25 February 2008

"We're going to show us just how great we are!"

So the Oscars were last night. Nothing too new or exciting there. I watched about 15 minutes of it on and off... and then OFF. Award shows are so terrifically dull and pompous - I only like when these people are caught acting human (e.g. when Katherine Heigel practically lost it simply by presenting an award.) Having seen very little of the it, I'm now here to pass on my judgment concerning said award show that I did not actually watch (in a convenient bulleted format!)

• Javier Bardem won for Best Supporting Actor for his part in No Country for Old Men (which again, I did not see), but I'm sure he did an amazing job. And during his speech, he gave a shout-out to his mom - who he brought to the ceremony... That's so cute, I'm fighting the urge to go to the mall and create a Build-a-Bear to commemorate such cuteness. He's a tremendous actor, and a total stud to boot. Meet me in Valencia, Signor Bardem...

• I wanted to give the little French chick, Marion Cotillard, a high five because she was so genuinely excited when she won for Best Actress. And she wore a freaking mermaid dress... like, rock the f-on, mademoiselle!

• And Tilda Swinton kind of rocks at the other end of the spectrum. She's so bizarrely androgynous and bohemian and too-cool-for-school... and that's groovy. I can dig it. And she's allegedly friends with the Cloonster, so obviously she possesses a certain level of cool unattainable by mere mortals.

• I want to grab a blender and make margaritas with Jennifer Garner and Laura Linney. I love Laura Linney - she's a great actress and is always so "put together"... but she also looks like she'd be down for doing a few shots and sharking your ass at pool. And ever since I saw Jennifer Gardner on "Martha Stewart," I've kind of adored her, though I haven't seen any of her movies. She's refreshingly candid and self-depreciating, in spite of being a total biddy (new word for "hottie" - pass it on.)

• I would say "I hope I look as good as Helen Mirren when I'm her age," but in all honesty, I wish I was as hot as she is right now. Yes - that's right - at the age of 23, I wish I had the Helen Mirren biddy factor. What up.

• Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won for Best Song for "Falling Slowly" from Once. "Yesssss" is all I have to say to that. And apparently, the sweetest moment of the evening was after Marketa was cut off by the "get your ass off the stage" music, Jon Stewart pulled her back up a few moments later and let her finish. Glen looked quite dapper and Marketa's just so freaking cute - I'm happy for them. Kick ass acoustic, man. This song always gives me goosebumps and last night's rendition of it is no exception. Here's the very moving performance along with a rather sweet intro from... Colin Farrell, of all people. Enjoy.

[Edit: so it seems that youtube yoinked the video. Boo to that. Anyway, here's the same song, directly from the film. Now you may enjoy.]

24 February 2008

Bring forth the synth!

This weekend was part bust, part sweetness. Yesterday, I went BW dress shopping (BW = Best Woman = Maid of Honor) with Mama B, and that... didn't work out so hot. Nordstroms is a lying little piece of chic poo. Online options abound - they have dresses out the wazoo. In-store is another story entirely. I found one or two fallbacks elsewhere, but nothing really sang to me. Next expedition means more branching out... to Garden City I say!

Last night I was all set to be bummed about being home alone on a Saturday night, but realized that some "A-Town time" is good. The house was cozy and quiet, and while I wish that I'd had more food options (we really need to go grocery shopping), it was a nice night. Good for unwinding, post-mall disappointment.

Over some coffee earlier today, I got caught up with Roz and Lorien - a couple of girls that I used to work with on Thayer. We talked about life and guys and music... I haven't laughed that much in a some time. In short, it was really good to seem them. It also served as a reminder that there actually is cool stuff and some cool people in RI... who woulda thunk. And frankly, I needed that reminder. We agreed that brunch should be sometime soon on the horizon... and who can argue with pancakes?

