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. 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 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 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 deer-in-headlights moment.  Then Michelle got involved in the chatting, saying " 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. 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'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 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  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


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.