intersection 12.22.10

50 Ways to End the Year
Part 2
Walking Off the Big Apple

Part One of 50 Ways to End the Year is here. With Part Two, we're now on a holiday break. See you in January.

A new play by Jon Robin Baitz is always good news and Other Desert Cities, now in previews at Lincoln Center Theater, is especially welcome.

Tune into WFMU this Thursday, 9pm, for Music to Spazz By Xmas Fiasco. The promise: "hall-wreckin', eggnog-soakin', chimney-slidin', rock & roll Xmas songs that don't suck!"

Back from a long tour, Vision of Spain by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, comprising 14 large canvases, is now back in its pride of place (recently refurbished) at the Hispanic Society of America.

Remind yourself of all the Festivus traditions, The Airing of Grievances most crucially, and make up the rest.

A spicy margarita sounds good to us right now: jalapeño-infused silver tequila, Triple Sec, and fresh lime juice from mixologist Duane Fernandez, Jr. at Entwine.

Assembly of Dust plays Bowery Ballroom on 12/28.

Murray Hill hosts his annual New Year's Eve burlesque-laden insanity, this year at Southpaw.

See Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time at the Whitney.

And while you're at the Whitney, take time for an espresso at the coffee cart (from Danny Meyer's restaurant group) on the lower level. It's got Stumptown coffee and espresso made with the La Marzocco Strada—the ultimate coffee geekery with souped-up pressure control. It's the only one in town.

Claude Lanzmann's towering documentary Shoah returns to IFC in a new 35mm print, opening Friday.

At The Cloisters on 12/29 and 12/30, (11am and 1pm), a Medieval Treasure Hunt for kids ages 4-12.

Help NYC Salt to expand its photography program for at-risk youth.

If you missed the terrific, modern-day Sherlock on PBS, you can buy the three-episode season on iTunes for $13.99 (HD is $19.99). Included are scenes not aired on TV.

While we're on the Brits, we're psyched about the return of Propeller, the superb, all-male Shakespeare troupe, to BAM in March with a production of The Comedy of Errors.

Today only, it's 25% off the vintage illustrations on The White Cabinet.

Well, yeah, technically you're starting the new year with this one, but anyway: The Poetry Project hosts the 37th annual New Year's Day Marathon Reading.

Check out the new AvroKO-designed restaurant, Beauty & Essex, 146 Essex [Stanton/Riv] 212.614.0146; The Strong Buzz advises frequent visits to the ladies bathroom.

Kwanzaa explained and celebrated at the Studio Museum, 12/26, 4pm.

Blue Valentine a good time? No, but there are unforgettable performances from Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Opens 12/31.

So much about Houdini continues to fascinate, over 80 years after his death. Spend some time in his world at The Jewish Museum exhibit featuring things like his straightjacket and handcuffs, but also contemporary art work by Petah Coyne, Vik Muniz, Matthew Barney and others who continue to be influenced by the great escape artist.

William Wegman's great love, Weimaraner Fay Ray, is chronicled in Polaroids 1987-1995 at Senior & Shopmaker Gallery, extended through January 15th.

Through tomorrow, the Brooklyn Flea's holiday market called Gifted is at One Hanson Place.

Stop in to Jen Bekman and see Joe Holmes' vision of winter.

Too much effort to get out of the house? Explore MoMA's Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition via their free iPad app.

Have happy and peaceful holidays.

Cultural and literary notes, plus self-guided walks, courtesy of Walking Off the Big Apple, a strolling guide to New York City.

A Story of Old U Nork: Adam Gopnik's The Steps Across the Water

The Steps Across the Water by Adam Gopnik, with illustrations by Bruce McCall (Hyperion Books, 2010, 304 pages, $17.99), may be designed for grades 3 to 5, but older readers, at least ones older than 12, may want to sneak a read before handing it over to a younger friend.

Just when a young girl named Rose begins to feel like she does not quite fit in with the New York family that adopted her, she comes across a magic staircase near a pond in Central Park. When she winds up the courage to climb up and down the magic stairs, she falls into the alternative universe of a place called U Nork. This fanciful city reflects similarities to her own metropolis, but it's more the New York of an old illustrator's imagination, one with dirigibles, flying giant pigeon taxis, hurried rude residents, and wise guy gangsters. Rose is on a quest for young girl things - in her case, a snow globe and a dog of her own, but as befitting a tale with a moral, she will discover greater lessons for her passageway into maturity.

After she arrives in U Nork, Rose finds herself in an unexpected position of power and must travel back and forth from New York City to the curious other metropolis in order to solve the evolving mysteries. Along the way, a kinder old gentleman, her cartoonist father's colleague at a magazine (an homage to The New Yorker, home to many contributions by author Gopnik and illustrator McCall), leads her to New York's last remaining bookstore, and in one of the tale's finest sequences, to Washington Square Park. There, he reenacts Greenwich Village's greatest true story. Shopkeepers, just like in our lived experience, often hold the greatest secrets. Like Dorothy of Kansas, Rose of New York will find helpers in her quest, and a little dog, too.

New Yorkers with some knowledge of the city, especially as it was imagined in illustrations such as "King's Views of New York," souvenir booklets from the early 1900s that often showed futuristic images of flying airships and sky-high walkways, or in the 1939 World's Fair, should enjoy Gopnik's clever appropriations. Fans of Central Park should delight in recognition of the park's special places but grow alarmed when the park turns out to serve a more sinister role in U Nork. Gopnik throws in several sharp observances about New Yorkers in general, on top of a nod to Oz, Alice in Wonderland, a fashionable Ice Queen, a short mayor, and the holiday season. At times the mix is too much, and a particular bit of imagination involving U Nork's eateries borders on the surreal. For practical-minded readers, however, the story also includes which department store sells the finest frozen yogurt. And for those of us who have graduated beyond the fifth grade, the large print is most appreciated.

NYC Xmas Tree Sellers - Tom (Alaska)

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