February 26, 2014

Who goes to Jungle Jim's?

I love Jungle Jim's grocery store in Fairfield.

It's easily one of the top attractions in all of Cincinnati, an absolute must-see for any out-of-town visitors. There's an acre of produce, fresh fish, seeming miles of imported foods, cheese as big as a small car, beer tasting, a great deli and bakery, and a whole bunch more.

It's awesome.

If anyone loves the Jungle more than I do, though, it's The Girl. She spends a couple of hours there every Sunday morning. She bakes Christmas cookies for her friends at the fish counter, in the kitchen goods area, and behind the produce section. She loves, loves, loves Jungle Jim's.

So it makes sense that she'd appear in the updated version of The Jungle Jim Story. Check her out above at 7:35. She's the one in the short, brown hair and the teal, 3/4-sleeve baseball shirt working her way through the produce section.

February 24, 2014

Streaming new Beck album

I am a bigger fan of the Beck that was than of the Beck that is.

Odelay...Midnite Vultures...Mutations...Guero...Mellow Gold...even The Information - that's what I want from my Beck.

I don't want Sea Change or Modern Guilt or even his newest, Morning Phase. That's all slow, mopey Beck. That doesn't mean that's not high-quality Beck. It is. He makes high quality music; it's just not all music that I want to listen to over and over again. I don't begrudge an artist the opportunity to drift into whatever realms he wants to explore, but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy all his meanderings (see Young, Neil.)

Give yourself a chance to listen to Beck's newest, Morning Phase, a slow, calm album thanks to NPR's First Listen series.

Then go back and listen to some of his more upbeat stuff to see how awesome he can be when the mood hits.

February 22, 2014

You are the seventh son of the seventh son.

The Colbert Report
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February 19, 2014

That means the blogothéque in English

I found La Blogothéque by chance, as I so often do, by reading around on NPR's music blog. Their article, "Reinventing the Music Video One Street Corner at a Time" told of a French website, La Blogothéque, that has taken to filming and recording music artists in very much natural but off-kilter locations. Their videos are all single-take affairs and can be fairly rough bits and bobs, but the sound recording is of high quality with good mic-ing to ensure that the music, the important thing in the long run, is captured in the highest fidelity possible. The website folks are looking to catch the artists in something unscripted, something real, something honest, something they can't fake or plan or recreate.

And they're doing a pretty awesome job of it.

Here are some of my favorites from their site, and there are a hundred more from artists I don't know and that I know a little bit. Check out a few of them on their YouTube channel or on their website.

The Lumineers stand on tables and lead some fans on a big parade down the streets...

February 17, 2014

Play good - to go

I'm a Lego fan. I love building the sets, love collecting the minifigures, love occasionally playing with the put-together sets, and love having and owning the sets.

That's why I don't necessarily see the attraction for Pleygo, a subscription, mail-order Lego service in which they mail you a complete set, you build and play with the set, and eventually send the set back.

I like the idea that you can try out the new sets, but I don't like the idea of sending the set back.

I like having the parts, especially the minfigures.

I think Pleygo is not for me.

February 15, 2014

...and I can't think of anything... ... ...but you...

February 14, 2014

Return of Revenge of Reviews...the comics

Superior Spider-Man (vol 1-3) - I am reminded of something that I read from, I think, Comics Alliance at one point: we want good stories.

Comics fans may whine and complain when changes come to our heroes, but in the long run, all that matters is whether the stories are good or not. The writers killed off Peter Parker and replaced his brain with Otto Octavious, changing our Amazing Spider-Man into Otto's Superior Spider-Man, and the internet was in full uproar mode. "How could they?"..."What were they thinking?"..."Killed Peter Parker?" In the long run, though, all that matters is that the stories are good, and these are good stories.

The set-up is that Octavious traded minds with Peter Parker, trapping Parker's mind inside Doc Oc's sickly, dying body where Parker definitely, finally died. Some part of Parker's personality, however, survived inside his body, leaving Parker's sense of duty and responsibility ('with great power...' donchaknow) to influence Octavious to do good deeds. Combined with Octavious's ego and narcissism, this duty leaves Octavious to become a better Spider-Man than Parker ever could have been, and it turns out he's outstanding at it. Octavious sets Mary Jane free, returns to Empire State so his Parker will have a PhD, begins dating his physics tutor, sets up city-wide surveillance, blackmails JJJ to get a heroic lair, and leaves very few people suspicious as to the changes in their friendly, neighborhood wall-crawler.

