September 30, 2009

Music Videos Waaay Before MTV

Most people date the birth music videos to that infamous August night in 1981 when MTV took to the cablewaves with "Video Killed The Radio Star". However, music videos actually got their start in the late 1950's with something called Scopitones. These were 16mm film clips with magnetic striped sound that played on a large, dimly lit screen planted on top of a jukebox. These early music videos were very popular in France and West Germany then migrated to the US around 1964.

Lately, Scopitones have been randomly popping up in my cultural consciousness. I watched a bunch of them on a's in-flight channel on Virgin America. Then a friend emailed this clip below of a handsome lad named Bobby Vee who had some big surfy hits in the early '60s. These proto-music videos are corny and silly with super-low production value but man, can those kids dance!

If you like this Bobby Vee number, there is a
whole website dedicated exclusively to Scopitone's with some pretty hilarious clips. I'd recommend Neil Sedaka doing "Calendar Girl". He's a very talented singer/songwriter and a pretty cute guy too but man, this white boy can't dance or even move his hands convincingly to the beat. But it doesn't stop him from trying, God bless him.

September 29, 2009

Chi-chi-chi-chia Obama

Somehow this one slipped under my cultural radar until yesterday, when I received a Chia Obama in the mail as a belated birthday present. I totally LOL'd on opening up the package and realizing it was not a gag but a true Chia-thingy that has been Obama-ized. There are two likenesses available, "determined" and "happy" (I got the serious Obama). Anyway, I'll keep you updated as the fro grows....

September 28, 2009

The Gay Youth of America

As a novelist who has written two books and more than a few screenplays with gay teen protagonists, I am often asked how realistic my portrayals of gay teens are and how many gay teens are really out in high school. Having done many school and library events in the last few years, I explain that there are plenty of out teens and that, if anything, my fictional characters are toned down versions of the gay teenagers in real life. Still, people always seem somewhat skeptical of my answers because I am a writer of a certain age.

This weekend, I read a thoughtful and remarkable article on the topic of gay teens by
Benoit Denizet-Lewis that was published in the TIMES magazine. The article, however, is not just about gay high schoolers.... it's about gay middle schoolers. Out gay middle schoolers.

As the average age at which people come out in high school keeps dropping, the tweeners have started getting in on the act, declaring their sexuality at even earlier ages. Kids as young as 11 are now self-identifying as gay. To research this phenomenon, Denizet-Lewis travels to Oklahoma and New England and North Carolina where he meets with tween students, some of whom are involved in Gay Straight Alliances groups. These GSA's, numbering more than 4,000 across the US, initially started forming in high schools but now are taking root in middle schools as kids figure out their orientation at younger and younger ages.

The intial slant of the article is that some people, parents in particular, find this shocking. Of course, if you ask any gay men when they truly knew they were gay, the age is usually even lower than 11. (There's a great book and subsequent HBO show called When I Knew which documents this fact.) There was one quote in the article that really stood out for me, from a mother reacting to her son Austin (pictured above), who has recently come out:
“We just couldn’t wrap our heads around the idea that Austin would know what he was at 13, and that he would want to tell other people.”
I find this statement curious in that most 13 year old straight boys know pretty damn well they like girls by that age. So why not guys?

Actually, many of the parents in the article, including the one quoted above are quite supportive of their gay or bi or questioning kids. In fact, the article ends with the touching story of Austin's father taking him to the Chicago Gay Pride Parade. It almost makes me wonder if the real story here is how much parents and parenting has changed in the last 20 years in regards to dealing with sexual orientation. Probably due to the Internets, kids seem to have a more open dialogue with their folks about sex and sexuality.

Anyway, this article is really a must-read for anyone curious about how much times have changed for gay kids today. Granted things are still tough in terms of acceptance and there is still a long ways to go, but it's really stunning to see how far things have progressed in the couples decades since I was in high school. It actually gives one hope.

September 25, 2009

Deep Fried Butter From Texas....Of Course

The world famous Texas State Fair opens today in Dallas. This year the fair's deep fried foods contest has 8 new entries that are being unleashed upon the public. There's deep fried peaches and cream, fried pecan pie, and fried peanut butter cup macaroons but the most insane is Deep Fried Butter. The genius inventor of this potentially murderous dessert is Alex Rodriguez, who explained it as whipped butter encased in a pastry shell and then deep fried til it hurts. You can watch the whole thing on this segment Fox News did when they were judging these desserts over Labor Day Weekend.

