a city of islands: beaches and art

Sometimes I forget that New York City is a city of islands with easy access to water because I spend the far majority of my time surrounded by skyscrapers in Midtown or Lower Manhattan. But yes, Manhattan is an island. Queens and Brooklyn are part of Long Island (a rather giant island). Staten Island is an island. Only the Bronx is not an island … and coincidentally it’s also the only borough I’ve never been to. But there really is water everywhere. Which means beaches! And since it’s still New York, it also (sometimes) means art! Woot!

160806 a160806 b

The Rockaways (Rockaway Peninsula in Queens) were pretty devastated during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so it’s nice to see how it’s recovered. Over at Fort Tilden is the site-specific installation Rockaway! by Katharina Grosse. Basically it’s an abandoned structure full of sand that got a spiffy red and white paint job. Cool. Kinda random, but still kinda cool. I mean, if it’s going to be abandoned, it might as well be pretty.

So far I’ve been to Rockaway Beach, which has a pretty spiffy new boardwalk, and Jacob Riis, which is less crowded with better/closer food options, but is harder to get to (we took the Beach Bus to Jacob Riis; Rockaway Beach is accessible by train). But getting out of the city in any manner feels AMAZING! And if I’m being technical about it, we never really left the “city” since we were in New York City the whole time!

Oh, and while at Rockaway Beach, we created a masterpiece. What do you get when a group of architects builds a sandcastle? Why, a ziggurat of course.

160806 c

Happy summer!

Advertisements

battery park’s seaglass carousel

160610

I have a thing for carousels.Ever since I had back surgery in high school, I can’t ride roller coasters. I was never that fond of roller coasters to begin with, but once that option was taken from me, I just really want to ride a roller coaster. It was even more Tantalus-like because I lived about five minutes from Kings Island (I could see their fireworks from my backyard), and when my high school physics class took a field trip to Cedar Point, guess who rode the merry-go-round again and again and again?

Anyhow, I learned to love merry-go-rounds and carousels and have made peace with the fact that I will never ride a roller coaster ever again. No matter. While roller coasters rely on screams and thrills, carousels are works of art. Take for example the SeaGlass Carousel in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was built while I was in Shanghai, so I hadn’t heard of it until I was interviewing for jobs. The firm I was interviewing at (but who didn’t get back to me until I had been at my current job for a month already – what’s up with that?!) had worked on the project and they showed me a video of it … and I was mesmerized. So when my sister was in town, I dragged her down there and we rode the carousel.

Totally awesome. Lights, colors, trippy music, and fun for all ages. It was a bit pricey at $5 for a 3.5-minute ride, so it’s not something you could ride on repeat without going broke, but I’d definitely go again.

SeaGlass Carousel
seaglasscarousel.nyc
Battery Park (entrance at State and Water Streets)
New York, NY
Open Daily, 7 AM – 7 PM

blackbird, the play

160501 a

Oh goodness golly gosh. I mean … woah. Oy. As much as I talk about my love of attending art exhibitions and such, I quite like the performing arts as well, although I tend to be a bit pickier with plays and such. So when my sister had extra tickets to a play called Blackbird, I was like, Sure, I’ll go. Based on the description it’s not a play I would have chosen, but it did sound interesting. And it has Jeff Daniels and Michelle Williams in it too.

So my friend S and I trekked over to the Belasco Theatre, which is really quite lovely, and sat staring at this lovely office set for a while. And then the play started … and it continued … and it ended. And by the end of it I think the whole audience was stunned into awkward, uncomfortable silence. You know how people tend to linger a bit after a play? There was no lingering here, it felt like people were just pouring out of the theatre – like they couldn’t get out of there fast enough. My friend and I were like: Where’s the nearest bar?

160501 b

I don’t feel equipped enough to give a thorough review of Blackbird, but while I thought the premise of the play was strong (a woman confronting the man who sexually abused her as a child, but who she loved), the twists and turns and the characters’ personalities were just jarring. And I hate to say this, but Michelle Williams annoyed me. From her awkward shifting accent to her weird, hysterical mannerisms, I couldn’t tell if it was part of her character or just bad acting. Anyhow, it was distracting. There was a monologue by her character about halfway through when she really hit her stride and I got into the play, but then the last five minutes just yanked me out of it again.

