Category Archives: Days of Covid 19

‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles’ Tribeca Film Festival Review

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

As COVID-19 has prompted the Metropolitan Musuem to close its doors to its thousands of visitors on a slow day and stream daily content, we have a chance to look back at another time. It is a throwback to the past splendors of the Met and its 2018 Versailles exhibit captured in a Tribeca Film Festival offering. Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, streamed online for press, fans and supporters. Tribeca Film Festival curtailed many of its events. However, they screened films in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which is perhaps worse than the French Revolution that felled the last of the French Kings (Louis XVI) and left the Palace of Versailles a shell of itself until later restoration.

Though I am a neophyte foodie, I had never heard of world renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi (cookbooks include Jerusalem, Plenty). Nor had I the time to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during its “Visitors to Versailles” exhibit:  https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/visitors-to-versailles.

The Metropolitan Museum enjoys featuring live events which bring important works to life. They attempt to ground them in the present by combining exhibits with other contemporary forms of expression. “Visitors to Versailles” was one such glorious presentation taking place in the Summer of 2018.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Though I missed attending the Versailles exhibit and particularly “The Feast of Versailles,” presented by Ottolenghi and his pastry chef collaborators, “all’s well that end’s well.” Laura Gabbert the documentarian known for city of Gold, No Impact Man and Sunset Story decided to do a quick and dirty film about Yotam Ottolenghi’s commission to create the “Feast of Versailles” giving us an inside look behind the scenes at how the “feast” portion of the exhibit came into being.

From start to finish, Gabbert chronicles the philosopher-foodie Ottolenghi at his home and his restaurant. We witness clips of him with restaurant colleagues tasting and refining desserts. We immediately get a sense of Ottolenghi’s expertise, congeniality and collaborative skills to perfect dishes to will please his clientele.

The filmmaker features brief interview clips o Ottolenghi describing how he works and how he responded to the Met’s commission of his culinary artistry. Then she the chronicles the chef’s visit to New York City from his home base in London and reviews meetings with Met Museum experts who assist him in his research of the culture, opulence and luxury of Versailles as the seat of world culture for over 100 years during the reign of the Sun Kings. Importantly, the Met experts discuss the types of foods that the king and his patrons enjoyed, gleaned from the records and from oil paintings of that time.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

As Ottolenghi visits Versailles, Gabbart includes panoramic views of the glorious gardens and various salons and rooms including the “hall of mirrors” which she films as Ottolenghi comments. This section perhaps could have been added to; there is never enough photography of the incredible palace. However, film clips include the drawings, renderings and other works capturing the style of the palace dating back three hundred-fifty years.

From his readings, his discussions with the experts and his Versailles visit, Ottolenghi decides to review online a myriad of pastry chefs to assess whom he might best collaborate with who will convey his vision. It’s an important selection process. They will help him elucidate the ethos of Versailles though a contemporary lens. After visiting their websites and scrutinizing their “wares” online, he hones in on five visionary dessert chefs: Dinara Kasko, Janice Wong, Bompas & Parr, Ghaya Oliveira, and Dominique Ansel. All of these chefs are as diverse from each other as is the east from the west.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Yotam OttolenghiTribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Ottolenghi’s research of French history and epicurean tradition, meetings, planning and contacts which have taken months are everything. Then Gabbert slows down her time frame and follows the pressure on the five chefs as they arrive at the Met to set up their displays and work their magic two days before the culinary event the “Feast of Versailles.”

These unique and renowned pastry chefs (creator of the “Cronut” Dominique Ansel, among others) have been guided with a light hand by Ottolenghi who has envisioned the evening as an emulation of French decadence that manifests spinning reflections into our own age. Months before the event, each pâtissier works to create a unique dessert inspired by the conceptualization of Versailles’ over-the-top dramatic grandeur. Chocolate sun kings to elaborate jellies, tarts to swans and topiaries — Gabbert reveals the artistry of the dessert chef and the challenges they confront fashioning their presentations in a formidable setting like the Met which is not outfitted as a culinary institute, indeed, far from it.

