December 30, 2010

Update: Toss the Turtle

I know, I have to stop.  I think I will after this time...5 654 132.6ft.

iTunes Survey

'Cause Katydid paused from the Jim James-a-thon for a moment...

All answers are with respect to my home iTunes.  School iTunes would be very different.

How many songs total: 12561

How many hours/days of music: 34.1 days

Sort by song title:
First song: "A-Hole" by Bowling for Soup
Last song: "99 Red Balloons" by Goldfinger (appropriate thanks to Katydid for giving me that one)

Sort by time:
Shortest song: "Interlude Cue Music" from Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back soundtrack (0:04)
Longest song: "Peace of Ming/Follow Me Down to the River" by Yonder Mountain String Band (27:19)

Sort by album:
First album: A.M. by Wilco
Last album: 89/93 Anthology by Uncle Tupelo (beautiful symmetry there)

Top five most played songs (actual top five - there aren't actually any on the first page that are embarrassing)
"Cobwebs" by Ryan Adams & the Cardinals (24 plays)
"Drivin' Me Wild" by Common featuring Lily Allen (23 plays)
"Fanfare for the Common Man" by Aaron Copland (18 plays)
"This Year" by the Mountain Goats (16 plays)
"You Don't Wanna Go Outside" by Wyclef Jean (15 plays)

The five most recently played songs
"Billy Crystal" by Yelewolf
"Only Girl (In the World)" by Rihanna
"It Ain't Necessary So" by Miles Davis
"The Meaning of the Blues/Lament (Alternate Take)" by Miles Davis
"Lie in Our Graves" by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds

The first song that comes up on shuffle
"Abracadabra" by The Steve Miller Band

Search the following and state how many songs come up
Death: 61 (my favorites: "World Shut Your Mouth" by Death Cab for Cutie & "The Black Angel's Death Song" by The Velvet Underground)
Life: 128 (my favorite: "Life in a Northern Town" by Dream Academy)
Love: 783 (my favorites: "Love Love Love" by the Mountain Goats & "You Can't Resist It" by Lyle Lovett)
Hate: 55 (my favorite: "Jump Around" by House of Pain on Whatever - The 90's Pop Culture Box)
You: 1289 (too many to choose favorites)
Sex: 26 (my favorites: "Sexy MF" by Prince & "Sex on Fire" by Kings of Leon)

Update: Toss the turtle (again)

Nevermind that 3-million stuff...4 128 540.1ft...toss the turtle, folks...

Update: Toss the turtle

I got better... 3 210 292.7ft...and had 26 nukes left before I hit a ground spike...

December 29, 2010

I never would've guessed...

Brooklyn?

Who knew?

Toss the turtle

No, that's not a hell of a euphemism...

That's an online flash game called Toss the Turtle that combines a number of my favorite aspects to these types of games...
  • ...violence.  You're firing a turtle out of a cannon and trying to hit bombs, chainsaw-wielding maniacs, fireballs, spikes, and much more.
  • ...upgrades.  I particularly recommend upgrading to a more powerful cannon as soon as you can.
  • ...medals.  I've won most of the medals by playing for a couple of hours.  The rest of the medals are endurance-type ones that I may or may not win.
So, see if you can beat my biggest launch to date...1 478 813.9 ft...



...or win as many medals as I have...


And just to make things a little more reasonable, here's a screencap of my first biggest launch that I was going to post.  Try aiming for this at the start.

December 28, 2010

Scott Pilgrim versus YouTube























And, in case you didn't know why the comics on which this movie was based are awesome, here's a quick bit of reading for you.

December 27, 2010

Icon Scrabble

Good times...check out icon scrabble...

I did...

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas, Links!



Merry Christmas right back at you, ChemGuy.

    December 24, 2010

    Federer is funny...

    Thanks to ESPN for pointing out the existence of this video...

    Random Ten: Christmas Eve Edition

    It's Christmas Eve, and that means it's time for another Random Ten from ChemGuy's iTunes...

