Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rage Against the Machines

To the Town of Newton:

I realize there's probably no good time to do construction work, but don't you think 7:30 a.m. is a little too early to start using a buzzsaw and a crane and whatever else is being used right outside my window at this too-early-in-the-morning hour? There's pavement being lifted, sidewalk being removed, holes being dug ... and it's making a hell of a lot of noise. And it's not the first time something like this has happened. There've recently been a few days where I've woken up to the very loud whirring of the machines, and there was even a night not too long ago where it was going on past midnight. This work has been going on since March. When will it end???

When I moved to this condo, I realized I was moving near a college and a T stop and that it wouldn't be sooooo quiet. But this is just ridiculous. I'd love it if you could be a little more considerate and respectful of the people who live right here where you're doing this work and schedule it at less intrusive hours.




Monday, June 29, 2009

Style, But Not Enough Substance

During the Great Depression, John Dillinger gained national attention for his thrilling bank robberies. Hailed as a modern-day Robin Hood, Dillinger was slick, suave, and cool, and the media, while covering his violent crimes, also augmented his legend. Dillinger took money from the banks, but respected the common people, who were hurting financially. And despite the public's love for his exploits, Dillinger hid from the feds right in plain sight. Michael Mann's Public Enemies details the attempts by FBI agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale) to capture Dillinger (Johnny Depp), and romanticizes the high-style life that Dillinger lived and the excitement of his robberies — with Dillinger often leaping over the counter and getting away from police by narrow margins. The movie is elegantly filmed at times, thrillingly told at others, and quite muscular in sound, what with all the heavy gunfire. It even has a heavy dose of authenticity, since much of it was filmed in the same locales the real-life Dillinger had visited.

If only the movie had more dramatic tension. Unlike some of Mann's other films (like Heat and The Insider), the mano-a-mano just isn't as compelling here. Depp, with his charisma, his confidence, and his charm pretty much runs away with the movie, and Bale never quite measures up as a worthy opponent. Even Oscar winner Marion Cotillard feels wasted in the thankless girlfriend role. In addition, there's not enough character development, so as a result, we get to watch some cool robbery scenes, some good chases, and some fun prison breaks, but there's not much more to the film, no real arc that makes us invest more in Dillinger and feel a sense of loss when he does eventually meet his end. I'm only going to give Public Enemies a B, because Depp's always great fun to watch, but it's a crime that this film doesn't really make good on its promise.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Remembering the Time

The truth of the matter is, Michael Jackson hadn't released a truly great album since Bad. But then again, after you've put out a masterpiece like Thriller, where else is there to go but down? Still, it's hard to deny that MJ put out some damned good songs when he was in his prime. I mean, "Rock with You," "PYT," "Wanna Be Startin' Something," "Billie Jean," "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Man in the Mirror," "Human Nature," "Smooth Criminal," etc. One hit after another. And that's not even touching the Jackson 5 classics. The guy was just great and all those songs stand the test of time.

I remember when I first became a Michael Jackson fan. Like many people my age, it was in 1982 when I first heard Thriller (on cassette). I wanted to be just like Michael, and I remember pestering my parents to buy me a replica jacket of the red leather one Michael wore in the "Thriller" video. (They never did give in.) How many times did I practice moonwalking back then? How cool did I think Alfonso Ribeiro was for starring in that Pepsi commercial with Michael? Did I maybe wear my sweatshirt with an iron-on Thriller cover on it too often? I'll tell you, I took a lot of grief from my classmates for liking Michael as much as I did back then. In 1995, when I was interning at Advertising Age in New York, I was there at the press conference where Michael helped announce the nominees for MTV's Video Music Awards. It was one of the highlights of that summer.

My affinity for the man may have waned over the years, but my love of his music has remained constant. In fact, I've long kept a Michael Jackson mix on my iPod or my iPhone for those moments when the mood strikes, and it does often.

It's such a shame that Michael's later years were so bizarre because they really tarnished how people saw him, and how he'll be remembered by the majority. Tonight I'm mourning Michael's premature death by putting his songs on an endless loop. Thanks, Michael, for hours and hours of musical pleasure.


