December 31, 2011

NEW YEAR'S SPECIAL: A Final Look Back At 2011

In my final post for 2011, I wanted to share this year's zeitgeist video made by the folks at Google which looks back on the past year in a musical and moving way.  I know it's basically an ad for Google and it's web services....but it's a damn good one!  I especially love the inclusion of the gay solider Randy Phillips telling his dad he's gay from back in September, just hours after Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed.

Anyway, 2011 was a clearly momentous news year in many ways that will not soon be forgotten, from the triumphs and tragedies of Arab Spring to the Occupy movement this fall.  In little under 3 minutes, this video captures the emotions of a remarkable year...

December 30, 2011

The Top Grossing Films of 2011 Are All Sequels

There was a somewhat disturbing article in the NY Times yesterday reporting that, to date, 7 of the year 10 top grossing films were sequels.  The third TRANSFOMRERS movie dominated the summer and the box office too, landing at number 2 for the year with 352 million dollars. With the release of more sequels hitting holiday screens (i.e. SHERLOCK and MI4) its possible that 2011 may go down in history as a year in which all of the top 10 grossing films were sequels.  Unbelievable.

Sequels have been around for decades in Hollywood but the pace has picked up to a distressing degree in recent years.  And then studios wring their hands and wonder why people are not going to the movies?  The answer is simple: give the audience something new to see.  In 2010, original films like INCEPTION and TANGLED were in the top 10.  Let's hope that the new year brings more truly new films to the theatres and get the sequels going on a downward trend.

December 29, 2011

The Year In Words From Webster's Dictionary

Continuing this week's year end roundup, I present the year in words courtesy of Webster'  Each week, the dictionary's website highlights a word that has shown a big surge in search requests on the site.   For example, "zany" was the word of the week for December 14th after Mitt Romney used it to describe his then-surging opponent Newt Gingrich.   There was "mercurial" the week Steve Jobs died and "lewd" back in June when the Anthony Weiner scandal peaked.

Their list for the entire year reads like something of a snapshot of 2011's language zeitgeist. As a writer, I visit the site often and I always enjoy reading about Webster's word of the week while sometimes getting clarification about meaning and/or usage of the word of the moment.   My personal favorite entry for 2011?  Haboob, the usage of which caused a bit of a political storm this summer.  Don't know what it means?  Well you can actually see one in one of the big holiday movies out now.

December 28, 2011

A Trailer Mashup/Recap Of The Films Of 2011

More year end madness--today, a mashup of the movies of 2011.  Scenes from the trailers of the years films have been expertly edited together by the SleepySkunk to remind us how a lot of things blew up this year and, amidst all the destruction and carnage, there were even some beautiful cinematic moments worth remembering as well.  Can you name all the pictures?  (Hint: the list of films is here.)  Music by Lords of Acid and Randy Edelman, from the DRAGONHEART soundtrack.

December 27, 2011

My Nomination for Photo of the Year

In the year-end countdown to the last days of 2011, there are lists everywhere.  Top 10 movies, songs, political stories and even over at, the top 10 celebrity hair makeovers of 2011!  One list I've seen a few places which I always enjoy is the top 10 photographs of the year.  National Geographic has some typically stunning photos in their gallery whereas has a more newsy gallery with 40 pics.

But my personal favorite photo of the year is one that I didn't even see until a couple days ago.  It's a stunning picture of the space shuttle's final voyage last May.  The picture  also has an unusual story behind it because it was not taken by a photojournalist, or even with a real camera.  It's a snapshot from the iPhone of a passenger on a commercial flight who happened to look out the window and see the Endeavor climbing towards space on the long, sinewy trail of its white exhaust.  Not only is the photo historic for capturing the last trip of the shuttle but it is simply beautiful as well, revealing an angle on spaceflight that had never been seen before.  At least not by me....

Stephanie Gordon, from Hoboken, NJ, shot the photo and didn't think too much of it until, after sending it to a friend.  That day, it went viral and she became instantly famous.  The picture also amped up the debate about photo rights and copyright on the the Internet.  But despite all that it is still a remarkable image and it has my vote for photo of the year.

December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas From New York's Central Park

No, you're not dreaming.  It's not a white Christmas this year.  This photo is from January 12, 2011, of one of this year's many winter snowstorms.  However, despite the freak snow of October 29th, there hasn't been a flake since.  So I thought I'd make this my "online" Christmas post in hope of some of the white stuff this weekend.  Wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

25,000 Christmas Lights Synchronized to "Firework"

OK--I know that Katy Perry's "Firework" is not a Christmas song. But the guys in Austin, Texas have done a spectacular job synchronizing their 25,000 exterior holiday lights display to the song's incessantly catchy and triumphant beat.  I have to stay that, at this point in the season, I'm pretty played out on all the Xmas standards but this really put a smile on my face. Truly a joy of the season.

So, these guys have to be gay, right?  I mean seriously....Katy Perry? "Firework"?!  Well, they do live in Austin.  ;)  You can check out their Facebook page here and maybe more will be revealed....

December 21, 2011

The Cinematic Phenomenon of the "Spielberg Face"

This week, two Steven Spielberg movies will hit theaters; THE ADVENTURES OF TIN-TIN and WARHORSE.  So it seems a fitting time to consider what is it about Ameria's auteur that makes him such a master of the movies.  Well, one answer could be the "Spielberg face."

A video essay has been making in Internet rounds in the last couple weeks which dissects the "emotional closeup" which is a common thread in Spielberg's blockbusters over the last 30 years.  The creator of the video is Kevin B. Lee and he acknowledges his inspiration was an article by Matt Patches earlier this year about the "Spielberg face".  

If you can get past the semi-funny sounding name of this phenomenon, it's a truly fascinating look at Spielberg's signature move and even how it has even evolved in his films post-9/11.  The piece also offer a spirited argument in favor of the director's much-maligned A.I., a film which I also would argue is the director's misunderstood masterwork.  

December 20, 2011

Summer Trailers and Trailers For Trailers

The Christmas movie season is becoming just as well-known for the actual films that screen during this time of year as it is for the previews of next summer's coming attractions.  

