What are your favorite types of books and beverages when you're in an autumnal mood?

What are your favorite types of books and beverages when you're in an autumnal mood?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ain't it the truth

Recently spotted on a bumper sticker:

You know your children are growing up when they stop asking you where they came from and won't tell you where they're going.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday DVD report


With a title like Life Is Hot In Cracktown, I was mostly expecting a throwaway exploitation film with, I hoped, a tolerably engaging story. But the movie actually turned out to be pretty serious: it was well acted, engaging, and stylishly directed. As widely reported elsewhere, however, the film is indeed extremely brutal.

As described by writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo in the thoughtful "making of" featurette on the DVD, the aim of the film was to present an in-your-face, unsanitized, essentially hopeless view of life in the ghetto, but then inject as much humanity as possible into the crooks, drug addicts, murderers, and fringe characters on display. To paraphrase Mr. Giovinazzo: "I wanted to show that these people, despite their problems and situations, ultimately aren't all that different from you or me, that we're all maybe one or two pieces of bad luck away from living lives just as tragic and desperate."

This approach makes the film interesting, as normal, mundane concerns and interactions are stirred into the brutality and addictions and abusive behavior. So we end up caring for these people (well, many of them, anyway), even as we're angry at them for their behaviors. Also making the film interesting is its sympathetic view of its two transsexual characters, as the story doesn't lump them into the bad stuff going on around them (well, except for the fact that they're seriously drug addicted like so many of the film's characters), but rather portrays them as people trying to be true to themselves.

Before concluding, I should again emphasize the brutality in the film. This isn't an "afterschool special" version of drug addiction and urban blight. This is very dark material, with few rays of light, that some people just won't want to sit through no matter how well done. However, if you're like me and can sometimes embrace difficult, harsh material in order to avoid seeing the same old thing all the time, this film might be worth a look.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cheers

Just a short message to wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving! And if you're reading this message on your Kindle, be sure to pull out that invaluable little device and show it off at dinner today. We have to keep spreading the word about the wide world of fun and knowledge that our e-readers present to us every day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday grins

More silliness from around the web, to further brighten the short work week:

Don't worry: your worst humiliation is only someone else's momentary entertainment.

Just remember, the squeaky wheel doesn't always get the grease... sometimes it gets replaced.

Sex on TV won't hurt you... unless you fall off.

A husband is someone who, after taking the trash out, gives everyone the impression that he just cleaned the whole house.

How can there be self-help "groups"?

Question for the ages


Our two cats are loving and fun. But, being cats, they're also fussy and tempermental, especially in the area of food. When I give them food in the morning (refreshing their shared bowl of dry food and preparing two separate bowls of whatever canned wet food I bought that week), sometimes they'll eat right away and sometimes they won't. And when they do eat right away it's usually a semi-interested couple of bites before they walk away to stare at birds through the back window. I guess they eventually go back and eat more, because the food eventually goes somewhere (at least, a good bit of it does), and they aren't starving to death. But the point is, of all the different brands of dry and canned cat food I buy, none makes me say, "Wow, they really like that kind so I'll have to buy it again."

But here's the thing. I also buy cat treats, giving the cats two or three treats at a time, a couple of times a day. And these they really like. They scarf them down immediately. They'll even come running if they hear me opening the foil treat bag when they're in another room. The two brands they really like, by the way, are Temptations cat treats (any flavor) and Party Mix cat treats (likewise, any flavor). But I bet if I try another brand of treats, they'll love those, too. So, here's my question, if you haven't already guessed it:

In order to sell more cat food, why don't they make cat food taste more like cat treats?

My cats can't be the only pets who go crazy over cat treats. I bet cats all over America do. That's why they call them cat treats. So, shouldn't at least one cat food manufacturer- who likely already makes cat treats our felines love-- say to himself, "hmmmm, if I make our cat food taste as good as our cat treats, maybe the cats will go for it more and their owners will notice and always buy our brand of cat food, because their cats like it best." I mean, they're already halfway there with dry cat food, which already looks like most brands of cat treats.

Oh, well... I'm not sitting in the board room or test kitchens of Purina or Nine Lives, so it's mostly useless for me to make that observation. But maybe someone in the right position will have the same lightbulb moment, and then our cats and our cat food companies will together be better for it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Tuesday

Here's a little silliness, gathered from around the web, to help you coast into the Thanksgiving holiday:

Who invented the brush they put next to the toilet? That thing hurts!

