18 November 2009

A Sabbatical and Other Digital Periodicals (Or How I've Been Distracted)

I realized yesterday that, at work, I left both my ipod and my most current reading endevour, "Angels and Demons," at work in my rush rto get the hell out of Dodge yesterday. My entire trip home, I busied myself with my two favorite forms of mindless distraction: Facebook and TextsFromLastNight. While highly amusing and it helps to keep me looped in with what all my friends out of town are up to, I realized that it was a pretty boring, uncreative use of my time. Thus, once checking out again how to post blogs from my phone, I decided to mount my triumphant return to the Rome that is blogging.

Eh. Not much in blogger has changed. I'm really surprised at the lack of mobile options to tell you the truth, reminding me why twitter has become such a popular medium: easily accessible, extremely linkable, and very low commitment level.

I have noticed, however, that traffic on twitter of "mid-level" users (ie the everyday to twice a day tweeter) seems to be waning in both daily frequency and number of users posting. Perhaps an indication of the change in my social circle holed solely in the microverse that is my little pockmark on the internet? Or maybe seasonality? It could very easily also mean that twitter is slowly, but surely, biting the bucket. I'm still surprised, to this day, that people still use that infestation of comercialism and gathering place for all things that could be considered social cruft that is MySpace.

That being said, I did go to a mean Halloween party sponsored by MySpace for Ad Agency types, dressed, very appropriately I migh add, as a Mad Men type. The gin, however, could have been higher shelf, though.

15 June 2009

Brick Oven by the Dozen (Or How I Travelled to a Far Away Land and All I Got Was A Tan)

The Gf and I decided to take a trip to New York City in May.

The epic trip that was to take place... well.. didn't. She decided to go to Singapore and I decided to Host a Keg-In-The-Fridge Adventure.  See below for details.  We did, however, decide to take the trip later one, culminating in a trip this past June 4th through 7th.  The highlights are as follows:

  • Stayed with a good friend of Kels' living on Manhatten Island, right on the border between the Columbia University area and Bonafide Harlem. Taking a walk down 125th Street, I all of a sudden looked four city blocks in every direction and realized I was the only White Dude as far as the eye could take me. While New York City is a tough town, I'm not frightened by the rep, being from Chicago. I was, however, all of a sudden familiarized with the fact that I am so often in the majority that there are very few times ever that I have to reconcile the fact that people still percieve differences in people based upon their skin.  The top thing on my mind, however: where I could locate Soul Food the next time I was in the neighborhood.
  • Although New York City has a rep for being an expensive town, its a different kind of expensive than Chicago.  Taxi fare starts at 2.50 (lower than Chicago) and tax rate is lower (Everywhere is lower than 11.5%).  But prices START higher in many cases, even though Starbucks still offers the 3.95+Tax Breakfast Pairing. The BIG Nice thing: the bars we went to in Manhatten happened to offer FREE things... something I rarely find in Chicago.  The first night, we went to a dive with free peanuts and Spicey Hot Dogs.  The downside to this? When you barf two hours later, Spicey Hot Dog clears your sinuses but burns the back of your throat until the next morning.  Another bar we went to gave away a free 6" cheese pizza with the purchase of each beer. The downside to this? You eat six 6" cheese pizzas and get so full of carbohydrates that you stop being able to socially interact.
  • As a man who is very fond of Deep Dish Pizza, I was primed to partake in as much NY Style Pizza as possible to offer a far comparison.  While I really enjoyed Lombardi's, we also had some "so-so" pizza while in Brooklyn (Okay white pie, though), I decided that New York pizza is good for lunch, while Chicago pizza is better for Dinner.  I would have to probably eat $30 bucks of NY Pizza to be as fill as $10 bucks of Deep Dish.
  • Found one of my favorite Starbucks seasonable beans, Bella Vista, in one of the New York City stores in Harlem.   Its now sitting in my kitchen ultra pressure sealed from the plane ride back.
  • Did the Epic Tourist thing and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge for no reason other than to say that I did.  I got a dope tan on accident.
  • Drank a 40 oz. Colt 45 on a rooftop terrace with a view of the Bridges, the major sights, and the Financial District's branch of the Federal Reserve. They have turrets and a deck.

