Friday, December 30, 2005

Last Posting of 2005

'Twas the night before New Years'
and here in Florida state,
my bags are all packed
my vacation was great.

I head back to Boston
on Saturday 'round noon,
knowing that New Years' plans
will be happening soon.

While here I played golf
and I also ate lots.
Thanks to my sunblock,
I'm even tan in some spots.

So to all my good readers
in cities or the sticks,
I wish you all a Happy New Year,
and I'll catch you in oh-six!


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Hate Cold Turkey

It's hard enough to get into the holiday spirit when you're in Florida, seeing as the weather is so nice and the neighborhood where my parents live is (by edict of the community's bylaws) decoration- and light-free. Of course, it also doesn't help that my parents aren't into the Christmas spirit like I am, that we keep to ourselves on the big day, and that we barely listen to the radio. So it's easy to forget that Christmas was only three days ago; it seems like so much longer, if it ever was Christmas. Hell, it barely even feels like Hanukkah, and tonight is only night four (of eight, if you didn't know). How is it possible that this year, more than any other year I can remember, it seems as if the holiday season came and went quicker than ever? Wasn't it supposed to be, like, the year of the Super Holiday, what with all three of the major ones happening this last week of December?

To wit: my folks and I ventured off to Sawgrass Mills this evening. If you've never heard of Sawgrass Mills, let me describe it simply as the largest outlet mall in the world (or so I've been told). End to end, the place must be two miles long, or longer. That's a lot of stores. Unfortunately, however, less than a week after Christmas, that also meant a lot of stores that were practically empty or in total disarray. It wasn't even worth walking into the Gap Outlet, and J. Crew was a total bust. My mother said Chico's was the same. Who could find anything in Ralph Lauren — the place was a mess. I even dashed into the Books-a-Million store to grab a copy of Doug's book (which hit stores this week), but it seems the copies they had in stock (and I asked) were all gone (already!). Even the take-a-picture-with-Santa booth was already being dismantled. It was as if the entirety of Sawgrass had joined together to confirm that yes, Virginia, there was a Christmas — but now it's over, thank you very much. Please move on and excuse us while we clean up.

I know some people would rather the holiday season end before it even begins. Many of those same people are probably overjoyed that things have ended so quickly. But I genuinely do enjoy holiday time, and all kidding aside, I wish it was longer. There's really no other time during the year when people are as happy as they are during the month of December. Think about it — temperatures are falling, days are getting shorter, things are coming to a close (at least calendar-wise), there's stress from family, stress from work ... need I go on? And yet, the music, the lights, the decorations, heck, I submit that even the gift-giving (and receiving) puts people in a happier mood.

So I'm not sure why people and stores are so quick to let it all go. All that build-up, all that hype, and then pffft — just like that, the music stops, the sales get changed from "After Christmas" to "End of Season," and people become a lot less jolly. It makes New Year's Eve such an anti-climactic and forced "holiday." And what do we who live in the northeast have to look forward to after New Year's? Snow, cold, less daylight, more snow, and more cold ... for three more months (at least). Whoop-dee-doo. In Florida, tourism goes down after the holidays. Is that really worth rushing into to? Is that really any better than Christmas?

So I suggest extending the holiday season. After all, Hanukkah is eight days long, and aren't there supposed to be 12 days of Christmas? Yeah, I know: the decorations have been up since right after Halloween and you've heard Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" a few too many times. So what? Weren't you happier during the past month than you are now? As far as I'm concerned, there really is no good reason to go cold turkey on the holidays. With so little to look forward to until Spring arrives, maybe an extension of the season wouldn't be so bad. Who's with me on this one?

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Florida

Oh, the weather outside ain't frightful
And the temperatures are so delightful (mid-70s)
And since we've no place to go ('cuz every place is closed)
Here's a picture taken from our patio ...


Friday, December 23, 2005

He's Coming to Town

There's something really scary about Santa Claus. I mean, the guy can see you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake. What's more, he knows if you've been bad or good, so obviously, you'd better be good, for goodness sake.