As the tension rises, the worst possible scenarios occur. The electrical circuit doesn’t work and it is a trial for the electricians to come up with a solution so that the “tornado” effect delivered by the special machine will spin with gusto. In another instance, the cake batter is not the right consistency because the ingredients in the US are different. The pastry chef tries numerous times with the help of an American expert who insists another ingredient should be added. The director wisely leaves the chef unmoored from her art, questioning how to correct the batter. Will she find a solution the day of the Feast?

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Importantly, the “Feast” is a living paean to the court of the monarchy which daily was a staged scene that gave audience to artists, writers, reporters, foreign tourists and subjects who witnessed the rich splendor of the King’s residence, his dominance over his officials and his power as head of state. French cuisine then and now had a great impact on French society which continues into our modern day with cultivars like Julia Child, Eric Ripert, Dominique Ansel and more. One cannot examine a cookbook and not see French words used for process and product: i.e. saute, flambe, mousse, omelet, etc.

One theme that Gabbert explores is this idea that there is little privacy in the world of the Sun Kings who exposed themselves, perhaps too much, for it led to their downfall in the extremes of poverty and wealth. Today, Social Media is used to eliminate our privacy, but the uber wealthy manage to stay away from the public spotlight, where the Sun Kings sought it. The reputed richest in the world are not necessarily so; old wealth that dominates for centuries is unknown and uninvestigated, for good reason.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Yotam Ottolenghi, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Another theme that the director alludes to briefly, which should have been elucidated at length, is the idea of excess, crass opulence and decadence. The director includes one shot of Donald Trump’s gold room and makes the analogy that such excess caves in on itself as did the French Monarchy. On a superficial level the “equivalence” seems to make sense. She  needed to extrapolate about the parallels and reveal that past their superficiality, there is no parallel. The Sun Kings were far from frivolous and unlearned. Their culture developed over a century and the accoutrements they surrounded themselves with were priceless. The same does not abide for the dim comparative currently in the White House and the occupants’ crass nouveau riche sensibilities.

What may abide in this romp through Versailles and the lovely feast of extravagant and clever desserts is the theme that the draining wealth and riches it takes to sustain the luxurious materialism chokes off everything. Eventually, the debts pile up and the enemies threaten. Soon the borrowing becomes so great one is entailed with quid pro quos, not a way to remain autonomous. And then the revolution comes when there is not enough food to go around. The film is an interesting view of the days of glory during a time when new elites strive for similitude but fall so short, they don’t recognize their foibles and pretensions.

But Gabbert manages to tie the times vaguely together with the elaborate desserts and concepts of the grand master of the “Feast of Versailles,” Ottolenghi. And she infers gently that the sustainability of such excess is as mortal as its keepers. We recognize the fragility of excess more than ever in this COVID-19 global pandemic.

 

 

‘Banksy Most Wanted’ Directors E-Chat During the Pandemic, Tribeca Film Festival

Banksy Most Wanted, Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley, Tribeca Film Festival,

Banksy’s mural ‘Girl With the Pierced Eardrum,’ featured on city graffiti tours in Bristol, UK in a 2019 photo. From ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of Cross Borders Films and Scarlett Production

I screened and reviewed Banksy Most Wanted  as a Tribeca Film Festival offering, which appears on https://blogcritics.org/ and in a longer review: https://caroleditosti.com/2020/04/29/banksy-most-wanted-a-tribeca-film-festival-review/

I enjoyed the film which raised questions about the confluence of Banky’s art and Banksy’ anonymity. Would his art have the power it does if his identity is disclosed? The film, directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley delves into the Banksy myth and reality with a profound and in-depth portrait of a man who performs a great service to humanity which happens to be illegal. I had the opportunity after screening and writing the review to chat with directors via email about the film and how they arrived at their subject.