When you think you have someone eating out of your hand, count your fingers.

We all can't be heroes. Somebody has to stand on the sidelines and clap as they go by.

It's always darkest before the dawn. So if you're going to steal your neighbor's newspaper, that's the time to do it.

I have to take my paycheck to the bank. It's too little to go by itself.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hear me roar

Spotted on a bumper sticker this past weekend:

Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.

Got an Ambien?


Okay, let's start off with a positive observation or two about Stephen King's ambitious 1995 novel Insomnia, which I've finally gotten around to perusing: I really enjoyed the opening chapters of the book, primarily because it was interesting to see senior citizens used as major protagonists in a blockbuster-style story. I'm not sure that's been done since the Cocoon movies. I also liked the mysterious, often scary, way King depicted the intense insomnia, and its creepy hallucinogenic side effects, suffered by central character Ralph Roberts.

But soon we're given a concrete reason for Ralph's insomnia (well, a fantasy-type concrete reason, but a concrete reason nonetheless), so Ralph's strange suffering isn't strange anymore, and- get this- gives way to him becoming an action hero and a traveler between dimensions. His insomnia, you see, was induced by inter-dimensional beings as a first step to give Ralph and his allies the powers to pull off a task to save the multi-verse, a task the inter-dimensional beings can't undertake themselves.

So, as you can see, what starts off as a spooky, fairly intimate story about senior citizens and their various issues turns into this crazy epic about parallel plains of existence, different dimensions, and preventing an event that would be a small tragedy in our world, but whose ripple effect would tear down the fabric of the universe, that sort of thing. And, if I'm honest, I have to say it all sort of works, or at the very least, never completely not works. Also, if you're a fan of King's Dark Tower series, you might give this book an extra point or two, because there are strong connections with that series, to the point that Insomnia can even be called an extra, bonus book in that saga.

But as events piled up and things became more complicated, I found myself missing the simpler, more grounded situations in the book's early going (including a heartbreaking plot involving Ralph's friend Lois narrowly avoiding being shunted off to a retirement home by her son and daughter-in-law). The inter-dimensional stuff became too dominant, with the action set pieces becoming unnecessarily frequent and long.

Still, I'll say again that the fantasy/adventure plotline certainly isn't horrible, and there's an 11th hour return to a warmer, more realistic tone to the story, so in the end I liked Insomnia. Didn't love it, but liked it. Ultimately, I just didn't think the story fully justified its length.

But just to give you a final warning: I listened to the unabridged audiobook recording of Insomnia, read by the great Eli Wallach, via a download from Amazon's Audible subsidiary. That certainly made the going easier. So my criticisms may have been even more pointed if I had to make my way through the book via my eyeballs and attention span alone.

Strangely enough, Insomnia isn't available at the moment on Kindle, so you'll have to pick up an actual paper-and-ink edition or get the audio download like I did.

Storybook time


On this fine Monday, we offer this Fairy Tale for the Modern Man:

Once upon a time, a handsome Prince asked a beautiful Princess, “ Will you marry me?”

The Princess said “No!”

And the Prince lived happily ever after, riding motorcycles, going fishing and hunting, playing golf, dating women half his age, drinking beer and scotch, having tons of money in the bank, leaving the toilet seat up, and scratching his crotch whenever he wanted.

The End

Friday, November 19, 2010

Great movie news


From Andy Propst's story that just went up on the Theater Mania web site:

Two-time Academy Award winner Daniel Day-Lewis will play Abraham Lincoln in the film version of "Team of Rivals", Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of the president, according to EW.com. Steven Spielberg will direct the film, "Lincoln", which will have a screenplay by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Tony Kushner.

The movie will focus on Lincoln and the powerful men of his cabinet as they struggle with the abolishment of slavery and seek to end the Civil War. The film is scheduled to begin filming in the fall of 2011, with an anticipated release in the fall of 2012.

Day-Lewis won Oscars for his performances in "There Will Be Blood" and "My Left Foot". In addition, he received Academy Award nominations for his work in "Gangs of New York" and "In the Name of the Father". Most recently, he was seen in the film version of the musical "Nine".


