January 31, 2011

ESPN will miss Rob Neyer

Rob Neyer has apparently written more words for the ESPN website than anyone else ever has.  He's been on the site writing quasi-daily columns for fifteen years now, but it looks like he'll be sailing into the ether of the interwebs as today he announced that he'll be departing ESPN - or at least his Sweet Spot Network.

He said goodbye in his usual, casual form...
A Quick Programming Note ...

Fifteen years ago, I moved to Seattle to work for a company called Starwave. The company did a lot of things, but I was hired -- and this might surprise you -- mostly to edit fantasy-related content for a website called ESPNet.SportsZone.com; a few years later, we became the ESPN.com that everyone knows and loves so well.

Frankly, it's a minor miracle that I've been here ever since. I was the new guy, didn't know how I was supposed to behave, and somewhat routinely ran afoul of my bosses and their bosses. I owe a great deal to their good graces, and I'm sorry I can't thank everyone who's allowed me to do what I love for so long. I will toss extra hosannas to Geoff Reiss, David Schoenfield, and David Kull, for reasons they know only too well. Collectively, they're No. 2 on the all-time list.

You're No. 1.

Whether you've been reading my ramblings since 1996 or just since last week, you have my profound, impossible-to-express-in-words gratitude. There is not a working writer on Earth who's more grateful than I for his readers. Without you, I would have nothing.

Today, I hand off this space to whoever's next. I don't know yet who is next, but I'm highly confident that this blog and the SweetSpot Network will soon be in excellent hands.

Meanwhile, I'll be around. The kids tell me it's all about search these days. You won't have to search real hard to find me, if you want.

Happy trails, until we meet again.
I'm looking forward to finding out what that next thing is 'cause Rob's been a fun presence on ESPN.com for a long while now. (Current web rumors suggest tomorrow we'll find out where Rob will pop up next.  Assumedly, there will be a mention of that new home over on his website.)

Making a little less space in my life

Two spaces...after every period, two spaces.

My mom taught me that when I was in high school - or maybe in junior high. Every time you type a period, you immediately follow it up with two spaces. That's the rule.

Or, as it appears, it was the rule. Nowadays, it appears that the new rule is one space after every period, and I'm having trouble making the adjustment.

I get the reasoning and all. Back when all of the fonts were monospace - equally spaced for every character (right down to the periods and commas, the i's and the m's), and the two spaces were needed to clarify a sentence break. Now that we're living the future - typing phones, texting televisions, flying cars, waffling irons - most of the fonts are proportionally typeset which means we don't need the two spaces any more.

I'll be trying to break the habit, but I'll freely admit that it's been a struggle so far and probably will continue to be so.          Don't say I can't learn.                                         I'm no old dog.

January 30, 2011

You are correct...

Why, yes, I did buy the DVD of New Jack City from the local and going out of business Blockbuster because The Girl had $20 in Blockbuster gift cards that we just found this weekend.

Shut up, none of the local libraries have that movie, and I remember liking it when I saw it in the theater in high school.

In the same vein we are also the proud owners of a previously-viewed Scott Pilgrim vs the World and some boxes of candy. 

Total spent - $20.20

January 29, 2011

Happy Saturday, everybody...

These links were typed up while I sat enjoying America's Test Kitchen - to be followed by Cooks Country and Fannie's Last Supper...

Why, yes, I am a dork.  Thanks for asking.

January 28, 2011

We're going down into the delta...

A few years back, The Girl and I went to Gamer's wedding in Starkville, Mississippi.  On the way back, we stopped through and enjoyed the heck out of Memphis, Tennessee.  After the trip, I put together this playlist which is presented here in its first 8track form...

January 27, 2011

Why are you emphasizing the H?

I've seen this before but wandered upon it again this past weekend while clicking from one YouTube video to another. 

In general, I don't love Family Guy - can barely tolerate it a lot of the time, in fact - but I find this bit hilarious.

January 26, 2011

The Greg Kihn Band would be wrong

A la Cliff Clavin, here are twelve possible Jeopardy categories at which I would clean up...
  • DC Comics
  • Marvel Comics
  • Kevin Smith
  • The Periodic Table
  • Bob Dylan
  • The Internet
  • Indiana High School Basketball
  • Webcomics
  • Food science
  • Norse Mythology
  • South Park
  • 80s Music
I think that's about it, and it avoids a whole lot of areas that Jeopardy often covers - geography, literature, history.

