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January 2009

January 23, 2009

Cafe Scientifique

Topic6 I don't know how I missed this for this week's NOW.

Check out Café Scientifique, an awesome, free, 21+ gathering tonight at ECHO:

It’s the place where science and culture intersect. Based on the popular European salon concept, ECHO’s Café Scientifique provides a unique, relaxing setting to engage in thoughtful conversations about hot button science topics, with the participation of an acknowledged expert in each field.

We turn down the lights, arrange some tables and chairs, and open the bar. We chat with old friends and new faces alike, get a beer, have some hors d’oeuvres and then find a seat.

At 7 p.m., the speaker of the evening begins a conversation on the science topic for the evening. After 30 minutes or so, we take a break to get more drinks and elicit questions for the speaker.

After that, it’s time to challenge the speaker, have dialogue at the table, drink more, and feel like we’ve delved a little deeper into the science of this wonderful world.

Tonight's speaker is UVM Physics Prof Dr. Dennis Clougherty. His talk is titled: "Nanotechnology: Size Does Matter." Cool.

Science is totally in now that Obama is president. Haven't you heard?

Thanks, Bill, for the tip.

Midd Grads Get Huffy

Lattice fin copy Two Middlebury College grads blogged on the Huffington Post this week. They were promoting The Lattice Group, a global, StoryCorps-style initiative they founded after graduating from Middlebury in May 2007.

(Disclosure: One of the grads, Astri von Arbin Ahlander, is my friend.)

The Lattice Group aims to explore what members of "Gen Y-Fi " (read: college-educated, upper-middle-class professionals) think about "work-life conflict." As von Arbin Ahlander and Lattice co-founder Yelizavetta Kofman note on their website: "Career success increasingly means complete commitment. This may not sound so strange. Reasonable even. But put it in the context of a human life that has more in it than a job- such as family, friends, mundane errands- and it gets a lot more complicated."

No kidding.

In their January 22 Huffington Post missive, "Peaceful Revolution: What Gen Y Really Wants — And Why We Should Care," Kofman and von Arbin Ahlander report an interesting cultural contrast: In recent interviews, American professionals overwhelmingly told Lattice that the most desirable workplace benefit is "health care." But European yuppies, according to Lattice, mentioned a greater variety of wants, such as workplace flexibility and office childcare services, "freedom to work from home or a different country even" and "respect for family life."

Kofman and von Arbin Ahlander's Huff post concludes with a challenge to American employers and the Obama administration:

The wise employers, the ones who see possibility for change and innovation where others only see an abysmal Dow, will give the (young) people what they want — the ability to grow, to be given     difficult, meaningful tasks and to be entrusted to do them where an when they want. But in order for employees and employers to be able to think beyond the very basics, such as health care and social security, we must realize that certain protections should be provided no matter the employer. The Obama administration needs to step up and deliver New Deal 2.0, and quick.

January 21, 2009

How They Sell Stupid Crap (in Hollywood)

Paulblart2 I took a break from writing up showtimes for Paul Blart: Mall Cop (which grossed a stunning $32 mil last weekend!) to read this article in The New Yorker. I think it's a must for anyone who's interested in movies and/or marketing tactics.

Tad Friend profiles a Lionsgate marketing exec named Tim Palen (no, not Palin) who basically invented the campaigns for the immensely profitable Saw series, including this poster that blows Burton's controversial Primo boards out of the water (the MPAA made him tone it down). Palen pushes boundaries because he knows that's how you reach his audience. Now he's trying to apply his talents to selling romantic comedies.

I was amused to read that he's the genius responsible for the misleading Good Luck Chuck TV spots that featured Jessica Alba falling down in about 20 ways and showing her underpants, because the guys in the target demo want to see semi-nude Alba, not obnoxious star Dane Cook. And that Palen has no problem admitting the movie was a piece of crap.

