Thursday, January 31, 2008

7 Reasons Why You Should Watch Season One of "30 Rock"

If you haven't ever heard of 30 Rock or have yet to see an episode, you should just go, stop reading this post, and rent the first season ASAP. Go on, go find a way to watch it. If you still haven't gone away and need a little bit on convincing, read on to see what you're missing out on.

Not to be confused with the canceled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (which coincidentally premiered around the same time, and had a similar premise), 30 Rock is the Emmy-winning NBC series that is loosely based on Tina Fey's experiences as past head writer for Saturday Night Live. Each 30 minute episode usually centers around the fictional Liz Lemon (played by Tina Fey), and her day-to-day duties and interactions with various members of the cast and writers of "The Girlie Show" (fictional sketch-comedy show similar to SNL), as well as Jack Donaghy, her domineering boss. The comic antics, neurotic (yet loveable) characters, and running gags throughout the series makes it no wonder that 30 Rock has been winner of the Golden Globes, the SAG awards, as well as the Emmys.

Below are 7 reasons why you must see the show.

07. Tracy Morgan as Tracy Jordan. Definitely a parody of his real, crazy self. I was never really a fan of Tracy Morgan, but the show has definitely helped change my mind about him.

06. Rachel Dratch as many different (and hilarious) minor characters. Rachel Dratch probably won't ever star in her own show or movie, but she definitely brings laughs whenever she's on the screen for even a minute. Watch out for her a the crazy cat-handler or the scary Liz Taylor.

05. Learn new slang that might make you cooler. Or words that might make you disgusted by today's society. It's where I learned what a "lemon party" is - which is a horrible, horrible thing.

04. It's like taking a look into Tina Fey's life. Dealing with crazy stars. Seeing work that goes into funny, short skits. It might even make you miss SNL.

03. The quotes. The many, funny quotes. Especially by Liz Lemon, Tracy Jordan, and Jack Donaghy.

02. Alec Baldwin is awesome. I guarantee that after you watch a few episodes of "30 Rock," you'll fall in love with Jack Donaghy. And you'll find yourself turning a deaf ear towards every bit of real-life celebrity gossip about Alec Baldwin - whether he's calling his daughter a "pig" or more bickering between him and ex-wife, Kim Basinger.

01.
It'll give you something to do while the WGA strike is on. And when the strike ends, you can continue on and watch Season Two.

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Ten Things I Learned At The Republican Debate

10. Mitt Romney knows his economics so Senator McCain would be wise to change the subject quickly.

9. "Tax Cuts" is the new "Don't Tase Me Bro"

8. John McCain is not only tough as nails on the War in Iraq, his jaw must be strong enough to rip the nails out if need be.

7. Fake expressions all around! The Huckabee Grin, McCain Smile, The Romney Smirk. Not Ron Paul though who gave you the sincerest scowl you'll ever see all night long.

6. Anderson Cooper was a douchebag to Ron Paul.

5. The reconstructed former Air Force One plane behind the candidates was distracting. It was like trying to figure out how they put the ship in the bottle.

4. You can't get enough Ronald Reagan references in as long as the debate is held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

3. Rudy Giuliani sure was quiet...

2. The candidates were asked if they would have selected Sandra Day O'Connor. They each answered that they would have selected someone who follows the law more strictly and didn't try interpret it. Yea, O'Connor. How dare you try to interpret the law/do the job that you were assigned to!

1. And the winnner is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Still initimidating enough to scare the candidates into agreeing with his green energy plan.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Project Runway: The Art World

Sarah Jessica Parker's production company is working on a new arts-world competition show, in conjunction with the same people who brought us Bravo's Project Runway. The new show would be about artists competing in art challenges, like painting, photography, and sculpting, and at the end of the season, ultimately crown one of them as the 'best artist.'

I love me some Project Runway. I really like competition-based reality shows. Lord knows I love art. But this show sounds like a doozy. First of all, there is nothing more subjective than art. Bad art is awesome to some people, "great" art is not so awesome to other people. And to have artists produce such a wide range of art forms is a little much. You know, a designer designs dresses and a cook cooks food. It's not like a photographer does industrial design and vice versa or whatever. Or maybe they do, artists are crazy. I mean that in the nicest way possible.

I also don't think mainstream America is going to get this show. I still think most of America is a little bit behind in what makes something good (why do you think so many quality shows are low-rated and so many great pictures never make the weekend Box Office Top 5?). Hmmm. I am very interested to see how this show will play out, both in creativity and with the general American audience. Don't let me down, SJP!

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You're Better Than That

I have now gone a week without Internet access (and land line access) at home. This will be approximately the third week within the last year that I have gone sans World Wide Web thanks to Verizon. When it is actually up and running, Verizon does a bang up job of providing a consistent service unlike the folks at Optimum and Time Warner. However, getting a Verizon technician to fix a problem is like waiting for the mail to arrive through the Pony Express, a really fat, lethargic pony.

I called last week explaining to them the lines were down and scheduled for someone to come on Friday. They of course come on Thursday when no one is home, under the shadow of darkness, check the phone line from the outside, and proceed to conclude that it is working fine. Wrong! Friday, passes no one comes. I call Friday night, complain because the line is still not working. "We'll have a technician visit you personally on Tuesday between 4-8PM, if you have further questions please visit our website at Verizon.com." Err guy. Tuesday comes but the Verizon technician does not.

I'm assuming the lines being down is not our fault because I saw a couple of Verizon trucks servicing other houses in my area and I'm pretty sure they were not there installing FIOS. As far as customer service, overall decency and truth telling (they had the balls to say that the Internet was down the first time because of a squirrel), Verizon puts the crap in craptacular and the poo in poo. In the words of Mark Jackson, Verizon, You're Better Than That!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

[Feature] How Cheap Can You Be? ( or, A Guide to Finding the Best Deals for Electronics)


In my group of friends and family, I’m one of the go-to people when it comes to tech-support. One thing that I get asked a lot help finding cheap electronics. The thing is, finding good deals (for anything) isn’t really a big secret. It just takes knowing a couple of key websites, cheaper alternatives, and patience.

So here's what I know....


Patience and Flexibility
If you don’t want to settle for anything more than the cheapest deal, it’s very important to have patience and flexibility. You shouldn’t expect to be able to find the most ideal price quickly (unless you’re lucky). By giving yourself time to shop around and comparison shop, you’re more likely to have better results.