A Fine Romance

No doubt the title of the new film (500) Days of Summer (which hits theaters in mid-July) has to sound like a bit of a fantasy for all of us here in Boston, where it's been a pretty bad summer so far weather-wise, what with the rain and cooler temperatures that have lasted into late June. The tough news to share is that this movie does not offer sunshine and warmth; it's actually a bit of a cold shoulder. But the good news is that should the weather stay miserable, (500) Days offers a decent alternative to walking around town with an umbrella.

In the film, Tom is a hopeless romantic who believes in love at first sight, destiny, and all that stuff. He even has the hopelessly cheesy job of writing greeting cards for a living. But he's played by indie film fave Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Lookout), so I guess that actually makes him pretty cool (or at least it's supposed to). When Tom sees Summer (played by another favorite of the indie film crowd, Zooey Deschanel), he is instantly smitten. Of course he is — Summer is adorable. And despite the fact that she informs Tom that she does not believe in love and prefers to be single, he pursues her anyway. Then one day, totally out of the blue, Summer kisses Tom. And over the next year and a half, the two bond and become something resembling a couple (at least in his eyes). We see in the film's opening scene that the two eventually break up, a development that leaves Tom devastated. Will he ever get over the girl of his dreams? Does he still believe in love and destiny?

(500) Days is a romantic film for those who don't like romantic films. It has a decidedly hipster/indie feel to it that starts with the two leads and continues through the disjointed timeline, the soundtrack (which features the Smiths, Feist, and Regina Spektor, among other folks), and the less than romantic plot trajectory. Which is not to say the film doesn't dabble in cheese every now and then (especially in a scene the morning after the couple has done the deed, where Tom hears Hall & Oates, dances in the street with strangers, and sees cartoon birds), but it's pretty far away from, say, He's Just Not That Into You and films of that ilk. Also to the film's credit is the fact that Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel both give winning performances and make an attractive couple. They ground the film in honest, cool reality, giving it a welcome authenticity that's a nice change from conventional, mainstream romances.

Still, (500) Days does feel a little too proud of its hipster-ness, and watching the movie, surrounded by young twentysomethings as I was, I felt like I may have been a little too old to really and truly enjoy it to the full extent. So that's why, when the lights came up, I decided to only give the film a B — which means the film is good, but it's not the instant classic it so wants to be.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

iLove It

It's official: I'm in love. Oh, don't act so surprised. You had to see this coming. After all, a person doesn't wait three hours for something he's going to dislike. Yes, that's right, I love my new iPhone. I love how nice it looks. I love how fun it is. I love how convenient it is to check email on the go. I love the seemingly unlimited battery life (at least compared to my old lame-ass Motorola phone). I love being able to take spur-of-the-moment videos. I really love listening to and watching baseball games live, thanks to the MLB At Bat app. I love having more memory capacity than I know what to do with. I love checking Facebook whenever and wherever I am, and updating my status accordingly. I love most everything about the iPhone 3GS, and I'm baffled as to how I was able to live without an iPhone for so long. Just about the only thing I hate about the thing is how it's turning me very quickly into that guy — the one who stands there on a movie line or when he has nothing better to do and just plays or checks his messages or whatever. Wasn't I always able to amuse myself just fine before I had an iPhone, and didn't I mock people like that?

Jeez, you'd think the iPhone had just come out the way I've been going on about it the past few days. Yes, I know it's been around for two years and I'm for sure not the first person to get one. I'm late to the party, and it's not the first time. But so what if it took me a while? I love having an iPhone, so I'm going a bit overboard here. Don't mind me. I'm just a man in love.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

2.5 Years and 3 Hours Later

I remember the first time I learned about the iPhone. It was January 2007 and I was in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show in the press room. Details about the new Apple device, which was not actually on display there in Vegas, spread like wildfire, and just like that, everything else at CES was rendered insignificant. But as much as I wanted an iPhone when they hit stores that summer, I knew I should wait for the second version.

Last summer, my family gave me an iPod Touch for my birthday, and I returned it because I wanted one of the new second generation iPhones, which had just hit stores. But then I heard that a higher-capacity version would be out around the holidays, so I decided to wait a little longer. Obviously, that rumor didn't come true, and at that point, I had waited long enough so I decided to wait six more months for the third-generation iPhone.

