May 29, 2009

Free Bikes In NYC

It sounded too good to be true: free bike "rental" in Manhattan, no strings attached. Well, I am glad to report that it is true as I tried it out last weekend.

NYC along with the
Downtown Alliance has teamed up to provide free bikes this summer at the South Street Seaport. You can get one for yourself, or up to four if you have guests, for 3 hours of touring around town. It's a perfect amount of time if you want to take a ride up the beautiful west side bike path. I went all the way from the Seaport to 89th Street and back with a half hour to spare.

All you have to do is register at
bikearoundowntown.com and then make a reservation in advance. It is unbelievably easy and incredibly fun for zero dollars. It's the perfect weekend staycation!

May 28, 2009

Remember The Gaiety

One of my favorite blogs is Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, which catalogs the increasing speed at which the city has been changing in recent years. Yesterday, Jeremiah wrote about one of my most sorely missed New York landmarks; the Howard Johnson's building in Times Square which also housed the Gaiety Theatre on the second floor.

During my wanton youth, there were many fun nights spent at Hojo's drinking Whiskey Sours and snacking on fried clams (or cried flams, as I liked to call them). Afterwards, we'd head upstairs for the entertainment, the Gaiety's live all-male strip show that Madonna made infamous in her 1992 SEX book. For the budget conscious, a night at the Gaiety
(15$ the last time I went) was way cheaper than the cost of a Broadway show....and certainly a lot racier. ;)

Anyway, it's all gone now, as are many old Times Square landmarks. But kudos to Jeremiah for keeping the dream alive....and remembering.

May 27, 2009

The Latte Zoo

I found this amazing video on a great site for coffee-addicted New Yorkers....nycmugged.com. I don't know who this barista is but if I had to guess, I'd say it's an art student.

May 26, 2009

Robot Baby

With "Terminator: Salvation" showing us a world taken over by machines, Gizmodo did a roundup of the current state of robot research. If you check out the videos, most of these bots are somewhat laughable...except the last one. It's a Japanese-engineered Robot Baby which is designed to learn like a child. When you watch this video, remember this is not some kid in a robot suit. This thing is all machine and, when it grows up, it will take over the planet. You have been warned.

May 25, 2009

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

The Google-Car is in New York City this month, updating the "street view" pictures on Google Maps. I had always imagined the camera that took these shots to be somewhat more discrete, like in a van with tinted windows or something. But it's really quite obvious, as the picture above shows. Despite this, Google is apparently very secretive about the car's operation as an article in the TIMES explained this weekend. Earlier this year, the Google-Car got some unwanted publicity when it ran over a deer and the images were captured and were actually on Google maps for a while. There is even a website which compiles some of the stranger/funnier images the Google-car has caught as it wanders the world's streets....it's streetviewfun.com.

May 22, 2009

Kirk Is A Rocket Man

With all things Star Trek hot for summer, this video is making the rounds again. It's William Shatner's infamous performance of "Rocket Man" on the Science Fiction Film Awards in 1978. Recently, even Shatner himself has admitted embarrassment over this performance which he claims was meant to be a joke. Hmmmmm...then why does he look so damn serious?





May 21, 2009

Dunkin's Next Donut...You Decide

Back in April, I posted about Dunkin' Donuts design your own donut contest. Well, they have announced the finalists and, just like IDOL, America can now vote for their favorite. Though my "Double Nutter Surprise" creation (picture above) did not make the final dozen there is a suspiciously similar entry called "A Nutter One" from the mysterious Carol D. in Palm Beach, FL. Damn--bitch stole my donut! I think I'm voting for the Oreo one, currently holding a healthy lead. Which is your favorite? The finalists will meet up for bake-off in Braintree, MA (home of Dunkin') on May 28th. Maybe I should take the Chinatown Bus up for that....think of the free donuts!

May 20, 2009

Who You Gonna Call? Ghostbusters 3

As the summer movie season kicks into gear this weekend with Terminator: Salvation, there is news that a trequel is in the works for the long dormant Ghosbusters franchise. Dan Ackryod says that the original cast will be reuniting to hand over their nuclear-powered, ectoplasmic containment modules to a new generation of paranormal scientists. Ackroyd would like to see an all-girl trio of Ghostbusters, and even suggests casting Alyssa Milano and Eliza Dushku. It all sounds like a cute idea, but then again, so did Ghostbusters II.

