28 January 2008

Of liquid chocolate, Russians, and audial pleasure.

Oh, Boston. City of... things...

History? Patriotic beer? Guys named "Sully"? After work on Friday, I enjoyed some of the finer aspects of Boston area with some of the finer people of Boston area. I had dinner with Emily and Courtney, two of my senior year suitemates (the amazing Maura was sick - boo) at Border Cafe in Cambridge. The food was pretty good (awesome tortilla chips), but the margaritas were hit or miss. The strawberry one was watery and flavorless, but the traditional margarita was excellent - eliciting the universal response of "now that's a margarita." Afterwards, we hit up Burdick's, a chocolate shop(pe?) that was just featured in the NY Times, and rightfully so. The hot chocolate was intense. Thick and über chocolaty - the best stuff this side of the Atlantic. We called it an early night and I crashed at Em's, burrowing into her 15º-rated sleeping bag. Saturday morning, I caught up with Roberto (aka Rob) and we hit Diesel Cafe in Davis Square. Man, they have good coffee. I always forget how good coffee can really be. I think I'm over my twice a week Starbucks habit after drinking a caramel macchiato while waiting for the train after having had the espresso latte at Diesel. I've been spoiled. The Coffee Exchange, Roba Dolce and Diesel have ruined readily available, over-priced coffee places with their superior, fresh flavor and perfect foam...

But in short, it was a lovely evening/morning in Boston. I like my friends. I don't care if that makes me sound like a simpleton, but... they're wicked awesome.

Saturday night, I watched Eastern Promises by myself. How to best describe it... Raw? Gritty? Jarring? Then again, a film dealing with the Russian mafia and human trafficking is probably all of the above. Viggo Mortensen is absolutely amazing. His Russian mannerisms are spot-on - appropriately muted - creating a character who is all the more sinister due to his practiced restraint. He walks a fine line - he is physically and psychologically threatening, while also being completely magnetic. The rest of the cast does a wonderful job as well, but the film just feels like it was written for him.

After that heavy bit of cinema, I got a call from Eryn and we swapped stories about Italia and dogs and LIFE. I think I may have laughed for about 45 minutes straight. I need to remember to stretch my facial muscles before I have a conversation with either her or A-Town to prevent strains. In spite of the pain, I definitely went to bed with a smile on my face. Fantastico.

As for an aspect of life that isn't very fun, but I'm trying desperately to make fun, I've started a more formal search for a Boston/Boston area apartment, since this commute is killing me and there are fewer and fewer reasons for me to stay in RI. The hunt is overwhelming and frustrating to a degree (I equate craigslist with a punch in the face), but I've gotten some good advice from friends in the area that'll help me narrow my search and weed out some of the nonsense.

Back to nerdy fun. Early 2007, I assembled an iTunes playlist of all the music I acquired from late 2005 through 2006. I then whittled that list down to 52 songs (to average one song per week), based mostly on play count, but also taking into account personal significance. I know - it is extremely nerdy and obsessive - but I like to see how trends and my musical taste have evolved. It also acts as a quick reference for some of my favorite songs.

I'm working on my 2007 playlist now, and to my surprise, M. Ward had the most artist plays ("I'll Believe in Anything" by Wolf Parade is my #1 played song - surprised?) This data doesn't include songs played on my iPod, on which I listen to most of my music... but still. I am sur-prised. M. Ward just ninja'd himself into the musical collection of my heart. It all started in 2006 with "Chinese Translation" - just simple, classic folk song-writing at its finest - after that, I dug deeply into his music and struck gold. As for the 2007 list, I have it narrowed down to 66 songs - not including Josh Ritter. It just can't be done. If there's such a thing as too much good music, 2007 had it.

But the real news is this: M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel are releasing the album Volume 1 under the moniker She & Him on March 18th. Sweetness in aural form. I think it's going to be a great start to my Spring. You can listen to (and download - shh!) their cover of "You Really Got a Hold on Me" here. Zooey's voice just plumb knocked my socks off.

See? They're over there. By the end table.

24 January 2008

My plan is going exactly according to... plan.

