Monday, June 30, 2008

T and Qs

Last week, a blogger named David asked whether leaving your newspaper on the T was littering or sharing. As someone who often grabs a Metro on my way into work, and has admittedly left it on the train as many times as I've recycled it, I grapple with this question often. But that's not the only question I have about the T:

* Which is worse: when someone is yapping away on their cell phone in English or in a foreign language?
* If a B train and a D train leave Kenmore Square at almost the exact same time, and I take the D train to Reservoir then walk up Chestnut Hill Ave. to catch the B train, why does it take so long for that B train to arrive?
* When the trains reach their "home base" back at Boston College or Cleveland Circle, why don't they get cleaned? I don't mean washed. Is it really asking so much for a T worker to pick up the trash and throw it away so when passengers get on the train at the beginning of the line, they're clean? Yes, there could also be an announcement to have passengers take their own trash with them, but we all know that doesn't work.
* When the train isn't very crowded, why do people always feel the need to crowd and stand right next to you?

I'm just wondering. What T-related questions do you have?


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hello, Wall-E!

The geniuses at Pixar keep on cranking out animated films, and each time they do, people think they're kids movies. Well, with Wall-E, they've made a film that might not appeal to kids all that much. And that's fine with me. Wall-E is a beautiful film about loneliness, love, caring for the Earth, and other grown-up topics, and it stars a robot — not exactly the kind of thing a kid can cuddle up with at night. In addition, nearly half the film, if not more, is completely dialogue-free, which will surely make the little ones antsy.

The rest of us, on the other hand, can sit back and enjoy this tale of a robot left behind on Earth to clean up all the garbage while the humans are living large (quite literally) in space. The action takes place about 800 years into the future, when the skyscrapers share airspace with tall piles of trash. It's on this abandoned planet that Wall-E lives, with just the cockroaches to keep him company. For the first third of Wall-E, that's about all there is: just Wall-E rolling around the empty landscape, being curious, and getting into mischief with the stuff he finds. It's almost like watching an alternate version of I Am Legend starring Charlie Chaplin. (And I've gotta say, this animated robot might just be a better actor than Will Smith.)

In his travels, the curious Wall-E has made some memorable finds — light bulbs, forks and spoons, Christmas lights, a Rubik's Cube, an iPod, etc. — but none has captured his imagination quite like a VHS tape of Hello, Dolly!, which he watches over and over. He even sings and dances along with the music. Wall-E clearly longs to find the connection with another something that the characters in the movie have with each other. Imagine that: the robot's lonely. But then one day, a space ship arrives, bringing with it Eve, a bright white robot sent to seek out life on Earth, if any exists. Wall-E is smitten, and he goes about trying to win her "heart." There's more to it than this "simple" love story, but that's the general gist of the film and where most of the forward momentum comes from.

If a robot love story sounds corny or far-fetched, remember: it's still a cartoon. But I have to say, this is one of the sweetest, most innocent, and wonderful movies I've seen in a very long time. Watching these two very different mechanical beings interact is so cool and so well rendered that you almost believe they're really falling in love, or at least that they really have emotions. They certainly look real enough. As usual, Pixar has created a unique world and animated it beautifully, and the "acting" is, once again, on the mark.

If only the movie could be only about Wall-E and Eve. When we go into space and meet the humans, things become less engaging and less endearing. There's a pretty heavy-handed environmental message that's very obvious and distracting. And the humans themselves are animated so cartoonishly that in contrast to Wall-E and Eve, they're just hard to take seriously. Which is sort of the point, I know, but it means you're taken out of the movie emotionally every time the action centers on them, even if it's briefly.

So while Wall-E is certainly one of the year's best films so far, and it will likely win the Best Animated Film award at next year's Oscars, it won't make it into Pixar's top 5 (unlike, say, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, the Toy Story films, and The Incredibles). Still, not-as-good Pixar (like, say, Cars) is still better than most anything else at the multiplex. So I'm giving Wall-E a strong B+, and I'll tell you to put on your Sunday clothes and go see it.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Still My Favorite, Week After Week

Entertainment Weekly is out this week with its 1,000th issue. It's a double issue, so it's really the 999th and 1,000th, but the point is, EW has put out that many issues. And what I think is pretty cool is that I've read every single one of them just about cover to cover. Until last year, I didn't read many books, but I certainly did read magazines, and since its first issue in 1990, EW has been my bible. I'm a real geek when it comes to this pub. It's the first magazine I read every week when I'm commuting to work. Actually, I wouldn't say I read EW — it's more like I devour it. Often I can't wait to see it in my mailbox at home, so I'll stop off at Barnes & Noble on Friday night to see what's on the cover and skim through the latest issue. I take offense when EW doesn't like a movie or CD I love, and give a small cheer when our tastes are in synch. EW has given me great pleasures, like Michael Slezak's "Idolatry" series and Josh Wolk's Cabin Pressure. I get a little sad when there's a double issue and I know another one won't arrive for two weeks. At one point, I owned every single issue of this magazine — that was in 2000 or so, so there were plenty (and those boxes were heavy). I still own EW issue number one, with k.d. lang and Nena Cherry on the cover (it's right there on my bookshelf), as well as all the year-end recaps since year one. So congrats to my favorite magazine for reaching this impressive milestone. I look forward to reading the next issue. And the one after that. And the one after that. And the one after that ...

