Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Movie Reviews

There haven't been to many current movies that have piqued my interest lately, so I've been moving through my (very long) Netflix queue. Here are the last three movies I watched.

1. Slap Shot. I was under the impression that this 1977 iconic hockey movie was a screwball comedy, like a hockey version of Major League, but it's not like that at all. It's got some funny parts but overall I'd classify it as a drama- like Bull Durham, only with less romance and more blood. The screenplay was written by the sister of a minor league hockey player. Paul Newman stars as Reggie Dunlop, the player-coach (who doesn't love a player-coach?) in charge of a downtrodden team that plays in a town that will soon hit the skids with the impending closure of the local mill. With the arrival of the childish and thuggish Hanson Brothers (if you're any sort of sports fan, you've definitely seen this image before), Reggie decides to adopt a more violent style of play to attract fans. It works. I enjoyed the movie and my Paul Newman crush lives on- in this role, he just exudes charisma and fits in seamlessly with the cast, several of whom were hockey players and not actors. Newman said that Slap Shot was the most fun he had making a movie.

2. He Got Game. The NBA playoffs inspired me to watch this 1988 Spike Lee film (make that joint) starring a young Ray Allen as high school hoops phenom Jesus Shuttlesworth. Jesus is the number one ranked basketball prospect in the country, and all everyone wants to know is where he is going next- what college program will he choose? Denzel Washington plays Jesus' estranged father, who has granted a week's release from prison by the governor in order to convince his son to attend the governor's alma mater. If he succeeds, his sentence will be reduced in appreciation. Jesus is a likable and sympathetic character- he's surrounded by parasites hoping to get a piece of his impending fortune, and there are temptations at every turn- agents and coaches offering money and more. The opening sequence was Spike Lee at his finest- beautiful shots of all sorts of people playing basketball in New York City, set to orchestral music reminiscent of West Side Story. I did have some gripes with the film- it can get overly sentimental at times, some characters struck me as too formulaic/stereotypical, and there's at least one ridiculously gratuitous sex scene (which might be a plus for some people, but hey). He Got Game is a less than perfect movie, but it does do a great job of capturing the pressures surrounding young star athletes, and it was fun to watch Ray Allen in the role.

3. The Notebook. Okay, so I don't only watch sports movies. Have you ever read anything by Nicholas Sparks? His books are the pinnacle of sentimentality, and it's a good thing that the movie toned down the cheese a notch or two. The premise of The Notebook is that an aging man recounts to his wife, who has lost her memory, the story of how they first met and fell in love. While still sappy at times, The Notebook is bolstered by the fine performances of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as the younger couple. I also loved the style of the flashback scenes- the clothes, the cars, and the houses were all fabulous. The theme of aging and memory loss is familiar and heartbreaking: the elderly Allie doesn't even recognize her own children, and I suspect that most viewers will start thinking about their own parents and grandparents.

Okay, I admit it. I liked The Notebook, and it made me cry. A lot.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Remember that website F*** My Life I posted a while back? Check out McSweeney's FML versions of the Greek myths. Fing brilliant! I came up with a couple for Star Wars:

This princess I had a crush on kissed me. I knew she was only did it to make someone else jealous, but I didn't care. Then I found out she's actually my sister. FML.

So, I joined this elite group of warriors with a mission to take down an evil mastermind. I battle him and he cuts off my hand. Guess what? He's my dad. FML.

Wow, Luke's life is totally F-ed. No wonder why he's so whiny.

Here are a couple of fun videos:
Best Slap Chop remix eva!!!

And a cool version of Stand By Me, performed by street musicians worldwide.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Things I'm into lately

I recently stopped by Old Navy (hey, I'm a grad student. this is where I shop.) and picked up a hooded henley t-shirt, and I'm in love. Seriously. This t-shirt and I are getting married this November. Save the date. Joking aside, it's made of that perfect t-shirt material: thin, soft cotton. Divinely soft. And it's nice and long, too. $15. I bought one in gray, but might go back to pick up another one in a different color. Or I'll just start wearing the gray one every day. You've been warned.

