The Halal Guys

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When I was visiting New York City, I had the opportunity to eat at a halal cart. It was pretty amazing. The Halal Guys are the most popular of the halal carts. Three partners opened up a hot dog cart on West 53rd & 6th Avenue in New York City in 1990 and then switched over to Mediterranean food to cater to Muslim cab drivers. That’s how Halal Guys were formed. They are pretty well known all over Manhattan and have expanded outside the Big Apple. Now they are here in the Valley of the Sun with a few locations planned. I had a chance to visit their Tempe location which is in the perfect spot because nearby Muslim community. The menu consist of platters (with salad and rice) and sandwiches. You can either get chicken, beef gyro, a combination of both or falafel. I got the beef gyro sandwich and really enjoyed it. The white and red sauce are a must and really add some spice and flavor to your meal. I’m excited to made a return visit!

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Beef Gyro Sandwich

The Halal Guys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Patsy D’Amore’s Pizza

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Patsy D’Amore was the first to bring pizza to L.A. at the Casa D’Amore restaurant in 1938 after making pizzas in New York and Boston. Patsy moved his oven from the outpost he had on Catalina Island to Los Angeles and opened up the first pizza stand at the Original Farmers Market in 1949. His famous Villa Capri restaurant was a regular hangout of the Rat Pack in the 50’s. His daughter now keeps the family legacy going with this location at the Farmers Market. They make New York style pizzas and the lasagna and calzones are made up fresh daily. Amore means “heart” in Spanish and these guys love to say they make their pizza from the heart. In typical New York fashion, I grabbed a slice to go after a full day of sampling at the Market. The pizza wasn’t bad. Not much different from what you grab to go on some corner in Manhattan. I think what the draw for me was their long history with Hollywood. I’ll give their full menu a shot another day.

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Patsy D'Amore's Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Magnolia Bakery

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Hummingbird Cupcake & Vanilla Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream

In 2009, my girlfriend and I braved the long lines and got our first taste of this famous bakery’s delightful desserts. Years later I had to bring my mother here. We were visiting Grand Central Terminal and visited Magnolia Bakery’s location there. Magnolia Bakery first opened in 1996 in New York’s West Village. Steve and Tyra Abrams took over in 2007 and expanded it to locations all over the world. You can pick up orders at their stores or order products nationwide. Each location is unique with its vintage decor and inviting atmosphere. Although they are known for their cupcakes, they bake all sorts of pastries and cakes and even have a coffee bar. Magnolia is world-renowned, they still consider themselves a neighborhood bakery. Everything is made on site and you can watch them make these wonderful delights through the window. You cannot come to New York City without visiting Magnolia Bakery.

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Grand Central Terminal

Magnolia Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Magnolia Bakery at Rockefeller Center

A couple of days later, my mother and I stopped in at the location next to Rockefeller Center. This is the popular spot that you see on Jimmy Fallon’s opening montage. This was also the first location I visited with my girlfriend. This one can get a little busy because there are may tourist attractions nearby. I personally enjoy visiting here because you can see the horse and carriage rides pass by the window while you are inside ordering. Or you can stand outside and watch the crew makes some beautiful cupcakes. Around the holidays, this is one of the things that makes Christmas in New York magical. There is always a crowd here, but these guys still manage to make you order and send you home satisfied.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake with Cranberries

Magnolia Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Halal Carts

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Chicken over Rice

I just took a red-eye into New York City and was looking for quick bite. Everyone raves about the Halal food carts in NYC and I had to give one a shot. To me, food carts are what make NYC because people are always on the go and need a quick bite. Halal carts have only been on the scene for a few decades. But today halal carts are pretty native to NYC and found everywhere. The Halal Guys carts are the most popular ones in NYC and are expanding to other states. Halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law, defined in the Koran. The key is to find a Halal cart that is authentic as there are some that are not. New York City halal usually consists of a combination of rice, greens, halal meat in a bowl or in a pita. They top it off with they famous spicy red or white sauce. The red sauce is an offshoot of Egyptian harissa sauce where the white one is an offshoot of zabadi sauce. I ordered the Chicken over Rice and drowned it with both their red and white sauces. Wow – it was super spicy and super delicious! What a great way to start off my trip to the Big Apple.

New York Institute of Photography

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* – from NYIP

 Three Basic Guidelines for Great Photographs

1. A good photograph has a clear subject

Every photograph is about someone or something. It may even tell a story about the subject. Whoever looks at the photo immediately sees this subject. It is clear and unambiguous. We sometimes call the subject a theme.

2. A good photograph focuses attention on the subject

The viewer’s eye is immediately drawn to the subject.

3. A good photograph simplifies

The photograph includes only those elements that draw the eye to the subject, and it excludes or diminishes those elements that might draw the eye away from the subject.

