Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sneaky Like A Hoser

After the success of my Members Of The Tribe post, I started to think about other groups that are in dire need of some recognition. I found Canadians at the top of my list. Most people think that being a Canadian living abroad is a snap, but I can tell you from experience that our presence in the United States is more complicated than you think. Sure, we pass as Americans for the most part, with or without subtle accents, but as invaders from the north there are minute details that can easily bust our cover. For example, there's the eternal debate over 'cutlery vs. silverware' - why would you call it silverware if it isn't silver? And who could ignore the fact that the only countries not using the International System of Units (aka the metric system) are the United States, Burma and Liberia. We're so similar, yet so different! In Canada we learn about Canadian history, and almost entirely ignore American history, a fact that agitated my American father to no end. Being a Canadian in the United States is like being the best spy ever: we observe, we succeed, and we do it all with your consent... your adoration even!

Canadian born celebrities have been part of the infamous Brain Drain for decades. Just watch old episodes of Saturday Night Live, and you'll see that a handful of their most successful comedians were from the North. A new generation of Canadians have infiltrated American media, and not only are they talented, but they're extremely attractive. Not bad, eh?

With Ellen Page's new flick Whip It! hitting theaters Friday, and the luscious Evangeline Lilly making LOST fans lose their minds, Canadian actresses are slowly seducing the nation. And who could forget the Ryans! Both Ryan Reynolds, and Ryan Gosling grew up before Canadian audiences' eyes, on their respective teen soaps Hillside, and Breaker High. It would be safe to say that they also have their feet firmly planted in Sex Symbol Status. So the next time you think about cracking a Canuck joke, just remember you may be in the company of some undercover agents.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

We all have guilty pleasures, but only some of us are brazen enough to admit it. I could list off a handful of questionable confections I enjoy on occasion in the privacy of my home, but what's the fun in that? Everyone has a couple of Goobers in their closet. No, my guiltiest of pleasures is bad television. And when I say 'bad', I really mean good. Case in point the Lifetime network, which thanks to the acquisition of Project Runway, has become less of a dirty word. Many of us wouldn't be caught dead watching a made for TV movie from 1989, but then again there are some of us who relish in these comical finds. My latest Lifetime discovery is Drop Dead Diva, featuring the lovely Brooke Elliott. When people look at me with a blank expression on their face I just tell them: if Clueless and Law & Order had a baby it would be Drop Dead Diva. The premise of the show is a classic body mix up situation, that leaves 24-year-old aspiring model Deb, in the body of Jane, a successful lawyer. It's a comedic drama (yes, that's what Lifetime calls it) and it also happens to feature the fabulous Margaret Cho. I dare you to try it - who knows, it just might end up being better than those Milk Duds you've been hiding under the couch cushion.

Monday, September 28, 2009

One Step At A Time

For most Jews, Yom Kippur is a day of reflection and solitude. It's a day when we deny ourselves the comforts and pleasures of daily life, in exchange for the reflections that come with fasting. After attending synagogue this morning, at the strangest of locations (a church that my friend was quick to point out had been featured on Sex & The City), I found myself back in the confines of my apartment. All dressed up with no place to go, except the hunger laden recesses of my mind.

So as I sit here, dry mouthed with not a drop of water having gone down my throat since late last night, I start to think about all the people who face this reality on a daily basis. Water is such an integral part of our lives, that the thought of being without it is unimaginable... but what about those one billion people that don't have access to clean drinking water? An integral part of Judaism is Tzedakah, the religious obligation to perform charity, and on this holiest of days a little charity can be a great start to the new year. By donating a mere $20 to Charity:Water, one person will have clean, safe drinking water for 20 years. Learn more about Charity:Water here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The French Are Coming!

Yesterday a friend of mine was kind enough to take me to a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Being a huge fan of his predecessor the great Conan O'Brien, I was a little apprehensive about the experience, but the magic of television is so enrapturing. There's something about the frantic chatter of tourists, and the feeling of being in a television studio that makes every joke ten times funnier. I was excited by the prospect of seeing if Jennifer's Body star Megan Fox is as attractive as everyone thinks she is (she is), and thrilled to see Law & Order's Anthony Anderson casually conversing with Jimmy like old friends. Being steps away from The Roots was a treat in itself, but my friend had secured band stand tickets, so we got to rock out behind musical guests Phoenix. Check me out bopping and swaying to the sweet sounds of 'Lisztomania' from their latest record Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Déjà Vu: Madonna

Although the Material Girl of yore is long gone, we still have the memory of her killer fashion sense, unapologetic attitude, and sarcasm to keep us going. Desperately Seeking Susan was one of those light-hearted films that sparked many things within me: an acknowledgment of the importance of personal style, a distaste for crappy hot tubs, and most importantly a desire to make out with Aidan Quinn. Keep in mind, the film came out in 1985 when I was a wee toddler, so I saw the film for the first time in high school. Just like every other teenage girl, I wanted to be Madonna. I still dream about the Santo Loquasto designed pyramid jacket featured in the film.

