March 31, 2011

Star Wars Episode IV Done Entirely In ASCII

I was at the Apple Store in Soho yesterday to fix a problem with my wifi. One of the cute geeks at the Genius Bar helped me out and, to test my connection to the internet, clicked on a site he uses as a test.  The site has a streaming version of STAR WARS: EPISODE 4 made entirely in ASCII.  Apparently, some computer nerd with some serious time on his hands started this whole thing in 1997 and now they've done a complete version of the film.  It was finished in April 2008.

I love going to the Apple Store because, not only do they always fix my problem promptly and efficiently, but I also learn something new...and sometimes a little bizarre too.  Thank you, geniuses!

March 30, 2011

Nick Pitera Is A One-Man Disney Movie

Singer Nick Pitera has been burning up YouTube over the last year with his one-man duets of classic Mencken/Ashman Disney songs, singing both the male and female roles.  It certainly helps that he is not only cute but actually looks a bit like a Disney character himself with features that are all just slightly exaggerated, from his big eyes to his big hair.

In his latest video, he creates something of an epic; a Disney medley in which he plays/sings not just two roles but six.  It's a little lengthy but still fun to watch as he acts all the roles out in a cartoony way.  It also makes me wonder how many takes he did to get this just right. If you're wondering what this amateur singing sensation do for a living, he works at Pixar Animation Studios.  Really!

March 29, 2011

Bronx Zoo Cobra Still Missing But Now Tweeting

There has been a great deal in the press lately about the missing cobra at the Bronx Zoo.  It slithered out of it's cage last Friday and is now hiding somewhere inside the zoo's large reptile house.  Zoo officials seem certain there is no way the venomous asp, native of Egypt, has escaped into the wild (aka New York City).  However, yesterday afternoon, an account appeared on Twitter called "BronxZoosCobra" which seems to indicate otherwise. In less than 24 hours, he's racked up 30,000 followers on Twitter, helped along by the fact that "Bronx Zoo" and "cobra" were the top searches on Google yesterday.

From the asps' first tweet thanking the animals of "Madagascar" for their inspiration, this snake-on-the-lam has proved to have a sly sense of humor.  In other tweets, he asks if anyone knows where Rebecca Black lives and marvels at the Temple of Dendur on a trip to the Met.  I think my favorite was the tweet where he gave away his actual location:  "You can find me right in front of Original Ray's Pizza".  LOL--one thing is clear....this snake is definitely a New Yorker.

March 28, 2011

A Stella Screaming Contest in New Orleans

The 25th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival wrapped up in New Orleans over the weekend.  It's an annual event that brings together scholars, fans and theater folk for discussion and some presentations of the famed playwrights' work.  One of the more interesting events was a "Stella!" shouting contest where some guys yelled at a balcony on Jackson Square, recreating the classic scene from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.  God knows what Williams would have thought of all the screaming...but he certainly would have been interested some of these attractive young men.  If he were alive, Tennessee Williams would turn 100 this week.

March 25, 2011

The 100th Anniversary of The Triangle Factory Fire

Today marks the 100th anniversary of a factory fire here in Greenwich Village which killed 146 garment workers.  Though the fire was not intentional, it resonated historically in some of the ways 9/11 does today in how strongly the event affected the history of the 20th century.  It spurred massive changes in workspace regulation and building codes as well as the organization of labor unions across the country.

The remarkable thing to me, as a Village resident, is that the building where this tragedy took place still stands today.  In fact, it is part of NYU's campus and students now learn about biology and chemistry on the 9th floor where so many perished a century ago today. There is a remarkable amount of coverage in the NY TIMES today, but one piece I found most interesting was about the Asch Building and it's current use.

March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor And The Best Movie Scream Of All Time

I was sad to hear of Elizabeth Taylor's passing yesterday. She was one of the last Old Hollywood greats with a remarkable career that would be difficult to sum up in a blog posting. My personal favorite roles of hers were Maggie in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" and, of course, the inimitable Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".

But I have always believed that Liz holds the unofficial title of "Best Movie Scream of All Time" for her role in "Suddenly Last Summer".  She earned an Academy Award nomination for this performance, her third at the time.  And though she didn't win Oscar, she screamed like nobody's business.  Seriously. The scene where Sebastian is "consumed" is a veritable master class in screaming.  You can watch it below at 2:55...along with her other great scenes from this film.

For this, and countless other roles, Elizabeth Taylor was a true original and will never be forgotten.

