Thursday, December 31, 2009

Up With People

I always manage to catch a movie or two over the holidays, and this year was no exception. Avatar and Up were this year's selections. I was pleasantly surprised by Avatar and very pleased that Up surpassed my already high expectations.

Avatar didn't blow me away, but it surpassed my admittedly meager expectations. Even though I don't get too excited about CGI effects, seeing it in 3D definitely made the experience more immersive and enjoyable. Avatar may have been the first movie I've ever seen in 3D. It's probable that I saw at least one 3D movie as a kid, but I can't think of any off of the top of my head. The story in Avatar isn't much to write home about, though it's not completely by-the-numbers. I was surprised to see how unsympathetically the paramilitary organization protecting the mining interests of the humans on Pandora was portrayed, given that they were a very thinly veiled stand-in for the American armed forces. This recent AV Club posting goes into more detail about the politics of the film. There's not much nuance, but it's a less conventional than I would have expected.

While I'm on the topic, did anyone else who saw Avatar find Sam Worthington's accent horrible? I'd never heard of the guy before seeing the movie, but an IMDB lookup confirms that he's from England and started his acting career in Australia. His Anglo and/or Aussie roots were very apparent, at least to me, during several of his dialogue sequences. You'd think for $250 million they could have gotten a decent accent coach for him so his character could have a believable middle American accent to go along with his working-class vocabulary.

Up is one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in a while. I also liked Pixar's last outing, Wall-E, but I thought Up was even better. While Up is animated, it is not a kid's movie, but I'm sure that I would have loved it as a kid. I really enjoyed the period details and Carl, the main character, reminded me of my grandfather a little bit, but it's still a really good movie even if neither of those things hold true for you.

Monday, December 14, 2009


We tried Dakar, a new Senegalese restaurant in Central Falls last Friday before going to see The SantaLand Diaries at the Gamm Theater. There aren't a lot of dining choices near the Gamm, so Dakar is a nice addition to the area. We had the place to ourselves once the couple that was dining when we arrived left, which is never a good sign for a restaurant on Friday night (or any other night), but the food and the service was good. Our waiter (who was also the host, bus boy, and possibly, the chef) greeted us by asking if we had ever been the Senegal. It was nice that he didn't assume we had never visited his home country (though we haven't), even though it's a place that most Americans have never even heard of.

As for the food, I really liked the ginger juice. It was very strong, but I love ginger and ginger-based drinks especially. I also enjoyed the Naem appetizer that we tried. They are Senegalese-style egg rolls and according to our waiter, they were brought back to Senegal by soldiers who fought for their colonial power (France) in Vietnam. Regardless of how you feel about colonialism, we can all agree that is has given us some great fusion cuisine. I had the Lamb Yassa for dinner. The lamb was a bit on the dry side, but the dish still had a lot of flavor.

I haven't eaten much African cuisine, but my meal at Dakar was one of my favorites. Hopefully the next time we eat there, we won't be the only patrons.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I liked today's Dilbert. It reminded me of this story NPR did a few months ago.

The story looked into how people in various occupations are compensated and contrasted it with the huge bonus culture on Wall St. that has been all over the news for the past year. Most jobs don't pay out large performance-based bonuses because it would be counter-productive. I'd argue that it's also been quite counter-productive on Wall St., but that's another story. Since most people think that they are above average (I know I am), close to half the of the office would be pretty disappointed if a large percentage of their compensation was tied to individual performance. The other big problem, which this cartoon illustrates perfectly, is that if individual performance is the only thing that is considered when paying bonuses, interoffice cooperation is seriously devalued and employees start behaving like freelancers at best and competitors at worst.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


This ad has been up for for several months now, but it raises an important question - is Mad Men no longer cool now that's it's being referenced in a Cardi's Furniture advertisement?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fox News

We saw Fantastic Mr. Fox last weekend. Ever since watching it, I've been trying to decide if I actually like Wes Anderson movies. I've seen most of them (though this was my first since The Life Aquatic) and enjoyed all of them to a certain degree. It has become somewhat fashionable to dislike Wes Anderson's work as of late, just as it used to be fashionable to enjoy it, but I don't think I'm getting caught up in the backlash. Mr. Fox wasn't a bad movie, I just never really got into the story. Part of the problem was I felt that George Clooney (who provided the voice for the titular character) turned Mr. Fox into an animated vulpine charactiture of his stock character. I'm going through something of a George Clooney backlash right now because I feel like he always plays the same character. Perhaps I should study a foreign language so I can watch a dubbed version of Mr. Fox to see if I enjoy it more with someone other than George Clooney voicing the main character.