have another mayor like him? In terms of policy, actually, we do. His name is Mike Bloomberg. In terms of ‘tude, I don’t see it happening any time soon.
While at the museum, be sure to check out the wild exhibit called Transformed by Light, which documents illumination in New York as well as a fine collection of NYC photographs from 1925-1940 by Samuel H. Gottscho

Mid February Photo Dump

You can get this nifty banana slicer at Cereality.

The great Adam Levbarg paid us a visit from Los Angeles, with his lovely female companion Eva. Here they are with Adam’s Brooklynite sister Missy.

Here are some of the insane fancy chocolates Ann got at Marie Belle in Soho. The passion fruit and earl grey are very tasty. Not so much the saffron. Although I recognize the design elements, I think I prefer Leonidas for specialty chocolate.

Not grape juice. Not grape soda. Grape drink.

Ann at Mona’s. Just taken last night!

That weird building on 9th Ave and, like, 15th. I could probably look it up in one of my books to find out its name and who designed the add-on and maybe even some groovy fact about it. But that dedicated to blogging I am not.

Brokeback Enterprise.

No one asked for this, but here I am during the recent snowstorm.

Missy marvels at how many mushrooms there are!

Finally — a step by step of what actually goes down at Cereality.

Dinner and a Show

I fully endorse the well-reviewed Cafe Asean on West 10th between Greenwich and Patchin Place, under the ominous shadow of the Jefferson Market Courthouse. You kinda forget how spooky that thing looks at night.
Anyway, Asean is a “fusion” restaurant of various South Asian cuisines. All I know is that it was awesome from the plum wine to the wild mushroom dumplings to the coconut chicken to the red peper flank steak. And not that expensive, all things considered.
We then ambled through the West Village, passing the Northern Dispensary and the 55 Bar, to the Lucille Lortel Theater. The show was called the Wooden Breeks by Glen Berger. It was a good play — a surreal scottish town with a lighthouse keeper who has never left the lighthouse, a tavern-owner who refuses to sell alcohol, and a gravedigger who is also a graverobber. Wackyness ensues when a travelling saleswoman comes with bells to attach to coffins in case of accidental burial. The costumes, lighting and minimal props are extremely innovative. But, as is so often the case, the damned thing is about 40 minutes too long. I recommend the play, but, you know, it’s a play, so get ready for a little ass-ache along with the delights of stagecraft.



Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.