February 26, 2010

The Biennial vs. The Brucennial

The Whitney Biennial (photo above) opens to the public today uptown. Meanwhile, tucked in amongst the 10K handbags and designer snowboots, something called the Brucennial is opening in Soho.  

Filling the walls of a bi-level space, the show (pictured below) is a hodgepodge of new work and old, including paintings by superstars like Julian Schnabel and David Salle.  As stated coyly in their press release, the show "brings together 420 artists from 911 countries working in 666 discrete disciplines to reclaim education as part of an artist's ongoing practice." This is the third Brucennial, put together by the Bruce High Quality Art Foundation, a loose collective of five artists.  The big difference from the Whitney is that Bruce is run by artists and for artists.  There is no selection committee.  

The TIMES review of this year's Whitney Biennial is favorable, commending the museum for halving the number of artists included to a spare 55 and putting on a cleaner show.  The Brucennial aims to be the opposite.  And unlike the Whitney, it is free.    

February 25, 2010

Cupcake of the Week: Baked By Melissa

It's been a while since I did a cupcake of the week. I was starting to think the trend of trendy cupcakes was dying out. But not at Baked By Melissa.

I found this tiny take-out window on Spring Street, just west of Broadway, serving up some amazing little cupcakes. Melissa's speciality is girl-sized cupcakes that taste great but don't induce a huge amount of guilt. I was immediately drawn to the chocolate/peanut butter cupcake with a shard of Reese's sticking out the top.  Whoa--it was amazing, if a little small for me. (No girlish guilt here...I'm skinny!)  So speaking for myself, one is not enough.

Anyway, there are 9 flavors total so I do want to go back for cinnamon, cookies/cream and maybe PBJ. Also, Melissa has a new store that just opened on 14th, west of Union Square. You can also order online too but they only deliver to NYC. 

February 24, 2010

"The Blues Brothers" Mall To Be Torn Down

I was recently sent some crazy news and matching video by my car-chase crazed brother. The Dixie Square Mall, located outside Chicago and featured in one of the great movie car chases of all time in 1980's "The Blues Brothers", is being demolished. Actually, the mall was sorta demolished in 1979 during the actual filming of the chase sequence when more than a few cop cars tore through storefronts and indoor planters, wrecking the joint. The mall had closed a few months earlier but it never reopened after filming and has sat there, an empty shell of itself, for more than 20 years.

If you'd like to see what the mall looks like today, here's the aforementioned crazy video where some insane dude with his very own Bluesmobile strapped a digi-cam to the roof and drove into the mall to "recreate" some of the shots from the chase sequence. It's amazing this guy didn't pop a tire or something. But his stunt driving skills are pretty remarkable. Hmmm....I wonder if this his demo reel?

Bluesmobile Returns to Dixie Square Mall

February 23, 2010

Charles Busch Returns As A Nun

Charles Busch is back on stage and back in the East Village in a new show about nuns called "The Divine Sister".  Busch got his start in that neighborhood back in the early 80's with his long-running show "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" so in some ways, his current run at Theatre for the New City is something of a homecoming.

"The Divine Sister" spoofs on movie nuns more than the real kind, with lots of references to classic movies like "The Sound Of Music", "The Bells of St. Mary's, "The Song Of Sister Bernadette" and even "The DaVinci Code".  The show is a riot of one liners and high camp as Busch and other downtown legend Julie Halston storm around the stage having a grand old time.  If you love the ridiculousness of old Hollywood movies and nuns in general, this show is defintely worth seeing.  

It's been a while since Busch was onstage, having made some movies and written the hugely successful Broadway show "Tale of the Allergists Wife".  But he said recently that he wanted to just do something fun. With "The Divine Sister" , he has succeeded.  Technically, tickets are sold out but you can put your name on a wait list at the box office for cancellations. Or just wait til it moves uptown, where it is surely headed. It's onstage until March 7.   

