Friday, August 28, 2009

Taking Bethel Woods: Celebrating Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary - Part 2

In addition to the opening of their Woodstock museum, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is celebrating Woodstock’s anniversary with a series of concerts in their outdoor pavilion all summer long. Various artists who performed at Woodstock have been making the trek back throughout the summer, in addition to newer acts who want to celebrate the freedom and love of music that the Woodstock festival stood for. And somehow, out of all the concerts on offer this summer, I wound up seeing quite possibly the most bizarre one: The Boston Pops with special guest…Arlo Guthrie. Because when I think of a large symphony orchestra, I naturally make the connection to folk singer Arlo Guthrie.

The grounds of Bethel Woods are gorgeous and immaculately maintained, leaving you to merely imagine the amount of filth and debris that were left behind after the Woodstock festival. To get to the pavilion, you have to walk a long, winding path through their field, which is lined with various vendor stands and places to eat. The gates to the grounds aren’t opened until an hour before show time, which is a bit of annoyance when it’s a nice day and you’d like to wander around, take some photographs, and enjoy a meal before your concert. But evidently this is all done in the name of reducing the amount of litter and keeping the grounds maintained.

The pavilion itself is covered with a roof, but open on the sides, so you feel like you’re at an outdoor concert, while still being protected from the elements (which is fortunate considering it poured rain during the Pops/Guthrie show). The seating is comfortable enough for outdoor seats—better than a baseball stadium, worse than an actual theater—and while there are three different tiers, all at different prices, you get a pretty clear view of the stage from any seat. Then there is lawn seating available in the field behind the tiered seats, which offers no roof covering, and the brining of your own food and lawn chairs is prohibited, which seems to sort of defeat the point of getting lawn seats.

The Boston Pops performed a series of pieces from noted American composers, primarily Aaron Copland and George Gershwin. It was no surprise that their performances were fantastic, but I was a bit disappointed in their somewhat uninspired choices of compositions. I understand that a big part of the Woodstock anniversary celebration is to also celebrate all things American, so I have no problem in having a lineup of works solely by American artists, but there could have been some more creative choices made. From the Copland repertoire, both “Hoe-Down” and “Simple Gifts” were performed, which are his best known and most overused pieces (even if you think you don’t know them, trust me; if you heard them, you’d recognize them). From Gershwin they performed “An American in Paris,” which is a beautiful piece of music, but after “Rhapsody in Blue” is probably his most recognized piece. I suppose the Pops are trying to cater to their audience by offering music they’re familiar with, but I would have liked to have seen (or heard, rather) a few less traditional tunes thrown into the mix.

And then there’s Arlo… I admit, I am not an Arlo Guthrie fan, but mainly because I’m just not that familiar with his work, not because I actually dislike him. I know “Alice’s Restaurant” is his most familiar song, though he didn’t perform it. He stuck to mostly morose, ballad-type songs, since he had the Boston Pops playing back up, and those songs just naturally lend themselves to an orchestra. While he sang, Guthrie would either strum on his guitar or play the piano (he would alternate based on the songs he chose), and would often take time in between number to talk and joke with the audience. On more than one occasion he accused himself of being a less than excellent singer, which I would have to agree with. While there’s no doubt he is musically talented, his voice lends itself more to the talk-singing protest songs of the ‘60s rather than any of the true melodies he performed. He only performed two tunes I recognized, “City of New Orleans” and “This Land Is Your Land” (written by his father, Woody Guthrie), and the entire audience gladly granted his request to sing along on those numbers. But the highlight of his performance was when he stopped in the middle of a song, distracted by his train of thought, and proceeded to tell a stream of consciousness (and hilariously paraphrased) story of Joseph (as in the Bible) and his brothers and how it is possible for one person to make a huge difference in the world. I left the concert with no doubt that the man is a skilled musician and entertainer, but it might be best to leave the actual singing to those who can.

Check out my entire photo collection of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taking Bethel Woods: Celebrating Woodstock’s 40th Anniversary - Part 1

Unless you live under a rock somewhere, yet still have the ability to read my blog, you’ve probably heard that this summer marks the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock music festival. A few years ago the grounds of the festival in Bethel, NY (no, the festival didn’t actually take place in Woodstock) were converted into the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, complete with a large outdoor pavilion, smaller stages and galleries, various eateries and dining options, a museum commemorating the Woodstock experience, and a promise to uphold the integrity and splendor of the surrounding rural landscape. Having grown up not too far from its location, I figured what better time to check out the new arts center than during the summer of this iconic anniversary?

