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What’s a Climate Denial Funder Doing on the American Museum of Natural History Board?

Selecting trustees for your prestigious New York cultural board would seem an easy enough process. Start with upper-crust old money — your Roosevelts, Hearsts, Ziffs — toss in a few local celebrities to spice up the uptown soirees — say, Tina Fey and Tom Brokaw — and fill out the rest of the roster with blue bloods willing to shell out six figures for the privilege of an oversight role. So long as your power set isn’t tasked with voting on any drastic cost-cutting measures, and everyone agrees to stay mum about the abysmal diversity rates, voilà, that’s basically it.

Oh, and be sure to screen out any trustees who’ve devoted their life’s work to undermining the fundamental goals of your institution.

Over at the American Museum of Natural History, whose 41 board seats are among the city gentry’s most coveted social prizes, it’s that last step that seems to present some problems. Two years after the world’s top scientists mounted a successful campaign to unseat billionaire oil magnate David Koch from his longtime trustee position, the museum is again taking heat for allowing another titan of climate change propaganda a seat on its board. This time around, it’s New York hedge fund heiress Rebekah Mercer, whose extensive influence-purchasing has earned her a key position of power within Trump’s GOP. Notoriously press-averse, she made news this week for initiating Steve Bannon’s departure from Breitbart, the site that the Mercer Family Foundation, which she controls, has given at least $10 million to.

Though Mercer has been on the AMNH board since 2013, her ties to the museum have drawn increasing scrutiny in recent days, following a viral Twitter thread accusing the museum of peddling climate misinformation. Over the weekend, Jonah Busch, an environmental economist and visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development, shared photos of a museum plaque that downplayed human influence on global warming (saying only that human-made pollutants “may also have an effect on the Earth’s climatic cycles”) while overstating the likelihood of a future ice age.

The photos, taken in what appeared to be the David Koch–funded Dinosaur Wing, quickly garnered furious reactions from science Twitter, prompting the museum to release a statement clarifying that the exhibit in question — which is actually in the extinct mammal wing adjacent to the dinosaurs — predated Koch’s involvement, and was simply in need of an update. The museum promised a speedy review, telling the Voice that “if that label copy were written today it would likely come with a different context and emphasis, including more recent scientific data.”

While Busch tried to give the museum the benefit of the doubt, the incident has ignited a larger debate about the museum’s cozy relationship with those working to discredit the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change. The plaque was installed in the early 1990s, the so-called Exxon era of the museum, during which time the fossil fuel giant — whose duplicitous efforts to deny climate change were well-known by then — funded several permanent exhibitions.

Neither Exxon nor Koch are directly involved with the museum currently, the latter’s departure coming after public outcry. Rebekah Mercer’s four-year tenure as a museum trustee, meanwhile, has largely flown under the radar.

“I think it touched on something bigger that a lot of people are feeling, which is the appearance of wealthy and villainous donors corrupting a beloved institution,” Busch tells the Voice. “Was it David Koch? Was it Exxon? Was it Mercer? I don’t know.”

“This raises systemic issues beyond the misleading wording,” echoes Beka Economopoulos, co-founder of the pop-up Natural History Museum, which spearheaded the effort to remove David Koch from the board. “It was likely done for fear of offending a major donor, and for me that makes the current Mercer tie a cause of concern.” (The Voice’s efforts to reach Mercer were unsuccessful.)

For its part, the museum insists that “scientific and educational content is determined by scientists and educators.” It cites past exhibitions on climate change, as well as the research work being conducted in-house, as evidence of a firewall between donors and decisions.

But others with experience in the museum sector say that ultra-wealthy patrons have always had a say in institutional decisions, and warn that it’s especially naive to pretend otherwise when the donors have a vested interest in shaping the thing they’re helping to fund.

“A museum board member who has the potential to give millions or tens of millions exerts influence merely by being in the room,” James Powell, executive director of the National Physical Science Consortium and the former director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, tells the Voice. “Other members know where that donor stands and don’t want to offend, else the wealthy member may take his donations elsewhere.”