There was a lot of "buzz" this weekend as the trailer for the new and supposedly final Christopher Nolan Batman movie THE DARK KNIGHT RISES came out on Friday in theatres only, as a preview attached to the new MI:4 movie. Of course, it took only hours for it to leak all over the Internets so the studio released the trailer online late yesterday afternoon.  Traffic to the Apple website was so heavy they seemed to experience a mini-crash. Anyway, you can watch it a littler easier here on FirstShowing.Net. It looks pretty impressive and even has a note of Occupy Wall Street in it (with Anne Hathaway as Catwoman representing the 99%).

In other trailer news, a new phenomenon in movie previews hit this week as a trailer for the trailer (!) of Ridley Scott's outer space epic PROMETHUS was released on YouTube. This 30 second tease features some scenes from the ALIEN-esque film as well as quick quotes from the director himself.  Release date for this film is June 8 and for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, July 20.  It's looking like a hot summer at the multiplex!

December 19, 2011

SNL's Take On Tim Tebow Scores A Touchdown

After leading the moribund Denver Broncos to a string of unlikely victories over the last two months, Christian quarterback Tim Tebow has become The Story of the NFL season.  This weekend's SNL took on The Tebow in a hilarious sketch, which I thought was one of the best of their own season.

Taran Killam (who recently killed it as Robyn in a viral video) plays Tebow perfectly as a guy with a little too much love for Jesus after the son of God makes a surprise appearance in the Broncos locker room to explain a) he is responsible for their victories and b) he doesn't have time to do this anymore so the team better get their act together. Jesus is played well by Jason Sudekis who, oddly enough, is more famously known for playing the devil in a series of Weekend Update appearances.

I came across the sketch on YouTube Sunday morning where, in less than 24 hours, it now has nearly a million hits. As to the Broncos game with the Patriots yesterday referenced at the end of the sketch, Jesus was not on Tim's side as they were handily dispatched by the Super Bowl champs 27-16.

December 16, 2011

Tale Of Two Women From An Iconic Civil Rights Photo

In 1957, Little Rock, Arkansas became the first battleground in the fight to integrate public schools.  On a September morning, nine African American students tried to enroll for class at a local high school and were confronted by the National Guard as well as an angry, vocal mob.  A local photojournalist named Will Counts snapped the above picture that morning as one of the students arrived at the school, forever immortalizing the two women caught in its frame; Hazel Bryant (left) and Elizabeth Eckford. Instantly, this image became one of the most iconic photos of the Civil Rights era.

Last night, there was a story on the PBS Newshour about these two women and the surprising lives they've lead, both separately and together, since that fateful day in 1957.  The story was tagged to a new book that's out from writer David Margolick which tells their unusual story over the past 50-odd years entitled ELIZABETH AND HAZEL.  Also, you can read a lengthy excerpt from the book that was published in VANITY FAIR earlier this fall.  It's a fascinating story of two lives randomly caught in a moment of history and how that experience has affected them ever since.

December 15, 2011

Vivian Maier's Beautiful Photos Of New York In 1940s

About a year ago, I posted about the discovery of a treasure trove of photos taken by a Chicago nanny that are an artful record of mid-Century American urban life.  A Chicago real estate attorney discovered thousands of her photos a couple years ago, taken when she was off duty as an upper-class nanny, and has been sifting through them ever since.

I recently found some of Vivian Maier's photos posted on one of my favorite photo sites, How to Be A Retronaut.  Unlike the majority of her work  that depicts Chicago, these photos were of New York City in the 1940s and they are just extraordinary.  I am posting two of my favorites here but I encourage you to check out the rest on the site.  They are really remarkable given her compositions, the characters she finds and her subtle use of available light.  Earlier, critics likened her work to Walker Evans but, based on these new pictures, I'd say she's more like Henri Cartier-Bresson, with a mad touch of Diane Arbus thrown in there too.

The first NYC exhibit of her work opens today at Steven Kasher's gallery in Chelsea. I look forward to seeing them in person as beautiful photos like these should be seen; printed, framed and hanging on a wall.

December 14, 2011

TIME'S Person Of The Year is "The Protestor"

Today, TIME magazine named its Person of the Year and it's actually more than one.  "The Protestor" is their "person" who has had the biggest effect on the world's event in 2011.  I thought they might be more specific, like chosing "the 99%", the phrase that has been popularized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, or the young men and women who bravely brought about an Arab Spring.  But I think using the more general term is actually more apt, in that it shows what a remarkable and broad range of protest this tumultuous year has seen around the world.

In fact, just two days ago, protestors took to the streets of Moscow to express their anger over what has been called a fixed Russian election, where longtime leader Vladamir Putin's party remained in power despite popular unrest. In some ways, it seems the world has a bit of a protesting virus that just keeps spreading.  First it was the Middle East, where protests in one country seemed to inspire those in another, eventually leading to the unthinkable toppling of Egypt's longtime leader Mubarak.  In the US, who would have guessed that the handful of original protestors who camped out in a park a couple blocks from Wall Street would have sparked a national movement encompassing thousands of people in less than a couple months?  

One of the main runners-up for TIME's honor this year was Admiral McRaven, who orchestrated the attack that killed Osama Bin Laden.  But the death of the leader of a weakened and increasingly marginalized Al Qaeda is less momentous than the birth of a global movement in which the masses, in the still-prophetic words of the fictional Howard Beale, are mad as hell and are not going to take it anymore.

December 13, 2011

Droids In Dubai: Photographer Brings STAR WARS Down To Earth

This striking photo was in the TIMES art section this weekend.  It is the work of a French photographer named Cedric Delsaux who has created a book in which characters from the STAR WARS series inhabit the earth. The photo above has droids from Episode 3 hanging out in a rough and tumble section of Dubai. A number of his other photos place STAR WARS characters, including Darth Vader and C3PO, in Paris.

Delsaux, 37, was a true STAR WARS baby as the movie inspired him as a child....and still inspires him today.  He even found a fan in the often litigious George Lucas, who actually wrote the introduction to his book of photos featuring these characters, DARK LENS. It could be the perfect gift for the STAR WARS fanatic in your life.

December 12, 2011

Paul Rudnick Creates A New Kinsey Scale

Over on the New Yorker website, I came across this very funny essay by Paul Rudnick in which he creates a new version of the famous Kinsey Scale of sexuality.

