Sunday, April 30, 2006

Reflecting on Copley Square

Over the years, I've walked around Boston and taken the same pictures multiple times. But I don't think I've ever taken these ... until today.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

I Saw United 93

I can't say I was personally affected by the events of 9/11. Thankfully, I knew no one who was on any of the four planes, and even though I am originally from New York and know many people who live there, no one I know died in the attack on the World Trade Center. That said, I was really personally affected by the new movie United 93. And really, it's hard not to be. This is top-notch filmmaking, the kind of you-are-there movie that puts you on the plane, in the air traffic control centers, on the seat of your pants, and makes you feel like you were a part of the events of that day. It all feels authentic, and it takes place in real time in almost documentary fashion, so you feel the dread when simple things happen, like the closing of the plane doors. And there's probably no moment as uneasy as when the plane actually takes off.

This is a movie that seeks to document what was happening on the plane that tragic morning, and without a lot of moralistic or political intervention. As such, the hijackers are not portrayed simply as evil men; they are also scared about what is taking place (but not to the degree that they'd earn sympathy from a viewer). Many of the passengers are never really fleshed out, and it's hard to identify some of the people whose names are more recognizable, like Todd Beamer. These people are just there — like we are — scared and doing the best they can to be strong. When they start picking up the phone to call their loved ones, it made me want to do the same. And when the plane goes down and the screen goes black, it's a terrible moment that feels all-too-real.

There's been all this talk recently about it being too soon for a movie about 9/11. If this one was exploitive or sensationalistic or of a lesser quality, I might agree. But quite frankly, I don't know if there will ever be a good time for 9/11 movies. (I'm sure there are World War II vets who lived through D-Day and object to movies like Saving Private Ryan.) And because United 93 is such a well-made movie, it is that much more intense, emotional, and hard to watch. It's definitely a must-see. I give it an A.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

How Far Is Six Miles?

As WalkAmerica gets closer (it's this Sunday), people have begun to ask me if I'm ready (and even able) to walk six miles. Ha. Like that's such a long distance. Sure, I tell them. No problem. I've walked that much in a day before.

But today I got my first reality check: Six miles is about a quarter of a mile longer than the distance between my apartment and my office (at least according to Mapquest), and I don't ever walk that. It's about a mile-and-a-half longer than the distance between my apartment and Johnny's in Newton Center. And it's about three times as long as the walk from my apartment to Fenway Park. It's also about three times as long as the walk from my office to the Hynes Convention Center T stop, which I do all the time. And it's just over double the distance from the Prudential Center mall back to my apartment, which I do every year on Patriot's Day.

Still, I say no problem. I can handle that. In fact, I look forward to it. The weather is supposed to be mostly sunny, with temperatures in the mid- to high-50s, perfect for a brisk walk along the Charles River. As I've mentioned, there's a group of us from my company who are walking, and today we all got snazzy blue t-shirts to wear. If you're reading this and will also be walking, look out for us. If you're not walking and still want to be supportive, there's still time to sponsor me. My company is matching all donations received by Sunday, so anything you give you can consider it doubled.

The point is, this is going to be a great day. If you're able to, I hope you'll support me and this wonderful cause. Thanks again.

Shhhhhhhhh ...

Sorry I've been so quiet the past few days. Some weeks are just more exciting than others, I guess.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Coolest Day of the Year

Forget Christmas, just for a day. Tomorrow, April 25, is the annual free cone day at Ben & Jerry's, or as I like to call it, the most wonderful day of the year. That means even though the temperature is in the 50s, you are obligated to go to your local scoop shop and grab yourself some free Phish Food or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. If you're like me, you can go from store to store grabbing a different scoop at each shop. (Don't worry, I'm not really going to do that.) Baskin Robbins usually has their free cone night the day after, but there's nothing on their web site yet. Stay tuned. When I know, you'll know.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Walk This Way

Since it's one week from today, just thought I'd post another plug for WalkAmerica, in which I'll be participating next Sunday here in Boston. As you may know, aside from being a great excuse to walk for six miles around the Charles River, this is a fundraising event to help in the fight against birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. (If you want to learn more, click here to read a recent story from Continental magazine.) Like so many out there, it is such a worthy cause and I'm looking forward to being a part of this special event. If you are up to it, please help by making a donation. My company is generously matching all money raised by employes, so whether you give $5, $10, $20, $50 or any other amount (and anything you feel comfortable giving is appreciated), consider that doubled. Donating is easy, just click here. Thanks in advance.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Holy War?

