December 31, 2009

Happy 100th Birthday Manhattan (Bridge)


The Manhattan Bridge turns 100 today.  But there will be no fireworks, no banners, no cheering crowds like those that greeted the Brooklyn Bridge.  That's because the Manhattan Bridge gets no respect.  


Today's TIMES has an article detailing the reasons why this bridge, sandwiched between the more celebrated Brooklyn and  Williamsburg East River crossings, tends to be somewhat ignored.  It has no storied history behind it, like that of the Roeblings who built the Brooklyn Bridge against all odds. Also, the bridge was poorly constructed from the start, designed by a man who is responsible for one of most spectacular bridge failures of all time.  Personally, one reason I believe the bridge is not so beloved is that so many New Yorkers spend time stranded on this bridge on one of the four subway lines that use it to cross the river.  


However, if you step back and take a nice long look, the Manhattan Bridge is really quite stunning, especially the four globes that stand atop the two central towers.  The bridge is majestic and steely yet still has a certain turn of the century charm to it.  Maybe with time and the completion of the bridge's seemingly endless renovation more people will come to admire it.  Happy Birthday, Manhattan Bridge!

December 30, 2009

FOX's Family Guy, Version 1.0

In 1995, RISD student Seth McFarlane put together a 10-minute, animated show reel to serve as a proposal for a series called "The Life Of Larry".  The show centered around a cantankerous guy named Larry, his nasally wife Lois and a talking dog named Steve (all voiced by Seth).  Sound familiar?  The "Life of Larry" turned out to be an early prototype for McFarlane's hit animated FOX series "Family Guy".  


Watching this original show (recently posted on YouTube), you can see the origins of the "The Family Guys'" trademark rapid fire style of dialogue and absurdist humor as well as McFarlane's pop culture obsession, showcased here with a spot-on Star Trek spoof.  Required viewing for any Family Guy Fanatics...like myself. :)

December 29, 2009

The MPAA Strikes Again


In recent years, the 40 year old MPAA has been the subject of some controversies over their increasingly bizarro ratings system.  Last week, the romantic comedy "It's Complicated" was stuck with a surprise R rating for, and I quote, "pot smoking with no bad consequences".  Unbelievably, that is a direct quote. Suddenly, the MPAA thinks it's 1934 and they have enacted the arcane rules of the Hays Code in their ratings "system".  Back in the 30's, bad guys could be really really bad, but only if they got their comeuppance.  


There is a wonderfully angry article about this latest ratings travesty in the LA TIMES which gets to the heart of the matter which is that the ratings system makes no sense.  You can blow someone to smithereens and get a PG but if you show a bare breast or, god forbid, a penis you are R.  Any kind of homosexuality used to mean an instant R but the Board has let up on that in some cases.  But this latest ruling re; the pot is absurd.  First of all, marijuana is actually legal in California so why should bad consequences be expected? 


The MPAA needs some serious recalibration of it's system and the way it operates.  Or, in the case of this movie, the way that it doesn't.  

December 28, 2009

NetPix: Tulpan


Critics are putting together their year-end lists of the best films of 2009.  One of my personal favorites has popped up on a few lists, namely topping the list by the New York TIMES' Manohla Dargis.  It is probably a movie you've never heard about as it had a very limited release here in the US.  But it is one of the most unusual, bleakly beautiful and cinematically incredible films you will ever see. There is also a scene about halfway through that is the most unbelievable 15 minutes I have ever seen in a movie.  Ever.


The movie is called "Tulpan" and it's a romantic dramedy set in the steppes of Kazakhstan.  OK--I know that one line description is likely setting off alarm bells.  But trust me...this movie takes you to a place you will likely never go in your life and makes it something of an adventure.  Basically, "Tulpan" is a love story at it's heart about a family's attempt to marry it's daughter while raising some very peculiar animals on a wind swept plain.  With a stark realism and a simply told story, this movie is almost documentary-like in its clear-eyed look at a way of life that is hard and hard to describe.  


Currently, "Avatar" is everywhere, promising to take you to a world you've never seen before.  Sure...but it's a world that doesn't exist.  Remarkably, Kazakhstan is an actual place on this planet with real people and a group of animals with more personality than a Pixar barnyard.  The only warning I need to give is that this movie is long and takes a certain amount of patience. It also helps if you have a massive TV to appreciate the film's epic landscape and  gorgeous cinematography.  But I guarantee that if you stick it out, this movie and the people in it will stay with you forever.  

December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Video

Today's special Christmas clip is from the website EverythingIsTerrible, connoisseurs of the worst video of the 70's, 80's and 90's. They did a fun holiday compilation which even includes clips from the infamous and rarely seen Star Wars Holiday Special. Here's wishing you a great Christmas!


December 23, 2009

A Charlie Brown Christmas--Director's Cut

For a while, the only online version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was a 21 minute version which was less than half the original show's length.  In the spirit of the holiday, ABC has finally posted the full show to Hulu for your holiday entertainment.

It's easily my favorite Christmas special of all-time. I think I enjoy it even more now as an adult than as a kid.  And with lines like "Christmas is a commercial racket run by an Eastern syndicate", it's not hard to see why.  It's also now available on Blu-ray too....which makes me think the show itself has become a commercial racket too. 



December 22, 2009

The Physics of Space Battles



Ever since seeing Star Wars as a kid, I've been a sucker for a good space fight.  However, when I was in sophomore chemistry class, it was pointed out to me that fireballs in space were a total Hollywood creation.  Fire needs oxygen, something the chasm of intergalactic space lacks.  Not that physics ever stopped George Lucas....


