March 31, 2010

German Nursing Home's "Cure" For Alzheimers

A nursing home in Germany has developed an unusual solution for a serious problem; Alzheimers and dementia patients who wander away and then get lost.  One of the workers at the facility in Dusseldorf came up with an idea that sounded crazy at first but they decided to give it a shot.  

Realizing the patients would leave in search of transportation, he suggested building a fake bus stop right in front of the nursing home as a way to "catch" them.  Not only did it work, it changed the way that employees dealt with patients in general, reducing stress and increasing the patients well-being.  

I found out about this whole fascinating story on the NPR RadioLab podcast.  You can click here to hear it in its entirety or you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.  

March 30, 2010

Bieber Brings Back Bubble Gum

In a modern music landscape dominated by soulful divas and hip-hop rappers, the joys of seriously old school Bubble Gum Pop are making a surprising comeback with the emergence of Justin Bieber.  This Canadian wunderteen started as a YouTube sensation but is now taking on the pop world.  

He gigged on David Letterman last week with his insanely catchy pop confection "Baby", which sounds like a song conceived in the 60's, scored in the 80's and recorded in the '00s.  It has a hook that gets stuck in your head and won't let a good way, of course.  Baby, baby, baby...ooooo, ohhhhh.  It might as well be The Supremes. 

Anyway, Justin's clean-teen image, of course, has made him a hit with the tween girls.   And, like many male pop idols, he looks more like a girl than a guy....cute but not too threatening.  In his video for "Baby", a Bollywood-esque dance piece set in a bowling alley, he reminds me of the butchy Mary Stuart Masterson in "Some Kind Of Wonderful" or a very young KD Lang.  (Apparently, others have mistaken him for a lesbian as well.)  

Anyway, he's storming the USA in 2010 with this and other bubbly hits to follow.

March 29, 2010

Alec Baldwin Guest Host Gig On NPR

Alec Baldwin served as guest host this weekend on WNYC's arts show "Studio 360", subbing for regular host Kurt Anderson.  He did a great job, interviewing Laura Linney about acting and Mary Carr about her latest memoir of about addiction.  

It was quite a change having him as host as he was more conversational with the guests, like he was having them over for dinner.  He also did a number of droll jokes regarding Kurt Anderson's whereabouts ("he's in the trunk of my Toyota") in the same, flat NPR-style voice that made his "Schweddy Balls'" sketch such an SNL classic.  Hearing him talk like this made me want to watch that skit again and, all these years later, it is still hysterical.

March 26, 2010

Downtown Pix At NYU

Back in the late '70s and early '80s, the downtown art scene in NYC was hot.  Artists like Robert Mappelthorpe, Patti Smith, Keith Haring, and David Wojnarowicz were making their mark.  

Currently, the NYU Grey Art Gallery has a show up which explores this fertile time in downtown art scene.  It's mainly photographs with some video, culled from the University's extensive Fales Archive.  Some of the more surprising pictures are documentation of a performance art series that happened in the summer between 1978 and 1985 on a sandy beach, made from the excavation for the World Trade Center, which would eventually become Battery Park City.  (The photo above is by Village Voice photographer Robin Holland.)  The group that put this together was called Creative Time and there are pictures here that look like something you might see at Burning Man but are actually lower Manhattan.

The show "Mining the Fales Archive"  closes on April 3 so it's worth checking out this weekend.  And it's free!  

March 25, 2010

Four Words--Hot Tub Time Machine

When I first heard of the movie title "Hot Tub Time Machine" I thought it was a joke.  Some sort of YouTube video or something.  But it's actually a big studio film that is opening this Friday with a concept so brilliant, it just might save MGM.  

Needless to say, the concept is self-explanatory ala  "Snakes On A Plane".  Four dudes get into a hot tub that transports them back to 1986 (cassettes!!!) where they encounter their past (hot moms!!!) and do their best to get back to 2010.  Though it sounds dumb, I think the film has the potential to be hilarious.  I mean, I laughed twice watching the trailer...that never happens! Of course, I do have a certain fondness for time travel/fix-the-past movies like "Back to the Future" and "Peggy Sue Got Married".  