Girl With Balloon, Banksy Most Wanted, Banksy, Sotheby's, Girl With Balloon Shredded

‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ “Girl With Balloon,” Banksy, ‘Girl With Balloon’ Shredded at Sotheby’s auction (https://www.engadget.com/2018-10-18-banksy-girl-with-balloon-meant-to-be-shredded-completely.html)

What inspired you to do a film about Banksy? 

Aurélia :
First, a deep admiration for his work. Then a fascination for his anonymity maintained for more than 25 years. How can he stay anonymous in the kind of society we are living in nowadays? Probably because a lot of people want him to stay anonymous. His approach is part of a counter-culture, stands on the side of resistance, and most people respect that. They admire his ability to stay invisible, and yet very visible, when we have so few ways to hide.
 
On the other side, some think it is a marketing trick, that Banksy is looking for the world’s attention, that he plays a game. They want to challenge him to his game; they want to unmask him.
 
These two positions are part of Banksy’s history and feed his myth. So we thought it would be interesting to portray the artist by following this thread. Our intention has always been to talk about his work, his irreverence, his political and social commitment, as much as the hysteria that his work and his mystery triggers… So each of the investigations by the journalists who had tried to unmask him has been an entry into revealing a facet of the artist.
Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley, Banksy Most Wanted, Tribeca Film Festival, Banksy

Aurélia Rouvier, Interview of directors Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley Interview, ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ (courtesy Cross Border Films and Scarlett Production)

 

Seamus :
It was Aurélia who had the idea to question anonymity in art through the portrait of the most famous artist, Banksy. I only arrived to the project once the script was written.
 
For this film, I was inspired in part by Marc Singer’s film, Dark Days, released in 2000. It’s a documentary about a homeless community living and dying in the tunnels of the New York City subway and fighting to get out. The atmosphere is very dark and brutal; it perfectly transcribes that of the new millennium 2000s with the advent of hip hop and graffiti.
 
It is also the year that I turned twenty – it is at this time that I began to have a political conscience, to want to make films, especially with my skate-boarding friends. The street was our space. It was during this period that Banksy would have begun to be heard, denouncing certain injustices.
 
Dark Days begins with a subjective view of the railway tracks, lit by the flashlight, gradually discovering this underground world. With Aurélia, we used this technique that puts the spectator in the place of the protagonist.
Seamus Haley Seamus Haley, Banksy Most Wanted, Tribeca Film Festival, Banksy

Seamus Haley, Interview of directors Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley Interview, ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ (courtesy Cross Border Films and Scarlett Production)

 
If you discovered his/her true identity, would you reveal it? Why? Why not?
 
Aurélia :
If you think of a Banksy piece, like the one he did in a bathroom during the lockdown for example. If the minute after you have seen it, you can imagine the man doing the stencil, because you know his face, his name, you know in which town the house is, you know that his wife and his 13-year-old son or daughter is probably behind the door.. it is immediately less fun.
 
In a field like art that involves the imagination and reflection, I think it is good not knowing everything and have space to project onto. So, no I would not reveal who he is. 
 
I think, especially at this present and difficult time, we aspire to fantasy and the fictional world. James Straffon, an artist interviewed in the documentary says that “people like to feel that there is some kind of rescue just around the corner, there is hope somehow.” That is probably why a superhero character like Banky is so popular.
Aurélia Rouvier, Seamus Haley,Seasons Greetings, Banksy, Port Talbot, Wales, UK, John Brandler, Banksy Most Wanted, Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley

Banksy’s mural “Season’s Greetings” in Port Talbot, UK with its buyer John Brandler, who bought the piece for more than 100,000 Euros, in a 2019 photo. ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (Cross Borders Films and Scarlett Production)

