April 30, 2009

Cupcake of the Week

For years, I've been a devoted fan of Magnolia and, more recently, Billy's Bakery and their delicious cupcakes. But since those places have become somewhat oversubscribed recently, I've been searching for a new cupcake joint.
Tonnie's Mini Cupcakes is in a storefront that I'd often passed while walking to the subway at West 4th Street. It's in a shared space on 3rd with that weird cheesteak place that always made me think, well, maybe they're not such great cupcakes if they don't have their own store.
Well, recently Tonnie's expanded to their own store on Macdougal between 3rd and Bleecker (pictured above). So I stopped in and picked up a chocolate w/vanilla icing. What was interesting was that they put the icing on after I ordered it making it super-fresh. And the cupcake itself was extraordinary. And a whole lot moister (as they used to say in those Duncan Hines ads) than Magnolia or Billy's.
So if you have a sweet tooth and are looking for a Village fix, stop by Tonnie's for a treat. I give it my highest, sugary seal of approval.

April 29, 2009

Hello Dolly

Dolly Parton has been in New York for the last few weeks as she preps her Broadway musical "9 To 5", opening tomorrow night at the Marriot Marquis Theatre. The current issue of The New Yorker has a funny, little Talk of the Town piece in which Dolly discusses her first visit to NYC on a high school class trip in '64 and then a subsequent visit in '70. And here's Dolly in her own inimitable words:

“We came here and we stayed down on, what is it, Forty-second Street, where all the whores run?”
Classic. She was also on David Letterman last night singing "Backwoods Barbie" and doing a Top Ten list of her pet peeves. Hilarious. I just love this woman! But, then again, who the hell doesn't?

April 28, 2009

Metal Trees at The Met

Today at the Met, the roof opens for the summer with a exhibit of metallic trees by artist Roxy Paine.  The TIMES created a nice audio slide show about the artist and his work. I remember two summers ago, Paine had another one of his remarkable silver tree creations in Madison Square Park.  If you haven't seen them, they are really remarkable and, on the stunning rooftop of the museum looking over all the real trees of Central Park, they'll surely be amazing.   

April 27, 2009

Tale of Two Species

Last night, there was a fascinating documentary on PBS's "NATURE" about horseshoe crabs. I know that doesn't sound like it would be fascinating but I was riveted. I never thought much about horseshoe crabs when I saw them on their backs, washed up on the shore of Jones Beach. But here's some basic facts that grabbed me when I was flipping channels; horsehoe crab blood is worth $15,000 a quart to the biomedical industry, horsehoe crabs are 350 million years old, and the average female horsehoe crabs lays 80,000 eggs out of which 10 crabs grow to maturity.
The distressing part of their story, though, is that the horseshoe crabs are disappearing from the Delaware Bay at an alarming rate, threatening the lives of a rare species of bird that flies in from Chile to feast on the eggs. And that bird has a whole other story intertwined with the horseshoe crab which is just wild.
Anyway, bottom line here is that I'm not the world's biggest nature nut but this doc told a truly extraordinary story. Here's the link to watch it online directly at PBS's website. An educational hour of TV well spent.

April 24, 2009

Warmer Weather & Cheaper Cars

With temps heading into the 80's this weekend, it's time to start thinking about getting out of the city. The problem for New Yorkers has always been how since the majority of us don't have cars. ZipCar started offering their services here a few years ago but it's pretty expensive, at $15 an hour and close to $100 per day.
So I was thrilled to hear about a new car rental service where the rates are $2 an hour! It's called MINT and like ZipCar, you pay a membership fee up front and then pay as you go. The only real catch is the super cheap rate is for daytime rentals and, after you hit 180 miles, you have to start paying per mile. But for errands and trips to the beach, this sounds like a great deal. Also, MINT has SmartCarswhich are not only cute but easy to park in the city, that's for sure.
Anyone having any experience with MINT? I'd like to hear more. Thanks and have a great summery weekend!

