Design Observer visits the Manhattan incarnation of Torino's Eataly food emporium and finds the American version lacking in the charm of the original.

Without having visited either Eataly, I still wonder how much of this isn't just a function of the human crush of Manhattan. Instead of just blaming the New York Eataly for being crowded and less charming, the more interesting question to ponder is how the Manhattan Eataly could have been designed to handle the higher population density of its new context.


The stretches between my posts here are lengthening. Perhaps the best way to ease back into things is in the new year is in bits and pieces. Repetition of small victories, perhaps it's the rough sketch of a resolution?

  • The single best thing I tasted over Christmas break in New York was the Crispy Frogs Legs appetizer at Veritas. The legs were encased in a crunchy, stringy crust and served with butternut squash gnocchi, pork belly, chanterelle mushroom, parsley coulis, and parmesan foam. Spectacular, one reason being that it combined the three primary food textures: crisp/crunchy, meaty, and soft.

  • I learned about the three primary food textures from a book I read over break: Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition. It took me a day of intermittent reading to plow through it on my Kindle. It appealed to me by combining many of my interests: food/cooking, contest/competition I've never heard of (shall we call that the Bloodsport factor?), obsessive people (Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, among dozens of others), long odds/underdog story (can the Americans finally medal at Bocuse d'Or, long dominated by the French and, surprisingly, the Norwegians?), a true story, and heavy doses of conflict. My only complaint is that the author Andrew Friedman telegraphs the outcome by interspersing hindsight quotes from many of the key players. You can do that in a way that doesn't give away the ending; any modern reality TV show that sprinkles in post-event interviews has to deal with the problem. If you read reviews of the print edition, the spoiler issue is worse; the photos in the center of the book depict the ultimate winners. That amateurish mistake aside, I still recommend the book. The world's leading chefs are all borderline psychotic and reading about their obsessive natures put in the mood to cook sous vide and scrub my kitchen to a sparkle.

  • Back to Veritas, they are known for their world class wine list (PDF). Martin stopped by and treated us a bottle of the 1995 Eisele Araujo Cabernet. That's not a bottle of wine one drinks every day, the price tag will incinerate your credit card, so many thanks, Martin. It was a true California cabernet fruit bomb. If you are an oenophile in search of a good meal in NYC, Veritas belongs on your shortlist.

  • I have a MOMA membership so I was able to bypass the massive line outside and walk right into the Tim Burton exhibit. But there was no avoiding the mob inside, and even had it been empty, it would have failed to hold my interest, consisting mostly of old sketches. You have to be a fanatic of someone's work to want to see their early sketches. I appreciate reading about people's processes, but I mostly enjoy seeing their final products. It's like watching deleted scenes on a DVD, you rarely find one you want to undelete.

  • Obama should hire Bruce Schneier to be our nation's security czar. I love his term "security theater," and his summary of U.S. aviation security in light of the Nigerian terrorist plot on the flight to Detroit will sound maddeningly sensible to every air traveler standing in their socks in a U.S. airport this holiday season.

I wasn't looking at my watch last night and so my passage into the new year slipped right by. And we're off.

Alicia and Stephen

Monsieur Colbert gives Alicia Keys an assist on "Empire State of Mind."

At the start line of the NY Marathon this year, as we stood at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, waiting for them to release our wave, they had someone sing the National Anthem and God Bless America, and then they blasted Jay-Z and Alicia's majestic "Empire State of Mind" over the loudspeakers. We were all so pumped up that when the pistol shot fired to start us, all thoughts of not going out too fast were tossed aside and carried away by the stiff winds that morning. We all blasted through that first mile up the bridge in record time; I'd pay the debt for that some 17 miles later.

When I hear that song, I'll always think of that moment at the foot of the bridge, thousands of people hopping and vibrating in place, all overflowing with anticipation and nervous energy.

Spider-Man, the musical

Titled Turn Off the Dark, with music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge and direction from Julie Taymor (Lion King), the Spider-Man musical will preview on Broadway beginning Jan. 16, 2010 and open officially on Feb. 18, 2010.

I can't help but picture a three melody ensemble piece: Neil Patrick Harris as Peter Parker, singing in his Spiderman suit, perched on the precipice of a tall building in NYC, Mary Jane (no thoughts who'd play her), many miles away, singing from a fashion catwalk where she stands as various assistants attend to her hair and makeup, and finally, Ewan McGregor as Eddie Brock, harmonizing from a NY city alley, as as Venom's inky black creeps across his skin and possesses him.


