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Two movie posts in a row?! I’m pretty sure that’s never happened before. It’s Saturday morning and I can’t stop thinking about the movie I saw last night, Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen makes a lot of movies — this is his 41st as writer/director. I go to see them all because I believe they’re all worth seeing at least once. If I don’t think one of them is great, I probably won’t see it again and I’ll just forget about it. The ones that are great, though, I will watch over and over and over again, year after year. It doesn’t bother me that Woody Allen’s movies are “uneven” in terms of their success, and if you’ve seen the excellent American Masters documentary about him, you know that doesn’t bother Woody, either. He’s already on to the next project by then, anyway. (If you’re a Woody fan, you need to see that documentary. PBS has it online.)

The laziest reviews of Woody Allen’s movies usually contain a sentence that starts out with, “In what may perhaps be Allen’s best film since _________,” but I think it’s a mistake to review one of his movies by comparing it to another. It’s not possible to rank his movies in that way. How can you quantify the greatness of movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors (I could continue, but I’ll stop there)? He’s doing very different things in each of those movies. He didn’t set out to accomplish the same thing in each one, and forcing them to compete with each other is pointless.

But anyway, back to Blue Jasmine. In what may perhaps be Allen’s best film since…just kidding. I’m a lazy reviewer, but at least I know I’m lazy. Here’s a quick punch-list of general notes:

▶ It’s set primarily in San Francisco, with flashbacks that take place in New York City.
▶ CATE BLANCHETT. She plays what must have been a very, very difficult role, and she is phenomenal in it. I cannot stop thinking about her performance.
▶ Who else writes roles like this for women? (There was a great article in the Times last week about Woody Allen’s female protagonists. All hail Diane Keaton for showing Woody the way.)
▶ Andrew Dice Clay? Seriously? Yeah, and he was great, proving once again that Woody gets the best performances out of every actor he works with.
▶ There’s a creepy dentist in the movie named Dr. Flicker, a nod to the smoking pediatrician in Annie Hall. I had a deep Woody-nerd moment in the theater last night over that one.
▶ I love Bobby Cannavale. (Third Watch fans unite.)
▶ Yes, this really is the best movie Woody Allen has made in a long time.

Here’s the plot synopsis: “After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.” I have to laugh at the word “modest” describing Ginger’s apartment because I know San Francisco ain’t cheap, but it’s functioning as a stand-in for Brooklyn, where Jasmine had previously stooped to living (that got a big laugh in the theater!) after losing her Manhattan life of luxury and excess. The point is that Jasmine used to be very, very, very wealthy, and Ginger is an average woman leading an average life. There are allusions to A Streetcar Named Desire, yes, but it’s not a retelling of that story — nor is it Ruth Madoff’s story, those are just the references you have going into the theater. By the time you’re done with it, though, all of that seems incidental. This is Jasmine’s story, or at least part of it, and it doesn’t have an end. I left the theater feeling pretty raw. I also felt like I wanted to go back to my seat and watch the late showing, too. You’re seeing everything through Jasmine’s hyper-judgmental, snobbish eyes while also watching her have a true mental breakdown, and the effect is incredibly disturbing. Woody Allen is of course the master of introducing just enough lightness and comedic into very dark, emotionally heavy moments, and he does it perfectly in this movie. In that way (and only in that way) I was reminded of Hannah and Her Sisters — another “serious” Woody movie with a lot of hilarious moments.

GO SEE IT!! If you’re in Brooklyn, it’s showing at the BAM Harvey Theater on the enormous new Steinberg screen. I saw The Godfather there last week, too, and it’s a pretty majestic space. I love seeing movies in theaters that feel special.

