How Sweet It Is: The Best Candy Shops in New York City

There are three candy holidays, or I should say Holy Days,  in the United States: Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. I remember as a child, when of one of these observed Holy Days approached, my father would open a portal into another world. No matter where we lived at the time, he would take me to some secretive little shop, inconspicuously tucked away off the beaten path. These shops were like walking into a time capsule, what with their loads of obscure candies, chocolates, and myriad other snacks, stacked floor to ceiling. Whether in open barrels or giant bags and boxes, I found myself surrounded by untold delights.

Continue reading How Sweet It Is: The Best Candy Shops in New York City

Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Like many women, I’ve had a somewhat turbulent relationship with my self-image. Thanks to a particularly nasty bout with eczema when I was younger and constant weight fluctuations, it was difficult to feel comfortable — much less confident — in my own skin. Age helped me navigate those treacherous waters, but fashion was mostly what kept me afloat. Despite how I felt about my body, I always found ways to have fun with how I dressed.

Continue reading Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Up on the Roof: The Theater of Disappearance by Adrián Villar Rojas at The Met

I’m hungry – take me to the food pairing!

“When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space”
– Up on the Roof, The Drifters, 1962

There are very few things New Yorkers love more than the following (in no particular order of appreciation): soaking in the sun, lounging on rooftops and imbibing a few cocktails. Offer any of these things, or all of them at once, and you’ll find hoards of the city’s faithful congregated.

Continue reading Up on the Roof: The Theater of Disappearance by Adrián Villar Rojas at The Met

Central Park Ice Festival

I used to live in Cleveland and I used to smoke. Having a cigarette in downtown Cleveland in January is what one might call “peak winter”.  It’s what separates the smokers from the puffers, we used to joke.  (Not something we smokers should’ve been so proud of, I’ll admit.)  New York City winters are mostly mild by comparison, which is probably the only reason why I would turn to Justin and say, “Let’s go to the Ice Festival! That sounds like fun!”

The Ice Festival is an annual event organized by the Central Park Conservancy.  At the Naumburg Bandshell, park visitors are treated to a live, on-site carving by Okamoto Studio, a custom ice studio based out of Long Island.  The studio, a design collective originally founded by father-son team Takeo and Shintaro Okamoto, is known for working its magic with crystal clear ice.  Besides performing at previous festivals, Okamoto Studio has also lent its talents to Barney’s holiday windows and numerous private events.

Central Park Ice Festival - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Continue reading Central Park Ice Festival

Madison Street to Madison Avenue: A Chinese New Year Celebration

Justin recently replaced his umbrella and when it arrived from Amazon, he opened it up in our apartment to make sure it was what he was expecting.
“Don’t you know that’s bad luck?,” I asked.
“Is it?,” he replied, completely unfazed.

We Asians are a superstitious bunch.  The number four is bad luck!  You can’t buy someone a clock, it’s bad luck!  Don’t clip your nails at night, it’s bad luck!  I’m Malaysian, and I’m biracial.  My father is of Chinese descent, while my mother is native Malay.  So we grew up celebrating the Chinese New Year, and my late grandmother made sure we were all well-versed on the many traditions meant to ward off bad luck and bring good fortune as we ushered in a new year.

Madison St Madison Ave Chinese New Year - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
My late grandmother

Continue reading Madison Street to Madison Avenue: A Chinese New Year Celebration

Chuck Close at the 2nd Avenue Subway

If you were introduced to twenty people but you could only identify them using their social security numbers, how many would you be able to pick out of a crowd the next day? If you’re like me, probably zero. That’s kind of what it’s like to have prosopagnosia, or face blindness. Facial features become a mess of details that you just can’t remember. That’s pretty fascinating, right? And you know what’s even more fascinating? Chuck Close, the renowned portrait artist, suffers from it.

Even without the prosopagnosia, Close’s path as an artist has not been an easy one.  He battled dyslexia and neuromuscular weakness as a child, then suffered a spinal artery collapse at 48 that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  But consistent resistance builds the right kind of muscles — perhaps the only positive outcome of such a hard life — so rehabilitation and sheer will helped him regain enough movement in his arms to allow him to make art again.  Even if he still has to use both hands to hold a brush.

