NYPress.com - New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more » Arts Our Town Downtown http://nypress.com New York's essential guide to culture, arts, politics, news and more Mon, 22 Sep 2014 20:51:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Washington Square Favorite Shines at Vendy Awards http://nypress.com/washington-square-favorite-shines-at-vendy-awards/ http://nypress.com/washington-square-favorite-shines-at-vendy-awards/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 17:01:01 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73403 Thiru Kumar, with his cart at the Vendy competition

Thiru Kumar, with his cart at the Vendy competition

Vegetarian food cart NY Dosas drew rave reviews and long lines at this weekend’s food truck festival and awards

Nestled into a far corner of Governor’s Island on a gray Saturday were close to thirty of the city’s finest food vendors, neatly corralled into a triangle of tasty trucks.This year the Vendy Awards celebrated their tenth birthday, with faces old and new.

Categories for this year’s competition included “Rookie of the Year,” “Best Dessert” and one exclusive to the decade-anniversary celebration, “Masters Cup.” Vendors competing for the title of “Masters Cup” were all winners in past years, including King of Falafel, Calexico and NY Dosas.

Winner of the Vendy Award in 2007, Thiru Kumar is the man behind NY Dosas. Known for a big mustache and smile to match, Kumar delivers fast and healthy food to New Yorkers in the Washington Square Park area on a day-to-day basis. Kumar has been in business since 2001, and has gained a sunny reputation around town for his friendliness and his specialty, Indian-style vegetarian crepes called dosas.

Before the general admission ticket holders entered the festival, vendors were serving the press, volunteers and VIP. Even though the grounds were barely half full, NY Dosas was already sporting a strong line that hardly diminished throughout the day.

Sisters Keri and Jodie Goldman said they had both sampled dosas before, but never the ones made by Kumar. “Simply delicious,” said Keri. Jodie chimed in to compliment the side of soup that partners with the crepe. “The best part is that it is all vegetarian.”

Other festivalgoers were also new to NY Dosas.Suzanne Risman said that she enjoyed Kumar’s version of a dosa. The others she tried were extremely greasy, whereas Kumar’s were crisp and fresh tasting. She also said that the crepe was more flavorful, and much spicier than expected. “I stayed away from those hot sauces,” Risman said with a laugh.

Each potato filled dosa was served with creamy mint sauce, an extra spicy hot sauce for the adventurous, as well as vegetable soup and scoop of hummus. The flavors introduced with each separate side blended perfectly to complement the main dish, even if it did leave your mouth begging for a cool glass of water to diminish the spice.

While waiting in line for the famed crepe, inexperienced eaters received a crash course in the meal from Kumar’s right-hand man Stanley Lee. (Kumar himself was fully engrossed in churning out food for the eager line of patrons and couldn’t stop to chat with reporters.)

Lee stood tirelessly beside the truck chatting with anyone and everyone, all while sporting a wide grin that was almost as big as Kumar’s.

Lee said that he joined forces with NY Dosas completely on a whim when Kumar’s line was particularly long. Lee was attending NYU grad school at the time and often frequented the vegetarian cart. He offered to help with the cooking one day and Kumar gladly accepted considering the overwhelming number of customers; the rest is history.

“The first really surprising thing about my experience with NY Dosas is that it was all fresh,” Lee said. Lee grew up with two parents in the food-truck market and was always taught the importance of never using artificial substances in cooking. With the lessons he learned from them and their history with the food industry, Lee said he knew right away that Kumar was “legit.”

“When you taste his food it has a super clean finish in your mouth,” Lee explained, and compared to other cheap and fast foods around town, that usually isn’t the case.

Not only does NY Dosas produce fast and fresh meals, this truck is known world-wide for its exceptional service. “Kumar has such an interesting and international client base,” said Lee. “I’ve talked to people from Tokyo, London, France, Germany, Australia and they say that they’ve read about Kumar in their New York guidebooks and they’re like ‘we had to come here!’”.

Despite losing the Master’s Cup title to fellow vendor Calexico, NY Dosas still had a successful day dishing out their veggie-friendly food. Lee said that even before the fest drew to a close, the truck was running out of essential supplies such as potatoes, due to the extreme demand for dosas. Even then Lee and Kumar never stopped smiling and chatting with customers.

“When you’re buying food from Kumar, it feels like you’re eating with him,” said Lee. “He is always talking, always joking. It is an amazing atmosphere to be around and I just try to add to that. At the end of the day, meals are not just about food. The food is a way to get the humanity across.”

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Twelfth Night http://nypress.com/twelfth-night-2/ http://nypress.com/twelfth-night-2/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:40:36 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73379 The artist in her extended photography photos that capture her movements during a full night of sleeping. Photos by Florence Montmare

The artist in her extended photography photos that capture her movements during a full night of sleeping. Photos by Florence Montmare

Photographer seeks one last night with long-lost love

One of photographer Florence Montmare’s most important relationships ended in 2002, when she broke up with a man she shared an apartment with, a man she thought she’d be with forever.

Now, more than a decade later, she’s inviting him to share a bed with her, one last time.

For Illuminations, her mixed-media exhibition at Ivy Brown Gallery in the Meatpacking District, which centers on photographs taken of the couple sleeping in bed as their relationship slowly deteriorated, Montmare handwrote a letter to her former partner, asking that he join her in bed for a final portrait. On Oct. 12, she will wait for him in a double bed from noon until midnight.

“I feel like we should meet each other, one more time,” she said. “It’s intuitive.”

