Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In Honor of Holy Week, Pt 2 - Western Wall or Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel

One of the Views into the Men's (left) & Women's (right) Exterior Courtyard at the Western Wall

The Western Wall aka Wailing Wall or the Kotel is an important Jewish religious site located in the Old City of Jerusalem. The reason why its called the Western Wall is because its the Western most wall of the Temple Mount. An interesting thing to note about the Temple Mount is that -- what you see today is actually the SECOND Temple that was reconstructed by Herod the Great around 19 BCE and additional layers were added in the 7th century onwards by other ruling empires. The First Temple, built by King Solomon, was destroyed in 586 BCE when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon. What you see today is only part of the Second Temple as parts of the Western Wall are located below street level (which, I'm sure you didn't know; and is too much to write about here, but if you want to read more, click here for more info on Second Temple).

Some interesting notes about the wall:
  • Though the Western Wall is commonly referred to as the "Wailing Wall", Jewish people never refer to this holy place as the Wailing Wall - only as the Western Wall. The name gained popularity from 19th century literature where people used to call it the "Place of Weeping"... A description that stemmed from a Jewish practice where Jewish people came to "speak" to the wall -- often "mourning" or giving prayer requests... and mourning the destruction of their temple. (A third temple has been rumored to be built, but nothing has occurred).
  • There is so much history here that it is even difficult for me to grasp and remember, but for this blog posting, suffice to say -- that after the Roman Empire and the Spanish, Turkish Ottoman, British, Jordanian ruling and now the Israeli ruling, this area of the Western Wall has been designated as a holy place for Jewish people to to devote their prayers (part of the 1930 International Commission) without interruption or interference.
  • The exposed Western Wall, or the one you mostly see, refers to an 187 ft stretch of the wall, but actually it stretches 1,600 ft. Where is the other part you may ask? Its "hidden" behind residential structures built along its length.The height of the wall is 105 ft, with the exposed section approx. 62 ft. There are 45 stone courses, of which 28 of them are below ground level. Each stone weights anywhere from two to eight tons, with the largest weighing approx. 570 tons (found on the Northern side). Its amazing how this structure was even created! The area is thought to have been a limestone quarry centuries ago (hence the very large limestone blocks), so that may have helped place the stone into place
  • You can visit, with a fee of course, the lower parts of the wall. Its actually an interesting tour and I highly recommend it. The guide books say you need a reservation, but my brother and I were able to get a ticket without one (but you may need a reservation if you go in peak season).
  • The Western Wall is supposed to the sole remnant of the Holy Temple and is the "CLOSEST" spot to the holiest spot in Judaism -- the Foundation Stone -- which is expected to be housed inside the Dome of the Rock (others say it is situated opposite of the exposed section of the Western Wall), which is located inside the Temple Mount in the Muslim Quarter. Interestingly enough, Jews are forbidden from setting foot upon the Temple Mount and is considered a sin punishable by Kareth. WHAT?!?! So, one of holiest places located in the Muslim quarters ... can not be accessed by Jews and is considered a sin!
  • Every year, more than a million notes, or prayer requests, are placed in the wall crevices. The notes are collected twice a year and buried on the Mount of Olives. If you can not be there to place it, you can even fax in your request to have it placed there. The likes of Pope John Paul II, Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI have placed messages in the wall
  • The wall is segregated by gender, which I found surprising (and I will have to ask my Jewish friends why). Are women a substandard class or is this my American ignorance and prejudice towards American society (even though, we all know not everyone is created equal)? I started to think this when I compared my experience with that of my brother's.... here are some of the stark differences. Male's side: Exterior area was nearly double the size of the female side; there was a library and discussion room, not to mention a separate prayer room where rabbis would be present (um, did we mention that only males are allowed to be rabbi's); meanwhile, the female side had a small prayer room, and when I say small, I am not exaggerating -- it would be the size equivalent of two or maybe three restaurant sized bathrooms! you will have to see the photos.
Of course, there are photos to document this experience at the Wailing Wall. Below are a select few and you can visit my FLICKR page to see additional photos. The photos of the men's side was contributed by my brother, Wilson Lee.