This week, there is a thorough debunking of the myths of space combat perpetrated by the movies over at Gizmodo.  The writer, Joseph Shoer (who happens to be a PhD candidate in aerospace engineering) discusses how dull and slow space combat would actually be.  And that there wouldn't be colorful lasers shooting around like some disco in space.  The energy to generate laser beams would be enormous and, again, not exactly practical on board a spacecraft.  Also another big problem is getting troops to fight on a distant planet.  The energy to land a bunch of Intergalactic Marines on Mars isn't the problem...the real challenge is getting them off the planet and up through the thick, Martian atmosphere.  In fat, it's that exact problem which has been holding up a manned mission to the red planet all these years.


So for the time being, until there's some breakthrough in FTL drives or transporters, space combat is going to be strictly something for the big screen.  Which is probably for the best, given that here's enough real combat on this world already.

December 21, 2009

Krampus And The Evil Side of Christmas


In some parts of Europe, namely Austria and Bavaria, Christmas is not all jolly present giving.  There's Krampus to contend with a.k.a. the evil side of Christmas.  Krampus is a mythical, incubus-esque creature with horns who drags some rusty chains around and scares the crap out of all the bad kids.  If they're really bad, legend has it, he will even drag them to the gates of Hell and drop them into the fiery eternal furnace.  Merry Christmas!  Leave it to the Germans to turn Christmas into horror story.

Anyway, here in the US, the tradition of bad children getting coal seems to have fallen by the wayside.  It seems that today's kids get tons of gifts no matter what.  So Krampus has now landed on US soil, with his own website and everything, to get today's lazy, shiftless toddlers in line.  

A couple weeks ago, he made an appearance on the Colbert Report where her terrorized the host and smashed a plate of cookies with his chains.  Personally, I found it a little hard to be scared of the beast, knowing that underneath all that fake fur was my friend Mark Sam, who got the gig due to his fluency in Germanic cursing.  Still, I think Krampus would be a fine addition to the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, scaring all the European tourists in midtown.  Oh what a joyous holiday scene that would be! 

December 18, 2009

Chaos 'n Candy 'n The True Meaning of Christmas

Tonight I'm attending the 8th annual incarnation of Adam Dugas' downtown Christmas pageant known as "Chaos and Candy". This celebration of the true meaning of Christmas, set to a rock beat and filled with glamour and glitter, started out in a Williamsburg warehouse in 2001 and has now moved the respectable stage of the Abron Arts Center. It is my newest and funkiest holiday tradition and one that is always truly entertaining.

If you're in the city, it's definitely worth checking out. If not, I've included a clip from the '07 CnC of Angela DiCarlo singing "Country Christmas Trolls". Yes Virginia it's true...they will put Cream of Wheat in your stocking!

December 17, 2009

Don't Stop Believin' (x5)

To deal with my GLEE-withdrawal, I was trolling around on YouTube last night when I found this popular cover (3 million plus hits!) of the GLEE version of "Don't Stop Believin'". What's unique here is that one very talented Yale junior, Sam Tsui, sings all five parts. Sam and his producing partner, Kurt Schneider, are totally adorkable, grew up on the same street together, went to high school and then Yale too. No word on whether they're an actual couple, but their creative collaborations on this and other pop songs are super cute.

December 16, 2009

Cate Blanchett IS Blanche Dubois

Last night, I went to BAM to see the new production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire". Simply put, it was stunning. I have read the play many times, seen more than a few productions and watched the movie countless times but last night I felt like I was seeing it all for the first time. And most of that is due to Cate Blanchett's remarkable performance as a character that too often becomes a caricature, Blanche Dubois. That was not the case in this production, masterfully directed by Liv Ullman. Blanche is real...almost too real. Which, in the end, makes this play the epic American tragedy it was always meant to be.
Blanche is played here as a fairly competent, cheerful and together woman (after all, she WAS a schoolteacher for all those years) who just now is beginning to teeter and fall under the weight of a lifetime of lies, disappointments and delusions, not to mention a healthy appetite for whiskey. Blanchett lives this transformation in a stunning three-hour tour plus de force of acting, as we watch her struggle with the demons and madness that slowly start to swallow Blanche whole.
However, this is not to say this "Streetcar" is a one woman show (another trap that other versions fall into). All the characters here are drawn out equally well and there are some unusual new twists to the interpretation of Mitch, Blanche's suitor, and Stanley, Blanche's pursuer. As Ben Brantley states in his eloquent review, this is not played as the battle of Stanley v. Blanche....it's more Blanche against herself. And when she loses, it is truly heartbreaking.
When a buzz show like this becomes a "hot ticket", I am usually wary of the hype. In this case, I can honestly state that the hype doesn't get the half of it. Cate is truly remarkable but as another playwright once said, the play is the thing. And here Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar" is restored with its author's original intent fully realized. This is powerful stuff and, if the theatre gods (aka Equity) have any mercy, the show will hopefully end up on Broadway next year for many more to see.

December 15, 2009

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On George

This is a clip from the UK's talent show, "The X-Factor" with finalist Joe McElderry doing a duet with George Michael. Though GM has certainly had his share of troubles in recent years, he can still sing like it's 1985. And the new kid's not so bad either.

