Tag Archives: culture

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…

… but it will be seen all over the streets of New York City!

I’ve been a passionate lover and documentarian of street art for many years now, who is frequently stopped dead in my tracks when a new poster, stencil, or sticker suddenly catches my eye. I love when I see a new work of art on a sidewalk, wall, or lamppost that makes me smile, think, or both. I adore street art for the color and creativity it adds to public space, and admire those ballsy artists who exercise their freedom of expression by utilizing the city streets as their canvas, turning our communities into museums for the masses, under the cover of darkness. Street art is thankfully accessible to everyone and a real reflection of what’s going on in our culture at its deepest roots. In its most elevated forms, street art beautifies and transforms otherwise bland, cookie-clutter urban landscapes with exciting splashes of color, capturing the attention of passersby with wit and whimsy, shock and style.

Over the past several months, I’ve observed a definite change in the tone and topic of  New York City street art, with an increasing slant towards bold, in-your-face, political backlash, and socially conscious commentary. The following slideshow highlights some of the best pieces I’ve stumbled across in my city sojourns lately:

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If you’re interested in seeing more, please visit my street art photography gallery here. I also particularly dig the work featured on Brooklyn Street Art and Street Art Utopia, which provide great eye candy right to your news feed via their Facebook pages.

Street art is an excellent gauge of our social temperature, so it’s not surprising that given recent current events, our city’s streets are mirroring the people’s increasing outrage towards the out of control culture of corporate greed, our plunging economy, the death of the American dream, our government’s dysfunctional paralysis, and its seeming unwillingness to do much of anything about all of the above.

Artists are often the first to speak out on such issues, and born of out of this widespread frustration, outspoken civic-minded street art has become more prevalent. As a sign of the times, this rise has beautifully intersected with the Occupy Wall Street movement, encouraging the other 99% of Americans to take to the streets and speak out about the variety of cultural injustices we’re facing, despite daily opposition from the NYPD and local government agencies.

At first, the mainstream media all but ignored what had been taking shape in Lower Manhattan. As it’s become clear that the protesters are gaining in numbers and clearly not going away, the right-wing media in particular has spun the story to portray an “unfocused hippie circus”, rather than a legitimate, empowered social movement. Nevertheless, the cause continues to gather momentum and support with each passing day. It will be fascinating to see how it evolves as the year draws to a close.

If you’re dissatisfied with the depth or lack of media coverage the movement has been garnering, and interested in learning more about the national Occupy America movement, I suggest tuning into a handful of less well known media outlets that seem to be reporting on the revolution with a more evolved, thoughtful perspective. They include: Occupy Wall Street (on FB); RT TV America; NPR; and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The Nation recently published a great breakdown of FAQ regarding OWS, which also addressed Adbusters involvement in the cause. The Huffington Post has even added a very comprehensive page, dedicated solely to OWS on its website, with the byline “Some News Is So Big It Needs Its Own Page”.

In the meantime, give another listen to Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 protest song, which feels as timely as ever… though one might adapt it for modern times to say, “The Revolution will not be televised. It will not be tweeted, uploaded to You Tube, or become your friend on Facebook. The Revolution will not be digitized.”

Or will it?

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Filed under Art, Culture, Events, New York City, Photography

Celebrating Sakura Matsuri

Sakura Matsuri is a yearly “rite of spring” event at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens celebrating the revered cherry blossom and the diversity of Japanese culture, with over 60 events and performances all weekend long. Visitors can sample a wide variety of traditional Japanese music and dance including: taiko drumming, butoh performances, and flower hat dancing, or the more contemporary fare of today’s techno DJ, anime, and manga culture. There are dozens of all-ages presentations, ceremonies, and workshops to participate in, including ikebana flower arranging, tea ceremonies, cosplay photo shoots, and more.

