Author Archives: caroleditosti
Recently (February 13), I attended the salon of Stephanie and Ghordie Thompson, 420 12th Street, Park Slope, New York where a staged reading of Rosary O’Neill’s play The Awakening of Kate Chopin staring Michelle Best and Chris Stack was presented. Directed by Keith Bulla, this post Civil War romantic drama takes place in 1882 at The Chopin plantation 100 miles from New Orleans in an impoverished and destitute one street town in rural Louisiana.
Michelle Best played Kate Chopin, the defiant Irish beauty with a captivating frankness of expression and a brilliance of action. In the play, Kate Chopin (future author of The Awakening) must decide between her dying husband and her lover, Albert the wealthy planter next door (Chris Stack). She chooses her lover. He leaves her. In agony she goes forth to become the great writer she was meant to be.
This tour de force of obsession and liberation is rooted in the real life of the famous first great American novelist Kate Chopin. Chopin was considered a fine writer until she violated the mores of her time with her second novel, The Awakening (1899). She dared to portray her protagonist Edna Pontellier as a woman who evolves into a free thinking, free acting woman. Edna seeks out autonomy and uplifts her own individuality, regardless of the Southern culture’s finding this to be intolerable. These were near heretical notions for women in 1899 when the book was published, even in the North.
Because Chopin portrayed Edna Pontellier truthfully, revealing her sexuality, her rich, inner life of freedom and her complex relationships with her husband and other men with whom Chopin, following literary conventions, insinuates she had passionate affairs, the press vilified her. For Chopin’s forward-thinking depiction of Edna and the other women in the novel, which was years ahead of its time, her work was excoriated as “morbid,” “vulgar,” “disagreeable.” Depressed about its reception, though it received a few positive reviews, Chopin returned to her short story writing, and never wrote another novel again. Four years later she suffered from a brain hemorrhage at the St. Louis World’s Fair and died two days later.
O’Neill’s play is based on elements of Kate Chopin’s life some of which may be discovered in a biography Kate Chopin by Emily Toth (1990). The Awakening of Kate Chopin details interesting concepts about Chopin’s life which dovetail with her characterization of Edna Pontellier and add an accessible elucidation to an understanding of the writer
The play uncovers events which happened in Chopin’s life prior to establishing her writing career in St. Louis, Missouri where she eventually moved. O’Neill cleverly indicates that Chopin used autobiographical elements of her own life (all writers do) as literary fodder to create her magnificent portrayals of women in The Awakening, a novel venerated and read widely in schools, colleges and universities today.
O’Neill’s Kate and the other women in the The Awakening of Kate Chopin are equally revolutionary for their time, and O’Neill’s work echoes the life of the real Kate Chopin. O’Neill’s Kate wants to hold on to her marriage and her six small children. On the other hand there is the allure of reaching beyond the traditional roles forced upon women. Kate’s inner life encourages her to perhaps seek something which she could call her own.
As inexorable circumstances close in on her marriage and situation, Kate is inspired to launch herself as a novelist. However, her relationship with her husband is strained and she becomes walled in when their cotton business goes bankrupt and a wealthy next-door neighbor presents more complex problems.
Ultimately, O’Neill’s Kate is is torn between establishing her own independence by writing and maintaining her love for her children, against negotiating a failed business, a philandering husband and a seductive, sexy planter. Though the sequence of events has been tweaked with regard to the real Kate Chopin’s life, there is a passionate affair (scandalous for the time).
The conflicts and elements in O’Neill’s evocation of Kate Chopin’s life in The Awakening of Kate Chopin are all too real. Many women in 2017 will empathize with O’Neill’s characterization of her protagonist, for she is an iconic woman confronting issues that married and unmarried women face in their life journeys. The Awakening of Kate Chopin, which leaves off right before the real Kate Chopin moves to St. Louis and becomes known to the world, is an epic drama of the first American woman novelist who is still highly controversial today.
I was intrigued to be at the salon to hear the reading of segments of the play for the first time with these well cast, fine actors. Michelle Best was subtle and evolving as the conflicted Kate. Chris Stack portrayed the sexy Albert with predatory insolence and sensuality. The soon-to-be-divorced Albert helps save Kate’s family business from Oscar’s (her husband) poor decisions while igniting her desire for a sexual relationship.
Keith Bulla is a director who has extensive experience working with playwrights on the development of new work. He predominately does this at the Actors Studio but may be encouraged elsewhere if it is the right property. Bulla’s interest and insight spearheaded the reading. His gentle skill with the actors elicited from the depth of O’Neill’s writing a growing understanding by Best and Sachs of how to best access these complex, fascinating characters.
The salon was sponsored by Stephanie and Geordie Thompson who are co-founders of InspireCorps, a non-profit arts education organization dedicated to supporting the arts.
Based upon the audience’s response in the “talk back” which generated discussion about Kate Chopin as a writer ahead of her time, yet obviously living these events in her time before she moved to St. Louis where her writing took off, I would say this is an auspicious “first” which portends great things to come for The Awakening of Kate Chopin.
Last Monday (February 6, 2017) at NYC’s Spring Studios was an exceptional day for Vino 2017. Along with an extensive walk-around tasting of over 100 exhibitors from all the provinces of Italy, there was also a panel discussion about how the Americans love Italian wines and the growing market for Italian wines especially in larger cities. There were also three workshops illuminating Rare Grapes and Wines of Italy, Italy’s love of Rosato wines and a favorite of mine investigating Barolos and Barbarescos.
After opening remarks from Maurizio Forte who introduced Francesco Genuardi of the Italian Consul General of New York, there was a discussion revolving around the research presented about Italian Wines’ intersection with the American palate. The panel was filled with wine notaries which included the Italian Trade Commission President, Michele Scannavini), Stevie Kim, Managing Director Vinitaly International, John Gillespie CEO of Wine Opinions, Leena Baran, Senior Manager, Import Wine Buying, Total Wine & More and Joe Campanale, Proprietor, Annona Wines. The panel was moderated by David Lynch.