December 14, 2009

Washington Square Road

This image comes from a book currently on my nightstand, Anthony Flint's "Wrestling With Moses". In the 1950's, city planner and master builder Robert Moses wanted to extend Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park to connect with West Broadway, creating an express route through the village that would be called Fifth Avenue South.
This planned roadway that would have surely destroyed the heart of Greenwich Village looks almost quaint in this rendering. It's notable that, for an extension of heavily trafficked Fifth Avenue, there are only three cars visible. Of course, if this terrible plan had come to fruition, the park would be filled with the sound of bumper to bumper cars honking....just like the rest of Fifth Avenue. The reason this never happened is the topic of the book.
Jane Jacobs, a writer for Architectural Digest and a longtime Village resident, organized a group of local mothers and started a movement which not only killed Fifth Avenue South but also led to the cancellation of Moses's biggest potential urban renewal disaster, the scarily-named LOMEX (Lower Manhattan Expressway). This 6-lane superhighway would have sliced through Soho and the Lower East Side on what is now Broome street, carrying traffic from the Holland Tunnel to the Manhattan Bridge.
Anthony Flint's book is a true-life David & Goliath story. Moses, who had figured out how to manipulate the political, financial and social systems of New York to completely redraw the way the city was connected, was unstoppable...or so it seemed. Until, that is, Jacobs challenged him, killing the beast before it ate the Village and Soho. Of course, we now know how this all turned out but the book is still a very compelling read given the fact that it easily could have gone the otherway, like in the faux-pastoral picture above.

December 11, 2009

The Other New York City Tree Lighting

Last night, a beautiful Douglas Fir standing about 30 feet tall was lit up in Washington Square Park. This tree lighting ceremony is a Greenwich Village tradition that actually pre-dates the hubub up in Rockefeller Center by five years (the first tree went up in 1926). And though the tree doesn't have a billion lights on it or an ice skating ring under it, the Washington Square Arch and the Park itself make a beautiful backdrop for the tree. Frankly, it's a little nicer than being surrounded by skyscrapers and tourists that's for sure.
Anyway, the tree is lit from 4pm to 1am every day from now until Christmas so go check it out. And, if you're feeling very vocal about the holidays, you can join in the annual caroling in the Park, another 83rd old tradition that happens at 5pm on Christmas Eve. Happy Holidaze!

December 10, 2009

GLEE's Midseason Finale

So the GLEE kids turned it out last night with a great midseason finale. The only thing that sucked about it was that it means there will be no new GLEE til April. Argh! So in the meantime, I found myself trolling FOX's GLEE site for new stuff and found an adorable clip of Lea Michele telling us 10 things we didn't know about her. However, one thing we did know, after last night's episode, was her FUNNY GIRL obsession; easily the highlight of the episode was her rendition of the Bab's Classic "Don't Rain On My Parade". Whoa--the girl has pipes!

You can watch the full episode here...as I will be doing over and over again until spring 2010. In the meantime, there'a always a new season of AMERICAN IDOL.

December 9, 2009

But Do You Get Frequent Flier Miles?

Richard Branson unveiled his Virgin Galactic spaceliner this week that will soon be offering short, round trip flights to space and back. The animation below is a pretty spectacular indication of what this sort of trip maybe be like. One thing is clear...it ain't gonna be cheap. Tickets are 200K and are already available for booking at their new website. The first flights are expected in early 2011.

December 8, 2009

The Greenest City In The World?

As the Copenhagen Climate Talks continue today, there was a report issued that global warming is not slowing and that the last decade is the warmest on record in 150 years. So what can you do to keep the planet cooler? Move to New York. According to an article in City Scoops, New York City is one of the greenest cities on the planet.

Even with all those twinkling lights that are on, the city's per capita greenhouse emissions are a third of the rest of the country. If NYC was a state, it would rank 51st in per capita energy consumption. The reason is twofold; much smaller living spaces and, the most obvious one, no cars. The article also states that the city intends to lower greenhouse emissions by a third in the next twenty years.


Despite the city's green ranking and
real greenness with so many parks, there is still one little problem regarding the future--the city is at sea level. As glaciers melt and oceans rise, Manhattan is likely to find itself battling the ocean more than the sun. And suddenly, those 6 floor walk-ups will have a lot more value.

December 7, 2009

The Shocking Truth About Gay Marriage

After much debate and delay, the adult day-care center up in Albany that's also known as the New York State Senate, voted against gay marriage last week. Shocker. Much like the Democrats on Capitol Hill, these legislators can't even agree who their leader is so it's no surprise they couldn't somehow get it together take a stand on the major civil rights issue of our era.

After defeats in California last year and Maine this year, the quest for marriage equality seems troubled lately. So the New York TIMES this weekend decided the movement needed a little pick me up. The TIMES, which has been running gay wedding annoucements for 7 years now, did a lovely feature in the Style section about a couple of guys who'd been together nearly 20 years and finally tied the knot, with their 7 year old son in attendance. The story is touching and sweet and, most strikingly, kinda ordinary. They are just a couple of nice Jewish guys trying to raise their son in a place that doesn't legislate hate (i.e. Connecticut). What's not to like?

What this article shows simply and beautifully is the truth about gay marriage....which is that there's nothing that shocking about it at all. What's shocking are the claims by right wingnuts that this will somehow lead to people marrying their pets or kids being taught gay sex in the first grade. Huh? Of course, these are the only arguments they can make because there's nothing to terrible or scary or immoral about two professional guys, living with their mother even, who love each other so much they decided they wanted to raise a kid.

This week, New Jersey's state legislators may consider a marriage bill. Politicans can speechify all they want about their "personal moral dilemnas" but really, when it comes down to it, I would honestly like to know how they can vote against something as beautiful as this? The picture above says it all.

