April 30, 2012

The New World Trade Center Is The Tallest Building In NYC

Today, if all goes according to plan, 1 World Trade Center will claim its spot as the tallest in New York City when the first beam of the 100th floor goes up.  It will rise pass the height of the Empire State Building at 1251 feet. The new building, which ultimately will rise to the symbolic height of 1776 feet with a large broadcast tower, is expected to top out this summer and will open for business in 2014.

Below is a very cool video that came out this weekend to commemorate the progress on the new World Trade Center. Shot over the course of 7 years, it shows the building rise in a stunning time-lapse film.  Watch as 1 World Trade Center rises from below ground to tower over lower Manattan in just under 2 minutes.

April 28, 2012

SATURDAY SPECIAL: A Gay Spin On A Disney Classic Gets 2 Million Hits

Earlier this month, I was working on the production of a flash mob in DC when people started talking about their favorite and funniest YouTube videos.  One of the dancers said "Hey Girl!" and everyone laughed, except me. I was quickly directed to this spoof of Alan Mencken & Howard Ashman's opening song from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST which gets a decidedly gay (and bitchy) spin.

This video has been around for a little while, going up last September, but I never got wind of it until now. Also, I'd like to give some props to The Walt Disney Co. for not taking it down since then.  More than most entertainment companies (Sony, hello?), Disney realizes the ultimate value (not to mention great publicity) of a fun viral video.

April 27, 2012

Two New Bleecker Street Subway Entrances Open

In NYC, where improvements to the city's 100 year old-plus subway move at a snails pace, there was some exciting news this week when two new entrances to the Bleecker Street subway station on the 6 line opened. This station is one of the oldest in the system and part of the original IRT trunk line that ran from City Hall up to Washington Heights and opened to the public back in 1904.

For the last three years, construction has been underway to shift the Bleecker Street platform 200 feet to the south to accomodate a new transfer point to the BDFM trains that run just beneath the old IRT line. The actual transfer, with shiny new escalators and elevators and some cool public art by an artist friend of mine, will open in June but this week the new entrances opened from the the street.  There is one right on Houston and, even though it's brand new, it's the style of the older entrances. The other one is a semi-odd spot, just off Houston and actually on Mulberry, hidden behind a Bank of America branch and under an advertising sign. This entrance has actually been there for years but was only for use by MTA employees to get into the tunnel.  Now its a fully tricked out double-wide entrance to a heavily trafficked station long in need of additional access points.

Anyway, it's not every day that a new subway entrance opens...especially in my neighborhood. So it's something to be excited about....at least for a transit geek like myself!

April 26, 2012

I THINK I DO Screens At Seattle Marriage Equality Fundraiser

I was so pleased to get this news from Jason Plourde, who programs the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, that my first feature I THINK I DO screened last night at a fundraiser for marriage equality in Washington state. The movie, which was released in 1998, is about a gay couple attending a straight couple's wedding.  The couple, played by Alexis Arquette (when he was a boy) and Tuc Watkins (from DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), inspired by the marital hubbub, are considering marriage themselves which sets in motion all sorts of hijinks and revives an old romance.

The film was conceived as a comedy in the screwball style, harking back to the classics of the 1930's and 1940's where divorce and women's rights were the taboos lurking beneath the bright shiny surface of the antics at hand. My film, like those previous onces, was not conceived as overtly political and, at that time, legal gay marriage was more than a glimmer in activists eyes.  But it's there just beneath the surface as I portray the gay romance alongside the straight one while, at the same time, no one makes a fuss about two guys getting engaged. Also there's a reason its set in Washington DC and it's not simply because that's where I grew up!  :)

Anyway, I was so thrilled to have my film be part of this important fundraiser. Like other states where marriage equality has passed, Washington state now faces a voter referendum to repeal the law. And the efforts for that repeal are well-funded by national groups and religious organizations (hello Mormons!).  So if you feel inclined, please donate here to help the cause of marriage equality in Washington state.  

April 25, 2012

Could 48 Frames Per Second Ruin The Magic Of Movies?

