Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Outsider Fighting for His Place in 'Golden Boy'



BY TAMARA BECK

EACH
generation has to find its own way.

For immigrants’ sons who carry their fathers’ foreignness within them, belonging to America is a struggle. The ambition, like Joe Bonaparte’s (Seth Numrich) in “Golden Boy,” is to “show ‘em all.”

Joe has a particularly thick streak of resentment. His chosen path to glory is with his fists to the dismay of his father (Tony Shalhoub) whose gift to his son is music. Joe, the City’s top young teen violinist, is looking for a very different kind of championship. Clifford Odets’ “Golden Boy,” at the Belasco Theatre in a Lincoln Center Theater revival through 20 Jan., pits the humanism of music against the noisy brutality of prize fighting. (See video above.)

As he commits himself to fighting, Joe also falls in love with Lorna Moon (Yvonne Strahovski), the girl of his manager Tom Moody (Danny Mastrogiorgio).

Joe (Seth Numrich) warms up with Tokio (Danny Burstein) to the seeming satisfaction of Tom (Danny Mastrogiorgio) in "Golden Boy." Photos by Paul Kolnik.

The cleverly designed sets by Michael Yeargan, which truck out on platforms for each scene change, are at once detailed and stylized. Catherine Zuber’s costumes add to the sense of time and place in “Golden Boy.”

Director Bartlett Sher and the superb cast in this “Golden Boy” honor the period of the piece in every facet of the work presented on the stage. In its juxtaposition of music and prize fighting, no one wins. This production focuses on the tragedy of discontent.

These characters speak in Runyonesque tones. YS, an Australian, impresses with her tough talk and no-nonsense demeanor. Her Lorna is blessed with some delicious dialogue, as in an early exchange with Moody. “Go to hell,” Lorna says. “But come back later tonight.”

Tony Shalhoub, Seth Numrich, Dagmara Dominczyk and Michael Aronov bring to life bygone days in "Golden Boy."

In a cast that deftly immerses itself in the 1930s in which “Golden Boy” is set, SN and DM stand out, along with Michael Aronov as Joe’s feisty brother-in-law, Siggie.

In its original production in 1937, also at the Belasco, “Golden Boy” played for two Broadway seasons. The LCT production is both a celebration of CO’s masterful all-American playwriting and a homecoming.

Visit http://www.lct.org to learn more about "Golden Boy."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cold, Hard Fact About Champagne: Warm up the Bubbly!

Champagne bubbles do not like extreme cold. Photo by Neil Gould.

HEAD’S UP: Welcome to a special edition of Grape: Wine Talk. Sommelier Tamara Fish was having difficulty sleeping just thinking about all of the poor souls drinking – and possibly not enjoying – Champagne to toast the new year. It was a most fervent wish of hers to offer a bit of advice that could save so many from such a cruel fate. We thank her greatly, of course, for her generous counsel.

BY TAMARA FISH

AN
iconic image: Champagne in an ice bucket.

A truism: There are as many ways to ice Champagne as bottles on New Year’s Eve. A fact: according to thermodynamics, sprinkling table salt over the ice in the bucket and adding water will cause the bottles to chill quickly. The God’s honest truth.

But never keep Champagne on ice for long.
Chilling Champagne too long gives bubbly a bad name. No doubt, we’ve all run across people who like wine but say that they don’t like Champagne. That is simply impossible.  Not liking Champagne is like hating a warm and sunny day. Or perhaps such folk are the exception that proves the rule. Most likely, the Champagne they sipped was simply too damned cold.

Champagne that has been “over chilled” often has a peculiar aftertaste. Imagine licking an aspirin right after taking a sip of wine. Not pleasant. Our tastebuds detect the acidity in über-chilly Champagne more readily than its other flavors. Should this happen, the remedy is simple.

Warm the bubbly up a bit.
Remove the bottle from the chiller or hold the filled tulip glass between your fingers (palm up), cradling it in your hand. Wait a minute or two. Now sip again. Slightly warmed from is arctic bath, Champagne behaves as anyone might do in a similar situation: opens up, relaxes and becomes a bit more expansive.

Contact between Champagne and ice is best kept to a strict limit. Photo by Craig Toron.

Test Case:
Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne 2002

$200 at 67Wine.com, http://www.bit.ly/RYXnhf

Sounds far-fetched? Just how much can Champagne improve? Exponentially. At a  67 Wine Taittinger Champagne tasting in New York City, my first sips of the Comtes de Champagne 2002 showed a nice wine with an unfortunate aspirin-bitter aftertaste. Barrett Hamilton of Kobrand Fine Wines and Spirits (http://www.kobrandwineandspirits.com/) spotted the wet telltale chill line on the bottle.

Clearly those little bubbles were screaming, “Get me outta h-h-h-here,” but we just didn’t hear. He pulled the Champagne from the bucket, waited a minute or two, and poured another glass. We took a sip, and there it was.