April 23, 2009

NetPix: The Wackness

This was another movie I meant to see in theatres when it was out last year. However, despite being a hit at Sundance '08, this film was not such a hit in Summer '08 and it disappeared before I got the chance. So I popped it in last night and, though I wasn't crazy about it at first, this one really grew on me. By the end, this nostalgic story, with a solid and sweet central performance from Josh Peck, had thoroughly won me over.

At first glance,
"The Wackness" seems to be your standard coming-of-age story about an 18 year old in NYC. What sets it apart, though, is that it's set in the summer of 1994 and the teenager in question has a thriving summer job as a pot dealer. At first, Peck's character comes off a little too depressed (i.e. flat). But as the movie ambles along at a stoner's pace, he slowly comes to life, as does the movie in general.

At first,
I also had some trouble getting over the film's severe stylization, which was a little too hazy and sepia-toned for me. I don't remember the mid-90s being devoid of color...in fact it was sorta the opposite, right? But the script was really sharp and kept me interested. From the opening scene, where Peck is trading pot for therapy from the brilliant Ben Kingsley, I knew this movie had some potential. I mean, when you've got Gandhi doing bong hits, how can you lose? But more than that, Kingsley creates such a total fuck-up of a guy that you can't help care about him as he becomes a surrogate father to the lost, lonely Peck.

First time writer director Jonathan Levine has created some truly unique and memorable characters here which you really start to care about as the film makes it's way through a long, sexy summer. And sure, there's the prerequisite first love and first sex (at the beach even!) but all are dealt with in such a fresh way that to say more would be to spoil the lovely little surprises of this intimate and ultimately charming film.

Another thing I loved about "The Wackness" is its title. It's one of those titles that make you go, whaaaa, until you see the movie and it is all explained about halfway through in a way that then makes perfect sense. My fondness for this sort of titling might come from the fact that I pulled the same trick on my last feature, "WTC View". People are always a bit confused by that title until a crucial scene in which all is revealed.

Anyway, I would throw this one in your queue if like a good coming of age story with a dash of 90's nostalgia. Oh--and on the special features, don't miss the dead-on spoof of a 90's cable access TV show called THE DOPE SHOW. What can I say other than it was dope...and the bomb....and the bum diggity. Word.

April 22, 2009

A Sign of Spring

Spring seems to be running about two weeks behind here in NYC this year, as this week's weather has all too achingly confirmed. But my personal first sign that Spring is imminent has arrived; it's the flowering of the apple blossom tree right outside my kitchen window. It's a beautiful thing to see so I made a movie out of it to share it with y'all.

So, without further ado, a touch of Spring on the street where I live. Enjoy!

April 21, 2009

Signs Of The Times in the TIMES

I've noticed that the NY TIMES has been getting pretty adventurous in the ways that it covers news. With its "grey lady" days long behind, the TIMES has recently taken to commissioning artists and illustrators for soft news and feature stories.

The TIMES recently put up a slide show of drawings by artist Jane Chiverton which grabbed my attention. It consisted of illustrations of store fronts in the city reflecting these brutal economic times. What I really liked about Chiverton's work is that it honestly documents what I have noticed walking around town in recent weeks; family businesses closing after decades (like this butcher in Chelsea), abrupt restaurant disappearances (like the Two Boots on Ave A and the famous Vesuvio's Bakery), and an ever growing number of "for sale/rent" signs in shop-happy hoods like SoHo and the West Village.

There is no doubt we are deep into this Great Recession. And, as Chiverton's drawings illustrate so vividly, the signs are literally everywhere.

April 20, 2009

Homegrown Donuts

Yesterday, I was feeling the need for some serious donuts (shocker!). And as much as I love The Dunkin', a chain was not going to cut it. So me and my roommate hopped on the F train to the Lower East Side to score some of the best, freshest donuts in NYC at the Doughnut Plant.

Yeah, I know....they don't exactly use the spelling of donut that I prefer but I am not going to quibble when they make such extraordinary round, glazed treats. They are fresh and warm and downright delicious. I got a double chocolate cake donut and a glazed cashew (pictured) while my roommate ordered a strawberry cake one. Man, I'm getting hungry again just describing them!