My first apartment — rented when I moved off-campus after my sophomore year of college — was not in New York City. It was in Yonkers, a city often (wrongly) assumed to be part of NYC, probably because of Neil Simon. It is true that if I walked out of my apartment on McLean Avenue and crossed the street, I’d officially be in the Bronx, but my heart knew I was technically in Westchester County. It wasn’t until I finished school a couple of years later that I finally got myself to Brooklyn. My dad, who lived on the Upper East Side and on Staten Island when I was a kid, had moved back to Manhattan by then. Aside from Coney Island, Brooklyn was still mostly uncharted territory for me. A couple of my brothers were living in Cobble Hill, and I’d visited each of their apartments exactly once before deciding I wanted to live in the same neighborhood. If I’m being honest, there was one particular thing about the house on Henry Street I wound up moving into that really got me excited: It was a block and a half away from Cammareri Bros., the bakery for which Nicolas Cage and Danny Aiello’s characters in Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck (Ronny and Johnny Cammareri, of course) are named and in the basement oven-room of which Cher first meets her “wolf without a foot.”

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(“Now” photo via Google Earth)

Yes, Cammareri Bros. was a real bakery! It closed down soon after I moved to the neighborhood and later reopened in a different location, and the space (along with its next door neighbor, formerly the Little Chatter Box Beauty Salon) has since been occupied by a series of cafés, currently Maybelle’s, who, it’s worth mentioning, make a mean tofu scramble and an even meaner iced coffee. Both the interior and exterior are still pretty much the same as in the Cammareri days, and a portion of the old bakery sign is displayed inside. If you go, make sure you look at the floor when you first walk in — an inlay of the letters “NC” (for Nicolo Cammareri, who opened the bakery in 1921) remain in the old terrazzo floor.

EDIT: While checking on the spelling of his name, I came across Nicolo Cammareri’s 1940 US Census record. Pretty neat, right? 206 Sackett is the address of the side entrance, which leads to the apartments above. Also interesting that he had a daughter named Grace — there was an elderly Italian woman on my block named Grace. She used to sign for packages for me when I was at work, and she had a Frank Sinatra shrine in her apartment. She passed away around 2000. If she was born in 1915 like the census record indicates, that would have put her in her mid-80s when I lived there. I wonder if she was Nicolo Cammareri’s daughter! Further investigation needed…

The first time I saw Moonstruck was 25 years ago, with my mother, in a movie theater in Kingston. I was 12 years old. I remember loving it, naturally, but I mostly remember the specifics of the night because my mother’s car got a flat tire when we were driving back to Rhinebeck after the movie. Another thing that sticks in my mind from that first viewing is the breakfast Olympia Dukakis prepared:

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I had never seen anything like that before, but it looked so delicious. I asked my mother to recreate the dish at home, and up until I stopped eating eggs a few years ago, it remained a breakfast favorite for me. For all these years I’d assumed it was an Italian dish, but Googling tells me it’s usually either called “eggs in a hole” or “eggs in a basket,” and everyone everywhere knows what it is — except for Swedes and Jews, apparently, because I’m quite sure it would never have been a part of my life without that scene in Moonstruck. (As an aside, I see that V.K.Rees has come up with a recipe for vegan-friendly eggless eggs in a basket, which I will definitely have to try out ASAP.)

In the years since that first viewing, I’d guess I’ve seen Moonstruck at least 30 times in part or full. Beyond its Brooklyn-ness, it’s just a fantastic movie. I’m sure I don’t need to convince you of that, though, because pretty much every human alive has seen it. (And if for some crazy reason you haven’t, it’s on HBO GO right now. You can also rent it from Amazon Instant. It’s not on Netflix, of course, because nothing you want to watch is ever on Netflix.) Aside from Cher’s old face and Nicolas Cage’s old hairline, I’ve always had this fixation with the kitchen in the Castorini family house — which, if you ever want to take a Moonstruck walking tour, is located at 19 Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, about a mile from formerly-Cammareri’s. For years I’ve carried around a mental picture of its soft green hues, vintage subway tiles and the overall feeling of a family gathering place. Today I decided to watch the movie again specifically for the kitchen, and to finally take some screen captures.

