Sunday, August 31, 2008

Baby in Boston!

She's not yet four months old, but already Abby's come to Boston to see her uncle. Mitzi and Jason brought my niece up for a couple days and we had a great time taking her to some of the important baby-friendly Boston-area spots, like Johnny's and Coolidge Corner. We never made it to see the Make Way for Ducklings ducklings, but I bought her the book and hopefully we'll go on her next visit. Of course, Abby also got to see my condo and to tour the neighborhood, and she enjoyed some beautiful Boston weather. Heck, I may have even turned her into a Red Sox fan. (No? Alright. I'll keep trying.) Most fun, though, had to be making her laugh. All it took was waving my arms around animatedly and taking a deep breath with my mouth wide open, and it was totally worth the workout it provided. If you're like me and you can't get enough of my niece, click here to check out the rest of the photos from her visit. Come back soon, Abby!

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quick Thoughts

For the past few weeks, due to construction, the outbound B-line has been stopping at Lake Street and not going all the way into the Boston College T stop. I'm surprised no one's been hit by a car yet.

I recently started using vanilla-flavored toothpaste, and I really like the taste of it. Is that wrong, or is that the whole point: that if I like the taste, maybe I'll brush more often.

I have nearly 325 friends on Facebook now. How did that happen?

Bruce Springsteen's in the neighborhood this weekend dropping his kid off at BC. I wonder what the chances are that I'll see Bruce at White Mountain Creamery.

I love John McCain's choice of VP. Can someone just declare Barack Obama the winner now and spare us the next 65 or so days of campaigning?

For the first time in about eight years, I'm living on Comm Ave on Labor Day weekend. Oh, the horror. I guess summer's officially over now.

Any chance Dustin Pedroia is going to be the AL MVP this year? I sure think so. (And just fyi: I've been saying this for weeks now. I'm not on the bandwagon — I'm leading it.)

The new 90210 starts on Tuesday night. Not sure I could be more excited.

Why can't every weekend be three days long?

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Beat THAT, John McCain!

Wow! What a speech. Not sure I've ever been more excited to vote in an election. Let's go, Barack Obama!

Missed it or just want to relive some highlights? Here is the full speech:

And here are some clips:


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Someone Drop the Soap, Please

Alright, who's with me? Tomorrow, all the employees at the LUSH cosmetics store in Natick will be wearing only an apron and sandals, thus exposing their backsides for all to see. Why are they doing it? Does it really matter?? (It's to protest the environmental hazards of excessive packaging that comes with many store-bought commodities, according to this article.) Anyone else want to take the day off from work and head on over for a peek?

Update, 8/27: Good thing I opted not to take the day off of work. Only two guys protested. Any others were told not to.


Yes She Can

No, this isn't a real ad. I just thought it was funny.

(Thanks to Jeff Wells for the tip.)


Monday, August 25, 2008

Three's a Crowd

You can say this (among other things) about Woody Allen as a filmmaker: He sure does know how to give his movies a sense of place. His latest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, unfolds in Spain (largely in, yes, Barcelona) and man if it isn't just the greatest commercial for that city. A (mostly unnecessary) narrator gives us the film's basic premise: two best friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), are spending the summer abroad. Both have different views about life and love: Vicky is more uptight and methodical (not to mention engaged), and Cristina is more carefree and spontaneous. Both of their lives are changed when they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a painter just out of a troubled marriage (to María Elena, played by Penélope Cruz). The plot is rather thin, but the film overall has such a great tone that you don't even mind that. If you think of VCB as more of an episode than a story, then you won't be disappointed. Not surprisingly, all the acting is great — even Johansson for a change (I'm not usually much of a fan). The cinematography is excellent, capturing Barcelona in all its beauty. Really, VCB is just a very sophisticated movie that is wholly enjoyable — more so than Match Point, Woody Allen's last great movie. VCB is one of my favorites of the year so far. I'm giving it an A–.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Games Off, Game On!

