Archive for October, 2010

Brunch at PS 450-New York City

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

By: Jemile Bata

A couple of weeks ago a friend, my daughter and I went to the city to visit Build a Bear.  Since we were already in Manhattan, we decided to go to brunch beforehand.  My boyfriend suggested a place called PS 450.  They have a brunch special for $12, with choice of coffee or tea, Mimosa, Bellini or Bloody Mary and an entrée.

The restaurant itself was gorgeous and trendy, autumn colors and sleek décor were soothing.  We only had to wait a short ten minutes for a table, the exclusiveness was exciting.  It is not often that I have the opportunity to take my daughter to a place that she will feel comfortable and I will feel like a grownup.  No placemats with crayons was refreshing!

They began by bringing out a basket full of miniature corn muffins, buttery biscuits and fresh strawberry jam.  The choices on the menu were fun to explore, ranging from eggs benedict to burgers.  All included interesting twists and special additions to the usual breakfast fare.  We made our choices and chatted for awhile, my daughter felt very grownup.  Our drinks came and it was nice to feel the bubbly champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice in the Mimosa.  The little one had orange juice alone, of course.

We ordered scrumptious Monkey bread and crispy seasoned homefries for the table to share.  The Monkey bread was gooey and not too sweet, in a cute little rectangle garnished with a mint leaf.  The ketchup came in tiny little ramekins, which my daughter marveled at.  The brunch experience was amazing so far and a good time was in full swing.  The staff was wonderful, attending our every need even with a large crowd filling every available seat.

Next came our entrée, my friend had ordered breakfast sliders, eggs and bacon or sausage.  My daughter ordered French toast with berries and bananas, powdered sugar sprinkled over it.  She was in heaven, although it was definitely too large for her tiny stomach, she was able to finish only a third of it.  The bread was thick and fluffy, not greasy at all and the berries were fresh and sweet.  I had ordered, at my boyfriend’s suggestion, the crab cake eggs benedict and salad and I was not disappointed.  The crab cakes were light and delicious, the poached eggs lay upon a bed of spinach, the hollandaise sauce was very good but not too rich.  My friend tried a bite and was impressed as well.  The salad and homefries on the side complimented the eggs and crab cakes well.  Overall, our meals were exciting, interesting and delicious. 

After our friend treated us, we exited with full intention of returning soon.  Our stomachs full and our senses satisfied.  Even my daughter was happy with the detour to her main objective, getting to Build a Bear!  We took a nice stroll down Fifth Avenue, the autumn air filling our lungs and the recent fond memory of a yummy brunch at PS 450.  Sunday couldn’t have been any better at that moment!

PS 450 is located at 450 Park Avenue South between 30th and 31st Streets on the west side of the street.

http://www.ps450.com/

Old Town Alexandria-Day Trip

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

With Fall here, a part of me longs for trips up north to Vermont.  My mother lived there before she passed away and the crisp breeze calls to me.  However, with an insane school schedule and lack of funds, it is not an option.  While I remember my love of travel, I think of one of my other favorite places to visit here in the Northeast.  Old Town Alexandria, just outside of Washington, D.C.

Last Memorial Day Weekend, my kids and I, visited Old Town Alexandria. I have been there previously a few times, and every time I go back I am even more enchanted. There are tons of things to do while there. I wish I could say that we visited all the amazing art galleries, museums, or even trekked down to the famous Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. Which was frequented by George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. However, we didn’t.

We actually took the Metro in from our hotel, L’Enfant Plaza to the Kings Street stop . Since we had spent the better part of three days making our way through the amazing, yet vast Smithsonian Museums we decided a simpler day was in order. So, the following are not the best of Old Town Alexandria, but they are fun little things to try not to miss when visiting (especially with kids):

·           Historic Alexandria is just a quaint, serene, beautiful little town. Cobblestones, pretty flowers hanging from the street lamps, a free old-fashioned trolley that runs through town, and a beautiful dock surrounded by a grassy field. Sitting on rocks by the water, a boat house, and a giant anchor that no child can keep from climbing.

•Historic Alexandria (Virginia) Visitor’s Center 

This is the best place to start before wondering around the town. There is so much information, extremely helpful and polite people to help with questions, a rest room, a sweet garden and a great place to find out if any special events are happening that day.

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMXZG

• Historic Alexander History Center & Museum Store

We didn’t actually make it to the Museum; however there was a very nice center with a coloring corner, Revolutionary dress up corner, a Civil War tent and other interesting information wagons.  My daughter had a fun time here; despite ourselves the adults did as well.  To be honest my teenage son wished he was anywhere else and he was starving!!!!! So whether or not you make it to the museum (we plan on it next time), don’t miss this little hidden “play place”!

http://oha.alexandriava.gov/oha-main/oha-historycenter.html

Shopping

We weaved in and out of such cute shops!  There were folk art, book shops, wine shops, cheese chops, fancy shops, toy stores, antique stores, and artisan shops.  We found a particularly adorable toy store where we picked up old fashioned small toys, like tops and things.  They even had little grab bags for $1 in paper lunch bags…which delighted my daughter with little treasures.