March 23, 2011

Wonder Woman Gets A New Look For NBC Pilot

The TV producer of ALLY MCBEAL is returning to the network game with a remake of WONDER WOMAN.  This planned reboot of the '70s TV series has long been in the works but now they are finally shooting the pilot this spring, starring Adrienne Palecki with a new outfit and everything. My only disappointment is that is will not be set during Word War II meaning they will have to rewrite the theme song; instead of "make the Axis fold" it will have to be  "make Al Qaeda fold".

I think the outfit, and the new star, look amazing.  However, FOX news does not agree.  They believe her new, shiny duds are not patriotic enough because it's missing the old stars and stripes that Lynda Carter wore.  They have even  taken to calling this a "globalized" Wonder Woman.  Oy.  Can't they just admit it that they are jealous that this show is not on their network.  NBC, also home to FOX favorites Rachel Maddow and formerly Keith Olberman, has the rights to the new series despite the fact that many of the producers previous shows, MCBEAL and BOSTON PUBLIC, were on Fox.

Anyway, let's hope this '70s re-up is much better than the BIONIC WOMAN.

March 22, 2011

Greenwich Village Becomes Rome for TV Pilot "Pan Am"

Walking down Macdougal Street yesterday, I noticed a number of tiny little cars from the 1960s.  As I moved down the block, I saw lots of trucks, lights and cables for the shooting of the new ABC pilot called PAN AM.  They were doing a scene in an "Italian cafe", with famous Cafe Reggio made over with new signs and a large green-screen in the middle of the street on which to project some amazing view of Rome in post.

I looked for Christina Ricci, the star of the ABC version of MAD MEN, told from the perspective of the female Don Draper's of their day; stewardesses for the classic airline, Pan Am.  I did see some extras with big bouffants but no Christina which was no surprising given the fact she is incredibly short.  Anyway, it was nice travel to Rome on my way to work....if only for a few minutes.

March 21, 2011

Happy 200th Birthday Manhattan Street Grid!

This week marks the official 200th anniversary of the introduction of the grid map to the previously wild island of Manhattan.  It was in 1811 that a young surveyor quite literally made his mark on New York City as, through meticulous surveying, created the grid that would come to define and help make the city the metropolis it is today.

It's a fascinating story and, in todays' TIMES, there are two articles about it in the Metro section.  One details the grid itself while the other talks about 21 year-old John Randel, who was hired by the city to tame its wilderness and farms north of what was then called North Street and is now known as Houston Street....and is also the street where I live. :)  It's a great exploration of New York's history and, what the paper calls, the citys most important document in its 400 years plus existence.

March 18, 2011

Raising Money For Indie Film Via Product Placement

Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who changed the way McDonald's did business, is now looking to alter the way indie films are financed.  He just premiered his new film with a strange title "POM Wonderful Presents; The Greatest Movie Ever Sold".  The film is a meta-exercise in product placement with the juice maker POM footing more than half of the film's budget.  Other sponsors include JetBlue and Hyatt Hotels.  McDonalds strangely enough wanted a piece of the action too but they were declined.

In an interesting piece in the Hollywood Reporter, Spurlock talks about his new model for making a profit on his indie film before it is even released.  The film also goes into the increasingly extensive practice of product placement in movies and television, which now starts at the writer level.  Witness the various episodes of 30 ROCK that make fun of their sponsor Snapple while also promoting the brand. Anyway, it's all food for though as indies try and figure out a way to make a buck in the New Media world.

March 17, 2011

Additional Shows For WTC VIEW Off-Bway

Big news today--we have 10 additional shows that have been added to our four-week run off-Broadway this spring at 59E59 (pictured here).  The dates remain the same, May 19-June 12, but now we have additional shows on weekends as well as shows on Tues/Wed night too! Tickets go on sale next week at their website above.

This is very exciting news for us because, the first time this was staged WTC VIEW in the Fringe, it was an extremely limited run.  We had a total of 9 scheduled performances but then we lost 2 of those to the famous Blackout of 2003.  Good timing right--a show about disaster gets its own unique utility disaster mid-run!  Oy.  Anyway, with just 7 shows that first time out we had great audience response to the show but, by the time word of mouth and reviews got out, it was over.  We had the chance to add some shows at the end that the Fringe provided but our cast, being so talented, were booked for other gigs and we had to end the run prematurely.

Anyway, now we will have a total 26 shows at 59E59 Theaters which will give audiences and reviewers plenty of time to find us this time out.  We just started our casting process this week so stay tuned for news on that front.  And if you have donated to our IndieGoGo crowd-sourcing campaign, do so TODAY....give what you can, or give what you can't :) It's the only way this show is going to happen. Thanks so much! 

