Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New project: Garden State Variety

You may have noticed, I've been absent from this blog for a while now. That's because I'm in the process of rounding up some very talented actors and comedians from around New Jersey and am producing a show tentatively called "Garden State Variety." You can like us on Facebook by clicking this link. In Lambertville, Green Birdie Studios, has graciously agreed to host us and we'll be taping two pilot episodes "live" with an audience in mid-May.

The goal is to get sponsors for the show and if that happens: We do a live show every other Friday night. It's been my dream to do something like this since I first watched Uncle Floyd and the Channel 9 Howard Stern shows.

The first pilot episode will be about "stereotypes" where we will tackle many of the NJ reality TV shows. One bit was just filmed in Hoboken on a beautiful Friday evening while people on the street played a game on camera.

Then, we will examine "borders" in pilot two, which readers of this blog will most definitely appreciate. We filmed our first skit already on this and it can be found on my youtube channel:


John Minus
John Devendorf
LaTice Mitchell-Klapa
Sam Grillo
Jess Sager
Jess Carpenter
Anand Mehta

Many comedians featured might even be performing near you . . .

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Jersey Fall Foliage Tours

This weekend is going to be nice and should be prime fall foliage time in the Skylands of the state. Here are two recommended trips:

NJ Fall Peepage Tour #1: The Lake & Gap Tour

1. High Point State Park Monument
On the left is the view from the pond shore (with a certain DVD) and right is the view of the monument.

2. Delaware Water Gap view- Upper Yard Creek Reservoir. If you want to hike for the better view, go to Mount Tammany. Check out this photo by flickr user Karen Peterson.

3. Lake Mohawk Drive. This realtor youtube video to give you an idea.

5. Ort Farms - It should be pretty busy with activities and so delicious local food.

NJ Fall Peepage Tour #2: The Rolling Hills River Towns Tour

1. Start at the Red Mill in Clinton. Best pictures are during the morning hours, when the sun is shining on the mill.

2. Milford

3. Green Sergeant Covered Bridge - Oldest remaining covered bridge in New Jersey. Here's a State bilking guide for this route.

4. Lambertville - Might be a good time to stop by the River Horse brewery. Or if you're here on Saturday, watch out for traffic. The Pet Masquerade is in the afternoon.

Take it easy on the River Horse, on Sourland Mountain, Lindbergh Rd. is narrow and treacherous!

5. East - West Jersey Dividing Line Marker. Only one of the lines that divided Jersey, the Keith Line.

I purposely did not write down exact routes. There are some detours and very narrow roads. Use caution and have fun leaf peeping!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Deli Time Divide

I love living in Lambertville. It's a walkable town, where I can park my car for the weekend and never move it. There is an assortment of great restaurants, coffee shops and art galleries.

It's got the old time charm with antique shops, cool historic houses and a hopping Halloweenville.

It's far enough north of Trenton to not be included in many people's dividing line, but far enough west to provoke debate.

But there is one thing I haven't gotten used to here and in the surrounding areas:

The time it takes to make a breakfast or lunch sandwich.

After living in North Jersey for 6 years, I have become preconditioned, and may never be able to go back.

In Hoboken, every morning I got coffee and a sandwich at JP's Bagel Express and was in and out in a flash. In Maplewood, it was Bagel Chateau. I grabbed some grub and had just enough time to talk to the local fixtures about the NFL scores, trades and predictions for the week.

For lunch, I've been pampered by Millburn Deli. It's the most unbelievable delicatessen I've ever been to in my life. During busy times, you take a number and are still served quickly. Order a Gobbler and you'll be greeted like Norm from Cheers. Or go on Thursday where the staff are wearing wacky hats.

During my South Jersey days, I never got a deli sandwich so fast. One exception was the White House Sub Shop, but that is a tourist fixture and caters to a busy lunch crowd. So it's true, staffing size and proximity to a city matter. They can cross geographic or imaginary boundaries.