Before we completely forget about the Olympics, I thought I'd share this article, which may just provide you with another reason to hate Michael Phelps:

Sex and the Olympic City
Tomorrow night thousands of young men and women with the most fit, toned bodies in the world will mingle for the last time before they fly home. What might they get up to? [Read More]


Three quick food-related items that didn't really merit their own posts:

* Nina and I had brunch today at "our spot," Z Square in my beloved Harvard Square. I tried something there that I'd never had before: the buttermilk pancakes. Let me just say they were some of the best pancakes I've had. They were almost like thick crepes, and they were served practically covered with cinnamon and butter. Syrup was almost unnecessary. Yum.

* Part of Nina's and my afternoon involved hanging out at the Cambridge Carnival, and it was there that we both enjoyed some fried dough. Mmmmmm ... there are few things better than some good ole fried dough from a street vendor. I guess now it's official: it's summer!

* Since I moved to my condo, I've been adjusting to new places and new stores. And no sooner did I move than my new local Shaw's (on Route 9) closed for renovations. This weekend I branched out from the default Shaw's on Beacon St. in Brookline to the bigger one in Brighton on Western Ave. and was quite pleased to find what seemed like double the selection. It's like the Packard's Corner store, just without the annoying college kids. Hooray!


Songs Sung Blew

(or ... Mild August Night)
(or ... I Am Letdown, I Said)
(or ... Not So Good! Not So Good!)

Since I'd never seen Neil Diamond in concert, I was quite excited to see him Saturday night at Fenway Park. And sure, I'm not the biggest Neil fan (I own his latest album but still haven't listened to it), but I do love the classics in his repertoire, and I figured it'd at least be a fun show. At the very least, it'd be totally cheesy to hear him sing "Sweet Caroline" live in Fenway, and I could totally get into that. I mean, I've seen Barry Manilow live (three times, I believe), so how bad could Neil Diamond really be?

Well, little did I know Neil would not only open the show with "Sweet Caroline," but that he'd play it again less than an hour and 15 minutes later, not just once but with another half-reprise to top it off. And then the song would play again, at the end of the show, when the band was taking their bows. In its August 2008 issue, Boston magazine suggests retiring "Sweet Caroline" altogether after Neil's show. I now wholeheartedly second that motion.

Anyway, the rest of the show had its ups and downs. Literally. It was poorly paced, and the set list kept getting the crowd into it, and then taking them right out. For example, the second rendition of "Caroline," which admittedly was more exciting than the first, had the entire crowd up, dancing, and singing along. It was followed by the decidedly more downbeat (and very cringe-worthy) "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." Ugh. There was also a stunningly dull three-song taste of Home Before Dark that took me and the entire stadium out of the show completely. And soon after, Neil sang a crowd-pleaser, "I Am ... I Said," but he did it at half the song's normal mid-tempo, and it was not as good.

But it wasn't all Neil's fault. When "Cherry Cherry" began, the lights came up and Neil called out, "Let's dance!" So, the crowd got up and got into it. That song was followed by the equally peppy "Thank the Lord for the Night Time" (one of my favorite Neil Diamond songs), but because the stage lights had gone dim, most folks took it as a cue to sit right down again. It was pretty lame, but at least no one told me to sit when I kept on standing.

Neil's a good, albeit strange, performer. He knows what his fans want, and he does his damndest to give it to them. But his delivery takes on a tone of ... well, let's just say he doesn't always look like he's having the best time. Between his raspy speaking-singing delivery and his angry expression (those eyebrows!), it looked like he was really tearing into songs like "Love on the Rocks." I'll never hear that one the same way again.

If there was a highlight, it was the encore. "Cracklin' Rose" and "America" were a lot of fun. But why Neil decided not to capitalize on the momentum and to end the show with the less exciting and less engaging "Brother Love's Travelin' Salvation Show" left me confused. Additionally, the fact that the show was less than two hours in length I attributed to Neil (and most of his fans') age, but it was a bummer. As was the fact that the volume was really not loud enough. Maybe those folks sitting on the field could hear, but Amy and I in Loge section 145 had a hard time understanding what was being said and sung.

Was it a bad show? Despite this review's overall tone, I'd say no. I mean, what was good was a lot of fun. But the show was definitely not "So good! So good! So good!" Of the three shows I've seen at Fenway in recent years (Springsteen, Buffett, and now Neil), this was the worst. Oh well. They can't all be Bruce.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Like the Very First Time

If this November is going to be the first time you vote in an election, then this video's for you. (If this is not going to be your first time voting in an election, don't worry — you can watch too.)