And he's so demanding: "you better not cry, you better not pout." Yeah, maybe we really should watch out.

Anyway, in all seriousness, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Chrismukkah, Kwanzaa, or some other holiday, if you're reading my blog, I just want to wish you a very happy holiday. There may not be snow in Africa this Christmastime, but there's something to be said about the greatest gift they get being life (or is it love? Who can tell). So I hope the year ahead is a good one for all my readers.

I'll be posting less frequently over the next week as I take a vacation from work, life, and regular blog posting. But don't worry: when something merits a posting, I'll be back. Til then ...


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Thank God It's Christmas

I'm not sure when it started, but as far as I can remember, I've always loved holiday music. In 2000, with the help of Napster, I compiled a 2-disc mix of my favorite holiday songs. That year, one of my coworkers suggested to me that a mix of holiday tunes would make for a fun "Christmas card." So I cut my mix down to one disc, made about six copies, and got an enthusiastic response. And thus, A Very Marty Xmas was born.

Little did I know that five years later, I'd still be compiling these CDs. In fact, the albums have developed quite a following over the years; in addition to giving them out to friends and coworkers, I've been asked to make copies for friends of friends, their siblings, some coworkers' children, and even some parents of friends and coworkers. Every year I hear stories of people who played the CDs while trimming the tree or during a holiday party. There's always someone who is stunned or amused to learn that I'm Jewish because the mix is so good. And two days ago I actually received a tin of homemade cookies and a card from the grateful family of one coworker. The fact that people seem to genuinely, really like the CDs makes me really happy, and encourages me to continue year after year.

In fact, it is a constant source of pleasure that there is so much good holiday music out there and that I'm always finding more to share. Six discs later, I even have enough material for next year's CD. But maybe that's jumping the gun.

As I have mentioned, this week I sent out A Very Marty Xmas 2005. Since I've written about the CD a couple of times on this site, I thought I'd post the song listing here. As always, the CD is peppered with quick clips from A Charlie Brown Christmas, Scrooged, and other fun holiday movies and specials, and where those appear is a surprise, so they're not listed on the cover. Some of the clips this year came from The Daily WAV, so I thank the guy who runs that site.

Alright, without further ado, here is the song listing:

Slade — "Merry Christmas, Everybody"
Eels — "Christmas Is Going to the Dogs"
Gavin DeGraw — "Silver Bells"
Ray Charles — "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"
Queen — "Thank God It's Christmas"
Rufus Wainwright — "Spotlight on Christmas" (live acoustic)
Bleu — "Snow Day"
Diana Krall — "Jingle Bells"
Harry Connick, Jr. — "I'm Gonna Be the First One"
Jason Mraz — "Winter Wonderland"
Barenaked Ladies — "Sleigh Ride"
Jack Johnson — "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
Andy Williams — "Christmas Holiday"
Rockapella — "Carol of the Bells"
Death Cab for Cutie — "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"
Brian Wilson — "The Man with All the Toys"
Leon Redbone — "Christmas Island"
Jimmy Buffett — "Ho Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum"
Melissa Etheridge — "Christmas in America"
The LeeVees — "Latke Clan"
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy — "Mr. Heat Miser"
Elvis Presley — "Santa Claus Is Back in Town"
Stevie Wonder — "One Little Christmas Tree"
Michael Bublé — "Grown-up Christmas List"
Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole — "The Christmas Song"

If you ask me, it's a perfect blend of jolly tunes, some pop, some rock and roll, a classic or two, some unexpected artists, and some fun. After some shuffling, I found an almost ideal order so the whole thing flows from start to finish. Including the covers, which I designed myself but had the kind folks at FedEx Kinkos print for me so they'd look the way I wanted them to, I think this may be my best mix ever. Suffice it to say, I'm really proud of it.

