Monday, July 31, 2017

NYC Days 44 & 45: In Which I Luxuriate in The Lincoln Center Out Of Doors

The main Lincoln Center Out Of Doors stage 
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Any questions?

No? Then let's get started.

If it's summer (and it is), it must be time for the annual Lincoln Center Out Of Doors festival, that wonderful three week program of free dance, film, spoken word, and music - lots of music. Last summer I attended numerous performances during the festival, and I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the gigs and the performers who featured in them. So it was with much anticipation that I looked at the program for this year's event.

The festival began last Wednesday with a concert hosted by NPR (National Public Radio) Music. Called Turning The Tables Live, the evening was "...a celebration of the pioneering women of the "classic album era" (approx. 1964-present). Some of today's brightest performers open the evening with a set of covers handpicked from NPR's newly unveiled 150 Greatest albums by Women list."

As it happened, the evening opened with Ricky Lee Jones performing in full her classic album, Pirates. Jones was followed by a great lineup of female talent which included Lizzo, Gaby Moreno, Alynda Segarra, TORRES, Nona Hendryx, and the great Ronnie Spector. To make an amazing night of music even better, the audience was treated to a surprise appearance by Roberta Flack, one of America's greatest contemporary singers.


The inimitable Dionne Warwick commands the stage.
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Due to other commitments (see previous posts), I missed the Thursday and Friday night events, but was back on Saturday night for An Evening With Rumer. The British born Rumer, as she is known professionally, has a repertoire of songs in the same vein as Dusty Springfield and Karen Carpenter, and apart from performing her own material, Rumer is a fine interpreter of the songs of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

The highlight of the night for me, and for the assembled mass of people waiting to see and hear her, was the special guest set of songs by another of America's great performers -- and surely the best interpreter of Bacharach and Hall David -- Dionne Warwick. At 76, it has to be said that Dionne Warwick's voice does not command the full power it once had, but that made no difference to the many hundreds of fans hanging on her every note, happy just to be in her glorious presence.

Dionne Warwick on stage.
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Which brings me to today, Sunday. This year Lincoln Center Out Of Doors was hosting the Double Dutch Summer Classic National Competition. On a hot, but thankfully almost humidity free day, dozens of children and adolescents ranging in age from 10 to 17 or 18 years, hammered the boards at the Josie Robertson Plaza with so much energy, enthusiasm and athleticism that I am positive it left them all completely drained and exhausted by the end of the afternoon.

Forget the endless 'Boot Camp' variations. If you want to push your body through a full aerobic series of exercises, I would argue that Double Dutch beats boot camp hands down. The one-minute routines the competitors put their bodies through provided the best example of High Intensity Training I have yet seen.

A typical routine included jump rope, squats, high kicks, back flips, push-ups, leg splits, and so many other complex maneuvers that I can only apologize for my lack of knowledge and vocabulary that fails to give the young competitors the full credit they deserve.

Video footage from one of the teams competing at the Double Dutch championship.
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Week Two of Lincoln Center Out Of Doors continues next Wednesday, August 2, 2017, with performances by Ibibio Sound Machine (in their U.S.debut) and Angelique Kidjo. Ibibio Sound Machine are described in the program as "an eight-piece band led by English-Nigerian singer Eno Williams." The band plays a "...mix of Afrobeat, club music, and funk." Angelique Kidjo, a Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter, who was born in the African nation, Benin, reimagines Talking Heads' groundbreaking album Remain In Light. As a huge fan of Talking Heads and of that album in particular, I will definitely be there Wednesday night. Maybe I'll see you there!

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.
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WEEK SIX EXPENSES*
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ONGOING WEEKLY EXPENSES
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Museum Memberships $19.15 ($25.15)
AT&T SIM card $16.25 ($25.38)
MTA Pass $30.25 ($39.92)
Accommodation $152.00 ($200.00)
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Total Ongoing: US$217.65 (AU$290.45)
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ADDITIONAL DAILY EXPENSES
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Sunday 23, July | Expenses $31.00 ($39.10)
Monday 24, July | Expenses $79.46 ($100.25)
Tuesday 25, July | Expenses $61.35 ($77.55)
Wednesday 26, July | Expenses $22.10 ($27.45)
Thursday 27, July | Expenses $27.25 ($46.30)
Friday 28, July | Expenses $62.80 ($78.55)
Saturday 29, July | Expenses $26.80 ($33.55)
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Total Daily: US$310.75 | AU$402.75
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Total Expenses Week 6: US$528.40 (AU$693.20)
*Figures in brackets are Australian dollar amounts