    Didn't even have to cheat to get clean songs, so that means the Random Ten will be accompanied by an 8Tracks playlist today.  Enjoy...
    • "Now That We Found Love (Club Version)" by Heavy D & the Boyz - Nice, upbeat groove.  Nothing that's earth-shattering.  The club versions less tight and to the point, but it's still a decent enough mid-90's little joint.  Three stars on m'iTunes.
    • "Nothing" by Dwight Yoakam - Interesting tune in that the first verse's music doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the song.  First verse has a heavy, electric guitar background that makes it feel slow, moody.  The rest of the song then keeps the same lyrical theme but shifts to a mid-tempo soul/R&B musical feeling.  Pretty typical Dwight sadness and loss.  Four stars
    • "Rock This Town" by the Stray Cats - Ah, that brief rockabilly revival in the 1980s.  I feel about that blip of musical lookback like I do about the zoot suit riot of the mid 1990s.  It was entertaining for a year or two, but it wasn't sustainable.  Looking back works for a little bit, but creativity has to move forward.  Each gave us some good tunes (this included) and got Brian Setzer some work, so that's not all bad.  Four stars
    • "Raspberries, Strawberries" by Bud and Travis - The folk boom at its heyday.  This is from a box set called Washington Square Memoir: Urban Folk (1950-1970) and is a pretty song about "the girls of the country side to whom we bit adieu".  Very much in the same style as the better-known Kingston Trio.  "Every young man goes to Paris...as every young man should...There he may find his love in every field and wood."  Apparently the French lyrics aren't, as I always kind of though, jibberish. Four stars
    • "My Heart" by Neil Young and Crazy Horse - Pretty, harpsichord-based tune from the criminally underrated Sleeps With Angels album.  Beautifully sets the tone for what would be another of Neil's albums about death (see also Tonight's the Night, On the Beach)  Four stars
    • "Dr Evil" by They Might be Giants - From the The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack.  Entertaining, occasionally chucklesome theme song for the Dr Evil character in a very strong James-Bond-theme style.  Sort of a pastiche of "Goldfinger" and "Dr No" which fits the series well.  Three stars
    • "Lay You Down" by Dave Matthews Band - Pretty song from the great Crash album.  This is back before I got thrown up on at their concert and pretty much let the band go. Interesting themes explored on this album - love lost, love found, infidelity, friendships changed.  Four stars
    • "Beautiful People" by The Books - I have absolutely no clue where this came from.  Obviously it's something I added to iTunes because it's my computer, but it's something that surprised me.  Interesting music - reversed sounds, drum machine loops, lyrics that sound non-English because of the modifications that have been done to them.  Worth a listen.  I apparently gave it four stars.  Neat tune.
    • "Mohammed's Radio" by Warren Zevon - Beautiful song by a criminally-underrated and not well-enough known singer/writer/nutcase.  Haunting background vocals.  Exploring the Mideast relationships, but I have no clue exactly what the story is.  Warren is missed.  Four stars
    • "The Road to Ensenada" by Lyle Lovett - Lyle has done music that's more fun, that's more chucklesome, more jazzy, but this is his finest album front to back.  It's an album of love about to be lost as his marriage with Julia Roberts was falling apart as he wrote the album.  This is one of the slower, folky-er tunes on the record and one of the most beautiful.  There's a haunting electric guitar line that comes in about 2:15 into the song that just wrecks me every time.  It's also an album that means a lot to me because of when/how it came into my life, but that's a story for another series of posts. Beautiful song...four stars


    And thanks to Natalie Dee for the graphic today.

    December 23, 2010

    Update: They filled the truck


    Major congrats to Dan Regenold and the FrameUSA folks for successfully filling the truck.  Don't know if any of you helped out - if so, major thanks.

    Check out some photos of the FrameUSA folks (many of whom I am happy to know) filling the truck over on their Flickr stream.

    Wackadoos...

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is stupid


    I'll get it right out of the way off the bat.

    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is stupid in every possible way.

    It's a museum created by Jann Wenner and others of his era to celebrate the music of their childhoods - not the music of today but rather the music that they remembered from when they were younger.  The Rock Hall says things a little differently, but...
    In 1983, A small group of music industry professionals led by Atlantic Records Founder and Chairman Ahmet Ertegun and including Rolling Stone magazine publisher Jann Wenner, attorney Allen Grubman, manager Jon Landau and record executives Seymour Stein, Bob Krasnow along with attorney Suzan Evans set out to establish an organization to “recognize the people who have created this music which has become the most popular music of our time.”
    They had no problems picking the first few inductees - James Brown, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Elvis, Sam Phillips, and a few more.  Even years two - Roy Orbison, Hank Williams, Muddy Waters, Smokey Robinson, Lieber & Stoler, Marvin Gaye, Ahmet Ertegun (on the Hall's Board interestingly) - and three - Beatles, Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Les Paul, The Supremes - couldn't have been tough.

    But eventually the font of easy inductees dries up.  There isn't a new Bob Dylan to get the crowd excited and united every year.  You end up with Tom Donahue (a SF DJ from the 1960's - hmm...wonder where Rolling Stone  was headquartered around then), The Bee Gees (no rock in their career), Buffalo Springfield (three albums recorded - total), The Young Rascals (seven recording years, only three years as actual commercial forces), Paul McCartney (whose solo output doesn't remotely qualify as good enough - neither does John Lennon's, by the way), Richie Valens (who recorded for less than one year and died at the age of 17), Miles Davis (jazz, yes, rock, not even), the Dave Clark 5 (whose Rock bio says "their records were, quite simply, fun to listen and dance to" - such a ringing endorsement).

    And eventually you get around to ABBA and Blondie and Run-DMC and Madonna and Grandmaster Flash.  Great artists?  Probably.  Rock artists?  Not remotely.

    I've been to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I've been to the Baseball Hall of Fame, too.  Didn't enjoy either one, but really didn't enjoy the Rock one.  They're both museums trying to freeze moments in time and capture glories that were fleeting enough as they happened, but at least the Baseball Hall of Fame had some sort of continuing thread that could tie all of the players together.  They all did basically the same things.  They threw the ball; they caught the ball.  Sometimes they won; sometimes they lost; sometimes it rained.

    The Rock HoF, on the other hand, seems to be trying to bring together genres and musicians that are just too disparate.  How can you put the Velvet Underground in the same hall of fame with Elvis Presley and the Tom Waits and the Sex Pistols and Madonna?  The artists are so different, so separated in time, so radically unlike each other that trying to judge them against each other on some sort of quantifiable but qualitative scale just seems ridiculous.