May 19, 2009

Star Trek Online...For Free

A friend in Virginia who is huge fan of the original Star Trek (or TOS) tipped me off to the fact that TOS fan favorites were on the MSN video site. Well, on further inspection, I discovered that in fact all 80 episodes are available for free, streaming on the site. Semi-unbelievable but true. Since then I've been watching one a day....it's sorta like my new daily vitamin. I feel so much better!

One of my favorites I watched last night was Episode 4, "The Naked Time". This is the one where everyone on the Enterprise catches a virus that makes them go crazy. Even Spock, who gets all teary...over a girl! George Takei aka "Sulu" has said this is his favorite episode, probably because he's running around without a shirt and brandishing a fencing foil--you go girl! :) I'm also convinced that this has to be one of the favorites of Star Trek 2.0 director JJ Abrams as there were a number of bits that ended up in the new movie; Spock admits to being in love with a crew member (and not the same one in the movie!), Kirk and Spock get in a big emotional fisticuffs, Bones shoots up an out-of-it Kirk with an antidote, and there is a spacey/trippy time travel moment at the end. Hmmmmm.

As they say, if you're going to steal then steal from the best. And this one is a TOS classic. Next on my viewing list, "A Piece of The Action" where the crew all end up in the 1920's brandishing "heaters" instead of phasers.

May 18, 2009

Boy Scouts Fight Terrorism?

You read that right...the Boys Scouts of America are in the fight to eliminate the global threat of terrorism, not to mention illegal aliens and renegade pot growers.

There was a fascinating and disturbing NY Times article this weekend, talking about how through their Explorer division, teenage boy scouts and even some girl scouts are engaged in simulated drug busts and hostage rescue situations with guns that shoot small pellets for ammo.
 
As a former Boy Scout who enjoyed my stint as a Tenderfoot doing simple things like pitching tents, roasting marshmallows and learning how to tie knots, it's somewhat alarming to see that 21st century scouting has come to this. Being a kid used to be fun but this....it just looks pretty grim to me. 

May 15, 2009

My Cover Story

Fellow YA writer Melissa C. Walker has an author blog in which she features the stories behind the covers of books by fellow teen novelists.

This week, she picked my first novel A REALLY NICE PROM MESS for the "Cover Story" treatment. And it's a good one; it's the true behind the scenes story of how my book cover got semi-censored by Barnes & Noble. No--not for anything gay about it. Just too much boobage! Seriously.

You can read the full
story here. And if you want to read the book, it's now in paperback from Simon & Schuster for only $9 bucks. As I say in the interview, the book is not your average prom story as it involves a bisexual drug dealer, a deaf stripper, a gay football player and a large contingent of the DC police force.

May 14, 2009

Crown Jewels & A Broken Arm

When I was a kid, one of my fondest memories of visiting New york was going to the Statue of Liberty, walking up the inside of her metal skirt on a circular staircase for 12 stories and looking out through the windows in her crown on the harbor. Amazing!

Now, after nearly 8 years of being closed for security and safety reasons, the crown is reopening, as
the TIMES reported. Starting July 4th, small groups will be able to to go up the staircase to the top and see that same magical view of the harbor.

However, access to Lady Liberty's arm and torch will remain closed, as it has been for 90 years. I remember as a kid wanting desperately to go up to the arm. But passage has been restricted to maintenance workers only because the arm is structurally unsound for larger groups. Strangely enough, the reason for its unsoundness was a terrorist attack.

Back in 1916, during WWI, German saboteurs set off a massive explosion on a munitions loading dock near Ellis Island. The
Black Tom Explosion (named after the island where the docks were located) was the most serious act of espionage on US soil during the war. And the explosion was massive, the equivalent of an earthquake measuring between 5.0 and 5.5 on the Richter Scale. It was even felt as far away as Philadelphia! Windows broke as far as 25 miles away, including thousands in lower Manhattan. And the statue's arm, after being showered with debris, was damaged so badly it was permanently closed.