Sunday, July 30, 2017

NYC Day 43: In Which Seaport and Singers Mix Together Harmoniously

Click on images to view full sized.
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I went to the South Street Seaport Museum intent on taking advantage of their Free Friday offer (from 3:00pm to 7:00pm), although I did give them a donation at the end of my visit.
South Street Seaport Museum's collections consist of over 26,500 objects documenting the rise of New York as a port city, and its role in the development of the economy and business of the United States through the social and architectural landscapes. The collection includes paintings; drawings, prints and photographs; manuscripts and ephemera; ship models; scrimshaw; navigational instruments and shipwright tools; and many historical objects related to trade from the Seaport itself, including those from the Fulton Fish Market, the coffee and tea industry, and letterpress printing and advertising industry, which supported the growth of New York as a financial powerhouse.{Source: Museum website}

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I started by going aboard the clipper ship, Wavertree. This is a magnificent ship by any standard you care to nominate. I was surprised by just how big the deck area was. It looked wide and vast, and for a ship that is more than a hundred years old, it is in wonderful condition. Mind you, the Wavertree has recently undergone a multimillion dollar overhaul, and it shows. The rigging is new, the decks are clean and well maintained, and everything looks ship shape and ready for sea.


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I was disappointed that visitors could not go below decks and look around, although that may change one day. Mind you, there may not be anything to see below decks apart from empty holds and storage areas. While you can't go deep below decks, you can enter the cabin area for the ship's captain. There is not a lot to see apart from small, empty cabin areas, which leave visitors to wonder; if the captain of the ship is confined to spaces as narrow and as confined as these, what sort of cramped accommodations did the crew have to contend with below decks?

I have no idea whether the museum intends to fit out the captain's cabin with rebuilt sleeping quarters and other fittings that give a better picture of life on board these types of ships, but I hope they do, if only because the already small rooms will become even more cramped and claustrophobic when fully restored.

Above: The Captain's quarters. 
Below: The ship's galley, or kitchen.
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From the Wavertree I spent some time examining several small exhibitions at the museum's main building. There is extensive information here about the refitting of the Wavertree, and an exhibition called Millions: Migrants and Millionaires Aboard The Great Liners, 1900-1914. This exhibition examines the contrasting conditions on board these mighty ships of the sea for two very different groups of travellers.

Either I missed the entrance to other parts of the museum, or the museum has reduced the size of its exhibition and display areas considerably, because there was a lot more of that 26,000 plus collection to see and discover at the South Street Seaport Museum when I visited the building back in 2010. I suspect the museum is still recovering from the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, when a storm surge of water that rose more than seven feet devastated low-lying areas of New York City including the seaport district.

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Apart from the Wavertree and the main building, the museum also has an extensive program of educational events including walking tours, dockside programs, sailing excursions on the Pioneer, an 1885 built sailing vessel, and the Lettie G. Howard, an 1893 built schooner, and other events.


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If You Go
South Street Seaport Museum
12 Fulton Street, New York City
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00am to 7:00pm. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Tix: Adults $12.00; Seniors & Students $8.00; Child (2-17) $6.00.

Above: The fully rigged Wavertree under sail, by the Australian artist Oswald Brett.
Below: One of several historical images showing damage to the Wavertree after it was dismasted while rounding Cape Horn in 1910.
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Free Music Fridays at The American Folk Art Museum
From the South Street Seaport Museum I went and had a late late lunch, or early early dinner - take your pick, after all it was 4:00pm - and then decided to head back to the American Folk Art Museum near Columbus Circle, where the museum's Free Music Friday was due to begin at 5:30pm. Performing this night were Kalyani Singh, Richard McGraw, and Rachelle Garniez.

