What's on my mind? A mix of movies, music, marketing, media, and much more ...
"Are you prepared to take a dive into the deep end of my head?" — Jason Mraz
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Colortinis for Everyone
I feel like the news of Tom Snyder's passing has been given the shaft this week, relative to the news of other deaths (Ingmar Bergman, Bill Walsh, Michelangelo Antonioni, etc.). I can't pay as effective tribute to Snyder as, say, The New York Times did today, but I wanted to use my blog to share, briefly, that we've lost a really great television personality here.
I got to "know" Tom and became a fan in 1995 when he was named host of the first incarnation of The Late, Late Show, the program that comes on right after David Letterman's show (now hosted by Craig Ferguson). And if I didn't stay up for the whole show, I at least made it to the first commercial break, which was introduced by Tom's catchphrase, "Fire up a colortini and watch the pictures as they fly through the air." Tom's cool, minimalist broadcasting style was always a soothing presence at 12:30, and it's meant as no insult to say that I enjoyed falling asleep watching his show. He wasn't perfect, and he had his old fashioned opinions that often clashed with some of the more modern, current guests. But he also had an engaging, folksy charm, plenty of stories to share, infectious laughter, and a self-depreciating wit that served him well.
In short, Tom made for great TV that I really enjoyed watching. I wish there were more examples on YouTube to share, but I found a brief one that seems to sum up why I liked Tom. It's from an interview with Barbara Walters, during which Tom discusses smoking pot at a party. And then he goes and makes a mistake previewing the next guest and, well, it's pretty fun. Fire up a colortini and see for yourself.
Just a little more than a month into my Great Big Buying Real Estate Adventure and I'm already frustrated and getting tired of the whole thing. And it's not some Gemini, easily-distracted, novelty-is-over thing. It's that after a few weeks of going to open houses, and two weeks of one of my brokers flaking out on me, and attending a disappointing first-time home buyer seminar, and just the general unappealing inventory of apartments I've seen, the prospect of buying a condo seems less exciting to me than it did a few weeks back. Alright, maybe that's not entirely true. I do still sorta enjoy going from apartment to apartment on Sundays, seeing other people's places, and soaking in the whole "real estate porn" aspect of it all. But when all you see are nice places that are too small, or big places that aren't very nice, well, it gets a bit tiresome.
The way I see it, and I know this isn't a unique P.O.V., is if I'm going to buy a place — make the investment, put down roots, call a place "mine," etc. — then I figure I should, at the very least, upgrade from what I have now. And I have a pretty nice place now. Sure, it's lacking in kitchen counter space, but it's got plenty of sunlight, a ton of closet space, a built-in air conditioning unit, a super location, and enough living space that I never really get stir crazy hanging out here. So you can see why I've stayed for five and a half years. Places I've seen so far, a handful have had nice kitchens (something I want), but were basement units or were too small. Others were spacious, but really old. (One I saw on Sunday had, among other undesirable features, an a/c unit from the 50s, and what looked like formica cabinets in the kitchen. I like the prospect of a fixer-upper, but that was a little much.) Basically, each week I feel like I'm just seeing more of the same.
And the first-time home buyer seminar that I attended last week didn't really help me to focus my search. Sure, I learned some stuff, but I didn't love the sales pitchiness of it all. And I haven't appreciated that one of the brokers I've been working with has now, for two weeks straight, told me he was going to show me apartments and then couldn't get access to a single one. I thought people were desperate to sell? And then there's the whole thing, as reported in yesterday's Boston Globe, where apparently, it's becoming a landlord's market again and higher rents are becoming the norm (as is the case in my own building). Makes me increasingly want to own rather than continue to rent.