Oy. It really was a twisty one. With a single set consisting of an office breakroom and just the two* characters, it was a fairly minimalist play based solely on the two’s dialogue and some hyperactive (are these people drunk?) actions. How the story of their past emerged from their different perspectives was quite intriguing. But I still wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Definitely not a happy play, not a date play, not a “take your mother” play. Afterwards, I just wanted to curl up into a ball and watch Disney movies.

baby crocs in new york

160405

Have you ever heard that urban legend about crocodiles living in the New York City sewers? Well, there are Crocs in New York City, but these are of the ugly shoe kind. On 34th Street across from the flagship Macy’s store is a Crocs store. And on the wall they have this really cool two-story-tall mural of Lady Liberty made out of baby Crocs shoes! It’s really quite amazing. Although the shoes are ugly. Okay, some of the brand’s newer styles are actually kinda cute, and I do own a pair of their pointy-toe flats. But although I will admit that the classic Crocs are comfy, they are still very, very ugly and should never be worn outside the house/garden/hospital.

chicago o’hare: my most hated airport

With the crazy weather out East, I’m thankful as heck to be way over in Nevada! Although I’ll actually be going out East next week, so hopefully things are better by then. A few weeks back I spent a few days in New York (no snow at the time), and on the way back had a layover at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport … reaffirming ORD as my most hated airport. Then again, they do have this amazing tunnel, which is by far the coolest thing at O’Hare!

160127 a

The tunnel connects United’s B and C concourses, has a mirrored ceiling and neon lighting installation by Michael Hayden (Sky’s the Limit, 1987), backlit colored panels on the wall, and was just wow. It almost made up for a delayed flight, horrendously long trek across the airport, and lackluster chicken quesadilla I wolfed down. Rainbow colors, mirrors, and neon lighting? It’s like I was back in China! It was also a complete surprise to me because even though I’ve been to ORD many times before, I normally don’t fly United and had never had the pleasure of seeing the tunnel before.

So why, might you ask, do I so dislike Chicago O’Hare? Three reasons: A) I always seem to have a delayed flight (either to or from there), B) It’s such a crazy large airport that it takes forever to get anywhere, and C) I’ve only ever been to ORD on layovers, and layovers inherently suck. It’s not the airport’s fault that it’s a major hub, it’s incredibly busy, and Chicago weather causes a lot of delays, but I still prefer to change flights elsewhere … especially in winter.

160127 b

My flight into Chicago was delayed an hour because it had just started snowing in Chicago and ORD was backed up, but thankfully my layover was long enough that the connection was ‘a bit tight’ rather than ‘run like you’ve never run before’. My flight out boarded on time, but was delayed due to the de-icing process, which was actually pretty cool to watch from my window seat on the wing (my favorite seat). Basically a giant mechanical arm with a bright light and sprayer head on a pivot just went back and forth spraying the wing down.

In the end, my flight landed on time due to favorable winds, so all in all the experience wasn’t that bad. But I still just do not like Chicago O’Hare. Because as much as I bemoan the pretty-much-given delays and borderline-incompetent staff at some Chinese airports (oh PVG, will you ever get your act together?), I always feel like Chicago should be better. But alas, one change the weather.

Safe travels to all you out there!

shades of grey and gray

Calm your fluttering little hearts, I’m not about to go into a discussion about that smutty little novel-turned-film. No, instead I’m going to talk about spelling and one particularly annoying variant between British English and American English: the difference between grey and gray.

150605 a

Yang Yongliang (杨泳梁), From the New World (来自新大陆) (detail), 2014

If you check the dictionary, it’ll probably list ‘grey’ as chiefly British and ‘gray’ as chiefly American. So … what of those who use both? I am a proud American English user and use the American spellings of color (v. colour), organization (v. organisation), traveled (v. travelled), inquiry (v. the inquiry/enquiry divide), and meter (v. metre). Oh, and the last letter of the alphabet? That’s a ‘zee’, not ‘zed’.

But ya know what? I use both ‘grey’ and ‘gray’. I also use both ‘theatre’ and ‘theater’ – although for different things. The stage ends in ‘-re’ and cinema is ‘-er’ – a distinction that I’m not alone in making. Yet when I use both ‘grey’ and ‘gray’, drawing a difference between ‘gray’ for a warmer hue and ‘grey’ for a cooler/lighter/steelier/bluer variant, suddenly I’m a complete weirdo. Am I? Really now? I checked on the web and there are others who think like me. Then again, on the internet you’re bound to find someone who agrees with you.

