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Juan is played by Alexis Díaz de Villegas, who is immediately evocative of the skinny guy from the Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Waikiki Wabbit,” the final scene of which features two starving castaways imagining one another to be hot dog and a hamburger. De Villegas is the skinny hot dog guy.
Also: zombies in Cuba. The end.
Ok, I’ll say a bit more.
In the long tradition of zombie films before it, Juan of the Dead actually has something to say. In this case, it’s Cuban politics. Fun fact: Juan’s iconic weapon of choice is a boat oar. The Cuban media constantly refer to the zombie hordes as “dissidents.”
Good news! I completely resolved all the problems with my Cisco/Linksys Wi-Fi router!
…by ordering an Apple AirPort Express which I will pick up at the local store tomorrow on my way home from work.
I tried, though. You’ll remember that I tried to set it up myself. Then I consulted their tech support. Things still weren’t right. I chatted them up a second time. I kept waiting for them to tell me that there was some known issue, some incompatibility between something on my network and the settings on the router–but no. In the end, they tried to tell me that there was some kind of interference in my apartment.
Interference. With their router in the exact same spot, serving the exact same devices the old Netgear had done for years without issue. Basically they were grasping at straws and had no clue. Meanwhile, I had two Wi-Fi SSIDs, no idea if I should leave them separate or not, a slow web experience on the MBP, intermittent streaming issues on the Apple TV, and I discovered I could no longer push video or audio to the TV from the laptop.
I’d even done my own research, consulted some other clever people I know, and come up with nothing.
So I’m done. I’m casting it back into the fiery chasm from whence it came–Best Buy. And I’m picking up my new Apple unit. The Linksys cost me $82. The Apple cost me $20 more. If it works as well as I expect it to, it’s money well spent.
Crocs. Those foam shoes. They’re inappropriate footwear for almost every situation, a major fashion faux pas. I know it, you know it, everyone knows it. And yet, they’re so awesome. It’s my secret shame, people: I fucking love my Crocs. Especially the “Cayman” or “classic” clogs.
They’re wonderfully cushy, insulating my feet against the hardest of surfaces. Standing for long periods of time is more comfortable with Crocs. They’re feather light. I can get them wet. In fact, they’re not only immune inside to even the worst foot odor, but impervious outside to every kind of filth I might step in. I don’t have to tie them or zip them or velcro them or anything. There’s only one moving part: the heel strap which lets me choose from slip-on or, swinging it behind my heel, a more secure fit. They come in more than twenty colors.
There’s only two downsides. First, wearing them makes me slightly more prone to electrostatic shocks, such as when reaching for canned goods in the grocery store. And, second, well… It’s the fashion thing. For the most part, I can’t wear them. It’s just not done.
You know what, though? Sometimes I do wear them. I wear them when I’m cooking or doing the dishes. They’re great for taking the dogs out. And, yes, I sometimes even wear them to the grocery store–in public!
If I were king of the world, you’d be able to wear your Crocs more often. Farmer’s market? Yes. Dog park? Of course. Grocery shopping? I already do that. General around-the-house and errand running on a summer Saturday? Why, yes.
Out for dinner? No.
This last summer I figured out how to get Crocs goodness on the sly. I ordered myself a pair of Crocs flip-flops. They look just like any other flip-flops, only they have that Crocs cushion underneath. Best flops I’ve ever owned.
I have a secret, dear reader. One which I will disclose to you now. I understand that upon reading these words you may wish never to visit this blog again and also immediately disavow any friendship we may have had in the past. But I’m wiling to take the risk. I can’t hold this inside anymore. I have to speak my truth. So here it is.
Yes! Sucks! One might forgive its dated hairstyles and clothing which remind me most unpleasantly of how the world looked when I was 10 years old. One might even forgive Kenny Loggins. Might. But the film’s awfulness goes far, far beyond these atrocities. It’s humor can only charitably be described as puerile. Many of its performances are painfully amateurish, including and especially that of Bill Murray, a man whose subsequent career is actually pretty admirable. Mumbling unscripted lines in a silly voice out the side of your mouth isn’t the kind of thing a professional actor does unless he’s trying be funny by emulating someone who doesn’t know how to act. (Or unless you’re Adam Sandler, who as far as I can tell modeled his entire career after Murray’s performance in this film.)
The only thing that isn’t completely without merit are the scenes between Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. But they aren’t nearly enough to make watching the entire film worth your time.
I won’t even get into the puppet gopher.