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I got there a little late to find Kalyani Singh, a young 21 year old of South Asian heritage already performing. I was immediately captivated by her very distinctive voice and songs. The melodic structure of some of the songs reflected her Asian heritage, while her high soprano voice was clear and bright and reminded me of a young Joan Baez. I was also very pleased that her songs were not the types of works that are often full of youthful angst, and maudlin lyrics about failed love affairs. A topic that plagues far too many songs by young performers.

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Kalyani was followed by Richard McGraw whose catchy songs, quirky lyrics and unusual melodies soon has the audience trying to work out whether he was in fact working out his angst onstage and writing and performing songs as personal therapy. After all, one of his albums bears the title, How To Suffer. Or maybe he was just having us all on, because his songs were anything but maudlin. Richard was not afraid to teach the audience several refrains during his set and have us join in at the appropriate time, and he too, soon won the audience over with his easy stage manner by the time his 35 minute set was over.

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The final act for the evening was Rachelle Garniez. When she began singing I realized that I had seen her performing somewhere before, but it was only when she mentioned that she had been performing at the Bryant Park accordion festival just last week that I remembered. I had missed that performance, but I had seen her playing at the same festival during my visit to New York last year. If Richard McGraw's lyrics were quirky, then Rachelle's were wonderfully idiosyncratic. Accompanying herself on accordion, guitar, and keyboard (not all at the same time!), Garniez has a voice that darts high, low, and all the stages in between. Her songs constantly surprise, both lyrically and melodically, and are full of wry observations and sly digs at real or imaginary ex lovers.

The American Folk Art Museum says about these free sessions: Music featured at the Free Music Fridays series thematically reflects the spirit of the self-taught art on view at the museum. I have been meaning to catch these free Friday music nights for several weeks, but always seem to be elsewhere. However, now that I have seen the quality of the performers, I am determined to attend several more before my visit is over.

Although I stopped buying CDs on a regular basis some years ago, I just had to purchase one CD each from both Richard McGraw (How To Suffer), and Rachelle Garniez (Sad Dead Alive Happy). Kalyani Singh has yet to release an album, although she has recorded three songs which are available via her Bandcamp page (see link below).

If You Go
American Folk Art Museum
Address: 2 Lincoln Square, New York City.
Hours: Tues-Thurs & Sat., 11:30am-7:00pm; Friday 12:00-7:30pm; Sunday 12:00-6:00pm. Closed Monday. Free Music Friday: 5:30pm—7:30pm.
It's worth reminding readers that admission to the Folk Art Museum is always free.

More Information 
Kalyani Singh... 
Richard McGraw... 
Rachelle Garniez... 

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Friday 28, July | Expenses $62.80 ($78.55)
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NYC Day 42: In Which I Travel Back to New York in The 1970s

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The Film Forum (at 209 West Houston Street, New York), is one of the city's great independent movie theaters. It began in 1970 as an alternative screening space for independent films and it has stayed true to that mission ever since. During July, the Film Forum programmed a wonderful series of films around the theme New York in the 1970s, and screened more than 40 now classic movies from that era. These included the obvious choices such as Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, along with great films like Midnight Cowboy, The Taking of Pelham 123, Manhattan, and many others. I had every intention of seeing a dozen or more of these films but in the end only got to one of the final double-bills on the program: Escape From New York, and The Warriors.


Deborah Van Valkenburg (Mercy), and Michael Beck (Swan), in The Warriors. 
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John Carpenter's Escape From New York (1981), was a starring vehicle for Kurt Russell, and also featured Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, and Donald Pleasence. I have seen the film numerous times on DVD, but it has been more years than I can remember since I saw it on a big screen. The Warriors on the other hand is a film I had never seen. It was directed by Walter Hill in 1979, and was a lot of fun if only because the film has not aged well.

Like that other great classic, Easy Rider, the film is let down by its very dated jargon and language that may have seemed hip and 'with it' in 1979, but just seems silly in 2017. Also the young, mostly male actors, emote like they are fresh out of acting school. It has to be said that the few female actors in the film did better in that regard than their male counterparts. Speaking of which, I was delighted to see one of my favorite female actors, Mercedes Ruehl in only her second film. Later in her career Mercedes won an Oscar for Best Actress In A Supporting Role, for her part in Terry Gilliam's 1991 movie, The Fisher King.


Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin in Escape From New York
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As for Escape From New York, this is a film that has aged much better. But first a brief synopsis: The year is 1991, and crime in America has become so rife that the island of Manhattan has been turned into a maximum security prison. Which has been completely walled off from the rest of the country. Air Force One, carrying the president (Donald Pleasence), has somehow been hijacked and is brought down on the island, but before the plane crashes, the president escapes in a special pod that lands inside the walls of the island prison. Kurt Russell (as Snake Plisskin) is sent in to rescue the president.

As Escape From New York began, I couldn't help but wonder what effect and emotions the early scenes might be evoking on an audience of mostly local New Yorkers. In these scenes, what passed as state-of-the-art computer graphics in 1981, depict Air Force One crashing into a high-rise building. Later, as he sets off to find the president, Kurt Russell has to land a glider on top of one of the twin towers, and the scene can't help but evoke memories of September 11, 2001, in spite of the primitive special effects used.

From the Film Forum I considered heading back to Columbus Circle and the Lincoln Center where the second evening of the current Lincoln Center Out Of Doors program was  getting underway. In the end I decided to walk over towards the Hudson River, and take in the views.

Above and below: Volleyball and playing fields at Pier 26.
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This structure, and three others like it, help extract exhaust fumes from the Lincoln Tunnel as it passes below the Hudson River linking Manhattan with New Jersey.
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Above & below: 'Grand Banks' floating restaurant and party boat.
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Late evening Lower Manhattan skyline. 
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Ex US Coast Guard vessel 227.
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Thursday 27, July | Expenses $27.25 ($46.30)
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Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Friday, July 28, 2017

NYC Day 41: In Which I Visit Henry Clay Frick's Gilded Age Mansion and Museum


The Frick Collection (click images to view full sized)
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FRICK COLLECTION: PAY WHAT YOU WISH DAY
I made a welcome return to the Frick Collection (at East 70th Street & Fifth Avenue). Every Wednesday the Frick has a pay-what-you-wish policy, and I was happy to pay five dollars instead of the usual $17 Seniors price.

The Frick Collection is housed in the former Gilded Age mansion of Henry Clay Frick, a man who made his money mining coke (no, not that kind of coke!). Frick was an avid collector of art, and left a will that ensured that on his death the mansion and its collection would be turned into a public museum. The building, that is to say, the mansion, has remained almost completely unchanged since it was built, although a courtyard with fountain, and a couple of other rooms have been added to an area that was originally set aside for carriages and the horses that pulled them.

Apart from the rare opportunity to walk through a former Gilded Age mansion, the collection, or at least those works that are on display, can been enjoyed in full in a couple of hours. Along with the permanent collection, the Frick generally has two or three small exhibitions running concurrently

Currently there are three exhibitions taking place at the Frick:

Above: Abraham Entertaining the Angels, by Rembrandt.
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Divine Encounter: Rembrandt’s Abraham and the Angels
Now through August 20, 2017

On loan from a private collection, Rembrandt's Abraham Entertaining the Angels of 1646 is the centerpiece of a small exhibition dedicated to the artist's depictions of Abraham and his various encounters with God and his angels, as recounted in the book of Genesis. In the painting and in the other works included in the show — a tightly focused selection of prints and drawings and a single copper plate — Rembrandt explored, in different media, the nature of divine presence and the ways it was perceived.

(Image: A colorful porcelain deep covered dish with handles, decorated with flowers  and figurine at top)
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Fired by Passion: Masterpieces of Du Paquier Porcelain from the Sullivan Collection
Now through August 12, 2018

This installation in the Portico Gallery was inspired by the generous gift of fourteen pieces of Du Paquier porcelain given to the Frick in 2016 by Paul Sullivan and Trustee Melinda Martin Sullivan. Although in operation for only twenty-five years, the Du Paquier manufactory left an impressive body of inventive and often whimsical work, forging a distinct identity in the history of European porcelain production. The exhibition features about forty tureens, drinking vessels, platters, and other objects produced by Du Paquier between 1720 and 1740.

