Sunday, February 28, 2010

You Know You Want to Try It Too

When I saw on CBS' Sunday Morning today that there was a pancake batter in a can product called Batter Blaster, I was simultaneously horrified, skeptical, and curious. I mean, pancake batter in a can? With a name that sounds more like a comic-book villain? Seriously? But as someone who likes his pancakes (and waffles) on a Sunday morning, I decided I had to do what any other self-(dis)respecting person would do, and try it.

According to the website, Batter Blaster isn't available everywhere, but it can be found at Stop & Shop (near the eggs and whipped cream), so I went there. Five dollars and a conversation with an amused and excited fellow shopper later, I was home and cooking. The batter (which, by the way, is made mostly with organic ingredients) didn't come out in the same whipped-cream style that I'd seen on TV (it was much runnier, despite my shaking of the can), and the pancakes might not have been the thickest ones I've had, but they were, as advertised, light and fluffy. Tasty too. I was very impressed. So I kept on cooking and had myself a very good breakfast.

And there you go. I've learned something today: Pancakes from a can can actually be good. And now, when I want to have pancakes or waffles on a Sunday morning, I don't have to worry about mixing up the flour and eggs and other stuff. I just have to look in my refrigerator. Score.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, EW!

In the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, which hit newsstands and my mailbox yesterday, Managing Editor Jess Cagle notes in his editor's letter that the magazine celebrated its 20th birthday this month. It's a significant milestone, and even though my only connection to the magazine is as a reader, I still feel like celebrating.

In fact, I've been an EW reader since that very first issue in February 1990, and have read every single issue mostly cover-to-cover (all 1,092 of them). During these 20 years, I've spent some summers away from home, and I changed my address or bought duplicate copies during those times so I could stay in the loop and wouldn't miss anything. At one point, about 10 years ago, when I was in my hoarding days, I had actually saved every issue of the magazine, and the day my parents asked me to get rid of them (i.e.: to throw them out) because they were selling their house and couldn't lift the heavy boxes, was a real bummer. I do, however, still own issue No. 1, with k.d. lang and Nena Cherry on the cover, and a few others I just couldn't part with. Reading the issue on a Monday was one of my favorite parts of commuting to work, so now that I don't have a commute during which I can read, I've made it a bit of a habit to spend my Saturday lunches sitting at Finagle a Bagel reading the latest issue. In short, I'm a bit of an obsessive fan when it comes to Entertainment Weekly.

In the summer of 1996, shortly after my graduation from college, I actually had an interview for a job at EW. To say I was excited is an understatement, and unfortunately, I let that get the better of me. (Perhaps the fact that I didn't watch ER or The X-Files, the mag's obsessions at the time, also did me in. It'd be like if I interviewed now and didn't know what Twilight is.) From time to time, I wonder about the ways my life would be different if I had gotten that job. I'd likely be living in New York now, and perhaps I'd even be an editor there (or at some other magazine). Maybe I wouldn't like the magazine as much if had to work there, and was reading it as a job instead of a hobby. Who really knows.

One thing is for sure: My life would probably be less fun if EW had never come along. Sure, I'd probably find some other way to channel my entertainment passions, and I'd never know what I was missing. But EW makes being a fan of entertainment more enjoyable, and for that I say thank you to all the writers, editors, photographers, and designers who have worked for the magazine all these years. Congrats on this exciting milestone.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Insanity Is Contagious

Things aren't what they seem on Shutter Island, and neither is the movie of the same name. Shutter Island would appear on the surface to be a crack thriller: It has Martin Scorsese behind the camera, source material written by Dennis Lehane, and actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, and Ben Kingsley in lead roles. Instead, this film, about a federal marshall investigating a disappearance at a mental institution off the coast of Boston, is a bit of an overly long, heavy handed mess. Nearly everything about it is overdone, from DiCaprio's acting (and his Boston accent) to the score, which announces early on in no uncertain terms that the institution is bad news. When the plot reaches its climax, the resolution just goes on and on, as if Scorsese was trying to trap you — just like his lead character has been trapped. Shutter Island won't go down as one of Marty's best, that's for sure. I'm giving it a C.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yes, There's a "Sequel"

Last week, I told you about the video I made that shows my niece wearing my shoes. If you watched it, you probably saw that it was actually a very amateurish-looking commercial for my employer. So what was the deal?