Very tight bubbles seemed so so small, so light on the tongue. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2002 unfolded layer after layer. Flavor after flavor broke open, if the tastebuds could observe a morphing kaleidoscope in the mouth. Completely astounding my senses (and almost making me break my vow of never ever using such phrases as nutmeg-hued lemon honey macaroon in this column), I nearly shelled out the $200 on the spot.

I simply cannot do justice to this Champagne. Some Champagnes and sparkling wines are perfect for a casual toast. Other Champagnes are for special occasions such as promotions or engagements or weddings, a perfect accompaniment for elegant dinners. Still others are vintage Champagnes: a designation of excellence that the vineyard’s winemakers bestow on the product of an exceptional year, something that happens less often than a blue moon.

Taittinger Comte de Champagne 2002 is an exceptional drink. Image from KL Wines.

Opening a vintage Champagne is the occasion. Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2002 – a vintage Champagne – fully lives up to its name. Over the top? Perhaps, but first, find a bottle, chill – but not too much – and then tell me.

Will just any champagne be as fabulous as Taittinger Comte de Champagne 2002? No. But I guarantee that every Champagne will taste better if it’s not too cold. Skip the thermodynamics. Submerge the bottle in a bucket of ice – no water, no salt. Remove after 15 minutes and serve.

And remember – if you imbibe, drink responsibly for a bright and Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stoking the Fracking Fires in 'Promised Land'



WHAT becomes the fate of a film that starts controversy before practically anyone has seen it. Will it be a hit or a miss?

That is a question that applies to “Promised Land.” The film makes its world debut today in limited release in the United States and will continue to roll out across the world through 13 June 2013, including a stop for its official international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival (http://www.berlinale.de/en/HomePage.html) in February. (See video above.)

The main reason that “Promised Land,” headed by Matt Damon and Frances McDormand, has generated controversy is because it deals with the hot-button issue that is hydraulic fracturing, which is more commonly known as fracking.

Simply put, fracking is a process by which natural gases are extracted from rock formations in reservoirs. Controversy enters the picture because it is claimed by many – especially environmentalists – that the chemicals used to help extract the gases contaminate drinking water and cause health problems.

Sue and Steve (Frances McDormand and Matt Damon) arrive in a downtrodden town with a deal that seems too good to be true in "Promised Land." Photos by Scott Green for Focus Features.

Naturally, companies involved in fracking and their surrogates disagree. Both sides are trying to win local and state officials to their cause. Fracking is a big issue in states like New York and Pennsylvania, where “Promised Land” was filmed.

There is an interesting backstory to the film. First, it was supposed to address wind power. But at some point it was determined that fracking was more topical and sexy. Again, controversy can potentially help the film at the box office because it creates buzz.

While the producers behind the film have not overtly sought to stir controversy, their “Promised Land” is a film that has Oscar and other award pretensions (and rightly so, for it features solid work), which brings up a second point about the backstory.

Not only does MD star as Steve Butler, the company man dispatched to town to lockdown the drilling rights deal, he is also a producer and co-screenwriter of “Promised Land” with John Krasinski (from a story by Dave Eggers). The latter also stars in “Promised Land” as an environmentalist who is just as savvy as MD’s Steve. The last time MD had a co-screenwriting credit on a film (“Good Will Hunting” with childhood friend Ben Affleck), he won an Oscar, his first and only so far.

Third, “Good Will Hunting” was directed by Gus Van Sant, as is “Promised Land.” Fourth, MD was originally onboard as director of the film but had to step down owing to a conflict at which point he approached GVS with whom he had not worked in a decade (“Gerry”).

There is more to the “Promised Land” backstory but the aforementioned will suffice. Incidentally, as Steve, fracking opponent MD is playing against type. He’s rather credible, though, as a former-farm boy-turned-corporate-enforcer who is prepared to use any means necessary to secure the deal unless other forces in town, led Frank Yates (Hal Halbrook), can stop him and Sue Thomason (FMcD), his partner in slime.

Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Steve (Matt Damon) eventually warm up to each other in "Promised Land."

Another potential force in this down-on-its-luck town is Alice (Rosemarie DeWitt) who may capture both Steve’s heart and soul.

“Promised Land” is rated R. Visit http://www.focusfeatures.com/promised_land/ to learn more about the film.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

'Tis Also the Time of Year to Indulge in Alvin Ailey



BY TAMARA BECK

FOR
many, taking the kiddies to see a production of “The Nutcracker” is a holiday tradition. Taking in a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) should also be a favorite diversion of the season for the whole family and any visitors to New York City.

The company is performing at New York City Center through 30 Dec. Hurry!

AAADT is a national treasure, known far and wide for its showcase “Revelations,” created in 1960 by a 29-year-old Alvin Ailey as a nostalgic tribute to his Texas youth. Going to church with AA is a special privilege.

Yannick Lebrun takes flight in "Takademe." Photo by Andrew Eccles.