    And where do you draw the line at what is and what isn't Rock enough to be included?  Madonna?  ABBA?  Grandmaster Flash?  These aren't Rock artists, but then again, the music of Elvis is probably as far from that of Black Sabbath (2006) as is Madonna (2008) from the Eagles (1998).  There is, at this point anyway, no underlying rockness to most of the inductees that are left because rock isn't the dominant popular force that it once was.  In twenty years, we're going to need to somehow judge whether Daft Punk and the Avett Brothers are both rock enough to make their ways into the Hall's hallowed halls, and by then rock will mean even less as music will have morphed even further.

    So, check out this year's inductees...as well as any of these articles complaining about or reporting on the choices...
    All I can promise you is these two things:
    • I will never discuss the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame again other than perhaps to shake my head and move on.  The choices that they make are irrelevant to my musical listening pleasure.
    • I will not be going to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame under my own free choice again.  It's boring.
    Oh, and I promise that none of this has to do with the fact that they passed over the greatest Jewish rappers in history.  Another genre ignored...

    PS - The Baseball Hall of Fame, on the other hand, is fascinating and may soon have a major backlog.

    December 22, 2010

    Lonnieburger Baskets: Oakley Pub & Grill

    And with this one, I'm all caught up.

    It's the Oakley Pub & Grill in historic Oakley Square.

    At the top of the restaurant's website is the tagline "Voted #1 Best Burger in Cincinnati", and I don't know that I'd necessarily agree with that, and I'm thinking that they need to provide some sort of citation for that.

    Let's see what I did think about the Oakley Pub & Grill.


    That's right, I stole the photo from Google maps.  It was dark when we visited the Oakley Pub & Grill, so I didn't get an outside shot.  Deal


    Burger
    • The first and most notable thing about the Oakley burgers are the spices.  This is a tasty, distinctly spiced burger patty.  The Girl and I tried to guess what the spices were but to no avail, so we asked our waitress (who earned extra points, by the way - more on her later).  She didn't know either, so she passed the question along to the cooks.  Apparently the mysterious spices are garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Man, I don't want to say that I doubt the people in the back, but the burger's spices seemed too tasty and complexly tasty to just be those three, but I'll take their word for it.

      The burger is excellent, nicely fried, excellently well spiced (not overpowering, not hot, not strong, just distinct).  No dark crust is about the only complaint that I had.  Burger - 8 
    Toppings
    • Cheese melted - that's always a good thing.  Everything else was fresh enough, and the bacon was well fried - if not as crisp as I might have wanted it.  Nothing special here, just solid toppings.  Toppings - 6

    Fries
    • Plank fries.  They're good but not great.  No spice, need some more salt.  No breading or anything.  Nothing much to see here.  Fries - 6 

    Ambiance
    • The Oakley Pub is a lot smaller than we initially thought.  Their parking lot suggest an inside that's much larger than what we got.  Not a problem, just a little surprising.

      It's a pretty standard bar - booths along the walls, tables for four, then a bar with stools.  There were a half dozen flat screen tv's around the place - all on three college football games on the Saturday night we were in (LSU lost to Arkansas as we were getting our food).  Jerseys and pennants hang up around the place, mostly local.  It's not a sports bar, however, but is actually a local bar with a sports thing going on.  Ambiance - 6
     Cost
    • $7.95 for a burger and fries + $1.75 for a diet coke = $9.70 total.  That's right in the middle of the range.  Cost - 5
     Other Stuff
    • Our waitress was outstanding.  She was chatty here and there without being officious.  Plus, in a gesture that won over the hearts of The Girl and me, she noticed that I took my straw out and put it off to the side, commented on it, and promised not to bring any more straws (which she remembered to follow through on.)  It may seem a small thing, but I've been taking my straws out and setting them to the side for decades, and this had to be the first waitress to ever notice and stop bringing me straws.  Plus she asked the cooks in back what was in the burger for us.  +2
    • As the name might suggest, the Oakley Pub and Grill is a full bar.  +1 
    Which gets us to a total of 34 points.

    The Oakley Pub and Grill is another in our list of places where you can get a good burger.  Sadly, it's not a place where you can get a great burger.


    • Terry's Turf Club - 45
    • Cafe de Wheels - 44
    • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36 
    • Roxy's - 36
    • VanZandt - 34
    • Gabby's - 34 
    • Oakley Pub & Grill - 34
    • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
    • Graffiti Burger - 27
    • Sammy's - 26
    • Arthur's - 26


      Update: Total lunar eclipse - 12/21 ~ 2:40AM


      Things around the Queen City were disappointing on Tuesday morning as we were getting an inch or so of snow and had nothing but total cloud cover.

      No eclipse for us.

      I hope that your locale offered better viewing conditions, but in case they didn't, check out these sites to see what you (and I) missed.
      And my all-time favorite eclipse story, just because it's something we should all know about.

      December 21, 2010

      The Dallas Macericks Get Run Over By a Christmas Song



      Pathetic...

      Ice pellets?

      So, I have a little project going.

      For a while now, I've been wondering just how accurate those seven- and fourteen-day out weather forecasts are.  So I've started a spreadsheet.

      This is how I solve things...with data.  'Cause without data, all you have is conjecture and anecdotes.

