December 31, 2010

Chicago Nanny Could Be The Next Walker Evans

This was a fascinating story that a friend forwarded to me about a Chicago nanny who took thousands of photographs on her day off and just may be one of the best street photographers of the 20th century.  Vivan Maier took care of children and was something of a modern day Mary Poppins but on her days off, she roamed the streets of the second city snapping some extraordinary B/W photos of mid-century life.

This story is really even more remarkable due to the fact that all of her work might never had been seen except for the accidental efforts of a young real estate agent who is now her biggest champion.  Watch this story from WTTW (Chicago's PBS affiliate) and discover the work of the woman who just may be the next Walker Evans.

December 30, 2010

JCM's Mattachine Party Goes Mainstream


There was a nice little write-up of one of downtown's semi-best kept secrets in the Times yesterday; John Cameron' Mitchell's MATTACHINE party at Julius.  For more than 40 years, Julius has been a mainstay of the West Village scene.  It was in fact the scene of one of the first gay rights protests when patrons there a few years before the Stonewall Riots demanded to be served when it was illegal to serve "homosexuals".

Anyway, JCM has spurred a revival of the joint with his monthly Thursday night party which attracts a very mixed crowd of artsy downtown types of all ages.  The wonderful thing about this party which didn't get mentioned is how it's a place where people actually have conversations, unlike most night spots where the music is too blaring to be heard.  Also, I've found that people at this party are very open and friendly, as opposed to the uptightness and stares often encountered at many NYC gay bars/nightclubs.

A friend of mine and Mattachine regular Tim Murphy, a New York magazine writer, put this piece together and it's a really lovely portrait of an unusual night out on the town and one that has been the saving grace of nightlife for me.  Like John, who's been in the 'hood 18 years, I too am an artistic survivor, living in the now-super fancy wilds of the West Village.  I've been in my apartment for just as long and, at a Christmas party this year and, as I told someone where I lived, they said "wow--you must be rich."  No...just lucky.  And older than I may seem :)

December 29, 2010

Sneak Peek at HALF-SHARE, A New Web Series

Back in October, I spent a lovely week out on Fire Island co-producing a new web series called HALF-SHARE. Written and directed by indie film hypenates Jesse Archer and Sean Hanley, this new comedy is about a lively house of gays in Fire Island Pines who welcome a newcomer for his first summer to the "Island of Lost Boys".  The script is a riot and I had a great time working on the show. The hilarious cast includes comic and UGLY BETTY alum Alec Mapa, Sam Pancake (currently featured on SHIT MY DAD SAYS) and Jack Plotnick (from GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS) along with adorable newcomer Kyle Spidle who plays the Pines newbie.

Jesse and Sean are currently just about finished editing and will be posting the show soon for a premiere in the New Year.  I will post updates and links when the show goes live so you can check it out.  In the meantime, Jesse recently posted a bunch of pictures from the production and there are more behind the scenes shots on the HALF-SHARE website too.  You can find me in a couple of the pics on set, lurking in the background and trying to keep everything on schedule.  Anyway, I look forward to sharing this fun new show with you in 2011....stay tuned!

December 28, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010 In 38 Seconds


New York was hit by a massive blizzard the day after Christmas with nearly two feet blanketing the city in less than 24 hours.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I missed all the excitement as I've been down in Maryland where we got barely a dusting from the storm.  But I've been reading all about it on the web.

There have been some great photos in the TIMES of the storm and it's aftereffects, the one above taken on a Sackett Street in Park Slope.  And there was a great time lapse video of the storm posted to Vimeo yesterday which, so far has gotten more than a million hits.  It's a fun and funny look at the blizzard, as the videomaker keeps trying to keep his clock above the rapidly accumulating snow.


December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

December 24, 2010

A Few Of My Favorite Christmas Things

I've been working on my iMovie skills lately so I put together a little video of a few of my favorite Christmas things.  It's a compilation of some of the pics I've taken over the past few holidays with my family.  Hope you enjoy it and have a great Christmas weekend! :)


A Few Of My Favorite Christmas Things from Brian Sloan on Vimeo.

December 23, 2010

Franklin Kameny, Age 85, Witnesses History


Yesterday, President Obama made good on his promise to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving in the US military.  It was not easy and the President deserves a great deal of credit for his persistence and tenacity in making this hateful policy history.  It was a landmark day for civil rights in this country.  And on hand to witness it, along with hundreds of servicemembers and activists was an 85 year old man that not many people took note of....Franklin Kameny.

If you don't know his name, you should as Kameny is one of the true founding fathers of the gay rights movement.  After being dishonorably discharged from the Army for being gay in the 1950s, he fought and argued his case all the way to the Supreme Court making his the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation.  After losing, Kameny didn't give up. He staged some of the first protests and pickets for gay rights way back in the early 1960s.  Wearing his trademark white shirt and tie, Kameny's daring attempts to bring the discrimination against gays and lesbians to the nation's attention was bold given the times he was living in, when homosexuality was a crime in many states and homosexuals considered mentally deficient deviants.

There were surprisingly few mentions of Kameny's presence in national articles today about the signing ceremony.  But only one, Washington's nightlife mag MetroWeekly, actually got a quote from him and it was a good one: "I didn't think I'd live to see it." Frankly, I doubted it myself at times this year.  But finally "it's done," as Obama said slapping the table as he put down his presidential pen.  And now that we can fight and die equally for our country, you can bet the chorus of voices who will want to live and love equally will continue to grow.  How wonderful would it be for Franklin Kameny to see marriage equality in his lifetime?

December 22, 2010

Cute Guys Shoot Some Amazing Trick Shots

I was tooling around on one of my favorite local blogs, Bowery Boogie, when I came across the video of a trio of guys shooting some amazing trick shots on the basketball courts of Manhattan.  They made the video a couple years ago, soon after settling in on the Lower East Side all the way from Australia.

On first glance you'd think this has to be all EFX'd out.  But it is real. As the boys confess, they didn't have any money for CGI in their DIY effort.  However, they probably did have some time  and they were unclear when asked how many takes these shots took.  Ah....the magic of editing.   But still a fun little clip.  And a cute group of guys too.

December 21, 2010

Sneak Preview Of The High Line Part Two

Over the weekend, the NY Times ran a preview of the newest section of the High Line, slated to open this spring.  The next stretch, from 20th to 30th Street, runs through a less chic area of town than the Meat Packing District, through West Chelsea and up to the Hudson Rail Yards.  In the future, there are plans to "Meat Pack" this area too, with a huge deck over the tracks and massive/fancy real estate development.  But for now, it's still a last bastion of semi-grungy, industrial ol' New York.....with a beautiful new park running down the middle.  Coming soon in 2011...