“One of the promises of my company,” founder and choreographer AA said at the time, “is that its repertoire will include pieces that ordinary people can understand ... That’s my perception of what dance should be – a popular form wrenched from the elite.”

The journey in “Revelations,” from “I’ve Been ‘Buked” – with music arranged by AA’s friend and mentor, Hall Johnson – to “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” arranged by Howard A. Roberts, is a pageant of joy and inspiration. Ailey dancers display athleticism, exuberance and grace. They are a glorious troupe. (See video at top.)

The dancers are also stylistically suited to performing from the Paul Taylor cannon. “Arden Court” was added to Alvin Ailey’s programming last season with PT himself on hand to direct. The dancers sublimely execute this regal, yet down-to-earth work and its handsome partnering.

Robert Battle, the new Alvin Ailey Artistic Director (only the third) who was handpicked by a retiring Judith Jamison last year, has also added works to the repertory. His “Takademe,” set to Sheila Chandra’s “Speaking in Tongues II,” is an Indian Kathak-style dance. As such, it has intricate footwork and elaborate, if unfussy motion. As performed by Yannick Lebrun, the lively and enchanting solo soars.

“Takademe” is paired with the Afro-Carib jazz of Garth Fagan’s “From Before” (1978). The vitality of the music, Ralph MacDonald’s “Path” and the movement call for toe-tapping and big smiles. (See video above.)

Visit http://www.alvinailey.org/ to learn more about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, including tickets and showtimes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

During Holidays Present a Bottle of Sherry, yes Sherry

Dry Sherries come in a range of browns. Photo by Ryan Opaz.

BY TAMARA FISH

EVER
get tired of drinking white wines that are so light, so fruity, so … well … summery? Ever hanker after a white wine that somehow has more heft and a heartier, richer taste?

Generally, people will opt for a mineral-edged Sauvignon Blanc or a white Bordeaux blend, completely forgetting the wonders of a truly fine dry Jerez.

Jerez (pronounced hair-EZ, with a slightly raspy ‘H’ and a lightly rolled ‘R’) sounds like the latest new drink fad, but actually, it’s as old as the hills. Straw to amber to cinnamon and sometimes a rich raisin color, Jerez is redolent of rich nutty flavors, almonds and sometimes a dash of nutmeg. It pairs perfectly with Virginia ham, roast goose, Peking duck and adventurous turkey.

In fact, if impressing the boss or the relatives at dinner ranks high on the end-of-the-year to-do list, then break out a bottle of fine, dry Jerez. Tell them what it is. See if it registers. If it does, watch their eyes want to roll back in their heads, and watch them try to recover from that impolite impulse with grace, for:

Jerez = Xérès = Sherry.
Sherry: the same afternoon nip that gives little old white-haired ladies-who-lunch a bad reputation.
Sherry: the same super sweet drink that laid on the world’s worst put-me-down-now-PUH-LEEZE hangover.
Sherry: the same quaff no self-respecting (non-Spanish) hipster would ever sip.
Sherry: the same aperitif most people probably never had, properly.

Like Port, Sherry is a fortified wine, meaning that spirits (neutral booze) have been added to increase its alcohol content. Made exclusively from grapes produced in the Jerez region of Spain, many Sherries are light white wines, both in color and taste, and can be served as such. However: the older the Sherry, the longer its fermentation, the more extensive the oxidation, the darker its color, and typically, the sweeter the taste. Sherry comes in a wide range of expressions.

Soleras take on Scotch after they've had their fill of Sherry. Photo by Ryan Opaz.

Solera: Specialty Wine Casks for Sherry (and Scotch)
Sherry’s range of flavor comes from centuries-old crafting techniques. Producers place the Palomino juice into a series of wooden casks called solera, one after another for years at a time as part of the fermentation process.

Each subsequent solera is older than the one before it and, except for the very oldest casks, contains its own yeast (flora) that imparts a distinctive taste. In fact, producers deliberately leave part of the liquid behind, so that as the content of one solera is transferred to the next, some of the precious fine Sherry long since tapped (fractional blending) blends in.

Think about this for a moment: While most winemakers would love to make an excellent vintage – capturing certain regional grapes of one spectacular year in a bottle – every excellent Sherry should have a nano or two of its centuries-old predecessor. Consequently, there is no such thing as a vintage Sherry, but there is such a thing as a fine 30-year-old one, provided that the bending goes well.

The task for fine Sherry producers is knowing how to control the temperature so that the proper flora grows, when and how much fortification (booze) to add, when to stop the fermentation process, and if need be, when and how much sweetener to sprinkle.

Like beer, Sherry comes in many forms. Photo by Dave Dyet.

And what happens to old solera when they retire? They move to the United Kingdom and become casks for aging Scotch. Truly.