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Fruit Is Un-American!

Cookie consumption in America has gone down and Stephen Colbert knows why: It's all Cookie Monster's fault.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Sea of Green

Walking down Summer St. this morning en route to my office, I couldn't help but notice how many Celtics fans were out and about. Yesterday I was going to post something here about how the Celtics win just didn't seem as exciting as the Sox wins did (acknowledging, of course, that I'm a bigger baseball fan than I am a basketball fan) because there didn't seem to be as much team spirit on display around the city. Further evidence was the fact that the parade route was shorter than those for the Sox and Patriots ones were. But after my walk to work this morning, I had to seriously reconsider. Everyone loves a winner, but this was crazy. I don't think I've ever seen this much green, or that many Celtics fans, in such a short a period of time. There must be a lot of people on the bandwagon today. Any room for me?


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In Case You Missed It ...

... here's Reebok's ad celebrating the Celtics, which made its debut last night sometime around when the Celtics won the championship. The ad is simple, sweet, and effective. I really like it. Enjoy!

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How Sweet It Is!

Congrats to the Boston Celtics: 2008 NBA Champions. Trophy number 17. What an impressive win. Go Green!


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Best Blond Maria ... and other awards

What Time Is It?

So here's what I don't get: Why a store that advertises being open until 9 p.m. doesn't stay open until 9 p.m. Ever since Boston College's graduation, the stores in the strip near the T stop never operate with consistent hours. Yes, I know a large portion of their business is away for the summer, but if they're going to have shortened hours, why don't they just put up different signs, instead of telling customers they're still open until 9 p.m. and then closing early whenever they feel like it. Take College Sub, for example. A couple weeks ago I got home from work around 8:30 and thought I'd stop in for a quick sammidge instead of cooking dinner. I walked in, saw the guys behind the counter cleaning up, and they yelled out, "We're closed!" Hello? The same's true at Flat Breads, which I don't think has stayed open until 9 p.m. once since early May. I'm fine with these places closing early. I just don't understand why they won't put it in writing so I (and other people like me) don't expect them to be open when they say they will be.

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I'm Home

Finally. Of all the random mailings I got soon after I moved into my new place, the one thing I didn't get that I actually needed was return address labels. Not that I have a hard time remembering what my new address is or anything (unlike, say, my new phone number, which I still don't know off-hand), but it's always so much easier to just stick a sticker on an envelope with my return address than to write the damned thing out every time I need to mail a bill payment or send a card. But more than a cure for my laziness, the labels mean I officially live here, in Chestnut Hill, and I have the official return address stickers to prove it. More so than my brand new driver's license, these say to me, "Martin, you're home." So to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, thank you. Look for one of these stickers to arrive in your mailbox soon, with a token of my appreciation inside the envelope.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Tim Russert

If you're anything like me, then you spent a good chunk of this past weekend watching the endless coverage about Tim Russert's passing on Friday. In nearly every interview or remembrance, there was one common theme: Tim's love of family. And this morning, Tim's son, Luke, was on The Today Show. If you're interested and you missed it, I thought I'd post the interview Luke did with Matt Lauer.


Oh, Baby

Oh, to be a baby. All my niece Abby does is sleep, eat, and be, ahem, babied and pampered by her parents, grandparents, Uncle Martin, and other family and friends. When she's unhappy and she starts to cry, people run to make her feel better. She's showered with gifts. Every day people tell her how adorable she is. I have to say: it's a good life. And I wish I got to spend more time enjoying it than just a day or so this past weekend. Sunday I got to sit with Abby sleeping in my arms for about a solid hour. I kept looking down at her, at how tranquil and peaceful she looked, at how comfortable she was. She just laid there against by body, very still, grabbing ahold of my shirt, our breaths in synch, and she slept and slept. She didn't even drool! Every now and then she'd readjust herself ever so slightly, but for the most part, she was so comfortable sleeping on my chest. I tell you, I've had a lot of good times in the past few months, but this was one of the best. As much as I want Abby to grow up soon so we can talk and laugh and play, this part of her life is really special. I'll have to go back to New York real soon so I can be a part of it again.

