Author Archives: Gabrielle Ouaknine

Posts: 11 (archived below)
Comments: 16

HAM sees Boys Noize

“Wait.. did we take a picture with  a dominatrix Easter bunny on Friday night?” I asked my group the day we came back from Spring Break. Surprisingly enough, I was hallucinating.. we did in fact get our picture taken with a dominatrix bunny who happened to be one of many opening performances we saw when we went to see Boys Noize at Webster Hall.

Webster Hall, which is located on 125 East 11th street in Manhattan, was filled to the brim with a diverse crowd of people the night of the Boys Noize concert. The red awning stands out on the tiny alleyway, and was my focal point as I rushed to the concert in the misting rain that night. After joining my group, we headed on up the stairs and emerged in a lounge area where people were mingling and drinking cocktails or nursing plastic bottles of beer. “This doesn’t LOOK like Boys Noize to me, guys,” I told my group. And of course, I was right. It was merely 10 pm and Boys Noize wouldn’t grace the stage until around 2 am.

Boys Noize is actually the stage name of one guy: Alexander Ridha, a German electronic music producer and DJ. While my group was perusing the many musical acts that were performing that night at Webster Hall, including the bunny dominatrix, we noticed people running towards a set of stairs at the back of the club at around 2 am. We decided to investigate and were greeted by the vibrations of Boys Noize’s bass thumping through our bodies as we climbed higher and higher towards the sound.

We emerged in a huge room that was filled shoulder-to-shoulder with screaming fans both dancing and waving their arms to the beat of the songs. Laura and I made sure to jump on one of the many amps that lined to edges of the room in order to get a better view of Boys Noizes manning the turntables up on stage, like a captaining manning the wheel of a giant ship. The room was dark, aside from huge seizure-inducing lightshows that filled the stage and changed to the beat of the music. The whole experience was like being in one of Kanye West’s music videos, but in a good way.

Boys Noize is a great performer because he feels out the crowd, knowing exactly when to pump the crowd up and when to calm them down. Electronic music isn’t my favorite genre, but I was dancing and really enjoying the music for a change. Boys Noize was definitely worth the wait, although I recommend going to see it with a group of people you enjoy waiting around with, like I did.


Posted in Independent Film | 2 Comments

Oh Pandora, you dirty slut.

“He’s not free at that time.. he has an availability at 4 o’clock though..” I repeated robotically into the phone, for the second time, to the absent-minded client. Around me blow dryers were whirring loudly and my coworkers at the receptionist desk where I work were all yelling behind me. At least it felt like yelling to me with all these different noises to process, my mind was working double time on trying to decipher what the client on the phone was trying to explain to me. “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?” I practically shouted on the phone. “I SAID I’ll take the four o’clock appointment,” the client repeated loudly and very slowly as if just because I hadn’t heard her the first time I had suddenly become not only deaf but stupid as well.

Yelling on the phone and asking clients to repeat themselves is a normal daily occurrence at my job at a hair salon, where we cater to around 300 demanding clients a day. The noise level can get pretty unbearable at times, with not only blow dryers going full speed all day but clients chattering and stylists gossiping. My ears’ one solace during the work day, is the radio, which we play to keep us in good spirits; Pandora to be exact, which we stream off of the internet.

On the lucky days that I get to choose which Pandora station we will be listening to, I am ecstatic. What’s better than being at work, but getting to hear music you like (aside from the Christmas season, when nothing but cringe-worthy Christmas music is played for 2 months straight)? Nothing, except possibly being at home and listening to music you like.

So, I’m booking the client’s appointment, and mid-keystroke I hear an unfamiliar voice booming from above, Charlie Brown’s teacher style. All I managed to catch was, “book your trip now!” along with some awfully catchy jingle. Wait, what?

I finally managed to get the client off the phone with a nice fake cheery “Have a great day!” before turning to my coworker, Kristy, in horror. “Did Pandora really just play a commercial on air?” She nodded in agreement and confirmed my worst nightmare: radio commercials.

Now I understand that Pandora needs to make money somehow, but I was really disappointed when I found out they were playing commercials on air. The main reason why we were using Pandora (besides the best feature being that they are free) is because unlike the radio they don’t play commercials on air.