The first stop was the museum, a multi-media experience that takes you through the 1960s that lead up to the Woodstock festival, then tells the story of Woodstock, from its initial conception to the aftereffects, using text panels, artifacts on display, and audio and video displays. For those who lived through it all, the museum will either be a nostalgic trip or a display in the “why does anyone still care about this anymore?” way of thinking, but for those (like myself) who were born too late to experience the ‘60s, it’s an interesting and insightful look as the not-so distant past.

The entire museum is colored in all the psychedelic colors of the ‘60s and almost feels like the set of Laugh-In, and some of the information on display is far from revealing (Wow, the Beatles were really popular then? And the Vietnam War caused all sorts of social and political clashes? You don’t say!). But once you get into the Woodstock part, things get more interesting. You get to see original posters and advertisements for the festival, learn about how and why it changed locations two times, watch filmed interviews with attendees telling their personal experience there, and learn about the community’s mixed reaction when the festival became to much more than was anticipated, just to name a few things. One of the museum’s highlights is a 21-minute film about the musicians that performed at Woodstock and features never-before-seen footage of some performances and interviews the musicians gave before heading to the festival. On your way out of the museum, you exit through the gift shop where you can buy various tie-dyed and peace sign affixed memorabilia to feed your inner hippie.

Downstairs in the same building as the museum is a gallery that houses a rotation of displays. Currently on display are a series of photographs by Gerry Deiter chronicling John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace (where they stayed in a bed in a Canadian hotel for eight days as a protest for peace). While some of the photographs began to seem redundant (how many times do you need to see John and Yoko lounging in their pajamas?), there are a few highlights that show various friends of theirs stopping by to show support, including Tommy Smothers (of the Smothers Brothers) and Timothy Leary. All in all, the museum is worth a trip and should be given at least two hours to be seen in its entirety.

Check out my entire photo collection of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Movie Review: Julie & Julia

Rated: PG-13

Website: Official Julie & Julia site

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina

My Review: Pretty much everything you’ve undoubtedly already read about Julie & Julia is true. It is a cute, entertaining, and often legitimately funny movie that is more about two women’s love affair with food than anything else. Meryl Streep as Julia Child is perfection and every time she’s not onscreen you long for her return. Amy Adams as Child’s modern-day contemporary, Julie Powell, is less so. Not that Adams isn’t charming—she always is—but when both Meryl Streep and Julia Child are in the house (both powerful players in their own right), it’s hard to really care about the Queens-based foodie blogger.

The premise is simple: Follow the lives of two women in two different times as they each discover their passion for preparing (and eating) good food. Julie Powell is a disgruntled government employee living in NYC in 2002, whose daily routine consists of fielding complaints from angry and devastated 9/11 sufferers. When one of her obnoxiously successful friends starts a blog, Powell decides to start one, too, mainly out of boredom and the need to have a “fun” project in her life. Since cooking is her way of unwinding after a tough day, she challenges herself to prepare all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook within one year and blog about the experience. The other story is Julia Child’s, and follows her life in France as she goes through the Le Cordon Bleu school, becomes involved in the creation of a French food cookbook for American cooks, and enjoys life with her devoted husband, Paul. The movie switches back and forth between the two stories, highlighting the parallels between the lives of both women, and while it’s mostly enjoyable, it does feel uneven at times. I found myself longing for more of certain elements, and less of others.

Give Me More:

* Meryl as Julia. She’s the lifeblood of the whole movie, and while it would be so easy to turn a portrayal of Julia Child into a cartoon character (as shown in a scene where Powell and her husband watch Dan Akroyd playing Child in an old SNL skit), Streep manages to capture her as a real person. Julia Child is best known for her loud, braying voice and her insatiable love of food and life in general, but Streep also manages to expertly portray moments of concern, frustration, and disappointment in Child’s life, thus making her human and not just the slightly batty chef we all know.

* Stanley Tucci as Paul Child. The movie belongs to Julie and Julia, so their husbands tend to take a backseat. But Streep and Tucci have such a natural chemistry together onscreen (and she’s so much nicer to him here than she was in The Devil Wears Prada), and Julia and Paul had such an interesting and genuinely loving relationship in real life, that I wanted to see more of him and the life they had together.