There is a bit of a technical tempest brewing this week after Peter Jackson screened footage from his upcoming THE HOBBIT.  Utlitizing a new digital technology that shoots 48fps (as opposed to the 80 year old 24fps standard for films), Jackson hopes to revolutionize cinema with this new look.  However, the screening of 10 minutes of scenes from his highly anticipated pre-quel to LORD OF THE RINGS got a decidedly negative reaction at Cinema Con this week.

As reported on the HuffPost and geek blogs everywhere, many people though the footage looked so hyper-real that it lost the magic that the standard movie image has.  There were unflattering comparisons to the film looking like "a bad soap opera" and the sets looking like....sets.  This sounds a bit like the concern 10 years ago when HD was first introduced and everyone thought actors on screen would look too real, and thus ordinary.  But as HD rolled out, that concern appeared to be overstated. However, given the strong reaction to Jackson's screening, it might be longer and rougher road for the conversion to this 48fps format.

April 23, 2012

Sally Draper Is A Child Psychologist To The Stars

I may be late to the party on this, but I just found this clip of Kiernan Shipka (the child actress more well-known by her role as Sally Draper in MAD MEN) playing a child psychologist to various child stars. It's very funny and Sally (I mean, Kiernan) is becoming a young actor to watch for sure.  Even better is that she is a rising star who seems to have a pretty healthy sense of humor about the absurdity of show business.

April 21, 2012


At the end of March 1952, just a few weeks after Gene Kelly's film AMERICAN IN PARIS won a heap of Oscars, another Kelly movie opened in New York City called SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. The film did well commercially (though not as good as AMERICAN) and was generally well reviewed but did not garner raves. It received just two Oscar nominations and didn't win one golden statue.  Now, 60 years later, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is considered by many to be the best Hollywood musical of all time, including myself. :)

I was reading all about this fantastic movie today on a blog by film critic/enthusiast Edward Copeland (which I found by way of Roger Ebert's great Twitter feed).  Copeland has all sorts of interesting behind the scenes details and stories about the film.  But the most surprising to me was that in this film which is all about voice doubles at the start of the sound era, Debbie Reynolds herself had her singing voice dubbed for the "Would You" number!  Apparently, the studio brass thought that Reynolds' beautiful singing voice didn't quite match the look of Jean Hagen. So they hired a voice from Disney's DUMBO which was a bit deeper, a woman named Betty Noyes, to do the honors for this one song in the film.

Below are the two clips so you can compare and contrast; the first is the official released version of the film with the dubber and the second clip has the recording of Reynolds singing. All other songs in the movie, though do utilize Debbie Reynolds voice though, notably, none of them are solos.

April 20, 2012

The Return Of A Missing Child Mystery To My Neighborhood

Yesterday on my way home from the subway, I was surprised to see all these police cars and FBI vans parked on Prince Street with barricades blocking the road. Just a few blocks from my apartment, a missing child mystery more than 3 decades old was back in the news as the search was on for remains in a building that is now a fashionable Lucky jeans store.

The NY Times has an interesting article today which talks not so much about this missing case but the neighborhood itself and how it has been radically transformed in the 33 years since Etan Patz disappeared in his way to the bus. They describe how it was quiet area, filled with artists and machinists and not high end tourists. At night, it was apparently so empty that couples would have sex in darkened doorways. My favorite quote from an old timer in the hood: "It wasn't seedy. The docs were sleazy. [Soho] was gritty." Okay!

As investigators dig into the basement at 127B Prince, they are (as they article points out) digging into the neighborhood's quiet and almost small-town past.  In my play WTC VIEW, one character reminisces about playing football on Broadway in the '70s...a speech that was based on a recollection of someone who grew up here back when it was, well, a neighborhood.  Even when I got here, 20 some years ago, it had that feel, especially on my block which was filled with old Italians and Portuguese families.  Anyway, I find it interesting to see how much has changed and how the reopening of this tragic case is bringing all of that into relief.