Chuck Close 2nd Avenue Subway - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
A close-up of the detail on Lyle (1999) by Chuck Close, which is on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Continue reading Chuck Close at the 2nd Avenue Subway

Valentin De Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’m hungry – take me to the food pairing!

When I visited Italy many years ago, I particularly remember a visit to the Galleria Borghese in Rome, where I made my first acquaintance with the works of Caravaggio.  When we continued on to Florence, I was excited to hear that additional works were located in the Uffizi Gallery.  We spent the day visiting other sights, reserving a few hours at the end of the day for the museum.  We saved the best for last, only to discover that the Uffizi was under construction and that they had moved Caravaggio’s works to a different section.  And the section was located a distance away from where we were. @#$%!  So we ran, and luckily managed to get in a quick, breathy view of his pieces just under the wire.

While I do find Caravaggio’s works to be magnificent, his tumultuous life made his art all the more intriguing.  His story includes all the makings of a hit reality TV show: poverty, celebrity, violence, death, imprisonment, libel, poisoning.  But his influence on painters from then on has been undisputed, and Valentin De Boulogne is one of the many who have followed in his footsteps.

Valentin de Boulogne Beyond Caravaggio - Mad Hatters NYC Blog
St. Jerome by Caravaggio (1605-1606), one of my favorites. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading Valentin De Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Better Late Than Never: 2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays

Whether you’re noshing on leftovers, watching Christmas Vacation again, or shopping the after-Christmas sales, we thought we’d help you eke out another ounce of holiday cheer with some pictures from the holiday window displays around New York City.  The amount of creative work that goes into the windows is always inspiring.  Making the pilgrimage has become one of our treasured holiday traditions, so we thought we’d share some of our favorites here. 

Here are some highlights from the same route we shared in last year’s post:

Continue reading Better Late Than Never: 2016 NYC Holiday Window Displays

Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt at the Park Avenue Armory

If there were a list of naturally aggressive words in the English language, it feels like “manifesto” would be at the top of that list.  But it’s really just a declaration of intentions, be it Marx’s or lululemon’s.  Each one carries weight, because once we verbalize or document a motive, we make a formal commitment to it.  And one person who seems to understand the power of a manifesto is filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt.

Roselfeldt’s 2015 film, Manifesto, premiered at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and is finally being offered to New York City audiences at Park Avenue Armory’s Drill Hall.  In real estate-starved Manhattan, it’s hard not to walk into the space and be awed by its sheer size.  The dark, cavernous 55,000-square-foot room holds thirteen giant movie screens.  A lone bench sits in front of each one, and as you perch on it, a speaker delivers targeted audio for the piece of film you’re watching.

Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt Park Avenue Armory - Mad Hatters NYC Blog

Continue reading Manifesto by Julian Rosefeldt at the Park Avenue Armory

Ralph Steadman Retrospective at Society of Illustrators

Lynn’s a natural-born planner, and I’m, shall we say, a little more “fluid” in my approach to life. She writes ruler-straight notations with breathtakingly symmetrical penmanship in composition notebooks and prolifically schedules our digital calendar with placeholders for upcoming events. I plan what I’m wearing 10 minutes before we head out for the day and am never more happy than when a pedestrian evening in the city takes a serendipitous left turn and we end up at strange locales we never would have considered in advance. After many, many years of marriage, I like to think that we balance each other out. She has opened my eyes to the fact that a little structure often leads to more frequent and more meaningful experiences, and I remind her that spontaneity in life is an important counterbalance to the weariness and monotony of everyday existence.

Recently, a bit of chance and calculation collided in our visit to Society of Illustrators where we ventured to take in A Retrospective: Ralph Steadman. In typical fashion, Lynn sent me a link to an article about the exhibit a few weeks beforehand and asked, “Interested?” I afforded the article a two-second, cursory examination and replied, “Sure. Why not?” I knew, of course, exactly who Ralph Steadman was, though, admittedly, more by his work and the company he kept than his name.

Ralph Steadman Society of Illustators - Mad Hatters NYC

Continue reading Ralph Steadman Retrospective at Society of Illustrators