So these are just some of the reasons I find myself drawn to places like this one in Watertown. Do I want to live way out there? Not really. Do I want to get to work by taking a bus to a bus, or a bus to the commuter rail to the subway? Not at all. Do I want an almost-complete lifestyle change? No. Heck, I don't even like that side of the river. But do I want a nicer apartment? Yes. And can I see myself being happy there? Yes, I think so. Would living in a place like this mature me a little? Possibly. Can I grow into it? Yes. And most importantly, can I afford this? Probably. So it sort of worries me that I am as drawn to these apartments as I am, seeing how I really do want to live in an area like Coolidge Corner where there are places to walk and people to see and things to do. I'm an edge-of-the-city kind of guy; I need to be close to where the action is. But looking for an apartment will change your thinking sometimes, I guess, and to get what you want, you have to make choices. Argh.
So, I keep looking and hoping that I'll find something with a desirable location that has what I want. I'm in no rush, despite the rent increase, and I don't want to settle. Hell, it takes me weeks sometimes just to buy a shirt or a pair of pants.
And that's the state of the search. Knowing me, this will all change a week or two from now. Or maybe it won't. Either way, it's a process, an adventure, and a project. Stay tuned.
Truth be told, I can't remember the last time I watched an episode of The Simpsons TV show. And yet, The Simpsons Movie I just had to see. It's funny enough, but I feel like it was just another episode of the show, unlike, say, South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which was so much more than an expanded bit. Still, I don't want to discount the movie too much, because I did laugh from start to finish (and by finish I mean midway through the end credits when the Simpsons get up out of their seats — there's no need to stay all the way until the very end). And it's pretty clever at points. But yeah, I can't say the movie made me want to go home and catch up on all the reruns and start watching again when the new season starts in the Fall. I guess that's a shame. It's exciting that the Simpsons have made a movie, but something about it still feels like a missed opportunity. I think I may have enjoyed making my Simpsons avatar a little more (and the version that's in my profile came from SimpsonizeMe.com.) Oh well. I'm giving The Simpsons Movie a B.
Like so many others, I've been eager to see how the Harry Potter series would end. And now that I've finished my advance copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, I have to say I'm shocked. Shocked! I can't believe J.K. Rowling had the nerve to have Hagrid admit his love for Hermione on page 72, when the story had barely begun. But who knew they'd make such a perfect pair? I loved the scene when they go on their first date to Tinkerdoo. Harry being overcome with jealous rage seemed the obvious reaction to it all, and when he overdosed on Butter Beer and Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans, I knew that couldn't be good. Voldemort didn't stand a chance. Anyway, the book's awesome, just like the other six were. I just sort of wish J.K. Rowling hadn't done that whole thing with Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Kids shouldn't be exposed to fringe art like that. At least not until they're twelve years old.
But seriously, happy Harry Potter Day. I have no idea how the series will end — in fact, the only book in the series that I've actually read is the first one (I tried to read the second but couldn't get into it). In fact, I've only seen the first and third movies too. I just don't have much interest in the series. That said, I do love the Saturday Night Live skit from a few years back where Lindsay Lohan played Hermione. So in honor of the release of the final book, I thought I'd post it here for your weekend viewing enjoyment.
If you watch The Late Show with David Letterman then you know his game "Will It Float?" Well, this weekend, Matt introduced me to the Web site Will It Blend.com, which is just like it sounds: a guy puts things in a blender to see if they will blend. His most recent attempt? An iPhone. He's also tried to blend Transformers, a tiki torch, a plunger, and many more. It's pretty juvenile, but it's also really amusing — especially the guy's goofy grin. Watch the iPhone video for yourself below and try not to get hooked waiting to see what he'll try to blend next.
I have to say, I really enjoyed the movie adaptation of the Broadway adaptation of the film Hairspray. It's so much fun that even non-fans of Broadway shows might like it. It's bright, colorful, full of great songs and showstopping musical numbers, and it just leaves you with a huge smile. Director Adam Shankman seems to have perpetual jazz hands on and directs in a style where every song seems engineered to be a crowd pleaser. And thankfully, most of it works pretty well.