I'll be back for the fourth volume.

Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero - I haven't seen the Pacific Rim movie and didn't have much interest in seeing it. I picked this one up because it was sitting in the new section of the library. At worst, nothing lost in skimming through it.

Instead I actually really enjoyed the read. The framing device of a journalist writing an article about the first year of the Jaeger wars works well to allow the story to visit each of the historical protagonists and to relate the start of the Jaeger program.

It's an engaging tale without a specific, single main character but rather visiting a number of characters to give us a feel for the history involved. And the comic has done what it's supposed to do: I want to see the movie now.

The Surrogates - A former student and student aide of mine recommended this volume a few years back, and I'd never given it a chance. I hadn't necessarily avoided it, just never got around to hunting it down until now.

The collection puts together a limited series of six issues telling a singular tale set in an intriguing future where the vast majority of the population lives their lives through surrogates, enabling people to eat, drink, smoke, sleep around, do whatever they want without fear of physical negative effects. Violent crime has all but disappeared, replaced instead with property damage and civil suits as the former crimes are now committed against surrogates, property, not people.

There is a portion of the population, however, that sees these changes as immoral, and that portion of the population is ready to revolt, to attack society and cripple the surrogate network...which is what they do. The threat that is so worrisome simply comes to pass in the end. The 'good guys' try to prevent it but can't. The main police officer, in fact, doesn't seem too bothered by the coming revolution, taking a whole lot of steam and drama out of our plot. When the 'good guy' doesn't mind if the horrible thing that's coming, there's not a whole lot of drama involved.

The artwork is engaging. The premise of the story is intriguing and has a lot of potential. The potential, however, never quite comes to fruition.

Primates - Jim Ottaviani continues to blow the doors off of the science-themed graphic novels. This one tells three stories, that of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, three primate, field researchers, all of whom were proteges of Louis Leakey.

Ottaviani's writing streamlines the story a bit, combining certain incidents to make the stories a little cleaner, but he does - as he always does - provide thorough endnotes on his research and for further reading options for those interested. The artwork by Maris Wicks is cartoonish but appropriately so, showing the three women as distinct people, a trait that isn't always the case with all artists.

The book is a great read and a quality starting point for anyone interested in these three women or the change that they brought to our methods of primate behavioral research.

Super Graphic - This isn't one I'll need to go back through again and again, but it's one that I enjoyed flipping through once.

Sadly, almost the entire book is available online if you type in the amazingly cryptic 'super graphic' in Google's image search if you really want  'em.

It's a fun read, and seeing everything in much larger resolution (you know, in meatspace) is way better than seeing the low-res images out in the digital world. I do dig the visual representation of so much super hero data - even if some of the items aren't exactly quantitative (like the likeability of the various Flashes.)

Fables: In All the Land - I'm not entirely sure why this one is a stand-alone volume, but I don't really care because it's a blast to read and well up to the high standards of the main Fables series.

Cinderella returns as the most competent superspy and - more in this volume - detective in the Fables community looking into a series of murders with an enchanted sword that demands a second kill for every life taken. Turns out that someone is using the sword to dispatch the titular fairest in all the land - Snow White, Rose Red, and eventually Cinderella herself. There's lots of continuity here, and little is done to explain that to any readers jumping in here, so this isn't a starting point for any new readers, but it's a must for anybody following the storyline.

Numerous artists tell small slices of the story, bringing their own style to the tale, something that happens a little less frequently in the main series, I guess.

The Manhattan Projects (vol 1 & 2) - I have no idea where anybody could have come up with these freakish ideas.

Above you can see Albert Einstein and Richard Fenyman aboard a space station with a gun aimed at a robot housing the electronic brain of FDR. 

And that's Robert Oppenheimer's murderous twin, Joseph, gazing into a door between dimensions and dreaming of the other-dimensional Oppenheimers who he can kill so that he can eat their brains, becoming smarter with each ingestion.

And that's Harry S Truman (in the headdress and speech balloon) with his cabinet having to postpone the orgy because something has come up in Los Alamos. I think they frickin' killed Twinkie the Kid, man.

I can safely say that Jonathan Hickman, the author of Manhattan Projects (note the pluralization), is a sick, sick man. He's also brilliant because the horrible tales that arise from his twisted take on post-World War II history underneath the sands of Los Alamos, deep inside the Kremlin, on distant planets and dimensions, within the head of Joseph Oppenheimer, and within the secret rituals of Harry Truman's world leadership cabal are absolutely mesmerizing.