With 24-points, this is a much more nuanced version than Alfred Kinsey's 6-point scale marking the degrees of sexuality from 100% hetero to 100% homo. Rudnick's new scale has entries that take into account some very modern factors in calculating someone's sexuality, such as Regis and Kelly (#14) and the revival of FOLLIES (#24).  One only wonders where Rick Perry might fall on here...

December 9, 2011

A Round-Up Of The Week's Rick Perry Memes

There was an explosion of memes this week surrounding Rick Perry's hateful YouTube "commercial" for his failing Presidential campaign.  The spot was desperate ploy to revive a campaign that has crashed and burned since his infamous "oops" moment during a Republican Presidential debate where he could not remember his own talking points. And now, with more than a million views on YouTube and more Dislikes than Rebecca Black's "Friday", the "ad" has inspired a lot of gay outrage....and humor too.

 I love the Teletubby in the background version of his ad below but I'm especially fond of the Brokeback pic, given that Perry has some rumors about his own sexuality.  Of course, there are even some YouTube spoofs. One in which Perry is remixed to "lisp" through the whole ad.  Another where someone stands in for Perry.

The bottom line is Perry's campaign is going nowhere and, even with all this Internet attention, he'll be lucky to get single digit support in Iowa's Presidential caucus next month.

December 8, 2011

A NYC Novelist Scams An Internet Scammer

I came across this unusual story on The Awl recently.  Teddy Wayne, a NY writer and novelist, received a friend request and then some back in August.  This Facebook "woman" claimed to be in love with him and in desperate need of his help.  Since then he has been carrying on a hilarious back and forth with the scammer who has been trying to get him to wire "her" (fake profile picture, left) money to a Western Union account.

Essentially, Wayne scams the scammer in the wryly absurdist manner of, well, a New York novelist, leading "her" on and giving "her" false Western Union numbers and wondering at length how true "her" vows of Internet love are, especially when he reveals to his beloved a case of chronic gastro-intenstinal problems.  This exchange went on for three months and ended with the scammer begging and pleading Wayne to leave them alone!  Genius.

The entire exchange is a bit long to read but for anyone who has ever received an email from a Nigerian bank, it is sweet revenge that is long overdue. The pen may not be mightier than the sword, but a keyboard in the right hands can do some serious mental damage that's for sure.

December 7, 2011

Historic Speech By Clinton On International Human Rights Day

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an historic speech yesterday on International Human Rights Day. Speaking before an audience at the UN in Geneva, she stated unequivocally that "gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights." The speech coincided with a remarkable statement that President Obama released yesterday as well (which you can read in full here) which also tied future U.S. foreign aid to how countries around the world deal with their gay citizens.

This comes at a time when human rights violations against gays and lesbians are on the increase internationally, especially in Muslim countries like Iran and some African countries where death is the government-sanctioned punishment for being openly gay. Even in nations like Poland and Russia, there have been recent upswings in violence against gays and lesbians and government actions to ban gay groups and even public discussions of the topic, like in St. Petersburg.

Clinton's speech got scant coverage in the NY TIMES but more comprehensive and nuanced coverage in the Chicago SUN TIMES.  You can also watch Clinton's speech on Towleroad, which did a lot to publicize this major story.  For all the complaints about President Obama on the left, it's safe to say that this sort of statement would never have come from any of the Republicans currently challenging him.  It's clear the President is not only on our side, but on the right side of history.  So liberals better man-up and get behind the President who is taking bold actions domestically and internationally so that gays and lesbians are treated equally.

December 6, 2011

Getting Down With "The Low Line"

Down under Delancey Street, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, lies an old trolley terminus that has been sitting vacant for 60-some years.  Now there is a push to revive the space and maybe turn it into an underground park.

The NY Times recently did a piece about what has come to be known as "The Low Line", a nickname for the project inspired by the success of another reuse of abandoned rail infrastructure, The High Line. Though the two guys who are trying to make this happen are optimistic and the MTA is very eager to lease some of its real estate, the project has a long way to go, both financially and even theoretically. 

I think it's gonna be tough to get people to hang out underground near a major subway station, even if they filter in natural sunlight as pictured above.  A similar project was attempted in Washington DC in the '90s where a food court was developed in an old trolley terminus at Dupont Circle that met with disaster and lawsuits.  Below is the MTA's recent video showcasing the space, which is roughly 600ft x 100ft.  It looks pretty bleak but then again, so did the High Line ten years ago. Time and corporate backing will tell....

December 5, 2011

West Village Bar PIECES Saved By New Lease

For nearly 20 years, the West Village bar PIECES has been a popular gay hangout on Christopher Street. It was due to close next year but its landlord has changed their mind, based on community support for the bar.  You can read the full story on NEXT magazine's website (where I occasionally do nightlife coverage).  I was asked to do an exclusive interview with the establishment's owner Eric Einstein over the weekend as he wanted to get out the word that bar was going to stay in it's current home for a few more years at least.

December 2, 2011

Latest In Hi-Tech Toys Comes To Times Square

I was in midtown yesterday and stopped by the new pop-up WIRED store on Broadway and 42nd which features tons of hi-tech toys for holiday shoppers, including everything from 3D flatscreen TVs to touchscreen watches.  One of the most buzzed about items was the Lytro light field camera.  It is a curiously-shaped rectangular box that takes whopping 45MB pictures which capture so much information that you can change the point of focus after you've taken the picture.  You can check out one of these nifty cameras from the "ambassadors" in the store (a.k.a. cute actors with jobs for the holidays) and you take some pictures with it.  It won't be on the market til 2012 but you can pre-order them already, starting at $400.  This little cameras could be the wave of the future, especially when their expected video version comes out soon.

Other unusual products on display and for sale are the Maker-Bot 3D printer, which creates tiny objet'd'art in plastic (like a 3-inch Teddy bear or an octopus).  I would have liked to seen the printer in action but it only had the finished products.  Price tag...a cool $1300.  Another pricey item which was not on display due to theft concerns was a bit retro-tech.  A gold-plated Atari gaming system going for $6650.  That would look amazing in front of your huge flatscreen about some entertainment bling!  The WIRED pop-up store will be open everyday from 12-7pm until Christmas Eve.

December 1, 2011

On World AIDS Day, Looking Back 30 Years

Today is World AIDS Day, a day of remembrance of those lost to the disease and a day to educate those who are at risk.  This year's World AIDS Days is taking place in the year that marks the 30th anniversary of the emergence of this terrible plague which devastated gay men in the 1980s, specifically here in New York.