150605 b

Pang Yun (庞云), Portrait of Trees No. 3 (树的肖像3) (detail), 2014

150605 c

Li Jinghu (李景湖), Sea Breeze (海风) (detail), 2009

In general, I use the spelling ‘gray’ to describe the colors on a ‘grayscale’. I fully realize that I am in the minority with my double usage of theatre/theater and that I am practically alone on a deserted island for grey/gray, so as a rule, if I’m writing something official or for publication (peer-reviewed, academic, in print, or must conform to CMOS), then I only use ‘gray’ and ‘theater’ for the sake of consistency and not confusing everyone with my non-standard spelling distinctions. But I guess this duality is what happens when you study so much (British) English that both end up feeling quite natural. Although serial commas are a must.

when antique pottery fails so hard

You ever have those days where you’re just, like, so over things? But to your sleep-deprived and highly-caffeinated mind, it’s hilarious? That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. And that’s how I felt when I saw these pieces that were on display at the Aurora Museum in Shanghai. They’re probably still there. I want to meet the curator and shake his/her hand for displaying such wonderful pieces that scream “FAIL” in such a wonderfully amazing manner.

150321 a

150321 b

Because even though these two pieces of pottery totally fail (all collapsed and what-not), the fact that they’ve survived from the Yuan Dynasty and made it into a museum collection is just fantastic. I love it. When we see historical objects in a museum, they’re usually all just so pristine and untouchable and holier-than-thou perfect, even when they’re broken fragments. But these aren’t just ‘broken’, they’re failures in craftsmanship. That just makes me smile!

chandeliers in treehouses (tbt)

141030 a

Toshihiro Oki Architect P.C. with Toshihiro Oki, Jen Wood, and Jared Diganci, “tree wood,” 2013

This was a pretty cool project, and one that I almost didn’t see. The last summer I was in New York, I was living in Astoria, but didn’t explore much of my neighborhood until the last few weeks I was there. It was July (2013), and it was hot, but it was also so green and beautiful. Ah, how I miss TREES in Shanghai! Anyhow, it was my first time to the Socrates Sculpture Park, and for the most part I found the park to be just so-so – nothing wildly impressive, but a nice stroll.

This particular project “tree wood” was pretty cool, although it blended in so well with the trees I almost completely walked past it. Socrates is a sculpture park, but this was more along the lines of installation art or temporary architecture than sculpture. Basically it was a tree house structure of sorts, framed with two-by-four studs, with a chandelier, which just won the whole thing. With the streaming sunlight and the quiet tranquility of the park and the sheltering of all those leaves and branches, the project had a really interesting quality to it, natural yet manufactured, unfinished yet refined, public yet secluded.

Not sure if this is still up since it’s been over a year since I visited, but regardless, I love the idea of the project.

141030 b

141030 c

And whaddaya know, the project was designed by architects … I wonder if that’s why I appreciate it so much. I think it’s true that there’s no such thing as a ‘former architect,’ because even though there are many of us who have moved on to other fields, I feel like there’s some sort of weird bond/understanding between architects (past or present) where we just ‘get’ each other. I was talking to a jewelry designer whose pieces I admired, and whaddaya know, she was trained as an architect. Maybe it’s suffering all those hours in studio that gains one entry into the imagined community of architects.

strange fruit in suzhou

141029 a

141029 b

A few weeks ago I went to the opening of an outlet mall in Suzhou (random, I know) and there was a performance by Australian dance and theatre group Strange Fruit. It was downright amazing. They were swaying back and forth on these 5-meter-long poles, and it was completely beautiful, mesmerizing, memorable.

141029 c

The promotional material said their performance “fuses theatre, dance and circus.” It totally does.

rubber ducky, you’re so fun!

141028 a

Rubber Ducky, you’re the one, you make bathtime lots of fun!

Sometimes I just love contemporary art. Like this. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is indeed a giant floating yellow rubber ducky in a lake in Shanghai. And yes, it is amazing. And pretty darn adorable too. The art piece was created by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman in 2007, and has been touring the world ever since. Note that I called it an art piece. Because … what else would you call a giant floating yellow rubber ducky?

141028 b

I read an article about how it was coming to Shanghai, and since it’s one of those unusual ‘when else are you going to see this?’ kind of things, I just had to go see it. It’s in Century Park in Pudong … and yes, I actually went all the way over to Pudong to see a giant floating yellow rubber ducky. But it was worth it.

It’s only been in Shanghai a few days, and will stay here until November 23. And tickets to the park are only 10 RMB! There had been talk of raising the ticket price to 40 RMB, but eventually the powers that be backed down due to public pressure. The one downside of those cheap tickets were the crowds and crowds of people. But 40 RMB would have been ludicrous, because really, it’s just a giant rubber duck. You see it, you take some pictures, and you’re done. Very cool, but … that’s about it.

141028 c

Aw, but look at that cute duck bum! Although its size relative to those buildings makes it seem a bit Godzilla-like …