January 25, 2011

Party in the OSU

These guys stink.  It's a good thing they can play ball...

Two for three...not bad...

Media, yes, we got media.

We got lots and lots and lots and lots of media...

Superman: Earth One - It's been ten years since Marvel launched the Ultimate imprint and universe with the goal being to give writers a chance to play in a new sandbox and readers to jump into the storylines without having to know decades of history and back story. In general the Ultimate imprint has been wildly successful eventually needing a ten-year reboot thanks to the Ultimatum crossover.

DC has tried a couple of versions of their own alternate reality imprint. The first was the All-Star line including an All-Star Superman  (awesome, phenomenal, rocking) and All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder (atrocious, horrible, so poor that it's worth reading).  They had plans for a couple of other lines that never materialized. (One of the major complaints of the All-Star line was the lack of cross-title interaction and continuity.)

Recently, DC announced the launch of another new imprint: Earth One focusing on their iconic heroes during their formative periods and released not as single-issue series but rather as complete graphic novels. Again, a chance for new readers to jump on without needing to feel the weight of fifty-plus years of continuity and for more of their best creators to play in the same sandboxes.

The reason that the Ultimate line worked was because it had great stories.

The reason that at least Superman: Earth One doesn't work is that it has absolutely nothing interesting to say.

This is the origin story of Superman, an alternate world Clark Kent who actually doesn't want to be a hero. We see Clark signing a professional football contract, solving amazing chemical problems (which, in reality, my AP students should kill) and getting a job in the lab, and trying to get a job at the Daily Planet. He's avoiding being a hero, however, because he doesn't want to be singled out as being different. He knows he's an alien and doesn't want to risk being found out. (Does anybody else see the contradiction there?  Pro football...miraculous scientist...newspaper reporter...all so very low profile jobs, huh?)

Clark's parents, however, want him to step forward and use his powers to help more people. His hand is, of course, forced when a Lobo-like (but far less entertaining and chucklesome) bounty hunter shows up on Earth One to kill the last Kryptonian. Hence, Superman - in the same suit, with the same powers, having the same origin - is born.

It's boring and pointless.

The world doesn't need another Superman origin story. That's why All-Star Superman took care of business in four panels and eight words.

You already know the story, so Morrison didn't belabor the point. Sadly, J Michael Straczynski does.

The Hurt Locker - I'm only getting in here a year late, I know.

In case you needed someone new to say it, The Hurt Locker is outstanding. At every possible turn, the film avoids choosing the predictable route. The unassuming third man in the team, the one with whom we identify doesn't turn out the way that it appears he's going to. The main character doesn't take the turn that we expect. The countdown that moves our time forward doesn't end up with what we might all expect.

It's a phenomenal film and one that I hope shows a leap being made by Kathryn Bigelow (even though her early career highlight of Point Break was impressive) because this is the work of a director absolutely at the top of her game. Bigelow maintains a desert palate throughout the film, leaving us with nothing to see other than the characters themselves, allowing us to focus on the different reactions to warfare that those characters have.

Where lesser films would take the easy way out and have one of the secondary characters simply and openly ask Jeremy Renner's Sergeant James why he has a death wish, Bigelow lets the characters' actions step to the fore and speak for themselves. Entirely devoid of anything remotely resembling exposition or even a scene in which the characters discuss what is going on. Where writing teachers say to let show not tell, this is why. That way when the one example of exposition - the scene of James speaking to his son - does appear, it has a striking emotional impact.

Every member of the cast knocks their performance out of the park - from the tiny parts of the most well-known actors (Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse) to the less well-known lead actors, and Bigelow is again to be praised on this.  Whatever she did creates a visible and real-feeling bond among the men who risk their lives every minute of their tours of duty and who are looking for meaning in their time along the edge of life and death.

Easily a deserving choice of Best Picture last year.

True Grit -True Grit might, however, be better.