Also important is being flexible with exactly what you want. The broader you are, the easier it’s going to be to find a good deal. Instead of looking for a Logitech MX 5500, you should be looking for wireless keyboards in general. If you find a Microsoft keyboard that’s just as good for very cheap, you probably should just settle.


Deal Forums
This should be your first step in your goal of finding a cheap deal. Deal forums are where users post up good deals, whether through coupons, price-matching, clearance, etc. If you’re looking for something in particular, browsing through the forums on a daily basis will usually yield solid results.

There are many different forums, and generally they’re all the same. I use Slickdeals.net, but there are others such as Fatwallet.com and Dealcatcher.com. Whatever you use, these forums will be your guide to finding the best deals around.


Comparison Shopping
Best Buy is horrendously over-priced. Seriously. Even when things are on sale, you’re more likely to find the same exact product online for a lot cheaper. Yet people still buy things from there because they don’t comparison shop.

You see, with the power of the interweb, you can search for products and information will flow from the intertubes to your electronic computer showing you how much they costs at a wide range of different vendors.

The site that computer geeks swear by is Pricewatch.com. You choose the type of product you’re looking for and they’ll show you, from cheapest to most expensive, what is available online. Following in the theme of broad product searches, it’s more difficult to find specific items than a general one.

For things that might not be computer related, both Froogle.com and Shopzilla.com serve a similar purpose.

All of these websites help you see how much an item should cost, as opposed to the bloated prices found at big box electronic stores.


Student Discounts
Something that a lot of people don’t know is that many companies offer student discounts. Even if you’re not a student, you probably have a friend who still is. Be a scrub.

Granted, they aren’t always the most generous discounts – Apple gives 10%, and Dell maxes out at 12% -- but they are easy and convenient. Plus, you’re not really going to find a new Mac for any cheaper than 10% off anyway.


Buying Refurbished
A refurbished item is an item that has been returned to the company, quality-controlled, and put back into the market for a cheaper price. Think of them as the “certified-used cars” of electronics. Sometimes these products are returned because of defects, but other times there is nothing wrong with them and they were gifts people didn’t want / already had.

I know that a lot of people are wary of buying refurbished but I think they are a great money-saver. Even if the one thing you buy turns out to be defective (one bad experience is usually the reason people away from refurbished goods), they have warranties just like new products.

I’ve bought a lot of things refurbished. Everything from Playstations to a scanner, and have never had any problems. They are always cheaper and work just as well as brand-new items.


Buying Used
Used items are bigger risks, but usually much cheaper. And when you’re poor, cheap is the name of the game. Both eBay.com and Craigslist.com are ideal for finding good, used items.

I think everyone already knows what eBay.com is. But in order to make sure you get that item you’re bidding for, you should try Auctionsniper.com. This website watches your auction, and throws in a bid within the last couple of seconds, giving you an advantage over other bidders. The great thing about auctionsniper.com is that they give you a couple of free auction snipes when you sign up.

The good thing about Craigslist is, because it’s all local, you’re able to inspect the product before plunking your money down. Also, since you’re never dealing with a middleman, you can find better deals.


When you’re looking to buy something, especially electronics, shopping retail is usually a mistake. By investing a little time and even compromising a little, you can save a whole lot of cash. Good luck and happy shopping, and leave me alone :x

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Friday, January 25, 2008

What are you doing this weekend?

Forecast
Fri.: 34°F, sunny and breezy
Sat.: 33°F, some sunshine with clouds
Sun.: 40°F, times of cloud with sun

See
Opening this weekend:

Rambo (starring Sylvester Stallone)

Meet the Spartans (starring Sean Maguire, Carmen Electra)

U2 3D (starring U2)




Events

Free Veroli Italian Entree samples at 4 Bergen County Kings Supermarkets on Saturday, Jan 26:
* 85 Godwin Ave., Midland Park, 11 a.m. to noon.
* 112-140 Linwood Plaza, Fort Lee, 12:45 to 1:45 pm
* 70 Union Ave, Cresskill, 2:15 to 3:15 pm
* 381 Washington Ave., Hillsdale, 3:45 to 4:45 pm

New Year, New You: In order to promote The Ultimate Tea Diet book by Mark Ukra, the Fort Lee Borders will be having a tea tasting session in the Seattle's Best cafe area on Saturday, January 26th from 2 - 4pm.

Restaurant Week: Get a chance to take advantage of NYC's Restaurant Week in its last run, from January 28 - February 1. Over 200 restaurants of different cuisines will be offering $24.07 prix-fixe lunches, $35 three-course dinners.

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Dannon sued over false advertising claims

A couple of days ago I was all set to write a post raving about my favorite yogurt, Dannon's Activia, prune flavor. I know, prune?? But seriously, it doesn't even taste like old, dried up prunes you know and hate, it tastes like berries or a little slice of heaven in your mouth. And it's creamy, and delicious, and it's good for your digestive tract! Hold up. But is it really??

A proposed class action suit was filed on Wednesday in CA, accusing Dannon of mounting a false advertising campaign that claims its Activia yogurt has probiotic health benefits that other yogurts do not, convincing consumers to pay more for Activia than what they would for other yogurt brands. The lawsuit states that Dannon's own studies are inconclusive in supporting its own claims that Activia is scientifically proven to have health benefits. Meaning? Activia probably isn't doing anything more for your digestive tract than any other yogurt, and suckers like me are paying more for it, thinking it does. In my defense, I just like the taste of it more than anything. But I know lots of other people eat it because they believe in its health benefits, and that's where they're wrong, and paying the price for it.

The lawsuit, if won, would reimburse all U.S. purchasers of Activia, Activia Lite, and DanActive, and demands that Dannon embark on a 'corrective' advertising campaign. This will be interesting to see played out, as Activia and DanActive are huge money makers for the company, expected to bring in 40% of Dannon's yogurt business in '08.

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Music: Cobra Starship - ¡Viva la Cobra!

Album: ¡Viva la Cobra!

Artist: Cobra Starship

Release Date: October 23, 2007

Genre: Pop-Punk/Alternative Rock/Dance




Best known for their single "Snakes on a Plane (Bring It)" for the same titled 2006 film starring Samuel L. Jackson, it is quite possible that 2008 could either make or break Cobra Starship. Following along the lines of label mates Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, and the now radio-friendly Paramore, Cobra Starship has been on path to breaking into mainstream music with a bit of pop-punk and a whole lot of style. Their current album, ¡Viva la Cobra!, is a departure from their last album, which seemed to reek of "would-be-rockstars" trying to hard to make a splash in the music scene.

