1. THE CHRISTMAS WALK & DINNER DECEMBER 9th, 2001
Many of you have asked me about the annual Christmas Walk, and why I
didn't write about it. Well, here are a few thoughts about the Walk and
(These films are not listed in any special order)
3. Results of the question:"What 3 inventions would you like to have eliminated?"
With 100 answers sent in, here are the three most common answers: (1) cell phones, (2) guns, (3) cigarettes. Other popular answers were: nuclear weapons, television, the internet, credit cards, panty-hose(!), bio-chemical weapons, etc.
"What's the best thing that ever happened to you?"
The majority of answers centered around good health, friends, family, learning to learn, and thinking "out of the box".
4. SUPER BOWL SUNDAY:"Sometimes the Underdogs DO win!"
After the game, we left my place and took our Super Bowl Party group (stuffed with Sicilian pizza and beer,) over to the Our House East pub, where we had a drink or two, and tried to keep our Patriots logo-hats on our heads, as people tried to cajole us into giving them away. I hugged people that I hadn't seen in years! Then we went into the streets surrounding Northeastern, and we joined thousands of students who were already there. The atmosphere was charged...New Years Eve in Times Square, a Block Party, Mardi Gras, an Italian Street Festival, all rolled into one. We were proud to be wearing our big silly hats...they identified us in the crowd of revelers. Car horns were blaring all over town, and it seemed that you could hear them from miles away. Sirens from police cars and fire engines joined the music that blasted out of people's open windows. Students were standing on roof tops, window sills, and car roofs...I can only hope that no one was hurt in this glorious, long-overdue celebration. Everyone seemed to be letting go of feelings that have been bottled up since September 11th. WHAT A NIGHT! (If you're in Boston, we'll see you at the parade and City Hall celebration on Tuesday.)
A REPORT ON THE PARADE OF CHAMPIONS: Ten of us went to the Parade of Champions today. We were at the very beginning of the parade route, where the players were boarding the Duck boats, so we were able to see them pass, just about ten feet away from us...Belichick, Brady, Vinateri, Law, Molloy, Smith, the TROPHY, the cheerleaders, etc. It was all very exciting. The cheering fans were loud, but not unruly. A dozen police on motorcycles, and four on horseback carrying the Patriots flag and the U.S. flag, led the Parade as helicopters hovered above. The Duck boats passed, very slowly, in front of us, so there was plenty of time to see everyone and take pictures, as we did. After buying some official t-shirts and caps at the Prudential shops, we went back to my place to watch the City Hall Plaza rally on TV. As opposed to the parade, the rally at City Hall Plaza was much too short. I would have hated to have been one of those people who waited out in the freezing cold for 6 or more hours, just to see a 20-minute "ceremony." I understand that all in all, there were 1-1/4 million people who turned out to see the Patriots. That's almost twice the population of the city of Boston!
All in all, an historic day for Boston sports fans.
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Last night's Academy Award show would have gone down in history as being the most boring Oscar show ever, had it not been overshadowed by the fact that it was inaugurating the ugliest new theater to be built in America in 100 years. It looked like a cheap copy of Radio City Music Hall, had it been redesigned by the late Liberace! These 4 hours and 17 minutes of boredom were relieved by a few interesting moments, such as:
.....the New York segment introduced by the camera-shy Woody Allen
.....the always hypnotic act by Cirque du Soleil
.....the moving acceptance speeches of honorees Sydney Poitier, Arthur Hiller, and Robert Redford
.....the historic and truly emotional moment when Halle Berry accepted her award as the first black woman to win the award for Best Actress
.....the elegance of the stunningly beautiful Halle Berry who wore the evening's most beautiful gown
.....the musical segments featuring Sting, and John Goodman and Randy Newman singing a great duet
.....the long-overdue win by one America's most talented, and overlooked composers, Randy Newman (who was nominated 16 times, but never won)
.....the shocking fact that all of the right people won the right awards!
I attended the Academy Award show at a black-tie affair at The Four Seasons hotel in Boston. It was a benefit for the Friends of the Mass. Film Office and Mass 9/11 Fund. It helped to be eating fine food and drinking a lot of good wine with friends, while watching this endless snooze of a show. This TV event needs help!
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RANDOM THOUGHTS: MUSEUM EXHIBITS IN BOSTON
Two of Boston's major museums are hosting blockbuster exhibits at the same time, and both exhibits are magnificent.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum- "Cosme Tura: Painting & Design in Renaissance Ferrara
Like the jewel-like museum that houses it, this exhibit is small, intimate, and exquisite. This is the first exhibition devoted to one of the most distinctive and original artists of the Renaissance, Cosme Tura (1430-1495.) A complete original, Tura is unlike any other artist who came out of the Renaissance movement in Italy. Unfortunately, the beauty of his work is overpowered by the beauty of the Venetian palazzo that houses it. But, if you can get past this, the work is forceful and completely his own. Worth a visit.
