News: A week after the East Harlem explosion the pianos are gone

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At 6 a.m. on March 12, Ufuk Bekiroglu started to set up his vegetables and fruit street stand at East 116th Street and Lexington Avenue. He had just arrived from Hunts Point Market in the Bronx where he stokes for the day. Everything was normal, early costumers buying fruits for breakfast and commuters waiting for MTA buses. At 9:30 a.m. Bekiroglu, 42, was selling a 25-cent banana to a customer when they both heard an explosion.

“I was giving her change,” said Bekiroglu. “Then I heard something, I turned right and there was fire, smoke and a lot of windows and building stuff that blew up.”
Bekiroglu thought it was a train accident; the grey almost white smoke went downtown with the wind.

A block and a half from his stand, two buildings had collapsed to the ground due to an explosion caused by a gas leak. One of the buildings, 1646 Park Ave, housed Absolute Piano, a store on the first floor that sold new and refurbished pianos. The shop also rented pianos, tuned and repaired them. The five-story building, owned by Kaoru Muramatsu who also managed the shop, was completely destroyed and Absolute Piano vanished into a pile of rubble, along with all of its pianos.

Continue reading News: A week after the East Harlem explosion the pianos are gone

CRITICAL ASSESSMENT: Seinfeld Speeds, Comedians Caffeinate

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Why did Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most successful comedians of all time, start an internet chat show?

In each episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” Seinfeld drives a vintage car to match the celebrity comic he picks up: a slender 1967 Volvo for Tina Fey, an old car-repair truck for Michael Richards.

The show tries to be informal and intimate: Seinfeld asks the celebrities out for coffee on the phone and they answer as if the meetings weren’t planned. None of the cameras in the cars and coffee shops are visible.

The comedians wax nostalgic and punctuate their stories with pithy aphorisms. Seinfeld tells Jay Leno that comedians like them know that any comedy gig, no matter how big, is a good gig.  Leno, in his light way, refutes him with a story of a show he did in front of Portuguese immigrants at the Playboy club.

Seinfeld is better at making fun of others than himself. On his old show he turned others into exaggerated characters we could laugh at. On this show he has only his guests to pick at. Watch Ricky Gervais squirm as Seinfeld drives faster and faster, “Fear is funny especially when it’s not fake,” says Seinfield, stepping on the gas pedal. He tells Alec Baldwin that his pronunciation of ‘rapier’ (rap-ee-yay) is “either really pretentious or wrong.”

In perhaps the best episode Michael Richards and Seinfeld have the rapport to go deep quickly.

“Sometimes I look back at the show and I think I shoulda enjoyed it more,” says Richards. The tragic sadness of this moment—that he was stressed- out backstage for the best thing he will ever do—is papered-over by Seinfeld’s response: comedians are martyrs who suffer for the entertainment of others.

But Richards really has suffered for his comedy, when he was ostracized for a racist rant seven years before. “I busted up after that event, it broke me down,” Richards said.

So what’s Seinfeld doing with this show? He’s salvaging his legacy and protecting his friendships, showing off cars and matching wits, reminiscing and bemoaning. The show is uneven but, in spite of its artifice, Seinfeld is more real than we’ve seen him before: he’s both awkward and mean, incisive and hilarious.

NEWS: Dita Von Teese Launches New Lingerie Brand

Dita Von Teese (center) at the launch of her new lingerie brand at Bloomingdale's. Mar. 20, 2014.
Dita Von Teese (center) at the launch of her new lingerie brand at Bloomingdale’s. Mar. 20, 2014.

Several 20 and 30-something women (and a few men) lined up underneath fluorescent lights and next to lingerie displays from Le Mystere to Spanx for a chance to meet the queen of boudoir fashion – Dita Von Teese – at Bloomingdale’s on Third Avenue on Thursday night.

“This is the exclusive launch in the United States,” a press representative for Bloomingdales said when asked about the event.

Some pieces on display for Dita Von Teese's new lingerie collection.
Some pieces on display for Dita Von Teese’s new lingerie collection. Mar. 20, 2014.