23 April 2009

Scrapptacular (Or How, when Life gives you Lemons, you Sometimes make Lemon Mush)

One of my guilty little pleasures (read: one of my primary past times) is watching the Food Network. Why, you might ask? Maybe because I always watched it when I was sick in Middle School, back when the show "How To Boil Water" was on. It featured a two-bit internet comedian who pimped is AOL Keyword "LOL" on-air. The internet was still this shocking new idea that was only available from CompuSERV or AOL (we had the former) and I couldn't exactly figure out what the fuck "Elle-Oh-Elle" had to do with Comedy. Oh to be naive again.

Anyway, one of the shows I end up watching a lot of on the Food Network is Ace of Cakes, since the girlfriend loves to muse of Wedding Cakes designed by famous dudes, and I like preposterous ideas. As we've watched more of that show, I've wanted many different cakes: one of the Millennium Falcon, one of a Viking Ship, one of Zombies, and one of a giant Chicago-Style Hot Dog. Now, I wanted a the Millennium Falcon atop a Chicago-style Dog floating in a Viking Ship piloted by Zombies. Dope.

Lead Cake Yogi and total Badass Duff wanted a cake that looked like it was made from Meat, and unitentionally introduced me to a miracle of (not so) modern pork products: Scrapple. According to Ace of Cakes, as well as the Wiki article about it, its mostly a Mid-Atlantic regional food, so I was really surprised when I found it in a Peoria grocerie store a couple weeks ago.

Tonight, I tried it.

After opening the package, it smelled an aweful lot like regular breakfast sausage, although maybe with a hint more sage. The packaging called for 8-10 minutes frying on either side, so I popped it in the pan and worked on the rest of my Breakfast for Dinner Extravoganza.

Plating up the five slabs of meat product, it definately resembled breakfast sausage at this point, as well. The first bite revealed Scrapples true colors. The mealiness, soft texture contrasted sharply with the crispy edges, conjuring up images of men in big rustic hats circled round the chuckwagon, talking about the latest cattle drive and how darn taste this handy pork-n-corn product Cooky had whipped up tasted. If breakfast sausage patties are cordless phones, and Spam is the Communicator from the original Star Trek series, Scrapple is the Old Timey wood box phone that lives on the wall and has a crank.

The only difference? The operator oinks. And probably nobody but Sulu had ever been to Hawaii.

21 April 2009

Revenge of the Sith PIxel (Or why Star Wars III Needs Blu Ray)

So I've been packing all of my shit for the my imminent move to our new apartment, and I decided to put my favorite brain auto-pilot movie on: Star Wars III. I know people really liked the movie... but people like lots of bad movies (Spider Man III anyone?) with bad actors (Will Ferrell much). It's either my 4th or 5th favorite Star Wars movie, since I think that Attack of the Clones was actually fairly well acted, Return of the Jedi is far more important and epic a "Final Chapter" than E3, and that Empire is the best science fiction movie ever created.

What E3 does do for me, however, is provide me with the best produced Star Wars film of the trilogies: excellent effects and sound, well lit and edited, and more richly set than most movies I've ever seen. Its for all these reasons that I love to run this disc when I'm doing things that otherwise require my thoughts; by doing other (in this isntance, packing), I can ignore the part of the movie that ruins the film: the acting (although, McGregor is fucking ridiculous in all of the movies.). Watching this movie on a tv that is only limited by the resolution of the source media, I'm realizing how this movie could end my Quest for the Best Blu-Ray. As I sit here and see all the artifacts that turn up during stable coverage shots, I can't wait for the release of the two trilogies on BD... just as long as Lucas doesn't go and fuck with the ending pf Empire or add Jar-Jar Binks to the cast of characters in the Mos Eisley bar or on Jabba's Sail Barge.

16 April 2009

Your Red World, My Blue One

Chicagoans might remember this thing called "Sunshine" that made a surprise visit to the Windy City. Without a doubt, one of the rarist visitors to our city, I decided to snap a quick photo of the clear blue sky and aggressive rays which beat down on our heads. Like any good citizen, I immediately trecked out to get a headstart on my tan, since a temperature of 57 means you can almost go shirtless in what might be called a "Heatwave" in April. We've simply had too many days of chilly, cloudy days in a row since the endless tundra called Winter was officially over. If March 21 is indeed the first day of Spring in Chicago, I am Mayor Daley himself.