Can I get a drum roll please? Ladies and gentlemen, Rachel and I have concluded our booking of the trip: lodgings and air travel are now SET. We booked our digs in Barcelona and home sweet Firenze the other day and I guess I feel a little too accomplished after sorting through a few dozen flights, hostels, hotels, and apartments per city (including the ill-fated Madrid)...

But whatever... BOOSH!

In Barcelona, we'll be staying at the Downtown Paraiso Hostel, a place run by four friends (which worked out in Switzerland... oh Switzerland! You'll always have a little piece of my heart, Simon.) This hostel, in a city filled with over-priced dumps, turns out to be reasonable and an even better catch if it lives up to its description. It's close to Las Ramblas, but not too close, and it looks chic but still cozy in hostel terms. (Though I'm not sure whether I love that room or just find the mural really creepy.)

As for Firenze, we'll be staying in Hotel Tina which, from what I gather, is about two - count 'em, TWO - blocks away from the chambers of les personnes célèbres - that is to say, PL and A-Town, the very people who are bringing us all together for this Glorious Amalgamation of truth and beauty. With their love for love. And love for holy matrimony. And love for gelato and really old things. Our hotel is close to San Marco, which is pretty groovy and about four blocks from the Mighty Stallions. Very exciting. Can't wait to swing by some of my old haunts...

Yeah that's right... what up, Standa? You got some pesca té for me? Is it Clever? Hm? Is it? And Astor, do you remember Bianca?

No, screw that noise. I hated Standa and their untamed surliness. That store is like a very unfunny version of Clerks. I'm going to the place near the Accademia, with the guy with the bandanna. (Two euro says he's still there.) Or the Mercato Centrale with its multi-leveled goodness. Rachel and I have already agreed we're probably on the wine, cheese, bread and fruit diet the whole time we're there. Which is fine. Hopefully, we end up dropping a few pounds and acquiring a healthy flush to our cheeks.

But my number one priority, apart from flying (literally flying, Mercury-style) into the arms of my beloved and stuffing my face with these bad boys, is to get some Sad Gelato Man gelato. Eryn and I have discussed this ultimate reunion many times and have only agreed that we must expect the unexpected. But in all likelihood, there will be a scene. And many awkward pictures taken.

Things that I want to do that I didn't do while in Firenze? Maybe hit up the Duomo ("Duo"/"dwhoah" for those in the know) and Santa Croce to see some tombs (Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Ghiberti). And the old favorite of catching the sunset at Piazzale and then hitting up El Taco, OF COURSE. And then Art Bar for a girls' night out. So much to do! (I like how the majority of my priorities revolve around food.)

What I miss the most is that these places (SGM's, El Taco, SACI, Art Bar, Fiddler's Elbow, the Odeon, this statue...) were such a focus and we were so attached and cared about them so much, it feels like no one else could come close to caring about them as we did - and do, to this day. So, in that respect, they're ours. And I can't wait to go back and show Firenze what I've become - a lot of which is due to it and the experiences I had there.

But for now all I have to do is buy a dress and show up! ...And find a way to pay for it all... but I suppose that's why Ramen and home-brewed espresso exist. Good thing I like home-brewed espresso, even with my little crappy steam-driven machine. Making coffee can be so meditative - I enjoy the process on the weekends, when I'm not in a rush. I think that would be one of the biggest bummers to a planned pregnancy - quitting caffeine. Stupid babies and their vulnerability to stimulants... why do they have to be such... babies??

And just for kicks, here's JR and the boys performing on Letterman Tuesday night. Yeah enthusiasm! Gotta love Zack's assistance on the cymbals.

22 January 2008

Cappuccino and closure - what more could a girl ask for?

Yesterday afternoon turned into a mini tour of Providence, complete with a failed attempt at brunch at Julian's on the Hill, followed by a trip to Wickenden for Pizza Pie-er, "the gourmet pizza experience" (it was ok, worth another shot I suppose), and then to Thayer for some cappuccino and dessert at Roba Dolce. Both the cappuccino and dessert (I shamefully forgot the name of the dish, but they were pastry balls of cream-covered AMAZING) were excellent. It's switched management since I was last there, and there is a noticeably positive difference in the product and the atmosphere (more cozy and slightly more formal/chic.) It's run by an enthusiastic and rather young Italian guy, though we never ended up asking him where in Italy he was from. I wanted to ask in Italian, but knew after de dove sei, I'd be at a loss for words. But my bro, Gabri, and I all received complimentary cups of coffee - score! As much as Thayer Street can be a pain and there are only so many college and high school students one can take, I'd say that Roba Dolce beats the lattes at the Coffee Exchange (though CE has the best whole beans... and the scene... and the art supply store across the street.)

