Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

It's the Wednesday before All Hallows' Eve, and things in New York are certainly getting spooky! Are you looking for something to to this week/end? Here are my suggestions:

Party Halloween:
A Halloween Pub Crawl will take place on Friday, Saturday and Monday of Halloween weekend. Purchase tickets to have access to all the drink specials at the various bars throughout the weekend and Monday night.

If you've got some sturdy sea-legs, consider one of these Halloween weekend rides on the Hudson and/or East Rivers: Harbor Lights; New York PrincessQueen of HeartsPaddle Wheel Queen NY; Skyline Princess; The Majesty.

Scary Halloween
Haunted houses are not just for kids anymore! Check out these creepy Halloween attractions in NYC. Most are expensive and take a very short time to see, but if you've never gone before, it's worth a scare.

Nightmare: Fairy Tales is a haunted house with a theme that changes annually. This year's theme, "Fairy Tales," brings to life the gruesome stories behind the happy-ending fairy tales we were told as children. This haunted house tends to be more of a psychologically thrilling experience than one where things go bump in the night. Open through November 5. Tickets start at $30, or $15-20 with student ID. I went to a prior "Nightmare" haunted house and found it fun and chilling, although definitely over too quickly.

Blood Manor is another adult house of horrors and terror, made up of various rooms of gore, demons, dementia, and who knows what else may be lurking, or crawling, or rising from the dead among the Manor... Tickets start at $27.50 and are available through November 5. I have never been to Blood Manor but it's on my "to do" list... I especially recommend it this year as the Manor's 2011 season has been dedicated to a high school classmate of mine, Arwen "Spliff" Rosa, a freaky performance artist who sadly passed away on October 16, 2011 after complications following a car accident last year.

Blackout Haunted House is currently operating by standby list only through its closing date of November 5. This haunted house is unique because you are required to walk through alone, no matter how many people you arrived with.  The theme of this attraction is more sadistic and sexual in nature than the others, but if you can take some direction when commands are barked at you by strangers in the dark and you don't mind being touched (no, not like that), then this haunted house may be the one for you. I have been to a prior haunted house by the same host. It was incredibly scary, exciting, fun and offensive all at the same time. Without giving too much away, if you would not be comfortable with, for example, someone putting a potato sack over your head and marching you forward, then skip this one.

Third Rail's Steampunk Haunted House: Through the Looking Glass seems like it may be similar to "Nightmare." This is the first year I have heard about this haunted house, apparently in its third season. The theme focuses on the darker side of Lewis Carroll stories. Tickets start at $20 ($10 for students) and are available through October 31.

Bookworm Halloween:
Housing Works Bookstore Cafe will be hosting a FREE Literary Halloween Party on Monday, October 31 at 7pm. Come dressed in your favorite literary-themed costume and hear readings of "horrors real and imagined." Drinks specials and treats available.

Indie Halloween
Indie quartet, Brooklyn Rider, will play Carnegie Hall at 7:30pm on Monday, October 31. Tickets are normally $27-35, but is offering $20 tickets if you purchase tickets by October 28 and enter promo code "SKT13035."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Givers Continue to Rise Up, Up, Up!

On Thursday evening, as part of the CMJ Marathon, Louisiana-based band, Givers, opened for Portugal. The Man, at Terminal 5 (one of my favorite NYC venues!). I first saw Givers in 2009 at Brooklyn Bowl, when the band was just beginning to break into the indie music scene with the upbeat dance-pop tune, "Up, Up, Up." Two years later, and only a few short months after the release of their debut full-length studio album, "In Light," the music of Givers exploded on stage and excitedly commanded the attention of the standing-room-only crowd. Lead singer, Taylor Guarisco, told fans that the Terminal 5 performance was one of the largest the band had every played.

Givers play Terminal 5 on October 20.
If you haven't heard of Givers yet, you are missing out. Think Vampire Weekend meets Dirty Projectors and Fela Kuti, then add just a little more edge and some longer hair, and you've got the funky, electronic rock of Givers. Guitars, keyboard, a synthesizer and two drum sets rounded out the fresh, spunky sound of this up and coming band. The band's only female member and vocalist, the grungy, yet peppy Tiffany Lamson, played one of the percussion sets, which included a xylophone and tambourine. Her talent appeared to no know bounds as she also blended perfectly as a lead vocalist with Guarisco.

