The New Yorkerator

New York Nostalgia Trip

Well, Valentine’s Day is in the air, and it’s probably too late to plan a tingly night on the town. Luckily, there’s an easy way to experience years of Manhattan nightlife—you know, back when it was gritty and glamorous—and all that nostalgia won’t cost you a thing. Composed of 28 stunning black-and-white photographs, the New York at Night exhibition at MoMA recalls champagne at El Morocco, and the fun of a party at Studio 54. Having access to an old boom box and some Gershwin tapes would help, but you can still make do without all that fancy stuff: The fantasy exhibit, easy to miss in the rush to get upstairs, will be around for the rest of the month.

The images, by well-known artists like Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz and Garry Winogrand, are on display in the museum’s lobby, and all of this inspiration is gratis. “You can even see it from the outside as well … during the hours the museum is closed,” said Eva Respini, an assistant curator of photography at MoMA. Bundle up! Hung on a single wall in front of a few benches, the scope of work here is intimate and manageable. Said Ms. Respini: “We wanted to put together an exhibition from thinking about the city as a kind of muse.” For love, that is.

—David Foxley

Nursing Neuroses

Wally Go Lightly! Woody Allen might have the whole male-Jewish-neurotic thing on lockdown, but when it comes to the finer points of post-9/11 free-floating anxiety, his Manhattan co-star, playwright and actor Wallace Shawn, comes in not too far behind. He’s currently in an Off Broadway revival of The Fever, written by Mr. Shawn himself. The show was first performed in 1990, but considering its themes of war and privilege, its ideas still hold up. There aren’t many thinkers who grew up with as much N.Y.C. street cred as the loveable, homunculus-y Wallace Shawn; he’s the son of legendary New Yorker editor William Shawn. And now you can meet Wally! Audiences are invited onto the stage for a glass of champagne with Mr. Shawn before the show begins. God knows we all need a drink or two these days.

The Fever might be easier to take than the New York Public Library’s latest hoo-ha, unambitiously entitled “Was the 20th Century a Mistake?” On Feb. 16, director Director Paul Holdengräber plays host to another man in touch with his anxieties, Werner Herzog. Expect tons of Mr. Herzog’s devoted following to show up, Wellbutrin and Lexapro on hand.

—Sara Vilkomerson

For Punks and Lovers: Lifetime, Explosions

Explosions in the Sky’s 2003 album, The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, was a cascade of guitar arpeggios and rousing peaks of operatic proportions. The hardware is rock ’n’ roll, the sound is orchestral; think Mogwai meets James Horner. Cinematic without being treacly, Earth was by far the most moving music to emerge from the “prog-rock” cacophony. Now, setting out on their first real tour in many years, the Austin-based band will do several New York laps: first at Warsaw on Feb. 19, then Conan and the Wordless Music Series on Feb. 20 and, finally, Webster Hall on March 20, all to promote their new album, All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone, which comes out on Feb. 20. Expect another miracle: After all, with its amazing soundtrack, the band saved the film Friday Night Lights from becoming a flaccid Varsity Blues remake.

—Jake Brooks

Early-90’s New Jersey punk superstars Lifetime officially reunited in 2005. Their latest tour–in support of their new self-titled CD, out in stores now–is only seven dates long (they sold out Bowery Ballroom on Feb. 10), but the band’s influence on the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia punk and hardcore scenes is everlasting. In 1997, Lifetime splintered into several other minorly successful bands, but they remained legendary thanks to two seminal CD’s: 1995’s Hello Bastards and 1997’s Jersey’s Best Dancers. Now that they’ve recovered from their much-too-soon split, Lifetime’s new album promises a sophisticated synthesis of punk and hard-core roots for a fan base that has had a decade to mature in its own right.

—Nicole Brydson

Weather’s Weird, But How Are the Birds?

Nature is a four-letter word in this town. Plenty of New Yorkers love being outside, but roaming the untamed wilds is for N.Y.U. drama majors. For most of us, spending a quiet Sunday at home with The Sopranos is seclusion enough.

But the city’s sudden Great Climate Change Awakening this past year might have changed all that, too.

The coming flood has certainly put a new cast on the Annual Great Backyard Bird Count in Prospect Park. Beginning on Saturday, Feb. 17, guides will lead groups on an hour-and-a-half-long ramble through the Brooklyn green space as part of this three-day program. Sponsored by the National Audubon Society and Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, the GBBC began 10 years ago as an easy way for scientists to collect information on migratory patterns.

Since then, the focus has shifted closer to climate change. So how bad is it really?

“The idea was to get a snapshot of what the birds are doing during the winter,” said Pat Leonard, a spokesperson at Cornell’s bird lab. “What we’re noticing is some birds are expanding their range a little further north.”

Last year, more than 60,000 people from all over North America took part in the project. “Understanding how you relate to the natural world is important,” said Paul Green, Audubon’s director of citizen science. “This is the world that supports all of us. And this time of year—especially if you’re working—you’re only outside for a few minutes.”

—David Foxley

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