Sherry: Discover a Sublime White Wine for Dinner
Dismissing Sherry categorically is like dismissing beer. Some people genuinely hate all forms of beer, and that’s fine. Other people would rather not drink Stout but find Lager quite appealing, yet both are beers. Similarly, the question is not whether one likes or dislikes Sherry in general, but rather, which type of Sherry.

Which Sherry is right for a dinner wine? For right now, let’s skip the Sweet Sherries, Cream Sherries, and other dessert Sherries, typically made from Pedro Ximenex (PX), Muscatel grapes, or a blend thereof, and go directly to those made from Palomino grapes.

For dry Sherrys, imagine sipping a white wine that is not very sweet at all. Strip out all the fruity flavors, leaving just the barest hint of citrus. And now imagine sipping that wine after having just eaten an almond-stuffed olive. Sherrys have a certain earthy quality at their core. The various regional floras then infuse them with hints of spice. Food allows their flavors to open up and sing. Serve well chilled.

Jerez is the official wine-producing region of Spain's Andalusia. Photo from Wikicommons.

Fino / Manzanilla
Typically not sweet at all (dry), as light in color as chamomile tea (manzanilla, in Spanish) and light in taste. Great with fish, tapas and as an aperitif (before-dinner drink).

Amontillado
Aged longer than a Fino; tends toward an amber color, and a warm, rich taste. Perfect with pork and all poultry.

Oloroso
Aged even longer than Amontillado but since Oloroso solera contain no flora, the fermentation has stopped. Tends to be a light-to-deep brown. Beware: while Oloroso is typically a dry wine, many producers sweeten them. Look at the label closely. Pairs nicely with any cheese.

My advice: try a fine Amontillado. There’s a reason that Edgar Allen Poe wrote about them; they can be truly memorable. (Just never offer it as a gift in brick-printed paper. It will be a declaration of war instead of a holiday message of peace.) Between the Fino’s full dryness and the range of Oloroso’s richness and sweetness, an Amontillado is a perfect balance between the two.

Start here, and then follow wherever the tastebuds lead. Is Amontillado too astringent, too dry? Then try an Oloroso. Is it a little too full, too much fruit on the palate? Then try a Fino. Just like in the “Three Little Bears,” there is a Sherry that’s just right.

Emilio Lustau Dry Amontillado will get along well with pork roast and roast turkey. Image from Emilio Lustau Web site.

Hands down, Emilio Lustau produces the best consistently high quality wide range of Sherries, perfect for creating for a tasting flight:

Emilio Lustau ‘Solera Reserva’
Light Manzanilla Papirusa Sherry

$10; on sale for $9, Solano Cellars, CA
http://www.bit.ly/ZACzjl

Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Sherry
$16; on sale for $9, Solano Cellars, CA
http://www.bit.ly/U9q1Yx

Don Nuño Dry Oloroso
$28, on sale for $19, WineTransit.com
http://www.bit.ly/10iUmdZ

Note: Serve well chilled. Like most white wines, Sherry does not store well once it has been opened. Cork it, pop it in the refrigerator and drink within a few days, or else use as a marinade.

Next up: Champagne Tip 101: Warm up the Bubbly!


























Tuesday, December 25, 2012

'Les Miserables' Registers in Mostly Lower Keys



BY LEANNA YIP

THE
first thing I tweeted after seeing “Les Misérables” was that I felt like I'd been punched in the gut about 24,601 times.

If you're at all familiar with the score, there's a joke in there. It also speaks to the heft of such a dramatic piece. This is a heavy, harrowing story. Most of that heft, however, doesn't come from the music – instead, it's from the look and feel of the movie and the respect paid to the original novel.

In this “Les Misérables,” the sum of its parts is greater than its individual pieces. The film opens today in Canada, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain and the United States. It rolls out across other parts of the world through 30 March 2013(http://www.bit.ly/MQeQkL; see video above).

First, a disclaimer: I'm probably not the typical audience member. I didn't see “Les Misérables” a couple of times, bought one cast recording, and fumbled through pronouncing the title. In the past 20 years, I've seen the show in five states – two national tours, one regional production, the Broadway revival and three school-edition performances. Let's just say that if rounded up, the number of performances would be closer to 100 than 10.

Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) try to find happiness in spite of forces that threaten it. Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Still, I don't consider myself a “Les Misérables” purist. The numerous changes from stage to screen – recitative turned into dialogue, rearrangement of songs, slashing of verses, inclusion of small details directly from the novel – make the film different enough to be engaging but similar enough to be familiar.

Because of these changes, the film almost feels like a separate adaptation of the novel that uses the 1980s mega-musical as a reference point, rather than something that can be lumped in with “Chicago,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “Rent” as just another film version of a musical theater hit.

Victor Hugo's 1862 novel – nicknamed "The Brick" in fan circles for its density – chronicles the life, death and redemption of convict Jean Valjean, his pursuit by Inspector Javert and his adoption of the orphan Cosette. Along the way there's Fantine, Cosette's impoverished mother; Marius, the student Cosette falls in love with; Eponine, the doomed waif in love with Marius, and Enjolras, the leader of an 1832 insurrection that's often mistaken for the French Revolution.