 
Seamus :
At the very beginning, I wanted to know, then, while reading the script, I let myself get carried away, forgetting my interest in Banksy’s identity. I was much more interested in what Banksy was bringing to people: to the grandmother of an industrial city who saw from her window “her Banksy” every morning, to journalists who want to be known in history as the person who revealed his/her identity, his alter-ego who travels around England to tear his graffiti off the walls…
 
This story endures because we do not know the identity of the artist. It is exciting and we should not forget that the imagination is always more creative than reality. Like Steeve Lazarides says so well about Banksy’s anonymity : “It is like telling a child that Santa Claus does not exist!”
Banksy, Girl With the Pierced Eardrum, COVID-19

Banksy, “Girl With A Pierced Eardrum ,” COVID-19 update (courtesy of the site)

 
Are there any elements of the subject that you wanted to explore but didn’t have the time or money?  If so, can you discuss?  If not, explain why.
 
Aurélia :
If we had more time, I would have loved to focus more on the Banksy sprayed on the Bataclan door, and investigate its theft. Because of the event to which Banksy paid tribute, and the way he did it, on this emergency exit, with this silhouette that looks like mourners, the stencil was very important for people. More than others, this one was our French Banksy, and I can’t still understand that it has disappeared.
 
Seamus :
We would have loved to have been able to interview Banksy himself, but how to be sure that it is the real Bansky?
 
In our film, Steeve Lazarides explains that when they were working together, they sent a friend to answer TV interviews. By sending an imposter, it made the idea of anonymity even more clear as well as the relationship between the individual and the artist.
 
Banksy says it very well in his film, Exit Through the Gift Shop. Mr. Brainwash, the “hero” of the film, is the caricature of Bansky; a kind of alter ego.
 
Banksy in lockdown

Banksy in lockdown (courtesy of Banksy on Instagram, courtesy of the site)


When did both of you first learn about Banksy?
 
Aurélia :
My awareness of Banksy came. I think it dates from his documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, as I have strangely no memories of his exhibit in Los Angeles, “Barely Legal”! But the moment when I really loved him was when he set this pop-up stall outside Central Park in NY selling original Banksys for only 60 dollars. I think only two or three people had bought them. Five years before his prank at Sotheby’s, Banksy was already questioning the value we put on art.
 
Seamus :
The first time I heard about Banksy was in 2006. A director friend of mine gave me his book “Wall and Piece.” The message was fresh and politically incorrect and I was hooked.

Seamus Scanlon Interview: Chatting With the Playwright of ‘The McGowan Trilogy’

The McGowan Trilogy, Seamus Scanlon

‘The McGowan Trilogy,’ written by Seamus Scanlon, directed by Kira Simring, part of 1st Origin Irish Theater Festival, Seamus Scanlon Interview (courtesy of Seamus Scanlon)

I had the opportunity to see Th McGowan Trilogy and review it on Blogcritics as an offering of The Origin Company’s 1st Irish Theater Festival 2014.  Since then I have been in touch with Seamus Scanlon on social media and have kept up with his activities from time to time during posts. Finally, I caught up with him during the COVID-19 pandemic when we both had the time for me to interview him online via email.

Seamus, give the readers a bit of backstory about yourself.

My background is in science so I am a late convert to the arts. I am a first generation college goer in my family so gainful employment was the priority not frivolity (i.e. the creative arts). Science did appeal to me because it was definitive;  equations and formulae were a great attraction for me. Also, my hand writing is appalling. I can’t even read it myself. I knew I would never be able to write papers or complete an analysis in college that a teacher could decipher.