Von Teese,  famous for burlesque dancing and at one time being married to singer Marilyn Manson, celebrated the launch of her namesake brand in the intimate apparel section of the department store. Her line featured intimate apparel and sleepwear with a focus on old Hollywood glamour. Customers who made a purchase had the opportunity to meet Von Teese and get her autograph.

Models showcased Dita Von Teese's lingerie line at the intimate apparel section in Bloomingdale's.
Models showcased Dita Von Teese’s lingerie line at the intimate apparel section in Bloomingdale’s. Mar. 20, 2014.

Von Teese arrived by 6 p.m., surrounded by models showing  pieces on display.  She promptly began meeting with people in the line.

Over 100 people stood in line to meet Von Teese, some of whom were not guaranteed entry. Initially, Bloomingdale’s could only guarantee 100 people could meet her based on how much time she spent with each person. A Bloomingdale’s representative declined to comment on why or how often this happens with meet-and-greet events at the store.

But as time went on, people at the end of the line found out they would able to meet her after all.

The pieces ranged in price from $25 to $400. In the line, there was an emphasis on dark, rich colors, along with lace trimming and some animal prints.

Dita Von Teese at the launch of her new lingerie line, posing for photos between meeting with fans. Mar. 20, 2014.
Dita Von Teese at the launch of her new lingerie line, posing for photos between meeting with fans. Mar. 20, 2014.

When asked about her dress she wore to the launch, Von Teese said it was designed by Zac Posen.

The Bloomingdale’s press person said the Dita Von Teese line is now available for purchase at select Bloomingdale’s, and on Bloomingdales.com.

Recent Development: Face of Darkness

Suicide in Hollywood films isn’t a new idea. In fact, many films have touched on or featured the subject, though a new documentary looks to shed light on a struggle that often seems to be overlooked, even amongst fellow actors.

Face of Darkness is a documentary that will focus on two mental health specialists and also brings attention to the rise in suicides in the Black community, especially among Black males.

 According to information from the American Association of Suicidology, though Black females may be more likely to attempt suicide, Black males have a higher rate of completion. Suicide is also listed as one of top ten reasons of male deaths in the United States.*

 Face of Darkness filmmaker Kenneth Nelson attributes these types of stats to the stigma in the Black community surrounding issues of mental health.

“As an African American male, I was taught that a man could not express his feelings and never to cry,” Nelson said via press release. “There is a stigma in my community that prevents males from sharing emotions, hugging or admitting that we are afraid.”

 With this documentary, hopefully the doors will be opened for people who are struggling to talk, which mental health advocate Terrie Williams says is one of the most important tools for survival.

“The reality is, if you don’t go and talk to someone, you will die,” Williams said in a phone interview. The licensed psychotherapist, who has her own public relations firm, also appears in the film.

“It may be a slow death, but you will die. You will not be all that God intended you to be.”

The documentary is currently in pre-production and is trying to raise $87,000 over the next month via an Indiegogo campaign.

Malorie Marshall

 

*The stats reported from both the American Association of Suicidology and the CDC are from the mid 2000s. As I was told by one of the sources I spoke to for a different story, often reports feature numbers that are years old because it takes a while to bring in data. Hopefully, that is the cause and not an oversight on my part.

 

Mini Profile – Brett Cohen

You may recognize Brett Cohen from his viral YouTube video, “Fake Celebrity Pranks New York City,” or from his subsequent appearances on “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.”

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He pulled a massive prank on New York City two years ago when he pretended to be a celebrity. He hired “bodyguards” and “paparazzi” off of Craigslist, and had them follow him through Times Square one Friday night for three hours. He never expected the prank would be so successful.

“Within four hours the video went viral on Reddit,” Cohen said. “The next day I was getting phone calls from all over the world, from newspapers, from news organizations, TV shows all wanting to book me.”

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“It took a toll on me personally for a while,” he said of the media tour. “I was definitely depressed for a period of time. It screwed up a lot of relationships with friends and family members.”

But now that the video has died down and his relationships have been repaired, he’s getting ready for his debut on Australian television.

After an Australian network saw the fake celebrity video on his YouTube channel, they asked him to star on a reality show that is set to air later this year.

“It wasn’t something I was sure I wanted to do,” he said. “But I had the opportunity to go and it was an opportunity to extend my opportunities.”

