Saturday, March 31, 2007


Today marks the beginning of TARTAN WEEK in New York, a week-long spirited celebration of Scottish culture. I checked out the "Scottish Village" in Grand Central's Vanderbilt Hall earlier today. There are shops selling a variety of authentic Scottish goods like food and clothing. Part of the daily schedule are Scottish fashion show, flim screening, cooperage (making oak barrels or casks) demonstration by distillery workers, and live music including a performance by the Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Pipe Band. Pictured above, well at least in part, is one of the members of the band. In addition to the Scottish Village activities, there are other exciting events at different venues detailed at

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


This is one of several passageways inside the GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL (GCT). An original landmark, the GCT is a terminal rail station in Midtown Manhattan. GCT has 44 platforms and 67 tracks, serving commuters traveling to neighboring counties in New York and Connecticut. GCT was almost torn down in the mid 1960s but preservationists like former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy campaigned hard to save this impressive train station. It is estimated that 750,000 people pass through GCT each day. The original chandeliers like those shown above are truly an amazing sight.

Monday, March 26, 2007


Last Saturday night, two former classmates in college and I saw the Broadway musical THE COLOR PURPLE. I have neither read Alice Walker’s novel nor seen the movie version so I didn’t know what to expect that evening. The gospel-inspired musical revolves around Celie, a black woman who suffers indignities ranging from incest to physical and emotional spousal abuse. She is also kept in the dark as to whether her own children and her beloved sister are alive or not. In the end, she prevailed, found strength to overcome adversity and discovered love, independence, creativity and spiritual renewal. The story is very moving and the performances were flawless. Celie was wonderfully played by KENITA MILLER who understudied the role since the beginning of the Broadway run in December 2005. Although sometimes I got tired of looking at her stiff “in despair” facial expression, MILLER effectively used her rich and powerful voice to interpret the songs beautifully, especially the song “I’m here.” In between over the top dramatic scenes were dance numbers blended with with blues, gospel, jazz, swing, rural roots and African music. Plus, the crowd-pleasing scene stealers. The most prominent scene stealer was NATASHA YVETTE WILIAMS’ Sofia. She accompanied her advice to Celie to stand up to her abusive spouse with the entertaining song called "Hell No!" to the delight and wild applause of the audience. Also remarkable were the three gossipy church ladies who acted throughout as an entertaining chorus to give an amusing commentary on what was happening. The audience didn’t seem to mind too many characters and plots in the show. I am always amazed by the artistry of set and lighting designers in stage plays and musicals. And this show is no exception. John Lee Beatty's set and Brian MacDevitt's gorgeous lighting were just poetic and evocative. Overall, the story was moving and the performances were unforgettable.

The show was nominated for 11 Tony Awards last year, winning only one for LaChanze (Best Actress in a Musical), who originated the lead role of Celie. In a few weeks, Celie will be played by FANTASIA, adding to the list of AMERICAN IDOL singers to appear on Broadway. One of the show’s producers is OPRAH WINFREY who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the movie version. THE COLOR PURPLE plays the Broadway Theatre at Broadway and 53rd Street.

Friday, March 23, 2007


Thinking spring reminded me of renowned artist DALE CHIHULY’s past exhibition at the NEW YORK BOTANICAL GARDEN in the Bronx. He brought his spectacular glass sculpture in vibrant colors and organic shapes designed specifically for the Garden's collections and vistas. One of my favorite pieces is the PERSIAN CHANDELIER hanging from the glasshouse ceiling. I took a close-up photo of the glorious chandelier as shown above.

“My work to this day revolves around a simple set of circumstances: fire, molten glass, human breath, spontaneity, centrifugal force and gravity.” - Dale Chihuly

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Today is the first day of spring, although it's probably the coldest day of the week in New York. This is when the sun sits directly above the equator on its apparent trip northward. As the Earth revolves around the sun, the Northern Hemisphere, becomes tilted more toward the sun as winter turns to spring. The Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand becomes tilted more away from the sun.

The daffodils and tulips are not in bloom yet in the city. Above is a film-based image that I made a while ago of white Ranunculus blooms on a stack of plates. The Latin name ranunculus means "little frog". These flowers originated from the Middle East, hence their alternative name "Turban Buttercup". They have tuberous roots and hollow stems.

