Friday, April 30, 2010

Cape Cod’s Best Feature

If you’re looking for a place to go on vacation this summer, take a trip to Dennis, Massachusetts. Dennis is a great part of Cape Cod where you can go to relax, go to the beach, find some delicious restaurants, and even do a little shopping. Just make sure if you’re going during the summer months to pack your sunscreen!

If you’re planning on staying in Dennis, there are plenty of hotels in Cape Cod but one that truly stands out is the Dennis Inn at 25 Scarsdale Road. Although it is a bit pricey, the location is convenient and the feeling is authentic Cape Cod with its ocean paintings and “beachy” accents.  When you wake up the next morning, smell the fresh salt air and go to the beach! Cape Cod is home to many but one that is clean and convenient is the Mayflower Beach. However, make sure to get there early in the morning if you want a spot by the ocean. Also, feel free to spread your things out because people do get a little close as the beach fills up later in the day. On the way home from the beach, don’t forget to stop at Sundae School. Although you won’t find a Bible here, Sundae School is home to Cape Cod’s best homemade ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream. It is unbelievable. There is seating inside, but sitting outside at the tables and enjoying the weather really makes the experience perfect. I do suggest going during the day as opposed to at night because it gets crowded after dinner. 

After your ice cream keep treating yourself and go do a little shopping. Dennis has many unique shops including Eden Hand Arts located on Route 6A. It is here that the popular Cape Cod ball bracelet is made and they actually fit it to your wrist for you. They also have other pieces of jewelry and pottery as well. Many other jewelry places have tried to copy their design, but this is the original location of where the bracelet got its start. Just be aware that they are only opened Wednesday through Saturday.

If shopping doesn’t sound like fun, there are also other fun activities such as miniature golfing at Holiday Hill in Dennis Port and Go-Karts at Cartwheels in South Dennis. Now that you’ve gone to the beach and done a little shopping, go have some seafood at Kream ‘N’ Kone in West Dennis on Route 28. With a menu full of seafood options, burgers, and chicken as well as 27 different ice cream flavors, you really can’t go wrong. 

My personal favorite is the fish and chips!

If you’re looking for something a little bit more upscale and feel like dressing up, try Clancy's in Dennisport. Clancy’s was voted Best Family Dining (Mid-Cape Area) in the Cape Cod Life Readers Poll, 1996 thru 2009, Clancy's in Dennisport. Just about 10 minutes out of Dennis, Clancy’s is located on Swan River, which provides a beautiful backdrop for your dining experience. According to Clancy’s website you can, “enjoy signature dishes such as baked Stuffed Shrimp…and Prime Rib on Friday and Saturday nights. On warm weather days enjoy a cocktail or meal on the deck overlooking the Swan River. A beautiful location for Sunday Brunch!”

Whether you want to spend a day or a week in Dennis, there is always something fun to do or see. I suggest going during July or August in order to get the warmest weather. A tip for traveling would be to leave early on a Friday morning and head home later on Sunday evening if you want to spend a weekend but beat the crowd. Although there are other parts of Cape Cod that are fun to visit, Dennis is a place you can go to relax in peace while getting an authentic experience. Visit Dennis, Massachusetts for your next vacation. You won’t be disappointed. 

Directions and links to places mentioned in the article:

Dennis Inn:

25 Scarsdale Road
Dennis, MA 02638
Mayflower Beach:

Rt. 6A to Bayview Rd to Dunes Rd (Dennis)

Sundae School:

381 Lower County Rd.
Dennisport, MA 02639

Eden's Hand Arts:
See Website


11 South Gages Way
S. Dennis, MA 02660

Holiday Hill Miniature Golf:

352 Rte. 28
Dennisport, MA

Kream 'N' Kone:
961 Main Street
West Dennis, MA 02670

8 Upper County Road
Dennisport, Massachusetts 02639

Metropolitan Time Waste

Once in a while, a movie comes out that speaks to an entire generation. Throughout the 1980's, John Hughes created films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink and St. Elmo's Fire. These were stories about the human condition, movies with themes that could be appreciated by a broad audience. While geared toward teens and twenty-somethings, the characters in these films were dynamic. You'd be hard-pressed to find an individual who lived through the 80's who couldn't find a member of the Brat Pack to relate with.

And then, in 1990, Whit Stillman made Metropolitan. This film is the antithesis of a John Hughes flick. Sure, it's cut from the same mold: it attempts to straddle the line between drama and comedy; the story is centered around a number of characters, none of whom can be identified as the protagonist; the plotline has little to do with action and everything to do with conversation; changes in setting are sparse and unimportant. The problem here, of course, lies in how relatable these characters are: not at all.

Metropolitan quickly settles into its setting: an upper-class dinner party in Manhattan in what we can only assume is the 1970's. The glamorous apartment is filled with exceptionally dressed men and women in their early twenties having conversations that go like this:

"That's how New York seems, at least in the popular imagination."
"Well, I don't think that there is a popular imagination."
"Oh, what do you mean?"
"Just that. I don't think there is a popular imagination."

None of these characters listen to each other. They simply wait to speak. No one actually says anything of substance, and there are constant arguments with no discernable purpose other than the reiteration that yes, these characters care about nothing but flaunting their class and education.

While it is charming to witness just how empty these trust-fund babies' lives are, the joke gets old rather quickly. Then it gets depressing. Don't get me wrong: you don't feel for the characters at all. You just start feeling bad about yourself, because you'll never have it that easy, and you imagine that if you did, you wouldn't be such a pretentious douchebag. And these characters are pretentious douchebags. They exude a cloud of smug so thick you might get lung cancer.

Of course, there is a very small audience the movie can appeal to. For the sake of being unbiased, here are some words from a positive review of this film from iridescence, juxtaposed, soigne, genteel, egalitarianism, deconstructionist, poignant, cynosure, evanescence. These are words that people shouldn't use in an Amazon product review unless they feel the need to flaunt their depth in front of the entire internet. (Of course, most of us here on the internet know the difference between a writer with a masterful vocabulary and one who just discovered

So, unless you have an inflated sense of self-worth you need to reaffirm by understanding this film in some profound manner or you're a New York socialite (in the most romantic and repugnant sense of the word), don't let Metropolitan rob you of time or money. is asking $32 for the DVD, which is about thirty-two dollars over a reasonable price. Hell, this movie's not even worth the bandwidth you'll waste downloading it illegally.

Downtown Snacking

Everybody's broke and food still costs money. Unfortunately, we seem to care more about our wallets than our health. For years, fast food chains have been taking advantage of this disposition by saturating our media with ads for dollar menus filled with items that are appealing in terms of budget and convenience, but somewhat lacking when it comes to quality.

Recently, I went to Downtown Crossing with a dollar and some change (because dollar menus are never actually a dollar, despite the ad campaigns constantly making such a claim). I had one goal: to find a satisfying snack in this price range. The three fast food giants were all represented within a few blocks, so this seemed like an area bound to satisfy my hunger.

As an homage to Boston's history of rich Irish culture, I started with McDonald's. The choices there seemed to be the McDouble (apparently, a double cheeseburger with only one slice of cheese), a "chicken sandwich" made of breaded scrap meat and mayonnaise, or a sliver of grilled chicken and brown lettuce smothered in mystery sauce on a soft taco shell. Tempting, but I decided to move on to check out the competition.

Burger King's dollar menu items seemed to resemble food, which was nice. Their double cheeseburger looks much more appealing than the McDouble, plus they actually call it a double cheeseburger. Regardless, past experience warned me that it would leave the same ache in my stomach. The dollar menu chicken tenders almost sold me until I realized there would only be four of them, and for some reason they were uniformly shaped like the letter M, as if to remind me that no, this is not actual food. The dollar menu french fries were half the size of a small but completely covered in salt and I realized they were just a clever ploy to make me spend three dollars on a soda.