I mean, don't get me wrong, Hairspray is not as slick or impressive as Dreamgirls is. There's no Jennifer Hudson–caliber performance here. But as an emsemble, all the pieces come together nicely. And there are plenty of surprises. Among them is Zac Efron, from High School Musical, who proves he's the real deal when it comes to star quality. "Ladies Choice" is a great scene, but "Without Love" is a good laugh, thanks partly to his charming performance. And James Marsden, from the X-Men movies, has a Michael Bublé-ish voice that's quite good, and impressive moves as a dancer. (Who knew?) You'll never look at Cyclops the same way after "The Nicest Kids in Town," and that's a compliment.
And then there's John Travolta, who plays the role of Edna the only way you can — by going all out and saying "To hell with it." And even if he is a little too lady-like, he's pretty funny. Totally bizarre looking, sure, but it's an endearing performance that you have to applaud. Granted, I still think Harvey Fierstein is better suited for the role, but Travolta fits perfectly with the mainstream tone of the movie. He and Christopher Walken have some real fun with "You're Timeless to Me." Also notable is "Welcome to the 60s," where Travolta's character breaks out of her shell.
Additionally, Elijah Kelley, who plays Seaweed, is great. He's got charisma to burn, and in "Run and Tell That," he practically oozes cool; it's one of the most exciting scenes you'll see in the movies all year. Nikki Blonsky, who plays Tracy, has a huge voice that's, well, as big as she is. And while I prefer Marissa Jaret Winokur in the role (Winokur originated it on Broadway), Blonsky's performance is sweet, perky, and full of so much joy that you love her from the second she appears on screen singing "Good Morning, Baltimore." And you know how I feel about Amanda Bynes. She's goofy fun, she looks great, and is irrestible in the role of Penny Pingleton. (Mmmmmm ... I loves me some Amanda Bynes.) Queen Latifah also gives a very good performance (no surprise), and cameos by John Waters, Jerry Stiller, and Ricki Lake are fun as well.
I don't think Hairspray is the best musical ever, and I think the movie cleans up a bit too much of the rawness and inappropriateness of the Broadway version (which in turn cleaned up the original John Waters movie), but damn are those songs catchy and do they ever make up for the sanitizing and some pat resolutions in the plot. And Shankman found a non-theatrical style that works for the film and makes Hairspray feel like an actual movie — as opposed to an adaptation of a Broadway show (like, say, The Producers did). I really liked Hairspray, so I'm giving it a very strong B+.
They did: The wedding itself was great. Very nice venue. An awesome band had me up and dancing all night. Andrew sang "Some Kind of Wonderful" (and he was good). Sat with all of Andrew's doctor friends from Boston — it was just like old times when I was the only non-doctor in the room. Wine was tasty. Bride was beautiful. Good to see the boys from the bachelor party again. The couple was so so happy. And I had a blast.
Swingtown in Chi-Town: After the wedding and the after-party, Robin and I hung out at the bar at the Four Seasons with members of Steve Miller's band. Yes, theSteve Miller Band. We talked for a bit with his manager and met one of his guitarists, but the man himself was MIA. Apparently, Steve "doesn't do the 'hang out thing' anymore," his manager told us. So I replied that he must just "Take the Money and Run." And we went back and forth with similar references. On the way out, I seized an opportunity. Knowing I'd likely never again have the opportunity to hang out with the Steve Miller Band or their manager, I asked the manager what "the pompatus of love" is. His reply? "Hell if I know. Steve just likes to make stuff up." And there you have it. (Incidentally, Robin got to hang out with Joe Cocker earlier in the day on Saturday. Apparently, the Four Seasons chain is quite popular among touring singers.)
Back to the Bean: I just can't help it sometimes. Like a moth to a flame, I'm drawn to the same places over and over when I visit. In Los Angeles, it's the Getty Center. In Chicago, it's Cloud Gate, aka the Bean, which I think I've now taken every conceivable picture of. I just think it's so cool. But considering this was the first time I'd been to Chicago in warm weather (the other times were in October and November), I felt compelled to revisit some sites I'd seen on previous trips, like Buckingham Fountain (which was going at full blast) and Navy Pier. And yes, I took a ton of pictures at all three of these places. Actually, the ones at Navy Pier are pretty cool because I went up in the Ferris Wheel and the view was real nice.