Pretty interesting news, no? And also pretty great. I have to say, too, as much as I was disappointed along with everyone else when the all-but-officially-cast Liam Neeson dropped out of this project due to its numerous delays, the fact that we'll now get to see Daniel Day Lewis tackle the iconic role of Lincoln is quite something.

Nice discovery


During lunch at a favorite local taproom today, I spied my bartender loading fresh bottles of wine into the fridge. One caught my eye and I asked to see it (being a sucker for cute label art). Anyway, I decided to have a glass, and it turned out to be pretty good.

The wine was a Giocato Pinot Grigio, from the Slovenia region of Italy. It was smoother and less tart than most Pinot Grigios I've come across, and, in fact, if I was in a grumpy mood I might even say it was a little too flat or bland for a Pinot Grigio. But I'm not feeling grumpy, and I also believe that not every Pinot Grigio has to have the tart/biting thing going. No, this was just fine, with a couple of shades of subtle fruitiness more than compensating for the lack of usual Pinot Grigio sharpness. It certainly went well with my Chicken Fried Chicken lunch entree (a specialty of the joint).

According to a little web research when I got back to the office, Giocato Pinot Grigio goes for about $18.00 a bottle retail. I think it's worth it. You have to love the wine reviews at online retail sites, though. The review I read had this to say about the Giocato: "A cat-like Pinot Grigio from Slovenia that is full of interest." Full of interest? Cat-like? Do descriptions like that actually guide people? Maybe the whole wine review thing isn't as indimidating as I sometimes make it out to be.

But, yeah, give this one a shot if you come across it. And thanks to my friends at the Memphis Taproom, at the corner of Memphis & Cumberland Streets in Philadelphia, for letting me photograph the wine bottle, and for the extra generous pour!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Disgraceful

Bad, bad, bad bumper stickers seen in my travels:

Hey, I may have Alzheimer's, but you know... at least I don't have Alzheimer's!

Married men live longer than single men, but they're a lot more willing to die.

Isn't having a smoking section in a restaurant like having a peeing section in a swimming pool?

If a mute kid swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

Losing a husband can be hard... in my case it was almost impossible.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Someone likes us

A very special thank you is sent to blogs.com, which recently included Kindle Taproom in its list of the ten best Kindle blogs!

We'll try to live up to the generous compliment, guys, and keep the Kindle-centric bar chat coming!

Tinseltown update


We love movies here in the Taproom, and we think most of you do, too. So, because we also love you, here's a little movie news to brighten your day:

Director Steven Soderbergh is now in talks to direct a big-screen version of the classic 1960s television series The Man From U.N.C.L.E. There are rumors of George Clooney playing one of the leads.

With the financial situation slowly improving at MGM, the release date of the next James Bond film has finally been announced: November 2012. Plans still call for Daniel Craig to star and Sam Mendes to direct.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan will star in director Baz Luhrmann's new production of The Great Gatsby. If you want to read or re-read the original F. Scott Fitzgerald novel before the movie comes out, it's conveniently available on Kindle for $10.99.

Johnny Depp is close to finalizing a deal to play vampire Barnabas Collins in a film version of the classic gothic soap Dark Shadows.

Director Robert Zemekis may soon direct a big-screen remake of The Wizard of Oz, which will reportedly stick closely to the script of the 1939 film. Already in development at Disney is another Oz project, director Sam Raimi's Oz, the Great and Powerful. If you want to go back to the source before the movies come out, you can pick up L. Frank Baum's original The Wizard of Oz on Kindle for $3.99.

We hope you enjoyed our little Hollywood newsbreak. More movie news to come.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The naked truth


Some all-natural thoughts to ponder...

Women are like roads... the more curves, the more the dangerous they are.

According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental... while, of course, men are just grateful.

Without nipples, breasts would be pointless.

Why is it that most nudists are people that you don't want to see naked?

It's okay to laugh during sex ... just don't point !

This and that


A friend recently lent us Golden Door, Emanuele Crialese's 2007 film about the immigrant experience in the early 20th century. Combining poetic imagery with the grueling realities of taking a slow, crowded boat to the U.S., the film is interesting and worth seeing, but also a little dull and slow paced. "Deliberate," my friend corrected me when I shared my views, "not slow". I stood corrected (the best approach with my friend). Golden Door is a shade under two hours and is mostly presented in Sicilian with English subtitles. You might want to give this a shot if you come across it.