Givers' New York tour has concluded for now, but considering their large fan base, their unique style, plus Guarisco's quirky facial expressions and bouncing around the stage while he plays, this certainly will not be the last opportunity New Yorkers have to catch the beat of Givers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

As Wednesday comes to a close, are you already thinking about what exciting activities NYC will play host to this weekend? No need to wait! The annual College Music Journal ("CMJ") Music Marathon and Film Festival kicked off yesterday and will continue through Saturday evening. According to Wikipedia, (a horrible source, I know!), the CMJ Marathon began in the 1980s as tool for promotion and discovery of college bands. Since then it has grown to become so much more.

This year's festival runs from October 18 through 22 and takes over venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, to showcase over 1,300 performances and "dozens of cutting-edge films" by new and emerging artists. Explore some of the music and films before you attend. A few bands I would personally recommend checking out: "Portugal, The Man"; "A Place to Bury Strangers"; "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah"; "Zola Jesus"; and Robbie Gil. Some of these bands have already played their official "CMJ" showcase, but are continuing to tour in NYC while in town for the Marathon, so make sure to check their websites or the websites of the venues. The best venues will include Brooklyn BowlCameo GalleryGlasslands GallerySouthpawRockwood Music HallPianosSantos Party HouseCake ShopAce Hotel, and The Bowery Presents family of performance spaces. While all-access badges for the Marathon are sold out, some events still have individual tickets available.

Even if you do not want to attend any shows, if you are in the media industry, you may be interested in informative music, film, gaming, tv, internet and marketing panels. If you are a lawyer, you can get CLE credit at Friday evening's Entertainment Business Law Seminar. The full schedule of CMJ Marathon events can be found here.

Folk singer/songwriter Will Stratton performs at an unofficial
pre-CMJ Marathan event at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
on Monday, October 17: "Around the Campfire with "

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

"The Avengers" Assemble at New York Comic Con.

Left to right: Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Tom Hiddleston (Loki),
Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson),
Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk), and Marvel's President, Kevin Feige.
The most talked about panel at New York Comic Con was undoubtedly "Marvel StudiosMarvel's The Avengers." In what is sure to be one of the most anticipated movies of 2012, "The Avengers," modeled after the similarly-titled Marvel comics, will bring together favorite Marvel superheroes such as "Captain America" and "Iron Man," in an action-packed, star-studded adventure to "avenge" the Earth from invaders. As "Tony Stark/Iron Man" (played by Robert Downey, Jr.) says in the movie's first official trailer, "if we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we'll avenge it." Due out in May 2012, the movie is co-written and directed by Joss Whedon (known for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dollhouse," "Firefly"/"Serenity," and "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," to name a few).

In addition to the actors who attended Comic Con, shown in the picture above, the ensemble cast of "The Avengers" will include Scarlett Johansson as "Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow," Samuel L. Jackson as "Nick Fury," "Chris Hemsworth" as "Thor," Jeremy Renner as "Clint Barton/Hawkeye," Gwenyth Paltrow, reprising her role, for the third time, as "Tony Stark's" doting assistant, "Pepper Potts," and many more familiar faces.

The Saturday evening Comic Con panel began with a premiere of the trailer above, and was the first time that "The Avengers" trailer had been shown to the public on a large screen. Attendees were also treated to a lengthy clip of never-before-seen footage from the movie, focusing on how "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk" (played by Mark Ruffalo) is brought into the Avengers group.  We were asked to keep any spoilers "secret," but a decent Google search will reveal that fanboys (and girls) are not very good at keeping secrets, despite Ruffalo's warnings that disseminating any information might "make [him] angry." Even Ruffalo himself, who was a "surprise" guest at the panel, was seeing the finished footage for the first time. All I will say is that the combination of the trailer, the footage, and the personal thoughts of the actors and Marvel's President, Kevin Feige, who also sat on the panel, has reinforced that I am exceptionally excited for this movie.

During the panel, actor Chris Evans, who plays "Steve Rogers/Captain America," suggested that the movie's creators would like to see "The Avengers" become a franchise, with future "Avenger" movies to follow. "The Avengers" itself already falls on the heels of two "Iron Man" movies (2008 and 2010, with a third planned for 2013) and the summer 2011 releases of "Thor" and "Captain America." Having also played "Johnny Storm/The Human Torch" in the 2005 Marvel movie, "Fantastic Four" and its 2007 sequel, "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer," Evans admitted that he liked playing "Captain America"better.

Cobie Smulders, who plays "S.H.I.E.L.D." agent, "Maria Hill," described how the costume designers for "The Avengers" worked hard to stay true to the wardrobes of the superhumans in the comics, and produced intricate designs for each character that were remarkably similar to those portrayed in the comics. "The Avengers" will be Smulder's first action movie, as she is most known for her role as "Robin Scherbatsky," aka "Robin Sparkles," on CBS TV's hit comedy, "How I Met Your Mother." Smulders, who laughingly refused to sing HIMYM's "Let's Go To The Mall," talked about how physically demanding her role as "Agent Maria Hill" was compared to her sitcom character, and she told the audience that the most exciting part of the movie for her was being able to work with Joss Whedon.