And considering each year I try to raise the game a little bit, I can't wait to compile — and hear — next year's mix. (Somewhere, my sister is already dreading it.)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rocking Good Time

In the past couple of weeks I've found a new favorite holiday album. That is, a new favorite Hanukkah album. (Sure, it didn't take much; my options are limited to Klezmer music and Adam Sandler.) It's The Leevees' Hanukkah Rocks. You may have heard one of their songs, "Latke Clan," on the holiday episode of Grey's Anatomy — and if your mail service is running on time, you may also have heard it on this year's edition of A Very Marty Christmas. The guys (Adam Gardner from Guster and Dave Schneider from the Zambonis) opened up for Barenaked Ladies on their recent holiday tour and were also on the Fox25 morning show in Boston this morning singing "Goyim Friends."

Hanukkah Rocks is filled with catchy, poppy music in the style of the guys' regular gigs, and the lyrics are knowing and quite funny. In addition to the above, song titles also include "Jewish Girls (At the Matzoh Ball)," "Applesause vs Sour Cream," and "How Do You Spell Chunnukkahh?" You can hear a few of their songs over at My Space, and the whole album is available at iTunes. And, if you live in the Boston area, you can check them out this Tuesday at The Paradise. Of course, my friend Doug was ahead of the curve with this one and for that I thank him. This is good stuff, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas ... or both.

Update: Actually, scratch that. I now have two new favorite holiday things. The other is that Darlene Love "Christmastime for the Jews" song that was on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. As soon as I can find an MP3 or Quicktime file (and I've been looking ever since it aired), this thing will be on constant play.

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What Would Marty Do?

It's certainly going to be hard to hate the Yankees next year now that Johnny Damon is playing for them ... but I'll try.

G'bye, Johnny. We'll miss you.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Innocent Until Investigated

Some impressive stuff, that Syriana. Top-notch acting all around, especially by my main man George Clooney and most notably by Jeffrey Wright, an actor-chameleon if ever there was one. A chunk of the movie went over my head (chalk that up to fatigue after a long day of work), but despite that, it registered loud and clear. Syriana, a searing indictment of the worldwide oil industry, is one of the most intelligent movies I've seen all year. A–

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Best of the Box

Over the past two weeks or so I've had quite a few discussions about the Very Marty Christmas CDs and all the work that goes into making the disc every year (this is year six). I've been joking that when put together, the CDs would make one hell of a boxed set. I mean, really: considering that each disc is nearly 80 minutes of music, you could start playing them all (in sequence) at noon on Christmas Day and have enough music to last until almost 7:30 p.m. That would be one holly, jolly Christmas!

Anyway, so it's led me to consider compiling a "best of the box" CD for those who have not been a part of the fun for all these years. However, until that day arrives when I actually burn this "best of" CD, here is a list of what I would consider to be the 20 essential holiday tunes that would be on my Ultimate Very Marty Christmas CD, in no particular order:

1. Darlene Love, "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" — The best Christmas record of all time, in my humble opinion. Not even U2's cover can touch Darlene Love's original. She sings it every year on Late Show with David Letterman and will be doing so this Friday night. Set your DVR.
2. Donny Hathaway, "This Christmas" — Simply, a soulful classic.
3. Mariah Carey, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" — A good, old fashioned Mariah Carey tune that totally puts you in the holiday mood. This is an irresistible confection; it's undeniably catchy and hard to dislike.
4. Stevie Wonder, "That's What Christmas Means to Me" — It's hard to choose between this song and Stevie's "Someday at Christmas," but like Mariah Carey's track, this song is also irresistibly upbeat and catchy.
5. John Lennon, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" — Of course. The Corrs' cover of this song is also quite good.
6. Band Aid, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" — Untouchable. As last year's remake proved, it's hard to improve upon the original, though Barenaked Ladies do a really fun cover of this song live.
7. Andy Williams, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" — Duh. Like there was any question about including this one.
8. Harry Connick, Jr., "Sleigh Ride" — Had to make a tough choice here. A song by Harry has been on every one of my mixes because his two Christmas CDs are my two favorites of all-time. If they're not in your collection, buy them now.
9. Jose Feliciano, "Feliz Navidad" — Why not?
10. NSync, "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" — What? It's Christmas, cut me some slack.
11. Ray Charles, "Winter Wonderland" — The gold standard rendition of one of the most popular Christmas songs.
12. Bruce Springsteen, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" — A big, boisterous cover.
13. The Eagles, "Please Come Home for Christmas" — Not a happy song, but an essential nevertheless.
14. Tom Petty, "It's Christmas All Over Again" — Yeah, again.
15. John Williams, "Carol of the Bells" — Sure, this song will stick out on the mix, but it's one I just love listening to.
16. Britney Spears, "My Only Wish (This Year)" — You've gotta hear it to know what I'm talking about. This is old school Britney, the sweet, pop music kind.
17. James Taylor, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" — A gentle voice makes this song even warmer.
18. Ron Sexsmith, "Maybe This Christmas" — Short, sweet, and to the point.
19. Jimmy Buffett, "Mele Kalikimaka" — This one's pure novelty. It's a dose of summer at the coldest time of year.
20. Rufus Wainwright, "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" — A song of longing, one that ends any mix with a cliffhanger. I also love Vonda Shepard's version.

Alright, there are plenty, plenty more great holiday songs, but as I'm going through the first five mixes, those are the ones that stand out. And hey, I'm the one making the mix here. You want to suggest a "best of" mix? Go right ahead.

And of course, perhaps this raises a question for you: What's on this year's mix? Well, I think it may just be a perfect mix of classic, contemporary, jolly, rocking, upbeat, downbeat, and bittersweet tunes. And, there's a Hanukkah song on it! I can't wait for people to finally hear it. I'm putting them in the mail on Tuesday, so midweek, I'll post the final list. Stay tuned.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Top O' the World, Ma!

Wow. Is King Kong ever a cool movie. It's three hours long, and every consecutive hour is better than the last. In fact, when Kong battles not one, not two, but three T. Rexes midway through the movie, you've already forgotten how endlessly long the first hour felt. And, just when you think you've seen the money scene, Peter Jackson shows you another. And another. And another. And then he leaves you in awe with the truly awesome climax atop the Empire State Building. Naomi Watts' performance breaks your heart because she makes you really care for Kong — particularly in a scene where they watch a sunset together. I loved how cool New York circa 1933 looked, and I also got a big kick out of the fact that Andy Serkis served as the model for Kong's movements and also plays one of the ship's crew members (actually, he also gets the film's goriest death at the hands — or rather, the mouths of some giant-sized slugs). So there you go: no surprise, King Kong gets high marks from me: an A–.


Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's a Miracle

Ladies and gentlemen, after enduring four days of a cold, I have found the miracle cure. Believe it or not, it's chocolate. Yes, chocolate. I'm not sure if it's the sugar rush or the cacao or what, but ever since the early afternoon when I started breaking off pieces of a chocolate moose we had sitting around near the office kitchen (yes, that kind of moose), I have felt significantly better.

I started with just a shaving from the ear. And then I went back and had a little chunk. Later, I was slicing into the nose. This was good chocolate. And it certainly did the trick.

In previous years when I've had a cold, I've credited my miracle (eventually) speedy recovery to all manner of sweets — cake, for example. So in all seriousness, I think it may just be that my body was in some form of withdrawl and needed a taste of what it's used to. Is that crazy? I mean, I know for a fact that my body was rundown and that's largely to blame for why I had the cold to begin with. And in the past few days, I haven't been eating much of anything. So even though I did have a runny, stuffy nose and a cough and aches, etc., my body was out of sorts in other ways. Now granted, I don't think that if I went on a diet and stopped eating cake and candy, that my body wouldn't be able to handle it. On the other hand, I'm sure that if I did some digging around medical web sites, I could find something to back up my claim.