Above and below: both sides of a medal by Pisanello showing portrait bust of Leonello d'Este.
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The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from the Scher Collection of Portrait Medals
Now through September 10, 2017

Celebrating the largest acquisition in the Frick’s history, a gift of approximately 450 portrait medals from the incomparable collection of Stephen K. and Janie Woo Scher, the exhibition explores one of the most important artistic inventions of the Renaissance. The selection showcases superlative examples by masters of the medium — many of whom were also celebrated painters, sculptors, and printmakers — from Pisanello in the Italian Renaissance to Pierre-Jean David d’Angers in nineteenth-century France, honoring medals as integral to the history of portraiture in Western art and as a triumph of sculpture on a small scale.

In the music room/theatre visitors can watch a short film that provides some historical details about Henry Clay Frick and his collection. Currently a second short film examines Rembrandt's Abraham Entertaining the Angels, which packs an enormous amount of detail into a work that is just nine inches wide.

The beautiful courtyard and fountain at the Frick.
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IF YOU GO
Adults, $22; Seniors (65+), $17; Students (with valid ID) $12.
Free First Friday evening of the month, (except January) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Pay-what-you-wish: Wednesdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
NOTE: Children under ten are not admitted.
Online at Frick Collection...

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Wednesday 26, July | Expenses $22.10 ($27.45)
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Note: Current Frick Collection exhibition details are sourced from the Frick Collection website, as are images associated with those exhibitions. My thanks to the Frick Collection for the use of this information and images.

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NYC Days 39 & 40: In Which Hollywood Comes to Town and I Go To New Jersey


My local neighborhood supermarket.
Click images to view full sized.
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Well, wouldn't you know it, a light rain is falling over the city as I write, and the temperature has once again dropped down into the very cool 70s. Not for the first time have I noticed that the temperature is always cooler in Washington Heights compared to that at Midtown, especially at night. Last night for example, when I left the AMC25 cinema, Midtown was its usual hot, steaming self, as were the subways of course. But when I left the 181st street station the temperature was at least 10-15 degrees cooler. I'm tempted to buy a thermometer just so I can check the temp above and below ground in various locations. A little bit of empirical data can go a long way.

By the time the rain had eased off and then stopped completely, it was well into the afternoon, and there didn't seem much point heading downtown, so another day inside seemed to be the order of the day. In the end, I did pop out to do some more grocery shopping, which accounts for my total expense for the day.

When I went out, I immediately saw numerous brightly colored notices taped to trees and other convenient places along West 187th Street, my neighborhood shopping strip. Hollywood is coming to Washington Heights, and tomorrow is the filming day.

Hollywood comes to Washington Heights.
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The Internet Movie Database has a listing for a thriller called Asher with a synopsis that reads: "When an ambitious college student infiltrates a militant religious cult for his thesis paper, he befriends a young devout member - who he comes to suspect is plotting a terrorist operation."

IMDb gives a release date of 2017, and only provides the names of four male actors, one of whom is Danny Glover, an actor that seems to have been missing from the silver screen since his peak years in the Lethal Weapon series of movies. No other information is provided but I'm wondering if this may be a series being made for Amazon. Time will tell.
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Tuesday, July 25, 2017: Hollywood Comes to Washington Heights


The lifting apparatus in the image above, is providing lighting for an indoor shot. Why this particular apartment in Washington Heights? How do decisions like this get made? Below are just some of the production trucks and units lining both sides of W 187th Street where filming was taking place. I would have liked to have hung around to catch more of the action, but I had places to go and things to do.

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I caught up with my cousin Steve for lunch, after which I headed down to the Apple Store at the Oculus to take another look at the new 10.5" iPad Pro.

I figured that buying the device using credit (which I would need to do), might seem okay, but if I can't pay the card off pretty much immediately -- and I can't -- then the interest for say, two months, along with the currency conversion fees I would be charged will pretty much eliminate any 'savings' I might have made. On the other hand, I will have had a new iPad to work with, and surely that is worth the extra expense. Isn't it? If the Aussie dollar continues to go higher, I will be very tempted to buy. I will keep an eye on the exchange rate over the next week before taking the final plunge.

A 256Gb model will cost me the equivalent of AUD$1,025.00 here, whereas in Adelaide it would cost me $1,129.00. The young man I was speaking to seemed uninterested in encouraging my purchase, so I said I'd go have a coffee and think about it, and think about it I did. And decided not to buy at this point. I went to Brookfield Place for coffee, and then decided it was time to pay a visit to New Jersey.



