Friday, February 27, 2009

I'm Starting with the Man in the Finals

Alright. It's still early in the season, and quite frankly, I'm not impressed with too many contestants in the so-called Top 36, but I think I'm going to go out on a limb now and predict that when all the votes are cast, Kris Allen will be our next American Idol. Don't hold me to this. It's just that of the 24 people who've sung these past two weeks, Kris, with his performance of Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror," was the one who impressed me the most. I'm actually glad he made it to the finals. Kris has a great voice and I really enjoy the way he feels the music when he sings. The kid's got stage presence. No, he wasn't perfect Wednesday night (the song ends better than it begins), but I think Kris will only get better from here. Will this be the year the Martin Pick actually wins? After all, it didn't work for Haley Scarnato or Elliott Yamin. Let's see how far this guy can go.

Kris-Allen-20090225.mp3 - Kris Allen

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Nice Job

Any time I talk about my job these days it's hard not to feel like I'm rubbing it in, especially since it's so tough out there for so many people (I know it well, having spent the better part of the past year looking for a new gig). So as you might imagine, I'm a little hesitant to post a link to the story WBZ Channel 4 here in Boston aired about my company tonight — but I'm going to do it anyway because it's really great. I'm just so happy and proud (and lucky) that I can't help sharing this with y'all. And hey, before you get bitter, look at it this way: Getting a new job often comes down to who you know (that's partly how I got this one), and I'm more than happy to be a man on the inside if you need some help. Of course, if you're not in the market for a new job in Boston, well, then maybe you'll just enjoy watching the video and looking for the quick glimpses of me. I'm the goofy-looking guy in the big conference room wearing glasses and a navy blue gingham shirt. At around the 1:03 mark there's a great shot of my back, and at other points you'll see me from the front and side. Here's that link again. Enjoy.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Movies I've Seen (2008 Releases)

(click on the link for my review)


2. U23D














16. 21






22. WALL-E















37. W.







44. MILK














He Didn't Mean to Break My Heart

The news today that Steven Page is leaving Barenaked Ladies effectively puts an end to my young adulthood. I've been a BNL fan since my freshman year in college in the fall of 1992, back when the guys were overweight geeks, Gordon was their only album, few people outside of Canada or college campuses had heard of them, and I couldn't get any radio station to take my request to play them. (For the record, my copy of Gordon has the original cover on it.) Since then, I've seen BNL live about 15 times — more than I've seen any other singer or band — including a show at the tiny Somerville Theater and one on New Year's Eve at the Fleet Center. I was even at the huge free show in Government Center the night before the release of Stunt, the one with the overwhelming turnout. Over the years I've watched all the band members lose weight, raise families, deal with Kevin Hearn's battle with cancer, become the house band for Mix 98.5, and mature as artists. Heck, I've been a fan so long I can even remember Andy Creegan, and I remember being bummed when he left the band before the release of Born on a Pirate Ship.

Steven Page, though ... he holds a special place in my heart. When I was in college, I got the chance to interview Steve for The Justice. It may not have been my finest piece of journalism, but it certainly was one of the most fun interviews I've ever done. When I set up the chat with the PR person, I was told I'd be speaking with Tyler Stewart, the drummer. Then, at the appointed time, the phone rang and it was Steven — calling from a phone booth, natch. It caught me off-guard, but made me very excited. After all, how often do you get to interview the lead singer of your favorite band? The story became a preferred clip to show off to potential employers early in my career, so I guess you could say Steven helped me get my start in the journalism world. When BNL played the Berklee Performance Center two weeks after my interview, even though it was a cold February night, my friends and I hung around the stage door after the show to meet the guys in person, take pictures, and get their autographs. No surprise, that was one of the highlights of my junior year.

Barenaked Ladies without Steven Page just won't be Barenaked Ladies. This is meant as no slight to Ed Robertson or the other guys, but it's true. Songs like "Break Your Heart," "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank," or "What a Good Boy" will simply have to be retired because no one will ever be able to sing them like Steven did. And other tunes like the classic "If I Had $1000000" won't be the same without Steven's contributions. None of the other guys can dance like Steven, or control the crowd like he did during his post-"$1000000" refrain of "Memory." And the banter between Steven and Ed. Who will Ed joke with now in the live shows or on tracks like "Crazy ABCs," from their recent kids album Snacktime? I'm sorry, but they're no longer Barenaked Ladies if Steven Page isn't in the band.