Inside a small study room is a private sanctuary to pray (left). Within the Western Wall's crevices are small notes, or prayer requests left behind by visitors.

Men's library and prayer room (even has a rabbi) inside a building adjoined to the Western Wall. In the FLICKR photo album you'll see a stark size contrast of the prayer/library rooms between the men and women's side.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ken Shung Lighting Class #6 - Lights and More Lights!

The theme for last Tuesday's class was lights and more lights! I wish I had taken a photo of the set so you can take a look at it -- because it was truly incredible!

If you walked on the set -- you would automatically say "WOAH, woah" ... and as you hear someone "CLiCK" their camera ... an orchestra of flashes would go off (all at the same time of course). truly impressive looking, but lets see the effect of it on my photos.

here is the first one. can you tell where the light is coming from?

Ken calls this lighting set-up -- the non-directional lighting set-up. We were playing around with it ... and though its supposed to be non-directional, I think you can tell where the light is coming from... He is lighted on the left side and on the right are two V-Core Flats (with the white side showing) to bounce back light at the subject. So what type of lighting did I have on him?
  • Two large strip bank lights
  • One octabank
  • One softbox
This photo is a little less obvious, but you can see the light is landing on her ace. Any thoughts on this photo?

and, that my friend, is Ken Shung's Lighting Class for this week...

In Honor of Holy Week - Photos of the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel Part 1

I figured since its Holy Week, I thought I would share some of my photos from the Old City in Jerusalem, Israel. After all, Jerusalem is part of the Holy Lands and is the place where many religious sects were born, and inevitably leading to many religious wars/fights stemming from differing religious viewpoints.

So, this is PART 1 for the week, giving you an aerial view of the different parts of the Old City while walking on "Ramparts Walk". I began the journey at the old Jaffa Gate and ended it near Lion's Gate. Through this walk, you will see bits and pieces of people's lives in the four quarters, where their daily routines though may be similar are separated by their religious faith and ethnic backgrounds -- Armenian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish. I ended my walk at the Lions Gate, but also continued forward through to the Jewish quarter, where I discovered the Western Wall, or more infamously known as the Wailing Wall. I hope to elaborate further on the story of the Western Wall and give you a view of the wall that you may never have imagined in a later posting. Additionally, some of my following postings will include photos from Jesus' Christ walk through Via Delarosa, the stations he stopped at, the Holy Sepulcher, and perhaps some photos of his origins - Bethlehem and Bethany Beyond Jordan. But, until then, enjoy the aerial view of the life people lead within the walls of the Old City.

Here is a quick glimpse of the photos within my FLICKR account... These photos are here to illustrate the lifestyle of the people living within the Old City Wall. Click here for more photos on Flickr:

For more, remember to check my travel blog: simplyEVERYWHERE

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Great N.Y. Noodletown is OPEN again!

Get your noodle on... or whatever you like to eat here cause the GREAT N.Y. Noodletown is back!

I was there this past Saturday and I have to say, whatever they changed or cleaned up, was not noticeable in the quality and taste of the food... Everything was just as it was the last time I was there -- good!

So go fill your soul with this yummy goodness!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Green Table Food Review - Chelsea Market, New York

The Green Table
(click photo for a larger version)

The Green Table is a little eatery located in the heart of Chelsea Market and is devoted to serving organic foods and beverages. The menu boasts some of the freshest ingredients delivered from local farms and green markets. Some of the most popular dishes ordered here include the Pot Pies (Chicken, Beef, and Vegetarian), Macaroni and Cheese and the Green Table Burger. I will be reviewing two of the three, and perhaps make another visit to taste the last. The eatery seats about 20 people, with a mini-bar seating area in the front and an additional seating area outside.