My friend Kathleen called it my "holy war" yesterday. Whatever it is, today was the day I struck back at Shaw's and Stop & Shop for overcharging on Passover food. I mean, if they're gonna mark up this food, which isn't all that good to begin with and is only necessary for a week, then I'm going to save my receipts and return whatever I don't use so they can give me my money back. And I don't know whether it was my 3-day trip to New York, or the fact that I ate not less but smarter during the week, but I ended Passover this year with more leftover (unopened) food than I have in recent years:
* A box of egg matzoh
* Two jars of mayonaise (one extra because I found light mayo at another store)
* Four cans of tuna (two extra because I found them cheaper elsewhere)
* A box of cookies
* A coffee cake mix

All that was worth about $27, which I'm sure I'll give right back tomorrow when I do my normal grocery shopping, but for now, it's safe and sound back in my wallet.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Gimme Five (More Years), Katie

Thank God for Katie Couric. Were it not for her this morning, I would never have learned that today is National High Five Day. I’m sure gonna miss that Katie Couric when she leaves the Today show in May. Her cute, sophisticated perkiness wakes me up every day. I love to hang out with Katie and her boyfriend, Matt, and their children, Al and Ann, every morning from 7:30 to 8:30, or whatever times I turn on and off the TV. I sure do enjoy their company while I eat my breakfast. Meredith Viera has big shoes to fill. Bigger even than Star Jones'.

But anyway, today really is National High Five Day, as decreed by a bunch of University of Virginia students. (It's always the third Thursday of April.) The mission of the day is simple: just give out as many high fives as possible. When you get on the subway, when you see your boss in the office, when you go for lunch, when you get home and see your spouse or roommate, etc. The guys’ MySpace page has a further explanation, and videos explaining the proper way to give a high five are really helpful. That’s all. It's a simple holiday, simply celebrated.

I’ll leave you to it. Thanks again, Katie, for everything.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Simple Pleasures

Nothing says Passover quite like the pleasant aroma — not just the scent but the aroma — of Manischewitz Coffee Cake permeating every inch of my apartment. It's the best thing about this holiday. I baked the cake yesterday morning, and today when I woke up, I could still smell it. Mmmmmmmmm…

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby

So I feel like I'd be remiss (and I know I'd hear it from at least one of my readers) if I didn't acknowlege that today is Jennifer Garner (ahem) Affleck's 34th birthday. You may know that I'm a bit of a fan of Mrs. Affleck's, so I wish her nothing but the best as she begins another year with us. And incidentally, though I never saw the last five episodes of Alias, I couldn't be more excited for its return this Wednesday night at 8 p.m. So again, happy birthday, Jen! I hope we can celebrate together sometime soon — maybe one of the upcoming times you come to Boston to show off your beautiful baby, visit with Ben's mother, and go to a Sox game with your husband. Let me know.


Marathon Man

Here in Massachusetts it's Patriot's Day, which means we have a parade down Boylston Street to celebrate Tom Brady and Tedy Bruschi. No, seriously, it's a day to celebrate Paul Revere and those kinds of patriots. And more importantly, it's the day of the Boston Marathon and an 11a.m. Red Sox game — and another day off from work for me. No complaints there. I love Patriots Day; it's one of my top 5 days of the year.