As part of this anniversary, I have been writing a series of profiles in courage about people who have been living with HIV since that decade.  These first person accounts are being posted on Queerty; so far, two have gone up with more to come later this month.  You can read the remarkable story today of Lee Raines, who joined an ACT-UP demo the day after his diagnosis in 1989.

November 30, 2011

In Oscar Race, Two Actors With No Lines

As the Oscar race gets into gear in December, studios are positioning their films and talent for the  little gold statuettes.  In the Best Actor race, there are two performances that are being pushed for consideration in which the actors don't speak.  They are Andy Serkis, who played the lead Cesar in RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES and Jean Dujardin who plays a silent movie star in THE ARTIST. Currently, the odds are in favor of Dujardin getting a nod as critical reaction to his charming movie has been through the roof.  Also, Dujardin won Best Actor at Canne's earlier this year when the film debut.  Even though he speaks barely a line of dialogue, his performance is what keeps the film together.

In the case of APES, Fox is pushing hard for Serkis' work in digital performance capture to be nominated for an award.  (There is story about their efforts in the Hollywood Reporter this week.)  Though their line is that dialogue doesn't matter, one thing that does matter is faces.  And Serkis's face is not in the movie at all.  And even though they are trying to get him a Best Supporting Actor nod, it seems like a long shot. Actors vote for the actor awards and I can't imagine there is a lot of enthusiasm in that camp for turning over the awards to digital creations when so much of Hollywood's films are already highly digitized.  Also, they tried this strategy with AVATAR a few years back and failed.  But then again, it was a few years ago and one can't deny that Cesar was one of the more memorable scene stealers of the year.  

November 29, 2011

Rethinking The Grounds Of The Washington Monument

When I was in Washington for the holiday weekend, I checked out a fascinating exhibit at the National Building Museum called "Unbuilt Washington".  It is a 200 year plus retrospective of plans for the nation's captial that never reached fruition, like a Versailles-esque White House on Meridian Hill, a Smithsonian Gallery of Art with a shockingly modern design that would have replaced the Castle, a 200 foot tall water fountain for a Teddy Roosevelt Memorial (where the Jefferson now stands), and, the strangest by far, an elevated freeway around the perimeter of the national Mall.  It's an amazing and often shocking look at what could have been and, for the most part, fortunately never was.

Part of the exhibit was dedicated to the tortured history of one memorial that has become so iconic, it's hard to imagine it never having been built.  The Washington Monument was problematic from the start because President Washington had explicitly asked that no memorials be built in his name, wishing to avoid the godly hero-worship which had caused Europe so much trouble. But his wish was ignored and and, after many grand designs came and went, eventually a simple obelisk was built...over the course of 50 years, with the project stalling a third-built for 30 of those.

Now there is a plan afoot to rethink the design of the Washington Monument's plain, open field grounds.  There is a public competition entering the final phase where you can vote on your favorite design.  Some imagine a national amphitheater in marble that would hold 3,000 people, others a landscaped and wooded forest.  You can see the entires here and vote on the site as well.  Winners will be featured in the exhibit and their ideas presented to the National Park Service as they consider what to do with the grounds...after they fix the actual monument, still closed due to earthquake damage.

November 28, 2011

New Catholic Mass Debuts In The U.S.

If you are Catholic, yesterday was not only the beginning of a new liturgical year (with the first Sunday of Advent) but also the start of a new liturgy too.  I was home for the holiday and actually went to the first new mass with the first new "script" since the Vatican II changed the mass to English almost 40 years ago.  The revisions, which are meant to track closer to the original Latin, are not as extensive as I was led to believe though some of them are certainly strange.

The biggest change is that the response to "the Lord be with you" has been changed from "and also with you" to "and with your spirit".  Which means...what exactly?  As I recall from taking Latin in high school, some Latin just does not translate very well.  Also, words like "begotten" and "consubstantial" are tossed into the mix just to confuse everyone.  It seems odd to make this big revision when the previous mass was so clear. Now they're just muddying things up again.  My theory is that the real reason the church is doing this to remind everyone who is in charge....The Vatican!

Hundreds of American priests are in a bit of revolt over the new mass, according to a piece in today's TIMES. I can report that the priest at my old parish in Maryland was clearly not happy about the change and said as much during his homily. He even related that other priests in the diocese were also not pleased by the change up.  But, he wearily said they will change anyway and that everyone will get used to mass 2.0 eventually.  As they say, when in the Roman Catholic church...

November 25, 2011

The World's Fastest Coaster Is In Dubai

As most people know, the world's tallest building is now located in Dubai...the Burj Khalifa. (You can see it prominently featured in the current trailers and commercials for the new MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie.) But with a little less fanfare, the world's fastest roller coaster recently opened in Dubai as well.  With a top speed of 150mph, it displaces the terrifying Kingda Ka at New Jersey's Six Flags' Great Adventure as the fastest roller coaster in the world.

The Formula Rossa is shaped like a Ferrari race car and is so fast that the riders need to wear protective eyewear to protect them from bugs.  (Gross!)  But despite the top speed, which occurs when the car is shot of out the gate by hydraulic technology similar to that which launches jet fighters, the coaster seems pretty tame actually (as you can see in the smooth ride below). No crazy loops, inversions twists or even drops; the whole ride has the feel of going around a race track. Which even at fast speeds, seems a little....dull.

Anyway, the Formula Rossa is part of a massive new amusement pavilion called "Ferrari World".  Yes, it's a big promo-tisement for all things Ferrari in the guise of a tourist attraction.  Or, what my father used to call, a tourist trap.

November 24, 2011

Have A Happy Thanksgiving & Some Pumple Cake

In honor of Thanksgiving, that uniquely American holiday which is supposed to celebrate gratitude for our blessings but, in its current form, has become a day of overindulgence, I give you the Pumple Cake.  The Flying Monkey Bakery in Philadelphia had the crazy idea to bake a whole apple pie and a whole pumkin pie into a massive two layer chocolate and vanilla cake with. It's sort of a Turducken for the dessert course!