What is always fascinating to me is the extent to which Italian wines are known and not known by Americans who find the pronunciation and complexity of grape varietals difficult to master. Because there are so many Italian grape varietals (550), and their wines which feature them, Americans are not familiar with many great Italian wines and those winemakers that produce them.
One of the benefits of the walk around tasting is to become better acquainted with Italian producers from all the wine regions in Italy. Considering that the country is a mecca for grape growing and wine making, each region has its winemakers. And because wine has been an indelible part of the Italian culture back to Roman and Estruscan times and even with the wine making monks of the Catholic church, wine is the drink not only of the gods, but of most of Italy’s citizens, and Europeans who have wine daily with dinner.
At the walk around tasting in between the learning sessions, I familiarized myself with wines that I enjoyed but wanted to try from different producers in the Piedmont region of Italy. The Piedmont is in the north-west section bordering France and Switzerland at the foot of the Alps. The best-known wines from the region include Barolo and Barbaresco. which are made from the Nebbiolo grape. I stopped at Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola and tasted the wines of this producer happy to converse with Barbara Audasso who is the salesperson for the winery and Gian Luca, her brother, who is the winemaker.
Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola is located in the village of Grinzane Cavour, near Alba in the Langhe hills of Piedmont. Grinzane Cavour is one of the only villages in this monumental wine growing area where Barolo can be produced. In the 18th century, during the reign of Emmanuel II, most of the land around the Grinzane Castle belonged to count Camillo Benso of Cavour. He is venerated because he was one of the political architects of the Unification of Italy. Afterward he was the Mayor of the area for 17 years and then his estate was sold to local farmers, some of whom were the ancestors of the Audassos.
The Audassos evolved the winery from 1980 involving the family and over the years extending their acquisitions which have been replanted using the clones that flourish in the soil of the region. The vines are hand cared for and bio-dynamic. Only organic fertilizers are used and any diseases which may attack the vines are controlled by the use of natural copper and sulphur-based products. With manual thinning of the bunches, the yield is controlled to produce an exceptional ripening of the grapes.
Le Ginestre offers both red and white wines, however, I was interested in the reds and these are the ones that I enjoyed most. The first was the Dolcetto d’Alba DOC 2015. After the fermentation the wine stays in stainless steel until the following spring, when it is bottled for release in June. It is a limpid garnet red, with purplish highlights. It is fragrant and piquant on the nose with fruity notes of cherry and blackberry. It is smooth and round with a long, satisfying finish. A highly drinkable wine, it may be enjoyed with pasta or red meats.
The next wine, the Barbera d’Alba DOC Le Ginestre 2014 and 2015 are from the barbera grapes. I learned that the wine varied between years because of the modifications in the temperature and the fact that there was more rain from one year to the next. After the fermentation the wine matures in French oak for a year, then it is aged several months in the bottle before its release.
This wine is a vivid garnet red, with slight purplish tones, not as clear as the Dolcetto d’Alba. The nose has hints of coco and roses and slight hints of mild tobacco. The palate is balanced with a spicy finish. The Barbera d’Alba DOC Le Ginestre is best enjoyed with food, for example red meats, veal, roasts, steak or lamb. It also would do well with sharp cheeses and salumi and herbed focaccia.
Barbara Audasso and Gian Luca Audasso from Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola at VINO 2017
There is fermentation in steel before the wine is transferred to oak by the end of the year. It matures in the oak for at least two years prior to bottling, which takes place a year before the wine is released.
This wine is a bright ruby red. The nose has hints of vanilla, cinnamon and liquorice. It is full bodied and rich on the palate and one notes the structure and smoothness. The finish is spicy and long with very few tannins. Because of its structure and rich polyphenols this wine has a long cellar life and its beauty is that it continues to develop and evolve. I would enjoy both the 2012 and 2011 Barolo DOCG “Sottocastello di Novello” with pasta dishes and red meats, especially steak and grilled red meat, or even roast beef. It would also go well with sharp cheeses like Grana Padano, wild boar salumi or spicy-cayenne soppressata and herbed breads. I enjoyed my time tasting the wines of Le Ginestre Azienda Agricola from the Pietmont. For more information, you can reach Barbara Audasso at email@example.com. To specifically check out their offerings and read up on the winery, you may CLICK HERE.
One actually has to study and taste the wines to see how fabulous they are. Vino 2017 provides a great opportunity to know and understand wines not typically familiar to Americans unless they are adventuresome which twenty-forty somethings are increasingly becoming. However, all ages can enjoy learning about Italian wines which are becoming more accessible to Americans once they overcome their unfamiliarity with the abstruse names of wines and their numerous grape varietals.
Photo credit: Carole Di Tosti
Every year Slow Wine which is a welcome offshoot of Slow Food features wine producers on tour from the West to East Coast, from San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, Austin, Texas, ending in New York City. All of the wines featured at the tastings are either certified organic or biodynamic with an emphasis on clean, quality, affordable wines that are cultivated without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and are nurtured with attention to the phases of the moon and farming and wine making techniques that are both ancient and modern. This year’s Slow Wine tasting was in a perfect setting: Eataly downtown on Liberty Street in New York City.
Slow Wine which produces a a guide for food as well, identifies producers taking into consideration the life of the cultivators, their vineyards and their wine production. There is a breakdown of excellence according to three categories: the snail, the bottle and the coin.
The Snail identifies a cellar that has distinguished itself through its “interpretation of sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values” in accord with the Slow Food philosophy (clean, of quality).
The Bottle is given to cellars that show “a consistently excellent quality throughout the range of wines presented.
The Coin indicates good value for the quality of the wine.
For the three categories of wines, there are the epitome of the “Slow Wines.” These wines uniquely manifest fine sensory elements and reflect the personality of their terroir, their history and their environment. The”Great Wines” are singular in their exquisite sensory qualities. The “Everyday Wines” are those that are drinkable with food or alone and demonstrate a measurable price which bestows good value.