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Two things I noticed for the first time when I was taking the screen captures were the painted-over cabinet hardware and the laminate countertops, neither of which are hallmarks of gorgeous vintage kitchens, but are indicative of the fact that this movie was filmed in an actual family home, and not on a set built for a movie. The same goes for that flocked vinyl tablecloth on the kitchen table. I guess I just overlooked that stuff the first 29 times I watched the movie! Regardless, the kitchen is beautiful, and it’s full of life. And that tile!! Ahhh, the tile. It doesn’t come through in the captures, but it’s covered with cracks and crazing. 19 Cranberry was built in 1829 so it’s not original to the house (tiled kitchens didn’t become standard until the Victorian era), but it’s clearly very old. The house sold in 2008 for nearly $4 million, and thankfully the listing photos don’t show the kitchen — I don’t think I could bear to find out if it had been gutted.

(Or you know, to discover the whole thing was actually shot on a soundstage in Toronto. Shhhhhh.)

Meanwhile, back at Cammareri Bros.…

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In the movie, Ronny’s apartment is above the bakery. The entrance was on the Sackett Street side of the building, to the right of the stairs that led to the basement ovens. I’m almost positive that’s where the apartment interior was actually filmed. I have a distant memory of a friend who used to live in the neighborhood telling me so. Judging by the position of the windows and the color of the façades visible across the street, I’m guessing it’s on the second floor of the building, with the living room facing Henry Street. In any case, this is pretty much exactly what a classic pre-war Brooklyn apartment has always looked like in my mind. Ironically, the closest I’ve ever come to finding a rental apartment in this kind of vintage condition was my first place in Yonkers! I love the beadboard, the pressed-tin in the kitchen and the moldings on the walls. And that old refrigerator with its non-safety handle, just waiting to trap small children inside when it gets put out for trash…sigh. Also, I don’t know if this is intentional, but I love that the color of the Vespa (used for storing books!) is the same as the cabinets in the Castorini kitchen.

I wonder who lives in this apartment now, and if it still looks like this. I hope so. Yesterday I stood outside the entrance for a little while, waiting to see if anyone would come out. Not that I would’ve said anything to them, but you know…just to see. Now that I live in the neighborhood again, I can do all the Moonstruck-stalking I want.

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I’ve been following Barb Blair and her South Carolina furniture rehab shop, Knack Studios, online forever — first on Flickr (Remember when everyone hung out on Flickr? Poor Flickr…), and then on her blog and Instagram. A couple of years ago Barb and I met in person, and she was everything I imagined — warm, funny and smart. I’m a huge fan of Barb the person and of Barb’s work, so when Chronicle Books asked if I’d like to review her new book, Furniture Makeovers, as part of a blog tour, I said YES. Of course!

Barb’s motto is “live with what you love,” a belief I feel very personally aligned with. In an era of publicly sharing the contents of our personal spaces, there’s a tendency to make decisions about what we surround ourselves with based on an expectation of how our living spaces will be perceived by others, often complete strangers. It’s pretty much impossible to paint a piece of wood furniture (or wood trim, or wood floors, or wood teeth) without a hundred people saying you’ve “ruined” it — there’s a preciousness associated with unpainted wood that, in my opinion, is pretty ridiculous. As the owner of a formerly-dilapidated historic home that I’ve been un-dilapidating for the better part of a decade, I think I have a good sense of how to exist as a modernist in an old home: Modernism at its core is about respecting and learning from the past while making improvements and alterations to better accommodate living in the present (and future). Sometimes, that means taking a step into past traditions — what initially drew me to Barb’s work was how reminiscent it is of 18th-century Gustavian-style Swedish furniture with its soft-looking painted finishes.

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All photos by J. Aaron Greene

If there’s anything I can say about Barb, it’s that the woman does not take shortcuts when it comes to furniture. She doesn’t just grab a can of old wall paint and slap a couple of coats on a table. She knows how to prepare surfaces properly, and what materials to use to obtain finishes that look like they belong to the piece — and that’s really the key to a successful makeover. You want to see the sum of the parts in the end, not evidence of the process. The great thing about Furniture Makeovers is that you not only get before-and-after shots of a bunch of Barb’s pieces, you also get very detailed information about the tools and materials she uses and recommends — as well as exhaustive descriptions and photos demonstrating how to properly use those tools and materials. From strippers to chalk paint to spray paint to Danish oil to finishing wax, Barb covers just about everything, and in a friendly, you-can-actually-do-this way. This is a real how-to book, not just a trove of inspirational photos.