For me, there's no better place to be today than at the corner of Boylston St. and Hereford St. to get the full view down Boylston as runners turn the corner and see the last stretch of the race and all the people cheering them on. I can't imagine how great that must feel. It's my tradition that after standing in front of the Hynes Convention Center for a while, I move down there to cheer on the real runners, not the Kenyans and others who can finish in around two hours. Everyone knows the best part of the race takes place a half hour after the winners cross, when the hordes of regular joe (and jane) runners come down Boylston, and you can cheer on those who are struggling to finish and need the crowd support. That's the glory of sport.

And every year I say the same thing: One day I'd like to run the marathon. Sure, I have a long way to go before I'm in shape to run 26 miles — for now, I'll be content if I can walk six miles — but I would love to be able to say I accomplished that. I mean, really, we all drive to Natick because it seems so far away. But these folks have just run from there and beyond. So yeah, I'm totally impressed by people who have run marathons, and I look forward to being out in the sunshine cheering them on.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Thou Shall Not Blog About Religion?

One thing I've been wondering lately, and I hope it's not offensive to be posting this today, is when the showing of The Ten Commandments on TV became an Easter tradition. The film tells the story of Passover and is all about the plight of the Jews in Egypt. There's no mention of Jesus or resurrection, or anything else that has to do with Easter, as far as I know. And I acknowledge that non-Jews consider the Old Testament to be holy texts, and that the Ten Commandments themselves are relevant to other religions, but what about The Ten Commandments movie relates to Easter? Why doesn't it air more intentionally closer to the time of Passover, when it would be more appropriate?

I'm being serious here, and again, I hope I'm not being offensive. But I genuinely want to know. So if you have an answer, can you please post a comment below? Thanks.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

They Aren’t the Champions

Last night’s American Idol was supposed to be good. It was all Queen songs. I was actually looking forward to it all day, embarrassing as that is to admit. (I really don't have any shame, do I?) And there were some good performances, namely Elliott Yamin’s “Somebody to Love” and Paris Bennett’s “The Show Must Go On” (mostly). And Kellie Pickler surprised me with her not half-bad cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” But otherwise, the show was pretty embarrassing, as it’s been for the past three weeks.

What’s happened to this season of Idol? Didn’t it start out so well? Weren’t there more great performers? Where did they all go? Chris Daughtry has fallen so far so fast that it’s hard to imagine he’s still a front runner to win. (The guy needs more range. Seriously.) Kellie’s dumb blonde thing was fun at first, but now it’s clear she’s just a moron. And Bucky? What is he still doing there? But the biggest offense this season has been Ace, who had one good performance — of George Michael’s “Father Figure” — during the semifinal round and has somehow been able to coast along until now. As bad as some of the other folks are, Ace is out-classed and out-performed on a weekly basis. I’m hoping his embarrassing cover of “We Will Rock You” will be his final performance on the show. (Talk about poor song choice, especially if that's the song they make you sing after you've just been kicked off.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ace has to go.

So who am I rooting for? Well, at this point, none of them. However, if I had to pick someone to cheer for, I'd have to say it would be Elliott Yamin. I think he's got the best voice of them all, even if he looks nothing like a pop star.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Don't Quit

This story is a couple days old now, but last week, an employee in a Norfolk, Mass., jail showed Brokeback Mountain to the inmates. When the "by-the-book warden" caught wind of what movie was being shown, he ordered it be turned off immediately. Politics aside, here's my real problem with this: they turned off the movie with just 10 minutes to go. Now, I don't care what movie they were watching. You don't turn a movie off so close to the end. I mean, sure, I'm all for punishing criminals, and I didn't exactly think Brokeback ended sooooo well (though I did see it twice and liked it), but still ... show the whole movie and then reprimand this employee. Turning off a movie so close to the end is just not cool.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Money Changes Everything

When Friends with Money begins, you're inclined to sympathize with Olivia, who is the only single member in a group of four women friends, three of whom are rich. Olivia goes from one dead-end career to another (presently, she's a maid) and one dead-end relationship to another. She's so directionless and inert that her friends, when discussing which valuable cause they're giving their money to, joke that they should give it to her. In fact, the only real thing she has going for her is that she's played by Jennifer Aniston. Friends with Money would therefore have you hate Olivia's friends because they are all so self-involved with their own lives, and the seeming glory of having a spouse and a house and kids and money, that they are completely oblivious to how unhappy Olivia is. One of their spouses even says, "She doesn't look unhappy."