My love affair with Pandora has been tainted ever since. Its commercial betrayal hit me hard, it was almost as if I’d come home and found Pandora in bed with the hot gardener. My brief love affair with Pandora was quick but heartbreaking. Aren’t the best romances always? Don’t worry, Pandora,I’ve learned my lesson.. you won’t ever fool me again.



Posted in Music Rant/ love song | 1 Comment

Tamar-Kali, who?

I’m pretty open to music. I’d like to think I have a very diverse taste in music, however, damn. When I first heard Tamar-Kali’s “Pearl Remix,” I had to fight the urge to put my hands over my ears. The video itself was interesting, following the lives of women going about their daily lives before they all end up at the same party. The beat was hard to follow and all over the place, and even Tamar-Kali’s voice didn’t make up for the lack of harmony in the song. Then I was really confused when some random chick started randomly rapping and bumpin’ along to the music. I really tried to focus on the lyrics, but spent most of the music video trying to contain my laughter. Sorry Tamar-Kali, I’m not impressed.

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Art is a loose term.

Good art creates a reaction, and Radiohead definitely achieves that through their new music video for “Lotus Flower.” The song is composed of skittish drumming and a mystical harmony that lures the listener into a trance. Add that to Thom Yorke’s eccentric dancing, which could only be described as “trippin’ on balls dancing,” we cannot look away. The only thing I can say is, “it’s art?”

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Barbecue HAM!

“Can we eat outside?” were the first words out of my mouth as soon as I encountered the hostess at Blue Smoke, that unseasonably warm Friday afternoon. It was near 70 degrees, and I couldn’t even fathom stuffing my face with barbecue food let alone having to do it inside the dimly lit restaurant. “I’m sorry, but the outside dining area is only open after five thirty,” the hostess explained. Of course it is, I thought.

Joe and I ready to eat!

Chris and Laura posing before the meal

The hostess led my group and I to a spacious booth with a great view of the outdoors, where we would not be dining. The restaurant was dimly lit, with a large bar running from the front door all the way to the back of the restaurant, where a couple early drinkers were already mingling. The bar was lined with bottles of wine all the way to the ceiling, despite the generous amounts of taps lining the wooden bar top. The waitress was very knowledgeable in helping us select beers to go with our meals, although our underage group member (who shall remain nameless) stuck to a soda.


Since Blue Smoke is a barbecue spot, (verified by the huge neon BARBECUE sign posted out front) I decided to be traditional and order the baby back ribs, which the waitress raved about. Now, I can’t vouch for my barbecue tasting skills, but when I took my first bite of those delicious looking hunks of meat, I was sorely disappointed. I had to stop mid-chew and decipher what in fact I was feeling. The ribs were dry and pretty tasteless, especially for a restaurant that boasted to have the best barbecue in New York City! Not quite.

I made sure all my group members tried to ribs to make sure I wasn’t just having an off day with my taste buds, but they all agreed with me. The ribs were a disappointment. I ended up letting Joe finish them up, which he gladly did, after slathering them in a baptism of barbecue sauce.

don't be deceived.. NOT as good as it looks.

There is one redeeming factor in any movie with a sucky lead: a great supporting cast. And I definitely picked the best supporting cast! The baked macaroni and cheese was the best food on the table by far. I swear when I had my first taste, I almost cried in happiness. Finally, I wanted to scream, someone has done macaroni and cheese justice! There was no wateriness, it wasn’t too crunchy, it was absolute perfection. Heaven smothered in cheese.

really excited about the food!

What’s a good meal without an even more amazing dessert? Luckily at Blue Smoke they have an amazing dessert platter, which allows you to sample their apple fritters, sticky toffee pudding, chocolate layer cake, and their key lime pie. I was mostly indifferent about most of these desserts; I’ve seen them done before, and usually better. The apple fritters however, was amazing. it was topped with a cinnamon ice cream and was just the right balance or tart and sweet to top off the beginning of my impending food coma.


Blue Smoke may boast the best “barbecue” in New York City, but if you ask me they should stick to sides, dessert, and drinks and leave the grilling to someone else.

Posted in Food, restaurant reviews | 4 Comments

“How do you come out the other side?”

After hearing Adrian LeBlanc speak about her experiences researching for her latest book, Random Family, I was hit with a new all-over sense of enthusiasm for my impending journalism career. LeBlanc passionately spoke about her research, which took over a decade to complete, and how her heart has been opened by the work she does. She spoke about how the journalist is the tool: the world you relate to others first comes through your eyes and ears.