A few blocks down Winter or Summer street or maybe both, Wendy's had the most promising spread. The chicken sandwich here may once have been part of a chicken. And only one part, at that. The fries here seemed to have less salt and a lot more substance than the competition. Best of all, however, was the Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. The beef was clearly of a higher caliber (though not by much), the bun looked like it was less than a week old, and--best of all--there were actual vegetables on it! Real life vegetables! Iceberg lettuce, glistening like... like an iceberg. Slices of tomato that were still red. But the downfall of Wendy's' menu comes when your eyes wander to the right of the item names. Their value items are closer to $1.50 before tax, and that's far too much to pay for something that probably isn't going to fill you up with anything but self-loathing. I gave up.

On the way back up Summer or Winter St., I found a street vendor selling fruit. Fresh fruit. Since I had already admitted defeat, I decided to buy two apples to practice my juggling on the way home. To my astonishment, the cost was less than a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. At that price, the apples became expendable. I tried eating one. Shockingly, this food item was at once crisp and juicy. It filled me up and satisfied my thirst at the same time. And though it tasted suspiciously like candy, further research has informed me that I don't have to feel guilty about eating it. Fruit is actually healthy! Healthy and cheap!

Burger King - 128 Tremont Street, Boston, MA‎ - (617) 556-8299‎
McDonald's - 146 Tremont Street, Boston, MA‎ - (617) 778-5226‎
Wendy's - 71 Summer Street, Boston, MA‎ - (617) 542-5719‎
The fruit stand is located at the corner of Summer Street and Washington Street, just before or after Summer becomes Winter.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Mouth of the South

Southern-style barbecue is one of my favorite things in the entire world. After having traveled to three different southern states and having tried barbecue in each of them, it’s very hard to find a northern equivalent that’s even comparable. Banjo’s Roast Beef in Cambridge certainly makes up for the barbecue I miss so much. I still don’t know what it is about banning science books from public schools that makes southerners such great cooks. It’s certainly a mystery I can live with.

This small upstart restaurant, which operates out of an old KFC, is slowly becoming a fan favorite with the locals. Sure, the menu has ribs and fried chicken, but that’s nothing compared to the baked mac and cheese, fried pickles, sweet potato corn fritters and southern style coleslaw. These truly authentic foods help make this place a go-to spot for anyone who misses the tastes of Dixie. The food here is so good, you’ll be convinced that they have a few Confederate widows working the kitchen.

Banjo’s has two standout sandwiches. The first is the Jackson barbecue roast beef. This is a bourbon roasted sandwich that is dripping with cheddar cheese sauce. The second (and personal favorite) is the barbecue pulled pork sandwich. This little piggy comes with the mother of all sauces: Carolina barbecue sauce. For anyone who hasn’t yet experienced this tangy, vinegar based condiment, I suggest you take the trip. In terms of price, a six dollar sandwich wouldn’t seem cheap, but factor in the size and that it comes with one large side. It’s certainly a deal that both Yankees and Sharecroppers alike can agree on.

Invasion U.S.A

Anyone can appreciate a typical Chuck Norris movie for its action-packed plot, quirky one-liners, and unforgettably hokey depiction of Norris, the bad-ass himself. Watching a Chuck Norris movie is rarely surprising, as Norris usually portrays some version of the same character in all of his movies. But, I was unpleasantly surprised by a particularly horrible Chuck Norris movie, when I attended a tribute screening at the Somerville Theater for Norris’ seventieth birthday. After being forced by my boyfriend to sit through the action film “Invasion USA,” I could only describe the movie and my experience as a bit hard to swallow, due to the film’s farfetched plot and overall terrible acting. Released in September of 1985 and written by Norris and his brother Aaron, the motion picture’s tagline, “No one thought it could ever happen here,” sheds light on an obscure premise, which is never actually revealed.

The film begins by showing a group of Cuban refugees on a boat headed for the U.S. The refugees are confronted by what seems to be the U.S. Coast Guard, but turns out to be murderous Latin American guerillas that kill the refugees and take cocaine bags that are hidden beneath the boat. The leader of this rag-tag group is Mikhail Rostov, who has skin that looks as if it is melting off, which just seems to be from a bad makeup application. The ridiculousness of the movie escalates when, dressed in tank tops and jeans, the terrorist group exchanges the cocaine for bazookas and AK-47s in route to storm the Florida coast in World War II era landing craft.

The movie then takes a sudden and puzzling turn to Chuck Norris as the main character Captain Matt Hunter, manly and shirtless on an airboat in the Everglades. Hunter is an ex-CIA agent who now lives in Florida with his old friend, John Eagle. The two live peacefully, while riding their airboats in swampy marsh lands and eating frogs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This part of film is completely unnecessary and difficult to follow. Even Norris’ pet armadillo is introduced, but for no particular reason at all. Confusing things even more, the bad guys' evil plan is revealed. But it is all too sporadic, making it hard to tell who the bad guys actually are. When all seems hopeless for an America under siege from an enemy that doesn’t really seem to exist, Norris swoops in and saves the day, by miraculously predicting where each terrorist will be and waiting there to ambush him. Norris warns in one of his many one-liners, “If you come back in, I’ll hit you with so many rights you’ll be begging for a left.”

While the entire movie lies flat, the ending proves itself in true Chuck Norris fashion. As Norris watches TV at home, the police barge in to arrest him for being a vigilante. However, he amazingly escapes their custody and saves the day, killing his nemesis Rostov, proving that Norris is super human and entirely absurd.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Get Your Grub on for a Lincoln

10:00 a.m. Scratching your belly produces a loud grumble. You look around at the bare cabinets and sigh at the empty refrigerator. Decisions: stale cereal and pungent milk or mystery eggs? Reaching into your bleach-stained jean pockets, you fumble for your wallet. Pulling out a five dollar bill and flashing a grin, you know where you are going for breakfast. Believe it or not, a magical place exists where everything delicious is under five dollars. Everything. Most of their specials are even under three dollars. You will start to question if they are doing something legal. No worries, they are.

The Liberty Lunch is so easy to drive by on 732 Central Ave in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The restaurant is small, cramped, and greasy. There are four booths and a wraparound bar where customers can watch the cooks in action. You will salivate smelling the sizzling bacon and the brimming blueberry pancakes. Baked muffins rest on each booth; they are covered in sugar and are the size of softballs. The diner has portions for one, which could easily feed three. Ask about the P.D. Special. No, it does not stand for Police Department, Pawtucket Deal, or Purple Dinosaur. For $3.50, the P.D. is going to be become your new best friend—even if you still do not know what the heck P.D. stands after asking the owner a million times. You get your choice of a beverage, four slices of toast, eggs made to order, Disney shaped pancakes, and a side of seasoned home fries. Yes, folks. They make huge pancakes in the shapes of Disney characters. Some days the chefs will make Mickey Mouse complete with the gigantic ears and a chocolate chip nose. You might even come in on a day when they make a different princess or cartoon. They always decorate the faces with fresh fruit or chocolate to bring the characters to life. What a delightful place, where you get to channel your inner child. For $3.75, you can add sausage, pork, and bacon to your already overflowing plate.

If you are not in the mood for an early breakfast, Liberty Lunch offers an eclectic lunch spread too. Some of their more authentic Rhode Island crowd-pleasers include the clam chowder and clam cakes. Next to Iggy’s, located in Warwick and Narragansett Rhode Island, Liberty Lunch makes a tasty batch. The clam cakes are fried to a crisp finding a pleasant balance between tender and crunchy. There is just enough crunch that you do not feel like you are biting into a friggin’ rock, and a soft center incredibly similar to a donut. So many places in Rhode Island mess up this delicacy, by overcooking the cakes or watering down the clam chowder. No one wants to have chowder that tastes or resembles saltwater. You will not find a better deal: $3.00 for a cup of chowder and $2.50 for a few clam cakes.

Other tasty treats include homemade ice cream floats for $2.50 and ½ pound burgers for around $5.00 topped with cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, and a side of fries. All of these items are prepared before your eyes; no microwaves or frozen foods are involved. These options taste better than any IHOP or McDonald’s can produce. Five dollars goes a long way here; you’re like a millionaire, but not.