March 15, 2011

A Sexy 4th Amendment Protest

Back in December, a young man in Richmond, VA decided to make a point about his 4th amendment rights.  So he went to the airport in Richmond, VA and, instead of going through a body scanner, stripper to his boxers to reveal the 4th amendment written on his naked chest for all to see.  Needless to say, the TSA was not amused.

Aaron Tobey was handcuffed and slapped with a disorderly conduct charge.  Now he's filed a civil rights lawsuit against the TSA. The initial charges were dropped since they he was merely exercising his 1st amendment rights to peaceful free speech.  The problem may be he did so in his boxers.  Not that I'm complaining....

March 14, 2011

The 50s' ARE Back...3D Movies and McCarthy-esque Hearings

On Friday, there was an unusual hearing on Capitol Hill, orchestrated by one of New York's very own congressman, Rep. Peter Hill of Long Island.  He chaired an investigation by the House Subcommitte On Homeland Security (which sounds just as creepy as the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee) on the new threat from within; homegrown Islamic terrorism.

The hearings were highly controversial and often quite contentious, with Democratic members of the committe questioning the line of questioning, as Hill and other Republicans essentially grilled Muslims about cooperating with law enforcement.  You can't deny that there are radical Muslims out there willing to do anything to cause death and destruction in the US and abroad.  However, to take American Muslim leaders and essentially question their patriotism really seems to be a step backward.  Every religion has its fanatics...including Eric Rudolph who famously set off a deadly bomb at the '96 Olympics and bombs at abortion clinics and a gay bar. Yet there were no hearings about radical Catholics and how their churches were the new crux of domestic terrorism.

An interesting statistic did come up in the hearing, courtesy of the Democratic side. An independent study by Duke University reported that American Muslims have been key in foiling 40% of terrorist plots in recent years.

March 11, 2011

To The Crowd! Nearly 1K Raised For WTC VIEW This Week

Our crowd-sourcing campaign for WTC VIEW Onstage kicked off with a bang this week.  We've raised nearly 1K since Wednesday which has been great!  We still have oh, 24K to go....but this is a great start and, as the word gets out, I'm sure we'll keep going over the next 40 days and reach our goal in April.

A lot of people have asked me recently what exactly crowd-sourcing is?  It's sorta the opposite of traditional funding, where you seek the smallest number of donors giving the largest amounts possible.  In crowd-sourcing, you farm the task out to the Internet through social-networking, emails, Twitter, etc. and try to get a large number of people giving smaller donations.  The math is basically that with crowd-sourcing, you want 1,000 people giving you 20 dollars as opposed to 20 people giving you 1,000.  So it's just as crucial to give as it is to post, like, re-tweet and share our campaign with anyone you think is interested in supporting the arts, specifically theatre in NYC.

I don't have to tell you that times are tough. They have been even tougher in the theater world, while some shows spend millions and millions of dollars (something about a spider?), new work has a tough time finding support here in the city.  Because of this, WTC VIEW will depend solely on donations, most of which are tax-deductible to make this all happen. So please, give what you can't....and if you can't give, keep spreading the word online; our link is Thanks so much and have a great weekend....

March 10, 2011

Sarah Palin Thinks Cathy Griffin Is A Bully?

You know, lately is seems that you read a headline about something Sarah Palin has done or said and you go....what?  Huh?!  Well, she's done it again this week, calling Kathy Griffin a bully.  Kathy Griffin is a stand-up comediam who makes people laugh for a living.  Where in the world does she connect this with being a bully?

The sad thing is that she chose to do this on the eve of President Obama's bullying conference at the White House today which addresses the all to real problem of real bullies in schools, which recently have lead to a rash of suicides of LGBT teens.  This issue is deadly serious.  Well, fortunately, Kathy Griffin had a great sense of humor about the whole thing as she talked about it on the Lawrence O'Donnell Show last night.  She handles herself so well in this and has a surprise answer to Sarah's challenge to "come up to Alaska" so they can have words.  Oh brother.

Like I've said before, just keep talking Sarah....

March 9, 2011

Bowery Boys Look At Manhattan & The Movies

When people think of New York and the movies, you tend to think of how the city has been featured in many classics;  from "Taxi Driver" in the 70's, to "Working Girl" in the 80's, to "Men In Black" in the 90's, and "Sex & The City" in the 'aughts.  However, NYC's movie history as a pretty backdrop runs way more than skin deep.  A lot of people forget that, long before Los Angeles became home to the film industry, it all started here in the city.  And also in New Jersey, at Thomas Edison's Black Maria (left)....America's first movie studio located in glamourous West Orange, NJ.