LeBlanc’s dedication and emotional connection was apparent to me as she described her research, even falling asleep to the voice of her characters. She spoke about how many of her peers wondered how she could stomach the stories she was told, but reassured us aspiring journalists that “you get as much story as you can take.”

One of the hardest things to accomplish as a journalist, is finding your voice, and LeBlanc’s voice is an inspiring one. One of many years of research, hardwork, and most of all compassion and understanding. As LeBlanc explained to us with great sincerity: success is less about climbing and more about not falling down.

Posted in Independent Film | 1 Comment

Protect New York’s most endangered species: small business!

When an indie movie theater located inside a bar states that a movie starts at noon on a Sunday, it’s actually more of a suggested time rather than set in stone. Especially when that Sunday marks the first day of daylight savings time, and even more so when the bartender who is running the movie is hungover. “The movie runs on MY time, basically,” Karla Allen, resident bartender and the lucky person in charge of running the movie at reRun Gastropub Theater explained. The reRun Gastropub Theater is located inside reBar, a bar/restaurant located in the heart of the Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn. For those of you unfamiliar with the term (don’t be embarrassed, I had to google it too), Dumbo stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, not after the lovable Disney elephant with the oversized ears.

The neighborhood is filled with lots of local businesses, and everyone seems to support each other. “I come into work with a Starbucks cup, and they nearly chew my head off!” Karla says, “But in the Bronx (where she lives) there’s nothing but chains as far as the eye can see.” This is not the case, here in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

The bar itself houses an independently owned coffee shop, the bar, and the movie theater, which only plays indie films. Paintings adorn the hallways which were painted by local artists and are changed once a month. Some of the movies played are directed and written by locals of the area, who come to the Friday screening of their films for a Q&A with the audience before the show. Even the decorations in the theater are comprised of old scraps from the local junkyard. The 60 seats themselves were taken from old minivans, and hubcabs are plastered on the outside of the bar.

An old fender hangs precariously above Karla’s head as she talks, her hands animated as she reveals these secrets to me. The way Karla explains these things to me, I feel as though I’ve tapped into a secret world all hidden here under the Manhattan Bridge. The owner of the entire place, Jason Stevens, used to be a VP at Morgan Stanley before he got fed up, quit his job, and opened reBar and then reRun last July. It’s a Cinderella story in reverse: from big business to small business, no fairy godmother required.

The entire place felt relaxed and personable, even the audience, which consisted of myself and five other people. “Six people on a Sunday is a GREAT turnout,” Karla clarifies, “Most people in New York have only gone to bed like five hours earlier anyway.” This is definitely true, although the audience seemed to have no problem nursing their beers at 12:30 in the afternoon. I couldn’t even stomach the thought of drinking again so early, so I stuck with coffee.

As exciting as the thought is of being able to legally enjoy a drink while watching a movie, there’s one huge overlooked problem: nature. And nature was definitely calling, as I sat there on the edge of my seat, for more reasons than one. The film that was playing was Brotherhood, (tickets were only five dollars!) an intense film about the sadistic side to fraternity hazing. The film starred Trevor Morgan, who is a “that guy” actor. Meaning, you watch the movie and say to yourself, “Oh! He’s that guy from that one movie..” but you never remember their names. The film was definitely more than I could handle on a pleasant Sunday afternoon, hopped up on caffeine.

The great thing about New York City is that even if you’ve lived here your entire life, there is still always something new to see, somewhere new to discover. ReRun was a great introduction to the subculture of local business owners that populate New York City and the treasures that lie under the Manhattan Bridge.

Posted in Independent Film | 3 Comments

Wasp fails to impress

“And the world’s best mother award goes to..,” which a classmate shouted out sarcastically after the 2005 Oscar-winning short film “Wasp” ended, summed up the film for me. “Wasp” follows a day in the life of Zoe, the young mother of four unkempt children. The opening scene sets the tone of the entire short film, as we follow Zoe and her three children and baby as they go to jump some woman who hit her daughter. Curses, as well as fists, were freely thrown in front of the children, who treated it like a normal day occurrence. On the way home, Zoe is approached by an old male friend who invites her out for a drink. Since she can’t find anyone to watch her kids, she takes her kids with her and makes them wait outside the bar.