December 20, 2010

The Furor Grows Over Censorship At The Smithsonian

A couple weeks ago, I posted about the removal of a work of art from the Smithsonian's groundbreaking exhibit about gender identity, Hide/Seek.  After criticism from the Catholic League and Weeper of the House John Boehner, the Portrait Gallery caved and removed a video by artist/activist David Wojnaorwociz called "Fire In My Belly", which showed ants on a cross as an analogy to his AIDS diagnosis.  The artist died in 1992.


Since then, the furor has only grown.  And rightly so.  This sort of censorship by the Smithsonian is totally unacceptable behavior by a national cultural institution and more like something one would expect in the old Soviet Union.  The repercussions of this disastrous decision continue to grow.  Last week, Canadian artist AA Bronson asked to have his work, a stunning wall-sized photo of the artist's partner a few minutes after his death from AIDS, removed from the exhibit.  This piece is easily one of the most powerful in the exhibit and its loss would be devastating.  Currently, it's not clear if the artist has the right to remove it as the piece is on loan from a Canadian museum.  But his request, sent directly to the head of the museum, makes it clear how strongly artists believe that this act of censorship cannot stand.

Meanwhile, here in New York, there was a previously scheduled panel with the exhibit's curators Jonathan Katz and David Ward at the NY Public Library on Wednesday.  Though they publicly stated that the museums' action were "abhorrent", the curators tried to keep the focus on the fact that it's still a landmark show for the Smithsonian and that there are 104 other works worthy of discussion.  However, the audience was not having it.  In the Q/A, they were asked angry and pointed questions and there were even attempts to start a chant to restore the works.  This weekend, there was also street protest here in NYC which drew hundreds of people angered by the situation.  They marched up the Museum Mile to the Smithsonians' Cooper-Hewitt Museum demanding the video be restored.  There was also a protest in Washington last week where people gathered in front of the Portrait Gallery wearing masks of the artist and projecting the video onto the building's facade.

From all this activity, it's clear that this issue is not going away and that the Smithsonian has to address this crisis.  Of course, their initial action was taken because their bottom line was threatened by Boehner's veiled threat that the funding of the museum could be at stake.  Unfortunately, the real financial threat could come from elsewhere.  The Warhol Foundation has threatened to cancel it's funding of the museum and other donors are considering doing the same.  The Smithsonian must take a stronger stand against this sort of "artistic bullying".  Their future depends on it.

December 17, 2010

The 270 Movies of 2010 In Less Than Seven Minutes

This is a very clever and very tightly edited homage to all the feature films of 2010.  270 to be exact.  It's an amazing compilation and nicely put together.  Which sorta makes me wonder...where is this guy when the Academy Awards put together all those boring clip montages that have a tendency to grind the proceedings to a halt?  They should really hire this dude because he is a miracle worker.  Seriously.  He has made a definitely below average year in cinema look much better than it was. Sure...it helps that he leans heavily on INCEPTION and THE SOCIAL NETWORK for some of his footage, dipping repeatedly into those wells of genius.  But still, it's a remarkable piece of work.  And if you can name all these films, you are a bigger film maniac than I.

December 16, 2010

Merry Christmas From Randy Rainbow and Mel

Randy Rainbow does it again!  He's put together yet another hilarious video of him chatting on the phone with his boyfriend Mel Gibson.  And this time there's even a musical number too.  Who knew Mel was a song and dance man?

These videos consistently crack me up and not just because of Mel's now all too familiar NSFW rants.  The real star is Randy who is a comic genius.  My only question now is when does The Randy Rainbow show come to TV.  This would be such a perfect fit for LOGO!

Pledge & Win At Hi-Fi Bri This Week

My first annual "Pledge Week" ends tomorrow.  As I like to say, the internet (and my blog) only look free!  :)

Anyway, there are still some fabulous prizes left if you feel like dropping a little donation to keep this going.  You can donate here using the DONATE button on the right, which links directly to PayPal.  Any amount is greatly appreciated but for larger donations there still are some incentives left:  15$ gets you a signed book, $25, a signed DVD, and $35 a big-ass signed blowup poster of one of my book covers (people particularly like the two guys on TALE OF TWO SUMMERS). Also, TALE is now available as an eBook downloadable to the iPhone, iPad, Kindle and other mobile reading platforms.  And it's only $12 bucks!

Anyway, thanks for all your support.....I really appreciate it during these tough times.  It's hard out there for a pimp....uh, um, I mean writer.  :)  And keep on reading/enjoying Hi-Fi Bri!

December 15, 2010

Video and Pics From The White House Xmas Party

So here's some video and photos that I took at the White House Christmas party last week. It's set to the music of The Partridge Family Christmas Album, of course, because what says the holidays like David Cassidy singing "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree"! It also seemed appropriate accompaniment since there were so many trees in the WH....I mean I lost count after 10. Anyway, enjoy a little peek at my big night out....and there is a cameo of my brother at the very end too. Thanks again for the VIP invite, bro! :)


White House Christmas Party from Brian Sloan on Vimeo.

December 14, 2010

It's Pledge Week @ Hi-Fi Bri

Yes folks, just like PBS, writer's need your support.  And though my blog is a bit cheaper to produce than a Ken Burns epic, it ain't free.  ;)  So if you are a regular or irregular reader of Hi-Fi Bri and enjoy what you see, please drop a little coin in the online bucket this week as part of my first informal fundraising drive. You'll notice to the right there is little donate button....that will take you directly to PayPal where you can instantly give $1, $5, $10 or any amount you'd like, bigger or smaller.  Every little bit counts, especially for a freelancer like myself and extra-especially in this crappy economy. That is for sure.

Also, just like on PBS, there are fabulous gifts too!  I have some added incentives for those feeling extra-generous.  For $15, I'll send you an autographed copy of one of my books.  For $25, you get a copy of one of my films on DVD which I can sign as well. And for $35, I have poster board blowups of my book covers which I can also sign (dimensions are roughly 20x30in).  When you donate, PayPal will  give me your email and then I'll get shipping details from you directly.