It looks delicious but beware; one slice of this dangerous dessert is a whopping 1800 calories.  Insane or insanely delicious?  I haven't tried it yet myself but I would like to....with maybe four of my closest friends.  Happy Thanksgiving y'all!  :)

November 22, 2011

Pressing The NYPD On Their Treatment Of Press

When the Occupy Wall Street-ers were evicted in the middle of the night from Zucotti Park last week, the most shocking thing to me about the operation was the fact that the police forbid the media from covering it.  They said that they did it out of concern for their safety but it doesn't take a genius to figure out the real reason was that the mayor did not want pictures of it all over the morning papers/TV/blogs.  And there weren't. There were only reports that the protestors had been evicted.

Well today, the press is fighting back against this egregious violation of the First Amendment. The TIMES media blog today reports that 13 news organizations along with 10 journalistic unions have filed complaints with the NYPD and have asked for a full investigation into the events of November 15th.  In addition to the enforced media blackout, there were also 10 journalists who were arrested that day and multiple reporters who were roughed up and impeded from covering a major news story.

This is beyond shocking in a democratic society.  The police and the mayor's tactics on that day are more reminiscent of what goes on in China than in the United States.  Let's hope a full investigation is launched into police misconduct and that the city takes responsibility for violating the rights of citizens that it is supposed to be upholding.

November 21, 2011

Police Tactics At UC-Davis Cause A Firestorm

Over the weekend, a firestorm erupted over a viral video of a UC-Davis campus policeman casually pepper-spraying non-violent student protesters sitting on a campus walkway.  It's one of the strangest and most shocking videos of police misconduct to come out of all the "Occupy" protests these fall and it is causing a massive reaction, with calls for the chancellor of the school to resign.  (This AM she said she will not leave her post.)

There is a very thoughtful article in this morning's Washington Post on the question of who police are protecting and how they are being viewed very differently these days by those they are supposed to protect.  Simply put, police used to be people you were told as a child to ask for help but now they are a force to be avoided at all costs.  I would have to agree with this assessment, especially here in NYC where the police have become a self-acknowledged para-military force, larger than the standing army of some countries in South America.  I find myself often crossing the street to avoid police officers, knowing that saying the wrong thing or often looking at them the wrong way can lead to trouble. 

This video popularity and the massive response to it seems to hit on an issue central to life in the post-9/11 era.  We have ceded so much power to police and other authorities to protect us from terrorism yet more and more it appears we have also handed over our basic human rights as well.  Maybe this and other videos circulating the web these days can serve as a turning point in returning the balance of power in this country to where it rightfully and constitutionally belongs; with the people.

November 18, 2011

Occupy Wall Street vs. The Empire

Yesterday, the Occupy Wall Street movement celebrated their 2-month anniversary with a massive action in lower Manhattan.  One unofficial estimate heard on a NYPD radio scanner put the crowd size near 30,000.  However, the day was not without incident.  More than 200 people were arrested as protestors, now without a home in Zuccotti Park after being evicted Tuesday night, took to Foley Park, the subways and the Brooklyn Bridge to educate the 99% about the financial inequities in the country today.

While there is nothing funny about the often extreme tactics of NYPD, someone has found a way to infuse a touch of humor into the situation.  There has been much comment about how police here and in other cities resemble storm troopers in the STAR WARS films. Well, now an internet genius has morphed the police batons into light sabres to make the point. Now we just need someone to Photoshop Bloomberg's face onto that of the Emperor...that would be awesome!

November 17, 2011

Is This Photo Worth 4.3 Million Dollars?

The answer is yes.  That's how much it went for at auction last week at Christie's, according to a story on NPR.  The photographer is Andreas Gursky and the photo is of the Rhine River in his native Germany.  On the surface it's not an extraordinary image. But the actual print that was sold is very large, 6 x11 feet.  But I think I'd want something 60 x 111 feet for that price!  

Of course, art experts have a lot to say in the NPR piece about the photographer's German background, his famous mentors and the significance of the Rhine in Western art.  But I would not have guessed it was the Rhine, more or less a river, when I first saw it.  It almost looks like a painting of horizontal stripes of green and grey. But all that adds up to major cha-ching in the somewhat loopy world of contemporary art valuation these days.

And what was the photo Gursky beat out that was the previous record holder?  That would be 3.3 million for Cindy Sherman's "Unititled".

November 16, 2011

Fonuts Are Hot In L.A.

I'm always on the lookout for the latest in donuts news and/or trends.  Recently, it has come to my attention that something called fonuts (as in faux donuts) has created a feeding frenzy in Los Angeles, especially among skinny celebrities.  Fonuts are basically fake donuts without all the unhealthy fat, sugar, calories and stuff.  Oh yeah, and they are gluten-free of course.

I haven't tasted them but I will say I am a little skeptical of the concept of faux donuts.  The basic idea of a donut is that of total, unadulterated indulgence so what's the point if it's actually healthy?  Maybe in L.A. everything fun has to be made healthy (see Pinkberry and soft ice cream).  I will definitely do a taste test next time I'm out on the Left Coast.

November 15, 2011

BREAKING NEWS--Fire on Fire Island Destroys the Pavilion

A fire broke out at the Pavilion complex in the Fire Island Pines community last night, destroying  a dance club, a real estate office, a grocery/gift store, the Sip'N'Twirl bar and a number of other small businesses.

It was apparently a fast moving blaze that started around 9:15pm on Monday night. More than 100 firefighters from Long Island and other Fire Island communities worked hard to bring it under control. Fortunately, the fire did not spread to the other buildings like the Canteen, the hotel and the Blue Whale and no one was injured.

Towleroad has all the details, including this photo of the interior of the destroyed Pavilion.  This is where we shot part of the TV pilot "Half-Share" last season and we had our wrap party for that shoot at the Sip'N'Twirl.  It's sad to see this place that is a central part of the Pines community now in ruins.  The remains of the building will likely be razed according to a statement from the owners.  Here's an excerpt below:

Tomorrow morning, Seth, Matt and I will begin the process of renewing this beautiful property and making it even more spectacular than it was before. Our hearts go out to Nicole LaFountaine, Patrick, PJ, Bob Howard and others in the LaFountaine building, and we will help one another get the commercial district ready for summer 2012. There is a lot of hard work ahead for all of us.

The Thain Family Forest At NY Botanical Garden

I recently made my annual trek up to the Bronx to do some leaf-peeping in the largest remaining wild forest in New York City.  I was surprised not only by the gorgeous colors of the leaves but also that this 50 acre thatch of unspoiled woods with trees 200-300 years old has been recently renamed The Thain Family Forest.