Also, I'm on a Spicy Hot V8 kick. I tend to require a mid-afternoon snack, and I've been trying to find something filling yet a little healthier than my standard bag of Fritos and can of Diet Coke. Spicy V8 to the rescue! It's healthy, tasty, and substantial enough to tide me over until dinner. Plus, it reminds me of a bloody mary, which is always a good thing.

Lastly, this video of a boy seeing lobsters for the first time cracked me up.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The worst airline neighbors ever!

A few weeks ago, I took a quick trip to Hawaii to attend the wedding of a delightful couple of friends. The second leg of the journey was around six hours long, and the flight was packed. My original seat was in the middle of a row, but a family boarded after me and their seats weren't together. A boy about 7 years old ended up next to me, so I offered to swap seats with his mom so they could sit together, because I'm nice like that (and she had a window). My new row had an empty middle seat, one of the few unoccupied spots on the plane. At this point, everyone was seated and the lady in the aisle and I were like "score! empty middle seat!" However, a stewardess came over and told the lady that there was a couple aboard the aircraft who were on their way to get married but their seats weren't together and would she mind switching seats so they could sit next to each other? She said yes, because in that situation, how could you not? Yeah, sit apart, suckas. Happy wedding.

Anyways, so the couple sat down in my row and, once they were settled in, I said, "Oh, so I hear you're getting married- congratulations!"

Their response? "Oh, no, we just lied about that to get our seats moved."

LIARS! And they were so irritatingly nonchalant about it. I was miffed. Things went downhill from there. Moments after takeoff, the man (who was seated next to me) removed his shoes. And his socks. And he had really, really smelly feet. C'mon, I know people like to be comfortable on long flights, but leave the socks on, buddy. Then came the massage. The man decided to give the woman a massage, and I'm not talking about an innocent shoulder rub. She was sitting on his lab, and he was pressing on her lower back with his hands doing some thrusty motion. We're talking as close as you can get to joining the Mile High Club without removing your clothes. Except for your socks, obviously, because you certainly didn't hesitatate to remove those, you stankyfooted liar. Thrusty massage went on for about an hour. I was horrified and tried to ignore them...hood up, sunglasses on, earphones in, staring intently at my laptop. These people looked to be in their early forties, an age at which everyone should be familair with airplaine ettiqute. They were terrible, Lying, smelly footed, thrusty massagers, I'd take ten crying babies over you fools, any day.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A real life crime drama

Last week, when my coworkers and I were joking around about who was behind the prostitute slaying at the Copley Marriott, it didn't actually cross our minds that the (alleged) murderer was a medical student on our campus. FREAKY!! I didn't know him but a couple of my friends are in his med school class. News cameras were already out when I left the lab tonight- one stopped me as I was getting on the bus and my friend Nikki called to say she saw me on the news.
Reporter: Isn't is shocking?
Me: It's really shocking.

I'm so insightful. That being said, seems as though the police did some quality detective work on this case and I'm glad they caught the perpetrator.


Okay, watch the clip here! I come on around 4:05. I didn't give my name, and they misidentified me. (I think that the girl interviewed after me is the real Cierra.)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend Report

Friday- Book Club! This month's selection was The Big Sleep, a detective thriller written in 1939 by Raymond Chandler. You know all those mystery cliches, like "It was a dark and stormy night. A dame walked into my office- she looked like trouble."? Well, The Big Sleep is the original source material. It's is a very entertaining read, full of detectives in trench coats and rich girls gone wrong, sex, violence, and hilarious metaphors:

The General spoke again, slowly, using his strength as carefully as an out-of-work showgirl uses her last good pair of stockings.