All year long I waited for news of the announcement. And as the Worldwide Developers Conference approached, reading the Unofficial Apple Weblog became a daily habit. I'd even go to various Apple stores to check some of the things I heard, but the salesfolks always kept mum. Suffice it to say, when it was announced two weeks ago that the iPhone 3GS would go on sale on June 19, I blocked that night on my calendar so I could go to the Apple Store and finally get my iPhone.

Let's cut to the chase. After work on Friday night, after getting shut out at the Chestnut Hill store (because I didn't pre-order my phone in time) and learning via phone that I'd be no more successful at the Cambridgeside Galleria, I headed down to the Apple Store on Boylston St., where I was told they had an almost unlimited supply of phones. I got there at 6:50 p.m. and got in line outside the store. Lindsay, one of the friendly and enthusiastic greeters, came by with water, granola bars, and candy for us, and then she hung around to answer any questions we had. People on the street, a surprising number of clueless ones, would stop to ask what the line was for. And then, at 7:20, I went in ... and got in another, longer line. Thankfully, I stood behind a guy who already had an iPhone (he was there to get one with his girlfriend), and after telling me about some cool apps that I should get, he gave me a tip on creating my own ringtones for free. Other greeters passed out more water, granola bars, and candy, and hung around to answer questions. Despite the wait, spirits were high all around.

Finally, at 9:05, a salesperson named Elias came over to help me. They say the S in the iPhone 3GS stands for speed, but clearly that speed did not apply to those of us waiting in line. Why did it take so long? Well, it's mostly because Apple's customer service is so good — and I say that without any hint of irony or sarcasm. Elias, like all the other salespeople were doing with other customers, worked with me one-on-one, answering all my questions, showing me any accessories I wanted to see, and walking me through the entire purchasing process. He did this enthusiastically and intelligently, without pressuring me to buy things I didn't need. How he was able to do this with such a positive, patient attitude after working all day I just don't know. But suffice it to say, I was impressed.

After my sale was final, Elias took me upstairs, where a "genius" named Lee helped me activate my phone, set it up, and get it working. Again, he did so with a smile and patience, and didn't make me feel silly for asking some basic things. Whoever is training these Apple retail folks is doing a damned good job. It made the fact that when I finally left the store, I hardly noticed that it was three hours after I had arrived.

Of course, the point of the story is this: The wait is over and I now have an iPhone! Woo hoo! I'm very excited, even if that makes me sound geeky. And so far, it was totally worth it. My iPhone is so fast and cool and I love it. I've already loaded the thing up with music, videos, and a few apps. More of each to come. Woo hoo! Kudos to Apple for creating such a cool-ass device, and for having such great people in the store selling it.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

You'll Shoot His Eye Out, Kid

Unlike most people, I actually like jury duty. I just find the whole process fascinating, and there's always a good story to tell when the trial's over. However, until this week, I had never actually had the chance to sit on a jury and deliberate. I came close, in 1996, when I was seated on the panel in a drug entrapment case in New York City. It was really cool, but after sitting through three days of arguments, I was sent home because I was only an alternate. I was totally bummed. So much, in fact, that I called the courthouse the next day to find out what the verdict was (innocent, just as I would have voted).

Three years ago, I was called to Foxborough for jury duty on a random Monday in August and hoped for the best, but, well, it was a random Monday in August, so there were no cases to try and I was sent home. When I received my summons to appear this week in Woburn, I anticipated the same fate. I even sent an email to coworkers telling them that I'd be back on Tuesday. After all, what could possibly be going on in Woburn?

Well, unbeknownst to me, Woburn is now the home of the county's Superior Court, and there are plenty of cases to be tried there, most lasting multiple days. "Luck" was on my side, and when I checked in Monday morning, I was randomly assigned the number one, so I was almost assured of being seated on some case. And by 10 a.m., there I was, seated on the jury of a civil case. More on that later, though.