Thain is a former head of CIT and large donor to the Bronx Botanical Garden, which has a long history of naming things for it's donors like the landmarked Edith Haupfman Conservatory.  But naming a forest seemed a little over the top (and the NY Times City Room blog agrees).  Still a forest by any other name is still a thing of beauty come the first week of November.  So here's some of my photos below....enjoy!

November 14, 2011

Swords & Sandals Big Return With IMMORTALS

I went to see the Greek gods and ferocious warriors of antiquity battle it out this weekend in IMMORTALS, which topped the weekend box office with a healthy $32M in tickets.  I am a sucker when it comes to a good "sword and sandal" epic, a old film genre that has been resurgent lately.  Also, seeing it in the 3D made me think I had taken a time warp back to the 1950's when this genre, and 3D, had its original heyday.

The phrase "sword and sandal" refers directly to films made in Italy from the '50s-60s that feature gladiators, Hercules and Jason (not to mention the argonauts).  The genre also ended up covering the ancient epics that were coming out of Hollywood at the time with bigger budgets, stars, and much wider screens.  This was the studios way to get people to leave their boxy, black and white TV sets at home and come to the movies, which were experiencing a precipitous drop in attendance.

Cut to 50 years later and it seems like it's a little bit of cultural history repeating itself.  Now the studios are trying to yank viewers from your Netflix stream and get them to watch muscley guys in togas with graphic visual effects (exploding head of blood anyone?) in newfangled 3D.  The 3D is cool but, especially in this film, it had the feel of watching a live action ViewMaster movie.  It's cute (see Henry Cavill above) but hardly realistic. It will be interesting to see if there are more scantily clads Greeks and Romans to come.

November 11, 2011

11/11/11, aka National Corduroy Day

There's been a lot of buzz today on Twitter, Facebook, et al about today's date being 11/11/11.  It's a day on which you are supposed to make a wish and it will come true. Or to simply wonder at the alignment of the universe as your clock hits 11:11:11 on 11/11/11.

But all numerology and superstition aside, this date is actually been serving at National Corduroy Day for the last few years.  Why?  Because 11/11 is the day of the year that most resembles the paralell lines of corduroy fabric.

The New Yorker wrote about this unofficial fashion holiday in 2005 in a Talk of the Town piece. Today on the magazine's website, they recall that original piece and how this unique date is being celebrated this year by its founder Miles Rohan.  You can also check out the official website for the Corduroy Club for more on this beloved fall/wintry fabric.  Happy Corduory!

November 10, 2011

Jimmy Kimmel's Halloween Trick Goes Viral

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel aired a Halloween video that has gone super-viral.  More than 16 million hits in the last eight days!  I thought it was one of the funniest segments he's done.  Actually, it's something he only suggested...America did all the work.

On the night of his Halloween show, Kimmel told parents across the country to tell their kids they had eaten all their Halloween candy and film their reactions.  Needless to say, the reactions were intense!  Describing them does not do them justice other than to say that there are some serious sugar-withdrawal meltdowns.

My favorite though is the two brothers at the end.  They are so hysterical (and from NYC, natch!) that they will be on the Kimmel show tonight as guests. Tune in tonight for more...

November 9, 2011

C'mon....It's The '90s!

Back in the '90s, it seems that it was very popular in films and TV shows to say this phrase as a way of accenting a joke or making a point.  Of course, when you string all of these lines together 20 years later, it becomes a whole lot funnier.  And that's what someone did over at one of my favorite sites for pop cultural flotsam/jetsam,  I actually remember using this line a lot when I was younger, saying it in this overly mature and somewhat over-it tone of voice but with a change of decade;  "c''s the 80s!"  Oh how times have changed....

November 8, 2011

A Groundbreaking GLEE Goes All The Way

Tonight's episode of GLEE, titled "The First Time" is going to break a major network TV taboo when Chris Colfer's openly gay character has his first sexual experience with his boyfriend, played by breakout star Darren Criss.  There has already been a lot of pre-show hype that this is one of the best episodes of the season.  And in an interview with EW, Colfer talks candidly about expecting some major flack from the the usual TV watchdogs, like the Parents Council, about going all the way.

Personally, I have a feeling it's not going to be as raunchy or even risque as people expect.  I think the show's handling of the gay romance between these two characters has been so sweet and incredibly well done, to the point where their relationship has truly become the heart and soul of the show.

Also having their first time on tonight's episode will be Finn and Rachel, played by Cory Monteith and  Lea Michele .  I think it's smart to have both of these first occurring at the same time because it really sends home the message that love is love, no matter what the gender combo.  In fact, it's so smart that I employed the same device in my own teen novel, TALE OF TWO SUMMERS (now available as an eBook).   How's that for a plug!  Anyway, if the prom episode from last season is any indication, I think tonight's very special episode of GLEE is going to be a winner.

November 7, 2011

DOWNTON ABBEY Spoof Video Stars Jennifer Saunders

DOWNTON ABBEY is one of my new fave TV shows, having caught it all on Netflix streaming back in the Spring.  As I eagerly await "Series 2" (as they say across the pond), I found a brilliantly produced spoof-video of the show that was done earlier this year.  It stars none other than Jennifer Saunders as the literal old maid of the servants and also features Kim Cattrall doing a great imitation of Elizabeth McGovern.  Good stuff, I say! At least, that is, until the new episodes reach the states via PBS this January.

November 4, 2011

A New York Gay Wedding On Conan O'Brien

Conan O'Brien brought his Team Coco to NYC this week for tapings at Beacon Theatre.  I'm not a huge Conan fan, more partial to Jimmy Kimmel lately (as my previous posts indicate).  But last night, Conan did something truly wonderful on his program; he officiated the wedding of one of his staff members, Scott Cronick, to his longtime partner David Gorshein. I think this may be a TV talkshow first even. And it wasn't done all for laughs either. It is a beautiful and moving little ceremony and I dare you not to cry by the end of it.  Well done, Conan!

November 3, 2011

Michael Bay's Movies Get Buck For Bang

I found a nifty graphics chart today via Videogum which shows the direct correlation between the number of explosions in Michael Bay's films (he did the TRANSFORMERS blockbusters, amongst of summer movies) and the amount of money his films take in.  It was done by a graphic designer named Jeffrey Frankenhauser and you can see the chart on his own site (nicknamed Bayhem!).  There are also some additional graphics and figures on the body counts of Bay's films too, which reached an incredible 206 in the last TRANSFORMERS film.