* Julie’s cooking. Too much of Julie’s storyline focuses on her blogging, her crappy job, or how her project is straining her relationship with her husband, rather than on her actually cooking the dishes. The few times you do see her cooking in the micro-kitchen in her Queens apartment are the best parts of her half of the movie, so I would have liked to have seen some more. Also, it must have been a challenge for her to find certain ingredients in the city, and seeing her trying to track down specific herbs or spices would have been much more entertaining then seeing her typing on her laptop for the umpteenth time.

Give Me Less:

* Julie’s mother. She only appears in a couple of scenes, and only as a disembodied voice on the other end of a phone call with Julie, but she’s enough of a buzzkill in those few scenes to bring the whole movie down. She doesn’t understand why Julie wastes so much time on a project that no one even cares about, but then in the same breath criticizes her for never finishing anything she starts. And then when people do start reading the blog and new opportunities start rolling in, she changes her mind and decides to finally be proud of her daughter. Julie, I hate to break it to you, but your mother is a total bitch. So hang up the phone and go make a chocolate torte.

* Julia’s cookbook story. A large part of Julia’s story is dedicated to her pursuit in getting her infamous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published. And while it is an interesting and vital part of her life, the book’s publication is where her story ends, and I wanted to see what happened next. When/how did she start her TV show? How did she adjust to becoming a well-known celebrity? How did she and Paul adjust to living in America after being in Europe for so long? If some of the drama in getting the book published had been trimmed, there might have been time to answer these questions. But since that’s not where the filmmakers went, perhaps there’s hope that they’ll do an entire Julia Child biopic starring Streep. Please?

Bottom Line: Julie & Julia, while not perfect, is an entertaining movie for anyone who is even a casual Meryl Streep fan or who finds watching the Food Network for several hours to be a fun way to spend their time. Just be warned: If you enter the theater hungry, you will leave it absolutely famished.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

Rated: PG-13

Website: Official (500) Days of Summer site

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

My Review: I’m admittedly a bit late to the party, but I finally go around to seeing (500) Days of Summer, after listening to an abundance of recommendations from both actual people and a variety of publications. And while I did enjoy a great deal, like most hyped movies, it failed to meet the expectations that had been built for it. I went in expecting some mind-blowing theatrical experience—the Godfather of relationship movies—and wound up seeing a touching and heartbreakingly realistic story about a love that doesn’t work out. Which is all the movie ever set out to be in the first place.

I’ve heard (500) Days of Summer being compared to everything from Annie Hall to Juno crossed with Memento. They’re apt comparisons, but the movie’s premise is really pretty basic: Love-skeptic Summer breaks up with the lovelorn Tom, who then goes back into his memory to dissect their relationship, from when they first met, to when everything was going good, to when things started to go wrong. Just like anyone who has gone down “where did we go wrong?” memory lane, his recollections jump around in time, so it’s up to you to put their days together into a linear order. And once you do, you get a sweetly sad love story about two people who know what they’re looking for in a relationship, but unfortunately aren’t looking for the same thing.

The main reasons the movie works so well are the performances of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, and the natural chemistry they have together. They both come across as nice, normal people, as opposed to overly-glamorized Hollywood stars. Gordon-Levitt perfectly captures Tom’s down-to-earth everyman quality as a guy who works at a job he doesn’t really like (and is in no way related to what he went to college for) and finds himself falling for his coworker, despite the fact she tells him that she doesn’t want to be anybody’s girlfriend. Deschanel is adorable and quirky without being cloying, which is no easy feat. She lets both Tom and the audience know upfront that she’s unattainable, but that doesn’t stop her from developing feelings for him or us from hoping they’ll find a way to make it work.

There are a few nagging unanswered questions at the close of the movie, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a story about a break up (are all questions ever answered at the end of a relationship?). And there are a few plot devices I could have done without—primarily Tom’s wise-beyond-her-years pre-teen sister who acts as his therapist/relationship guru. But overall, (500) Days of Summer is a very well-crafted movie that stars two easily likable actors (and one killer wardrobe for Deschanel). And if I took away one thing it’s this: I’ve had way too many Summers in my life and I really need to start working on finding an Autumn.

Bottom Line: Will (500) Days of Summer live up to all the hype you’ve heard about it? Probably not. Will you enjoy it anyway? Signs point to “yes.”