The Coen brothers remake of a John Wayne classic (that I have to admit I haven't seen but that is now on hold at the library for me) captures the sparse beauty of the West (though I do believe that Oklahoma is a little flatter than portrayed here) mirroring the absolute moral certainty and strength of character of the film's lead character - Mattie Ross.

Make no mistake, this is Ross's film. She drives the action and puts her stamp on every action taken by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, the two characters with whom she spends the most time in the film. Bridges' portrayal of Rooster Cogburn - drunken, one-eyed, fat, clearly well past his prime but with the film's titular true grit - is excellent, putting on the mannerisms and stilted movements of a man who has let his gifts slip nearly away. Damon's Texas ranger - initially reminiscent of his Matthew McConaughey impression but professionally toned down - doesn't quite seem to be the fifty that he must be according to the film's coda but does carry himself with an outstanding mixture of confidence, bravado, and restraint.

I have heard in some reviews that the film's climactic action comes too early, leaving a ending that is a little too declining in action for some reviewers' tastes. (Interestingly, this is the second Coen brother western - No Country for Old Men - to have that same complaint levied against it.) Admittedly, the film's closing - after the climactic confrontation - is stark and plain, but that is very much in keeping with Mattie's composure and character. To end any other way would have been selling the story short, would have been in changing the tone of the entire film.

The acting is spot on from every actor, and it will be a disappointment if Hailee Steinfeld's Mattie Ross is not considered in the lead actress category.  Even the smaller parts - Ed Corbin's bearskin-wearing itinerant dentist, Josh Brolin's Tom Chaney, Barry Pepper's Lucky Ned, Dakin Matthew's over-matched horse trader - are brilliantly well acted.

I would have no qualms putting this up against Inception, Black Swan, and The Social Network as the best film of 2010.  (And if The Town gets a nomination, as some are predicting, it'll be a travesty.)

January 24, 2011

Love Love


I have absolutely no idea what's going on in this trailer for Love, but I desperately want to see the movie.

More food porn...

Three things...

First, I understand that I probably shouldn't put word into the title of a post on a blog that's linked from my school page, but I'm taking a risk.  There's absolutely nothing in this post that's pornographic.  There are, you are warned, pictures of food that may make you drool, however.

Second, check out the Foodbeast blog.  It's a nice mixture of restaurant reviews (in and around SoCal where the blog seems to be centered), food newsish items, and food porn on their own.  When they do post food porn, they generally link to the recipe to make the item.

For example, there's the Peanut Butter & Jelly Nutella Tart...

...the chocolate chip sweet roll with peanut butter icing...

...the Inception burrito...(through which I found the blog)...

...bacon jam & cheese pannini...

...Frito-Lay Reese's Cup bark...

Ok, I have to stop now before I short my computer out from the drool.

Third thing, apparently there's this restaurant called Slater's 50/50.  I know because Foodbeast blogs about it from time to time.  I guess it's an Anaheim burger joint. 

Their burgers look phenomenal.  Check the menu and the pics...

...chili cheese Frito burger...

...venison burger..."bacon infused ground venison patty, topped with Granny Smith apples, red onions, candied walnuts and a house made blue cheese aioli"...

...Thanksgiving burger..."Ground turkey burger topped with stuffing, turkey gravy, cranberry sauce and a generous helping of sage mayonnaise"...

...vampire burger..."their special Vampire Dip (Garlic, Cheese & Artichoke) with minced fresh jalapenos and diced bacon, then STUFFED inside Sterling Silver beef and topped with two more slices of bacon on a warm flakey bun"...

...California burrito burger..."fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, a bed of french fries, Carne Asada seasoned choice ground chuck and topped off with a smokey chipotle sour cream between two flakey buns"

...even the chicken bacon flapjack burger..."a combination pancake + fried chicken + bacon infused country gravy + more bacon + pancakes as the buns and drowning in 100% pure Maple Syrup"

Yeah, I gotta go eat something.

And I gotta get to Slater's...

January 23, 2011

I know those folks...

'Caught this on tv yesterday morning and was pleasantly surprised to see the two young actors at the very end (the two who come out after 0:23).  I was surprised because I've taught those two.

They're awesome young people, and it doesn't hurt that they're acting in a commercial for a good cause.