Despite this, I recall playing a recording of Dylan Thomas reading Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night and I was immediately affected by it although I did not let on because our school was an artistic black hole. (In 2018, the Japanese production of The McGowan Trilogy played this recording during the performance which was an amazing surprise for me. I felt I had come full circle!) In English class we also read the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh – a self taught genius raised in poverty in rural County Monaghan. This poetry stirred me and remained with me despite my selection of science to pursue for a career

My hometown of Galway is an artistic epicenter with the Tony Award winning Druid Theater Company; the Galway International Arts Festival and The Cúirt International Festival of Literature.  Nora Barnacle (James Joyce’s wife) was born there and Lady Gregory (Yeats’ mentor and co-founder of the Abbey Theater in Dublin) lived about 15 miles from Galway, Ireland. Galway county was the backdrop for Synge and Martin McDonagh. So there was no excuse for me not to be enamored of literature, but I just ignored it all.  I was too timid to explore it.

How long did you work on the McGowan Trilogy?

Not very long. It was kick started by Nancy Manocherian’s Cell Theater Company Ltd (artistic director Kira Simring) who read a short play of mine Dancing at Lunacy and then staged it as part of the The Irish Cell event in March 2012. They then asked for a full play so I developed two other inter related one acts – The Long Wet Grass and Boys Swam Before Me. They were great to work with – two Jewish women interested in all things Irish. This was staged in Oct 2014 as part of the 1st Irish Theater Festival and was well received. The play was also published by Arlen House. Get a free digital copy here.

The McGowan Trilogy, Seamus Scanlon, Kira Simring, 1st Origin Irish Theater Festival

‘The McGowan Trilogy,’ written by Seamus Scanlon, directed by Kira Simmring, Seamus Scanlon Interview (courtesy of Seamus Scanlon)

What experiences helped you frame the story?

I lived in Belfast for five years so I was exposed to the daily life of Army patrols, constantly hovering Army helicopters, riots, shootings, July 12th marches where the deep seated tribal differences are in full flow. Before living in Belfast I had been affected greatly by the Hunger Strike in Belfast where 7 IRA and 3 INLA political prisoners died. Hunger strikes in Ireland have a long tradition. They are doubly significant and symbolic in Ireland because of the Great Famine (1847) which killed 1.5 million and caused forced emigration of 1.5 million to the US. A therapist in Belfast treating ex gunmen (late teens and early twenties) who had killed for the ‘cause’ and were suffering major trauma after killing someone.

Where has it been produced since it premiered in the US?

After The Cell production in 2014, they brought it to Hastings (UK) to the Kino-Teatr owned by a devoted Russian Hibernophile, Olga Manonova. The same Summer it was staged in two venues in Galway, and in Westport’s Townhall.

The major surprise for me came in 2018. The McGowan Trilogy (in Japanese) play was staged in Japan (in Japanese) to full houses (the lead was a rising movie star so that helped!). I traveled to Tokyo to see it and it was an amazing experience. They were selling merchandise in the foyer so I felt like a rock star! Japan has an amazing richness of theater and other art forms.

In Ireland three amateur drama groups have staged parts of the Trilogy and the feed back is usually positive. Amateur drama in Ireland is a long standing cultural phenomenon.

In April 2020 a theater student, Molly Flanagan at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) was to direct The Long Wet Grass. I was very excited to see this but it had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 situation. Our mixed genre presentation Galway: The Good, the Bad, The Ugly at the New York Irish Center for April 23 had to be cancelled as well as an April performance at Lehman College.

Seamus Scanlon, The McGowan Trilogy,

Seamus Scanlon, ‘The McGowan Trilogy,’ Seamus Scanlon Interview (courtesy of Seamus Scanlon)

In addition to The McGowan Trilogy, what are some of your successes over the years of which you are most proud?

Since 2016 I have self produced The Long Wet Grass at a number of locations such as Lehman College, City College Downtown, Art House, An Beal Bocht, Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and The New York Irish Center.

In February 2020 I collaborated on the immersive theater event Echoes of Calling with the Japanese dancer and choreographer Akiko Kitamura. If the COVID-19 restrictions lift in time this may be staged again in the Fall.

I worked on two film projects The Long Wet Grass (Ireland/USA, 2017) and The Butterfly Love Song (Ireland/USA, 2019) which was a new medium for me and challenging. I learned a lot – mainly that I should stick to play writing!