      I've shown it to a couple of people, and they seemed a little confused about how the spreadsheet works, so let me explain.

      Short version: I'm tracking the predicted high temps for my zip code using four different websites and seeing how much those predictions change over the course of the week or two that they're predicting outward.

      Longer version:  Going across the top (row 1) is a list of four websites.  Row 2 then are the specific links to those websites' long-term forecasts (as long-term as they happen to offer) for my zip code (45069).  Row 3 then is the website's predicted high temperature for 45069 as of how ever many days out from that specific date - as well as the actual and average historic high temperature according to official Cincinnati records.

      Now, to the actual data.  Take a look at December 1, for example (row 31).  The actual high temperature for December 1 was 33 degrees (Fahrenheit, of course).  As of November 30 (the day before December 1, marked in the High 1 day out column), weather.com predicted that the high temperature was going to be thirty-two degrees.  The day before, they predicted that December 1 would be 36 degrees.  As you slide to the right in row 31, you see the predicted high temperature for December 1 as we go backward in time until the first day that December 1 showed up on weather.com on November 22 and was supposed to have a high of 43 degrees.

      The next set of columns does the same thing for AccuWeather.com, then WeatherBug.com, then WeatherUnderground.com, and finally the average high temperature for 45069 based on the past however long data has been kept.

      (Longer version all done now.  You can come back.)

      I don't necessarily know what I'm going to get out of the data just yet.  I've promised myself that I'm going to do this for 120 days before I come to any specific conclusions.  I have noticed that AccuWeather's fourteen-day out forecast shows a lot more variation in the 14-days out time than it does when it's only a couple of days out.  I highlighted a couple of dramatic changes that AccuWeather showed.  December 7 was supposed to be 35 degrees as of 13 days out but moved to 59 degrees as of 12 days out - a change of 24 degrees.  The same kind of thing happened for December 2 when 14 days out, it was supposed to be 60 degrees, but the next day the high was only supposed to be 37 degrees - a 23 degree swing in a day.  The most dramatic change I've seen from the other sites is six degrees from Weather.com

      No big conclusions yet or anything...just throwing it out there that I'm working on this because...um...because I...

      Correct...

      Oh, and today we're supposed to have ice pellets.  WeatherUnderground says so.


      At least that's what WeatherUnderground said on Sunday morning when I typed up this post.

      PS - I decided to chart only the high temperatures for the various forecasting sites because (a), it's an easy thing to compare quantitatively as opposed to precipitation which comes in weird % chances and everything and (#2) it's really easy to get and type up at a glance.

      December 20, 2010

      These are Bill Simmons's readers

      From Bill Simmons's newest column/mailbag...
      Reader Question: Can we please find some kind of award to give Buffalo linebacker Arthur Moats? The man did what no other defensive player, prescription drug addiction, forced retirement or alleged cell phone penis photo has been able to do for 18 years: HE FINALLY FREED THE WORLD FROM BRETT FAVRE!!! The NFL MVP might not be the right award, since really, his accomplishment goes far beyond the lines of the playing field. Maybe Time Magazine Man of the Year? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? I mean, sure, that one guy spent the last two years in a Chinese prison, but Favre has held us all prisoner for nearly TWO DECADES! Arthur Moats has to become more than just an obscure footnote in Favre's story, right?
      -- Brian, Seattle
      I agree with the guy.  Arthur Moats deserves all the thanks and respect we can give him.

      Here's Simmons's answer...
      Answer: Couldn't agree more. I know Moats has to be diplomatic and say things like, "That's not the way I want to get my name out there, for hurting somebody," but part of me wonders if he should be playing this up and milking his 15 minutes of fame. If this were professional wrestling, Moats would have gone on "Monday Night Raw" the following night, renamed himself "The Legend Killer" and done the whole "I didn't just kill a career, I killed off a legend!" routine as the crowd went crazy.

      The counter-argument would be "Come on, that's not classy," but is it less classy than Favre milking seven days of "I'm not sure I can play this weekend, the streak might be over" and "The roof collapse might have given me the 24 extra hours I needed to recover in time" media leaks, deceiving everyone into thinking he might play, then announcing his streak was over while simultaneously rolling out autographed "297" footballs on his website (meaning he knew all along that he wasn't playing)? How manipulative was that? And he wonders why everyone wants him to go away. If Moats created a website and sold replica jerseys with "LEGEND KILLER" on the front and his name and the number "297" on the back … I think he would have sold a few.

      (True story: For the lead of this week's column, I thought about writing "Brett Favre" 2,000 times and organizing it in different paragraphs the way Jack Nicholson wrote "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" for 600 pages in "The Shining." I messed around with it for 20 minutes, shaping the different paragraphs until it looked like that scene. Then, I started to get the urge to kill my family and Tony Dungy with an ax. So I stopped. The point is: Brett Favre is the only professional athlete who ever pushed a sports columnist to the brink of a quintuple homicide.)
      Is the 297 thing true?

      Yes, it is.

      Get some balance in your life


      Take some time to enjoy whatever break you're getting this holiday season with Levers in which you try to keep all your mobile out of the water. 

      I'm currently stumped on the creation you see above.  It's the stupid birds that keep throwing my balance off.  And I can't quite figure out what the hot rock is doing.