However, the slow and sometimes excruciating wait times around here got me speculating. One of the biggest things people told me in New Jersey: the Movie interviews was that South Jersey was slower than North Jersey. However, many could never elaborate on what that meant.

Could it have been service time at delis?

Go ahead try it. Get a stopwatch and time your deli during a lunch or breakfast rush. Tweet it to me or post a comment here. Will we see a pattern?

As someone who is on the cusp on the Internet/ texting/ instant gratification generation, this may matter to many businesses bottom lines in the future . . .

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Making 9/11 AND Irene more than just teachable moments

There is a scene in Revenge of the Nerds where Poindexter and a member of the Omega Mu sorority are are on a couch at a frat party and, dazed, he speaks an awkward pickup line: "Would you rather live in the ascendency of a civilization or during its decline?" If you've seen the movie, you know what her very blunt change-of-the-subject response was.

But in the wake of Irene and on the verge of commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I can't help to feel that we've had it both ways.

For me, the 80s were a time for optimism. Rocky beat Drago, Molly Ringwald got Jake and those NERDS defeated the menacing Alpha Betas. The Cheerleader even ran to Skolnick while "We are the Champions" blazed. Brawn, Beauty & Brains.

Pictured: Not the author
The 90s got more complex. The Internet became ubiquitous and it was an all night economic party. Then on 9/11, a network of terrorists spend some thousands of dollars which led us to spend billions (right or wrong). Thinking of the money they put into the attack and the money we spent as a result, that's a pretty big payoff on an evil investment.

Then came Katrina (where the Mexican army had to assist us), then the housing bubble burst. Even though the economic impact of Hurricane Irene is still being measured, it has cost many in New Jersey property damages, slowed businesses productivity, transit and crippled some roads. Then there's the three ever looming rain clouds: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It's enough to make me want to click to Rocky IV and temporarily insulate myself . . . now that we have electricity.

True, what I wrote above could be construed as hyperbole or dementia. But I still often feel our society is surrounded by Brawn and Beauty, but the brains have become lower cased (and only italicized). Maybe it's because I found out
Rocky was really on steroids and the deficit really grew throughout the supposed productive 80s. Or maybe it's because I think the economic downturn will see a continued crumbling of our infrastructure: roads, rail, water, waste, etc. With no money to spend to improve it all, sooner than later, Mike Judge might have already predicted our future.

But what if we could have insulated our state from some of Irene's effects? What if we were less vulnerable to a weather related disruption, terror attack or zombie invasion?

Author John Robb is a military theorist
who pioneered a concept known as resilient communities
. These are simply defined as neighborhoods were you could survive an extended disconnection from the grid in:

Energy - Blocks with solar panels or other energy connected to large town batteries or decentralized grids
Food - Community food, farms & fisheries
Communication - Public or emergency cell phones, land lines, social networking, charging stations
Transportation - Community ATVs, duck boats or even . . . hovercrafts.

The above examples are just my own thoughts, but the list potential goes on. The goal is to have most normalcies of daily life continue, even if something big and bad happens. It wasn't going to stop Hurricane Irene, but it could have drastically lessened its aftermath. If MLB ballparks can create playing fields that drain rain water in record time, then why can't our country, state or municipality do something similar? Oh, then we get to "It's the government" and the taxes arguments, but could it be done in a cost efficient manner?

Robb has already written a book on what the future might look like and is now working on a book about the future of peace and Picture This. It's open sourced and he's hoping people's creativity shine through on a small scale, which eventually will translate to big.

His writings have greatly inspired me, but he does have two caveats:
1) He often writes exactly like you'd expect a military theorist to: a lot of his Global Guerrillas blog posts come off like an issue of the MIT's Technology Review on a caffineless Sunday morning.
2) People could interpret some of his work as a call to build bomb shelters in backyards. We don't want to go that route again.

Those issues aside, Robb's thinking coupled with events of the past decade do call for a new curriculum. New Jersey has been very innovative and actually just authored a 9/11 curriculum (or go HERE if you want the Cliffs Notes).