Along with their good/cheap coffee (only a dollar!) we had a moveable yeast-feast and snacked on our donuts while strolling up Clinton Street on a nice Spring afternoon. If you are ever looking for a good Lazy Sunday activity, this is it. Well, if you like donuts, of course :)

April 17, 2009

Tomorrow is Record Store Day!

Saturday April 18th is Record Store Day. Yes, Record Stores have become so scare that they now need their own day...kinda like Earth Day for vinyl. At participating stores, you can go in tomorrow and get some good deals on LPs for one day only.

Now I thought you could get pretty good deals on LPs any day because, you know, they are not exactly the most popular way to listen to music these days.
One of the greatest record stores in the world (and I can say that because literally people from all over the world shop there--I've seen it!) is right in my neighborhood; Bleecker Bobs, which for some reason is actually on 3rd Street. Anyway, I will probably stop by there tomorrow and see what deals I can get.

Lately, I've been buying old LPs but not for listening, but for decorating. They really make great wall art....so far I have about 6 of my all-time favorites albums of my youth (Grease, Dolly, The Partridge Family) lining the main hallway in my apartment. Urban Outfitters sells these great album frames -- 2 for $20 bucks. Take that plus some cheap LPs and, voila, you have some instant interior decoration. So go to your favorite record store (if it's still there) and pick up some cheap-ass albums this weekend. No deals on turntables though...unless there is a Natinoal Turntable Day? Sorry--Google says "no".

April 16, 2009

Our Hit Parade

Last night, I went to Joe's Pub to check out the newish variety show, Our Hit Parade. Every month, Kenny Mellman and Neil Medlyn put together a diverse group of downtown denizens who create their own unique interpretations of "the top 10 songs in America" (as Neil kept saying). I say interpretations and not covers because some of the performers didn't even sing. The inventive and adorkably cute Varsity Interpretative Dance Squad (VIDS) created some on-the-spot choreography which the audience was encouraged to participate in. There was Jenn Harris' a spoken-wail reading of the lyrics from Pink's SOBER. And finally, half-naked host Neil Medlyn flinging his thing about to the beat of some disco/pop inanity. No...this was definitely not your mother's Hit Parade.

Oh--and there was some actual singing too. Powerhouse peformanatrix Bridget Everett made Kelly Pickler's syrupy ballad actually sound intense and, most notably, there was a wonderful interpretation of T-Pain's ditty about date rape by the Lady Rizo. She was fantastic! She has her own show coming up this weekend at the Hi-Line Ballroom which I might check out too, Lady Rizo And The Assettes. Doesn't that sound fun?!

The next Hit Parade is May 20th at Joe's Pub. Mark your calendar as this show has some serious bang for your 20 bucks.

April 15, 2009

Clean Your Facebook

There are many of you out there who, like myself, are not happy with the new look of Facebook. Too many useless quizzes like "what chakra are you" and "what's your superpower", too many notifications from applications you never use, too many things cluttering up your homepage. Well, now there is a way to clean-up Facebook's act on your own. Simply written and in plain English, it's the SKILLFOO page which can make your online life a little more manageable. I spent about 15 minutes going through the suggested "tips" and already my homepage is cleaner and my notifications more useful. So stop joining lame groups that want to go back to the original design. The new Facebook is here to stay...and it's yours to control.

April 14, 2009

Building Rome In A Day

A group of young artists got together last week and built Rome in a day...literally. This all happened at the New Museum on the Bowery as a stunt to kick off their new exhibit "The Generational: Younger Than Jesus", which is meant to challenge the Whitney's Biennial survey of up-and-comers in the art world. If you scroll down this NY Times blog about the show, there is a nifty video which shows a time lapse of the construction of their miniature Rome as well as it's subsequent destruction by the artists' feet.

April 13, 2009

Amazon Strips Sales Ranks of Gay Books

Amazon.com has apparently been pulling the Sales Rankings of books with gay content. The books have been labeled to have "Adult" content and removed from searches too. Though some Young Adult novels, like Alex Sanchez's "Rainbow Boys", have been involved, others like David Levithan's "Boy Meets Boy" have not. I just checked my books on Amazon and I have not been part of the purge....yet.

