Monday, August 30, 2010

First-Time Fandom

As sports fans, we often face existential crises when our teams perform poorly.  As a die-hard Cincinnati fan, I've endured (along with many others in the area code and beyond) the horrible Bengals teams of the 90's and a Reds team that for reasons of MLB economics or poor management haven't made the post-season in 15 years, without a winning season in ten.  While both teams have undergone a bit of a renaissance in the past few years, the point is that we as fans suffered along with the players (probably more, given the salary differential between us as groups), as well as exalted in the victories.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jeremy Renner to be new Tom Cruise (in Mission Impossible universe)

Part time-actor, Scientologist, and noted couch jumper Tom Cruise is retiring from the Mission Impossible franchise after the upcoming fourth installment, currently slated for a December 2011 release date.  Paramount announced earlier this week that they would be casting for his replacement soon...some fresh young actor who would also co-star in MI4 as a bit of a transition plan.  They then immediately chose The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner, who wasn't on the original short list, and at 39, is hardly a "fresh face."

But no matter.  It's hardly news that Renner can play a badass, as anyone who saw The Hurt Locker can tell you, so it's probable this will be a step up for the franchise, at least in terms of believability.  And surely Tom Cruise contibuted to the research that went into casting the role. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

AMC Gives the Zombie Apocalypse the "Compelling Television" Treatment

Check out the trailer for "The Walking Dead," AMC's newest hour-long drama that premieres on Halloween night.  For those of you experiencing zombie fatigue, this may actually sooth the wounds a bit, since it appears to be a well-crafted dramatic series from the network whose first two dips into the original programming pool ("Mad Men" and "Breaking Bad") became two of the most critically acclaimed shows of the last decade.  And look!  Hawkins from "Jericho"!  He's pretty awesome.,44509/

Wednesday Book Review: "The Lake" and "33 A.D." by David McAfee

One feature I'd really like to get started in this space is a regular book review.  I first started writing them earlier this year at the behest of my wife, who is active in the online Kindle community.  Informed reviews are highly valued on these message boards, both by readers needing input for buying decisions, but also by the authors themselves.  Many independent and relatively unknown writers publish on the Kindle because of the reasonable costs associated with eBooks, and to tap into a wide distribution network already in place.  These authors often are fixtures on the message boards, interacting directly with their readers and generally promoting their work.  Most are happy to see honest, coherent reviews of their work posted in a forum full of potential readers.

And to be honest, reviews are a great outlet for my own writing.  Not only am I allowed to exercise my writing skills (such that they are), but it forces me to pay closer attention to the books I'm reading.  Thinking critically about a work often enhances its impact, and gives me insight into making my own writing better.  Any aspiring writers out there...if you find you're stuck doing the same things over and over (or more commonly, doing nothing at all), try reviewing a book you've read that moved you.  It will likely help get you kick started, it's only about 1,000 words, and any writing is good writing, right?  Right.

Anyway, I've now written what looks like a tome on the post and I haven't even gotten to the reviewin' yet.  We'll try to make this a weekly gig (alert readers will note that it should recur every Wednesday).  I'll try to link to the books' listings on Amazon so if you feel the urge to IMMEDIATELY READ THIS BOOK! you can do so with ease.  The grades assigned at the bottom should be taken as they are--an ironclad judgment from the highest authority on whether or not a book should be read, or even allowed to exist.  No, that's not's just my stupid opinion.  Forget I said anything...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Scavenging the Carcass of a TV Phenomenon

A few months ago, right about the time Lost was wrapping up its final season, it was announced that ABC would be auctioning off hundreds of props from the show to bidders via internet, phone, and fax (not sure how that last one worked out).  This was the big chance for Lostophiles with disposable income all over the world to bid on pieces of random detritus from the 6 seasons of the show.  Enthusiasm seemed high at the time, but I guess I had a hard time believing they could get anything for Jack's Season 1 backpack or a box of Dharma-brand red wine.

Woe be upon me, the disbeliever.  The auction was this past weekend, and while the prices fetched are in some cases still a little speculative (it was difficult to keep track of the sheer number of lots), the consensus is that Lost fans have a stupid amount of money that they could comfortably light on fire.