But what about a curriculum that prepares our youth for the many diverse systems disruptions that come along more often? Like Hurricane Irene or other weather or power-related maladies? Try to picture:
NYC school children gardening

-High school students partnering with City Hall, energy, water and engineering companies and other state corporations and learning how to improve dams, levees and other drainage systems.

-Middle School students going with teachers and parents to the houses of neighbors and linking them via social networking, SMS, robo calls and old fashioned flyers?

-Students learning from working with their towns' Chamber of Commerce on how to get a PR campaign to give small businesses a boost after the economic blows to a municipality. Free youtube commercials any town NJ?

-Vocational-Technical skilled students go help with road, engine, power line & vehicle repair.

-Biology classes growing, irrigating & storing food with farmers.

-Kids volunteering with EMS & Fire (I did see this this weekend).

-More scholarships for the talented who promise to return and live in their hometowns.

Of course there are drawbacks:
Privacy & safety issues
Permission slips would abound
Workers resenting the kids
It could be called slave labor
Residents and employees would have to volunteer
Transportation: School buses & fuel are costly & block a lot of great ideas
Their new knowledge & skills would have to be coupled with ethics
Preparing for disasters could make our youth paranoid or militaristic
We could even hypnotize our kids to become overly addicted to consumer spending: hello Morgan Spurlock!

But since NJ has a new 9/11 Curriculum, it's also time for a Resilient Community curriculum. A lot of cool similar science related competitions exist throughout our state, but they're mostly independent and all over the place. With a recession, college so expensive and student debt mounting, we're going to have to make education to our secondary kids much more innovative and accessbile. It doesn't take a computer (though that would be nice). But communities across New Jersey need to start realizing it may be necessary to their budgets and bottom line. Some knowledgeable, skilled local citizens could save a municipality thousands of dollars.

Maybe you think it's socialism, a kibbutz or like the crunchy granolas (I say that lovingly).

But it's much more like combining:
John Robb with Ed Begley, Jr. from "Living with Ed" and making it every person's knowledge or at least a common broad knowledge.

For instance, every kid should have a map and try to memorize every street of their town. In my current town of residence, I was told only one EMS volunteer knew every street name and which grid affected it. In middle school, my dad gave me a street map of my town.
I used to draw on it. In my room. For fun.
When I got a driver's license, I took it with me and drove Ewing Township's entire borders. I guess I eventually became obsessed with borders. Jokes aside about my boring childhood, every classroom kid should have a map of their town.

Many residents here couldn't get to work on Monday because of road closures, and their GPSes were going nutty. But I could get to the Firkin Tavern (where they had power and free wifi) because of backroads and a map.

Sorry if this is too autobiographical, but point is: it doesn't take much. If you live at the Shore, it could be: Dunes, Drainage & Decentralizing. Classes could be hammering boardwalks back in after school and knowing where they come from. It could be sponsored by the school, city hall or both. Oh, but then you'd have to sacrifice some athletics . . . . ouch.

Bottom line: A curious kid is an awesome thing.

Maybe the problem with our country's schools isn't the administrators, teachers, governors or standards, maybe it's the disconnect between the municipality and the school itself. In 13 years of teaching (yes I teach), I've been to my district's City Hall twice and once was to get out of a parking ticket.

Maybe I need to look myself in the mirror. Teachers do this every September. But as we cleanup from Irene and prepare to commemorate 9/11, maybe New Jersey and America need to take a longer look in the mirror as well.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Google Maps view of New Jersey: the Movie locations

Here is the map of the locations in the final movie cut. The many deleted scenes locations will be added. Bookmark it now!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

News Release: Lambertville filmmaker Steve Chernoski wins award for his blog: “Where is the line between North & South Jersey?”

Our "official press release" about the award our blog won last week:

Steve Chernoski


Lambertville filmmaker Steve Chernoski wins award for his blog:
“Where is the line between North & South Jersey?”

LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. — Aug. 17, 2011 — Steve Chernoski, an independent filmmaker from Lambertville, N.J., recently won an Iglu Travel award for his blog, “Where is the line between North & South Jersey?,” under the category of “New Jersey Blogs.”