Mythology of Ranunculus (from In fairy tales frogs are apt to change into princes and it was an Asian prince in just such a story who gave his name to this flower, which grows naturally in swampy ground. The prince was so good-looking that he was loved by everyone. He also had a beautiful voice but this was his undoing. He loved the open country and sang delightful songs in the presence of nymphs. He did not have the courage to declare his love to them and this haunted him so much that he died. After his death he was changed into the flower with delicate tissuey petals which bears his name.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Not far from where I live is a hospital that is quite unique – the New York Doll Hospital. Owned by Irving Chaise, this is an establishment for doll restoration and repair. The hospital is a family business, founded by Chaise's grandparents in 1900, taken over by his parents, and then, in 1946, by Irving himself. It has had three homes over the years but the mission has remained unchanged: The New York Doll Hospital repairs and restores, buys and sells dolls. This is one hospital where they “don’t use anesthesia, never lost a patient, or bury their mistakes.” The owner also claims that “the risk of complications is low, unless that is, you're talking about a customer's feelings.” The Doll hospital is located at 787 Lexington Ave Ste 2 (Cross Street is 61st St) New York, NY 10065-8164. Phone: (212) 838-7527

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Today, it's fun being green. It's the St. Patrick's Day parade on Fifth Avenue. I took photos of some of the spectators who were just as interesting as the marchers. The first St Patrick's Day parade in New York City was held in 1766 when city folks marched the streets usually organized along fraternal, trade or military organizational lines. The early St Patrick's Day marchers would form up at their parish churches or their organizations' headquarters and march to the Old St Patrick's Cathedral (now at Mott and Prince Streets). The Archbishop greeted the groups, dignitaries and politicians addressed the crowd and the marchers dispersed in search of a bit of St Patty's Day celebration. Today's parade started at 11:00 AM at 44th Street and marchers traveled north to 86th Street. It is customary for the New York Archbishop to review the parade in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the few remaining where no cars, floats, buses, trucks or other vehicles are allowed. People march up Fifth Avenue, led by members of the 165th Infantry (originally the Irish 69th Regiment of Fighting Irish fame). Sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the more than 150,000 marchers are members of various Irish societies from New York and around the country; many Eire-based societies make the Atlantic crossing to trek the two miles uptown. Large contingents include the Emerald Societies of the New York City Police and Fire Departments, line dance groups, bands, and any politician running for office. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The BRUCE WEBERized ABERCROMBIE & FITCH shopping bags carried by tourists and locals can be easily spotted on Fifth Avenue’s shopping district. Above is a photograph I made of an A&F bag on a black couch. The flagship store of A&F opened on Fifth Avenue two years ago. Inside the store, the music is loud, thumping like a nightclub, and the lighting is a little dark. But the store is always crowded with young shoppers who during warmer months are greeted by shirtless male models at the entrance. In the 1990’s A&F was transformed into the retailer of choice for American youth, a demographic said to be growing the fastest during that time. The company also began publishing A&F Quarterly, a catalogue featuring its clothing lines as well as articles on pop culture, sex, music, and other teen topics. Photographer and occasional filmmaker BRUCE WEBER’s art fills the catalogue and A&F's racy advertising with an open sexuality, with his often near naked, seemingly casual and highly eroticised images of men and women. Weber’s photography, usually in black and white appealed to target customers but his catalogue photographs became highly controversial. Nevertheless, Weber, the fashion photographer who doesn't seem to be interested in photographing clothes, imbued this photographic genre to mainstream advertising. Today, his artwork and photography books have become collectible items.

Founded in New York City in 1892 by David T. Abercrombie, the original store was dedicated to selling the highest-quality camping, fishing and hunting gear. In 1900, Ezra Fitch, a devoted customer, convinced Abercrombie to let him buy part of the company. In 1904, the store name was officially changed to Abercrombie & Fitch. Due to differences between the two men over the direction of the business, Abercrombie resigned in 1907. Ezra Fitch led the company into the largest sporting goods store in the world. A&F has outfitted famous clients including former US Presidents. Today, A&F is a popular retailer of casual clothing and accessories for young men and women with stores nationwide and markets directly to customers online or through a catalogue.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