My favorite local history podcast, The Bowery Boys, takes a look back in their current episode to the start of the film business here in New York and all the various players, many lost to history while some including a fellow named Loew, live on today.  They provide a nearly hour-long overview of the nascent movie business as it got its start before the turn of the century and, in the 10's, started to migrate West where the light was better and the real estate a helluva lot cheaper.  A great listen if you're interested in the history of the movies.

March 8, 2011

Aaron Johnson Kicks-Ass In New REM Video

Aaron Johnson, the deceptively geeky guy from KICK-ASS, takes on a slightly different role as a dancey dude in this new video from R.E.M.  He has some pretty sweet moves as well as a very impressive Jew-fro which he knows how to work to maximum groove effect as we struts the streets of London.  It's a great little video for a great new R.E.M. song.  Enjoy!

March 7, 2011

We Need YOU To Help Bring WTC VIEW Off-Bway This May

As I previously reported here last month, my play WTC VIEW is getting its off-Broadway debut this spring at 59E59 Theaters.  To make this happen, today is the start of a 6-week fundraising campaign to raise $25K by the end of April and we need your help.

This is not a traditional fundraising campaign. The traditional model is all about finding the smallest number of large donors.  But with crowd-sourcing it's the reverse: We are looking for the largest number of small donors via social networking, with the hope that we can get 1,000 donors kicking in 20 bucks as opposed to 20 donors with a 1,000 bucks. Not many people have a cool grand lying around these days.  But a $20...or even a $10? That's a little easier to swing.  Also, since we are a fiscally sponsored project through Fractured Atlas, donations to WTC VIEW are tax deductible too.

So please check out our campaign which went live today on IndieGoGo.  I also put together a short video in which I talk about my inspiration for WTC VIEW and why I feel strongly that now is the time to bring this show to New York audiences as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11. However, the only way this is going to happen....I repeat the ONLY if you give.  WTC is a small non-profit play at a non-profit theater and we are depending on these tax-deductible dontations for our production budget.  The other thing you can do, that would be a huge help, is share our IndieGoGo campaign with your Facebook friends of Twitter follows and LIKE our Facebook page as well.  The direct link is:  

Thanks so much and stay tuned for more updates on the show, including casting news, and also some more videos too.

March 4, 2011

The Man Who Almost Assasinated JFK In 1960

In December of 1960, Richard Pavlick was the first disgruntled postal worker to make headlines.  It wasn't exactly the headline he was hoping for and not many people read it due to a terrible plane accident in Brooklyn that happened the same day.  Pavlick was arrested with a car full of dynamite (left) in Palm Beach, FL where President-elect Kennedy was staying.  He had been stalking the JFK and waiting for the right moment to drive into him or his house and blow him up because he thought the Kennedy's wealth had stolen the election of 1960.  He apparently came very close to do it one afternoon when JFK exited the residence but changed his mind when he saw Mrs. Kennedy and the children, because he had nothing against them.

Anyway, this is a fascinating bit of lost history I just found out about when reading a review for a new book by Jeff Greenfield called "Then Everthing Changed." The book, just out this week, serves up three fictional alternative histories of the 60's, 70's and 80's where timing changes everything and history takes a radically different course.  I am definitely planning on reading this as one of my favorite recent books was Phillip Roth's "The Plot Against America", about an alterna-30's where Lucky Lindbergh actually becomes  President and the nation sprials into neo-Facism.  Alternate history is a popular and growing genre of fiction, with other writers including new Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich and Michael Chabon.

March 2, 2011

Randy Rainbow Is Dating Charlie Sheen

I was waiting for this one since last week, when Charlie Sheen started opening his mouth and was unable to close it.  Randy's phone relationship with Charlie is great, though it doesn't have the same spice that it did with Mel.  Charlie does a lot of talking....that's for sure.  Anyway, this is another hilarious video by Randy Rainbow. Celebrity meltdowns are good for business!

March 1, 2011

An Advertising Sign Of The Times--Weight Gain For Women

If you watch TV or flip through a magazine, when there is an ad about women and their weight it usually involves how to lose it.  But back in the not so distant past, women were often concerned with being too skinny.  Seriously.

I was doing some research on Raquel Welch (long story) and came across this advertisement circa 1967 of Raquel advertising a weight gain product for women called "Wate-On". Checking the ingredients, it's essentially a precursor of "Ensure" which is popular today.  Anyway, I do love the line at the top of the ad--"I can't afford to be skinny." As another ad famously used to say, you've come along way baby....