Frontman Gabe Saporta brings a bit of funk to Cobra Starship's ¡Viva la Cobra!. Their sophomore album is a mix of dance, electro, and rock, keeping in mind that music can be played in the dorm rooms across the nation for the sake of sound and fun. The tracks are reminiscent of Fall Out Boy (after all, Patrick Stump produced the album and co-wrote the songs), which could be either a good thing or a bad thing; however, this doesn't mean that the album is Fall Out Boy leftovers. "The City is at War" is catchy, with its infectious chorus and upbeat tempo that are sure to get feet moving, whereas "Kiss My Sass" combines electro video game sounds with an rnb twist, featuring Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes. Their first single off the album, "Guilty Pleasure" is also a fun song to dance to/sing-along.

All in all, ¡Viva la Cobra! is a great album for those who wish Fall Out Boy was a bit more "fresh" and for those who want something to play in the background of a house party.

Recommended Tracks: The City is at War, Kiss My Sass, Guilty Pleasure

Grade: B+

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How to Ease Your Commute: Podcasts

Whether you're going to work or heading off to class, it seems like a lot of us spend a lot of time just sitting. With that, I'm surprised that not many I know have heard of or subscribe to podcasts.

Podcasts are basically radio programs that you subscribe and listen to through your mp3 player. There is a variety of programming; anything from music shows, to entertainment news, and to political shows. They are very easy to setup, and best of all, they're free.

If you have an iPod, all you have to do is go on "Podcasts" tab in iTunes, and then click on the "Podcast Directory" button to access all the shows.

If you don't have an iPod, you can download Juice, which basically does the same thing.

Not sure where to start? Here's what I listen to...

NPR's This American Life
This is my favorite podcast, and if you like documentaries, this will be your favorite too. This is an hour long radio show where, "each week on our program, of course, we choose a theme and bring a variety of different stories on that theme." I look forward to it every week and I always recommend it as the podcast to listen to.

Comedy Central's Stand-Up
This is a video podcast that sporadically updates with small (30 seconds to 7 minutes) clips of stand-up comedians. It's good for when you're waiting for a bus or just really bored. Obviously, it's not so good for when you're driving.



KCRW's Left, Rigth & Center
Another public radio broadcast made into a podcast, Left, Right & Center is a political podcast where 4 commentators (Left: Robert Scheer, Right: Tony Blankley, Center: Matthew Miller, Representing the Independent-progressive blogosphere: Arianna Huffington) talk about the political news that dominates that particular week. There is an interesting dynamic by having a bunch of sides represented. Also, they are amiable with one another, leaving room for some good discussion instead of just fighting. This podcast keeps me updated with what's going on politically.

President's Weekly Radio Address
I may not like the guy, but he's our president, so it's interesting to hear what he has to say. They're short (3 - 5 minutes), but they explain what the president is trying to do and what he's thinking.



What makes podcasts so great is that there is something for everyone. This is just what I listen to, but I'm sure that if you browse the directory, you'll find something that fits your interests.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Celebrity Sighting: Jack Cafferty

Working in the Time Warner building, I'm kind of used to seeing all these CNN anchors/reporters milling about (except for Anderson Cooper, where oh where are you??), but I have to say, I was super duper excited about running into Jack Cafferty yesterday in the cafeteria. WHY? Cause, a) he's cute and tall in an old man/grandpa sort of way, b) I used to watch him on the WB11 News at 10, and c) he totally smiled and said HI to me! I'm a sucker for anyone (famous or not) being SMILEY and NICE and FRIENDLY in this cold, cold world.

Anyways, that encounter led me to look up some stuff about him. He's an interesting guy, having plead guilty in '93 for leaving the scene of an accident after hitting a bicyclist (oh...Jack), and being raised by alcoholic parents. I saw him again today, but he looked kinda grumpy, which made me sad after the awesome encounter we had yesterday. Why must you play with my heart Cafferty??

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Cell Phones + Driving = Primary Offense in NJ

You better hang up those phones because starting March 2008, driving and using your cell phone (without a hands-free device) will get you a $100 - $250 ticket.

Yes, New Jersey has had a ban on cell phones and driving for a while, but it has always been a secondary offense. But now, you'll get pulled over just for using your phone.

Using a cell while driving is a little pet peeve of mine, but I admit that I have been guilty of doing on occasion. Hopefully this new law will stop people (and myself) from being wreckless.

[Link to the PDF file of the actual legislation]

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oscar Nominations: Surprises

I HEART the Oscars and love this time of the year. Yesterday, right before the tragedy of one time Oscar-nominee Heath Ledger's death hit the media, the nominations for the 80th Academy Awards were announced, and there were a couple of surprises. A little later on in the month, I will be doing my predictions of who should/will win, but for now here are the complete nominations, and the surprises/snubs:

* Angelina Jolie failed to receive a Best Actress nom for A Mighty Heart, instead the Academy chose to recognize Laura Linney (The Savages)
* Not 1, but TWO acting nods for Cate Blanchett: Best Actress (Elizabeth: The Golden Age) and Best Supporting Actress (I'm Not There)
* No acting nominations for Keira Knightly and James McAvoy for Atonement, nor any for its director Joe Wright
* No love for The Simpsons in the Best Animated Feature category, perhaps it's too low-brow for the Academy's taste?
* Norbit got an Oscar nomination? Even if it's for Best Achievement in Makeup, that's pretty sad. So, to recap this year's nominations, Norbit: 1, Angelina Jolie: 0.

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Cloverfield Makes People and Science Sick

http://www.koco.com/news/15112533/detail.html

The Blair Witch-esque (err...) way of filming in Cloverfield has left residents in Oklahoma City feeling nauseous. Oklahoma City, man up! I haven't seen Cloverfield but I've heard mixed reviews about it. However, ESPN's Gregg Easterbrook does make good points about the lack of thought put into the monster in this movie.

So it's a 100,000-ton sea-floor thing; Godzilla was said to weigh 20,000 tons, and the "Cloverfield" monster is a lot bigger. If this creature lived at the bottom of the ocean, why is it adapted to the substantially different pressure of the surface? Deep-sea creatures would die rapidly if brought to the surface, yet the "Cloverfield" beast strolls around Manhattan. How come the sea monster has lungs and breathes air? The creature must be an amphibian, or it could not leave the water. To possess lungs, part of its life cycle would need to occur on land, and a 100,000-ton living object in intertidal areas would, at some point in history, have been noticed.


You could read the rest of his article here but be warned his mention of Cloverfield is just one part of a really long article.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

WTF: Heath Ledger is Dead?