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Museum of Fine Arts- "Impressionist Still Life"
This is the first major exhibition devoted to Impressionist still-life painting. Hard to believe, isn't it? Ninety spectacular works by such masters as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Cassatt, and Courbet are being shown, tracing the surprising developments and innovations in late-19th-century still life. The exhibition starts with the realism of Courbet and proceeds, through many transformations, up to the late work of Cezanne. Highlights include two incredible still lifes by Monet never before seen in the United States, and fifteen works by Cezanne, one of impressionism's greatest still-life painters. Don't miss this one, even though tickets are hard to come by.
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT- METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART- "Thomas Eakins"
The Met has gathered 75 paintings, sculptures, and photographs of Thomas Eakins, arguably America's greatest painter. His most famous paintings are here, including "The Gross Clinic," the immense "Agnew Clinic," and his paintings of athletes and sportsmen. There are many large portraits of his friends (including a beautiful portrait of Walt Whitman,) but his most controversial paintings are his nudes. In a time when artistic displays of nudity were frowned upon, Eakins' paintings often portrayed men and women in full frontal nude poses. Even more controversial is the fact that he used photographs as "sketches" for some of his paintings. Nevertheless, all controversy aside, his paintings are nothing less magnificent.
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THE WORST FILMS THAT I SAW IN 2002:
1. Big Trouble
3. Full Frontal
4. Eight Women
5. The Believer
6. Time Out
7. Life or Something Like It
8. Kiss the Bride
9. Welcome to Collinwood
10. The Ring
THE BEST FILMS THAT I SAW IN 2002:
2. Gangs of New York
3. The Hours
4. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
5. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
6. The Road to Perdition
7. Minority Report
9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
10. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
11. The 25th Hour
13. The Quiet American
THE BEST FOREIGN FILMS THAT I SAW IN 2002:
1. The Crime of Father Amaro (El Crimen del Padre Amaro)
2. Festival in Cannes
3. He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (A La Folie...Pas Du Tout)
MUSEUM EXHIBIT: "IMPRESSIONS
OF LIGHT: THE FRENCH LANDSCAPE FROM COROT TO MONET"
MUSEUM EXHIBIT: "THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH, 1727-1788" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
The first of three blockbuster exhibits to come to the MFA this year (the others will be "Rembrandt," and "Gauguin,") this exhibit is the largest exhibit of the works of Gainsborough in over 100 years. The sophistication of the Georgian Age in England comes alive in his many huge, elegant portraits and landscapes. I had two problems with this otherwise impressive exhibit. In several portraits, it appears that the heads were cut out and pasted onto the bodies. If I might be presumptuous enough to critique a master, they were out of proportion to the bodies! My other criticism follows the dictum, "less is more." Perhaps the paintings would have had more of an emotional impact if there were fewer of them. Yikes! For instance, Gainsborough's famous masterpiece "The Blue Boy," is virtually lost in a room filled with a dozen other portraits of comparable size (they're all huge!) Also, his sensuous "Haymaker and Sleeping Girl" gets lost in the shuffle of enormous landscapes in another room. I can hear lovers of Gainsborough's work saying "Shut up you fool. In this Age of Terrorism, the MFA was very lucky to get 50 great works of art shipped from all over the world." I guess they're right. But I may go back to sneak a look at "The Blue Boy" again.
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT: "REMBRANDT'S JOURNEY: PAINTER-DRAFTSMAN-ETCHER" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
If you're anywhere in the Boston area in the next two months (until January 2004,) drop in at the Museum of Fine Arts to see one of the world's major loan exhibitions. The exhibit consists of, what appears to be, hundreds of Rembrandt's oil paintings, drawings, and etchings, displayed thematically (e.g., "The Crucifixion," "Self Portraits," etc.) rather than chronologically. The overall theme appears to be a religious one, with scenes taken from events portrayed in the Bible. The effect is stunning. If you're aware of Rembrandt's technique of using "chiarro-scuro," where light penetrates an otherwise darker scene, from a source outside of the painting, you'll see many examples of this in the paintings being shown. The works of art are on loan from museums and private collections from all over the world. What surprised me is how many of them come from private collections. Where do you hang a large Rembrandt, over the TV? Once again, I'm presumptuous enough to criticize a blockbuster exhibit of great art...but here goes. Although there are 23 oil paintings in the exhibition, they're overwhelmed by the sheer number of drawings and etchings. Granted, they're there to illustrate various concepts and techniques in the larger oil paintings, and this they do exceedingly well, but it just seemed like there were too damn many of them! If you do go, don't miss the large painting entitled "Flora." It's the brightest and most cheerful Rembrandt that I've ever seen.
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Here are some of my recommendations for which windows to see this Christmas:
MACY'S- "Miracle on 34th Street" (on the 34th Street side,) and "A Christmas Story" (on the Broadway side.) Nostalgic recreation of scenes from both of these Christmas classic films. Both sets of windows are nicely done. LORD & TAYLOR'S- "Yes Virginia, There IS a Santa Claus." Based on the editorial in the New York Sun, these windows are beautiful, charming, and highly detailed. The best of all of the windows, in my opinion. SAKS FIFTH AVENUE- "MTV theme of kids and music." A dull and cartoonish mess! BERGDORF GOODMAN'S- The theme is "Dream" and the imaginative, classy, detailed, elegant windows are designed by the glassmaker Swarowski, and filled with antiques. Artistic, and extremely beautiful. BARNEY'S- The theme is "Sex and the City" and the windows, one for each of the five female leads, have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Ugly and inappropriate. As always, a walk through both the festively decorated Trump Tower lobby, and a wreath-filled St. Patrick's Cathedral, will put you in the Christmas mood immediately. It did me. THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER TREE- looks exactly the same as last year's tree. Isn't it about time they decided to add large ornaments to this huge, but ho-hum tree? The lights alone just don't do it. For the most beautiful indoor trees, go to TRUMP TOWER, THE PLAZA HOTEL LOBBY, and THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART'S Neapolitan Tree and Creche.