The #amazonfail came to light this weekend but has been going on for months apparently. This whole relabeling of gay books as "Adult" seems not only crazy but is apparently pretty half-assed as well. Jezebel.com has a current listing of titles that have had their rankings purged (like "Ellen Degeneres: A Biography") and some that have not ("A Parents Guide To Preventing Homosexuality"?!). So far the response from Amazon has been pretty BS boilerplate-y:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.
Hence, if you have further questions, kindly write back to us.
Best regards,
Ashlyn D, Member Services
Amazon.com Advantage
Sorry Amazon...but that is lame. I do have some further questions. I have even been invited to join two "Boycott Amazon" groups on Facebook. So if Jeff Bezos doesn't get on The Rachel Maddow Show to explain this whole mess soon, they are going to have a serious problem with their customers....namely me!

April 10, 2009

NetPix: In Bruges

This brilliant little movie is now my second NetPix which I nearly didn't see due to a really crappy trailer. The preview made this film look ridiculous. However, after hearing from a few friends that it was actually great, I put it on my queue and, like more than a few of the characters in this story of hit men run amok, I was blown away.

The first-time director, Martin Mcdonagh is a well-known playwright ("The Lieutenant of Inishmore", "Beauty Queen of Linane") but he's soon going to be a very well-known filmmaker. Black comedy is not the easiest of genres to master but his script makes it look easy, crackling with sharp repartee while peppered with some shocking acts of violence. McDonagh makes it all work and leaves you guessing up until the very last shot how this is all going to play out.

Colin Farrell turns in his best performance in years as a rookie hit man who's made a terrible mistake. He's not only somewhat insane in this role, going from puppy dog looks to berserk outbursts of mayhem in a split second, but actually manages to have a heart too. You actually care about the bastard which, given what he's up to, really is saying something. The other actors are excellent as well, especially Brendan Gleeson as Colin's world-weary partner and Clemence Poesy as a bright, shiny romantic interest. Ralph Fiennes turns in another badder-than bad guy turn as The Boss.  Remember when Ralph was more romantic leading man? I miss that guy, but have to say, his dark side is effective and used to excellent effect here.  

There are many jokes and fantastic one-liners in this grimly hilarious movie, many of which I'd like to quote right now. I've been repeating two of them with my roommate since we watched the film last night.  But I am going to restrain myself. However, I offer a small warning; try not to be in the act of drinking anything during the scene with the midget, the drugs and the Belgian prostitutes. If you do, it'll be one big spittake.

April 9, 2009

Young Girls Talking About Themselves--The Song

A friend who knows my musical taste (or lack thereof) sent me this kicky pop song about girls who talk about themselves on video blogs. It is awesome! I don't know where to find the full song but I want it...now!

April 8, 2009

To Go Where No Sequel Has Gone Before

Down in Austin last night, Paramount switched out a print of "Wrath of Kahn" with the new "Star Trek" reboot, courtesy of JJ Abrams. And if you want to believe the fanboys who saw this super secret sneak preview, the response was ecstatic. I have to say, since I saw the trailer earlier this year, it's been my most anticipated film of the early summer (it's out May 8). I was a little concerned about the release date, as I think May is traditionally reserved for summer stinkers ("Indiana Jones" anyone?) But who knows--maybe with this sexy cast and retro approach, they just might bring the franchise back the dead.

April 7, 2009

Looking Up, Looking Back

A few weeks ago, I posted about my habit of looking up on my daily rounds in NYC. Even after being here almost 20 years, I'm still fascinated by the things I see walking around town. Like today--I was walking to the gym and, on 38th Street between Seventh Ave and Broadway, I spotted this old painted advertisement for the Horn and Hardart Automat.
The original fast food, the Automat originated in Philadelphia in 1902, opened in Times Square in 1912 and closed for good in 1991. My best guesstimate would put the age of this sign at about 40-50 years, which is remarkable considering the speed at which things change in Manhattan.

