Leap Day!

Oscars – I thought Jon Stewart did pretty well. The clip montages weren’t that good; they felt like leftovers from the writers’ strike contingency plan.

After seeing the singers/actors from “Once” sing their song, I really want to see their movie. Plus, I liked how Marketa Irglova was brought back on stage to give her speech. “Entertainment Weekly” reports that the move was due to Oscars’ show executive producer Gil Cates’ thinking she ought to get her say, with Jon Stewart’s doing the heavy lifting on-screen to escort her back on the stage. (Actually, I felt awkward that it seemed that most of the women who co-won their Oscars with men got cut off by the music too much on Sunday night, so it was nice that Marketa Irglova got to be the one woman who had a full say to the audience!).

Slate Video on the Amazing Resemblance of the 2008 Presidential Election to the last (fictitious) presidential election on “West Wing” (presuming that this would be a Barack Obama v. John McCain election) – the resemblance to the [Jimmy Smits] v. [Alan Alda] election is indeed eerie!

Frozen yogurt in the City – I’m so behind the trend!

Mark “The Minimalist” Bittman making Roasted Tomato Soup, with canned tomatoes! (plus guest star Mr. Tomato Face in the linked video).

NY Times’ David Dunlap on the “Heritage Trails” sign at the World Trade Center, still in present tense in referring to the site as it was on 9/10/01.

Plus, Dunlap on the 100th anniversary of the PATH – what a history that I never knew about.

NY Times’ Sewell Chan commenting on the amNY article on whether the NY accent is disappearing (by amNY managing editor Rolando Pujol). Well, I may not say “dem,” “dese,” and “dose” like I used to, but my Brooklynese hasn’t quite disappeared, try as I might to lose it. I do agree with Chan though – television may have an influence on homogenizing the accent – but I also think that education as a role too. Because of compulsory education, you’d think that kids would learn to speak in a certain manner. But, accents take a good ear to notice too sometimes, so who’s to say for sure if the NY accent really gone? Hmm…

Regarding that other NY thing – “Law and Order” this Wednesday:

The cops arrested two very yucky murder suspects – the white upper middle class meth addict/prostitute and her man, the Hispanic guy who thinks he’s a ladies’ man in having raped a girl. Detective Lupo resorted to trickery to make the arrest, which didn’t pass judicial (Constitutional) muster. On the law side, ADA Rubirosa may have used a little feminine charm to get the skeevy witness to cooperate; her bit of feminine charm may have gotten her unwanted attention from a creepy male juror; Exec. ADA Cutter manipulated the situation, which pissed off Rubirosa, but instead of going to the judge about creepy juror’s approaching her, she didn’t stop the case from going to verdict.

How much of a conscience does Cutter really have? (or, rather, how far would he go to get convictions, if it means risking the safety of your ADA?). The flirting between Cutter and Rubirosa was cute (well, Cutter is cute), but if he’s serious of more than just a crush on Rubirosa – well, he’s got some serious making up for the mess he made this time. (i.e., why on earth do you keep a creepy guy on your jury, just because you think your ADA’s attractiveness is going to win over said creepy juror?).

Plus, DA McCoy made a trip up to the Bronx to make a deal with the Bronx DA, who evidently doesn’t quite shared McCoy’s desire to get justice against rapist/murderers (at least, not without a deal). Man, is L&O alternate universe NYC weird; it feels like real NYC, but is so not real.

Last but not least – watching the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Tuesday night on Channel 13/WNET’s Great Performances — that was interesting stuff. I liked the touches of the national anthems, the “American in Paris” and the overture to “Candide” (with the tribute to Leonard Bernstein) – I have a fondness for Gershwin and Bernstein’s hits. I’m still kind of amazed that NY Times’ Anthony Tommasini watched the live streaming on-line broadcast (at 4am?!), but his review was a good read. Plus, he writes:

What the Philharmonic played was just as important as how it played. Here [conductor Lorin] Maazel’s tame choices represented missed opportunities. Presenting the “New World” Symphony made a point, of course. As Mr. Maazel explained, the piece, commissioned by the Philharmonic, was a Czech composer’s symphonic ode to America. And there were valid reasons to include Gershwin’s sassy, jazzy “American in Paris.” Someday, Mr. Maazel said, maybe someone will compose a piece called “Americans in Pyongyang.”

If only he had chosen to include even one short work by a living American composer, perhaps an Asian-American composer. Because the orchestra stuck to staples, the classical music art form came off as unthreatening. New music, by definition, is destabilizing. To have a composer taking part in the program would have been a reminder that the heritage is living, breathing and unpredictable.

Instead Mr. Maazel began with Wagner’s prelude to Act III of “Lohengrin.” Wagner’s career rather undermines the case for the humanizing powers of music. Here was a nasty man who somehow wrote sublime and stirring operas.

Still, the concert was historic. And the image of a major American orchestra as a sleek machine under the control of an imposing conductor was nicely countered by the second encore: the overture to Bernstein’s “Candide,” which, as Mr. Maazel explained, was played by the musicians without a conductor as a tribute to its beloved composer.