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If you're looking for a "paradise," and you don't feel like flying out to Acapulco, then Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic just may be the place for you. Spending the Christmas holidays down there this year was an impetuous thing to do, because I was traveling alone...just like the old days. My plans also included a three-day "illegal" (the Treasury Department didn't know about my visit this time) visit to Cuba, for the New Years Eve festivities at the Tropicana nightclub in Havana. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The all-inclusive resorts (and there are several of them) on the eastern coast of the Dominican Republic, were founded by the Punta Cana Group, who were wise enough to buy up all of the available beach space, on such beautiful natural beaches as Bavaro Beach. The one that I stayed at was the magnificent Paradisus, owned by the Spanish Sol Melia chain. From the minute that you land at the Punta Cana airport (yes, the resort has its own airport,) you know that you're in a fun place. The terminal is a large thatched-roof hut! It's only a 15-minute drive to the hotel, in one of the hotel's vans.
After checking in, which took about 5 minutes, I walked to my bungalow, which was right on the beach. There are electric carts and trams to take the lazy anywhere on the property...and it is HUGE! The entire 40 acres of hotel looks like the Old Key West area of DisneyWorld, but with a tropical white-sand, endless beach thrown in. For those of you who've been down in Acapulco, the ambience is much like our beloved Mirador...a lot of manana-attitude, but always friendly, courteous, and laid back. My two-level bungalow is one of the most beautiful "hotel-rooms" that I've ever stayed in. The living room, with it's colorful rattan furniture is on the lower level, complete with bar and frig, and the bedroom with a king-sized bed is two steps up on the upper level. Everything you need is in your room, from a safe, to an ironing board and iron, to a hair-dryer, a TV, a coffee-maker and tea kettle etc. There's a charming little private garden behind each bungalow.
I unpacked, and went exploring...on foot. The grounds are magnificent, and very well maintained. Beautiful lawns, flower beds with exotic brightly-colored tropical flowers, an occasional lizard (but not a bug in the room for a week,) and that endless white sandy beach. Everything seems to be built around a large lake, but on closer inspection, I realized that this was the pool, or rather a series of interconnected pools, resembling a lake. The restaurants (and there are 7 of them) are scattered around the property, and there seems to be one for every type of cuisine. There's also a Casino, a pub, and a nightclub, which according to the sign, promises "nightly extravaganzas."
I was determined to play it cool, and not befriend every stray who made eye-contact with me...and there were lots. The crowd appeared to be mostly European...but of the classier variety, not the Euro-trash that we get in America. Lots of young people...beautiful to look at, friendly, and always topless....even in restaurants! As I said, I was determined to play it cool, and I think that I did, but in about two days, I already had a posse...a highly selective one. The posse consisted of two Polish girls in their 20's, my buddies Josh (from England) and Christopher (from Paris,) Nick's wife (at least that's what Maria got nicknamed, because where I was...she was!) and two college football players from Texas!!! Sean and Jack, our football players, were the ones who found the well-equipped gym...complete with jacuzziis and spa. We never used any of it! Not even my very healthy, jacked, posse! Instead, our days were spent meeting up in the morning at the over-abundant breakfast buffet at the beach, chatting there for at least an hour and a half, until we all had gathered and stuffed our faces with foods that I would never eat back home (Danish, muffins, cheese omelettes, etc.) Then, it was off to the beach, or the lake-pool, where I, safely hidden under a large palm tree with an orange-vanilla frozen daiquiri, and Maria, always by my side, watched my friends do everything that you could possibly do on or near the water (kayaking, parasailing, jet-skiing, playing volley-ball, etc.) We all got together for lunch at our lounges ( I won't even tell you what I ate!!!) where we got to know each other very well. They're all VERY rich...I'm not. That's cool; I won't hold it against them, mainly because they all have great values. Good parenting and schooling. In the afternoons, we did much more of the same, and spent much of the time deciding where we would eat at night. We all decided to stay away from the American steak house, and the Brazilian churrascuria (because of the Mad Cow scare right now,) and we ate most of our meals at the incredibly good "El Romantico," an excellent French restaurant, or at "Golondrina," one of the best Italian restaurants in this hemisphere!!! (Did I mention that ALL food and drinks are included in the ridiculously high hotel package?) After dinner, we took long walks to work off some of this damn food (I was out of control!!!) and then spent the rest of the night at the Karaoke Pub, watching Sean and Jack make fools of themselves. Actually, they were hilarious. I even took a turn at the microphone. Maria and I did a Sonny and Cher medley!!!
