July 31, 2009

Mad About The "Mad Men"

I'm still tearing through Season 2 of MAD MEN on DVD and loving every booze soaked, cigarette smoke filled minute of it. In fact, I'm so into the world of MAD MEN that I MAD MEN-ed myself today. Yep, that's me above, circa 1962, heading into my copy writing job at Sterling & Cooper with my morning doughnut, of course. I think I really got my hair just right too, though it took more than a dab of Brylcreme. Behind me is Joan in one her classic bombshell dresses, either waving hello or giving me a sassy WTF look regarding my casual Friday attire which is about 3 decades too early. God, I love Joan...especially when she gets all bitchy!

Anyway, you can create your own MAD MEN avatar online at
www.madmenyourself.com. I think it's the perfect way to waste some time and/or procrastinate on a summer Friday morning. Hey--it worked for me!

July 30, 2009

Someone Wants To Ban My Book

You would think in 2009 that talk of actually banning books would be a thing of the past. Well, not in West Bend, Wisconsin where local Christians are in an uproar about books promoting the "gay lifestyle" at their local library. The big difference now is that they are not using the word "ban" but instead, asking for the books to be "not carried', "recategorized for adults" or placed in the "Reference section". These people are getting smarter...and scarier too.

Recently, CNN reported on this
story which actually started back in February when West Bend couple Jim and Ginny Maziarka left a letter in the library's overnight book drop containing a list of 38 books (including my first novel "A Really Nice Prom Mess") which they wanted removed from the Young Adult section of the West Bend Library due to the portrayal of gay characters and so-called "pornographic" situations. Additionally, they asked the library to remove a page from their website which listed 58 LGBT YA titles. In early June, after a contentious public meeting and circulated petitions, the library's board voted not to remove the webpage or the YA titles putting the issue to rest...for now.

Yesterday, I got in touch with West Bend's wonderful YA Librarian Kristin Pekoll, who informed me that there are currently no challenges to these books and all the listed books remain availble in the teen section. Which is where they belong. I mean, can you imagine someone looking for a book about a gay dude going to prom in the Reference section?! They'd never find it...which was exactly the point. However, the Maziarka's have promised to continue their efforts to rid the library of these books and have even suggested a list of other titles the library should add to their collection; charming books like "The Battle for Normality" and "Homosexual No More"(!).

All this is to say that the fight goes on. Personally, I'm thankful for librarians and staff like the group at West Bend who fought and won their skirmish in this ongoing battle. Each year there are more than 500 book challenges at libraries across the US. In fact, earlier this month the American Library Association celebreated it's annual Banned Book Week
as a way to keep people vigilant about this persistent and insidious threat. As Oscar Wilde put it so well, "“There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”

July 29, 2009

She Bust The Windows Out Your Car

A great new clip from FOX's new high school show "GLEE" has been posted online...along with news that the series will start up again on September 9, a week earlier than originally planned. FOX aired the pilot for this unique musical comedy after the "American Idol" finale in May leaving fans hanging for four months for the next episode. A lucky few saw episode 2 at Outfest in LA and there were raves--GregInHollywood has some details and great pix.

Anyway, if you haven't seen GLEE, it's on HULU and it's amazing. One of the best pilot episodes for a series I've seen in years. But then again, as a gay man who writes teen novels/movies, I just might be their target audience.

July 28, 2009

GeekOut! It's The New Tron 2 Trailer

Alright...I know I posted about this before, but Disney released a new HD trailer at ComicCon '09 last week and it is badass. The only thing about it that sucks is that we have to wait til next year to see it. Originally, the release date was 2011 but I guess having seen the rabid fan boy response to that first trailer, someone at the Mouse House got wise and moved it up.

Though I often complain about today's action movies resembling computer games (see ridiculous jungle chase in "Indiana Jones 4" or any scene from "Fast Furious 4"), Tron Legacy would be the exception to this rule because, uh, it is a video game. Except now with deadly consequences!