In the case of Rebekah Mercer, that potential for lost donations is quite significant. According to tax filings shared with the Voice, the Mercer Family Foundation donated $1.25 million to the American Museum of Natural History in 2013 — the same year she was named a trustee. In 2013, the Mercers also gave millions to climate change–denying organizations: nearly $3 million to the Media Research Center, which once called global warming a “media myth”; $550,000 to the Center for the Defense of Free Media Enterprise, whose executive vice president Ron Arnold has said his stated goal is “to eradicate the environmental movement”; and $877,000 to the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank that famously launched a billboard campaign comparing believers in climate science to Osama bin Laden and the Unabomber.

The fear that Mercer’s generosity to the museum might come with a price is based not only on her contribution record, but on an alarming precedent that’s developed in recent years. After Shell helped fund a climate science gallery at London’s Science Museum, executives with the oil giant requested, and seemingly received, several changes to the exhibit, according to internal emails obtained by the Guardian. For years, a Koch-funded climate exhibition at the Smithsonian has drawn criticism for suggesting that humans might simply evolve out of climate change — a favorite Koch refrain. In her 2015 book, Artwash, Mel Evans argues that it’s become increasingly popular for donors to seek to cash in on their “solidarity” with museums to fend off public backlash over their ideological positions.

American museums see approximately 850 million visitors a year, nearly double the combined attendance for major league sporting events and theme parks. They’re a unique interface for communicating science to the public — and one that’s “never been more important, when science is under attack,” notes Economopoulos.

“Having someone like Rebekah Mercer on the board undermines the credibility and trust that the public places in this institution, which in turn undermines the trust that people place in science communication as a whole,” she adds. “That’s just way too high a price to pay.”

 

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Todd Haynes’s Out-of-Time City Symphony “Wonderstruck” Lives Up to Its Name

For all his reputation as a capital-A Auteur, Todd Haynes has always demonstrated impressive stylistic versatility. The Sirkian pastiche of Far From Heaven is a far cry from the lo-fi expressionism of Poison, and the music video wonderland of Velvet Goldmine has relatively little in common with the fractured minimalism of I’m Not There. In that sense, among directors, he might be our foremost cinematic shapeshifter — which is just one reason why Wonderstruck feels so vitally personal.

An adaptation of a young adult novel by Brian Selznick (who also wrote the book that inspired Martin Scorsese’s Hugo), Haynes’s film follows two timelines: In one, twelve-year-old Ben (Oakes Fegley), living in small-town Minnesota in 1977 and mourning the death of his librarian mother (Michelle Williams), finds a stray bookmark that may hold a clue to the identity of the father he never knew. Rendered deaf by a lightning strike (no, really), and feeling more and more like an outcast, Ben hops a bus for New York City. Intercut with his story is that of Rose (an incredible Millicent Simmonds), a deaf girl living in Hoboken in 1927 and obsessed with a silent movie star (Julianne Moore). Frustrated with her sheltered life and her domineering father, she, too, heads to the city, where she hopes to find this mysterious woman.

There are few directors better than Haynes at adopting varied voices and vernaculars and then blending them to create something intoxicating and new. As these kids discover New York in their own ways, Wonderstruck switches between the silent-film aesthetics of Rose’s journey (no dialogue, striking angles, bold emotions) and the Seventies stylizations of Ben’s (zooms, fast-cutting, handheld shots, tight close-ups). But the intercutting isn’t clean — the styles sometimes mix and riff off each other, and there are moments when the film hops time periods not out of any narrative logic, but to pursue a gesture, an image, or idea. The result is as much musical as it is cinematic. Indeed, for lengthy stretches, Wonderstruck plays like a city symphony; the kids’ silent movements are accompanied by Carter Burwell’s dominant score, bouncing from elegant orchestrations to funk fuzz to melodic drones.

It’s all clearly building up to something: Key characters get briefly abandoned, storylines are cut short, random details are held on to for a little longer than you might anticipate. I did wonder at times if the denouement could ever do justice to the constantly shifting, jazzy zigzag of the tease. I needn’t have worried: Haynes gives us an extended finale that not only offers emotional payoff to the held-breath anticipation of the story, but also serves as a tribute to storytelling itself — and to the wonders of following your dreams and maybe even your nightmares.