In the world of indie music freshness, Blondfire is allegedly almost ready to release their debut LP, My Someday. You may know their song "L-L-Love" - it was one of the most successful free singles of the week on iTunes. They're a couple of sexy siblings from New York by way of Michigan and Brazil or some such... and they're really good. Apparently, the album is almost entirely produced, mixed, and all that good stuff by the two of them. Both have solo projects and more, but I love the synergistic sound when they combine their mighty musical powers. There's definitely some 80's influence in there but they freshen it up. I seriously can't stop listening to "Always the Last to Know." Give it a listen and tell me it's not supa fly. I dare you.

22 February 2008

Dorky movie mayhem abounds!

So all the Juno hype that's been flying around is having a reverse effect on me - it's overwhelming to the point where I don't really want to see it. I previously had, but now I don't. What a shame. I guess I'll just until the DVD comes out and try to appreciate it then. For now, I'll just put my hands over my ears and say, "lalalalala! I'm not listening!" because it seems to work for 8 year-olds.

I've also missed most of the (apparently) good dramas that have come out: Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I'm Not There, and a few others. Now several of them are out on DVD, so that's cool, but I still haven't seen No Country For Old Men... because apparently, no one I know wants to see incredible amounts of violence as executed by Javier Bardem with a mop top hairdo. But I ask, why not?

The new crop of movies that I want to see are somewhat less serious. I've been hoping to see In Bruges with that gorgeous man whore, Colin Farrell. He actually maintains his smartass, Lucky Charms-ish Irish accent in this role, adding to the charm of what already looks like a fun movie. There's also Charlie Bartlett, with the really talented, rather disturbing kid from a "dead hookers!" episode of "Criminal Minds," and Robert Downey Jr., who I like in spite of myself. (P.S. I shamefully admit that I kind of can't wait for Iron Man to come out.)

But the one film I'm looking forward to the most (and which I'll hopefully get to see ce weekend avec ma mère), is Be Kind Rewind, a Michel Gondry flick. Gondry is the guy behind such movies as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, as well as a slew of music videos, such as the Foo Fighters' "Everlong," Björk's "Human Behavior," and Daft Punk's "Around the World." Eternal Sunshine is easily one of my favorite movies of all time. And while I didn't like it quite as much as Eternal Sunshine, The Science was tremendously creative and imaginative - I still don't know how they did a few of the things in it, in spite of the do-it-yourself feel. Gondry is just a weird little French man with ideas spilling out of his ears, and I love him for it. Check out the trailer for Be Kind Rewind below.

20 February 2008

If it's green, I'm not drinking it.

I have already thought about St. Patrick's Day (it's "the new Christmas" don'tcha know). If one is so inclined, it can be a day of legend - an epic day with hilarious, bizarre, and hazy tales. For the past two years, I've done the Boston thing - bar hopping with friends, all with the intention of catching the parade the Sunday morning... though never actually getting to Southie to see it. Two years ago was because Annie and I had to spend the night back at Wheaton and the next day I got into Boston a little too late; instead, I spent the afternoon photographing the Fanuiel Hall area festivities for my senior project. Last year was because I was too busy freezing outside of Rob's apartment for an hour waiting for a bus that never came... damn MBTA. Jojo and I ended up watching parade highlights at Kait's Northeastern apartment while eating scrambled eggs and bacon.

A couple of stories are a little too "epic" to tell here, but the night always proves to be a good bit of fun... dare I say good craic? Like when Annie, Jojo, and my non-smoking ass FLEW up the Government Center steps, cigarettes dangling from mouths in some weird drunken rite of passage. (The really bizarre part was that none of us were winded after the three flights of stairs, puffing away.) Or last year, when Jojo, a tiny redhead decked out in an emerald green peacoat, attacked a parked Hummer with the driver and his date still inside, yelling something to the effect of "conspicuously consuming ASSHOLE! Oil-swilling mother---" There's also starting up conversations with random Irishmen, concerning the Twilight Zone-like phenomena of the women's room line moving faster than the men's. Pub food and Theater District divebars. Green hats and Jameson... oh Jameson...

Maybe this year, I should migrate to Cambridge/Somerville area and avoid the classy (relatively speaking) and over-priced places that speckle downtown. Maybe even catch a show... sing-along, anyone?