If you're curious about the decor and the atmosphere, I can easily say that once you walk-in, you will feel the hustle and bustle of New York and Chelsea Market slowing down by a few notches. I immediately felt calm here as I was surrounded by green farmhouse windows, rustic looking tables and the serenity of the restaurant environment. The friendly wait staff also added to comfort of this cafe -- and after the meal that I had, I wished they had pull-up beds that allowed me to take a nap. :D

Here are my food reviews, with color coded items -- GREEN (I enjoyed it) or RED (I would pass on it)

Macaroni and Cheese ($9 side; $15 entree w/ fresh greens)
Coach Farm Goat Cheese, Neighborly Farms organic Colby & Cheddar, Parmesean & Hudson Valley Milk combined with Organic pasta and topped with herbed breadcrumbs

After growing up on Kraft's Mac N' Cheese (which I still love), its difficult to fathom how tasty homemade "real" mac n' cheese really is. And though this wasn't my absolute favorite mac n' cheese that I ever tasted (Cafeteria has my favorite mac n' cheese), this was still pretty darn good! Its not over-the-top cheesy or gooey, just the perfect cheese and the perfect mini-crunch with the herbed breadcrumbs.

Side note: I would recommend ordering this as a side dish because there's no sense paying $6 for the mini-salad (no matter how great tasting it is).

Classic Chicken Pot Pie ($15)
Free-range chicken and an assortment of organic vegetables topped with a flaky pate brisee crust, served with market greens

Ok, I grew up eating Swanson's Chicken Pot Pie (gosh, are you wondering where all the home-cooking was when I was growing up?!?! Non-existent since my parents were working 24/7 at our noodle shop, but that's another story) -- and again, its amazing tasting the real thing. The real thing has less lard, which I'm sure is slightly healthier than those Swanson's frozen pies. :D Inside the classic chicken pot pie was a good blend of vegetables, hearty combination of white and dark meat and the consistency within the pie was thick and not soupy. I have to admit I added some salt and pepper to my liking, but overall, it was a great fresh potpie -- and how can you not love the "chicken" branding on the top of the crust?

Roasted Chicken Breast ($18)
Roasted Amish Country Red Cockerel with Tuscan Kale, cheesy potatoes & thyme jus

Personally, I thought the chicken was a bit chewy and not tender as I would have expected it to be -- but afterall, it was chicken breast (white meat) and not chicken leg (dark meat). The potatoes had a consistency of grits and was quite tasty; initially I thought the kale would be bitter, but it wasn't and I'm not sure how I can describe its distinct taste but I enjoyed it. (btw, did you know KALE is a highly nutrious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties and is considered to be an anti-inflammatory? yes!) Sad to say, but the only good thing I can say about this dish is that the potatoes and the kale made this dish, rather than the chicken.

Housemade Sauerkraut with Dickson's Pork Belly ($6)
With the craze of pork belly in a lot of new creative dishes around Manhattan, I'm not surprised that a pork belly dish would appear here. Though, I'm not sure if I would have paired these two together because the pork belly truly lost its flavor in this dish as it was over-powered by the tangy-ness of the sauerkraut (no, there was no balance of the two ingredients). So, I will definitely pass on this dish. But before you walk-away disappointed -- I will openly admit, I'm not a big fan of sauerkraut (even though I do put it on an occasional hot dog), this sauerkraut was just overly-tangy for my tastebuds!

Roasted Butternut Squash w/ aleppo pepper and olive oil ($4)

A simple, yet delicious dish that when roasted gives you more of the sweetness from the butternut squash. Did you know that butternut squash is a type of winter squash and is considered a FRUIT? Yup.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience sitting and eating at one of the green tables inside this organic eatery in Chelsea Market. Its a great spot for lunch, brunch and dinner; or if you're on the run, they do take-out too!

Location: Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue, NY, NY 10011, 212.741.9174, Open Mon thru Saturday 12 to 10 pm ; Sunday 11 am to 5 pm (across the way the water fall and Amy's Bread)

Did you know? The Green Table originated from a catering company, The Cleaver Co., which has been around for more than 30 years! Mary Cleaver believed that the best foods are grown, tended and harvested within a day's drive of your table. Her catering company has produced meals for the Dalai Lama and Martin Scorcese, large-scale parties for Microsoft and even for Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment.