September 24, 2009

Subway Yearbook Photos

Those wacky guys at Improv Everywhere are at it again. This time they set up a photo studio on the 6 train, posed at MTA employees and asked passengers to be a part of the official subway "yearbook". Genius. Let's go to the video--

September 23, 2009

TIMES Reporter Jeff Zeleny Is Kinda Cute

OK--you're all like, uh, who the hell is Jeff Zeleny? He's a reporter for the NY TIMES who has been covering the Obama Administration since the beginning of the year. Just yesterday, he wrote about the White House intervention in the NY state governor's race.

Zeleny has also has been popping up as a talking head on chat shows this year due to his higher profile gig in DC. I saw him on PBS's Washington Week In Review a few months ago but he's also been on Charlie Rose, giving an extensive interview about Rod Blagojevich whom he covered in his years working for the Chicago Tribune. In fact, that's where I got this kinda cute still from.

Despite having asked an infamous silly question at Obama's first press conference, it's clear to me that Zeleny has a future in broadcast journalism. He's that geeky-cute, know-it-all kinda guy who doesn't lord his knowledge over you but simply tells you what he knows with a winning smile. And here's the real kicker...he's apparently gay. At least that's what the Internets say when you Google him.

In fact, my Googling turned up the surprising coincidence that there was
another gay blog that called him "kinda cute" earlier this year. Damn! But fortunately, that blogger has a boyfriend and I'm single so, for anyone paying attention, I saw him first. :) Regardless, I can guarantee you'll be seeing more of Jeff Zeleny in the future.

September 22, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me

Celebrate with Madonna's new song "Celebration", filmed with some very interesting fans from Milan and Barcelona. And a special guest appearance by her now teenage(!) daughter Lourdes dressed like a virgin. Now...who says Madonna fans can't dance?

September 21, 2009

Kickin' It Old School With "Ghost Busters"

He's done it's another video from the same editor who created the faux "Raiders" trailer circa 1954 that I featured here last week. Now he gives "Ghostbusters" the fake oldies treatment with hilarious results.

September 18, 2009

What is An Eruv

Time Out magazine has a weekly feature called "What's Up With That" where readers ask a question about some puzzlement of city life. This week's question deals with something I've wondered about myself for a while. Running down Bleecker Street and Houston Street, there are these lines of fishing wire strung up from lamposts. I thought it had something to do with the Christmas decorations that are hung across Bleecker every year. As it turns out, it does have some religious significance but not for Christianity.

The lines are marking an eruv, a boundary that runs from Houston to Harlem and marks the symbolic borders of the local Jewish community. There are 39 activities prohibited by Jewish law on the Sabbath and High Holidays (the highest of which, Rosh Hashanah starts today), one of which is carrying items outside the community. So with the erection of this community boundary Jews can carry things from the local deli or supermarket back to their apartment without breaking the law.

If you want to see the whole thing, it's here on Google maps. In 2007, the Manhattan eruv was
greatly expanded from midtown down to Houston Street. I thought it was odd that it wouldn't include the Lower East Side, historically one of the cities largest Jewish neighborhoods. But some more Orthodox forms of Judaism do not believe in the eruv boundaries and will not carrying anything outside their own community, which without an eruv means their apartment building and walled courtyard.

September 17, 2009

Kickin' It Old School With "Raiders Of The Lost Ark"

When I was flying Virgin America recently, I checked out their in-flight RED entertainment system. They had a channel for, one of the first and foremost sites for pop culture junkies like myself which always showcases interesting geeky stuff. Yesterday, they posted a real motherlode.

Some genius editor has stitched together a fake trailer of "Raiders" circa 1951....starring Charlton Heston. All the real film nerds out there will know that "Raiders" is said to be an uncredited remake of the 1954 flick "
Secret of the Incas", with Heston sporting the same fedora, pants and even half-shave as Harrison. Though there is a lot of "Secret" in this trailer, the crafty editor also used about 10 other films too, all referenced on his YouTube page. Check your movie knowledge and see how many you can name.