At the 2017 tasting there were too many wonderful wines and so little time to get to them all without passing out. However, this year a few tours were offered by the Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences). For two tours, I and a small group of educators and press followed Lucas Lanci as he introduced us to sterling producers.
On the first tour, the producers had distributors/importers. On the second, the producers were looking for distribution and importers to collaborate with. We tasted some interesting wines, some extremely memorable, others not to my palate. But then I favor red wines and the whites have to pop with a memorable palate and nose.
Carparsa is one of those small but memorable producers. Located in Tuscany, they produce 25,000 bottles a year on 30 acres. They are certified organic and have achieved a Snail signification and are identified as a “Slow Wine,” indicating that the nose, palate and color reflect the personality of their terroir, their history and their environment.Their importer is Artisan Wines, Inc.
There were three wines for tasting, all of them made from 100% sangiovese grapes, all of them Chianti Classico. The Caparsino Riserva 2012 was the superior wine receiving the “Slow Wine” designation because it fulfills the classic wine of the Mountains of Chianti expressing the terroir of the region with its rich fruit, mellowness and distinguishing spices and herbs. The Chianti Classico Doccio a Matteo Riserva 2012 is ready now, but it will be more full bodied in 2018. Like all the Chianti Classicos it is an intense purple color. The tannins are strong and crisp and the long finish indicates spiciness on the palate. The Doccio a Matteo Riserva 2007 carries the same expression of the other wines, all of which are best with pasta dishes and appetizers like salumi and strong cheeses.
Carparsa Azienda Agricola also boasts a bed and breakfast where one may stay for a “farm holiday” in the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany’s vineyards in the Chianti region. There you may relax, tour the winery and learn about the 600-year-old cellars and the wine making which is a family concern headed up by Paolo Cianferoni. You may also take a trip to Siena which is in Tuscany and worth the visit.
One wine that I thought was exceptional was from a smaller producer. Iuli from Cerrina Monferrato in the Piedmont region has a production of 40,000 bottles. Thirty-four acres are under production and the cultivation is certified organic. This producer had a wonderful purple red wine constructed from Barbera grapes that I really enjoyed. Rossore 2013 gave a palate of full bodied fruit, little hint of tannins and chocolate and tobacco savors. It is designated with a Snail and identified for excellence as a “Slow Wine.” Check out this wine at Indie Wineries or Natural Wine Company in Colorado.
Cantine del Notaio in Basilicata, Italy is a larger producer (360,000 bottles) on 74 acres. It has a Snail designation and its vineyards and wine making are certified organic and biodynamic. We were told that Gerardo Giuratabocchetti is practically obsessive about the Aglianico del Vulture.. The vineyards have been passed down through his family for generations. Of the three wines for tasting. I enjoyed the Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2012, designated “Slow Wine,” and L’Atto 2014. Both are deep reds with firm structure, berry fruit and luscious mouth feel with a satisfying finish, great with pastas, cheeses, salumi and meats. There is a cantina for tastings and tours of the winery as tourists and guests tell of great stories about the area and the wine making. The importer is Vinifera Imports.
2017 Slow Wine always is an enjoyable tasting. It is a pleasure to know that the producers are concerned about the environment, about clean food and wine not poisoning the individuals who buy and enjoy their products.
FOR MORE ABOUT WINE PRODUCERS AT THE 2017 SLOW WINE TASTING AT EATALY DOWNTOWN, SEE THIS ARTICLE ON BLOGCRITICS CLICK HERE.
Wisdom is represented in all cultures and in all religions which uphold love and practice peace. I have particularly tailored this list of quotes for Christian Republican men and women and the Christian President. I have knowingly excluded the wisdom of other religions and global cultures which practice peace and love because these individuals profess to be Christians.
In this list, intentionally, there are no women quoted. Nevertheless, forgive me that I am a woman who is reminding Christian Donald Trump and Christian Republicans that in this nation, regardless of race, gender, religion and economic status, equality of opportunity and equity of treatment in work and at home is a “Christian value.” As Christians your religion predisposes you to uphold Christian tenets. (see the first quote below) No one wants to be relegated as a criminal inferior regardless of one’s innocence. If you, adherents of Christ, wish to live in His peace that passes understanding, you will demonstrate and be known as His followers by the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
However, if you truly are not Christians, than admit it and the country will at least understand your honesty when you follow through on your intentions to abrogate Women’s Rights and stop funding programs (pre-natal, post-natal, nursery care, pre-kindergarden, women’s healthcare, children’s healthcare) to help women and their babies. They will understand when you truncate Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social programs, siphoning off funds and redirecting them to spend $12-15 billion on a wall which will most probably result in a trade war with Mexico and tremendous cost overruns of misspent taxpayer dollars. By the time your wall is finished TAX AND SPEND Republicans will probably have drained around $100 billion counting cost overruns, wall maintenance and border security.
Here are wise words and sayings to give erudite Christian counsel to the current Christian President who may gain peace from them. They are meant to succor. The little people already know and abide by much of this wisdom reflected in all cultures and religions (with the exception of those that oppress women egregiously-which Christianity does not if the Word is rightly divided and not gaslighted/twisted by the institutionalization of paternalistic religionistas).
“Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.” (Bible) (Golden Rule)
“The first step to greatness is to be honest.” (Samuel Johnson)
For those Republican Christians, who would say they are Christians but are not forgiving and loving…a word to the wise. The truthfulness which Jesus demands from his followers is the self-abnegation which does not hide sin. Nothing is then hidden, everything is brought to the light of day. In this question of truthfulness, what matters first and last is that a man’s whole being should be exposed, his whole evil laid bare in the sight of God. But sinful men do not like this sort of truthfulness. from this site.
“Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with them; forgiving it sets you above them.” (Benjamin Franklin)
“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” (The Bible)
“Thou shalt not bear false witness (tell a lie).” (Bible)
“God governs in the affairs of men (and women).” (Benjamin Franklin made this statement when he requested the members of the constitutional convention to pause for prayer for God’s guidance.)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Bible)
“They that are slow to anger are better than the mighty.” (Bible)
“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Bible)
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to a political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (George Washington)
“Labor to keep alive in your breast the little spark of celestial fire-conscience.” (George Washington)
“Love one another.” (Bible)
“Thou shalt not steal.” (Bible)
“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg Address 11/19/1863)
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” Jesus Christ of Nazareth
©all photos by Carole Di Tosti, 21 January, 2017, NYC Women’s March
The global Women’s March was three days ago. My soul is still soaring from the momentous and historic occasion. In NYC upwards of 400,000-600,000 (the numbers are inconclusive-police said around 400,000 and Mayor DeBlasio put the numbers higher) women and men of all ages and all races, children, LGBT folks, people from all educational and economic backgrounds and lifestyles marched throughout the day. The main route was from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza down 42nd Street, up 5th Avenue and marchers stopped on 53th Street a few blocks from Trump Tower.
However, because there was a glut of individuals who converged at Dag Hammershold, crowds spilled out into side streets and sidewalks. The police were accommodating, my friends who were there early told me. Other friends I ran into, who had not planned to join in were swept up in the crowd. They marched on sidewalks alongside the marchers in the street; some marched on Madison Avenue going uptown, others on Park Avenue holding signs boldly over their heads. Whether a part of the registered marchers or the sidewalk marchers, waiting to get to an entry point where they would be allowed in, all were in unity, of one mind and spirit, even if they didn’t march the entire route.
I I had previously marched in Washington against the Viet Nam War (remember the scene in Forrest Gump at the mall?). Throughout the years, I have joined in at various protests (Kent State, gay rights, strikes on SUNY Albany campus, various peace and civil rights marches in Albany, Occupy Wall Street 2011, Black Lives Matter). None of those actions compares to this Women’s March January 21 in breadth, scope and intent. Those marches advocated for a specific action: to uplift the 99%, to end the War in Viet Nam, to demand justice for the abusive law enforcement tactics that killed 4 Kent State students, to assert that Black Lives matter in the face of a history of abuse and unjust killings.
None of those marches were unified on a national and global scale to stand together in concert against everything that one individual and members of a billionaire economic class and their pilot fish have come to represent for people of good will everywhere. This march and these marchers stood and still stand against institutional repression of human rights (including the right to a sustainable environment without threat of upheaval to countries and societies because of climate change). The marchers stood in opposition to the unapologetic behavior of the president and his staff during the campaign and their demonstrated actions of bigotry in not loudly refuting white supremacy, racism, misogyny, gender discrimination, anti-semitism and cronyism.
In Washington D.C., NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, in cities in every U.S. state, in 60 countries, in seven continents, even in the Antarctic Peninsula, there were sister marches. Each shed an incredible spirit of unity and community. January 21, 2017 marks a global day of unity and peace (there was no violence anywhere). We who participated are a part of a citizenry without national borders, a united spiritual consciousness of individuals who believe that liberty, justice and equality of opportunity should be for all, not just the tiny minority who can pay for preeminent civil rights.
In the U.S. untold amounts of money buy freedoms, the crucial freedom to be above the law and to slyly dictate sub rosa what the law should be according to corporate or personal agendas. Swaths of money buy a presidency, pay to keep one out of prison by purchasing the best attorneys, buy global mobility, buy luxury housing, trophy wives, beauty, youth, clean water, quality food, superb preventative alternative medicine with holistic MDs, private hospital rooms with catered meals.
The more the billions, the greater the power and influence, the greater the likelihood of unethical, unchecked behavior. Money is the right of privilege. Money has a higher sanctity than life. Without it, in the U.S. especially, (the national quality of life-the US is not on this list) the individual is in a relative state of economic bondage: forced into or trapped in economic marriage relationships, miserable at low paying, stressful jobs…where one longs for days of “freedom.” or retirement. Unlike European countries (Netherlands, Denmark, etc.) in the U.S. the ratio of salary between CEOs, company owners and their employees, is egregiously unequal.
Equity of opportunity is one reason people marched. In the U.S. the gender wage gap still exists, though there is argument about how to measure it taking numerous variables into consideration. Black women and men, and Hispanic women and men make less money then their white counterparts.
People marched to uphold women’s rights to control their souls/decision-making over themselves and their bodies, a natural right men have and vociferously uphold against anyone mucking with their “masculinity.”
Men and women marched to uphold that women must not be demeaned, belittled, abused, objectified because of gender. (statistics of violence against women globally are here as a referent) Yet they are and the president has an appalling track record on video revealing his paternalism and objectification of women’s appearance, not a good model for young female children.
And people marched to stand against a president who they feel is an illegitimate bounder, who demeaned and unjustly vilified and criminalized opponent Hillary Clinton using shadowy assets delivered by contingents of law enforcement to pressure FBI Comey to tar and feather her days before the election. Others marched for they believe the president’s men occluded results in swing states with cooperating election boards, all funded by Kremlin dollars through Paul Manafort who was fired from the Trump campaign in August 2016, but remained in the shadows advising Trump to go to swing states before the vote.
Kellyanne Conway questioned the purpose of the march. President Trump suggested the marchers should have voted. Conway is paid well to speak the administration propaganda. In response to the president’s retort, people did vote. Hillary won the popular vote. Hillary won the majority in a democratic popular vote, something which to this day (commentary by Press Secretary Spicer) the president denies and affirms that “millions voted illegally,” in keeping with his believed assertions that he won in a landslide, both the popular vote and the electoral college. Research and evidence reveal these are mistaken beliefs which have become fraudulent “alternative facts” at the least. Others state they are outright lies and propaganda to soothe a wounded ego and keep up the brand name of “Trump, the winner.”After all, the man has yet to divest himself or his progeny of his businesses and put them in a blind trust befitting a President of the United States under the Constitution, which he swore an oath to uphold on Inauguration Day.