Twelve years ago, Montmare and her boyfriend, a fellow photographer, traveled around France and Sweden, eventually renting a large apartment in Stockholm, where they realized separation was inevitable.

During the last months of the relationship, Montmare, plagued with severe insomnia, set up a large-format camera at the foot of their bed and shot extended exposure photographs each night, leaving the shutter open for up to eight hours at a time.

“It was hard for me to stay in bed, so for me to be able to do that, I had to work,” Montmare said. “It was almost like putting a straightjacket on myself.”

The ghostly images make up the crux of her show, which she’s been working on since first sharing the photographs with gallery owner Ivy Brown more than two years ago.

“It’s a very unique person that’s going to want to do something like this,” said Brown. “A lot of people just want to show their work and that’s it. And they’re not interested in creating these other levels and other dimensions to it. It’s very, very unique. It’s not something that I come across very often.”

The Vienna-born artist grew up in Stockholm and has lived in New York for around 18 years, residing nearly all that time on the Upper West Side. She’s petite, with a thin, elegant frame, auburn hair and blunt, short bangs. About seven years ago, she married another man, a clown with Cirque de Soleil, with whom she spends much of the summer on a houseboat in the Rockaways, along with their Italian greyhound, Pony.

Illuminations captures Montmare in bed, struggling to sleep while covered in white and floral sheets that, due to the lengthy exposure, offer an ethereal veil. In some photographs a faint outline of the husky, bald-headed figure of her boyfriend appears like a whisper. In other images, he’s central, no more so than in the first shot of the series, which finds him sitting at the edge of the bed, naked from the waist up and staring out the bedroom window.

Unlike the delicate wisps of the bodies in the bed, the inanimate objects in the photographs are fully realized. A package of earplugs, an eye mask, black diaries, rolls of toilet paper, and a bag of Swedish candy lay on nightstands and on the floors, all evidence of the artist’s nocturnal restlessness.

“Our bodies are the only things that aren’t trenchant,” Montmare said. “They’re more fleeting.”

Brown said that exploring past trauma is something we’re often discouraged to do, and it’s partially what excites her about the show.

“You just want to leave it behind and walk away and move forward,” Brown said. “Everybody tells you to move forward and not look back.”

As she installs the work in the gallery, where a double bed sits kitty-cornered in a dark wood bedframe and covered with a patchwork quilt, acting as a temporary play space for Pony and Brown’s dogs, Buster and Keaton, Montmare feels nervous about the potential reunion and the possibility of a no-show. Her insomnia has returned, the result of reading her diaries from the summer of 2002 and listening to recordings of the relationship’s final conversations. She’s adding some of the objects from the photographs to the exhibit, and the diaries will provide text, creating a multi-sensory experience of the relationship and its demise.

“It’s artifacts of a relationship,” she said. “These objects are witnesses to our existence.

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The Psychoanalyst Behind a Novel http://nypress.com/the-psychoanalyst-behind-a-novel/ http://nypress.com/the-psychoanalyst-behind-a-novel/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 14:16:25 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73367 My 15 Minutes_Lisa Gorn_fmt

©Sigrid Estrada

Author with a background rooted in psychology tells stories that captivate diverse audiences

Lisa Gornick has taken her degree in psychology and combined it with her love for writing. What results is a thoughtful second novel, “Tinderbox,” in which she explores themes of family, culture, and violence, skillfully intertwining them with Jewish history.

Due to its in-depth analysis of certain groups, the book, which has been out for a year and just released in paperback, is a favorite among a wide range of readers.

Since its release last September, Jewish groups, mothers, and men have all reached out to Gornick, praising her work as relatable and relevant. “People” magazine even hailed it “perfect for book clubs.”

Why did you choose “Tinderbox” as the name for the book?

The title really refers to the way that fire exists on many levels in the novel. First, there is the reality of fire. One of the characters has been very impacted by having been out west and witnessed the wilderness fires there. Second, the concept of fire is used as a metaphor in the book. There are ways in which the management of fire has been very misconceived for years. The whole Smokey Bear policy of trying to put out every fire, essentially what that led to was an increase in underbrush that made many areas more vulnerable to out-of-control fires. That idea becomes like a tragedy of good intentions. Winding back to the book, this is what happens, it is a novel about someone who is trying to do the right thing, and in so doing, sets up a dangerous and incendiary kind of situation, a tinderbox.

My 15 Minutes_book cove_fmt

©Sigrid Estrada

There’s a lot of Jewish history in the book. Are you Jewish?

I am Jewish, but I was raised very much in a secular family. My discovery of the Jews of the Amazon happened quite a way into my working on the book. I had set the nanny, who comes to work for the family that’s at the center of this book, from Iquitos, Peru, based on my fascination with [Werner] Herzog’s movie, “Fitzcarraldo,” which is set in Iquitos. But I didn’t know about the Jewish community there, and once I discovered that, I became very curious. One of the things that was remarkable, was that I had the mother already from a Moroccan-Jewish community, Essaouira, which is a beautiful, windswept city on the coast of Morocco. I had been there and was aware of the very interesting Jewish community there. In the 19th century, that city was nearly half Jews, and now there’s only a handful there. And it turns that many of the Jews of Iquitos originate from Morocco, so there was this aha moment when I realized that my characters, independently conceived, actually were part of the same diaspora and could have even be related.

When did you start to pursue writing as another career?

Like many writers, I had been writing since I was very young. I wrote poems, which morphed into stories. And at some point, I decided to try my hand at a novel. I was extremely lucky that my first novel, “A Private Sorcery,” was published by Algonquin in 2002. I then began working on “Tinderbox,” and simultaneously was working on stories. That collection of linked stories, called “Louisa Meets Bear,” will be out next June.

