February 28, 2009

Why I work so hard...six...

Today's is hard...I warn you in advance...

Maybe I need help...

So, I just paid $6.74 via ebay to win a copy of the October 1972 National Geographic magazine. That's $1.99 for the magazine plus $4.75 shipping.

Oh, and that's a picture of a guy sitting on a pool of mercury...from that issue...I wanna read the article.

February 26, 2009

This one doesn't work

I've commented before on the way to the heart of white middle America...here's further proof...

Go on a shelfari


That's what I need, another completist website to keep up with.

My criticker list's been getting a bit further behind, but now I'm rocking the shelfari site and tracking every book that I can think of that I've ever read.

I'm not nearly finished listing them...then rating them...then organizing them...but I'm all digging the site.

Man, I am such a geekburger.

Why I work so hard...four...

February 25, 2009

Why I work so hard...three...

Why drivers ed shouldn't use Mario Kart simulators

I've gotten all my gold trophies on each of the four levels (50cc, 100cc, 150cc, and mirror).

I've unlocked most of the characters with only two more question marks to fill in (Dry Bowser, Rosalina, and the second Mii outfit), and I've unlocked a whole bunch of karts.

I've got one- or two-star ratings on all the 50cc circuits and all but one of the 100cc circuits. 150cc's'll come next after I finish up the 100's, then on to the mirror, but I'm guessing that'll be a while.

And I'm using the manual like nobody's business.

Heck, I even avoided my first blue shell this weekend.

Now, if I could just stop thinking that I can drive my real car the way I drive my Mario Kart, I'd be good to go.

I didn't used to think about cutting left around the round-about because it'd be quicker.

I didn't used to think about hitting the b-trigger when I was hitting a looping highway off-ramp.

I didn't use to think about cutting the corner up on the sidewalk on Creek Road in Sharonville on the way back from the library.

I didn't used to think about pulling back on my steering wheel whenever I saw a speed bump.

Now I do all of those.

I don't act on the thoughts. That'd be crazy.

But I totally think them.

Oh, and to those of you who'd like to race me, I've tried the Mario Kart Channel a few times, and my router's signal is such crap that I haven't made it through a full race yet. Once I get that issue cleared up, I'll throw my Wii # out there for everybody to roll me.

February 24, 2009

Why I work so hard...two...

S Darko?

I've seen Donnie Darko twice, and I certainly don't have any clue where most of this trailer comes from. I'm looking for a bit of help from anybody out there who's more of a Darko-kinda kid that I am because this looks like a totally new story more than a second part to me.

Improve the joke

Bob Zany is a frequent guest on the Bob & Tom Show, and part of his regular Zany Report is Fix the Joke, Bay-bee! in which he invites his listeners to improve his jokes by adding their own punchlines.

Today I offer you the same oportunity.

Calen's brother has a favorite joke that he tells from time to time, and I'm curious to see what punchlines of your own you folks can offer up.

The set-up is visible here. To see his punchline, highlight the empty space.
How many ADD kids does it take to change a lightbulb?

Hey, wanna go ride bikes?
Think you can do better?

February 23, 2009

Really? Ya think so?

From an NPR story this past week...
NPR Reporter Guy: There are undoubtedly listeners tuning in to this conversation thinking to themselves, "why do I care about fashion when the economy is in a tailspin?" You've made the emotional, aesthetic argument. What's the economic argument?

Sally Singer, editor Vogue: Fashion is an enormously important industry, not just in New York City, but across the country. There are a lot of people in America who make clothes, who sell clothes, and we want to keep those people working.

Not shopping is not a moral act at this time.

So many people think that their frugality is somehow a new moral front. Now that might be true if they were kind of excessive and bizarre in the years before, but when people don't shop, other people lose their jobs. That's a fact.
Seriously? Not shopping is not a moral act?

We've been told for decades that we need to save more money than we're saving, and now that people have been scared into doing just that, and you're telling us that is an immoral act?

I'm throwing the flag, folks.

Why I work so hard...one...

Jen's survivorship story


Last summer, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) flew me and Calen to Florida to speak at their School & Youth national conference. We had raised over $46,000 for the LLS during the just-finished school year, and they wanted us to meet with and speak to some of the other campaign coordinators of the other top fund-raising schools around the nation.

During the conference, they also brought in a local doctor and leukemia researcher who spoke about his research and his hopes for the future of treatments for blood cancers. While he was in medical school, he said, most of his colleagues were curious as to why he would choose to specialize in the field of oncology in which so many of his treatments would fail and so many of his patients would die. He told his friends then - and the assembled LLS employees and volunteers last summer...

Impact of leukemia on families (part 1)


...that if a person walks into a doctor's office and is diagnosed with a case of strep throat, they are given a prescription to take a pill a day for the next seven days, and they leave the office knowing that with very little suffering, very little work, and very little pain, they will be better quickly, safely, and reliably.