Surprisingly enough, having jury duty in Woburn is actually quite cool, but it's not without its amusements. For instance, as nice and high tech as the new courthouse building is, they still show that awful 1970s-era orientation film with the fake judge and lawyers, including the one who talks with his hands on his lapels as if to signify that what he's saying is so very important. Then, when the judge told us today that he was recording his instructions for us so we could play it back later, he did so on an old cassette recorder. So, while the building and the court itself may be present-day, some aspects of the operations there are still hopelessly stuck in a time warp.

But on the other hand, it was very impressive dealing with the judge and various court officers, all of whom seemed genuinely interested in the process and treated us with kindness and respect, explaining everything as we went along without being condescending. I don't have a bad thing to say about anyone, and I especially appreciated the judge on our case, who spoke with us for about 20 minutes after the verdict was rendered, to answer any questions we had about the whole process (though not about our case specifically).

Alright, so about that case. First, it was a civil case, not a criminal one, so it had nothing to do with guilty or innocent. Rather, there was a dispute we had to settle. It involved two 16-year-old guys (they're now 21), a BB gun, and a pellet that hit one of them in the eye. (Yes, it was hard not to think of A Christmas Story during the proceedings.) The dispute centered around whose side of the story was more believable: did one guy shoot the other (as the plaintiff said) or did the gun go off while the two were wrestling for it (as the defendant said)? We heard from three witnesses on both sides, some of whom were non-English speakers and needed a translator.

Both sides had a different version of the events, and that made for an interesting case (despite the fact that some of it moved kinda slowly). Suffice it to say, when we got the case for deliberation, we had plenty to discuss. A lively but thorough three-hour discussion later, we had our verdict: we found in favor of the plaintiff, and awarded him damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and "pain and suffering." I suggested that our foreperson remind the defendant that "You'll shoot your eye out, kid," but actually, the defendant was not in the room when the verdict was read — and of course, that would have been totally inappropriate. (And, it should be noted, the defendant did not shoot the other guy's eye out, but the plaintiff did have residual issues with his sight because of the incident.)

During the orientation on Monday, we were told that in 1774, John Adams said, "Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty." I guess by that measure, you might say that over the past three days, I kept this country alive. Yeah, jury duty's not all bad. You just have to go into it with the right attitude.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Money Train

It's just another day in New York City when the message comes in that a subway car has been taken hostage. And so begins The Taking of Pelham 123, a remake of the 1974 film that starred Walter Matthau. In this update, Denzel Washington is subway dispatcher Walter Garber, and John Travolta is the mastermind behind the crime, a man who identifies himself only as "Ryder." Also in a high-profile role is James Gandolfini, who plays the lame duck mayor and at one point says he won't call a press conference because "I'm not running for president. I left my Giuliani suit at home."

There were moments in this movie where I wished Washington and Travolta had switched roles, and where I wished Gandolfini was less of a caricature and more of a power player. Also, there were times where the plot and characters tried my patience — the kid and his girlfriend on their webcam, for example. But as summer popcorn movies go, Pelham is a fast-moving, effective thriller. Director Tony Scott infuses the movie with an urban feel that doesn't get diluted by the big stars at the center. The film is very New York, and despite that, it's a good time. I'm giving Pelham a solid B.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chocolate Goodness

There's a certain freedom that comes from knowing that as much as I may want to lose weight, it's more fun to not even try. So that's why when I saw on the Travel Channel or the Food Network or some other channel earlier this year that there was a Chocolate Bar at the Langham Hotel here in Boston, I knew I'd get there sooner or later. Thankfully, Nina felt the same way I did, so we went with her husband today to celebrate my birthday, his birthday, and their anniversary in gluttonous style.

I won't go into great detail about how much I ate, but let's just say I had my fill. The mini whoopie pies were delicious, as was the chocolate croissant bread pudding, marshmallow crunch cup, flourless chocolate cake, s'mores cup ... actually, it was all delicious. Yes, it's true: I had a chocolate crepe stuffed with M&Ms, white chocolate, and Oreo pieces. Yes, I called cotton candy (sprinkled with cocoa powder) a "palate cleanser." Yes, there was a chocolate fountain. No, I did not make my own chocolate bar. And no, I did not eat everything I took on my plate the three times I went up to the buffet; after a while, I was getting stuffed just looking at it. But I feel like I certainly got my money's worth (the whole thing costs a rather high $38 per person).