While in Boston that holiday weekend, it's important to remember the lesser-known St. Joseph's (aka San Giuseppe) Day (I always remember the day after... when the pastries are gone...) Maybe this year, I'll have a clear enough head to float into the North End and pick up some zeppole - though not from Mike's Pastry (it's one of those places that's really popular, but you're not sure why, cause they're not really that great.) A cappuccino and a zeppole on the Sunday morning after a St. Patrick's Day celebration? From the best of Ireland to the best of Italy. Pinch me.

18 February 2008

I can has dress plz?

Damn that ScarJo - the make-up is a little much, but the dress...?

Do you think she'd let me borrow it for the Big A?

16 February 2008

March 18th say whaaaaat?

Apparently, everyone got together (and by "everyone," I mean "M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel, The Kills, and Devotchka"), and said, "how can we overwhelm Alec? Oh yes - let's all put out albums on the same day! That will really fry her music-addled brain!"

There are worse ways to fry your brain, I suppose. Now let me break it down like a fraction for ya...

She & Him (M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel) release Volume 1.

M. Ward's been doing his thing for quite some time, steadily putting out heartbreaking, sung-into-a-tin-can type albums. Zooey Deschanel's been doing her acting thing for a while, but I hope this turns her towards music more permanently. She's got some amazing pipes - smoky, sassy, and surprisingly strong. There are some original tracks on this, as well as some old soul covers. I foresee this album to be prime new meat for indie and neo-soul kids who like a little 60's Du-Wop. I just hope this impending popularity doesn't overwhelm the low-key Ward and/or put him in some second fiddle corner... because he's awesome. And amazing as Volume 1 sounds, I hope he continues to put out solo material.

The Kills release Midnight Boom.

Another male/female duo! But these two are a little more rock'n'roll... but don't you dare compare them to the White Stripes, because unlike the White Stripes, The Kills don't suck!

The Kills last album was No Wow in 2005 - a good and rough and gritty record with plenty of growling bass, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. With this upcoming record, however, they've apparently headed in a more electronic direction (which is what they've partially classified themselves as for some time), so I'm interested to see what they do with that. I'm already a fan of the sexy and nonsensical single, "U.R.A Fever" - here's hoping the whole album is this solid.

Devotchka releases A Mad and Faithful Telling.

Devotchka always reminded me of a few ragtag kids from marching band in high school that were constantly picked on and disappeared after high school, only to pop up ten years later to kick an awesome amount of ass.

Their sound is that of a band of Eastern European folk musicians, blended with an western American vibe, à la Calexico, with a splash of mariachi. Since their amazing and epic theme album, How It Ends, in 2004, they've released an EP of covers (containing a Velvet Underground cover that may be even better than the original), and were the main creative force behind the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. Stereogum has the new single, "Transliterator," available for download... or you can just listen to it on the band's myspace.

From the sound of it, it would seem that Devotchka's up to their old, feisty tricks -- and that's perfectly fine with me. It looks like I will be one happy camper come March 18th.

15 February 2008

"I fell off the jetway again."

There's an interesting article from the NY Times called "Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge," concerning the dumbing down of America. Simple things like locating Iran on a map, or -- for the love of humanity -- knowing that HUNGARY is a country, are used as examples.

I'm in the boat where I feel like I can never know enough -- that I can never read or hear or see enough. I'm a glutton for words and books, for culture. I'm dying to learn more and always feel a step (or eighty) behind. But it's just sad that people are caught in this intensely stupid and stubborn lurch: they're either horribly misinformed, uninformed, believe that opinion is fact and vice versa, or just believe that generally "knowing shit" is unimportant. When you place education at the bottom of the totem pole, your country may not show signs of it immediately -- but it will show -- and how. The socialization of knowledge that's happened since the internet has become more commonplace has its positives and negatives: on one hand, people feel open to contribute, and the exchange of information is easier than ever.

On the other hand, a lot of people are dumb.

I'm not saying I'm awesomely smart, or that the aura of my knowledge overwhelms all who surround me, but I know enough to know that I know (relatively) nothing at all. People who can't spell or pronounce "Shiite" or "nuclear" probably shouldn't be talking about such things until they maybe do something like, say, read.