Well, one of the great things about this movie is that you come to see that the friends are not ignoring Olivia's predicament at all. Instead, they each have significant problems of their own, from crumbling marriages to anger and resentment. Thus, you have equal sympathy for all four of the women, and the film becomes a true ensemble piece about what defines happiness and success and friendship.

Friends with Money is not a sad movie, but it's about four unhappy women. There are some sharp and keenly observant lines of dialogue, a few good laughs, and there is great acting across the board. You feel real chemistry between these women, even as their lives are drifting apart. Joan Cusack's character even admits at one point that she would likely not be friends with Olivia had they just met now, as opposed to years ago.

The ending is a bit of a convenient cop-out that soils what may have been a really fulfilling plot development, and almost stymies some valuable character development. But aside from that, Friends with Money is a very good movie. I'd highly recomend it, and I'll award it an A–.


The Annual Passover Rant

Went to Stop & Shop and Shaw's yesterday to stock up on Passover food (the holiday starts Wednesday night). It's one of those necessary evils that I tend to postpone until the last minute every year. Why? It's not that I am anti-Passover or anything, nor is it that I am a procrastinator (well, alright, maybe I am a procrastinator). It's that the whole buying of Passover food experience just rubs me the wrong way.

To wit, yesterday I spent about $75 on my various "supplies." We're talking matzah, cake mixes, cookies, mayonaise, grape jelly (sorry, I mean "grape preserves"), gefilte fish, tuna fish, etc. And this doesn't even include the perishables, like eggs, cream cheese, vegetables, milk, and orange juice. By comparison, I generally only spend $30 for each week's groceries.

Stores like Shaw's put out their Passover food a month or so before the holiday and they mark it all with "normal" prices that they then label as being "on sale," as if to capitalize on a horrible stereotype that Jews like their deals and would rather buy something on sale than if it was normally priced. For example, I'd rather they just marked the Manischewitz cake mixes as $3.99 instead of $5.99 with two dollars off. Or the mayonaise as $2.50 instead of $3.99 with $1.49 off. Unfortunately, the stores have a captive market with no choice but to buy this stuff, so they milk it however they can. If you're strict about the holiday, as I am, then you only eat foods labeled as "Kosher for Passover," even if it means replacing ordinary things like vegetable oil that are not labeled as such. I'm sure the only difference between the year-round Chicken of the Sea tuna fish and the Seasons brand tuna fish for Passover use is just the higher price (i.e.: $1 vs $2.50 a can), and yet I still make the investment in the KfP tuna.

Speaking of, I wish the stuff wasn't so expensive to begin with. I get it that Passover food has a limited market so it's expensive to buy and resell, but does a bag of Passover noodles have to be sold for $4 when a bag of normal noodles goes for around $1 — especially since the Passover kind is basically crap anyway? (If you don't know, they're flourless, for starters.) That's just ridiculous and insulting.

And I'm just one person. I was over at Farrah and Barry's last night, and aside from the fact that they're hosting two seders, they are a couple and eat better than I do. I can only imagine how much they (and other couples and families) spent on all their Passover food.

Every year I save my receipts so that when the holiday is over I can head back to Shaw's and exchange my unopened food. I tend to get between $10 and $15 back. Not many people seem to think you can do that, judging by the response I get when I tell people I do it. But in my own small way, this is how I stick it to the man; if you're going to overcharge me for a week's worth of food, then you're going to take back whatever I don't use.

It's a shame that capitalism and greed have to infringe on a religious holiday.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Where in the World is Jill Carroll?