Eats

This by far was the most exciting thing.  After a sunny afternoon walk and hours of wandering around we were all famished.  Especially the previously mentioned, teenage boy!  The one problem we had in Washington D.C. was figuring out where to eat with kids.  Old Town Alexandria was the first place that we had options.  We finally decided on a fascinating chili place called: Hard Times Café.  Not only did it have an amazing history, lots of cowhides and vintage cowboy stuff, but it had amazing chili.  They even bring out a sampling platter of their four chilis!  The cornbread was so good. Family friendly and the waiters were extremely polite and helpful.  In fact this was one of my favorite parts of our visit.  The homemade root beer was so decadent and rich it was practically dessert, the best root beer any of us have ever had.

http://www.hardtimes.com/

Overall, we had a wonderful day, I think we all returned to the Metro (on the free trolley of course!) wishing we had some more time to look around.  We also spent very little and got the most from what we did spend, in this tight economy that was a plus! Next time we visit Washington, D.C., I have every intention of staying in Old Town Alexandria instead of by the National Mall.  Waking up in such a pretty place, taking a morning stroll with coffee along the City docks sounds like a great way to start a day full of museum visits with kids in tow!

Electronic Handheld Devices Have Increased Rudeness in our Society

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Electronic handheld devices have increased rudeness in our society; in particular cameras, iPods and cell phones are causing increased rudeness in our society.  You may wonder why this is important or why I am talking about this.  It is because rudeness and lack of manners affect everyone in society.  I want to figure out how to teach my children manners in a technological enhanced lifestyle.Most of what I am about to say is from personal experience, however I did some research and I will share that with you as well.

Last year, I visited MOMA to see an Edward Hopper exhibit.  While I was there, people were taking photographs of the works of art, even posing with the paintings!  It was difficult to enjoy the art, because people were pushing or standing directly in front of the paintings. Not only were these people oblivious to those around them, it was as if they weren’t even there.  It was more important to take a picture of the moment, than to experience the moment.  In the book, Technology and Human Values, written by Watkins, published in 1978, this technological side effect was foreseen, and should be addressed.  “People realize the impossibility of living with others if each considers only himself.”  It is important that we retain this concept as technology increasingly becomes integrated into people’s everyday lives.

This brings us to iPods.  It has now become common place for people to walk around with earphones permanently attached to one’s ear.  Never mind that one can no longer hear if someone is talking to them.  I have actually thought seriously about creating some sort of parental iPod sign language with my own teenage son.  This has created a strange illusion of being excused from manners all together.  If someone walks into a room with the volume so loud that other people can hear the music too, it is not seen as being rude.  Being oblivious to your surroundings and the people in it is never an excuse for rudeness.  According to the book, Technology and Society, technology is creating an environment that author, Brent Staples feels that, “…teenagers miss out socializing, the real world experience that would allow them to leave adolescence behind and grow into adulthood.” For instance, you can no longer even say bless you or excuse me to someone, they can’t hear you with all the music blaring in their ears.

This brings us to the device that a decade ago we couldn’t have fathomed what it truly was, and now few of us can not only live without one, they consume us.  Can anyone guess what this device is?  Yes, it is the cell phone.  This device not only incorporates the camera and iPod capabilities, which cause the rudeness I mentioned previously, it expands it greatly.  Donald Norman said in the book, Technology and Society, “Cell phones are weird…look at people who take cell phone calls in the middle of the street and go into a trancelike state.  They have left where they are physically and focused on interacting with a person on the telephone…the problem is people are not having this experience privately…others are forced to participate.  Obviously, talking loudly in public is the rudest of cell phone behavior.

Recently, a New York Times article mentioned, the opera singer, Gabriela Pochinki was arrested in New York City for speaking loudly on her phone in a restaurant.  We all know how rude this behavior can be.  Along with ringing phones interrupting  events, Hugh Jackman, recently went out of character during a Broadway show to scold an a person in the audience for not turning off his phone.  According to an ABC News “20/20” survey about “Rudeness in America” done in 2006, “Making Annoying Cell Phone Calls” and “Using Cells or Email Mid Conversation” was in the top five rudest behaviors.  That was four years ago, cell phones are far more prevalent today, it would be interesting to see a newer poll and what it would indicate.

The cell phone has another feature that has increased rude behavior in our society.  Texting and emailing.  Ever walk down the block and someone is walking in front of you slowly or just stops short?  Ever try to walk down the subway stairs and people are just standing in the stairwell texting or emailing?  Or have a conversation with someone while they continually text to someone and expect you to wait while they blatantly ignore you for someone that isn’t even there.

We as a nation have become obsessed with this new non verbal form of communication.  We have also become addicted to social networks like Facebook , Twitter, or Myspace, in such a way that it is more important to update the virtual people in our lives with our cell phones, rather than pay attention to the actual people that are physically surrounding us.  Interestingly enough, when the phone was originally invented, The Times posted an article in 1897 that stated, “We shall soon be nothing but transparent heaps of jelly to each other.”  Over a hundred years later this seems less funny, and truer than any of us could have ever realized.