In fact, I'm currently working on one entitled "Prom Queens", about three gay guys who end up going back to high school. More news on that as things develop.  In the meantime, I will see u at the muliplex this weekend for HTTM!

March 24, 2010

Brownie Of The Week

I was walking up Fifth Ave in midtown yesterday, something that would usually be a pretty dreary exercise especially given the cold, rainy weather.  Suddenly, there was a flash of silver ahead and the semi-mythical Treats Truck came into view, parked no 38th Street.  Known for it's brownies and sandwich cookies, the truck has been cruising around NYC for a couple years now and getting rave reviews for it's sweet and reasonbly priced treats.  

Unlike some other more stationary truck vendors I've blogged about, the Treats Truck really gets around town: the Village, the Slope, the Upper West Side, Midtown, Chelsea. To keep track, owner Ima Kim regularly updates her location current on the truck's Twitter feed.  Now that's one use of Twitter which I can totally understand.  Next time I need a brownie (which would be later this afternoon), I now know exactly where to find one!  

March 23, 2010

Life On The Upper East Side Is A Blast

For the last few months, the MTA has been blasting through the city streets of the Upper East Side as work on the fabled Second Avenue subway picks up.  Second Avenue Sagas posted some startling video of a recent controlled explosion that took place last Friday.  The force of the blast looks like a minor earthquake and sounds even worse.  But this is the work that needs to be done as they prepare a so-called "Launch Box" for the Tunnel Boring Machine that will carve out the new "T" line deep under the city's streets.  Completion is schedule for....oh, somewhere around 2016.  Yikes.

March 22, 2010

Nancy Pelosi & Dems: They Are The Warriors

While checking in on the health care vote yesterday, I found this photo posted on the front of the TIMES website of Pelosi wielding the gavel from '69 that was used to pass Medicare.  However, the first thing this shot made me think of was a somewhat iconic movie poster from my youth....THE WARRIORS.

Congrats to the Congressional Democrats who stood their ground yesterday and voted for this historic and long overdue reform of our nation's health care system.  Simply put, they ARE the warriors.  

March 19, 2010

Art That's Literally On The Edge

Every year, the Madison Square Park Conservancy funds a public art installation.  For 2010, the project is so ambitious that it will not only spread outside the park but even above it.  

British sculptor Antony Gormley has created 31 naked statues of himself and placed them in the park, on nearby sidewalks and up on the rooftops and ledges of nearby landmark buildings, including the Flatiron and Empire State.  The project is called "Event Horizon" and is actually a restaging of a similar piece he did in London back in 2007. The difference here is that he's got some taller buildings to work with and a concern from local police that the statues might be mistaken for suicidal jumpers.  

Today's TIMES has a write-up about the project and some stunning photos by Todd Heisler. They also have a map so you can find all the statues which are concentrated in the Flatiron District but stretch as far south as Union Square. The exhibit will be up until August. 

March 18, 2010

The End of Publishing?

This is video response to all the doomsaying about book publishing, including most recently an ominous New York Magazine article this week entitled "The End".  This video was meant originally for an internal sales conference at a UK publisher but now is getting passed around in the online world.  I like it's message which is about seeing the glass half full as opposed to already empty.  And I like the way they did this...which still is sorta mind boggling.

March 17, 2010

American Idol at The Met

Every year, hundreds of opera hopefuls from around the country participate in an American Idol-esque search for the next generation of classical singing talent.  In a series of auditions, more than 1,800 singers are winnowed down to 22 semi-finalists who come to New York for a change to sing on the storied stage of the Metropolitan Opera in the National Council Grand Finals.

I'm not a big opera fan but I happened to catch a compelling PBS doc called "The Audition" on Channel 13 this week.  It follows these semi-finalists through the end stage of the 2007 process and the crowing of 5 winners in front of an audience at the Met.  It was like American Idol except these 20-something performers are a little plumper than the typical Idol contestant...oh yeah, and they got pipes.  Seriously!  It makes Idol look like the kareoke competition it's become this season.