December 4, 2009

The Mercury Theatre on 41st Street

Last night, I saw the movie ME & ORSON WELLES, a fictionalized film about Welles' landmark production of "Julius Caesar" that marked the stunning debut of his company of players, The Mercury Theatre. The movie begins with the company arriving at their new home on 41st Street, a playhouse on the fringe of the Broadway theatre district. I was thinking to myself, could they be referring to what is now the Nederlander Theatre, home to RENT for nearly a decade? Surely enough, the answer is yes.

The Nederlander has a history that reaches back even further than that. It opened in 1921 as the National Theatre where it featured plays by Lillian Hellman and Tennessee Williams. Then it was the Mercury from 1937-1940. After that, it was known as the Billy Rose Theatre and was famous for being the home to Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf". It became the Nederlander in 1980 and then was semi-occupied for the next 15 years til "RENT" arrived as transfer from NY Theatre Workshop. And the rest, as they say, is Broadway history.


I'm always fascinated by the history of these old Broadway houses and the shows they hosted over their many years in existence. But I never would have guessed that Orson Welles and Jonathan Larson were somehow connected by the same playhouse on the edge of Times Square.

December 2, 2009

How To Send An Anvil Flying

Here's some totally silly hump-day material. What can I say...I'm a sucker for videos where people are blowing stuff up, up and away. :)


December 1, 2009

Dubai Photos Show Highs and Lows

Dubai, that space-age city rising out of the sandy Persian Gulf coast, has been in the news lately for its troubled present--namely a huge debt crisis which shook world markets last Friday. But despite it's financial problems, this city of tomorrow still looks pretty fabulous, especially the Burj Dubai, the tallest structure in the world.
Set to be completed in spring of 2010, there was a cool photo gallery of pictures of the Burj on the Guardian UK's website recently. The building truly looks like something from a sci-fi movie-I was thinking LOGAN'S RUN for some reason. Anyway, this super-sized skyscraper will have about 160 floors when completed though it's actual height is a closely guarded secret.
Yesterday, I found another less glamourous photo gallery on Dubai over at the TIMES website, as part of their excellent LENS feature. Photographer Lauren Greenfield has a series of pictures showing the troubles Dubai is experiencing due to its growing pains. The pictures here, though, are as equally stunning as those of Burj but in a different way. My favorite and weirdest is the caravan of trucks carrying sewage out of a city that's grown so quickly, it's sewer system can't keep up with demand. It looks like a fascinating place to visit....though I may wait a few years until all that construction is finished.

November 30, 2009

Tweeting From Jail?

Roger Avary, the Oscar winning screenwriter of PULP FICTION, was sentenced to a year in jail back in September for a vehicular manslaughter charge stemming from a January 2008 accident which left a young woman dead. Not exactly the most remorseful inmate, Avary had been making use of his time with some very writerly "tweets" about life in the big house that read like a screenplay-in-proress. From November 20th: "Nightly, every few hours like clockwork, a guard's flashlight beam strikes #34's face, perhaps to ensure lack of proper rest and exhaustion".
However, prisoners in California do not have internet access. Apparently, Avary was on a work release program where he had to report to jail every night and on weekends. Well, that all came to an end over Thanksgiving weekend when a judge ordered him into a higher security, more traditional prison stay. And that ended his Tweeting too.

November 27, 2009

Black Friday At Home

Today is Black Friday, which was made truly black last year when a man on Long Island died in the rush of pre-dawn bargain-crazed shoppers. This year, Wal Mart along with other big box retailers have taken on-site precautions to make sure that doesn't happen again. They've also extended Black Friday deals through Grey Saturday and Sunday. Or you can just stay and home and get the same deals...maybe even better.

This year, Amazon is going toe-to-toe with Wal-Mart and other big retailers, as has been widely reported this week. That's right--it's Black Friday online except you can shop while wearing your pajamas and not feel like a fool. So, in doing my part as not only a blogger but an American, I'm encouraging you to save the economy by checking it out below with this convenient link. Happy Holidays and click til you drop!

November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. At my folks, we have a huge ping-pong table that we have all the big family meals around. Just like the Charlie Brown gang!

November 25, 2009

Remembering The Train To The Plane

Before the sleek, hit-tech AirTrain service to JFK started a few years ago, there was a experimental service called "Train To The Plane" which was basically a super-express A train that ran from midtown to JFK. It ended in 1990 so I never got to take it, though I remember the signs for it on the A platform at W. 4th Street. In honor of today's pre-Thanksgiving national day of travel, my favorite subway blog Second Avenue Sagas has a piece remembering the "Train To The Plane" along with this video of it's catchy commercial. The new AirTrain is certainly much better but damn, that old one had a catchy jingle!

November 24, 2009

The Sound of Music Turns 50

There's a nice bit of history on the Times Artsbeat blog this week about The Sound Of Music turning 50.It has some cool details about the original Broadway production that opened half-a-century ago, namely that the top ticket price top was $5. Wow. No wonder there were so many more shows and people seeing them back then. Anyway, the nostalgia is alive!

November 23, 2009

But Tell Us Martha...What Do You Really Think

Martha Stewart pulls no punches when asked recently on the red carpet what she thinks about Sarah Palin. This makes all those David Letterman jokes seem pretty tame because, you know, Martha is NOT joking. She is not even smiling.

November 20, 2009

PROM MESS is Popular for 2009

This is something I meant to post back in July but it got lost in the rush of summer...and my near-miss book banning. Anyway, my first novel, A REALLY NICE PROM MESS was named by the ALA (American Library Assocation) as one of its Popular Paperbacks of 2009!

Each year, YA librarians from around the country nominate their favorite books and the vote on the best of the year. They created four categories for YA books and I'm in "Journey>Destination" which is described as books where the journey and the lessons learned on it are greater than the destination.