Well, the truth is, we're having a viral marketing contest at work, and I've entered with a pair of videos. The second one, which I have already posted, shows Abby watching one of her favorite YouTube videos: "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," and it's viewable here.

If you know anything about viral marketing, you know that the idea behind it is to get your video or photo or whatever passed on to as many people as you can. So with that in mind, I'm politely asking you to share this video (or the first one) with as many people as you can by embedding it on your own blog or website (like I've done below), sharing it on Facebook or Twitter, or emailing the link ( to all your friends and family members. The more people who see my videos, the better my chances are of winning a really great prize. Thanks in advance for your help.


Monday, February 22, 2010

An Addict and an Enabler

They say admitting you have a problem is the first step in curing yourself of an addiction, and while I hate to make light of addiction, I must say to you all: Hello, my name is Martin Lieberman and I am addicted to cupcakes. I have no willpower, so I am helpless whenever I see one of those mini-cakes with frosting on them.

I've known of this problem for some time, of course. I mean, why else would I have gotten so up-in-arms about Johnny Cupcakes not selling actual cupcakes? But it's gotten worse lately.

Last summer, I made cookies-and-cream cupcakes and brought them into work. Then other people started baking cupcakes and bringing them in. We even declared an almost-weekly holiday: Cupcake Monday. Once, I participated in a taste test with a couple of my coworkers to see whose cupcakes were better: Hostess or Mrs. Freshley's. (Believe it or not, Mrs. Freshley's won.)

Things got so bad around the end of the year, right after our Super-Duper Cupcake Monday Extravaganza (which featured seven different varieties of cupcakes in one day), that I had to declare January a "frosting-free" month. When that didn't last more than a few days, I declared the next month "Frosting-Free February" (mostly because it had a nice ring to it). But you can guess how long that lasted. Cupcake Monday did, actually, take a break, but it was back in a big way last week when it was someone's birthday.

My problem isn't contained to just my own eating, either. My niece, Abby, doesn't seem to like cake (or cookies or ice cream or anything sweet). It's very sad. But that hasn't stopped me from trying to convert her. This past weekend, I brought her some cupcakes that were decorated in the style of things she does like: Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and ducks. (They came from Party Favors in Coolidge Corner.) I thought this would convince her that cupcakes were the way to eternal happiness, and if nothing else, that they were better-tasting than those silly Goldfish Crackers she likes so much. No dice. She wouldn't eat them. So I had to console myself by returning to the one group of people I can always count on to indulge my love of cupcakes: my coworkers. On the way home from New York yesterday, I stopped at Crumbs and picked up a dozen.

To backtrack, I guess more important to the process of curing an addiction than admitting you have a problem is actually wanting to change. And truthfully, I don't want to cure myself of this. Not yet, anyway. I know I need to exercise some restraint (it was one of my New Years resolutions this year) but why should I when such yumminess exists in the world, and my addiction and enabling of others brings such happiness? (Not including Abby, of course.) I don't appear to be gaining any weight from my cupcake love, and I'm eating better otherwise, so it all balances out. Right?

I'm Martin Lieberman, and I like cupcakes. Is that so wrong?

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Niece, the Star

I've now become that guy. My 21-month-old niece, Abby, was doing something cute when we were on vacation a couple weeks ago, so I took a quick video of it and now I've posted it on YouTube.

For some reason, Abby has a fascination with shoes. And in this video, you'll see her wearing mine — even though they're a bit too big for her little feet. But she doesn't care. She's having a good time. And so was I, watching her.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Love Stinks

If you don't already hate Valentine's Day, you will after seeing the movie Valentine's Day. A film seemingly devoid of purpose after February 14, this cinematic waste of time employs practically every romantic comedy cliché in the book: Best friends who realize they're attracted to each other! A hot chick who can't find love! An old couple who learn a secret about their relationship after all these years! A precocious kid who pines for an older woman! A naive woman who realizes her boyfriend is still married, and exacts revenge in front of the wife! Two virgins who are about to have sex for the first time — until one of their parents catches them! A cynical man who hates the holiday but somehow manages to fall in love anyway! Stevie Wonder singing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered ... I'm Yours" on the soundtrack! Characters singing "I Will Survive!" A sassy black woman played by Queen Latifah! A sassy Latino sidekick (played by George Lopez)! An unseen radio DJ doing voice over! Oh, and this being 2010, two characters who turn out to be gay and a Bollywood-style dance number! (Whoops. There's a spoiler or two in there. I guess I just saved you $10.)