I got a text from two of my favorite Partners In Crime from Evansville last night gloating that they ha
d tickets to the Cubs vs. Cardinals game that took place mid-afternoon. The importance of this match-up is more important to people in Downstate Illinois and Indiana than it is to
Chigoland, mostly because the war of bickering between fans of these teams in those area is harsher than the Perpetual War of Nineteen Eighty-Four... For instance, an "Official Hot Dog of the St. Louis Cardinals" was for sale in a grocerie store in Peoria, Illinois when I was there last weekend, but I couldn't find a proper Chicago brand at all. While this is pretty anecdotal, this was definately a hotly contested game in the sport's bars and beer hauls in the Tri-State area.

Speaking of hot dogs, I had my first Chicago Dog of the baseball season (even though, as far as I'm concerned, its almost always a good time to eat a Chicago Dog) from my favorite vendor of fine all beef products: Flub a Dub Chub's. A very essentric place located in the basement of a bar, or hair salon, or something, FDC perveys some of the tastiest Chicago Dogs in Lincoln Park. Each dog comes with a bag of fries included in the price... the Champaign of Beers was my own addition. Armed with one of the best personal effect's one could have during a great day, I embarked back to the rooftop terrace at my building to consumer and ponder upon an endevor I've been working on for the past two weeks: The Watchman Motion Comic.

This piece of tomfoolery isn't the most scenematic thing I've seen in a long time, but it definately puts a lot of perspective to the Comic Book and the Movie... Think of it as the gap between reading Hamlet in English class and seeing it performed in the mid-nineties version by Mad Max himself. Each disc is about an hour and forty-five minutes long, which isn't much, of course, until you think about the fact that most of the time, there is only a little movement inserted into each panel of the comic book. What movement has been added isn't magnificent watching. You also have to get past the inch at the beginning that all of the characters are voiced by the same narrator. With all that, out of the way, though, its definately an interesting watch.

The Motion Comic puts into sharp perspective the difference between the movie and the comic book... The book alone allows you to voice the characters in your head and add intonations and meaning to the text as you see fit; the Motion Comic adds some "professional" spin on the same idea. If you ever imagined Rorschach to have a gravily voice while masked but monotone and sticato in person, this lends credence to your perspective. If you didn't imagine Dr. Manhatten sounding like a bit of a robot, though, you've apparently missed the mark, at least according to this telling. I can't imagine what the narrator was thinking as he tried to record the Silk Specter II and Night Owl II in mid-coitis, though.

Having gotten through almost all of the Motion Comic, I'm realizing more and more how great a telling the Watchmen Movie is with reference to the original material. The film is well edited to include the most important fascets of the plot and provides a truncated, if not sometimes too well snipped, overview of the major plot elements. It also points out the difference in publishing something in 1985 and something in 2008 about 1985. For instance, putting a Giant Space Squid into a movie is a laughable idea when there was an opportunity to edit in the concept of Superhuman Terrorism (ala Manhatten bombing the world in retrobution) . The nuance in how the plot was pieced together to move the movie forward, however, is what I'm most impressed about. In the book, Rorschach has to retrieve a spare outfit from his house, whereas he steals it back from the police in the movie after killing Big Figure. As he puts his mask on and assumes his real self, he confronts Dr. Long, creating my favorite original quote from the movie: "Your turn, Doctor. Tell me: What do you see?"

The die-hard Watchmen fanboy might always argue that they should have stuck to the absolute original lines from the book, and in the process would prove Alan Moore right that it shouldn't be made into a film. Knowing that it was going to be made into a film, however, some great changes were made to the film. The best: the pan shot recreating the JFK assassination (I guffawed in the theater "That is METAL!") revealing that the Comedian was the rifleman.

08 April 2009

Sky Captain and the High Def Quest

I recently got a really nice Toshiba 40" HD tv at the nice price of $800 at Best Buy. While I was a little leary of purchasing from the Blue Screen Box of Doom, I decided that the option of having the new equipment on credit for the next year and a half was a better plan than gtting something from internet super retailers TigerDirect or New Egg.

To date, I can't find anything about the tv that I've disliked, but I might have a bit of a halo effect from my costly, dope periferal of choice: the PS3 I've had since last June. While I thought playing PS3 was dope before the hd, I now have very little reason to leave the house, except to go to work and appease the girlfriend.