Madonna continues to be an inspiration to this day, but for me and many others, her best work was released when she was still rough around the edges, and willing to go out on a limb with both her look and her sound. She's inspired so many musicians, and many of her songs have become anthems. It's interesting to hear how artists from different genres interpret her classics, and the following rendition of 'Borderline' is a beautiful overhaul of the song (featuring Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips). So once you're done dancing to the original, take off your shoes, get into your sukhasana pose, and let the sounds sink in.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Riding On The Coattails Of A Legend

As I begin my foray into the world of advertising, it's encouraging to see that although many advertisements pander to our most basic of desires, some still hope to tap into deeper emotions. Ads that spin lasting narratives in just a few frames are few and far between, and because of their rarity they truly stand out. Knowing how to sell a product in an honest way, without succumbing to dirty tricks, is a real art form. It should be like listening to a friend tell a story - something relaxed, that can often pull on your heartstrings. That's not exploitation, that's just good storytelling. The following ode to James Dean is a great example of an ad that I would be proud to produce. We'll just have to wait and see what kind of magic SVA squeezes out of me... brain don't fail me now!

Via Jezebel

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Defense of The Gaga

Everyone's panties are in a bunch after Lady Gaga's VMA performance last week - even her former teachers, the nuns at Convent of the Sacred Heart in NYC are seeing red. Let's forget the nuns for a second, and do a little reality check. When did we forget that pop music doesn't always have to be manufactured garbage? Although Lady Gaga's first two singles ('Just Dance' and 'Poker Face') were international number one hits, people just don't get what she's really trying to do. Yes, she's a singer/songwriter extraordinaire who's been playing the piano since the age of four, but unlike most celebrities she isn't easily digestible. She's said it before, and I'll say it again: Gaga is a performance artist. It's not just about her voice, her songs, or her flamboyant fashion choices, but rather the entire picture. Her performances are the gel that hold it all together, and often her performances are what confuse people the most. There's nothing confusing about the following clip of her performance on Good Morning America earlier this summer. This is Gaga at her best: her voice soaring, her dark aura swirling around crisp pop inflections. Her music may be catchy and accessible, but that doesn't mean we should expect her to be a typical pop star. Her aesthetic is wholly her own, and I hope she keeps it that way. I mean when was the last time a musician made you think of a neck brace as a fabulous accessory?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency

For all the haters out there who claim that Mad Men isn't the best show on television, I present one of the best moments of the season thus far. This should change your mind. So many great things going on here: 1) office hijinks, 2) Joan saves the day, 3) Peggy thanks Joan for all her advice, 4) blood. 'Nuff said. My love for Mad Men grows with each passing day, and the writing never ceases to amaze me. The name of this episode alone (re: title of this blog entry) is pure genius. If you aren't watching it already, I suggest you start from the beginning to fully appreciate everything Sterling Cooper has to offer.

Soaking Up The Sun

I often get accused of playing favorites when it comes to The Boys, and I have to admit that sometimes these accusations are aren't far from the truth. It's always a challenge to welcome a new member into the fold, and it definitely took me a while to get used to having two fur balls instead of just one. Lately Jean has been a real pleasure to have around, especially when he sits by me as I type away on my laptop. Here he is enjoying the last bits of summer sun, rolling around like a clown.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Video Vault: Tribute

Michael Jackson has been on countless magazine covers, news stories, and television specials since his untimely death, but funny thing is, I'm not complaining. The weekend after he died, I was out and about with friends, and every restaurant, bar, and boutique was blasting his music. I became possessed by his famous bass lines and beats, and all I could think about was dancing. That's one of the many reasons why Jackson's presence is everlasting, and his influence unwavering - the man could dance like nobody else. His most memorable performance was so early on in his solo career, that many members of my generation often overlook it, but his appearance on the 1983 television special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever introduced the world to 'the gloved one' and his moonwalk. Unlike earlier work like 1979's uplifting 'Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough,' this performance was dark, edgy and undeniably sexy. He was channeling early Elvis with his pelvis thrusts and tap footwork, but it was his moonwalk (at around the four minute mark) that really revved up the crowd. So crank it up and let Michael start your weekend right!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Design Within Reach (No, Really!)