This character, this personality, this attitude by the president is another reason why marchers left their homes, their activities, their leisure to protest. They felt it imperative to take a stand against the overt trickery, the lies, the deceit, the fraud and the “gaslighting” twisted distortions of truth which characterize the president’s behaviors before and during the campaign and even up to this day. Every human being has the capability to learn humility; the people marched in the hope that there would be a change of attitude. In empathy and pity, the people around the world marched in concert as a remembrance of the the finest principles of American values, human rights, equitable treatment and justice. This was not about patriotism, it was about humanity, goodness, kindness, generosity of spirit, good will and standing in someone else’s shoes.
Of the many symbolic themes which the marches (672 marches in 60 countries around the world), hold, there is the empowerment of the individual within a social community, standing for the good of oneself and each other. This consciousness of united individuals globally now exists like never before in manifested form. Individuals took a stand visibly. They stood for the goodness of equity, for common decency, for equal justice and human rights for all. They marched to oppose war and violence. They marched in the belief that technology has already provided answers to create sustainable energy and sufficient resources for all who live on the planet. It is only a matter of the will of governments and the energy of sane leaders and organizers to work to that end. Where is that will demonstrated in this administration which rebukes climate change as a fantasy and would put America First, in a nationalism reminiscent of a dark period of the 20th century?
Human decency and the golden rule trump politics, greed and the tiny niggardly minority who holds the wealth of the nations at their pleasure while others live in needless misery, bowed and wasted by lack of adequate medical treatment, in the impoverishment of unclean food and water, in jails discriminatorily stocked by a broken justice system. Those who believe and act the golden rule are the majority. Though some did not march this time, they will march the next time, unless there is a behavioral reversal, a gradual humility and sense that someone is different because he has acquiesced to the voice of the people. If the situation worsens and the lies and intimidation and bullying continue, they will march again, and again, and again in peace and unity until the governments which cannot exist in themselves respond to their will and the human mandate for equity.
The New York Botanical Garden is an enjoyable respite and shelter from the storms and stresses of life. Throughout the year their amazing seasonal exhibits which combine spectacular floral shows with art, sculpture, poetry, music, and literary narratives provide a way for one’s soul to rejuvenate and be refreshed to face whatever fate deals next.
I especially enjoy the New York Botanical Garden’s exhibits during the evening hours. It is then the shadows dissolve through the dancing, twinkling lights draped along tree trunks and foliage, and darkness blends in chiaroscuro with a spotlight of brilliance strategically placed here and there. The humidity and moisture are ripe; the whirring fans cool the air which feels luscious and exotic. It is a faerie landscape where the extraordinary is one with the natural and I almost expect to glimpse out of the corners of my eyes a glorious supernatural figure flash up, float mysteriously then evanesce as a vibrant fuschia phalaenopsis (moth orchid), emerges from behind the creature’s vaporous wake.
Bar Car Nights, the over 21 adult evenings offered during the Holiday Train Show, are particularly whimsical and romantic. As the trains strum exuberantly along the 1/2 mile of track that circles through the three thousand square feet of extended space (added last year), then snakes through the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory coming to rest in the Palms of the World Gallery, the thrill of the Winter season from one’s childhood is recalled. Couples can saunter through the galleries with liquid refreshments for purchase and completely relax. It is an awakening to a simpler, happier time when morose emotions weren’t joggled by news events and chaos was a scientifically theoretical construct, not haphazard human emotions effected by bellicose, maniacal human beings.
The New York BotanicalGarden is an otherworldly place of peace and beauty. All of the volunteers, the staff of Applied Imagination who have created and constructed the beautiful replicas of present and past New York landmarks from natural plant parts, and the permanent Garden staff, receive great delight from knowing how much enjoyment they give to the thousands of visitors who attend the show.
Each year the exhibit manages to be singular. The more than 150 buildings and structures of New York City and upstate New York: Rockefeller Center. Sachs Fifth Avenue (video above) Empire State Building, Morris-Jumel Mansion, Poe Cottage, Olana, Kykuit, The Jewish Museum, New York Public Library, Park Avenue Armory, Yankee Stadium, Senator William Andrews Clark House (demolished right before the depression as too expensive to maintain), Tammany Hall, the National Arts Club, Macy’s, etc., are situated uniquely throughout the conservatory’s lush greenery. It is fun to identify the re-creations and compare them with their originals, which if you haven’t seen or toured (Kykuit, Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, Olana, the Morris Jumel), you will be motivated to do so as an examination of New York State and US history.
The likenesses are exceptional considering how the recreations are made with twigs, acorns, rose petals, seeds, gourds, buds, pistachio shells, moss, bark, pine cones, leaves, fruits, etc. In short anything we might throw off on the compost heap, ingenious Applied Imagination botanical artists conceptualize as part of a building edifice or roof and in the case of the cherub sculptures of Kykuit, a prominent body part.
Various years not all of the structures are included; the World’s Fair buildings didn’t appear this year to make way for new additions which are the unique design of Director of Applied Imagination Leslie Salka in collaboration with Founder Paul Busse. The piece de resistance of the Holiday Train Show is the Brooklyn borough’s Coney Island exhibit that shines in the Palms of the World Gallery.
Several Coney Island structures from previous years (the Galveston Flood Building, the Luna Park Arch, the Luna Park Central Tower, etc.), are included in the exhibit with the new structures and all are situated in the reflecting pool. As you walk under the Brooklyn Bridge, you will see the famous Cyclone, the Coney Island Wonder Wheel and the Elephantine Colossus, the gigantic elephant-shaped hotel from the 1890s that has since burned down.
Director Leslie Salka was determined to include the hotel to memorialize Topsy, a female Asian elephant, who helped build Coney Island. The innocent Topsy was electrocuted to death by Thomas Edison as a huge draw for the 1903 Luna Park Coney Island exposition. Edison luridly filmed her heinous death, a fact that Michael Daly reveals in his book Topsy.
Daly’s book chronicles the story of the elephant’s travails as a pawn first in the greedy hands of a circus competitor of P.T. Barnum and then in the irate claws of Edison. In an article in the New York Daily News about his book, Daly says, “The electrocution was for Edison a means to vent his fury and frustration over his defeat” (with Westinghouse in the war of the currents), “as well as an opportunity to film the first death of any kind.”