February 22, 2010

A Hot New GLEE Spring Preview

Yes--there was some actual melting of snow this weekend as the temperature inched above 30.  This means Spring is coming...along with 8 new episodes of GLEE.  A new promo was released last week which has some highlights, including a scene from the all Madonna episode.  The fun begins again on Tuesday April 13th, in its new time slot after AMERICAN IDOL.

February 18, 2010

Figure Skating Fashion Disasters

Tonight is the men's figure skating finals, sure to feature some interesting uses of sparkles and faux fur.  The figure skating world has become known for its sometimes questionable fashion choices, so much so that they were thoroughly spoofed in the feature film BLADES OF GLORY.  

This week, Time magazine put together a handy compilation of the Top 10 Worst Figure Skating Outfits.  One of them was from Sunday's night's pairs finale, the happy/sad clown duo of wacky Germans who won the bronze.  With Johnny Weir's penchant for fur and Evan Lysacek's love of feathers, who knows what fashion treats this evenings competition may hold.  The show begins at 8.

February 17, 2010

Is ChatRoulette The New YouTube?

There's an interesting piece in NY Magazine about ChatRoulette, a relatively new Internet...experience.  If you have a computer, a cam and a streak of daring, you can log on to ChatRoulette and instantly be connected with thousands of users around the world for instant chats.  If you're want, you can then have an online "conversation" or you can just click the "next" button and you will be connected with another random stranger.

The NY mag writer, Sam Anderson, draws some conclusions from his visits; the average age of people rouletting is 20, it's a 2 to 1 ratio of men to women, and, this being the Internet and all, a great deal of them are looking for some sort of sexual play.  But a lot of them are just chatting, or even dancing to Michael Jackson with strangers half-way around the world.  Anderson found his first solo experience on the site a little crazy, as he found himself "nexted" by heavily made up teenage girls and male masturbators.  But when he logged on with a friend, he found the experience much more entertaining and fun as well.

Anderson writes that, in a way, this site harkens back to the more Wild West days of the Internet when the web was inherently messy and random. In the early days,  there was no searching or categorizing what you wanted/needed. There's something bracing about that in an age where the net has become such a controlled experience, via megasites like Facebook.  Regardless of whether or not you are bold enough to turn your cam on (I haven't...so far), the article is a fascinating look at the instant connectivity of the web...as well as it's dangers.  

February 16, 2010

Stories By Their Parents on THIS AMERICAN LIFE

NPR's "This American Life" celebrated their 400th episode this week with a unique experiement; all of the show's reporter/producers called their parents and asked them to pitch stories.  Host Ira Glass explained how everyone who works on the show is always being peppered by ideas from friends and family members about stories that would be "perfect" for the award-winning radio show.  So this week he finally decided to take them up on their offers and the results are extraordinary. 

The pitches range from something as simple and odd as "something on the Eerie Canal" to a dad's obsession with a "rotary-dial controlled car" to one parent's interest in "funny funeral stories".  There is a prize for the best story, decided by all the reporters (and Ira Glass) voting at the end of the show.  To make their judgement, there's also a series of very unusual and very funny behind the scenes-style critiques after each piece filled with some brutal honesty.  In fact, one story is deemed so "boring" that it's stopped half-way through.  

I've been a fan of the show for a few years and this special episode is one of my favorites. Definitely worth a listen. And when you're done, you can vote on your favorite story too on their website...my vote went to the last story. The two winners will have their parents flown to Chicago for a visit.  Perfect.

February 15, 2010

The National Association To Advance Fat Acceptance

This weekend, a Twitter-fight blew up after Southwest Airlines asked filmmaker Kevin Smith to get off a flight because he was too big.  The plus-sized Smith had bought two seats but then got switched to a SW flight with only one seat.  Since then, he's been bitch-slapping the airline on his Twitter feed and they've been trying to make nice on theirs.

ABC's World News Sunday's did a story about the incident, quoting a spokesperson from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance who said this was a case of fat discrimination.  When I heard the name of this organization, I was like....come again?  Is that for real?  After Googling it, I found that NAAFA is actually a legit and serious group that's been around for more than 40 years, trying to "build a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality". 