Heath Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment today.

TMZ has learned that 2006 Academy Award nominee Heath Ledger has died in NY.

He was found dead in his bed in one of his residences in Soho by his housekeeper at 3:35 PM ET today. Law enforcement sources tell TMZ they believe it was not a crime.

The 28-year-old actor has a two year old daughter with former fiancee Michelle Williams -- they separated in September, 2007. He plays the Joker in the upcoming Batman film, "The Dark Knight."

MSNBC is reporting that the actor was found, surrounded by pills.

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Redemption

I have an affinity for the highly scrutinized athletes. My favorite baseball player is Alex Rodriguez, my favorite basketball player was Patrick Ewing. Football, Eli Manning. All of these players have been brought in as saviors but, as great as they are, have had a propensity to struggle mightily at times. Their struggles don't come from a lack of talent or desire but rather from a tendency to try too hard. I can relate in the sense that I can see the potential in me only to be frustrated at how much I can suck during important points in my life.

But here comes Eli, like a streak of blue and red hope smothered in shut-your-mouth, silencing critics, doubters, and destiny. To all those who shake their heads and say never, here's to when trying too hard turns into never too hard to try. Cheers!

See you all February 3.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

[Feature] Top 20 Movies of Our Generation

Movies. We watch, we laugh, we cry, we are captivated. We boldly make a top 20 list of the best movies of our generation. This means movies from 1993 and on. Sorry all Top Gun lovers but we were too young to appreciate it when it first came out. From action to comedy, from Europe to Asia, this list has a little bit of everything. It was highly debated and scrutinized but after the smoke cleared these are the movies that survived.

20) Oldboy (2003)
A Korean revenge thriller with the tone of a Shakespearian tragedy, Oldboy is definitely not a movie for everyone. Director Chan-Wook Park takes us into the world of his protagonist through ultra-violent imagery, fast-paced action, dark humor, escalating tension, and more violence. Though the images can be hard-to-swallow and the storyline heavy-handed, there is no denying the stylish and artistic qualities that warrants the international critical acclaim it has received.

Dae-Su Oh: Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone.

19) Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
This indie darling is a hilarious study of family dysfunction with heart. The cast is made up of a pantheon of quirky and memorable characters, and if all the awards it won last year is any indication, Little Miss Sunshine is definitely a crowd pleaser for everyone from the general public to the art-house crowd. It has heart without shoving its message down people's throats, a pitch-perfect comedic timing that elicits several laugh-out-loud moments, and a talented cast where all the actors bring something to the table.

Richard: Oh my god, I'm getting pulled over. Everyone, just... pretend to be normal.

18) Lost In Translation (2003)
The ultimate film about the universal themes of loneliness and feeling lost. Even though it is set in the loud and bustling city of Tokyo, writer-director Sophia Coppola uses her abilities as an observer to draw out the quiet desperation of her characters through understated performances from Bill Murray (his best work ever) and Scarlett Johansson. Lost in Translation is more atmospheric than plot-driven, but its compelling characters, glimpse into the Japanese culture, and beautiful cinematography will draw you in.

Charlotte: I just don't know what I'm supposed to be.
Bob: You'll figure that out. The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.


17) Pride and Prejudice (2005)
It is a universally known fact that if you mention the name “Mr. Darcy” to a woman, chances are that her heart will flutter. Sure, the novel in itself is a classic and pretty much the inspiration for a good majority of chick flicks today (yes boys, you can thank Jane Austen for all those chick flicks your girlfriend has forced you to sit through), but the 2005 film adaptation was the crème de la crème. From the breath-taking cinematography to the essence of each individual member of the Bennet family (and as a whole), this adaptation captured the wit and passion of Jane Austen’s classic novel.

Mr. Bennet: You mistake me, my dear. I have the utmost respect for your nerves. They've been my constant companion these twenty years.

16) Monster's, Inc. (2001)
Completely imaginative, original, and funny, Monster's Inc. is one of many hits by animation powerhouse Pixar, but probably the most heart tugging. The city of Monstropolis comes to life with a colorful cast of creatures, and every frame sparkles with wit and careful attention to detail. The last-act chase through the Monster's Inc factory alone is enough to put this film ahead of all other animated films. The sweet and emotional ending also gets us every time.

Mike: [chanting] I don't know, but it's been said, I love scaring kids in bed!

15) Fight Club (1999)
This movie starts off being about soap and guys fighting for fun and turns into something much, much more. Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are both amazing in this crazy story. Not to mention, theme of anti-institutionalism really make you want to throw out all your stuff, live in a scary old house, and start a fight with someone on the street. After all, how much can you really know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?

Tyler Durden: Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

14) Knocked Up (2007)

There’s usually a toss-up for Knocked Up. You either loved it or hated it. And if you hated it, it’s probably safe to assume that you liked Superbad better. To each their own, but Knocked Up seemed to be more of a comedy that spoke to the college/post-college group of movie-goers (points to editors of Life in Boxes). I mean, the girls could feel Alison’s distress and many stages of emotions after finding out that a drunken one night fling ended in a pregnancy, just when things are starting to look up for you. And I’m pretty sure that the post-college graduates who have yet to find their niche in life were able to relate to the slacker-montage of Ben and his friends. It’s a great comedy of life, the transitions in life, and the surprises along the way.

Jonah: What the fuck, man? If I go in there and see fuckin' pubes sprinkled on the toilet seat, I'm gonna fuckin' lose my mind! Last time I went to the bathroom, Jay, I took a shit and my shit looked like a fuckin' stuffed animal!

13) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Every generation has a great war movie and this one is ours. Tom Hanks shows off his acting skills through his portrayal of Captain John Miller. The characters in his platoon each add to the dynamics of the movie. Saving Private Ryan shows how war is not pretty or even fair.

Private Jackson: What I mean, sir, is if you was to put me with this here sniper rifle anywhere up to and including one mile from Adolf Hitler... with a clean line of sight... well, pack your bags, boys. War's over.

12) The Lion King (1994)
Arguably considered by many to be the best Disney movie to date, the tale of Simba and the kingdom of Pride Rock captured the hearts of all walks of life, as well as winning two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes. Originally intended to be secondary to Pocahontas (which was in production during the same time), The Lion King was a surprise success for Disney as movie-goers held a positive reaction to the storyline and loveable characters. The soundtrack to the film is just as memorable, and whoever doesn’t sing-along to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” just has no soul.