You’ve lived in Morningside Heights for 22 years and all three of your works are set on the Upper West Side.

I absolutely love this neighborhood. It’s been described as the “Parthenon of New York,” with all its open spaces and educational institutions. There’s also Riverside Church and the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, so there’s this grandeur and sense of history about this neighborhood. The first novel is set on Riverside Drive, and ends with the character looking at a map of this neighborhood from the 19th century. I actually saw this map at Argosy Book Store. And at that time, this area was marked by the New York Lunatic Asylum and the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum. “Tinderbox” is set on West 95th Street, and “Louisa Meets Bear” spans 50 years and ends on Morningside Drive.

How have you seen the neighborhood change?

I’m afraid that it’s the contradictions of gentrification. It feels like a college town up here now. There are lovely places to eat, and you can sit outside, all between 110 and 116th. And now Amsterdam Avenue is having a whole renaissance and Harlem is starting to combine with Morningside Heights. And the neighborhood has become safer. Thank God we still have our wonderful bookstores. Labyrinth became Papyrus, which became Book Culture, but is still here. Bank Street Bookstore is moving locations, but will remain here.

The book was released last September. In the year since, what feedback have you gotten?

The book seems to really resonate with women who have raised their children, because there is a character who is the mother of adult children. So I get a lot of very interested readers there. Male readers are interested in this book because it has a lot to do with male sexuality and male psychology. Others who are quite passionate are those who are interested in Jewish history. I’ve talked at many synagogues and met with the Hadassah group in Charlottesville and gave an illustrated lecture, which I had also given at The New York Public Library. It was on my discovery of the historical links between the Jews in Morocco and the Jews of the Amazon. So I would say that those three sets of readers have been part of my fan base.

What I liked about the book was how you created siblings who were so different.

Thank you very much. I was really interested in the dynamic between this brother and sister. They have a very loving relationship, and are very close. But, as I say in the book, it’s almost as though Adam, who is the younger sibling, has picked his character traits from those that his sister, Caro, hasn’t taken. One of the dynamics of the book is that she actually introduces him to his wife, and I think that’s interesting, how people outside are part of the history of the couple. In a way they’re a triad, Caro, Adam, and Rashida.

You have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Explain your background and how that affects the outcome of your books.

My evolution as a psychologist and a writer really went hand in hand. I wrote from a very young age and was interested the concept of psychotherapy from a young age. I marched along doing the two of them in tandem for a long time. My first book is about a young psychiatrist who gets into a lot of trouble, and it has to do with medication. In my second novel, the family matriarch, Myra, goes back to school to become a psycholgist.

Visit Lisa’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lisa.gornick.5

Lisa Gornick set her second novel, Tinderbox, on the Upper West Side. Photo by Sigrid Estrada

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Downtown FALL PREVIEW http://nypress.com/downtown-fall-preview/ http://nypress.com/downtown-fall-preview/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 15:15:25 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73353


Our top picks for arts and cultural events in your neighborhood

From film to food to family affairs, Our Town Downtown’s fall preview delivers a sampling of upcoming arts and cultural events the neighborhood has to offer this season.


Buster Keaton’s The General

Part of Anthology Film Archives’ Essential Cinema Repertory collection, a selection of 330 films pulled together between 1970-1975, Buster Keaton’s 1927 silent classic The General screens at the theater. One of Keaton’s best-loved films, the comedy is based on true events of a Civil War train robbery.

September 14

Anthology Film Archives

32 Second Ave.

8 p.m.

Tickets $8

David Bowie Is

The traveling art exhibition David Bowie Is lands at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art on September 23, and though Chicago is the only stateside host on this exhibition’s international tour, New Yorkers can still behold the more than 300 objects from the exhibition, including the glam rocker’s most famous stage costumes. The Paris Theatre will screen, for one night only, a documentary about the wildly successful exhibition. The film was shot by Hamish Hamilton (the director of the Academy Awards) on the last night of the show’s 2013 run at Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the institution that produced the exhibit.

September 23

Angelika Film Center

18 West Houston St., at Mercer Street

7 p.m.

Tickets $20

TCat on hot tin roof_te_fmtennessee Williams Film Festival

Film Forum opens an 11-day tribute to legendary American playwright Tennessee Williams with director Elia Kazan’s 1951 adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh in seminal rolls. Also included in the series are The Glass Menagerie

street car_tennessee w_fmt(1950), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), and Baby Doll, a film so controversial at the time of its 1956 release that the Catholic Legion of Decency banned the picture for its sexual content.

September 26 through October 6

Film Forum

209 West Houston St.

Assorted show times

Tickets $13


DIRT CANDY CarrotMering_fmtDirt Candy Opens New Location

In 2008, chef Amanda Cohen opened vegetarian restaurant Dirt Candy in a cozy space on Avenue A, serving imaginative vegetarian cuisine and turning her little Alphabet City eatery into a hotspot for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Now she’s expanding her enterprise, with a larger location (about 60 seats) on Allen Street, an expanded menu, full bar and plenty of vegetables.

Dirt Candy

Expected opening in November 2014

86 Allen Street


Times Square, 1984: The Postmodern Moment

Many New Yorkers may think of Times Square as a crowded tourist destination packed with large retail shops and out-of-towners, and a new exhibit at the Skyscraper Museum examines how present-day 42nd Street came to be during the 1990s, thanks to a period of urban renewal a decade earlier. The exhibition includes 20 drawings of architectural proposals for Times Square, submitted to the Municipal Arts Society during a 1984 call for alternative ideas to a four-skyscraper building proposal and a city-proposed demolition of the 1904 Times Tower.