I've asked multiple people — pharmacists at CVS, friends, my mother — and everyone always has a different answer for what to take for a cold. In the past week, I've tried Sudafed, Cold-EEZE, Nyquil, and plenty of orange juice. While I was starting to feel a little bit better this morning, none of those things had the effect on me that the chocolate has had. No kidding.

Granted, I am still coughing intermittently, and I don't feel perfect, but my breathing seems to have returned to normal and I'm hoping that after a good night's sleep tonight (God willing), I should be raring to go tomorrow. Woo hoo!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Cold Stone

All I really have to say about The Family Stone is that it probably could have used a bit more Sly. But seriously, yeah, it was fine. Not the wacky family comedy the trailer and ads make it out to be. If you're iffy about seeing it, here are two reasons: Rachel McAdams and Diane Keaton. Still not convinced? Claire Danes is much better here than she was in Shopgirl. Other than that, eh. I give it a B-.


Having a Cold, Dos and Don'ts

Do medicate yourself. Do be smart about what medications you take and when. For example, don't take non-drowsy Sudafed at 9 p.m., an hour or so before you plan to go to bed, and expect to sleep well through the night. Also, don't switch medications mid-stream through a cold because you think doing so will have "shock value" for your body and will speed up the recovery time.

Lessons learned. I hate having a cold.

(But seriously, is there a proven cold remedy?)


Monday, December 12, 2005

sign of winter, number 74

i have a cold. it's that beginning of december, change of seasons, no flu shot would save me from this, inevitable, winter's actually here cold. you know the one. it has all the usual symptoms: stuffy/runny nose, cough, sore throat, general congestion, clogged ears, tiredness ... yuck. and i'm not the only one here in my office who has it: one person has called in sick and stayed home, one other person has similar symptoms and is here, there's coughing and sneezing elsewhere in the office, and a general sense that everyone's going to get it sooner or later "so stay away from me."

admittedly, i feel better today than i did yesterday (thank you, Cold-EEZE and O.J.), but that could be because i didn't sleep well saturday night and i was just exhausted driving back from another weekend in new york. then again, i did write all of this in lower case without even realizing it until a second ago, i'm putting the wrong revision date on printouts i'm circulating (10/12 instead of 12/12), and someone here just commented on how well i had coordinated my sweater and scarf today, which i swear i didn't do on purpose, so maybe i'm less here than i thought. thankfully, i drove in today, so not only can i spare my fellow T passengers from getting what i have, but i can also get home in 15 minutes should things get worse.

ugh. it's going to be a long day.


Friday, December 09, 2005

Someday We'll All Be Blind

In 1972, 11 Israeli athletes were killed by a Palestinian terrorist group known as "Black September." What happened next is told in Steven Spielberg's new film Munich, which I saw earlier today (it hits theaters on Dec. 23). Simply put, it's great — one of the best films I've seen all year. I had the emotional reaction to it that was missing from Brokeback Mountain earlier this week — no surprise, really, since I can more easily identify with the plight of Jewish people than I can with the plight of repressed gay cowboys (which I hope doesn't sound too easily dismissive).

Munich starts out by reenacting how the terrorists took the athletes hostage, and then shows (using actual ABC News footage) how the world watched and waited, hoping for the best. Though you know the outcome, Spielberg captures the fear and suspense of the situation, making the viewer an equal participant in the agonized deathwatch. Days later, with Israel down but not helpless, Prime Minister Golda Meir summons a former bodyguard and tells him Israel will settle the score: "Forget peace for now. We have to show them we're strong." So an off-the-record black ops operation (composed of former Mossad agents) is started, lead by Eric Bana's character, Avner, and the team of five set out to kill those responsible for the deaths in Munich.