Barenaked Ladies were the soundtrack to my 20s and early 30s, and today it's almost like I am closing the book on that chapter of my life. I wish Steven all the best in the future, and hope he deals with all the issues that lead to his decision to leave the band in a way that lets him close the book on that chapter of his life. As for BNL, I'll still follow the band (they're going to start recording a new album in April), but not with the same enthusiasm. I'm already looking forward to the reunion. I'll miss you, Steve. Good luck, buddy.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Slanket Sadness

Life's been so good lately that I knew eventually I'd have a setback. I just never expected it would come from my niece, Abby.

You see, when I got a Slanket, I thought to myself, "Abby will love being cuddled up in this thing!" I mean, it's so soft and comfy. What nine-month-old baby wouldn't love being wrapped up in it? So when I went home to New York this past weekend, I brought the Slanket with me to test out my theory. Well, suffice it to say, the kid didn't like it. I got the Slanket on, laid down on the couch, and took Abby in my arms. And what did she do? She got fidgety and antsy. And then she cried until she was picked up. The first time we tried it, we chalked it up to Abby being tired. (Which, I know, doesn't make much sense. After all, I've fallen asleep wearing it.) But after her nap, things didn't change. She was just as unhappy. It practically broke my heart.

So ... while the kid and I are real tight otherwise (and we really are), on this we have to agree to disagree. Maybe when she gets older, Abby will come to appreciate the wonder and magic that is the Slanket. As her uncle, I think it's my responsibility to teach her this important lesson.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who Knew?

Tuesday night I took my friend Mike out for dinner to say thanks for helping me get my new job. We had planned to eat at Legal Seafoods out in Natick, but he pulled a last-minute switcheroo on me and we ended up next door at Metro 9 Steak House, a place I'd never heard of before or even noticed when I've driven by. Let me tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. Longtime readers of this blog know of my love for Ruth's Chris when it comes to steak places. Well, I may now have a second favorite steak place. The 10 oz filet mignon I had Tuesday was missing the dollop of butter that you get at Ruth's Chris but it was still juicy and full of flavor, with no fat and no gristle. It went down easy. I also had an iceberg wedge salad and sauteed broccoli, and still had room for dessert somehow. Point is, this place was great. A little pricey perhaps, and the chocolate mousse cake was unimpressive, but I'd definitely go back. Who knew that across the street from the Natick Collection in one of the strips of stores there was a place this good? Well, now you do. And now I have something else to thank Mike for.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

"Don't Let a Cheese Hit Me"

The Amazing Race returned last night for its 14th (!!) season. Even after all these years, the show remains new and exciting every season because while teams will make similar mistakes, they never go to the same exact cities or do the same exact stunts. Case in point: Last night, in Interlaken, Switzerland, the teams had to walk up a steep, slippery hill, where they had to grab four 50-pound slabs of cheese per team, and then they had to bring them down the hill on a carrying device. Suffice it to say, it wasn't so easy. You can watch for yourself right here:

(If you want to watch the full episode, just click here. It's worth it.)

Ten teams remain (including one with the show's first deaf contestant). The show airs every Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS, and next week the teams really get creamed in Germany. One season, I'm hoping you may even see me racing. I mean, hell, if one of the stunts is doing a 70-story bungee jump, then I am so there. The world is waiting for me.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Not an Easy Read

A movie that explores guilt, secrets, and an illicit affair between an older woman and a younger man, The Reader certainly is provocative. The film tells the story of Michael Berg (played by David Kross and Ralph Fiennes), who meets Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet) in 1958, when he is only 15, and begins an affair with her that lasts a summer. Hanna is turned on when Michael reads to her, so he pleasures her by reading The Odyssey, Huckleberry Finn, and other books. Then one day Hanna disappears. When she resurfaces 10 years later, she is on trial for crimes committed when she was a guard during the Holocaust. Michael, now a law student, must grapple with what he knows about Hanna, and must decide whether to divulge a secret that could hold the key to whether Hanna is found innocent or guilty.