New Year's Eve in Times Square

Hulu will carry a live stream from Times Square in NYC tomorrow, er, tonight, New Year's Eve. You can watch it on Hulu or here in this embedded video. Feel free to grab the embed code from the video player below and paste it on your site if you know of some poor souls who are without a TV but want some ambient party companions as the calendar turns over to 2009.

For the first time in my life, I'll be in Times Square for the big night, but not on the street among the poor, huddled masses, but up in a friend's corporate apartment, overlooking the madness.

The perils of sushi

Jeremy Piven is making an early departure from the Broadway production of Speed-the-Plow, which I saw when I was in NYC to watch James run the marathon in November, because of elevated mercury in his blood. Doctors blame his diet of two sushi meals a day.

The production team was sympathetic, for the most part, but the playwright David Mamet was less so. In true Mametian fashion, the playwright told Daily Variety, “My understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer.

Marathon Man

I was in NYC the first weekend of November to watch my brother James run his first marathon. It was a true family affair as James ran for Fred's Team to raise money for Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center where my other brother Alan works. James raised something like $13,000, just an amazing amount.

I flew in late Thursday night. The next day, while James was off at work, I got up and just walked around. New York City is still my favorite among all the cities I've lived in, and I suspect it's because it's the one city where I can feel both alone and among people at the same time.

I stopped for lunch at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, one of the outlets in the David Chang empire. Back when I lived in NYC, I came here on its first day open, when they still didn't have a menu. It was like a burrito bar back then, and when I walked in the one guy behind the kitchen counter looked surprised to see anyone. Now it's transformed into a fairly chic sit-down joint with a menu and prix fixe lunch. I had crispy pork belly buns...

Pork buns at Momofuku Ssam

...and spicy rice cakes.

Spicy rice cakes at Momofuku Ssam

It was Friday, Halloween, but more importantly, it was the last day of the Banksy exhibit in the West Village, The Village Pet Store and Charcoal Grill. I managed to get there just about a half hour before it closed.

Banksy is to the art world as Michel Gondry is to music videos, just conceptually brilliant. This faux pet store wasn't populated with the real animals. Instead, there was a depressed and caged Tweety...

Tweety Bird in a cage

...a caged animatronic monkey wearing headphones, clicking on a remote control, and watching a TV playing a documentary about monkeys free in the wild...

Monkey channel surfing

Monkey watching tv

Monkey watching monkey documentary

...a rabbit looking in a mirror and applying lipstick...

Rabbit applying lipstick

...animatronic fish fingers swimming in fishbowl...

Fish sticks

...and animatronic sausages squirming around like earthworms.

Animatronic sausage in cage

A leopard fur coat basked in a tree branch, its "tail" hanging down and swaying lazily. A rooster watched over its children, little Chicken McNuggets with legs bobbing for food.

Not Banksy's most subtle social commentary, but a humorous conceit executed simply. According to the security guard, the exhibit was on its way to London next.

That night I caught a production of David Mamet's Speed the Plow at the Barrymore Theater on Broadway. This three person meditation on the conflict between art and commerce in Hollywood starred Jeremy Piven, Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson on Mad Men), and Raul Esparza.

Speed the Plow

Bashing Hollywood for favoring money over art is hardly an original form of cynicism, but the underrated Piven is always fun to watch on stage. He plays a character not so unlike his Ari Gold from Entourage: Bobby Gould is a studio exec tasked with making commercial hits. When Elizabeth Moss, a temp secretary, playing someone not unlike her Peggy Olson in Season One of Mad Men, appeals to his conscience to push for an adaptation of a dense and decidedly depressing novel (for some reason I thought of Blindness by Saramago), the battle for his soul is on, with Raul Esparza playing the devil on his shoulder, having brought Gould a made-to-order action script with a big star attached.

Piven has a way of making greed warm and fuzzy. His Ari Gold and Bobby Gould both talk a game of mindless materialism, but the body language conveys a person not entirely comfortable with all the bravado. We see in Piven our own greedy nature, but because we sense his chance for redemption is our own, and so we root for him. Tony Soprano and Don Draper are part of a recently crowded stable of antiheroes, and Piven is like their comedic brother.