Good food, bad food: Another trip to Chicago and again I didn't eat at Ed Debevic's. (Most would say that's a good thing, though.) Instead, on Saturday I went with Samara to Giordano's for lunch for some Chicago-style stuffed pizza. Yum. So good, but so so filling. One slice was enough. And that one slice sat in my stomach for most of the day. Ugh. On the other hand, I tried the new SoBe Coolatta from Dunkin' Donuts this weekend. In addition to the sugar in the coolatta itself, now it has an extra kick. And, it tastes good. So ... I'll be needing one of those Monday morning.
I saw a really fun movie Thursday night, but I was asked to hold off on publishing a review until next week. So, don't consider this post an official "review." I can't even mention the film by name. But this movie — I'll call it Airsprayhay so you'll never figure out what I'm talking about — is totally bright and colorful and fun and perfect for the summer. AND, I am totally and completely in love with Amanda Bynes now — even more than I was. The girl is totally adorable in this movie, with her sunkissed tanned skin and cute cluelessness and upbeat teenage playfulness. How many times did I turn to Farrah and say, "I love that girl." (And yes, Amanda is legal.) But alright, I've probably said too much already. More on this film when my thoughts have a chance to gel.
Since I'm sort of in wedding mode as I gear up for Andrew and Rachel's big day this weekend (got my tux ready, my hair cleaned up, gift purchased, etc.), I found this story pretty amusing. Seems a guy named Dave Barclay was so happy and excited about his friend's upcoming nuptials that he barely paid attention and flew all the way over to England a full year too early. You'd think the fact that he hadn't yet received an invitation or anything would have tipped him off to the fact that he was ahead of schedule.
My dear friends, if you're looking for '80s nostalgia this summer, forget that silly Transformers movie. Instead, the real whiff of the past comes from Superbad, a little sleeper film in the spirit of Porky's, Sixteen Candles, Better Off Dead, and The Last American Virgin that you're gonna want to see multiple times and will be quoting lines from for months to come. McLovin' is truly in da house.
Co-written and co-starring Seth Rogen (Knocked Up) and produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up and The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Superbad tells the story of Seth (Jonah Hill, from, you guessed it, Knocked Up) and Evan (Michael Cera, from Arrested Development), two dorky high school students trying to get laid before they graduate. All they need to do is buy alcohol and bring it to a party they've actually been invited to. Hilarity ensues. And not just hilarity, but raucous, filthy, inappropriate, hysterical hilarity. It's like Rogen and co. left all the heart they had in Knocked Up and just went balls-out for this one. There are some rants and lines of dialogue that spew out of Jonah Hill's mouth that are fall down funny. And you'll never hear the song "These Eyes" in the same way again. And the guy who plays McLovin', well, he's a walking sight gag.
I don't want to ruin any more of Superbad for you, so I'm going to keep this short. But trust me when I say that the movie is an instant comedy classic from start to finish. And while it's not exactly perfect (they probably could have snipped 10 minutes off), it is exactly what you want in a summer comedy and that's funny. So I'm giving it a strong B+.
The Improper Bostonian has done it yet again. In their new "Best of Boston" issue, they've gone and chosen The Cactus Club as the best margarita. I've been to the Cactus Club a few times, usually because I want to see for myself what all the fuss is about year after year. And every single time — every single time — I leave disappointed. It's not just that the margaritas themselves aren't great, it's that they're served in pint glasses, like a beer. What kind of margarita is that?? In past years that was partly why they awarded it best margarita. But lest you think my beef is all about the glasses, it's not. These just aren't good drinks. They're bland and basic, and they taste like they're made from a mix and dosed out in bulk. And it couldn't be any more obvious that the only reason why Cactus Club is chosen for this "honor" year after year is because they're a loyal advertiser — that, or because their Web site URL is actually BestMargaritas.com.
