Well, I guess we were just in a New York State of Mind in 2017.
Trips to the Empire State included:
An extended “writer’s retreat” weekend in Cooperstown in April. It was my wife’s first time in one of my favorite places on earth. It was also our first time doing Air B&B. Despite coming home with a nail in my tire…it was a truly relaxing, lovely trip (and, yes, we both got some much-needed writing done).
A weekend getaway to NYC in June to hit up some old haunts (with a jaunt out to Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Museum).
A family vacation in August renting a house on Lake Seneca (first time in the Finger Lakes region) from which we watched the solar eclipse. The vacation also included day-tripping to Watkins Glen and the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (a long overdue first time there!) The Niagara experience inspired a short-story I’m currently polishing up.
Yes, I know we’re already half way through 2015, and I’ve got enough photos from random places I have been this year to create the annual post…but that will have to wait. This is a catch up post where I will share some photography of random places I was in 2014. I don’t know how this post slipped my mind last year, but here it is now, better late than never
2014 was marked by part-time Canadian living in Mississauga in the first half of the year and then big trips to Dublin, Ireland in the spring; San Francisco in the fall; and finally Boston (where we rang in the New Year). But in between all that, there was plenty of day-tripping in the greater tri-state area from where these shots were captured. Most notable, perhaps from a WTF perspective, were the infamous person in a pickle costume in Lancaster, PA (insert your own story here) and the insane doll-parts strewn Gloria Vanderbilt Dream Box art installation at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.
Was it really that smart of Noah Baumbach to open his latest “comedy” by making us read a scene of dialogue from a play? Even if it is an Isben play…and even if it is pertinent to the film’s major theme…which is essentially beware of the young? Hidden beyond this stroke of semi-alienating pretension is an almost accessible, quasi-mainstream comedy, Baumbach’s most enjoyable (though far from best) yet.
Well, at least it immediately lets you know you’re in Baumbach territory. Our main characters are a documentarian/professor (Ben Stiller) and his producer wife (Naomi Watts). Only in movies, especially movies made by people like Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach (just like in any Franzen-esque pseudo-literary novel where everyone is a writer) is everyone involved in movies or the arts. This once seemingly hip middle-aged couple have lost their mojo, and they try to get it back by befriending a couple who came to one of his classes, an aspiring documentarian (Adam Driver) and his pretty, young artisanal ice-cream making wife (Amanda Seyfried). I balked at what the film was trying to make me believe…that Adam Driver (one of the most unlikable actors gracing the horizon of stardom) was supposed to be this generous, non-ironic, admirable seeker of truth and drinker of life. Ah, but alas…(spoiler alert!) things are not all what the seem…or in Driver’s case, turn out to be exactly what I suspected…this hipster douche acting like a hipster sage was in actuality…a hipster douche!
As is always the case, Baumbach peppers the film with sharp observational (sometimes judgmental) comedy and sound-bites amidst his odes-to-Woody conversational set pieces. Continue reading →
Chris Rock’s stand-up prowess and HBO boundary ripping hilarity never successfully translated to the big screen where, to be honest, his most memorable work was his voice-overs in the Madagascar series. So here he is now, in the beginning of middle-age, trying to get his groove back by writing, directing and starring in Top Five.
Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a recovering alcoholic and former stand-up comic who has decreed he wants to be taken seriously now after years of staring as a wise-cracking bear-suited cop in the idiotically successful Hammy the Bear series. His first serious film, the Haitian slave-revolt biopic Uprising, is hitting theaters just as his marriage to a reality TV star (Gabrielle Union) is set to air on Bravo. On the fateful day before his bachelor party, a NY Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) follows him around NYC for an in-depth interview. Along the way the pair riff on life, love, politics and pop culture while making pit stops in Allen’s old hood to meet the family and friends he left behind as he climbed the ladder out of the ghetto and into Hollywood stardom. The cast features great turns in small roles from some of my favorite comedians including Tracy Morgan and J.B. Smoove, as well as countless cameos – some of which (DMX singing “Smile”) work, and some of which (Adam Sandler doling out marriage tips) don’t. There’s also a “watch out, world, here she comes!” spin from Leslie Jones who proves she’s waaaay funnier than her strained bits on the current season of SNL.