January 22, 2011

Happy Reunion Day, readers!

    January 21, 2011

    Dead spot...very dead spot

    I tell you, this lack of tennis during one of the grand slams is killing me.

    Skip ahead to 0:35 to see the magic trick.

    (Source: TheDailyWh.at - as usual)

    As a personal note, Ame, if you check this out, show it to the old man, would ya?

    Dollar, dollar bill, ya'll...

    It's money that I love...it may not be love, but it's all right...

    Take a listen, folks...

    Oh, as a programming note, weekly 8tracks playlists (every Friday) will be returning for a while.  I already have the next seven Friday posts up and ready. 

    Don't cheat and look ahead.

    January 20, 2011

    Thank you, Kim Clijsters

    I love that she's this casual and open in her post-match interview.

    And I'm craving ESPN2.

    (Source - TheDailyWh.at)

    Snow day conundrum

    It's a snow day because it's clearly unsafe to drive on the roads (we had maybe 1/4 inch of snow when the day was called at 5:30 this morning, but we're supposed to have six inches by the end of the day).

    But I want to go to Taqueria Mercado for lunch.


    I present the Horseshoe...

    Dwarfing the Horseshoe...

    Read more about the Ohio State associate prof who built the top (and better) Lego Horseshoe model...
    Oh, and I don't even want to hear anybody ask "what's a MOC?"...might as well ask "What's a Nubian?"...

    January 19, 2011

    Update: Pardon our ramblings: Gabrielle Giffords & the tone of our discourse

    Travis Corcoran was partially the subject of a recent blog post regarding the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.  He even took the time to post a comment to my post - for which I thank him.

    He was, however, in the news again today for trouble that his blog post brought upon him...
    Bongiorno said police found the comment reposted on ComicsAlliance.com in a story that said Corcoran first made the comment in a blog. Bongiorno said Corcoran has since redacted the comments, but police consider the threat to be credible until they can prove otherwise. Police have also contacted federal law enforcement agencies about the comment.
    From ComicsAlliance.com post - which goes on to quote the Boston Herald "that Corcoran has not been charged with a crime, although his firearms license has been suspended and a "large amount" of weaponry seized while police investigate his comments and whether they constitute a threat to U.S. members of Congress."

    My favorite albums...by the numbers

    I was wondering last week what my favorite albums were.  Being a stats kinda guy, I looked to iTunes and skimmed through, charting any album that had the majority of songs in the four- and five-star range.  I then went to allmusic.com to make sure there weren't any deleted songs.  Here's the chart including all the albums that came out to an average of at least four stars (any deleted songs were tallied as being zero stars for this purpose)...

    Album Artist 5 4 3 2 1 Deleted Average Total
    Desire Bob Dylan 4 5 0 4.444444 40
    Blood on the Tracks Bob Dylan 4 6 0 4.4 44
    American Idiot Green Day 5 8 0 4.384615 57
    Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend 4 7 0 4.363636 48
    A Ghost is Born Wilco 5 6 1 0 4.333333 52
    Traveling Wilburys, Vol 1 Traveling Wilburys 4 5 1 0 4.3 43
    Pink Moon Nick Drake 3 8 0 4.272727 47
    Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco 3 8 0 4.272727 47
    To the 5 Boroughs Beastie Boys 4 10 1 0 4.2 63
    Velvet Underground & Nico Velvet Underground 3 6 1 0 4.2 42
    Joshua Tree U2 2 9 0 4.181818 46
    Being There Wilco 5 12 2 0 4.157895 79
    Demolition Ryan Adams 3 9 1 0 4.153846 54
    Licensed to Ill Beastie Boys 4 7 2 0 4.153846 54
    Blood on the Tapes Bob Dylan 3 5 2 0 4.1 41
    Contra Vampire Weekend 2 7 1 0 4.1 41
    Greatest Hits/B Sides (disc 1) Prince 3 5 2 0 4.1 41
    Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos Wilco 3 17 1 0 4.095238 86
    Contact from the Underworld… Robbie Robertson 1 10 0 4.090909 45
    Graceland Paul Simon 2 8 1 0 4.090909 45
    Jerusalem Steve Earle 2 8 1 0 4.090909 45
    Garden State various 1 12 0 4.076923 53
    Get Behind Me Satan White Stripes 2 10 1 0 4.076923 53
    My Beautiful Dark Twisted… Kanye West 3 8 2 0 4.076923 53
    Good News for People Who… Modest Mouse 2 13 1 0 4.0625 65
    21st Century Breakdown Green Day 3 13 2 0 4.055556 73
    Ashes of American Flags Wilco 3 14 3 0 4 80
    Lungs Florence & the… 2 9 2 0 4 52
    Nebraska Bruce Springsteen 2 6 2 0 4 40
    Oh Mercy Bob Dylan 2 6 2 0 4 40
    Step Inside This House Lyle Lovett 4 13 4 0 4 84
    Very Good Years Frank Sinatra 3 14 3 0 4 80
    Gold Ryan Adams 4 11 1 4 64