On the Veterans Day holiday, Alison and I traveled from the suburbs into Philadelphia to catch the latest Woody Allen film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. We enjoyed the film a lot, though the dark characters and situations (lightened by a little comedy, thankfully) resonated better a couple of hours later than immediately after the closing credits rolled. The film is essentially about the trickiness of hopes and dreams: how we definitely need them to get along, but the danger of taking them too far and allowing them to poison our appreciation of our current realities. Which dreams should we try to make happen? Which are best left as dreams? Could the same hope/dream be life-enhancing if indulged a little but disastrous if we fully embrace it? Through its half a dozen characters, we get some exploration and answers. This is a rich, worthwhile film if you're at all into Woody.

On the TV-on-DVD front, we're currently enjoying the ninth season of Smallville, the show that explores the life of Clark Kent in the years prior to him putting on the red and blue tights and actually calling himself Superman. During this ninth season, however, the Superman mythos is basically in place: Clark works at the Daily Planet with Lois Lane, freuquently runs off to do superhero things, and shoots the breeze with the computer simulation of Jor-El, his late Krytonian father, at the Fortress of Solitude from time to time. All Clark really needs at this point is the suit and cape and a more fully developed flying ability, and the boy-to-man journey will be complete. Anyway, the show continues to be fun, so I'm sure we'll remain aboard until the last episode of season ten, when the curtain will finally come down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mull this one...

Spotted the other day on the outside message board of a bar I always drive past:

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Hey, any bar can post its happy hour specials outside. Why not have a little fun instead?

Nice day, nice wine


I enjoyed a tasty white wine this past weekend: Folonari Pinot Grigio. It's a crisp, dry Pinot Grigio from the Veneto region of Italy, born in stainless steel with a pale yellow color and a fragrant, fresh bouquet. It was both a formal and fun Pinot Grigio, kind of like a polished, tuxedoed waiter with a down-to-earth sense of humor.

The wine was doubly enjoyable because my extended family and I were enjoying it at my grandmother's 99th birthday party! The party was held at Scannicchio's Italian Restaurant, my cousin Christian's place in South Philadelphia. Check it out if you're in the area; it's a great little restaurant.

Normally a BYOB restaurant, my Uncle Johnny and Aunt Maryann (Christian's parents) made sure there was plenty of wine for the fifty or so guests in attendance. So each table sported bottles of the terrific Folonari Pinot Grigio, as well as bottles of perfectly decent Yellowtail Merlot. Both wines went well with the variety of entrees offered, with the Folonari pairing particularly nicely with the Veal Piccatta I selected as my main course.

Good wine, good food, a terrific family celebration... what more can one ask on a Sunday afternoon? But I guess we should at least try to top things for Grandmom Mae's big 100th birthday celebration next year!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Deathwatch


By the way, I forgot to mention earlier: I enjoyed the second episode of AMC's new Sunday night series The Walking Dead as much as I did the first. But, more than ever, I can only recommend the show to those who are true fans of hardcore horror. This is some intense stuff. Somehow this series is pulling off scenes and images that even R-rated theatrical horror films shy away from. Amazing.

Judging from the ratings, however, AMC needn't worry about the intensity level. There must be a lot of hardcore horror fans out there. Or, who knows, maybe a large part of the show's viewership are just people who enjoy great characters and storytelling, and those elements are making the horror go down easier.

Anyway, if you sometimes enjoy the "trying to survive against impossible odds" genre and like or can tolerate no-holds-barred horror, give the show a whirl. I'm sure the re-cap at the beginning of the next episode will nicely get you up to speed if you've missed the first two episodes.

Friday fun

More bumper sticker wisdom seen in my travels:

If Bill Gates had a penny for every time I had to reboot my computer... oh, wait-- he does.

Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

Keep the dream alive... hit the snooze button.

Expectations


We recently saw The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest at our local art house theater, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. My wife Alison, however, was disappointed that the film didn't feature a mystery story that the oddball duo of crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk computer genius Lisbeth Salander solve together. All it was, she said, was more of that "crazy stuff" about Lisbeth's past.

