Tuesday, January 26, 2010

She Does It All Again

One of my favorite albums of the past few years is Corinne Bailey Rae's self-titled debut. Songs like "Put Your Records On," "Trouble Sleeping," "I'd Like To," "Breathless," and "Call Me When You Get This" have a nice new-soul/pop/jazz sound that Bailey Rae sings with an equally gentle and modern voice. This is a fantastic Sunday brunch or easy summer afternoon kind of album, the kind you don't feel embarrassed to have playing in your car with the windows down on a nice day. It's like the album Macy Gray always wanted to make, but never could because her voice wasn't as pleasant as Bailey Rae's.

It's been a rough couple years since that album came out — Bailey Rae's husband died as a result of an accidental drug overdose — but she's back today with a new collection of songs, called The Sea. I found the album on the interwebs over the weekend, have been giving it a good listen, and while I like it, I can't rave just yet. So far, the songs have a different, heavier sound (other reviews I've read are calling it "intense") that reflects the recent events of Bailey Rae's life. But then there's a song like "I'd Do It All Again" and I realize that no matter what challenges she's dealt with, Bailey Rae is still the talented and captivating singer I originally fell for.

The Sea is out today. Support a still up-and-coming artist and grab yourself a copy. (For the record, even though I downloaded it gratis this weekend, I'm going to buy it anyway.)


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nobody Wins Today

Truth be told, I wasn't planning to vote today. And that's a real shame, because just 14 months ago, voting was an activity I got really excited about. This election just didn't engage me. I didn't vote in the primary back in November, and I felt no real attachment to the candidates as we were approaching Election Day today. Frankly, I just didn't care.

And yet, I cast my vote today anyway — less for one of the candidates than against the other. Like many folks, I've watched over the last couple weeks as Scott Brown's built momentum and overtaken the lead from Martha Coakley. I've watched his television commercials and received his phone calls — his many, many commercials and phone calls. I've seen the people on the street. And the signs. Sure, Coakley had her own ads and made her own calls (believe it or not, I actually received one as I was writing this), but Brown had more. (He even had a better social media strategy.) And in fact, Coakley didn't have much at all and that was a big part of her problem. I never found a really good reason to support her. But the more I saw and heard and learned about Brown, the more effectively he campaigned, the more I began to want to vote against him.

As I filled in the box next to Martha Coakley's name on my ballot tonight, I thought about how sad this election was. Ted Kennedy, the man who held this Senate seat for so long and who did so many great things for this country and the state of Massachusetts, didn't deserve for his successor to be chosen by people like myself who aren't committed to the candidate and are merely voting along party lines out of obligation more than anything else. People who are so annoyed by the calls and the ads that they're voting against a candidate more than they are for a candidate.

Alas, that's what I've done. So thank you to Scott Brown and Martha Coakley for making this election not very fun at all. I hope one of you loses.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Weekend for Manly Men

In all the years I've lived in Boston (that's 13, if you're wondering), and with all the winters that my mom has spent in Florida, my dad has never come up by himself for a "Boys Weekend." At least, that was the case before this past weekend.

Dad came up Saturday morning, and we did the kinds of things that men do. For example, we went on a tour of Fenway Park, we went to the TD Garden and tried to get into the New England Sports Museum (but it was closed), we went out for steaks at our favorite restaurant (Ruth's Chris, like you didn't know), we played some Wii, we drove around town listening to sports radio, slept late on Sunday, took our time getting out the door, and then ended the weekend with more food (at Mel's Commonwealth Cafe). Minus the strippers, gambling, and grunting, I'd say it was indeed a manly men kind of visit.

Back to Ruth's Chris for a second. Have I mentioned lately how much I love this restaurant? No? Well then allow me to sing its praises again. First of all, the place is located in Old City Hall, in what I've deemed the Meat Mecca of Boston because it's right around the corner from another of my favorite places, Sam LaGrassa's. And what a meal we had last night. My filet — 11 ounces of meat, perfectly seasoned (salt, pepper, butter, etc.) and cooked, juicy, and served on a steaming hot plate to keep it warm — was just about as perfect as meat could be. Coupled with a good iceberg wedge salad, creamed spinach, shoestring potatoes, and chocolate mousse for dessert (oh, and don't forget the wine), it was just an incredible meal. We had great service, sat in a nice part of the restaurant, and left quite contented (and stuffed). Ruth's Chris is always worth a plug, and this more-than-satisfied customer is more than happy to give a testimonial — and to go back anytime anyone wants to.