Strippers, Swearing, and Slitting Wrists, Oh My!

And so Elizabeth Berkley’s character Nomi Malone holds a switch blade up to a truck driver’s throat. Oh and there’s lots of awkward naked lap dances intertwined too. There. I just saved you the wasted 128 minutes of your life. We all hate shitty movies that make us regret spending those ten bucks. That money could have gone towards some Wendy’s and a six pack to wash away that horrifying spectacle. What sucks even worse is when the movie is so terrible, you feel your brain cells burning away and tumors taking its place. If you’re still going to sit down and watch Showgirls: I suggest a lot of prescription drugs, a bottle of whiskey, and a sharpened razor.

Trying to describe the synopsis of Showgirls is like explaining why drugs are bad to a group of addicts. There is no real plot or understanding of what is happening, just a lot of chaos. Nomi Malone is an attention-seeking whore with a past. She comes to Las Vegas for a fresh start and she wants to dance. Her ambition to headline a show completely takes over, and nothing will get in the way of her dreams. All of the scenes in this movie involve unnecessary amounts of nudity and thrusting. The life of a showgirl is fast-paced and requires cleavage-bearing costumes, but this movie decides that tits and crotch shots are not enough. They amplify the nudity and make it awkward by letting the characters intermingle.

Did I mention that this movie has a lot of sex? There are steamy, passionate sex scenes and then there are those uncomfortable porno-inspired moments that make you grab your parts and scream, “What the...Yuck!” Showgirls falls into the second scenario; the sex scene in the pool makes you wonder if she was really assertive or having a seizure. Either way, you will feel uncomfortable and want to step out for a cigarette break. Even the strip tease between the girlfriend, boyfriend, and dancer makes you want to turn off the movie—but you don’t, praying by some miracle it will get better. When Nomi auditions for the big show Goddess you begin to have hope. The choreography is cool and intricate and we begin to see that Elizabeth Berkley has some serious ballet training. The audition sequence is a lot like A Chorus Line where hundreds of people are dancing gradually getting cut down to a few remaining hopefuls…until the dancers start ripping off their clothes and pelvic thrusting on the stage floor. Hope you still have that razor handy.

In addition to the nudity, dancing, and unnecessary roughness, there is a lot of swearing. Everybody loves a good movie with some “fuck yous” and “bitches” thrown into the mix, but not in Showgirls. They manage to ruin the art of swearing too. Every other word is profane; you get so distracted by the crap coming out of their mouths that the useless plot becomes even more irrelevant. But, wait, more naked chicks are walking across the screen. Maybe they will do something interesting? Nope. Elizabeth Berkley claimed this movie would jumpstart her career, seriously? She should have enjoyed being on Saved by the Bell and joined Dancing with the Stars. Thanks for taking one for the team Elizabeth; I am sure some serious research and acting classes went into this role.

Showgirls cannot even fall into that “guilty pleasure” bad movie category. This movie makes you want to punch babies or never want to see light again. Well played, Showgirls, well played.

The Rock of a Community

Chelsea is a small, urban, troubled city on the outskirts of Boston that is lucky enough to have an organization that truly makes a difference. ROCA, a Chelsea based non-profit organization, has been making a difference for over 20 years. Working with perhaps the most distressed within the community, young people, ROCA has managed to successfully impact an area that desperately needs as many positive influences as it can get. They have done amazing things by changing lives and promoting hope.

One of the biggest and most inspirational programs ROCA is running is The Key Program. It is an employment program for high risk people that have often recently been released from prison. When a person has a crime record it can be extraordinarily hard to find employment; ROCA gladly hires these people and gives them the second chance most people won’t. The Key Program is a three-step plan to full time employment; the participants in this program earn money for cleaning public parks, graffiti, and the ROCA facility. Along with earning money they earn the chance to redeem themselves for past grievances.

ROCA used to be an acronym for Reaching Out to Chelsea’s Adolescence, but with the expansion of their programs they’ve stopped using the acronym. ROCA, which means rock in Spanish, has fulfilled the symbol its name invokes and has become the rock of a community.

In speaking with one of the driving forces behind ROCA it’s immediately clear these people take what they do seriously and really believe in the ability for people to change when given the chance. Molly Baldwin, the founder and executive director of ROCA, happily met with me in order to give more insight.

I asked, “What inspired you to start this organization?” She sat silent for a while introspectively scanning the recesses of her mind; her eyes lit up as she began to speak. “I love young people. Sometimes the world takes its toll on people and they forget how to love their children, it doesn’t mean they don’t want them.”

Hearing this made me think back to walking into the building to meet with Ms. Baldwin. As I walked in I saw children and young adults everywhere conversing, laughing, and smiling with each other.

She continued with an air of hope behind her words, “Often the youths of a community get left out, but I’ve always believed in them.”

The organization is run just like any other typical business. The difference between ROCA and other businesses is the triple-bottom line. Most companies operate with one goal and that is profit; ROCA focuses its interests on profit, environmental impact, and social impact. All of these are carefully factored into any decision that is made. If more businesses operated under these guidelines maybe the world would be a better place.

Along with using their focused interests as a guide, it is clear that the people who make ROCA the success story that it is are happy with the work they do but never satisfied. Currently plans are being made to expand into another troubled city, Springfield. According to some of the statistics gathered by ROCA, Springfield has the second highest crime rate in Massachusetts; the poverty rate has almost reached three times the average for cities in Massachusetts. ROCA is always looking for answers to the problems that face communities; the solution that they’ve come up with is making an impact on the community’s young generation. It’s this forward thinking that has allowed them to sustain a positive influence for well over a decade.

“We are all here for a purpose,” says Ms. Baldwin, “and I’m not judging other people’s purposes, but it just feels like this is what I’m meant to do. It’s honestly a privilege.”

As I walked towards the exit of the huge ROCA complex I couldn’t help but feel inspired by the sheer earnestness in Ms. Baldwin’s voice and message. As I approached the door, I saw the same youths I saw on my way in. They were eating along with conversing, laughing, and smiling. Looking at them from afar they looked like a family; thinking about it now that’s what ROCA is doing, slowly turning a community into a family.

Billy's Sub Shop

Although it is not be hard to find a restaurant with good food in Boston, it may be impossible to find one with reasonable prices. But there is no need to worry about spending outrageous money on food anymore because Billy’s Sub Shop might solve all your problems. Located on one of Boston’s busiest streets, in the heart of the hectic South End, this small breakfast and lunch restaurant has something that can please everyone’s appetite. With authentic, homemade food and huge portions, this small business is known as one of Boston’s most inexpensive places to eat. While it is often overlooked because of its small worn out sign and dining area, Bostonians are missing out on this delicious opportunity.

Whether you show up at 10 in the morning or 3 in the afternoon, breakfast is served all day. For only $3.75, you can have one of Billy’s favorites, a plate of 9’’ buttery, golden, fluffy pancakes that have been made from scratch. With the option of eating them plain, with chocolate chips or blueberries, their rich, soft flavor topped with powdered sugar and maple syrup, will leave you asking for more. Also, for the same price, you can have 6 slices of delicious, soft-battered French toast. If you’re looking for the typical American breakfast, for only $2.75, you can have an overfull plate of 2 eggs, any style, toast and home fries. If you’re looking for more, have 3 eggs for an additional $.75 and add a side of crispy bacon, savory ham or juicy sausage links for only $1.75. For a less than $5, Billy’s will please you with the taste and price of your breakfast.

If you’re not in the mood for some breakfast, there is an abundant selection of lunch items. Their large one size sub for a set price of $6.25 is one of Billy’s prized features. You can choose anywhere from the typical chicken cutlet, to the gyro or even the chicken kebab on pita, all for the same price. Billy’s also has special lunch items that vary by the day. One day you may find a delicious plate of American Chop Suey for $8.25, while on other days they may have a $9.25 Turkey dinner, which includes turkey, stuffing, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. Also, Billy’s has a soup of the day, such as the hearty beef vegetable soup or the aromatic, vegetarian Lentil soup for only $2.95. Next time you’re in the neighborhood and are running low on cash, stop by Billy’s Sub Shop and experience one of Boston’s best, cheap restaurants.