It's a great honor to be recognized by librarians especially because you know they read a helluva lot of books. :) Also, I loved the one sentence synopsis they gave of the book too: "Cameron and his boyfriend’s night to remember: puke in the fish tank is only the beginning." Who knew that puke scene would be so memorable?

November 19, 2009

What Sarah Wore

With Sarah Palin bursting back into the national consciousness... again!...there's been a lot of talk about the former VP candidate. Amidst all this gossip and she-said/he-said, the only interesting bit of real news this week was an article in today's TIMES which explores in fascinating detail her infamous wardrobe.

In an article titled,
"Only Palin's Stylist Knows For Sure" reporter Lauren Lipton interviews the mysterious corporate stylist who created Palin's look. Until now, her identity has been hidden...even in Sarah's new book, the woman's name was left out. Now she is revealed to be Lisa Kline, a 47 year old Manhattan woman who styles female executives and news anchors for a living.

Kline got the call to style Sarah on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day setting in motion a frenzied three-day shopping spree to dress up the Republican's second-lady in waiting. Then, arriving in Minneapolis for the convention, the GOP realized that the whole Palin family needed a makeover, which lead to a 7am tear through Neiman's to outfit the 8 Alaskans for their convention appearance. From a production standpoint, this woman did a remarkable job as, no matter what you think of Sarah and her clan, they looked good! And the price tag of $150K was due mainly to the huge last minute rush involved as it was a holiday weekend and Kline, who often works directly with designers, had to go retail.

Anyway, this is an interesting story-behind-the-story narrative of an event that some people think now cost the John McCain the White House. I think that may be pushing it a little. Afterall, there were a few things Ms. Palin said that spoke a little louder than her designer duds.

November 18, 2009

Mika is Golden

Mika is this super skinny infectious rocker from London who is just awesome! I've been a fan of his song "Grace Kelly" for almost a year now with countless repeats on my iTunes as it's so damn catchy. Well now he has a new song out this fall "We Are Golden" with a most amazing video of him prancing about a colorful teenagers bedroom (his perhaps?) wearing a pair of tennis shorts and glittery running shoes. Yes--he's that fabulous. The pictures above were screengrabs compiled by those shirtless connoisseurs at Square Hippies. I can't embed the video for some reason but it's on the YouTube and fun fun fun. Watch-repeat-and then run around your own room working it! :)

November 17, 2009

That Geek From Big Bang Theory Is Kinda Cute

If you've ever watched BIG BANG THEORY, CBS's nerdy version of FRIENDS, the geekiest of all the grad school geeks is an adorkable skinny dude named Sheldon. Played by actor Jim Parsons in true Niles-style, he's actually supposed to be straight but reads very gay and, of course, is kinda cute too. Like the erstwhile nerd poster boys from the early-aughts DJ Qualls, Parsons continues the American tradition of skinny nerds with balloonish heads. He's almost a real life Charlie Brown. The sweet loser you just want to make a winner, you know?

Anyway, he was recently on The Tonight Show, looking quite slick in a suit while discussing Barbies too. Awwww. I always thought he was kinda cute on BIG BANG but, all Hollywooded-out for Conan, he was borderline hot. Hair/makeup can do wonders...even for a geeky guy.

November 14, 2009

Breakfast All The Time

I love cereal almost as much as donuts. And even though I've switched to whole grain goodness and don't eat the crazy sugary kid stuff anymore, I'm still secretly fond of it.

Over the weekend, I posted this old photo on my Facebook and got some interesting responses and queries. Some friends wanted to know where this delicious looking cereal treat is available. Unfortunately, it's not...it was only on the market for about a year, from 1964-1965. In fact, some boxes of this stuff have sold on eBay for as high as $2000!

I found all this info at a wonderful website called mrbreakfast.com, which has a whole section devoted to cereal. The Cereal Project, as it's called, has an incredibly comprehensive listing of cereal over the last 40 plus years. You can also vote on the Top 100 Cereals of all time and there are even some coupons available for free cereal.

You can even watch old TV commercials for extinct cereals like
Vanilly Crunch, a 70's incarnation of Cap'N Crunch that I loved. Basically, the idea was to create a cereal that tasted like vanilla cupcake batter. Ah...the cereals of my youth.


November 13, 2009

The End Of The '00s

We're barely half-way through November and already the inevitable wrap-ups of the first decade of the 21st century are starting to appear. Yes, it's the end of the '00s and the list making has begun: the best, worst, first, last, memorable, forgettable fill-in-the-blanks of the last ten years.

Newsweek.com has an extensive 20/10 project on their website if you're ready to take a trip down recent-memory lane. Most of it was pretty boilerplate (i.e., 9/11 most memorable date) but there were a couple sections I found interesting.

The first was
Worst Predictions, like Greydon Carter declaring the end of irony after 9/11...remember that? Or the media's assertion that Barack Obama didn't have a chance against the Clinton machine? There's also a list of Accidental Celebrities, including Playgirl cover boy Levi Johnston. This is good stuff! Definitely worth checking out as the onslaught of '00s nostalgia begins. Brace yourself.

November 12, 2009

The BEST Showrooms From The 1970's

The TARGET chain of department stores is always getting credit for being stylish and sharp in terms of design for it's vivid ads and corporate styling. However, the exterior of most TARGETS have a tendencey to look the same...big red-brick boxes.

Way back in the wacky 70's, there was a chain of catalog stores called BEST that prospered in the mid-Atlantic region and was known for its unusual storefronts. The founder of the company, Sydney Lewis, had an avid interest in art and architecture and hired the revolutionary SITE firm for one of BEST's first showrooms, pictured here.. Called the "Indeterminate Facade", the company's Houston location made a crumbling, post-apocalyptic statement that TARGET would never dare.