Art, Love, and Beauty: Lecture IV

* – from IAM website

Makoto Fujimura will continue his lecture series on “Art, Love, and Beauty” with this 4th live broadcast focusing on Gretchen Bender’s media installations.
This month, we are privileged to have with us Soo Bae, a world class cellist.

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Soo Bae at Space 38|39

(I don’t have a video of this lecture so below is one of Makoto’s writings on Gretchen Bender)

REFRACTIONS’S 15: GRETCHEN’S BUTTERFLIES

by Makoto Fujimura

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Bill T. Jones started to sing, as he stepped out from the audience. He sang an old spiritual, and he slowly stepped down the stairs moving into the main stage, and his body swayed, his feet began to tap. The Kitchen, a black-box theatre located in Chelsea, Manhattan, a catalyst for much of experimental art and music on recent times, was his stage, his artistic home. And yet, he was not here to perform, he was not here to start a new program, he was here for a memorial service.

Gretchen Bender had passed away at the age of 53, to the shock of her friends and colleagues who came to honor her on that cold January day. Many influential figures of the art world, like Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo and Elizabeth Streb were present. Her sister Valerie Godwin, whose husband Clyde pastored my home church, The Village Church, introduced us in 1999. Gretchen then graciously took part in my TriBeCa Temporary project, which I curated after September 11th, 2001.

Gretchen, as many participants in the service recalled, remained in the background of the emerging media art phenomena in the eighties. She was a pioneer in this new form as New York Times’ critic Roberta Smith wrote in her obituary. She was part of “the generation of early 1980’s Pictures Artists…Combining aspects of Conceptual Art and Pop Art, these artists used the images of popular culture to dissect its powerful codes, especially regarding gender and sexuality. “ Many credit her today with pioneering “the rapid-fire hyperediting now pervasive in film, television and video art.”

Her accomplishments range from PBS documentary to museum retrospectives. But to me, her public work of 1990’s collaboration with Miran Fukuda, in the Tameike-Sanno station in Tokyo continue to be etched in my mind.

Tameike-Sanno Collaboration appropriated, ironically, the images of the World Trade Towers. When I visited her studio, located in Southstreet Seaport near Ground Zero, she told me of her experience after 9/11: “I was sitting on the steps in front of my studio, reading an article in a newspaper about the ‘butterflies’ the Russians had dropped all over Afghanistan in the last war and I looked up from the paper and stared blankly as I tried to comprehend the meaning of the article: what kind of cruelty was it that children picked up these ‘butterflies’ floating down and were blown apart… A sense of general despair for the world began to creep into my whole being when, suddenly, two feet in front of me, a REAL butterfly floated by my face. I couldn’t move in astonishment. I had never seen a butterfly in all my years on South Street and it was November and it was ground zero air quality and where did this fragile emanation appear from? All those souls lifting out of the white dust, off the collapsed shards – a sacrifice, a gift, a hope, for a spiritual shift in the world.”

She then created an installation for TriBeCa Temporary project that became a highlight of our six months effort to “create an oasis of collaboration for Ground Zero artists.” She folded hundreds of white origami butterflies, and carefully arranged them on the floor, re-presenting her experience that, she repeatedly told me, was her “resurrection moment”.
Then she told me something remarkable: “I could never do this in Chelsea galleries or museums.” I asked her “why?” She answered “well, it’s too tender, and beautiful.”

One of her friends reminded me, at the memorial, this was the last work that she ever exhibited.

It was evident to those who attended the memorial service how much she struggled with the hype, the greed and the back-stabbing that characterized the art world. She was too sensitive, too vulnerable, and too unguarded. Her long time partner Mitchell Wagenberg, shared how he wrote down pages and pages of how the art world had destroyed her, but then felt to restrain his comments. He nevertheless wanted to convey how she was victimized and swallowed up by the vicious realities of the art world, and felt betrayed. But perhaps Mitchell did not have to share the details his notes. The service started to take on a confessional tone, where one after another, emotive expressions by artists recalled her delicate nature, giving account of their personal struggles in their relationships with her, and with each other. Perhaps the language used in describing the scene was too brutally honest for some. One of my friends commented afterwards: “I’ve never heard so many four-letter words at a memorial service!”

After Bill T Jones spoke and sang, one of Gretchen’s assistants stood to share a song. It was a song that Gretchen listened to in her studio on her tape player. The worn-out tape is by an underground artist I’ve never heard before called Daniel Johnston1, but the assistant said, “it’s from First Corinthians 13 in the Bible.” I was surprised, as I knew how much Gretchen struggled with the church and Christianity. And yet when he started to sing, almost everyone in the room knew the tune, except, ironically, those of us who were Christians. We knew the words well, but not the tune. “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful. It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way…Love never ends.”