Soon, it was time to head for Cuba. On a whim (these Europeans do things like that!) Maria (she's Venetian, by the way,) Chris, and Josh decided to come too!!! The hotel management was able to get them rooms at my hotel, the Parque Central, and we were off, in a tiny 14-seater plane, for the short hop to Cuba. Since none of them had ever been there before, I played the tour-guide, and we went to all of the fun places that I went to last year, and others, including one of the new spectacular beach resorts at Veradero. We hit two paladares that I didn't eat at last time, and the "Bread & Chocolate" one where I did. Went back to the Nacional to show it off to my friends, and to access the internet. (I deleted two-hundred e-mails...mostly spam!) Then, it was New Years Eve, and we were off to the Tropicana. Needless to say, the show was beyond spectacular...part Vegas, part Cirque du Soleil, part Radio City Rockettes show, part Ziegfeld Follies, and mostly the biggest salsa and son dance concert that you could ever imagine. There were literally hundreds of people on the huge stage, and up on the cat-walks in the palm trees above us. Thousands of constantly-changing colorful costumes. Beautiful showgirls everywhere. This time the food (and drink) were plentiful. (Last year, they served cold-cuts!!!) It all ended much too soon, and before I even recovered from my hang-over, we were back on the plane to Punta Cana, rushing back to the hotel to make our sad tearful farewells, and then I was on another plane back to Boston. On the plane, I realized that I never said good-bye to the Polish girls, who turned out to be exhibitionists and lesbians...an interesting combination. Although we all exchanged e-mails, home addresses, and cell-phone numbers (theirs, not mine!) I know that we'll probably never see each other again...although Sean and Jack threatened to come up to Boston for Spring Break. I'd love to introduce them to my posse up here. Yikes! Well, that's it. I hope that you enjoyed reading about an incredibly memorable time. If I had the kind of money that my new friends have, I'd charter a 777, and take us all down there. Manana baby!
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT: "GAUGUIN in TAHITI" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
I went to this blockbuster exhibit with a young friend who some might (erroneously) say, would be more comfortable doing shots late at night, at our neighborhood bar. They would have been surprised to hear his intelligent and perceptive comments as we wandered through this exhibit of over 100 of Gauguin's masterpieces, brought together for the first, and only, time in this country. (The exhibit appeared in Paris last fall to sold-out crowds, and it's doing the same here in Boston.) This collection of paintings represents the product of the last 20 years in Gauguin's life, after he selfishly left his job as a stockbroker, his wife, and his children, to run off to Tahiti to live the life of a beachcomber (surfer dude!) Was it worth it? 150 paintings say "yes." The overall effect of viewing these paintings impressionistically, is one of brilliant colors and tactile textures. The dark-skinned naked women almost seem to be intruding on the vibrancy of the landscapes, which at times appear to be taking on the day-glow colors of the '60's. In fact, flower children would not be out of place in the paintings, (or wandering through the exhibit halls viewing them.) One of the room guards had a brilliant orange flower tucked behind her ear! "Gauguin in Tahiti" re-creates the painter's landmark exhibition of 1898, which was the first public presentation of his masterpiece, "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" Eight of the paintings in that original exhibit have been gathered from collections in Europe, the United States, and Tahiti, to join the great panel for the first time in more than 100 years. The effect is overwhelming. See it if you can.
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MUSEUM REVIEW- THE PEABODY-ESSEX MUSEUM (in Salem, Mass.)
If you live in Massachusetts, or are just visiting the area, take a trip up to the beautiful, historic town of Salem, to see one of the most exciting museums in the country...the Peabody-Essex. The first museum in America, when it was founded in 1799 as the East India Marine Society, has recently expanded into a magnificent architectural gem, designed by Moshe Safdie. If it contained no exhibits, it would still be worth visiting, just to see the building itself. What it does contain is one of the greatest collections of historic homes in the country. 26 homes have been brought to the blocks around the museum, and re-built there. They date in age from the John Ward House in 1684, to homes of the late 19th Century. We visited three, and the visits were memorable. It was an authentic glimpse into how people lived in three different centuries. In addition, the museum houses a 200-year-old Chinese house, that was dismantled in China and rebuilt in the Peabody. It commemorates the historic sea-trade that took place between the wealthy merchants of Salem, and the continent of Asia. Although you're only allowed to be in the house for 20 minutes, it's a very fascinating visit to another world. In addition, at the museum, there was a temporary exhibit, that contained huge digitally-enhanced color photographs of modern-day Havana. I found it fascinating and beautiful, and it brought back memories of my two visits to that exciting island-country, Cuba. We spent almost the entire day at the Peabody, and it was an unforgetable trip to an exciting place.