Here’s a great video (shot by Carlon Riffel) that takes you through a tour of the Knack shop, the contents of the book and, most fun of all, a time-lapse of Barb doing her magic on a dresser from start to finish:

Yup, now I feel like overhauling a piece of old furniture! In fact, I’m now determined to apply Barb’s techniques (in my own Anna-style, of course) to an antique dresser that’s been sitting, empty and without purpose, in a corner of my bedroom for…oh, six years now. I bought it at a flea market for about $15, and it’s a mess. The original hardware is missing, the wood veneer is peeling, it has water stains all over the top and the shellac finish is badly blistered. I love it, though, and it meets all of Barb’s criteria for a makeover-ready piece: It has personality, it’s solid wood with a wood veneer and it’s structurally sound and functional. I am READY. As soon as it’s not 100°F out (this heatwave is killing my productivity), Operation Dresser Makeover will be in full effect.

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But WAIT, there’s MORE! Would you like your very own copy of Barb Blair’s Furniture Makeovers? Well, it’s your lucky day — I have a signed copy to give away, and it comes with one of Barb’s “live with what you love” Knack tote bags! Nice, yes? If you’d like to enter to win, just leave a comment on this post letting me know about a furniture makeover you’d like to embark on, whether it’s a piece you already own, or something you’re on the lookout for. In a week, I’ll draw a winner at random.

UPDATE: The winner of the Furniture Makeovers giveaway is Alicia! Congratulations, Alicia.

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(Thanks so much to Barb and to Chronicle Books for making this giveaway possible! I wish you much success with this book.)

Side note: Aside from the review copy I was sent of the book, I was not compensated in any way to write this post. Normally I wouldn’t even bother saying that because I have a 100% transparency policy about that kind of stuff, but someone asked, so there you go. This is just a post about a book I love and wholeheartedly recommend.

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I just came across illustrator and graphic designer Butcher Billy’s “Post-Punk + New Wave Super Friends” series, and I’m not going to be able to resist ordering at least a couple of prints for my walls. Butcher Billy has applied the concept of a superhero to his heroes — the pop culture icons who influenced him as a kid. As he explains it…

As a child of the ’80s I was heavily influenced by everything from Saturday morning cartoons on TV to the music coming from the radio. Ian Curtis or Johnny Rotten are as iconic to me as Superman or Batman. Real people or imaginary characters, the incorruptible ideals of perfect superheroes or the human flaws and desires sometimes so desperately depicted in song lyrics — all of those influences affect us to the point of defining our character and personality, career paths and life choices.

Well, shoot. That just about says it, right? I totally agree, and it looks like Billy and I have a lot of the same heroes.

You can order any of Butcher Billy’s Post-Punk and New Wave Super Friends designs as prints or on t-shirts, iPhone cases and other items through his shop at Society6. View the entire series of posters at Behance.

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All images © Butcher Billy / Available for sale through Society6 / Found via Slicing Up Eyeballs

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On Tuesday night I went to see Peter Murphy at Webster Hall. It’s maybe the 7th or 8th time I’ve seen him live, with Bauhaus and solo. He’s an incredible performer, and while last night’s show isn’t going to take top ranking in my personal list (that honor will always go to the Bauhaus reunion show at Hammerstein in 1998 — have fun spotting me in the front row with my little black bob and a big grin on my face), I’m always happy to have another opportunity to see one of my favorite artists live.