Clearly, buffets are my weakness. But damn ... how tasty and fun it is to indulge once in a while.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

About Last Night

I've been to Las Vegas twice, but thankfully, I've never experienced anything quite as crazy as what you'll see in The Hangover. This movie — a sort-of cross between Very Bad Things and Dude, Where's My Car? — is about a bachelor party gone very wrong, and how the morning after, three guys attempt to piece together what happened the night before (and find the groom, who has gone missing). The unlikely trio of Bradley Cooper (Alias), Ed Helms (The Office), and Zach Galifianakis (Between Two Ferns) generate plenty of laughs — to spoil any of them would just be cruel, although there are a bunch of clips available on the web that ruin a few surprises. No matter. If you've seen the movies Road Trip or Old School, both of which were directed by Hangover director Todd Phillips, then you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. This is a very funny comedy that served its purpose after a night of drinks for my birthday. I'm giving The Hangover a solid B.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

One Degree Closer?

I was reading the new issue of Entertainment Weekly this weekend, and in a Q&A with actress Kyra Sedgwick, who is, of course, married to Kevin Bacon, I saw this exchange:
Do you pay attention to your press?
My husband is a Google Alert guy. He has one on himself and me. I'm like, Dude, I don't want to know what people are saying.

So I just wanted to test that out. If you're reading this, Kevin or Kyra ... Hi there! How's it going?

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Lots to Celebrate

It wasn't me who coined the phrase "The Day of All Days," but whatever you call it, the day is here again. Today is my birthday — number 35. Jeez, I'm getting old. Thankfully, I don't feel 35. And of course, I don't act like I'm 35. Today especially, where I'm all about attention and celebrating, just like I was when I was seven. One of my coworkers this week defined a good birthday as "having people that care about you take the time out to recognize that," and I definitely agree. I spent last night out with a good number of them. Suffice it to say, it was a blast. I'm not exactly sure what today will bring, but it's certainly a day for celebrating. My 34th year had its ups and downs, but the second half certainly was great, what with my new job and all kinds of positive changes that it has brought with it, so I'll definitely be spending the day today with a big smile on my face in recognition of how happy I am.

So ... happy birthday to me! Woo hoo!


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Touch of Grey

I've been fascinated by the story of the Beales for only a short time now — ever since I watched the movie Grey Gardens on HBO — and when I heard that there was going to be a production of the Broadway adaptation here in Boston at the Lyric Stage Company, I decided to check it out (with my friend Nina). I'd never seen the Tony Award–winning show when it was on Broadway, never had much interest, but hey, why not see it now? The story remains fascinating to me, and thankfully this production (which ends today) kept the mystery alive.

Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter, "Little" Edie, were the eccentric relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. In the 1940s, they were the toast of the town, living a high society life on East Hampton, Long Island. But their lives fell apart, and by the 1970s, they were broke recluses living in their now-decrepit mansion (called Grey Gardens). The co-dependent women, as dramatized in the musical, blame each other for their fate, but neither can quite live without the other. Little Edie is nothing short of a kook, going on about her bizarre "revolutionary costume for today" and her dreams deferred.

In the show, many in the cast of actors play multiple roles. Most notably, Leigh Barrett plays Big Edie in the first act (which takes place in 1941) and Little Edie in the second (which takes place in 1973). She was this production's obvious standout performer. The second act is definitely the more enjoyable of the two, and I didn't walk out humming any of the songs (other than "The Revolutionary Costume for Today," with its da-da-da-da-da), but overall I'm happy I saw the show. Now I feel like I want to watch the famous Maysles brothers documentary.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Watching the new film Away We Go, it's hard not to think of Billy Joel's classic song, "You're My Home." The story of a couple traveling around the country in search of a place to live before their baby is born, Away We Go is a very sweet film and a very nice surprise. Written by Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and his wife, Vendela Vida, directed by Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road), and starring The Office's John Krasinski and Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph, it's filled with enough quirky characters to fill a few independent films, and it defies a bit of logic (for example, how this couple that is just barely scraping by is able to afford cross-country travel), but it has so much heart and so many laughs, and the acting by Krasinski and Rudolph is so unexpectedly tender and good, that you can suspend your disbelief pretty easily.