Monday, August 17, 2009

Quest for the Best: Treats Truck

Location: Varies; check the schedule on the website or sign up to be on their email list

Website: Official Treats Truck site

Price: Varies; cookies are usually between $1-$2, brownies are $2.50-$3

Atmosphere: It’s a truck that’s parked on the side of the road. So depending on the weather of the day you go, there’s your atmosphere.

My Review: The concept of food on wheels is nothing new in New York City. There are hot dog, roasted nuts, and falafel carts all over the place, and as I’ve previously mentioned, in the summer you can’t walk two blocks without running into a Mr. Softee ice cream truck. But somehow I missed out on the delicious existence of the various trucks throughout the city that offer baked goods. Baked goods! Those are my favorite kind of goods!

First on my list of mobile bakeries to try was the Treats Truck. The truck has various destinations throughout the week, but on Wednesdays and Fridays is parked within walking distance of my office, which I’m still not sure is a blessing or a curse. Much like every other mobile eatery, the Treats Truck parks itself on the side of the road and sugar junkies line up on the sidewalk to make their purchases. The treats on offer are simple, but delicious (think the type of goodies your grandmother used to make, if you were lucky enough to have a grandmother who baked), and everything is made in a bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, then loaded onto the truck (who is, appropriately enough, named “Sugar”). Various types of cookies and brownies are the main offerings of the Treats Truck, though there are also crispy squares, beverages, and daily specials that change with the seasons and upcoming holidays.

First I tried the Sugar Dot cookie, which is a bite-sized sugar cookie topped with a sugar glaze icing and sprinkles (and is only 50 cents). The sugar cookie is probably the simplest type of cookie there is and needs little embellishment, and the Sugar Dot is perfect in its simplicity. The Oatmeal Chocolate Chipper is exactly what it sounds like; and oatmeal cookie with chocolate chips. And it was, of course, fantastic, because the Treats Truck realizes what I’ve known for years; chocolate chips are better than raisins any day. But the best treat I had was the Caramel Crème Sandwich cookie. The name is misleading, as there is no caramel involved, but that doesn’t stop it from being incredible. Two chewy brown sugar cookies are stuck together with a gooey vanilla frosting, and it is a sugar lover’s paradise. As soon as I ate mine I wanted to run back to the truck and buy a dozen more. But I refrained, but only because it’s way too hot to run in NYC right now.

One of the best things about the Treat Trucks’ offerings (besides their incredibly deliciousness) is how affordable they are. While I also enjoy the cupcake craze the city is going through, some bakeries are selling them for $4 or $5 a pop. But you could go to the Treats Truck with a $5 bill and walk away with 4 or 5 different goodies. They may not come in the exotic and experimental flavors you’ll find in some of the higher end bakeries in the city, but there’s a lot of goodness to be found in the simple things in life.

Bottom Line: The Treats Truck offers a wide variety of baked goods which are all delicious and reasonably priced, plus the truck will most likely find it’s way to your area at some point, so what’s not to love? In fact, I’m so impressed with the Treats Truck, it makes me want to start my own bakery on wheels. I have a car, and I love to bake, so maybe this could be my new side business. I could call it The Rabbit Habit, because I drive a VW Rabbit and being addicted to baked goods is a habit… OK, so there’s obviously a reason I don’t work in advertising.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Rated: PG-13

Website: Official The Time Traveler’s Wife site

Starring: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston, Stephen Tobolowsky, Arliss Howard

My Review: I was lucky enough to attend the NYC premiere of The Time Traveler’s Wife (and see Eric Bana from a far, far distance). I had read the book that it’s based on awhile ago, and had a lukewarm reaction to it, so I was hoping the movie would cause me to have more of an emotional investment with the characters, but unfortunately the movie left me just as tepid as the book did (despite the star gazing from across a crowded theater).

The story focuses on the relationship of Henry and Clare, and how it struggles to survive the hardships that his condition creates. Henry is a time traveler; at any given moment and without any warning, he will involuntarily disappear from the present and traipse through time. He revisits the same destinations often—ones that hold emotional significance for him—and one of his most popular stops is the meadow behind Clare’s childhood home. She first meets him when she’s a child and he’s a middle-aged man, and he continues to visit her while she is growing up, knowing that in the future (which is actually his present) they’re married. He first meets her when they’re both in their 20’s and she wanders into the library where he works, and tells him that his older self has been coming to visit her throughout her childhood and she’s been in love with him her whole life. And so begins their love affair, which leads to a marriage fraught with stress and loneliness as Henry’s time traveling grows more frequent and erratic, and Clare is always left behind, wondering when he’ll return and what happens to him when he’s gone.