After living with room mates for over 5 years, both in the Midwest and then in NYC, I was officially 'over it'. I didn't want to deal with any more confrontations about toilet paper, or dirty dishes, and that coupled with circumstance led to my introduction to solo living. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive at first, but within two days of signing my lease I was already conjuring up interior design plans for my first real apartment. Like most projects I take on, I was meticulous about every detail, from color scheme to hardware and lighting, and the final result is something that I'm extremely proud of. When people first step into my apartment, they're often taken aback by the overall ambiance, and I think that has a lot to do with the high quality feel I created on a very tight budget. I'm always happy to tell newcomers about the great bargains I found, and I give out interior design tips like it's my job. (I wish!)

I've always admired the craftsmanship, and detail found in antique book plates, and they're the perfect addition to any wall. Audubon prints fall into this genre, but are generally out of my price range. I've found beautiful framed prints in antique shops and mainstream home decor stores, but again the price point is always outrageous. So after months of searching I was ecstatic when I happened upon an East Village gem, Pageant Prints. Originally known as Pageant Book Shop, the store was founded in 1946, and showcased used and rare books. It's even been featured in films like Woody Allen's 'Hannah and Her Sisters'. Pageant is a place that exudes a sense of history, and for the most part it still remains a New York City secret. Like many businesses that have stood the test of time in the Big Apple, Pageant has had to make some changes, but what remains today is a tiny shop full of well priced, well preserved original antique prints and maps. You can find almost anything your heart desires here, and you won't deplete your bank account in the process. I'd estimate that at least fifty percent of the art work in my apartment is from Pageant, and I can always count on them to quell my need for new pieces. Definitely worth the visit whether you're an NYC resident or a visitor, you'll leave with a smile on your face, and a little piece of history in your hands.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Of Monsters And Men

Collaborative efforts have always been an important part of popular music, from Hip Hop to Rock 'n Roll. The most exciting collaborations are often birthed when each individual member is a star in their own right. The perfect example of this is the newest indie super group, Monsters of Folk. Made up of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos), Jim James (My Morning Jacket), M.Ward (M.Ward, She & Him) and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Saddle Creek Records) this powerful foursome has crafted a beautiful record that's sure to cross many genres. Check out my interview with Monsters of Folk for VenusZine here, and make sure to pick up the record when it's released September 22nd.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Members Of The Tribe

Growing up Jewish I was encouraged at a young age to think about marrying another member of the tribe. It's crazy to think that by age 10 these topics were already floating around, but it's called Jewish Guilt for a reason. I remember approaching my grandfather on a lazy paper-reading Sunday afternoon, with fear in my eyes. I needed to know: was my ultimate crush Donnie Wahlberg from the New Kids On The Block a Jew? The news was crushing. He was not. Continuing on into puberty I never did find my ultimate heeb, but I'm happy to say that things have improved over time - we're finally getting to see the sexy side of Judaism!

Yes, there was the Hannukah Song that outed many Hollywood celebrities, but I could still count on one hand how many of them were official hunks and hotties. I have the utmost respect for Woody Allen and Jerry Seinfeld, but 'sexy' isn't the adjective often used to describe them. So when Clueless came out in 1995, featuring not one but two attractive Jewish leads I was beyond thrilled. Sure Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd's characters weren't exactly three dimensional, but they were attractive, funny, and Jewish. Silverstone hasn't been in the spotlight for a while, but Rudd continues to star in incredibly successful mainstream films.

A new wave of young Jewish actors are making their mark too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt who started his career as the dorky long-haired kid on 3rd Rock From The Sun, is now committed to starring in critically acclaimed indie features that showcase his incredible acting. He's also found the time to continue his work with HitRecord, a project he's been working on since 2004. Meanwhile Selma Blair has been on every man's fantasy list since 1999's Cruel Intentions, and she continues to rep for Jewish girls worldwide. I won't lie, the catalyst to this post was seeing Quentin Tarantino's newest gore fest Inglourious Basterds, and if you haven't seen it then do so now. I've been waiting for sexy Jews my whole life, but sexy Jews who also kick ass? I'm totally verklempt.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ruffling Feathers

1. Herringbone V Neck Blouse by Built By Wendy, $176;, 2. Marisa Plaid Dress, $44;, 3. Suede Ruffle Tote Bag by Felix Rey, $598;, 4. Ruffle Bootie by Pour La Victoire, $285;, 5. Printed Ruffle Front Dress by Silence & Noise, $58;

