Monday, March 30, 2009

Our TV episode

We were able to watch our House Hunters episode this weekend (thank you, Robert, for recording it for us!).

Not too bad ... actually, we were pleased with how it turned out. Amazing, though, how much footage they actually shot vs. how much finally appeared on the show. Six days for 23 minutes' worth!

Thanks again for all the fun emails you sent us. Too bad we don't get residual checks for the reruns!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

While we were on TV ...

... we were actually attending a magnificent Broadway play, "Exit the King."

Not only is the play itself a master-piece, so is the production. If you have a chance to see it, you absolutely MUST go (it runs through mid June).

Geoffrey Rush was astonishing. Susan Sarandon, too--as was the whole cast. It was a small group, and each actor brought something wonderful to the play.

Standing ovation at the end. As well as a few tears.

Here is the NY Times review.

We have heard from some of you!

Apparently we were actually on HGTV last night, as several of our friends and family have sent us messages about the show. We are watching it tonight at our friend Robert's place downstairs — he was kind enough to record it for us.

A commenter here asked us what we did during the renovation. We do have some "before" photos, which you can view here on our Flicker page.

Basically, we took what was a squished one bedroom apartment and made it a large studio (that's large by Parisian standards). We actually did not change the original floorplan. The only structural change, other than taking down the bedroom wall, was enlarging the bathroom and moving the bathroom door around to the other side. Originally, when you walked into the apartment you walked straight into the bathroom! So we extended the bathroom a few feet toward the front door and then moved the bathroom door around to the right side, facing into the living room (but you cannot see the throne from there!).

Otherwise, the layout is the same as it was before, mostly to try and save some Euros. We did feel, though, that the place would feel larger without the bedroom wall. It may seem illogical to turn it into a studio, but it really seemed like the best choice, considering the layout.

Then, we literally replaced every single thing in the apartment except the windows, which were already very nice: heavy-duty and double-paned. Floors, fixtures, toilet, sinks, cabinets, everything was ripped out and replaced. We also wanted to make the apartment romantic, so we chose the decor with the help of our designer, Martine di Matteo, and got a lot of advice from our consultant/property manager/, Adrian Leeds. See them both on this YouTube video talking about design plans for Adrian's apartment on La Place des Vosges.

Welcome to our petit nid d'amour!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tomorrow night on HGTV ...

Friday, March 27, 10 pm Eastern and Pacific: Mary and Jeff will be on HGTV's program House Hunters International!

If you watch, leave us a comment ... but be kind! :-)

Friday, March 20, 2009

It SNOWED today

I guess the weather gods didn't know today was the first day of spring. The snow stopped pretty early, probably because those same weather gods got an earful from all the New Yorkers who were angry about WAKING UP THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING AND SEEING SNOWFLAKES!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Examined Life

Last night, Rachel and Mary took the subway down to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) to attend a screening of a film called "An Examined Life." The filmmaker, Astra Taylor, was on hand to take questions afterwards, as was Peter Singer, a well-known philosopher interviewed in the film and pictured at left.

Oh, and by the way, Rachel ADORES Peter Singer! He teaches at Princeton, one of her top choices for grad school.

Here are some notable ideas and quotes from the film, which included interviews from several noted philosophers on such questions as meaning and morality.

Cornel West:
Philosophy is about exploring our finite situation: desire in the face of death, wrestling with dialogue, dogmatism, democracy, and power.

"A philosopher is a lover of wisdom."

It takes great courage to examine yourself and your life.

Truth (small "t") means allowing suffering to speak. The question is, how do I sustain my journey to truth once I surrender myself to my fallibility?

"I'm a jazzman in the world of ideas."

"I'm a Christian, not a Puritan. Pleasure has its place."

The whole notion of harmony, wholeness is a Romantic idea that we can never really reach. We have this idea that we can somehow create harmony, and when we can't, we suffer great disappointment. Forget this idea! "Ride on the dissonance. Begin with the wreckage, like a bluesman does." "The blues is personal catastrophe lyrically expressed."

"Why do you need the whole thing? You can't have it all, so just put that idea aside."

"Making sense of meaninglessness is a discipline in and of itself."

Avital Ronell:
Regarding the search for meaning: "I'm very skeptical of this promise of meaning, which has led to a quick grasp to things like God and religion." "The search for meaning has been socially devastating."

“Leave things open, admitting we haven’t understood. It’s frustrating, but necessary.”

Peter Singer :
Moral problem today: What should we spend our money on? (He has written a new book on this topic: The Life You Can Save.)

Applied ethics is an example of making academic studies more relevant to the questions of today. It's risky, though, because often it challenges common-sense morality and accepted ideas.

"We make life meaningful by connecting with a cause."


Here is a review of the film:

And here's a clip:

And finally, here is a list of the philosophers who appeared:
K. Anthony Appiah
Judith Butler
Michael Hardt
Martha Nussbaum
Avital Ronnell
Peter Singer
Cornel West
Slavoj Zizek

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

French, French, French

We are both taking French classes right now, through the Chazen Institute at Columbia Business School. The classes meet once a week (2 hours) for 8 weeks. Mary is in a high intermediate class, and Jeff is in a "fast track" beginner class that does a quick review of some basic grammar.

Mary took one last semester, as well, and has really noticed a difference in both comprehension and speaking. Over the summer, we intend to keep taking classes somewhere ... still investigating possibilities.

In the meantime, Mary converses in French with Rachel whenever she can. Rachel's French is way better than both of ours, and she freely corrects Mary's goofs!

One of these days, instead of calling us the Ballinger/Schiller/Dlugatch family, you can simply call us the "French" family. :-)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What the ...????

A.I.G. to Pay $100 Million in Bonuses After Huge Bailout

Read article here:

Back from Florida

Mary returned to NYC Thursday afternoon. Her dad is doing a bit better and should be going home from the hospital this weekend.

NYC is friggin' cold! What the hell is going on here? It's mid-March, and yesterday with the wind chill it was 17 degrees when Mary walked to the subway!

Jeff is going to get a rude awakening when he returns from California this evening. Hope he drank in all that warmth, because he will need it.

The good thing is, at least it has been sunny. Guess one can find the bright side of any situation if one looks hard enough.

Here is some good news: Rachel is home for spring break! She and Mom are going to hang out and have some fun this weekend. Maybe see a movie this afternoon or just walk around the city together. It is supposed to be a whopping 48 degrees today, so maybe we can put the down coats away for awhile.

Bragging for a minute: Rachel is having a STUPENDOUS semester at NYU. Straight A student. Grader for a logic class. Starting to prepare for PhD applications. What a great kid we have!

Friday, March 6, 2009

This week ...

has been a bit intense for us. Mary's dad has been in the hospital for awhile, and she is leaving Sunday to go visit him in Florida for a few days. He turned 90 last August with very few health problems. Never been in the hospital for anything serious, never had any chronic and difficult conditions. So we feel very fortunate about that.

But now, things seem to have changed rather dramatically, and Mary needs to see what is happening and talk to the doctors.

Will try to keep up the blog.

The weather in NYC was absolutely miserable this past week. You may have heard that we had a terrible snowstorm at the beginning of the week. It stayed cold and windy, but today it finally warmed up to about 50. Maybe we have started to turn the corner toward spring??