April 18, 2012

Trending: Mad Men Inspires More Drinking At Work

There's an interesting piece over at NPR.org today that caught my eye about an apparent increase of on-the-job drinking.  They tie the story in the popularity of MAD MEN.  The real reason, however, is not to ape Don Draper and Co. but to keep employees who are working ridiculously long hours somewhat happy by including a bar on the premises. It's the same reason some hi-tech companies have elaborate cafeterias or ping pong tables or basketball courts (see Pixar); its' all to keep their employees from leaving.

Overall, the NPR piece states that there is a new and much more relaxed attitude toward drinking at work in recent years. Additionally, they do make the argument that drinking leads to creative breakthroughs, which is something that has been seen on MAD MEN. The NPR piece also discusses an academic study that apparently showed an increase in creativity and problem solving for people who were drinking.  Conversely, there is also the problem of executives peeing themselves from drinking too much at the office (see Freddie).

Below is a fun/scary montage of all the boozing on the 60s show, courtesy of New York Magazine's VULTURE site. Cheers!

April 17, 2012

Help Me Tupac Shakur, You Are My Only Hope

A week after Easter Sunday, a different sort of resurrection took place at the Coachella music festival out in Palm Springs. Rapper Tupac Shakur was brought back from the dead as a "hologram" that was projected onto the stage of the festival where he performed a song that stunned the audience.  

When I first heard about this, I was skeptical thinking that the majority of the audience at Coachella is already in a somewhat altered state and could easily mistake some smoke and mirrors for an act of God. But having seen a few versions of the video (one posted below), it truly is stunning and, even more remarkable, it is an entirely digital recreation of the rapper and not a digitzation of archival footage. 

Digital Domain, the company responsible for this technological marvel, has admitted that the image is not actually a hologram but a projection onto a glass screen that was onstage but appears invisible. (This same trick, dating from the 19th century magic shows and known as Pepper's Ghost, can currently be seen on Broadway in the musical GHOST, of course!)  There are now rumors today that Dr. Dre, who conceived the whole Tupac stunt, will be taking this virtual star on tour across the country. Will people pay to come see the resurrected rapper? I would say yes as it truly is a remarkable and bit of digital wizardry. 

April 16, 2012

Space Shuttle Discovery Ready For Its Final Flight To Smithsonian

The space shuttle Discovery will make it's final flight tomorrow atop a special 747, traveling from the Kennedy Space Center to the Smithsonian's Air & Space Hanger at Dulles International Airport.  The Washington Post has a cool little animation today about the shuttle's final journey and how they got it on top of the 747 above.  On April 19th, they will tow the shuttle in to it's final resting place at the Udvar-Hazy Museum, as it replaces the space shuttle Enterprise which will be coming to New York City this summer for display at the USS Intrepid.  

I remember when they flew the Enterprise around the Beltway on it's journey to Dulles back in 1985 and I actually got to see it on top of the 747.  This time, though, NASA is not releasing the exact flight plan due to security concerns. It's too bad as it was so cool to see the shuttle flying, even if it was on the back of a 747.  I think it was extra exciting too because it was like a real life version of the opening scene from the James Bond film MOONRAKER, minus the disastrous fate of the 747 when the shuttle is fired up and stolen by the bad guys! That was awesome...if totally unrealistic.

April 14, 2012

SATURDAY SPECIAL: Anderson Cooper's Giggles And Gets In Trouble With Buffalo

Anderson Cooper may be the hottest journalist on TV. But he is fast developing a reputation as the silliest one as well. For the second time in recent months, he had a full-blown on-air giggle-fit over a story about Dyngus Day.  This happened during his live CNN show and then the video got so viral that the residents of Buffalo, who celebrate this holiday, got a bit miffed over Anderson's less than serious take on their annual ritual.  They are now referring to Cooper as the "Pussy-Willow Prince" and have invited him to take place in next year's celebration. Knowing Coopers' taste for any sort of publicity, my bet is he'll probably show with Kathy Griffin at his side.  Afterall, he'll need a "Pussy-Willow Princess"...