Billy’s is located on 57 Berkley Street. It is opened seven days a week, Monday through Friday from 6 A.M.-4 P.M., Saturday from 7 A.M.-4 P.M. and Sundays from 8 A.M.- 2 P.M.

Don't Worry! 2012 Will Just Be Another failed Prophecy.

“The world, as we know it, will end cataclysmically on December 21, 2012,” says Peter Balroop in an article posted on the official website of “December212012.” This is the typical speculation that people are having these days. Movies, such as 2012, and theories related to the Mayan calendar, seem to have embedded major fear and anxiety throughout our nation. Even the Discovery Channel aired a special in relation to this phenomenon, centering on Nostradamus, a famous 16th century who once predicted major world events that have occurred so far, such as the World Wars and September 11. Since his speculations were indeed correct, many fear that his prediction of the catastrophes that await us in 2012 may occur as well. What many people might not know though is that this predicted apocalyptic occurrence has been proven to be falsified and exaggerated. There are many credible scientists who have proclaimed that there is no threat associated with 2012. Even the movie, 2012, which shows the outcome of this predicted phenomenon, is classified as a science fiction film.

All these theories are solely based on speculation. These doomsday rumors have been around for many years. 2012 is not the only year that a cataclysm has been calculated. From Y2K, to predicted rapture in 2001 and 2007, and even as early as 1914, when the universe’s sun was expected to explode, there has been a constant failed apocalyptic prophecy.

What is expected to happen on December 23, 2012? Although there have been various rumors as to what exactly might occur on December 23, 2012, none can be scientifically proven. One speculation is that on this date, the planets will align in a way that impacts the Earth, but NASA scientists do not agree. “There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of he Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.”

The theory that the movie 2012 was based upon was the Mayan Calendar. What many might not know though, is that the Mayans had about 15020 calendars, all with a slightly different purpose. The calendar that all these theories are based up on is the “Long Count,” which calculates a period of time known as the Great Cycle, which is a count of 5,126 years. The current Long Count begun in 3114 BC and will end in 2012. Although the Mayans are well known for their developed written language, its art and architecture, its sophisticated mathematical and astronomical systems, there was no recorded prophecy stating definitely that the Mayans believed the world was going to end. According to NASA scientists though, the Mayan calendar theory was linked by yet another failed apocalyptic prediction. The story originated from the Sumerians, who predicted that in May 2003, a supposed planet was headed towards the Earth and it was going to end all civilization. After nothing had occurred, the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012. Then, these two fables were linked to the end of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar. Just like the theories, the movie, 2012, was just another exaggerated version of what is predicted to happen. The movie’s special effects created a doomsday filled with massive destruction, with the Earth’s crust boiling and causing extermination of all living things. Watching California sink into the ocean and the destruction of the White House by massive waves, is just another way for film producers to create another entertaining disaster movie.

A Mayan elder has also insisted that the year 2012 will not be the end of the world. Although the year is a significant time period for the Mayans, enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments that do not deem any damage on Earth. According to a report in the Telegraph, “most archaeologists, astronomers and Mayans say that the only possible event that may occur is a ‘meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials on the 2012 conspiracy theory.’” So have no fear, the end of the world is not coming. Movies, like 2012, are just another way for the movie industry to make money. Sites that assert 2012 doomsday speculations are filled with nonsense and fallacies. 2012 will just be go down in history as another failed apocalyptic prophecy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

This is What You Should Do Tonight

"What should we do tonight?”
“I don’t know, something.” 

They shrug and wind up going to the same old Irish bar around the corner. They see the same people, drink the same drinks, eat the same previously-f
rozen bar snacks. They’re trapped in a comfort zone, stuck in a routine. Sure they have fun sometimes, but there’s an element of excitement missing from their social lives. Everything just feels a little stale.
 This is a common situation amongst young people all over the city. They know that there are unique and exciting experiences out there just waiting for them, but they don’t have the ambition to find out where. From crazy cocktail challenges to obscure trivia nights, Boston’s restaurants and bars are constantly coming up with new themes and weekly traditions that many people are completely unaware of. So, for those of you who are looking for something to do, here is a rundown of some of the city’s most interesting and affordable nights out.

Our week starts on Monday. For most, Monday is a day of mourning for the weekend that passed away far too soon. Well, the best way to get over your beginning of the week sorrows is to drown them in booze. If you don’t have to work or be in school, you can start your day early by hitting up the brunch at Trina’s Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, where you can chase down your biscuits and gravy breakfast with a delicious mango bellini. As you leave the comfort of the retro lounge, greeted by the somewhat uncomfortable rays of the afternoon sun, you squint and decide that you need to rest up for the excitement that awaits you on the rest of your Monday Funday.

On Monday night you have a couple of good options. There’s always the poker night at the Vegas Lounge in Norwood. Yes, we all know that gambling is illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, but there are ways around that. Every Monday night, you can find anywhere between fifty to one hundred players congregated around five Hold ‘Em tables in this unassuming stripmall bar in the suburbs. The drinks are incredibly cheap and the owners offer up free pizza to the players, so if you’re feeling lucky, punk, this might be a good remedy to your case of the Mondays.

If you don’t have the disposable income to throw away on games of chance or the inclination to drive out to Norwood, then head up to Beacon Hill, where you’ll find the 6B Martini Lounge Bar & Restaurant. In addition to excellent 25-cent chicken wings, starting at 8:00 pm the 6B offers one of the most fun trivia nights in the city. Hosted by the aptly-named “Trivia Guys,” it takes on a free-form style that is severely lacking from the numerous Stump!-organized trivia nights around the city. The grand prize is a $30 gift certificate that you can use immediately, with different prizes also being offered to second and third place teams. Be sure to say hi to Olive, 6B’s resident Monday night server and DJ if you decide to stop by.

Mondays are also home to the best standing hip-hop date in the area. Mattapan’s very own Big Shug, founding member of the Gang Starr Foundation, takes to the stage every Monday night at the Wonder Bar in Allston. Backed by a live band and featuring a weekly special guest star, Big Shug puts on a different show every week and there’s never a cover!

Come Tuesday, you need to head down to Estragon in the South End for their weekly exploration of classic cocktails. Join their resident mixologist, Eric Cross, on a journey through 100 turn of the century and prohibition-era cocktails that you won’t find anywhere else. There is a grand prize for the first person to make their way through all 100 cocktails, so you should probably hurry up and start drinking. Pad your stomach with some of their authentic Spanish tapas, including the Tocino, Miel y Marconas. That’s pork fat back, spanish honey, and Marcona almonds on toast. I can tell you’re skeptical. You can’t get over the part about the pork fat back. Well, get over it, because it’s one of the tastiest bites you’re sure to experience in the city. Remember, folks, fat equals flavor.

For a less sophisticated night out, you can head back to Allston on Tuesdays for the weekly Beer Pong tournament at the Draft Bar & Grille. Over the past few years, beer pong has exploded in popularity. From a myriad of “official” rulebooks that you can find at Urban Outfitters to the orange ping-pong balls now sold at the counter of your local White Hen Pantry, the game is everywhere. So, you’re invited to bring your skills every Tuesday night, when you can enjoy drafts for $2.50 and pitchers for $9. Compared to other bars in the area, it is relatively low-key and boasts a nice patio, complete with an outdoor bar, where you can enjoy a Pabst and a Parliament when weather permits.

Tuesdays also offer a couple of fantastic weekly comfort food extravaganzas. Check out Taco Tuesdays at Tremont 647, where local celebrity-chef And
y Husbands offers up a menu of $2 tacos each and every week. There are more $2 treats across the river, at dante in Cambridge. Starting at 5:30, every Tuesday night, they will be featuring different grilled cheese sandwiches inspired by the restaurant’s favorite Italian films. Previous offerings have included the Under the Tuscan Sun, with buffalo mozzerella, roasted tomato, and pistachio pesto, and The Godfather, filled with eggplant, mozzerella, tomato, and Sicilian oregano.