Young Simba: Hey Uncle Scar, when I'm King, what'll that make you?
Scar: A monkey's uncle.

11) Juno (2007)
I think it’s been established how much the editors at Life in Boxes liked this film. Sure, the dialogue was a bit over-the-top (seriously, “Swear to blog” really made me want to kill myself), but Ellen Page’s portrayal of Juno didn’t come off as an annoying 16 year old who probably would complain of such a sticky predicament. Rather, the viewers see a transformation in a cynical teen as she realizes what she wants from this crazy thing called life. It is a film that reflects the time in which we live in where yes, 16 year olds can get pregnant, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doomed by the choices they make.

Mac MacGuff: Next time I see that Bleeker kid I'm going to punch him in the wiener.

10) The Matrix (1999)
A story about hackers, evil robots, and dodging bullets, The Matrix revolutionized the way action movies (and video games) are made today.
Every time you see speed visualized as slow motion or that crazy mid-air camera movement kick thing, you should thank the Wachowski brothers. That combined with religious / philosophical themes makes this movie the action movie of our generation.

Neo: I know kung-fu.

9) The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption is the story of two prisoners and how they are able to find freedom, both figuratively and literally. And as cheesy as that may sound, the movie really is heartwarming. Of course, the piece de resistance is Morgan Freedman's always soothing narration.

Andy Dufresne: Get busy living, or get busy dying.

8) Snatch (2000)
Where do I start? So many characters, so many story lines ingeniously intertwined. Guy Ritchie is able to make comedy move at a blistering pace. If you are able to bear the thick accents, this movie is as entertaining as they come.

Turkish: You take sugar?
Brick Top: No thank you, Turkish. I'm sweet enough.

7) Schindler's List (1993)
In one of the greatest directed movies you'll see, Steven Spielberg brings his best in this black and white masterpiece. Oskar Schindler's effort to save Jews from the horrors of Nazi concentration camps is based on a true story.

Schindler:I know you have received orders from our commandant, which he has received from his superiors, to dispose of the population of this camp. Now would be the time to do it. Here they are; they're all here. This is your opportunity. Or, you could leave, and return to your families as men instead of murderers.


6) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

After breaking up with someone, who hasn’t tried getting rid of all the memories, both good and bad, in order to move on in life? But instead of throwing away love letters and other mementos, the film explores the consequences if there were a way to literally erase the memories of love’s most hurtful side. The characters of Joel and Clementine are feasible characters, who could be any couple who hit the wrong turn in the course of their relationship. After going through their memories of a sometimes normal and sometimes turbulent relationship, the film makes us think that maybe everyone does deserve a second chance, and that perhaps we can never really move on. It’s a love story with an element of science fiction.

Mary: Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.

5) Amelie (2001)
A charming French movie about a painfully shy woman who try to help other lonely people fix their lives, Amelie is magical, funny, and unabashedly nostalgic. The rich colors, camerawork, and special effects bring the character of Amelie and her imaginative, child-like naiveness to life. Audrey Tatou embodies Amelie with her whimsical performance, and it's hard not to fall in love with her character or the film no matter how cynical you may be about life.

Narrator: Amelie has a strange feeling of absolute harmony. It's a perfect moment. A soft light, a scent in the air, the quiet murmur of the city. A surge of love, an urge to help mankind overcomes her.

4) Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump retells American history from the 1950's to the 1980's through the eyes of one man. Luckily this one man has seen it all -- everything from meeting a young Elvis, seeing the desegregation of the University of Alabama, and to going to Vietnam. The movie tells an amazing story and doles out life lessons by the bucketful.
Forrest Gump: My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."


3) Life Is Beautiful (1997)

Mama mia! What a film. Roberto Begnini makes life in a Nazi concentration camp range from comic to tragic all in good taste. Like Schindler's List, the perspectives through which the war is seen make this a great movie. Life is Beautiful is at times surreal but always engaging. It is a quintessential heart-warming film.

Guido: You are such a good boy. You sleep now. Dream sweet dreams. Maybe we are both dreaming. Maybe this is all a dream, and in the morning, Mommy will wake us up with milk and cookies. Then, after we eat, I will make love to her four or five times. If I can.

2) The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects is a thriller about five criminals and the cops trying to find out the identity of criminal mastermind, Keyser Soze. Gosh, just saying his name gives me the chills. If you like surprise endings, then you have to thank this movie for creating the framework for that theme.

Verbal: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.

1) Braveheart (1995)
The ultimate guy film has been voted as the best film. Mel Gibson's epic is action and drama at its finest. William Wallace's passion to free Scotland from English rule is awe inspiring and if doesn't motivate you to fight for something worth fighting for, nothing will.

William Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!

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I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"


Thank You

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

What are you doing this weekend?

Forecast
Fri: 43°F, AM showers
Sat:
36°F, PM snow showers
Sun:
27°F, partly cloudy/rain

See
Opening this weekend:

Cloverfield (starring: Mike Vogel, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas)

27 Dresses (starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden)

Mad Money (starring: Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, Katie Holmes)


Shop
10% off Best Buy, expires 1/21

American Eagle Outfitters has an up to 60% off winter clearance


Do
Free Veroli Italian Entree Samples at 4 Bergen County Kings Supermarkets
Saturday, Jan 26:
* 85 Godwin Ave., Midland Park, 11 a.m. to noon.
* 112-140 Linwood Plaza, Fort Lee, 12:45 to 1:45 p.m.
* 70 Union Ave, Cresskill, 2:15 to 3:15 p.m.
* 381 Washington Ave., Hillsdale, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m.

Click to give free food & care for the animals at the Animal Rescue Site.
Click daily, sponsors pay for food & care, animals are happy.

Restaurant Week 2008
Starts Monday, 1/21, book now to get tables at over 200 participating NYC restaurants.
$24.07 prix-fixe lunches, $35 three-course dinners

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Jersey Adds Camera to Red Lights

http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2008/01/14/daily33.html

New Jersey will be adding cameras on traffic lights at dangerous intersections in order to catch red light violators. Funny thing about this is that a couple of weeks ago my dad was caught on one of these cameras in New York and was ticketed $120. He then proceeded to argue with me about how the cameras got it wrong and hinted at a conspiracy by "man to strip hard working, law abiding citizens of their hard earned money." He'd be more convincing if it weren't for the digital picture that accompanied his ticket.


I guess this will lead us to drive more carefully? I hope it stops the jerks who know they are being followed by a friend from accelerating at every yellow light/red lights. You all now who you are. I hope you all get caught.