Steve’s blog, which can be found at, features compelling commentary about The Garden State and aims to shed light on the question, “Where is the line between North & South Jersey?” Iglu Travel’s website describes the recognized New Jersey blogs as “top of the chart when it comes to providing you with the information you need to plan your trip.” Iglu also notes their team “love[s] the New Jersey section” and “these blogs bring a bit of that New Jersey evening magic to their readers.”

“I’m really excited that my blog won this award,” said Chernoski. “I’ve always loved New Jersey and its unique culture, and I’m happy that I’ve been able to provide a forum for dialogue to our readers about New Jersey.”

As director of “New Jersey: The Movie,” Steve has immersed himself in New Jersey cultural studies, making this one of his biggest passions in life. “New Jersey: The Movie” has received critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Star-Ledger of Newark, and Steve continues to research and explore everything New Jersey.

The complete awards list can be found at


Monday, August 15, 2011

5 Jersey Shore reality TV shows that don't exist, but should

With a couple spinoffs resulting from MTV's Jersey Shore, other network execs are likely frothing at the mouth for ways to continue to exploit showcase our state. It appears NJ's time on stage has not yet expired.

But what if there are more chapters in the Jersey reality storyboard still unread that could leave a different kind of legacy to the world?

So television executives looking for that next big hit, I present to you a list of five reality TV shows that would broaden the narrow spotlight on us, while preserving the Jersey Shore as the centerpiece of action. If produced correctly, some serious ratings gold might be achieved.

1. The Other Side of Jersey Shore

PBS does a great documentary series entitled, POV, showing viewers controversial issues from different sides. This variation would examine the locals who have weathered rowdy crowds similar to the Jersey Shore cast for years, in this case, let's focus on the people at Benny Go Home. Put cameras on this loose alliance of locals and:

Follow their struggles with tourists littering, swelling traffic and the bad behavior we're already used to seeing on TV. They roll their eyes as the police come to break up another boardwalk brawl. They campaign against eminent domain and support independent businesses. They throw a huge party after Labor Day celebrating the end of the tourist season. You may disagree with their philosophy: but I dare you to find one group that bleeds Jersey Pride more.

Likely Channels: PBS, the CW or WB
Hangout: The Wonder Bar during Yappy Hour (Can't we set something there?)
Watchability: 9 - BGH has a healthy relationship with the Jersey Shore Roller Girls out of Asbury Park. While the focus could shift from one group to the other, these two organizations often do events together and embrace the locals tag ferociously. Roller Girl matches would adrenalize any down times. Being set in and around Asbury Park, an added highlight would be the eclectic live music scene.

2. Ice Water Surfers

I've written about New Jersey surfing legend Dean Randazzo before, but it's also important to emphasize Alex DePhillipo's stunning documentary, Dark Fall the movie in which Randazzo and other Garden State surfers are featured. The film could easily be molded into a television format: Follow around these nomadic amphibians during fall and winter. Tension builds every time they check the weather for reports of a Nor'Easter barreling our way. They brace for the news, like firefighters awaiting the call bell.

In addition to seeing these protagonists brave the frigid temperatures of the North Atlantic, the show should also focus on the relationship surfers have with the environment. Many are already stewards of the sea. Learn a couple environmental tips while getting some hot coca and developing a deep respect for what these thrill seekers will do for a rush.

Likely Channels: National Geographic, Planet Green, The Weather Channel
Hangout: The surfers would swap stories at the local Diner, where we could also introduce Taylor Ham Pork Roll to the world.
Watchability: 8.5 Surfers crave challenges. It could make the Jersey Shore a destination for every surfer: You go to Costa Rica in the winter? That's cool; it's like the kiddie pool compared to getting slammed by unpredictable frozen winter waves. Additionally, with Randazzo, DePhillipo and some other common Jersey surnames, it would doubly show that not every Italian American from our state is a member of the GTL crowd.