He said he’s unsure of when it will air in the United States, but hopes that it’s in the near future — he’s been making some new YouTube videos that can use some publicity.

“I just know that I enjoy this,” Cohen said. “It’s my outlet and it’s something I’m going to continue to do as long as I possibly can without ruining my professional career.”

Profile: Jeff Huckleberry

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Jeff Huckleberry is naked. He’s standing in front of four huge pieces of plywood parallel to one another, each separated by about a foot. They’re about an inch thick but at least 7 feet tall, looming over his 6’5” frame. Slowly, methodically, he starts leaning into the first piece of wood, putting all his weight into the board. The wood starts to creak and splinter and he forces his way through, careful to keep his tender parts free from shards.

“It’s a very personal, internal experience for me,” Huckleberry tells me over the phone. “I don’t think about the audience at the show, I think about the what’s happening to me, the feeling of wood cracking. I wanted people to get that close, so I started shooting video.”

His performance art is always filmed, often a very simple one-camera setup. But these videos have allowed his live shows to be seen as far as Poland and China. “Having these videos was probably the best decision I’ve made with regards to my art,” he said. “After I sent them out I was invited to festivals all over the world, it became easier to show what I was doing.”

He’s adamant, however, that video only provides a shadow of the experience. “It’s called performance art…to be in the room and experience the event with the performer is paramount to the process. If you don’t hear the wood breaking or see the paint dripping in the frame and the light that I’ve created, you’re not getting a different show. Video is something different. Not any less valuable, but different.”

Asked whether he would ever create a show around videos of his performances, Huckleberry hesitated. “Maybe as part of a live show…have a couple monitors playing around me, interact somehow with the image. One of the wonderful things about performance art is that there are very few boundaries, but that can also make things twice as hard.”

– Graham Corrigan

Critical Analysis – “How I Met Your Mother”

With suspense leading up to the finale of “How I Met Your Mother” on March 31, I decided to binge-watch all nine seasons of the show and have come to a conclusion as to why it is such a hit among its followers — because it reminds fans of other television shows.

For starters,  it can be seen as a modern-day “Friends.” After the series ended in 2004,  its fans were left without their guides into New York City life.   “How I Met Your Mother” premiering just a year later solved that problem.  Rachel, Pheobe, Monica, Chandler, Ross and Joey were found in Ted, Robin, Lilly, Marshall, and Barney.  Central Perk became MacLaren’s and Rachel and Monica’s apartment turned into Ted, Lilly and Marshall’s apartment.

“How I Met Your Mother” is also comparable to “Sex and the City.” Ted is almost reminiscent of a female Carrie Bradshaw — he’s completely selfish and a sucker for love, but he is the most loyal friend, which forgives his selfishness.  He proves this when he doesn’t choose marrying Victoria because she wants him to end his friendship with Robin.  Barney Stinson is clearly Samantha Jones, as they both sleep around New York City. Marshall and Miranda share the same profession — law. Lilly’s perceived innocence is similar to Charlotte’s mannerisms. Finally, Robin is a combination of the four women. She pursues an unobtainable relationship that ends in marriage like Carrie and  is hardworking like Miranda. She is confident and stands her ground like Samantha, and seeks others’ approval like Charlotte.

I’m a firm believer that “How I Met Your Mother” is not it’s own show, but a combination of other hit shows. Regardless,  I’m still binge-watching and understand why others do as well.

 

Profile: Iman Europe

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Creativity is the engine that seems to keep the music industry staying afloat. With new artists bumping the old model of becoming successful and looking toward building a following through social media, the music world has become saturated with news sounds from a myriad of new artists.

One of those artists is Iman Europe, a California transplant who moved from the Golden State to The Big Apple to stand out from all the music acts coming out from the state.

“California has all the heavy hitters…and it’s very hard to try to shine in a place where so many people are already shining,” she said

Critics say that her sound is different and unique. She calls her sound ‘psychedelic soul’, drawing on elements from rap, R&B, soul, and trance music to produce a trippy conglomerate of different sounds that resemble Frank Ocean on an acid trip.