Calling Away We Go simple is not meant as a put-down. This is a film where the central couple does not have any wild fluctuations in mood or status; they begin the film as a couple and they remain a couple throughout (something Eggers, Krasinski, and Rudolph discussed with pride when I saw the film on Sunday). Burt and Verona are directionless 30-somethings, both working odd jobs that barely allow them to make a living (he sells insurance to insurance companies and she does medical illustrations). When his parents (the delightfully kooky Catherine O'Hara and Jeff Daniels) announce they're moving to Belgium a month before their grandchild is born, Burt and Verona realize they can now live anywhere they want, so they set off for the ideal place to raise their child. Along the way, they spend not-so-quality time with some less-than-ideal parental role models, and they make some important realizations about their own relationship.

Is the place where Burt and Verona settle really that important, or is it just a matter of them reaching that place together? In Away We Go, the journey is more important than the destination, and watching Krasinski and Rudolph negotiate this delicate matter, it's one that's worth taking. I'm giving this film a solid B (and recommending that you download Alexi Murdoch's beautiful song, "All My Days").


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Sky's the Limit

They say a picture's worth a thousand words. And then there are Pixar movies, where the beautiful imagery is just priceless. So it goes in the company's latest, the simply named Up, which is a gorgeous, bright, colorful movie that has as much depth and emotion as it does stunning visuals. I just don't know how those Pixar folks do it. Every single film they make is an impressive achievement, each one better than the last.

At the beginning of Up, Carl Fredricksen, a shy little boy, meets Ellie, a tomboy, who shares his interest in exploration and adventure. Over the course of five minutes, we watch as these two grow up, get married, and grow old together, always dreaming of traveling to Paradise Falls in South America. When Ellie passes away (get your tissues ready — seriously), Carl is left alone in their house, and when he's forced out by a construction crew that wants to build on his land, Carl decides to finally make his and Ellie's dream come true: He attaches hundreds of balloons to the house and floats away.

Of course, this being a Disney film, Carl is accompanied by Russell, a chubby Wilderness Explorer who is trying to earn his "Assisting the Elderly" badge. Russell has a neglectful father, but he shares Carl's sense of wonder, and the two become companions as they travel south of the border.

It's hard to say just what makes Up such a special movie because so much of it is just wonderful, but for me, as always with these films, it comes down to the animation. The Pixar geniuses pack so much emotion into their characters that you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be on the edge of your seat at times, and you'll feel proud at others. These animated characters act better than many real-life actors, and the direction (by Pete Docter) is just perfect. The film doesn't ever become cloying or patronizing, and every emotion you feel is earned. And again, the images are just stunning. You won't see more gorgeous footage all year than the couple minutes after Carl takes off and his house is sailing through the sky. Each balloon is rendered brilliantly, and against the perfect blue sky it's just an incredible sight.

And if you see Up in 3D, like I did ... Wow. Just wow. You don't have to see Up in 3D, but the amount of depth and dimension it adds to the film is absolutely worth the extra couple bucks you'll pay. This is not gratuitous stunt 3D. It's natural and organic, and after a while, you don't even notice it (which is meant as a compliment).

No surprise, Up is one of the year's best movies so far and a real achievement for the folks at Pixar. I had been looking forward to this one for some time, and it definitely did not disappoint. I'm giving Up an A.

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I'm Gonna Go to Friendly's

What better way to spend my upcoming birthday weekend (psssst ... the big day is Sunday) than by enjoying some free ice cream at Friendly's? Woo hoo! So consider this your heads up. From noon to 5 p.m. this Saturday, Friendly's is giving out free scoops of ice cream. I'll be there. Will you?