      December 19, 2010

      Total lunar eclipse - 12/21 ~ 2:40AM


      Looks like we'll have a total lunar eclipse visible from all of North America this Tuesday morning (12/21, Winter Solstice).  Totality should begin around 2:40 AM EST and last through almost 4AM.

      You can get all the details over on Space.com.

      Enjoy Winter Break with a little astronomy, folks.  No special equipment needed to view a lunar eclipse (be safe if ever you check out a solar eclipse, though) so get out and check out the gorgeous moon.  I certainly will if we have clear skies.

      A picture and a video

      That's it.  That's all.  That's all there is.



      This one's pretty much just for Katydid.

      Thanks to If We Don't, Remember Me.

      And this one's just for me because I'm kinda a fan of Mad About You and am working my way through season four over this break.

      December 18, 2010

      Happy winter break links

      That is unless you're in a district that did a bunch of building over the summer and had to start later (cough - Hamilton - cough)...



        December 17, 2010

        Look what I saw yesterday


        The snow has returned to Cincinnati earning us two snow days this week and pushing our first semester exams to finish up after Winter Break.

        With the snow, apparently, comes the deer to our backyard.  This time there were two deer in our yard but just outside the fenced area.  Seeing them twice in a year- both times when there was a bunch of snow on the ground - makes me wonder whether I'm seeing them because...
        • ...they're that much easier to see against the snow.
        • ...they're always around but are just covered up by the scrub growth.
        • ...they're a lot braver when the snow is covering up their normal sources of food.
        When we first moved into The Homestead, we saw deer in the front yard a few times in that first year but haven't seen them since then.  These two sightings do let me know that they're around but that I haven't been seeing them.

        It was a nice little snow day treat.

        December 16, 2010

        My Beautiful Dark Twisted Media

        There's good, and there's bad.

        In some cases there's good and bad in the same medium this time.

        First, the straight up bad...

        9 - This is the cartoon movie that came out at about the same time as Nine, the musical that I still haven't seen.  I've heard good things about Nine, and was impressed with the very moody, atmospheric trailer for 9.  I had really high hopes that this would be an animated film that explored what it meant to be alive as artificial lifeforms - presented here as tiny burlap bags zipped up and with mechanical eyes, hands, and feet.

        Instead, what we got was a film that used a heavy musical score to try to add emotional weight to the characters' struggles, emotional weight that has no background to it as we are supposed to be emotionally invested in the characters with absolutely no background given or experience provided to draw us in.  Instead, the movie opens and the has major, dramatic music and action not five minutes later.  It's not the action movie kind of dramatic action - that should start early in a film - but has absolutely nothing leading up to it and doesn't seem to have earned the dramatic weight that it's trying to carry.

        From there, we're introduced to a number of other burlap creatures and told that their numbers have been winnowing due to their hunting by a mechanical dog creature left over from some sort of machine-mankind war that left the planet lifeless save for the burlap creatures and the machine dog.  The burlap creatures accidentally re-awaken the machine god who threatens to wipe even their tiny lives from the face of the Earth.

        Dramatic sequences follow, lessons are learned, planet is saved.

        The movie never gave its main creatures any sort of emotional hook, nothing in which I could invest any caring.

        The Girl and I were both terrifically bored throughout the film's eighty minute running time.

        Skip it.

        The Spirit - You know how one of the old ways to look thinner was to hang out with fat friends?

        When put up beside The Spirit, 9 looks like a Best Picture nominee.

        The Spirit is overly stylized, amateurishly directed, poorly acted, badly written, horribly paced, stupidly narrated.

        Avoid this movie like the plague.

        Read Darwyn Cooke's The Spirit instead.

        Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 - First off, there are some big differences between the movie and the first half (or so) of the book.  Let's get that right out of the way.

        And, you should be warned, this is a scary downer of a film.  There's very little joy here.

        The Nazis Death Eaters have taken over England - or at least the magical part of England.  Hogwarts is under the leadership of the traitorous Professor/Headmaster Snape.  Harry, Ron, & Hermione are AWOL from school and on the hunt for horcruxes after departing the Burrow when Bill & Fleur's wedding is ever so slightly disrupted.

        This is a film about the relationships between Harry, Ron, & Hermione.  They carry the vast bulk of the film, often as the only two or three people on screen, and the three actors have really come into their own over the course of the series of films.  Their pathos, their struggles in the face of an evil that is easily larger than all of them comes through brilliantly and is the film.

        The film is a brilliant adaptation of the final - and easily darkest - book in the series.  I don't know that I need to recommend the film because those of you who've been on board with the series for a decade now wouldn't even think to miss it, let's be honest.

        The absolute highlight of the film is, however, the animated "Tale of the Three Brothers" as read by Hermione in the Lovegood home.  The animation is on YouTube but only is low-quality, bootlegged videos, so I won't be linking to or embedding them, but I will say that I sat mouth agape throughout the entirety of the animated sequence in which the origin of the Deathly Hallows is explained.  Had that been released individually, the short would easily be a choice for finest short film of the year.  It's an absolute knock out.

        And the best for last...


        My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West's newest album is phenomenal.