And within the past five years, the first treatment of that kind - a simple prescription for a few pills leading to quick, safe, reliable, and pain-free relief - has become available for leukemia. As of then - and I assume today - such an easy cure is only available for a single type of leukemia, but even that one cure would not be available if it weren't for the doctors who were funded by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Impact of leukemia on families (part 2)


Three years ago, Lori Reckers spoke to a number of Princeton students and teachers about her last three years treating her then four-year-old daughter Jennifer for lymphoma. She related a story of having to watch as four and doctors held her daughter's infant arms and legs, stretching her flat on her stomach on an examination table, restraining her while she screamed in pain as the doctors took a spinal tap, a treatment necessary to see if Jennifer would be a candidate for a bone marrow transplant.

She had to assure her daughter that the pain would eventually end, that the hurt would eventually be worth it, and that the doctors had to do what they were doing to help her get better.

I work so that in the future, no mothers will ever have to tell their daughters that.

So that all they will ever have to do is go to their local pharmacy and pick up a prescription.

So those no more daughters - or sons - will have cry out in pain or suffer the indignities and pain that come from chemotherapy.

And I work so that I can teach my students the value of helping others.

If you can, please take a moment and make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. You can donate via our campaign by going to this website and choosing the Make a donation option.

You can also send us a check at the following address...
Lonnie Dusch
Princeton High School
11080 Chester Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45246
If you're a little cash poor right now, then give the Society your time. Collect on your dorm floor...ask your neighbors for donations...contact your local LLS chapter and see what you can do to help out...sign yourself and your friends - or sports team - up for our 5K...find a school in your area that participates in the Pasta for Pennies or Pennies for Patients program and make a donation through them...

Just give something.

It's too important not to.

February 20, 2009

The myriad Hallelujah

"Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen...in various versions...much discussed and lauded...

by the writer and originator, Leonard Cohen


by Allison Crowe


by Sheryl Crow


by Bob Dylan


by John Cale


by Jeff Buckley - sadly un-embeddable

by kd Lang


by Rufus Wainwright


by four Norwegian singers - again, no embedding

by Damien Leith


by Damien Rice


one of thousands of montages

February 19, 2009

Simple enough, eh?

Looks like a school district with which we share a border has completely canceled spring break.

We're still looking at three possible options for making up the two days we still owe the kids, the district, and the state...
  • Shorten spring break. Currently we're at seven days off - a full week plus the Friday before and Monday after. This option would scrap the Friday before and Monday after, leaving us a full week. This one's unlikely because those would have to be negotiated by the union as they're contracted off days.
  • Go to school on June 1 & 2 - two days later than we would've gone. This one's unlikely because retiring teachers would have to miss those two days - something about the retirement needing to start at the end of a month. I don't understand, but my union rep said that it's important.
  • Add ten minutes to the school day starting next week. This looks to be the easiest one. I don't know that it's the most effective one, but it does at least get us the made up time before the OGT and AP tests, so that's something.

Another possibility, perhaps

From the AP article...
Travis the chimpanzee, a veteran of TV commercials, was the constant companion of a lonely Connecticut widow who fed him steak, lobster and ice cream. He could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and dress and bathe himself.

He brushed his teeth with a Water Pik, logged on to a computer to look at photos and channel-surfed television with the remote control.

But on Monday, the wild animal in him came out with a vengeance.

The 200-pound animal viciously mauled a friend of his owner before being shot to death by police.

Investigators are trying to figure out why -- whether it was a bout of Lyme disease, a reaction to drugs, or a case of instinct taking over.

...

Police said that Travis was agitated earlier Monday and that Herold had given him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Police said the drug had not been prescribed for the 14-year-old chimp

...

"I don't know the effects of Lyme disease on chimpanzees, but I will say that it's deceiving to think that if any animal is, quote-unquote, well-behaved around humans that means there is no risk involved to humans for potential outbursts of behavior," she said. "They are unpredictable, and in instances like this you cannot control that behavior or prevent it from happening if it is in a private home."

Connecticut law requires anyone who owns a primate heavier than 50 pounds to obtain a state permit. But Herold was exempted from the law.

"Given that the family in Stamford owned Travis before this law was put on the books, and the fact that over the years the animal did not appear to present a public safety risk, their possession of the chimpanzee was allowed to continue," said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Or, there is another possibility...and I'm just spitballing here...

Maybe he was a frickin' wild animal.

Monkeys aren't pets, folks.

They don't belong with the humans.

That's just a theory, though.

February 18, 2009

Perhaps it's finally here


The one project that I want to appear on the interwebs is a book database website similar to what imdb.com is for movies, and it appears that Internet Book List might be that very project.

It's far from complete - and if anybody knows of a more complete version out there, I'd be happy to hear - but it's a solid start, so I'm going to start contributing to it as time allows - probably more in the summer than during out current campaign.

February 17, 2009

February 16, 2009

So what'd you expect, a happy ending?

This week's a hectic one, so the posts'll be short ones...

enjoy today's YouTube video classic...

Kill da Wabbit

February 13, 2009

Taken too soon

From Warren Zevon...