Above and below: The views of the Manhattan skyline are quite spectacular from the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Also below, pier supports for one of several long gone shipping jetties still visible on this side of the river. 

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I went looking for the longest ferry trip I could find but due to my ignorance, didn't quite make the right choice from the numerous ferry routes available. So instead of going to Edgewater, NJ, which is opposite 138th Street on the Manhattan side of the Hudson. I ended up going to the Port Imperial ferry stop (roughly opposite West 54th St.). Having disembarked there I decided to explore further. Sadly, the main road was bereft of interest, so I walked along the river front for just over a mile to the Guttenberg/North Bergen Waterfront Park at North Bergen.



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The walk along the river passes block after block of very fine looking apartment complexes, and I have to say I was very impressed with what I saw. The apartments facing the Hudson River (seen above), have great views of the Manhattan skyline, and the new developments are surrounded by lush flowerbeds, beautiful trees and shrubs, large areas of lawn, water features, and at least one development had its own swimming pool. I had to admit the location was perfect, except for one major problem - the awful stench of sewage that wafted over the neighborhood.

The foul odor could be noticed all along the section of walk I undertook, and I thought if this smell is here all year round, that would be a real bummer (no pun intended). There had to be an answer to the stink somewhere, and of course. Dr. Google provided it. A search for 'sewage works near Port Imperial' turned up not one but two sewage plants both within about half a mile of each other, and Google Maps provided the evidence.

In the image below at bottom left on Port Imperial Blvd (look for three circles that look like pearls), is one facility which seems to be nameless. At top right of the image you will find another three smaller pearl colored circles where the Woodcliff Treatment Plant is located at 7117, River Road, North Bergen, New Jersey. No wonder the air reeks with foul odors. And it was just my luck to have chosen the smelliest part of this lovely section of the New Jersey shoreline to take my walk! Some luck. I can only hope that these two facilities, and others like them are not pumping effluent (even treated effluent) into the Hudson River.

Above, a Google Maps screen shot of the offending facilities polluting the air along this section of the Hudson River. As for looking for places to eat - no thanks! 
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After a short rest at North Bergen, I walked back to the Port Imperial stop and caught what I thought would be the ferry back to the World Trade Center stop near Brookfield Place. Instead the ferry bypassed that stop and continued around to the ferry terminal at the South Street Seaport, which was a nice bonus.

This area seems to have become a very popular over the past couple of years, with new fashion outlets, restaurants, and cafes springing up close to the waterfront. There is much new development still taking place in the proximity of the old Fulton Fish Market and I expect within another year or two this area will have been transformed into a very hip part of Lower Manhattan.

I found somewhere to eat in the area, then headed back to the apartment. And that dear reader is how I spent my 40th day in New York City.


The South Street Seaport is going off! 

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Monday 24, July | Expenses $79.46 ($100.25)
Tuesday 25, July | Expenses $61.35 ($77.55)
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Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

NYC DAY 38: In Which I Go To Dunkirk Waging War on Planentary Apes Again

Movie poster for Dunkirk
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I went and saw Christopher Nolan's latest movie, Dunkirk, and since I was in the theatre and the opportunity was there, I dropped in to see War For The Planet of The Apes. For the record, Dunkirk was in 70mm, and by and large it wasn't too bad, which I guess is another way of saying it wasn't brilliant either.

The evacuation at Dunkirk on the French coast, of around 300,000 British Expeditionary Forces, as they were called, averted one of the greatest military defeats in British history. Christopher Nolan tries to tell the story of how this 'victory out of defeat' moment was achieved by focusing on three or four groups or individuals; three soldiers waiting on the beach, three Spitfire pilots trying to protect them, and yes, three Englishmen, who set out from their home port in a small cutter as part of the fleet of 'little boats' that helped evacuate tens of thousands of British and French soldiers.

Like several of Christopher Nolan's other films, he plays with time and shifts the action around in ways that were for me initially confusing until I had worked out what he was doing. For example, all the fight scenes with the Spitfire's take place during the day, while many scenes involving sinking ships and other major dramatic moments happen at night. But since the story is being told in a non-linear way, scenes jump constantly from midair daytime dogfights, to nighttime ship sinking's, back to daytime bombings on the beaches, before we are whisked off to the crew on the little boat watching the dogfight overhead between the Spitfire's and the German Messerschmitt kkofighters, which may have happened that day, the day before or the day after! And so it goes on.

