Archive for August, 2008

Year of the Fish: irresistible

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

I don’t like fairy tales; they tend to be told in broad strokes, and I like details & complexity. But Year of the Fish, a film by David Kaplan now showing in Manhattan, completely won me over. It’s a Cinderella story set in Chinatown and done in Rotoscope animation, where the movie is shot with actors and then traced frame by frame.

The layer of animation is crucial, because otherwise you’d be looking at the reality and alert to any break in plausibility. But the animation (and the narration by the fish) allows the story not only to indulge in supernatural elements but to make use of many details of the here and now.

What really makes it work for me are the faces of the people—they all look like people I know or I’ve seen. I see that some reviewers feel there’s too much of a conflict between gritty modern detail and fairy tale sentimentality. As far as I’m concerned, that’s what’s great about it. And, in the end, it shows a moving generosity to all its main characters, even the rotten ones.

Plus, it’s persistently beautiful.

Samba time

Friday, August 29th, 2008

While it’s West Indian weekend in Brooklyn (see below), it’s Brazilian Day in Manhattan. Music, food, and dance will spread up Avenue of the Americas from 43rd to 57th Sts, and across 46th St from Avenue of the Americas to Madison Ave, from 11 am to 7 pm Sunday, August 31. On Saturday at 11 am is “The Cleansing of 46th Street” in preparation, also with music & dance.

Scandinavian museum events

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Photo courtesy of the East Coast Scandinavian Museum

Our friends at the East Coast Scandinavian Museum are sponsoring a sunset cruise around New York harbor to benefit the museum, which is trying to establish a site for its collection. The cruise (not on a Viking ship), which costs $60, will be from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Sunday, Sept. 14. It’s a chance to see Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls project with a little wine and cheese—a beautiful and inspiring way to spend the evening.

The museum is also having an essay contest, open to all 4th–6th graders, in honor of Leif Eriksson Day. The topic is Scandinavian explorers, and creativity is encouraged; writers may use the point of view of an explorer or an animal companion. Prizes include a Norwegian sweater, Viking memorabilia, and riding on the museum’s replica Viking ship in the Norwegian Day Parade. How cool is that? Entries are due October 28.

Call (718) 748-5950 or visit their website for more information.

West Indian Day, and where to eat when the party’s over

Monday, August 25th, 2008

Carnival 2004

Photo by ntang on Flickr; provided under Creative Commons at-sa license.

Once again, Seth Kugel supplies my post via his Weekend in New York column in Sunday’s Times. Next weekend is Brooklyn’s West Indian American Day Carnival, one of the city’s biggest cultural parties, and Kugel offers a great guide to Caribbean food in New York, especially on Nostrand and Flatbush avenues in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, east of Prospect Park.

This year’s carnival theme is “One Caribbean, Many Cultures.” The concerts, on the grounds of the Brooklyn Museum, begin Thursday, Aug. 28, with Ladies’ Night. Kids’ events, the steel band competition, and lots more music, dance, and food will be on the bill Friday through Sunday. The parade, from 11 am to 6 pm Monday, Sept. 1, runs up Eastern Parkway from Rochester Avenue to Grand Army Plaza. Listen to WWRL (1600 AM) for more information (and music).

Sunday festivals

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

The New York Turkish Festival runs from 10 am to 9 pm Sunday (August 24) at Fifth Ave and 97th St (at Central Park). It includes folk music and dance from noon to 9 (with Turkish oil wrestling at 4 pm), and there’s also a children’s stage and exhibits of art and culture. A lot of work and organization obviously went into this; follow the link for lots of info and pictures.

The Pakistan Day Festival, from 1 to 6 pm Sunday, extends from 23rd to 26th streets on Madison Ave. It’s apparently the source of no small controversy, but I have no firsthand information. Considering the upheaval in Pakistan right now, who knows what the mood will be?

What are you asking?

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

The Times had a story by Sam Roberts Sunday about racial distinctions among the changing U.S. population, particularly Hispanics who can check the box for “black” or “white” (or “mixed”). Roberts discusses how the definition of “white” has changed over the years.

As far as the census goes, this is a matter of self-identification. My boyfriend’s ancestors, for example, all came from Mexico to the United States. But he didn’t grow up speaking Spanish, and he has always thought of himself as white. (I consider him Californian.) Another friend of mine has a Dominican background, and once, when we were on the subject of race, I just asked him: “Are you black?” “I’m not white,” he answered.

I’m white. There’s no getting around it. My ancestors are German, and a little English. I’m pale. Yet Roberts reports that “Benjamin Franklin feared that his fellow white Pennsylvanians would be overwhelmed by swarthy Germans.” (Which, I believe, pretty much happened in Pennsylvania, and some of these were my ancestors.) But he also feared that his people would lose their language and government, and that didn’t happen; today Pennsylvanians of German background are sturdy English-speaking middle Americans.

So what’s with Hispanic? The U.S. government definition, Roberts says, cites origins in “Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spanish-speaking Central and South America[n] countries and other Spanish cultures.” Does that include Spain? If so, what’s the difference between Spain and France or Italy? If not, why is “Spanish-speaking” so important? What makes Argentine culture, which is overwhelmingly nonindigenous, fall into the same category as Bolivian culture, while Brazilians, speaking Portuguese, are Other? What about Central and South Americans who speak Nahuatl and not Spanish at all? What is the point—aside from political advantage or disadvantage—of having the category “Hispanic” at all? Well, I suppose I’ve answered my own question.

What it comes down to is this: When people want to know whether you’re white, what is it they really want to know? What is the answer going to tell them? Isn’t the question “Are you one of us?” whether asked by someone white or nonwhite?

I realize that we can’t just declare a postracial world, but I wish every one of us—at least in America, land of the mongrel—could look far ahead and think of ourselves as contributors to a great mixed race of the future, when intermarriage will leave us all as confused and silly as Dr. Seuss’s sneetches. We don’t have to give up our own culture. We just won’t be able to hoard it.

If you love New York, see this movie

Monday, August 18th, 2008

City scribe Pete Hamill will join director Dawn Scibilia for a screening of her movie Home at 6:30 pm Thursday, August 21, at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, 108 Orchard St. Hamill, who will participate in a Q&A after the film, is one of the New Yorkers interviewed in this poetic documentary about the sense of home this city has given to so many.

It’s free! But RSVP at; (212) 431-0233.

Indian parade

Friday, August 15th, 2008

India’s Independence Day will be celebrated from 11 am to 6 pm Sunday, August 17, with a parade on Madison Avenue from 41st to 23rd Streets. According to Rediff India Abroad, the actress Deepika Padukone (Om Shanti Om) will lead the parade, and it will include a variety show at 23rd.