I’m told that Wonderstruck hews pretty close to its source material, which makes it all the more startling that the film seems so personal for Haynes — it seems to combine many elements from his career and life, including an extended nod to the DIY puppetry of Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. Both of these kids are enacting variations on the same self-actualizing journeys of obsession so many people — creative and otherwise — have taken. I’d love to screen this alongside Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine, another nakedly honest work about finding your circle and your passion, and all the struggles that come with discovering (and holding on to) your place in the world.

There is so much packed in here; Wonderstruck is simultaneously the densest and loosest film Haynes has made. And, like many stories based on books for children, much of it makes more emotional than logical sense. I was wowed by pretty much all of it, but the moment that most resonates — the one that seems to embody the whole movie — comes early on, as Rose stands on a boat headed for Manhattan, holding a newspaper clipping about the actress she’s searching for. Suddenly, the wind rips it from her hand and, for a fevered instant, Rose runs and jumps around the deck trying to retrieve it. Haynes holds on her frantic scrambling for a surprisingly long time — the sight of an obsessed girl, unwilling to give in or give up on her restless, fleeting dream.

Wonderstruck
Directed by Todd Haynes
Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
Opens October 20, Lincoln Plaza Cinema and Angelika Film Center

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Datebook Events FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

This Week’s Five Best Food and Drink Events in NYC – 4/13/2105

This week, you can learn the secrets to being a beekeeper or explore a museum while tasting sake. Check out our five best food and drink events in NYC.

The Brisket Sessions with Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of the New York Times Magazine, Hill Country Brooklyn, 345 Adams Street, Brooklyn, Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Want to know what Jake Silverstein, former editor of the Texas Monthly, really thinks about NYC barbecue? Head out to this casual discussion, which will cover topics ranging from where to find proper brisket to changes taking place at the Times. Tickets include one beer, margarita, or soda; reserve one for $5.

Intro to Beekeeping at Brooklyn Grange, BLDG 92 at Brooklyn Navy Yard, 63 Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Learn how to make your own honey — or at least how to appreciate bees — at this interactive workshop led by Stone Barns beekeeper Dan Carr. Guests will learn the basics of beekeeping safety as well as the tools needed to start their own honey business, and the event will conclude with a tasting of honeys from around the world. Tickets are $40 and can be reserved through BLDG 92’s website.

Sake Dinner & Tasting, Dassara Brooklyn Ramen, 271 Smith Street, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Decode the world of sake at this tasting, which also matches the rice wine to food. For $20, guests receive a sake flight paired with beets, longbeans with house-made tofu and kimchi, chicken meatballs, and Alaskan pollock skewers; ramen is also available for an additional $10.

Culture Salon: Rice Wine and Sake, American Museum of Natural History, West 79th Street & Central Park West, Thursday, 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Stick around this museum after hours and learn about the history of sake. Sommelier Chris Johnson will educate visitors on the distillation process as well as discuss the popularity of rice wine, and seven varieties of sake will be available for tastings. Tickets are $45 and can be reserved through the museum’s website.

Malbec World Day, The Dream Hotel, 355 West 16th Street, Friday, 6 p.m.

Celebrate Argentinian wine and try more than 120 Malbecs at this informational and interactive tasting. Wine talks, live music, and Argentinean dishes like empanadas and steak sandwiches are all included with the purchase of a ticket.

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NATURE’S COURSE

You could call Karole Armitage trilingual; she’s fluent in ballet, postmodern dance, and science, and famed for her early punk-ballerina exploits. Her father was a biologist, and over her international career she’s collaborated with physicists, painters, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and a host of contemporary composers; she’s choreographed for theater, opera, circus and cinema, and has been called the choreographic heir to Balanchine and Cunningham. In the hour-long On the Nature of Things her troupe, Armitage Gone! Dance, explores climate change, with a performance on three stages for 30 dancers, to music by John Luther Adams, Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, Henryk Górecki, and Arvo Pärt, and with text and narration by biologist Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich.