"Lawyers, Guns, and Money" (with one word)


"Werewolves of London" - the one song by him that you might know


"Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" (again, with one word)


If you liked that, here's a more upbeat version, also on Letterman

"Play it All Night Long"


"Searchin' for a Heart"


"Excitable Boy"


"Muhammad's Radio"


"Splendid Isolation"


"Boom Boom Mancini"


Part 1 of Zevon's final appearance on Letterman (parts 2...3...4, too)


Here's a bit of background about that series of videos...

"Mr Bad Example"


An entertaining turn on Suddenly Susan


"Johnny Strikes Up the Band"


"The Envoy"


"Poor Poor Pitiful Me"


Remember to enjoy every sandwich, folks...

February 12, 2009

I...like these...am out

Today I'm linking to a pdf of the article on which I want to comment because the originating site has a whole lot of content that I'd rather not point out to you folks.

I commented a while back to one of my regular readers that something was an e-ticket ride and mused afterward that the phrase is one that I'm guessing very few - if any of my students - would every know. I've never been to a Disney theme park - the originator of the e-ticket ride - but I certainly had heard the phrase enough times to use it here and there in conversation. Soon, however, such a thing will pass from our lexicon, and I'm guessing that it'll happen quite quickly.

Today's article is titled "10 things your great grandchildren won't remember", and I think they're being awfully charitable in not saying "your grandkids", because lots of these things will be gone within the next decade or sotwoand I'm guessing that it won't take three generations for them to total artifacts.

Take, for example, the record store (mentioned alongside the video rental store). I love the record store. I miss going to Everybody's Records or Ear-X-Tacy every month or so to check out what the new music is. I wouldn't always buy something, but I knew that the only way I could find the new music was by wandering into the store, by checking with the guys behind the counter, the girls who knew the bands that were new.

But those days are long, long passed.

Today I heard a song on the radio, caught a line or two that grabbed my attention, went home, googled the lyrics, hopped in iTunes, and owned the song without ever speaking to single person, without ever getting out my wallet opening a single door.

Even the people at the record stores have been bypassed in favor of Amazon's recommendations, iTunes' genius feature, and blogs of top ten lists.

The world is - as it has always been - changing, and none of us want to be caught making the best buggy whips around.

Oh, and the title is because I'm out for a three-days weekend starting tomorrow. I'll try to have something ready for Monday, but no promises, folks.

Just a heads up that the annual plea for donations to Pasta for Pennies is coming this week.

February 11, 2009

Hit and dragged

ick...

There are no pictures, no video, no sounds at today's link...just a simple news story of a very bad hit and run.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A pedestrian was struck twice by vehicles in Queens and dragged for 17 miles by the second vehicle before police found him dead in Brooklyn, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Wednesday.

The badly mangled body was discovered under a van after several passing motorists motioned the driver to pull over, Kelly said. Police had not identified the victim Wednesday evening, he said.

The first driver called 911 to report he thought he had struck a pedestrian but did not see anyone.

It turned out the second driver, in a van, had driven over the man, whose body became lodged under its chassis, according to police.

Kelly said that the van driver stopped at one point during the drive on New York City's highways and roads because he noticed the vehicle was not driving properly. But he failed to find anything unusual, Kelly said.

Police are retracing the route the van drove in attempt to find body parts, he said.

No charges have been filed, Kelly told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

New Watchmen vids

I'm trying really hard not to get excited about the upcoming Watchmen flick.

But it's really hard when stuff like this shows up...

Dr Manhattan's b'day


The Keene Act and YOU


Kyle's right, but man...those videos are really well done...

Just sometimes

It's not often, but sometimes I miss the old long playing records...

Like now...

February 10, 2009

Guess the movie (part II)

Continuing with yesterday's theme...all these folks - plus all the folks from yesterday - worked in the same movie together...

Favorite Judge Reinhold movies
  1. Beverly Hills Cop
  2. Stripes
  3. Gremlins
  4. Ruthless People
  5. Beverly Hills Cop II
  6. Honorable mention to Clerks: the cartoon and Pandemonium
    mystery movie would come in at #1
Favorite Jennifer Jason Leigh movies
  1. Short Cuts
  2. Road to Perdition
  3. The Hudsucker Proxy
  4. Rush
  5. Single White Female
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #2
Favorite Sean Penn movies
  1. Thin Red Line
  2. Sweet & Lowdown
  3. Mystic River
  4. Dead Man Walking
  5. 21 Grams
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #2
Favorite Phoebe Cates movies
  1. Bodies, Rest, and Motion
  2. I Love You to Death
  3. Gremlins
  4. Drop Dead Fred
  5. Gremlins 2
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #1
Favorite Cameron Crowe movies
  1. Almost Famous
  2. Singles
  3. Jerry McGuire
  4. Say Anything
  5. Elizabethtown
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #2
So, who knows it?

February 9, 2009

I'm impressed

Wow...

I'd heard the reports this weekend that Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids in 2003, but I assumed that we would get very standard responses from MLB, Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, the union, and everybody else that "the tests were anonymous, and we will not confirm or deny anything".