After the play, I set off to my old neighborhood haunt of Union Square. I'd read that there would be a flash mob of Sarah Palin look-a-likes this Halloween night, but only a few materialized. Dagmar and Alex, two other folks from UCLA Film School were in town for a thesis shoot, so I met up with them and followed them around, taking pics of Dagmar with costumes that struck her fancy. We snapped a lot Palins, among others. But the most popular costume, by far, perhaps for ease of creation, was Heath Ledger's smudged-lipstick-and-white-face-paint Joker.

The night ended, as many busy social days in NYC end, with my sister Karen hobbling in pain alongside me at 3am in her Audrey Hepburn circa Breakfast at Tiffany's high heels, the two of us trying and failing to find a single unoccupied taxi in Greenwich Village.

The night before the marathon, we all stayed at the Westin in Times Square as James and all the Fred's Team runners were put up there for their fundraising efforts. They got their own transportation to the start line.

The family met up to watch him at the Fred's Team viewing bleachers on 1st Ave., near 67th St, around mile 17. We saw the wheelchair division fly by. One man in a wheelchair stopped across the street, attached a pair of artificial legs below his knees, and ran. The competitive women and then the competitive men flew by, and we saw both eventual winners in those groups.

Thanks to the marathon's e-mail alerts, we knew when James was approaching. As he ran by, giving Alan and the kids a quick hug, I shouted out to him to "Drop the hammer!" He looked back, then down at the street, puzzled, thinking I'd said that he'd dropped something.

James makes a pit stop

Group hug

We tried to make it across town to the finish line to catch him, but he was too fast. He'd already finished in an impressive 3:57 by the time we waded through the Central Park mob.

Congrats, on both the great time and the amazing fundraising haul! Each speaks volumes, one to his obsessive nature, the other to his likability.

The moment you become a New Yorker

Article in the NYTimes about that moment, some period into your first year living in New York, when you become a New Yorker.

Though I can't recall a specific moment things changed for me in NYC, I did reach, sometime about four or five months into living in NYC, a state of harmony with the city, when I understood its rhythms and its personality, when I felt all the privileges of living in the country's greatest city open to me.

The city, like its people, can seem prickly, antagonistic, or even dangerous. But NYC has more layers than any city I've lived in, and the longer you're there, the more it surprises you.

Spiderman the musical?!

Marvel is in pre-production on Spider-Man the musical, to be directed by Tony-winner Julie Taymor with music and lyrics by Bono and the Edge.

Nice Flickr collection of the evocative name placards on apartment complexes here in Santa Monica. I agree with the photographer - these are the sole redeeming feature of the otherwise fugly apartment architecture ubiquitous in Santa Monica (and Los Angeles in general). You've never seen so much stucco and old shag carpet.

Kaoru Kubo is the famous voice heard on Airport Limousine buses ferrying passengers from Narita Airport to Tokyo. Very soothing.

A montage of beautiful title sequences by Kuntzel+Deygas who did the titles for Catch Me If You Can, among others.

Classified government report says Al-Qaeda is the strongest it's been since 9/11. How did this country ever elect Dubya? Perhaps Bryan Caplan is right.

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The Rape of the Sabine Women

Ah, to be in NYC right now. Today is the last day of a special premiere of Eve Sussman's video-musical "The Rape of the Sabine Women" at the IFC Center. Sussman's "89 Seconds at Alcazar" is one of my favorite pieces of video art, a high def short video that depicts the activities in the royal household leading up to the single moment immortalize in Velasquez's painting "Las Meninas." The Village Voice isn't high on Sussman's latest, but the NYTimes seems to admire what it calls an "overindulged, seductive, feline opulence."

The problem with video art is that it isn't very accessible to the public. You can watch it live or not at all. You can't find Bill Viola material on high-def DVD, even if you would like to have it on loop on the plasma in the foyer of your house. Video art also tends to be housed in galleries without a lot of seating, and watching a long piece while wedged between two other people and sitting on a floor can be uncomfortable. With the advent of HD, I'd love to see more of this type of work make it onto distributable media.

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Twas two nights before 2007

The NYTimes 2006 Year in Pictures.

After seeing Pan's Labyrinth, I couldn't help thinking of Insect Lab, a studio which combines dead insect bodies with antique watch parts and electronic components.

Okay, so NYC is not perfect. One problem being that is populated by lots of people like this.

LifeHack's 50 best hacks for your life from 2006.