After the final encore, an arrangement of a wistful Korean folk song, “Arirang,” the audience stood, cheered and even waved farewell to the musicians. Many of the players visibly choked up, and waved back.

It’s a start.

NY Times’ Daniel J. Wakin’s articles on the concert and the rest of the Philharmonic’s (and the accompanying press’) time in Pyongyang have also been good reads. I’ve been impressed by the whole thing; kind of historic! Although the long term effects remain to be seen, we can hope that art can help thaw cold relations or start new relations between nations.

Entertainment Weekly

In the span of a week, P and I went to two epic concerts at Madison Square Garden — last Tuesday with the Foo Fighters, and last Thursday with Linkin Park. We got tickets for both shows for Christmas. While both of these Grammy winning bands have been around for more than a decade each, these were their first times playing at MSG. Both groups acted like they had gotten to the final gig on Guitar Hero II, peering down from the pinnacle in awe at the sellout crowds of over 19,000 people.

While P- is the one that tracks their albums and playlists on the radio at work, I kind of just know their “sound” – the Foo’s being the inheritors of Seattle alternative, and Linkin Park being fusion scientists, mashing up rap, rock and techno, while not being afraid of being harmonic. Of course we here have to recognize a band with two Asian American members (DJ Joe Hahn and MC Mike Shinoda).

Foo Fighters took out all the stops for their fans, going for 2 hours without intermission, bringing for the first ever in MSG a “triangle solo”.

Their encore began with a wonderful acoustic version of “Big Me”, which has become my odds on favorite for wedding song. They had a secondary stage in the back of the hall connected by a long thin runway so that the people in the “cheap seats” could get up close to them.

Linkin Park designed their stage in the round, and the band members rotated around so that the people in the “obstructed” back seats had intimate views. Of course, the crowd was looking for their seminal rap-rock songs, such as “In the End”. However, their latest stuff, such as “In Pieces”, really grew on me. They held two encores, interspersed with dark waits, causing spectators to yo-yo to and from the exits. The second encore merited a surprise guest appearance by Jay-Z, who came out of retirement to perform songs such as “Numb” from their mash up album.

We’ll be getting the live albums/DVDs for both of these events when they come out.

Sunday we went to a friend’s house for the traditional Oscar party. P- won the night with 16 correct picks, besting actual Entertainment Weekly magazine staff members at the party, which earned her a screenwriter’s script for “Juno”. Viewership was down because of a combination of a generally lackluster field and the writer’s strike aftermath, but I thought that Jon Stewart did an excellent job hosting the show. This time around, he actually was in charge. Not just for his general wittiness, and the fact that he got the show done with 10 minutes to spare, but he had the presence of mind to bring back Marketa Irglova to the stage to let her speak after she was cut off by the orchestra.

Movies and TV and Food

Watching the Oscars as of this writing. Jon Stewart’s pretty funny so far; the writers are doing well!

Time’s Joel Stein invites George Clooney to his house for dinner. George Clooney, former contractor, helps out by looking for the source of a beeping sound in the house… Well, either way, George Clooney’s still The Man!

This past week’s “Law and Order” – an interesting episode, but glaring plotholes. Some thoughts from the episode, in the order that the thing appeared in the episode:

So far as I can tell, the episode isn’t quite ripped-off-the-headlines, unless one counts the Real Life US Supreme Court’s future decision on death penalty by injection. (well, the S. Ct’s decision to hear oral arguments came sometime late last year, so it might have been around the time that they made the episode, I’m guessing).

Anyway, about the plot:

doctor visiting NYC is murdered; matter of mistaken identity – the wrong doctor was murdered, and it’s connected to a botched death penalty case in South Carolina;

Detective Lupo flirts with the girl at the South Carolina hotel desk;

Lieutenant Van Buren and D.A. McCoy seem to enjoy ordering their subordinates to hop on down to South Carolina, perhaps to get Lupo/Green/Cutter/Rubirosa from irritating them (well, actually, Cutter seems to both irritate and impress McCoy; can’t tell what kind of reactions the others inspire);

D.A. McCoy argues a point of law in the judge’s chambers because Exec. A.D.A. Cutter suddenly felt that there was an argument he couldn’t argue (which made no sense to me);

anti-death penalty judge allows the defendant to bring in the vegetable brain-damaged convicted killer (victimized by the botch death penalty punishment) as an exhibit in the trial of the defendant who killed the wrong doctor (what? in real NYC, this would have had a media circus coming);

A.D.A. Rubirosa seems to be Cutter’s conscience – it’ll take awhile and she’ll challenge him, but he’ll listen to her and agree to negotiate a plea instead of continuing to prosecute a lousy case;

and last but not least, I still don’t know where Cutter stands on the issue of death penalty because of the not-making sense parts of the episode.

Hmm. Well, at least Jesse L. Martin, Jeremy Sisto, and Linus Roache were all easy on the eyes.

Sat night: dinner with the alumni group at Woo Chon in the stone’s throw of K-town. Some Korean bbq. Delicious food.

Well, speaking of Korean food, kimchi’s being shipped into space, to feed a Korean astronaut. What’ll they think of next?