This is BEST's most famous facade but there were others, which you can check out here on the SITE website. They company had a decade-long collaboration with the firm which turned out some really stunning work. Unfortunately, BEST went bankrupt in the mid-80's and their visually shocking showrooms are only a memory today. The one in Houston was intact for more than 10 years after BEST folded. But recently a new tenant sliced off the "indeterminate" top of the facade and now it's just another big white box on a Houston highway.

November 11, 2009

"It's The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You"

That's a direct quote from Barbara Walters, telling it like it is to former Miss California Carrie Prejean on THE VIEW when talking about the reason behind her fame. This is the beauty pageant chick who stated her opinion that marriage is only between a man and woman. Yet in her spare time, she likes to pose for pornographic photos and now sex tapes. She currently has a book out, of course, and was mixing it up with the ladies of THE VIEW as part of the promo tour. While Prejean whines that everyone is out to get her because she said gay marriage is wrong, Barbara is kind but blunt when suggesting that the reason the pageant people may not be crazy about her is that she lied about her past and broke the pageant's "morals clause" a few times over. Go Babs!

November 10, 2009

The Blinking Building

Christmas has come early to Nolita. Last week, this half finished fancy condo building started blinking like a mod X-mas tree, lighting up it's corner of Houston & Mulberry. This bit of impromptou art is part of a mini-trend here in NYC as empty buildings and storefronts give way to public art and even art gallerys. In the last week, I've noticed the ground floors of new construction on 8th Ave in Chelsea and Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn that were previously unrentable have suddenly filled with canvasses and scultpures.
This building, 290 Mulberry, is one of these ultra lux condos that have been popping up all over downtown. According to the Bowery Boogie, only 4 of the nine floor-through units have sold and the building remains without a formal occupancy date. Usually, I despise these buildings but this one, with it's undulating brick facade and now it's colorful light show, is turning into an interesting neighbor.

November 9, 2009

A Tale of Two Trailers

Over on IndieWire today, there's an intriguing story about the newly released trailer for Tom Ford's debut feature, "A Single Man". There's been a lot of Oscar-buzzing about the film in recent weeks and now there's a new trailer from the Weinstein Company in which the film has been somewhat de-gayed.

Basically, the Weinstein's took out the shot of Colin Firth making out with another guy and shortened some loaded male looks in a few other shots. Oh--and they removed that dead guy from Colin's bed too. (You can watch both 2-minute trailers on Indiewire and compare and contrast.) The article speculates this was due to fear about the deep homophobia in the Academy that still can deny a movie like "Brokeback Mountain" the Best Picture nod. Given that the average age of Academy members is something like 72, it's not surprising they don't like to see two guys kissing.

The film's poster came out this week which is also pretty het, centered around the image above. Regardless of the Weinstein's fear of a gay marketplace, the film looks pretty interesting....like a Chanel ad meets a really hot episode of "Mad Men". It should be one to beat if the advance word holds up....we'll find out December 11.

November 6, 2009

How Does Your Chia Obama Grow

Here's the answer....after about a month, my Chia Obama's "hair" is not exactly looking like the smooth, full afro that the package promised. Chia Obama's growth is a little stringy and tends to do this weird reach around to the left, leaning in the direction of the sunlight that bathes it from the window. He also has an odd bald spot on the top of his head, around the area where there's a hole for filling him up with water.

The instructions suggested putting a little plastic bag over Chia Obama's head in the early stage of growing but I thought that might be somewhat undignified for the President of the United States. Then again, it looks like my results are somewhat undignified anyway.

Props go out to my brother Tim who gifted me with the Chia for my birthday. Despite the fact that I
'm not the world's biggest green thumb kinda guy, this is the first living plant in my home in quite a while. And though it's still living, it still needs a little help.

November 5, 2009

Levi Johnson Meets William Shatner

This is a bit from the Tonight Show which I found pretty amusing; William Shatner reading Levi Johnson's tweets, with appropriate bongo/bass accompainament. Apparently, Shatner had some success earlier this year doing the same schitck with Sara Palin's tweets. Warning--this clip has been known to induce pop culture whiplash. Watch only while seated. Thank you and enjoy the weird.

November 4, 2009

The USS New York Returns Home

The USS New York pulled into the city's harbor earlier this week. It's a special homecoming not just because of the ship's name but because of it's construction. Roughly 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center was reforged into the new ship's bow stem. There have been many naval ships bearing the "New York" name, dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. But this USS New York clearly has a special and unique bond with the city.

The USS New York is here for its commissioning ceremony, which is happening on Saturday. While docked along the west side highway in midtown, the ship will also be open to the public for tours as well. The hours for tours vary and are listed on the ship's commissioning website. The ship is an amphibious San Antonio Class transport ship, meant to bring US troops and equipment to distant parts of the globe. It's unique shape incorporates two "twin towers" that are hexagonal in shape but are not just symbolic....they serve to effectively reduce the ships radar profile.

November 3, 2009

Remembering Dynamite Magazine

While cleaning off my desk yesterday, I found and posted an old cover of Dynamite magazine on FB and it got some serious comment action! It seems people still have some pretty fond memories of the monthly entertainment and activity rag for kids that was popular in the 70's and 80's. I really loved Dynamite as a kid and thoroughly enjoyed all the activities that came along with it: recipes, paper airplances, 3d posters, and "Bummer" contests.

