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5.25.09 My Top Ten RIGHT NOW

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1. TV Glee
It’s all right there in the title. Watching this show just brings happiness, so much so that I’m sad it wont be appearing again until the fall. Featuring a talented cast of Broadway peeps (Mathew Morrison of South Pacific and Light in the Piazza and Lea Michele of Les Miserables and Spring Awakening) you know you’re going to get excellent song and dance. The storyline is hackneyed, football star wants to sing, but when broken up with little bits and pieces of musical delight, I really can’t complain. And nothing will beat that performance of “Don’t Stop Believing” that finished up the pilot. I could seriously watch that every morning to start my day out right.

2. EXHIBITION Into the Sunset
Nothing says Americana like the vast land of the west. This exhibition compiles a whole host of photographs taken from the end of the 19th century to current day, demonstrating a fascination with the west as much as a fascination with documentation. By grouping works by subject rather than year created, each wall becomes a snapshot of different interpretations over a century, daguerreotypes next to gelatin prints next to Polaroids. It’s an incredible survey, featuring the works of Cindy Sherman, Richard Avedon, James Casebere, Ansel Adams, Muybridge, Dorothea Lange, and on and on. Rarely have I seen such a gathering of the greats and really seen how our concept of the west has been so clearly shaped through photography.

3. RESTAURANT Uncle Nick’s
Uncle Nicks serves up classic Greek cuisine in midtown west and recently down in Chelsea as well. Because I clearly love all things cheese, a good meal always starts with saganaki, sharp cheese baked in lemon and butter that is served with much panache as it comes out of the kitchen flaming. Another house specialty appetizer is the oktapodaki or grilled baby octopus. Once you get over the thought and texture of what you’re eating, you’ll enjoy the seafood doused in vinegar. Wrap up your first course with some tzatziki and taramosalata and you’ll need to take a big break before heading to the main course. For me, it’s always the xifias or swordfish steak grilled a la Maki, which is as imposing as it sounds but ridiculously fresh and in the end, quite a light dish. For the less seafood oriented, there are excellent gyros, kebobs and souvlaki. There are other restaurants in Manhattan that turn Greek into an overly fancy affair, but this is the place to go when you really just want the goods served correctly.
4. EXHIBITION Tangled Alphabets
The works of Ferrari and Schendel are well contextualized here in specifically tackling our notions of language. Words streak across canvases, large translucent panels of text hang from the ceilings, layers of wire are bounded in boxes with text. It’s all quite stark and beautiful in the white washed walls of MoMA. Towards the back of the exhibition, there are these small but amazing collages bringing together familiar images of warfare and politics with Romanesque angels collaged on top of them. The juxtaposition of religious iconography with some of the most haunting visuals of the 20th Century is an amazing commentary on language, targeting how visual media has very much become the language of our present day. I was a little more befuddled but ultimately pleased to see the stainless steel wire works dotting the exhibition. The interlocking lines create the most perplexingly gorgeous fractal patterns. How this is language, I don’t know, but it certainly did speak to me.

5. FOOD Baked
Again with the Brooklyn! But I have to admit this little haven of a coffee shop in Carroll Gardens is worth a trip and an extended stay on a late Spring afternoon. The treats are exquisite, especially this month’s special pepper chocolate and sea salt cookie (I know it sounds weird, but it’s delicious). The oatmeal cookie filled with white chocolate and cherries will delight the palate. Add a little iced coffee to the mix and you have yourself one pleasant stay. The music selection, very important in my world, is stellar. I heard long forgotten tunes from Tori Amos to The Bangles, and even a little Michael Jackson thrown in the mix. And because it’s Brooklyn, and they know how to do coffee shops, there are outlets at every booth so you can spread out and work (and they wont even dream of kicking you out even when it gets busy). So go, make the trip, experience why Brooklyn actually does make quite a bit of sense as a lifestyle choice (that I ultimately do not condone).

6. PERFORMANCE Sasha Allen in Hair
It seems strange to single out one person in a sea of people on stage in this amazing revival, but after having the privilege of seeing this production once again, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by her stage presence and her powerful voice. She opens and closes the show with such grace, beauty and passion that it seems impossible she hasn’t blown up even beyond theater. Her voice is so strong and gorgeous that you almost wish she’d sing the whole score, just because you wonder what it would sound like coming from her mouth. All that said, please see this show if you have the chance. What an affirmation of life, a fascinating look back at a former time, one that so clearly informs our current generation and sense of self.

7. SHORT FILM Khoda
Incredible if for nothing more than the sheer achievement of painting 6000 individual works of art to piece together into a short film, this film is mind-blowing. It is totally alive, each daub of paint registering in crystal clear color. And the goal is certainly true: freeze any frame and you will have a beautiful independent painting, worthy of putting over the mantel. String it all together and you have this piece that cackles and collides in front of you, so vibrant. The transitions between scenes make you wish that longer form narrative film would take a page from this book and really think about how things flow, about how color and texture can transform into a complete world. Truly an artistic achievement worthy of praise, I just wish I could see it projected on a big screen…

8. SONG “You Don’t See It” by The Duhks
I know I talk about this band all the time, but this song keeps popping up on my iPod, or rather, I keep going to it. The hook filled melody catches quickly, but the song evolves through the excellent chord choice, moving between major and minor in very subtle ways. The violin and mandolin harmonize beautifully to create a compelling background sound reminiscent of the better works of the Indigo Girls. And while I’m slow to finding lyrics interesting, this message I can read loud and clear. It speaks to true love expressed from one person to another and the other just isn’t hearing it. The line, “before you get to love me, a few hearts have got break,” is such a eloquent way of delineating the path the other person will inevitably take, through more and more relationships before finally waking up to find their love right in front of them. Such an elegant song that never forgets to be a good sing-able song all the same.

9. EVENT Grilling
Let’s just face it on this holiday weekend: food tastes better when it’s cooked on a grill. Burgers and hotdogs are the obvious choice and they’re all well and good. But throw some juicy lamb chops onto the fire and your mouth just starts to water. Put a little green mint jelly on top of that and you have one of the best meals you’ll have outside a restaurant. Grilling really takes things back to the basics and lets the succulent meat be all it can be without the frills and unnecessary sauces that can pollute the essential genius of cooked meat. It’s even more special in NYC where having a grill can be a bit of a rarity. So enjoy your Monday off (while I’m most certainly working) and please grill up some juicy meat to savor.

10. TV American Idol Finale
I can’t believe another season is over! I suppose I should be screaming in outrage that Kris Allen won over Adam Lambert, but truth be known, I actually preferred the musicality of Allen (despite his less strong vocals) to Lambert’s powerful and unique voice that in the end made my ears want to bleed. And at the end of the day, they’ll both have record deals and a chance at a future in the business. But I will truly miss tuning in every week for the showdown and fast-forwarding all the results shows to just the good bits, of which there were many. American Idol is an institution, one that makes me quite happy. I shall miss you crazy Paula and bitter, but always right, Simon…

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