Alright, so this post is a little similar in theme to yesterday's, but I thought it was funny enough to post. A guy named Andy Carvin decided to go to Logan Airport last weekend when Jill Carroll was landing in town and then document the experience. However, Carroll bypassed the terminal and was whisked away right from the tarmac, leaving a number of disappointed journalists to just wait around pointlessly. Still, Carvin was there to file a report, and that's exactly what he did. If you've got enough bandwidth, you can watch it here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Where in the World is Eva Longoria?

Here’s a good challenge: Can you find Eva Longoria using the satellite functionality of Google Maps? Apparently, Maxim magazine, in celebration of its 100th issue, has blown up its cover from January 2005 — the one that had Eva on it — put it in the desert somewhere near Las Vegas (specifically, it's just outside Primm, near the California state line), and if you’re that good, you can actually see it. The cover is 75 feet by 110 feet — "the only magazine big enough to be seen from space," it says — so you’d think it would be easy. But I have yet to do it. Can you?


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Nice Legs

If you see someone wearing a kilt to work on Thursday, you can thank The Glenlivet Society. In honor of Tartan Day, the company has decreed that Thursday, April 6, is "Wear a Kilt to Work Day." (Gee, thanks for that. Personally, I'd rather celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day again.) Companies that have registered in advance are supposed to make a pre-determined donation for every employee that wears a kilt to work. And the Glenlivet will also donate a fixed sum for every on-air journalist and public personality who wears a kilt. (Why do I think the men of the Fox 25 morning show — especially V.B. — will be sporting them?) Monies raised will go to Direct Relief International, a non-profit organization that provides aid to victims of natural disasters, and was instrumental in aiding victims of the tsunami in Southeast Asia and Hurricane Katrina.

It's not too late to get in on the fun. The Glenlivet web site has a listing of local retailers that sell kilts. Rather than bore you with a long summary of what else is on the site, including an explanation about what the heck "Tartan Day" is (essentially, it's the Scottish equivalent of St. Patrick's Day), I'll just direct you to this handy FAQ page.

A couple months ago, a kind PR rep for the Glenlivet called and offered to rent me (or someone in my office) a kilt to wear on this special occasion, but after about a half-second of inner debate, I decided to pass (and pass on my coworkers' behalf). So, no, my knobby knees will not be exposed, thank you very much. Besides, it's still much too cold for that.

What's in a Name?

I suppose it's cool to have my name inspire a term, but it's also a bad thing when someone at work asks me if I'm serious or if I'm "pulling a Martin." Says something about my credibility. Uh oh.

Update, 4:40 p.m.: Evan wrote and reminded me ... "This is not the first time your name inspired a term. Your 'Marty's Jokes' column in the Byram Hills [High School] school paper inspired the term 'Marty Humor,' which referred to certain types of comedic prose. If you recall the jokes you placed in that column, you can figure out what would be termed 'Marty Humor.'" Good point. Thanks for reminding me, Evan.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Big Story

If you're like me, you watch Grey's Anatomy on Sunday nights at 10p.m. But maybe you're not like me, in which case you watch Big Love on HBO at that time. And in that case, you know Ginnifer Goodwin, who stars as Margene, one of Bill Paxton's three wives. (She was also in Walk the Line and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!) I had the chance to interview Ginnifer a couple months ago for Continental magazine and the article I wrote is now online. Just click here to read it. I also interviewed Ginnifer for Student Advantage Magazine and that article will be online in a couple weeks.

