January 29, 2010

My eBook And The iPad

With Wednesday's announcement of Apple's iPad, eBook publishing seems to be taking a leap to the next level.  One of the most impressive features of Apple's new device is it's iBook interface and connectivity to an online store where you'll be able to purchase books with just a couple clicks.  It's seems like they are really throwing down the gauntlet and directly challenging the Kindle for the future of the eBook.

On a personal note, my second novel, TALE OF TWO SUMMERS, just became available as a download for the Kindle late last year.  So if you haven't read it and just got a Kindle for Christmas, it's only $9.99 to purchase a digital copy of the book.  As for the iPad, Simon & Schuster was one of five major publishers mentioned at the product launch who will be supporting the new iBook.  Now they just have to figure our some way for authors to digitally sign/personalize their books. That would be awesome!

January 28, 2010

Craigs List Missed Connections As Muse

Craigs List is great for many things; finding a job, a roommate, someone to buy your couch, or even sex/romance in their "personals" section.  But the most entertaining section of their infamous personals is by far Missed Connections, especially here in NYC where there are more than a thousand posts a day.  Lately, though, this section has been more than entertaining people...it's been downright inspiring.  

Tonight, a new show called "Missed Connections NYC" premieres at the Ars Nova performance space in midtown.  It's a compilation of short plays and songs inspired by the bulletin board of the same name.  The title of some of the mini-plays sound cute too: Missing Jonathan, Doritos Boy and It Was Wong Of Me That I Touched Your Butt On The L Train.  Unfortunately, the show's short run of five performances is already sold out.  But Ars Nova often extends shows that are popular--just check their website for updates.

Another case of CL inspiration can be found in the The New York TIMES. They have been running a semi-weekly feature by Alan Feuer where the postings are turned into romantic poetry.  The ads are broken up into quattrains and stanzas, sometimes hilariously and other times quite beautifully.  The last one was holiday themed and my favorites were "SantaCon Love" and "A Christmas Miracle on the LIRR" which has the best opening line--"If this actually works, I will eat part of my shoe." Ahhhh.....love.

January 27, 2010

Joan Jett, Allen Ginsberg and The Sundance Buzz

The Sundance Film Festival got underway in Park City last weekend.  This is the first year that programmer John Cooper is taking the reins of the festival and, if you believe the hype, it's actually proving to be a pretty good year at that.  The big buzz films so far are: 
  • THE RUNAWAYS, a Joan Jett biopic starring Kristen Stewart as the 16 year old lead singer of the early 80's LA-punk sensations
  • CATFISH, a shocking doc about a Facebook connection that goes so terribly wrong  that reviewers aren't providing spoilers
  • HOWL, a star studded movie about Allen Ginsberg and his beautifully profane poem that landed him in an obscenity trial
  • THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, a Julianne Moore and Annette Benning as lesbian moms who meet their sperm donor in a movie already getting '11 Oscar buzz
To me, all of these sound great...especially the Runaways movie.  Also, I think it's amazing that actors like James Franco and John Hamm got together to make a movie about an epic poem.  You don't see that in Hollywood everyday (discounting that animated & somewhat bastardized BEOWULF from a few years back). And, of course, James Franco looks great in glasses!  

January 26, 2010

Here Comes The Restaurant Week Truck

File this under inevitable: Restaurant Week, NYC's annual  feast of bargain eating at the city's top restaurants, has jumped on board the current foodie truck-trend.  This year, there will be actually be a Restaurant Week Truck serving various soups from the city's fanciest eateries.  

The truck will be in three locations over the next two weeks, starting at Broadway and 51st through 1/29, Fifth Ave and 19th from 2/1-2/3 and Greenwich and Warren from 2/4-2/5.  Today's featured soup: City Crab's famous New England clam chowder.  The Restaurant Week Truck website has the full menu. Also, a dollar from each soup will go towards relief efforts in Haiti. 

As for regular old-fashioned Restaurant Week which takes place in an actual restaurant, it started yesterday and goes til Feb 7.  Lunch is $24.10 and dinner is $35.00 at more than 100 restaurants throughout the city.  I'm kicking my Restaurant Week adventures off today with lunch at 10 Downing, the new Jason Neroni joint (he created the famed 71 Clinton Street).  You can look at menus for a number of restaurants this year on the Restaurant Week website and make online reservations for most of them as well. 