Peter (hello there, first-name basis) is currently touring in celebration of “35 years of Bauhaus” with all-Bauhaus sets, which I guess is kind of gimmicky since he’s never had any aversion to playing Bauhaus songs live in his solo shows, but hey — it sells tickets, and everyone gets to have a good time. It’s amazing to me how many complaints I’ve seen on music blogs about how this is all just a “money grab,” blah, blah, blah. PLEASE. He was the front man of one of the greatest rock bands ever, and his solo career is nothing to sneeze at either — how do those naysayers want him to make money? Bauhaus have already had three reunions since their initial disbanding in 1983, and none of them stuck.

If you have any sense of my taste in music, then you know that most of what I listen to was either recorded between the mid-’70s and early ’90s or is a contemporary recording by an artist who began a career during that era — in other words, between when I was born and when I ceased being a teenager. That’s not because I don’t think there’s great music being recorded now, it’s because those are the years when I was receptive to forming that kind of emotional attachment to songs and the people who write them. I never got to see a lot of my favorite bands live because I was born a few years too late (or in the wrong country). I’ll take any chance I can get to make up for it! Considering I was only 8 years old at the end of Bauhaus’s first run, I feel very, very lucky to been able to see them perform as a full band not only in 1998 but again in 2005…and every time Peter Murphy is in NYC, I’m there.

Here are some photos I took of Peter Murphy; after that, a few tips for a successful concert-going experience.

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Concert-going, Anna-style.

✚ Know what’s going on. I follow my favorite artists on Facebook and Twitter when possible, I subscribe to alert emails from the major ticket vendors, and I read blogs like Slicing Up Eyeballs and Brooklyn Vegan. As soon as a tour or specific show I’m interested in is announced, I add it to my calendar. If an on-sale time for tickets is available, I create an alert on my iPhone to remind me the morning of and 5 minutes before. I don’t trust my brain to remind me.

✚ Buy tickets right away. As in the minute they go on sale. Especially if you’re in a “destination” city like New York, since you’re competing for tickets not only with residents, but with people from all over the world. Really. In the old days this meant waiting on line for hours (or days — I slept on the sidewalk for two nights for Morrissey tickets in 1994), but now it just means making sure you can remember your Ticketmaster password. Yes, Ticketmaster is horrible, but it’s reality.

✚ General admission will always trump assigned seating, at least in my world. Yeah, I complain about my back hurting and stuff like that, but the truth is I don’t really enjoy myself much at concerts if I’m not standing up and dancing like a fool (“like a fool” = casually bobbing my head and occasionally hopping a bit), preferably within the first few rows. I realize that this isn’t really possible when it comes to bigger artists since they tend to play seated venues, but good ol’ GA will always be my calling.

✚ Get to the venue early. The number one comment I get when people see my concert photos is, “Wow, you’re so close!” Yes. I am so close. That’s not because I shove people out of the way or because I have some kind of special hookup, it’s because I understand that if the doors open at 7pm, I had better be waiting on line in front of the venue at LEAST an hour before that — several hours before if it’s someone with ultra-rabid fans (like Morrissey). It doesn’t matter if there are two awful opening bands and the headliner isn’t going on until 10pm, you still have to get there before the doors open if you want to be up in front. And for Pete’s sake, once you have your spot, DON’T MOVE. Prepare your bladder accordingly.

✚ Don’t bring a big bag. Aside from being annoying to carry all night, it’s also going to annoy everyone around you. I have a little pouch-type thing that I got from MUJI specifically for going to shows. I can either wear it cross-body or like a hip-pack, and it’s just big enough to hold my ticket, ID, a little cash, a MetroCard, lipstick and, of course, a comb. The comb is essential because my bangs always get sweaty during shows and I want to tidy them up afterwards.

✚ DON’T WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH YOUR PHONE. This is a huuuuuuuge pet peeve of mine. It drives me crazy to look around and see a quarter of the audience holding up their phones continuously. Yes, I usually take 2 or 3 iPhone photos during shows, but I’m quick about it — and I don’t post them to Instagram until after the show is over. Holding your phone up and watching through its monitor is so disrespectful to the artist (and to the people around you). It’s also just plain LAME. Why pay for a ticket to see someone perform if you’re going to spend the whole night focused on something else? You might as well just watch YouTube videos instead if you don’t really care about the live experience.