Avid photographers, pro and amateur alike, will undoubtedly eat this event up with a spoon as people-watching is truly at it’s best here. It’s a unique mix of stroller toting urban families, excited little kids running wild, couples enjoying a romantic day out, young goth/lolita Cosplayers having tea parties and snapping pictures on their mobile devices, and Japanese performers dressed head-to-toe in traditional garb. Certainly a lot to take in! In spite all the activity, you may opt to just come and enjoy the gardens by spreading your blanket on the lawn, breathing in the sweet fresh air, and daydreaming amidst the beautifully lush greenery and happy people. When you’re ready for a stroll, head to the floral gardens, greenhouses, and bonsai exhibits to revel in the fact that spring has finally sprung!

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
May 1 – 2, 2010
10 am – 6 pm

Here’s a gallery of my favorite photos of the day. For more of my portrait and event photography, please visit my website: eyeforstyle.net.

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Best Coffee Spots in Greenwich Village and the LES

Starting my day with a good cup of joe is an essential part of my daily routine. One of the first things I do every morning is put on the kettle, pull out my french press, and grind my own beans (stored in the freezer for maximum freshness). I steam my fresh Ronnybrook milk into a perfectly frothy consistency, stirring in a bit of honey for natural sweetness. This is my morning ritual and I love it. Sometimes, I wonder if I love the ritual, almost more than I like drinking the coffee itself.

Every since I’ve discovered this particular coffee-making ritual, I just can’t drink that terrible pre-ground, drip stuff anymore. Wow, can you taste the difference! After one develops their palate for a really good french press or stove-top espresso, going back to automatic drip or percolator coffee is a real last resort.

So, as a lover of really good coffee, I’m delighted to the see the recent trend of coffee connoisseurism sweeping the city. The movement almost seems to rival fine wine tasting as of late. Thus, I decided to embark on some local ‘coffee missions’, on a quest to discover the best coffee offerings in my neighborhood of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side,  creating a map with my own photographs to boot.

As I sampled many a latte, cappuccino, cortado, and au lait, I found myself pondering, “What really makes a great coffee tasting experience?” The quality and taste of the coffee itself is obviously most important, but ultimately, I feel that the coffee drinking environment plays a vital role in the enjoyment of the overall experience. So, as an architectural photographer and design lover with a sweet tooth, I took the place, space, and vibe created into account when deciding what constituted “best coffee spots”. The beauty of a space, the social interaction and solo sipping meditation that takes place within it, is a crucial aspect of the whole adventure.

1. Abraco Espresso, 86 East 7th Street @ 1st Avenue

This place is a tiny little shoebox of a joint and there is almost always a crowd of people packed like sardines inside and a line out the door, but don’t let that turn you away. The coffee is magnificent, each cup made upon request with love, and their homemade breads and biscotti are the perfect sweet companions, not to be passed up. The owner and his cohorts are always very friendly and chatty. Regulars and newbies alike are greeted with a smile. I will confess this place is a bit of a “scene”, but for some reason, I kind of get a kick out of it. Said shoebox is packed with Village hipsters talking just a little too loudly about their latest industry gig, personal achievement, or friend circle gossip, and for a willing eavesdropper, it’s a delicious, humorous addition to the experience. Just sip your cortado and embrace the chat with a grain of salt. But forget the shake of cinnamon on top ‘cause they don’t have it here. You drink it up the way they serve it, in a variety of mis-matched glass cups and mugs, or one of those quintessential Greek-y “it’s our pleasure to serve you” paper to-go cups, and you’ll enjoy every sip of it, guaranteed.