This is a section of the groundfloor of the TIME WARNER CENTER, a mixed-use skyscraper consisting of two 229 m (750 ft) towers bridged by a multi-story atrium. Located at Columbus Circle in the heart of Manhattan, this exciting architectural masterpiece creates a new cultural center delivering an experience where people can dine, shop, live, work and be entertained in a unique and alluring environment. The Time Warner Center consists of The Shops at Columbus Circle, The Restaurant and Bar Collection, The Five Star Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Jazz at Lincoln Center, One Central Park Luxury Condominiums, 60 Columbus Circle offices and Time Warner World Headquarters. I took this photo from the upper floor of the atrium to highlight the floor design and the escalator to the lower level where the supermarket and dining area are located.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The last time I was at GRAND CENTRAL STATION, I made this photo of one of the five original gold chandeliers hanging from the 48-foot ceiling of VANDERBILT HALL, adjacent to the main concourse. The lights of the chandeliers can be modified to glimmer or shine to create the ambiance desired. The magnificent chandelier complements the Tennessee pink marble floors. Vanderbilt Hall used to be the waiting room of Grand Central Station. It now serves as a setting for grand events such as product launch, shopping place for holiday gifts, fashion show, exhibit, corporate function, fundraiser or wedding. Built in 1913, Vanderbilt Hall was restored in 1998.

Monday, March 12, 2007

LES MISERABLES Broadway Revival

Collage of photos taken at the Broadhurst Theatre, billboard in Times Square, Lea Salonga at the stage door, and production photos (Joan Marcus)

Yesterday, I attended the matinee performance of the Broadway revival of Les Misérables at the Broadhurst Theatre. Based on Victor Hugo’s epic novel set in 1800s France, the musical follows escaped convict Jean Valjean and his foe, the police officer Javert who relentlessly pursued Valjean over decades. Valjean becomes a mayor, agrees to raise Cosette, the daughter of dying prostitute Fantine and joins the fight for freedom. Although many people still think that the musical is about the French Revolution of 1789, this Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s adaptation is actually about the student revolution of 1832.

Never mind that the New York Times’ Ben Brantley wrote that this revival, when it opened a few months ago “appears to be functioning in a state of mild sedation,” and that “its pulse rate stays well below normal.” It is still a good story, it still sounds as pretty as can be, and it was sung appealingly and powerfully. Freshly reorchestrated, this revival is 15 minutes shorter than the original. While it’s been said that the show was “uncomfortably cast,” much of the criticism was focused on Daphne Rubin-Vega’s Fantine. She is now replaced by Tony Award winning star, LEA SALONGA, who has played Eponine in the original Broadway run. In addition to Salonga, Les Miz stars Alexander Gemignani as Jean Valjean, Norm Lewis as Javert, Celia Keenan-Bolger as Eponine, Ali Ewoldt as Cosette, Adam Jacobs as Marius, Aaron Lazar as Enjolras, Gary Beach as Thenardier and Jenny Galloway as Madame Thendardier. A few months into the run, I thought that both Gemignani and Lewis gave powerful performances, contrary to the criticism that their emotional temperature was low when the revival opened a few months ago. Maybe these actors have grown into their respective roles with time. Both Gary Beach and Jenny Galloway were convincingly funny and creepy at the same time as the Thenardiers. Suitably exciting performances also came from Adam Jacobs, Ali Ewoldt and Aaron Lazar, as well as little Brian D’Addario as Gavroche. As for Lea Salonga’s well publicized return, I would leave it to someone else who is a big fan of Les Miz. The following are her thoughts posted in an online messageboard:

Saw Les Miz with Lea on Wednesday night, my first time seeing the new revival production. I will preface my review by saying I worked at the Imperial Theatre for a few years while Les Miz was playing there, and I've probably seen the show upwards of 100 times. Here are my thoughts on the current production at the Broadhurst. Lea Salonga (Fantine) was breathtakingly beautiful. I confess, I'd never seen her live on stage before, and I've always preferred Frances Ruffelle's take on Eponine to Lea's. But her rendition of "I Dreamed A Dream" was among the loveliest I've heard. Her voice is so pure and beautiful and she sings with such ease, it is really something to behold! Her Fantine was less gritty than many I've seen. She seemed like a really sweet, good-hearted, even slightly innocent woman thrust into a very terrible situation, making her demise even more tragic. She had wonderful chemistry with Alex Gemignani in her death scene, which was one of the more stand-out scenes of the show that night. I should also mention that she looked absolutely thrilled to be back on the Broadway stage. She was BEAMING during "One Day More". I was actually fairly indifferent to her before Wednesday evening, but I think I'm officially a fan now!”