The first time I read the inscription on the north side of the main Boston Public Library building in Copley Square, I was smitten. It says: "THE COMMONWEALTH REQUIRES THE EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE AS THE SAFEGUARD OF ORDER AND LIBERTY." How amazing a thought is that? I love it! We live in a country that (ideally), embraces knowledge over ignorance, thereby over fear... I wish people would just grab hold of that simple thought.

It's a lovely thing, thought.

12 February 2008

ScarJo? Is that you?

So Hilary has a new campaign manager and Obama has chic celebrity backing.

While that's fun and inspirational for the short attention-span crowd, here's the real speech (it kicks in around the 2 minute mark). It's very compelling - in that rather vague hope/change sort of way. Obama's a blah debater, but an amazing speaker. But at the risk of sounding like a total drag, I'll quote one of my favorite Slate journalists and fellow Obama supporter, David Plotz: "I don't want to be rallied." He went on to say that the nature of crowds can be scary - they have a tendency to act "independently of rationality." Plotz goes so far as to call it rather "fascistic," which isn't necessarily as far-flung as it sounds. Obviously, Obama is not a right wing fascist, but the massive rallying of large groups of people can be both amazing and dangerous: "mob mentality."

It's hard not to be swept up in Obama's promise of hope and change in these extraordinarily frustrating times when, as a citizen, you feel hopeless, impotent and cast aside... but just remember to think for yourself and remain a healthy skeptic of those who lead this country - because it's your freaking country, too.

"There's a reason why they call it 'healthy skepticism,' sweetie - because it's healthy."
- Mom

11 February 2008

Il fait froid au jour d'hui.

When I checked my Dashboard weather widget this morning, it just said "9"... as if "9" was a perfectly logical and normal thing for it to say. With windchill, it's well below zero. I put aside all fashion dignity and wore my over-sized winter coat that has withstood many a New England storm, bit the hat-head bullet and stepped out of Back Bay. Coming out of the station felt like jumping into a frozen swimming pool. I consider myself relatively hardy, but I actually felt myself gasping from the shock in the wind tunnels of downtown. It throws you and completely cuts off your ability to think because all your body is letting you think is "get somewhere warm, getsomewherewarmNOW!!" It's made especially cruel, considering this day has had the only sign of sun we've experienced in over a week. Quel drag.

But enough griping. I hunkered down in the duplé and spent much of the weekend being semi-productive, i.e. writing letters and baking. I tried my hand at Italian bread, which came out.... oddly. It tasted great and had decent texture, but looked like a semi-deflated soccer ball and adhered itself to the pan with religious zealousness (though I corn mealed the hell out of bottom.) Lesson learned. Next time, I won't rush the rising, and I'll use parchment paper as well... Teflon parchment paper greased with 4-in-1 oil...

Most likely carcinogenic polyurethane compound spreading of microthin substance over a negatively charged layer of aluminum, copper, iron, lead, VHS, FYI, apple pie, FBI, and some other elements too...

07 February 2008

It ain't the Green Isle for nothin'

While Whole Foods is just starting to charge for their plastic bags, Ireland has been a little more bold and charges a tax of 22 euro cents per plastic bag. It's not a hard habit to start and it's quite beneficial for... everyone. While I found a minor frustration in Italy (they usually charged 5 cents per busta), I got over it. By mid-semester, I almost always went shopping with my backpack, which actually made it easier to navigate the Florentine streets - no bags to get caught on stuff, like say, passing motorini.

An easy, socially responsible solution: buy the fiber/reusable bags (around $8-$10 for 3-4 of them), and when you're done unloading your groceries, you just pop the bags right back into the car so you don't forget them next time around. No biggie. Let's hope this kick starts a major trend.

And in completely unrelated bit of news, I zinged Rob's mom so badly, I just had to share. He has since defended his mother's honor by throwing mine down a ravine several times (metaphorically), but that's beside the point. Here it is, and for those not in the know, the "T" is the public transit system in Boston.