However, this sign is only one of many I've noticed over the years that still cover walls long after the businesses have closed. Some even advertise things like "haberdashery" and "carriage services" and have old school phone numbers like CHelsea3-7188. The Forgotten-NY website here has a great catalog of old painted signs in all five boroughs. And, if you keep looking up, you may discover a new one today.

April 6, 2009

Fast & Furious & Funny As Hell

OK--so I saw "Fast & Furious" on Friday and, unfortunately, it was neither. Frankly, it was sort of a dud. But SNL did a hilarious spoof of it this weekend with Seth Rogen. To say more would ruin the fun. Just check it out!

April 3, 2009

Dick Flick

We've all heard of Chick Flicks. Well today, a classic example of a Dick Flick is out; the fourth of the Fast/Furious series, cleverly titled "Fast & Furious". Actually, I thought that was the title of the first one but apparently that was "The Fast & The Furious". Hmmmm...this could be confusing to future film historians, don't u think? :)

Anyway, much to the surprise of some people, I actually enjoy a good Dick Flick. They have a lot of things I like in my mindless entertainment....crazy car chases, rockin' musical montages, hot tough guys, vintage muscle cars and very large explosions. The NY TIMES' Nathan Lee doesn't enjoy them quite so much. Mr. Lee's review, however, did have one clever line describing this car wreck (whoa!) of a movie: "This inoffensive if uninspired example of presummer pop diversion will be best appreciated by future audiences flabbergasted by its unabashed revelry in fossil-fuel consumption." Nice.

The big news for FF4 is that Paul Walker and above-pictured Vin Diesel are back for the first time since the original, along with semi-lesbian mess Michelle Rodriguez. So with all that potential mano a mano and maybe even some girl-on-girl action, not to mention all those car chases, I will be there for opening night. Vroom vroom.....

April 2, 2009

Traffic Signs Go !@#?*! Nuts

The latest trend in hi-tech geek pranks is hacking traffic signs. I'd recently read about this happening out in the suburbs and on rural highways so I was pretty surprised to see the phenomenon on my own street right here in the heart of NYC. My friend Mark Sam took this pic a couple days ago with his phone at the intersection of Houston and Broadway. It's a bit profane and somewhat absurdist, which suits Soho's quasi-artsy sensibility. But mainly, it made me laugh and that was all I needed to share it with you.

April 1, 2009

I Am A Gay American Idol

For the first time in maybe 5 years, I joined the rest of the country and watched "American Idol" last night. The reason? There is a gay on the show! Alright--I guess that's not exactly news. There have been some gays in the past, like Jim Verranos and Clay Aiken. But now there's Adam Lambert, currently in the final 9, who has been "outed" by pictures of him making out with guys, performing in drag and (here's the clincher) recordings of him in the cast of "Wicked".

So I decided to check him out and see what all the fuss was about. Well the fuss is not so much about being gay as about him blowing the competition out of the water. He looks like a Pete Wentz/Zac Efron mash-up and is clearly the one to beat on the show....and that is saying something given that most of the remaining finalists are all seriously talented, except maybe that blonde girl who did an ill-advised cover of Bob Marley. Not that Adam's song selection was that much better---"Play That Funky Music White Boy"? Really? A bit literal but then again "American Idol" is not exactly known for nuanced performances. However, it didn't really matter because the song could have been "Up With People" and he would have turned it into some crazy, sexy and rockin' shake down of a performance. With his screaming voice and sexy strut, I thought he could be a young Steven Tyler...which was exactly what that new judge said! I like her. :)

Apparently, there is some controversy that Adam has not actually stated publicly he is gay. Yeah...and neither did Little Richard, or Elton John, or George Michael (and then only when he had to). I mean it's, uh, kinda obvious people. The refreshing thing is that there seems to be a sort of "who cares" attitude about his sexuality. Besides, as a friend of mine put it, are the straight contestants declaring their heterosexuality? Good point. I just hope that when he wins he brings his boyfriend on stage and gives him a big nationally televised kiss.