But anyway, it was a great weekend with Dad. Weather was ideal (for mid January, anyway), we did fun things, and I got to show off my city a little bit more than I can when both my parents come up. I hope we'll get to do this again soon.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

A Flood of Memories Returns

Friends: It's that day again ... the anniversary of the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, a.k.a. one of my favorite days of the year. (No kidding.) Rather than write the same old blog post again, I'll link to my original post about the flood, where I explained why this day means so much to me.

You know, it's funny. I've been keeping this blog since September 2005, and in the four years that this day has come along, there has only been one where I remembered on my own, on time. (To wit, here are my posts from 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009.) Today, were it not for Universal Hub and his Tweet, I would have totally forgotten again. So thanks to Adam over at UHub and Happy Molasses Flood Day to the rest of you!


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Songs in the Key of Life

About halfway through the new film Crazy Heart, as Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) plays a brand-new song for Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), she tells him that she thinks she has heard it before. Bad replies that the good ones always sound familiar. That exchange stayed with me long after the film was over because this one — with its story of an older, down-on-his-luck, washed-up musician who finds love and one last chance at artistic redemption thanks to a younger woman — is both familiar and good.

Crazy Heart boasts an impressive, lived-in performance by Bridges and has award-winning songwriter and producer T-Bone Burnett (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, among other films) working behind the scenes. Both assets are the main reasons to see the film. Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, and (in an unbilled, small but pivotal role), Colin Farrell round out the main cast, and the music is so good and has such a presence in the film that it becomes a character itself.

"So where'd all those songs come from?" Jean asks Bad at one point. "Life, unfortunately" is the reply. Suffice it to say, the change in Bad's fortunes is good for him and good for us. Crazy Heart may not be one of those rock-your-world films, but it's worth seeing. I'm giving it a B+.

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

Radio, Radio

I rode the B line downtown today, and with all the students still away and most folks staying indoors to avoid the cold, it was a rather pleasant ride. I was able to sit and read my latest issue of The Improper Bostonian in peace and relative quiet.

That is, until we pulled into the Harvard Ave. station, and a guy got on with his portable stereo, sat down two rows behind me, and proceeded to turn it on and blast Madonna's "Dress You Up" for all to hear. Turns out he had his radio tuned to 93.7, so we were also treated to a mix that included Journey's "Lights" and Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now." (When Crazy Town's "Butterfly" came on, though, he flipped around to find a "better" station.)

At first, I was like, how rude! Doesn't this guy have any common decency? I thought about asking him to turn off his radio, but I'm more passive aggressive, so other than shooting the guy a couple "Are you kidding me?" glances, I decided to blog about it way after the fact instead of saying something at the time. Also, I was kind of enjoying the music and no one else seemed to mind (or at least, no one else was complaining), so in the end I figured it wasn't such a big deal. After all, someone who blasts their music on the T without regard for others clearly has no sense of it being the wrong thing to do, so saying something to him would have been pointless.

I know the T is public transportation, so I don't expect it to be quiet. But I think bringing a stereo onto the train and playing it that loudly is a bit excessive. It often surprises me just how divergent my thoughts and behaviors are from those of others when it comes to public settings. My inbound ride today was just the latest example.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

I Resolve To ...

Like it or not, January and 2010 are both here. Among other things, that means it's time to stop looking back and start to look forward. In most cases, that also means coming up with some resolutions for things to change in the new year. Generally, I don't make New Year's resolutions because I'm never able to keep them. But this year I'm going to publish my list of resolutions here, and I'm hoping that the public declaration will help me stick to them.

So with that in mind, I resolve to ...

1. Not gain weight, or more specifically, to weigh as much as — or preferably less than — I do now when the clock strikes 12:00 a.m. on January 1, 2011. Part of that will involve showing some restraint when I see leftover cake or cookies in my office kitchen (or if I'm at Costco), and part of it will involve finally going to the gym in my condo complex (and working out when I'm there).

2. Put myself out there more. Which means I'm going to stop being so much of a homebody, stop spending so much time by myself, and I'm going to try to be more open to meeting new people.

3. Read more. Books yes, but also Twitter feeds, industry websites/blogs, and other things that will help me be better at my job.

4. Go on vacation. An actual vacation. That means I hope not just to travel, but to go somewhere warm, nice, relaxing, and fun. It's been a long time — too long — since I went on such a trip. I think I'm due.

Alright, four resolutions is enough, some more realistic than others. Today is January 1. I hope you'll help me stick to these goals this year.

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