Rob: it's one town over
Rob: actually kelly's is on the T
Rob: orange line
Rob: if you want to call that the T
A-Town: oh snap
A-Town: elitist
Rob: the orange skeeves me out
A-Town: so does your mom, but that doesn't keep me from riding her

Thank you - I'll be here all week!

05 February 2008

The more you know...

I've been doing some more research on Valencia, because Rach and I didn't really know too much about it when we chose it. Our decision to go to Valencia came about as follows:
A-Town: Ryanair doesn't fly Pisa to Madrid!
Rachel: Crap! Where does it go?
A-Town: It flies to Valencia... that sounds promising...
Rachel: You know what - screw Madrid! It had it coming! ... So, where's Valencia?

Valencia is happily just down the coast from Barcelona, which should make for a nice, relatively easy train ride when we head north. It sounds like a really great place, actually. Something sort of quiet after a whirlwind few days in Firenze. Wanna know some factoids about V-Town, as well as some subjective truthitudes? Valencia has the largest aquarium in Europe (which I'm kind of geeking out about because I strode to be a mammal marine biologist... when I was 9.) It's supposedly a great city for young artists and still has a certain "old world charm." It's also fiscally responsible: nice hostel lodging for four days for both Rachel and myself came out to be just a smidgen over $300, and I hear that most tapas run around $4.

Cheap sardines? Why not?

Valencia is on the list of "Second-Tier Cities" from the NY Times, which also includes Italy's prodigal son, Napoli. They're cities that one wouldn't necessarily think of when someone asks "where do you want to go in Europe?" - but fine, up-and-coming, bring-home-to-Mom type places nonetheless.

Sounds nice, huh? I just hope I can pick up some Spanish before this trip, and not confuse it with my limited Italian in the process. I watched Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations: Paris" after some nudging by Rob (I find Bourdain obnoxious - and not in an endearing Dr. House sort of way...) Well, I now find Bourdain tolerable, but also, I miss.... European-ness. More than ever. I really miss the French language. It was my second language - I took seven years of it, giving up after freshman year of college because I dealt with a bitter WASP of a professor who wished he was French so badly that he took out his misery on my grammar skills. I never had a chance to speak it with someone who wasn't an educator, and when you're abroad there's something thrilling about asking for directions or even buying stamps in another language. I simply enjoy hearing French, and speaking it can be a pleasure when it's a casual situation. It's not as warm and vivacious as Italian, or cool as Spanish, but its filled with subtleties and swirling tones. The end of their words get pulled up by invisible strings and tumble down and up, and then get crammed together like cars in traffic, only to free up unexpectedly. An interesting language.

As for today being Super Tuesday, I'm not registered as a Democrat, so I'm not voting in the primary. But, I of course look forward to see who will nail this... or gently cradle this like a photo-op baby. (But how cute is that Obama/baby picture??) I have reservations about both Democratic candidates, but I won't voice my concerns till the dust settles - once they're in-line for the nomination, they're a little more secure. And I'll say this about the Republicans: John McCain looks like he couldn't handle the stress created by climbing a flight of stairs and his eagerness to appease the right concerns me immensely; Mitt Romney? Well, he reminds me of the evil billionaire from the classically MST3K'd movie Timechasers.

So what if I'm a nerd - he's evil.

03 February 2008

Perfection just takes so much WORK.

Rob: WHAT fucking bullshit
A-Town: I KNOW
A-Town: i am upset
Rob: even you are! shit

I like Bill Bellchick. While his habit of cutting off the sleeves of his sweatshirts is wasteful (what does he do with the sleeves??), it's almost endearing in an obsessive sort of way. He also looks like the kind of guy who, if he were your uncle, would never say much more to you other than "stay out of trouble"... but come Christmas, would give you an envelope with an obscene amount of cash in it. Randy Moss can fly. Welker is the spry hobbit of the NFL. Bruschi is an inspirational made-for-TV-movie waiting for happen. And Tom Brady... well.

He's Tom Brady.

So I was disappointed with tonight's game. Both teams were tough, but... so it goes.