3. Sand in my Dancing Shoes

While the Harold and Kumar movies fall into the stoner comedy category, I thought the two actors were more notable for breaking prevalent Hollywood stereotypes about Asian Americans. So why not further shatter that ceiling while showing that New Jersey is actually a very culturally diverse place?

Use the Diwakar Bollywood Dancers: They're young, they're hot, they're from New Jersey and they do more than fist pump. They practice by day and tear up Jersey Shore dance floors by night. The guys came from breakdancing roots, the girls from classical and traditional styles. Some were born in India, most were born here. And then there's Alex, who refers to herself as, "the white girl." Founder of Dance Diwakar, Anil Diwakar, emigrated from India to New Jersey where he met and married an Italian American woman from Passaic County. East meets West with familiar cultural ties that would focus heavily on family, food . . . and footwork.

Likely Channels: Travel Channel, TLC
Hangout: During the day, they'd be at the Dance Studio or eating on Oak Tree Road, USA. They'd hit up the Jersey Shore clubs at night. Bollywood dancing is very physical, so a nice twist would be to see if their athleticism could also translate to the beach volleyball courts.
Watchability: 9.5 It's true that Outsourced, failed on NBC just after one season, but this is about Indian Americans from New Jersey. This show has the versatility to include permanent judges. Maybe native Garden State son, Kal Penn, makes a couple appearances? Or maybe, like Jersey Shore going to Italy, they travel to India and compete giving the show the strongest international flavor? I was impressed enough, I'm likely signing up for a winter class

4. The Real Lifeguards of the Jersey Shore

It's fine if you imagine this as a New Jersey Baywatch, but it's much, much more than just chiseled tan bodies in the summer sun. These Jersey Shore lifeguard races are fiercely competitive and over one hundred years old (take that California). Stone Harbor captain, Sandy Bosacco, told me, "Many of these lifeguards are former division I and III athletes. It's intense."

Cameras document the initiations of freshmen lifeguards, the grueling training trials and feature the veteran lifeguards who compete in local, regional and national tournaments.

I'm betting many lifeguards find summer romance together; walks on the beach at sunrise would get our hearts racing.

Likely Channels: Any ESPN Channel, The History Channel, Spike
Hangout: A Jersey Shore Bar/ Restaurant with a cool outdoor deck. Bonus if it has a colorful grandma-like owner who treats the lifeguards like family.
Watchability: 7 You'd have a very attractive cast, but because they are public employees, it would be tough negotiations with a town to follow off-duty lifeguards out to the summer bar scene. But maybe we could just concentrate on the sport of it all? It would be good for families and promote healthy living. More action photos and some videos here.

5. Law and Order: Beach Badge Divison - by Chris Illuminati

Follows the courageous men and women of the New Jersey beaches who put their life on the line every day selling and checking beach badges. From the sweat box sellers (it gets to about 110 degrees inside those little outhouses) to the men and women walking the beach checking to make sure everyone has paid their $8 to use the usually free sand and ocean. In an early episode, all hell breaks loose when someone accidentally writes the wrong water temperature on the chalk board and Sally over on 5th street runs out of singles before 10am!

Likely Channels:
NJTV, Comedy Central
Hangout: City Hall
Watchability: 10
Before every Memorial Day weekend, the mayor or captain to deliver the best motivational speech to beach badge patrollers will produce a video with the potential to go more viral than Jim Mora's famous 'playoffs' press conference. The end of each episode would be a slow montage of outsiders' reactions once they find out they have to pay to go on the beach, all set to AC/DC's "Money Talks."

The current offering of Jersey reality shows is like being stuck in the frozen foods section. Time to give audiences access to more than one aisle of the Garden State supermarket. Each of these shows has immense potential. Writers, if you develop something similar and it's a hit, please just add my name to the credits. If it flops, a maid in my hotel wrote this.

High fives to Chris Illuminati; Eli Kazin and Derek Tagliarino for the "watchability" inspiration and 95 Sports for the AC/DC idea.