Through January 18, 2015

The Skyscraper Museum

39 Battery Place

Museum hours: Wednesday through Sunday, noon-6 p.m.

Admission $5


evanduffy-feature_fmtPianofest at SubCulture

New NoHo music venue and art space SubCulture culminates its inaugural year with a genre-crossing celebration of the piano. Spanning 17 days and featuring more than a dozen artists, Pianofest embraces the versatility of the instrument, with performances by a range of musicians, including Edwin McCain, Mary Lambert and the Ted Rosenthal Trio.

September 10 through September 27


45 Bleecker St.

Assorted times and ticket prices

CMJ Music Marathon

The annual music festival, now in its 34th year, once again descends on lower Manhattan, with over 1,000 live performances in more than 80 of the city’s music venues—in only five days. With such a mass of music to choose from, experiencing CMJ as a festival can be a bit daunting, but embracing
a few of this years headliners, such as rock duo the Kills at Bowery Ballroom on October 23, is a safe and digestible bet.

October 21-October 25

Assorted venues, show times and ticket prices

For more information, visit http://www.cmj.com/marathon/


Kathryn Hamilton, artistic director for Sister Sylvester, picks a few must-see theater events for us this fall. Sister Sylvester are currently performing “Dead Behind These Eyes” at Sing Sing Karaoke, and will be presenting “The Maids’ The Maids,” a new piece that invites professional housekeepers into the rehearsal room to re-interpret Jean Genet’s “The Maids,” at Abrons Art Center in October 2014.

Ivo Van Hove’s “Scenes from a Marriage”

Through October 26

New York Theatre Workshop

79 East 4th St.

Assorted show times

Tickets $55-$75

hero-image_1415_SWM3_m_fmtYoung Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men”

November 7-December 7

Public Theater

Martinson Hall

Assorted show times

Tickets $35-$45

“Both of these are artists that I’ve been able to follow over the course of the last few years, and I love being able to watch an artist’s work progress and change – new pieces become part of an ongoing conversation, rather than just a performance seen in isolation,” Hamilton said. “The last Ivo Van Hove piece I saw was ‘View from the Bridge’ at the Young Vic in London, and it was astonishing, totally mesmerizing. This next piece is based on a Bergman film that I love, so I’m interested to see what he does with it.”

“I missed Young Jean Lee’s last piece, Untitled Feminist Show, but I’ve seen most of her previous work, and I find it inspiring and challenging. I’ve been hearing a lot about this next show and am excited to see it.”


0288_2265_tcd1_mr_fmtPrune Nourry’s Terracotta Daughters

French artist Prune Nourry explores gender preference in China with Terracotta Daughters, 108 life-size sculptures of young girls, modeled after eight Chinese orphan girls, in reference to the Terracotta Warrior sculptures discovered in Xi’an. This installation is the Terracotta Daughters’ U.S. premiere.

September 11-October 4

China Institute

104 Washington St.

Viewing hours: Tuesday, Thursday-Saturday noon – 6 p.m. and Wednesday noon – 8 p.m.


Florence Montmare’s Illuminations

Swedish photographer Florence Montmare makes her New York City gallery debut with Illuminations, a photography exhibit comprised of images she captured in 2002 of her and her then-lover, during the last days of their relationship. At the end of the show’s one-month run, Montmare will wait for her former partner in the gallery, hoping to capture one last moment together.

September 18-October 18

Ivy Brown Gallery

675 Hudson St., 4th floor

Opening reception: September 18, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.


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The Sixth Borough: Losing Pixy http://nypress.com/the-sixth-borough-losing-pixy/ http://nypress.com/the-sixth-borough-losing-pixy/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 14:10:17 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73324 Becca Tucker - The Six_fmtWhen I got home from work and her mop-topped silhouette wasn’t quivering in the screen door, I knew Pixy was gone. If there’s anything worse than losing your dog, it has to be losing someone else’s.

We had begged for my uncle’s cockapoo to come stay on the farm. My uncle’s girlfriend said sure, Pixy was getting pudgy in their Times Square penthouse and a farm visit would do her good.

And now, because I hadn’t shut the door properly, a 14-pound citified lapdog was out there, alone.

I stood in the door and channeled Pixy. A love-monger, she’d head straight for the closest people. Across Union Corners Road is the town park, where children play soccer while parents cheer and coaches have aneurisms. On Union Corners Road are buses, trucks, pickups, SUVs. I biked over to the park, scanning the roadsides, and started asking: soccer moms, disc golfers, kids. I got no shortage of sympathy, but no sightings.

I thought I heard a high-pitched yelp. I stuck four fingers in my mouth and blew, sounding like a randy old lady who’s been smoking for 75 years. A few more tries and I finally got the piercing sound that travels. Every dog within half a mile replied, but I didn’t hear that yelp again.

Pixy is more of a people dog than a dog dog, but first and foremost she likes to be where the action is. There’s usually some activity, both canine and human, at the new dog park. Maybe someone had let her into the dog run and she was yelping to let me know she couldn’t get out. When I got within sight of the run, I stood in my bike saddle and started pumping. It was a small white dog convention, four potential Pixies sniffing rear-ends. But that dog had a tail, that dog had pointy ears, that dog was ugly… no Pixy.

