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Posts Tagged ‘art’

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Ramen

Every so often the Apparently family hops on the 7 train into Manhattan with only a vague destination in mind. Last night we found ourselves aiming for Madison Square Park, because we thought the line at Shake Shack might not be so onerous at 4:30pm. We were mistaken. Even on a Saturday afternoon, everyone wants an upscale hot dog.

Several happy discoveries were made from this false start:

photo from madisonsquarepark.org

1. Cool yet disconcerting art by Jaume Plensa in Madison Square Park.

2. The recently-opened NYC outpost of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. If ever there were a yuppie cheese shop, this is it. Everything is minimally designed yet handsomely packaged, and you can buy several kinds of frozen mac & cheese starting at $8.75 a box. But oh, the selection of their own and other’s cheeses, and oh, the farmhouse-table dark Cellar restaurant that just begs for a return visit. Those pictures don’t do The Cellar justice – for a below-ground space, it’s lovely.

3. Union Square Park Playground. We’re behind the curve on this one, but this awesome playground is far superior to the generic Luna Park restaurant that preceded it. Apparently Jr loved the real rocks to climb and the secret path through greenery to the slide entrance; his parents loved the very enclosed nature of the whole playground and its slightly hipster attitude: really steep slides, plenty of stuff to climb and weird human-sized metal cattails.

We made our way to Vapiano, a very bizarre Italian cafeteria-style bar and restaurant that is absolutely perfect for people with kids and also probably a good place to meet a large group of friends. Each adult receives a chip card upon entering, and all purchases are scanned to the card; you pay when you leave. Vapiano’s offerings include solid renditions of classic Italian staples: pizza, pastas, panini. The seating areas, full of wood tables with marble insets holding oils and pots of rosemary, has enough ambience for both adults and kids to feel they’re at an actual restaurant, but is casual enough that a fidgety preschooler can take a walk without being given the stink-eye by other patrons. Apparently Jr is generally good at restaurants, and so it’s amusing that Mr A and I like Vapiano for these particular reasons. We also like the food!

What does all this have to do with ramen, you may ask? This post is so much longer than I’d planned – you’ll have to wait until the next post to find out! But muse on this: what would happen if David Chang, Tony Bourdain and McSweeney’s had a love child? It would be a lucky little peach, wouldn’t it?

On Steve Martin

Steve MartinLike several other men I have loved, Steve Martin irritated the crap out of me when we first met. Not that we actually met, of course, but when I was a young camper in the early 80s and he was a wild-and-crazy guy with an arrow through his head, I thought he was the most obnoxious, most absurd, and least likable performer I could spend my precious $5 to see at the local multiplex. His out-there energy and ploys for attention just did not mesh with my twelve years of innocence and love of ballet, unicorns and the Muppets. I dismissed him as gimmicky. I was not interested in his comedy or his films. A few years later, I reluctantly saw Roxanne and eagerly saw Little Shop of Horrors. Something started to stir.

Thirty years later, I love the man. Oh, we have our differences, and our one-sided relationship is marked with the occasional understanding that helps keep us together (namely, that I no longer read his Twitter feed), but for the most part I now find Mr. Martin very curious, endearing and admirable.

The Spanish PrisonerMy opinion changed when I saw The Spanish Prisoner. Martin plays an elegant businessman who may or may not be what he seems. His understated performance made me reconsider my previous impressions.

I’m fickle. Or rather, I don’t have a television and I do have a small child, which means that I rarely see movies. Mr. Apparently introduced me to some of Mr. Martin’s older works, to which I did not respond favorably, and I’ll confess I have not seen his most recent films, although I’d like to. In the 90s I was given an audio copy of Cruel Shoes that I wore out.

What I can speak to, however, is his writing and his musical skill. I’ve read all three of Martin’s novels/novellas as well as his autobiography, and they are written in utterly compelling voices. The fictional plots all take wildly unexpected and occasionally nonsensical turns, and the last ten pages of Shopgirl angered me in a way that no other book has pissed me off. But would I have gotten so furious if I didn’t care? I have read each of his books in one or two sittings; I simply can’t put them down.