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT REVIEW- "ART
DECO" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston)
ART EXHIBIT- "THE GATES"
( Christo's installation art in Central Park)
EXHIBIT: "SPEED, STYLE, and BEAUTY: CARS FROM THE RALPH LAUREN COLLECTION
" (at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston)
watching the Pope's funeral this morning, I thought that this is what
television does best...recording one of history's greatest moments as it's
happening. I was also impressed at how magnificently Rome, the Eternal
City, handled the pomp, the pageantry, and the millions who came to attend
the funeral. Few cities in the world could do this so gracefully. The men
behind the scenes at Vatican City moved things along in an orderly,
secure, and impressive fashion...as though it were something they did
THE CHRISTMAS WALK-2005
SOME THOUGHTS ON LAST NIGHT'S GOLDEN GLOBE
RANDOM THOUGHTS: THE RED SOX OPENING GAME AT FENWAY
Spring has now officially arrived in New England. I attended the Red Sox opening game at Fenway, as a guest of two friends (who were, in turn, guests of one of the ball players.) This is always a festive occasion, especially if the weather was as beautiful as it was yesterday. For those of you who've attended an "event game" at Fenway, you'll know that the festivities start long before the game starts, in the streets outside of the park, all of which are officially closed on game day. There are players and other dignitaries coming and going by helicopters, entertainers of all kinds, and the pervasive smell of sausages and beer overpowering your nasal passages. Once inside, we proceeded up to our seats in the new "EMC Club" area. For those of you who know Fenway, this is the old once-enclosed "406 Club" area, which has now been turned into 1300 luxury seats on two levels (behind and above home plate.) There's no more glass in front of them, and they're a wind-tunnel in the slightest breeze...and there was one yesterday. I was freezing on a 70 degree day! Stop complaining Nick; the seats were great, and the view of the game is unbeatable. (Thanks Paul and Leo.) The game was a good one (with Boston beating Toronto 5 -3,) and it gave me a chance to enjoy some of my old favorite players, and to get to know some of the new ones...who performed beautifully. If you read about the game, you'll have read about the two exciting double plays; the underestimated catch by Pena; and Beckett's 35 pitches in the 1st inning. All in all, a fun way to start the season...and Spring in Boston!
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT REVIEW: "THE CLARK BROTHERS COLLECT" (at the Clark Art Institute)
Two brothers, Sterling and Stephen, heirs to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, had two things in common...their impeccable taste in art, and their hatred for one another! Both acquired hundreds of great works of art, separately, and their two collections are combined here, for the first time in this incredible exhibit. Included are dozens of works by Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, Matisse, Sargent, Eakins, Hopper, Remington, Homer, and Picasso. A work from each brother's collection, painted by two different artists, but based on the same theme (e.g., still life of fruits, etc.) would be hung side by side, to compare the brothers unique perspectives on art. Both men may have seen the world in different ways, but we're all benefiting from the fact that they've left us these incredible collections.
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT REVIEW: "BODY WORLDS 2" (at the Museum of Science in Boston)
Unless you've been living in a cave for the past year, you must be aware of this sensational, controversial exhibit that's already been seen by over 20 million people around the world. I refused to see it in Vegas, where I thought that the venue was inappropriate to the content of the exhibit. Now, it's being shown at our Museum of Science, and so I decided to check it out. What Dr. Gunther von Hagen has done in this "the most highly attended touring exhibition in the world," (so much for the "Mona Lisa" and Michelangelo's "Pieta," both of which were touring exhibits decades ago!) is to show 20 authentic human cadavers, preserved by a process called Plastination (where bodily fluids and soluble fats are extracted to stop decomposition, and replaced with resins, silicon solution, and epoxy, giving the specimens rigidity and permanence.) These freaks of nature are posed to look like works of art, or sports figures in action. I found the whole damn thing to be obscene, repulsive, and dull. Just before going in, we stopped at the Museum Cafe, and I had a cup of "Dippin' Dots," a form of ice cream that I've never had before. That cup of tiny pellets of ice cream, was more interesting than the whole "Body Worlds 2" exhibit!
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We set out from the Marino Center at 8:30 in the morning on "The Nick Express," with Omar at the wheel, and 8 of us on board. Driving down to the Southeastern part of the state, heading towards the Cape, we passed some beautiful scenery in summer bloom. With 9 guys in a van, the time goes by quickly, (well, maybe not for the driver,) and before you knew it, we were in "wine country." One doesn't automatically think of Massachusetts when one thinks of fine wines, but much to my amazement, I've learned that we produce some of the world's finest sparkling wines, and an extraordinary Chardonnay. (In fact, according to one of our Canadian friends, this wine is served at posh dinners at the British Consulate in Boston!) The Westport River Winery is a picturesque 140 acre vineyard...the largest in New England. As we drove onto the grounds, we were surrounded by beauty on all sides...vines everywhere, old barns, and an old New England homestead. We met our tour guide, Craig, at the Old Country Store, and he proceeded to escort us through the vineyard, telling us about the history of vinology, the history of this Westport River Winery, the history of the grapes used, and the history of specific wines. After this enlightening tour outdoors (in the rain, I might add,) we proceeded indoors to tour the fermenting rooms filled with stainless steel vats. I wish that I had taken notes; we learned so much. Then, came the tastings. We were ushered into a room filled with bottles and glasses. We were shown what to look for and how to do a tasting correctly...and then we got sloshed out of our minds!!! It's not hard to do, even if you're only sipping the various wines. Some of them, especially the sparkling wines and the one red, are heady stuff. Everything came to an end too quickly, even though we were at the winery for almost two hours. I've been on vineyard tours and tastings all over the world, including Italy, France, and California, and I must say that this one ranks up there with the best of them.