Great N.Y. Noodletown Temporarily Closed for its C Rating

Last Friday, I wanted to get a quick bite to eat at Great N.Y. Noodletown, but to my dismay, it was closed. I thought it was odd but didn't think much of it. A few days later, a friend who was visiting from out of town told me she walked by the restaurant on Sunday and also noticed it was closed. That's odd, I thought to myself. Then, yesterday, I was talking to another friend who was shocked that it was closed and I deliberated -- yeah, THAT IS odd -- Chinese restaurants are never closed, not on Christmas, New Years, and not any holiday -- not even a Chinese Holiday... so why was it closed?

And the answer was discovered this morning. My friend forwarded me this article from NY Grub Street stating that it was shut down by the Health Department. Doh! Why didn't I think of that! Obvious answer for many good restaurants in the city, not just ones in Chinatown.

I'm not going to mention what the health inspector found since it may gross out any reader (you can read it on their website), but will we see an influx of "temporary" Chinatown restaurant closings in the near future? Perhaps, but it won't be limited to only Chinatown restaurants but I surmise it will be many restaurants in NYC...

So Great N.Y. Noodletown received a C rating ... can you think of any other restaurants that you like that may soon be closing? NY Grub Street will make it easier on you ... check out a few of the C rated restaurants with 28 or more demerits! Some of the restaurants on the list may surprise you ! Boqueria, BLT Fish, Wolfgang's Steakhouse, Peter Luger's and more! Mind you, some of these violations may be due to lack of filing papers and not just "health" concerns at the restaurants. So, read on... If they don't respond to the Department of Health's issues/concerns, then we may well see an increase in yellow signs indicating the restaurant is temporarily closed! At this rate, I think everyone is going to have to cook at home -- let's just hope the supermarkets pass their health inspection. :D

Los Pollitos (Park Slope) - 28
The Slaughtered Lamb - 28
Uncle Vanya - 28
Centrico - 29
Hakata Ton Ton - 29
Oro Bakery and Bar - 29
The Rusty Knot - 29
Oliver’s - 30
Two Boots (Ave A) - 30
Los Pollitos (Bay Ridge) - 30
Bar Carrera (Second Ave) - 31
Lenny’s Clam Bar - 31
Moonstruck Diner - 31
Snack - 31
The Jake Walk - 31
Salt Bar - 32
The Sunburnt Cow - 32
Gallagher’s Steakhouse - 33
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (Greenwich St.) - 33
Financier Patisserie (Stone St.) - 33
Manhattan Ocean Club - 34
Bill’s Gay 90’s - 35
Bombay Grill (Seventh Ave) - 35
Forge - 35
Hooters - 35
Pacific Grill - 35
Peter Luger Steakhouse - 35
Smith’s - 36
Sotto Voce - 36
Cipriani Dolci - 37
Euzkadi - 37
Gusto - 37
Gobo (Third Ave) - 37
La Bonbonniere - 37
Cafecito Bogota - 38
Mercadito (Ave B) - 38
Nori - 38
Wild Ginger (Broome St.) - 38
Shang - 41
Dim Sum Go Go - 42
Nyonya (Sunset Park) - 42
Riposo 72 - 42
La Nacional - 43
Le Barricou - 43
BLT Fish - 44
Fish - 45
Grand Sichuan (Ninth Ave) - 45
El Quijote - 46
Macao - 48
Russian Samovar - 48
Great NY Noodletown - 50
Le Bilboguet - 50
Urban Lobster (Stone St.) - 50
Snacky - 51
Macondo - 52
Myrtle Ave - 52
Spicy & Tasty - 52
Boqueria (Spring St.) - 54
Fat Hippo - 56
Monkey Bar - 60
Le Gamin (Bedford St.) - 77
Dopo Teatro - 93

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ken Shung's Lighting Class -- #5 -- Ring Light / Ring Flash / Ringlight / Ringflash

Ring Light aka Ring Flash.

Tuesday's lesson was taking photos with a ring light. Ring lights are used frequently in fashion photography. why? Because its trendy and the "in" thing to do. Just kidding, well, sort of -- but a lot of fashion photographers do like the way the ring light provides a hard edge light, with a modest fill in the face or frontal illumination. As you can surmise, photographers will also use the ring light for beauty and portrait photography.