People must treat other people with respect and kindness. It is important to be aware of the tangible world around oneself.  It is imperative that as a society we can adapt our existing manners and etiquette to our new technological lifestyles.  While I do not have an answer as to how we might resolve this, I noted that it is extremely important to be aware of the issues and to begin thinking about being less rude while using electronic handheld devices.  Amy Alkon, just wrote a book, due out this month called, I See Rude People, in it she talks about people that are rude, “They are going to inflict themselves on you, and the only way to stop them is to show them there’s a cost.” Perhaps we all need to figure out just what that cost is.

Haugen, and Susan Musser.  Technology and Society. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2007.

“Poll: Rudeness in America, 2006.” ABCNEWS.com. 3 Feb. 2006.  ABC Network.  3. Feb. 2006. <http://abcnews.go.com/2020/US/story?id=1574155>

Quenqua, Douglas.  “As the Rude Get Ruder, the Scolds get Scoldier.” New York Times. 15 Nov. 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/fashion/15rude.html?_r=1

Truss, Lynne. Talk To The Hand, #?*! The utter bloody rudeness of the world today, or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door. New York: Gotham Books, 2005.

Watkins and Roy Meador. Technology and Human Values: Collision and Solution. Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor Science Publishers Inc., 1978.

The Green Movement and Design

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

By Jemile Bata

The Green Movement has swept our nation and globe in a whirlwind of new ideas and old habits.   The green movement in this country is not something innovative; it was begun by Transcendentalists, in the 1860s, largely led by Henry David Thoreau: “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.” It is from Thoreau’s love of nature that America finds its roots in environmentalism.  Although, it was not until the 1970’s that this country began a tree hugging crusade into advocating preservation of our environment.  The current Green Movement is full of history, and has reappeared in society in a status quo position today.  The Green Movement and its effect on design and art in all aspects can be traced to the inspiration of Art Nouveau and Psychedelic art periods, two short yet profound eras of our time.  One can surely see the social reactionary/rebellion and artistic similarities of these previous eras and notice the coinciding time periods of the environmental time line itself.

It seems humans instinctively revert back to nature when technology bombards our individual lives.  The Green Movement may have roots in our history, but it exploded into our mass global society as soon as Al Gore uttered “Global Warming” and its effects in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Millions of Americans began to “go green” in an effort to reverse the effects of years of pollution and wasteful habits.  Consumers began to purchase things based on eco-friendly benefits rather than aesthetic qualities.  Designers and companies began to re-invent themselves and design began to go into a new and fresh direction.  Nature and green began to flood the artistic world, including the world of graphic design.

Due to the Green Movement, artists began to implement nature into every field of art and design, from traditional art, architecture, furniture, graphic design, fashion and advertising…not unlike art nouveau did when the world reacted against the industrial revolution.  As quoted from an online article, “A Brief History of the Green Movement”: “But American citizens have taken it upon themselves join a global movement, to learn more despite the gridlock in Washington; to conserve, to drive the development of eco-friendly consumption, to buy hybrids or use mass transit, even to telecommute. More and more people now recycle, compost, “go organic”, grow gardens and understand the connection between saving money, improving health and helping the environment. More people are interested in technology and efficient living than ever before. And more and more people are becoming curious about the natural world in all its majesty and strangeness.”  It is a revolution to return to a simpler way of life, but as an aesthetically and consumer driven society we have found a way to have our cake and eat it too.

Design fueled by the Green Movement uses organic and free flowing curvilinear lines and colors, shades and tones found in nature.  Most commonly greens, blues and browns are used in addition to a large number of trees, globes, leaves and abstract images of objects found in nature.  Recycling and conservation are the main themes of these images, but most of all the idea of worshipping nature and all of its magic is prevalent as well.  The inspiration of the Art Nouveau and its plant-like and natural forms can be seen, the psychedelic periods way of using art as a political message is also apparent.  Photography, collage, painting, graphic design and typography, and company logos all incorporate these principles into a visual icon of the Green Movement itself.

The calming tones of green and nature are the identifying feature of this new wave of design, but it is the political message behind it that has stirred a nation of Americans to demand it as the main artistic theme behind their purchases.  From reusable water bottles and shopping bags, to organic or hemp clothing, whimsical household eco-friendly objects and food packaging.  All carrying the unified reminder of a eco-conscious back to nature world.  Unlike the fleeting design periods of art nouveau and psychedelic rebellion art, mass media has latched onto the Green Movement with a fierce grip.  Americans that used to make fun of the “hippy weirdo” have thus becoming that in themselves, if only because everyone else is doing it.  Our nation is consumed with organic and sustainable living and everything it signifies.  It is a hope redeemed in our ever-increasingly technological computerized world full of cell phones, social networks and gadgets galore.  We have etched out a part of our world and past that we want to hang on to.  A simple and carefree world that wishes it could just leisurely picnic in a meadow full flowers and surrounded by trees, stopping only to skinny dip in the nearby water hole.  So no matter how many people we text or email, no matter how rushed and over stimulated our lives become, we can be surrounded by beautiful things, inspired by nature in the art and products designed by environmentalism.  While design may influence society most of the time, society has now dictated design.