This website has a great narrative of the whole incident if you want to read more about it....a fascinating bit local history.

May 13, 2009

The Tempermentals

I recently saw a wonderful new play by Jon Marans called THE TEMPERMENTALS. It's all about the founding of the Mattachine Society, the first gay rights organization that got its start way back in 1950. The play is a fascinating look at a time when even saying the word "homosexual" was dangerous. Michael Urie, the lead from my film "WTC View" who is now on ABC's UGLY BETTY, plays a Hollywood fashion designer whose identity as one of the founders of the group was kept secret for more than 30 years.

Rudy Gernreich got his start with the studios but became a fashion force in the 1960's and even ended up on the cover of TIME magazine. But what I love most is that he was a guest star on one of my favorite episodes of BATMAN (a Catwoman episode, of course!). He even designed the outfits for another childhood favorite show SPACE: 1999. In his performance as Rudy, Michael is amazing in the show, as is the whole cast lead by Thomas Jay Ryan as Harry Hay.

After getting a great
review in the NY Times, it will be moving to a larger space soon and running through June. Check SmartTix for more details on tickets and availability....definitely worth seeing.

May 12, 2009

I'm Hailing Them On All Frequencies

OK--brace yourself for a Code Red geek alert. You can now buy a Star Trek communicator which works as a VoIP handset for your computer to talk on Skype or iChat. And it's certainly cheaper than some headsets at $44. It will not beam you up anywhere but it's still a pretty cool accesory for those Trekkers (not Trekkies!) out there. Including me :)

May 11, 2009

America's Worst Mom?

I was watching ABC World News last night when, in honor of Mother's Day, they had a story about a New Yorker, Lenore Skenazy, who was being called "America's Worst Mom". Lenore believes in the concept of "Free Range Kids" which also happens to be the title of a book and blog on the subject. Go figure. Anyway, her parenting philosophy is to let her kid roam around on his own, doing his own thing....a notion that's totally anathema to today's so-called "Helicopter Parents", who hover over their children at all times.

The big crime which earned her the "Worst Mom" label was that she had let her child, an adorably bright kid with a huge Jewfro, ride the subway at age 9 and the LIRR at 10. Unaccompanied. Cue horror music. Now this story is a great headline but if you really think about it, it's not as terrible as it sounds. The subway is not some sort of horror show and hasn't been for a good 20 years. I see kids riding on it often, usually in groups but definitely under 13. Personally, my biggest concern about putting a child on the subway would be not so much the danger factor but more that the NYC subway can be so damn confusing, especially with all the service advisories lately. But Lenore's kid asked her if he could do this and, as a city kid, had already been on the subway countless times and knew where he was going.

There is a general feeling these days that the world is very "dangerous" for children. There are predators everywhere...or at least that's the impression you'll get if you watch DATELINE. However, Justice Dept. stats show that crimes against children remaine relatively unchanged over the last 40 years. They are incredibly rare (115 abductions in 2006, in a country of 300 million) and when they do occur, wholly sensationalized and overpublicized.

Growing up in the seemingly pastoral 70's and 80's, I was lucky to have a pretty free range existence, walking to school starting at age 7 and roaming the general Kensington, MD area without parental supervision. But there was nothing extraordinary about it either. And, not only did I survive, I thrived and had a great childhood filled with adventure and mischief, as all childhoods should be. Lenore makes the point that some kids these days are prisoners of their parents irrational fears. Though that may make for a perfectly safe and heremetically sealed childhood, she believes it's not exactly helping kids grow into responsible, self-sufficient adults.

May 8, 2009

"Dammit Jim!" -- Bones Is Back

Being the film geek that I am, I went to see the new STAR TREK at midnight last night and, I have to say, it's fantastic! For someone who was never keen on the "Next Generation" or all the other TV spinoffs, the new movie revives the spirit of the original series (or TOS, as Trekkies say) and brings it roaring back to life in some familiar as well as unexpected ways.

The cast was uniformly great but Karl Urban, playing "Bones" McCoy was a standout. He boldly goes where none of his other crew mates dare by going for a true imitation of his predecessor, the cranky DeForrest Kelley, while also adding his own unique spin to the role. I had never really heard of this actor but he did look familiar, apparently because he was in two of the "Lord of the Rings" movies. Below is an interview about his breakthrough role with some Auckland press (he's a New Zealander) which is quite good, if a little long. No spoilers so feel free to check it out before or after you see the movie. But this guy is one to watch...as is the movie.


May 7, 2009

Star Trek Porn (SFW)

With the new sexed-up "Star Trek" opening across the country tomorrow, I was recently reminded how the original 1960's era show was pretty racy itself.

I was flipping channels late one night and came upon an episode "Star Trek" or TOS as the fanboys like to call it ("The Original Series"). It was the one where the Enterprise arrives at a planet where Nazi's are in charge, due to a Federation captain who thought he could take Hitler's model of government and use it for good. Well, that didn't quite work out how he'd planned.

Anyway, Kirk and Spock ended up in shirtless in jail and the whole thing looked kinda porny to me. Vintage Shatner was one of my first boyhood crushes but I didn't recall Spock being such a sexy otter! I created a slide show of some screen caps I took and, I gotta say, it sorta looks like scenes from a '60s prison porn flick. So here's the old TOS hunks workin' their shirtless magic.

May 6, 2009

Kensington Television

When I was home this week, I went up to the little strip mall in downtown K-Town that, when I was growing up, was home to the 7-11, a barbershop, the consignment store, a florist and an old TV repair shop. I noticed that amazingly they were all still there, though the 7-11 had gone upscale as some sort of fancy "Market" that served croissants and macchiatos as well as Hostess snack products.

But what amazed me most was the TV repair shop. It has not changed at all not only since I was a kid but it looks like since maybe the mid-1950s as indicated by the listing of the "Dumont" brand above the door.
Dumont not only manufactured top of the line sets in the 40's and 50's but it was also the original fourth television network. The nascent network broke up in 1956 due to a lack of stations and stars. After that, Dumont TV's were still manufactured by Emerson for a few years. But now, like this store, they are relics of a lost era.

Though Kensington Television listed actual business hours, I peeked in didn't see much activity inside. Or anyone in the store for that matter. The interior was stacked with old antique sets and radios. It made a nice window display though, a sort of living Smithsonian right in my hometown.

May 5, 2009

DC Recognizes Same Sex Marriage

Today the DC City Council voted 12-1 to recognize gay unions performed in other states.  Go Washington!  

So you may be wondering who was the one holdout in the 90%-plus Democratic District.  It was none other that self-described "moral leader" and infamous ex-Mayor Marion Barry.  OK--I thought this guy was dead.  Or at least not an elected official anymore.  But the formerly crack-addicted mayor who has been married four times(!) has a big problem with the morality of marriage equality.  Really?  Seriously?!  I'll let him explain himself.... 



May 4, 2009

My Sister-In-Law Is A Flamenco Dancer

For reals!  This weekend I went to see her perform at the American Dance Institute in Rockville. She did this incredible solo performance that she choreographed herself.  It was so good it made me want to go to Spain!  Here's a one-minute clip that I took with my camera.  Congrats Cecilia....Ole! 

video

May 1, 2009

Where Were You In 1982...Knoxville?

27 years ago today the Knoxville World's Fair opened. With the theme of "Energy Turns The World", the fair was a huge deal that year...remember all those TV ads saying how "You've Got To Be There"? I remember wanting to go badly, mainly because I didn't have that much to do during the sumer of '82. Also, I had always been fascinated by World's Faris and their monorails and pavilions and fireworks. However, my dad was not interested, adding that it was "just a tourist trap".

He was probably right but still it would have been fun to go up in the Sunsphere. I think I drew pictures of it all over my Algebra text book. Also, there were some miraculous inventions that were first seen at the fair, like Cherry Coke and touch screen monitors. The world has never been the same. If you're nostalgic like I am, I found this bizzaro photo along with others here.

What's remarkable is that is really was the last world's fair that was pretty popular and even turned a profit...though it was just 57$. Really. However, in Knoxville they are still paying off debt in the form of bonds issued nearly 30 years ago to get the whole thing up and runnning. And perhaps this is why World's Fair's have gone the way of the monorail....