        I wish it weren't because I can't stand what I know about Kanye himself.  He seems egotistical, full of himself, prone to stupid drunken outbursts, willing to do anything and everything stupid to voice his opinions in the belief that he somehow matters in our world - that his political views somehow have more importance because he makes records and is rich.  He is a product of our reality-television world in which fame is achieved as a goal rather than as a byproduct of a person's great work.  I wish that Kanye the Celebrity would disappear from public view forever.

        Kanye the producer/the artist/the writer/the rapper/the guy who made this masterpiece, however, I hope never, ever leaves us, because this is an outstanding album.

        The music is lush and rich and marvelous, filling every bit of space and making for an album that is best experienced at high volumes on good speakers (thanks, Forrest) as there is so much going on that it's easy to miss much of it on the first listen through or on an inferior sound system.  The vocals come in from all angles and from dozens of sources - Kanye, Jay-Z, the RZA, Rihanna, Kid Kudi, John Legend, Alicia Keys, and lots more vocalists.

        Now, about those vocals...

        My initial reaction to the lyrics were that they were offensive.  F-bombs are dropped continuously, boasts of sexual conquests (often violent or debasing of women) are frequent, and so many of the lyrics are so offensive that I will be impressed to hear that the tracks have been eventually sanitized for radio airplay.  I know that I'm not exactly the target audience of hard-core, gangster rap, but I these lyrics bothered me...at first.  As I have listened more and more to the album - probably thirty times through since I checked the album out from the library late last week - the lyrics have grown on me, coming together as a whole to describe a writer - assumedly Kanye himself - who is unhappy with the trappings of fame as well as the actions that he has taken in acquiring those trappings, a man who is willing to explore his titular Dark Twisted Fantas[ies] in public rather than keeping them hidden.

        Wikipedia's entry on the album addresses the lyrics thusly:
        My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy features lyrical themes concerning decadence, grandiosity, escapism, sex, wealth, romance, self-aggrandizement, and self-doubt. The A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin described it as "darkly funny, boldly introspective, and characteristically fame-obsessed", noting "manic highs and depressive lows emotionally" in West's lyrics. Alex Denney of NME characterized West as "by turns sickeningly egocentric, contrite, wise, stupid and self-mocking" on the album. Music writer Ann Powers interpreted West's predominant theme on the album to be "the crisis of the jet-lagged cosmopolitan [...] the exhausted cry of one who's always new in town, chasing whatever goal or girl is in the room, fueled by consumer culture's relentless buzz, but finally left unsatisfied". Powers found the album's songs to work "as pornographic boasts, romantic disaster stories, devil-haunted dark nights of the soul" and perceived West's "uncertainty about his own place in the world" to be connected to the subject of race, stating "The rootlessness West celebrates and despairs of on 'Fantasy'belongs to someone who feels unwelcome everywhere. This isn't just a personal problem. It's the curse of what the theorist Michael Eric Dyson has called 'the exceptional black man', embraced for his talents but singled out for the color of his skin". Music essayist Robert Christgau found the themes of insecurity and uncertainty on the album to be West's "heart, his message, the reason he's so major", noting the tracks "Hell of a Life" and "Runaway" as example.
        Because of the lyrics this is a rough album to get through at times - particularly on "Monster" and "Hell of a Life" - but the payoff of the album when taken as a whole is infinitely more valuable and enjoyable and engrossing and challenging than anything that those hiccups could provide, and this is most definitely an album rather than a collection of singles.  Kanye has crafted a concept album without needing to force a the songs into any form of rock opera framework.  These are songs of a theme if not of a single story.

        This is an album that must be listened to to be believed.

        It's amazingly good.

        If you are giving the album a try, let me say that my favorite tracks are "Lost in The World/Who Will Survive in America", "All of the Lights", "Dark Fantasy", "Power, and "Runaway" with "Gorgeous" and "Hell of a Life" close on their heels.  I don't particularly enjoy "Monster" or "So Appalled", but they are of this album and are important parts at that.

        PS - I did find a site that will allow you to listen through the entirety of the album online.  You can also watch the extended video (34 minutes) for the album which includes a decent sampling of the album.  My advice would be to ignore all the visuals and just pretend like the audio album is streaming.  The video is available in clean and not so much so versions.

        December 15, 2010

        Get the vaccine...while there's still time

        This looks off...




        The original's after the jump so you can hit play at the same time and see how closely the match up...

        December 14, 2010

        Help a Regenold out



        I've mentioned FrameUSA before as they're the biggest sponsor that we've had for the past few years of our Pasta for Pennies campaign, and I want to give the FrameUSA folks - especially Dan Regenold - a major shout out today.

        Every month, FrameUSA donates $1 from every website purchase to a charity of the month.  I know that in the Pasta for Pennies months, FrameUSA has made donations between $800 and $1100 each of those months.  Assuming that those are typical months, that means FrameUSA is donating well over $10,000 to charities throughout the year.  I'll admit that I haven't the foggiest idea what a year's revenue for FrameUSA is and whether that's 1% or what of their revenue, but I'm still amazed at the charitable giving that they engage in.  Not only do they do this charitable work, but they do this work publicly, encouraging others to come along with them and to turn their donation into a much larger donation for the charities that they choose to support.