While I found the "crazy" stuff" fascinating, I could see her point. The first movie (and, of course, book) in the series introduced these two compelling characters who drew our attention, but then also gave us an elegant little mystery story for them to solve. She liked that, and I guess I did, too. But then books/movies #2 and #3 come along, and no mystery stories are in sight. I mean, wouldn't a lot of people have been frustrated back in the 1920s if, after enjoying Agatha Christie's wonderful new detective character Hercule Poirot in The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the follow up books didn't feature Poirot solving mysteries but dealing with dysfunctional family members?

Myself, I don't think the second and third books/movies in this series are necessarily flawed for not giving us mystery plots like the first story did; in fact, one can give them extra points for going off in unexpected directions. And in the back of my mind I'm one of the people who do give them extra points for doing that. But, as said, I'm definitely sympathetic with the views of people like my wife who really enjoyed the dark and compelling missing person case in the first story and wanted more of the same.

The book version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is currently the #4 Kindle bestseller and is priced at $5.20. The Swedish-language movie version of the book is currently out on DVD (and also features an optional English-language track if you don't like subtitles).

The book version of The Girl Who Played With Fire is currently the #7 Kindle bestseller, going for $7.59. The movie version is also out on DVD (same language parameters).

The book version of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is now the #3 Kindle bestseller, and is the priciest of the three books at $9.99. The movie version is now in theaters (mostly art house venues) around the country, but you'll have to watch it in Swedish with English subtitles.

An American production of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is now being filmed by director David Fincher, and stars Daniel Craig (the latest James Bond) and Rooney Mara (most recently seen in The Social Network) as Mikael and Lisbeth. The movie arrives in theaters December of 2011.

What do you think of all these issues? Are you like my wife and like the first movie a lot but not the other two as much, because of her stated reasons? Or maybe you're a fan of all three books and think that the current movies- any of them- don't compare well to the books, due to all the cuts that had to be made to get the stories down to manageable length for the screen. In any event, there is no shortage of opinions out there when it comes to these stories and the several ways they're being told.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heard this one?

A man walks into a bar and asks for a beer. "Certainly, sir," says the bartender. "That'll be one cent."

"One penny?!" exclaims the guy.

"Yes," the barman replies.

Still reeling at the bargain beer, the guys asks, "Do you serve food in here?"

"Certainly, sir, we have all kinds of food," the bartender replies.

"Okay, then," the man says after a sip of his beer. "Could I have a nice juicy T-bone steak, with fries, peas, and a salad?"

"Absolutely, sir," replies the bartender, "but all that comes to real money."

"How much money?" inquires the guy.

"Four cents," the barman replies.

"Four cents?!" exclaims the guy. "Where's the guy who owns this place?"

"Upstairs with my wife," the barman answers.

The guy says, "What's he doing with your wife?"

The bartender replies, "Same as what I'm doing to his business."

Spenser's back


The late Robert B. Parker's Painted Ladies delivers another fun ride as we watch the author's stalwart detective hero Spenser both punch out the bad guys and appreciate the nuances of famous paintings of the "low country realist" school. Hey, what's not to like?

Right out of the box, the book impresses. The opening chapter of this next-to-last Spenser adventure is a master class in concise writing. In about five pages, Spenser meets his client, accepts a job to guard him during a ransom exchange involving a stolen painting, and in short order sees the client get blown up by a bomb during that exchange. Five pages! Other writers would take up to five chapters to cover that same ground. But Mr. Parker gets the job done quickly, without sketchiness or coming off as self-consciously clipped, and moves on with the rest of the story. God, I'll miss this guy's writing.

The bulk of the book, also written concisely (though maybe not in so precise a manner as the opening) nicely builds on the dramatic start as we watch a guilty Spenser try to make amends for allowing his client to die on his watch. Memorable scenes include two scary attempts on Spenser's life, a romance for Spenser and Susan's dog Pearl, a cool fistfight with the main villain's giant henchman, and several instances of Spenser taking down pretentious academics in the art world. What's fun about that last point is that, throughout the book, Spenser himself quotes obscure poetry and displays doctorate-level knowledge about poetry, art, and literature! He just does it with modesty, I smiled to myself.