I am eagerly awaiting PLCH's purchase of volume 3.

Astonishing X-Men: Unmasked - The Whedon run of Astonishing was excellent. I'm glad I read it in collections and not as it was being delayed initially.

I didn't so much care for the Warren Ellis run. It was okay, but they stories weren't anything much to write home about.

I was surprised then to find that I really enjoyed this final collection of the Astonishing series, the last in the run before it spun off into Amazing.

This collection has three stories, the first two of which are solid reads. The third is okay but is lesser.

In particular, I enjoyed the middle tale of Bobby Drake's Iceman gone godlike, sending the entirety of North America into a near ice age as his depression and left-over influence of Apocalypse (I haven't read that story yet, I have it on reserve) push him into a funk and bring out a far more powerful version of Iceman than we've ever seen before. It's an effective outer manifestation of the inner turmoil that is always beneath the surface of Drake's character as he's usually written.

The first arc, looking at the new Warbird's finding of her feelings, a weakness within the Shi'ar race, is interesting enough and makes for nice character development. The final arc sees an alien youngster causing a few problems for the X-Men, and it's the weakest of the three tales. The middle one, though, is well worth the price of admission.

Shazam (new 52) -  Where's Captain Marvel?

Did he disappear to modern updates or to corporate litigiousness?

And where's Billy Batson, the wholesome kid whose conscience guided the world's most mighty mortal?

Where's the wizened Wizard who granted Captain Marvel his powers when he said the acronym of Shazam?

We get a nasty brat of a fifteen-year-old Billy Batson, a Shazam who asks for money after saving a woman from a mugging and blows it on junk food, and a dying wizard who settles for Billy Batson after being badgered by Batson in a mystical subway station.

This modern updating of Shazam is a missed opportunity and a disappointment.

The Incredible Hulk (vol 2) - I missed the first volume of this new series but have since reserved it so I can be all caught up. Luckily the story so far is recapped two or three times in these volumes so anyone jumping in will be fully up to speed. Jason Aaron has written something of a new gimmick with the Hulk, in which Bruce Banner is plotting something, setting things into motion while in his human form then disappearing into The Hulk when it suits him. The Hulk continually finds himself 'waking' up into mysterious situations, unaware of how he's gotten there or what he's supposed to be doing. Banner isn't his partner but rather someone using The Hulk for his bulk and invulnerability.

It's an interesting take on the 'you wouldn't like him when he's angry' replaced with 'you wouldn't like him when he's calm' and along the lines of the more recent incarnation of Bruce Banner as really being almost the more dangerous of the pair because of his brilliance and cunning ability to put plans into motion three, four, a dozen steps ahead of what anyone else can foresee.

I am intrigued...

Django Django - I heard the best track on this album, "Default," on the radio a month or so ago and hunted down the full album from whence it came.

The album's not as good as "Default" promised, but it's an enjoyable listen through, mixing traditional instrumentation and electronica into an attractive and weirdly danceable disc.

Give "Default" a try and see if it's for you. It is typical of the style of the album, though many of the songs are nearly fully instrumental. The entire album is available through their videos on YouTube.

February 12, 2014

A magnetic personality

I would've never considered how magnets were made...particularly how the world's strongest magnets - strong enough to levitate a strawberry.

Super magnets like these can be really dangerous. You have to be careful lest you squish your hands.

How do they ship things like that?

I've considered buying some of the supermagnets from United Nuclear, but that would clearly be stupid.

February 10, 2014

Why this year was a failure...

Randal is right.

This year was a failure for me, too.

At some point I need to find a way to see the aurora borealis.

February 8, 2014

Here are the results of today's national sheepdog trials...all sheepdogs have been found 'not guilty'

February 7, 2014

It's cold

I've had a half dozen 'cold weather' topics working at the margins of the blog this year. None of them have alone managed to work into a full post, but together they're coming out today.

So many of these winter photos - not all from this year by any means - are ridiculously impressive.

February 5, 2014

Return of revenge of reviews...movies and tv today...comics later...

It's been a very long time since I've done any proper reviews 'round this blog, and I remember a long, long ago that Ruffryder asked that I keep reviewing, so I will...

The Goldbergs - The television Adam Goldberg has the GI Joe aircraft carrier...and Castle Greyskull...and ridiculously big, nearly mint condition Transformers...and so much more...