    Here's how the chart works for Desire, obviously the greatest album ever. It has four 5-star songs and five 4-star songs.  It has no songs that get a 3-, 2-, or 1-star rating and no songs that I disliked so much I deleted them.  That averages out to 4.44 stars per song, and the album earns a total of forty stars. 

    Desire has the highest quality of any album.  The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Demos has the highest quantity of quality songs (earning a best total of 86 stars for the 'album' - though it's not an official release.)

    There are a whole bunch of albums up there that I wouldn't have ever thought of without doing the math.

    Obviously, I recommend all those albums pretty strongly.

    January 18, 2011

    Lonnieburger Baskets: Senate

    The sign isn't imposing on the front of Senate in what's being called the Gateway Quarter but is really just a gentrified lower Over the Rhine, but the burgers are the straight up bomb diggity.

    How bomb diggity, you ask?  Well, let me school you.

    • This is what burgers are supposed to be like.  The meat was flavorful.  The crust was well developed with sacrificing the center to overdoneness.  The patty was juicy.  There was spice in there but nothing strong enough to stand out and overpower the straight up beef.  Burger - 9

    • I hate that my camera won't take better photos in the typical lower light atmosphere of a restaurant without a flash.  Seriously, at some point I'm just going to throw up a fingerpainting that I find online and claim that it's a burger or something.  Might as well.  Maybe I'm going to have to such it up and use the frickin' flash.  It's an annoyance not to have good photos, but using the bring flash in a restaurant seems so rude to the other patrons.

      Sorry...I'm ranting.

      This place makes their own pickles, and they're sharp - a strong, garlicy, kosher dill.  Take that, Calen.

      Their cheese is high quality and well melted.  Their onions are caramelized to a dark brown.  Their mayo is spiced up and not too heavily applied.  The lettuce is fresh.  The toppings stand up easily to the burger itself.  Toppings - 8

    • Top picture's mine.  Bottom pic's from Wine Me, Dine Me's review of Senate.  (Look at me giving credit all over the place.) 

      Senate serves their fries in a pint glass, and they offer up two options: duck fat fries or truffle fries.  This place is, as they claim themselves, very much about the upscale street food.  The duck fat fries are to die for...straight up phenomenal with a rich flavor that can't be achieved in a vat of peanut or vegetable oil.  This is a potato fried up in the flesh of an animal.  This is quality stuff.

      The truffle fries have a richness highlighted with herbs and a slight amount of garlic and salt.  They're good stuff too.  They'd earn a nine in their own rights, but the duck fat fries are the bomb diggity.  Fries - 10

    • First pic's mine, facing the back of the place.  Second one's from Wine Me, Dine Me facing the front.  Third one's from Mahalo on a chilly day from just in front of Senate.  The last two are from 5chw4r7z.

      Senate is hip and trendy and happening.  We were there on a Winter Break Thursday night (12/29/10) and had to wait about forty-five minutes (the hostess/owner had said it might be an hour and a half, but we took the first available at the bar and chatted her up to be all friendly - ok, The Girl's Mom chatted the owner up.  I have stranger danger, are you happy you dragged that out of me?  Are you?)  According to the owner/hostess, that kind of wait was a bit excessive for a weeknight, but there was a show at the theater across and down the block that night.