While I do like the unique premise of The Time Traveler’s Wife—time traveling as a genetic disorder—I failed to have a true emotional connection to either Henry or Clare or their relationship. Their “love that is destined to be” just never rang true to me. I don’t see in Henry what Clare does that makes her wait for him throughout her adolescence and young adulthood, and then continue to wait once they’re together. And I never feel Henry’s true connection to Clare because when he first meets her and she says she’s known him for years and that they’re married in the future, he’s just accepts that and seems to simply go through the motions of dating her, marrying her, and creating a life with her, because he knows how that’s how things turn out anyway.

The main reason I have no emotional investment in Henry and Clare’s relationship is because Henry is kind of a bore. He never seems to have much of a personality—you never see him being overly funny, or passionate, or vivacious—he just sort of plods through life, waiting for his next time traveling episode to occur. When he finally hooks up with Clare, it almost feels like he’s doing it just so he can have something else to do with his time. And even when he time travels, he never seems to go or do anything of interest. While his disappearances often happen at inopportune times and creates the necessary dramatic tension with his life with Clare, it would be more rewarding if he actually went places. Travel the world. Go way back in time. Meet some significant people who are now deceased. Anything! But he always seems to revisit the same places, and usually within the Chicago area where he and Clare live. I understand that going back to Clare’s childhood home often is a main plot point of the story, but what about all those other trips? How many times does he need to go revisit the moment when his mother was killed in a car crash? Couldn’t he have checked out the Pyramids or something like that?

Whether Henry’s blandness is the fault of the screenwriter, Eric Bana’s acting, or a combo package, I’m not sure. Rachel McAdams does a nice job as Clare, making both her love and frustrations with Henry very believable; even though I don’t understand her devotion to him, McAdams did make me believe is was genuine. Most of the secondary characters from the book have either been cut or had their presence significantly reduced, so the movie’s main focus is strictly on Henry and Clare (if you were hoping to see Henry’s father’s Asian neighbor or Henry’s ex-girlfriend, prepare for disappointment). Ron Livingston plays their mutual friend Gomez in a few scenes, but he’s not nearly as involved in their lives as he is in the book, so I think he was just added to the movie to show that Henry and Clare sometimes see people other than each other. Also significantly reduced is the role of Dr. Kendrick, the geneticist who tries to evaluate and cure Henry’s condition. He’s play affably in his few scenes by Stephen Tobolowsky, who has the misfortune of forever being Groundhog Day’s Ned Ryerson in my head, and I kept waiting for him to tell Henry, “Watch out for that time traveling! It’s a doozy!”

Bottom Line: While there are elements to The Time Traveler’s Wife that I really like, the story as a whole feels disconnected, unemotional, and confusing at times (the aging of Henry for scenes where he’s tripping through time at various stages of life didn’t work as smoothly as the filmmakers had hoped). Rachel McAdams is the one standout performance in the whole movie, as she is with most things she does, but in a movie that’s all about a great love, one person isn’t enough to carry the production. And if you’re a fan of the book, the many omissions and oversights are bound to cause disappointment, which is all too often the case with adaptations.

Movie Trailer Review: The Lovely Bones

Opens: December 11, 2009

Website: Official The Lovely Bones site

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, Susan Sarandon

My Review: It is my completely amateur opinion that there are going to be two types of people going to see The Lovely Bones in December: Those who have read and loved the book, and those who think they’re going to see a murder mystery and will be sorely disappointed. The story is about a 14-year-old girl who is murdered and then watches as her family and friends continue their lived on Earth. The murder happens in the very beginning, and the identity of the murderer is never kept a secret, so the mystery element that the trailer seems to be playing is somewhat misleading. But I guess the studio needs to do what it can to draw in an audience, and I’m not sure how many people will go for a drama that splits its time between heaven and Earth.