July 27, 2009

The Lady Is A Champ

On Saturday night, I went to Joe's Pub to see the amazing Lady Rizo in her first solo show. It was fantastic! She has been described as everything from a modern Mae West to a male Justin Bond to a naughty Barbra Streisand. But the bottom line is that this Lady is one of the most dynamic and original and hysterically funny performers I have seen on the downtown circuit in quite a few years. And she easily held the stage on her own, like she's been doing it for years. As it turns out, she has...sorta.

She has performed at Joe's, the Highline Ballroom and other venues around town along with the Burlesque honeys "The Assettes". She's also an accomplished recording artist, having worked with Moby and Yo-Yo Ma. But seeing her live is the thing. Her 90 minute show had a little bit of everything, from her unique covers of pop songs (Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" as a polka? YES) to her heartbreaking singing on ballads like "Lilac Wine". There was even a rousing Edith Piaf number which practically turned into an audience sing-a-long.

She also had a sassy, spontaneous rapport with the audience between numbers that was often hiliarious. She even asked a couple people in the crowd to come onstage and help her with her costume changes, of which there were a few. This is a woman who wears gowns like nobody's business yet, by the end of the show, had showered her torso in glitter while wearing a sheer wrap. Now that's range!

At one point, Lady Rizo lamented that not enough people were writing about her. So I'm going to start a trend here with my second Hi-Fi post about her, after previously mentioning her standout appearance in Your Hit Parade at Joe's Pub back in April. If you want to check out this uniquely talented chanteuse, she's at Joe's Pub solo again this Friday July 31st. And back again with her Assettes on August 22nd and 23rd. You will be entertained....I guarantee it.

July 24, 2009

Star Trek Meets "The A-Team"

There have been many versions of this genre of mash-up on You Tube, where someone takes an ensemble drama and mixes it into the opening sequence of "The A-Team". The "Star Trek" one is my favorite. Of course, I'm a big Trekker so that has something to do with it. But they've done the best job matching the original opening shot by shot...and there is one section where I consistently LOL, the freeze frame moment above where Spock jams. Check it out...and have a fun weekend!

July 23, 2009

Obama Born In The USA....Still

Believe it or not, there are still people in this country who think President Obama is not a US citizen. A disturbing YouTube video was featured last night on the NBC Nightly News, showing a "birther" at a recent town hall meeting in Delaware getting all bent out of shape because she wants "my country" back.

Fortunately, Brian Williams followed this with a thoughtful discussion including Washington correspondent Pete Williams about how most reasonable Republicans (even somewhat unresonable Michael Medved!) don't believe this is true. They also recalled how this issue has dogged Presidents and candidates from John McCain (born in the Panama Canal zone) to Barry Goldwater (born in Arizona when it was a territory) to President Chester Arthur (born in northern Vermont but maybe the woods of Canada). They then aired a piece thoroughly debunking the notion that Obama is not an American, producing not only the mystical Obama birth certificate but also a birth notice in the Honolulu daily paper published a week after he was born.

I find it curious this non-story, a regularly recurring one throughout the 2008 campaign, is even in the news again...especially in the first segment of the evening news. But then I realized that this week, the President is trying to push through a massive reform of the nation's health system. As happened throughout the campaign, the re-emergence of this issue is yet another distraction from the real issue at hand; the health care crisis in this country. After 20 years of political distractions from Vince Foster to Monica Lewinsky to Swift Boats to Sarah Palin, it's time for our government to take care of business...namely the business of the nation's health. And that's what this American President is trying to do.

July 22, 2009

That Bearded Guy On "Mad Men" Is Kinda Cute

I never particularly noticed actor Michael Gladis as one of the ad boys on AMC's brilliant, Emmy award winnning series "Mad Men". But as I work my way through Season 2 via DVD, I find myself intrigued and somewhat drawn towards his character, the debonair, nattily dressed junior adman "Paul Kinsey". Maybe it's just the new beard, which gives him a sort of early Orson Welles quality. Or maybe it's the way his character is so 60's-style suave, drinking brandy at a party or puffing on a pipe in the office. He's also the one guy on the show who seems to have aspirations outside of advertising, as he pecks away on his Great American Novel using an IBM Selectric (stolen from the office even!). Finally, he's causing a stir at Sterling/Cooper with his new relationship with a black woman. So Paul seems to be the new, subversive bad boy of the bunch. And he's kinda cute too.