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Method to Their Madness

From its inspired, brilliant first 10 minutes, right on up to the closing credits, you'll be on the floor laughing yourself silly over Tropic Thunder. This satire of Hollywood pretension, action films, Vietnam War films, method acting, tyrannical studio heads, overzealous agents, Oscar bait, and basically anything related to the art of moviemaking, is just fall-down flat-out funny. No, those trailers at the start of the film — before the credits — aren't for real movies, but they're totally dead-on. All the acting — by Ben Stiller (who also cowrote and directed), Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, Nick Nolte, Danny McBride, and especially Robert Downey Jr. — is hysterical. The screenplay is filthy and at times offensive, but always meant in good fun. To ruin any of this movie's pleasures would be wrong, so I'll just tell you it's the funniest movie of the summer and give it an A–. The film's tagline is Get Some. I agree.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Get on the Bus, Gus

Just a quick kudo to the MBTA and their bus service. I was in my beloved Harvard Square tonight having dinner with Amy, and knew that getting home would involve some strategerie. Used to be that when I lived in Coolidge Corner I could just take the 66 bus and it would go right to Babcock St. Now that I live where no buses go, I needed a new plan. Anyway, long story short, the 86 bus went right to the corner of Comm Ave. and Chestnut Hill Ave., and after a quick two-stop B-line ride, I was home in no time. Seriously, the whole trip took less than a half hour — a fraction of what it would have taken if I had used the subway. So, nice job MBTA. That's a pretty sweet way to get from home to Harvard Square and vice versa.

But if I can just throw in my two critical cents: Why does there have to be a bus stop on, like, every block? It's worse than the B line used to be. It's worse than the 66 bus. Can't people walk like the people who take the train do? Especially considering all the traffic lights we have to stop at, there's really no reason the bus has to stop sooooo often. Otherwise, I love taking the bus. Woo hoo!

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breakfast of Champion

I'll admit it: I've come down with an acute case of Olympic Fever. I'm nowhere near obsessed, but I've definitely watched more of the games than I ever thought I would. It's all been pretty exciting. And while I think there's been waaaaaaaaaaaay too much Michael Phelps coverage already — c'mon, NBC, can't we have just one Phelps-free day? — my favorite part of the coverage so far was last night when Bob Costas read off what Phelps' typical breakfast is. I'm not making this up.

"Three sandwiches of fried eggs, cheese, lettuce, tomato, fried onions and mayonnaise, one omelet, a bowl of grits, and three slices of french toast with powdered sugar. Then he washes it down with three chocolate chip pancakes."

In total, the guy eats between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day. Wow. And apparently, he has a hard time packing on the pounds, too. I wish I had his problem, and I eat just a fraction of what Phelps does. Amazing. Not only is he an impressive athlete, but he's also got the best diet in the entire world. He washes it down with three pancakes? It's official: Michael Phelps is my hero.

Here's a clip to help me make my point.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Rapping with Bert and Ernie

Some fun for your Monday.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

High Wire

On the morning of August 7, 1974, while many New Yorkers were hurrying to work, a lithe Frenchman named Philippe Petit was more than 100 stories above them, walking from the top of one of the Twin Towers to the other and back again. The story of this amazing and unlikely feat is told in the fantastic new documentary Man on Wire. Why did Petit do it? Well, it's almost the same answer as the one given by George Leigh Mallory when he was asked why he was attempting to climb Mount Everest: "Because it's there." Petit, too, is driven by simple motivation. He's a performer, and he thinks that to walk on a tightrope between the buildings would be an act of incredible beauty.

Told through archival footage, photography, recreations of the events, and present-day interviews with Petit and his co-conspirators, Man on Wire is, appropriately, beautifully made. Petit, who clearly lived to tell the tale, is a completely engaging interviewee, filling his story with drama and hyperbole, and making us believe that such an impossible stunt is not even much of a challenge for him. His team — a mix of French, Australian, and American participants — are equally swept up in Petit's passion, and look like they'd do it all again if they could. The film, which takes its name from the police report documenting Petit's "crime," doesn't fully explain the why or the how, or even go into why Petit is so fascinated with scaling such great heights, but that's alright. It tells a very enjoyable story, and it makes Petit out to be an inspiring presence, an optimist who made one of his greatest dreams come true. I fancy myself a bit of a daredevil, having gone skydiving and taken trapeze lessons, and even though I completely respect Petit for his accomplishment, you'll be happy to know I'm going to keep my feet on the ground. Man on Wire gets an A– from me. It's definitely one of the year's best so far.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Dazed and Confused