And I had a pleasant surprise in store for me on Thayer - the business establishment of my last employment is now closed! Well, they've "moved locations." Whatever. It's off Thayer. It never should have been there in the first place... though I'd be ok with it not existing at all. I still can't believe how stressed that job would make me... But that chapter is now closed and I can walk down the street without shuddering every time I pass.

Infra structurally speaking, maybe I should consider a blog name change, like my twin just recently did. Mine has turned into a rather ironic title since I haven't done much art at all recently. Anyway, this is my 50th blog post since its inception in May of last year, though seven of those posts have happened just this January... can you tell I'm stepping up my game this year? Oh yeah... makin' it happen.

21 January 2008

Freezing cold temperatures = pointless posting!

This weekend has been quite low key, keeping in tone with the frigid temperatures. Yesterday, I didn't do much of anything, except pick up my new glasses (in black with blue highlights, which I would say fall under the category of "chic librarian"). Very exciting, I know. I also watched A Mighty Wind, which I saw years ago, but my love was rekindled by my relatively new appreciation for folk music and Parker Posey. The comedy is ridiculous, but dialed down to the point of deadpan absurdity. I recommend it and any other Christopher Guest mockumentary.

The Patriots are going to the Superbowl. Not exactly a surprise for a team that's 18-0 this season (but boy, will their faces be red if they lose the big one to Peyton's goofy little brother.) While I don't follow football very closely at all, I have to tip my hat to them - really exceptional all season long. Nicely done, Mr. Brady.

I had the honor of talking to both Miss Rachel and The Reginator today. "But how - how I say - did you talk to Regina, who is in the exotic far off land of Turkey?" Well, we used Skype, which I downloaded while I was in Italy, but never had the opportunity to use for anything other than instant messaging. As it turns out, it's pretty freaking awesome. The sound quality's great, there's very little lag... and oh yeah - it's free! I just use my laptop's built-in microphone and my regular speakers. You can surf the intertubes while you're talking and there's no pressure to cram in some amazing, life-changing conversation in as short a time as possible because it's freeeeee. So we were able to be our natural, idiotic selves. It was wonderful.

And it's official. Rachel and I will be staying Hostal Moratin in Valencia while we're there for four days, immediately post-Amalgamation. In terms of hostels, it looks somewhat classy, though rather spartan. While on the phone and looking at the hostel's photos, we both had the same reaction (in the Eurotrash voice): You like chair? Mmmm... we have chaaaair. There is only one chair... but it's so chic. We're either going to kill each other or end up bound by a civil ceremony at the end of this trip... probably the latter as European hostels usually mean double beds. Spicy!

This is completely and utterly unrelated to everything above, but my brother's playing Bioshock, a ridiculously gruesome, but ridiculously awesome computer game. The graphics and locomotion are amazing. The art, production and design detail are insane. Picture a city underwater, circa 1960, if Ayn Rand's ideas were taken seriously by a group of very well funded and very vehement group of people... A sort of disgustingly brutal and beautiful anarchy ensues. I simply enjoy watching it, because playing a game like that would get me frantic and squeamish.

Just leave me my Scrabulous.

19 January 2008

We've just got these wooden scissors...

When I asked Punky Lewster if she was familiar with Eddie Izzard, much to my chagrin, she said no. I was introduced to his comedy with Dress to Kill my sophomore year of college, and have been hooked ever since. His comedy is intellectual and random -- based on history, politics, and religion -- with bits about coffee and bees thrown in for good measure. While he's not for everyone (some get bogged down in the straight cross-dressing... and "The Riches" does kind of suck), I think he's amazing. I always thought it would be awesome to have dinner with him and Craig Ferguson (I love that they're friends), though I'd probably snarf some chicken alfredo out my nose. Classy.