The sun was setting, taking hope down with it. My legs were jelly but I had to keep moving. Fatigue blunted my mind, which otherwise dwelt on the image of a shivering Pixy baring her tiny teeth in a futile defense against circling coy-dogs. Thinking meant processing the knowledge that it was I who had let this happen, and it was I who was going to have to pick up the phone and tell my uncle’s family that their little polar bear was not coming home. That thought had the effect of a cattle prod. I would do anything not to have to make that call.

I traded my bike for the car and drove through the town park with my brights on. A small white animal scurried across the road. Pixy!? An opossum. The nocturnal creatures were out. How would Pixy fare against an opossum?

Even though I wanted badly not to think, I had to. It was imperative that I use these hours wisely. If she was out there, there was almost no chance of my finding her this way. Plan B: canvass the neighbors. Headlamp on head, I trudged from door to door, freaking people out as they were cooking dinner or watching football. One couple was hesitant to open the door. They said they’d had an attempted break-in recently. That got me wondering about dognappers. Pixy is an expensive dog.

Eventually I had to call it a night. I dragged my sleeping bag out to the hammock. It was September, the days still summery, the nights bringing the chill that turns the leaves. I slept in snatches, dreaming Pixy and I were walking together somewhere sunny, maybe Greece. I woke around 5 a.m. to – was it a dream? – Pixy screaming. I wandered through brambles calling until my pants were wet to the thigh.

When the sun came up, it lit up thousands of cobwebs festooning the meadow’s tall grasses. A neon-splotched spider embraced her breakfast. Why is it that life’s most chaotic nights are also its most beautiful? Is it just that you’re up at an unusual hour?

Inside, husband Joe and I ate breakfast in silence. She’d only been at the house two days, but if we didn’t find her we were going to have to move. The place was haunted by the lack of her. Yesterday, I’d been annoyed by the pawmarks Pixy left on the couch after a swim in the pond. Today, what wouldn’t I give to see fresh ones?

At eight a.m. I started calling the Humane Society, even though it doesn’t open til noon. At 11 a.m. they picked up.

Yes, they had a white cockapoo. She’d been running in the middle of Union Corners Road (so much for her city smarts), so someone brought her in. What, the lady asked, was her name?

I’d done a middling job of holding it together over the last 18 hours, and now I lost it completely. It was all I could do to spit out one letter at a time between sobs: “P-I-X-Y.”

Two hours and a pile of paperwork later, Pixy trotted out of the kennel, bum waggling. I buried my nose in her neck and called her unpublishable names. She smelled of warm hay.

Becca Tucker is a former Manhattanite who now lives on a farm upstate and writes about the rural life.

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Shut Up and Talk http://nypress.com/shut-up-and-talk/ http://nypress.com/shut-up-and-talk/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:31:54 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73310 Health_cell phones_fmtNew study shows putting cell phones out of sight can enhance in-person conversations

Can the mere presence of a mobile device during a face-to-face conversation affect the quality of social interaction? Absolutely, according to a study led by Shalini Misra, assistant professor in the Urban Affairs and Planning program in Virginia Tech’s National Capital Region.

“The iPhone Effect: The Quality of In-Person Social Interactions in the Presence of Mobile Devices,” published in the current issue of the journal Environment and Behavior, examines the relationship between the presence of mobile devices and the quality of real-life in-person social interactions in third places through a naturalistic field experiment.

For the research, 100 two-person conversations were randomly assigned to discuss either a casual or meaningful topic together. A trained research assistant observed the participants unobtrusively from a distance during the course of a 10-minute conversation, noting whether either participant placed a mobile device on the table or held it in his or her hand.

Research found that even when not in active use or buzzing, beeping, ringing, or flashing, a mobile device represents a wider social network and a portal to an immense compendium of information. In the presence of mobile devices, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds.

Using hierarchical linear modeling, the study showed that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device, above and beyond the effects of age, gender, ethnicity, and mood. People who had conversations in the absence of mobile devices reported higher levels of empathetic concern.

Participants who had a close relationship with one another reported lower levels of empathy while conversing in the presence of a mobile device compared with those who were less friendly with each other.

“Both non-verbal and verbal elements of in-person communication are important for a focused and fulfilling conversation,” said Misra. “In the presence of a mobile device, there is less eye contact. A person is potentially more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice when his or her thoughts are directed to other concerns.”

Misra’s research team for the project included Lulu Cheng, Jamie Genevie, and Miao Yuan.

Source: Virginia Tech: vtnews.vt.edu

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A Place for Literary Pirates http://nypress.com/a-place-for-literary-pirates/ http://nypress.com/a-place-for-literary-pirates/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 14:47:39 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73236 Visit the Floating Library Lilac Museum Steamship | Hudson River Park’s Pier 25, New York City 				September 6, 2014-October 3, 2014 				Open Wed-Sun; Hours vary, see schedule online at www.floatinglibrary.org

Visit the Floating Library

Lilac Museum Steamship | Hudson River Park’s Pier 25, New York City

September 6, 2014-October 3, 2014

Open Wed-Sun; Hours vary, see schedule online at www.floatinglibrary.org

Artist Beatrice Glow has created a free library on a boat in the Hudson River

New York artist Beatrice Glow is building shelves and stacking books on a historic boat along the Hudson River for her latest art installation: a floating library.

While many of the 150 people that can fit on the boat may show up in order to page through old volumes or feel the breeze off the water, they may also be in for a surprise. Although Glow wants boaters and bibliophiles to come, her ultimate goal is more subversive: to create a community of intellectual pirates.