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Remix Gets Iced

I'm not one to complain about getting something for free, especially when it comes to ice cream. In fact, there are few things I get excited for more than free ice cream. So you have to assume that when the good folks at Cold Stone Creamery emailed me Sunday with a coupon for a free ice cream in honor of my birthday (which, ahem, is this Sunday), I was quite excited. That is, I was excited until I saw the coupon itself: good for a free small size original creation of my choice, i.e.: ice cream and one mix-in. One. You'd think that Cold Stone, which features a Signature Creation called Birthday Cake Remix (yum), would offer you a free cup or cone of that flavor — or at least a creation with enough mix-ins so you can make it yourself — on your birthday. Nope. Not that this is going to stop me from claiming my gift between now and June 14, when the coupon expires, but I just thought it deserved a comment.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Lock Me Up

Here's another story from the "Sometimes I Can Be Such a Moron" department ...

So as you know, Saturday night I went to see Dave Matthews Band at Fenway. I drove my car to the St. Mary's T stop on Beacon St., fed the parking meter, and hopped on the T to meet some friends at Bukowski's. As the train started to pull away, I thought to myself, "Wait a second. Did I lock my car door? Yes, of course I did. Why wouldn't I? How could I forget that?" (You know where this story is going, don't you?)

Well, more than six hours later, when I returned to my car, I learned that sure enough, my door was unlocked. Thankfully, though, everything was just as I remembered it and no one had stolen anything from me. Phew! But I still felt awfully stupid, and since then, I've been really paranoid about locking the door (and doing it twice so I get the assurance of a beep).

As stupid as it was of me to forget to lock the door, I also had this thought: My car door was unlocked for more than six hours on a busy street, and despite all the foot traffic of people going to and from Fenway or just out for a Saturday night stroll, no one made any attempt to get into my car. I guess that says a lot about how safe Brookline is, right? (Not that I'm going to make a habit of leaving my door unlocked in the future or anything.)

There They Were

I spent Sunday evening at the Coolidge Corner Theater, which was hosting a screening of the new movie Away We Go. It was a benefit for 826 Boston, the after-school writing and tutoring center founded by Dave Eggers, who most folks know from his awesome book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (yes, I have actually read it). Eggers, who wrote the film with his wife, was billed as the headliner for the evening, and he was there to do a Q&A. However, he was not the only special guest. The film's stars, John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, were also there to take questions from the audience. (Sweet!!)

I'll write more about the film itself closer to its theatrical release (it comes out in Boston on June 12), but suffice it to say, it's a very sweet film about an unmarried couple three months from the birth of their first child, who travel around the country looking for a new place to call home. During the Q&A, Eggers talked of being inspired by the films of Hal Ashby and wanting to write a different kind of romantic comedy. In the film, the lead couple don't go through the standard arc: there's no meet-cute, courtship, breakup, and reconciliation, for example. The chance to be in a film where the couple is happy and together throughout was one of the aspects that drew Krasinski and Rudolph to the project. (As was the chance to work with Sam Mendes, who was apparently a very collaborative director.)

Not surprisingly, Rudolph and Krasinski drew the most laughs. Rudolph, who is currently pregnant in real life, talked about how she had a lot in common with her character and how awkward it was to film an oral sex scene on the second day. Krasinski (a Newton native, of course) was quite endearing with his Sam Mendes/Simon Cowell impression and tales of hanging out at Saturday Night Live tapings too often back in the day. He also gave some surprisingly insightful answers that were a long way from the sarcasm and dopeyness seen each week on The Office (maybe that's because his family was in the audience).

On the other hand, I didn't really believe Eggers when he said he wrote the screenplay with Krasinski and Rudolph in mind (really? You really thought of those actors?), and I thought his answer that none of the film was inspired by real-life people or events was less than convincing, given that Eggers' personal story (well documented in AHWoSG) mirrors at least partly that of Rudolph's character (in the film, her parents died when she was 22) and the overall journey they are on. But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Krasinski and Rudolph were really great, and I wish the Q&A had been longer and had covered more than just the specifics of the movie, because obviously, it would have been fun to hear more Office and SNL talk. But, as Krasinski teased, maybe there'll be a sequel to the film — Away They Went? — so we may have a chance to ask those questions at another time.

(Photos courtesy of Kirk Kittell)

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