From Oscar de la Renta, to Bill Blass, ruffles have been a fashion mainstay for decades. Like most trends, we've seen ruffles fall in and out of favor, but if New York Fashion Week has taught us anything, it's that they're back with a vengeance. Fight off the mental image of Jerry Seinfeld's puffy pirate shirt, and embrace the flirty elegance of Valentino glamor. Both Diane Von Furstenburg and Marc Jacobs' latest collections flaunted feminine frills, but that's not to say that this type of embellishment can't be edgy. Like most of the trends I gravitate towards, ruffled pieces can be paired with more simplistic structured pieces to create an exciting blend of hard and soft. Rocking an angelic Built By Wendy V Neck Blouse with a pair of dark wash skinny jeans is perfect for work and play. Even Michelle Obama is in on the trend, looking fashionable and feminine as she does volunteer work across the country. Let's follow the First Lady's lead on this one, and who knows what good fortune will smile upon us.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Blame It On The Beard

Zach Galifianakis' Between Two Ferns has been a Funny or Die favorite since it's inception. Now in it's sixth episode, Zach snagged the beautiful and talented Charlize Theron, and the ensuing interview is just what you'd expect from the NYC funnyman. After interviewing Jon Hamm, Michael Cera, Natalie Portman, Jimmy Kimmel and Bradley Cooper, who could possibly be next? I'm hoping he convinces one of his Bored To Death co-stars to take the stage. Jason Schwartzman, or Ted Danson would be a perfect fit, and I could use some yuks before the series premiere on September 20th. Expect big things from this bearded wonder.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Video Vault

Fall is finally in the air. With its arrival comes the return of playlists, which include a heavy dose of The Smiths. Thanks to a mix tape given to me at the age of 15, I discovered the upbeat melodies and crooning vocals of the legendary Morrissey. I've been a devoted fan ever since, and often find myself exalting them in the strangest of places. If I hear one of their tracks, I'll undoubtedly be singing along because I just can't help myself. Others who share this passion know what I'm talking about - Morrissey's voice is like a drug, and we're addicted to it. Formed in 1982, The Smiths had a short-lived yet fruitful career, and Morrissey later emerged as a solo artist. At 50, he's still performing around the world, and he continues to draw upon what made The Smiths so popular. The music's been described as "dramatic...bleak, funny vignettes about doomed relationships, lonely nightclubs, the burden of the past and the prison of the home..." Isn't that the perfect soundtrack to a crisp fall day? I know Morrissey's many doppelgängers would agree:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Full & Fabulous

Plus size model Crystal Renn is gorgeous at any size, but her story differs from most models in the fashion industry. It wasn't her jutting collar bones, or her gaunt stature that garnered attention, but rather the reemergence of her natural size. After battling an eating disorder, and reclaiming her curvacious body, fame came calling. She recounts that arduous journey in her new book Hunger, released yesterday by Simon & Schuster. The Mississippi native was told to shed 70 pounds in order to reach her model potential, and she did just that by starving herself. Even after the dramatic weight loss, Renn was told she was still not thin enough. Faced with that horrible realization, Renn decided enough was enough. She underwent a complete mind/body makeover, and emerged as the fierce full figured vixen shown above. Featured on the covers of French, Italian and American Vogue, Renn feels like she's finally made it, and she did it all with the body God gave her. It's inspiring to see such a healthy figure being praised by the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, a longstanding member of the fashion elite. Fashion has seen many trends come and go, but it has rarely embraced reality with such fervor. Momentum seems to be growing with Glamour magazine's latest nude icon, Christina Hendricks' bodacious curves, and now the gorgeous Crystal Renn showing us all that reality can be a beautiful thing. Amen to that.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My Big Break

When I moved to New York City over three years ago, I was just a lowly intern trying to make my mark. I wanted to write about the things I loved, sharing my enthusiasm for the people, places and things that made me happy. As an intern, making contact with interview subjects can be an insurmountable task - everyone gives you the runaround if you're not a recognizable journalist... well, almost everyone. The first interview I landed was with a local stand-up comic named Demetri Martin. I would try to catch his stand-up as often as possible, and soon enough the neighborhood club where he performed became my local haunt. One night after a particularly memorable set, I saw an opportunity to speak with him, and I made my move. He was kind, friendly, and most importantly willing to chat. About a month later I found myself interviewing him over drinks and dinner. It made me feel like I had really made it.

Now almost three years later, Martin is starring in the Ang Lee flick Taking Woodstock, has his own Comedy Central show, Important Things with Demetri Martin, and is without a doubt a household name. Check out this deleted scene featuring Martin, from this summer's faux documentary about love, Paper Heart. I like to think that if I saw him at a bar, I would still have the courage to say hello. He might be a big name now, but he'll always be a gracious Greek geek to me.