It's just ridiculous how many awesome toys he has. People are writing about it on the internet, and Adam Goldberg - the show's writer and eponymous source material - responded, stating that most of the toys in the fictional Goldberg's room are from the real Goldberg's collection.

This is a man of my age, of my era, of my childhood...though a man clearly better about keeping track and taking care of his childhood treasures. Not that I had anything remotely as cool as the USS Flagg.

The show took a little while to grow on me, but I'm thoroughly hooked, watching every week's episodes on hulu.com sometime over the weekend. The first couple of episodes were a little too formulaic - Mom interferes or misunderstands the kids, and things only become right when she realizes the errors of her ways.  As the show's grown a bit and done some meandering from the by-the-book opening episodes, it's hit a nice stride with Adam 'dating' the pretty girl from up the street, Grandpa sometimes struggling with retirement, Mom trying to let her baby boy grow up, Dad finding ways to connect with his children, and Adam's siblings fitting their parts like hands in gloves.

It's a fun, fun show for any child of the 80's.

Room 237 - This documentary reads like a disaster. It's a series of interviews with four people who have fairly involved theories about what Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is 'really' about. None of the four are ever shown. Instead we get a mixture of footage from The Shining played over and over, played forward and backward at the same time, animations of how the hotel was laid out, and footage of the real hotels in which the movie was filmed.

No people to see...no one to connect with...nothing much to look at sometimes.

It should be a disaster and certainly isn't. It is, in fact, far from that.

It's a brilliant exploration of obsession and desperation, of five people looking for meaning in a piece of art. All five are given absolute respect and presented without comment, as though their theories were entirely rational and reasonable and not crazy in the least. In fact, it's only in the last few moments of the film that one of the theorists notes aloud the similarities between his life - lost job, economic tough times, adolescent son - and how he has been trapped in the Overlook every bit as much as was Jack Torrence by the end of the film.

I don't in any way believe that the film is about the holocaust, the plight of the Native Americans, or the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing, but these people do, and they believe it with the entirety of their souls.

The film is a brilliant look into the love of art taken to extremes, to the dangers of confirmation bias, and to the fact that once an artist hands his or her work over to the public, the artist loses control of what the artwork means. From thence forward, whatever the public thinks of the artwork becomes what the artwork is really about.

If you're interested, there's a longer clip (11min) from the documentary on YouTube.

The Way Way Back - Here's a bit of summer, coming-of-age fun for ya.

Awkward son gets trapped at the New Jersey beach with his mother, mom's new boyfriend and slightly older daughter. He hates the beach, his mother's boyfriend's friends, and his life.

Enter manic pixie dream girl in the form of Sam Rockwell, here to teach our protagonist the lesson that 'you're alright just as you are.'

Man, I'm cynical. I actually enjoyed this movie a lot, and I still struggle to write a nice review of it.

The screenplay, the second from Jim Rash (above, doing the Charlie Brown dance) and Nat Faxon (just to the right in the blue, button-down shirt), their first after the Oscar-winning The Descendants, leaves plenty of room for Rockwell to do exactly what a Rockwell does best: be wacky and flippant and do the Rockwell dance. Just jump to 0:11...go ahead...

Killer Joe - Matthew McConaughey has turned into a heck of an actor. There was certainly a phase there where he was just chugging out fluff romantic comedy after fluff romantic comedy where I kind of wrote him off. From an npr interview with him a year or so ago, McConaughey felt the same way. He wasn't getting offered parts that were anything other than the romantic comedy leads, so he stepped back and waited until something juicier came to him.

Killer Joe, the title role, is certainly something juicier. Joe is a law officer - though we never seen more than a glimpse of him in that capacity - who kills people on the side. Emile Hirsch hires Joe to kill his mother, promising Joe his fee from the insurance policy. Hirsch's divorced father and developmentally disabled sister are in on the plan, as is father's new girlfriend. As Joe isn't inclined to take jobs on promises of later payment, he moves in with the dysfunctional family and takes the sister, Juno Temple playing underaged, as his retainer.

Joe pays up on his end of the bargain, but everything else goes wrong from there...everything...

After a very violent, sadistic kitchen scene - trimmed somewhwat to avoid earning Joe an NC-17 rating but still disturbing - the bad end unhappily and the good unluckily. Strike that, there are no good in this film, though the film is very well acted and adapted from the stage source. It's dark, dark, dark, though. Tread carefully...it's certainly and strongly .