Data from the League of American Theatres and Producers show that Lea Salonga boosts Les Miz box office sales. In Lea Salonga's first full week as Fantine, the revival filled the Broadhurst Theatre to 94.20%, making it the third highest show in terms of capacity.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SPRING FORWARD - Daylight Saving Time

I made this picture of a street clock on Fifth Avenue yesterday, a day before Daylight Saving Time (DST) takes into effect. It's Spring forward! Fast forward that is. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 extended DST in the U.S. Beginning in 2007, DST begins at 2:00 AM on the second Sunday of March (instead of first Sunday of April) and ends at 2:00 AM on the first Sunday of November. Clocks spring forward by one hour. Should the change prove unpopular or if the energy savings are not significant, Congress may revert to the 1986 law.

The main purpose of DST is to make better use of daylight. DST "makes" the sun "set" one hour later and therefore reduces the period between sunset and bedtime by one hour. This means that less electricity would be used for lighting and appliances late in the day. We also use less electricity because we are home fewer hours during the "longer" days of spring and summer because of outdoor activities. Opponents of DST claim that people just like to enjoy long summer evenings, and that reasons such as energy conservation are merely rationalizations. However, DST does save energy. Studies done by the US Department of Transportation show that DST trims the entire country's power usage by a small but significant amount. When we reset our clocks for DST, it is also a good time to change the battery in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as recommended by the the National Fire Protection Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Today is a milder day although some snow still remains on the ground. Above are two photos that I took at CENTRAL PARK, one near the Sheep Meadow, and the other at the Wollman skating rink. The Wollman Open Skating Competition takes place tomorrow, March 11th, so there will be no public skating.

Friday, March 9, 2007


Scanned image of the promotion card for the play

A powerful seven-character play called THE ELEVENTH COMMANDMENT brilliantly written and directed by the talented TERRENCE WALSH opened March 8th at Theatre Row’s Studio Theatre. I saw the play last night and was moved by the story and amazed by the forceful performances of the cast. Set in Chicago in 1980, the play examines family conflict that takes its roots from an alcoholic and abusive father. Marie, exceptionally played by Terri Eoff, is a 47-year-old, first-generation Irish-American who has just lost her mother whom she lived with her entire life. The conflict arises when Marie's brother Seamus (suitably portrayed by Kim Shipley) attempts to sell the condo that Marie and their mother have lived in for 25 years. In the end, Marie, who left the altar to take care of her ailing mother, learned to finally shed her martyr-like passiveness, stand up for herself, find joy in a new relationship, and refuse to let anyone “steal her life.” There were many funny moments provided by Marie’s hairdresser friend Eileen (Barabara Suter). As Seamus’ wife Carol, Susan Wands was very convincing and Jimmy Aquino's performance as Marie's possible new love interest Carlos was appealing. I liked the clever flashback scenes where the fine actor Ryan Garbayo who plays Marie’s nephew doubles as Kevin, Marie’s former boyfriend. Fr. Bob, Marie’s uncle, was played by Larry Swansen. The set design was simple and intimate and the lighting was very effective. Performances run through March 18th at the Studio Theatre at 42nd street between 9th and 10th Avenues.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


WHAT: A chat with Tony winner Lea Salonga (Miss Saigon), the new Fantine of Les Misérables
WHERE: Broadhurst Theatre
WHEN: Friday, March 2, 2007
Video shot and edited by Jesse Zook Mann
Interview by Paul Wontorek


The Bethesda Terrace in Central Park features ornate stone relief and carving that depict nature designed by Jacob Wrey Mould. He brought a whimsical personality to the stone carvings that line the grand staircases that descend to the Bethesda fountain. Birds and foliage are common subjects in Mould's relief and carvings. This photograph which I took when I visited the newly restored terrace last weekend, demonstrates how the artwork blends perfectly with the environment.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Last Saturday, I visited the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MOMA) in midtown Manhattan. The museum was designed by architect Yoshio Taniguchi who created a final effect that is rectilinear, immaculate and spacious. There are acres of white wall, white-oak floor and a lot of halogen lights on discreetly recessed tracks. One of the stairwells caught my attention so I made a photograph of it framed on a vast wall creating a simple image with clean lines.

Architect’s statement: “The primary objective in the design of a museum is to create an ideal environment for the interaction of people and art. Galleries and public spaces are the core elements in a museum. A variety of gallery spaces appropriate to MoMA's collection of 20th-century masterworks as well as new galleries for the yet unknown works of contemporary art is the first requirement for an expanded Museum. Renovation and reuse of the intimately scaled existing galleries, along with the addition of multiuse new galleries with high ceilings and long continuous walls, would provide a diversity of exhibition spaces while creating an interlocking dialogue of space, art, and architecture....”

