Category Archives: Architecture

New Tales of the City

“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City

Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*

And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.

“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”

Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.

The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.

In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:

Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.

The new series will be released on Netflix on 7  June  2019.

Bonus Track

The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.

* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown,  though, for some reason….


Jonas Brothers — “Sucker”

New single by the Jonas Brothers. Not particularly my kind of music, but I love the colours and the costumes and the numerous nods to The Favourite.  And did you catch the Wes Anderson-like miniature of Hampton Court at the beginning of the video?

The song is called “Sucker”.

Costumes from The Favourite on Display at Kensington Palace

Image Found on the Web.

There’s a small exhibition of costumes from The Favourite on display at Kensington Palace, the current home of Wills and Kate and Harry and Meghan.

Image Found on the Web.

Image Found on the Web.

Here’s a short “Making of…” video:

The exhibition is open daily until 8 February 2019.

*Harry and Meghan will be getting their own place soon. I supposed they doubled up to save money on heating bills and stuff.

The Third Man, and Café Mozart

That scene contains the most frequently quoted passage from The Third Man, and as it ends, you can hear part of Anton Karas’s famous musical score, played on the zither.

The Third Man is a classic 1949 film noir set among the ruins of Vienna during the post-WWII occupation. An American, Holly Martins, spends much of the movie trying to find out what happened to his friend and potential employer, the mysterious Harry Lime. The film, with Joseph Cotten as Martins and Orson Welles as Lime, was written by Graham Greene and directed by Carol Reed. With that much talent involved, it’s not surprising that the British Film Institute named it as the greatest British film of all time.*

I’ve mentioned that one of my little side projects on this trip was an exploration of some of the historical cafés and coffee houses of Vienna. Here’s how The Third Man fits in.

Café Mozart is identified by name in the movie, but the scene that was set there was actually filmed at another Vienna café. The real significance of Café Mozart is that this is where Graham Greene worked on the script.


As I headed for the café, I walked past this building, and recognized it immediately.

In The Third Man, this is the entrance to Harry Lime’s apartment building. It looks unchanged from when the film was made in the 1940s.

Café Mozart

Café Mozart

Café Mozart

Café Mozart can trace its origins back to 1794, and was renovated in 1994.

Café Mozart Interior. Image found on the Web.

Café Mozart Interior. Image found on the Web.

Knowing myself as well as I do, I realized that once I was comfortably seated in a nice warm cafe, drinking a nice hot cup of chocolate, it would take an enormous effort to get me back onto the cold, windy streets of the city.

Mozart Schokolade

Mozart Schokolade

Hot chocolate, with a chocolate and pistachio sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

Cream Cheese Dumplings


Cream Cheese Dumplings on a berry compote.

Let’s just say I stayed a little longer than I’d planned, and much longer than was absolutely necessary. But can you think of a more pleasant way to spend a couple of hours on a chilly afternoon?

*A solid choice, although I’d probably go with Kind Hearts and Coronets or The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Downton Abbey — Look Out! Here It Comes Again!

Downton Abbey is coming back, this time in the form of a movie.

Most of the cast—except for Isis, the unfortunately named dog, and the actors whose characters were killed off by Lady Mary (aka “The Black Widow”) or by the murderous Mr and Mrs Bates and their creepy secret son, Norman—will return.

UK release is scheduled for 13 September 2019, with US release a week later.

While You’re Waiting…

Meanwhile, back at the stately manor, tickets are available for Downton Abbey: The Exhibition in West Palm Beach, Florida, through late April 2019. No word yet on where the traveling show will land next.

Budapest at Night

I had business in Budapest, so I took the train from Vienna.

And there I was, prowling along the shadowy Hungarian streets on a cold, rainy Wednesday night in November, with film noir memories of spies and Eastern intrigue playing in my head, hoping the rendőrség wouldn’t look at my papers too closely, wondering if I could just drop the damn microfilm in a trash can and walk away, estimating how far it was to the Swedish embassy….

Sorry, got a little carried away there.

And then I walked into the light. Literally.

I was at the foot of Budapest’s Fashion Street, which was brilliantly lit for the holidays. The street, which had deteriorated badly because of the hardships of WWII and by the non-benign neglect of the following Communist government, has been beautifully restored and renovated. This year marks Fashion Street’s 10th Anniversary.

I lingered. This was my third trip to the city, and once again, I’d found something new and beautiful.

Here’s a drone’s eye view of the area:

Café Landtmann — Lunching with the Ghost of Dr Freud

Café Landtmann

Café Landtmann

Q: What did Hitler, Trotsky, Tito, Stalin, Emperor Franz Joseph, and Sigmund Freud have in common?

A: In 1913, they all lived within a few miles of each other in Vienna.

It’s not all that surprising when you think about it. Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of the European great powers, with 50 million inhabitants in its 15 constituent nations. In the years leading up to the first World War, the city was at the red-hot center of the intellectual world, and second only to Paris on the cutting edge of the arts. And where did all this intellectual heating and artistic cutting take place? In the city’s cafés and coffeehouses.

I had lunch at Café Landtmann, which was Freud’s favourite.

Café Landtmann Interior. Image found on the Web.

Café Landtmann Interior. Image found on the Web.

Mixed Sausages

Mixed Sausages

I went with Viennese classics, starting with an assortment of four kinds of sausages, which are barely visible at the top of this picture. They came with three dipping sauces and brown bread.

Viennese Chicken

Viennese Chicken

And for the main, Viennese Chicken. It reminded me of breaded veal—same look, same texture. Austrian/German cooking is not noted for its range or variety.

This was very good, though. Loved the crunch.