Friday, July 31, 2009

Stroll Though Budapest...

Take a trip through Hungary's capital with Mike Murphy's Destination Unknown®...

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Off We Go!

..into the wild blue yonder, on the third and final stretch of my post-ABN vacation break... JP and I are going on Intrepid Travel's 15-day 'Balkan Adventure,' wandering south from Budapest through the former Yugsolavia, including Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Croatia - I've included the map below.

I invite you to follow us as we wander. As I did with the Baltics & Alaska, I've set up in advance daily posts with interesting photos, videos, and other tidbits about the places we'll be visiting. A pleasure to have you along!

I've decided to arrive early, not late, this time, so we'll get there tomorrow even though Day 1 is Saturday. This gives us a chance to soak up some Budapest charm on our own.

You may recall that Budapest was where I ended my 2007 Central European vacation (also with Intrepid), but that we only had one full day and was a rainy, if impressive one... Perhaps this time I can coax out the Budapest sun...

....and yes, this will be my
120th foreign trip! It'll be JP's third, hopefully the third of many, many adventures... This will be my 43rd international non-business trip and my 31st trip to Europe... I've now been to 5o countries, but I have never been to Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, or Croatia. I'm also staying 2 days after this trip to see Slovenia, more virgin territory for yours truly. It'll be my 2nd time in Hungary and my 3rd in Austria (where I fly home from..)

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Memories of Pleasure: A Dinner, A Play, A Movie...

When I wasn't sick as a Canine-American.... Two weeks ago Saturday, JP & I dined at Bombay Talkie, a lovely post-modern neon gourmet Indian place over on 9th Avenue..
For appetizers, we had 'Papdi Chat,' crispy flour purses stuffed with potatoes and chickpeas with a tamarind and yogurt sauce, sweet, tangy, and crunchy....

Straightforward but scrumptious takes on two Indian classics: chicken korma - white meat in a mild creamy cashew based sauce...

....and biryani - lamb, basmatic rice, cashews, peas, mint, coriander, and coconut milk....

...and here's JP in the blue blue neon glow...

On Saturday we saw 'The Temperamentals,' a terrific Off-Broadway play set in Los Angeles the late 1940s and early 1950s about the earliest days of the gay liberation movement... Thomas Jay Ryan and Michael Urie (of 'Ugly Betty'!) play communist activist Harry Hay and designer Rudy Gernreich, who fell in love and tried to build a gay rights organization in the inhospitable terrain of McCarthy-era, Pre-Stonewall America... Beautifully written and acted, and very informative.... The supporting cast of three play twenty other characters...

...and on Sunday, we went to Film Forum to see Nicholas Ray's powerful and subversive 1954 psychological Western 'Johnny Guitar,'
driven by two very strong women - Joan Crawford as an saloon owner and Mercedes McCambridge as a spurned woman on a rampage... brilliant acting and dialogue, stunning landscapes, and a very modern sensibility... a Western if you don't like Westerns... Here's a key scene with estranged lovers Joan Crawford and (the very, very tall) Sterling Hayden....

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Still sick....

... two days before vacation...


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He'd Be Living in a Yurt

Earlier this week a close friend bemoaned his befuddlement at digital media and technology, that is, iPhone, mp3s, YouTube, etc.

He said if it wasn't for his boyfriend, he'd be living in a yurt...

Now, it was my turn to feel befuddled. What in tarnation is a yurt?

Happily, I'm very comfortable with Wikipedia! I also checked out yurtinfo.org, an online resource for all things yurt. A yurt is 'a portable, felt-covered, wood-lattice-framed dwelling traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia... The word 'yurt' is Turkic, and refers to the imprint left in the ground when you take down your yurt and skip town! Above, an early 20th century picture of a a Turkmen woman in front of her yurt... The word 'nomad' by the way, comes from a word for 'felt,' making the nomads 'felt people'

Here's a yurt from Shymkent in Kazakhstan, used as a café...

Finally, a 'western yurt'... at Twin Lakes, Colorado, this yurt was made partly with synthetic materials by the Colorado Yurt Company...

A yurt is born....

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Monday, July 27, 2009


Bad, bad sore throat/bug just three days before I leave for ex-Yugoslavia.... Yikes!

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This Root Beer Float's On Me

Hot summer days and the frothy refreshments continue. Today's song, 'Arrows of Eros' by British trio Golden Silvers is as smooth and cool as a root beer float on a scorching afternoon, and a blast of UK 1983 new wave-pop, at least for the first 3 minutes, with its squiggly synth riff, funky bass, and 'new romantic' imagery.. but..... lo and behold, the synth riff melts into a good-timey piano riff, the tempo accelerates, a real horn section kicks in, and you've glided from 1983 to 1975 to 1968... It's the musical equivalent of the Palm Springs Mountain cable car ride, which ascends through four different climactic zones on its way to the top....

Well, the may be boys and they may be a band, but they're sure not a 'boy band'. They write, produce, and play their own very diverse and eclectic material, and their debut album, 'True Romance,' is a real treat! Said one reviewer: "flamboyant lyrics, references to Greek myth and big, elastic bass lines dominate.."

Here's the
official video of 'Arrows of Eros,' it's the shorter, single version without the mid-song tempo acceleration... But check out also the awesome full-length live version at the end of this post!!!

Golden Silvers
show another side with 'True Romance,' their album's title track, in this video where they play amidst a 'Soul Train'-like dance floor of teenagers...

Here's the
more angular but equally singable 'Magic Touch..' Referencing the 60s and 80s British invasions...

Here's 'Arrow of Eros' live, five glorious tempo-shifting minutes of it, at the Glastonbury music festival, where they won the 'best new talent' award in 2008...

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Renegade Cabaret on the High Line

There's an intriguing twist to New York's amazing new amenity, the mile-long elevated railway turned park known as the High Line, a 'Renegade Cabaret' show that's become an unsolicited but perfectly legal night-time entertainment near the park's northern perimeter on 20th St.

It's hosted by Patty Heffey, a 55-year old former punk rock photographer whose fourth-floor fire escape opens on to park's northern edge. and her friend, jazz singer Elizabeth Soychak, who lists her age as 'permanently 39'... : - )

Watch and listen!

We'll have more of all things High Line, including the cabaret, in the weeks to come... Here's a twilight snapshot of the park's current (and permanent) southern end, on Gansevoort St...

My baby on the
cobblestones in the Meatpacking District, near the High LIne's southern entrance, and up on the park at sunset...

My own
on-the-spot shot of the lady Renegades..

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Away We Go: Either You Love It...

..or ya don't. One man's honesty and sincerity is another's navel-gazing, and the truth isn't always pretty.

But I loved this poignant, achingly funny small independent film by a Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes ('American Beauty', 'Revolutionary Road'), which concerns a couple about to have a baby and searching to put down roots somewhere.

They visit friends and family near and far, to check out their lives and surroundings, usually with surprising and unsettling results. The leads are terrific, with John Krasinski of the Office, nerdy and uncertain but sincere, and Maya Rudolph, ex-SNL, wistfully calm but harboring old pain.. The screenplay by Dave Eggars and Vendela Vida is by turns hilarious, quietly observant, and genuinely moving. Here's the trailer.

Here's a good featurette about the film, in the words of the talented artists that pulled it off....

It's also a great ensemble film, with bitingly funny supporting performances by accomplished veterans such as Catherine O'Hara, Jeff Daniels, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Allison Janney. Here's Maggie with excerpts and an interview..

and here's the female lead, Maya Rudolph..
She's the daughter of the late Minnie Riperton, who died tragically young of cancer, and the husband of Paul Thomas Anderson who directed three movies I love, 'Boogie Nights, ' Magnolia,' and 'There Will Be Blood...'

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Shining Onions

Helsinki spent a century or so under Russian masters, and the Czars left behind Uspenski, a stunning gold-onion-dome Russian Orthodox cathedral shining in the sunlight on a high hill...

It's a wonder to behold from any angle, and its beauty shifts shape with as the sun wings its way from horizon to horizon..

Its architect, Alexey Gornostaev, never lived to see his design built, as it broke ground in 1862, the year of his death...

Shockingly, one of Uspenski's most valuable icons was stolen in broad daylight, on August 16, 2007, while hundreds of tourists were visiting... This artwork, 'St Nicholas - The Wonder Maker,' is a very rare variation on the style and remains missing - the Finnish authorities are searching for it at home and abroad..

One last look.. It's really intoxicating in person, I swear...


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Paradou Me Anytime

Last week I caught up with David as he checked out NY's fabulous new High Line at dusk, and since that elevated railway turned park leads from Chelsea to the Meatpacking District, we dined along the cobblestones at the lip-smacking, scrumptious Paradou, in their hothouse of a garden out back...

Their regular menu is a bulls-eye hit to every group of taste buds you have.  Nonetheless, we both went for the special - turbot fish served over yucca elaborately processed to a consistency akin to polenta or risotto, with an explosion of seasonings...


Taste-gasmic freshly baked bread slices served with homemade pesto....

I began with cold and creamy carrot soup...

David went for 'Arugula & Poached Pear Salad with Goat Cheese "Brulés" Croutons...

Took this picture of their hothouse garden off Google images®..

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aart-walkin' part 1

Walking the High Line takes you to the
gates of Gallery-land. Friday I peeked into a handful of galleries, all on W 22nd St, and, to my delight, realized that during the day they are empty and not highly policed, creating prime picture-taking opportunities. Here's some AaronAart - Aart that spoke to me...

suspended papier-maché bodies were a stand-out..

More more more:

The PaceWildenstein gallery is hosting a
terrific large scale sculpture exhibit over at 545 W 22nd St, but only through this Friday, July 24th... It's called 'A Walk In The Park: Outdoor Sculpture'...

Individually or in juxtaposition, the PaceWildenstein pieces are impressive...

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brave, Scary New World:
Chinese Takeover of The Onion®

Newspaper parody The Onion® provides a hilarious, disturbing preview of future Chinese economic, political, and cultural domination, with a whole issue premised on the Onion being sold to Chinese fishmeal and plastics conglomerate Yu Wan Mei...Here's a sample from the ONN, the Onion News Network....

China celebrates its status as world's number one air polluter!

China Celebrates Its Status As World’s Number One Air Polluter

More on Yu Wan Mei...

China's Andy Rooney on how great the Chinese legal system is!

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Happy International Friendship Day

Today is 'Día del Amigo,' or International Friendship Day, celebrated mostly in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile even though it was the July 20, 1969 manned lunar landing that inspired it.

It was an Argentine teacher, Enrique Febbraro, who campaigned to make the date an international holiday dedicated to friendship, reasoning that on this day the whole world had been friends of three Apollo 11 astronauts...

I think it's a lovely, lovely idea and wish it would catch on internationally. I never forget to send best wishes to my close friends down in the Rio de la Plata region...

This friendship poster features friendly hand holding 'mate,' (pronounced 'mah-tay') the bitter green tea so popular in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil. It's typically sipped through a silvery metal straw. You keep adding more hot water and sugar and sucking it out of the bitter mate leaves...

What a message it would send if the US adopted this even as a working holiday.. We claim to be a world leader, but a leader must know when to follow, and a relationship must be a two-way street. I wish Americans were more receptive to the idea that the rest of the world might have some things to teach us... We're fine when it's eating something, like sushi or satay, but will we ever be mature enough to change our measurements to match the rest of the world (and the scientific community)? It's something to think about....

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Optimism and Mandolins

Funky mandolins... It's mid-summer and I'm serving up major ear candy. Today song, 'When Life GIves Me Lemons I Make Lemonade,' is a ridiculously sunny sing-along, rhythmic is a 70s-groovy-county-fair kind of way, by UK pop duo The Boy Least Likely To.   The catchiest, most danceable folk-pop since 'Come on Eileen'?  This twosome consists of composer/multi-instrumentalist Pete Hobbs and lyricist/singer Jof Owen. Their long-awaited second album, 'Law of the Playground,' debuted back in April to considerable critical acclaim, and 'Lemons' is the lead-off single.. They describe their sound as either 'country disco' and one critic called them 'what would happen if all your childhood stuffed animals got together and started a band.' But it's not cloying in my view - I think they got this just right...

Here's the groovy animated video for 'Lemons'...

and here are some
excellent fan videos for two other excellent songs off the new album... First, 'Every Goliath Has His David'....

and here's 'A Balloon on a Broken String'....

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gertrude Berg, Forgotten Trailblazer...

I had the huge pleasure Saturday of seeing 'Yoo Hoo, Mrs Goldberg,' which
chronicles the brilliant Gertrude Berg's long reign on radio and television, from 1929 to 1955, as Molly Goldberg, the wise, kind, and funny Jewish wife and mother. Molly would often talk to her Bronx neighbors out the window to the courtyard ('Yoo Hoo'!) Here's the trailer for the film...

America took it to heart, Jewishness and all, though today the Goldbergs are sadly forgotten.. 
Berg wrote, directed, and starred in this seminal show, television's first character-driven domestic sitcom. Fittingly, she won the very first Emmy award for 'Best Actress in a Comedy,' in 1950. Here's a late-period excerpt, from 1955, when the Goldbergs finally made it to the suburbs...

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So High

I'm madly in love!   ...with my terrific boyfriend JP, of course, but also with
New York's newest Wonder of the World, the awesome High Line, the elevated railway turned wonderpark that opened to the public six weeks ago...

The greenery consists of hundreds of wildflower and weed species,
providing a look and a scent akin to standing on a roadside in some small upstate town...The greenery crawls through slits in the concrete, symbolic of creeping nature...

Two things I love, both looking beautiful in the abundant sunshine of Pride Day 2009..

It's a great platform to appreciate the quirks of local architecture.  At the same time,
it really takes you out of the Manhattan grid.  I can never tell what street we're over, and that's a very good thing.  Note that it meanders, managing to be linear but non-linear..

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