✚ And speaking of photos… Most venues allow non-professional cameras with fixed lenses these days. I use an ultra-compact Leica D-Lux 5 at concerts. It does really well in low light, I can hang it around my neck, and it’s non-intrusive. I leave the settings on auto, and I’m very quick about my shooting. Up, focus, snap, down, off…and I never use the flash. Again, think about the artist’s perspective! When you’re up in front there are a lot of opportunities to make direct eye (and hand) contact, and those can be really special moments. The more an artist is engaged with the audience and can sense positive reaction, the better a show they’re going to put on. They don’t want to look down into a sea of faces covered by cameras and iPhones, believe me.

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Full setlist:
King Volcano / Kingdom’s Coming / Double Dare / In the Flat Field / God in an Alcove / Boys / Silent Hedges / Kick in the Eye / Adrenalin / Three Shadows Pt 2 / Who Killed Mr. Moonlight / All We Ever Wanted Was Everything / Bela Lugosi’s Dead / The Passion of Lovers / She’s in Parties / Stigmata Martyr / Dark Entries / Severance / Burning From the Inside / Telegram Sam / Ziggy Stardust

Morrissey in a frameless frame

For the past 22 years, I’ve been dragging this giant Morrissey poster around with me everywhere I’ve lived — and I’ve lived in a lot of places. It’s done a few stints rolled up in a closet (not for any loss of love for Morrissey, mind you), but it always winds up back on the wall again. One of the first things I thought about when we rented the new apartment was, “Where is Morrissey’s head going to go?”

I’ve never had it in a frame, and the damage it’s incurred as a result is really starting to show. When you’re 15 years old and sticking up a Morrissey poster with Fun-Tak and pushpins and taping the back when it inevitably falls a million times, you’re not thinking about someday being 37 years old and still having that same poster on your wall. At some point I made the switch from tape and tacks to Jørgen Møller’s Posterhanger, which did work well for a few years. It’s a good design, but I think this post is just too big and heavy — it’s about 4×5′, which is pretty darned large and unwieldy. Morrissey started falling again, so I rolled him up and vowed to be a REAL GROWN UP and get him framed properly once and for all.

There’s a very well-rated frame store right near the apartment, so one evening Evan and I popped in to get a quote. I had braced myself for it to be around $600, thinking that if I prepared for the worst I’d be pleasantly surprised when the quote came in lower.

Well, the quote did not come in lower. For the most basic framing option in the simplest frame, the quote was — wait for it — $1300. Yes. I guess I’ve been spoiled by years of cramming stuff into cheap RIBBA frames from IKEA, but I was totally caught off guard. I glazed over immediately and tried to politely listen to the rest of the spiel from the framer before I apologized for wasting her time and left. The other thing I learned was because my reckless teenage self fixed the poster’s tears by putting tape all over the back, it’s not a candidate for reinforcement options like dry-mounting or linen backings. Boooooooo.

At that point, I figured I had four options: (1) Learn how to frame stuff, buy the necessary tools and materials, and frame it myself; (2) Become really good friends with someone who owns a framing shop and then put them in a horrible position where they owe me a huge favor; (3) Order a cheap framing kit online that I’ll never really be happy with; or (4) Slap something together with spare parts and call it a day. I chose option #4.

So here you have it! A couple of lattice strips cut to size, two thumbtacks (inserted through the back of the poster and into the lattice — one at the center top, and one at the bottom) and four binder clips. Done! No, it’s not fancy, and yes, someday I’d still like to have the poster framed by a skilled framing professional who knows what they’re doing, but for now this is totally fine. It’s not going to fall, rip or sag, and that’s all I really care about.

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Side bonus! Here’s a quick review of me and “Our Frank” over the years. I wish I had more pictures of my bedrooms in the ’90s, but such are the realities of life before digital cameras and iPhones. Despite the passing of years, my love for Morrissey remains as strong as the cut of his 30″ jawline. (He’s even in my bio now!)