On Wednesday, your best bet is to stick to Cambridge. At M.I.T., there is a relatively-unknown establishment doing some relatively awesome things. At the Muddy Charles Pub, you can enjoy all the wings you can eat - for free! That’s right, in addition to their ridiculously low-priced beer list, the fine folks at the Muddy
Charles offer up free chicken wings every week! Dealing with the robot-building nerds that make up the clientele is a small price to pay for such deliciousness. Just kidding, we love the nerds and their robots. Where would we be without them?

Just a short walk away from th
e Muddy Charles is Kendall Square, where Flattop Johnny’s hosts free pool every Wednesday after 9:00 pm. Their bartenders control the iPod, so the music is always as ecclectic as its choice of beers.

Speaking of iPods, each and every Thursday, dBar gives you the chance to show off your musical prowess with their UB the DJ night. Make a playlist and bring your mp3s down to Dorchester for the chance to c
ontrol the house music. Show off those indie chops by introducing people to new bands they’ve never heard of or stick to the classics and watch as people do the Humpty-Hump upon your command. They feature an extensive and affordable seasonal cocktail list, with unique creations like the Huckleberry-Rhubarb Martini and the Celebration Sangria, a devious mixture of red wine, Jim Beam, and fresh fruits and spices.

By now you’ve drank your week away but you’re entitled to celebrate Clink’s “Finally Friday” anyway. Located in the Liberty Hotel which is actually the old Charles Street Jail, Clink offers modern American cuisine while maintaining the vestiges of original jail cells, which have been retrofitted for casual fine dining. Clink can be pricey, but if you catch them on Friday night, you can enjoy some raw bar and chacruterie bargains while taking in the most unique atmosphere offered by any restaurant in Boston.

Fridays also give you the chance to visit the Boston Globe’s recent Munch Madness winner, The East Coast Grill in Inman Square, where th
ey invite you to “go whole or go home.” Each week in the spring and summer, Chef Chris Schlessinger and his team will be roasting a whole pig in their backyard.
The accompaniments and rubs will change from week to week, so you might want to keep checking back. Wake up early on Saturday to head back to Tremont 647. You tried their tacos on Tuesday and now it’s time to experience their pajama brunch. The service staff remains cool and calm in their robes and kimonos, while you get to munch on the city’s best Huevos Rancheros and sip on the Tremont Tang, an easy-going concotion of vodka and orange juice in a martini glass rimmed with the space-age favorite, Tang.

On Sunday morning, you can trade in your footsies for platform shoes and check out the Disco Brunch at Gargoyle’s on the Square in Somerville, where you can enjoy Pumpkin-Butterfinger pancakes or a Nutella Smoothie with liquid nitrogen and banana. Chef Jason Santos, known around the city as “Blue Jay” on account of his blue-dyed hair, has created the ultimate neighborhood spot in Davis Square and his Disco Brunch is an excellent opportunity to enjoy his creations at an affordable price.

On Sunday nights, Park Square’s Avila hosts a weekly Sabor de Espagne, or Taste of Spain. For only $28, you’ll enjoy a special three-course prix-fixe menu prepared by Chef Rodney Murillo to honor the flavors of Spain. Options include a classic Chilled Tomato Gazpacho and Braised Short Ribs with Brussels Sprouts and Creamy Corn. For dessert, don’t miss out on the Spanish Churros with Chocolate Sauce and Dolce de Leche.

By the time Sunday is over, you will hopefully be ready for a good night’s sleep only to start the process again with a visit to Trina’s in the morning. You’ve heard about those Chicken and Waffles, you’ve spent the whole week regretting the fact that you didn’t order them. You look forwad to defending your trivia title at the 6B, and suddenly you’re stuck in a new routine that makes the city feel just a little bit bigger.

Trina's Starlite Lounge - 3 Beacon Street, Somerville, MA 02143 (617) 576-0006
The Vegas Lounge - 36 Vanderbilt Avenue, Norwood, MA 02062 (781) 769-1888

6B Martini Lounge Bar & Restaurant - 6 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108 (617) 742-0306

Wonder Bar - 186 Harvard Avenue, Allston, MA 02143 (617) 351-2665

Estragon - 700 Harrison Avenue, Boston, MA 02118 (617) 266-0443
The Draft Bar & Grille - 34 Harvard Avenue, Allston, MA 02134 (617) 783-9400

Tremont 647 - 647 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02118 (617) 266-4600

dante - 5 Cambridge Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02142 (617) 497-4200

The Muddy Charles Pub at MIT - 142 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 253-2086

Flat Top Johnny's - 1A Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA 02141 (617) 494-9565

dBar - 1236 Dorchester Avenue, Dorchester, MA 02125 (617) 265-4490

Clink Restaurant at The Liberty Hotel - 215 Charles Street, Boston, MA 02114 (617) 224-4004

East Coast Grill - 1271 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02139 (617) 491-6568

Gargoyles on the Square - 219 Elm Street, Somerville, MA 02144 (617) 776-5300

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Model of Truth and Reconciliation

After the fall of Apartheid in the mid-nineties, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was organized as a way for both victims and perpetrators of human rights violations to appear in a public forum and tell their stories. The policy was designed around a group of commissioners charged to hold hearings wherein perpetrators and victims of human rights violations enforced under Apartheid could speak about their past actions and hurt, and seek amnesty, forgiveness and closure for those actions. Political leaders from both the Apartheid and opposition parties like the ANC supported such a move, in the hopes of moving forward peacefully in the new democratic government. Ordinary citizens of South Africa also placed hope in the TRC, believing that this method would both encourage those who had committed crimes to reveal themselves, and grant comfort and peace to those who had suffered under Apartheid.

This policy has since been suggested as a solution for the suffering of those involved in the Catholic Church abuse scandals of past years, with the hope that the exposure of child abuse and the reconciliation of those accused of such injustices might allow victims the peace and progress to move on with their lives in the church community. Post-Apartheid South Africa and the post-scandal Catholic Church are inherently linked by gross human rights violations sanctioned by the governing authorities and by a desire for the exposure of such injustices. Although the TRC model emphasizes the kind of transparency that church members have long desired, and rejects the cloak of secrecy behind which perpetrators have been allowed for decades to hide behind, the TRC model also poses problems which might perpetuate, rather than alleviate, the problems which shrouded the abuse in the first place.

The Catholic community understands the importance of forgiveness in both concrete and spiritual ways. In fact, the sacrament of Reconciliation necessarily combines these two methods into one ritual, in which the participant asks forgiveness for past transgressions, or sins, and is considered forgiven after both prayer and good works are performed as an act of contrition. This ritual, called Reconciliation, Penance or Confession, begins with a very concrete and explicit detailing of the acts considered in the Catholic Church to be sins. Catholics understand, through scripture and church teaching, what actions are considered sins, and are encouraged to be honest in the verbal expression of those sins, in the presence of a priest who facilitates in the eyes of God this act of forgiveness. Many Catholics might cite the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule as examples of spiritual laws which, when broken, are categorized as sins. This ritual is considered imperative to Catholics the world over, as a sign of faith in the forgiveness of God, and as a promise of redemption and eternal life.

Of course, the Catholic idea of reconciliation with God is not the only definition. In the realm of conflict resolution, reconciliation implies a unity, forced or otherwise, of two formerly opposed parties or persons. In ethnic relations, reconciliation is defined as a restoration of mutual respect between individuals from different cultural backgrounds. In fact, some might argue that the TRC is a blending of all of these definitions. The TRC also acknowledges the need for open communication as the key to understanding, forgiveness and progress. All of these characteristics demonstrate the complexity of the TRC, and of the emotional response of its participants.