July 21, 2009

Big Changes For Bleecker Street Station

The Bleecker Street station on the 6 line has been one of my regular "home-stations" for nearly 20 years. Oddly enough, though many other subway stations in my neighborhood have been restored, rebuilt or renovated, Bleecker remains the same cramped, dank, crappy station since I moved here. In fact, the last major upgrade the station received was in the 1940's when the platforms were lengthened to accommodate longer trains.
This summer, the MTA has finally begun a renovation that has long been in the works. The plan is to connect the uptown 6 with the Broadway-Lafayette station with escalators and a new entrance. Some architectural renderings were recently released and posted about on Second Avenue Sagas, my favorite subway blog. It's going to be long time before the project's done, not til 2011. But it looks like the fancy new, multilevel station with cool neon artwork will be well worth the wait.

July 20, 2009

From The Earth To The Moon Via Bethpage

In case you've missed out on the nostalgia-fest, today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. The airwaves and the Internets are filled with the famous clips, the iconic sound bites and the now elderly astronauts reminiscing about their heyday. I didn't think there was too much to add to this hubub until I read an article in today's TIMES about how NASA built all the lunar modules on Long Island, at a Grumman plant in Bethpage.
In fact, LI has a long history of being at the forefront of aerospace research and design, going back to Lindy's trans-Atlantic flight that left from Roosevelt Field (now Roosevelt Mall) back in 1927. Today, Long Island is known more for it's traffic jams and the Hamptons than for anything actually being built there. But it's interesting to note the major role it played in today's historic anniversary.

July 19, 2009

Cupcake of the Week: World's Largest

At the Mall of America (of course!), the world's largest cupcake was unveiled Saturday. Can you say slow news-weekend? Frankly, as much as I love cupcakes, I think there is something ridiculous and oxymoronic about it. The point of a cupcake is that it's a small, handheld cake. I mean, would someone ever try to create the world's largest minivan? Anyway, here's the deets from Fox News.

July 17, 2009

Shirtless Dudes From Cali Hit Soho....TOTALLY

I was walking home from the subway yesterday when I spotted two shirtless dudes wearing boardshorts and sunscreen on their noses, standing at the corner of Broadway & Houston. Apparently, they are the permanent doormen at the new Hollister store in Soho which just opened yesterday. Curious to see what that was all about, I stepped into the "Hollister Pier" which is a four story quasi-recreation of the Huntington Beach pier with supposedly live feeds of the real beach playing on Hi-Def windows.

Other than those windows, the space was incredibly dark and felt more like one of those "Dark Rides" at the boardwalk except, instead of a skeleton popping out from every corner, there were shirtless guys all saying the exact same thing; "Hey Man--what's up?" Scar-reeee! I wandered around and, no joke, was greeted 12 times in the roughly 10 minutes I was in the store. Oddly enough, I didn't see one cash register in the joint which I thought was odd given it is, like, a store and all. But there were piles of t-shirts with faux retro prints and board shorts that were nearly evening-gown length. I guess if you actually wanted to buy something one of the buff dudes would help you out, fer sure!

Anyway, the place is worth checking out for it's curiosity as a retail theme park. It also serves as a lovely respite from the July heat...they had the best air conditioning! Totally.

July 16, 2009

The White House on Flickr

There's been a lot of talk about transparency in government since President Obama took office. But did you know the White House has it's own Flickr page? I just found out today via The Awl and there are some interesting shots. Not exactly behind-the-scenes but at least more than the standard press conference and shake-a-foreign-leader's-hand pics you'll find on a news website.
If you want a little more spice, you can take a look at the Awl's feature where they've added some goofy captions (from The Daily Beast's Ana Marie Cox and Huffington Post's Jason Linkins) to some of the odder photos, like the one above: "Why yes, I'm very interested in your long distance plan." LOL. This is like the stuff we tried to sneak into my high school newspaper when the advisor wasn't looking.