Oh man, this video sure is scary.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

But They Sent You Away ... Oh, Manny

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

This Is Actually Kind of Hot

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Bruce Stopped the Rain

Early on during his show Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, Bruce Springsteen played a special request for "the coach," who apparently was in the crowd: Credence Clearwater Revival's "Who'll Stop the Rain." Well, for a while on Saturday, I was wondering the same thing. And silly me, because it became a non-issue. Like the Boss himself sang later in the show, "Don't worry Darlin', now baby don't you fret." Although it rained pretty hard at times during the afternoon and there was a heavy downpour again around 8:15, by the time Bruce and the E Street Band took the stage around 9:30, the sky was clear and there were stars out. It was perfect. So Bill Belichick, I think you have your answer: Bruce stopped the rain.

And not only did Bruce play weatherman, but more importantly, he also played host to a summertime fiesta of grand proportions. Unlike the show I saw in November, this one was more party than promotion, and songs from Magic generally played second fiddle to crowd pleasers like "Hungry Heart," "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," "Spirit in the Night," and "She's the One." The show began with "Summertime Blues," which set the tone, and continued from there in largely upbeat fashion. Bruce spent as much or more time down in the crowd as he did on the stage, and at one point even took requests, which resulted in the appearance of rarities like "Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?" and a cover of "Little Latin Lupe Lu" (the first time the song had been performed with the band since 1977). Clearly, this was not a show for the Johnny Come Latelies. MVP honors went to Nils Lofgren, who tore it up on "Tunnel of Love" and "Youngstown," but Steve Van Zandt also killed on "Murder Incorporated."

What's truly amazing is that Barry and I had to leave unexpectedly at 10:45 and Bruce was putting on such a dense show that it felt so much later than that. We walked out to the sounds of "Mary's Place" and then "The Rising," and we regretted missing all the typical end-of-show highlights like "Born to Run" and "Badlands" (and "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)," too, apparently). Ah well. Maybe we'll find a bootleg somewhere so we won't have to miss out entirely. But half of a Springsteen show is still better than no Springsteen show at all, and this was definitely one of the better nights of the entire summer.

(Thanks to for the photos.)

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Seventh-Inning Sretch

If you've been to a Dodgers game out in Los Angeles like I have, you know it's a very different experience than going to one here at Fenway. It's a bit flashier and showier, and the fans — well, let's just say the fans are a little less devoted than they are here in Boston (even the pink-hat–wearing ones). So when reading today's column by CHB about Manny's first day in LA, I have to admit I got a good laugh out of this line: "Maybe they'll let Manny leave in the seventh inning with the rest of the fans." Say what you will about Shaughnessy, but I thought that and his Gladys Knight reference ("In the end, Boston proved too much for the man") were pretty funny.

Manny may not have been perfect, but I'll miss him.


Friday, August 01, 2008

The Monkey's Out of the Bottle

Like any good buzz, Pineapple Express takes a little while to sink in and take effect. And once you get past the first, oh, 10-15 minutes, you're in for a good time. Not coincidentally, the uptick in the film's quality comes at just about exactly the same time that James Franco comes on the screen, playing Seth Rogen's drug dealer. Franco's Saul sells Rogen's Dale a rare and exclusive brand of pot called Pineapple Express, and after witnessing a murder (don't ask), Dale leaves his roach behind. Thus, the bad guys know exactly who to look for, sending Dale and Saul on the run. Comedy ensues.

Written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who also collaborated on the screenplay for Superbad), Pineapple Express is about 10 minutes too long, and as noted, it starts out really slowly. But Franco's great, he and Rogen have perfect buddy chemistry, and Danny McBride steals a couple scenes as another dealer. Also good is Craig Robinson (The Office's Darryl) as a tough guy on Dale and Saul's trail. There are some decent laughs to be had, but nothing that reaches the same comic or emotional, ahem, highs of Superbad. And that's why I'm only going to give Pineapple Express a B.