You may be interested in that name of hers, so here's a little outtake that didn't make it into either story:
"You know what, I was born J-e-n-n-i-f-e-r, but I was raised in the South and had a thick southern accent, and my mother always pronounced it Ginnifer and I was Ginny. So when I moved to Boston [to attend school at Boston University], I had a teacher, specifically one teacher, who I grew to love and adore, who always called me Jenny and Jennifer, and I would literally not answer her because I thought she was speaking to someone else. In my world it was kind of an uproar because when I finally caught on that it was me, I said, 'Oh no no no no, my name’s Ginny, and she said, 'No, your name’s Jenny and we will call you Jenny. I was like, you know what? I’ll give you guys lennen instead of linen and I’ll give you pillow instead of pellow, but my name is my identity and I’ve just never heard it pronounced in such a way. And I called my mother without explaining the situation and I said, 'How do you pronounce my name?' And she repeated it for me and I said, 'So it's not Jenny? And she said, 'No. You’re a southern lady.' And I said, 'Well how do you feel about me changing the spelling, because it's really jarring to me to be called this other thing.' To me it was like you might as well be calling me Amanda, like that’s a different name. And my mom was like, 'Oh yeah I completely agree,' and we changed it. It made it far easier if everyone called me Ginny."

Yeah, she's a chatty one (we were on the phone for just about 45 minutes). And in the SAM story, you'll get to read much more of what she had to say. Enjoy!

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Starstruck in Waltham

Headed over to the ole U last night for the award ceremony of the annual SunDeis film festival. Mostly, it was because Jesse L. Martin and S. Epatha Merkerson were going to be there; she was being recognized as the "Entertainer of the Year," and he was presenting the award to her. Given that I hadn't seen a single film in the festival, the ceremony was hit and miss for me as far as entertainment value. There were the expected (and bad) Brokeback Mountain jokes, and other expected jokes, like when the music director was presenting an award and he kept getting "interrupted" by the orchestra. But some speeches were genuinely good, including the Best Actress winner, who made hysterical reference to Martin and Merkerson sitting right in front of the podium. Others ran the gamut from low-key student humble, to cocky "You'll all be working for me soon" ego, which was a bit of a buzzkill, since some of these folks didn't even go to Brandeis.

When it was Martin's turn, he didn't disappoint. The festival coordinator introduced him by saying what award he was there to present, but really, "how do you measure ... measure a year?" And then Martin just riffed for five minutes on his good friend, talking about her unparalleled ability to curse, about her having been on Pee-Wee's Playhouse (as Reba the mail lady), and about their car accident earlier in the day — making sure to show off that he was fine. Then Merkerson took the stage and the two became a classic comedy duo. There was a winking admission that she always brings her "brother" Jesse L. Martin with her because she only seems to get press coverage when he's with her. And Merkerson also revealed that she initially thought she was getting an award from Barnard College, which is located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But she and Martin were excited to arrive in Boston and to have a white stretch limo waiting for them, courtesy of the festival. "I said to Jesse, 'We're going to the prom!'" she recalled. She did her S. Epatha Merkerson thing, which we all saw when she won the Golden Globe, the SAG award, and the Emmy, only here it was looser and more profane, and just plain funny. Clearly, both felt like this was the most random thing they'd done in a long time. I'm sure there'll be a video clip on the SunDeis web site soon.

Also in attendance were Anita Hill (left), now a Brandeis professor, who acted as official ambassador for the university before the show began, and lifetime achievement award recipients Celeste Holm (Gentleman's Agreement, above) and Margaret O'Brien (Meet Me in St. Louis). For a student film festival in Waltham, Mass., it was an impressive evening.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Batter Up!

HBO has been showing their Red Sox films this weekend. Yesterday morning I found myself getting chills once again as Reversing the Curse of the Bambino recounted the 2004 playoff run. Later on, they showed Fever Pitch, which, despite its sentimentality, also generates excitement at the end due to the real-life finale. And later today, NESN will be showing the Faith Rewarded 2004 season recap film. I suspect that for many more years, whenever I watch one of these or the other similar films, it will continue to leave me smiling and excited and with a tear of happiness in my eye.

So on this, the eve of another Opening Day, I say, simply, "Let's do it again!" We have the pitchers, we have the hitting, we have a bolstered defense. We can take on all challengers. It's a long way until October, but I am excited for the ride. Go Sox!