July 15, 2009

Harry Potter is So Gay Friendly

The new Harry Potter movie opens today, which promises to be somewhat more adult than the previous flicks. In keeping with that theme, Towleroad posted a fairly adult looking Daniel Radcliffe pic today as well as a link to an interview on Moviefone in which Radcliffe, in repsonse to a question about the newly out Dumbledore, talks freely about how cool he is with the fact that people think he has a "gay face". His attitude is so gay-positive for the major star of a studio franchise that I had post it. Not only is Radcliffe talented but he sounds very bright, cheeky and, as he himself says, even a bit camp.

July 14, 2009

The Most Hated Filmmaker In America

Despite grossing over $300 million in less than a month, the "Transformers" sequel is clearly one of the most profitable films of the year. It is also one of the most hated by film critics, garnering a low 19% on the Tomotao Meter @ Rotten Tomatoes. While some of their critical vitriol is directed at the film and Hollywood franchises in general, a great deal of it is aimed at Michael Bay, the film's infamous director. Here's a sampling:
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” directed by the stunningly, almost viciously, untalented Michael Bay, is much closer to the norm of today’s conglomerate filmmaking." DAVID DENBY, The New Yorker

"You may recall that its 2007 predecessor was a mostly capable commercial for Transformers toys and Bay's previous films, from which most of the iconography was lifted as the man continues to pay homage to his favorite filmmaker." ROBERT WILONSKY, Village Voice

"It's tempting to dismiss Michael Bay's long, loud and ludicrous sequel to 2007's Transformers with one word — hunkajunk. It carves out its own category of godawfulness. I do accept that Bay is unique. No one can top him for telling a story with such striking, shrieking incoherence." ROLLING STONE, Peter Travers
And those are the nice reviews. When I was in film school, there was the notion that getting any reaction from an audience was what was desirable, whether it was love or cinema vendettas. Thus, one could argue that Bay is a master of terrible cinema. In fact, the NY TIMES reviewer Manhola Dargis suggests just that: "Make no mistake: Mr. Bay is an auteur. His signature adorns every image in his movies, as conspicuously as that of Lars von Trier, and every single one is inscribed with a specific worldview and moral sensibility. Mr. Bay’s subject — overwhelming violent conquest — is as blatant and consistent as his cluttered mise-en-scène."

Though I'd agree his movies are consistently terrible, I don't know if that makes one an auteur. According to the Encylcopedia Brittanica, auteur is defined as "
theory of filmmaking in which the director is viewed as the major creative force in a motion picture." In the case of Mr. Bay in general and "Transformers" in particular, I'd have say to the major creative force is the EFX department followed closely by marketing. It is, afterall, a movie about Hasbro toys.

Though TROTF has proven to be "review-proof", it's hated director may not be. In a curious turn of events, despite the franchise's nearly billion dollar success, Bay says he will not be directing the next Transformers movie which Paramount has announced for July 2011. On his own website, he said he's had enough of robots. Is this code for film critics, perhaps?

July 13, 2009

Does Anyone Remember "Blansky's Beauties"?

While watching a "Rhoda" marathon on DVD over the weekend, a lively discussion about TV spin-offs ensued. Rhoda was a character from the "Mary Tyler Moore" show, the neighbor who was so quirky she got her own quirky show. Remember Carlton the Doorman? I mentioned that "Happy Days", which itself was a spin-off from a "Love American Style" segment, holds the world record for most spin-offs with 7. My friend found this hard to believe until I started listing them ("Laverene & Shirley", "Mork & Miny", "Joanie Loves Chaci"). When I got to one of the less successful ones, "Blansky's Beauties", it sounded to my friend like I was making shit up. Unfortunately, I was not.

BB was all about a cousin of Mr. Cunningham, Nancy Blanksy played by Nancy Walker, who happened to be den mother to a bunch of showgirls in Vegas. With scantily clad young ladies and lots of dance numbers, it was part of ABC's "jiggle TV" initiative that sorta put the network on the map ratings-wise, starting with "Charlies Angels". But I remember the show vividly less for the jiggle and more because I love dance numbers! :) Anyway, I found a clip of the show's opening which is 70's classic; cheesy song, freeze-frames and all.