2. Bluebird Coffee Shop, 72 E 1st Street @ 1st Avenue

This place has only been open since December 2009, but it’s already garnering quite a loyal following, including yours truly. I had a cortado (made with Counter Culture beans) and a brown sugar cookie. The owner herself is one of elements that makes this place so great. She has an obvious passion for what she does and greets everyone with a warm smile and friendly chit- chat. The day I was in, she was talking all about which recipes she was dying to try out next, beaming with a geniune enthusiasm for experimentation. She makes different cookies, cakes and sandwiches daily. They all sound exquisite and are made with fresh, local, and somewhat exotic ingredients. The room is simple, painted in a calm bluebird blue, and nicely designed with beautiful woods and metal accents. Lots of light pours in through the front windows, a long wood bench is built into the brick wall, and cool copper tables dot the room. There are a few tables out front facing First Park at the corner of  1st St and 1st Ave. It’s a relaxed place, inhabited with people in no apparent rush. With all the daily variety happening here, I definitely plan to frequent again and again.

3. MudSpot, 307 E 9th Street @ 2nd Avenue

This coffee isn’t for everyone, but I personally dig the thick, sludgy coffee they serve up here that tastes almost like hot chocolate. You can get espresso here, but I think the original Mud is spot on and a good bang for your buck at $2.25. The Mud Mocha is also good, but the OG coffee has enough rich chocolatey taste for me. They also have several different Mud blends for sale by the pound, with fun New York centric names, if you’d rather make it at home. Good coffee aside, I just love the vibe of this place. It’s everything you’d dream an East Village coffee spot would be – sexy, funky people and a non-stop mix of killer music. I love to sit in the window or the bench in front, reading the latest Dan Savage column in the Village Voice, and watching the all the street action on E 9th (one of the best blocks to window shop in the EV). There’s a great enclosed patio out back where they do table service. A good brunch on the weekends including mimosas and a cup o’ mud will run you $12 cash. The food is terrific, baked goods are made fresh on premises, and they have a decent wine selection as well. Before the Mudspot, there was the Mudtruck, the catering-type painted an eye-catching burnt orange color, parked daily in two convenient locations – next to the 1 subway on Christopher Street in the West Village and the Uptown 6 subway on Lafayette at Astor Place in the East Village.

4. 9th Street Espresso, 700 E 9th Street; 341 E 10th Street; Chelsea Market

These people really know how to make a good espresso. A really good and tasty espresso, adorned with the most skilled latte art. They also carry several different coffee blends, their own varieties and beans from some of the finest fair trade coffee growing countries around the world, for the home coffee connoisseur to buy by the pound. The location on E 10th Street is small, but beautifully warm with lots of light and pine wood details. A few stools and a narrow counter line the east wall, but try to acquire the best spot in the house – perched in the front window. This picture window, or the bench on the sidewalk out front, is ideal for all the people/dog-watching that flows by the outskirts of Tompkins Square Park. I also dig their daily chalkboard art. I’ve generally had positive experiences with the baristas here, but have heard from others that they do sometimes have a bit of an elitist attitude. That hasn’t been my experience though, and they seem to be doing a lot of things right, currently operating in 3 locations, including Chelsea Market.

5. Grey Dog’s Coffee, 33 Carmine Street; 90 University Place

For some reason, I’ve just repeatedly gravitated to their hazelnut café au lait. These cats really know how to steam milk properly into froathy, creamy goodness. Straight up espresso is also at its best here, no question. Grey Dog’s is not just a coffee house, but definitely a great destination for any meal of the day, that won’t break the bank. They have terrific breakfast options, sandwiches that are too big to ever eat in one sitting, cheese and antipasto plates, and out of this world cobblers and cookies. I prefer the Carmine Street location’s vibe and have enjoyed many leisurely meals with friends in their cozy, dark little den. Also like taking my coffee and walking up Bleecker Street, into Father Demo Square or Washington Square Park to sip my joe fountain-side. The University Place location is also cute and conveniently located, but occupied mostly by NYU students, and often gets very loud and crowded. They do have great selection of wine and as the day progresses, the place turns into more of a dimly lit, late night hang out spot.

I’d be remiss not to mention a few other spots in this list, so honorable mentions go to:

The Roasting Plant has an extensive variety of free trade and organic choices, and their method of delivering said choices is the coolest part! You select your bean choice from the daily list displayed on a big LCD monitor, and then your beans are literally sucked from their transparent wall container, through a maze of steel tubes running along the ceiling, into the bean grinder behind the counter. Each cup is individually brewed for freshness and taste. The LES location is rather tiny and only has a few small chairs to sit. There’s bench outside on Orchard Street which is a nice spot to rest, as you work your way through all the fabulous shopping and eateries of the Lower East Side.

Everyman Espresso serves up delicious Counter Culture coffee within a rather colorless, personality-lacking interior. Despite the rather chilly reception and “too cool for school” attitude from the barista behind the counter, my au lait was good. Small and pricey, but good. A relative amount of enthusiasm, a splash of color, and some artwork would go along way towards making this place truly great!

I feel the need to include Think Coffee mostly because I really respect and support their commitment to the environment and sustainable business practices. They use entirely compostable cups and plates, and recycle almost everything within their locations. Their coffee is definitely tasty and they use their own blend of beans, also selling a variety of fair trade and organic coffee by the pound. The Mercer Street location is always packed with NYU students on laptops, thus not my favorite place to linger. The locations on 4th Avenue and Bleecker Street are nice looking, but for some reason, I don’t tend to want to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee inside for very long. Strikes me as more of pit stop or get it to-go place.

Porto Rico Importing Co. is where I get the coffee beans that I brew via french press at home. The smell is unbelievably intoxicating as you walk in the door. I love seeing the rows of open burlap bags of beans. They have a ton of choices, both in regular and organic varieties. I’ve had so much fun sampling different beans from all over the world and I still haven’t exhausted all the options! Porto Rico is more of a coffee purveyor, than a coffee house. They do serve coffee and espresso by the cup and I highly recommend it as a worthy to-go pit stop, but it’s not much of a sit and sip joint.

If you’re interested in exploring the world of gourmet coffee on your own, I enthusiastically support all of the places on this list. If you wish to kick it up a notch, I read about several coffee tasting workshops around the city that school you the fine art of coffee sipping and appreciation. For more information click here.

To view more of my food photography, please visit my website, www.eyeforstyle.net.

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Musical Discoveries in NYC’s Parks and Subways

Upon moving to NYC, I managed to land myself a fabulous floor through one bedroom flat, in a little row house on West 4th Street, originally owned by one of the founding mothers of the historic preservation movement in Greenwich Village, previously occupied solely by photographers (including the legendary Paul Strand), just one block from Washington Square Park. I could not have found myself in a more perfect location – at the epicenter of the most radically artistic, musical, literary, political community – steeped in history and more vibrant than ever! Majorly good juju for a newbie in town. Oh, how blessed I am.

So, one of my favorite things to do after working on the computer all day, was to take a cup of tea into the park in the afternoon and listen to MUSIC. I could always count on someone to be playing some sort of instrument at one corner of the park. ALWAYS. And I can whole-heartedly say, some of the best musicians playing out there today, hands down, are playing in New York City’s parks and underground subway tunnels. Busking and crowd pleasing, on their own schedules and terms (when the NYPD isn’t harrassing them, that is), raking in a guitar case full of bills, on the regular. Some really epic talent! Maybe they’re waiting to be discovered, or for that big break that will propel them into major stardom, but honestly I think not. They do it because they love it, because the people love it, because it’s an instrumental part of what Washington Square, Tompkins Square, and Union Square Park are about at their very core. Stumbling upon these performances in the city automatically injects a jolt of fun into my day and is such a gift to the general public. These musicians represent some of the most stellar creativity NYC has to offer. Nothing beats an afternoon in the park, by the fountain, under the Arch, listening to jazz, and people-watching. I love New York City!

