Sunday, May 23, 2010

TV Review: Kings

Michael Green's "Kings" started with a compelling premise - a modern, divinely-inspired absolute monarchy - but never seemed to find a solid focus. Was the show an action-adventure tale, a sci-fi style alternate reality drama, a profound religious allegory or a star-crossed love story?

It was interesting, though, for taking the idea of direct communication with God and direct divine intervention in human affairs as legitimate plot devices and not an example of mental illness. Green himself complained about the refusal of NBC to directly market the series' themes to religious audiences, and it's easy to understand why he was disappointed - network shows that take religious faith seriously without reducing it to soft-focus, family-friendly platitudes are mighty scarce.

The series gets a big plus for Ian McShane's nuanced and emotional role as King Silas and Susanna Thompson as the detail-oriented Queen Rose. There's also the tantalizing question of what would have become of Macaulay Culkin as the son of the kingdom's manipulative villain William Cross (Dylan Baker) had the minimal screen time of his role stretched past its initial five episodes. And of course Brian Cox is good in everything he does, including his 3-episode arc as the deposed and imprisoned King Vesper Abaddon.

Recommended to Old Testament fanatics, monarchists, and anyone who ever wished Carter Baizen from "Gossip Girl" was gay.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Really, Eric Ripert?

I look at a lot of restaurant websites, mostly to preview their menus. And like the food at a fine dining establishment, a restaurant's website can be judged by its attention to the little details. A misplaced diacritic can ruin a pdf menu as surely as a hint too much salt can doom a plate of risotto.

Thus I'm always perplexed to see a restaurant whose owners have clearly made large investments in every other aspect of their operation throw up a menu for public consumption that looks like it was copy-edited by a developmentally disabled chimp.

Whether it's Tableau attempting to entice customers with a pan roasted halibut with "beure blanc" (they couldn't afford the second r?) or Stratta offering up the rather alarmingly named "sausage and leak" pizza, one would think someone on the management side would notice these things...eventually.

Which brings me to Eric Ripert's Westend Bistro in Washington, D.C. When the restaurant first launched in 2007, I was excited and looked forward to eating there. When I looked at the online menu, though, I noticed so many spelling, grammatical and capitalization mistakes that it deflated all of my enthusiasm. I've still never been there.

Which brings me to my thing de résistance, a screen shot of Westend Bistro's bar menu, in which Ripert offers up, for the low, low price of $200 a pour, "Remy Martin Lois XIII" cognac.

(Click image to enlarge)

I know there's no "u" in team, but I'm pretty sure there's supposed to be one in "Louis." Plus, Eric Ripert is French, right? I know he grew up in Andorra, but he's still basically French, no? Yet he has a menu listing for a drink Peter Griffin might order by accident. I know celebrity chefs are busy and everything, but how did his website launch without someone who knows something about the restaurant and beverage industry looking at it? I'm certainly no expert and it jumped out at me immediately. And again, it's been that way for almost three years now.

Yeah, First World problems, I know. But isn't being a master chef all about insisting on perfection? Being intolerant of even the smallest errors of execution and presentation? Why, M. Ripert, would you make excellent food but present it via a terrible, error-filled menu? In the name of FSM, why?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Advice to my Cousin Brian About...

Dear Brian,

4sq is many things to many people. The original design was tailored to people who were going out to restaurants and bars and wanted to keep track of their friends without an annoying series of text messages. When you show up at a location, you bring up the application and check in, letting anyone on your friend list know where you're at. If you want to know where your peeps are at, just look up 'friends', and you can see that Todd and Jenny are at Lucia's Wine Bar, Dave just checked in at Bar Abilene, and Joey and Gene are at The Saloon. Should you desire to hook up with any of them, you're free to make your way any of those locations.

On top of that basic functionality are the points, badges and Mayorships. These are all behavioral rewards that attempt to make using the application more fun and interactive. You get points for checking in anywhere, but especially new places. You get badges for a certain number (or certain pattern) of check-ins, and you become the “Mayor” of a location if you're the most frequent visitor. Some people really get into pursuing and accumulating these rewards and some people think doing so is a pathetic waste of time. I'm somewhere in the middle. The one emerging advantage to being the Mayor of a bar or restaurant (other than smartphone nerd / local scenester bragging rights) is that some places will give you free or discounted swag if you're the Mayor. There's actually a bar in DC that says its Foursquare Mayor always drinks for free. Speaking of which, I need to go check in there right now.