I do think Mr. Parker showed a little more enthusiasm for the book's set up and characters than for the case's ultimate resolution, but that's a quibble, as the story's plot is resolved in a perfectly satisfying manner. I just would have liked a little more exploration of the driving forces behind the book's primary antagonist. After all, one doesn't often run across someone who (slight spoiler here, though the book ultimately isn't a whodunit) is devoted to things as diverse as seeking revenge for the Holocaust and making a living via art heists.

Published posthumously, readers shouldn't fear that this was a half-finished book that someone else knitted together and filled out to get in shape for publication. Painted Ladies is a polished, entertaining effort that is Robert B. Parker through and through. Here's hoping this will also be the case with Sixkill, the author's final Spenser adventure, to be released in a few months.

Painted Ladies is available on Kindle for $12.99.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sensitive

Recently overheard while standing at a crowded bar: "I should've known it wasn't going to work out between my ex-wife and me. After all, I'm a Libra and she's a bitch."

Here, try these!


Should I be concerned about what my demographic information is saying about me? Recently, Amazon asked me- based upon my online purchases and web searches, I'm guessing- if I'd like a free supply of hangover relief medicine to review.

"Hey, I bet ol' Joe might find these interesting," I can hear them saying. Actually, I'm sure I wasn't singled out (even though my blog contains the word "taproom" in its title) and the folks at Amazon asked all their prolific reviewers if they'd like a supply. Well, I hope that was the case.

Anyway, for the most part, those of us who opted to accept the product ultimately delivered somewhat weak-kneed reviews. Why? Well, in the end, how can one really tell if a hangover remedy actually works? To clarify, here's what my review had to say:


I hate to file another wishy-washy review of this product, but I seem to be in the same camp as a lot of Amazon reviewers regarding Homeopathic Labs' Hangover Relief Tablets. Namely, this purported hangover remedy seem to work a little, though I can't totally be sure. After a few uses, I'm sort of believing that they turn a potentially heavy hangover (lots of drinking the night before) into just a light hangover. Likewise, they also seem to turn an expected light hangover (only a few cocktails the evening before) into a virtually free-and-clear morning experience.

But maybe it's all psychological. After all, when one takes a remedy, one expects a result. So perhaps I am imagining the benefits. I will say this: the tablets certainly don't make me feel any worse. Oh, I guess you should know that the tablets are small, pleasant tasting (sort of sweet), and easy to chew and swallow. At least that's something concrete I can tell you.

I'm sorry if this isn't the most helpful review in the world, but I honestly don't have strong feelings about this product one way or the other. Once I run out of the 50-tablet package that Amazon sent to me for review, it will be interesting to see if I feel moved to order another supply at my own expense.

Trust me, most of the reviews posted so far at Amazon are variations of what I wrote above. At least the following review, filed by a guy named Brett in Cape May, New Jersey (hello, neighbor!), added some grins to the mix:

I think everyone hangs over a bit differently, so based on my own use, no, this did not help. But in fairness, I was really hungover. I don't drink to the point of drunkeness often, but these did not stop the headache, vomiting, or burning. Then again, I might not have had them in my stomach long enough to work, as I threw up ten minutes after consuming them.

Just so you know, God love him, but Brett is part of the same Amazon program I belong to, where Amazon sends complimentary products out to prolific reviewers in exchange for an honest review. As Brett has demonstrated, Amazon doesn't require all that much in the way of a review in order to remain in the program.

Oh, in case you're wondering, these tablets usually go for $10.00 for a package of fifty. But if you see me in a bar, just flag me down and I'll shake a couple into your hand. I've still got 36 or so of these suckers left. Hey, how much do you think I drink?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Frustrating


Now that Daylight Savings Time is over, I figured that my new Hyundai Genesis Coupe's sophisticated dashboard display, which is tied into my satellite radio system, would automatically update the time for me. But, nope. Yesterday, I had to push all kinds of buttons on the dash to figure out how to set the clock back an hour. Sheesh.

Oh, well. At least the car is nice to look at. The photograph seen here is a Hyundai publicity shot, but my car's white, too, and looks just like that one... at least when I run it through the car wash.

Cynical

A recent bumper sticker sighting: If we're supposed to learn from our mistakes, why do most people have more than one child?

Getaway


Ever have one of those weekends where you get a lot done and manage to have some fun? This past weekend was like that for us.