It's a lot to pack into one movie, let alone more than a dozen movies since the silent era, let alone one musical. Yet in 1985, composer Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyricist Herbert Kretzmer (adapting Alain Boublil's French lyrics) and producer Cameron Mackintosh successfully brought this weighty tome to the London stage, where it continues to run.

The Broadway production ran from 1987 to 2003, with a revival from 2006 to 2008. For an oldster fan like me who has a “Les Miz” program advertising a 1993 film release, it's surreal that after years of false starts, “Les Miz” movie posters are now ubiquitous.

As has been tirelessly mentioned in “Les Misérables” promotional pieces, director Tom Hooper chose to have the actors sing live on set. (Viewers will be treated to lots of wobbly chins, popping veins and other marks of vocal authenticity.) It's a commendable choice, and most of the time it works. The rest of the time Russell Crowe is on screen.

Crowe's Javert isn't a disaster – as some fans had predicted – but he's the most blatant example of big-name casting in favor of appropriate talent for the role. He has a rather pleasant voice, but he's concentrating so hard on singing well that everything else gets a bit lost. It's telling that his strongest scene is a violent confrontation with Valjean where shouting on key is pretty much all that's vocally required of both RC and Hugh Jackman.

Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman aren't in their natural element singing the lines of Javert and Valjean.

Most everyone else in “Les Misérables” fares better, including the shrink-rayed Anne Hathaway (Fantine). She turns "I Dreamed a Dream" into a plaintive monologue from a woman who's hit rock bottom, successfully erasing all memories of anyone who went viral after impressing Simon Cowell.

The closeups during this song are just a taste of what's to come, since TH’s not shy about showing bodily fluids, simulated or otherwise. (Sensitive to blood, snot, sewer runoff or 1830s beggar-style sores? Don't sit too close.)

Though AH and HJ (a slightly vocally strained but intense Jean Valjean) have received a great deal of press, the surprise breakout in “Les Misérables” is actually Eddie Redmayne (Marius), the freckly part-time Burberry model and Laurence Olivier and Tony Award-winner (“Red”).

ER made his career in film and straight plays, but after this full-voiced, incredibly thoughtful performance, he should become the toast of London's West End. His chemistry with Amanda Seyfried's luminous Cosette (now in her second movie musical role as a doe-eyed, lovestruck ingenue – remember “Mamma Mia”?) brings much-needed warmth. His scenes with Enjolras (steely-jawed Broadway veteran Aaron Tveit) and rebel buddies are passionate as well as playful.

Down-on-her-luck Fantine (Anne Hathaway) finds a friend in Jean (Hugh Jackman).

Anyone who buys a ticket to this “Les Misérables” and whose happiness is riding on his or her memories of beautiful, musical theater-belting and stage dirt, is going to be disappointed.

Instead, think of “Les Misérables” as another excellent production of the musical and enjoy the ride.

"Les Misérables" is rated PG-13. Visit http://www.universalpicturesawards.com/#/lesmis to learn more about the film.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Last Day: Red Cross Giving Catalog

Caregiver training for one family ($75) can go a long way toward easing the transition of a returning service member. Photos from Red Cross Web site.

HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

HOT Meals in February, Hot Wheels in June, warm Blankets in March and a cool place to stay in January.

These essentials are all part of the Gift of the Month ($500) package proposed by the Red Cross in its “2012 Holiday Giving Catalog” (http://www.redcross.org/gifts). As the agency goes about its business of providing disaster relief, such largesse would be, as it asserts, “constant and unforgettable.”

Physical and emotional care is the May portion of the Gift of the Month package.

People around the world recovering from typhoons, earthquakes, famine, tornadoes, war, droughts and other natural and manmade calamities would no doubt appreciate December’s Emergency Water Container. Further, appreciation would abound in the knowledge that the Bicycle on which water and the container were transported on roads impassable by vehicles was made possible, courtesy of the June allocation.

Often, bicycles are the only practical means of transportation in the aftermath of a disaster.

Because the Red Cross is never not responding to a disaster, the agency never ceases to need support in its good and necessary work. It is through generous donations from kindhearted folk that it is able to provide three Blankets ($15) and a Full Day of Emergency Shelter for four people ($200). The Vaccinations for 100 children ($100) and four Military Comfort Kits ($200) and three Phone Cards ($60) do not appear out of the ether.

The warmth and comfort of a blanket can make an awful situation just a little bit better.

As an incentive to invest in its cause through the “2012 Holiday Giving Catalog,” the Red Cross will part with a few autographed keepsakes such as a Water Bottle ($100 minimum donation) and Deluxe Emergency Radio ($1,000 minimum donation).

Indeed, the sources that make possible Reconnecting Families (1@)$150) and Physical and Emotional Care for two days ($230) are you and you and you.