Anyway, this is a bit from my favorite Eddie Izzard DVD, Glorious. Hope you (specifically PL) enjoy.

14 January 2008

"Chinese people love controversy, we know that - Pearl Harbor."

Found a web series online by Michael Cera (aka George Michael from "Arrested Development" and Evan from Superbad) and Clark Duke (who my brother remembered as the kid who said, "holy shit - Fogel's a badass!" in Superbad). You can find it here and it is definitely worth watching. The show is a "documentary" about them trying to get a script produced - each episode averages about 10 minutes. A minute and a half into the first episode, I was smitten. Super dry humor abounds... along with some really stupid gags that make you laugh anyway. I'm currently on episode four and it's only gotten better.

Today was a snow day. Last time I commuted into Boston when such snow was hyped, it took me four hours to get home, so I aired on the side of caution and held down the fort. It didn't turn out to be as crazy as they said, but it was that type of heavy, wet snow which makes you question why shovels aren't shaped more like buckets on poles. The perk of the situation was that the snow perfectly coated the trees. It looks really gorgeous, which is something one can appreciate before and after shoveling... not so much during.

This is random, but something that I've wanted to do more of is write letters. Some call it a lost art, and I suppose it's a sad truth... But I'm going to bring it back! (With recycled materials, of course.) You want a letter? I'll write you a letter. I'd been shamefully procrastinating in writing to a former professor, and I finally just sent her an email (I didn't want to delay further by trying to find nice stationary or some other excuse.) But maybe now since the appropriate mechanics are in motion, I should get started on that.

As for the BW process (Best Woman, for those not in the know), the dress that I bought? Yeah... that didn't work out so well. It was sort of spectacular, in a monumental failure sort of way. It was apparently made by someone who'd only been told what a woman was shaped like by a third-hand source, and had never actually seen one in person. Maybe Michelangelo designed it.

11 January 2008

Worst. Wave. Ever.

On January 8, 2008 the Boston Globe reported a wave of vomiting and diarrhea which has swept through three of Boston's major hospitals over the past month...

There must be a better way to phrase that.

10 January 2008

Recycle the internet.

My friend, Regina (aka "Reginator") has read my blog before, and thought it was ok, but said it lacks the personal flourishing and charming touches of my emails. I can't help it... I avoid most things personal because... well, it's a blog -- on the screaming, stupid, public highway of the internet. But to bend to the will of the Reginating honorary Istanbulian, I'm embellishing an email I sent her yesterday to see if I'm more on track with being the weirdo I really am. Here goes...

So, this is a little bit of old news, but I gave Mika (he's a standard poodle), his "Christmas Eve bath." Somehow, during that 45 minute window every year, he bends space and time, and through cunning doggie use of the theory of relativity, turns his 50 or so pounds of mass into 725. It's like his body turns into lead and darkmatter. A little collapsed neutron star on the black and white tiled floor. I go to lift him in the tub and he hunkers down like Ghandi or a drunken roommate and, through passive resistance, tries to prevent me from getting him into that tub. Then I can't help but laugh because the situation's just so ridiculous. And my laughter is like self-induced Kryptonite -- I turn into even more of a feeb, and he still hasn't budged an inch. So we're both on the bathroom floor, but only one of us finds it amusing.

He gets a couple of baths a year, but somehow, the winter one is just the most comical -- probably because his coat is longer; he deflates from an unidentifiable variety of medium-sized dog to some unidentifiable shivering dog half his original size. But he got his bath. Oh yes he did. And once dried, he fluffed out to the point where it was almost embarrassing -- an embarrassment of riches, if riches were hair. He's softer than a cotton ball and cute as a stuffed animal with little button eyes, but he looks a little odd. I think he feels uncomfortable being that fluffy. Emasculated, perhaps. He hasn't been neutered, so he can't complain.

Do you ever have those awkward moments when you go to greet someone and you both say "hi" or "hello" at the same time and you're so thrown by that weird twin talk that you don't say anything else afterwards? Then there's that void... These moments mostly happen with people you don't know that well, but feel compelled to say "hello" to. Do you know what I mean? It might even be worse than the premature "hello" - the "hello" from a distance, where you then continue to walk towards each other with nothing else to say. Awkward. Like a shoulder-touching/butt-out hug.