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On the first Sunday of every month, Bittersweet Farm hosts a "grand brunch" that must be the granddaddy of all brunches! Just up the road from the Westport River Winery is the beautiful 29-acre Bittersweet Farm, a working farm, which on one Sunday each month, becomes the place to stuff your face with some of the best, and freshest, brunch food anywhere. All of this in a majestic old, beamed, high-ceilinged barn of a building, with ceiling-to-floor glass windows overlooking the farms grounds. When we were settled in at our long, trestle table, we headed for the sprawling food tables. Where do I begin? Well, let's begin where I did, at the Omelette table. You name it, from the freshest produce, to cheeses and meats, and they'll put it in your omelette. Mine was 4 Farm Eggs, with White Cheese, Tomatoes, Peppers, and Fresh Herbs. From there, I went to get some Poached Salmon with Capers and Artichoke Hearts, and Fresh Garden Salad, skipping the breakfast pancakes, waffles and French toast with fresh fruits, the pastas, the carving boards, the sauteed meats and vegetables, and the other hot entrees. Needless to say, the guys didn't skip these. Hell, they're growing guys, right? I'm shrinking! I took a short break, and listened to some of the live acoustic music played by a guy singing old folk songs of the '60s and '70s. Then, unfortunately, I headed over to the dessert table, which was laden with straight-from-the-oven pastries, sweet rolls, muffins, tartes, pies, etc. I won't even confess in print what I ate there...but I already regret it!!! It was hard to leave this barn-brunch. I mean it was literally hard to leave this barn; I could hardly move!!!!! But move we did, and drove back to Boston stuffed to the gills, still slightly tipsy, but filled with memories of an incredible "day in the country."
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RESTAURANT REVIEW: "RAIN" at Mohegan Sun
Some people go to this beautiful resort in the woods of Connecticut for the gambling, I go for the fine dining! I've eaten at just about all of the restaurants there, with the exception of the exclusive (and expensive,) "Rain." So, we set off to rectify this, on our weekend at Mohegan Sun. Tucked away in a far corner of the grand dining area, this gem of a restaurant is gourmet dining at its finest, with cascading water and a soothing ambience, enhanced by a wall of verdigris beaded curtains. Once you walk through those beaded curtains, which keep out the noise of the casino, you're in a beautiful round room, with wine-colored banquettes and a wall of "rain" from ceiling to floor surrounding the room. It's a beautiful effect. From a menu of enticing choices I selected an appetizer of Shanghai Dumplings with Wild Mushrooms, Baby Bok Choy, and Mushroom Nage. We were given an amuse-bouche of Puff Pastry filled with Goat Cheese. My entree was Truffled Alaskan Salmon with Roasted Garlic Crust, Yukon Potato Puree, Leak Fondue, and Tomato-caper Vinaigrette. Our Cheese Tray consisted of a fine selection of Cow, Goat, and Sheep Milk Cheeses. No other dessert...too full! The service was impeccable. It took us a long time to eat all of this, but it was time well spent...with a good friend, fine food, and a magical setting.
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I was sitting at my table at the gym with a couple of my friends, having just had lunch, when up popped my friend Carmine, who whisked me off to the MFA, to see the new sculpture exhibit. Who says I can't be spontaneous? The exhibit consists of a wide variety of sculptures from the Museum's own collection...sculptures in every medium, including marble, bronze, silver, painted and glazed terra-cotta, and even cartapesta, a form of paper-mache. The period covered is the Italian Renaissance. Having spent a great deal of time in Florence, covering every inch of the Bargello, the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, and the Pitti Palace, whenever I see sculptures by Donatello, Giambologna, Della-Robbia, etc. there's always a sense of deja vu about the statues. Florence certainly has cornered the market on all of the greatest art work of the Italian Renaissance, including the major works of the sculptors shown in this exhibit, in addition to works by Michelangelo and DaVinci as well! Nevertheless, it's a charming exhibit, and it's a worthwhile visit especially if you've never been to Florence. Ooops, did I just sound like an "art snob?"
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"EDWARD HOPPER" at the Museum
of Fine Arts in Boston
THE NEW GREEK & ROMAN GALLERIES at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art in New York
"EL GRECO TO VELASQUEZ" (at the Museum of Fine Arts in
"SHERRILL MILNES MASTER CLASS at the NEW ENGLAND
"TITIAN, TINTORETTO, AND VERONESE: RIVALS IN RENAISSANCE
VENICE." (at The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.)
"The Shepard Fairey Exhibit" at the new INSTITUTE OF
THE NEW AMERICAN WING OF THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM, and
Designed by the British architect Norman Foster, this magnificent new addition to our Museum of Fine Arts, is absolutely overwhelming. Entering through a four-story-high glass courtyard housing a new restaurant by Ken Oringer (Clio's etc.) one lingers a while in this space, because it's truly spectacular...a work of art in itself. Then you enter the four levels housing the Art of the Americas. The art is arranged chronologically, so the bottom level is Pre-Colombian gold and Andean civilization as well as Native North American art. I was never one for clay pots with penises, so we moved through this level quickly. Level one houses the art of the 18th-century , including furniture design and construction. Beautiful. The next level is my favorite, housing the art of the 19th century. The MFA must have emptied its below-level vaults, because everyone is represented here, with several paintings for each artist. There are separate rooms for John Singer Sargent, John Singleton Copley, and the American Impressionists. The artists represented in this new wing run the gamut from Winslow Homer, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Eakins, to Norman Rockwell, Edward Hopper, and Jackson Pollock. Speaking of Gilbert Stuart, his famous portraits of George and Martha Washington are here, as well as Thomas Sully's huge "The Passage of the Delaware." Washington fanatics (one of my old friends is one) will be in heaven. Tourists will be coming from all over the world just to see this new wing. They won't be disappointed. I can't wait to go back.