Finally, this quote from the piece offers enlightenment to anyone who is forced to contemplate the success of Paul Blart: Mall Cop: "It is often said in Hollywood that no one sets out to make a bad movie, but the truth is that people cheerfully set out to make bad movies all the time. It is more accurate to say that no one sets out to make a movie without having a particular audience in mind."

Or, as a parent might say, "Duh, Paul Blart isn't for snobby critics. It's for kids!"

Can critics offer any useful opinions about a movie when they're way out of its target audience? Of course I think so. Still, I wouldn't rush to review a film that obviously appeals mainly to the under-10 set. And there are some films I consciously avoid because I know there's no chance in hell I would like them, and they have self-selecting audiences — that is, people who like them know they're going to like them (Bride Wars, for instance). I prefer to stick with films I think have at least a slender chance of being good, by my own biased standards. But is that really objective?

omg... Vermont State Parks Launches Facebook Page

Profilepic That's the title of the press release I just got in my inbox. I'm not even kidding.

This is their profile pic.

Apparently it's news that they have... 119 fans!!!!!!! They're going VIRAL! Watch out!

From the press release:

WATERBURY – What do Cassandra Gauvin, Richard Haggerty, Melissa Peake and Brett Kellerman have in common? They’re all fans of Vermont State Parks’ new Facebook page who are helping to promote Vermont’s diverse network of parks and the affordable recreational opportunities they offer.
In a little over a week, Vermont State Parks has already picked up 119 fans – who are sharing stories, photos and creating a buzz for their favorite state park.
Just ask Miko Kempton, who proclaims “MAIDSTONE ROCKS MY WORLD!!!” or Lindsey Davis, who trumpets “WOOHOO for Little River! BESTPARK IN VT!”
Officials at the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation say they’re going to stay out of the best park debate for now, but will encourage the discussion, as well as invite Vermonters and visitors to friend Vermont State Parks at Or simply go to and click on the Facebook icon.
The diversity of affordable recreational opportunities offered by Vermont’s state parks must be matched by a diversity of outreach activities, said Commissioner Jason Gibbs.
“From summer days on the beach, family picnics and the warmth of a crackling campfire, to rock climbing, kayaking and other high adventure—our parks offer affordable options for everyone,” Gibbs said.  “In a time of limited budgets, our Facebook friends are ‘Internet ambassadors’ who are helping us spread the word about the many opportunities that exist within Vermont’s state parks and recruit new visitors.”

"Internet ambassadors" indeed.

Of course, I just became a fan, because I love the state parks. But really, a press release for 119 fans? Does anyone else think this is a little weird?

Maybe it's just the "omg" in the title that's throwing me off.

January 20, 2009

Inauguration: Welch and Sanders Comment

Obama Ed. Note: Seven Days correspondent Kevin J. Kelley is in Washington, D.C. covering the inauguration.

Washington has managed to host many massive gatherings, but the capital city was utterly overwhelmed on Tuesday as thousands of would-be witnesses to history were unable to get within sight of even the jumbo TV screens that lined the National Mall.

A cold wind whipped litter along the city's broad boulevards that were thronged with pedestrians who couldn't reach the Mall. Many celebrants with tickets to official viewing sites were denied entry through gates that were blocked off hours before President Barack Obama swore his oath of office.

But the disappointments and inconveniences, which included 10-deep queues for portable potties, did not diminish the general jubilation. Spectators remained in high spirits on what was, after all, a sunny day.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch watched from seats on the platform where Obama spoke. Both the Vermont lawmakers said they were stunned by the size of the crowd, which neither was able to see in its entirety.

"I saw people standing shoulder-to-shoulder all the way to the Washington Monument, which is well over a mile," Welch said. "There were more people out there than in the state of Vermont."

Sanders called the spectacle "unbelievable." He said the inauguration marks "an extraordinary day in the history of the United States."

Both Welch and Sanders gave Obama's address good reviews despite its thin substance and the absence of any JFK-style catch-lines. Obama "very clearly included criticisms of the recent past" as he went about "re-introducing America to the world," Welch said.