        This month's charity is a new one for FrameUSA: The Healing Center.  It's a part of the Vineyard Church in Cincinnati, and "[t]he Healing Center offers practical, social, and spiritual support to individuals and families. Services include, but are not limited to: food and clothing, job skills training and job search assistance, auto repair (Saturdays only), mentoring, financial counseling, tutoring, prayer, life skills training, and helpful information about local community services."  FrameUSA is doing their typical $1 per order donation, but they're also moving to a much higher level with something they're calling FillTheTruck.org in which they're trying to, well, fill a truck with needed items for the Healing Center - blankets, sheets, coats, gloves, toilet paper, diapers, socks, canned food, and other items.

        To get things started, FrameUSA sent out a bunch of $20 gift certificates for FillTheTruck.org.  The gift certificates are meant to get people to the site and add their donation to the $20 donation (I'm about to put in my donation and use theirs, too) and it means that FrameUSA is donating way more than they already are.


        If you get a chance, head over the FillTheTruck.org website and make your own donation.  Or, if you're in the Cincy area, feel free to stop by the FrameUSA outlet to drop off donations of the needed supplies in person.

        And feel free to drop a mention of thanks to Dan Regenold, owner of FrameUSA, for being a pretty amazing guy.

        I don't get it...

        Legends and Leaders?

        Seriously, those are the two new division names in the Big Ten starting with the addition of Nebraska?

        Legends and Leaders?

        The newly-titled Leaders will be Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin.


        The Legends are Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern.



        According to the article, "the main factors were competitive balance, maintaining rivalries, and then geography."

        Well, as long as all the major rivalries are still intact within the divisions.  You know, the rivalries like Michigan-Ohio State...Wisconsin-Minnesota.

        This is dumb.

        As is the new logo.


        Even the list of the eighteen new football awards - all named for two football legends (or leaders, I don't know) in Big Ten history.  They were so desperate to include as many names as possible that they had to dip all the way down to Antwaan Randal El to include Indiana.  Even still, how does this not make all the non-football sports feel even more like second-class citizens in the athletic world than they already were?

        Dumb...across the board...dumb...

        December 13, 2010

        Lonnieburger Baskets: Roxy's

        Bit by bit, I'm digging myself out of the hole...

        Two more cheeseburger reviews to catch up on.  Today it's Roxy's.  I'll promise you Oakley Bar & Grill by the end of the week.  You know, because otherwise I'll be late...r...

        Let's do this thing!


        Roxy's used to be Hamburger Mary's.  Actually it used to be something (Hollywood bar & Grill or something) which used to be Hamburger Mary's.  The Girl and I had been to Mary's a few times and dug the food and the atmosphere.  We'd been to the restaurant once during its time under that other name and hadn't been nearly as impressed.  Roxy's isn't exactly Hamburger Mary's, but it's pretty close.  The kitsch has been toned down a little bit, but the menu and bar offerings look largely the same to me - admittedly, though, it had been a few years since Mary's had been around.

        The Girl wasn't with me on this visit, but I did have plenty of good company after seeing Princeton's A Capella choir perform on Fountain Square (photos here, check 'em).  Calen joined me as did another PHS teacher and his boyfriend.  Good times had by all - probably gonna influence my review, in fact.  The times were that good.


        Burger
        • I like the Roxy burger well enough.  Good heft without being obscenely over-sized.  Nice chew, good flavor.  Well marked up with grill marks, and it kind of tastes grilled rather than griddled.  It's a good burger.  (I really should write these descriptions more quickly so I could be more descriptive of the burgers themselves.  Stupid delay...) Burger - 7

        Toppings
        • Look at that cheese - melted!  Like solidly melted and oozing into the burger.  That's how things are supposed to be, man.  And the bacon, big, long slices of bacon that are crisp enough to break in half an cover the burger (rather than how they're shown there hanging all over the place, wasted outside of the burger surface).  The lettuce wasn't much to speak of - chopped and hidden under the bun (The photo up top was of the burger inverted.)  The red onions were nice and sharp - appreciated by me but probably not by everyone around.  Weak pickles - but what else can you expect according to Calen.  Toppings - 7


        Fries
        • I have to be honest with you, good readers.  I cheated this time.

          I went for the onion rings.  They sounded good that night, and they certainly lived up to my hopes.  They weren't perfect - underseasoned for perfection - but they were darn tasty.  Good, slightly heavy breading that stood up well to the large onion rings nicely.  Not greasy at all.

          But that's not what we're rating. 

          We're rating the fries, and the fries were tasty, too.  Nice, light batter with just a little spice.  Hot, crisp, well fried.  Perfection needs to be a little darker, but this is a solid eight.  Fries - 8

          Man, sometimes there's just something to be said for the draw of big, steakhouse onion rings

        Ambiance
        • I preferred the older Hamburger Mary's with the higher level of kitsch.  Roxy's has toned that down greatly.  Check out the above photo from Cincinnati magazine's year-old review - and the one below from Roxy's facebook page.  There's more elegance, less garish Wizard covers covering the wall, and I kind of miss the Wizard covers.  It's still a decent restaurant feel, but it's a little less distinct to me.  I didn't do much checking on the bar side of the place, but the restaurant is a decent, clean, somewhat stylish thing but nothing too terrific. Ambiance - 6

        Cost
        • It seems to be a pretty standard thing at this point.  The burger and fries were $8.49.  My diet coke was another two bucks, pretty much all together right in the middle of the price range.  Price - 5 


        Other stuff
        • The fact that Roxy's (in all its iterations) has been a staple of the gay community in Cincinnati - a remarkably conservative town for so long is worth a point to me. +1
        • The sauce shown above - called simply Roxy's sauce and highlighting Calen's nails, not mine - was outstanding.  I assumed that any house sauce would just be a vaguely Thousand Island dressing, and the base might have been that, but the spices added in - I can't identify any of them, and the waitress wouldn't share the detail - made for excellent dipping.  +1
        • Roxy's offers a full bar service option.  Don't know about prices, but they have just about whatever you could need. +1
        So, where does that all get us?