January 25, 2010

Madonna Turns It Out For Haiti

Friday's Hope for Haiti telethon raised nearly $60 million dollars for the earthquake relief in that devastated country. The multi-network marathon featured many remarkable performances but, I gotta say, Madonna truly turned it out with a simple, nearly acapella version of "Like A Prayer" backed by a church-like choir of singers.  

The song will be available on iTunes soon, both as a single track and a whole album including other performances by Alicia Keys, Sting and Jay-Z. So, if you missed the show, buying the songs are a great way to continue to help the people of Haiti in their time of need.

January 22, 2010

The Art of Meeting Men, '80s Style

Today's bizarre video comes from the good folks at EverythingIsTerrible.  It's a self-help dating VHS from the '80s which provides some really helpful hints for finding the right guy...like speaking in a whisper so he'll lean in closer.  Or maybe carrying around a "small stuffed animal" as, you know, a conversation starter. Oooookaaay--maybe if you're 12.  

My favorite bit here, though, is the staged meeting on a park bench. It reminded me of those terrible but intensely watchable acting competition scenes from the old "Star Search" which, 4 out of 5 times, took place on a park bench and always ended up with the two actors kissing.  Now I know Rosie O'Donnell got her big break on "Star Search" but did any of those actors ever break out?  Or maybe they just got cast in dating videos like this one.

January 21, 2010

Gay WWII Musical YANK! Announces Cast

Last fall, I posted about a new American musical called YANK!  Today they announced their stellar cast on Playbill.com for a production next month at The York Theatre.  Previews start Feb. 16 and tickets are on sale now. Also,  discounts are available if you join the YANK! fan page on FB. 

Bobby Steggert, who recently wowed critics in the "Ragtime" revival, is playing the lead, a young Army recruit named Stu who falls in love with another solider. I saw Bobby in this role a couple years back at the Gallery Player's production in Brooklyn and he was fantastic.  He's a true song and dance man (as they used to say) who's got charisma to spare...easily a superstar of tomorrow. Originally, he was not scheduled to be in the new YANK! but then "Ragtime" got cancelled and, as they say, a door closed but a window of opportunity opened.  :)  

There are a number of people from the Gallery cast returning, like Nancy Anderson and Tally Sessions who were also fantastic.  There's also some new "draftees" from the Great White Way, including actors from the recent productions of "A Chorus Line" and "Spring Awakening".  All in all, this is shaping up to be a great show....which, personally, I cannot wait to see again.  

January 20, 2010

Blowing It Up Back In The Day, Part Deux

Last summer, I posted some video of me and my friends blowing stuff up circa 1981.  I've put together another short clip, this time with a little parental intrusion just for laughs.  The voice in the background is my neighbor's mom, not to pleased with us destroying a train set, asking "Who is shooting?"  The response is classic.

So, from the way back video vaults, I present another early gem of my filmmaking career with a special introduction to kick things off with a bang. :)

January 19, 2010

GLEE Rocks The Globes

That's GLEE creator Ryan Murphy at the center of the love scrum after the show won Golden Globe for TV's best Musical/Comedy.  I believe it's the first time an actual musical has won that award since the 70's heyday of variety shows.  Anyway, seeing the GLEE gang win was my favorite moment of the Globes this year. 

Today there's a roundup of GLEE news over at Andy Towle's blog.  I'd heard about the inevitable all-Madonna episode but it has been revealed that Jane Lynch will finally get to to a little song & dance herself in that episode, with her take on "Vogue". There's also upcoming guest stars galore, including Neil Patrick Harris and maybe even J-Lo. Genius!  

There is also some big news about casting for the recently greenlit Season 2.  Kurt is going to get a boyfriend, and not just some 3-episode arc kinda deal but the real thing.  With creative choices like this, Ryan Murphy and co. are cranking out the most unusual and groundbreaking show on TV in years.  April can't come soon enough. Go GLEE!

