England's Next Top Model
Huggett’s, the gas station mini-mart a short walk from my grandmother’s house has quite a good selection of movies (as well as a wine section, and the New York Times). But it is hard to please three generations of women, two of whom (my mom and me) watch as many as four movies a week. The one evening we wandered up there in search of a movie, the best option seemed to be The Duchess,...
Waiting on the Dream
I contributed a piece on the (lack of) development in Midtown West a.k.a. Hudson Yards to The Architect’s Newspaper’s annual Developers Issue. Other writers tackled Downtown Brooklyn, Williamsburg and Jersey City. An excerpt: The city may call it Midtown West, but the corner of 8th Avenue and 41st Street certainly doesn’t feel like Midtown. The monochromatic New York Times tower...
I am beginning to realize that I could do nothing but critique films from the point of view of the protagonists’ stuff. Summer Hours was all about stuff, but even melodrama would have less drama without a few carefully chosen chairs to break or fitted skirts to stain. The melodrama I have in mind is Revolutionary Road, the pedigreed project (directed by Sam Mendes from the Richard Yates...
Are two design-snob rants in one week two too many? Probably, but here goes. I live in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a charming neighborhood with tree-lined streets and brownstones and limestones and more humble brick townhouses like mine. Most of the neighborhood is a historic district, which means the Landmarks Preservation Commission has to sign off on anything you do to the front of your house. We...
Last night I discovered something very exciting: the IFC on Demand section on Time Warner Cable Channel 1000. It lists independent films that are still in theaters, including Summer Hours, a recent French film I had put in our Netflix queue after reading the reviews. Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, the film is about three siblings deciding what to do with their mother’s summer...
There was a story in the New York Times on Friday about Floyd Bennett Field, the decomissioned 1930s airfield on the border of Brooklyn and Jamaica Bay that is now a National Park. It reminded me that about two years ago I read a story in the Times about Floyd Bennett Field and resolved to go there. So on Saturday we finally went and found it to be a strange, flat landscape, filled with people...
See this chair? They are selling it for $1100 at Design Within Reach as the Jens Armchair, a reissue of a chair designed by Danish-American designer Jens Risom in 1949 for the Caribe Hilton Hotel in Puerto Rico. Risom (who is still alive and living in Connecticut) is best known for his webbed chairs, manufactured and distributed by Knoll, but after parting ways with Knoll in the 1950s, he...
From deep in the auteur files, last night we watched Zhang Yimou’s Ju Dou (1990), starring a young and beautiful Gong Li. It is nice to see someone so glamorous, and so often presented to us in form-fitting silk qipao, look just as beautiful in a navy padded jacket and flowered pajama pants (her costume, with some variation, for most of the film). I could reasonably write a sequel to my Brick Lane...
How could I resist when Colm Tóibín, the Irish novelist who wrote one of my top ten books of the last ten years, The Master, came out with a new novel called Brooklyn? Set in Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights, no less. But it doesn’t start there, because in the years after the second World War, few Brooklynites were originally from Brooklyn. Instead we start in the smallest of small-minded towns...
Perhaps this blog is too schizophrenic, but so is our Netflix queue. Of an evening I crave entertainment but am usually disappointed by the ersatz fun of comedy and romantic comedy, so after a few irritating evenings with the stars, we return to better films, usually from abroad, and usually depressing. Waltz With Bashir was one of these. I read the reviews, I was interested in its use of...
In Spite of Myself
Last month I finally removed my last box of stuff from my mother’s attic. Thirteen boxes had been moldering there since I graduated from college 15 years ago, packed with the contents of my college shelves (Plato, Breton, Venturi) and those of my childhood bedroom (Bronte, Montgomery, L’Engle). I had been waiting until I owned my own home, and enough bookshelves to receive the bounty, to get...
Apologies for the hiatus. I went away for the weekend, and managed not to consume any media for three days. Imagine that. When I returned, the red envelope that awaited me contained Nursery University, a documentary about getting your child in to preschool in New York City. This year we did just that, but not in the manner of the anxiety-ridden Manhattan parents showcased in the film. We looked...
Links to writing published before I began this blog in June 2009. My New York Magazine archive (back to 1998!). My New York Times archive. My Metropolis archive. My Architect’s Newspaper archive (most pieces not available online). My Design Observer archive (back to 2009!).