I developed a love of blown glass when I first visited the island of Murano in Venice, where I purchased a made-to-order set of glass goblets...the same glasses that I've been giving to relatives and friends over the past 25 years as wedding gifts. Dale Chihuly's glass sculptures are some of the most beautiful and colorful examples of glass sculptures in the world today, and we're very lucky to have them here, in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, for the next four months. I hope that we get to keep the magnificent "Green Glass Icicle," which reaches up to the heights of the atrium in the new Art Of The Americas Wing , where Chihuly installed it for the exhibit. My other favorite pieces are "Mille Fiori," a room filled with what appears to be 1000 colorful flowers, and "Venetian and Ikebana Boat," a boat filled with colorful flowers of all shapes and sizes, floating on the water. Then there's the room filled with huge chandeliers, clearly inspired by those made in Murano. The "Persians" is a ceiling covered with glass flowers, similar to the much larger and more elaborate one covering the ceiling of the lobby at the Bellagio hotel in Vegas. I love that ceiling. Anyway, this exhibit is a must. It's even worth a trip to Boston. Check to see if it's coming to your city. If it isn't, come here!
RANDOM THOUGHTS: OPENING DAY AT FENWAY PARK: RED SOX VS YANKEES
Two perfectly matched teams (even though one had lost the first six games of the season.) Three brand new high definition scoreboards. New "gourmet" food concession stands, in a completely redone Concourse level. Beautiful weather, in spite of the cold (I had on a down coat.) "Yaz" throwing out the first pitch. Great offensive playing...Pedroia, Rodriguez, etc. Great seats, behind 1st base ( I was invited by very generous friends.) Best of all, the Red Sox won 9 to 6.
"ART IN BLOOM" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
Once a year, the Museum of Fine Arts invites the garden clubs of Massachusetts, along with professional designers, to create huge floral arrangements (see picture below) inspired by works of art in the Museum. Each garden club, or designer, selects a work of art and goes to work creating the beautiful arrangement. There are about 60 on display throughout the Museum, and the overall effect is breathtaking. The flower sculptures, because that's what they are, are displayed right next to the work of art that inspired it. The effect is unforgettable. My favorite flower piece was the one inspired by the Crossing the Delaware painting by Gilbert Stuart. It's too bad that these pieces can't remain intact forever; they're truly memorable.
A Fall Foliage Tour to New Hampshire...on an antique train.
Although it was never on my bucket list, We just returned from a fall foliage trip around some lakes and over a mountain in New Hampshire. The best part of the trip was that it was done in an antique train, and our car was the "presidential car," with sofas, overstuffed seats, and our leather seats from the original train. There was also a grand piano for background music, and a private steward who brought us drinks and snacks. An hour into the four-hour trip, we stopped at The Common Man restaurant in Plymouth, NH, for an incredible meal in a beautiful venue. In short, it was a perfect Fall field trip, and only two hours from Boston. If you want to see some pictures, shoot me an e-mail, and I'll send you Omar's photo album of the trip.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: "A DAY IN NEWPORT"
After driving down to Newport this morning, we checked out two vineyards, the Greenvale Vineyard and the Newport Vineyard (the one that we'll be returning to with a larger group in a few weeks, for a wine-tasting with food.) Then we headed over to the mansions on the ocean, for a light lunch. We had previously decided to eat at The Cliff Walk Terrace at The Chanler, the first mansion that one comes to at the beginning of the cliff walk, directly overlooking Newport Beach. It's right next to The Breakers and Salve Regina. Because we were a little early, I asked the maitress d' to show us around the foyer, the sitting room, and the dining rooms. They're all decorated in the style of Blantyre, and very reminiscent of the period when the rich New Yorkers and Bostonians would spend their summers in their "cottages" by the ocean in Newport, or in their mansions in the Berkshires. When the Terrace opened, we were ushered in and given our choice of tables. We took the best one in the place, on the rail, right above Newport Beach. It was a magnificent day and the view was stunning. I decided to go light, with a delicious bowl of Potato and Leek Soup, and a Caesar Salad. Both were excellent, and very filling. No dessert, although we did stop at the Vineyard on the way back, for an Italian Truffle Bar and a Mini Gingersnap!!! Damn, I have absolutely no will power. It's a miracle I'm not 300 pounds!!!!!