I loved it! I'm currently participating in a voice study, in which I have to call in once a week and read a passage to have my voice recorded for analysis. I've decided to read racy parts from The Big Sleep- at least it will keep things interesting for the poor grad student who has to listen to hundreds of these recordings. As always, Book Club was a blast. We wore themed outfits, had some drinks and snacks, and watched the 1946 movie version starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Afterwards, Andy and Sarah (gaze upon their splendid outfits) and I popped into the Ashmont Grill for a nightcap.

Saturday- Went to the Celtics game with my friend Jen. The absence of Kevin Garnett was really noticeable- they lost, and the team seemed to be lacking the normal playoffs intensity. I was impressed with Derrick Rose from the Bulls, but with KG in the lane, there's no way he would have been able to keep on slashing to the basket the way he did. Saturday night I went to a party at Lisa and Meghan's apartment, which was a ton of fun except for a brief interlude when I accidentally locked myself in the bathroom. And although it was tempting, we didn't actually wear snuggies to the party.

Sunday- Met up with my nieces Nora and Maggie and their pal Aidan- aren't they cute? Played some soccer, and then watched Twilight with Ern and Pat. It actually wasn't bad, as far as teenage vampire smut goes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Review Roundup

One show and one restaurant:

1. Last night I saw Portland, Oregon native Laura Gibson perform at TT The Bear's. She sings very folksy, mellow tunes backed up by a keyboardist and a percussionist (who also plays a saw...that's the ghostlike sound on the track). She has a lovely voice and although she seems pretty shy onstage, she came down and mingled with the crowd afterwards. If you're in the mood for some calming music, I'd recommend checking her out.
Funeral Song - Laura Gibson

2. I have driven by the restaurant 224 Boston Street in Dorchester (located at...224 Boston St.!) many times and have always wanted to give it a try, so Ern, Pat, and I finally went. Located in a mostly residential neighborhood near Andrew Square, the inside of 224 Boston Street is exactly how I had imagined it would be- cozy, friendly, and full of locals. The entrees are a little on the pricey side (well, for a grad student) but the menu also contains cheaper pizza and sandwich options. They serve caipirinhas, so I ordered one (obviously) and found it quite satisfying. We started off the meal with a delicious calamari appetizer and then moved on our main courses- Pat got the steak, Ern had pasta with veggies, chicken, and sausage, and I had grilled pork. Everything was tasty but I liked Ern's meal the best, but then again, I am highly susceptible to food envy. After dinner, we relocated to the bar for a couple of beers- none on tap, which was strange, but I tried a bottled IPA from Colorado that I liked. Okay, two bottles. I had a great time at 224 Boston St. and would definitely go back, especially now that the weather is getting nicer- the garden patio is small but really cute (and the winner of Mayor Menino's annual Garden Contest.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The light at the end of the tunnel

Many of you are aware that I am currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Microbiology, and that it's been making me miserable for a good while now. I don't want to throw a pity party for myself, but overall, I would describe my graduate school experience as "spirit-crushing." It's been a long and mostly horrible six years.

However, my fortunes have shifted recently, in that after a long period of stagnation, my experiments are giving me positive data that I can use to put together a manuscript for publication and finish off my thesis. I had a committee meeting on Tuesday and I finally got the green light- meaning that I'll spend the summer finishing up some more lab work, submitting a manuscript, writing my dissertation, and I should be ready to defend in August or September. THANK GOD.

I still have a lot of work to do, but the end is finally in sight.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Okay, here's your feel-good video of the day: watch Susan Boyle's audition for Britain's Got Talent. She has the face of a lunch lady and the voice of an angel. My eyes misted up a bit, but then again, I am a huge sap. I can't watch an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition without tearing up.
(via Sarah)

Dork Yearbook. I'm sure I could dredge up some photos from my youth that would make excellent submissions. (via RT)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