(To see more pictures from the weekend — because you know there are plenty — just click here.)

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Lights Up on Washington Heights

Just a quick public congrats to Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won a Tony Award Sunday night for Best Original Score of a Musical for his In the Heights. His show also won Best Musical. And while Lin did lose Best Lead Actor in a Musical, I'd say he still had an impressive evening. Why do I care about this? Well, in case you've forgotten, I interviewed Lin for Continental, and his win continues a decent streak I've had of picking Tony nominees and winners. So yeah, congrats to Lin and congrats to me.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bowled Over

Yes, this is another post about how much I ate.

I don't mind paying $8 for ice cream when it's all for charity, and as donations go, you could do a lot worse than the Scooper Bowl. Here's how it works: The Jimmy Fund gets my money, and I get to fill up on all-you-can eat ice cream. Everyone wins! A host of vendors large and small serve up samples of about four flavors each, and if you don't mind the huge crowd, you could try a whole bunch of flavors in a few short minutes. Me? I tried Edy's new Take the Cake and Cold Stone Creamery's Shock-A-Cone, among other flavors. They were good, but the best thing I tried was Ben & Jerry's new Cake Batter. Sadly, I was also really disappointed by B&J's ONE Cheesecake Brownie. I bumped into Liz on the way over, so I didn't have to pig out on my own, and in the end, a good time was had by all. The weather's going to be hot again today and thankfully the Scooper Bowl lasts for three days. But you'd better hurry; after 7 p.m. Thursday, it's all over. So if you're in Boston, head on over to City Hall Plaza, grab a spoon, and dig in.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My Own Movie Nation

Someone at clearly likes me. How else to explain that the site's linking to my blog again — this time to my review of The Incredible Hulk, which I saw last night. (Last time I got a link from, it was to my MGM Grand grand opening recap. Before that, it was a link to a post about my packing and moving process.) Whoever you are over there who keeps providing the links, thanks for the traffic. And to Ty and Wesley: don't worry, your jobs are secure. For now, anyway. [Insert maniacal laugh here.]

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You Won't Like Him When He's Angry

What you want to know is this: Is the new The Incredible Hulk movie better than Ang Lee's Hulk movie from a few years back? Not really. But the good news is it's not any worse. It's just different. For example, the story is much better, more focused, and more faithful to the comic book source material than Ang Lee's daddy-issues epic was. And the first two-thirds of this film are certainly more enjoyable than most of Ang Lee's film was. But that's pretty much where the good stuff ends. Ed Norton brings too much baggage with him to be a believable Bruce Banner; the dichotomy of Banner's gentle soul and the Hulk's aggression can't work when the guy playing Banner is so well-known for his own intensity. And most importantly, this Hulk is so poorly rendered that he never once seems real. Given a choice, I'd choose the creature from Ang Lee's film — or even the TV show's Lou Ferrigno, who, along with the departed Bill Bixby, makes a cameo appearance here. You may not have liked the movie he was in, but at least Ang Lee's Hulk had character and emotion, and real presence. This Hulk never seems like more than a special effect. And whereas Ang Lee's film was full of brighter colors, of bold greens, wide panoramas and actual style, this film is filled with more muted colors and darker tones, and the last third is so disengaging that ultimately, the whole thing just feels lackluster. So that's why I'm giving the new Hulk a less-than-incredible B-.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Silky Smooth

It's not meant as damning with faint praise to say You Don't Mess with the Zohan is Adam Sandler's best comedy in many years. (His best movie, of course, was Reign Over Me.) In fact, surprisingly enough, it's the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. How funny is it? Well, let's just say Mariah Carey makes a cameo and even she is funny.

Sandler stars as Zohan, Israel's premier counter-terrorism commando. He's loved by the ladies, he's an expert at martial arts and gun play, he's skilled with a hackey sack, and he's legendary. But all Zohan wants to do is go to America and become a hair stylist like his idol, Paul Mitchell — even if people think that makes him a "faygela." So he fakes his own death and goes across the ocean, where, what do you know, he gets a job at a salon owned by a Palestinian. And not just any Palestinian, but one played by the smoking hot Emmanuelle Chriqui. Will the Israeli and the Palestinian come together to make "bang boom?" Will the eternal conflict between these two nationalities really be solved by Dave Matthews? Well, is this an Adam Sandler movie? (Yes.) So what do you think?

If you have an appreciation for Israeli culture, you'll especially enjoy Zohan, with its continuous hummus jokes and other stereotypical references. But I suspect most folks will enjoy the film whether they get the cultural references or not. The script — by Sandler, Judd Apatow, and Robert Smigel — is smart and affectionate rather than offensive, and Sandler gives a grown-up comedic performance that's actually quite good. Sandler's usual cohorts (Rob Schneider, John Turturro, Henry Winkler, etc.) are all along for the ride, but there's none of the usual schtick. Instead, they work within the confines of the plot to make a fun ensemble, and don't stick out as gimmick casting. Sure, the movie would have benefitted from a 5-minute pruning, which would have made it a bit tighter, but I didn't feel like Zohan was frustratingly long either.