Despite its obvious eschewing of the entertainment business and celebrities and its tenuous parallels to Rock’s own career, Top Five miraculously avoids becoming an insular cell of wall-to-wall in-jokes (though there are plenty). For most of its cameo-laden run-time, it’s actually a sophisticated romantic comedy where Dawson’s character has her own ulterior motives that lead to enjoyable banter and palpable chemistry. Both leads relish in bouncing off each other’s energy with Rock finally fulfilling the promise he has always shown and Dawson fulfilling the promise she showed over a decade ago in such films as Sidewalks of New York and 25th Hour. As fabricated as their “all in the same day” whirlwind tour of the city becomes, you root for something real to take root because the two are so engaging and delightful to watch. Continue reading →
There’s no rhyme or reason here, folks, just a collection of photos from random places I have been in 2013. I’ve been all over the map (with Europe still to come later this month!) from the Caribbean to Canada and with plenty of local tri-state faves here on the Eastern Seaboard in between.
Bet you were expecting a story here or something, huh? Well, some shots from the Cape May Lewes Ferry did inspire a short story about an elderly lady turned drug dealer. And another creepy abandoned industrial building in Toronto is sure to inspire a story about dead bodies most certainly hidden there at some point in my near future.
But I’ll say nothing more and allow you to choose your own adventure with these shots.
The building was an older one, just a block from Wall Street in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District, and its modest ten stories were dwarfed by towering modern skyscrapers. The rooftop offered an amazing 360-panoramic view of the cavernous buildings that stretched into the clouds. Their lit windows made checkered patterns against the enclosing walls of the city. Looking out between the buildings was like gazing into the belly of a deep and narrow cave that stretched back forever into a darkness around the bend.
A grim view from a ferry taken from Jersey City to Manhattan.
About two years ago I made it one of my primary missions to hone my skills working in short fiction. It was an area I had avoided and feared before (I am “davethenovelist” not “davetheshortstorywriter” afterall) but I decided it could be a welcome change of pace and something I could really dive into between novels. It’s resulted in many stories and ideas, some of which I’ve now discarded or still linger to be fully fleshed out, others of which I have edited to death and/or submitted in various drafts to select literary magazines in print or online. Along my journey, I read somewhere that the average writer will make at least 20 submissions before having their first story published. Well, on the 13th try, I am finally seeing some returns on my investments of time and hard work.
I am proud to say my short story, “The Ballerina in Battery Park” has been chosen for publication and awarded 3rd place in Scratch’s 2010 Spring Quarterly Contest. In addition to immediate online publication it will be appearing in print in their annual anthology due out in the Spring of 2011 – stay tuned for details on how to purchase a copy!
I’ve never tried to obtain the encyclopedic knowledge of music that I actively seek with film and literature, but I know what I like, and I’d like to think I know raw talent when I hear it. Amidst a busy weekend a-visitin’ and travelin’ to Atlantic City and then up to the Big Apple, the highlight was watching Robbie Gil perform at Rockwood Music Hall on 197 Allen Street in NYC on Saturday night. Live music isn’t typically my thing (in fact, this might’ve been the first live music act I’ve seen since college), but there’s certainly something to be said for the intimacy and communal energy at a small and eager venue, especially when you know the performer personally and are there mingling amongst not just his family and friends, but his fans, who swayed hypnotically, bobbed their heads, smiled and sometimes sung along with his powerfully lyrical and heartfelt songs. If you are a fan of live music (especially of the bluesy rock nature) and live in or visit NYC frequently, you’d be a fool to pass up the chance to see Robbie Gil perform. Continue reading →