For my money, the best margs in town are at Border Cafe in Harvard Square. They're far more flavorful, much more intoxicating, and (shocker) they're actually served in margarita glasses. I wish the folks at the Improper would venture outside their "pay for play" bubble one year and give them a shot.
After a few days off, here are a few quick items that weren't significant enough for posts of their own:
Real estate porn: I'm starting to really enjoy this whole buying real estate thing. Every Sunday I try to hit up a few open houses to see what's out there, and it's fun to see the nice kitchens and views and cleaned up bathrooms and stuff. Equally fun (though also frustrating) is seeing the places that sound nice and are photographed well, but in actuality are dumps. Who are they kidding?? And then there are the places I walk into off the street because there's an "open house" sign out front, only to find it's way out of my price range. Ha! Either way, it's all good and worth seeing just for comparison. And one day, one of these nice kitchens will be mine. Then, I suppose, I'll have to cook. But first things first.
All junk: I'd like to spend, like, two minutes in the mind of a spammer. What good is it to send out all your messages for discounted software and "enhancement" drugs and all that other crap on a holiday weekend, when it'll just get lost amongst all the other junk emails of the sort? I got close to 100 of these messages in my work email box between Friday and Monday morning. And I moved them all into the trash.
In their place: I'm so far away from being married that sometimes I can only look at my married or engaged friends and laugh at some of the things they do. Like when my engaged friends register for "silly" stuff I know they'll never use. For example, one of my friends registered for, like, 20 bjillion placemats. And not just the same kind, but, like, six of one kind, a dozen of another, and 15 of another. How many times has this couple eaten dinner together at home recently? Let's just say that everytime I call them at 5:00 (the time they say they're eating dinner) they're not home. And I know this friend will enjoy that I'm making fun of him publicly. Still, I look forward to the day when he tells me the dinner placemats actually got used.
No Dice: Halfway through the season and I'm still not impressed with Dice-K. He lost again on Sunday. Six runs and 10 hits in five innings. That's no ace. As for the whole team, I'll worry about them when the second place team (be it Toronto or the Yankees) make it within five games. Until then, much as I'd rather they be dominating everyone, I can't get upset that they lost the series this weekend. The season's on cruise control.
Wild thing: I'm really looking forward to the movie adaptation of Into the Wild, which is a book I've actually read. Granted, it was a few years ago, but I remember really liking it, and the film's trailer looks really promising. Speaking of which, I expect to have finished Cabin Pressure by week's end (only 25 pages to go). That'll be the second book I've read in three months. (That's right, two books in three months. Go me!) Next on the reading list: The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs. It's not out till October, but A.J. himself sent me an advance copy (with a personal note and everything) because I interviewed him a few years back to promote his last book. Yaaaaaay, A.J.!
For your listening pleasure on this July 4th (or whenever you happen to be reading), the new single from Peter Cincotti, "Goodbye Philadelphia." Seems that with his new album, East of Angel Town, Peter's developed a little edge and a harder sound than the one he had on his last album, On the Moon, which was largely a jazz album, sort of in the style of Michael Bublé (except that Peter also plays piano). I'm really digging the new sound, and am looking forward to the rest of Angel Town, which is out on August 17. "Goodbye Philadelphia" is a nice pop song, with Peter in good voice, and it's got some patriotic themes, so I figured it'd be appropriate for today. If you like it, buy the EP on iTunes. Enjoy, and Happy 4th!
Sometime around when I turned 30, I made a commitment to myself that each year for my birthday I'd do something wild and crazy that would push my limits and remind myself that I'm not as much of a wimp as I thought I was. At 30, that was skydiving. At 31, I went surfing. And at 32, I decided to take a trapeze lesson. One year later (yes, I was a little delayed), I finally got around to taking the lesson. On Saturday, Pyles and I signed up for a class at Jordan's Furniture in Reading, where Trapeze School New York has a whole operation set up.