Perhaps Gretchen herself was “too tender and beautiful” for the art world after all. Perhaps she saw herself in that butterfly, a lone specter of a strange mystery in terrible dark days. Where would a creative butterfly like Gretchen migrate to? Would the art world continue to alienate and divide in our Darwinian grasp for a flash of spotlight? Would we then miss the small “resurrection moments” of our ordinary days? Gretchen, at last, saw the butterfly. Perhaps we would miss it or ignore it even if it flew in front of our eyes. Perhaps what we wanted to acknowledge on that cold day in January was the reality of how far we have fallen short of our own expectations and, even, our desires.

If Elaine Scarry (Beauty and Being Just, Princeton Press) is correct, true beauty forces us to admit our errors. Perhaps, in missing Gretchen, would we admit the vulnerability, and unguarded innocence of a true artistic experience? Would a community of broken, brutally honest, creative people lead the way for admission of our errors? The small, avant-garde theatre in Chelsea, for but a fleeting moment, became one communal confessional box, filling it with hymns and spiritual songs.

As I left The Kitchen (only to return in a few months later to do a collaboration called, ironically, Shangri-La), I felt certain of Jesus’ presence in that room. As the author and fulfillment of that song by Daniel Johnston, He would have invited himself there, as the manifestation of the “unknown, rejected” singer of a worn out tape of old. And there, his “dancing has turned into mourning” (Lamentations 5:15). At that moment, he would certainly have been unguarded, and perhaps as vulnerable as a single monarch flying in the ashes of Sept. 11th.

The Artisan Soul

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We all need to create, to be a part of a process that brings to the world something beautiful, good, and true, in order to allow our souls to come to life.

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Erwin McManus & Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura interviewed his good friend Erwin McManus during a book launch of his newest book The Artisan Soul at Space 38|39 in NYC. Erwin Raphael McManus is an author, thought leader, and founder of Mosaic church in Los Angeles. He not only calls us to reclaim our creative essence, but reveals how we can craft our lives into a work of art.

Erwin wrote this book during a time he was frustrated with Christians. God spoke to him about sharing HIS beauty to the world and so he wrote The Artisan Soul. The book is for everyone – not just artists. It’s for anyone who has been told that they are less than what they were created to be. The most tragic moments in our life are the most beautiful. God makes ALL things beautiful in its time. We need to access the essential nature of being human and live out our lives as artisans. Be unpredictable!

Click on the video below to be redirected to vimeo to watch the interview

The Artisan Soul video promo

Art, Love, and Beauty: Lecture II

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How do we define art?

“The attempt to ‘define’ art is limited at best in understanding what art is. We need artists because artists can tap into this “irrational and of a magical nature” in life.”

* – full notes from Makoto Fujimura’s lecture can be found here

ART = FAITH

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”   Hebrews 11:1

“culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.” – T.S. Eliot

It is Grace. We stalk on life (not just art) by standing under it, no over it. This is faith.

“Knowing is perhaps a bit like a marriage. First you bind yourself with promises to love, honor and obey.” – Esther Meek

Art is a faithful way of knowing the world.

We need to link “what is art” to the bigger question “what is life”. We must abandon our lust for certainty and be on our faith journey toward the mystery of our being. We stalk and wait on our art.

Click on the video below to be redirected to vimeo to watch lecture

Art, Love, and Beauty

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Makoto Fujimura

The assumption behind utilitarian pragmatism is that human endeavors are only deemed worthwhile if they are useful to the whole, whether that be a company, family or community.  In such a world, those who are disabled, those who are oppressed, or those who are without voice are seen as “useless” and disposable.  We have a disposable culture that has made usefulness the sole measure of value.  This metric declares that the arts are useless.  No-the reverse is true. The arts are completely indispensable precisely because they are useless in the utilitarian sense.

– Makoto Fujimura “On Becoming Generative”  

This is lecture 1 of a 6 part lecture series by Makoto Fujimura on Art, Love and Beauty. In this lecture broadcasted live from Space 38l39 in New York City, Mako explores the relationship between Art and Beauty. These lectures will pave the way to implementing Culture Care strategy in the IAM movement. The recently released booklet On Becoming Generative: An Introduction to Culture Care is an abbreviated version of Makoto Fujimura’s upcoming book Culture Care due to come out later next year.

– full notes from Makoto Fujimura’s lecture can be found here

Joe Coffee Company

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In 2003, the first ever Joe Coffee opened on this iconic corner where Waverly Place meets Gay Street. A true neighborhood spot, Joe’s customers are a great mix of artists, photographers, writers, students, and tourists.

After my food tour, I was dying for a coffee and stumbled upon Joe Coffee. Joe Coffee Company was founded in the West Village in 2003 by Jonathan Rubinstein. He was looking to make high quality coffee and combining it with a unique space for community. They are now close to twenty locations and have a wholesale program. Joe’s quality protocols require cupping (tasting) hundreds of samples of coffee per year and working with importers and exporters. Joe works directly with the local farmers and maintains a good relationship with them. This location I went to is the original location. I got a regular coffee and really enjoyed the quality of it. What a good find!

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Joe The Art of Coffee Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato