Wednesday, June 22, 2011

For my dad (who doesn't use Twitter or Facebook)

Here's a better photo of the new setup on my desk at work. And once again my MacBook Pro came to work today.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Manhattan loop, or 30 ever-changing miles around a metropolis

I spent part of my Sunday morning and afternoon on my first Manhattan loop of 2011.  I've been riding the greenways around the perimeter of the island since 2002, and every year there's something different.  Sometimes it's different each month, if you take the never-ending construction in lower Manhattan into account.  But I always enjoy seeing the improvements in the route each year, and the areas that are still in dire need of upgrades.

I crossed the East River via the Manhattan Bridge and turned south onto the East River greenway, under the assumption that foot traffic at the South Street Seaport would still be light at 11 AM.  While it was, the NBA had set up some sort of fan festival there, so I had to take South Street all the way down to the Staten Island ferry terminal.  I took the marked bike paths around the ferry terminal (those are only a year or two old) and found myself in Battery Park.  The presence of a few Park Police squad cars convinced me to walk my bike around to the northwest exit of the park, where I picked up the West Side greenway.

There's a new detour around the World Financial Center, and I almost rode into traffic on the West Side Highway before I saw the signs directing cyclists around the back of the WFC and onto the esplanade on the river's edge.  Once I was north of the WFC the detour led back onto the greenway, which has been fully developed at least since 2002.  The path was busy but it was a straight shot all the way to the George Washington Bridge and the steepest hill I've climbed in New York.  The short but steep hill just north of the GWB is always a challenge.  I still remember when the northernmost part of this path was a rotting asphalt nightmare and riders had to take the footbridge across the Henry Hudson Parkway onto the streets near the bridge.  But it's been a well-paved path for at least seven or eight years.

I took Dyckman Street over to the Harlem River greenway, once used for horse-and-buggy races, and rode south to St. Nicholas Avenue.  I turned east onto the bike path on 120th Street, but a bike race blocked my path.  I would have loved to watch the races, but it was hot, I was getting tired, and I didn't have much in the way of food.  I doubled back onto 118th Street until I passed the race and then took 120th St. over to the northern section of the East River greenway.  The sections of this path north of 96th Street are in dire need of repairs.  Apparently the city thinks that metal barriers and orange cones are all the repairs giant sinkholes need.

The greenway took me past my old favorite park, Carl Schurz Park, where I spent many hours reading and watching the boats go by when I lived in the neighborhood.  Another construction detour forced me onto the street, so I rode over to 2nd Avenue and took that all the way down to 38th Street where I could pick up the greenway again.  Along the way, I saw all of the disruption of the 2nd Avenue Subway construction, and thought about how lucky I was that I moved before all of that work began.

The southern sections of the East River greenway haven't changed much in the past few years, though they are long overdue for a repaving.  I was grateful for the shade that the FDR overpass provides, as it was the hottest part of the day by the time I reached the Manhattan Bridge to cross the river back to Brooklyn.  I got home at 2 PM, 3 1/2 hours after I'd left, with 40 miles on the odometer.  The ride through Brooklyn to and from the Manhattan Bridge adds the extra miles, which I forgot before I set out with only a handful of energy bars and two water bottles.  Also, I say this every time, but this time I mean it: I'm leaving earlier next time.

Friday, June 10, 2011

No Concerts in the Parks this summer for the Philharmonic

On Tuesday the New York Philharmonic announced that they were canceling their free summer Concerts In The Parks for 2011.  The orchestra said that the musicians need time off and that they will perform a free concert with tenor Andrea Bocelli in September in Central Park.  But the announcement seemed to have caught parks officials and caterers (not to mention the general public) by surprise.  I can't find it now, but I read an article yesterday that quoted an Upper West Side caterer who said she had prepared bags for pre-made meals that she sells to hungry concert-goers.

I know that the orchestra is busy year-round -- their season ends in late June and begins in September, with a stop in Vail, Colorado for a music festival -- but it's odd that they used "scheduling conflicts" as an excuse.  I have a feeling that some of the sponsors decided not to participate this year.  Those concerts may be free to the public (and partially taxpayer-funded, as the New York Daily News pointed out in an editorial yesterday), but they're not free by any stretch.

I don't think the orchestra is obligated to perform in the parks each summer.  I appreciate that they do it.  For some New Yorkers, it's the only exposure they get to classical music all year.  And while the concerts have devolved into excuses for people to picnic in the park and chat with friends, sometimes to the detriment of the rest of us who are just trying to enjoy the music, I think these concerts still fulfill a vital cultural role in New York.  The Philharmonic says the concerts will return next summer.  I hope that they do.

Friday, June 03, 2011

A few quick thoughts about Thursday night at the Philharmonic

It's not a proper New York Philharmonic season for me if I don't see Anne-Sophie Mutter perform.  Her reading of Beethoven's Romance in F was lyrical and sweet.  Sebastian Currier's Time Machines, a concerto he composed for Ms. Mutter, was an unusual seven-movement work with touches of Barber, Glass, and Reich in places.  I especially enjoyed the fifth movement, titled "entropic time," in which the themes and cohesion of the music gradually disintegrated into snippets of phrases and random echoes from different instruments of the orchestra.

Bruckner's Symphony No. 2 was well-played throughout but it was the third movement that drew me into the work.  Alan Gilbert led a ferocious reading of the Scherzo that had me on the edge of my seat.  The fury of the strings combined with blasts from the brass and loud bursts from the timpani energized the orchestra and carried over to the finale.  It had been 40 years since the Philharmonic last performed this symphony.  In the program notes Gilbert states that Bruckner is a composer whose music he could conduct every day for the rest of his life.  I hope that means more Bruckner on Philharmonic programs in the future.