But I won't say that the NY Giants coach needs to crawl back under the bridge from whence he came. Or that one of the owners of the Giants looks like a pedophile. Or that Eli Manning was a quarter of a chromosome away from being the slow kid who stuck his hand in the Fry-alator at McDonald's...

I will say this, however: I'm sorry, Boston. It is going to be a depressing week. And I'm up past my bedtime. The only thing worse than bloated, hung-over, exuberant Catholics is bloated, hung-over, depressed Catholics - a people who thrive on mourning, loss and misplaced guilt and anger. And I'll be stuck in the tin can known as the MBTA with them all week.

Let the grouching begin!

But as I finish my highball, I'll remind myself that 18-0 ain't too freaking shabby and shall now start chanting the Bostonia mantra of "next yeeah, baby!" To cheer myself up, I shall post a picture of Tom Brady holding a baby goat. Simply because such a thing exists.

01 February 2008

Reason #8496 why Eryn rocks my world.

As much as I've been trying (and lord, have I been trying), to "put a smile" on this week, it has been impossible. Monday, first thing out of the house, I slipped on some black ice and landed squarely on my tailbone. I try not to let morning crap determine the mood of my day, but when you've got a sore bum, it's sort of hard not to. Tuesday: spilled coffee in the car. Wednesday: migraine...

Et cetera, et cetera.

This week has been chock full of the kind of annoyances that cause high blood pressure and... baldness. Every time I turn around, there's someone just waiting to get in my way so I miss the T, or swerve their car to hit the nearby puddle to splash me. The "A" in "A-Town" stood for "Angry," my friends.

But wait! There is a silver lining to the ominous acid rain-filled cloud that has been this week.

The B to my BW got me a BW gift... just for being BW, I guess! (So many B's!) We were talking Amalgamation stuff earlier today while longingly looking at the pictured clutch purse online. I was this close to giving J. Crew my credit card digits when Eryn told me, in a can't-keep-a-sweetass-secret sort of way (another shared trait), that I'd be receiving that very same drool-inducing purse in the mail quite soon. PIMP!

I feel lucky to have friends who are worth flying halfway around the world for and remind you just why exactly they're so awesome in some form or another everyday. And in all fairness, PL, I would have attended the Big A even without the coveted clutch... but just barely...

What can I say? I'm a sucker for a Renaissance man.

There's an interesting article in the NY Times today about "Artistic Muscle, Flexed for The Medici." It's a nice little flashback to SACI, but without the dead-out run, followed by hours of standing in a church or palazzo or piazza or field that usually accompanied such information. After reading Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling, dozens of articles and getting schooled by Helen, I'm quite familiar with Michelangelo and his general brilliant misery, but it was a nice refresher about the Michelangelini - the students and artists who toiled in Michelangelo's shadow... like, say, Pontormo and his creepy Mannerist style. What stands out in memory is the Deposition fresco in Santa Felicità (where Helen, our professor, came this close to interrupting a funeral service, but we ended up getting lunch and someone sneaked a huge slice of Nutella cake into the church). The bright pastels colors don't hide the weird, ethereal and transgender qualities to the fresco. It's unsettling in a way. Bearing that in mind, I was surprised to see this drawing by Pontormo - it's... very modern; made of movement. Full of surprises, that crazy Pontormo!

And apparently (though not surprisingly), most of these artists lived "tortured existences." Rosso Fiorentino died an apparent suicide, Pontormo lived in anti-social solitude, and Michelangelo was an asexual, grumpyass bastard for all of his 88 years. I should really try to check out Vasari's Lives of Artists... I imagine it's like a very well-written Renaissance version of a weekly tabloid.

If I weren't headed back to the central hub of these artists in 80-ish days(!), I would consider catching the show in NY... but I'll be up to my eyeballs in Renaissance art soon enough...

"Michelangelo designed this very panino. It is considered one of the most perfect sandwiches in the history of mankind. Here are the original sketches, as well as 498 letters to his brothers and father describing the pain involved in creating this lunch commission. No eating, please."