“My mind has always been independent of my plans for it.”
- from The Pleasure of My Company

One suspects in reading his books that he must know at least something about the obsessions of his characters to write so convincingly. His thorough knowledge of the art world led to his latest work of fiction, An Object of Beauty. It’s a delicious read. The Pleasure of My Company makes for a fascinating evening. Neither left me with the deep satisfaction of having read great literature, but both left me wanting much, much more and, upon waking the next day, offered that vague sense of unease that comes with missing fictional characters one has just gotten to know. I didn’t particularly like Lacey Yager, but I certainly wanted to know what happened to her next.

Characters! Perhaps that’s the connection here. The man is brilliant with characters.

Most people know that Martin is a master banjo player. If you haven’t heard him play, listen to The Crow: New Songs for the Five String Banjo.

His web site is brilliant. His Twitter feed is so fervently absurd that I had to stop following him. His autobiography is replete with anecdotes and wisdom that made me like him even more.

The more I noodle on the topic, the more I realize that my love for Steve Martin is based neither on his prolific output, nor even necessarily on his talent, for I think his books need a heavier-handed editor and his script choices are hit or miss (and perhaps chosen with an eye towards commercial success, which is, of course, his prerogative). I’m not always crazy about his pieces in The New Yorker, but it was a class act when he read one of them several years ago in a live revue, wearing a perfectly tailored suit when Andy Borowitz could barely be bothered to tuck in his shirt. But I love his characters and his concepts, and how he dives into new endeavors with confidence and enthusiasm.

“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.”
- from Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life

Why do I adore Steve Martin? Because he’s a renaissance man, and he’s not afraid to fail. And he wears sharp suits.


Have you seen the incredible Book Carvings of Brian Dettmer? Go look.

photo from Brian Dettmer

via Incredible Book Carvings by Brian Dettmer.

The Art Museum, Not the Grocery Store

Since Mr. Apparently had a rare Monday holiday, we left the house early and took the bus to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 10am is a perfect time for museum-going; no waiting in line, the halls are sparsely populated, and you’re ready for a snack before the lunchtime rush.

Thanks to New York, New York!: The Big Apple from A to Z, Apparently Junior was adamant that we find William the Hippo, the museum’s unofficial mascot. The Interwebs could tell us only that William resides “in the Egyptian galleries,” which is an area larger than a city block containing hundreds of thousands of items. Security Guard #1 had absolutely no idea when I was referring to when I asked the location of the little blue hippopotamus; he suggested I ask another guard. Guard #2 also had no idea, adding, “I don’t usually work in these galleries.” We did a little detective work as to little William’s age and managed to get closer before asking the next guard, who smiled kindly and pointed out the little sculpture across the room. Result: one happy toddler.

The second highlight of the trip was an indoor/alfresco lunch in the Charles Engelhard Court, an enormous atrium featuring natural light both direct and filtered through transparent panels, making it feel as if one were outside on a spring day while seated comfortably inside during a February chill. Noshing on American artisanal cheeses with the shimmering Diana and Tiffany windows nearby was an unexpected and welcome delight. (Bonus: here’s a photo set showing the restoration of this court prior to its reopening in 2009.)

On our way to the modern art wing, after a quick ride in the coolest glass elevator ever, we passed through the Apparently family’s secret favorite part of the museum: Visible Storage. Row after row of glass cabinets house settees, teaspoons, salt cellars, cigarette cases, grandfather clocks and assorted clock mechanisms, glass vessels organized by color, and an amazing array of American painting. Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington resides here, and for some unknown reason John Singer Sargent’s Madame X is currently in residence in a front-row glass case. The security guard, an older man of European descent, caught my incredulous gaze and nodded knowingly. The last time I saw Madame she was the centerpiece of a huge exhibition several years ago. Now she hangs frameless in Visible Storage.

Our destination in the modern art wing? Charles Demuth’s The Figure Number 5 in Gold, a lovely painting in its own right and appealing to Apparently, Jr for its role as the model for a watch he and his father presented to me on Valentine’s Day. Only through a strange series of gallery closings, restroom detours, and chance did we stumble upon the one open modern art gal
lery today, and there it was: Demuth’s brilliant homage to William Carlos Williams. Can you see the fire engine?

After all this excitement, A Jr. fell sound asleep on the downtown bus, and no amount of transferring or being carried home in his father’s arms could wake the exhausted little bug. I couldn’t be more pleased that art makes him happy.



Watch Out, Arthur Danto

photo by bshort