So thanks again for all your support of my blog and my writing in general.  This Friday, I'll have a special holiday video to show my gratitude. And looking ahead, 2011 is gonna be an exciting year with a new film hitting festivals and a new book as well.  More details will be revealed on the blog about that so stay tuned....you can now add the blog to your Google reader (also on the right) or get it via an RSS feed.  Have a great holidaze season and take care!

December 13, 2010

My Night At The White House Christmas Party

I made my way down to DC last Friday to attend a Christmas party at The White House.  I got the invite via my brother Tim, who works as a photojournalist for AFP.  He's been going to these parties for years and, actually, had previously invited me a couple times during the Bush years but I politely declined.  But this year when I got the call, I was thrilled to accept and partake in a little East Room egg nog as well as get a chance to meet Barack and Michelle too.

The evening began in line outside the Southeast Entrance to the White House compound.  We were ID'd and checked off the guest list 4 times before we even got to the metal detector. My brother says this is a new routine for all social events post-Salahi.  But once we ran the gauntlet we were greeted inside by the all-male singing stars of GLEE's "Warblers" aka The Beelezebub's from Tufts University.  I heard them doing the Katy Perry song from the show and I was like, it couldn't be them....but it was!  That was the first big surprise of the night.

The second was all the food.  Such incredible snacking!  There were huge spreads in the State Dining Room, which is where we started with some salmon, steak, cheese, and veggies.  There was an even larger table in the East Room.  After checking out the decorations (so many trees!), we then had some pie.  The White House pastry chef has become very popular with Obama for the pies he makes and I can totally see why.  We sample the apple and pumpkin which were both superb....I especially loved the apple.  The crust was just amazing!

Then it was downstairs to the Diplomatic Reception room for our photo op with Barack and Michelle. This involved a wait in line that was akin to waiting for a ride at Disney World. They'd clever set it up all windy, through different rooms and nooks so that you never realized how damn long the thing was til' you reached then end.  And when we got the Obamas for the picture, the whole thing was run like clockwork....they have it down to a science. Everyone gets about a minute with the first couple, which makes roughly for 120 people an hour.    

As we came around a dressing screen set up in the middle of the circular room, we could see Barack and Michelle and suddenly we were 8 people away.  From there, it was just surreal.  Michelle glittered in a black sprakly floor length number....no famous biceps poking through.  Barack was in a suit with a slivery tie.  As we got closer, the dressed-up Army folks who manage the line told us the order to greet them and where to stand but I wasn't really listening.  And then suddenly, there I was as Barack turned towards me, hand outstretched and I said about all I was going to say..."Hello, Mr. President".

Both he and Michelle were quite chatty with us, however.  Barack recognized my brother from the photo pool and then commented on the fact that we were brothers but with very different hair.  LOL.  "What's up with that?" I think he said, smiling his famous smile.  Then we all turned to the photog for the pic.....my deer-in-headlights moment.  Then Michelle got involved in the chatting, saying "oh...you two are brothers." Like...uh-oh, that means trouble. And in true mom fashion, she told us to not get up to any mischief at the party.  Which was ironic as a few moments earlier, I had discovered a secret door in a panel and was trying to pry it open, much to my brother's chagrin.  He was like, "I've been working here 12 years but you come in here for a couple hours and you find the secret door."

After our presidential meet/greet, I was in a daze.  Truly.  What can I say other than they are both superstars, truly larger than life personalities.  Barack is nearly my height but Michelle is about 6"1".  Everyone kept telling us that, given our height, we were lucky and we'd have a good picture.

In the anteroom where we were guided to after the photo, I noticed there were two women standing by a bookcase who seemed upset.  I was confused by this scene until we got upstairs and others told us how this was happening all night; after meeting the President and First Lady, women had been crying afterwards as they were so moved by the chance to meet them.   I found this to be the most fascinating and telling detail of my short visit with the President.  You can disagree with him, dislike his policies, or even hate what he stands for but you can't deny he is remarkable man whose journey to our nation's highest office still inspires such deep emotion.

Tomorrow, I will have lots more pictures and even some video too.  And then (hopefully) on Friday, I'll have the money shot: my picture with Barack and Michelle.  Stay tuned!

December 10, 2010

Chanukah Goes Viral With The Maccabeats

What happens when you put a bunch of cute Jewish college students together to sing an a capella version of "Dynamite" with new lyrics celebrating Chanukah?  You get the hottest holiday viral video since Dick In A Box.  Though this one is a bit more clean scrubbed for sure the guys are all pretty adorkable too. :)  I like their Partridge Family-meets-Brady Bunch styling with the graphics too.

So...to celebrate the end of the festival of lights this week, here are the Maccabeats from NYC's Yeshiva University (in my neighborhood!) singing their song.  Have a great weekend and enjoy some jelly donuts, y'all.  Oh...and coming on Monday, photos of my night at the White House Christmas Party!!!

December 9, 2010

Dan Aykroyd Believes in James Brown, Vodka and UFO's


Dan Aykroyd was on Jimmy Kimmel Tuesday night, talking about James Brown and UFO's.  Apparently, not only is Dan a true believe when it comes to alien visitations, he even had a close encounter himself.  He was flying on the Concorde once and saw some lights taking off in a way that seemed inexplicable.  And he wasn't the only one....apparently 2 others shared his sighting.

He talked about this a bit with Jimmy, who tried to take him seriously.  The audience, however, was giggling throughout the whole thing, unsure if this was some sorta joke. But it's no joke...it's been an interest of Aykroyd's for years and he even did a documentary about it called "Dan Aykroyd Unplugged on UFO's."  He plugged this in a 2006 CNN interview with Anderson Cooper which is even more awkward.

To make things even weirder, Dan is also responsible for that new vodka that comes in a skull shaped bottle, currently display in NYC liquor store windows. It's made in Canada and Dan is an investor in the company.  But to top it all off, this vodka-making, UFO believing, James Brown loving guy was on the Kimmel in the first place because he is voice of Yogi Bear in a new 3D kids movie opening Friday. I know...I buried the lead right? :)

December 8, 2010

Remembering John Lennon & The Beatle's First US Concert

For years, the Kennedy family has been fighting the continuing commemorations of JFK & RFK on the respective days of their assassinations.  They'd prefer that people recall the Kennedy's for their lives rather than their tragic deaths and have tried to turn the focus towards celebrating their birthday's instead of their death-days.  Afterall, this is how it works with President Lincoln and Dr. King, whose birthday's are holidays not the date of their untimely deaths.