Honestly, I don't know how you could actually count the on-screen deaths as there was so much general mayhem going on during that film. But someone did.  That someone is named Kyle, a freelance writer in Sioux Falls who provided the cold, hard data for Frankenhauser's chart.  It's a remarkable feat in that I have trouble sitting through a Michael Bay movie once whereas as he had to go back and forth to count all these things.  Anyway, not surprisingly, the higher the body count/explosions the bigger the box office.  Not really news but nice to see someone has taken the time to prove an old Hollywood adage.

November 1, 2011

Billy Eichner Has A New Show On Fuse TV

NYC comedian and on-the-street interviewer Billy Eichner has a new show coming to Fuse TV!   He's doing a game show where he asks folks on the street pop trivia questions for money.  But to win big in  the final round he asks a question about whether you share his taste in pop culture (i.e. "What's the best Christmas movie of all time?" You'll be surprised by the answer).

Anyway, I've posted a few of Billy's videos and spoofs here before and I just think his stuff is hysterical.  I'm so glad to see his uniquely crazy brand of humor will now have a regular outlet. The trailer for the show is below and I LOL'd more than once.  Make sure you watch til the end for some insight into Nicole Kidman's career.  Only in New York, kids...

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween From Randy Rainbow & Beau Arthur

A rare double-posting for Halloween but this video was too good to wait until tomorrow.  Randy Rainbow is up to his old tricks again with accompaniment by Beau Arthur and special guest phone calls from Pat Robertson.  It's good scary fun!

"Party Rock Anthem" Rocks Halloween House In California

With five million hits and counting, this viral video has become a Halloween sensation over the last week.  A man in Riverside, CA who does up his house with a crazy lights/disco combo for major holidays picked LMFAO's song of the moment, "Party Rock Anthem" to do a Halloween themed light show.  It's so good that it's not only stopping traffic in front of his house but also driving traffic like crazy to YouTube.

What's also amazing is how unassuming the creator of all this is.  Kevin Judd, 39, who works as a technician for Verizon, said he didn't particularly like the song but his kids did, making him officially the coolest dad of the year.  It is a pretty impressive display for a guy who calls himself a "hobbyist".  And it's certainly rockin' the web  this Halloween.

October 28, 2011

What's In A Subway Sign? A New Font

In a break from their 45-year old master plan, the New York City subway system has introduced a new font to their signage.  At stations in and around the World Trade Center site, they have used Gotham instead of Helevetica to direct passengers to the entrance of the 9/11 Memorial.  The reason is that Gotham is the font of the memorial's trademarked design.

It is rather surprising change given how Helvetica has become a trademark of the system itself.  But the TIMES City Blog reports the MTA says this is actually just a temporary move.  The signs to the memorial are there because it currently has one controlled entrance (due to continuing construction at the site) and this is to guide thousands of visitors to that area in a clear, visually arresting way.

October 27, 2011

VHS Comes Back From The Dead....Literally

The '80s are proving to be the decade that won't die with all the revivals lately in terms of fashion, music and movies.  Now another totally unlikely return is upon us....yes, that's right, the VHS tape is back!  In the same way that vinyl has lived on in an era of CDs and MP, the clunky ol' videotape is having a revival of sorts, but only for a specific type of film....grade Z gorefests.

There was a fun article in the TIMES about this curiously revival, with the above-pictured cute boy as one of the true believers in analog technology.  Note the big, bold VHS tattoo on his bicep.  Now that is some serious low tech-love!  Apparently, when watching bad horror movies made in that decade, the terrible quality of VHS tapes only helps make the experience more enjoyable.  Huh?  Yeah, that was pretty much my reaction too. But then again, I'm not a fan of those trashy horror films, other than the DAWN OF THE DEAD series which is more brilliantly trashy.

October 26, 2011

Herman Cain's Smokin' New Campaign Ad

Yesterday morning, I saw a link to an ad for rising Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on FB.  I clicked on it and it was so bizzare I thought it must be a hoax.  It only had about 300 hits too.  Today it has nearly 400,000.  The ad shows Cain's campaign manager, Mark Block, talking about Cain and the campaign somewhat haltingly and then smoking a cigarette at the end.  No, make that relishing a cigarette. Then there is a weird/creepy shot of Herman Cain turning towards the camera in extreme closeup.  

Well, believe it or not, the ad is real.  And many are calling it the worst political ad of all time.  You can listen to Herman Cain himself on a radio show explain the whole thing, though he seems somewhat surprised by it too.  But basically, his message is that he is going to be who he is and his campaign manager is going to be who he is....a guy who loves smoking on camera. Whether or not this is a saavy strategy to get people to vote for him, it is certainly getting his message out there.  And now, according to a new CBS poll,  Cain has taken the lead over Romney by 4 points.

October 25, 2011

Actor Luke Evans Comes Out, Goes Hollywood, and Then Goes Back In

A week after seeing two celebrities come out publicly, this story is just a little sad.  Actor Luke Evans, a Brit who got noticed doing theatre in London and then ended up in CLASH OF THE TITANS, had given some interviews a few years back where he talked openly about being gay. But now, with the release of the movies THREE MUSKETEERS, IMMORTALS and the upcoming mega-buster THE HOBBIT in which he stars, he is suddenly silent on the topic and seemingly straight.  

Media site Dot429 has the full details on the story and how his managers/agents are saying that admissions he made in earlier interviews were when he was young and immature.  The person who wrote this article claims that he knows, through mutual friends, that Evans would like to continue to be openly gay but the corporate media system has thrown his back in the closet.  They even revised his Wikipedia page to say that he "doesn't like to talk about his personal life." 

So while some actors like Zachary Quinto are brave enough to buck the system, for an up and comer like Evans, the more things change in H'wood the more they stay the same.

October 24, 2011

Documentary about Divine Needs Your Help

Earlier this year, I had a campaign on IndieGoGo to raise money for the off-Broadway debut of my play, WTC VIEW.  Now a fellow filmmaker I know has his own crowd-sourcing campaign going for a documentary about Divine, the fabulously filthy star of John Waters early films from the '70s and '80s, including most famously HAIRSPRAY. So it's time to pay it forward, as they say....