January 18, 2010

Forest Hills: The Stuff Jewish Dreams Are Made Of

Billy Eichner is one of my favorite downtown, gay male comedians. How's that for specific! Anyway, he has a new YouTube video up that is a hilarious rewrite of the Jay-Z song "Empire State of Mind" all about growing up Jewish in Forest Hills.  With Rachel Dratch guesting as his Alicia and an amazing cameo of Billy as a baby, I guarantee you will get your laugh on.  And you don't have to be Jewish or know what Forest Hills to enjoy it.  But as Gilda Radner once said, "it wouldn't hurt!"

January 15, 2010

Tower Records Is Back...Sorta

Last year, I blogged about how unused real estate in the city was being utilized as temporary gallery space. Today, the biggest of these repurposing schemes opens on Broadway in the storied home of Tower Records.  

Starting with an opening from 7-10p tonight, the old Tower HQ is being reborn as "Never Records"; a real world mashup of store, art gallery and performance space, all of it put together by the creative folks at NoLongerEmpty.com.  The new store will have some records for sale (in bins!) for those feeling nostalgic for the vinyl, as well as tons of art work too.  There's a cool looking graphic novel-style tribute to Vanilla Ice that takes up of a whole wall on PAPER mags preview of the space.  Talk about nostalgia!  I might have even gotten his greatest work there on cassingle...remember those?  

Anyway, I will be there for the kickoff.  If you can't make it tonight, the new space will be open daily, 12-7p until February 13th.

January 14, 2010

The MTA Website Goes All 2.0

It's been almost 8 years since the MTA website had a full overhaul. Every other major transit system in the country has easy to use "trip navigators" prominently featured on their home pages, except the MTA.  Fortunately, when Jay Walder took over the authority last fall, it was his number one priority.  Now, after nearly four months, there are some lovely results.  

The new MTA website went live yesterday and it is filled with true functionality. It's also got info on the current conditions on all 25 subway lines, as well as the LIRR line and the NYC bridges and tunnels. There's also a handy link to a site that's built for PDA phones like the Blackberry or iPhone.  All in all, a great makeover that was long overdue. 

January 13, 2010

The High-Line Goes West

The infamous Oakland Bay Bridge, a section of which collapsed during the 1989 quake, is finally being replaced by a modern structure.  Construction is under way on a single-tower suspension bridge that is projected to open to traffic in 2013.  This will leave a large chunk of the 1930's-era bridge left with nothing to do but be dismantled....at a cost of some 200-plus million dollars.
A teacher at UC Berkely has a better idea.  Inspired by NYC's success with the abandoned High-Line, he assigned his students to come up with some creative alternatives to demolition.  An article in todays San Francisco Chronicle presents some of their plans, including the one above which is closest to the NYC approach.  Other options included futuristic hotels, housing and even farming.  Only in California, folks!

January 12, 2010

Take A Ride On The Dubai Subway

Yesterday's post made mention of the Dubai Subway, which opened in September of 2009.  After doing a little research, it's not much of a subway as more than 80% of the system is above ground.  But with it's sleek design and pilot-less trains, it's still pretty cool.  And here's the video to prove it: a hi-speed, hi-def 3 minute journey from one end of Dubai's Metro to the other.  Sit back and enjoy the ride....

January 11, 2010

No Pants Day On The Subway

On a day where the temperature didn't break the freezing mark, hundreds of bold New Yorkers left their pants at home to ride the subway.  It was the Annual No Pants Subway day, put together by the wacky folks over at Improv Everywhere.  There are tons more pictures on their website and there should be some video of the event posted later today. This year, though, it looks like the pantless riders outnumbered the civilians.

Now I'd like to add a Cindy Adams-esque, "only in New York kids" but that's not exactly true. The event, which started 9 years ago, has now taken on an international scope as well.  Apparently, subway riders in 44 cities around the globe participated this year. I wonder if there were some wacky westerners riding the brand new Dubai subway san pants?  Then again, given that the temp there was a balmy 75 yesterday, the whole wintry point of the pants-off experience might have been lost.  

January 8, 2010

New Brooklyn Subway/LIRR Terminal Opens

After more than 20 years, Brooklyn finally has a new LIRR terminal at the busy intersection of Atlantic and Flatbush.  The previous station, a turn-of-the-century fortress opened in 1907, was demolished in 1988 to make way for a new, modern station.  A design was unveiled in 1997 and now, after years of temporary structures, cost overruns and construction delays, the $110 million dollar terminal is finally finished. 