The problem for the millennial generation, she thinks, is that all her contemporaries have ever known is the constant drumbeat of wars and rising global temperatures. As a result they have become inured, hopeless and apathetic, to the point that they stare down at their screens and are quicker to answer a text than engage with someone in front of them, Glow said.

So instead of asking for money for passage onto her ship, “the fee that I’m charging to get on board is turn off your phones.”

“We had a joke that I should wear a sequin parrot on my shoulder,” said Glow, who will be counting and greeting people as they board. “It’s based on pirate utopias and mini-societies that have evaded living on the grid.”

The floating library is being staged on an 81-year-old boat called the Lilac that used to take supplies out to lighthouses. The Lilac is one of only three of its kind still around and it has seen many lives, including a retrofit for World War II, before finally being decommissioned and turned into a floating museum under refurbishment. Glow drew inspiration from the repurposed spaces of South American artists, where she spent several years after graduating from NYU.

“[The museum] is fixing the mechanical issue of an 81 year-old ship,” said Glow. “And the floating library is proposing to deal with a parallel of fixing socio-cultural issues.”

It’s an ephemeral project opening on Sept. 6, which after a month at Pier 25 just north of Stuyvesant High School, will be broken back down on Oct. 4 and the books donated. But Glow sees this as an advantage. Unlike the institutions on land that have to persist for long periods, the short life of the floating library will give people permission to engage in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

So she has collaborated with a number of artists over months of coffee meetings to create workshops inside the boat’s cabins.

“We’re one of the performers of her performance piece,” said Alexander Campos, executive director of the Center for Book Arts who will lead workshops and forums on the boat. “We’re an item or component in her piece, a prop if you will.”

The main attraction is the silent library on the top deck, where readers will be asked to stay quiet as the open sky and the open book compete with the sounds of the Hudson for their attention. Passengers will then be able to indulge the spirit of DIY-“maker” culture through bookbinding and modular furniture workshops.

Indeed, most of the project will be constructed on the boat and then taught to participants in workshops: the furniture and shelves on the library deck will be made from just 30 donated wood pallets, each of which can be assembled and reassembled, shifting in form as needed. Glow grew up along California’s fault lines so she has a deep appreciation for structures built on a fluid foundation.

Participants can dangle their feet on a swing that was made from the pages of a chapter in Moby Dick by the artist Amanda Thackray. By literally turning the pages of Moby Dick into rope, people will be able to see that the physical parts of boats such as ropes have always been imbued with the magic of literature.

Then participants can immerse themselves in a cabin full of pulsing electronic music from six artists who created music inspired by works of literature.

Or they can attend the workshop of Glow’s mentor, the Bronx artist Nicolás Dumit Estévez, and apply dark eye shadow and make sandwiches from French cherry jelly, natural peanut butter and “dense, healthy” bread from Zabar’s.

“The full title is ‘Talking life and art while applying eye shadow and spreading PB+J on bread,’ so it’s a long title,” said Estevez, of his performance piece scheduled for Sept. 27. He wants to explore people’s associations with these objects, such as when of his aunt hit him for rummaging through her expensive vanity, and in part because he wants to try looking like a raccoon and give others permission to do the same.

Instead of a library full of academics with their heads down, Glow hopes to produce daydreamers whose eyes drift up. The floating library is what a library would look like if it was built by and for artists rather than by and for academics: under the open sky and over the undulating waves, books are not problems to be solved but inspirations to be dreamed up.

“This is an in-between space between art and life, water and land,” said Glow’s mentor Estevez. “You can sort of dream things, imagine things and also bring them to fruition.”

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Making a New Pet Feel at Home http://nypress.com/making-a-new-pet-feel-at-home/ http://nypress.com/making-a-new-pet-feel-at-home/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 14:41:12 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73233 Pets cutout_fmtBideawee offers tips for acclimating a dog or cat to a new environment and family

After the initial excitement of adopting a pet dog or cat, most owners will very quickly realize the benefit of starting their companion on the right “paw.” Regardless of whether you adopt a dog, puppy, cat or kitten, immediate training and enrichment is most effective if done from day one, because the saying “good and bad habits are hard to break” is without a doubt true.

At Bideawee, the organization prides itself on trying to help the adopter think about these things before adopting, which is why we have an entire matchmaking team and a matchmaking application to help match people with pets. It comes as no surprise that a good matchmaking program is essential for a successful adoption, but it’s also no surprise that it is impossible to go over every situation one might face down the road. This is why finding an experienced and knowledgeable dog trainer can be such a critical tool in ensuring a successful adoption.

If your dog is a puppy (under 5 months) then a positive group puppy class is a great way to go. If your dog is over 5 months, then a group obedience training class is recommended so the owner can teach and work with their dog in difficult circumstances. Not only can you teach your puppy or adult dog commands such as “sit,” “down,” “come,” “leave it,” “heel,” etc., but the bonding between you and your dog is greatly strengthened. If you think that your dog needs one-on-one attention due to specific behavioral problems, there are many trainers who will be able to help you, whether in the home or at a training facility.

When thinking about cat training, you want to focus on options and enrichment. When I say “options,” I mean making sure that your cat or kitten has a safe option for finding and going into the litter box, as well as giving them the ability to “safely” (from their perspective) access food and water. Enrichment deals with giving the cat or kitten many things to play with such as kitty teasers, scratching posts, catnip toys, balls, fake mice, etc. Although most of my work at Bideawee consists of training and helping the owners with their newly adopted dogs, about 25 percent of the phone calls I get are about a cat not using the litter box properly, scratching the furniture, playing too roughly with the kids, etc.