The TRC, according to Tristan Anne Borer in the article “A Taxonomy of Victims and Perpetrators: Human Rights and Reconciliation in South Africa”, relies on various distinctions between the victims of human rights violations and those who commit those violations, the perpetrators. For Borer, the distinction between and within these two groups is blurry at best: “The differences between the two groups are perhaps not as clear-cut as human rights scholars and activists, as well as journalists, governments, lawyers, and truth commissions themselves tend to portray them, and that highlights that the homogeneity that is assumed about the individuals within each group is similarly overstated” (Borer 1091). In fact, the problem of clearly defining victims and perpetrators is one which sets up the TRC to fail from the very beginning. If it is the case that all participants can claim victimhood on some level, because they are all members of a corrupt system and are only acting within or against this corruption, then the TRC must ultimately fail in its attempt to reconcile victims with their supposed perpetrators. And because the human rights laws in place after the fall of Apartheid were so new, and thus untested by the South African citizens, each case of civil rights violation brought before the TRC was considered unprecedented. Without any previous examples of such violations either accepted or condemned (except, as Alex Boraine states, those examples of commissions in Eastern Europe and South America), the TRC was forced to pass judgments on both victims and perpetrators without the aid of clear guidelines, and based solely upon the claims of the participants.

In an article by Alex Boraine titled “Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, the Third Way”, Boraine outlines the options facing South Africans on how to carry out the TRC in the most efficient and peaceful way. The former Apartheid leaders wanted blanket amnesty for those considered perpetrators. Members and supporters of the ANC, many of whom considered themselves victims, wanted those responsible for human rights violations to be put on trial and punished for wrongdoings. A third option, which was finally decided upon, was “a Bridge from the old to the new”, a compromise between the former Apartheid leaders and the new ANC leaders. This third option emphasized the ideals of truth, the restoration of dignity, “limited amnesty, and a search for healing and reconciliation”.

These ideals are quite familiar to Catholics, especially to those who grew up during the first revealing wave of pedophilic scandal surrounding the Catholic Church. The comparison between post-Apartheid South Africa and the post-scandal Catholic Church is meant to shine a light on some possible flaws in the system upon which so many South Africans relied for the implementation of their new brand of justice. When it was revealed to the public that the Catholic Church had been suppressing evidence of child abuse among its parishioners, members of the church first blamed those considered perpetrators of child abuse. Parishioners called upon their church leaders to reveal those perpetrators, and to bring their victims justice by punishing the abusers. It was later revealed that, while the perpetrators were indeed guilty in some cases of despicable acts of child abuse, many of these abuses were perpetuated because details of them were concealed by church leaders and other priests. What had begun as a small scale purging of pedophiles in the priesthood transformed into a much larger, more widespread and damaging web of scandal that involved priests, church and community leaders, and those Bishops and Cardinals holding the most power and influence in the church community. This web reflects a similar exposure to layer upon layer of guilt in South Africa, where not only single perpetrators but corporations, militant groups, political parties and national leaders were linked to the deaths of marginalized individuals.

The hunt for pedophiles and the keepers of their secrets in the US has revealed similar scandals around the world. In fact, in the latest round of controversy, the country of Ireland has been issued a letter of apology for almost a half a century of child abuse of Catholic Church members. This letter from church leaders in the Vatican, rather than providing comfort, has instead invited anger and frustration from the Church community, because it contains a blanket statement of sorrow at past events without any real apology, explanation or solution to an ongoing problem. Likewise, in the Boston area, many parishioners and priests have left the Catholic Church, due to their dissatisfaction with the pedophilic and secretive stigma now attached to their faith.

There is a reason such a model as the TRC is important in consideration of the Catholic Church abuse scandal. While blanket amnesty would have been the worst decision for South Africa after Apartheid, the TRC itself also deals with truth and reconciliation in a way which hides, rather than reveals the hurt inflicted upon the victims of human rights abuses. Because the Catholic Church believes in reconciliation between God and man as paramount to salvation, and because this can only be achieved through private confession to a priest, there is no need for other forms of penance beside that which is assigned by the priest. And because there is complete confidentiality between the confessor and the priest, those who have committed crimes feel safe in their confessions, and even feel liberated from the guilt of those crimes, by the absolution of their sins by the priest.

The TRC, unlike Catholic confession, was conducted in a public forum. But in the end, the decisions of the TRC were final, and the admission of guilt or suffering was both voluntary and protected by the commission. And, as it is with the Catholic Church, the perpetrators of human rights violations were often granted amnesty for their actions, based on the fact that they came forward and told their stories. Those perpetrators who were granted amnesty had the privilege of cleansing their consciences without penalty, and in some cases were allowed to move on with their lives despite many past transgressions.

Clearly, the TRC was created with the best of intentions for progress in South Africa. But with all the hurt caused by Apartheid, and with all of the citizens, both victims and perpetrators, affected by civil rights violations, it is impossible to hope that such a commission as the TRC can reverse the suffering of the South African people. According to Alex Boraine, the “third way” compromise between severe punishment and blanket amnesty was the best way to progress peacefully. But perhaps, despite being the most peaceful option for the new South Africa, the TRC has also perpetuated the civil rights violations that it was created to reconcile. The TRC imposes weak justice in some cases, leaving room for dissatisfaction which can result in hatred, hurt and revenge on the part of the victims, which are the same potential results of implementing the TRC model in the Catholic Church. Rather than taking the TRC as a positive example, I believe the Catholic Church should consider the negative effects such a policy would have on the victims of child abuse, and base future policy not on staged honesty and blanket amnesty but on real truth and real reconciliation.

Hold Me Closer, Tiny Diner

If you think too long or too hard about the term ‘greasy spoon’, there’s a good chance you will lose your appetite for breakfast, especially according to today’s no-trans-fat, organic-or-bust trends. Plus, when you brunch at your local diner, the grease left on the spoon after you’ve scraped every last morsel of sausage gravy off your plate is the least of your problems. But a good breakfast is a good breakfast, and venturing out in search of the perfect cheesy-scramble or buttered home fry is not a quest to be taken lightly. On the path to egg-lightenment, Martin’s Coffee Shop in Brookline Village is a great place to start.

Martin’s is a tight squeeze, especially for those of us customers who really look like we enjoy a good breakfast. The dining counter seats twelve, but only if you spoon-grease your elbows first. There are six additional tables along the back and side walls, but since the entire restaurant could fit inside an economy motel room, every seat is a tight squeeze. Martin’s makes up for the lack of personal eating space with a double-dose of comfortable service and comfort food.

The basic menu at Martin’s includes traditional breakfast combos, pancakes, French toast, egg sandwiches and a variety of benedicts, all sized for big-breakfast aficionados. The menu insert, however, is where the real fun begins, and where the Martin’s showcases an array of delicacies imported from their countries of origin. The tiny diner has somehow managed to keep costs down while relying only on small batches of imported ingredients to build their meals, and you’ll taste the results of this attention to detail right away. One side of the insert hosts fifteen omelet choices, each named for a country or region of the world with well known flavors. Whether you choose the Hawaiian with ham and pineapple or the Greek with olives and feta, you’re sure to find a taste combination that suits your mood. On the other side of the insert, you’ll find an extensive and unique list of original breakfast compositions in portions even larger than the rest of the enormous meals available. The Irish breakfast is a plate overflowing with eggs, black and white puddings, baked beans, sautéed mushrooms and tomatoes, and imported Irish bacon. The breakfast burrito actually consists of an entire omelet stuffed inside a double-sized tortilla with salsa, chili powder and potatoes. And while it’s not the most authentic Parisian meal, the Eiffel Tower is so much breakfast goodness that customers have been known to split it three ways. Don’t forget, every meal is served with home fries and toast, so you’ll have something familiar next to all your edible culture.