        It gets us to Roxy's having a score of 36.  I swear I'm not trying to jumble all these places in together.


        • Terry's Turf Club - 45
        • Cafe de Wheels - 44
        • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36 
        • Roxy's - 36
        • VanZandt - 34
        • Gabby's - 34
        • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
        • Graffiti Burger - 27
        • Sammy's - 26
        • Arthur's - 26
        I'm apparently not the only one who's happy to have Roxy's back on the scene.  WineMeDineMe is quite pleased with the rebirth, as well.

        December 11, 2010

        Late links


        Yeah, I know.  I'm a few days behind.  I promise to catch up over the next couple of weeks, otherwise I won't get to my goal of 400 posts for the year.  By the way, in case you were curious, this is blog post #2196.  Apparently #2000 was hit sometime this past summer.

        December 7, 2010

        Would you like some Cake?



        Hey, new Cake...



        Seriously, new Cake on the way in January.

        Woo hoo!

        And, while I was on the Coco website...

        Lonnieburger Baskets: Gabby's (Wyoming)

        It's been a while, and I'm a little backed up with the burger stuff going here.

        So we might as well throw down about Gabby's in Wyoming, OH as The Girl and I visited almost a month ago now.


        Burger
        • Hey, at least the far edge of the burger is in focus.

          Gabby's makes a good burger.  Nice, firm patty without being too tough...good flavor with, admittedly, a minimum of spices.  It's beef, good, solid beef well grilled - with the marks and all to prove it.  This is a good, simple burger batty - thick without being ridiculously oversized - either 3/8 or a pound or 1/2, right about at the sweet spot.  Burger - 7

        Toppings
        • I'm not particularly thrilled that I could kinda see through the cheese there, but the rest of the toppings were good and solid - pickles out of a jar, decent lettuce and tomato, onion somewhere under that tomato, good bacon, decent cheese.  The toppings weren't anywhere near to being the star of this show, but they were a decent accompaniment.

          A couple of pictures down there is The Girl's mushroom & Swiss burger there.  The mushrooms weren't closer to being fresh than to being the nice, dark, richly colored mushrooms that we'd make if we were caramelizing them at home.  I'm just saying.  Toppings - 6 

        Fries
        • Personally, I like the battered fries, especially when the fries are lightly battered like this.  The batter is kind of a tempura batter, barely clinging to the fries.  The fries showed up nice and hot, crisp but thoroughly cooked.  Personally, I would've liked them just a little more well done, but they were done - just not quite as dark as I like things.  The batter also had no spice or salt at all.  Yeah, the batter on Rally's fries are a little too heavy, but I do like that those have some spice mixed in with the batter.  These had nothing at all in the batter, and I think they would've been a better with a little something - or with a bit of salt applied after the frying.  

          As an aside, The Girl generally hates battered fries - can't stand them, automatically pushes them to the side, but these she actually ate most of.  I'm guessing that's a compliment to the fries.  Fries - 8

        Ambiance
        • When The Girl and I lived down in Northside, we loved Bacall's in North College Hill.  Nothing on the Bacall's menu was perfect, spectacular, wonderful.  Everything we had at Bacall's was good.  We knew that we'd always be getting something worthy of a seven on a ten scale.  No tens but no twos either. 

          Gabby's gives me the same feeling that Bacall's did.  It's a good neighborhood joint.  Decent booths with small pendant lights making each booth feel more intimate than they rightfully should with the layout of the six of them all back to back and side to side rather than along the perimeter of the walls.  The restaurant's in a nice area of town - the business area of Wyoming.

          Gabby's ambiance rating is about the same as its food - good, not great.  Ambiance - 7
        Price
        • I'm looking for something under ten bucks, remember?  Burger with fries and two toppings (cheddar and bacon being my two, mushrooms and Swiss The Girl's) - $8.49.  Diet Coke - $1.99

          Together, that's within forty-nine cents of the sweet spot.  Price - 5
        Other stuff
        • Gabby's is in a great part of town, admittedly one that was pretty much closed for the Friday night when we were there at 8pm or so. +1
        • Not much else to say here.  Seriously, good place - not great place...
        Our total for Gabby's - 34 out of a possible 50.
        • Terry's Turf Club - 45
        • Cafe de Wheels - 44
        • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36
        • VanZandt - 34
        • Gabby's - 34
        • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
        • Graffiti Burger - 27
        • Sammy's - 26
        • Arthur's - 26
        Not a bad place to be but far below our stars so far.

        Tomorrow, Roxy's...then The World!

        Update: Feel free to check out another local blogger's take on Sammy's Gourmet Burgers to see that my review was about right.