April 13, 2012

Beach 105th Street Is The Loneliest Station In New York City

The MTA released a ton of data this week about ridership figures for 2011. Basically, ridership across the system is up, recording nearly 1.6 billion passengers last year. It's the largest number to travel the system since 1950.

The figures have been parsed and examined over at the transit blog Second Avenue Sagas. However, there was one particular statistic that SAS pointed out that I found interesting.  Times Square, with nearly 190,000 riders a day, is not surprisingly the busiest station in the city. But the quietest station is Beach 105th Street, way out in the Rockaways, with an average of just 255 passengers a day. That is an incredible disparity.  The reason is that Beach 105 is served by the S shuttle line, which only runs to Broad Channel and back with an additional 10 express A trains for commuters.  Also, there is not much immediately around Beach 105th Street...just a Key Foods and some industrial sites.  I actually have been there, shooting a student film back in the 90's and I can say that part of the reason we were out there is that there were absolutely no people...especially in the middle of February. Brrrr.

I decided to look up the history of the lonley little station and, surprisingly, it is older than the actual NYC subway system. The original station opened in 1880, was called Seaside, and served as a stop on the Long Island Railroad.  After the station burned down four times (something that apparently happened a lot out in the windy Rockaways), it was finally replaced with a concrete viaduct that remains today. The MTA took over Beach 105th Street in 1956 and incorporated the line into its subway system.

April 12, 2012

The Titanic Lives On In New York Today

One of my favorite local blogs Scouting NY has an extensive 2-part post this week about New York City and it's link to the Titanic. New York was the destination of the doomed ship, which sank 100 years ago today. As such, there are a surprising amount of memorials and remnants of the Titanic disaster scattered about the city.

One thing I didn't know about which he features is a Titanic memorial down by the South Street Seaport. I had seen this structure many times but never realized it was a memorial to the nautical disaster. This tower was on top of a building over on the west side for many years then relocated to the seaport. I wonder if anyone will leave flowers there this weekend. Also, Scouting NY has some detailed pictures of the White Star dock where the Carpathia came in with survivors, now an empty pier near 14th Street. You can still read the company's faded name on the steel beams!

Below is a photo of the headquarters of the White Star line.  The building still exists on lower Broadway but the entrance where thousands gathered for word of their loved one's fate in the days after the sinking is now a Subway and a Radio Shack store.  That's a sign of the times if I've ever seen one!

April 11, 2012

The Devotion Project Debuts New Film & Fundraising Campaign

This week, my friend and fellow filmmaker Tony Osso debut's his latest film from The Devotion Project, a series of shorts about gay and lesbian couples in committed long-term relationships.  This latest short is especially touching, about a couple in Oakland dealing with the challenges of a chronically ill child.  In this moving film, Tony has done it again, telling the story of this beautiful couple in a way that is both honest and touching too.

With the release of this 3rd film in the series, Tony has also started a fundraising campaign on IndieGoGo to keep the project going. You can click here to see a special video starring Tony himself as he explains The Devotion Project and how your donation of even just a few dollars can help.  In a year when marriage equality is being challenged with referendum votes in states like Washington, Maryland and North Carolina, it's important to show the real gay families that are out there and the challenges that they face. Rather than "destroying" marriage as some people claim, all they are doing is loving each other while trying to care for and support their unique families.

April 10, 2012

NatGeo Has Incredible Titanic Pics On 100th Anniversary

In case you've been living under a rock, this week marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It's a story that's been hard to miss with all the hype and cultural noise, including the re-release of the James Cameron film TITANIC in 3D and a new mini-series debuting this weekend on ABC.

But leave it to National Geographic magazine to produce some stunning and comprehensive commemorative work.This month's issue of the magazine has some incredible new photos of the wreck of the Titanic that have been taken in the last two years.  They include a mosaic composed of thousands of images of the Atlantic seabed (below) where the ship rests that have been stitched together for the first comprehensive look at the wreck. You can zoom in to details, which are truly remarkable in their clarity.  There are also some stunning interiors of the ship, shot in a similar manner by robots shooting multiple images that are then combined.  The one here is of the lush Turkish bath in the ships storied first class section, with its ornate mosaic tiles still mainly intact. Amazing.