Anyway, today is the 30th anniversary of John Lennon's death and the news is filled today with remembrances of the horror of his shooting outside the Dakota.  Well, I'm going to try and buck the trend and focus on John Lennon's life a bit here.  To that end, I read a really wonderful piece of oral history in the Washington POST last weekend about the Beatles first concert in the US. It all happened the day after their legendary appearance on the Ed Sullivan show as they took the train to the Nation's Capital during a blizzard for a gig at the old Washington Coliseum.

The POST story was presented in conjunction with Paul McCartney's being one of the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. But it's a wonderful remembrance of the whole band on their first strange and lovely trip to America.  There are some great details, like the band being pegged with jelly beans (their favorite candy) and the fact that a teenage Al Gore was in attendance with some St. Alban's classmates.  There are some interesting descriptions of all the girls' screaming too.  The whole thing sounds surprisingly innocent for a concert; no sex or drugs...just some good old rock'n'roll.  Then again, 1964 seems like a century ago.

So here's a clip of their DC concert from YouTube. If you want, you can watch the whole thing (shot by documentarian Albert Maysles) streaming/screaming on the iTunes website.

December 7, 2010

Mel Gibson Is The Beaver

You may have seen the recently released trailer for Mel Gibson's new movie, the unfortunately titled "The Beaver".  Directed and co-starring Jodie Foster (don't go there), this movie was one of the hottest properties in H'wood for a while.  The script was on the so-called "Black List" of most talked about projects and then Foster picked it up to direct, casting Gibson as her sad-sack ex-husband.

However, since Mel's profanity laden tapes were released, this movie in which he speaks through a beaver puppet has new unintentional meaning.  So it was only a matter of time before somebody made that beaver go all nasty.  And here it is, from Funny or Die, a newly re-edited trailer that went viral over the weekend and, needless to say, it's very NSFW.

 It's unclear when this film is going to be released but, at this point, it seems like it will be hard for what is probably an interesting film to survive Mel's current notoriety.


December 6, 2010

OK--Let's Meet Up In Front Of The 10 Plagues Fun House


There was a curious article in today's TIMES about plans for a Noah's Ark theme park in rural Kentucky.  The state has embraced a local developer's idea to build a theme park which would create a living Old Testament where you walk up a real tower of Babel, see Moses part the Red Sea in 3-D and even experience the 10 plagues!  Seriously.  This sounds like a joke but they are not kidding around.

It reminds me of the days of Jim & Tammy and their Heritage USA, the first religious theme park.  Well, we all know how that turned out.  The park went belly up when the it's tax-exempt status was revoked. And there is a similar controversy brewing over this project, as people debate whether it is constitutional for a Christian theme park to get massive tax breaks from the state.

What's more disturbing though, is that this is new park is being put together by the folks behind another Kentucky tourist attraction, The Creation Museum.  This "museum"  depicts the hardcore Christian Creationist view of the world...you know, how dinosaurs and man lived together peacefully and that the earth is only about 6,000 years old.  With weird science like that, it definitely seems to be crossing the church/state line as the Kentucky state government bends over backwards provide public incentives to build this sort of religious propaganda.  People can believe what they want to believe, for sure, but the taxpayers shouldn't pay for it.

December 3, 2010

Kitten-Dudes Play A Game Of Patty Cake

OK--I know.....another kitten video.  The scourge of the YouTubes.  But seriously, this one is hilarious because of the added narration of a couple comedy dudes.  It's the perfect silliness for a Friday.  Enjoy!

December 2, 2010

Union Square Lets Its Freak Flag Fly

Though there has been plenty of change in New York over the last two decades, with the city a lot cleaner and friendlier than it used to be, one thing that hasn't changed and will likely never change is that there are still lots of very odd people here.  The center of the weird universe used to be Times Square but now that that's all filled with Euro tourists and Middle Americans, the freaks of NYC have migrated south to Union Square park.

There's a guy in called Normal Bob who documents all the strange happenings in the park on his website normalbobsmith.com.  Recently he put together a bittersweet video of all that he has observed recently with his camera, set to the tune of LCD Soundsystem's "New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down".  It's a touching and somewhat shocking ode to the other side of the city that doesn't get as much attention these days.  But it's also somewhat reassuring to see that you can't take the freaks out of the city, no matter how much you clean it up.

December 1, 2010

Smithsonian Caves To Right-Wing Art Critics

christ-ants-smithsonian

In a shocking move that is more reminiscent of 1990 then 2010, the Smithsonian Institution today removed a piece of work by renowed East Village artist David Wojnarowicz because of criticism from not-so-renowned art critics Catholic League President William Donahue and Rep. John Boehner.  The video, which depicts Christ on the cross crawling with ants as an AIDS analogy, is part of an remarkable new exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery about gender identity and gay sexuality, the first such show that the Smithsonian has even mounted.

But now the gay-haters have latched onto this groundbreaking exhibit as a case of taxpayer waste, which is absurd when the amount of federal money spent on the show pales in comparison to the earmarks and general pork barreling that goes on up on Capitol Hill everyday. Regardless, the new Speaker of The House felt that American taxpayer money shouldn't be used for the exhibit and that "it's symbolic of the arrogance Washington routinely applies to thousands of spending decisions involving Americans' hard-earned money." 


Of coure, the real arrogance here is Boner's assumption that he, as a elected official, should be the judge and jury of what is and isn't art.  Perhaps Boner should focus on slightly more important matters of governance, like, you know, maybe reducing the federal deficit before we bankrupt the country?  Or how about repealing "Dont'Ask, Don't Tell" now that the US military's report says they are fine with it?  I don't think it's a coincidence that the day after that report came out, this is what Mr. Boner is focused on.  In a nutshell, he should stick to his job and leave the art to the artists. 

November 30, 2010

Military Report Says "Little Risk" In Having Gays In Military


The long-awaited report from the US military about whether they can handle the idea of gays serving openly in the armed forces is being released this afternoon.  After months of surveys and analysis, it comes to the shocking conclusion that repealing the 17-year old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy would cause little risk to the military's ability to carry out it's mission.

The report comes out, as it were, officially this afternoon but the Washington Post is reporting it's findings that gays in the military are not an issue with roughly 94% of those surveyed. Hopefully, this internal study will put an end to all the excuses that have drawn out the repeal of this unfortunate policy since President Obama stated his intent to end it more than a year ago.  It's now up to Congress to vote on it quickly before the end of the current session and the end of their democratic majority.