Visit http://www.redcross.org/gifts to learn more about the Red Cross “2012 Holiday Giving Catalog.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Day 11: Stuff for the Stockings



HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

OK, so they are not Beats by Dre. Nothing is in the realm of headphones, not yet anyway.

But Skullcandy headphones provide some pretty good sound quality, many levels up the rung from earphones and earbuds for cheaper than Beats. And SkullCandy has something that Beats doesn’t: An edit function.

Yes, an edit function that allows the wearer to customize or choose for his or her headphones from a range of colors for the various parts of the whole, not just a choice of a different color for the whole headset. The new headphones are called Skullcandy Aviator Edit. The edit function is easy as pie. Women should simply imagine that they are shopping online for dresses or shoes.

Here’s how it work. First, go to the Skullcandy Aviaitor Edit page (http://www.skullcandy.com/shop/custom-aviators). A large image of the cord and headphone set should be visible. To the right are a series of small boxes that are shaded with different colors. These are the colors in which the parts of the headphone set are available. Above the shaded boxes are the names of the headphones parts: Headband, Frames, Caps, Cord. Click on a shaded box under any part and it will be highlighted on the image in the middle of the screen. (See demo video above.)

Models in the W118 by Walter Baker Spring 2013 Presentation rock Skullcandy Aviator Edit headphones. Photo by Photos by Mike Coppola/Getty Images.

For my Skullcandy Aviator Edit headphones, I would eventually choose – after many starts and fits – a black Headband, red Frame, teal Cap and black Cord. I could see the results right on the screen. Once the editing/customization is complete, “ADD TO CART” for purchase (starting at $179.99) immediately or continue shopping.

My Skullcandy Aviator Edit headphones look smashing. And they also look cool, as they did on the models at the W118 by Walter Baker Spring 2013 Presentation during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week New York.

Visit http://www.skullcandy.com/shop/custom-aviators to learn more about Skullcandy Aviator Edit headphones, including features and specs and http://www.skullcandy.com to learn more about all Skullcandy product.

Say Okey-Dokey to tokidoki

The DIY Unicorno Vinyl Toy is a blank canvass awaiting paint. Photos from tokidoki Web site.

PULL out those sharpies. Here’s an opportunity for you and you and you to decorate your very own Unicorno.

With the DIY Unicorno Vinyl Toy, the artist within can turn the little white collectible into a multi-hued creation or as many colors as can be derived from blending sharpies in Adios Black, Bruttino Blue and Stellina Magenta. (http://www.bit.ly/Rta3ZU)

The tokidoki pouch makes for a nice cocoon for a little stuff.

This is a new deal from Milan-based tokidoki. Could co-founder/artist and lover of many things Japanese Simone Legno be weary of painting/coloring his cute-as-a-button figures and is now handing over the reins to fans? No, not exactly. As anyone who is familiar with the six-year-old lifestyle brand knows, there are a number of other characters that need makeup for the myriad platforms on which they exist.


tokidoki Frenzies are simply charming.

And to think that tokidoki, which means “sometimes” in Japanese, started with the likes of distinctive cartoons Cactus Friends and the Moofia appearing on LeSportsac handbags with the now-familiar skulls and bones logo. Aside from the Unicornos, it now includes “Donutella and her sweet friends,” ‘Til Death Do Us Part and punkstar. All appear on objects, including skateboards and gear, apparel, makeup, shoes, hats, gadgets, collectibles and so on.

Unlike the DIY Unicorno Vinyl Toy, the Continental Large Flat Pouch needs no particular ministrations. It’s ready-to-wear and contain one’s pouchables. It’s also on sale. (http://www.bit.ly/RNxb9l)

In the hands of tokidoki, some Marvel Comic characters get a new look.

For bejeweling, tokidoki-style are the tokidoki Frenzies. They are 22 charms that feature “players” from Moofia, Cactus Friends and other character series. They can be attached to backpacks, key rings, clip-ons and so on. Buyer beware; they are sold separately, though featured together in photos. (http://www.bit.ly/iVTL3)

More frenzies come in the form of the tokidki X Marvel Frenzies, a manifestation of tokidoki’s collaboration with Marvel Comic, one of a number of such relationships,including Skullcandy — could it be the skull and bones things? (See article above.) Spider-Man and Mighty Thor are among the superheroes given a tokidoki makeover in Marvel frenzies.( http://www.bit.ly/M0arJX)

Skateboarder Stevie Williams is such a doll.

New from tokidoki’s streetwear brand, TKDK, is the DGK X TKDK Stevie Williams Collectible Vinyl Toy. The set that pays homage to the skateboarding phenomenon comes with a 4-inch tall doll, hat and skateboard. (http://www.bit.ly/TiFTwS)

Another prominent fellow that tokidoki paid homage to back in the day three years ago was Karl Lagerfeld. Only 1,000 of the tokidoki x K Karl Lagerfeld figures were created. Word is that they sold out in record time.

tokidoki!