My wife and I took Friday off to address some mundane household stuff that needed attention (banking issues, home internet on the fritz, blah, blah blah), but only after first enjoying a nice breakfast out. That was the breakfast I told you about in the previous post. After successfully addressing everything, we enjoyed a nice dinner out, too. Then we came home and watched an interesting little Italian-language film called Golden Door on DVD (review to shortly follow). All in all, a good day.

On Saturday, we decided to do a quick overnight getaway to the seashore, as we've been meaning to take advantage of the rock bottom off-season hotel rates at some of the nearby shore points. We ended up getting a nice room with a great waterfront view in Somer's Point, New Jersey. The normally $200-plus per night room was only $80.00 this time of year. Dinner at a nice seafood restaurant next door to the hotel followed, with the evening concluding with a late-night walk on the famous boardwalk in nearby Ocean City, NJ (a short car ride away from Somer's Point). Well, the evening concluded back at the hotel, but I won't write anymore about that.

Sunday featured a nice continental breakfast at the hotel (included!) and another walk on the Ocean City boardwalk, this time under the sun and with many of the boardwalk stores actually open. Following pizza on the boardwalk, we headed back home to the Philadelphia area to catch the 3:15 p.m. showing of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which was my wife's idea. We had meant to catch the movie on Friday evening, but the errands and chores kind of took over that day, leaving room only for dinner. So it was great to be able to see the movie, after all (review soon to follow).

Sunday concluded with a nice little dinner at the bar at our local Carrabba's Italian Grill, followed by (alas, everything can't be fun) a night time trip to the supermarket to lay in some food for the coming week. But if we didn't get to the store then, we'd have to squeeze it in tonight, which would have been worse. Better to get it out of the way.

So, several productive things got done and several kinds of fun was had this past weekend. I guess, if I scrutinize things, there were a few "glass half empty" aspects of the weekend, (getting the computer fixed cost a pretty penny, the heater in the hotel room was fairly noisy, my wife didn't like the movie on Sunday as much as I did, blah, blah, blah), but we try to be "glass half full" kind of people. Also, breaking the routine is always a good thing. Don't you agree?

Pictured is the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk on the morning of November 7 (yesterday), a choppy Atlantic Ocean off to the left. For those of you reading this post on your computer, click the photo to enjoy a larger view. To my friends curled up with your Kindles as you read this: trust me, it was a wonderfully brisk, beautiful day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Saturday

I took a day off from work yesterday to get a few things done with my wife, and we spotted this on the menu of the breakfast joint where we stopped:

If your meal isn't served in five minutes... it might be another five minutes. Relax, this isn't a train station.

The lack of phony "the customer is king" rhetoric was refreshing and brought grins. There were several other comments of similar stripe scattered throughout the menu, and I'll have to write a few down next time and share them.

Hey, the food's good, so we can put up with the Don Rickles routine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cute

Spotted on a bumper sticker in center city Philadelphia (about a block from Independence Hall), as I was driving back from lunch today:

Midwives help people out!

Clean, simple, cute. Made me smile.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

More heroics


Here are two more superhero movies on the way to theaters, to complement my previous list: The Green Hornet and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. I told you I suspected a couple of titles were missing from my original list. In fact, I won't be surprised if I still come up with one or two more titles. But for now, the official count for our "superhero movies on the way to theaters in the near future" is now at an impressive eleven.

Up, up, and away


I was bored in a meeting earlier today, so I began scribbling the names of all the superhero movies that were coming out in the near future. I didn't include movies that were likely on the horizon (like Wolverine 2), but only films that have definite release dates and are now in pre-production or actual production.

So, for your amusement, here are all the superhero movies that you can look forward to between now and 2013 (keeping in mind that I may have actually missed a few): Green Lantern; Captain America; Thor; The Avengers; a new Spider-Man film (as yet untitled); The Dark Knight Rises (the title of the next Batman film); Iron Man 3; the new Superman film (title still being finalized, though it will probably include the phrase Man of Steel somewhere in it; and X-Men: First Class.

That's nine definite movies on the way. I hope you're like me and enjoy the occasional superhero film, because they're certainly going to be generously scattered among your potential movie choices for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Final thought of the day

If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.

Meet the newest e-reader


Here's a heads up to those who follow the ever-growing world of e-book readers: Barnes and Noble has just introduced the NOOKcolor, and it's a handsome little thing. From what I can tell from the promotional video at the Barnes and Noble web site, the NOOKcolor is a sort of hybrid between a traditional e-book reader and an iPad. That is, it seems to emphasize its value as an e-reader, but it's pretty obvious that it can do so much more.