At first, the mission is simple: Geoffrey Rush's character tells Avner, "We want them dead." But as the film progresses, what seemed black-and-white is less so. Part of the reason Munich is so good is because Spielberg at least tries to complicate the matter, letting a Palestinian compassionately present his side at one point, showing Bana conflicted about the mission, having other members of the team question the motives and other complications arise. After killing their first terrorist, one member of the team takes issue with using the words celebrating and rejoicing, equating it to the fact that God cried when the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. Spielberg is not shy about taking a point of view, however. Just seconds later, after members of Black September who were being held captive by Munich authorities are released, and the Mossad agents see the Arab reaction on TV, they comment that there are "no qualms about rejoicing on their side." And sure, the film is set up so your sympathy is clearly on the side of the Israelis, but it's the ethical and moral questions that Tony Kushner's script and Spielberg's direction raise that make Munich such a powerful film.

Munich is long; its running time is 2 hours and 40 minutes. But I didn't feel its length. Instead, I was gripped from beginning to end. Munich is full of suspense and drama, of ethical questions, of passion on both sides (one character actually has the line "Don't fuck with the Jews"), great acting, and powerful emotion. It's really a must-see.

At one point in the film, someone says, "All this blood comes back to us," and Munich demonstrates how with every person the Mossad agents kill, the Palestinian response is worse. It reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi's quote, "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." It's a testament to Munich and to Spielberg that when the film ends, it's this thought that stays with you — not an angry, vengeful feeling that would otherwise send you out of the theater with hate. For that, and for the reasons stated above, Munich gets an A from me.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

It's My Fault

The Krispy Kreme stores in Medford and Saugus have closed. This comes just a few months after the store downtown at the Pru shut its doors. As a big fan of the Original Glazed (as my belly will attest), I couldn't help but feel a little bit upset by this news. But I also feel partly responsible. I mean, when was the last time I made the trek to Medford for a hot donut (or two ... or three)? In fact, I can't even remember the last time I had a hot Krispy Kreme. I just always counted on the store to be there to satisfy my sugar fix whenever I needed it to be. I guess I didn't count on my conscience (and my sister) to keep telling me that I didn't really need the hot donut (or two or three). And now look what's happpend! Oh well.

But I can't take full blame, of course. It's you, my easily-pleased friends, who are also to blame. It's you who buy the Krispy Kremes at the supermarket, who are content to have cold donuts, who have helped to put these fine institutions out of business. Yes, I know you can just take the donuts home and heat them up, but please — anyone who has ever had a hot Krispy Kreme will agree that there's nothing like getting them fresh at the store. There's nothing at all like seeing the hot glaze ooze out of the machine and onto the baked goodies as they go by on the conveyor belt. Mmmmmmmmmmmm...

At least there's still a store open in Dedham (one I never knew about until today). That one's closer to where I live than the Medford one, and I will now consider it my civic duty to keep it in business. My belly will be so happy.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Winter Wonderland

A couple months ago, I interviewed William Moseley, one of the young stars of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Admittedly, for reasons I won't get into, I did it under duress, so I went to see the movie itself out of obligation. It's also worth noting that I didn't like the Lord of the Rings movies (I fell asleep during the first one and never saw the other two) and have only seen the first and third Harry Potter films.

So what a pleasant surprise that I generally liked Narnia. The first third or so is quite magical, as each child discovers the world waiting through the wardrobe. You discover it as a viewer right along with them, and that's great fun. The middle third is a bit much, the effects aren't so great (all those talking animals look really fake), it's dark (because it's taking place at night), and really, you're just waiting for the big battle to happen. Fortunately, when it does, it's pretty cool. So in brief, I'm giving Narnia a B.


Trying to Be Respectful

It's hard to review Brokeback Mountain because so much has already been written and said about it and so my view is already tainted. Accordingly, I went into the movie with extremely high expectations and was ready to just be blown away. Well, I wasn't. I didn't really feel the passion between Jack and Ennis, didn't feel like they really had much of a connection other than convenience and their mutual loneliness, didn't feel the longing that Ennis supposedly felt, thought the ending was lacking, thought Heath Ledger held back too much to really register any emotion, and kind of felt like the initial sexual experience was sort of forced.