Anyway, this doc was part of PBS's Great Performances and there is a preview available on their website. It's pledge time so I'm sure it will be re-airing a few more times....check your local listings.

March 16, 2010

America's Smartest 11 Year Old

I was at the GLAAD media awards on Saturday, where Joy Behar and Cynthia Nixon were honored for their work in promoting positive LGBT issues in the media.  There were many other awards and plenty of speeches.  But there was one that was truly extraordinary.  

Will Phillips, an 11 year old from Arkansas (!), was the subject of a CNN story about his refusal to pledge allegiance to the flag at his grade school because he believed the phrase "with liberty and justice for all" didn't cover the nation's millions of LGBT citizens.  When his story won, he got to the podium with his parents and received a standing ovation. Then, as he pulled out a typed acceptance speech, the audience exploded with laughter.  However, his speech was no joke....this kid had something to say and wowed the crowd with his simple eloquence and excellent diction, not to mention a message for President Obama.   

This kid was easily the highlight of a star-studded evening. And he gives me hope for a future in which this nation's LGBT citizens will get their full and equal rights, as promised in the pledge.

March 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary Hi-Fi Bri!!!

Yes's Happy Anniversary to me today! March 15th marks one year of posts here on Hi-Fi Bri.  This is officially post number 260 and, as of today, there have been nearly 10,000 page views.  Amazing!  

I've gotten such great feedback about HFB that I've decided expand this blog to six days a week.  Also my goal for the next year it to double the number of readers.  However, to do this, I need your help.  There are three ways I'm asking for a little internet interaction today: 1) you can email or text 5 friends to read/follow/subscribe to HFB, 2) you can post a link to HFB on your Twitter or Facebook feed saying how awesome it is or 3) you can make a donation to the blog which would be super awesome! 

Some people have wondered what is up with the donation button here on the right.  Well, it's simple...if you click on it, it takes you to a PayPal link where you can donate any amount from $1 on up which goes directly to me to support my work.  I don't need to tell you times are tough, especially for a writer/indie filmmaker.  So if you like what you've read here over the last year, please drop a little coin in the online bucket.  Your generosity will be greatly appreciated.  

Anyway, thanks again for all the words of encouragement and support of my latest adventure in writing.  And, as always, thanks for reading!   :)

March 12, 2010

OK Go Does It Again

OK Go continues their string of clever YouTube videos with their newest song, "This Too Shall Pass".  Though their budget has clearly increased a bit since the days of backyard dance routines and synchronized exercise machines, the new video still has the same shaggy charm and catchy beat as their previous material.  Not to mention some incredible physics...

March 11, 2010

The Movies Of Wonskolaser Brothers

If that headline is puzzling, here's the explanation: Wonskolaser was the original family surname of four enterprising brothers whose parents came to the US from Poland in the late 1800's. Like many families, they simplified and Americanized their last name on arrival.  Thus, the Wonskolasers became the Warners and, a few decades later, an American institution was born with the founding of a motion picture distribution company called Warner Brothers Pictures.

Continuing my TCM habit, I found all this out watching a fascinating documentary called "The Brother's Warner", directed by one of the brother's granddaughters, Cass Warner.  The company got its start showing movies to coal miners in Pennsylvania and each brother played a role: Harry ran the business, Albert took tickets, Sam minded the equipment and the youngest Jack would sing terribly at the end of each screening to clear the house.  Their family business grew through the 20's with stars like Rin Tin Tin and John Barrymore. However, they were they were something like the Fox Network of their day, competing against the big three studios of Paramout, MGM and First National.

That all changed in 1927 when Sam, the tech guy, convinced the brother's Warner that sound was the future of movies.  So they bought the Vitgraph company, decided to make the first feature length sound film, and that film The Jazz Singer practically changed Hollywood overnight.  TCM showed that groundbreaking film after the doc and it was just as fascinating to watch.  The most surprising thing is how little synchronized sound is in the movie....only 2 minutes of dialogue and 6 musical numbers in a 90 minute movie.  But, even with all the title cards and hammy acting, the film tells a dramatically compelling, two-hander of a melodrama which is so effective it's been remade three times since.