Monday, March 5, 2007


This image was made yesterday at Central Park’s SHEEP MEADOW. In the summer, the Sheep Meadow is a 15-acre lush, green lawn which is a haven for sunbathers, picnickers and kite flyers. It is a wonderful place to relax and admire one of Manhattan’s greatest skyline views. From 1864 until 1934, a flock of pedigree Southdown (and later Dorset) sheep inhabited the meadow. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Sheep Meadow was a popular venue for large-scale concerts and televised events such as the first landing on the moon in 1969.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Although the ad in today's Arts & Leisure section of the New York Times says LEA SALONGA joins the cast of LES MISÉRABLES on March 6th, the Tony Award winning actress actually began performance last Friday, March 2nd. She plays the role of Fantine in this Broadway revival of the popular musical at the Broadhurst Theatre. The revival runs through at least the summer of 2007, and Salonga is expected to stay with the production through the entire period. Salonga played Eponine in 1993 in the original Broadway run.

Philippine native Lea Salonga became an international stage star when she was chosen to play the lead role in the 1989 London world premiere of Boublil and Schonberg's Miss Saigon. At 17, she received critical acclaim and went on to win the Olivier Award as Best Actress in a Musical in London. In 1991 she reprised her performance on Broadway for which she won the Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical, along with Best Actress honors from the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics' Circle. In 2002, Salonga returned to Broadway via Rodgers & Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song. She also recently made her triumphant solo debut at a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall.

Salonga's voice has been described as "hopeful as daybreak," and her interpretation of music "pure." I personally admire Les Miz' new Fantine not only for her clarion voice and enormous talent, but also for her love of country and pride of her ethnicity. In a recent interview, the new mother considers it a great achievement "that through whatever I've done, the image of the Filipino was made a little more positive, and that somehow, the Filipino was given the chance to smile and be proud. Hopefully, the world's awareness of the Filipino artist remains." A few weeks ago, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo conferred on Salonga the prestigious Order Of Lakandula, the highest honor given to a civilian, for her outstanding contribution to musical theater and world entertainment.

I'm looking forward to seeing next Sunday's matinee performance.

Saturday, March 3, 2007


Yesterday, the Parks & Recreation Department and the Central Park Conservancy officially reopened the newly restored Central Park's BETHESDA TERRACE ARCADE. One of the few formal architectural features of Central Park, this Arcade sits across from the Bethesda Fountain and under 72nd Street as it crosses Central Park. The tiles were removed from the Arcade's ceiling more than 20 years ago due to severe corrosion, and were stored until the not-for-profit Central Park Conservancy stepped in to initiate the restoration. After many years of labor-intensive repair and a price tag of $7 million, the rare Minton-tile ceiling was finally reinstalled. Although most of the tiles were restored, some 10% of the tiles were corroded beyond repair so new tiles were manufactured by hand by the Maw and Company in England. The ceiling of the Arcade has 49 panels, each with 324 tiles. The arcade was designed in the mid 1860s by Calvert Vaux and his assistant Jacob Wrey Mould with tiles made by the Minton Company of Stoke-on-Trent, England. Today being a mild day, I joined the other park visitors and joggers in taking the underground passageway of the marvelous Arcade.

Thursday, March 1, 2007


In anticipation of spring which is officially three weeks away, I took photos of tulips on a vase placed on my window sill, with the sun-drenched wall of the neighboring apartment building as background. Tulips for me are a cheerful reminder that winter days are numbered. These blooms are widely available in Manhattan at modest prices, from corner Korean delis to fancy flower shops.

The tulip is actually a native of Central Asia, in the Tien-Shan and the Pamir-Alai mountain ranges near Islamabad, Pakistan. A secondary genetic center developed in Azerbaijan and Armenia. The tulip is still closely associated with the Netherlands even though it is not a native Dutch flower. The Dutch, however made tulip cultivation the cornerstone of an industry that lasted hundreds of years. Tulips were not introduced to the Netherlands until 1593. These flowers were first seen by Europeans in Turkey and it is believed that the Turks had been cultivating tulips as early as AD 1000. The tulip got its name from the Turkish word for turban, owing to the flower's resemblance to the Middle Eastern headgear. Tulips are perennial bulbous plants with waxy-textured green leaves and large flowers with six velvety petals. In three weeks, the botanical gardens and parks throughout Manhattan will flourish into full bloom with displays of brilliant flower blossoms including tulips.