Up All Night

When times are tough we turn to fantasy. Vampires, werewolves, zombies - anything to distract us from the misery of reality. Getting chomped by a Viking vampire is way better than catching up on stock market trends... am I right?! The answer is a resounding 'Yes'. This isn't the first time pop culture has been fascinated by the undead. Like fashion and music, pop culture is cyclical and we've once again found ourselves in a dark corner. With the recent arrival of even more vampire fodder (BBC's Being Human, CW's Vampire Diaries), this bloodsucking trend is seeing new heights of saturation. But I'm not complaining, I just want to school some of the young ones. Flashback to 1979, when Academy Award nominated German director Werner Herzog (Aguirre: Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo, Rescue Dawn) reconceptualized the famous 1922 film Nosferatu, for modern audiences. Starring one of Herzog's muses, the bone-chilling Klaus Kinski, Nosferatu The Vampyre still ranks amongst the best vampire films of all time. Herzog's films are dark journeys layered with uneasiness, and this version of Nosferatu blends his style and popular Vampire mythology perfectly. Protect your necks:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Off To Montréal!

I have a horrible secret to admit... I haven't stepped foot on Canadian soil in over a year! The horror! So I'm off to Montréal tomorrow to spend a few days in my hometown, and reconnect with my Canadian compatriots. I have many lovely activities lined up, but the most important of all is diving into Québec's national dish: Poutine. What is poutine you ask? Well it's crispy Belgium style french fries, with cheese curds (or "squeaky cheese" as I like to call it), topped with gravy. It sounds gluttonous because it is, and I promise you it's worth every calorie. To get an idea of all the fun that goes down in Montréal, check out my Citiscape article from TRACE magazine. Until my return, I bid you adieu!

Déjà Vu: Joy Division

We often pay homage to our idols by imitating them, and what better example of this than the ever present "cover song". We've seen Nirvana do Bowie, and Clapton do Marley, and every rendition brings something new and exciting to the original. So in that spirit comes another new feature, Déjà Vu, in which old tunes get a brand new face lift. Up first are Manchester's finest visionaries, Joy Division. Their single 'Transmission' made quite a splash when it was released in November of 1979, and it still hooks new fans to this day.

Now for its surprising cover... Who would have thought that a steel drum band could capture the emotion and brilliance of a musician as troubled as Joy Division's Ian Curtis. Be awed and inspired by this performance, an ode to Manchester and all the music that has flowed from those tough-as-nails Mancunians.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lights, Camera, WORK!

Triple threat artists are hard to find. Not only can they sing and dance, but they also have personal style that screams ICON. A handful of these types of artists exist (think old school Prince, the great Grace Jones, and material girl Madonna,) but in this post-modern age triple threat artists are usually created by labels and managers, rather than found fully intact. Music moguls scour the earth searching for these rare creatures, like Charlie searching for the Golden Ticket. Look no further - our 21st Century poster boy Jonte' has emerged! Playing with different sounds, moves, looks, and flipping gender roles on their head, Jonte' is working it like no other. This Portland, Oregon native has been dancing since he was 13, working with famed choreographer Kim Borgaro (Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie). His background in ballet, flamenco, African and modern dance lead him to join the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in NYC, and he began performing with artists like Mya, Ciara and the Pussycat Dolls. His work did not go unnoticed. He then appeared in Madonna's Confessions on the Dancefloor documentary, and the infamous 2004 Janet Jackson Super Bowl performance. With Janet and Madonna under his belt you'd think he was satisfied, but Jonte' was just getting started. He's now taking Japan by storm, performing on popular television programs, and making crowds scream with delight. You better brace yourself, because Jonte' is the Next Big Thing. Better believe it:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Dark Corner

Since its inception in 1984, The Criterion Collection has built a reputation for releasing exceptional classic and contemporary films. With a strong focus on both technical quality, and original supplemental material, they have continued to excite and enrapture film buffs worldwide. Their latest release is the Nikkatsu Noir collection, a celebration of Japan's oldest major movie studio. Famed director Akira Kurasawa began his career at Nikkatsu in the 1930s as an assistant director, and throughout the years the studio saw many famous names come and go. By the 50s and 60s, the studio countered Western imports by releasing what they dubbed mukokeseki akushun (borderless action) films. Full of the raw action and adventure, the films found success in Japan, and hopefully will now find their way into American hands. The Nikkatsu Noir collection includes five films, which showcase a ten year period (1957-1967) of Japanese cinema. From the film that started it all, Koreyoshi Kurahara's 'I Am Waiting', to Takashi Nomura's 'A Colt Is My Passport', the collection is a true representation of the emergence and success of this edgy facet of Japanese cinema.

Via FlavorWire