Yes, Valentine's Day, with its holiday-centric story and large ensemble cast (including Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Shirley MacLaine, Anne Hathaway, Hector Elizondo, Jessica Biel, Ashton Kutcher, Jessica Alba, Topher Grace, Taylors Swift and Lautner, Grey's Anatomy stars Patrick Dempsey and Eric Dane, and my beloved Jennifer Garner), wants to be Love, Actually. But it's not. It's not even as good as last year's large-ensemble rom-com, He's Just Not That Into You (which I actually kind of liked). Rather, it's over-stuffed, overly long, really obvious, predictable, and pandering, and just an embarrassment for nearly everyone associated with it. Sure, I didn't groan as often as I thought I would, and for the first third or so, I thought this was actually kind of a light, fun flick, but some plot twists (such as the ones mentioned above) you can see coming from miles away and director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman) takes his sweet time letting them play out. Ultimately, this is a film that's even more of a chore to get through than the day on which it's based.

Neither a good date movie nor a worthwhile anti-holiday movie, Valentine's Day instead confirms that February 14 is the stupidest of days, the most Hallmark of holidays. (And I actually like Valentine's Day!) That's why the movie gets a D from me.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love Ain't Gonna Let Me Down

Contrary to popular belief, I really don't have any problem with Valentine's Day. Sure, I'd probably like it more if I had someone to spend it with, but who needs another person? As the Beatles sang, "All you need is love." Or, to quote Stephen Stills, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with." And that's why today, like in years past, I'll be spending the day doing things I love: I'm going to sleep late. I'm going to have brunch. I may go to a movie. I'm going to talk with my niece. I'm going to watch the season premiere of The Amazing Race. I'm sure I'll have some form of cake. And I'm sure I'll listen to some great music, including Jamie Cullum's "Love Ain't Gonna Let You Down" and Dave Matthews Band's "You and Me." It's going to be a lovely day.

So, whether you're single or in a relationship, I wish you a very Happy Valentine's Day, and a day full of love.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sunny Days

Since my parents basically live in Florida, going down there is more like going home than going on vacation. That said, going down to Florida with my niece, Abby, makes it a vacation. And that's exactly what I was doing last week. We all went down for our first full family vacation with Abby. The first half she was with my sister, brother-in-law, and his family, and the second half they were with me and my folks. And we had a blast: We went to Butterfly World and the Miami Seaquarium, we got Abby to go in the pool (and love it), and much more. Of course, it all ended too soon. But that's what pictures are for, and I took plenty. If you'd like to see a bunch of them, just click here. You'll see lots of great shots of a very happy 21-month-old, and her ecstatic parents, grandparents, and uncle. It was a great vacation, and I can't wait to go away with Abby again — even if it is to Florida.

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gentle Giant

When it was released in November, I had very little interest in seeing The Blind Side. But then Sandra Bullock started winning all kinds of awards (including the Golden Globe, Critics' Choice, and SAG) for her performance in the film, and she's a sure shot to be nominated for an Oscar, so I kind of figured I had to see the movie just to see what all the fuss was about, and to find out if she's really that good.

The pleasant surprise is that she is good. Really good. Not quite as good as Carey Mulligan or Gabourey Sidibe, but Bullock's sheer will, her determination, and her total investment in the role make The Blind Side worth seeing. (Another reason: She looks great.)

In the wrong hands, this film could have been a maudlin white-person's-guilt story about a rich white family in Memphis that takes in a poor black teenager from the other side of town and turns his life around. And at some points, Blind Side does play like a predictable Lifetime TV movie. But Bullock fights for this movie like her character fights for Michael Oher (the real-life kid who is now a player for the Baltimore Ravens football team), and the result is a movie that's heartwarming and much better than it has any right to be.

Is Bullock's performance one of the year's best? Possibly. But had this movie been released earlier in the year, I doubt we'd be talking about it now. Still, she makes The Blind Side worth seeing, and that's why I'm giving the movie a B+.