At least one of the actors did break into song. At the request of the panel's moderator, actor Clark Gregg, who plays "Agent Phil Coulson," sang the theme song for "The Avengers" for the crowd, as he had apparently been continuously doing backstage.

Another great treat that came out of "The Avengers" panel was the creation of the word "Ruffalized." As Tom Hiddleton, who plays "Loki" in the movie, was describing a fight scene between his character and "The Incredible Hulk," he noted that he gets "Ruffalized" by the "Hulk," referring to actor, Mark Ruffalo. As predicted by the panelists, "Ruffalized" quickly made its way into Urban Dictionary, defined as getting one's "ass kicked."

When asked by the moderator how he approached the role of "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk," Mark Ruffalo explained that he drew inspiration from "Hulks" past, including actors Bill Bixby, Eric Bana and Edward Norton. Interestingly, the 2012 "Avengers" movie will be the first time on-screen that the same actor plays both the roles of "Bruce Banner" and "The Incredible Hulk," as the technology available at earlier times was not sufficient to create the right likeness. For an unexplained reason though, Lou Ferrigno will still voice "The Incredible Hulk." (I'm also not sure why Ruffalo did not include Ferrigno in his list of inspiring "Hulk" actors).

The panel ended by taking questions from the audience. The first inquirer was a cute little boy who asked to actors to all say "Avengers Assemble," which they did, driving the already giddy crowd wild. Another audience member asked each panelist to name his or her favorite male and female superheroes. The results were as follows:
Chris Evans' favorite male superhero was "Iron Man," because he was not born with his powers, but had to work for them. Evans' favorite female superhero was "Agent Maria Hill." "Hill" was also the female favorite of just about every other panelist, although Ruffalo and Gregg also noted enjoying "Black Widow." Ruffalo and Feige both chose "Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk" as their favorite male superheroes, and Smulders named "Iron Man." One of the last to respond, Hiddleston chose "Thor" as his favorite superhero, noting that he felt like his "brother" had been left out.  (Does anyone else notice some bias in these answers? Note, the question did not limit the panelists to "The Avengers" movie or even to Marvel superheroes...).

"The Avengers" panelists respond to questions from the panel moderator.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Spotlight on Mark Hamill at New York Comic Con

Yes, that's Mark Hamill, on the right. (Sorry, I was sitting far away!)
On Friday evening at New York Comic Con, actor Mark Hamill, or as many of his fans know him, "Luke Skywalker," led a panel discussion to a packed room at the NYCC MTV Theater. The panel, "Mark Hamill Spotlight," was set to focus on Hamill's pursuits beyond that galaxy far, far away, such as voicing "The Joker" in Warner Brothers' forthcoming video game, Batman: Arkham City (which hits U.S. stores on Tuesday). Hamill impressed with quite the evil laugh and explained how he felt anxious to follow in the shadow of actor Jack Nicholson, who had been the most well-known "Joker" actor at the time Hamill began voicing the character.

Of course, Hamill will never be able to get away from the iconic Skywalker character, but he doesn't seem to want to. He opened the panel by discussing "Star Wars" and noting how he himself was an avid comic book fan who attended comic conventions in the 1970s, before he ever found his claim to fame in George Lucas' trilogy (er, hexology?). Nevertheless, he still could not out-nerd his own fans at NYCC. When unable to precisely name certain creatures from the movies, Hamill explained that his son enjoys quizzing him with "Star Wars" trivia, which he ritually "flunks."

One of the most interesting tidbits was Hamill's reaction to learning that "Darth Vader" was "Luke's" father. He described how the original script for "The Empire Strikes Back" directed "Vader" to tell "Luke," "Obi-Wan killed your father," and what a shock it was to later learn that the line was dubbed to substitute that great revelation, a phrase that may be one of the most mimicked movie-lines of all time, "[Luke], I am your father." Even the actors were kept in the Dark! (pun intended...).

Hamill also discussed "The Black Pearl," a comic miniseries he created, which he hopes to adapt to film. The protagonist of "The Black Pearl" is a vigilante crime-fighter. However, Hamill emphasized that he is not seeking to create another "Kick-Ass," or similar tale that focuses on "real" masked avengers but steps far outside the realm of what is actually possible in the real world. Hamill hopes to change the public's perception of what it takes to be a vigilante. He even referenced Seattle's own "superhero," a man who goes by the name of "Phoenix Jones" and was recently in the news for essentially botching an attempted "rescue" and getting himself arrested for assault. It will be very interesting to see what comes of the planned "Black Pearl" adaptation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wednesday Weekly: Something to Look Forward To.