My first art form was fiction so I managed to have seven pieces published in Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder slot.

In 2019 I was awarded a special achievement award by the United Federation of Teachers for my work as a librarian at City College Downtown and the international success of The McGowan Trilogy.

What projects do you have in the works?

My next full length play The Blood Flow Game is a sequel to The McGowan Trilogy and is due for publication shortly. The end game for all plays is to have them produced so that is my goal. I have had four table readings of it as part of that process. I thought after The McGowan Trilogy success in Japan I would be a hot prospect but that is not the case!!

The radio play script of The Butterfly Love Song was short listed in Ireland in 2020 and that was a great thrill for me. It was the first radio play I had written. The Cell Theater, where I started off with Dancing at Lunacy, is going to develop it in Fall 2020 as a radio play/podcast.

I have few short films in the works including Three-Nil, Move Baby, Recycle This and The Resurrection Love Song.

Have you been able to get around Covid 19 virtually as other playwrights and artists have done?

The Butterfly Love Song which premiered in NYC in October 2019 and was screened in Dublin in early March 2020 is now being screened offline by various film festivals so that is encouraging. Film lends itself to this more than any other artistic format. Watch the trailer and the full film free at Irish Film London.

What is the first thing you will do, once the medical profession and the government has a handle on Covid 19 and has decided that businesses can reopen along with bars and restaurants?

I am looking forward to getting back to job as a librarian at City College Downtown. It was set up by the Labor Unions in 1981. Many students are first time college goers (like myself), many are from blue collar backgrounds (like myself) so I have a natural affinity with these students. We offer BA, BS and MA programs. Classes run weekday evenings and Saturdays. We specialize in one-on-one advising from day one. Email aboutcwe@ccny.cuny.edu for more info.

I am pretty deaf so I can’t really hear anyone in a noisy café or bar. I write in cafés. My office in Galway – when I am home – is The Secret Garden where I accomplish a lot. I hope it is open by July or I will be in trouble.

I have no writing schedule or format or craft advice or a writing desk or writing techniques. I am probably the worst person to look at for guidance since I do not really know how I write etc. I did an MFA in City College in New York and that was very useful because I had writing deadlines so I had to produce.

You can update Seamus’ activities on his website at www.seamusscanlon.com

 

 

NYBG Celebrates Earth Day 50 Online

New York Botanical Garden, Magnoias,

New York Botanical Garden, magnolias (courtesy of NYBG)

New York Botanical Garden is helping New Yorkers and global fans enjoy Spring in New York by maintaining social distancing during New York “Pause.” They have been holding online watch parties and have kept their virtual programming alive to involve those sheltering at home with interactive events and online classes that stream via YouTube.

The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham's Kaleidoscope, NYBG 18th Orchid Show, Jeff Leatham

‘The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope,’ NYBG 18th Orchid Show, (Carole Di Tosti)

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) has created an  environment-themed Facebook Watch Party and Webinars which will be held on Wednesday, April 22 through Saturday, April 25, 2020.
The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham's Kaleidoscope, NYBG 18th Orchid Show, Jeff Leatham

‘The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope, NYBG 18th Orchid Show, (Carole Di Tosti)

Earth Day 50 will launch on NYBG at Home.  The New York Botanical Garden’s Earth Day 50 celebrations on NYBG at Home, are the Garden’s one-stop collection of digital resources and offerings as they mark the 50th anniversary of the modern environmental movement  with multiple days of online programs. Specific information is available here.
The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham's Kaleidoscope, NYBG 18th Orchid Show, Jeff Leatham

‘The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope,’ NYBG 18th Annual Orchid Show (Carole Di Tosti)