R.I.P., Mark Fidrych

As long as I can remember, my father has had as subscription to Sports Illustrated. I enjoy reading it but don't get it at my apartment, so every time I visit my parents, I'll flip through the issues that I've missed. It was in this manner that I first learned of former Detriot Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych- back in 2001, Steve Rushin interviewed and wrote an article on the pitcher known as the Bird for a special "Where Are They Now?" issue. In his 1976 rookie season, Fidrych skyrocketed to fame- his successful pitching, his eccentric behavior on the mound, and his goofy innocence combined to bring him immense popularity. Due to injuries, Fidrych's career didn't live up to his rookie promise and he soon ended up running a farm and driving a dump truck back in his hometown Northboro, MA. The article is a lengthy but worthwhile read and painted a portrait of that would make anyone (myself included) a fan of The Bird:

Fidrych was only 20 months removed from high school when the Tigers made him a nonroster invitee to spring training in 1976. "I walked into that big league clubhouse in Lakeland [Fla.] and went, 'Wow! Free orange juice!'" he recalls. "'Free chewing gum! Free chewing tobacco! I don't even chew tobacco, but I think I'm gonna start!' I was in heaven. Five pairs of spikes, gloves a dime a dozen, big league uniforms with our names on the back. Audrey, our minor league secretary, gave me writing paper with the Detroit emblem stamped on it so I could write letters home. It made me feel like a big shot."

He just struck me as such a genuine, happy person, an athlete who played sports because they were fun, and a man who always appreciated what he had and didn't become bitter when things didn't work out as planned. Even though I hadn't even been born when he pitched in the majors, I felt saddened today when I saw the news that Mark Fidrych was killed in an accident at the age of 54.

Monday, April 13, 2009

All fun and games

I like games. Card games, board games, drinking games- you name it and I'll play it. Card games and board games took a multi-year hiatus during my late teens and early twenties, a glorious time in which Drinking Games superseded all other forms of competitive entertainment. Nowadays, my social interactions generally call for games which can be enjoyed while drinking but are not necessarily Drinking Games. For example, hanging out with a friend's family after Easter dinner is probably not the appropriate occasion to suggest a game of Flip Cup or Asshole. Good thing that I have a new favorite game- Bananagrams! It's like speed Scrabble- only without the board and the pieces come inside a banana. Very fun, and very addictive; because each game only lasts a few minutes, you can just keep on playing over and over. So if you're looking to expand your game repertoire, I highly recommend Bananagrams, especially if you are a word nerd like myself.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What I've been up to lately

I feel like my posts have been pretty weak lately, but I was fighting off a cold and preparing for an upcoming thesis committee meeting all week. I did get to have some fun, though. Nikki and I watched the Celtics beat New Jersey on Wednesday- you can't really tell but we are both wearing fantastic t-shirts: I've got my Gino on and Nikki wore her new Rondo shirt.

For several years now, I've been part of a little group called Spanish Table- Spanish-speaking scientists in Boston who get together every couple of months to eat and drink and conversar. JR and I are the token American members. Last night, we gathered at the house of a couple from Argentina for a paella and sangria party. It was an absolute feast of deliciousness- empanadas, stuffed breads, olives, bread, cheese, spinach pie (courtesy of the Greek representatives), deviled eggs (which are apparently a Spanish tapa not called juevos del diablo, FYI) and of course the paella. I ate soooo much and had a grand ole time. Below are some photos of the festivities (note: drinking several glasses of sangria may lead to the chopping off of heads in certain photos.) And in case you're wondering, Spanish Speaking Scientists Throw The Best Dinner Parties.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

NHL Winter Classic to be played at Fenway!

I like hockey, but don't think the NHL has done the best job at managing or promoting the sport, with the exception of the Winter Classic- a regular season game played outdoors on New Year's Day. After the snowy Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo matchup in 2008 earned huge television ratings, the NHL wisely decided to make the outdoor game an annual event.

Today, I learned that the next Winter Classic will be played at Fenway Park, with the Boston Bruins facing a still unnamed opponent (please oh please let it be the Habs). How exciting! Here's to hoping I'll be able to score tickets...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Blast from the past

I have a busy week and appear to be suffering from a case of blogger's block, so here's a video for your entertainment: We Are The World.