Thus, Leslie Salka’s and Paul Busse’s addition of the Elephantine Colossus hotel replica, has a much greater significance than one would imagine upon first glancing at its beauty and ingenious creation from gourds and other plant parts. And Nikola Tesla fans will appreciate this final triumph of Topsy memorialized in the Holiday Train Show. It is a reminder that Thomas A. Edison’s reputation in mainstream history books belies the reality of what and who he really was.
The Holiday Train Show plantings always vary as does the placement of the variety of trains which are all G-gauge and include passenger trains, freights, trolleys, novelty cars, streetcars, diesels and locomotives. This year all but one of New York’s bridges reside high above strolling visitors. Trains whiz back and forth over trestles and one imagines what it might be like to be a passenger in miniature looking at the view of the panorama of orchids, cyclamen, hedges, ficus, begonias, palms, sage grass, camelias, and more.
For complete New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show programming, check their website HERE. Magical Bar Car Nights run the following dates on Fridays and Saturdays: December 2, 3, 16, 17, 23, 30; January 7, 14 from 7 – 10 pm. For family and children’s events (Winter Harmonies Concerts, poetry readings with NYBG poet Laureate Billy Collins and former Vassar College Professor Eamon Grennan, children’s activities-Evergreen Express and “All aboard with Thomas & Friends”) check out the NYBG website or this Blogcritics article for listings.
The Holiday Train Show Bar Car Nights and the entire exhibition are sure to ignite your seasonal spirit and bring joy and vitality to help you usher in the New Year. The show runs until January 16, 2017.
People clamor that it is good to be busy. Sometimes I question that thought, especially when I have press deadlines, when cinema publicists are wondering where their reviews and articles are and I’m exhausted from seeing a play on Broadway that I must review the following day.
So my travel to Paris in September of this year was exquisite because it took me away from the NYC helter skelter night life of an entertainment journalist. In Paris, la Rive Gauche, the pace is not as fast, the imperative not as overwhelming.
I could casually take photographs of the rainbow colored and salubrious fresh vegetables, sumptuous steaming paella flavoring the air with delicious spices along with other items folks lined up for in the open air markets.
I did write but at a more leisurely pace. I could do casual interviews of musicians and star Anne Carrere of Piaf! The Show.
I could have a casual chat with Rita Duffy about her brilliant installation The Souvenir Shop-marking the 1916 Rebellion, at the Irish Cultural Center. At the Irish Cultural Center, I could speak with Irish poet Pat Boran, and I could cover the goings and comings of playwright Rosary O’Neill in her celebration of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett and Impressionist painter Edgar Degas.
Rosary O’Neill has more than a cursory connection to Beckett and Degas. She has thoroughly researched both men’s lives and has written plays about each. Her play about Beckett, Beckett at Greystones Bay received a focused reading in Paris in a downtown venue this September. It was directed and acted by Brendan McCall.
Earlier in the summer Barrett O’Brien directed and acted in the role of Beckett in a staged production of Beckett at Greystones Bay at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As a result of that production, O’Neill collaborated with the director and upon his suggestion, expanded the work into two acts. O’Neill’s Beckett is being developed for future focused readings and productions in Paris and back in the US.
O’Neill’s love of Degas began when she first appreciated his work as a young child. It blossomed when she was a Drama Professor at Loyola in New Orleans, Louisiana where she founded the nonprofit theater company, Southern Repertory which produced a number of her plays.
It was during the time she ran Southern Rep, that she researched Degas’s life and discovered that he had strong familial ties to New Orleans where he stayed for about six months during the tumultuous era of reconstruction seven years after the Civil War. Fascinated by Degas’ relationship with his brother Rene’s wife, Estelle Musson, and intrigued by Rene’s spendthrift lifestyle which bankrupted the Degas fortune along with the crash in the cotton markets during and after the war, O’Neill marshaled her talents and wrote Degas in New Orleans
This year marks the centennial year of Degas’ death. O’Neill, who has collaborated on productions of her two act play Degas in New Orleans has enjoyed seeing her work performed in regional theater in Texas and Louisiana. The play has received focused readings in New York City and New York where it caught the attention of professional musician and Bard College professor David Albert Temple, who wrote music for the play and collaborated with O’Neill to make Degas in New Orleans, The Musical.
Their collaboration which included producer/director Deborah Temple and a cast from a regional performing arts high school, brought the musical to New York City where it was performed in a one-night-only show. Prior to its New York premiere, the production was performed in upstate New York at Bard College’s Black Box Theater.
The musical like the play focuses on Edgar Degas’ time spent with his mother’s relatives, the Mussons. It intimates the potential for a love relationship with his brother’s wife, Estelle. Surely, if his brother had not bankrupted the family fortune after the crash of the cotton trade (a painting of the family’s cotton office hangs in the New Orleans Museum of Art, as does his portrait of Estelle Musson with lovely red peonies), the situation would have been very different for the painter. Degas would most likely have stayed in New Orleans to pursue the possibilities of love with Estelle and to help her pick up the pieces after his brother Rene deserted her for her maid America. His painterly subjects would have been of the city of New Orleans, family portraits and perhaps even his cousin Norbert and his wife who were mixed race and free persons of color. But alas, Edgar had to return home to financially support his father, who was suffering a near breakdown because of Rene’s wantonness wracking up gambling debts.
It would have been a magnificent tribute to Degas to mount a production of either the play or the musical Degas in New Orleans in New York City in celebration of the centennial of Degas’ death on September 27, 1917. Currently, the process is on hold. However, O’Neill’s play about Degas and the strong cultural ties between New Orleans and Paris are being studied by the students at the Sorbonne. French Professor of Contemporary Literature Joseph Danan will be examining Degas in New Orleans as contemporary literature. Additionally, the play will have a focused reading in French at Columbia University’s center at the Sorbonne at Reid Hall. It is an event that is a first-of-its-kind.