PS: One of my favorite comedians is Louis CK. There is a lot of cursing so beware before pressing play. This is not for everyone...


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How you know your song really, really sucks

Here is a test to see if your song is really, really bad: it causes seizures.

[Stacey Gayle] recalled being at a barbecue and collapsing when the Jamaican rapper Sean Paul's music started playing, and then remembered having a previous seizure when she heard his music.

Her suspicions were confirmed on a visit to the Long Island medical center last February, when she played Paul's hit «Temperature» on her iPod for doctors. Soon after, she suffered three seizures.
[pr-inside.com]

That's just embarrassing for Sean Paul :x

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

House Party .. To the Extreme!



An Australian teenager who threw a wild party while his parents were away could face a 20,000 Australian dollars (US$18,000) hangover after police said Monday they might charge him for the cost of breaking it up. (CNN.com)

After sending out a mass invite out on Facebook, more than 500 people showed up for the kid's house party. The party got out of control, and police came, responding after various complaints by the boy's neighbors. Party goers started pelting the neighbors' homes with glass bottles, and all hell broke loose. 30 officers, a helicopter, and a dog squad was on premises in order to break up the party.

Police will say no more than that they are charging the teen with producing child pornography and creating a public nuisance.

The boy is 16 years old.

He has caused further media frenzy, dubbed as the "Myspace party boy" and quoted to say that he is "not sorry for having an awesome party.” He appeared on an interview wearing a fashionable ski jacket, no shirt, low-rise jeans and trademark bright yellow sunglasses, in indignant fashion. The boy, unable to confront his parents, apologized to them during the interview, but was unsure of ever returning home:"I haven't really talked to them because every time they try to call, I don't answer."

Since then, the boy has been offered thousands of dollars to organize more teen parties.

---

This kid needs to learn a lesson from the "Meanest Mom."

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While you were sleeping...

Mini News Roundup!

Romney wins Michigan Republican Primary
His first major win, and a much needed one after finishing second in Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney is a Michigan native and his father was the governor of the state in the 60s. He won by 39% of the vote, with Sen. John McCain getting 30%, and Gov. Mike Huckabee with 16%.

Apple unveils MacBook Air, movie rentals
How do you top a year where you introduced the iPhone? Well, by introducing a cool laptop thin enough (3/4 of an inch!) to fit into a manila envelope, of course. At the MacWorld Expo Tuesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook Air, which will retail at $1,799. The new iTunes movie rental service will be available with a free software update, and will offer newly released on DVD movies for $3.99, older movies for $2.99. Customers will have 30 days to view the movie once downloaded, and only 24 hours to finish it once started.

Actor Brad Renfro, dead at 25
Former child actor Brad Renfro was found dead in a LA apartment Tuesday night. He was discovered at the age of 12 when he was cast in John Grisham movie The Client with Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. Over the years he was more known for his well-documented struggles with alcohol and heroin addiction and multiple arrests than his acting, but he did enter rehab in January of '06 and has new projects soon to be released. A cause of death was not immediately determined.

1-ton rodent remains discovered

Um, ew. Paleontologists discovered the remains of a rodent the size of a small car (3m in length, 1.5m tall) in Uruguay. Scientists determined that the weight must have approached 1 ton, making it the largest rodent to have been discovered to date. The next time you see an abnormally large rat in the city, know that it could be much (much) worse.

'Rent' to close after 12 years
Producers are closing down 'Rent' after its evening performance on June 1, making it the 7th longest running show in Broadway history. The show first opened in February 1996, two weeks after its creator, Jonathan Larson, died of an aneurysm. It was a critical and financial success, making stars out of the cast, prompting productions of the show on 6 different continents, and spawning a movie version. I'm really sad about this; I love both the show and movie, and the soundtrack is my favorite. I'm going to go see it again before is closes, if anyone wants in!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sports: Unb-ELI-evable

Football
Get your popcorn ready, the Giants are going to the NFC championship game. Leading them there, Eli Manning. About four weeks ago, New Yorkers believed Eli Manning was an implosion waiting to happen. Now Eli is the definition of efficiency (e.g. The generator was running at 95 percent Eli.) Next stop is Green Bay where grandpa Favre awaits in the fountain of youth.

Prediction, Giants: A Zillion Green Bay:13



Tennis
The one man wrecking crew that is Roger Federer is off to scorching start at the Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 shellacking of Diego Hartfield. Federer not only beats you, he eats your soul.

Two more grand slam wins will tie him with Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam single titles of all time. I remember discussing if Federer was the best ever once. Let me put it this way. I heard there's this guy better than him. His name is Jesus.



Basketball

Andrew Bynum is out for two months. Me = :(
It's time to trade for a new center.

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Meanest Mom Ever??

"Meanest Mom" gets her 15 minutes of fame


"OLDS 1999 Intrigue. Totally uncool parents who obviously don't love teenage son, selling his car. Only driven for three weeks before snoopy mom who needs to get a life found booze under front seat. $3,700/offer. Call meanest mom on the planet."


Quite possibly the best classified ad placed, ever. The mom sold her son's car when she found the bottle of booze, as one of his promises to her was that he'd never have alcohol in the car. The ad has drawn attention from everyone from Good Morning America to Oprah to Ellen. Aside from the 15 minutes of fame this mom and her son is getting, we need more moms who practice tough love like this. Are you listening, Mrs.Lohan/Spears??

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Monday, January 14, 2008

[Feature] Feeling Cold and Miserable

The editors at Life in Boxes care for the overall well-being of our readers. I mean, the weather is pretty unpredictable nowadays; last week had temperatures up to a glorious 66°F .. only to drop down to a high of 34°F today. With such a huge drop in weather conditions, it’s no surprise that you’re starting to feel a bit light-headed and overwhelmed with cough attacks! But before you decide to man it up and rely solely on your oh-so-strong antibodies to pull you through an oncoming cold, why not find out if you’re really sick or not? Here are the top illnesses/infections to look out for.