July 10, 2009

America's Tweetheart

As you may have heard, Sarah Palin's "tweets" became big news after she hastily resigned her governorship, giving her only public statements since her rambling resignation on Twitter. So in case you're curious about what she's been up to this week or just looking for a giggle, here's Sarah Palin's Twitter Page. However, I think she'll have to change that "AKGov" handle soon. Any suggestions?

July 9, 2009

Movies Under The Bridge

Though the drive-in movie is only a hazy memory, the sit-in movie is the alive and well here in New York City. There are multiple venues this summer showing free outdoor movies. Tonite, "Movies with a View" in Brooklyn Bridge Park kicks off their 10th season with a screening of the Cohen Brothers comedy classic, "Raising Arizona". A newer series with the opposite view (lower Manhattan to Brooklyn) takes place on the Elevated Acres at 55 Water Street on Monday nights. The original "Taking of Pelham 1,2,3" shows there on the 13th. Additionally, there are two series on the Hudson River Piers, one for families on Fridays, with kid friendly fare, and one for adults on Wednesdays, showing the hits of summer '08. The grandaddy series of them all is still going strong in Bryant Park, with "How Green is my Valley" set to screen next Monday. Sponsored by HBO for over 15 years now, one of the unique aspects of this venue is the live performance of the wacky "HBO Dance" that the audience participates in at the start of the show. Only in New York, kids...

July 8, 2009

A Village Institution Closes Its Doors

After 45 years, Joe Jr.'s burger joint and diner on 6th Ave & 12th has closed. The last burger was flipped over the weekend and, only a few days later, the place has been gutted according to Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. The reason? Another landlord dispute. This seems to be happening all too frequently downtown where a thriving local business is wiped out, often to be replaced by nothing. It's been over a year since Florent closed in the meatpacking district when the landlord there tried to triple the rent and the store remains vacant. It's really a shame because not only were the burgers great at Joe's it had some hearty atmosphere on the side. I loved that old lunch counter with the swivel chairs. (Photo courtesy of Brian Dube's New York Daily Photo blog)

July 7, 2009

NetPix: Out of The Past

One of my guilty cinema pleasures is film noir. This is the genre that was most popular from the 1940s and 50s in which crime doesn't pay, but sure as hell makes for some entertaining movies. There are the all-time classics like "Double Indeminty", "Sunset Boulevard" and "The Maltese Falcon". But one of my personal favorites is a little gem from 1947 called "Out of the Past." I've seen it more than a few times but recently came up on my Netflix and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

If you've ever wondered why Michael Douglas has a career, you can thank his father Kirk who turns it out as one of the coolest bad guys of all time. Also, there's a ridiculously young and sexy Robert Mitchum playing the sap in this story of love and revenge all centered around one feisty dame, as they used to say. The lady in question is Kathy Moffat, played by the smoldering Jane Greer, who Mitchum is sent to look for when she goes on the lam in Mexico. From the moment they meet in a dark bar, you know this one's gonna be good. And bad. Not to mention everything in between.

Stylishly directed by Jacques Tourneur ("Cat People", "I Walked With A Zombie" and even a classic episode of "The Twilight Zone"), this is one of the most beautifully shot b/w movies you'll ever see. The compositions are precise and the lighting always accentuates the mood. And dramatically, it's a roller coaster. I still I found myself reacting audibly to some of the film's crazier twists and turns. And check out some of the killer dialogue:

Ann Miller: She can't be all bad. No one is.
Jeff Bailey: Well, she comes the closest.

Kathie Moffat: Oh, Jeff, I don't want to die!
Jeff Bailey: Neither do I, baby, but if I have to I'm gonna die last.
You'll find a million more lines like this throughout the film. As for how it all ends, I'm not gonna give away the shocker finale re; who actually dies last. So check it out and enjoy a wild trip to Hollywood's past.

July 6, 2009

The British Foreign Secretary is Kinda Cute

After being advised by a number of friends and writers that I need to feature more "cute guys" on my blog, I am caving. Sorta. As a semi-irregular feature, I will be posting about slightly unconventional hotties, like the gentleman pictured here.