There is also an in-depth article about the process of mapping out the site as well as efforts by the salvage company RMS Titanic, Inc. to take a more historic approach to this ships final resting place.

April 9, 2012

"Bronies" Are Grown Men Obsessed With MY LITTLE PONY

Over the weekend, I read a curious article in the Washington Post STYLE section about "bronies", young men age 18-40 who are somewhat obsessed with My Little Pony.  I thought this was a joke but it is true. The self-proclamied "bronies" gather in groups and watch episodes of a newish TV show based on the popular Hasbro toy which was first introduced back in the 1980s.

The new show MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC sounds like the Teletubbies of it's day, with bright colors and goofy characters with names like Twilight Sparkle. Yes, it's perfect stoner television.  There was no mention of this in the POST article, that's my secret suspicion of what is driving this whole thing. Also, no word on whether any of these dudes are gay, though with interest in characters with Sparkles and Rainbow in their names you gotta wonder, right? Anyway, this new trend is yet another incident of the continuing infantilization of our culture, where adults never quite grow up to become...well, adults.

April 6, 2012

Local Comix Artist Goes On A Bar Scrawl

Bill Roundy is a writer/comix artist who also sometimes writes for NEXT magazine's online nightlife blog, The Nexus (as I do).  He also does a regular feature for the Brooklyn Paper called "Bar Scrawl" where he does a "draw-up" of a neighborhood boit in the BK with his thoughts on what he sees and hears when he checks out the joints. It's one of my favorite local features in the paper as it introduces me to new and noteworthy nightspots while also having having a sly sense of humor.

This weeks Bar Scrawl is great in that he captures a moment of New York realness--the unforutnately timed arrival of a NYC health inspector. Fortunately, it all turns out OK and the bar is not shut down.  But it's still a nice touch of reality in his drawings which I always enjoy. Check it out and maybe you'll be inspired to check out the actual bar! Happy weekend....

April 5, 2012

Hillary Goes Viral With A Power-Meme

Hillary Clinton has gone viral this week with a meme based on a striking photo of her wearing supersized-sunglasses while sitting checking her Blackberry on a military plane.  "Texts from Hillary" is now a Tumblr where Hillary sends pithy texts to the famous and infamous.

This all comes on a wave of new attention about whether or not Hillary will run for President in 2016.  It seems odd that this sort of attention is happening when the 2012 Presidential race is far from over.  But that's the nature of the political chattering classes....always a step ahead of the curve.  It's also possibly fueled by the boredom setting in with the current race.

April 4, 2012

"My High School Boyfriend Was Gay" Is A Fun Show At UCB

On Monday, I went to check out an unusual show at UCB East called "My High School Boyfriend Was Gay".  It's unusual in that it's a show that started as a Tumblr of photos of gay guys with their high school girlfriends.  Now the creator of that blog Damian Bellino (pictured, left) has a live show of songs and storytelling all about when gay men played the heterosexual game back in high school.

I wrote about it for NEXT magazine's NEXUS blog and you can read my full report here. It's hilarious and touching and so much nostalgic fun. The next show is May 7th, with a prom theme. So you know I will be there for that one!

April 2, 2012

MAD MEN Jumps Into The Presidential Political Fray

Other than Betty Draper's "big" return to the show last night, the other notable event on MAD MEN last night was a tossed away line that her husband said while talking on the phone.  It was a reference to George Romney, the then governor of Michigan, who Henry called "a clown".

Though it was a throwaway line and not part of any of the show's real storylines, the mention caused a political tempest today, with Tagg Romney going on Twitter to defend his dead grandfather.  Slate has the full coverage of the Tweeting that ensued.  All in all, I thought it was a fun reference to something modern in the shows' 60s context.  And clearly a fun political tweak by the show's liberal creators as well.