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MUSEUM EXHIBIT: "WINSLOW HOMER" (at The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown)
The greatest collection of works by Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910) assembled by one person since the artist’s death—and one of the leading collections of any art museum in the United States—is being featured this summer at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, MA. From his collection of over 250 of Homer's works, Sterling Clark has selected to show 60 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, etchings, and 120 rarely seen wood engravings. It's overwhelming. Take your time walking through the various galleries, and don't miss my favorite painting in the show, "The Undertow." While you're at this world-class gem in the Berkshires, have lunch at The Clark, the museum's "formal" dining room. Great food. Also, don't miss the Renoir sculpture in the Café! Renoir, in the CAFE!!!!!
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We haven't had a blockbuster exhibit of this size in a while now, due to the fear of having great works of art travel in this "Age of Terrorism." Insurance companies won't insure the works. Therefore, it was an extra bit of excitement to see this exhibit, the largest collection of the works of Francisco Goya in North America, in a quarter of a century. They were gathered from museums and private collections from all over the world. All in all there are 140 pieces of his art in the exhibit, from etchings and drawings, to huge oil paintings. The most famous of these large oil paintings is his "Duchess of Alba," and it's also my favorite. Enjoy it while it's here. Who knows when we'll see another exhibit of this quality and size again?
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No, these are not the drawings done by kindergarten children, that proud parents tape onto their refrigerators. These are a couple of dozen drawings done by one of the greatest minds in history...Leonardo daVinci. They were sent to the MFA from collections all over Italy, and they're being displayed alongside 7 drawings by Michelangelo, and other contemporaries of these two rival geniuses. The drawings are impressive, often very detailed, and quite moving, when you realize as you stare at one of these sketches, "My God, this was drawn by Leonardo daVinci!" One drawing in particular has been called by critics, "the greatest drawing in the world." It's a preliminary sketch for the angel, in daVinci's "Virgin of the Rocks." I disagree about it being the greatest drawing in the world. In fact, in my humble opinion, it's not even the greatest drawing in this gallery. I found a drawing of another angel to be much more beautiful. In any case, it's impossible to describe these drawings by daVinci, Michelangelo, and some of their contemporaries. They have to be seen in the context of all of the other drawings. The effect is overwhelming.
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Being such a lover of Italian Renaissance art, I sometimes forget how much I love the work of the 17th Century Dutch artists like Vermeer and Rembrandt. This blockbuster exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston brings together more than 75 great works from all over the world ranging from small museums and private collections in America, to the British Royal Collection. Some have never been seen in the U.S. It's arranged according to class, hence the titled of the exhibit "Class Distinctions." There are paintings of nobles and the very rich, paintings of the nouveau riche, who try to emulate those "above them," and paintings of the working class and indigent. These paintings are works by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, Von Hals, Steen, etc. Sometimes the only way to tell the difference between the classes is through dress and how they're posed. My favorites were Vermeer's "A Lady Writing," and Rembrandt's "The Shipbuilder and His Wife." Unfortunately my favorite Rembrandt is his only seascape, the one that was stolen, and never recovered in the infamous heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum! Between the magnificent "Van Gogh" exhibit at the Clark in Williamstown this Summer, and this current exhibit, I think I've got my fill of Dutch painting for the year! If you're in Boston, this one is a must.
(5-Stars) October 10, 2015 Back to Top
I was camped out in front of my Whole Foods store, so that I could be the first one in on Black Friday. Two women my age eyed me suspiciously, but I could take them if I had to. I crouched low and tensed my shoulders and arms, as the doors were about to open. In a flash, the doors opened, I raced in, one of the old ladies was down, the other had been shoved into the pile of wrapped Christmas trees. I had the aisle to Bakery wide open. Where did that damn kid come from? It doesn't look like he wants what I want. If he does, he's finished. There they are. Right out of the oven. The hot ginger snap cookies. I grabbed four. The hell with a bag. Then it was over to the juice bar to get some freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice. One of the old ladies from outside was in front of me, but she was going for the orange juice. I poured my juice and raced for the checkout line...Express Line, less than 10 items only. The woman in front of me was starting to count out her obviously more than 10 items. I shoved her aside. "Express Line lady, can't you read?" I paid for my cookies and juice, and made it out the front door, armed with my purchases, feeling like I had conquered an army. I had. I made it through Black Friday with my purchases intact. Back home to enjoy my purchases, feeling smug, as I stared at the crowds racing into the store. What fools!!!! ~Nick
November 27, 2015 Back to Top
It amazes me that there are still large collections of Art in the hands of private families nowadays, and it amazes me even further when these collections are donated to museums in our cities. Two of these private collections were just donated to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, by the Van Otterloo and Weatherbee families...local collectors. Together, they consist of over 100 17th-Century Dutch and Flemish paintings...portraits, landscapes, seascapes, still-lifes and genre paintings. They've almost doubled the MFA's collection of Dutch and Flemish Art. The most famous piece of Art in the collections is Rembrandt's "Portrait of Altje Uylenburgh"...typical chiaroscuro (1632.) The MFA now has 6 Rembrandt's. My favorite painting in the collections was not the Rembrandt, but rather, a Rubens, entitled "Coronation of the Virgin." The paintings will be open to the public until mid-January. To return to what I said at the beginning, I'm amazed that this quantity and quality of great Art can still be in the hands of private families. Imagine having a Rembrandt hanging in your kitchen?
(5-Stars) October , 2017 Back to Top
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