I’m in the first camp of potential audience members, having read the book and enjoyed it (except for a certain other-worldly part at the end that anyone else who has read it will know what I’m talking about). And no matter how the movie is received, I give director Peter Jackson a ton of credit for taking it on. It can’t be easy trying to make a movie of a story that already has a very rabid (and difficult to please) fan base. And then there’s that whole major parts of the story take place in heaven thing. How do you make a vision of heaven that is believable, yet still mystical, yet isn’t so fantastical that it will distract from the very real drama going on in the real world? I have no idea, but from what the trailer shows, Jackson is tapping into his Heavenly Creatures roots, rather than his Lord of the Rings fame, which is exactly what The Lovely Bones needs.

Would I Pay For It?: I am extremely eager to see how the vision of heaven in the book is portrayed on screen, and I’m also eager to associate star Saoirse Ronan with a character other than the brat she played in Atonement. So come December, I’ll mostly likely find my way to a theater to check this out.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Geeking Out With Mozart: The Magic Flute and Mostly Mozart

This past week was an extremely culturally geeky one, even by my standards. First I went to see a screening of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, a version that was directed by Julie Taymor (of The Lion King on Broadway fame) and filmed at the Metropolitan Opera in 2006. Then later in the week I attended the Mostly Mozart festival at Lincoln Center—a classical music festival that lasts nearly a month and features, well, mostly Mozart music.

No surprise, Taymor’s vision of The Magic Flute is stunning. The costumes and scenery are saturated with vibrant color and the few puppet-like creations she utilizes are amazing (like the giant polar bears who seem to glide across the stage due to the kite-like way they’re constructed). This particular production is sung in English, though subtitles are still supplied for those times when it’s still difficult to decipher what is being sung. Listening to opera in English sort of takes away from the foreign romanticism of it and I wish they had kept it in German with English subtitles. It makes me wonder if when Germans and Italians listen to opera in their native language they wish it was in another one. But it was still an excellent production and while it was a little odd watching it on a screen in a movie theater, rather than on stage, it was a far more affordable way to partake in a medium I’m still not fully sure I enjoy.

Lincoln Center’s annual Mostly Mozart festival started recently and is running through August 22. Since Mozart is my favorite composer, and I had a chance to attend a concert for only $4, I decided to check out the festival. As luck would have it, the night I went the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra wasn’t performing any Mozart music (it is Mostly Mozart, after all, not Totally and Completely and Undeniably Mozart). The concert featured works by Brahms and Haydn, one an inspiration to Mozart and the other inspired by him. Classical music is obviously not for everyone, but if you do enjoy it, the Mostly Mozart festival is a great way to experience it. The various venues in Lincoln Center have such a grandiose feeling to them, you can’t help buy feel artistic and cultured just by being seated there. And experiencing classical music live is so much more rewarding than listening to a recording (especially when you get to see guest pianist Stefan Vladar rock out on a Haydn piano concerto). I would gladly return for an evening of culture at the Mostly Mozart festival. I would just like to, you know, hear some music actually composed by Mozart next time.

The Magic Flute image ©

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quest for the Best: Mr. Softee Edition

Location: Various trucks throughout NYC

Website: Official Mr. Softee site

Price: Around $3 per ice cream cone

My Review: I’m somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I’ve lived in New York City for nearly five years and only recently had my first ice cream cone from a Mr. Softee truck. What makes this even more pathetic is that every night from March-September, a truck is parked across the street from my apartment, playing that insipid tune that every New Yorker knows (but not every New Yorker knows that there are actually lyrics to the song, and sheet music to be found on the website).

Deciding that five years is long enough to resist the siren song of Mr. Softee, and after constantly hearing about how “so good!” his ice cream is, I broke down and sampled his wares. It’s pretty much everything you’d expect from soft serve: cool, creamy, and delicious. Plus with the added convenience of being able to get some on nearly every NYC street corner from when the temperature hits above 60 until the first frost. The flavor options are somewhat limited, but there are plenty of other ice cream places in the city to check out if it’s inventive concoctions you want. But for a simple cold treat on a hot summer day, Mr. Softee is easy to find and always ready to serve.

Bottom Line: Losing my Mr. Softee virginity was definitely more satisfying than losing my actual virginity. A+, would gladly try again.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mad Men Yourself: Celebrate the Return of Mad Men

In case you haven’t discovered one of the best shows on TV right now, season three of AMC’s Mad Men premieres on August 16. And to celebrate, the AMC website is allowing you to Mad Men yourself; at last you can follow Don Draper’s advice to picking up women, by actually becoming Don Draper. Mad Men Rachel thinks it’s a swell idea.