Most of my friends and I are firm believers in the go-for-it, balls-to-the-wall, hug-like-you-mean-it-cause-you-better-if-you're-hugging-me hugs. The P-Funk hug. I am a believer in this form of hug.

The other night, I booked my return ticket from Barcelona and my RyanAir flight from Dublin to Bologna (we fly from Boston to Dublin via Aerlingus.) But Rach and I ran into a roadblock - there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get from Florence to Madrid, so I made the suggestion to go to Valencia instead (there are flights from Pisa to Valencia.) I know nothing about Valencia except they apparently invented a superior orange. The Lonely Planet website makes it look pretty cool, so I'm down. Rachel responded to my "Valencia?" email with "You know what I say? Fuck Madrid." So, she's down for Valencia. From there, we can take a train up to Barcelona and after a few days, we can leave for the US from there. We've been planning this trip in segments, so it's been a little fucked up, like jigsaw pieces from a bargain bin puzzle, but it's just impossible to plan the whole thing in advance. I have borderline self-diagnosed OCD. Bear with me.

Something I didn't include in the e-mail was a blurb of conversation from last night while I was talking to Rachel on the phone, preparing to purchase plane tickets. We were chatting about this and that before we got down to business... Here's a fragment of the conversation, when Rachel stopped suddenly, as though a whale of a thought just beached itself on the coastline of her mind (yay metaphors!):

Rachel: You know what I really want to see in person?
A-Town [thinking the Gaudy cathedral in Barcelona or something]: What?
Rachel: That water-skiing squirrel...

I'll be traveling around Europe for two weeks with that girl. And I am souped.

07 January 2008

Of future plans, change, e la lingua perfetta.

Life is going on, as it is wont to do. I've tentatively chosen my BW (Best Woman) ensemble for The Amalgamation (pictured at right.) My mom and I agreed that red is a bit spicy for a wedding, but since it'll be in the Red Room at the Palazzo Vecchio, perhaps I'll just chameleon myself right into the background. And if Sister Scarlett has taught me anything, it's that a pale blonde can rock the red.

Remaining things to do concerning The Big A: book lodgings for Florence, Madrid and Barcelona (yeaaaaaah... gotta work on that). Also, I must get RyanAir tickets from Florence to Madrid, aaaaand that ever-so-important (albeit undesirable), return ticket from Europe to Bostonia. All these processes should be sped up by a call to Rach sometime tonight or tomorrow. While I was hoping to get a new iPod for the trip, that may have to be put off... indefinitely. But I'll see where I stand come April.

I've assembled a small list of New Year's Resolutions, which I've never done before, simply because I believe it's a day many use to excuse themselves from changing at any time - hunkering it all down to one day - as if an effort for change couldn't happen on any day.

Now, to thoroughly put my foot in my mouth, here are my resolutions.

1. Chill out.
1.a. sub-resolution: Quell the desire to slap people on the back of the head who walk slowly. (Note: this sub-resolution has already been broken.)
2. Be bolder.
3. Exercise daily. I've been good, but I can be better.
4. Get something published; a vague and largely unknown notion to most who know me, but I'd like to put my crappy something out there.
5. This is petty, but see Eryn's #5.
6. Be the best BW I can be not only for The Big A, but continue to be the BW I can a non-Amalgamation context, as well.
7. Get back to art.
8. I'm sure there was something else, but like Sad Gelato Man in the winter months, it escapes me. Probably something about not commuting 20 hours a week.

I watched 8 1/2 again, starring my main man, Marcello Mastroianni (molto alliteration!) Italian is such a phenomenal language. While it's not quite as smooth as French, it has a rhythm and attitude of its own. The sounds of the words are... well - I can't think of a word for it in English. The language can be casual and friendly or powerful and assertive - it almost possesses a sort of languid sexuality that can be manipulated through tone and delivery. Even giving directions looks and sounds lovely - e dopo la luce, vai a la destra. When spoken with a Roman accent? Bellisima.

As for the image to the upper left, I imagine that will be what The Amalgamation will be like. Apparently, I must find a hat.