Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ode to autumn

And so, incredibly, Thanksgiving Day has rolled around again. I’m still trying to assimilate the rousing shades of fall but, already, strapped-up Douglas firs are piled high outside Asian flower markets in anticipation of Christmas. There are flaming potted poinsettias wrapped in snowflake-patterned cellophane, scarlet-berried branches amassed in buckets. Have we really arrived at this time of year again?

So, before the biting wind whirling off the Hudson River wrests the last of the multicoloured leaves off their branches, here is a visual ode to the deep rust-reds, Hot English mustard yellows and camel-hair tones of fall 2010 in Central Park.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

roger waters & the wall

Well, I just can’t pass up telling you of our experience of this amazing live concert at a venue right next door to the home of the New York Jets and New York Giants. I never believed the tiered stadium would fill, but fill up to the eaves it did. The roar of the crowd when Roger Waters, formerly of the band Pink Floyd (need I tell you that?!), walked onto the stage was more damaging to the ears than all their electric guitars in unison. My ears were ringing for a week. And we floated out on a stench of marijuana so strong we might as well have been stoned with the rest of them.

Needless to say, the show was mind-blowing: a combination of pyrotechnical wizardry, lasers, projected graphics and spine-chilling sound effects – the drone of warplanes, the chtok-chtok-chtok of a helicopter, the drumming of marching feet. As the rock concert proceeded, a towering white wall was constructed onstage, brick by giant brick, the tiny figure of Roger Waters all in black dwarfed by its massiveness. Slowly the supporting band and row of vocalists disappeared behind the wall, which then became the canvas for many of the projected images and animation sequences we know so well from the Pink Floyd movie.

But first it started with a searing line of fireworks shooting up across the front of the stage (see image above). There were inflated floor-to-ceiling puppets with terrifyingly grimaced faces and fiery eyes, arms and legs clawing at us. There was the overprotective mother, looming over the stage, arms crossed over an ample bosom. On the wall were the words ‘Big Brother’s Watching You’ with the ‘Br’ crossed out and replaced by an ‘M’ to read ‘mother’.
When Waters sang, “Should I listen to the government?” graffiti-ed letters appeared in fire-engine red on the wall: No … F***ing … Way!
The crowd erupted.

One of the lighting cages suspended high above the crowd transformed into a helicopter, beaming out a powerful strobe of light and accompanied by reverberating sound effects. Regimental rows of boots and sickles marched across the wall, then the shadows of warplanes, then rows of crosses and headstones. A gigantic inflated black pig with tusks and burning eyes floated over the audience’s heads, just, just out of reach. When we couldn’t discern any cables or marionette strings, we realised it was being remote-controlled!

There were new and familiar images – the unbelievably sexual flower-devouring-flower sequence, warplanes dropping bombs made up of religious and corporate symbols: the crucifix, star of David, crescent of Islam, Mercedes-Benz and Shell (maybe a little behind the times??). And with the use of lighting technology, there were impressive sequences in which the wall appeared to shatter, crumble or get blasted away. The music was enduring and unchanged, so familiar, and it was thrilling to hear it again, live, with such amazing visuals.

And, of course, the wall really did come down at the end. With one mighty shove the stage-prop bricks came tumbling apart to reveal the band playing behind it.

Then it was time to float home…

[Images are by Scott Strazzante of Chicago Tribune]

Monday, November 8, 2010

New York Marathon revisited (2010)

… and yay! to H.   who successfully ran his second NYC Marathon in a wind chilly as the air off the Arctic. This time he started on the lower level of the Verrazano bridge (and contrary to the legend that this band of runners is at the mercy of an unbidden shower from the guys peeing off the bridge above them, he mercifully escaped such an annointment).

The turnout was way bigger than last year — 45,350 entrants versus some 43,000 in 2009 — and the buzz was just as intense. Colourful flags from every country lined the last stretch of the race in Central Park; there were seating stands, water tables, barricades, tents, fire trucks, police vehicles. Trying to run in the park the day before the race was an obstacle course of magnanimous proportions — tourists, curious visitors and foreign runners checking out the route being the main stumbling blocks.

But on Sunday we were there to cheer all the runners on, many of whom looked particularly pained and tired this time around. It can’t have been for lack of support from the 2.5 million spectators and 137 bands along the course. Although it was a beautiful clear day, the cutting wind was evil. The NY Marathon is the largest and most complex in the world, crossing all five boroughs (starting on Staten Island and traversing Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and ending finally on Manhattan).

Twelve ferries and about 500 buses get all the runners to the start at an ungodly hour for a staggered race beginning that for many only gets underway after 10:00am (H. included). For an idea of the logistics involved, here are some fun statistics:

* 1694 porta-potties

* 2.3 million recyclable cups holding water and Gatorade

* 11 tons of trash collected afterwards

* 10 tons of sleeping bags, sweatsuits, gloves picked up

* 563 lb coffee beans for 45,00 cups of coffee

* 6000 volunteers

So woo-hoo! to H.  who came in only 10 minutes after last year’s time with a niggling groin injury, a salt-streaked face and gooseflesh from the cold. (4 hrs 28 mins if you really must know.)
Nothing that a couple of beers didn’t immediately fix. The champagne came later.

So … without further ado, here’s a pic of the champ (taken by our Dutch friend Yvonne). H. raised $2000 over and above his target for his charity, MMRF, who fund medical research to find a cure for the cancer Multiple Myeloma.

Looking strong, bro'!