Retailing at a reasonable $249, it'll be interesting to see if the bright, vibrant color display (which is also a touchscreen, by the way) will attract more people than the lack of a versatile indoor/outdoor e-ink screen will alienate others. Myself, I like the combination of an iPad-style touch screen with the portability and compactness of an e-book reader. It's one of the reasons that, more and more, I use my iPad at home and just tote my Kindle around: the big slab of an iPad just isn't as easy to carry around. But I do like the versatility and easy-on-the-eyes nature of e-ink and might miss an e-book reader without it. Good thing I'm not immediately in the market for an e-reader, because this darn thing is pulling me in two directions, at least in my first impressions.

The NOOKcolor is currently available for pre-order at the Barnes and Noble web site, and is expected to start shipping on November 19. I imagine it will become available for purchase at Barnes and Noble stores and selected other retail outlets around that time, too.

What do you folks think of it?

Friendly reminder

It's election day, so get out and vote! Don't forfeit your right to participate in the democratic process! And hey, if for no other reason, you'll be getting revenge on the candidates you hate for all the horrid, simplistic attack ads they ran during the campaign. Sigh, not that every candidate doesn't run such ads.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Deadly ads


Okay, I promise this is my last post about "The Walking Dead", at least until next week's episode airs. I just feel the need to vent a little about the show's broadcast presentation, which- like the presentation of most network and basic cable programs- was fairly horrendous.

Below is what I said on the "Ain't It Cool News" web site about the show's airing, in a fan "talkback" section. Oh, in case you're wondering what I'm talking about below when I mention a DVD "screener", a screener is a commercial-free promotional DVD of a new show sent to print and online reviewers so they can get their reviews written up early. I've gotten them in the past, but unfortunately didn't see one in my mailbox for "The Walking Dead", so I had to just tune in on Sunday night with everybody else (I know, you feel bad for me). Anyway, here's what I said:


Excellent show, but I envy you guys who got to see it via a DVD screener. I mean, so many commercials (if I see that idiotic DirectTV ad again with the stoner kid in the projection booth getting a blowdart to the neck, I'll scream), too much repeating of the "you can win a zombie walk-on!" promotion, total lack of a smooth fade to closing credits (with maybe a few seconds of moody music to let the whole experience sink in for a beat or two before the detergent commercial comes on), etc. etc.

And whose genius idea was it to show Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead immediately before and right up to the start of The Walking Dead? Wouldn't the opening moments of the show have been much more powerful if we weren't already overloaded on zombie action immediately before the show started? Now I know why I like to discover shows on DVD.

Dead and loving it

Did any of you watch The Walking Dead last night on AMC? The confrontations in the gory, intense premiere episode certainly were of a, ahem... different variety than the confrontations we were used to seeing in Don Draper's office from week to week on Mad Men. But still as good.

Looking back on my previous post, which reviewed the first compilation of comic book issues of The Walking Dead, I see that I really didn't tell you all that much about the story's plot or characters. That's because the review originally appeared on Amazon and Amazon's product description took care of that. I've since learned to put basic plot and character information in my Amazon reviews even if Amazon's own info covers those things, allowing me to reprint my Amazon reviews elsewhere and have them still be useful, or at the very least make sense.

In any event, if you watched the grim and gritty premiere of the show, you know that the initial storyline (in both comic book and television adaptation) revolves around sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes waking up from a coma caused by a gunshot wound, only to discover that while he was down for the count the world has been overrun by, well... the walking dead. He soon begins to form allies among the ragtag humans scattered about, with everybody trying to survive while forming some semblance of normal human relationships to make life in the zombie-infested world worth living. To give you a mild spoiler, seeing the shell-shocked and beaten down remnants of humanity trying to make a go of things as the months go by, often with little success, perhaps demonstrates that the title The Walking Dead doesn't just refer to the zombies.

My own take was that the opening episode was terrific: like its source material, it was scary and gory, yet also character-driven and often quite moving. But the episode was definitely intense, and I'll be interested to see if viewers can take a steady diet of Rick Grimes and his friends navigating the zombie apocalypse week in and week out.