Vermont's lone House member isn't willing to forgive and forget the deeds of the previous president. That much buzzed-about "change" may take a while to arrive, Welch suggested, due to "the destruction Bush and Cheney have left behind them. They really did wreck almost everything they touched," he added, citing the economy, civil liberties and the United States' standing in the world.

Sanders says Bush should be held accountable for his alleged crimes, just as Wall Streeters should be made to pay for the collapse of the U.S. financial system.

Taking a tougher line on Bush than that put forward by Obama in recent days, Sanders called for a congressional investigation of "what may have constituted illegal behavior."

The senator did voice optimism about the $850 billion economic recovery plan that Obama and the Democratic Congress have begun to fashion. Sanders points out that it includes more investments in clean energy and primary health care than in all of U.S. history. "In this one document, you're seeing something Bush wouldn't have done if he'd been in office for 100 years."

Sanders and Welch are attending the New England states' inaugural ball tonight in architecturally elegant Union Station. I'm covering an all-Africa ball at a hotel across the Potomac in Virginia. Obama's Kenyan grannie is going to be there, so maybe the prez himself will show up.

Best Bites: Kitchen Table Bistro

We're just bursting with new food content this week! In addition to our weekly food polls, we're also premiering a series called "Best Bites." These are basically miniature reviews of eateries that Seven Days staffers favor for one reason or another, whether it be the flavorful fare, the copious portions or the unusual ambiance.

DSC_5051 Last weekend I checked out the Kitchen Table Bistro's new menu, which is stuffed with comfort food in the under $20 range. Here's my write-up:

Restaurateurs are taking all kinds of approaches to weathering the economic downturn, and this one is my favorite: serve awesome food at reasonable prices. The Kitchen Table Bistro, which has always skirted the borders of fine dining and cozy fare, has a new menu that is meant to return it to its “neighborhood restaurant” roots. The most expensive entrée — Boyden Farm Ribeye Steak Frites — comes in at $29, but the majority of fare now falls into the under $20 category.

Last Saturday, my husband and I decided to make a meal of items in the 10-dollar range. The onion soup ($9) featured a hearty, thyme-studded broth and a topping of Thistle Hill Tarentaise cheese, and the whole-leaf Caesar salad ($8) came with tender, wine-marinated anchovies rather than the leathery version I’m used to. We enjoyed the high-quality meat used in the burger ($14) — best when topped with the house-made marinated cucumber slices — and were surprised by the hefty portion of pork terrine ($10), served alongside a flavorful prune relish and chive-garnished mustard.

But our favorite savory dishes by far were the perfectly balanced endive salad with candied pecans, pomegranate seeds and blue cheese dressing ($9) and the plate-licking-good cider-steamed mussels ($9). The shellfish came with bits of fatty, crispy bacon and dollops of aioli, and the sauce was slightly sweet and very rich. The meal’s finish was superb, too: cream-cheese poundcake ($8) with blood orange sauce, lemon cream and housemade ice cream.

If the Kitchen Table Bistro were in my 'hood, I'd be a regular.

UPDATE: Whoops, we forgot to give you the contact info:

The Kitchen Table Bistro: 1840 West Main Street, Richmond 434-8686

Final Thoughts from Nectar's

IMG_2198 As someone who has frequented Nectar's since moving to Burlington in 1991, I have to say two things just happened I don't think I've witnessed in this bar before: The singing of the National Anthem (loudly and proudly!) and hearing the word "Amen!" after Rev. Joseph Lowery gave his blessing to Pres. Obama's inauguration.

Folks are clearing out and going back to something called "work." As if.

And, by the way, the gravy fries were awesome — as always.

Big shout out to Damon and the crew here at Nectar's. They sure know how to throw a good party.

In the words of my 10-year-old, Phin, who has been my trusty assistant all morning to watch this historic event, "It was awesome ... And, there goes Cheney."

It's Official!

In one word: Wow.

Here are some snippets that many Vermonters reacted to during Pres. Barack Obama's inaugural address:

"Hold true to our founding documents." No fooling? There's a concept.

"Pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and rebuild America." Ask not what your country can do for you ...

"Do our business in the light of day."  I guess the Cheney doctrine is really over.

"We reject the false choice between our safety and our ideals." PATRIOT Act, SchmATRIOT Act.

"We are a friend of each nation." Not just the willing?

"To be judged on what you build, not what you destroy." Hmmm. Maybe there is a new direction in the "war on terror"?

"We are willing to extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." B-ipartisanship.

"It's not whether or not government is too big or too small, but whether it works." One word: Katrina.

The Nectar's crowd — replete with plenty of "community organizers" —  gave plenty of cheers when Pres. Obama had the audacity to say he would put the science back in global warming and make a greater push for moving us to renewable energy.

We're Getting Closer ... Gravy Fries & Inaugural

Philip Baruth of Vermont Daily Briefing just kicked off the festivities here (officially) along with Charles Chamberlin of Democracy for America.

Baruth noted that Nectar's and Metronome (just upstairs) and were host to several groundbreaking pro-Obama politcal events in the past couple of years.

He also gave a shout out to Neil Jensen, who was first out of the gate in support of Obama and organized the original Vermonters for Obama group that both locked up Vermont's electoral votes and trekked to New Hampshire to help Obama win that state, too.

Baruth said this was "the impossible morning — years in the making and one that you were told would never come" because Obama was unelectable. "He was too black, too white, too inexeperienced and all of those things turned out to be utterly untrue."

Chamberlin noted Obama was one of the first candidates it endorsed shortly after its creation.They endorsed Obama, the "inspiring Senate candidate in Illinois with a funny name."

Chamberlin added, "I'm not sure if I'm more happy about Bush leaving or Obama coming in."

I'd say both by the sound of the crowd. Anything Bush-related gets a boo and a hiss, while Obama gets cheers, tears and applause.

I caught up briefly with Jensen. What drew him so early to Obama?

Aside from Obama's 2004 convention speech, "which stood out for everybody, it was his singular ability to reshape our reputation around the world."

As for the thoughts running through his head as the inaugural approaches, Jensen said, "As a veteran supporter of the Dean campaign, it's incredible to me that he actually won. The last two years have really exceeded my wildest expectations."


(Note: I'm going to take a bit of a break to watch the inaugurations)

Live from Nectar's: Burlington Celebrates

The line was already out the door by the time we arrived at the famous Nectar's on Main Street in Burlington for the special inauguration watch hosted by Democracy for America and Vermont Daily Briefing.

Within the first half hour the prime viewing spots were snagged, spirits are high — and everyone is glued to the widescreen in the barroom where C-SPAN is on.

Former Gov. Howard Dean, the outgoing chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was on screen for a couple of minutes getting off a plane and audible claps, hoots, and cheers filled the air.

He may be persona non grata in DC, but in Burlington the guy is still a popular figure. Maybe they'll be a coming home party since Dean isn't likely to keep up a residents in the nation's capital.

Plenty of local political dignitaries are here, including Amber LeMay of the League of Drag Queen Voters. What's an historic inaugural without drag queens, right?

The First Ladies were just escorted to their limos ... Big cheers for Michelle Obama.

And, here comes outgoing Veep Dick Cheney in a wheelchair — I guess he can't hear the hisses and boos from the Queen City. Fitting exit? He's crippled our civil liberties, for sure. A little payback for telling Sen. Patrick Leahy to, well, you know — perform an anatomically impossible sex act.

Now, here they are — outgoing and incoming presidents. Major applause, for Obama, that is.

Looks like Pres. George W. Bush didn't change his plans today either, which means Vermont is the only state in the union that didn't receive a special visit by the president. Cool.

Here's a link to a great piece by Cox News about Vermont's distinction. It ran last year, but the folks there re-ran it this morning on their Washington blog.

More soon — hoping I can blog and not get gravy on my keyboard.

Stuck in VT (VIDEOS)

Solid State (Music)

Mistress Maeve (Sex)

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