In her Oscar-nominated role, Winslet is quite good. Maybe not blow-you-away good, but she's quite effective in the role of a mysterious woman who puts her personal pride ahead of all else. (She's as good here as she is in Revolutionary Road). I wish she looked more believable, though; when Hanna is older, she still looks like the 33-year-old Winslet, just with a lot of obviously caked-on makeup. Kross is also very good, but it takes a leap of faith to believe his aging as well; he looks the same at 15 as he does at 25, and then at 35 all of a sudden he looks like Ralph Fiennes.

Makeup aside, The Reader is a very good movie and I liked it. I thought the premise could have been handled differently, in a way that would have been more dramatic, but the high-minded, quiet tone here reflects Hannah's inner turmoil and Michael's conflicted feelings well. I felt uncomfortable being sympathetic toward Hanna, and I think that's more a problem of casting, because Winslet doesn't make it easy to dislike her, no matter how good her performance is.

Also, since I saw The Reader so late, after the Oscar nominations had been announced, I couldn't help but judge it with its accolades in mind. Would I have named it one of the top five films of the year? No. The Dark Knight should have gotten The Reader's slot. This is a good movie to be sure, but I'm only going to give it a B+.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Crazy Love

I'm sure that when I'm actually in a relationship I'll feel differently about Valentine's Day, but since I'm single at the present time, I think that gives me the right to make fun of the folks I saw tonight in Harvard Square. (Yes, I know. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I try to do things I love on VDay, and going to Harvard Square is not one of them. But forget that for a minute, alright?)

Anyway, where was I? ... On Valentine's Day, do couples know how silly they look when they walk around and the girl is holding a single rose with all the care they'd give a child? Or how it looks to all the non-coupled people when they see couples walking together holding hands and looking like they're out having the single greatest night ever? And how phony it looks when the guy is holding some small bag containing the girl's gift? Or, better yet, when they're riding around town in a limo? I was out tonight with three friends — two women and one guy, just for the record — and even though two of them are a couple, it was totally casual. To all who could see, we were just a group of friends hanging out. And I don't say that to be holier than thou. My couple friends are casual. There was no hand-holding, no PDA, no "couple stuff." So it was really fun.

Now, I totally get that not every relationship is like that, and I'm not saying it's a bad thing when couples are affectionate. And I'm also not saying I have anything against couples. All I'm saying is that on Valentine's Day eve of all nights, it's amusing to be single and to see couples being all, you know, coupley, because it looks really forced and obvious. And again, I'm sure I'll feel totally different about this when I'm in a couple; hell, I'm sure I'll overdo it just like the rest of the folks I saw tonight. But until then ... I think this is a funny night to people watch.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day, Everyone

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Maybe D.C. Should Stand for 'Drama Central'"

If you enjoyed the first episode of's The District, then you'll love episode two:

Check back next week for episode three.


Monday, February 09, 2009

It's Definitely Her

If you enjoyed Lily Allen's song "Smile," with its upbeat melody and quite bitter lyrics ("When I see you cry, it makes me smile"), not to mention its revenge fantasy video, then chances are good you'll love her new album, It's Not Me, It's You, which hits stores tomorrow. As Blender magazine recently said, the album is "part God, part country and all middle finger." That's about right, since the songs on the album discuss politics, religious fundamentalism, ex-boyfriends, and more, all in Lily's take-no-prisoners style.

This second disc by the British singer boasts great music mixed with a ton of attitude. Like many of the tracks on Allen's self-titled debut, the bright, bouncy melodies here will hook you, and then you'll stop and realize just what it is you're singing along to. Of course, then you'll just laugh your arse off. Case in point, the infectuous pop tune of a track like "Fuck You," which may just be my favorite track on the entire album — and not just because it's a rant against George W. Bush. Have a listen and try not to sing along.

I've embedded the video for the album's lead single, "The Fear," below. Like most other tracks, it's got a great beat and a catchy chorus. Many of these songs will be popular in clubs and at parties. Personally, I've had the disc on repeat play in my car since I downloaded it a week ago.

Another personal favorite track is "Never Gonna Happen." Thought I'd share some of the lyrics here:
Please can you stop calling
'cause it's getting really boring
and I've told you I don't want to be friends.
Believe me when I tell you that I never want to see you again.

How on earth could I be anymore obvious?
It never really did and now it's never gonna happen with the two of us.
I don't understand what it is that you're chasing after,
but it makes me really sad to hear you sound so desperate.
It just makes it harder.