Well, as I have not had the opportunity to post since last Monday, I was unable to get out a "Wednesday Weekly" last week. I apologize to all of my adoring followers (all 21 of you!).

Wondering What's Good in NY this upcoming week/end? WGINY has only one suggestion, as it is where I will be all weekend:

It may not be San Diego's baby, but the New York Comic Con ("NYCC"), held annually at the Jacob Javits Center, is the largest popular culture convention on the East Coast, and for good reason. Beginning Thursday evening with a concert by DJ Z Trip and The Nightwatchman, aka Tom Morello (open only to press, professionals, VIP and four-day ticket-holders), and continuing through Sunday with industry panels, screenings and celebrity signings, NYCC is packed with fun, educational and networking opportunities.

Whether you are an aspiring comic book writer seeking to learn more about the trade, or a film buff anxious to meet your idol or hear him or her speak, there is no shortage of activities, and you cannot possibly see it all in one day. Recognize any of these celebrities, comic writers/designers/artists or other authors? They are all planning to attend the Con, and if you plan your schedule accordingly, you might just get that autograph or photo you've always dreamed of.  You can also play "Quidditch," go Speed Dating, or bring your kids to "Jedi" training. According to Midtown Comics, NYCC consistently ranks as one of the top five attended events in NYC. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you?

Also, while you're at the Con, don't forget to stop by the New York Anime Festival, a celebration of Japanese pop culture that always takes place within NYCC. Don your favorite "cosplay" outfit and find out where these anime guests will be throughout the weekend.

One day NYCC tickets for Saturday only are currently sold-out, but all other single day and package options are still available online here, or at these official retailers, many of whom will be vendors at the show and will be selling their products at deep discounts (e.g. Midtown Comics, mentioned above, will be offering 20% off graphic novels and trade paperbacks at their NYCC booth). The Javits Center is huge, and hardly any space will be going unused for this convention, so you may want to bring a floor map with you.

Monday, October 3, 2011

¿El Mejor Burrito en Nueva York? ¡Qué bueno!

I have finally discovered the best burrito in New York City and, to my surprise, it's not at the highly exalted Bay Area transplant, Dos Toros Taqueria (which, let's face it, makes good fast-food style burritos, but so does Chipotle), nor even at the deliciously hidden Mexican gem on Avenue A, Zaragoza Mexican Deli & Grocery. No, readers, the BEST burrito I have had, to date, in this city, may be right on your very block this weekend -- at a NYC Street Fair.

While wandering through a cascade of vendors dripping over Lexington Avenue at last weekend's "Oktoberfest" street fair, I knew I was hungry and on the prowl for some street meat, but somehow nothing was striking my fancy. Then I saw it, a big sign that read "Authentic Mexican Grill Burritos," superimposed on a banner of a Mexican flag, and I knew that I had found something special.

The succulent smell of chicken and beef being grilled right in front of me wafted up into my nose and beckoned me toward the crowded food vendor. Once there, a warm tortilla was smothered with freshly grilled, still smoking, chicken pieces, along with all of the toppings I desired. Slowly, the burrito grew, as rich black beans, grated cheese, chopped onions, tomatoes and tasty salsa were layered over and around the chicken, and topped with my choice of sauce, then rolled up and wrapped in foil to make it the perfect on-the-go meal. I chose a chipotle sauce, which gave the burrito a spicy kick that hung around my mouth and only made me want more.

As I enjoyed the fantastic filling, I asked the servers where I might order the burrito in a restaurant in NYC. To my dismay, I learned that the vendor, which hails from Puebla, Mexico, does not serve their products in any restaurant in New York, and only frequents the street fairs. However, not to fear, as they do tend to appear at nearly every fair on this list, which is updated often.

Mardi Gras Festival Productions is behind the majority of the street fairs in Manhattan. Don't be fooled by the catchy names of each fair, as most serve the same food and sell the same sheets, Pashminas, hats, computer accessories, and played-out "I <3 NYC" t-shirts. Although, I must admit, it is a great way to spend some time outdoors in the city. Many of my hats and scarves were purchased at a NYC street fair, and I always find it hard to resist the cheesy-fried aromas of the $5 arepas, which always pair well with the $1 lemonade specials. If you look carefully, you might also just find a good deal at the occasional hippie clothing, vintage item or specialty art vendor.