I've always found this whole debate over the issue incredibly frustrating since gays and lesbians have been an integral part of the US military for decades.  Their role in WWII is especially well-documented in the remarkable non-fiction book "Coming Out Under Fire" by Allan Berube. So it's about time they are allowed to serve openly and honestly in the noblest of missions; defending our freedoms.  

November 29, 2010

Nostalgia Rides The Rails For Christmas

The MTA is running some vintage trains for the holidays on special excursions.  Unlike previous rides where the special trains ran once for a extra fare of $20, this year you can ride one of the old R1/9 cars for the price of a regular fare swipe.

The trains will be running on the 6th Avenue line on Sundays from 10AM-4PM.   Also the MTA is even putting some vintage buses into service as well.  You can catch one on 34th Street in Manhatan and other lines throughout the city.  For details on these trips to the past, you can check the MTA website for lines and depature times.

November 24, 2010

It's Oscar Season....Brace Yourself

Oscar season is ramping up in the next few weeks as studios big awards campaigns go into full swing.  The major contenders right now seem to be "The Kings Speech", "The Kids Are Alright" and "Toy Story 3", if Disney gets its way.  Anyway, this video is a great spoof of all Oscar-aspiring movies and their oh-so-familiar trailers.  Check it out...

November 23, 2010

NetPix: Bored To Death, Season 1

I haven't had a good NetPix in a while as I haven't really seen any good movies on DVD.  I've been mainly watching a lot of TV in my queue.  But a newish show that I recently saw was last year's freshman season of "Bored To Death".  This HBO series starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifanakis and Ted Danson, is one of the funniest shows I've seen in quite a while.  It's unique brand humor treads that fine line between the sublime and ridiculous, like the original "Seinfeld" did though in a much more subdued manner.

The series is centered around a Brooklyn writer named "Jonathan Ames" (who also happens to be the real-life scribe behind the show) who becomes an amateur detective after placing an ad on Craigslist.  It's a simple setup for some complicated story lines which often lead to hilarious shenanigans.  My favorite episode was one in which Jonathan attempts to retrieve a married man's sex tape and enlists his friends for a long, loopy night of adventure in New Jersey. Ted Danson, playing a magazine editor who is a bit of a senior stoner, is fantastic as he yearns for adventure after tiring of his wealthy, A-list, Manhattanite existence.  It seems that he, more than Jonathan, is the one who is bored to death.

Another charm of the series is its mixture of real-life and fiction, especially when it comes to the Ames character.  Jonathan is very much a TV doppelganger for the author's publicly stated interests and obsessions, such as boxing, Brooklyn and beer (or wine or vodka).  There is even an interesting collaboration with Zach's character, who is a graphic artist, which mirrors Ames' work with Dean Haspiel on their incredible graphic novel "The Alcoholic".  The show's focus on Brooklyn is unique as well, with a number of famous (Brighton Beach) and not so famous (Prisoner's Monument) local spots showing up and looking gorgeous.  The show is a true love letter to the BK and all it's quirky charms.

Season 2 just finished its first run on HBO recently.  It almost makes me want to get cable so I can watch it on-demand.  Almost.  I am dying (ha) to see what happens to this happy gang in the next go-round.

November 22, 2010

We Interrupt This Program...

It was 47 years ago today that a live broadcast of the soap opera "As The World Turns" on CBS was interrupted at 1:40pm.  What followed was the first audio report out of Dallas, Texas about an assassination attempt on President Kennedy.  It is riveting stuff and truly, as they say, the first draft of history.

The announcer is not Walter Cronkite and his voice is uncertain.... he even stumbles a couple times as he clearly reads copy that he just ripped off the wire.  The soap was interrupted twice more during it's half-hour broadcast as more details came in, like the number of shots, the fact that the Texas governor was wounded, and a report of assassins on the infamous grassy knoll.  What is most striking about these early reports is how clear it is that the president's wounds are grave. There is even the inclusion in the third bulletin of a Secret Service agent reportedly saying, "he's dead."

While we're all familiar with Uncle Walter's official video pronunciation of Kennedy's death roughly an hour later, I had never seen/heard these live bulletins before. A friend posted them on FB and they are worth watching today as, once again, we remember a president who was shot down in his prime.

November 19, 2010

A Blast From The Future--New Video By Massive Attack

In stark contrast to yesterday's blast from the video past, today I have this new clip for a song by Massive Attack.  This is one of the coolest CGI-style music video's I've seen in a while.  Truly stunning visuals.  Watch and be amazed...


Massive Attack-Splitting the Atom-directed by Edouard Salier from edouard salier on Vimeo.

November 18, 2010

All Fall Down-A Blast From the 80's Past

I finally got my YouTube account back after much confusion over at Google when they merged gmail accounts with video accounts.  Oy.  Anyway, after a few months blackout, I am celebrating my return to YouTube with this lost gem of the 80's that was suggested to me...."All Fall Down" by Five Star.  Google may not know how to merge my accounts but they do know my musical taste!

So...Five Star was a funky British girl group, all of them related, with a lead singer who had braces.  Their big hit sounds suspiciously like a slower jam of the Jets "I've Got A Crush On You" but, then again, there was a sweet sameness to this brand of '80's funky pop.  Also, I remember loving this video because of its more handmade rotoscoping which was in contrast to that other super-slick animated video taking 1985 by storm.  Enjoy!

November 17, 2010

Former AT&T Commercial Guy Matt Bush Is Kinda Cute


If this guy looks familiar you may recognize him as the weird kid in the AT&T Rollover commercials from a few years back.  His name is Matt Bush and he has been a busy little actor since then, starring in a few feature films (an summer romp set in 1985, "Adventureland") and TV pilots.  Now one of his shows has gone to air and it premiered last night on TBS.  It's called "Glory Daze" and is about a bunch of guys starting college in 1986.  So what...is Matt Bush the look of the 80's or something?

While the music was awesome as they cranked out the hits of my college years ("Girls On Film"!), the show was somewhat lackluster.  However, things got slightly more funny whenever Matt showed up to say something weird or do something crazy.  Unfortunately, he was not cast as the lead but more of a goofy sidekick, a Jewish kid named Eli who gets incredibly stoned in the pilot.  But his best moment was the introduction of his character.  In one of the show's many nods to 80's films, Eli is shown dancing in his underwear ala Tom Cruise in "Risky Business".  I know.... not a highly original idea but Matt made the most of it.

The scene is the second up in the preview clip below. Anyway, you will surely be seeing more of Matt in the future, hopefully on shows that are a little more interesting than this retro rehash.