Now, I understand that this film won an Oscar, but for the life of me I can’t comprehend WHY. Sure, the film reels you in and you laugh at the right moments and wait in anticipation for the climatic turn of events, but then you’re left extremely disappointed. It was like being a kid and waking up on Christmas expecting toys and getting nothing but new clothes. I kept sitting there waiting for something really exciting to happen, maybe her kids would get hurt or even worse kidnapped! but what really happened was so anti-climatic. If anything, it made me just hate the mother even more for getting away with her stupidity. Maybe I’ve just been programmed to think that people should get what is coming to them, at least in movies.

I’ve noticed that it’s the most shocking and usually depressing films that get recognition from the Academy, and for the life of me I can’t understand why. I guess I would have found the film to be much more entertaining if something blew up or there were some CGI animations. I guess blockbusters have jaded me for independent films forever.

Posted in Oscar Shorts | 2 Comments

Goofy-haired kids, FTW!

As you all know by now, Luke Matheny‘s short film “God of Love” won Best Short Film at the Oscars on Sunday night. The goofy-haired kid who proudly exclaimed, “I guess I should have gotten a haircut,” won his Oscar for his 18-minute thesis film for NYU. The film itself is a very well made and in one word- charming.

Matheny both directed the film and starred as the lead male romantic protagonist, Raymond Goodfellow, a lounge singer (and darts expert) who is bestowed the powers of Cupid. Well, sort of. The love darts he finds on his doorstep allow whomever is struck by them to fall in love for six hours, and at the end of the six hours, they have the free will to decide whether to stay in love or not. Long story short, Goodfellow does not get the girl of his dreams but instead helps others find their soulmates. The film ends the way it began with a close up of Goodfellow atop a scooter, bow and arrow slung across his shoulders, proclaiming that he is the “God of love.”

The film, which is shot entirely in black and white, is very relatable which is why it’s so charming. How can you not love the goofy awkward protagonist who pines for the girl who loves his best friend? We’ve all been there. You can’t help but root for him to win the girl over, and then you can’t help but love him even more when he sacrifices the girl he loves so she can be happy – with his best friend of all people. I’ll say it again, the film is extremely charming. Even the black and white didn’t bother me.

The best part of the film is the casting. Luke Matheny as the protagonist works so well because of his goofiness. He is that much more charming because he is awkward rather than if he was a suave and handsome guy. His clever dialogue really won me over. One of my favorite parts of the film is when he is ice skating with the object of his affection, Kelly (played by Marian Brock), and he is reciting the nine page poem he wrote to her – in Portuguese. Who couldn’t love a geeky romantic? Apparently not Kelly, who ends up with Goodfellow’s best friend, Fozzie, played by Christopher Hirsh.

Despite Goodfellow’s original motives being about subverting another’s free will for his own personal gain, I never once condemned him for it. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to maybe fall in love? Goodfellow and Matheny both redeem themselves in the end, and make the film an instant hit.

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Rollercoaster of emotions at the IFC Theater

Imagine sitting in a dark, tiny movie theater while munching on delicious organic popcorn while trying not to cry in front of your classmates so you don’t look like a loser. Then imagine howling with laughter only moments later. This basically summed up my Oscar-nominated short film watching experience. I went through so many emotions in such a short period of time, that I thought I was my mother going through menopause.

The two short films that stuck out the most to me, were the two that made me experience the strongest emotions. ‘‘The Confession” was the depressing story of a young boy who causes an accident and accidentally kills his best friend.. all in the matter of two days! I sat there in shock and tried not to cry as he sat in the confessional and struggled to confess his sins, only to chicken out. Needless, to say I was more than relieved when that film ended.

The last film, “God of Love,” was definitely my favorite of the bunch. It made me laugh out loud more than a handful of times, and was a nice reprieve from the emotion turmoil I endured from the previous films. The story revolves around your typical awkward-goofy-romantic who is in love with a girl who doesn’t even give him the chance of day, even after he strikes her with Cupid’s arrow and writes her a 9-page poem in Portuguese. Luke Matheny, who made the film AND also played the lead role of Ray, was entertaining to watch and hilariously funny. So much that at point I was sure I was going to be kicked out of the theater for laughing too hard.

Posted in Independent Film, Oscar Shorts | 2 Comments