I'm not sure if Kevin Smith is a member but I'm sure they can count on a hefty (ha) donation from him now that he's felt the sting of anti-Fat Acceptance.  Anyway, in a time of skyrocketing national obesity rates and a Presidential initiative to reduce the country's waistline, NAAFA may want to reconsider their mission. Or at least their name....just a suggestion.

February 12, 2010

Hershey's Kisses On Houston Street

On my way to work this morning, I was surprised to find bunch of super-sized Hershey's Kisses planted in the middle of Houston Street.  Some clever artist had covered the iron bells in the median (meant to serve as car-blockers for pedestrians) in shiny, alumnium foil and even put cute, little messages on paper sticking out them.

Some instant Internet research revealed that it's the work of artist Richard Velleso, under the guise of his artists'-alter-ego OlgaLovesNYC. The Bowery Boogie blog has a cool video about the making of the kisses.  It's a lovely visual treat for this Valentines Day weekend!

February 11, 2010

Liza and Aretha Eat Candy With Some Dudes

This Snickers commercial has been posted a bunch of times on Facebook in the last 24 hours but I'm going to post it again here because I love it.  It's simply awesome.  I also enjoyed the Betty White/Abe Vigoda version during the Superbowl.  I wonder why this didn't make the cut?  Maybe divas are too gay for the NFL...

February 10, 2010

Patti Smith and Scribner's Bookstore

Patti Smith has been making the talkshow rounds promoting her book/memoir "Just Kids".  One of my favorite blogs, Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, posted a selection of the book which talks about her day job at the famous Scribner's Bookstore. Charles Scribner Sons (the official name of the company) was a veritable temple to books that was run by the publisher of the same name. Scribner's imprint is notable for debuting early 20th century literary titans like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.  

The Beaux Arts building which housed the store and the publisher is still there, on Fifth Avenue and 48th though now it sells Sephora cosmetics.  The bookstore closed in 1989 and the imprint was absorbed by Simon & Schuster soon afterwards.  Fortunately the building is in great condition so you can almost imagine what the bookstore must have been like.  Or you can just have Patti Smith tell you all about it:
"Each day I rose, dutifully dressed and made the three subway changes to Rockefeller Center. My uniform for Scribner's was taken from Anna Karina in Bande à part: dark sweater, plaid skirt, black tights and flats. I was positioned at the phone desk, which was manned by the kindhearted and supportive Faith Cross. I felt lucky to be associated with such a historic bookstore. My salary was higher, and I had Janet as a confidante. I was rarely bored, and when I got restless, I wrote on the back of Scribner's stationery, like Tom inThe Glass Menagerie, scribbling poems on the inside of cardboard boxes."

February 8, 2010

The Superbowl Digs Guys In Their Underwear

For all the controversy about pulling the one gay ad, what was up with all the nearly-naked guys running around in Superbowl commercials last night?  Every year there seems to be an unofficial theme to the ads shown during the Big Game and this year that theme was guys in their underwear.  Weirdly enough two of the ads ran back to back....one was for Dockers and the other for CareerBuilders, which you can watch below.  Then there was a Coke spot of a guy sleepwalking through Africa in his undies looking for a Coke. Whaaa?  Oddly enough, none of these ads were for underwear.

Maybe next year, Calvin Klein or 2Xist can shake things up with a real ad for tighty-whities.  That would be awesome!  However, there the prevailing belief in the ad world is that gay men don't watch the Superbowl.  Perhaps...but they do watch the ads.  And sometimes even the half-time show.

February 5, 2010

Dunkin' Donuts Turns 60

Dunkin' Donuts is celebrating their 60th anniversary this month with a cool, special edition coffee cup (pictured here) which features all their logos over the past six decades.  The first store opened in 1950 in Quincy, MA. Dunkin' was a northeast regional chain starting in 1955, when the first franchise was licensed.  Now it's empire includes more than 8,000 stores that are spread across the US and the world with $5.5 billion in sales annually.  And that is a lot of donuts.  :)  Happy B-Day DD!  