The more recent aspect of 4sq is the perennial, all-day-long, self-stalker version. Like I said, it started out as a going-out guide for friends. The system of rewards was clearly meant to apply to being socially active in the evenings. But since it's a mostly open platform, you can add whatever locations you want (a drugstore, your office, 7-11, a public park). That means you can also check in to any location any time. This has led the self-stalkers of the world to check in EVERYWHERE they go, all throughout the day (abridged example):

8:39am – Tyler checked in to 2C Metro Bus Eastbound
8:57am – Tyler checked in to Starbucks – Downtown East
9:09am – Tyler checked in to InterQualTech Resources HQ
10:15am – Tyler checked in to IQT 7th floor Men's Room
12:07pm – Tyler checked in to Burger King
3:15pm – Tyler checked in to IQT Main Conference Room
5:35pm – Tyler checked in to Bailey's Pub & Grill
7:51pm – Tyler checked in to 2C Metro Bus Westbound
8:32pm – Tyler checked in to Tyler's Loveshack Condo

In order to pull this off, you need to have either very indulgent friends or be a celebrity. Depending on how large a following you're interested in cultivating, local broadcast media celebrities may indeed qualify. This changes significantly, however, if you have your 4sq check-ins set to automatically post to your Twitter (or Facebook) account. The Twittersphere is currently experiencing a severe 4sq backlash. Auto-tweeting every check-in – especially if you're going the self-stalker route – has become extremely unpopular of late. I advise against it. These days I only Twitter check-ins at bona fide bars where I am actually meeting friends and drinking. Anything else – Safeway, CVS, McDonald's, Office Depot, etc., should be kept to oneself. Unless you want everyone but your roommate to unfollow you.

Hopefully that makes some sense. There are a lot of other aspects to 4sq that bear some comment, but they're mostly things best understood by actually using it. The application definitely isn't for everyone – shut-ins, paranoiacs and perennial homebodies are advised to seek other amusements. For most others, though, an initial test run should determine whether it's something you'll enjoy using long-term or not.

P.S. – If you make your own house/apartment/condo/yurt a 4sq location, you are officially a lame-o.** Unless you live in a hostel or a frequently trafficked flophouse, that is cheating. It may not be a federal crime or a sin, but it's still wrong.

**This obviously doesn't apply if you're extremely charming, witty, and amusing. Normal caveats apply - if you think you're witty, you're probably not. If you think your affectations are amusing rather than annoying, that's probably not true either. It is possible, though. And in the unusual case that you are charming, witty and amusing, you hardly need me giving you advice, now do you?


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Imma Englush Geenyus

Your result for The Commonly Confused Words Test...

English Genius

You scored 100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 93% Expert!

You did so extremely well, even I can't find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don't. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you're not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!


Take The Commonly Confused Words Test at OkCupid


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hundreds or Thousands?

According to the Washington Post, there were hundreds of Tea Party activists protesting healthcare legislation at the Capitol yesterday. Or thousands. Depends what part of the same webpage you read. Bring on the screen shot:

Click image to enlarge


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

An animated classic from the mind of the brilliant Chuck Jones.

When looking for true love, beware of beatnik squiggles.

Moral: To the vector belong the spoils.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Backyard's Tale: A February-May Romance

May 20, 2009:

February 11, 2010:


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Snow-Related Hash Tag

The Great Blizzard of 2010 has hit the Washington, D.C. / National Capital Area, and the most significant developments, as usual, were in my back yard. Here's the time lapse of snOMG accumulation from Friday night to Saturday afternoon:

Friday night 8:26pm

early Saturday morning 2:26am

Saturday afternoon 4:26pm


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Wages of Gmail

Earlier today I received the following email message:

"I am woman. I have a blonde hair with golden shining. My eyes is black. I am not high. I have beautiful skin. My hair is long straight. I live in a big city. I work in education. I like to watch horror films. Representations in the performance pop stars on stage. I like animals. I like desert. If you talk about me I am beautiful cat. Most of all in men I value honesty. When I you noticed on the street. I right realized that must. Because I can be for you a excellent friend if you want. I'm hope that you answer me on my e-mail."

Unfortunately I'll have to pass, but if any of you blog readers is looking for a non-high woman with a pro-desert, anti-dishonesty agenda and golden shining blonde hair, just send me a message and I'll pass on her email address. Something tells me she may even know where to get cheap V1@gra online without a prescription. Friendship - maybe more!