November 16, 2010

The Queens Midtown Tunnel Is Getting Old


Some of New York City's bridges get a lot of fanfare and even fireworks when celebrating big birthdays.  But yesterday, the Queens Midtown Tunnel, that workhorse of a road that carries an average of nearly 100,000 vehicles a day into the city, turned 70 and almost no one noticed.

Well, one person who did notice is Ben over at Second Avenue Sagas.  He had a nice little write up about the history of tunnel and the story of its construction.  One interesting fact was that the tunnel had its original brick surface until 2001 when it was entirely repaved.

The Queens-Midtown Tunnel, which brings cars from the city directly to the famed Long Island Expressway, has previously had one big moment in the spotlight.  It had a starring role in the original "Men In Black" movie asTommy Lee and Will famously sped out of the city on its roof. It was surely the fastest commute in the tunnel's long, congested history.

November 15, 2010

A Pastor In Georgia Comes Out With Pride

In recent years, there have been some dramatic scenes of religious pastors, shamed by private behaviour that has suddenly been made public, being forced to admit their sexuality to their congregations.  Being pushed out of the closet is never pretty, even if it may be somewhat deserved for preaching homophobia.  But here's something different: a pastor who comes out by choice and does so with eloquence and dignity.

James Swilley, who founded and runs a mega church in Georgia with his ex-wife, recently came out to in a Sunday sermon.  The reason?  He was compelled by the rash of gay suicides and his ex-wife's prompting to live his preachings.  What I love most about this CNN interview Swilley gave on Sunday is how straightforward and direct he is in his answers, especially when it comes to some annoying Twitter questions about the Bible.

This is a man of faith who is also gay.  And guess what America...there of many of them out there.  This brave man just decided to speak his truth.


November 12, 2010

A Real Life Mystery On FOX's "FRINGE"

One of my guilty pleasure TV shows is FOX's "Fringe".  It's a compelling sci-fi show that sometimes deals in real world science and scientific mystery.  Last night's episode, was about a unexplained phenomenon called "Number Stations".

Since the late 1940's, these shortwave radio stations have been broadcasting a seemingly random list of numbers for anyone to hear, usually those with a HAM radio. There are thousands of enthusiasts around the world who listen to and track these odd broadcasts but no one has been able to crack their code.  For years the rumor was that these stations were broadcasting the secret messages of spies during the Cold War.  But the Cold War is over and the numbers stations persist. No government has officially ever admitted to using numbers stations.

The explanation on "Fringe" last night had something to do with agents from an alternate universe giving longitude and latitude clues about where to find pieces of an ancient, buried doomsday machine that, if re-constructed, may likely destroy this universe.  Cool, right?  But if you'd like a more real explanation, I found this CBS News report on YouTube which has some interesting details and a more in-depth report on NPR.

November 11, 2010

Another Cool Video From OK Go

The indie rock band OK Go has become just as known for their catchy songs as for their inventive videos.  They have a new one out this week called "Last Leaf", a seasonal song of sorts with an accompanying video made up of nearly 3,000 pieces are artfully burned toast.  One wonders not only how they managed to do this but who came up with the idea in the first place.  It's a beautiful piece of animation and a lovely little song too.


Last Leaf

OK Go | Myspace Music Videos

November 10, 2010

Top 10 Car Wrecks Of All Time

OK--sorry to sound like the HuffPost today but I just found this clip compilation of the top 10 car wrecks from the movies and it is awesome.  Now, anyone who knows me knows I love a good car chase.  This may be surprising as my films haven't exactly been FAST nor FURIOUS.  That's only because I haven't had the budget to wreck some vehicles. In fact, I have a car chase in my upcoming movie PROM QUEENS and a big multi-car chase in my book "A Really Nice Prom Mess".

I have to say that this list is pretty inclusive and definitely has some of my favorites, including the number 1 spot.  The only movie missing is "What's Up Doc" and the VW bug that goes flying into SF bay. This comes from a newly relaunched site movieclips.com that has all sorts of fun clips and mashups.   Check them out!

Movie Videos & Movie Scenes at MOVIECLIPS.com

November 9, 2010

Fall In The Bronx At The NY Botanical Garden

The New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx is home to a 50-acre Native Forest with trees that are more than are more than a hundred years old.  There was a write-up in the TIMES last week about leaf-peeping around the city in places other than Central Park. There are natural preserves in Staten Island, Queens and even Manhattan at Inwood Park.  But I have to say that the Bronx is pretty stunning.  I was up there recently and the fall colors were amazing.  Enjoy!




 

November 8, 2010

Kurt Gets Serenaded By Dudes On GLEE

GLEE started out a little rough this season and I almost gave up on it.  Then the "Rocky Horror" episode won be back with some great numbers and surprising casting (Merecedes as Frankenfurter!).  But still the show's been a little stuck in second year gear, as it were.  It looks like that could all change this week...big time.

There were rumors that Kurt, the show's out and about choir boy, was going to be getting an actual love interest.  Well, tomorrow night he meets a guy (played and sung by Darren Criss) from a all-dude prep school and gets serenaded by not only him but the entire boys choir....to Katy Perry's "Teenage Dreams" even!  The singing and do-woop dancing is fab but what really gets me is Kurt's reaction to all of it.  Crazy.  Tune in tomorrow at 8pm for all the gay action.....only on FOX.

November 5, 2010

The Vote Totals Were Not As High As The Rent


The results for the NY state governors race were not much of a surprise: 2.6 million votes for Andrew Cuomo and 1.4 million votes for nutter Carl Palladino.  But Jimmy McMillan of the wacky "Rent Is 2 Damn High" Party nearly quadrupled his total from the 2006 election.  In that year, he received about 14,000 votes whereas this year, due to his inclusion in the gubernatorial televised debate and the national press that ensued, he hit nearly 40,000 votes. 

This apparently is enough encouragement to keep Jimmy going as he plans to keeps running in the future.  Next up is the NYC mayoral race in 2013.  In fact, realizing his simple platform has national relevance given the hard times all around, Jimmy has even been encouraged to run for President.  However, he says he won't do that just now because he likes President Obama too much.  So while the rent may be high,  Jimmy's ego is through the roof.

November 4, 2010

Ricky Martin on THE VIEW: "God Doesn't Make Mistakes"

Ricky Martin appeared on THE VIEW yesterday to talk with the ladies about his new life as an openly gay man.  And, of course, to plug his new book.  But I was quite impressed with his frank discussion of his own struggle to come out and how his Catholic faith made that difficult.  Now, he's hoping his honesty can help inspire and even help others.