September 16, 2009

Me and The Prom on YouTube

Simon & Schuster has posted to YouTube an interview I did for their podcast about my first novel, "A Really Nice Prom Mess". Though I did this a couple years ago when the paperback was being released, I talked extensively about the biggest influence on my writing which was not another was John Hughes. Anyway, take a listen and if you're intrigued, you can pick up the book for under $10 on Amazon. Whatta bah-gain, right? :)

September 15, 2009

OMG--It's The Half-Birthday of Brian's Blog!

That's marks the 6-month anniversary of my blog, started way back on March 15th of this year. Yay! Also, I'm reaching a big milestone and one that I didn't think I'd see so quickly. Sometime this week I'll receive my 5,000th page view. I mean, that's pretty cool, right? The Internet likes really likes me! :)

So in celebration of my burgeoning "viewership" and my half-birthday today, I'm just going to post something I like that has no intrinsic news value or current cultural relevance or historical significance whatsoever. It's just one of my favorite YouTube videos of all time and I think you'll see why. So celebrate this mini-milestone with me and dance!

September 14, 2009

I Had The Time Of My Life

I can't think of any other film star in recent memory who truly made a name for himself instantly with 5 minutes of screen time. But that's exactly what Patrick Swayze did when he took his Baby for a spin in the ludicrous but utterly fantastic finale of "Dirty Dancing" (which I'd encourage you to watch on YouTube). Today, on hearing the news of his passing, I look back fondly on Patrick's star making moment.

I still remember quite vividly the day I saw that film (August 27, 1987), the place (White Flint Mall, Theater 1) and who I was with (both my parents, who I thought might enjoy the 60's angle....for the record they didn't). I also remember how, a week later when I returned to school in Boston, I went to Tower Records and asked if they had the soundtrack. Unbelievably, they didn't. The movie was such a surprise sleeper of a hit that the soundtrack didn't come out until October. I know this because I went to every record store in Boston for five weekends in a row looking for it. When it was finally released, it went to #1 on Billboard and stayed there for 18 weeks, going platinum 11 times over and selling more than 42 million copies.

Though Swayze had many roles in nearly 50 films and TV shows, with wonderful turns in "Ghost", "The Outsiders" and the mini-series "North & South", he will always be remembered for those 5 minutes and hey, there's nothing wrong with that. He walked onto that stage at Kellerman's just another cute, muscly aspiring Hollywood hunk and left it an icon. Not bad for few minutes work. Not bad at all...

September 11, 2009

New York Celebrates Its Quadcentennial

On September 11, 1609, Henry Hudson's ship sailed into New York's harbor and saw an extraordinary island fronting a massive river which now bears his name. Thus, today is the unofficial 400th birthday of what we now know as New York City.

The 13.5 mile island he found was named Mannahatta, which translated means "island of many hills". Though it didn't have anywhere near the 2 million people who live here today, Hudson did find some Lenape Indians who were its original inhabitants. They even allegedly killed one of his crewmen in what was New York's very first homicide.

Hudson also discovered a hard to imagine natural wonderland filled with soaring trees, countless streams and some gorgeous flora and fauna. To celebrate NYC's b-day, you can see what your block looked like 400 years ago by checking out
The Mannahatta Project website and typing in your address. Most likely you will find a field of trees, maybe a stream and, if you're lucky, perhaps even a swamp.

September 10, 2009

The Art of 9/11

As we arrive at the 8th anniversary this week of the 9/11 attacks, there is a whole lot of construction going on at Ground Zero (which you can watch via these webcams) but the Memorial (pictured here) is not scheduled to open for 2 years and the museum another 2 years after that.

In the meantime, The National September 11 Museum and Memorial has opened a storefront preview site just east of the former site of the World Trade Center. It has models of the plans for the site as well as a comprehensive history of what was there and what exactly happend on Setember 11. The Memorial also has a great new website. One interesting feature, is that they have started an
artist's registry on the site where artists have been posting works inspired by the 9/11. The registry includes everything from snapshots of the day itself to childrens' finger painting to some beautiful etchings and sculptures. It might be the best museum available until the real one opens in 2013.

September 9, 2009

The Wait Is Over--GLEE on Fox Tonite!

OK all you Gleeks out there....tonite is the night. After a four months long wait, Fox's awesome musical comedy series GLEE airs it's second episode at 9pm this evening. Yay! Things to look forward to: another pregnancy, musical numbers, more gayness for Kurt, and more musical numbers. Did I mention the show has musical numbers! :)

If you haven't seen it yet, below is a short preview of what to expect...a lil' Kanye via high school. Also, there's a newly released "directors cut" of the pilot episode available on Hulu. I just watched it to catch-up for tonite and there is some fun additional material that was cut out to make it fit in it's TV time slot.