Rosary O’Neill has made friends of visiting artists in residence at the Irish Cultural Center where she will be staying as her work is being studied and performed in Paris. She will continue to write, speak and share with the visiting Irish artists in residency at the Center, and be stimulated by their support and brilliance.
The Irish Cultural Center is the go-to place for events that highlight the strongly rooted Irish experience in Paris. It serves as an amazing resource for the community, students from the Sorbonne and visiting artists who are looking to feel at home in Paris. O’Neill is enthusiastic about her stay at the Center, and is happy that she, in a small way, is continuing to affirm links among the learning centers of the Sorbonne, the Irish Cultural Center and New Orleans. It will be a pleasure to cover the readings of her plays Beckett at Greystones Bay and Degas in New Orleans.
Fisher Stevens, ‘Before the Flood’: Video of the Q and A at Hamptons International Film Festival 2016
Fisher Stevens’ Before the Flood is a prodigious effort by the filmmaker who is also an actor, writer and producer. The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio (he also co-produced the film), which screened at the Hamptons International Film Festival 2016, comprehensively details the subject of climate change through cogent interviews by scientists, activists, researchers, world leaders and more. Stevens’ perspective could have been a browbeating doom and gloom treatise on global warming. Instead, after seeing the film, one leaves the theater feeling the urgency that there are ways one can individually make a difference in the fate of the planet.
Stevens’s documentary is compelling and memorable as he traces how climate change impacts every being on this planet, every microscopic creature and every seed, every spore, every molecule of life that has managed to evolve and survive through the eons up to this point in time. He shows how experts in climatology and related, supporting fields have been monitoring the planet for years and have produced the facts, details, information, data, maps, visuals, photographs that predict signs of impending global catastrophe. In an overwhelming consensus, they have explained what is ongoing and current: rising seas, melting glaciers, disappearance of the Greenland ice sheet. They have almost uniformly predicted the subsequent inundation of coastline cities, mass population migrations, starvation and decimation of a planet caused by greenhouse gas overload which created chain reactions that many believe are irrevocable.
Stevens also reveals the antithetical arguments to climate change and why they exist. Despite scientific consensus, climate change deniers managed, with Fox news propaganda prestidigitation, for expedience and profit, to turn black into white, to twist up into down and to morph fact into fiction. The result has been a quicker burn, a delayed global response which even after the Paris Climate Summit 2015 is not effectively doing enough to stem the glacial melt, dissipate the acidification of the oceans, ameliorate the dying of coral reefs, end unsustainable practices employed by energy corporations and create an effective reduction of carbon emissions to cool the planet.The scenario scientists, researchers and experts paint has far reaching dire consequences that impact every global culture and every land or oceanic ecosystem with supporting marine and wildlife. This result may be likened to the ushering in of the four horseman of the apocalypse: pestilence, war, famine, death.
But this must-see documentary is uplifting despite the revelatory evidence of overarching power demonstrated by a handful of genocidal nihilists (climate change deniers), who are egregiously and willfully deaf, dumb and blind to the earth’s reality show. How Stevens’ journey (which follows the investigation and work of Leonardo DiCaprio as United Nations Messenger of Peace on climate change), arrives at the realm of hope that suggests a possible rainbow in our future, is miraculous, invaluable filmography.
The film must be seen for its poetic script, its breathtaking cinematography and concurrent dark and soaring music, its cogent analysis and exhaustive documentation through experts’ interviews, visuals, maps, data and much more. Fisher’s documentary is an accessible and definitive work on climate change. It will inspire all those who see it to become involved on a personal and community level to overturn the climate change denier’s lies and take action before it is too late. The film Before the Flood is being aired on National Geographic and is screening at City Cinemas Village East and elsewhere. Check about dates online.
Here, Fisher Stevens speaks to the moderator at the Hamptons International Film Festival 2016 after the screening of this seminal film.
How does one remain timeless as a musical performer? If you look at the greats, there are two qualities that come to mind. One element is the repertoire they sing; it speaks to everyone’s heart and resonates with passion. The second element that is required is a stellar, singular voice. In both instances Patrizio Buanne, who is an international entertainer with a heart toward eternal song classics that are loved globally, manifests both.
Patrizio’s multicultural heritage hails from Naples and Austria. When he moved back to Rome, he studied languages: he fluently speaks six. Patrizio, who sang and entertained family and friends as a young child, moved to turn professional in his teens after winning vocal competitions and after a music manager selected him to sing for the “Papal visit” (John Paul II) in Wroclaw, Poland. The song he sang which was half in Italian, half in Polish, had been written for the opening mass. With 85.000 people in attendance, Patrizio’s sudden popularity with the Polish public led to his first local record deal. Success followed success in Italy with a production company that produced shows for RAI and Mediaset. But Patrizio’s goals were expansive. The teenager wanted to be an international recording artist. And now he is.
He is globally known as an entertainer who sings stylistically as a crooner, but also sings pop, jazz, rock and popular international songs. He has a huge global fan base which has been exponentially growing since the first release of Patrizio (2009-Warner music), in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and South Africa. The album went platinum and resulted in a tour of Australia, New Zealand and Asia in May 2010.
On Patrizio’s birthday 2011 Patrizio (Concord records), was released in the US, and hit number 5 on the US Jazz Billboard charts. As most musicians, bands and artists must now do on the release of a recording, the album was followed by concert tours in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, South Africa and the USA.
My video interview with Patrizio at the Friars Club in NYC on Wednesday, 19 October.
Also in 2011 for his South African fan base, he released an album of South African hits interpreted by Patrizio’s incredible voice singing in Italian, English and also Afrikaans language. The album featured duets with South Africa’s most popular singers, “Dankie Sued Afrika” (Universal music).
While this album was going platinum, Patrizio prepared a German-focused album in 2012 Wunderbar (Warner music GSA), where he adds Italian songs and original compositions with the German and Italian language. Just so you realize, the extent of his talents, Patrizio gift for languages is prompting him to move into the South American markets in the next year.