But today, Alex Rodriguez came out and admitted to having taken banned substance from 2001-2003.

I am absolutely impressed that he's come out and said this.

Wow...

Guess the movie

Today I offer a bit of a challenge...I list my five favorite films - in order - of some actors, all of whom worked together in a film that would have made every one of the lists but that I omitted just to keep you guessing.

No fair cheating by using the advanced search for people working together on imdb.com.

Tomorrow, five more people from the same movie.

And no comments on this post so you can't ruin the fun for everybody else just yet. Feel free, however, to email me your guess if you have one. Winner gets a No Prize.

Favorite Nicolas Cage Movies
  1. Face/Off
  2. Raising Arizona
  3. Snake Eyes
  4. Adaptation
  5. Honeymoon in Vegas
  6. Peggy Sue Got Married
    just missed
    ...mystery movie would come in at #1
Favorite Ray Walston movies
  1. Johnny Dangerously
  2. Of Mice & Men
  3. Popeye
  4. From the Hip
  5. Ski Patrol
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #1
Favorite Eric Stoltz movies
  1. Pulp Fiction
  2. Singles
  3. Bodies, Rest, and Motion
  4. Say Anything
  5. Jerry McGuire
  6. honorable mention to The Heart of Justice and Mad About You
    ...mystery movie would come in at #2
Favorite Forest Whitaker movies
  1. Blown Away
  2. Panic Room
  3. Platoon
  4. Color of Money
  5. Good Morning, Vietnam
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #1
Favorite Taylor Negron movies
  1. The Aristocrats
  2. Johnny Dangerously
  3. Better Off Dead
  4. Young Doctors in Love
  5. Nothing But Trouble
  6. ...mystery movie would come in at #2 or 3
More clues tomorrow...far easier ones, too...

February 6, 2009

Hey, I know these guys

Funny faces


"Plane"


Drum solo in Sharonville


"Gravity"


"Save Tonight"


"The General"


"Sweet Pea"


"Stir it Up"


"Counting to 100"


"Pride and Joy"


"Don't Know Why"


"Waiting on the World to Change"


"I Will"


"I'm Yours"


and yet no Rock 4A Cause song...dangit...

thanks to donttouchmydrums for the uploads...

February 4, 2009

It's that time again, boys and girls

Hittin' it with the bullets again...