The Overstory with Richard Powers and Todd Forrest
On Wednesday, April 22 at 12 pm, NYBG is holding a Facebook Watch Party to revisit Richard Powers’s 2019 NYBG talk about The Overstory. The Overstory is Powers bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about trees and our planet’s existential struggle between humans and non-humans. Powers will be in conversation with Todd Forrest, NYBG’s Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections. You may participate live on Facebook, or catch up afterward via the Garden’s Plant Talk blog. You may also watch the video on YouTube where you may leave comments and share.
Earth Day @ 50: Tools for 21st-Century Ecology
The Webinar will be held on Friday, April 24; 11 a.m.
Kerissa Battle, Founding Director, Community Greenways Collaborative, Inc., and Daniel Atha, NYBG’s Director of Conservation Outreach, will be in discussion about documenting biodiversity across New York City through the New York Phenology Project and New York City EcoFlora project.
Take Action with Citizen Science
The Webinar will take place on Saturday, April 25; 2–4 p.m.
NYBG scientists will hold an introductory webinar featuring themed sessions on the different ways you can participate in citizen science. From observing and documenting nature to transcribing historical documents, you can offer your contribution to helping planet earth by encouraging others toward gaining the wisdom to understand and protect the natural world.
Where We Are, The Benefit of Virtuality
During the 20th century after its establishment, New York Botanical Garden went through many world crises (WWI, an earth-shattering pandemic, The Spanish Flu- the H1N1 virus, the Great Depression, WWII, etc. ). Now in its 130th year, we are experiencing another global pandemic which, too, has an uncertain outcome, the COVID-19 Crises. Throughout, the Garden  has provided New York City residents with peace and respite during troubled times.
The Spanish Flu virus was a coronavirus that like COVID-19 became a pandemic. It  occurred in three waves: the first in early 1918, the second and most deadly in late 1918 into early 1919, and the third during the middle of 1919.
Unlike the Spanish Flu pandemic which killed 33,000 in NYC, COVID-19 is much more deadly. It kills with 10 X the virulence and spread of the flu and it is novel. Scientists are unclear if the recovered have antibodies and if some antibodies over others help those who have resolved the disease to be immune. However, how long the immunity, if there is immunity remains to be seen. Problematic are that the symptoms vary widely and have broadened as those infected report them. Already in about a month since action has been taken beginning March 13th, the US numbers are moving toward 800,000 confirmed cases with over 40,000 deaths. In New York City there are 138,700 confirmed cases with 14, 286 deaths as I write this. So the experts have been accurate in their determination that Covid 19 is a lethal virus which targets the vulnerable older population with co-morbidities, but also seeks anyone whose body and immune system can be made into a Covid 19 playground.
 Since we began in earnest to “pause” in New York State, NYBG is temporarily closed and all in-person events, on-site programs and classes, and exhibitions have been suspended. The public health guidelines issued by federal, state, and local governments and the CDC to support stringent efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 remains unquestioned for those who intend to protect others and save lives, especially of those who are on the front lines: doctors, nurses, grocery workers, police, EMT, cleaners, delivery workers, postal workers and more.
In choosing the option between life and death, the choice seems simple. The vast majority of New Yorkers do not want to contribute to putting someone like a family member or friend or neighbor on a ventilator where their chances of dying are 80/20. Sheltering in is a wise choice, if one considers the alternative.
The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham's Kaleidoscope, NYBG 18th Orchid Show, Jeff Leatham

The Orchid Show: Jeff Leatham’s Kaleidoscope, NYBG 18th Orchid Show (Carole Di Tosti)

While the Garden’s gates may be closed temporarily, their virtual gates are wide open. The Garden invites its community near and and far to stay connected during this challenging time. Earth Day 50 with NYBG at Home is one way to do that.

Drop by online to see Earth Day 50 on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, April 22, 23, and 25, 2020.
For the Facebook Watch Party click on this link:     https://www.facebook.com/events/230352968026472/
You will find other Earth Day 50 events on NYBG at Home, NYBG’s Web site https://www.nybg.org/nybg-at-home/. Information about NYBG’s other virtual events is also there.
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