In order to avoid these things, think about the aspect of litter box placement and cleanliness, as well as providing plenty of toys and scratching alternatives for your cat immediately after adoption. There are many owners who can teach their cat commands such as “sit” and “down,” but the priorities are to make sure your cat is able to live cleanly and peacefully with you and your family from day one. This will certainly minimize chances of the aforementioned behavior problems in cats.

Above all, training should be fun and effective. So have fun with your dogs and cats, and do your best to prepare them to live safely and comfortably in their environments. Always think about the fact that a well-trained dog or cat usually has much more access to things in our world (people, different environments), which result in more fun for everyone involved! For more information about Bideawee’s Behavior and Training department, visit www.bideawee.org/Programs-Training.

If you’re thinking about adding a four-legged companion to your family, Bideawee is waiving the adoption fee on all animals 6 months of age or older in September. To find the animal who will make the perfect pet for you visit www.bideawee.org/adopt to see all of Bideawee’s adoptable animals. All animals are updated daily so check back often.

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A Visit to the Seed Library http://nypress.com/a-visit-to-the-seed-library/ http://nypress.com/a-visit-to-the-seed-library/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 14:23:13 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73224 Food_main story 1_zucc_fmt

Farmers for the Hudson Valley Seed Library keep the zucchini on the vine and let it rot in order to allow more developing time for its seeds.

The Hudson Valley Seed Library cultivates many seeds that end up in New York City gardens

One of the best moments I shared with Ken Greene, founder of Hudson Valley Seed Library, was when he confessed – “I really don’t care that much about eating, I love collecting the seeds.” There it was in a nutshell, the difference between us. Seeds are a delicious, if not essential, part of many of my meals, while for Ken, it is the preservation of seeds that feeds his passion.

The Hudson Valley Seed Library (HVSL) began in 2008 after Ken had worked for four years at the Gardiner Public Library where he turned his librarian skills and a passion for preserving heirloom seeds into a part of the lending system; take a seed, return a seed. After four years, it was time to make this a full-time business and HVSL was launched with his professional and life partner Doug Muller.

I went to Accord, NY to visit the legendary farm and seed-packing center. It is a transitional moment in the lives of the HVSL as they prepare to move into a “real” office before month’s end from the makeshift trailer and other ad hoc structures. Nestled in a few acres at the foothills of the Catskill Mountain, formerly a site of a Ukrainian Summer Camp, I met the crew who take orders, pack seeds, prepare the art, tend the fields and grow the company.

HVSL is not a typical seed company. Aside from its mission to preserve and promote heirloom seeds and undertake breeding projects for new seeds utilizing the traditional methods of plant breeders and open-pollination, the packaging of the seeds is entirely unique as well. There is an annual outreach to the artistic community for submissions of artwork in diverse media whereby 20 applicants are selected “to produce a unique work for a new variety.” These original artworks interpret the new varieties with exquisite style.

It is completely possible that you will purchase HVSL seed packs for the artwork on the package as I did, falling in love with the engaging packages, ignoring the seeds. Whatever the hook, it is the undeniable link between art and agriculture – two sides of the same coin – that HVSL embodies. HVSL is about body and soul, with great tasting authentic food, and evocative and stimulating artwork.

Food_main story 2_seed _fmt

One of the artfully designed seed packets from the Hudson Valley Seed Library

Ken took me on a tour of his farm, where some of the seeds are cultivated. The first plot is filled with white zinnias, called Polar Bear, naturally. It is far from the brilliant red ones, to discourage cross-pollinating. In this business, it is more than the beautiful flowers that matter. Each and every flower and vegetable are scrutinized closely for selection of the fittest. Looking at the center of their big heads (where the seeds live), I start to get the idea that this is a very different kind of farm. It is an interesting moment – I harvest lettuce when the fully formed heads are at their peak. Ken lets them go to seed, something a seed farmer must do, and watches for traits throughout the growing cycle that lead him to select some seeds over others. The overgrown lettuce heads (reaching a height of a few feet) resemble Christmas trees, and zucchini are left to grow as big as possible and then rot before the seeds are harvested. It is a time in the growing cycle when the plant puts its energy into the seeds and not the leaves or fruit.

I loved hearing about a variety of tomatoes like the New Yorker, which have been bred to withstand conditions other tomatoes cannot. They are more resilient, faster growing and obviously well-named. Also for urban dwellers, there is a varietal of dwarf sweet corn, Jade Blue, perfect for limited backyards or terraces. There is an ancient corn varietal that is being cultivated for wider use, as well as other vegetables Ken is growing from virtually lost heirloom seeds sent to him for breeding, like the Upstate Oxheart from a Dutchess County family.

According to Ken, one third of their New York state gardeners are from New York City, which was one of the biggest surprises. Fans include community gardens, rooftop gardeners and farmers, and urban folks with containers and sunlight. Last year, the HVSL was invited to showcase their seeds in city Greenmarkets where they ‘fielded’ a “ton of city gardening questions.”

“Popular varieties in the city run the gamut. Small space selections like our Little Gem Lettuce Mix, Tiny Tim Tomato, and Ultimate Salad Bowl

were big sellers at the markets along with culinary herbs that grow well in pots like Gigante D’Italia Parsley, Basil Bouquet, and Cilantro, Ken said. “But our number one seller in NYC is….can you guess…New Yorker Tomato. The pack features a reimagined map of the city with tons of tomato dots representing community gardens taking over!”

A seed is a miraculous thing. Its tiny form holds the DNA for a new life complete with fruit as well as the seeds of the next generation. I continue to be astonished each season at Katchkie Farm as a new batch of seeds are germinated, then planted, yielding such incredible and delicious abundance. How does such a tiny thing contain so much power?