I'm not going to say Zohan is a classic comedy; I suspect it won't hold up so well on repeated viewings. But for what it is, it's very funny. I'm giving Zohan a B+.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Three for Fore

Birthday Fiesta 2008 continued today with brunch at Z Square in Harvard Square and then a trip up to Kimball Farm in Westford for some mini golf and ice cream. I'll say this much about the afternoon: We started out early so as to beat the crowds and the heat, but man oh man was it hot out there. Our ice cream sure did go down easy. And just in case you're keeping track, unlike last time (and especially because of last night's meal), I exercised restraint, choosing a frappe instead of a sundae. It was tasty just the same. Oh, and as for the golf, chalk it up to beginner's luck, but Jeremy beat Nina and I — though in my own defense, I'll say he only beat me by a couple strokes, and of the three of us, I was the only one to score a hole-in-one. So maybe I'm older and possibly wiser now, but I'm no better in the mini golf department than I was. S'alright. It could be worse.

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Birthday Beefy Goodness

NEWS FLASH: Ruth's Chris Steak House no longer has the Chocolate Explosion cake on its menu. Apparently, it came off six months ago (and may become a seasonal item). After a pretty excellent birthday meal Saturday night, this had the makings of a disaster. Thankfully, my beloved dessert has been replaced by a chocolate mousse cheesecake that, let me tell you, is so so so so sooooo good. Sooooo, Birthday Meal 2008 was saved. Hooray!

Not that it was ever really about to go down the tubes. My first trip to the Boston location of my favorite restaurant was an unqualified success. Farry, Barrah, and I went to (belatedly for them) celebrate our birthdays, and man, if this wasn't another stellar experience. (Have I mentioned yet how much I love this place?) I ordered all my standards: the simple and yet quite tasty lettuce wedge salad with lemon basil dressing; a thick, juicy, flavorful filet, medium rare; and the big basket of shoestring potatoes. We also ordered the ziti and cheese (which I ate, despite the carmelized onions). And, of course, the chocolate mousse cheesecake. Good friends, good meal, great birthday. And now my arteries are good and clogged, but I'm happy. A Ruth's Chris birthday meal is becoming something of a tradition for me; I can definitely live with that.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Can I Get a Kumbaya?

I have mixed feelings about Hillary Clinton today. While I am a supporter of Barack Obama — and have become more so over the course of the primary season — I can't help but sympathize with Hillary after her speech earlier this afternoon. Unfortunately, while our plights are completely different, I know what it's like to deal with disappointment and decisions I don't agree with, and how hard it is to suck it up for the greater good. I haven't always done the right thing, and not only has it taken me a while to put the negative feelings behind me, but I've suffered additional setbacks due to how I dealt with the situation. Just like she sorta has. When Hillary said, "Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward," it struck a real chord because it's only been a couple weeks now since I learned to put a frustrating setback from six months ago behind me.

To be clear: I haven't become a Hillary fan all of a sudden. I still think she's calculating, and I didn't always believe she meant everything she was saying today. All I'm saying is I identified with a lot of Hillary's speech and I hope she exercises better judgement moving forward than I did. Hillary made a strong case about why it's so important to support Barack Obama. I hope her support — her genuine support — will help his campaign over the next few months, and will help the Democrats take back the White House in November.


You Say It's My Birthday

So believe it or not, my birthday seems to have snuck up on me this year. Not that I didn't know it was coming or anything, but I just kind of let it arrive for a change, rather than hype it up and make it another Day of All Days. And that's fine. It's been an exciting last couple months with lots and lots of other good stuff to celebrate — buying a condo and becoming an uncle, for example — so I thought it'd be alright, for a change, to just kind of ease into my birthday this year, and not make too big of a deal about it.

Which, of course, does not mean that I won't be doing my birthday up right. I mean, please. I'm still me. I don't fear the birthday and I embrace more celebration. There's a big dinner tonight, and tomorrow there's brunch, followed by some miniature golf and ice cream, for example. And there'll be some kind of daredevil activity at some point this summer, of course (I'm thinking whitewater rafting). Plus, the weather's beautiful today, so that's good too. All things considered, I think this is going to be a really nice birthday — and even more importantly, I predict good things in the year ahead. Happy 34th to me!


Friday, June 06, 2008

Zzzzzzz ...

Yeah, I know. It's been a quiet week with not much blog-worthy activity. I expect that'll change this weekend. Stay tuned.