Some highlights:
12-pack of Dharma beer - $4,500 (it's full, so there's your emergency stash)
1977 Dharma group photo - $7,000
Locke's Ajira Coffin Crate - $3,000
Crazy Claire's Squirrel Skull Baby - $2,750 (hope it was deloused)
Pierre Chang White Lab Coat - $2,500 (this would be kind of awesome, actually)
Hurley's "Empire Strikes Back" Script - $4,250
Bunch of Dharma Supplies (Apollo bars, baby!) - $3,000

And the biggest tickets:  Faraday's Journal and the Lighthouse Number Wheel went for a cool $27,500 each, and the highest successful bid was the winner for the Dharma VW van from Season 4, at $47,500!

The full list of items available is catalogued here, and a partial list of the big tickets is here.

Even a pair of Sawyer's standard-issue white boxers went for $850.  Apparently Kate couldn't decide whether she wanted those or Jack's bloody death costume, and just sort of alternated bids on both, driving the price up and everyone crazy in the process...and then bought neither.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Gradual Conversion to the Tomato Religion

I cook.  I'm not making a confession or anything, but I thought I'd lead with that as I launch into a short diatribe on heirloom tomatoes, and follow it up with a recipe. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Saw The Expendables...

Let me be up front with everyone.  This will not be an objective movie review.  If you want detailed, well-reasoned analysis of The Expendables, go to Metacritic. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Christopher Walken...Just Readin' Stuff Out Loud

This is via Mental Floss (one of my go-to websites).  Everybody's favorite weirdo reading selections ranging from kid's fairy tales to Poe.  Check it out.

What I'm Watching

It's pretty easy to cover what interests me on TV in summer, since the majority of well-made, compelling shows are on break to allow the hellscape known as Reality TV to sweep across the land.  However, good things can be found if you look...and have access to cable or satellite.

1.  Top Chef:  Interesting that I list a reality show at the top, huh?  However, of all the cooking contest shows that have sprung up over the last few years, this one remains the best.  Truly skilled young chefs (mostly), competing in sometimes difficult conditions, creating completely original dishes.  It's one of the few reality competition shows that is very much still a meritocracy rather than a drama contest.  Also, I could watch Padma Lakshmi host an accountant's convention.

2.  True Blood:  The vampire phenomenon not involving sparkling or abstinence (definitely not abstinence...)  HBO took a bit of a risk greenlighting the show three years ago, based on a series of novels by Charlaine Harris.  Classic vampirism set in the modern (though campily backward) Deep South, the show's themes deal with segregation and discrimination, religious intolerance, and personal conflicts of loyalty.  Lest you think this sounds too cerebral, there are also terrible Southern accents, over-the-top gore, and plenty of nudity for those looking for less thinky fare.

3.  The Daily Show With Jon Stewart:  Stewbeef continues to be the recognized leader in fake news.  Presenting well-researched and hilarious commentary on those who make their living delivering poorly researched commentary on the world of politics, the work done by the team at the show has never felt stale.

4.  The Soup:  Joel McHale could well be the funniest man on TV right now, and "Community" doesn't even start its second season for a few weeks.  Long live Mankini!

Anybody watching anything that should be noted?  I'm always willing to give a new show a try (except for Seacrest, because screw that tiny man and his millions...)

And so it begins...

Welcome to my blog!  I've finally decided to pull the trigger on this little enterprise, and all of you reading this post are clearly early-adopters, willing to gamble on a brand new experience.  Ground floor, and all that, and for that I'm grateful.

A little bit about the blog, and by association, myself.  The blog is not what I would refer to as "high concept".  That is to say, I don't have a hook or some specific subject that will be explored ad nauseum (like, say, a blog about off-color fire hydrants in Midwestern cities ending in "o".  Don't laugh, it's out there...).  More, as the title suggests, this is about what I'm observing at any given moment.  Riffs on pop culture, suburban life, cooking, book/TV/movie reviews, and light commentary on current events. 

In short, water-cooler and lunch table talk.

It will take awhile to find our bearings, and as a result I'm sure the content will meander a bit.  But honestly that's how my thought processes work, and a little meandering is good for the soul, right?