Visit http://www.tokidoki.it/ to learn more about tokidoki.







Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Day 10: Finding a Magic Tonic in Bumble and bumble 'Hairdresser's Invisible Oil'



HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

BY ANAISABEL GARCIA

FINALLY
ladies, a hair oil that will never leave your hair feeling greasy or dirty!

Introducing Bumble and bumble “Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil,” my new hair weapon. Blow drying and ironing hair is either an everyday practice or a chore for some. Taming the frizz can either make or break the hour spent in smoothing out the locks.

The "Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil” is a high-performance product that contains a blend of natural oils and extracts. It will leave your tresses feeling soft, giving it a lightweight feel that will have you saying oh la la with every flip of the hair. (See video above.)

A secret backstage at fashion shows is combining the invisible oil with Bumble and bumble "Thickening Hairspray”. Together, they add volume. (Click on link to see video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gu5YMBMKHAs)

Personally, I think I’ve tried more than 13 different hair oils in an attempt to tame the frizzies after I iron my hair. All have weighed down and greased up the strands.

The Bumble and bumble "Hairdresser's Invisible Oil" does its work without a lot of fuss. Photos from Bumble and bumble Web site.

“Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil" leaves the hair shiny, static and frizz-free with a clean, light scent that is not overbearing. It doesn’t matter whether you are twirling your hair at the ends, flipping it out or ironing it pin straight.

You can apply the oil on wet or dry hair, before or after using heating products, I recommend always rubbing a few extra drops on your ends. I have overindulged when using this product with no worry about my forehead becoming shiny from absorbing runny oil mid-afternoon after my morning application.

The Bumble and bumble "Hairdresser's Invisible Oil" and "Thickening Hairspray" are a dream team of sorts.

I use the oil throughout the day to freshen up the locks and calm the cowlicks. As an added bonus, it shields hair from UV rays.

Visit http://www.bit.ly/XR5M2U to learn more about Bumble and bumble “Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil," including purchase information and additional tips on how to use it with other Bumble and bumble products.



















Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Day 9: Dizzy's Club Coca Cola's 'Hot Fives'

The Bruce Harris Quintet is on deck, starting 26 Dec. to do four "Hot Fives" nights at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola. Photos from Jazz at Lincoln Center

HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

BY TAMARA BECK

GRAB
a fistful of dollars – at least the ones with Honest Abe on them – take a quintet of officemates or visitors to New York City and head over to that corner where Jazz overlooks Central Park.

A nap beforehand is advised, since the Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday sets start at 11 p.m.

Once at the “house of swing” as Jazz at Lincoln Center (http://www.jalc.org) likes to call itself, you and your guests can enjoy these particular late-night jam sessions to the tune of a $5 Cover, $5 Menu and $5 Drinks.

Dizzy’s Club Coco Cola calls these sessions “Hot Fives.” You and your crew will call them a treat.

Named for legendary jazzman Dizzy Gillespie, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola is a generously appointed room with luxurious seating, a gorgeous view from its vantage point in the Time Warner Building and great acoustics. It is an intimate setting, with curving bamboo walls and soft tones to accommodate live jazz in a lush re-invention of the basement dive.

The “Hot Fives” lineup at Dizzy’s Club Coco Cola may be subject to change, but it has featured such acts as The Tony Lustig Quintet. Coming up 26-29 Dec is the Bruce Harris Quintet. These late-night jam sessions also introduce up and comers.

Jazz at Lincoln Center Artistic Director Wynton Marsalis and his eponymous quintet on stage at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola.

The comfort food coming out of the kitchen at Dizzy’s Club’s Coco Cola could potentially be a Gumbo, Arrowhead Mill Grits, Fried Green Tomatoes and a dishcalled a N'awlins Fry. The menu is prepared in consultation with Spoonbread, Inc., (http://www.spoonbreadinc.com/) New York’s largest black-owned, full-service caterer.

No reservations are required for the “Hot Fives,” but it is recommend that a call be put in just to make sure no one is disappointed.

Visit http://www.jalc.org/dizzys/specials- to learn more about Dizzy’s Club Coco Cola “Hot Fives” and http://www.jalc.org/dizzys to learn more about the club in general

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Day 8: Yoga Twins & Carrera y Carrera

The Yoga Twins chainmaille. Photo from Yoga Twins. 

HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

FROM two very different spectrums on the jewelry continuum issue forth little trinkets that won’t go unnoticed.

What started out as a bookmark business in 2005 has in just a few years morphed into a jewelry line of fetching pieces. It is Brooklyn-based Yoga Twins. There is story behind that, too.

The lion cufflink from Carrera y Carrera. Photo from Carrera y Carrera.

Meanwhile, Madrid-based Carrera y Carrera has for many years enthralled the world with its exquisite geegaws from artisans extraordinary. So what to do when you've just about done it all? Create your first line of men’s silver cufflinks for everyday wear, of course … More shortly.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Day 7: Original Rabbit Corkscrew

The Original Rabbit Corkscrew has roots in a trip to Mexico. Photo from Metrokane Web site.

HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

BY TAMARA FISH

ASK
wine lovers if they need a new corkscrew and undoubtedly they’ll say no. They probably have too many already. And if they do, the last thing they’ll want – so they say – is that stupid little rabbit thingy that people keep talking about.

Anyone who knows anything about wine knows that the waiter’s wingtip corkscrew is the best: compact, lightweight; it travels everywhere, except when a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent swears that the dull ½-inch foil clipper can be wielded as a deadly weapon. Who needs another?

That was the argument I had with my brother as he pulled out The Original Rabbit Corkscrew by Metrokane. He placed it on the bottle, and in one swift, very cool effortless ergonomic motion – less than literally two seconds later – the cork eased out of the bottle. The Rabbit even has the nerve to release the cork automatically. Damn, that’s good. But I’ll never admit publicly that I want one. (http://www.bit.ly/Xmo6VK)

The double-wingtip corkscrew can sometimes be a singular disappointment. Photo courtesy of Martin Walls.

What’s the genius of the Original Rabbit Corkscrew? Basic physics. That, and an eye for good gadgets. While traveling in Mexico, Riki Kane, the founder of Metrokane, did what many folks do: got her fresh-squeezed OJ from a little hole-in-the-wall stand that had a vertical juice press. Slice an orange, pop half of it on, move the lever up-and-over, and bingo! Fresh fruit pressed more thoroughly than any electric juicer on the market.

So enamored was she with the ease of the 180-degree up-and-over lever that RK manufactured the press in North America. Her husband Bob Larimer adapted it to the wine bottle. Instead of pushing down on the orange, the lever was designed to pull up on a cork, and the Original Rabbit Corkscrew was born. It’s available in black, silver and red. It’s also available in pink, a portion of whose sales support breast cancer research.

The Original Rabbit Corkscrew in pink is tied to a very special cause. Photo from Metrokane Web site.

No more tugging or judging when to leverage the single wingtip’s wing, or pressing down with both hands on the dual wingtip wings, or hoping and praying a blasted broken cork won’t break up further into crumbs. None of that any more with the Original Rabbit Corkscrew ($50), which comes with a 10-year warranty.

Just up and over. Cork released. Done.

Visit http://www.bit.ly/Xmo6VK to learn more about the Original Rabbit Corkscrew, including purchase information.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide Day 6: A Magic Wand From VuPoint



HEAD’S UP: Is it December already? YES, it is. In many parts of the world that means it is holiday gifting season. For many, the very idea presents a little conundrum. They have no idea what to gift, poor things! These are the very souls that the elves at VEVLYN’S PEN endeavor to lend a hand. We’re starting a bit early this year with our humble Holiday Gift Guide, because the spirit hit us and … well … we’re filled with the spirit! From today through 24 Dec., every day or every other day or so – willy-nilly, actually – we will introduce one or a series of products/services, items and brands that we believe would make a smashing holiday gift(s). And (as the old saying goes) … we’re off!!!

BY ANAISABEL GARCIA

THIS
is reserved only for the receipt, press clipping and photo hoarders.

A magical wand will alleviate the million receipts that live in your purse, wallet and drawers with one simple glide. (See demo video at above.)

THE VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner (Model No. PDS-ST415PU-VPS) is a handheld, wireless, battery-operated scanner that scans and saves documents and photos as a PDF. on a microSD chip that can later be transferred to a computer.

The VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner connects to a computer for easy transfers. Photos from VuPoint Solutions Web site.

The wand, which is available at Staples, Best Buy, Target, eBay, Amazon and elsewhere, scans almost anything that is on a flat surface. It also does not take up the desk space that a conventional scanner does. It is also portable; it can be taken on the go, to meetings, or just to keep handy in a drawer. We’ve come to an age where file folders and hard copies are less common. With this Magic Wand, it is easier to avoid paper clutter.

Scan tax form instead of having them lying about, possibly serving as painful reminders.

For those who are always losing receipts and important papers, the VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner will made it easy to keep the paper life organized without running the risk of documents getting jammed or chewed and spit out by the scanner.(http://www.bit.ly/wjwGz9).

Quick, easy and convenient, the VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner allowed me to scan a full photo album and send it to friends in less than 15 minutes.

A scanner is an antidote for photo-hoarding.

When I first purchased the Magic Wand, I must have scanned everything I owned and wanted to just capture everything that was on a flat surface, from favorite magazine articles to McDonald’s breakfast receipts to a W-9 form that I filled out to send to a vendor. I felt powerful with my Magic Wand!

Abracadabra! Let there be no more loose receipts or loose paper, thanks to the VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner.

Visit http://www.bit.ly/wjwGz9 to learn more about the VuPoint Magic Wand Portable Scanner, including purchase information, and all VuPoint scanners.
 
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