The reason I chose the PS3 over the X-Box 360, however, was my faith that the Blu-Ray player wasn't going to be headed the way of the BetaMax. I'm now gettin to reap the full benefits of the game system that has hindered (but also helped, via Rock Band) my social life.

With our new tv, we picked up a disc I've been pining over for a while, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. I' a huge fan of the movie, since I think its the most elegant attempt at a Rom Com for Men I've ever seen, and it also gives me faith that there is a real actor inside Seth Rogan despite his Stoner comedy attempts to prove otherwise (He was genius in 40 Year Old Virgin and SuperBad, though). That all being said, Kevin Smith can write/direct well enough that even a hack can be cast opposite an indy starlette playing a lesbian and end up with a career in Hollywood. It also ended up being the first Blu-ray I popped in to give me the Holy Shit look after seeing how stunning it looked. For a movie with neither flashy effects nor stunning visually stimulating cinematography, I'm thoroughly impressed with the quality of the movie and the pop of the details.

This made me start to investigate some movies available on Blu-ray that had massive Hollywood hype regarding visual effects. Since I anticipate Star Wars to be on Blu Ray just shy of the next century (after being tweeked by Cyborg George Lucas to its definitive piece d'resistance for that moment), I chose a film I'd botrh never saw and heard good things about: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

As I compulsively check wikipedia about things like film production, budget, casting decisions, and critical response (even though I often don't give two shits about the final topic), I learned that Sky Captain was one of the first movies to be shot on a digital backlot; seeing the Blu-Ray of the movie makes this hugely obvious, since all of the backgrounds where flat and obviously dead relative to the actors in the movie.  In this movie, it both helps and hinders the film: the inanimate backgrounds gives the movie a great feel of homage to film noir and Golden Age comic books, but it simultaniously betrays the movie as a "fake" compared to the original due to the use of such overt special effects.... Kinda like how cool everything in the Matrix franchise felt until you saw something cooler pulled off with real life stunts.  Having recently watched Australia, a boring-as-hell but beautiful movie, Sky Captain constantly reminded me that the awesome Retro-Futurist setting was fake because you could see all the seems that stitched it together.  Theatrically, the gold fleck was rubbing off of the prop laser pistol every time there was a scene change.

I completely enjoyed seeing robots fight WWI dogfighters and the Great Arc re-imagined as a Rocket Ship.  The movie, however, simply felt like an overblown scene from a greater film noir short story, leaving a bad "What, that's it!?" taste in my mouth after all the work had been done to engineer this fantastic alternate history.  The most beautiful part of the Blu-Ray, however, was admiring the hard work that went into coloring the movie, much like you might look at a well inked comic book.  The stark constrats between the gray of New York City and the richness of Shangri-La make this a definate Blu-Ray viewer for cinemagraphic purposes.

That being said (and not to switch genres), I think playing a bit of BioShock or Fallout 3 would fire my imagination nurons a bit excitedly if I wanted a bit more retro-futurism in my life. At least those have opportunity for a sequal... I'm certain Jude Law couldn't carry an audience through another one of the Sky Captain movies. I guess that's what happens when you hire a man with as much machismo as a tampon in the lead role.

07 April 2009

The Great 'Stache Catastrophe

As an introduction, if you didn't already know, I work at a Starbucks in downtown Chicago.  If your friendly neighborhood barista were Spiderman, I would be Rorschach: hardened by a life staring down the spiteful and rioting coffee drinker every morning between 7:30 and 9:30, when we have our heaviest rush of about 450 people. All the people I work with are damn good at their jobs, calloused by a million spilled 200 degree coffees and capable of satisfying the most demanding Decaf Triple Grande Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte Drinkers.

Tomorrow, two of us will be mustachioed.

Oliver (Operative Codename: Doctor Love) suggested that both of us, each in our own stages of bearded brilliance, both shave our beards and roll in with mustaches. I had to admit, though, that I had my reservations... mostly over walking around town looking like a douche bag.

The more I thought about it, though, the better the idea got, mostly because I vary rarely take the time to do something daringly dumb anymore.

I'll post a pic of the 'Stach when the deed is done.

We'll give this a try, although the girlfriend has already asked how long I'm going to keep this up.