She had her first New York showcase at the legendary S.O.B’s music venue, a popular venue that was the launching pad for many of the artist that Europe draws inspiration from. Kanye West and Erykah Badu, artists that have played at S.O.B’s are among the few artists that have inspired Europe and her sound.

She’s also comes from a musical family. Her father is a musician playing bass while her mother was the lyricist. Europe believes that the combination of the two is what piqued her interest in music.

Europe symbolizes a new trend in the music business of up and coming artist that have forged their careers through social media and word of mouth. New popular artists like Kendrick Lamar, Jhene Aiko, and Evyn Streeter have created a following using social media. If list of big names that S.O.B’s has hosted is any indicator, Iman Europe is destined to be a big star

Mini Profile: The Universe of Jostein Gaarder

It is a world made of enigmas, magic letters, mysterious libraries, and children speaking with angels. This is the world of Jostein Gaarder, a Norwegian writer that describes his works as Chinese boxes, because “every book is a story inside a story.” He is an author who writes from a child’s viewpoint.

When one starts reading his books, one can easily understand that they are different from the conventional ones. Why?

They could be described as written pages where the romance becomes a text about the history of Philosophy, and the history of Philosophy becomes a romance. Exactly, from Democritus to Plato, from Kant to Hegel, arriving to the contemporary Thought. The greatest example is Sophie’s World: a young girl learns Philosophy thanks to some letters left in her mailbox by a mysterious teacher.

It is the book that gave him a worldwide popularity. It was published in 1991 and translated into more than 50 languages. Translated into a movie, it was the most read romance in 1995.

“His imaginative mind brings Philosophy to life” said Cristiano Turbil, from the University of Kent, United Kingdom.

Gaarder’s books, with fairy tale titles, are adventures in the space and in the time. The involving plot is made up of curious children that explore the concept of human beings and existence trying to answer questions such as “Where does the world come from?”

As Turbil underlined, Gaarder’s style is a type of fiction. “He writes in a very accessible way putting together the complexity of Philosophy and the simplicity proper of the story telling,” he said.

This is true in all his works, from the The orange girl to The Solitaire Mystery, from Through a glass, Darkly to The Christmas Mystery, where the line between reality and fantasy doesn’t exist.

For his contribution to literature, Gaarder won many prizes, such as the Premio Bancarella (1995) and the Buxtehude Bull (1997).

Gaarder’s books are not only for young readers but also for adults. They are for everyone.

His works are only some of the books I grew up with.

Criticism: Paolo Sorentini & The Fountain of Youth

La Grande Bellezza (The Grand Beauty) is an exhausting film, full of grandiose set pieces and narratives that take left turns with two wheels in the air. And yet that same extravagance is what makes Paolo Sorentini’s epic tale of Rome’s high society easy to sink into. The film washes over you like silk, a merry-go-round of debauchery and tragedy.

At its foundation, however, La Grande Bellezza is a history lesson. Sorentini’s film follows a quintessentially Italian arc, built most notably by Fellini and Antonioni: long walks, scenes within scenes, and the pervasive impermanence of both life and death. Toni Servillo plays Jep Gambardella, our eyes and ears throughout the film. He’s a journalist and one-time novelist most famous for his decadent parties and lascivious lifestyle.

Sorentini delivers a sharp and unflinching account of the upper class, one marked by excess and waste. It peaks in a dimly lit room crowded by the bourgeoisie. They’re patiently waiting their turn to have their chins lifted and bags removed, pricked by the needle of a famous cosmetic surgeon. Sorentini spoke about the scene at Cannes:

I don’t seem to be able find any beauty in the transformation of bodies through surgery or Botox, but I didn’t want to make a statement or anything like that…behind it there is a lot of pain and sadness, the inability to accept your body and the flowing of time.

Sorentini’s characters are quite literally paralyzed by the pursuit of beauty. It’s a theme that has cropped up in more recent Italian cinema, an insatiability that devours some peripheral part of life. Sorentini uses it for both dramatic and comic effect. Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love (2009) offers a more earnest and dangerous interpretation.

As in Guadagnino’s film, there is a darkness in La Grande Bellezza missing from Fellini’s lighthearted carnivals. The golden age is over, and the ravages of time are beginning to set in.