I was pretty excited for this, having watched the videos on TSNY's site that made it look pretty easy (of course they do). But I know I'm not the most limber or svelte of people, and I suppose my first heads up that I would have trouble was TSNY's weight limit of 205 pounds, which I'm not so far off from. That was gonna make doing any sort of tricks — even basic ones, like hanging upside down — more of a challenge. Still, I psyched myself up, and after a little bit of training on the ground, I was ready to climb the stairs 35 feet to the platform.
You know, when you're dangling your feet over the edge of a metal frame reaching out to grab a trapeze bar that's a foot or two away, and you're trying to properly distribute your weight, and the only thing holding you back is a guy lighter than you holding onto a strap on your safety harness — well, that's kinda scary. (Scarier, even, than skydiving, I thought.) And when the guy tells you to just jump, even though he's still holding on to you, well, that's kind of confusing. So suffice it to say, I was pretty freaked out when it was time for my first try. But off I went, swinging back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Gliding through the air with the greatest of ease, the Amazing Martino on the flying trapeze. Whee! Look out below!
Alright, it wasn't nearly as graceful as that, as the video Barry took demonstrated (you can watch it below). It was more like watching a boulder — or a bag of concrete, as my buddy JPP told me (thanks, John) — swinging from side to side. And while it got a little easier with each successive swing, I was never quite comfortable enough to do anything more than swinging, despite encouragement and assistance from the instructors, who were some pretty nice (and really patient) guys. At one point, a 10-year-old girl in our class tried to correct me on what I may have been doing wrong, and that didn't really make me feel any better. (Gee, thanks, you little smart ass.) So, after three attempts, I decided I was never meant for such an activity and I stopped trying to make it work.
But I have no shame about it at all. Really. I may write in a self-deprecating style here, but that's only to emphasize the absurdity of what I was doing. After all, three times swinging on a trapeze is more than I thought I'd ever do in my life, and while I don't think I'll ever do it again (unlike skydiving, which I still do want to try again), I can say that I have done it. And if nothing else, it made for a good story. Was it fun? I don't know about that. But it was worth it. As for Pyles, well, she put her legs up on the bar, was caught by another instructor, and looked really great up there. Good for Pyles! (For more of Barry's pictures, click here. Thanks, Barry!)
To celebrate my 33rd birthday, I've decided to do something a little less physical but no less exciting — buying real estate. Which means, stay tuned for my 34th birthday. Who knows what I'll do next.
(BTW, "Jump" was actually playing in the background when I, um, jumped. It was nothing more than a coincidence, not something I planned. That said, how perfect is that??)
One thing I hated about the movie Fever Pitch was how utterly unrealistic I thought the Drew Barrymore character was. How could it be possible, I wondered, that a person living in Boston was that clueless about the Red Sox, and baseball in general? Isn't it, like, a mandatory part of your citizenship in this city that you have to be a baseball fan? Or at the very least, how could you avoid it, what with the incessant press coverage of the Sox and the way the city seems to be totally devoted to the sport during the season. So imagine my surprise when, on my way home on the T this evening, a fellow passenger started to engage the driver in conversation.
I tried not to eavesdrop — really, I did — but she was right behind me, and certain things she said and questions she asked stood out. For example, "I haven't been paying attention. How are the Red Sox doing this season?" "I heard they're playing the same team tonight that beat them yesterday." "A series is three or four games? Why do they play so many?" "What's the team from Texas called?" I thought she might have been kidding, but no. She was genuinely clueless about the whole thing. It was as if she was talking about something that some people do, like a movie that those kids are all talking about, or the cult tv show that she's heard is good, or something that happens in a foreign country that hasn't yet reached the States.
I swear, I've never heard someone talk like that about baseball in Boston. I knew people like Jimmy Fallon's character actually existed, but now I guess I'll have to look at Drew's character in a new light.
Forget all that crap about wanting to stay in Coolidge Corner when I finally do buy a condo. I've just put down a bid for this cozy place in Romania. Now, some may say I'm a bit batty for doing so, but I hear the nightlife is great here. Apparently the place really comes alive when the sun goes down.