The new station, known as Atlantic Terminal, connects directly to Target and the Atlantic Terminal Shopping Center.  So now a taste of the suburbs is only a subway ride away!  10 MTA lines run into the Atlantic Ave Terminal, in addition to 6 tracks for LIRR trains.  The new terminal looks great on the inside: clean, light-filled and spacious with some striking public art. And the facade is quite nice too.

However, a major blunder seems to have been made with huge slabs or rough rock strewn in front of the terminal's grand entrance. They appear to be some sort of anti-terrorism safety measure but one wonders why the MTA didn't just put traditional bollards around the corner.  These massive slabs practically ruin what should be a handsome cornerstone of the redevelopment of Atlantic Avenue and one can only hope the MTA will realize their mistake and fix it sooner than later. 

January 7, 2010

Movie Tix Trump DVD Sales

Here's a little bit of encouraging news for the movie biz that came out this week:  in 2009, ticket sales surpassed DVD sales for the first time in nearly 7 years.  But it is something of a case of good news bad news.  

Though the 2009 domestic box office is up by roughly 10 percent over the previous year, the reason it really beat out DVD and Blu-Ray is that disc sales dropped more than 13 percent, continuing a downward trend that began a couple years ago. And that trend is not likely to stop anytime soon given the number of cheap rental options (Redbox's 1$ per day) and new download options (Netflix streaming movies on X-Box).  

Still, with Avatar packing them in, and grossing more than 1 billion worldwide, people seem to be going to the movies more.  The key is getting them to see movies that aren't in 3D or don't blow up the world.  That's the challenge for the indie sector which, despite all this good news, is still struggling with a lack of screens and an audience that waits for the films to appear on DVD.  

January 6, 2010

Donny Osmond Remembers Colored TV and Hooks Up With Great People

In an interview about his new radio show, Donny Osmond gave some interesting quotes to the AP. While reminiscing about how he started out in show biz as a child, he had this to say about the '60s:
"I've been in this business since dirt was created. I remember when colored television came in." 
Now I know Donny is getting up there but dirt? The guy needs to give himself a little more credit. As for "colored television", I don't know what to say. But I'm guessing there weren't a lot of "colored televisions" in Utah where he grew up.
Finally, to wrap the interview up, there was this unintentionally suggestive line:
"It's an interesting ride to be in show business. It's even more interesting to keep that career going and thankfully I've hooked up with some great people.''

January 5, 2010

2010: The Year Jupiter Explodes

Back in the 80's, the sequel to "2001: A Space Odyssey" was released titled "2010: The Year We Make Contact".  I was in college at the time and saw it countless times...it seemed like HBO was running it constantly.  I remember the movie being fairly watchable as it had some of my favorite actors in it, namely Roy Scheider and Helen Mirren.  The best part though is the end where Jupiter blows up and becomes a second sun.  That was awesome!

Now that's it's actually 2010 (which seemed eons in the future back then), the movie has been on my mind.  I doubt it's worth watching again but, fortunately, someone has uploaded the last few minutes onto YouTube for your viewing pleasure.  One interesting detail is that this incredible intergalatic event brings peace between the US and Russia, as the filmmakers imagined the Cold War would still be on.  However, the bigger problem with the movies sun-plus-1 premise is global warming. We're already screwed with one sun heating up the planet.  With two, we'd be toast. :)  Happy 2010! 

January 4, 2010

The Best Movie of the Decade

At the end of the year, there are always tons of lists about the best films of the previous year.  And at the end of this year, there have been more than a few tallys of the best movies of the Aughts.  However, a number of critics have recently chosen David Lynch's masterwork "Mulholland Drive" as the best movie of the decade.  And I couldn't agree more.

Lynch's meditation of fame, LA, violence and apocalyptic visions, originally released in 2001, seems quite prescient in retrospect.  Isn't that what the last ten years have been about?  Time Out New York placed it atop their Best 50 Movies of the '00s and the main critic at Slate has sung it's praises as well.  There is also a thorough write up of the film's importance and genius at Reverse Shot, written by Michael Joshua Rowin.  

It's somewhat ironic that a film which began it's life as a TV pilot would end up representing a decade of movies. But then again, maybe it's just right.  After all, the trend of the last tend years has the most groundbreaking and innovative American filmmaking appearing on network and cable TV, not at the multiplex.