September 8, 2009

Woman Jailed For Wearing Pants

In Sudan, it is not only illegal for women to wear pants but the punishment is 40 lashes. You read that right....40 lashes from a plastic whip. A public flogging for pants. Unbelievable.

Lubna Hussein was recently arrested along with some friends who were meeting for lunch, all dressed in loose fitting women's trousers. They were deemed to be prostitutes, arrested and lashed. Except, that is, for Lubna, who plead not guilty. Her trial concluded on Monday and CNN is now reporting that after refusing to pay a fine, she was jailed.

Curiously, there has been no word on all this from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is famous for sporting pants almost exclusively. You would think the outspoken Clinton would have something to say or do regarding this arcane, misogynistic law. Let's just hope that, with all this international attention, Lubna won't be in jail for long.

September 4, 2009

The Cyclone & The Last Days Of Summerrrrrr!!!!

Last night, I headed out to Coney Island for my annual summertime ride on the Cyclone. Though Coney is going through a rough transition right now where more is being torn down than built up, the Cyclone remains standing and continues to be the most awesome roller coaster on the planet. The picture above of me and my brother and my good friend Mark Sam plummeting down the first hill just about says it all.

If you're looking for end of summer fun, I'd encourage you to ride out to the end of the F, R or Q lines and take a spin on this 80-year old master class of a coaster. And, if you happen to go out tonite, they are having a Full-Moon Special! You get two dollars off the price of admission if you're dressed as a vampire or werewolf. Since the coaster is a little pricey at $8 bucks a pop ($5 for immediate re-rides!), it could be worth the effort and fangs. If you can't make it there today, the coasters is open weekends in September til the 20th.

September 3, 2009

What's In A Font

Apparently a lot. Recently, I have received requests on FB to join a group angry about Ikea's change of font, from Futura to Verdana. When I first received this, I was somewhat puzzled. I like Ikea as much as the next budget-conscious New Yorker but I didn't know the depth of love their font style had generated amongst the design cognoscenti. There were impassioned comments and posts on how the new font (a Microsoft creation btw) is meant for the web, not print and how its definitely not meant to be blowup to billboard size.

TIME magazine has a nice summary of all the brouhaha. The thing that bothers me about the whole thing is not so much the aesthetic issue but the financial one. I mean, whose bright idea was it to change their corporate font, something that clearly will cost the company millions of dollars, in the midst of the Great Recession? I thought Ikea was supposed to be all Swedish and frugal and smart. Though their website boasts "new lower prices", I fear that this massive change will begin to show up in the price of a Ribba and that would make truly me an unhappy Ikea customer.

September 2, 2009

Essential Accessory For The Coffee Shop Writer

As a writer who spends a lot of time working in coffee joints, this invention (featured today on LifeHacker) looks to be a work of inspired genius. I usually put my messenger bag over my laptop...or put the laptop back in the bag. But any thief knows that a messenger bag is generally used for carrying a laptop. So this is a much craftier disguise. It is, however, a bit pricey at $86. But, as the folks at LH suggest, how hard could it be to just make your own, right?

September 1, 2009

I Heard A Rumor...

I don't often post about politics here but this was too juicy to ignore; South Carolina's Republican Lt. Governor is reported to be gay. Now I'm all for gay public officials, but have some exceptions when they're closeted Christian right-wingers pushing religious legislation to issue state license plates that say "Believe" on them. Come on, Mary!

In a blog entry by outing expert Mike Rogers that was posted yesterday, he writes that he has confirmed through independent sources that Andre Bauer has slept with men on more than a few occasions. If you're wondering who Rogers is, he was featured in Kirby Dick's excellent movie about gay closeted politicians, Outrage. He is angry and feisty but he does seem to have his facts in order. There has been no statement from the Bauer's office regarding the "outing". But his official state portrait says it all. Total gayface, right?

What's most interesting about all this is that Bauer might have to step-in to replace the infamous cheater Mark Sanford in case he resigns as governor or is impeached. Hmmm--I wonder which one South Carolina citizens will loathe more? The homosexual or the philanderer. Tough choice....