The Escapists
  • outstanding stuff
  • based on the ideas from Kavalier and Clay
  • Brian K Vaughn meets the fictional Clay in the text introduction, suggesting that the meeting was the first connection Vaughn made to comic books
  • story tells of a modern (within the past five or so years) college grad who buys the rights to the Escapist and then makes his dream come true by making an Escapist comic book
  • things, of course, go well and then wrong and then end well in the finale
  • great, cartoonish style for the main storyline mirrored by the more dark, realistic style of the Escapist storyline
  • absolutely wonderful writing in this one
  • probably don't need to have read the Kavalier and Clay novel to understand this one
  • another review
  • From the Oregon Live review
    The Escapists is so good because it is about so damn much. It is a glowing tribute to the imaginary hero in a work of fiction, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. It is a testimonial to the city of Cleveland, the birthplace of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman; R. Crumb, Harvey Pekar and that famous escape artist, 10-year-old Brian Keller Vaughan. And it is a grand appeal for young creators -- such as Max, Case and Denny -- to forego wrestling with the usual cast of comic characters and create original legends of their own ... by Vaughan and a crew of artists, Schutz notes, who agreed to a work-for-hire gig on a character owned by Michael Chabon.
JLA/Avengers
  • meh...it's a solid meh
  • it was refreshing to see George Perez's artwork again...he was the biggest artist in the DCU when I was a kid, and he's still the definitive DC artist for me, and he's the unchallenged king of the cross-over book
  • it's kind of like reading Crisis on Infinite Earth with Perez drawing a huge number of characters
  • the storyline's confusing with big bad guys from each universe - necessary in such an event - with some gigantic plot about challenging the heroes of each universe
  • neat moments with each hero fighting/teaming up with his balanced character from the other universe, each universe's heroes not understanding how the opposite's world works - mutants, meta humans
  • even the neat moments don't balance out the overall blandness of the storyline
  • reads like Crisis but without the actual impact/big events taking place
Ultimates 3: Who Killed the Scarlet Witch?
  • continuing to tighten things toward Ultimatum
  • some of the characters acted oddly - especially Hawkeye & Wolverine who go at each other stupidly for a brief second
  • Hawkeye's death wish is getting annoying
  • some echoes of Secret Invasion with heroes being replaced without people noticing
  • Ultimate Black Panther is an interesting addition but oddly mute
  • one review I read said this...
    It’s so loud and slapdash that it’s like reading a comic written by a focus group of caffeinated eight-year olds. If you’re looking for any kind of intelligently written story, or even a bad story with a knowing wink, look elsewhere. But if you want to get a solid laugh out of an unapologetically ridiculous comic that has no idea just how bad it is, you really couldn’t do any better than this dumb, manic book.
    ...and that's about right...it's a little more negative - has no idea just how bad it is - than I would go, but it's admittedly a big, dumb, action book - but a fun one
JSA: Thy Kingdom Come 2
  • love the bringing in of Kingdom Come storyline but with the changes of just who Gog is
  • Kingdom Come Superman is so understandably angry - this is his story
  • the number of people in the JSA continues to grow and grow to unwieldy numbers - and the authors are making fun of it joking about the heroes scavenging for chairs to sit in at their meeting table
  • contrasts between the old members and the young members are interesting
  • I'm hoping they undo some of the changes that Gog brings to the members
  • the military hero guy - don't remember his name - does absolutely nothing for me, though the change he undergoes at the end is interesting
  • I'm loving the return of the multiverse and that each of the fifty-two universes are numbered so we know specifically which is which via the new numbering system
  • wonder if DC has a huge board up in their offices with it all mapped out or if they just rely on Wikipedia to be right
  • overall, love this storyline - though the Power Girl diversion into her old universe - maybe - doesn't do much for me
Birds of Prey - various
  • read like seven (I think) volumes - Sensei & Student, Dead of Winter, Metropolis or Dust, Club Kids, Between Dark and Dawn, Blood and Circuits, Battle Within
  • overall impression is that it's a fun series with good but not great writing
  • dig the new concept of Dark Side (last seen in Mister Miracle from the Seven Soldiers maxiseries and curious to see where that leads in Final Crisis
  • the series really changed when Black Canary left, and not for the better...while she was around, this was her story with Oracle as her boss but equal...since she left, it because Oracle's series with everybody else being her employees/subserviants - much less enjoyable
  • wish Spysmasher would've gotten more time than being dismissed after one story arc
  • I don't like the Misfit character...seems a stupid addition
  • the series is a weird amalgamation of female and male themes - lots of action, lots of cleavage being the male-guided themes and the emotional openness and vulnerability of the main characters being the more stereotypically female...it's no wonder that it hasn't found a huge audience with that concept of including everything for everybody
  • liked Sensei & Student really didn't like Blood & Circuits
Batman: Rules of Engagement
  • it's got to be tough for a new artist to tell old stories, origin-ish stories because it's tough to write a "the first time Batman met" anybody story at this point because so many of them have been written
  • here we get the first time Batman met Lex Luthor, or at least the first time they went up against each other in any open way
  • Luthor's openness of dryting to take of the US via military coup seems a little too brazen for the bald baddie
  • the artwork is interesting in a few scenes - particularly with the mechanized soldiers, but it's generally sloppy and messy
  • the scientist's brain taking over the machine seemed very odd for a Batman comic - he being generally the non-spiritual one
  • I don't like the change in the comics of Lucius Fox being the black tech guy from the movies...works for me in the movies, but we've got an established history of who Lucius Fox is in the comics - he is second in command of Wayne Enterprises, oblivious to Bruce's nocturnal activities - to put him down in the tech research lab sees odd even if it does explain how Batman gets so many of his cool toys
  • in total, didn't like it
Joker
  • speaking of "didn't like", here's another one that was awful
  • where Rules of Engagement at least had some interesting moments, this is a mess from tip to tale
  • artowrk is bad - a few secondary characters are very hard to tell apart
  • story is bad - Joker gets set free, proceeds to kill his way up the mob guys to get back his proper place at the tp of the food chain
  • the use of a "normal" narrator character who happens to tag along with The Joker is an interesting one but one that doesn't really reveal much about the story
  • Joker's feud with Two-Face is equally weird, and the storyline's eventual dismissal makes no sense at all
  • awful storyline
  • pick up Lovers & Madmen instead for a good, modern Joker story - it's far better
  • here's another review I read in preparing the review
Secret Invasion
  • dig the crossover
  • enjoyable read throughout with decent artwork
  • not necessarily thrilled with the Marvel writers' opportunity to wipe out a bunch of storylines that they wanted to reboot - Hank Pym being a jerk, for example - but that's sort of the fate of a comic fan
  • the fight scenes are very well done, though, even with hundreds of characters involved
Slumdog Millionaire
  • From EW's review:
    Slumdog Millionaire is nothing if not an enjoyably far-fetched piece of rags-to-riches wish fulfillment.
    And that's perfect. It's absolutely far-fetched and requires a massive suspension of disbelief, but who cares because it's gorgeous and fun and heart-warming (sorry, but it is) and it works.
  • been a long time since I enjoyed a movie this much
  • wonderful feeling in the theater - at 1:00 on a Saturday afternoon surrounded by people thirty years our senior
  • the two complaints that I've seen leveled at the film - it's far-fetched and it's not an honest exploration of India's poverty - are both valid are correct, but that's like saying that The Godfather didn't show the true experience of most Italian-American immigrants...who cares? it's a great film
  • the acting is convincing and excellent - especially the kids who play the young versions of the main characters
  • the adult Salim, in particular, does an outstanding job in spite of his resemblance to a mid-80's Jackson 5 - the glasses probably don't help
  • first one of this year's best pic nominees that I've seen, and I would have no problems with this one winning
That's it for today, ladies and germs...next time, Netherland

February 3, 2009

Our Year of Living Steakishly: January, Carlo & Johnny's

As January comes to a wintery close in the Cincinnati area, The Girl and I were halfway through out second winter break (thanks to four consecutive snow days). We decided to celebrate with a bit of Steakish Living by visiting the first of our trio of Jeff Ruby establishments: Carlo & Johnny's.