Below is a clip from the interview where, towards the end, Ricky makes an impassioned plea to teens out there who may be struggling with their sexuality. It was sort of an impromptou "It Gets Better" video but one that was clearly heartfelt.

November 3, 2010

Not The High Turnout They Were Hoping For


In the flood of election news about the Republican wave, there is one little loss that is worth noting. In California, voters rejected Proposition 19 which would have make recreational use of marijuana legal.  One would think that, since the state legalized medical marijuana successfully a few years back, this one would have passed easily.  But apparently the youth vote did not turn out and the measured was defeated by double digits.  The only area where voters were in favor of it was the Bay Area, but only by a slim margin.

The Wednesday morning quarterbacking on this story is that just having it on the ballot was a watershed moment.  I'd have to say that's true.  For years, stoners have joked about making marijuana legal and here was a state, the largest in the nation, seriously considering doing just that.  While lower voter turnout contributed to the loss, there was also the prickly problem of the fact that marijuana would have remained illegal at the federal level.  The legal morass this would have created was probably a turn-off to most law-abiding citizens.

Well, maybe like Prop 8 in 2008, this is only the beginning of an inevitable march toward legalization.  Given the amount of income it could generate from taxes, it could be increasingly hard to resist as state and federal deficits continue to grow.

November 2, 2010

Uncle Tom's Cabin Is Actually A Kitchen


Back in July, I had posted a story about the original "Uncle Tom's Cabin", located in Bethesda, MD and only a few miles from where I grew up.  Recently, though, it has come to light that the supposed cabin where slave Josiah Henson lived is actually a kitchen for the Riley Farm. And, on top of that, the whole house is not as old as it was promoted to be, built sometime after Henson fled to Canada where his life story inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's landmark book.


The Washington Post did an expose of this massive history FAIL last month which you can read here.  There's also more in-depth report on this historian website.  All in all, it's a compelling tale about how the Montgomery County government, which spent more than a million dollars to keep the property off the market, ignored historical evidence that countered the years of rumors that had identified the physical property as signficant.  


Though it's still believed that Henson worked as a slave on the Riley Farm in the early 19th century, the actual cabin is not there anymore.  The official website for the site has been updated since but there is no admission of their error.  There is only reference to a public meeting held on October 28th where the name of the site was changed from "Uncle Tom's Cabin Park" to "Josiah Henson Special Park".  Special indeed. And there is a new warning at the end of the main text, stating that "as with all historical inquiries, research is ongoing." 

November 1, 2010

The Unseen James Bond Auditions of 1968



The new LIFE magazine, which now exists mainly online, has a cool feature about the casting of James Bond after Sean Connery left the franchise. In 1968, the producers got together the five finalists for a Bond-Off studio session in London where they took stills and shot some test footage to see who looked best holding the martini and fondling the girl.  LIFE.com has some great highlights on their website.

A close runner up was John Richardson, a slim/sexy '60's star who appeared memorably in ONE MILLION BC (with Raquel Welch) and ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER (with Babs Streisand).  Too bad he didn't make the cut as he looks quite fine in this shot and others where he's wearing a revealing square cut suit.  However, the role eventually went to George Lazenby who had his one and only outing as 007 in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE.

October 29, 2010

Toy Story As A Horror Movie

Ever since the "Scary Mary" re-cut of Mary Poppins was put up on YouTube, the trend of re-cutting and genre-swapping movie trailers has grown.  One of my favorites, which is perfect for Halloween, is a repurposing of TOY STORY as a scary horror movie.  Enjoy and have a Happy Halloween! :)

October 28, 2010

The Return Of My WTC View

I used to have a beautiful view of the World Trade Center from my apartment in the Village. In fact, I wrote a play about it which then became a film called WTC VIEW.  Looking down my street, the twin towers stood almost directly at the end of it roughly 20 blocks away...a landmark that I still miss. The original towers were slightly to the left in this picture, the north tower rising behind WTC 7 (the tallest building in the background) and the South tower rising over the building to the left of that with the water towers on top.

Yet recently, I noticed that looking down my street, the new One World Trade Center (formerly the Freedom Tower) is now visible.  You can see it in this photo, a small crane poking out the top of what is now roughly the 40th floor.  Eventually the building will have 105 floors with a building height matching the original WTC 1 and a massive 400-foot tower on top to reach it's symbolic height of 1,776 feet. Completion is scheduled in April '13.

October 27, 2010

Tron Sequel + Daft Punk = Hotness

This super cool mini-video was released this week to promote the Tron sequel, TRON: LEGACY.  Seminal French techno-geniuses Daft Punk have done the score for the reboot and, if this is any indication, it's gonna sound awesome.  It also looks totally hot too; the new light cycles are amazing, the glowing Frisbee things are bizarre and there's the neat trick of making Jeff Bridges look 20 years younger.  Not to mention the curious finger-light undressing of his son.  Hmmmm....

Of course, when a movie looks this cool the danger is that it might not make any sense.  We'll have to wait until December to find out for sure. But for now I am rating this TH for  "Total Hotness"!

October 26, 2010

Tracking Progress On The Second Avenue Subway

I was on the Upper East Side last week for a film shoot and got to see first hand all the construction happening on Second Ave for the new "T" line.  Its been in the news lately as merchants and residents have been complaining loudly about the noise and mess of construction and how it's been bad for business.  This weekend the MTA responded with an comprehensive new plan to address these concerns.  Over at the Launch Box blog, there is a summary of what's going on along with pictures of all the mess on the street.

Also on that blog, they've put together a great Google Map where you can follow the progress of the boring machine. The map also has pictures of the new station locations and some of the major construction sites, like the launch box itself where the tunnel boring machine took off from earlier this year. Currently, it's chewing its way through granite about 100 feet below 79th Street.  It has about 15 blocks to go before it will turn around and start boring it's way back up Second Ave next year.

October 25, 2010

Musical Mondays With President Barack Obama

I saw this posted up on FB yesterday...a clever Gilbert & Sullivan spoof song about President Obama.  The chorus bits are the best.  Maybe this sort of infotainment may help Barack and the Dems make their case for the midterms better than all those negative ads.


October 22, 2010

Do You Know What The Speed Limit Is In NYC?