The story of the Warner Bros. does not, however, have a happy ending.  Sam died the day before The Jazz Singer premiered. That left Albert, Jack and Harry to feud with each other until Jack basically stole the company right out from under his eldest brothers in the 1950s.  Jack was an infamous figure in Hollywood, a larger than life super-quotable, old school mogul who was known for meddling in the editing room.  He died in 1978.

March 10, 2010

Don't You Forget About Him--Oscars/Vanity Fair

The Oscar's tribute to John Hughes was, aside from Bigelow's double win, the most memorable moment of this year's show.  As the Brat Packers lined up on stage in their best adult prom wear, they gave some wonderfully moving and funny testimonials to the King of High School Comedy.  It's remarkable that Hughes high-school trio of films have survived not only more than 20 years but have become classics as well...all without one single Oscar nomination.

This month's "Vanity Fair" has an in-depth exploration of Hughes and his small but memorable body of work.  Mixing interviews with his own children as well as the stars of his films, there are some interesting revelations.  Most fascinating to me was that "The Breakfast Club" was supposed to be the first of the triology films but then Hughes dashed off a quickie comedy "Sixteen Candles", which got rushed into production before TBC.  There's also some good stories about his intense and mercurial relationships with his teen muses, notably how he didn't speak to Molly Ringwald after their 80's collaborations.  There's also the revelation that, until he died, Hughes was constantly writing and drawing in notebooks, the pages of which are shown in detail in the magazine.  

It's the best distillation of Hughes and his work that I've read in a while.  And a lovely complement to Sunday's well-earned Oscar tribute.  

March 9, 2010

The Story Behind AIRPLANE!

I think my favorite cable channel of all-time has to be TCM.  Not only are they commercial free (except for promos for TCM), but they show great movies, uncut and in their original screen formats.   

Over the weekend, TCM had a theme of air disaster movies....definitely not part of its "31 Days of Oscar" program.  Anyway, the double feature I caught was 1980's AIRPLANE! and the movie that it was based on, ZERO HOUR! (also with an exclamation point), a movie from the 1957.  I always saw AIRPLANE! as a spoof of 70s air disaster movies. While it definitely references those films, the basic storyline is lifted from this proto-disaster flick, written by Arthur Hailey who, as it turns out, penned AIRPORT and had a hand in all the subsequent AIRPORT movies.  

In ZERO HOUR! a former WWII pilot with a fear of flying is the only person who can land a commercial plane when the crew gets food poisoning.  That, of course, is the basic plot of AIRPLANE! except in the Zucker's movie, it's not taken seriously at all.  I loved watching the original AIRPLANE! for the umpteennth time .  The girl scout fight in the "Drambuie" nightclub is still hysterical.  As is Mrs. Cleaver speaking jive. And Maureen McCormick as a nun.   A fun fact about Kareem Abdul-Jabar's appearance in the's a direct homage to ZERO HOUR! which cast a pro football player by the name of Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch.   

Finally, ZERO HOUR! was actually remade in 1971 as a TV movie, TERROR IN THE SKY starring Roddy McDowell and written by that air disaster workhorse, Arthur Hailey.  He died in 2004 but left behind the legacy of his own genre....not to mention all the jokes he unwittingly inspired.

March 8, 2010

And The Winner Is....

Despite Kathryn Bigelow's breakthrough win, there was one subtle but historic change to the proceedings this year.  For the last 22 years, when the presenter opened the envelope the standard line was "and the Oscar goes to....".   Before that, it used to be the more honest statement "and the winner is...", a line that became a cultural catch-phrase.  But back in the 80's the Academy, in all their stuffy Academy-ness, decided that all the nominees are winners blah blah blah.  And the script was literally changed and that change has held.  Until last night....

Suddenly, the presenters were uttering the formerly dreaded winner line. It was a top secret change in the script, noted on Friday by the Wrap after rehearsal.  The only one who didn't toe the new company line was Kate Winslet who either didn't get the memo or, having won once but lost a few times, decided to keep the "everyone's a winner" feel.  Directors Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic didn't have too much to say about the change, though they did hint at a big, "naughty" change in pre-show coverage.  That was it...though I'd hardly call it naughty.

