Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Places&Culture File from
NY Times

Life, they say, is a journey. But who would think to take it on a cruise ship? Billed by its Norwegian owners as the world's first and only residence at sea, The World, a 12-deck, 43,000-ton, 644-foot passenger ship, arrived here today -- a floating condominium with apartments, not cabins, ranging in price from more than $2 million to more than $7 million. St. John's is one of 140 ports in 40 countries that the vessel is to visit in its inaugural year, the start of a perpetual circumnavigation of the globe -- a home away from home away from home. The World was launched in March, sailing from Oslo, and is scheduled to arrive in New York [last month]. Residents are on the average in their middle 50's, and generally self-made, first-generation wealthy. The World is a concept that Howard Hughes would have loved: exile reinvented, a life in comfortable circumstances that cosset but also constantly change, leaving a wake but never a trail. More than a few on board could have been Mr. Hugheses of another generation -- their determined isolation as deep as the mid-Atlantic.

THE Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein liked to parody the modernist styles of his day. So it's altogether appropriate that five years after his death, he has given the new Times Square, with its sci-fi glass towers and Tomorrowland electronic signs, a monumental mural that harks back to a bygone future -- the future as it was evisioned in the machine age. Even the helmeted head of Buck Rogers, that Depression-era space traveler, appears in "Times Square Subway Mural," a 6-foot-high, 53-foot-long panel that revisits the history of New York transportation. Made of porcelain enamel on steel, it has been hung in the mezzanine of the Times Square subway station, now being refurbished, between the shuttle to Grand Central Terminal and the northern entrance to the IRT platforms. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which commissioned the piece and will unveil it on Thursday, may rightly see the work as an emblem of a revitalized, forward-looking Times Square. But it's also a Lichtenstein sendup of modernist visions of the future.

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