Archive | June, 2009

Rage Against the Machines

30 Jun

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.



Style, But Not Enough Substance

29 Jun

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.

Remembering the Time

25 Jun

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. Continue reading

A Fine Romance

25 Jun

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. Continue reading

iLove It

24 Jun

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.

2.5 Years and 3 Hours Later

20 Jun

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.

You’ll Shoot His Eye Out, Kid

17 Jun

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.

Fearing the same fate

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? Continue reading

Money Train

14 Jun

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.

Chocolate Goodness

13 Jun

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.

About Last Night

8 Jun

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. Continue reading