Sun, Sep 23, 2007

: Murderball

At Peter’s loft in Brooklyn we watched this cool documentary on “Wheelchair Rugby,” a violent sport for paraplegics. The documentary’s whole point is about how we misjudge people and make assumptions of capability based on what we see are handicaps: in reality these guys are superb athletes, incredibly competitive, and the film captures their drama well. It’s a touch manipulative, like all documentaries, but it’s well-meaning and though the subject matter is occasionally lurid as though trying to hype things, it’s an important topic everyone should explore.

Topic: [/movie]

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: More New York

Sunday morning I again had minimal plans. I was to meet Peter later for Spamalot, but my morning was open. Phil had to babysit his daughter, so he would be occupied. I headed off in search of breakfast and adventure. Phil had told me of a good soccer bar where I thought maybe I’d stop by to check out the Manchester United-Chelsea match. I noticed it was “near” the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue and I really wanted to see that famed glass cube, so that sounded like a good starting point. I actually got on the correct “downtown” subway train and got off at 59th and walked. I spotted a sit-down breakfast place where they made omelets to order and had a delicious breakfast (with potatoes grilled with peppers and onions and real fresh-squeezed orange juice). Refreshed, I head off toward the Apple Store, passing places like Bloomingdales and other landmarks. Just as I got to the Apple Store my phone rang it was Peter, wanting to meet for lunch at 12:15 on 8th and 42nd Street. Since I was on 5th and 59th, I’d have a bit of a walk, which was fine.

The Apple Store is amazing: I thought the glass cube was just sort of an advertisement, but it’s the actual entrance. You descend a spiral staircase of glass stairs and you’re in a huge open space filled with people and electronics. The place is vast and packed with customers — there must have been at least 200 people at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. The store is open 24/7 and I’m told it’s nearly always busy. I wandered around and checked out the myriad accessories on display (a far better selection than at most stores). I wasn’t there to buy anything, though it was tempting: with so many people pulling out their credit cards you felt compelled to join in the fun. I overheard at least seven different languages. Most Apple Stores just have a “Genius Bar” — this one had an “iPod Bar” and a couple other help locations as well. One gal was giving a live demonstration of the iPhone: a camcorder was positioned above her hands and the video feed displayed on several huge Apple monitors around a table so customers could watch exactly what she did with the iPhone and learn how to operate it. Another guy stood in front of a huge stack of iPod Nanos and sold them: if that was all you were buying you could just go to him and he’d ring you up on his portable credit card scanner and off you’d go. I watched and he was pretty much constantly busy, selling a nano a minute.

After the Apple Store, I walked the width of Central Park (the “short” dimension), which takes like ten minutes. I passed the smelly horse carriages with tourists lining up to pay money to ride around the park. The park itself has always amazed me: it is so huge and beautiful with ponds and lakes and winding paths, all right in the middle of the city.

Then I walked down 7th Avenue. At one point I looked up and realized I was passing Carnegie Hall. Walking around New York is like that: you never know what you’ll find. I (eventually) hit Times Square, walked through the theatre district near Broadway, and found that 8th Ave. was blocked off for a street fair. It reminded me of the open markets in Dakar: throngs of people, vendors everywhere selling everything you could imagine. I’d eaten just a couple hours earlier but my high activity and all the food smelled so good I was soon hungry again. I met Peter at about twenty after and we found a nice Mediterranean place for lunch. My “shwarma” was not a sandwich like it usually is, but it was good (not the best I’ve had, though). There was plenty of food, however: Peter and I were both stuffed when we finished. At close to two we headed off to the theatre.

Topic: [/travel]

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: Spamalot

All I knew about this musical is that it had something to do with the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” It turns out it’s basically the film turned into a stage production: the same lines, songs, and classic jokes. This could have been disappointing, except the stage version is different with some new songs and some amazing production values and little inside jokes. One of my favorite things was the role of the “Lady of the Lake,” a minor character in the original that gives Arthur Excalibur and makes him King of Britain. In this version, the Lady’s a diva, and after not seeing her for a while, in the second act she comes out dressed like a lounge singer and sings “What Ever Happened to My Part?” with hilarious self-absorption and jabs at her agent for getting her such a sucky role. Awesome!

I really enjoyed this. It was simultaneously new and familiar, totally hilarious, informal, cool, and fun. It really fit my mood as with sensory overload from my travels I’m not sure I could have handled a serious play.

Topic: [/theatre]

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