My goodness, I can still remember all of the words but had no idea how many famous people were actually in it. And the eightiesness of the whole thing is downright spectaular. My favorite bits are Kenny Rogers in that nerdy white sweatshirt and the high-tech Bruce/Stevie splitscreen towards the end. Who's your favorite?

And in case you have trouble recognizing the performers, here's a list.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The Most Productive Weekend Ever

This weekend, I made no plans and decided to complete a whole bunch of tasks and errands I had been putting off for weeks:
Cleaned my apartment, mopped the floors, did laundry, brought clothes to the dry cleaner, bought new running shoes, did my taxes, paid bills, made a beef stew, picked up a used copy of The Big Sleep for book club, went running, mailed a couple of packages, filled my tank with gas and put air in my tires (I am trying to overcome my fear of a tire exploding and killing me). Impressive, but pretty darn boring in hindsight.

I did watch the final four- I much prefer the NBA to college ball but the Michigan State vs. UConn game was worth watching. I wish college basketball commentators would stop using the word "penetrate." I actually heard Digger Phelps use the phrase "dry penetration" during a broadcast. It was rather unsettling.

Yesterday was the first nice day of the year, and I got to do one of my favorite favorite things. I absolutely love driving around on a sunny day with the car windows rolled down and a Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee in my hand.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

My Microwave: a haiku

Ancient microwave
with a lever and a dial
Still you heat my food

Friday, April 03, 2009

Food Glorious Food

Here are a couple of recipes I've made recently.

1. One of my favorite restaurant dishes is the spinach and artichoke dip at the Sunset Grill and Tap, but I've never made it myself. I tried out this Spinach and Artichoke Dip recipe from Cooking Light for the last blogger book club meeting and it was a big hit. I served it with pita chips and sliced baguette rather than tortilla chips, and I added black olives. When it was done cooking, I sprinkled some diced tomato on top because A. yum and B. people who don't like tomatoes cannot be trusted, so it's a good way to identify potential enemies. It's not the most healthy of appetizers but it is tasty, very easy to make, and a great item to bring to a party.

2. After a shameful dinner of Nutter Butters and Fritos during a late night in the lab, I decided to compensate the next day by cooking up some healthy fish. I bought ocean perch for the first time- when it comes to white fish, I usually opt for cod or haddock, but the perch was fresh, wild-caught, and on sale for only $2.99 a pound. I found this recipe for Parmesan-Basil Perch and decided to give it a shot. It was excellent! The fish was light and flaky and the coating provided a nice but not overpowering flavor. And it only took about 5 minutes to prepare before popping it in the oven. I served it up with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans and a big ol' glass of pinot grigio. And yes I eat in front of my laptop. But only sometimes.

Onto the links:

During last weekend's wedding celebration and festivities (congratulations, Buddah and Molly!) a friend made Puerco Pibil. This Mexican pork dish was featured in a Johnny Depp movie and the director Robert Rodriguez made a cooking video to go along with it. He gives some good tips at the end- pick a few favorite dishes and learn to make them very well. I also love his kitchen and the personal menus.

Here are a couple of food blogs- first, we've got the highbrow FoodPornDaily- which, despite the name, is very SFW and features fine food photography as well as some recipes. And lastly, the lowbrow: The Snackmaster catalogues his adventures in junk food. I like his writing style but seriously, the more you read, the more you become amazed at the sheer amount of snacks this guy consumes.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Muy Cansado in the WBCN Rumble

Who's that dashing fellow on the cover of the Weekly Dig? (Um, the one under the bloody hand.) It's my friend Chris Mulvey, whose band Muy Cansado has been selected to participate in WBCN's Rock N Roll Rumble battle of the bands. The contest has been going on since 1979, and former winners include The Dresden Dolls and Til' Tuesday. Muy Cansado plays next Thursday at the Middle East upstairs. I will be there and if you're a music fan in the Boston area, I highly recommend attending. The Dig compared Muy Cansado to the Talking Heads in their write-up, so that should be all the prodding that you need.