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Clearing the TiVo of life

This list of cool stuff costing $10 or less is useful if you need a few belated stocking stuffers.

Gosh, I've missed NYC. I'm trying to reserve judgment on LA, but I have no doubts about my adoration for NYC. Being back and strolling the streets, mingling with the people, it's like CPR for the spirit. The weather in LA is fantastic, but it didn't take long for me to realize it's an urban planning disaster with perhaps no solution to come in my lifetime.

I didn't realize how draining my quarter had been until I arrived back in Manhattan the day after my faculty review. The first week, I've had to resort to drinking coffee three times to stay awake (I weened myself off of black gold in 1998), and when I sleep I have the types of vivid, often disturbing dreams I only have when exhausted.

The irony of film school, at least the first year, is that students have little time to actually watch movies. The night after my last final, I wanted to go see a movie, but when I looked up show times I realized it wasn't playing in any theater in the L.A. region anymore. The last time that happened to me was...hmm, I think that's the first time that's ever happened to me.

So among other things, while on break, I will catch up on movies. In fact, this winter break is a chance to catch up on everything that film school forced me to put off until later. I'm clearing out the playlist in my personal life DVR: sleep, good eating, exercise, natural light, movies, music, correspondence with friends and family (but no holiday cards this year, alas), drink, world news, the simple pleasures in life.

I wish the same to all of you. Happy holidays!

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"The Hardest Button to Button"

Michel Gondry's video for the White Stripes' "The Hardest Button to Button" (Quicktime) was, as is par in Gondry's world, brilliant. The Simpsons' tribute to said video? Pretty damn good, too.

A team of Italians calling themselves HAL9000 has created an 8.6 gigapixel photograph of an Italian fresco by stitching together 1,145 pictures from a Nikon D2X. At 96,679 x 89,000 pixels, it's likely the largest digital image in the world, and on their website you can browse and zoom in on the image.

I know I'm late with this, but such is my school workload that I'm really out of it these days.: here's that controversial photo taken on 9/11 by Thomas Hoepker of Magnum Photos. Frank Rich wrote about it in the Times, then on Slate David Platz disagreed with Rich's interpretation, then two of the people in the photo wrote in to defend themselves against Rich and Hoepker's reading of the photo, and finally Hoepker himself weighed in. So in this case, a picture really was worth a thousand words or so.

1001 books you must read before you die--the list. Note that the book that the list is pulled from is not on the list itself, so it's a good thing the list is published on the web.

Hallelujah! Undercover Economist articles are finally available for free on the Financial Times website as of late September. Tim Harford is part of the transformation of economics into a sexy field.

How to turn your photos into Lichtenstein-esque pop art.


Klara designed the set for the new Neil Labute play Wrecks which just crossed over from London to New York City, and she scores some nice mentions in the NYTimes review. Neil Labute is surely the most interesting converted Mormon alive.

Oh, that I could be in NYC to catch this show in previews. For depth and breadth of theater, there is London and there is New York City, and the rest of us are on the outside looking in on the Thankgiving feast, hoping to salvage something out of the recycling bins in the alleyway.


New David Sedaris piece in The New Yorker this week. Also an interesting article on neuroeconomics.

Harold McGee answers some common questions about kitchen science on, like what's the difference between pressed and chopped garlic and is it safe to heat food in plastic in the microwave.

50 Years of Janus Films - a 50 DVD box set. Pre-order before October 24 for $650, actually a bargain at $13 a disc. Drool.

Zyb - a site to back up your cell phone contact info. The service is free and works with over 200 mobile phones. Useful.

BP's Statistical Review of World Energy 2006.

One of my questions to Gothamist was posted to Ask Gothamist, though unfortunately the response didn't go live until I'd already left NYC. Before I left, I did find this useful list of places in NYC to donate goods of all types.

Trailer for Johnny To's next movie, a spaghetti Western transplanted to macau, Fong Juk or Exiled as it's known in English. Oh, I wish I were at the Toronto International Film Festival. Exiled opened there to strong reviews.

Trailer for the next animated feature from Satoshi Kon, Paprika. If I knew how to read Japanese, I could actually tell you something about the movie. Early buzz, though sparse, is good.

I wasn't a huge fan of Tony Jaa's Tom Yum Goong, but it sounds like the condensed version from the Weinsteins, retitled The Protector, is even worse. Oh well, we can shift our hopes onto Ong Bak 2, which Jaa will direct himself.