So what’s up with the rest of you? 78% on the Tomatometer, people? Really? It must be that Americans of my generation were imprinted on this film like ducklings who, emerging from their shells to see a gardner, subsequently follow him around in error for the rest of their lives. Everyone seems to have seen this movie at a similarly impressionable stage of life, it perhaps being the first R-rated film they’d ever seen, and, God help them, liked it. I, however, was absent that day and didn’t see it until much later, which is why I recognize its inherent and unwavering terribleness while the rest of you wander about hopelessly lost in egregious cinematic tastelessness.
There. I said it. I feel strangely free. No more pretending! And maybe somewhere in this wide world there are others like me. Maybe we could start a colony somewhere, like lepers, leaving the rest of the Caddyshack-loving world to carry blithely on without us.
I’m moderately fussy about my kitchen things. At least as fussy as my modest budget allows. Which is why I’d like to sing the praises of one of my kitchen’s most frugal and most useful items: my cast-iron skillet.
How useful is it? There’s no better way to make a steak or a burger in your kitchen. It’s probably the best piece of cookware for a pork tenderloin roast, too. And for blackening chicken. And baking cornbread. Beer-boiled bratwursts can be lovely–even indoors–when browned thoroughly on the cast-iron. It’s the best for heating tortillas. And if there’s a better way to make a grilled cheese sandwich, I don’t know it.
In fact, it’s so useful for so many things that my 12″ cast-iron skillet almost never leaves my cooktop. It’s a kitchen essential. Like a non-stick skillet, a good 7″ chef’s knife or a Dutch oven. I wouldn’t think of not having one.
And it can be bought new for around $20.
It can sometimes be a chore to care for, though. You don’t want to simmer acidic dishes in it, like those containing tomato sauces. And you never want to use any kind of dish detergent to clean it. Sometimes I scrub mine out with hot water. Lately I’ve been heating it on the burner and then scrubbing it out with a few tablespoons of kosher salt and some paper towel. If there’s anything really tough that doesn’t come up, I toss a half cup of water into it and let it deglaze the stuck bits right off. Obviously you never want to leave it wet. A minute or two on the burner will dry it through evaporation.
In spite of all the special care, I think it’s eminently worth it. Nothing heats as evenly, holds up to the highest oven temperatures, or browns food quite as well as good ol’ cast-iron.
Fifteen years ago Diablo was unleashed upon the computer gaming world. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means. And despite its interesting isometric, top-down perspective, in many ways it was the same dungeon crawler we’d been familiar with since the invention of the text-based adventure game. You choose a hero type and then descended level by level into hell to confront the Lord of Terror himself: Diablo. The dark fantasy action was punctuated by visits to town where you could buy things, have brief conversations with townsfolk and have your equipment repaired. By just about every measure you could think of, it was a pretty mediocre game.
Except it wasn’t. It was brilliant. It’s hard to say precisely what Diablo got so right. Atmosphere? Music? I think it was just the right balance between point-and-click mindlessness and the nerdier aspects of RPG games. Whatever it was, Diablo was a hit.
A couple of years later Diablo II erupted onto the scene. What a fantastic game. It had everything that was great about the original, only more of it. And it had engaging online play where you could team up with your friends to battle hell’s minions.
But that was more than a decade ago. Fans have waited a long time for Diablo III and now, as of May 15, it’s finally here.
Despite frustrating service interruptions the first couple of days and grave performance issues on some Macs (including mine) which only recently got fixed, it’s a winner.
The gameplay is addictive. The interface is accessible: punishing evil is as simple as point and click. And it’s still endlessly fun to obsess over your character’s gear. There’s items you find while out thrashing demons, items that town vendors will sell or make for you–and there’s also an online auction house where you can bid on items found by other players. Coming soon, there’ll even be an auction house for real money, not just in-game gold pieces.
The character choices are fun. There’s the ever-present Barbarian, expert at smashing things; the Wizard, premier magic caster; the Demon Hunter, skilled at bows and crossbows; the Monk, master martial artist; and, most intriguingly, the Witch Doctor, who uses blowguns and voodoo. Each class can be played as either male or female.
The art and visuals are lovely, if not technically cutting edge. Some monsters are so huge that you immediately get that “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” feeling when they appear.
Such games are not primarily built on story–it’s more of a hack-and-slash type thing–but I am not finding the Diablo III story as engaging as the one I remember from Diablo II. As I’m only halfway through the game, I guess there’s time for it to pick up. We’ll see.