March 25-27, 8 p.m., 2015

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SEVEN CANDLES

Though Kwanzaa adopts its symbolism from nations across the West African diaspora, and its terminology from East African Swahili (Kwanzaa, loosely translated, = “fruits of the harvest”), what most people don’t know is that the enduring winter cultural celebration is actually the brainchild of one guy, one guy who’s still living: Maulana Karenga invented the holiday in 1965 in conjunction with the Black Power movement. He intended for it to be an “oppositional alternative,” but today, the majority of families celebrating Kwanzaa also celebrate Christmas. This makes it easy to enjoy the bevy of cultural festivities happening throughout the city today. Observe with dance prodigy Savion Glover at the Museum of Natural History’s 36th Annual Kwanzaa Celebration, or browse the children’s Kwanzaa Festival and seasonal marketplace at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. This year, at the Apollo’s annual Regeneration Night, Abdel Salaam’s Forces of Nature Dance Theatre honors the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles of Kwanzaa, in a family-oriented production.

Sat., Dec. 27, noon, 2014

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Nineteen Ways to Spend the Holidays in New York City

Artists & Fleas
Holiday Edition Market

Weekends through the end of the year

Artists & Fleas’ emporium of eclectic designer and vintage goodies is a year-round staple in Williamsburg and Chelsea Market. But this year, A&F’s Williamsburg location is going supersized for the holidays: It’s taken over the 2,500-square-foot warehouse next door, and on weekends through the end of the year it will be packed with a whopping 100 vendors. Pick up White Magic Energy Spray from apothecary Species by the Thousands for Mom, or NYC-themed 3-D wall art from PJ Cobbs Arts for your co-worker who (shudder) moved to the ‘burbs last spring. As you browse, enjoy DJ sets from students at Dubspot or acoustic tunes from local bands throughout December. Artists & Fleas, 70 North 7th Street, Brooklyn, artistsandfleas.com

American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree
November 24–January 11

You won’t find boring old twinkle lights or red and green balls on the American Museum of Natural History’s holiday tree, a stunning 13-foot display decorated with more than 500 hand-folded paper models created by origami artists from around the world. The nonprofit OrigamiUSA combs the museum each spring in search of inspiration for the year’s theme, referencing four decades’ worth of origami archives to determine which new models are necessary for the coming year. The result is a gorgeous history-filled tree topped by a star mobile made up of more than 30 origami pieces. After you gawk at the intricate décor, try making your own origami under the tutelage of an OrigamiUSA volunteer. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, amnh.org

The Annual Post-Thanksgiving Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour
November 28

After stuffing yourself with stuffing on Thanksgiving, wake up the next morning and keep the gluttony going. Tour company Big Onion’s Post-Thanksgiving Multi-
Ethnic Eating Tour is a 20-plus-year tradition where intrepid eaters learn about the Jewish Lower East Side, Little Italy, and Chinatown while sampling different snack items. Big Onion stresses that the $25 tour of markets and shops shouldn’t be considered a real meal, but on November 28 more walking and less food is likely a good thing. Meet at Delancey and Essex streets, bigonion.com

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Peak season November 28–December 31

Skip Rockefeller Center and head to this tight-knit Brooklyn community, where homeowners drape scores of twinkly lights over blocks and blocks of neon Nativities and twirling Santas for visitors to wander through. Yes, it’s campy, and yes, some residents shell out loads of cash for professional decorators in a bid to outdo one another. But the result is a sometimes-beautiful-sometimes-tacky wonderland that’s been a Dyker Heights tradition for decades. As traditional as an inflated Santa on a motorcycle can be, anyway. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Arlo Guthrie & The Guthrie Family Annual Thanksgiving Concert
November 29

Sharing family stories over the Thanksgiving table can be delightful or disastrous, depending on what your family is like. After a day’s recovery from Aunt Lou overload, swing by Carnegie Hall for an evening of stories and songs from three generations of Guthries. Singer-songwriter Arlo — the son of Woody — is known for his comical digressions in between classics like “Alice’s Restaurant,” and he’s joined here by his musical children and grandkids. After more than 40 years, the family soiree has become a Carnegie Hall tradition. Tickets range from just $12.50 for balcony seats to $70 for parquet. Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, carnegiehall.org