Doing a little search, I found a site where another Dynamite fan had scanned a number of covers of the magazine. My weird favorite is this Mork & Mindy one--with the free "Disco Party Record". I loved those crappy plastic records you would get in Dynamite and the occasional cereal box. There are plenty of other covers you can check out here if you want a quick nostalgia trip.

I had a subscription to Dynamite for a good 4-5 years, until I was about 12 or 13 and I then decided I was getting too old for it. There was another magazine specifically for teens that Scholastic published called Bananas. But I remember thinking it looked pretty stupid. I mean, c'mon...Bananas?! At 13, I was a very discriminating reader. :) Anyway, here's to Dynamite....and all it's fun dorkiness.

November 2, 2009

GLEE Sings At The World Series

Not being the world's biggest baseball fan (surprise!), I have been somewhat peeved lately that GLEE is on a 2-3 week hiatus due to the World Series. Well, in a saavy bit of cross promotion, FOX flew the cast out to Philadelphia on Saturday to sing the National Anthem at the start of Game 3. They did a wonderful job singing and maybe won over some baseball fans. I can dream right?

But at least I got to see the GLEE gang again, if only for one "number" and minus the show's usually energetic choreography. Though GLEE has some plot problems lately (how many times can people quit and rejoin the club?), it's still got amazing singing and dancing. And they are pulling out all the stops for November sweeps....coming soon, "Defying Gravity" from WICKED. Go GLEE!

October 30, 2009

Obama's Midnight Trip To Dover AFB

Just before midnight on Wednesday, President Obama left the White House and flew to Dover AFB in Delaware, where the remains of US servicemen and women killed abroad are returned home. He witnessed the "transfer ceremonies" for 15 soldiers, spent two hours meeting with families of the fallen and returned to the White House just before 5am. Famously, these transfers were banned from television coverage back in 1990 by the first President Bush. The ban remained as the US entered two wars under the second Bush and more than 3,000 soldiers were lost. Obama lifted that ban earlier this year.

Last night, the Katie Couric did a solemn piece on this historic visit for the CBS Evening News that you can watch below. Generally, there was very scant coverage of it in the media. Fox News was the only other broadcast story I could find. The NY TIMES wrote about it but the story was buried online...I had to search "Dover" to find it. Not sure where it ended up in the print edition but I'm doubting it was page 2. As the President weighs his options on the war in Afghanistan, it seems that this extraordinary visit by the Commander-in-Chief to honor his fallen troops would have been more newsworthy.

Regardless, while those on the right froth and fret about this President destroying our country, Obama's clear sense of the gravity of his job is unmistakable and his actions, even those taken without fanfare, continue to speak louder than any of their words.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

October 29, 2009

Blowing It Up Back In The Day

In 1981, I got my start as a filmmaker working with my neighbor Jeff Davison and his dad's RCA b/w video camera that was tethered to a massive, first generation VHS player/recorder. We did all sorts of adaptations of popular TV shows, like "Superman", "Star Trek", "The Wild Wild West" and "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir". But the most memorable and hilarious films we made were of us blowing shit up. Jeff would get fireworks down in South Carolina and we'd go to town on our old toys or models. We even blew up Luke Skywalker's land speeder....I've gotta find that clip!

Anyway, I finally got one of these videos up to YouTube today. Now I know that it was totally juvenile and dangerous to be lighting firecrackers on my neighbor's wood porch. But it was damn funny too....the last line's a classic! Even though this video is nearly 30 years old and I've watched it countless times, it still cracks me up, especially the Beavis & Butthead background dialogue and uncontrollable giggling when things go boom. Feel free to forward, link, share and who knows....maybe it'll become a YouTube sensation. America likes a good explosion.

October 28, 2009

Backstreet Is Back...In The Office

Continuing the trend of DIY music videos, here's one from a group of office workers doing their own take on the Backstreet Boys 1999 hit "I Want It That Way". This has gotta be one of my fave cheesy songs of all time and this video does the song justice with a funny/cheesy take on the thing. However, I'm slightly suspicious these camera-ready, emotive lipsynchers are actually random folks working in the same small office together...unless maybe it's a casting office. ;) Still this video is awesome for its utter simplicity and it is very sweet too. Oh--and the guys are cute as well.

October 27, 2009

Someone Broke My Facebook

There's been a lot of angry status updates lately as Facebook pulled another big change without letting anyone know what was going on. The general consensus seems to be that the live feed/news feed is a bit of a mess.

So if you'd like to fix your Facebook back to the way it was, here's how to do it in a couple easy steps:


On the menu at the top left, click on MORE.
Drag STATUS UPDATES to the top of the list above NEWS FEED. After dragging to top, CLICK on it.
Your HOME will be just like before.

I just did it, it took two seconds and all is back to normal. Yes, it's true....you can fix your Facebook. Give it a try....

October 26, 2009

Indie Filmmaker Richard Kelly is Kinda Cute

I wouldn't say I'm a rabid fan of "Donnie Darko", the 2001 indie sensation starring a then-unknown Jake Gyllenal in a story about....well, I still don't know what it was about. But I kinda enjoyed it's weird, moody style even though it was pretty damn confusing. Something about a schizo high school student who dreams of a big scary bunny that causes a plane crash leading to the end of the world. I do remember there was all this cool 80's music...like real college radio stuff by Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. That I appreciated.

"Donnie Darko" was written and directed by Richard Kelly and, given the subject matter and the artsy feel of the film, I imagined it the feverish work of some real Tarantino-like film geek. Apparently not. Here's a picture of Mr. Kelly (on the left...why are director's always pointing?) from a profile in yesterday's New York TIMES and, suprisingly, the director of this super dark movie is kinda cute. In fact, he might even be borderline hot. Regardless, I am adding him to my Kinda Cute pantheon anyway because he is certainly not how I expected the director of that film to look. To use a pop culture analogy, it's sorta like the reverse of the Susan Boyle effect.


