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.