Our Frank

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Michael and Jermaine during rehearsals for “Motown 25,” 1983 / Photo © NBC, via MJJpictures

On March 25, 1983, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever was recorded live for a TV broadcast two months later. That broadcast would mark the moment that we all saw Michael Jackson moonwalk for the first time. I was 7 years old at the time, and it was a huge, HUGE deal. There wasn’t a lot of television happening in my house back then so I didn’t see it until a few days later at a friend’s house, but the next day back at school? EVERYONE was talking about it. Everyone. I even remember my teacher saying something. In retrospect, this wasn’t Michael’s best moonwalk*, but it was such a cry of independence and a display of pure magic that it’s impossible to ignore its significance.

*In my opinion, Michael’s best moonwalk happened at the MTV awards in 1995 during this sequence. Whoa. Shivers!

I knew I had done my best and felt good, so good. But at the same time I felt disappointed in myself. I had planned to do one really long spin and to stop on my toes, suspended for a moment, but I didn’t stay on my toes as long as I wanted. I did the spin and I landed on one toe. I wanted to just stay there, just freeze there, but it didn’t work quite as I’d planned.

When I got backstage, the people back there were congratulating me. I was still disappointed about the spin. I had been concentrating so hard and I’m such a perfectionist. At the same time I knew this was one of the happiest moments of my life. I knew that for the first time my brothers had really gotten a chance to watch me and see what I was doing, how I was evolving. After the performance, each of them hugged and kissed me backstage. They had never done that before, and I felt happy for all of us. It was so wonderful when they kissed me like that. I loved it! I mean, we hug all the time. My whole family embraces a lot, except for my father. He’s the only one who doesn’t.

[...]

The day after the Motown 25 show, Fred Astaire called me on the telephone. He said – these are his exact words – “You’re a hell of a mover. Man, you really put them on their asses last night.” That’s what Fred Astaire said to me. I thanked him. Then he said, “You’re an angry dancer. I’m the same way. I used to do the same thing with my cane.”

I had met him once or twice in the past, but this was the first time he had ever called me. He went on to say, “I watched the special last night; I taped it and I watched it again this morning. You’re a hell of a mover.”

It was the greatest compliment I had ever received in my life, and the only one I had ever wanted to believe.

✚ Excerpted from Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk, 1988

Christmas in Sweden
This is a reposting of a guest blog post I did for Dos Family three years ago. I regularly receive emails asking for the link to download the Swedish Christmas record, so I will repost it here yearly!

In the United States, it’s not uncommon to hear Christmas music wafting from shop speakers as early as the beginning of November, but it’s not “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Jingle Bell Rock” that puts me in the holiday spirit. For me, it’s not Christmastime until I put on the recording of Swedish Christmas music that I grew up listening to each and every year: Christmas in Sweden, recorded in 1962 by Åke Jelving and a chorus of parents and children.

This is jovial, happy music, sung with energy and enthusiasm…and with audible gasping and stomping!

Our mother may be Swedish, but my siblings and I haven’t got a clue what the lyrics mean. I suspect that they, like me, sing along phonetically (and badly) in the privacy of their own homes. On Christmas day, we put the record on and leave the singing to Mommy as we all hold hands and dance in a circle, usually around the spread of snacks and glögg on the kitchen island.

My gift to you is a download of Christmas in Sweden. Evan made the MP3s directly from the record, so you’ll hear all the same snaps and crackles that I do when I listen to the original. I think that just adds to the appeal! Unless you’re a Swede, this may not sound like Christmas music to you at first, but give it time. (And maybe enjoy it with a little glögg.)

To download the album, you’ll need to visit this link. No need to create an account, just click on “download.” Easy!

God Jul!

p.s. Thanks so much to Jeremy for his help in making this year’s re-posting possible!

Yeah, that’s right, I’m wearing sneakers. Craziness, yes? I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal? Everyone wears sneakers all the time. YAWN.” Well, not me. The last time I wore sneakers with any regularity was more than 20 years ago, when I had a nice little collection of high-top Converse (“Chucks” as the kids today call them). Sure, I’ve had a few pairs of gym-appropriate sneakers in the interim, but considering the amount of designated exercise I get on a regular basis—somewhere between none and none—I can still accurately say that sneakers are not something I’m seen wearing. Ever. Until now.