The Agent

New Yorker issues have a tendency of piling up around my place when I travel or when I'm busy as I can never bring myself to toss them out. Sometimes that can seem like a tactical error, as in times like these when I'm moving and have to lug about 275 pounds of unread back issues to the recycling bins in the basement.

But lying on my bare mattress now (all the sheets, pillows, just about everything is packed in boxes), I'm glad I saved the July 10/17 issue from last month. In it was an article titled "The Agent," (PDF) an excerpt adapted from Lawrence Wright's new nonfiction book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.

Though I'm exhausted from days of packing, the article, which I just finished reading at three in the morning, stunned me, introducing two characters and a story that will break your heart with how close we came to anticipating and perhaps stopping 9/11. We had all the puzzle pieces to assemble a picture of Al-Qaeda terrorists in our midst, but they were held by different U.S. intelligence agencies, and we couldn't assemble them into a picture of looming terror because of self-imposed bureaucratic walls that kept the CIA and FBI from sharing information. Our intelligence agencies, with their silly infighting, failed us.

Two charismatic characters are at the center of this story. Ali Soufan is the Agent, a Lebanese-American Muslim FBI agent whose Arabic language skills and tenacity made him one of our nation's leading assets in the fight against Al Qaeda. John O'Neill was the head of the F.B.I.'s National Security Division, figures more prominently in The Looming Tower, but also appears in "The Agent."

Soufan is the hero of "The Agent." O'Neill put in charge of investigating the bombing of the U.S.S.. cole in Aden, Yemen, in October, 2000. Soufan's investigation unearthed tracks that led back to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The CIA, in the meantime, learned of an Al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia and learned of two Al-Qaeda operatives, Khaled al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. Mihdhar had a U.S. Visa. The CIA did not inform the FBI about the two of them, and so they slipped into the U.S. unnoticed. The CIA does not have authority to operate within the U.S., so once Mihdhar and Hazmi were on U.S. soil, they were the province of the FBI, or would have been, had the CIA alerted the FBI to their presence.

In June of 2001, Ali Soufan sat in a meeting with CIA colleagues and was shown photos from the secret meeting in Malaysia. Among those in the pictures were Mihdhar and Hazmi, but Soufan did not know of them yet, and the CIA shared little except to see if the FBI knew of them. Another photo of the Malaysia meeting, displaying an Al Qaeda jihadi named Khallad, was not shown. Soufan and his team had a huge file on Khallad, who they suspected of being one of the masterminds of the U.S.S. Cole bombing. Had the CIA shown Soufan that photo, he could have connected the dots.

On August 27th, 2001, Nawaf al-Hazmi and his brother Salem purchased airplane tickets for American Flight 77 on Mihdhar also purchased a ticket for that flight online. They did not bother disguising their names, as they were not on the FBI terrorist watchlist.

Twenty months after their arrival in Los Angeles, on September 11, 2001, Mihdhar and Hazmi went to Washington Dulles International Airport. Hazmi set off the metal detector at the airport and was hand-screened, and Hazmi and Mihdhar were both flagged for an additional security screening at the gate, but both passed and boarded American Flight 77. One hour into the flight, the hijacked Boeing 757 crashed into the Pentagon, killing all 64 on the flight and 125 people in the building.

Immediately after 9/11, Soufan was told to find out who had perpetrated the hijackings. On September 12, 2001, he was handed an envelope with full details of the meeting in Malaysia. When Soufan realized that the CIA had known that Mihdhar and Hazmi, two of the hijackers, had been living in the United States for 20 months, "he ran into the bathroom and threw up." Wright notes: "Soufan's disillusionment with the government was so profound that he eventually quite the bureau; in 2005, he became director of international operations for Giuliani Security and Safety, a company founded by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York."

John O'Neill is an even greater tragic figure in the story of 9/11. His story is almost too unbelievable to be true. Perhaps no one in the FBI was more obsessed with the rising threat of Al Qaeda, but on August 22, 2001, O'Neill left the FBI after it was reported that his briefcase containing sensitive documents was stolen during an FBI conference in Florida. Though it was later found and though it was determined that none of the confidential material had been compromised, his career at the FBI was ruined.