Got the game or thinking of getting it? Let me know! I often play solo, but there’s nothing better than teaming up with friends to tackle that especially challenging boss. I even have a trial license I could give you if you wan to try before you buy, but if you go that route your test drive will be solo play only.
I really enjoy cooking, even if I don’t do it as much as I’d like. One of the things that really helps me is the TV show America’s Test Kitchen. America’s Test Kitchen is also the name of the parent company which owns, among other things, Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I tried subscribing to Cook’s Illustrated, but I find having a paid membership to their web site more useful than the magazine itself.
Whatever you call them, I’ve made many of their recipes. The “Perfect French Omelet,” “Our Favorite Chili” and more. All of these recipes seem to have more steps and ingredients than you’d imagine, but the results are absolutely worth it.
Yesterday it was Chicken Fricassee. It caught my eye on the TV show because it seemed very similar to my usual chicken with mushroom sauce recipe. Maybe I’ll try to combine them to get the simplicity of my old recipe with some of the better results of the new one.
Here’s the recipe. Note that they prompt you to register, but if you don’t want to you can just click “watch the video.” I recommend doing that anyway.
Remember when I bought some excellent $65 headphones? I’m still loving them. They compared quite favorably to $90 studio monitor headphones. But how do they compare with even less expensive over-the-ear headphones? I avoided overpaying for the $90 set, but could I have gone even cheaper?
To find out, I compared my Sony MDR-V6′s to some inexpensive–but very well reviewed–Sennheiser HD201′s.
The verdict? The Sennheisers did sound great. I recommend them for people on a budget. But I can easily tell the difference between them and my Sonys. The Sennheisers have a decent bump in the bass response, but the clarity of the mids and the crispness of the highs make my Sony’s really shine in comparison. Even wannabe audiophiles will appreciate the difference.
Summary. If you want excellent, flat-response headphones get the Sony MDR-V6 set. If you’re on a budget and still want good over-the-ear headphones, try the Sennheiser HD201 set. I see no reason to pay top dollar for the Sony MDR-7506 model, however.
One night back in the early 80s I was wandering the Summerfest grounds and found myself walking up to a stage where R.E.M. was playing. Free. Like on the 93-QFM Rock Stage. Maybe they were touring to support Murmur, Reckoning or Fables of the Reconstruction, I’m not sure. I barely knew who they were at the time, but I think about it now and marvel: I saw them before they became huge. And boy did they ever.
I covered one or two of their songs in various bands over the years, but I’ve never been a huge fan of R.E.M. Still somehow or another I find myself in possession of two of their albums: Green and Automatic For The People. Green especially is a fantastic album. I can put it on and sit mesmerized for 40 minutes, never skipping a track. Fantastic stuff.
Anyway, they just recently called it quits after 31 years. Can’t say I blame them. That’s a long time to do anything, even something you love. And they did leave us all with an amazing body of work to appreciate.
Like most people, I’ve been living with the audio experience I get with my i-device earbuds and my modest car stereo. But trying to do this musician thing again left me frustrated. I can learn just about anything by ear, but I really need to hear the instrumentation clearly to do so. I needed good headphones. But what kind? And how much would it cost me?
After some online research, I narrowed my list down to three pair. The priciest set, the Sony 7506, just happened to be available to try here at work, so I gave them a listen…and was blown away.
They were perfect. While many consumer headphones are designed to alter the source material in (hopefully) pleasant ways, these are designed to give a flat and totally faithful reproduction. Amazon sells them for $87.99. Seemed like a no-brainer. But my inner cheapskate wasn’t satisfied.
What if I could get similar quality at a significantly lower price?
More research. Eventually I discovered another pair of Sonys, the MDR-V6, which were supposed to be very similar but $23 cheaper. I took a chance and bought them. And after enjoying them for a few days, I brought them in to work for a side-by-side comparison with the 7506 model.
Identical. It could be that there are some golden-eared audiophiles out there who can tell these headphones apart, but I myself cannot. I did a side-by-side comparison using two audio tracks: “Fred the Tzadik” by Abraham Inc. and “I Will Not Be Broken” by Bonnie Raitt. After listening, I think I can not only identify what brand of strings the bass player in Abraham uses, but how long it’s been since he changed them. And not only can I hear both the attack and the resonance of Raitt’s drummer’s kick drum, I can almost hear the size and shape of the room he played it in. It’s like taking a bite of cake and tasting that it was baked in a gas oven. These headphones are that good.
I recommend them to you. I don’t think you can do better at this price point. And you’ll be hearing your music the way God intended: completely flat, faithful and uncolored.