      The set up is a simple one with a long bar- concrete, clearly cast in place, kinda awesome - along one side with a single row of tables against the opposite wall.  The two walls are plain, old brick with minimal decoration (a single wooden alcove on one side, the liquor and a row of mirrors on the opposite).  At the back is a single, gorgeous wooden top wall above the very much open and active kitchen.  On the night we were there, the alcove and wooden wall were decorated very plainly with holiday wreaths.

      The place is all hard surfaces and action and buzz and happening.  It's a great place to go for an active, city-loving night.  Ambiance - 10  

    • That's the lobster mac & cheese. 

      They serve truffle fries.

      This isn't the place to go for a $5 burger.

      From their menu...burger $12...bacon $1...duck fat fries $6 (truffle fries $5)...coke ended up being free (I'll mention why in a minute.)...that's $19 for a burger and fries.  That's an issue, but I didn't feel cheated in the least.  Cost - 1 

    Other Stuff
    • First, crediting, in order from the top...Cincinnati Profile...Cincinnati Readventure (x2)...Cincinnati Malavita (x2)...Cincinnati Bites...Sugarlush (x2)...
    • In case you hadn't noticed, Senate also serves hot dogs.  They have a couple of standards on the menu, plus they announce a daily special on their Facebook page each day.  Then there's their poutine and their pretzel beignet.  I didn't try either when we were there.  
    • They sell poutine.  There's now a place in Cincy where I can try poutine. +1
    • So, about that free diet coke.  I ordered bacon on my burger, and they forgot to put it on.  They charged me the $1 anyway.  -1  But then I noticed that they didn't charge me anything for my diet coke - which would probably cost more than the $1 bacon.  +1 back 
    • Senate is the kind of place that lets me think that I'm a part of a city, a real, live city.  I don't necessarily want to live in the heart of such a city all the time, but I love that I can visit it. +1
    • The owners both were incredibly friendly.  One was the hostess and the other the head chef.  Both were very chatty and welcoming to The Girl's Mother.  +1 
    • Senate is helping revitalize Over the Rhine, an absolutely horrible, rough neighborhood.  It's the part of town that everyone is scared of - or at least used to be, and it's the drug neighborhood shown in the movie Traffic+1 
    • We sat at the end of the bar, and the bartenders were incredibly chatty and friendly.  They were entertained by our burger quest and made a few recommendations - Terry's and Wildflower, in particular.  They were pretty knowledgeable about the Cincinnati mag article and some of the other highly-rated finishers.  The particularly recommended checking out Wine Me, Dine Me's list of top burgers in the city - all of which I heartily agree with (other than #4 which I haven't tried yet). +1
    • Full bar service.  +1
    That's an impressive score overall...Senate gets 43...

    If they were cheaper, they'd be higher up.  They make an awesome burger with some kick-arse fries.

    My thoughts about the cost echo those of a commenter on Cincinnati Bites:
    Here's the deal: I've left every meal there thinking I got a bargain! Nope, not independently wealthy, but I've only had dinner there, and I guess I have them lumped in the "expensive" category, so splitting an appetizer (Poutine is too rich to do solo) and ordering a $9 entree seems like a bargain. I've spent 3x as much on very underwhelming food at Lavomatic several times, so I guess Senate for dinner feels well priced.
    This is high quality food that is worth paying for.  I didn't feel chintzed in the least.  The Girl and I, in fact, left incredibly happy about our meals and craving more.

    Here's where they rate...

    • Terry's Turf Club - 45
    • Cafe de Wheels - 44
    • Senate - 43
    • Five Guys Burgers and Fries - 36 
    • Roxy's - 36
    • VanZandt - 34
    • Gabby's - 34 
    • Oakley Pub & Grill - 34 
    • Quatman's - 32 / 34.5
    • Troy's - 32
    • Graffiti Burger - 27
    • Arthur's - 26
    • Sammy's - 25 
    I'm all caught up now and don't know where's next.  Any suggestions at the moment?  We certainly still have a bunch of options left from the Cincinnati mag article, but I'm always wondering.

    By the way, just happened upon the Frankenburger image that accompanied the Cincinnati mag burger article this past summer...enjoy...