That's okay...most people don't. I didn't know until yesterday that there was actually one speed limit for all of Manhattan and it's 30mph.  Of course, the majority of cars never get above 2mph, especially in midtown.  But after hours, I have been in cabs racing down deserted avenues at speeds closer to those found on I-95.

Last night, ABC-7 aired a story about a new police crackdown on speeding in the city.  Cops will be monitoring avenues throughout Manhattan with radar and slapping unsuspecting drivers with speeding tickets if they exceed the limit.

The impetus behind this is statistics that show a huge spike of pedestrian accidents in Manhattan as opposed to all the other boroughs.  But it seems to me like another semi-desperate way for the city government to raise money in tough economic times. I think there would be better ways to use the police than cracking down on late night cabbies. Besides, if they start obeying the speed limit, I might as well take the subway,which reaches a top speed of 65mph.

October 21, 2010

And The Emmy For Worst TV Re-Dubbing Goes To...

Ever wonder how some of the more, er, colorful language in movies translates to the more restrictive small screen? Well...sometimes it doesn't as this compilation shows to hilarious effect.  The best is last....a stranger in the Alps? Really!?

October 20, 2010

The Rent IS Too Damn High

A meme was born at Monday's wacky debate for New York Governor when Jimmy McMillan was introduced as the candidate from The Rent Is Too Damn High Party.  As Jimmy Kimmel said in his monologue last night, someone else may have been too high, namely Mr. McMillan himself who came across as loonier than Republican candidate Carl Palladino (who at one point left to stage to go to the bathroom....seriously).

I thought the idea of Jimmy as a candidate was pretty funny at first, especially with his weird beard and opening lines such as "as a karate master....".   But what is more disturbing is that Jimmy blames the high rent on "the Jews" and is well-known for his anti-Semitic rhetoric over the past 15 years.  Also, he was once arrested for climbing the Brooklyn Bridge brandishing a knife.  Not the most mentally stable political candidate. But, in this election season of witches and Nazis, not too unbelievable either.

But beyond all that, the reality is that his party does not really exist, except in his own head.  It is basically a website that is hard to figure out, other than the fact that you can order t-shirts with the "party's" name.  And even though I agree with the sentiment (as do most New Yorkers), voting for him will lower the rent in the same way voting for anyone will increase jobs. 


October 18, 2010

30 Rock Goes Live

Last Thursday, the cast and crew of the NBC sitcom 30 ROCK left the safe confines of their soundstage in Long Island City and crossed the East River to brave the dangers of live television from their namesake's home, 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Midtown.  For some cast members like Tina Fey and Tracey Morgan, it was a bit of a homecoming as they returned to Studio 8H where SNL is broadcast.  And for viewers like me, the show was a return to form and laugh-out-loud hilarity.

The premise of the show was pretty standard sitcom fare; everyone has forgotten Liz Lemon's birthday.  But doing it live made for a very meta experience, especially when they did Liz's flashbacks.  There are lots of jokes about live TV strewn throughout the episode and some great cameos from 30 ROCK semi-irregulars.  I won't name names as not to spoil the fun.

The show was actually done live twice, once for the East coast and once for the West. I caught the latter version so I'm not sure if it was better from having had a little live practice.  But it was truly funny and didn't seem to have any major gaffes, other than a couple lines that didn't trip off Alec Balwin's tounge. It made me sorta wish the show was live every week. It was the best 30 ROCK I'd seen in a while.

October 15, 2010

Meat Without Feet

I passed this van on my way to work this morning, laughed and had to take a photo.  Only in New York, kids.  Have a great weekend! :)

October 13, 2010

GLEE Gets Back On Track

After a weird and rocky start to their sophomore season, GLEE seemed to finally get back on track last night in Episode 4 with a simple storyline about a duet competition.  There were no celebrities, no weird trans-football coach and (surprise) no Sue Sylvester.  I have to say, I didn't miss her exit from this episode as she has lately been a cantankerous pain in the shows attempts to tell any kind of story.  There were also a couple brilliant numbers with Kurt; one where he did Julie Andrews and the other where did Judy Garland. It's Kurts Turn! ;)

What also got my interest up was a preview of an upcoming Rocky Horror themed episode of GLEE.  Now that looks fun!  And it would finally explain the bizarre casting of that  new kid "football player", who looks like an Abercrombie model.  In the Rocky episode, he's Rocky of course....and perfectly cast in that role.  Especially given the fact that he'll be shirtless for most of it.  Here's a clip of the preview coming in two weeks....damn those baseball playoffs!

October 12, 2010

The Shirtless YouTube Guy Calls His Mom

In a developing sub-genre of YouTube clips, the funny-shirtless-guy lip-synching-to-his-laptop is becoming a standard this year.  The lastest one that burst onto the scene last Friday with barely 20,000 hits has now broken the 3 million mark.

This cute guy's name is Craigery Morgan and he is clearly a talented mimic with an incredibly expressive face.  But if you want to see his true charm and talent, check out his latest video in which he calls his mom to tell her he has gone viral.  It's great to hear his own voice as he does Kristen Wiig and some characters from MAD TV.  (I've posted that video first and the original video below it.)

This guy is a 20 year old college student in Florida but he surely will be heading to New York or LA very, very soon.



October 11, 2010

Spies In Space

imgres.jpg

In the 1960's, there was a top secret US program to put spies in space.  These "astro-spies" were to live in a space station whose main purpose would be to take highly detailed photographs of the Soviet Union.  The government figured the best way to keep this program a secret was to hide it in plain sight and, in 1964, President Johnson announced the ambitious plans for a Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) in which astronauts would run "scientific experiments".  There was no mention of the massive camera the size of a Volkswagen that was the real reason for this whole operation.

I learned about all this last night on a rerun of a NOVA special called "Astro-Spies" on PBS.  The program began shortly after Gary Powers was shot out of the sky in his U-2 spy plane in 1960.  The Air Force realized that if they put their spy camera in space, no one could shoot it down.  The plan was so top secret that it was not revealed until the 1990's, when by chance someone found an old astronaut spacesuit with a name on it that was not on the official NASA list of astronauts.  

mol_patch.jpgWhile the US developed it's MOL program, Russia got wind of it and started their own spies in space plan, Almaz. While the MOL was cancelled in 1969 and never got off the ground, the Russian "lab" did make it into orbit with one crazy addition; it had a weapon attached to it to shoot other satellites or threats out of the sky.  The 23mm rapid fire cannon was fired once in a test but never at an actual target.