We had initially tried getting a reservation at Jimmy D's but were rebuffed and eventually found out that it had closed in early fall, apparently a victim of the renowned Cincinnati magazine top steakhouses curse. Because of this, we are currently taking suggestions for a replacement twelfth steakhouse in the Cincinnati area.

Carlo & Johnny's is technically in Montgomery, just south of the Kroger where we were supposed to have students collecting over the weekend. It is set back from the road in an old house that has been converted into a series of very distinct dining rooms. Ours - no photos of the room itself, sadly - had darkly quilted walls on which were hung large, golden-framed portraits that wouldn't have looked at all out of place in my maternal gradmother's home. There was a gilded lion's head with a spray of flowers, a mermaid statue appearing to support the ceiling, a painting of a French general with a bulldog's head, rather dim lighting, and an upholstered, four-sided settee around the aforementioned mermaid. The Girl sat on the settee.

In getting to our dining room, we passed a raw bar with oysters, crab legs, and numerous sushi-quality cuts of fish as well as a more inviting, socially active bar with live music. We heard acceptable covers of David Grey, the Beatles, Jim Croce, Jimmy Buffet and more through the doors throughout the evening.

I got the feeling that Carlo & Johnny's is many restaurants for many people. It is a bar with scantily-clad, pixiesh bar maid for those in search of a search of an adult night out. It is an old-school steakhouse for the older couple seated behind me - he in sport coat over read turtleneck, she taking off her faux fur coat to sit down. It is an elegant place for younger professionals to take a nice night out. And it is a place where the high-end regular customers keep their own wine cellars by the door as you walk in, cellars that contained everything from Miller Lite to Dom Perignon, $500 bottles of port to bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 with business cards taped on the front.

All of these, however, are presented in the finest restaurant fashion. Our waiter had a custom embroidered Carlo & Johnny's jacket over a simple white shirt and black tie. The lower wait staff - bus boys, water fillers - wore similar vests over a black on black shirt and tie combination. The manager visited every table, inquiring as to the meal, patiently decanting bottles of red wine before pouring the glasses for each patron at the table beside ours.

The menu is extensive - sushi had its own menu - and dominated by the sixteen different cuts of steak that our waiter claimed is the most extensive selection in Cincinnati. They had changed one thing, replacing the bone-in filet with what they referred to as a shorterhouse and that our waiter explained was their cutesy way of saying a porterhouse cut off of which they had trimmed the large fat at the bottom.

All steaks are served a la cart, and sides are sized to be shared between two or three diners. Initially we thought this meant the meal would be significantly more expensive than those at the other restaurants we had visited, but this didn't turn out to be the case, and neither of us felt the meal overpriced.

After a few minutes looking over the menu and being entertained by salads such as the Peter Frampton (Mixed Lettuces, Asparagus, Maytag Bleu with Pistachio Vinaigrette) and the Crab Calloway (Lump Crab, Rock Shrimp, Hearts of Palm with Dijon Vinaigrette), The Girl and I placed our orders:
  • Appetizer
    - oddly, none - nothing stuck our fancy in this section
  • The Girl
    $33 barrel-cut filet mignon, medium rare
    Freddie salad
  • ChemGuy
    $40 Prime NY Strip, medium rare
    steakhouse tomato salad
  • Sides to share
    saute of fresh green beans
    potato pancetta augratin
  • Dessert (again, to share)
    crème brûlée
Our waiter, Mark, took our orders, complimenting a few of our choices, and returned in moments with bread and butter. The bread was sourdough and salted rye, the butter a composite pat of mushroom/truffle butter and plain butter with a simple JR-logo'ed paper round on top.

This should be turned 90 degrees clockwise, sorry...bread in the basket, butter pat on the plate

The aforementioned JR-emblazoned butter pat

The bread was tasty enough to eat on its own, but the truffle/mushroom butter moved it into excellence. Neither of us put away more than a single piece, however, as we knew that more important things were yet to come.

ChemGuy's steakhouse tomato salad - mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, lettuce, a balsamic reduction, and a bit of vinaigrette

The Girl's Freddie salad - lettuce, bacon, tomatoes, buttermilk ranch on the side

Both of our salads were excellent. The Girl's salad was simple with lettuce and tomatoes topped by wonderfully flavorful bacon. The bacon - crumbled large - had a gorgeous smokey flavor, the sort of real smoked flavor to which bac-o-s can only aspire. She commented that the bacon would make a wonderful BLT, and I would agree from the basis of my one taste.