The Common Cold: Pretty common, pretty annoying
The common cold is a group of symptoms in the upper respiratory tract caused by over 200 different viruses. The most common is the rhinovirus, which causes about 10% to 40% in the case of the common cold. These cold viruses enters your body through your nose or mouth and are easily spread. You are most likely to catch the common cold if you are excessively fatigued, have emotional distress, or even if you have allergies with nose and throat symptoms.
How do I know if I have common cold symptoms?
If you are experiencing a sore throat followed by clear, watery nasal drainage; sneezing; a tired sensation; a low fever (usually below 101° F); and a mild cough, chances are you have caught the dreaded common cold.
How long will I be sick?
Common cold symptoms usually last anywhere from a day to three days after you are infected by the cold virus and usually last for about three to seven days (though you may feel congested during the week to follow). The first three days are when you are most contagious, so be sure not to pass the cold virus to your loved ones.
How do I treat it?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold. But fear not, there are treatments to take to attack your cold symptoms .. but not the cold virus, itself. Cold medicines and treatments can lighten your symptoms, but are not the perfect remedy for every single person; after all, everyone’s body reacts differently with a virus. It all really depends on your cold symptoms – if you have a nasal or sinus congestion, a decongestant cold medicine is best (though, it can make people hyper and keep them awake). Those with runny noses and sneezes should take antihistamines, which often make people drowsy.
To treat your nasty cough, there are various methods to go; not all doctors agree on the same methods to treat a cough, but depending on what you prefer, you can get an over-the-counter (OTC) cough syrup to suppress coughs, or one to help loosen thick mucus build-up to cough it up. If anything, your doctor can prescribe a stronger prescription.

The Flu: Misery business
Commonly known as the flu, influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by (what else?) influenza viruses. It can be mild or severe, and in some cases it can lead to death. Most healthy people can recover without much complication, but older people, young children, and others with certain health conditions are at a higher risk for serious complications.
How do I know if I have flu symptoms?
The flu season usually hits when you notice a number of little kids staying home from school; eventually, the flu spreads with similar infections to other age groups. Symptoms usually come on suddenly, with high fevers, headaches, tiredness (which can usually be extreme), dry coughs, a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting.
How does it spread?
The flu usually spread from person to person in respiratory droplets (when people with the flu cough or sneeze), or by touching something with the influenza virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Infected adults can pass the flu onto others from one day before the symptoms arise, up until five days after getting sick.
How do I treat it?
The most effective way to protect yourself from the flu is by getting your flu vaccination every year. If you were unable to get the flu shot and are home sick with the virus, you can either go to the doctor to get proper, stronger medication (and please do so, especially if your illness worsens!) or attack the flu virus from the comfort of your own home, one symptom at a time:
Overall aches and congestion: Breathe in aromatic steam, take a warm shower, increase liquids, use moist heat compresses.
Stuffy nose: nasal saline irrigation, saline (salt water) nasal sprays, decongestant nasal sprays.
Coughing: OTC cough syrup, cough drops or hard candy.
Scratchy throat and congestion: expectorants (Robitussin, Mucinex), hot chicken soup with spices (adding garlic, ginger, chili peppers, horseradish).
Nighttime congestion and can’t sleep: humidifiers, OTC nasal strips.

Bronchitis: Sounds like a name of a dinosaur, probably because you’ll sound like one
When the tubes that carry air to your lungs are inflamed and irritated, the tubes will swell and produce mucus. This makes you cough, and this mean bronchitis.
There are two types of bronchitis: Acute bronchitis usually lasts for about two to three weeks; most healthy people get better without any long-term problems. Acute bronchitis is often caused by a virus; people get acute bronchitis after having an upper respiratory tract infection (the cold or the flu) or by bacteria. Chronic bronchitis keeps coming back and can last a long time (especially for people who smoke!) Chronic bronchitis can lead to at least three months of coughing with mucus for three months out of a year for at about two years in a row.
How do I know if I have bronchitis symptoms?
A cough is probably the main symptom of acute bronchitis. It may be a dry, hacking cough at first (not producing any mucus), but may lead to a more productive cough a few days later. In a productive cough, mucus maybe clear, yellow, or green, occasionally with small streaks of blood. Other symptoms include a general feeling of tiredness, a sensation of tightness, burning, or dull pain in the chest (usually worse when breathing deeply or coughing), hoarseness, wheezing when breathing, and a mild fever (usually below 101° F). A higher fever may indicate pneumonia. If you suspect that your case of acute bronchitis may be pneumonia, call your doctor as soon as possible and schedule an appointment.
How do I treat it?
Acute bronchitis usually goes away in two to three weeks. Home treatment is usually all that is necessary to chase the illness away:
Relieve coughing by drinking a lot of fluids and taking nonprescription cough suppressants. They can help you stop coughing, and expectorants can make coughing easier by building up mucus. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can cause you to lose fluid and can lead to dehydration. Hold off on the cigarettes, if you smoke. Get some rest so your body will have the energy to fight the infection. Use nonprescription medication (acetaminophen, ibuprofen) to relieve fever and body aches. Breath in moist air from a humidifier, hot shows, etc.) to keep mucus in your airways moist to ease your coughing.
If anything, go see a doctor. Antibiotics aren’t necessary, but can be used to treat people who are at increased risk for complications.

Above anything, make sure that you read the labels before taking any sort of medication (especially when medicating a child). If your sickness worsens, go see a doctor instead of staying home miserable and wasting your [very few] sick days from work!

Feel better soon!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

What are you doing this weekend?

Forecast
Fri: 53°/36°F, rainy
Sat: 49°/32°F, mostly sunny
Sun: 46°/34°F, cloudy

See
Nothing good is opening this weekend. Instead, do yourself a favor and rent a decent movie.

3:10 to Yuma (starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale)








Events
Go down to the Apple Store in Soho (103 Prince Street) tonight at 7PM to see Michel Gondry (the director of Eternal Sunshine and the upcoming Be Kind, Rewind).

As previously mentioned, KT Tunstall will be holding a free concert at the Apple Store in Soho (103 Prince Street) at 3PM on Sunday, January 13th.

This weekend will be the last chance you'll have to be able to go ice skating in Bryant Park. Skate your heart out this weekend anytime from 8AM to midnight.

This is probably the greatest event of the weekend -- The 7th Annual No Pants! Subway Ride. Anyone who is interested will be able to join this group to ride the 6 train from Brooklyn to 125th and back... without pants. What's even better is that you have to act as nonchalant as possible. If someone asks you where you pants went, you're supposed to reply, "I forgot to wear pants today." Totally awesome. Click here for more details.