You can make your own ring light (find it on the Strobist) or you can buy it for $300. Ray Flash is one of the makers of ringlights/ringflashes. And this are their thoughts on why ring lights are used --

"Ray Flash creates a "3-d shadow-wrapped look". Because all light originates from the front, i.e. from around the lens, it produces a virtually shadow-less look on the front of your subject, while a soft even shadow appears around the edges. It is ideally suited for fashion, portrait, beauty, wedding & macro photography as a main or fill-in light.

According to The Strobist, photographers like Jill Greenberg and Dan Winters use the ring light as a sole light source, a primary source in a multi-light setup or as a subtle fill. Whatever way you choose to use the light source, is of course at your discretion, but how do you know if you like using it without trying it out? So here we go.

Here are some examples of how it was used in class and how I used it on my own.

First the set-up:

- I chose a very lively background - purple - (well, at least different from the typical white and black) and thought it should help the image pop a little bit and show the hard-edge profile.
- I set up two strip banks -- one on the left and one on the right of the background -- aimed at a 45 degree angle towards the subject

-- The background is not far from the subject, maybe 2-3 feet ... and we would call this the "up against the wall" shot

-- Subject is sitting on an apple box and was asked by Ken Shung to do something interesting.

This is what Ken got on his shot.

-- You'll notice that the backlights are illuminating his arms and the ring flash which is set around the camera lens provides a front illumination of the subject, giving it the "hard-edge" look

Now its my turn. I repositioned the lights a little differently and moved further away to get a full body shot. I wanted to test how the ring flash would works with models that are in motion (well at least for a few seconds). So, I set the model about 5-7 feet away from the background (well, because I didnt want the background to fall on her after she doe her twirls and jumps). Initially, the camera and ring flash was on a tripod, but I felt a bit restricted, so Ken suggested I should move around with the ring flash detached from the tripod -- and I did -- after some 50 shots, it started to get heavy, but the photos worked!

Below are a few shots of Model Carolina Santos Read.

I still got the hard-edge look around her body and that front illumination that lightened up her face. So, it worked, even in motion.

Lesson from Ken Shung: There are no hard and fast rules in photography. Reposition the lights, move the model, move your camera... whatever you do -- If it looks good, it looks good.

I will have to admit, there is ONE rule that should never be broken -- HAVE FUN on your SHOOTS... So, here is one of the photos I took of Instructor and Commercial Photographer Ken Shung and Model Carolina Santos Read having a little fun with the props on set. :D

And that's a wrap ladies and gentlemen...

For more info on ring flashes and how to make them, visit The Strobist's website to learn
more. If you're not into making it yourself, ring lights are also sold by Ray-Flash for $300.

B you go... if you are like me, I'm curious to see how the ring flash compared to my other shots using the Octabank light and the Beauty Dish from a few weeks ago.. So I've enclosed it here.

Octabank light below that gives you a "softer" look.

Beauty Dish: This is slightly different, since I only used the beauty dish to light the front and made everything else be a silhoutte.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Warm Welcoming for U.S. Reserves - 67th APS Hill Air Force Base

Welcome Home 67th Aerial Port Squadron!
Salt Lake City, March 6, 2010

On a recent trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, I was fortunate to have arrived at the airport to witness a warm welcoming home for some U.S. Reserves who were returning from their 45-day volunteer efforts in Haiti.

For more, check out my travel blog --

Friday, March 19, 2010

KyoChon - Korean Fried Chicken Closed for Retraining?

I was going to visit KyoChon, the most anticipated Korean Fried Chicken restaurant to open in NYC this year, but just recently found out via other "Yelpers" that its closed March 18th and March 19th due to improve its efficiency, aka "retraining" employees to work the food lines.

Some yelpers believe its because of the bad reviews it has been receiving. After reading some of the Yelp reviews -- 33 people have reviewed it thus far -- the 2 stars may be indicative of its recent two-day closing. WOW! For a much anticipated opening, and the craze of Korean Fried Chicken in NYC -- the 2 stars is a HUGE disappointment!