My salad was more complex with mozzarella and basil laid atop large tomatoes that were in excellent condition for winter tomatoes. In the peak of summer tomato season, I would imagine this salad to be mouthwatering enough to comprise a meal unto itself. The field greens behind the tomatoes were drizzled with a balsamic reduction that made me think I've been eating the wrong thing out of bottle labeled balsamic vinegar for years. It had a marvelous sweetness balancing the perfect tart notes. Wonderful.
ChemGuy's prime strip steak, ~16oz

The Girl's barrel cut filet, ~14oz

Mark took our salads and refilled our glasses - The Girl declined a second Manhattan, and we had a few minutes to chat and watch our fellow diners before the main course and raison d'etre was delivered. The steaks were presented with a minimum of flair, a well-cooked piece of meat in the center of a white plate with just a few sprigs of - at The Girl's guess - pea shoots.

The steaks smelled marvelous, but at first The Girl was afraid that hers was over cooked. She had ordered medium rare, but her first slice in suggested a solid medium - gray all the way through. She began to turn up her nose but sliced through the center of the steak and found the correct colors there. The photos don't show the redness well as the light in our dining room was very low, but be assured that the center of her steak was a nice red. Her steak was buttery smooth and nicely crusted. She managed to bring half of it home for a great dinner while I was at Rock 4A Cause the next night.

My strip steak was right from the first bite, wonderfully red in the center and darkly brown/black on the outside. We both tasted the other's steak and affirmed that we are, indeed, different tastes. The strip has a beefer flavor and stronger chew that I appreciate, and the filet is smoother and richer, both of which she enjoys.

ChemGuy's steak after the carnage

The Girl's steak - she took half home

We discussed the steaks while we ate, trying to find a way to compare these to those of Embers and our other steakhouses. We both agreed that these were a narrow margin below those of Embers, last month's Steakish Living destination. The lines here are fine, but we agreed that the crust on the Embers's steaks were more flavorful, a little richer. The crust on the Carlo & Johnny steaks were a bit thinner, blacker, and more crumbly. I don't want to say that they had an almost ashy mouth feel - too black, thin, sandish - because that would sell them short, but it's a little way onto that spectrum.

Neither of these complaints - The Girl's steak's overdone outer edge or the imperfect crust - is meant to say that the steaks this time were anything short of excellent. Instead, it's a way of splitting the hairs that are starting to show up in this competition. Where the Embers steaks were near perfect, the Carlo & Johnny steaks were merely excellent...the difference between the 9 that I gave Embers and the 8 that I'll give Carlo & Johnny's.

Potato / Pancetta Au Gratin

Saute of Green Beans

Where the steaks at Carlo & Johnny's were less than perfect, the side dishes were nothing short of absolute perfection. The au gratin potatoes with pancetta pieces within had a gorgeous, broiled crust under which creamy slices of potatoes were on the verge of melting together. It is the rare side dish onto which I won't throw at least a little pepper - preferably freshly ground - but this one needed for nothing. The flavors were outstanding, the texture marvelous, the dish spectacular.

And the green beans were better.

They were sauteed in olive oil with chopped garlic and chives on them, and they were wonderful. The beans themselves were barely cooked, retaining the crisp freshness of a blanching but softened just enough by the sauteing, and the flavors while simple were gorgeous. The Girl and I both agreed that we could make a meal out of the green beans themselves.

The side dishes will be earning our first perfect score thus far in the rankings.

crème brûlée in its apparently native habitat with a mint sprig and raspberries

Dessert tempted us both, and we went for the crème brûlée which was served in an attractively flared, almost trapezoidal dish and with soup spoons for each us.

The crème brûlée at Embers was too runny by half, but this one had an excellent consistency, custardy and rich. The crust atop was dark and bordering slightly on burnt in the center, but the contrast with the rich crème beneath stood up well. We would have appreciated more appropriate dessert spoons - smaller, more pointed - because the larger round soup spoons that we were given, particularly because of the corners in the dish, but that isn't a reflection upon the chef's creation.

The meal - with a single Manhattan for The Girl - came in at $120 plus tip, so I'll be ranking it at $114, the bill without anything from the bar. As I wrote earlier, we expected much worse on the pecuniary spectrum.

So, let's turn to the numbers and see if Embers has been displaced:
  • Appetizers/Dessert - 8 - The crème brûlée was very good.
  • Steak - 8 - Excellent steaks but not the best in town.
  • Side dishes - 10 - Simply put, perfection. With the salads included here - there's no pure salad category - I'll drop them by half a point because the salads weren't perfection, just excellence.
  • Atmosphere - 7 - The Girl would've given the place a nine, but she's into more "interesting" decors. I like a slightly more contemporary touch and didn't enjoy sitting with the freakish artwork.
  • Cost - 4 - A few dollars cheaper than Embers but not by much. And The Parents deserve major thanks for funding this visit with a Christmas gift of $100 gift card to any of the Jeff Ruby establishments.
  • Service - 8 - Mark was friendly but not overly so. The Ted Green scale scored highly as my water glass was never empty or even a third so. Our waiter was noticeably absent for a fair portion of the meal, but there were enough other wait staff around that had we needed anything, we certainly could have gotten it.
  • Total score - 44.5 (out of 60)
Barely behind Embers, about where I would have guessed. I was assuming it would come in slightly lower - maybe a point or two.