As Ken says, “Seeds teach us that small can be powerful” – a perfect message for today’s times.

Learn more about the Hudson Valley Seed Library at seedlibrary.org Liz Neumark is the CEO of Great Performances catering company and the author of the cookbook Sylvia’s Table.

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Educating Schools on Tech http://nypress.com/educating-schools-on-tech/ http://nypress.com/educating-schools-on-tech/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 03:10:59 +0000 http://nypress.com/?p=73213 Kathy Walter works to help local schools use technology to imrpove communication between students, teachers and parents.

Kathy Walter works to help local schools use technology to improve communication between students, teachers and parents.

Upper East Side CEO Kathy Walter bridges the technology gap for teachers and students

The days of back-to-school purchases being simple supplies like pencils and notebooks is shifting as schools embrace the technology age.

Now, there is the added component of computers in the classroom, and educators must prepare accordingly. That’s where Kathy Walter comes in as the CEO of Nsoma, a company she started to assist with the daunting process of putting educational technology into place.

The Upper East Sider comes from a long lineage of teachers, and entered into the profession as an ESL educator. She also did a stint at the Board of Education, where she helped New York City public schools get acclimated to their operating systems.

Her newest partnership is with Open School Project, a company that created an ePortfolio system for students and teachers to virtually log their work. Its director called upon Walter to help seamlessly integrate the program into schools.

How did your company, Nsoma, come about?

I created the company in the beginning of this year. I had worked for a number of different companies doing product management and product development for a number of years, and was also in technology. And those two things, when it comes to education, really come together because there’s a ton of technology out there. And what I realized is that there’s a lot of technology, but not a lot of organization. So what ends up happening in the schools is that they just keep getting more and more technology thrown in. What I do is work with companies that create technology for education and help them fit better into the school environment.

Can all schools afford this technology?

They absolutely can. What ends up happening is oftentimes schools make purchases and realize once they get something, that it’s only part of the battle. The best example I have is 20 years ago — my parents are both teachers — they bought a bunch of top-of-the-line Apple laptops. And they wanted all the kids to use them in the classroom but didn’t spend any money on the internet, which, at the time, was cutting-edge stuff. They didn’t even have an internet cable into the school. And the sad part is that 20 years later, the same thing is reoccurring.

What about teachers who are older and didn’t grow up using computers?

You have teachers at a lot of different levels of technology. A very good friend of mine is a retired teacher and she was consulting with us at the Department of Education. It’s not so much the age, but just that people have different levels of understanding technology. So when you’re putting a technology product together, you have to take that into account.

How can you explain the concept of an ePortfolio?

You can think of it as when an artist or an architect carried around that big, black, flat, folder. You’re trekking it all over New York because you want to show people what you’ve done. That is simply what an ePortflio is. It’s taking a big, bulky thing, and allowing you to put it online. What we do with the product that’s a little different than some other ePortfolios is, we actually also attach all of those work products to a project. So when you’re seeing what a student has done, you’re seeing it in the context of the project they worked on.

Who’s putting the work into the portfolio, teachers or students?

It’s interesting because there are actually two parts to it. Teachers can go in and create their projects; they can turn all of their curriculum into assignments. There’s also a second half that is student-directed. So if I’m a student and get really excited about a particular area that I’m working on, or go on vacation and take a lot of pictures, there’s a side where students can submit things to the teacher that aren’t associated with a project at all.

You were an ESL teacher. How easy is this program for students whose first language isn’t English?

What’s great about the interface is that there’s not a lot of words. And as an ESL teacher, when I’m speaking to my students, I can upload that project to be in whatever language or level of English it needs to be. It works on the other end of the spectrum too. If I have a bunch of students in my class who are really far ahead and I need to work more with those who are a little further down, I can put projects in for those higher-level students.

What is your teaching background?

My parents were both teachers and when you grow up and start expanding into your own world, you say, ‘The last thing I’m going to be is a teacher.’ What ends up happening is the reality sets in that there’s always going to be a part of you that’s going to want to be an educator. [Laughs] And I have great-grandparents who were teachers as well and started a teachers’ training college in India that’s still there. And so, at a certain point I realized there was no fighting it and that I really did like teaching. So a few years ago, I was living up in Boston and there was a great program at Northeastern that I took to get a graduate certificate in teaching English as a second language. I focus more on adults, but the reality of teaching in a classroom is the same. I then taught business and social science as an adjunct professor at Northeastern for students who were coming in at the master’s level and hadn’t gotten a high enough TOEFL score.

Why did you choose to teach ESL?

Because I really love to travel and meet people from other places and see how the world works beyond the U.S.

I read that you worked with schools in Uganda.

I’ve traveled to Uganda now twice. My mom and I went together both times, she’s a retired school teacher. We got a chance to meet with a number of these schools that had been started. And then the next year, I actually ended up talking to these communities about business concepts. Their main language has a very interesting connotation with business. It’s actually a phrase, not a word, and it has a very negative connation, like someone is trying to take advantage of you. So you have to first change how you’re talking about it and get people to realize if you start a school and people are paying to be there, that’s a business.

What did your job at the NYC Board of Education entail?

The group was rather unique. We were a product management group in the Department of Education. So the way that worked was you had these large program teams that were launching things like online assessments for 1.3 million students and 90,000 staff. What would happen is, you have folks in the Department of Education who have great experience and ideas, but don’t know about the heavy technology. So our goal was helping them manage the products that were in the system.

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