Sunday, October 30, 2011

Being late for the Philharmonic isn't so bad

We left Brooklyn at 6:45 PM for a 8 PM New York Philharmonic concert last night. The subways are always screwed up on weekends but I assumed that allowing ourselves over an hour would leave us plenty of time. However, the D train had other plans. Our train stopped between Broadway-Lafayette and West 4th Street, and we sat for about 20 minutes. The conductor told us that there was a power problem north of 59th Street, so the D trains were all unloading passengers at West 4th Street and that we would unload there as soon as possible. We didn't get to West 4th until 7:40 PM, and even after a quick transfer to the 1 train at Christopher Street we didn't get to Avery Fisher Hall until a few minutes after 8 PM. It was the first time I've ever been late for a concert.

The ushers directed us to the Helen Hull Room on the second tier level, where the orchestra holds its pre-concert lectures. There we found several rows of chairs facing a big-screen TV and high-quality speakers, and we were able to see and hear most of the first piece on last night's program, Schubert's Symphony No. 8, "Unfinished." I was a little out of sorts to really focus on the music, but I appreciated the balance among the sections. There were elements of the harmonies that conductor Kurt Masur brought out that I hadn't noticed before.

At intermission we took our seats in the hall for the second half, Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13, "Babi Yar." I like Shostakovich's music and I especially enjoyed the first two of the five movements. Yevgeny Yevtushenko's poems were the text that Shostakovich set to music, and his treatments of "Babi Yar" and "Humor" matched the words and reinforced the poet's message. "Babi Yar" was harsh, brutal, and mournful, while "Humor" was a scherzo full of jovial passages in the strings and winds. To be honest, the last three movements didn't really hold my full attention, and while I appreciated the work of the lower strings and the brass and the sounds of the soloist and mens' chorus, the music itself didn't really resonate with me. I will find a recording of this piece and listen to it again, though.

At the end of the symphony the nearly full hall gave the Philharmonic and Masur a long and resounding ovation. Masur has maintained the appeal that he had when he was music director here, and if anything, the city's love for him seems to grow each time I see him conduct here. I hope he has many more years of conducting ahead of him. He clearly has much left to say and do in that role.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The final chapter in the Steven Slater saga?

I saw this Gawker story yesterday while I was out of the office. Steven Slater got probation and a fine as a result of his emergency exit abuse in August 2010.

This has been your occasional update on Steven Slater, now and likely forever the number one story ever on this blog. I am in his debt and thus consider myself obligated to post about him whenever he resurfaces.

a quick coffee-buying rant

There should be two lines at the Dunkin Donuts on Cortlandt St. by my office. One for tourists and occasional coffee/donut consumers, and another for people like me who know what they want and are paying with a debit card. I can be in and out of there in one minute. I don't have time to get stuck behind four tourists who don't know what a cruller is or which cream-filled donut to try this morning. Make way for working stiffs like me.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

A quick trip through Occupy Wall Street

During lunch today, I took a walk through Zuccotti Park, home of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.  I'd checked them out from outside the park many times, but I'd never ventured into the park itself, not since they moved in three weeks ago.  Maybe it was the fear that I'd see or smell things I didn't want to experience.  Maybe I was afraid I'd see a sign that struck me and I'd quit my job and join them.  Or maybe it was the thought that the minute I waded into the mass of people would be the moment the NYPD decided to clear the park and arrest everyone. 

None of those things happened.  I walked through the park unmolested.  In fact, it was enlightening.  They have a kitchen area with plates and bowls, and a "greywater" system for cleaning dishes.  They have a desk for registering volunteers, a library, and a cellphone charging station.  They have a daily message board with the park rules (including quiet time from 10 PM - 8 AM, keep your stuff bundled and wrapped when you're not sleeping, keep the central walkway clear).  If they don't have a cohesive list of "demands" or clear intentions, they at least have things organized down there.  It's a real community now, not unlike something out of a William Gibson novel

I had already decided that while some of the people there appear to be creative types looking for ways to express themselves, they're not all crazy hippies who are too lazy to get jobs.  My quick stroll today reinforced my impression that they're from everywhere, representing everyone.  I could be there, but for a few breaks I had earlier in my career.  They seem like rational, thoughtful people.  And I figured out after last Saturday's arrests on the Brooklyn Bridge that they're not going anywhere.  Even if the police moved in and arrested everyone in the park for trespassing, hundreds of people would be back in the space the next day.  The city, the state, and indeed the nation will need to figure out what to do with them.