Summarizing things so far...
  • Embers - 45 (of 60)
  • Carlo & Johnny's - 44.5
  • Mitchell's - 44.5
  • Oakwood Club - 40
  • Pine Club - 37.5
  • Guenther's - 30
The numerical rankings fall right about where we expected things to fall.

My overall feeling - supported by The Girl in discussions after the meal - is that I prefer Embers as a restaurant, and the perfect meal might be the Embers steaks with the Carlo & Johnny's side dishes. Perfection has not yet been achieved.

We steakishly live on...

February 2, 2009

Vote for Indiana

I'm just sayin'...vote for Indiana.

Thanks

If I could type the sound of a plunger working, I would


I've got this backup in my bookmarks, and it's time to clear a few things out.

These are all things that I bookmarked hoping to eventually turn them into full posts, but nothing ever quite came together. So here they are with small comments...
  • High Fidelity deleted scene - this scene was yet another in a whole movie of glimpses into the character of Rob, and it should be a textbook to any movie writers who are working on the concept of showing a character rather than telling about that character. It's sad that the filmmakers demoted it to the cutting room floor. And in case you have trouble getting the JoBlo player to load (I do from time to time), here the same scene with subtitles on YouTube.
  • 100 commonly misspelled words - Each one has a handy mnemonic trick to help you spell it correctly next time.
  • Erik Millikin's Obama painting is kinda cool. You'll have to click previous once when you get to his site to see it.
  • Wizard's 200 Greatest Comic Characters of All Time - The list is a joke. I can only assume that they wrote it just to get people talking about it because some of their choices are absurd. Start at the top, for example, Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man could all be defensible choices for #1, and they picked none of the three. Snake-Eyes at #12 is ludicrous. I love Watchmen and all, but having two of its characters in the top thirty is nuts. Tulip at #31? Sheesh...
  • Various Niki Huey links...an interview...a profile...Jesse McCartney talking about her...weirdly, a workout video...and Niki's video channel...and now I'm done ever posting about Niki because I'm starting to feel icky again...
  • The Weston House - the current project on This Old House may be their coolest yet...loads of environmentally-friendly touches, gorgeous interior, very neat stuff.
  • Oceans in Glass is a PBS special about the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I've been sucked into the show two or three times, and it's a bio geek's dream program. They go through how the aquarium maintains its amazing and ocean-linked habitats, how they tried to keep a great white and were more successful than any other aquarium had ever been, and it balanced its science with really pretty imagery.
  • The picture of Jason Thompson in the box score of this game report is horrific.
  • Removal of DRM from iTunes is awesomely big news. The variable pricing tiers doesn't do much for me, but I can certainly understand the attraction. Apple's promised some big things before, and I hope this one comes through in the Spring as they've promised. More details here...
  • Superuseless Superpowers is an outstanding new blog (with only a few entries, you can still get in on the ground floor) of cartoons of the most useless superpowers that you can possibly think of. Check out, for example, 13th Bullet Bulletproof.
  • Obamaconme in which you can turn yourself into an Obama poster with your own tagline. It's a little late to point this one out, but it's still loads of fun.
  • Semantic Web sounds interesting - an evolving extension of the World Wide Web in which the semantics of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and satisfy the requests of people and machines to use the web content. I'm skeptical, but I need to learn more.
  • Voucher students doing poorly...this recent article in the Enquirer point out something that I think most educators could probably have predicted - that students given vouchers from public to private schools aren't doing magically better. The possible underlying reasons are many: the students didn't get a good background in their public schools, the students know they don't have to pass the OGT so they're not trying very hard at their news school, etc. But I like to think it's really just because the private schools suck.
  • I have to get around to reading Heinlein's "All You Zombies" because it sounds awesome.
  • TVTropes is an interesting site collecting some of the most common tropes used in TV writing. For example there's the ...and a Diet Coke trope, the Did you get a new haircut? trope, and the Time for Plan B trope.
  • Lego is fun blog with its sadly few posts even though those posts are pretty awesome.
  • Another clip - this one slightly from 500 Days of Summer.
  • I'm thinking about ordering the Yacker Tracker for my tenth bell class. They're chatty.
  • URLesque is another blog of entertaining links - kinda like Neatorama before they crapped up their site with the new queue.
  • And we close with the recipe to make a rainbow cake. I have no idea whether it would actually be tasty (the recipe kinda suggests to me that it might not be), but it would be awesome to taste - and subsequently poop - the rainbow.
I'm out, folks...

February 1, 2009

Wait, this rivalry resumes



Dude, you had me at "maybe I try again later"


Great post-match analysis here...and it's interesting to see how the crowds and fans have turned toward Federer now that he's no longer invincible.

How has Tiger Woods avoided the backlash of being the most successful athlete in his sport?