The cooking and serving staff are helpful and efficient, but as you watch the process set in motion by your order, you’ll notice that one shining star emerges. George, who works the grill, can build a benedict while flipping loaded pancakes and unloading the dishwasher, no small feat in the 36 inch aisle between counter and cook top. He is a silent wonder, the only one of the staff who doesn’t emit a constant stream of friendly chatter on the job, but his silent concentration serves a delicious purpose. You’ll be amazed at what George produces in his miniature kitchen.

With ingredients from around the world, eager employees and a kick-ass menu, Clydie, the owner of Martin’s, has somehow managed to keep his prices within a surprisingly low range. A benedict is 7-8 dollars, an omelet costs the same, the big breakfasts are 10 dollars or less, and you can grab a hot homemade breakfast sandwich for less than three dollars. So squeeze in to Martin’s Coffee Shop for breakfast this weekend, and pack a light wallet, because you’ll need the extra space once you start eating.

Martin’s Coffee Shop is located at 35 Harvard Street in Brookline. Visit for more information and complete menu.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Breakfast of Champions (of the Night Before)

Jim’s Market is an unassuming place that looks more like an old gray house on a corner instead of a neighborhood convenience store/deli combo. It is tucked away in the “Heights” section of North Medford and there are usually some shifty characters hanging around the picnic benches outside or sitting on their cars. The blackboard menu behind the counter lists their #1 seller as the “Breakfast Special,” but those in the know only refer to it by its long time nickname.

I speak of the “B-Boy,” a local staple of the breakfast scene in Medford for nearly 30 years. It’s a rite of passage for Medford youth coming off the baseball diamond at Carr Park. It’s the place to be for early morning antics of high-schoolers who are skipping a class or two. It is ambrosia handed down the gods, capable of curing the harshest of hangovers. It is a legend to many outsiders.

The “B-Boy” is a simple fried egg sandwich, with cheese and a thick slice of ham, slapped into a 12 inch sub roll. It gained its popularity with its inexpensive cost of $1.00, making it affordable to everyone. After nearly 20 years at that price, inflation got the best of Jim’s Market and they were forced to gradually increase the price. Now at $2.50 it’s still the greatest ‘bang-for-your-buck’ breakfast that you can find.

I have personally filled every role on the above list. As a kid I would grab a “B-Boy” and fries for two bucks after baseball practice. I’ve introduced many friends from other cities to the “B-Boy” during high school. I can’t count the times I’ve gone for a “B-Boy” and a Gatorade after tying one on the night before. Now I grab a bunch every time I head down to a Pats game; the foil wrapping making it the perfect starter for tail-gate grilling.

Jim’s cooks the eggs fresh on the griddle so that you get that greasy goodness you desire on a rough Sunday morning. The cheese oozes with every bite and the two eggs are always perfect. The ham is rectangularly cut to fit the bun to a T, like a well portioned slice at Easter, and it provides that extra bit of salty flavor that puts it over the top. Many different condiment additions to the “B-Boy” have also added to its lore, including BBQ sauce and ketchup (which come complete with the story of who first tried it). But of course you should alter your “B-Boy” at your own risk.

So go ahead and drop three bucks on a pre-processed egg and sausage bagel at Dunks. And I dare you try one of the numerous knock-offs which never live up the hype and always cost more. The “B-Boy” is like a ray of sunshine. It fills your soul with warmth and laughter. It picks you up when you are down. It could quite possibly be the solution for world peace. But until that time, it’s just simply the best damn breakfast sandwich at a price that can’t be beat.

Jim’s Market is located at 463 Fulton Street in Medford, Massachusetts.

The Happening Isn't

M. Night Shyamalan’s career started off with great promise after the critical and commercial success of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, drawing favorable comparisons to his own childhood idol, Steven Spielberg. He enticed audiences with his own distinct style and signature twist endings. Since then, Shyamalan’s films have become a string of box-office disappoinments, including The Village and the self-indulgent trainwreck Lady in the Water. The wheels finally flew off in 2008, when M. Night dropped The Happening on us.

The trailers leading up to the film’s release were promising, relying less on the charms of Marky Mark Wahlberg and more on its vaguely apocalyptic premise, foreboding music, and impactful visuals. It was an effective blend of cheap suspense tactics and it had me thinking that maybe Shyamalan would prove my negative opinion of him wrong. He didn’t.

Both written and directed by Shyamalan, The Happening follows Marky Mark and Zoe Deschanel as they escape to the Pennyslvania countryside with a rag-tag group of disaster-movie cliches. Cities in the northeast have been attacked by a mysterious neurotoxin, exposure to which causes disorientation, temporary paralysis, and finally, suicide. Luckily for everyone, Marky Mark’s character, Elliot, is a science teacher. With the help of a botanist he met along the way and a real estate agent who helps the group navigate the terrain, Elliot is able to solve the mystery of the neurotoxin: the plants are trying to kill them! The premise actually holds some good, old-fashioned paranoia that recalls Invasion of the Body-Snatchers or a good episode of the Twilight Zone, but Shyamalan’s characters are one-dimensional half-wits that undermine the whole thing. The dialogue is idiotic and hilariously over-the-top at times, so poor that the actors never stood a chance.

Mark Wahlberg can be great when he’s given good material, like Boogie Nights or The Departed, but The Happening plays up to all of his weaknesses and he turns in an unintentionally comedic performance here. Entirely unconvincing as the booksmart science nerd, he struggles with his awkward lines, acting perplexed and whining his way through the role. Indie darling Zoey Deschanel plays Alma Moore, Elliot’s estranged wife. The generic nature of the character robs her of her trademark quirkiness and wastes her talents. The lack of chemistry between the two never allows you to care about their relationship, which is one of the story’s central conflicts. The supporting actors seem to have been plucked from regional television commercials that couldn’t convince me to buy a bargain-priced mattress let alone that they were in any sort of mortal peril or had just lost everyone they loved in a horrible terrorist attack.

M. Night’s directorial skills have certainly deteriorated since his glory days. In addition to losing his ability to coax an actor into giving a good performance, he has seemingly lost his eye for film. The few scenes involving special effects were distracting in their campiness and the film just looks cheap, which is inexcusable considering its $57 million budget, making it not only "disaster" movie but an unmitigated disaster unto itself.

The Sports Museum of New England

Right in their own backyard, Boston sports fans are able to sample what Cooperstown, Springfield, Canton and Toronto all have to offer. The Sports Museum of New England, located in the 5th and 6th levels of the T.D. Banknorth garden, is like an art museum in Paris, it just makes sense.

The museum holds a wide array of exhibits highlighting the depth of Boston sports. Sure, it has Patriots and Celtics memorabilia, but it also has exhibits featuring the Boston Redskins and the Boston Braves. Both these two franchises no longer identify themselves with the city, but are part of its rich history. The museum has over 120 pieces on display, everything from antique equipment and uniforms to game programs and rare photographs. It doesn’t matter what your interests are this place will have you covered. If you like Ted Williams, they have a special display just for him that rivals his case at Cooperstown. If you’re into college sports, the museum boasts a wide range of Beanpot and Harvard-Yale rivalry memorabilia. If you’re into near- death experiences, the museum has the baseball that ended Tony Conigliaro’s career and almost killed him. There really is something for everyone. Unless of course, you only like life-size Japanese female robots, then maybe there isn’t anything there for you.

This is definitely a great place to bring a friend or family member from out of town. It’s also the perfect place to bring any child who is just starting to get into sports. It will give them a nice foundation on the history of different games and help them appreciate it more as their interest grows. And any father will agree that explaining to their son who Yaz was is a lot less awkward than explaining to him what they’re talking about in the “Yaz” commercial. A museum like this is certainly a great concept. Especially in times like these when Red Sox fan base is increasing, but baseball knowledge is sharply decreasing. So, grab your “pink hat” friend and take them to this affordable history lesson that’s only a train ride away.

We Need To Talk About This Book

In 2003, American author Lionel Shriver published her fiction novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin. It is a story comprised of unsent letters from a grieving mother to her estranged husband, recounting the rearing of their son who, at 16, becomes the perpetrator of a school shooting. He calmly kills nine students, a cafeteria worker, and a well-loved teacher. Eva Khatchadourian writes impassioned but confused letters to her absent husband, Franklin, musing over her reluctance to enter motherhood and the degree in which her attitude towards parenting Kevin may have contributed to his horrific actions.