Every time Patrizio releases an album he goes on a global tour, as he did with his fourth worldwide release Viva la Dolce Vita (2015 Universal Music), an album in which he is an “Ambassador for Italian song with unique and singular song interpretations. The album includes new material with an international flavor written especially for him. His CD Bravo Patrizio includes the release of his most popular songs for his first 10 years which he is following through with tours (2016, 2017), in the US, Australia, South Africa, Europe, Latin America and Asia confirmed by advanced sales.
In concert and as I found out in person as you will see in the video interview, Patrizio’s charm, unforgettable persona and anointed voice allow him to revel in interpreting pop songs and Italian and international standards which have brought in millions of album sales globally. Currently wrapping up his US tour he will be in Richfield, Connecticut at the Ridgefield Playhouse (October 21st), NYC at the Highline Ballroom (October 22nd) and New Jersey at NJPAC (October 28t). CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS
Manchester by The Sea is a pageantry of human emotions that Kenneth Lonergan prodigiously marches with relentless precision across the screen, encapsulated by the astonishing performances of Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges, and a superb supporting cast. The plot development is a complicated paradox which exists on two levels. One is the emotional, interior level where protagonist Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck is breathtaking and magnificently drafted as the tragic everyman), reflects about a past he wishes to escape. The other is on the level of linear time in the present where Lee confronts his brother Joe Chandler’s (Kyle Chandler) death and the multiplicity of mundane details that must be carried out. Joe’s passing forces Lee to return to Manchester by The Sea, settle his brother’s affairs, and possibly assume the guardianship of his brother’s son, Patrick.
At the heart of this film there is mystery and lustrous revelation. Lee Chandler’s suppressed identity and what he has experienced is gradually made alive to us so that we may empathize with him and wish for his redemption and healing. Lonergan has created a powerful human drama with broad and masterful strokes of storytelling. He unspools the underlying dramatic events with flashback. The flashbacks are the raw, vibrant dynamics which are Lee’s place-induced memory reflections as he robotically goes about the task of returning to Manchester to deal with his brother’s remains, hold the funeral, settle the financial estate, and monitor his teenage nephew whose enthusiasm for activities and girlfriends is a blind for the pain of losing his father and having his life upended by his uncle’s impending guardianship.
During the activities in the present, Lonergan alludes to Lee’s past through the townspeople’s off-handed comments; his identity remains a cypher. The mystery of Chandler’s going through the motions of existing in the present while living in a hyper-drive of emotional memories from the past, we later discover, is tied up with a horrible accident. For Lee and his former wife, Randi (Michelle Williams is simply, completely stunning), it is a cataclysmic, life-altering devastation. The writer gradually uncloaks the keystone revelation in a swift cut of shockingly unexpected visual images that explode on the screen and in our minds, then reverberate like the aftereffects of an earthquake.
It is a revelation that occurs well into the film, and it coalesces all our understanding about who Lee Chandler is and what he is going through. From then on, our empathy with his plight includes the hope that he will be able to forgive himself, end the self-flagellation and eventually reconcile his emotions to walk the road of healing. For the present it is perhaps just enough that Chandler can breathe and experience the physical manifestations of living until deliverance arrives, if it ever does, an uncertainty that concludes the film.
We know nothing of this as the movie opens. We only discern the flattened affect of Chandler’s mechanical non-existence as the superintendent of a building in Quincy, Massachusetts. It is an existence from which he is interrupted when he must return to his former hometown, a place of exterior beauty and, for Lee, emotional terror, to deal with his brother’s death. Once there he must confront family, his nephew, and former friends under the continual oppression that reminds him that Manchester by the Sea, represents a wasteland. There, he has lost everything meaningful he has ever known.
Patrick asks his uncle, why go back to a one room apartment and a job that he could do anywhere? It is an irony. And Lonergan answers Patrick’s question through an extended flashback, Lee’s memory of the horrific accident. Lonergan paints Lee’s remembrance in sharp visual images that emotionally stun, accompanied by an amazing selection of music (the music is brilliantly chosen throughout). Through this pointed flashback the mystery of Lee’s being and changed identity is brought into the unfortunate light.
The meat of the film is how Lonergan carefully patterns the relationship between Patrick and Lee starting with a joyful memory Lee has (in flashback), before tragedy strikes both brothers when Patrick was a youngster. It is a happy moment during a fishing outing and Lee kids Patrick about choosing him over his father. The irony is tremendously layered in the jump from the past to the present where it becomes twisted and sardonic; Lee must tell Patrick about his father’s death. Of course, if he could choose, Patrick would rather his uncle have been the one to die, not his father. And Lonergan clarifies as the film progresses, Lee would gladly have chosen to be the one who would die rather than Joe. But fate twists reality into the antithesis of their desires.
The emotional variety and seeming random reality of the actors’ performances captivate. It is impossible not to identify with the protagonist, despite how much one wants to extricate oneself from Lee’s engorgement on self-flagellation and broken heartedness. The scene between Randi and Lee toward the conclusion is Shakespearean and is incredibly human and real. Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck are not rendering performances, they are rendering a kaleidoscope of raw, emotional power. They are devastating.
Lonergan presents the case, that some hardships might be too much for any individual to bear. Lee Chandler finds a way, even if it it brings him into a state of oblivion. Catastrophe has sifted his soul and he has found himself wanting. It and his response to the accident place him in a limbo akin to an eternal process of dying without the imagined peace of finality. Lonergan’s film is a case study in the tragedy and triumph of the human spirit, even if it is to just get to the next second in linear time while enduring a parade of painful images erupting from one’s unconscious.
Lonergan’s acutely crafted storytelling emerges from his discrete human characterizations. His dialogue throbs life like a palpitating heart. His visual craft seamlessly modulates his characters’ feelings and interplay. Like life’s dynamism, the effect is so intricate and whispering, that one can miss the broader picture of beauty in suffering and redemption in nanoseconds of humor and felt connection with others. All this is to say that the film is absolutely fantastic. It is a must see for the levity and pathos and the incredible cast Lonergan has marshaled to relay what is most tragic, humorous and uplifting in our lives.
This review first appeared on Blogcritics.