So here is my short list of “The Best Musical Acts of NYC’s Parks & Subways 2009″:

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Baby Soda Jazz Band

Stumblebum Brass Band

Xylopholks

Brothers Moving

Jason Stuart, upright bassist extraordinaire

Collin Huggins, The Crazy Piano Guy

To view more of my music photography, please visit eyeforstyle.net.

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Tenement Talks

Foodie and “Loisaida” (slang for Lower East Sider) that I am, I jumped at the chance to attend the latest “Tenement Talk” at the Tenement Museum last night to hear former NY Times restaurant critic and author, William Grimes, discuss his new book “Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York”. I was very impressed by Grimes’ ability to cover over 200 years of culinary history, in such a gastromically diverse city as New York, fairly comprehensively in the span of just under an hour. No mean feat. But Grimes is a terrificly humorous storyteller who paints absolutely fascinating pictures of early food culture, geared specifically to tales of the Lower East Side, for last night’s Tenement audience. (He’ll give another talk, which is sure to be varied in scope with Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine, Ruth Reichl, at the New York Public Library this evening). His talk was peppered with one amusing anecdote after another, as he touched on topics such as: the ‘sausage and sauerkraut’ oriented cuisine of the early LES when it was better known as “Little Germany” aka Kleindeutschland; the evolution of the Deli, from German to Eastern European Jewish & Italian immigrant ownership; and the impact of the Depression and Prohibition on the burgeoning restaurant and food scenes of the day.

Other favorite anecdotes from the evening included discussions of: the emergence of bread lines and 1 cent coffee carts, aimed at feeding the huddled masses, so long as they could come up with at least a penny in good faith; the backlash directed at such generosity, leading to the the condemnation of the starving artists and “slumming culture”; the evolution from “Beef and…” lunchtime counter establishments to the rise of lobster palaces; and the diversity of available food stuffs at the Fulton Street and (now defunct) Washington Public Markets.

During the Q&A portion of the evening, Grimes touched on a few more modern topics including: the rise of artisanal/gourmet vendie carts; and how geography and real estate, and the separation of live/work sectors have played a major role in NY becoming a stand up/eat out culture. The evening concluded with a “Which came first? The chicken or the egg” debate about whether restaurants make a neighborhood, or vice versa, and the recent turning of the tide from anonymous kitchen staffs and the restaurant owner as king, to today’s rise of celebrity superchefs and their destination eateries. Quite a lot of information to chew on, and a very enjoyable evening for foodie and NY history buffs, indeed. If any of these topics appeal, be sure to pick up Grimes’ book, now available in stores.

It’s also worth mentioning that, there are several other interesting Tenement Talks on the horizon, including “LES Stories: Apartment Tales”, “What Makes Architecture Great”, “The Amazing Journey of American Women: 1960 to Present” and “Holidays in the City”. Check the link below for dates. The Talks are currently being held in their Gift Store across from the actual museum (one the best shopping spots in the city to pick up cool & unique NY souvenirs). I recommend getting down to the LES early to walkabout and sample some of the great eats of the area, before you head over for the 6:30 pm talk. Katz Deli, babycakes, el labatorio del gelato, The Roasting Plant, Guss’ Pickles, and the Essex Street Market are great places to visit to get a taste of the local flavor, and are all less than a 3-minute walk from the museum. I don’t think they anticipated last night’s large turn out, so be sure to get to the Talk early as well, in order to secure a highly coveted folding chair. Free wine and soft drinks are provided, and donations are graciously accepted. The museum is offering a special in conjunction with their Tenement Talks – purchase a museum membership for $55 (which entitles you to free museum visits for a year and Gift Store discounts), and the featured book of the evening is FREE. It’s a very good deal, for a worthy cause, in my opinion. Hope to see you at the next one!

Tenement Talks
FREE @ The Tenement Musuem, 6:30 pm
108 Orchard Street between Delancey & Grand
Lower East Side, NY
212-982-8420
http://www.tenement.org/vizcenter_events.php

Appetite City Cover

To view my food photography, please visit eyeforstyle.net.

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