February 4, 2010

Simon Cowell's "Footprints In The Sand"

If you watched "American Idol" last night, you might have caught the aspiring superstar Jessica Furney auditioning with a song called "Footprints In The Sand".  Unbelievably enough, it is a musical version of that poem about God walking with you on the beach and there's two sets of footprints which become one when you're having a bad day and then you get all like, where the hell were you God, and he goes....I was carrying you.  It's the greatest and cheesiest spiritual punchline of all time.

Anyway, Jessica sang this song pretty well and got her ticket to Hollywood.  But she was crafty: as it turned out, this "Footprints" song was actually co-written by Simon Cowell!  He came up with the idea himself and then worked with two other writers to make it happen.  The song was featured on last season's "X-Factor" where a UK contestant pulled the same trick, courting Simon's favor by singing his number (posted below).  The song went on to become a minor UK hit sung be Leona Lewis. Not sure what the song's fate will be in America...

February 3, 2010

Brooklyn Movie Palace To Get A Makeover

The Loews Kings Theatre, empty since 1977, is getting a 70M$ makeover.  ACE, a live theatrical entertainment company, announced plans to renovate the theatre on Flatbush and Beverly into a performance space. Today's TIMES has the full story....as well as a beautiful slideshow of the theatre's grand/faded interior.  

There is something about an abandoned old theatre that I find fascinating, probably because modern movie houses, even the nicer ones, are so generic and unornamented.  Back in it's heyday in the 30's and 40's you can imagine that this place truly was a movie palace.  

February 2, 2010

Oscar Noms Get Supersized

The number of Best Picture Oscar nominations has doubled this year, from 5 to 10 films.  There were some industry pundits predicting that this decision was a disaster and, after some unworthy films made the cut, it would be reversed in a couple years.  However, after the Academy's first year of supersized nominations was released this morning, the list isn't too shabby afterall.

  • "Avatar" (Fox)
  • "The Blind Side" (Warner Bros.) 
  • "District 9" (Sony)
  • "An Education" (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • "Inglourious Basterds" (the Weinstein Co.-Universal)
  • "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' By Sapphire" (Lionsgate)
  • "A Serious Man" (Focus Features)
  • "Up" (Disney-Pixar) 
  • "Up in the Air" (Paramount-DreamWorks)
Out of all of these, the only film that seems to be out of place is UP, Pixar's animated movie about an old man who flies to South America on a bunch of balloons.  (The movie also received a Best Animated Feature nod.)  Visually, the movie was pretty but the story was thin and semi-bizzaro (talking dogs and evil blimp-maniacs).  I haven't seen THE BLIND SIDE but from what I've heard, it's a pretty solid film if maybe a little schmaltzy.  

There was talk of movies like THE HANGOVER, STAR TREK or even HARRY POTTER making it into this newly expanded category, all of which are fine, entertaining films but not exactly worthy of a Best Picture nod.  The ostensible reason for the expansion was to include more commercial films, since lately most Oscar nominees were indie films people outside of NY/LA had barely seen or even heard about.  But it appears the Academy voters have not gone too Hollywood in their pursuit of bigger ratings for this years' telecast, set for March 7. My prediction is for "Inglorious Basterds" to take home the big award but, as we know with Oscar, anything is possible.

February 1, 2010

100 Feet Down, A New Grand Central For LIRR

You wouldn't know it from street level, but one of the largest public works projects is taking place 100 feet under midtown.  The MTA's long planned "East Side Access Project" to bring the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal has been under construction for the last couple years and they are really making some progress.  There are some amazing pics recently posted to the MTA's new and improved website showing the newly excavated station cavern (pictured above) as well as the station concourse which, which is being built on an old lower level of the Grand Central known as the Madison Yards. 

In addition to this new station, there are two tunnel boring machines working to dig out tracks from the 63rd street river tunnel to the station. So far more than 22,000 feet of tunnel have been carved out of bedrock and they still have a couple more years of tunneling to go. This is the first expansion of the LIRR in over 100 years.  It's all expected to be open and operating in 2016.