But maybe that's just me, because on the other hand, the film — which is based on Annie Proulx's short storyis impressive and really does need to be seen, if only because it treats its subject matter with such respect. That the two guys fall in love is practically matter-of-fact — it doesn't happen with any swelling orchestral music, isn't belaboured to make any grand political statements, and it's allowed to continue without the outside world intruding in any real way. It's just happening. This is an on-screen relationship like any other we've seen before, and yet it's unlike any other we've seen before. And because the movie treats its subject matter with such respect, I initially thought I would take some time before writing about it, so I, too, could be respectful. I was hesitating to dismiss Brokeback Mountain for the reasons I listed earlier, because really, the story itself is moving, the film's heart is in the right place, and just because I didn't feel them doesn't mean all those emotions aren't there.

I'm thinking I should see this movie again when it actually hits theaters in a week or two and write about it some more then. After all, there has to be a reason why so many critics are raving and calling it one of, if not the best film of the year. I don't mean to invalidate my opinions, and I don't want to come off as a lemming wannabe because I didn't feel what many other people have felt. I just want to be fair, because I do acknowledge that I may not have given the film a fair shot given my expectations. That said, I'm giving it a B for now.

[P.S.: One unexpected cool thing about Brokeback Mountain is the fact that one of my old high school chums, David Harbour, is in it. He comes on about half-way through, playing Anna Faris' husband and a friend of Jack and Lurleen's. He's the guy with the beard — no pun intended.]

Update (1/28): I have seen the movie for the second time. Click here to read my revised thoughts.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Whole New World

I suppose you know what you're getting when you go to see a Terrence Malick film: beautiful cinematography, sweeping shots of nature (and lots of them), ethereal narration, major actors who have bit parts or who don't appear until two-thirds of the way through, and a general sense that you're watching a Very Important Movie and you should just get comfortable because Malick's in no rush. All that and more is present in The New World, Malick's latest film — which probably hits a theater near you on January 13 (if it's not there on Christmas Day). The New World is Malick's take on the founding of Jamestown in 1607, but instead of it being a historical document of culture clashes, Malick has made an epic love story. And this is not the Disney Pocahontas movie, that's for sure.

To be honest, I have a hard time reviewing the movie. It's not that it's not good — and with sweeping camerawork, a beautiful score, and fine acting by Colin Farrell, it's quite impressive. I can appreciate the film for what it is, but I just didn't enjoy it. I just found it hard to connect with. My eyelids were closing at times, the narration got a bit annoying, and I really thought it was quite long — as opposed to Malick's last film, The Thin Red Line, which was also long, but which I did enjoy. I'm no professional critic, just a frequent moviegoer (this was my 48th film so far this year), so I guess that entitles me to write about the movies I see however I want to. So, I'm not going to give this one a letter grade, because I don't see how I could give it a B+ or A-, for example, when B+ is the same grade I gave, say, Wedding Crashers, and that movie is in a whole different league from The New World. So let's leave it at that: The New World is an impressive, beautiful movie, but it didn't make a connection with me, and I just didn't enjoy it.


On Second Thought

For a change, I bought and actually watched a DVD this past weekend: Mr. & Mrs. Smith. When I first saw this movie over the summer, I rated it a B/B+, but after a second viewing, I am upgrading my grade to a solid B+. Mr. & Mrs. Smith clearly got a bad rap because of all the Brangelina hype, and too-high expectations from literal movie critics. Now that some time has passed ... well, the film is really fun — a great mix of humor and action with some great showpieces, and Brad Pitt gives a typically deadpan funny performance. Personally, I think Pitt is one of the more underrated comic actors out there. For evidence, check out Ocean's 11 or, perhaps a better example, The Mexican — which few people have seen and which was widely called a bomb because of its box office performance (don't forget, Julia Roberts is also in it). And Doug Liman did a pitch-perfect job of keeping the film moving and mixing music and action (especially the big fight scene, scored to "Express Yourself," by Charle Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rythym Band). Liman, of course, also directed The Bourne Identity and even better, Go. And duh, Angelina Jolie looks great and kicks ass. And it's fun to see Brad Pitt and Vince Vaughn acting together as friends, given all that's transpired in the past year. So yeah, I just wanted to say that I've had a change of heart and that I highly recommend Mr. & Mrs. Smith as one of my favorite movies of 2005.