With its initial small-scale distribution, it wasn’t until 2005 that Shriver received the Orange Prize for her book, a UK-based award oriented toward female authors. Now, in 2010, filming has commenced for a cinematic adaptation of the book. Confirmed actors include the Academy honored Tilda Swinton, and jovial funnyman John C. Reilly. Still, most notoriety for the novel has come from word-of-mouth. While the story will make for a great movie, there are many intangible layers and embedded truths within the novel that will never translate to the big screen. It is because of this that dedicated readers ought to get their hands on a copy prior to its theatrical release.

Set in the year 2000, the bulk of the novel and its climax recall 1998, a time in America that was historically rampant with school massacres – notably the Columbine shootings. We may recall that pundits from all ranges of professional fields flailed to pinpoint who or what was to blame for the fatalities – parenting? Video games? Music? Shriver uses actual events like Columbine and other school shootings, along with political controversy of the time, to firmly place the reader in the era. Through her efficiency, the same troubling uncertainties associated with the time reemerge.

Shriver’s language is poignant and beautiful, using rich and textured vocabulary that captures the complexity of the subject she is tackling. The only stylistic discrepancy that could be remarked upon is that her dialogue sometimes seems unnatural. It is almost too uniformly designed for each character and the demographic they represent. Still, while the depicted relationships between the characters are hyperbolic, her exaggerated characterizations ultimately heighten the novel’s sinister ambiguity. We are at unrest with what happens because we feel a deep understanding of Franklin, Eva, their daughter Celia… everyone but Kevin himself. Shriver allows enough textual evidence so that we may attempt to make sense of Kevin, but it is largely disturbing and like Eva, we feel compelled to consider his character from a distance.

Shriver’s characters are big and imposing: they hold firm to their convictions on life. Franklin Plaskett is depicted as an all-American businessman, proud of his from-the-ground-up advertising company. He loves his country, sports, and the idea of having a son – as well as Kevin himself. He loves his wife. Eva, the novel’s protagonist, is a fiercely independent and well-traveled Armenian American who loves her husband’s idealizations of their country but longs for the fast-paced diversity that her travel brochure company has afforded her. She loves her husband, their second child Celia, and she ardently tries to love, or at least comprehend her son.

The couple has married late in their thirties, and the topic of having children is constantly breached without resolution. When Eva finally complies with motherhood, she senses from the get-go that the urge to procreate does not come naturally. She also senses something is not right with her son. From pregnancy to his doomed adolescence, Eva feels as though she is waged in constant war with Kevin.

The novel raises the question of how we become who we become: the age-old nature versus nurture debate. Is Kevin’s eventual violence and impudence towards society a result of Eva’s maternal ambivalence, or has it been embedded in his personality since birth? Eva’s angle--she admits being prone to bias--doesn’t provide an answer to that. She blames many factors, especially her insufficient mothering. Even as Eva implicates herself, the stories she relays carry countless hints towards a boy who was never going to end up as an upstanding American citizen. His impish follies are often versed in violence, like when he is arrested for chucking pieces of brick off an overpass to the busy highway below, an incident that Kevin insists was a series of ignorant mistakes. Eva is not the only one who finds fault with her: a parallel storyline in the narrative is her recounting the tribulations of her own court trial following Kevin’s murders. One of the victim’s mothers files a lawsuit against her. Interspersed in her retelling of life with Kevin, Eva elaborates on how she purposely sabotaged herself in her testimonies.

What Eva strives to reconcile in her son and emphasize to Franklin in these letters is a frightening sort of apathy and resentment she claims to have recognized even in Kevin’s early childhood years: she is convinced, for example, that his not becoming toilet trained until six years old was a direct act of smirking rebellion towards her, and not some sort of psychological incompetency he was suffering. Still, she ends up inflicting physical harm on him because of his adamant devotion to diapers and it are these moments of disparity that could lead a reader to conclude that Eva is not wholly innocent, or is even maybe entirely guilty.

As we reach Kevin’s adolescent years, Eva informs Franklin that she never considered her son to be bullied, but rather feared by both his spare friends and his entire class. None of the altercations associated with Kevin can ever be directly traced back to him, but Eva believes the frequency of her son’s involvement in strange and upsetting events were suspicious and strong indicators that something is wrong with him. She never thinks that he is a sad or misunderstood boy; rather, she fears that even at his youngest, Kevin realized something about the world that he could not align himself with. Eva suggests that Kevin has been dissatisfied with the notion of everyday life since infancy, and that is what drives his dangerous anger at the world.

Through the novel’s progression, for instance, Eva tells Franklin that she saw an interview with Kevin from juvenile prison. In it, documentarian Jack Marlin tries to delve into the deeper, more prolific question of why? Why did Kevin commit such a crime? An excerpt of his eerie response forms a good idea of the type of child Eva has been raising, and what she sees as so deeply disconcerting about his character:

I could tell Kevin had been preparing for this. He inserted a dramatic pause, then slammed the front legs of his plastic chair onto the floor….
“Okay, it’s like this. You wake up, you watch TV, and you get into the car and you listen to the radio. You go to your little job or your little school, but you’re not going to hear about that on the 6:00 news, since guess what. Nothing is really happening. You read the paper, or if you’re into that sort of thing you read a book, which is just the same as watching only even more boring. You watch TV all night, or maybe you go out so you can watch a movie, and maybe you’ll get a phone call so you can tell your friends what you’ve been watching. And you know, it’s got so bad that I’ve started to notice, the people on TV? Inside the TV? Half the time they’re watching TV. Or if you’ve got some romance in a movie? What do they do but go to a movie. All of these people, Marlin,” he invited the interviewer in with a nod, “What are they watching?”
After an awkward silence, Marlin filled in, “You tell us, Kevin.”
"People like me.” He sat back and folded his arms.
(Shriver, 354)

It isn’t so much that Eva outright declares that her son was born and lived under the umbrella of evil, but simply that he isn’t another case of a misled, picked on teenager whose pent-up aggression finally loosed itself in fatal violence. Rather, she is suggesting that her son was so premeditated in his actions that he welcomed the attention. The apathy she hopes to convey to Franklin throughout her letters isn’t of a dumb boy who was misdirected towards violence, but a bright child who realized early on that he is unaffected by everyday affection and happenings.

She herself isn’t sure, but Eva knows that why Kevin has done what he did cannot be answered by bullying or loud music, but something implicit within himself. At the same time, both Eva and the reader can question whether her lackadaisical efforts to be a good mother could have provided the avenue of thinking that lead Kevin to his final plan. It is a plan, too; the novel goes into acute, disorienting details as to how intricately Kevin prepped himself for the day, which Eva chillingly refers to simply as Thursday.

The idea of nature vs. nurture, genetic inheritance vs. environment is a debate that will always be happening. We Need to Talk About Kevin does not answer the question but rather complicates it even more. As she looks within herself and the memories of her life raising Kevin, Eva develops deeply astute analyses of herself, her husband, her son, and the attitudes that propel their actions. She offers interesting passages about the value of America when commenting on Franklin’s devout patriotism, and intriguing insight on why people choose to have children.

With its disturbing content, the novel serves as a profound commentary on a sad and recent era in American history. However, it also behaves as a thriller – even though you know how it will end. Because of the length of time since its publication, many copies of the book feature accompanying essays by the author herself, using collective criticism and discussion of her novel by others to try and make statements about her motivations and feelings behind authoring it. The book does not seek to soften the blow of its plot, and will probably leave many feeling very unsettled at its conclusion. Perhaps that is the mark of important literature. While the mastery of the actors who will reenact the book’s events is unquestioned, We Need to Talk About Kevin is a novel whose strength will likely stand ultimately in the written version. Those who value insightful modern literature will find this a compelling and meaningful read.