O'Neill left to take a job as the head of security at The World Trade Center. On September 11, 2001, just after American Airlines flight 11 flew into the north tower, John O'Neill received a call from his son who could see the smoke through a train window. O'Neill told his son he was fine and that he was going to assess the damage. After United Flight 175 hit the south tower, O'Neill called his girlfriend Valerie james, distraught. Yet later, at 9:25am, O'Neill called another woman he had been close to, Anne DiBattista, saying he was okay.

"The connection was good at the beginning," she recalled. "He was safe and outside. He said he was O.K. I said, 'Are you sure you're out of the building?' He told me he loved me. I knew he was going to go back in."

Another FBI agent, Wesley Wong, ran into O'Neill outside the north tower. She last saw him headed towards the south tower.

On September 28, 2001, O'Neill's body was found in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Wright reports:

...a thousand mourner gathered at St. Nicholas to say farewell. Many of them were agents and policemen and members of foreign intelligence services who had followed O'Neill into the war against terrorism long before it became a rallying cry for the nation. The hierarchy of the F.B.I attended, including the now retired director Louis Freeh. Richard Clarke, who says that he had not shed a tear since September 11th, suddenly broke down when the bagpipes played and the casket passed by.

For some reason, perhaps because I've come to adore New York City, I can't stop reading about 9/11. I've read the The 9/11 Commission Report in text form, and I'll probably reread it in its graphic adaptation. 9/11 and the events that led up to that day continue to haunt me, and Lawrence Wright's account The Looming Tower, which I've just begun, promises to be the best account to date. I'm not doing justice to his reporting here, so delve into "The Agent" if you want a sampling. Soufan is a fascinating character in many ways, particularly in his interrogation techniques, which demonstrate that torture is hardly the only way to extract information from suspects (torture has long been known to yield unreliable info). Soufan engages his subjects, demonstrates his knowledge and understanding of them and their cultural background, and uses his intelligence to checkmate them.

In the stories of Soufan, O'Neill, and bin Laden, there is a Syriana/Munich-style tragedy to be made. In fact, with its story of thwarted investigations and global conspiracies, it's the 9/11 movie I would have expected Oliver Stone to make, though from what I've heard his World Trade Center movie is a great departure for him.

Here is an online only interview with Lawrence Wright which came out at the same time as "The Agent." Here's a comprehensive list of Wright's articles for The New Yorker, including many on Al Qaeda. PBS Frontline came out with a documentary on O'Neill called "The Man Who Knew" and it's available online (Real Player and Windows Media).

Crossing the moat

This Times article on the housing virgins of NYC brought back unpleasant memories of my first New York City apartment hunt, though I can laugh now that it's behind me. I've never enjoyed living anywhere as much as Manhattan, but I've also never been more stressed out and depressed by apartment hunting anywhere else. Finding a place to live in NYC is like having to cross a moat filled with crocodiles (real estate brokers) to find a towering, fortified castle wall with ornery soldiers up top (landlords) lobbing buckets of hot oil and flaming arrows at your head as you climb, peering in through the occasional castle window to see one horrific dungeon after another (the old, dilapidated pre-war apartments of NYC). It can cause you to question why you're moving to NYC in the first place, and in extreme cases, it can turn people away before they ever encounter the charms of the city.

The housing market may be softening across the U.S. as a whole, but in the micromarket of Manhattan, vacancy rates are as low as ever, and so property owners can foist broker fees onto applicants. It's as unpleasant a real estate environment as you'll encounter anywhere, but to those who are going through it for the first time, I urge a healthy dose of perseverance. Once you're inside the city gates, it's a beautiful thing.

Show me the money

Talk about a horse: just one day after throwing 178 pitches in a 15 inning tie, Japanese high school pitcher Yuki Saito came back to throw a 118 pitch complete game victory to lead his team to its first National high School Baseball Championship title. It was Saito's fourth complete game in four days, and in the tournament he threw 948 pitches in seven games. My shoulder exploded just reading that.

Tim Harford uses game theory to explain why engagement rings came about. So that's why women want a huge rock! It's a security deposit on the marriage, so the larger the better.

Frank Bruni's first impression of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon: very pricey, with slightly scattered service, but quietly thrilling. It's still in its soft opening (no reservations taken yet) so I've been thinking of stopping in for one last decadent meal before leaving NYC. But with prices like those...perhaps I'll just stop in, order Robuchon's famous potato puree (which happens to be my favorite potato dish ever; here is one online recipe, here is another), surrender my Amex, clap and spread my hands palms up like a blackjack dealer leaving a table, and walk out.