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Friday, January 11, 2008

The Complete Jane Austen Series

Starting this Sunday, January 13, Masterpiece Theater's The Complete Jane Austen will be running on PBS through March. The lit geek in me is coming out, but modern literature owes so much to Ms. Austen's genius. Her works have become some of the most loved, discussed, and re-adapted oeuvres in the history of English lit. Even if you've never picked up a book of hers, her influence seeps into modern culture- Clueless (based on Emma), You've Got Mail (loosely based on the ideas found in Pride & Prejudice), not to mention countless other remakes of Mansfield Park, Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and Pride & Prejudice). The series will feature new adaptations of "Mansfield Park," "Northanger Abbey," "Persuasion," and "Sense & Sensibility," as well as "Emma" with Kate Beckinsale and "Pride & Prejudice" with Colin Firth (swooooon!). So, something for everyone.

I know it might look 'boring' to some of you, but don't knock it until you try it. Believe me, I don't like period pieces either. But when you read/watch her works, you realize just how much of the modern day stuff you read and see are influenced by the words she wrote hundreds of years ago. In the very least, check out the classic '95 adaptation of "Pride & Prejudice" (airing 2/10-2/24), which made women everywhere want to be Mrs. Colin Firth. Join the millions of Austen-ites who have fallen in love with her works. Love, love, love! Oh, and you're welcome.

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Review: Casual Habana Cafe

Restaurant Name: Casual Habana Cafe
Cuisine:
Cuban
Location:
Hackensack, NJ
Price
Range: $6.00 - $12.00
Info:

125 Main Street

Hackensack
, NJ
07601

(201)880-9844

During my ongoing quest to find a great, cheap Cuban restaurant in Bergen County, I found Casual Habana Cafe in Hackensack. Let me tell you, if you're in the mood for some good food for the same price as eating at a diner, this is the place to go...


Casual Habana Cafe is a quaint little Cuban joint. From the outside, it doesn't really look like a restaurant, but like we all learned as kids, it's what's on the inside that counts. The decor is simple, and the high ceilings make it restaurant look very roomy. Overall, it has a very welcoming atmosphere to it.

Now let's dive right into the important part: the food. Casual Habana Cafe offers a wide variety of Cuban cuisine. They have everything from salads, Cuban sandwiches, tapas, to entrees with beef, pork, chicken, and fish. What's more, their prices are beyond reasonable. They offer daily specials which consist of an entree, with a side of rice and beans for only $6-$8, and nothing on their menu is over $12. What's more, their serving sizes are large enough to fill people up.

When I first visited the restaurant, I was upset that they didn't have any plain roasted chicken, but I was quickly consoled by their two best entrees; the ropa vieja (a classic Cuban beef dish) and the bistek de pollo encebollado (pan-seared chicken breast with onions). Both dishes were full of flavor, with the chicken being particularly tender and moist. I would have expected to pay a whole lot more for the quality of food I ate.

One meal that was not satisfied with, however, was their chicken cutlet in creamy garlic sauce (which, ironically, was recommended by our waitress). The sauce was watery and really didn't taste that great compared to the rest of their food.

Their rice and beans were ideal and their sweet plantains were pretty good (but not great).

On the sweet side of the palate, Casual Habana offers fruit smoothies, creme brulee, and flan. The smoothie wasn't great. The strawberry smoothie we ordered was very milky and had a weird sweetness to it, but it could have been that my Americanized tongue just wasn't used to the flavor. Their creme brulee tasted like they made it a couple hours beforehand.

I can't really get too mad at those hit-and-miss desserts though, because I thought the flan was downright delicious. It was creamy, sweet, and right on the mark.

When it comes down to it, the food is very, very good.

The service I had at Casual Habana Cafe was mixed. I went there twice; the first time ordering out, and the second time eating in. When I ordered out, it was their peak dinner hour, so I was forced to wait over 40 minutes to get my food and didn't even receive any real acknowledgment that I waited long. That was not very good.

However, when I sat down and ate, the food came very quickly and the service was great. The chef / owner even came out and asked us how our food was. So it seems like eating in is generally the way to go.

Oh, and one thing to note is that they seem to have odd hours.
Some friends and I tried to go eat at the restaurant at around 7:30 PM on a Thursday night only to find it closed.

All in all, I really love Casual Habana Cafe. They have some problems here and there, but all of that is made up by their really great food at really great prices. I would highly recommend this place if you're looking for delicious Cuban food.


Atmosphere: B+
Food: A
Service: B
Overall Rating: A-

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Spotlight: Diablo Cody

We here at LifeinBoxes heart Juno. The sweet and quirky indie film has been an intrigue to us since the project was first announced (Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, and Jennifer Garner in one movie??), and then we got excited about the trailer, and then we saw it, and... well, it definitely lived up to all of our expectations. People can talk about heavy marketing all they want, but really, the true test of the quality of a movie comes from word of mouth. Juno opened in select cities and slowly rolled out nationally. And boy has the little indie-movie-that-could really shown its legs. As of this week, Juno is the #2 movie in the nation, behind National Treasure. It is also expected to be Fox Searchlight's biggest grossing movie ever.

The success of Juno rests on a lot of things. It's brilliantly acted (give Ellen Page all the awards she's up for), it has a sweet and moral message without ever being condescending, and it's funny. But all of that falls on the great script first-time screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote. I don't think people realize the importance of a screenplay. It is the basis of all films, bad or good. The thing is, while you can make a bad movie out of a good screenplay, you simply can't make a good movie out of a bad screenplay. No matter how hard you try, if the screenplay isn't good, your movie isn't going to be either.

Diablo Cody's rise to the top is what Hollywood tales are made of. A former stripper, she started blogging about her stripping experiences, which caught the eyes of a Hollywood producer. He became a fan, landed her a book deal, which led her on the path of screenwriting. She wrote Juno at a Starbucks inside a Target in like 6 months, and it has been produced as a film without the usual many revisions most scripts go through. To have your very first attempt at a screenplay be produced is amazing. To have it be made into a film without loads of rewrites and revisions? That's pretty unheard of. To have people take you and your project seriously, despite having no formal screenwriting experience or training, in an industry where names and connections trump quality sometimes? That's a miracle. All of this just speaks to the brilliance of Juno.

Sometimes the movie does get bogged down by its too-witty dialogue. The characters are all way too articulate, way too funny. But the film is good. It has heart, it has characters that are not one-dimensional, and Juno is a great role model. Yes, despite the fact that she's 16 and knocked up, she is a strong female character, something that Hollywood desperately needs more of. Cody says, "I have a responsibility to write strong female characters. I'm going to continue to do it." We'll be seeing a lot more of Cody and these strong female characters; since the success of Juno, she's in hot hot demand in Hollywood at the moment. Once the strike is over, she's set to continue working on Jennifer's Body, a horror comedy, and The United States of Tara, a Showtime series produced by Steven Spielberg.

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