The Moth StorySLAM
December 1, 11, 18, 22, 29

Year’s end is a season ripe for reminiscing. Why not do it in front of a bunch of strangers? Soho-based storytelling group The Moth holds weekly StorySLAM sessions that invite audience members to perform a five-minute story based on a previously provided topic. Intrepid storytellers can toss their names into a hat at the event in hopes of being one of the lucky 10 selected, offer to serve as a judge, or simply enjoy a night of unique and varied tales. December’s holiday-appropriate themes include Bouncing Back, Saved, and Rewards, and advance tickets go for $16 each. They’re only $8 at the door — but you could end up waiting in the wintry weather for a while. Venue changes weekly; check schedules at themoth.org

Bar Car Nights at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

December 5–6, 19–20; January 2–3, 9–10

Up in the Bronx, kids and adults alike can enjoy the New York Botanical Garden’s model train show — in which locomotives weave through a miniature New York City built from bark and twigs — from mid November onward. But the fun for the big kids comes during special Bar Car Nights, when the garden transforms into a scene full of seasonal and romantic outdoor events. Sip on a cocktail or hot chocolate while wandering through “station stops” (get it?) including expert ice-carving demonstrations, a literally fiery performance from Cirque de Light, and an intimate jazz session in the toasty Pine Tree Café. The $35 tickets also include a visit to the Holiday Train Show, which covers a quarter-mile of track. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, nybg.org

Queens Botanical Garden Winter Solstice Celebration & Tree Lighting
December 7

The Queens Botanical Garden’s annual solstice bash is a one-stop shop for family fun, and better yet, admission is free. Kids will enjoy sweet treats and photos with Santa, while parents can opt to stroll the garden and peruse the wares at a holiday marketplace. Botanical crafts are available for an additional fee. After a full day of shopping and crafting amid live musical performances, the event comes to a close with a tree-lighting ceremony and sing-along. What could be Christmasier? Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main Street, Queens, queensbotanical.org

Chase Away the Winter Blues
December 7, January 4, February 1, March 1

Calling all humbugs and heat misers: Stop sulking under a quilt on the couch all winter and enjoy the great outdoors with a seasonal walk through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Licensed psychotherapist and longtime BBG guide Lynne Spevack will guide you through this hour-long narrated walk across the grounds, which are picturesque even in winter. The walking series is specifically “designed to relieve the winter doldrums,” so throw on a scarf, lace those sneakers, and feel the winter sun on your face. Tours are free for BBG members or with $10 adult park admission, and private walks may be arranged for a fee. Meet at Magnolia Plaza, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, bbg.org

It’s a Wonderful Life at IFC
Opens December 12

Yes, you’ve already sobbed over It’s a Wonderful Life two dozen times on cable, but it remains pure magic on the silver screen. Hark back to the holidays of yore at the IFC Center, which continues its tradition of showing Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday classic-to-beat-all-classics nearly seven decades after the film’s premiere. In addition to enjoying Jimmy Stewart’s megawatt cinematic grin, you might catch a flesh-and-blood Mary Owen (daughter of star Donna Reed), who typically drops in for a quick pre-show chat at a showing or two. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas, ifccenter.com

Unsilent Night
December 13

Why Christmas-carol when you can sound-sculpt? New-music composer Phil Kline will mark his 22nd year leading a massive chorus of boomboxes from the arch in Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park. Participants of all ages bring their own portable speakers, laptops, and megaphones and receive one of four tracks of music Kline composed in the form of a download, cassette, MP3, or CD. On cue, everyone presses play, with the resulting joyful cacophony meant to create a “unique mobile sound sculpture which is different from every listener’s perspective” — and quite a holiday sight for tourists. Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue and Waverly Place, unsilentnight.com