Today is the last day of Jeffrey Schwarz's IndieGoGo campaign for I AM DIVINE and he is still trying to reach his goal for this film.  So give what you can...$10 or $100 or more. There are some fun and trashy perks too.  (I got a copy of Jeffrey's William Castle doc!)  And Jeffrey has also put together a hilarious appeal video/trailer for the project as well which is (obviously) NSFW but is highly entertaining. Just like Divine!

October 21, 2011

&$@!*? That Siri Says...And Sings Too

In the last week, people have been having fun with Siri, Apple's new built-in digital personal assistant that comes with the new iPhone.  Though you can make appointments, phone calls and search the internet for all sorts of information, people of course like to ask Siri personal questions.  To some of these there is a built in response while to others, Siri seems to go a little blank.  There is now a Tumblr devoted to the "Shit Siri Says" where you can read what people have said (PEOPLE: "I Love You" SIRI: "All You Need Is Love. And Your iPhone"! ) and add your own too.

But asking Siri what she looks like is not enough for us humans either. We also have to sing it to her.  A talented young musician named Jonathan Mann has created a little duet with Siri.  How cute.  And very funny too....

October 20, 2011

Radioactive Wolves on PBS's NATURE

Whenever there's nothing to watch on TV, you can always count on something interesting on PBS.  Last night, I randomly clicked over to WNET-13 and found a fascinating show about how packs of wolves have not only survived but thrived in the radioactive no-man's land surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.  The explosion at the Soviet-run reactor in 1986 remains the worst nuclear accident, bypassing even the near meltdown in Japan earlier this year.  The disaster created a zone of intense radiation around the plant that also emptied nearby company-town Pripyat, turning it into a creepy industrial ghost town.

Though humans cannot live in this disaster areas, wild animals strangely enough do and have actually thrived there.  The documentary, presented as part of the NATURE series, is not only about the wolves but also about how herds of bison and wild horses (extinct in this part of Europe since the 1880s) now roam this desolate landscape.  The area has become something of a sanctuary for endangered species.  One of the oddest facts is the super-size catfish living in a former reactor cooling pond that are now more than 8 feet long.  They aren't that size though due to radioactivity.  It's because they just kept growing after 1986 when their immediate natural predators were killed off the by initial accident.  Catfish can live up to 100 years old, if not eaten by other animals.  So these fish as enjoying an unusually fat, chill, relaxed life in the shadow of a nuclear disaster.

The doc was filled with all sorts of bizarre facts like this, told in the typically dry and slow-pace that PBS still favors. In fact, I'd go so far to say PBS is a sanctuary of sorts compared to the insane pacing and utter lack of information on most commercial television.  So if you're looking for something unusual and informative, it will surely repeat again or you can watch some cool clips on the PBS website.

October 19, 2011

To The Stars, In 100 Years

Down in Orlando this week, hundreds of scientists and engineers attended a symposium on how to get from the earth to the stars.  As reported in this week's TIMES, the meetup was entitled "The 100-Year Starship Study" and was to look at long-term solutions to traveling super-long distances in space. It was organized not by NASA but by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency who famously did the ground work in the 1960s that eventually brought us the Internet.

Now they are looking at long-terms plans for man to get from here to Alpha Centuri, the nearest star system.  The problem; well, it's a bigger hike than you might imagine.  Take this analogy, presented by starship designer Richard Obousy:
If Earth were in Orlando and the closest star system, Alpha Centauri, were in Los Angeles, then NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft, the most distant manmade objects, have traveled just one mile.
Wow. From that factoid you might think there's no chance.  But these diligent folks are working on a number of interesting ideas involving nuclear powered engines (like the Icarus project, pictured above which is the size of an aircraft carrier) and a starship that has no engine at all.  That ship would travel using the gravity of asteroids, planets and stars along the way, not unlike the Voyager crafts.  But the timeline they're working on here, of course, is a long one...100 years long. So though I'll likely never see it in my lifetime it's fascinating stuff to ponder anyway. 

October 18, 2011

They're Coming Out: Zach Quinto & Dan Kloeffler

A week after National Coming Out day, there is a growing wave of celebrities coming out.  It started on Sunday with Zachary Quinto, most famous for playing Spock in the STAR TREK reboot.  He made his announcement in a very low key way, as part of a movie promo interview with New York magazine, choosing not to go the cover-of-PEOPLE-magazine route.  And that is admirable in that is places his sexuality in the same context as any other actor; that is, it's simply a fact and a facet of his personality.

Then, the coming out party picked up steam today when ABC News anchor Dan Kloeffler came out in a similar manner during his World News Now broadcast.  (You can watch the clip below.)  It's also notable in that Kloeffler makes his sexuality an aspect of who he is when he jokingly talks about breaking his rule for dating actors while commenting on the Quinto story. In a short but eloquent follow-up blog post today, Kloeffler said he was not only inspired by Zach's action and also by the fact that young gay teens need to see they are not alone in their struggles.  So true...and so inspiring too.

October 14, 2011

Getting My MAD MEN Fix In The East Village

It's been a little over a year since Season 4 of MAD MEN ended, leaving me and millions of others anticipating the return of Don and the ladies to our screens (TV or otherwise).  It's been quite a long wait as Season 5 got delayed due to contract negotiations. They finally started shooting back in August but the new season will not begin airing until March 16, 2012.  Sigh.

Until then, there is a zippy alternative that I rediscovered last night at the Wilde Project in the EV.  It's a MM musical spoof called The Mad World Of Miss Hathaway starring my good friends Angela DiCarlo and Patrick Johnson.  Ange plays a singing version of Christina Hendricks and Patrick plays a plus-sized version of Peggy.  This installment, the fourth they've put together over the last year, plays with the Beatnik storyline from Season 3 with some catchy songs and hilarious in-jokes for those MM fanatics out there.  And a special guest starring role for downtown writer Mike Albo as an unemployed, pot-smoking hippie.

There is one more show if you want to catch it....tonite at 8p at the Wild Project, 3rd Street btw A/B. Until the real thing appears next spring, this Mad World is a satisfying "fix" for those suffering from MM withdrawal.  And there will be a holiday episode too, coming in early December.  Talk about a Christmas gift!