Anyway, "Donnie Darko" developed a cult following and Kelly made another movie called "Southland" which I believe was also about the end of the world, though I didn't see it. Now, he's traded up and done a big studio movie which sounds semi-intriguing. It's called "The Box" with Cameron Diaz playing some suburban mom in the 70's gets a million bucks if she hits a big red buttton that will randonly kill someone in the world. Weird, right? But at least it sounds like it has a plot so I think I'll check it out.

October 23, 2009

Money Makes The World Go Around

While trawling The Awl for my weekly taste of weird, I came across this German TV commercial for donating money to charity. It is not your average Unicef ad..that is for sure. But then again, Germany is not your average country. Though the commercial uses a classic narrative cliche that has been the basis for more than a few features and shorts, it does so with style and wit....all under one minute.

October 22, 2009

Whatever Happened To Persis Khambatta

I put the original Star Trek movie on my Netflix after seeing "Close Encounters" earlier this summer at Bryant Park and loving it. I have to say "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" doesn't hold up as well, even in the reedited version available on DVD. It plays like a very long episode of TOS which would have been fine if it was 50 minutes long. Unfortunately, it's 136 minutes long which earned it the fanboy tag "Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture."

Like this year's "Star Trek" reboot, Bones steals the show and his scenes with Kirk and the old gang always crackle. Another standout is the lovely and mysterious beauty of Persis Khambatta, the bald Deltan who has an odd dual role in the film, playing Lt. Ilia and a robotic version of herself in a dangerously short mini-dress.

Joining the crew of the Enterprise was Persis' big break, having been Miss India in the 1960's and a well-known fashion/makeup model, most famously for Revlon.
Unfortunately, her career didn't exactly hit warp drive after her role in "Star Trek". Her most notable role was in 1981's "Nighthawks" and a final part in the pilot episode of "Lois & Clark", playing the Indian ambassador....what imaginative casting!

In 1998, she suffered a heart attack and died suddenly. Her age is listed as 47 on Imdb and 49 on Wikipedia. Either way it seems too early....she was such a striking and enigmatic figure. It's a shame she didn't take off and have a more vibrant career. Her Hollywood debut, however, remains memorable. Even if the movie isn't all I remembered it to be.

October 21, 2009

An Eloquent Speech On Equality For All

Earlier this year, Maine's legislature passed a bill which gave gays and lesbians same rights as heterosexual couples to be married under the laws of that state. This was not a so-called activist court in action. It was a measure brought forth by the state's elected representatives and signed by the state's popular elected governor. Still, the so-called Christians started gathering signatures and spreading fear and now Maine's marriage equality is up for the entire state to vote on this November.

When Maine was considering the original bill, there were extensive public hearings held with a great deal of public comment. Recently, a statement in support of equality for all by an 86 year old WWII vet has been making the rounds on the blogs. It is moving and beautiful in its simplicity. Too bad this guy wasn't around for the Prop 8 battle last year...

If you'd like to donate to help defeat Maine's Proposition 1, go
here. They need all the help they can get.

October 20, 2009

NYC Couple Collect 3,500 Works Of Art

Herb & Dorothy Vogel are well-known in the New York art world. For more than 40 years, they have been ubiquitous on the art scene. Sometimes attending as many as 25 shows a week, they were avid collectors who amassed a modernist treasure trove of more than 3,500 works of art which cluttered their small NYC apartment.

Soon they will be well known to the entire country as they have donated their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art.
Their donation, however, was so massive that it overwhelmed the National. The museum could only absorb 1,000 works. So the solution they all came up with for the balance of this material was to give 50 works to a museum in each of the 50 states. A non-profit was formed called 50 x 50 and the crates have been arriving, like an early Christmas present, at museums across the country this Fall.

I found out about these unique artistic philanthropists via a movie that aired this weekend on PBS called "Herb & Dorothy". It's a documentary about how they started collecting art in the mid-1960's on their modest salaries as a postal worked and librarian. They collected mostly modern work by artists like Sol LeWitt and Chuck Close. What's amazing about their story is how their passion for art, not money, inspired and sustained their collecting. The tag line of the movies is "You don't have to be a Rockefeller to collect art".

The Vogel's are true patrons of the arts whose generosity will now be shared with the nation by this unique arrangement. They are an inspiring couple with an amazing story. The movie captures their unique relationship beautifully and is well-worth seeing.

October 19, 2009

The Original Queer As Folk

I had a bit of a cold over the weekend so I stayed home and caught up on my Internet TV viewing. I've been enjoying the new thriller series "FlashForward" on ABC, loved the season premiere of "Ugly Betty" which remains one of the funniest shows out there, and saw the latest episode of "Fringe", Fox's "Twilight Zone"/"X-Files"/"CSI" mash-up which is surprisingly compelling.

Also, I reconnected with an old favorite that's now available for free on Hulu: the original UK version of "Queer As Folk". Having re-watched the first two episodes, I can report that this show is just as brilliant and shocking as it was 10 years ago when it premiered on Channel 4. It's hard to compare it to the American remake as the UK QAF was a short run series, with only 10 episodes while the Showtime version ran a soapy 5 years. But, overall, it is truly an example of excellent television with great writing, casting, music and some unforgettable scenes/lines, some of which I still find myself quoting (i.e. "I'm doin' it! I'm really doin' it!"). Worth seeing again...or for the first time.