Grace-ful Ice: Microcosmos
December 15–16

The ice sculptures at your cousin’s wedding may have been tacky, but in the hands of skilled craftspeople, the transformation of simple blocks of frozen water can be transcendent. The Long Island City–based artist collective Okamoto Studio creates stunning lifelike sculptures from regular old ice, and they hold an annual two-day live carving event at Grace Plaza in midtown Manhattan, where onlookers can watch transfixed as the master artisans coax intricate insects and other tiny creatures from crystal-clear blocks. Perhaps the best part of this winter-wonderland experience: It’s free. 1114 Avenue of the Americas, artsbrookfield.com

Lighting of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
December 16–23

New York may be packed with Christmas trees and Santa Clauses during the holidays, but the city does Hanukkah in a big way too. The Big Apple boasts the world’s largest menorah: a 4,000-pound, 32-foot-high gleaming gold structure that stands at Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza. Designed by artist Yaacov Agam in 1977, this majestic menorah is modeled after the original in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. The candles will be lit each holiday night at 5:30 p.m., except for the Sabbath, when lighting takes place at 3:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Celebrations include live music, dancing, Hanukkah gelt, and, of course, piping-hot latkes. Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, Manhattan

A Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary Celebration With Live Music
December 20–21

The jazzy classics from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas just might be the only Christmas songs that never get old. The short film starring Charlie, Linus, Snoopy, and the gang turns 50 this year, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is celebrating with a special screening and live musical performance. Tickets start at $40 and include museum admission for the day of the show. The Rob Schwimmer Trio and the Church of Heavenly Rest Children’s Choir will perform their interpretation of the score as the Peanuts kids discover the true meaning of Christmas onscreen. Hang around afterward for a holiday sing-along (and be sure to throw your head way back as you sing). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, metmuseum.org

The Hanukkah Concert: Featuring Gerard Edery and His Virtuoso Musicians
December 21

You could choose to spend an evening swinging by a folk concert, watching a menorah lighting, and attending a contemporary reading. Or you could hit all three in one event: the Center for Jewish History’s Hanukkah Concert. A special guest will kick off the night “with a story from the pen of a great Jewish writer.” Then master singer and guitarist Gerard Edery will lead virtuoso musicians in playing a wide range of ethnic folk styles from Europe, the Middle East, South America, and ancient Persia. Tickets are just $18 for the concert, which includes a menorah lighting and refreshments. Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, cjh.org

Good Riddance Day
December 28

For those who can’t wait for 2014 to slither back whence it came, it could be worth battling creepy Elmos in Times Square for the Times Square Alliance’s eighth annual Good Riddance Day. Bitter New Yorkers scribble down breakup stories, job regrets, and other tales of woe from 2014, and toss them into a huge shredder ahead of the new year. It’s inspired by a Latin American New Year’s tradition in which partiers stuff dolls with objects representing bad memories and set them on fire. There’s no conflagration at the Times Square version, but the ssssszzzzzcht of the shredder is satisfying enough to wipe the slate clean for 2015. Times Square, timessquarenyc.org

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace
December 31

You’ll have plenty of time on New Year’s Eve to wait hours for a drink at the bar for which you bought a $300 ticket. First, why not start the night in calmer surroundings at the 30th annual Concert for Peace at St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights? Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the concert features both classical and contemporary music in a candlelit cathedral. The church offers a limited number of free general-admission seats, and ticketed seating starts at $30. The two-hour concert ends at 9 p.m., leaving plenty of time for post-show debauchery. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, stjohndivine.org

Brooklyn Bowl New Year’s Eve With Deer Tick
December 31

Say farewell to 2014 by knocking out bowling pins and knocking back a few brews at Brooklyn Bowl’s New Year’s Eve bash. In between the sounds of glorious strikes, enjoy a set from influential Rhode Island alt-rock band Deer Tick, who are celebrating their 10th year. New Year’s Eve marks the final installment of Deer Tick’s six-night residency at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, during which the band will perform their favorite acts’ full albums (plus a few originals). NYE is extra-special, as Deer Tick will perform a totally fan-chosen set. Tickets run $40–$50 for the Deer Tick performance. For lane packages, contact events@brooklynbowl.com. Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, brooklynbowl.com

Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim
January 1

Start 2015 off right by raising money for a good cause and shocking your system out of a hangover on the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s annual swim, where hundreds of revelers plunge into the frigid Atlantic to greet the new year. Bring warm clothes, costumes, or whatever else may keep you from getting hypothermia after the plunge, which raises money for the Camp Sunshine recreational program for kids with multiple disabilities. Early registrants who donate $20 or more will be entered into the earliest wave, and plungers who raise $100 or more will score a T-shirt. Shy observers are encouraged to make a donation to Camp Sunshine, but there’s no formal fee to watch those crazy diamonds shine on. Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, Brooklyn, polarbearclub.org

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FULL OF HOT AIR

Thinking about heading out to the Thanksgiving Day Parade this year? Don’t. Trust us on this one. Ass-bitingly cold temperatures are not made warmer by standing still in a crowd four tourists deep. Sleep in, eat pancakes, watch it on TV, be a winner. Instead, we find it much more pleasant to browse the Macy’s Parade Balloon Inflation this evening. It provides a closer look at your favorite cartoon characters, some of which have been parade staples for decades, and a better vantage point from which to gauge their mammoth size. Not to mention that the sight of an awkward, half-inflated Smurf or Snoopy lying in the middle of 79th Street is absurd, hilarious, a little sad, and somehow indicative of everything precious about America, in a heartwarming David Foster Wallace-essay sort of way. The helium starts pumping at 3 p.m., but later in the evening the balloons fill up and the crowds thin out, upping the whimsy factor significantly.

Wed., Nov. 26, 3 p.m., 2014

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ON THE RADAR

We are all too familiar with natural disasters. As you read this, a volcano spews lava in Hawaii; two years ago, we were reeling from the punch of Superstorm Sandy; and in 2011, over 18,000 people died in a Japanese tsunami. It’s scary yet fascinating, as you will discover from the Museum of Natural History’s new exhibit, Nature’s Fury: The Science of Natural Disasters. In addition to revealing the causes of natural disasters, Nature’s Fury shows how people and communities cope when they are hit. Even more intriguing are the interactive displays, which allow visitors to monitor earthquakes worldwide in real time, generate a volcano, and stand in the center of a roaring tornado. As the exhibit reminds us, we’ve always lived on a dynamic planet, even before climate change.

Sat., Nov. 15, 10 a.m., 2014

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SLUMBER PARTY

Be you a squalling man-child or just an avid Wes Anderson fan, chances are you’ve fantasized about bunkering down in the Museum of Natural History after hours. With dinosaur bones, dioramas, Native American relics, and the Hayden Planetarium, it’s one of few places that can induce seizure-like fits of whimsy in kids and adults alike. Tonight nostalgic Gen Y-ers (is there any other kind?) revel in A Night at the Museum For Grown-Ups, an “adult” version of the popular sleepover normally reserved for wildly overprivileged children. The 21-and-up event includes a three-course dinner, wine and beer, live music and performances, access to all exhibits, guided flashlight tours, a special midnight presentation of the Dark Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and breakfast to round it all off. Guests sleep on cots in the Hall of Ocean Life, beneath the 94-foot-long blue whale and likely as far away from that terrifying giant squid display as they can manage. There’s a puzzling addendum to the museum’s checklist that states “no pajamas allowed,” but guests are encouraged to go to town on sleeping bags, pillows, and change for the vending machines. Sweet dreams.

Fri., Aug. 1, 6:30 p.m., 2014

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WATCH THE SKIES

The “Goldilocks zone” is the fanciful term astronomers have adopted for the area around a star that’s not too hot, and not too cool, but just right for supporting liquid water (and therefore life). Since the Kepler Space Telescope recently discovered an Earth-like planet in that sweet spot around another star, why not get to know the neighborhood? In the Sci-Fi Universe, tonight’s lecture at the Hayden Planetarium, astronomers Brian Levine and Christina Pease look at places we’ve imagined — from Kim Stanley Robinson’s Underhill colony to an ice planet like Hoth — and map them to planets that actually exist. At the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater.

Tue., May 27, 6:30 p.m., 2014