So what are people complaining about mostly?

- Size of chicken - tiny, small, minuscule -- I think I need a thesaurus to add any more words

- Price of chicken - ok, have people not had Korean food? In general, its just over-priced -- but for some reason, we all still go! Yes, we're just all that dumb, or crazed for Korean food (I personally, LOVE, Korean food -- so I pay the price :( ). But one yelp reviewer said this "At their take-out counter, a small order of their signature wings (5 pieces) costs $5.99, while a large order (20 pieces) will set you back $17.99. If you get a combo which includes a side and a soft drink, the price skyrockets. "

- Long wait times -- north of 30 minutes for wings! wow! that is long. How long do you think it takes to fry some wings? especially, if you know customers are coming -- that stuff should be deep frying all-day long -- especially if this is the much anticipated Korean Fried Chicken that all New Yorkers are waiting for...

Yikes, 30, 40, 50 minutes of waiting for Korean Fried Chicken? No wonder KyoChon is closed for two-days to retrain its employees and improve its processes! For their sake, and for the price of that prime-retail location, let's hope this place is only experiencing the "jitter bugs" of its new opening and will have all the kinks worked out by March 20th -- otherwise, it will be bad news for this well-established and well-known Korean brand.

p.s. there is hope for KyoChon, especially since their Springfield and Flushing locations are "said" to be much better! So, will the re-opening of KyoChon meet that of its sister chains? We will wait and see.

Visit KyoChon's website (slow to upload info).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NYC Chinatown Fruit Market Under the Manhattan Bridge

This is one of the many fruit stands in New York City Chinatown. Fruit and Vegetable markets can be found throughout Chinatown - on Canal, Mulberry, Elizabeth, Bowery and ... basically just about every street in Chinatown! But there is one fruit/vegetable market under the Manhattan Bridge that is enormous and sells a variety of items -- fruits, vegetables, man taus (white bread rolls), and even fish (yes, you'll find all sorts of random things). What I find interesting about this street is that -- its not just Chinese people selling these items, rather its a diverse community of individuals. If you wander down this street, don't be surprised to hear the non-Chinese individuals speaking Mandarin/Cantonese to their clients. If you are lucky, you'll also witness true "Darwinism" at its best with non-Chinese vendors yelling "catch phrases" that lure customers to their stands... which catch phrases you may ask -- "cheap/inexpensive", "very sweet", and "very fresh".

The prices you find here will be the same throughout the street, but most likely cheaper than other street vendors on other streets (i.e. Canal/Mulberry/Bower). Why? They've adapted the Costco/Walmart model of volume discounts! 10 plums for $1.00? A pound of cherries for $1.50. Need I say more? However, sometimes you do get what you pay for... So as far as the quality goes, be careful not to be duped. If you buy something, inspect the items before you leave (especially, if you didn't pick it out) because they may have also put in some "bad ones" (usually fruits) -- and you won't notice until your home!

So happy fruit and vegetable shopping down this street!

Here are some of my select photos from July 2009 shot with my Nikon D60 or you can visit the album to get more detailed info on the vendors.

Manhattan Bridge Chinatown Fruit and Vegetable Market: Under the Manhattan Bridge
The closest street I would say is -- its between E. Broadway and Division Street, near Forsyth and Market Street ... If you hit Eldridge, you've gone too far!

What to do when you're unable to sleep? Blog about being trapped in a pyramid!

I guess you can read to get your eyes tired... or you can count sheep (does that really work?) ... or you can write...

So I decided to write about my recent trip in Egypt ... about getting trapped in a pyramid ...

For an interesting story ...

click below ...

Trapped in the Red Pyramid of Dashur, Egypt

Rain, rain ... go away ... come back another day... Hurray! No More Rain!!!

As I am wide awake at an odd hour in the morning, I found this photo and it was taken on 09/11/09.

How many of these did you find on the streets over the past few days... Lucky for us ... we are free and clear of rain for the next week and maybe even longer! YES!!!!

But, sadly, there is a lot of clean-up work to be done in certain parts of New York and New Jersey.
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