This is
David Miliband, the current British Foreign Secretary. For real! You wouldn't know it from this picture of him leaving 10 Downing Street for vacation. It looks more like something from the J Crew catalog.

Anyway, I happened upon an interview with him this weekend on a chat show (as they say in the UK), and found him to be incredibly charming and kinda cute. He's been in the UK government for almost 15 years, starting under Tony Blair and is reportedly very Blair-like. He is one of the youngest Foreign Secretaries and the first British cabinent member to have a blog. I'm in love already--except for one tiny little problem. He's married. Ah well....nobody's perfect.

July 5, 2009

I Like The Jungle Manahatta

There's a fascinating exhibit that recently opened at the Museum of the City of New York called "Manhattan/Manahatta" that takes a look at what this island looked like before all that construction. Apparently, it was something of a natural wonder....who knew? And, in a TIMES article about the show, there's this choice quote from the show's creator, Eric W. Sanderson:

“If Mannahatta existed today as it did then, it would be a national park — it would be the crowning glory of American national parks.”

Loooking at the pictures, like the one above, it's not hard to see why. The Museum also has more specific computer generated photos where you can look up your neighborhood and find, say, a freshwater stream running through it. On Houston Street, I am forutnate enough to get to see a piece of anicent-school NYC everyday at the Time Landscape, a mini-park on the corner of Houston & LaGuardia where the land has been restored to it's pre-people state. It's a gentle, daily reminder of the natural wonder this place of man-made wonders used to be.

July 3, 2009

Happy 50th Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Tomorrow, the 4th of July, marks this nation's 233rd birthday. It also marks 50 years of marriage for my folks, Robert and Mary Grace Sloan. A couple weeks ago, we had a big family celebration at the Nemacolin resort in western Pennyslvania where my brother Tim, a photojournalist for Agence France Press, took this beautiful shot before the cutting of the cake.

My dad is wearing the same white dinner jacket he wore for the big day in Scranton, PA back in 1959. I know that jacket well as I wore it to my junior prom in the 80's. And my brothers sported it to a couple formals as well. I'm amazed it survived us, more of less 50 years, but things were made better and stronger back then. Just like marriages! :)

Though I won't be with them for the big day tomorrow, I want to wish them the best and thank them for keeping it together for five decades. Happy anniversary mom and dad...and wishing you many more to come!

July 2, 2009

Strand Releasing Celebrates 20 Years

Indie film stalwart Strand Releasing is celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. Over two decades, they have presented a remarkable mix of titles, from Greg Araki's "The Living End" to some of the more interesting international films, like "Head On". They were recently honored at the Provincetown Film Festival and for the next week, MOMA is presenting a "carte blanche" series of Strand titles at their theater on 53rd Street.

Personally, celebrating this anniversary means a lot to me. I've been a member of the Strand family since 1994, when they gave me my start in the film business by picking up my NYU thesis film "Pool Days" and releasing it as part of the "Boys Life" shorts package. Playing around the country on 50 screens, it was such a hit it spawned a series of "Boys Life" compilations. They also were executive producers on my first feature "I Think I Do" and I returned the favor as executive producer of "Boys Life 4", which they also released.

Tonight, there was a wonderful reception to celebrate Strand at the Agnes B. store in Soho. The NY indie world was out in force (including Ted Hope, Christine Vachon, Dylan Leiner, Ryan Werner, and even Charles Busch) to honor their remarkable two-decade run. Congrats Marcus & Jon and long may the Strand banner wave!

July 1, 2009

Cupcake of the Week: The Cupcake Truck

It was inevitable--after seeing the Mud Truck, Dessert Truck and Gelato Truck tooling around the city, the Cupcake Truck has arrived!
I spotted it parked at 5th Ave and 13th the other day. That's usually where it sits during the day...around 5pm it moves up to 23rd Street between 7th and 8th. If for some reason you can't find it, the Cupcake Truckers are always updating their location and advertising deals on Twitter. Their specialty is the red velvet cupcake and the Oreo topper, pictured above. But sorry--the cute guy holding the tray is not included with purchase.

And what's next on the truck-food scene? If I were a betting man, I'd have to say the Whoopie-Pie Truck. Seriously. Mark my words...