Saddam Hussein Trial Update

Midway through the trial today, Saddam Hussein was apparently asked how many pieces of pie he would like with his lunch.

"One ... no, make it two," he said. "I would like two pieces of pie."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sign That Winter Is Here, No. 67

The colder the weather, the slower, less frequent, and more crowded the T gets. Why is it that the MBTA can never get this right? It happens very year, like clockwork. And given that this morning it was 30 degrees out and will only be getting colder, we all know the problem will just get worse. Happy winter, everybody!

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Snowy Balloons

For a couple of weeks now I've been walking by the station on Babcock St. saying one day I'd snap a picture of the holiday balloons. They always bring a smile to my face — though the big one on the left reminds me a little too much of President Bush. Anyway, I figured what better day than today, with a nice snowfall, to take their picture?

A Couple More Inches

Just a quick plug to tell y'all that I'm in the Globe again today, in Adam Gaffin's "Blog Log" column. To see the mention, click here and then scroll down to "Not Again." It's basically the entire original posting, which was pretty short to begin with.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

In addition to a 2006 Extreme Ironing calendar (no kidding) that came courtesy of my old friends at Rowenta, I also received some valuable info in the mail today about staying warm during the winter.

It seems that taking hotter, longer showers will not keep you warmer. According to Dr. Stephen Webster, Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis, the shower may make you feel warm, but not for very long. More importantly, as soon as you step out of the shower, your skin begins to lose moisture because hot water removes natural oil from the skin, making it dry and itchy. You're supposed to bathe in lukewarm — not hot — water, and limit the shower to five or 10 minutes. Now you know. And as G.I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle."

That info was much more valuable than the anti-fungal liquid, medicated foot cream, and hand balm it came with. For all of that, I thank the kind folks at Flexitol.

Do Me a Favor

If you have something against bathing, and you don't bathe because you're going for an earthy dreadlock hairstyle thing (or at least, really bunched up hair) and therefore you smell unpleasant ... and you are waiting for the T and see the train approaching is packed to the gills with practically no breathing room ... and you're not going to work so therefore not in any huge rush to get somewhere ... and you have a tendency to talk to yourself, or to others who would rather not talk to you ... well then, please do me a favor and don't get on the train and stand next to me. Wait for a less crowded car. Thanks.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

Smart Girl

From today's Boston Globe:
Danielle Calo, the 19-year-old Ohio State University student who made headlines when she claimed Nick Lachey hit on her while at a high school football game in Columbus, Ohio, in September, told the syndicated TV show Extra that she doesn't think she's the reason Lachey and Jessica Simpson broke up. ''There's no way I had that much of an effect on their marriage. No way," she said of the breakup of the glam couple.

I love that she thought — for even a second — that it could possibly have been her fault they broke up. Maybe I'm just out of the gossip loop, but I'll bet all he really did was just look in her direction or say "Hi." (She claims he told her, “I’m not going to lie to you. I think you’re really hot and I want to hook up with you," and then they French kissed for an hour in his hotel room. Puh. Leeze. Nick's not the smartest guy, but he isn't that stupid sounding.)


A bit of self-promotion: If you're interested, the new issue of SAM has been posted online. As you can see, this is the issue that includes my afore-mentioned interview with Jason Lee, star of (among other things) My Name Is Earl, which is one of the funniest shows on TV these days — and apparently moving to Thursdays at 9 p.m. in January.

To read the story, go to, click on "Current Issue," and wait for the PDF to download. Enjoy!