The Daily Sketch of June 3, 1940.
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My main complaint with the film is that it simple did not conveyed the full extent of what was achieved at Dunkirk. Obviously, Nolan did not have 300,000 extras with which to pack his beach evacuations scenes, but if Peter Jackson could use CGI effects to create thousands of digital extras in his Lord of The Rings trilogy, I don't see why Nolan wasn't able to do the same - unless his budget would not allow for it. I can only assume that budgetary constraints are also to blame for the lack of wrack and ruin one sees in the film.

The opening scene is a perfect example. Three soldiers are running for their lives down a village street as bullets ping and ricochet around them from an enemy we never see. The problem with this scene is that the village street is in pristine condition. There are no broken windows, no bombed out burning buildings with rubble spilling out onto the street, no abandoned military vehicles, no bodies of dead soldiers or civilians. Nothing. Heck, we don't even see pieces of paper lying in the street, despite that fact that moments before, German propaganda leaflets are seen raining down out of the sky.

Ahove: a copy of the leaflets dropped on Britsh forces waiting to be evacuated.
Below: this is what the evacuation of 300,000 men should look like.  

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The next major scene reveals lines of soldiers standing on a beach of almost pure white sand, and like the village street, the beach is in almost pristine condition. Again, no abandoned or destroyed military vehicles such as ambulances, trucks, jeeps, field guns, and tanks. No discarded weapons, clothing, or other equipment. Nothing. Just a few thin lines of British troops waiting patiently in the sun for someone to come and rescue them. Again, a lot of the detritus of war could have been added using digital effects, but either Christopher Nolan's budget would not stretch that far, or he didn't think it would matter. Well, I'm sorry Mr. Nolan, but it did matter.

Above and Below: Juat a little of what got left behind at Dunkirk.

Soldiers making their way out to one of the 'little boats' that came to rescue them. 

Thousand of soldiers waiting in line for rescue.
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I did a quick Google search for 'images of Dunkirk', and once I ignored those for Nolan's film, there were plenty from the actual wartime event, and I have used a few of those to illustrate this post. If you look at these images and then compare them to what we see (or don't see) in the movie, you will understand my complaint.

These issues aside, the acting from the principle players is good, but don't expect pages of dialogue from these men. They are mostly silent (even in moments of dramatic action), and what little dialogue there is, is mostly of the exposition type. That is, providing background information and context to the whole event.

As I said at the start of my review, the film wasn't too bad, but it could have been a lot better.

Score: 3 Spitfires.

Movie poster for the latest Apes franchise. 
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As for War For The Planet of The Apes, the less said about that the better. In a word, it was pap. While I am happy not to have paid to see the film, I can't say I am happy with the two hours out of my life that I will never get back! What a pastiche of genres the film is; part Western, part war film, and part homage to Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

You don't believe me? How about graffiti that reads Ape-ocalypse Now! Or Woody Harrelson ripping off of Marlon Brando's mad Colonel Kurtz in Coppola's film, complete with bald head and demented 'I'll do it my way' schtick. Even some of his dialogue mirrored that of Brando's. There were also huge explosive fireballs that referenced the napalm drop in Coppola's film, and the firestorm that ends Apocalypse Now, along with other visual references. If nothing else it made the film much more interesting than it deserved to be. I note too that the hard working Andy Serkis, who plays Caesar the leader of the apes has had enough of all the nonsense, since he gets killed off at the end of the film. Oh, I'm sorry, did I give something important away? Quite frankly, I think you will be just as relieved as Andy Serkis and I was to learn this.

By the way, am I the only person on the planet to notice that all the male apes in these movies are sexless? That is, that they have no reproductive organs or male appendages whatsoever? Maybe they keep them tucked out of the way in a special pocket somewhere. If they don't develop some real cojones soon, the apes (and the movies) will die out -- which can't come soon enough in my option. At least we won't have to sit through this type of nonsense again.

Score: 1 Banana.

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

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Sunday 23, July | Expenses $31.00 ($39.10)
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