One other notable imprint of Shankman's direction was the fact that just about every major star from the movie HAIRSPRAY (which he also directed) was presenting: Zac Efron, Queen Latifh, John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer. As they say in Hollyrock, it's who you know....

March 5, 2010

New York's Art-A-Palooza

On Wednesday, the Armory Show opened at Piers 92 & 94 on the westside highway, kicking off what has now become something of an unofficial Contemporary Art Festival--or, what I call the Art-A-Palooza.  This year there are now more than 6 auxiliary art fairs running concurrently with the Armory in locations all around town: 

I attended opening night of the Armory and was overwhelmed to say the least.  There are roughly 300 galleries on the piers this year squeezed in to a labyrinth of cubicles and walkways. While there is some memorable work on display (notably the big silver pirate above), I found that after 3 hours of wandering around it all had a tendency to blend together.  One thing I did notice, however, was a striking lack of gay/lesbian content to the show. I mean, this is the art world right?  

Lately, I love going to these shows more for the people-watching than the art.  It was an endless parade of NY-hipsters and Euro-fancies with some serious fashion and hair/makeup going on Wednesday night.  Trends spotted: big owl glasses for the men, super asymmetrical haircuts for the ladies and ghostly white makeup for the boys.  It was seriously like art-world runway.  It almost makes me wonder if the whole show is actually some secret performance art project that some intrepid artist is discreetly videotaping.  If so, that would definitely be worth seeing.  

March 4, 2010

Billy Eichner Takes To The Streets For Oscar

Billy Eichner, who earlier this year did a great video parody song "Forest Hills State of Mind", is back with another video.  This one is more like his previous man on the street ambush "interviews" which are hysterical. The topic is the upcoming Oscars and the big question...Meryl vs. Sandra.  He also finds someone who, believe it or not, just doesn't know who Judi Dench is.  

If you're looking to make further sport of all things Oscar, check out his show this weekend at Joe's Pub, Saturday at 11:30pm.  I can guarantee that it will be a lot funnier than the Oscars....even with Alec and Steve.    

March 3, 2010

Marriage Equality Comes To Washington DC

Some big news out of DC this couples are lined up at the District's courthouse on the first day of legal same-sex marriage in the nation's capital. The Washington Post has the full story (where this lovely picture came from, shot by Bill O'Leary) and there's also full background of the long road to marriage equality in DC over at  Towleroad.  

Of course, the haters tried to block it with a last ditch appeal to the US Supreme Court, but they had no luck there.  In a rare Justice Roberts ruling I agree with, he said the court had no business in local affairs. I love the irony of the haters having to beg for Supreme intervention when they are always screaming about activist judges destroying the nation. Sometimes they almost make me laugh....almost.

As locals know, Washington is a very conservative town regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge.  So I find it remarkable that today the District stands at the forefront of the marriage equality movement.  It is now the sixth place in the United States where gays can get married.  And, as Andy Towle pointed out, it's also a symbolic landmark in this struggle in that Washington is the now the first locality south of the Mason-Dixon line to endorse marriage equality.  

March 2, 2010

A Mansion Grows in Brooklyn

One of my newest blog discoveries is Scouting. It consists of pictures of unusual things found  by a very intrepid and curious NYC film location scout.  Last week, he posted about a beautiful historic mansion in a most unlikely place...Brooklyn's East River waterfront.  The Scouting blogger rightly describes it "like someone picked up an estate from Long Island’s Gold Coast and plunked it down in Vinegar Hill."  

The mansion is the former Commandant's House for what used to be the Brooklyn Naval Station, adjacent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Built in 1805, the house, which looks to have some spectacular views of the East River and lower Manhattan, has been privately owned since the early 1960's and the current owner is Charles Gilbert, a neurobiologist with the Rockefeller Foundation.   There's a more 3-D view of the manse he found on Bing which I've reposted below.

Anyway, it's a fascinating little bit of way old New York tucked into an unlikely corner. Amazing what you will find in this city if you just look...