Anyway, I've already got my tickets to see Lily live here in Boston and I can't wait. Till then I'm going to tide myself over with this album, which I highly recommend.

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You've Gotta Love the New York Post

Today's cover is simple, direct, and to the point.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

"And then ... I actually won!"

What If Barack Obama starred in his own Washington, D.C.–set version of The Hills or The City? Watch this and see for yourself what some folks at Newsweek have cooked up. There's nothing staged about it.

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An Exception to the Rule

Based on the the best-selling book of the same name by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, the film He's Just Not That Into You tries to dramatize and explain — and make light of — the reasons why dating is so hard for so many people. We meet the wrong people. We believe lies. We get overeager and share too much about ourselves up front. We don't read the signs. Etc. Etc. We've all done it or caused someone else to do it. Thankfully, the movie doesn't remind us of all these stupid behaviors in grating, annoying fashion. Instead, it's a surprisingly enjoyable time that won't make men feel emasculated or ashamed when the lights come up.

To be clear, HJNTIY is less of a romantic comedy than romantic dramedy. Which is not to say that it's unfunny. It's just that more of the laughs come from watching the movie and saying to yourself, "I've done that" (or listening to people around you who say it), or from knowing that what the characters are doing is exactly the wrong thing to do (and, yes, hearing people who sit next to you call that out). The Altman-esque ensemble is filled with likable actors in likable, sympathetic roles — even Scarlett Johansson, who plays a seductress who tries to break up a marriage, while also trying to deflect the affections of a young suitor played by Entourage's Kevin Connolly. Think Love Actually, but set it in Baltimore not at Christmastime, and cast it with younger people, and you have the basic idea.

Much of the movie is told from the POV of Ginnifer Goodwin's Gigi, the prototypical single girl who keeps falling for the wrong guys and believing they're more interested in her than they actually are. When a guy tells her he'll call and then doesn't, Gigi spends all day checking her voice mail and working herself up over why he hasn't, and whether she should call him or do a "drive-by" at a place she knows he'll be. On one such drive-by, Gigi befriends Alex (Justin Long), the manager of a bar, who advises her in blunt, honest style about how to understand men (essentially, he's Behrendt's stand-in). If you, like me, were a fan of the TV show Ed, then you'll agree that it's good to see these two back together again all these years later. The entire cast has easy chemistry, and while they all don't interact with each other, the relationships on screen do seem believable.

Thankfully, HJNTIY avoids most of the obvious cliches of chick flicks: there's no silly montage of bad dates, no gay best friend, no cheesy soundtrack, no sitcom-y cliches, no nothing like that. Which, I think, means that HJNTIY may not be a chick flick at all, given the conventional definition. Yes, some of the story lines do end happily, but not all of them, and it's not like there's sweeping music or guys running down the street to meet an impossible deadline or anything cliched like that to make you groan when they do. The women here are not swans in ugly duckling wardrobes, or put-upon sad sacks prone to clumsy antics, who are waiting for Prince Charming ... and the guys are portrayed in equally imperfect fashion. This is essentially a lesson movie, but it's one whose lessons go down easy.

Because dating foibles are something we can all identify with, and because it's not just the women who are the victims here, HJNTIY is actually a movie that can be enjoyed by either gender. Could it be a tad shorter than two hours, 10 minutes? Sure. But the winning cast keeps things moving and the relatable storylines keep the action engaging. I'm into He's Just Not That Into You so I'm giving it a B+.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Knock, Knock

If you loved last night's episode of The Office — and I don't know how you couldn't have — here is a deleted scene that didn't make it into the broadcast.


Best. Halftime. Show. Ever.

Bruce definitely lived up to the hype. Here is his halftime show (in two parts) if you missed it ... or want to watch it again.

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Give Me a Hug

Just a reminder that today, February 2, is Hug a Jew Day, as declared by a guy named Eitan Abir on Facebook. No kidding. According to the official page on Facebook, there are more than 228,000 people who will be celebrating all around the world. Are you one of them? If you would like to get in on the fun but are someone with no Jews in your life and need someone to hug, let me know and I'll hook you up.


Time to Find a New Job?

I loved this ad on Sunday night. It reminds me of what my life was like two months ago. Kudos to's ad agency for the creative work here.