American Hustle - That's what this movie is about, those five actors right there.

Bale, Cooper, Adams, Renner, Lawrence...they act the hell out of these parts. The women look gorgeous. The men look comedically period. The combovers, the pompadours, the perms - all are outstanding. The dresses, the leisure suits, the fur coats, the cars, the phones, the gold medallions, the discos - spectacularly '70's, and the actors absolutely revel in their opportunity to play dress up.

The sink their teeth in and shake the movie for all it's worth, chewing up scenery with wild abandon. In most cases there isn't a resemblance of the actors. It's tough to see Christian Bale in the fat, bloat-bellied, horribly coiffed con man. Adams has never played this unethical, this sexual, this conniving. Cooper is the closest to a part he's played before as the charismatic, brash FBI agent who flies a little too close to the sun and doesn't realize that he isn't the smartest guy in the room at any point in the film. Lawrence plays manic and manipulative and stupid and drunk well enough that any inkling of Winters Bone or Katniss are subsumed entirely. And Renner may just be the only remotely good character in the film, a family man who just wants to do right by the town that elected him mayor.

The story - a pastiche of Abscam  - offers the players a number of double crosses, jilted lovers, mixed and obscured loyalties, and characters within characters within characters to inhabit, and the actors are clearly having a blast the whole time. Numerous stories about the film have portrayed the actors and having strong influence on their characters, the plot lines, and the overall story arc of the film. To the film's detriment, is appears that David O. Russel valued these contributions more than he valued tight editing. The film feels overly long and meanders at points, as Russel never seemed willing to cut any bit of the leads' great performances.

It's a fun film, but I can't imagine it's the best film of the year.

The Wolf of Wall Street - The record has been broken. Wolf apparently used the f-word 506 times in its three-hour-exact running time, shattering the record 433 of Summer of Sam. I've no idea whether Wolf also broke the record for ways showing the greed, for lack of a better word, is good, because that's about all that this film espouses.

There are beautiful people - DiCaprio looks like he's found the fountain of youth, playing a fit and youthful twenty-something taking his investors, initially the mailmen and plumbers of the country, later the wealthy whales, for all he can. As Matthew McConaughey's character says, "the name of the game is to move the money from your client's pocket into yours...nobody knows if a stock is going to go up, go down, sideways or in circles....It's fairy dust."

In the course of the film, DiCapro's titular wolf uses every drug he can find, sleeps with every woman available - and some who aren't available until he comes along for them, buys everything he can buy (yachts, houses, helicopters), and makes ridiculous amounts of money for himself, his employees, his friends, and his family. He pays for prostitutes and midget darts and half-naked marching bands to entertain his brokers, ships his money to Swiss banks, and ignores every bit of 'good' advice that is handed to him - from his lawyer, his father, his private investigator - until he eventually is tripped up through absolutely no direct fault of his own. Eventually his luck simply runs out.

Throughout all of this, the film feels hollow, without any moral compass, without any soul. DiCaprio is brilliant, carrying every scene and providing the energy for his entire office to run and to run rampant. His scene trying to get home from the country club once the drugs take hold is marvelously well acted.

But the movie left me cold. It's empty. It's blank. The best description that I've heard of the film in the media is that it's douchebag porn.

But it does have Ethan Suplee, and that is something, as is Margot Robbie who is sex on two legs in the film.

That's enough for today...I'll come back another day to review the comics I've read.

February 4, 2014

First official glimpse at Simpsons minifigures

Not much detail was revealed about the Lego collectible minfigures' Simpsons at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, but we did get a couple of glimpses that matter:
  • Looks like we'll get open-eyed Simpsons character instead of the heavy-lidded eyes of the figures that come with the Simpsons' house.
  • Apparently we'll get at least one more Homer which puts the whole family back in play as far as I'm concerned. Predictions may have to change again
  • The second, yellow box to the right leaves me curious as to whether that's for the September release, possibly the set connected to the online massive multiplayer online game, or whether we'll get a concurrent release of non-Simpsons figures in May. The second linked source there suggests four sets in 2014, but I can't figure out what the fourth would be - January, Movie; May, Simpsons; October, MMO; fourth???). Or are they saying the MMO figures come in the summer and series 12 in the fall?

February 3, 2014

New York, New York

I'm really feeling happy with this playlist. It took a bit of hunting to get all of the New York tracks that I want to see, but I got them, and my New York playlist is good to go.

February 1, 2014

...in which she is kept sedated until she feels better...