OK, OK, OK. Yes, my sneakers have a 3″ wedge heel. No, I’m not going to run a marathon in these things (or any things). But they are seriously comfy. Despite my undying devotion to not going to the gym ever, I actually do—like most New Yorkers—get an awful lot of walking in on a daily basis, usually on concrete and at a rapid pace, so it’s not like I’m just wearing these to sit around in my office or anything like that. I can wear them for a full day of being out and about/running errands and not give my feet a second thought. Weirdly, I just started wearing them regularly during the past couple of weeks even though I bought them at least 6 months ago. Maybe it’s the fall weather? They look good with tight jeans and giant parka, which is pretty much all I wear between late September and early December.

Because of my aforementioned parsnip legs, I always think I look a little better with a heel. I dress like a sloppy tomboy, though, and I never wear “pumps” (or whatever it is you call high heels that aren’t wedges or clogs). They make me feel like I’m a drag queen with weak ankles. Regular sneakers make me feel stumpy and like I’m trying to trick someone into thinking I might be going jogging later or something. A wedge sneaker, though? Perfect.

I became obsessed with this type of sneaker when French designer Isabel Marant introduced her own wedges, including the impossible-to-find (and impossible for me to afford even if I could find them) Bekket model. Mine are the much more affordable and more accessible Bowie wedges from Ash. They owe a heavy debt to Marant’s design, as do the countless other variations she inspired that have come out at various price points over the past year. Here’s a little round-up of my favorites…

1. Ash “Bowie” (these are the ones I have)
2. Jeffrey Campbell “Teramo Spike”
3. Ash “Cool Ter”
4. Isabel Marant “Betty”
5. Ash “Brooklyn”

Ash also makes wedge sneakers in dozens of style and color options in addition to the ones I mentioned here. I like to think of myself as being the kind of person who would wear these, but we all know I’m just wearing black and that’s it.

Say it, Jerry Lee…

I freaked out the other day when I got an email announcing that pre-orders are now being accepted for the new line of Morrissey sweaters from VIVA MOZ. I want them all. The gray Smiths sweater with the daffodils even made me want to put together one of those “outfit montage” things that Real Bloggers® are always posting:

1. The Smiths daffodils sweater, VIVA MOZ
2. Curvy Skinny jeans, Gap*
3. Long striped scarf, Madewell
4. Thatcher glasses, Warby Parker
5. Carson oxfords, Frye

*Side note about the Gap Curvy Skinny jeans: If you follow me on Twitter, then you know how enamored I am with these jeans. I wear skinny jeans about 360 days a year, so the fit really matters to me. I know everyone’s body is different, but if you’ve got a large hip/waist ratio and tend to have that problem with jeans gapping at the back and requiring a belt, these are for you. I recommend going down a size (or two!), though, because that “vanity sizing” thing Gap does is totally out of control.

I have a weird thing where I don’t like to wear shoes that don’t come up over my ankles unless the top of my foot is exposed—I’m convinced my legs look like parsnips unless I’m either wearing boots or sandals—so I keep hesitating and not buying a pair. Jen was wearing these Frye oxfords when she was here last week, though, and I kept eying them with envy. I feel like my inner nerd (who, coincidentally, is also my outer nerd) really wants to wear oxfords…parsnip legs and all.

But enough about my parsnip legs! LOOK AT THESE SWEATERS! (By the way, if you think you want one of these sweaters for yourself or a loved one, I suggest you pre-order before the sale date. They always sell out fast once they’re knitted and stocked.)

Evan has owned the original green one for a few years, and I have the football scarf. They’re both pretty rad, as evidenced by my mother and Evan, who are making their second joint modeling appearance on D16 this week (here’s the first). I’ve posted these photos before, but how could I leave them out? Fashion plates, those two.