I WON!!!

I didn’t want to say anything ahead of time, but I’ve been trying to find good tickets to an INXS show somewhere, anywhere. My husband has been wanting to plan a dive trip to swim with the manatees for several years and February is the best month. So, I started looking for tickets in Florida.

And I won the auction. The tickets aren’t in hand yet, so I’m nervous about posting this, but I’m doing it anyway. I am far too excited to hold this inside. I’ve been waiting eight years for this! They are fifteenth row, so not great seats, but good ones nonetheless. Thanks to Kim, who sold me the tickets. Please send Positive Mental Energy (PME) her way! I am incredibly excited.

Have I mentioned I’m excited? I feel 16 again.

Let’s not forget that my wonderful husband is driving hundreds of miles to Florida to go to a concert where he’ll see his wife acting like a maniac. He likes INXS enough that he had almost all of their albums post-Shabooh Shoobah, but I’m afraid because he’s never seen me quite this excited. I was dancing on our coffee table- completely sober- just for hearing the album.

Have I mentioned I’m excited???

Fear of Girls…wait, I’m a Girl!

When I saw this video, I had about 20 reactions. It’s funny, for sure, and well done. However, sometimes the truth hurts, and I’ve said some of the quotes from the film. If I can’t laugh at myself, then I have ignored my best source of humorous material!

The sister-in-law ruins it with poor acting. All of her scenes were bad, except the dinner table one where she doesn’t speak. I was nearly laughing out loud at that. Maybe partly the situation, and partly the fact that most religion’s prayers sound eerily similar.

I don’t appreciate the implied celibate-homosexuality, because it’s just one of those few topics I don’t find funny. Maybe because too many people from all walks of life are having serious struggles with it and my compassion for them overrides the humor.

The Gen Con shirt and other touches indicate that the filmmakers really know their subject matter, and as such, must have been gamers at some point. Every hobby has its extreme members. Gamers are one of the easiest comedic targets. But we aren’t all the same…

Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai) directed by Manoru Oshii

IMDb Link

I have always been amused by the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday strip regarding comic books. To paraphrase, it talks about cartoons as “low art,??? but paintings of cartoons are “high art.??? I feel the same way about comics: now we call them “graphic novels??? and treat them with archival respect, turning pages with tongs. Progressing on the same subject, Saturday morning cartoons are “low art;??? animé, “high art.???

This is the first animé film I’ve seen. I have to keep in mind that it’s almost eleven years old, so I should not be hypercritical of it, but… on more than one occasion, the movie used a “low art??? cheating tool. It is OK to use cheaters on Saturday morning but not on Saturday night. For example, there was an aquarium in the shot for at least a minute. All of the fish were on very short animation loops. I started losing track of the dialogue and watching the stupid loop. There were long dialogue scenes with the vantage point behind the characters so that they didn’t have to move their mouths. And my most loathed: the mouth would be yelling, but the rest of the face was stoic.

I would be remiss not to mention some beautiful animation. The cyborg cop is lying in bed, and her eyes change expression from sleepiness to full alertness. It’s subtle but very well done. Subtle animation is very rare!! There is a fight scene that takes place in about an inch of water on the street; the water play and the choreography are both wonderfully executed and engaging.

The opening credit sequence is the best part of the movie, with music and action reaching crescendo perfectly. The mood is set. Then, the terribly translated English- the actors sound just awful- the mood is broken. I wish I could watch the original film, but I don’t speak Japanese. This translation issue has improved since 1995.

While I’m perfectly aware that there are very few original stories left to tell, there were too many nearly exact plot devices as those in the book that preceded it by nine years, Speaker for the Dead , Orson Scott Card’s followup to Ender’s Game. Puppet Master conception:Ghost::Jane conception:Speaker.

Maybe I just don’t understand animé, but this film is not something I’m interested in seeing again. Not sorry I saw it. Wouldn’t recommend it.

[rate 2]

MacNiven’s Restaurant & Bar

Link to restaurant information
and other reviews

Located on the Southwest end of Mass Ave, MacNiven’s has been a favorite of mine since I moved to this town. The front bar-style tables are a must during the spring, when the windows are opened and one can watch friends and strangers pass.

As I waited for my friends, I sat at the bustlingly busy bar. Despite the business, the other patrons were friendly. It may seem minor, but some establishments’ clientele don’t seem to care about anyone but their own companions. The bar menu has a fantastic selection that mirrors the food menu: lots of authentic Scottish selections with some delicious picks from other parts of the world also. If you want to try my favorite scotch (Lagavulin), MacNiven’s is one of the only places that serves it. A server was pouring Scotch ale for someone, and I asked her if it was any good. She responded by happily pouring me a shot of beer to sample. This won my business on two levels: first, she was extremely busy and was pouring a sample for someone who hadn’t even placed an order. Second, any business that stands by its wares enough to give samples knows the quality will speak for itself. This beer was no exception: I ordered one immediately and savored it while I waited.

The Belhaven Scotch Ale was amazing, with a light, creamy head. The hops were pronounced but did not overpower the smooth, smoky malt finish. The sweet, toasty caramel flavors of the finish made this a beer that novice tasters will like, and that pairs well with dessert flavors- I’m thinking of toffee ice cream with a chocolate and scotch ale sauce (or is that too Cannery Row- Beer Milkshake-like?). When my dinner companions arrived, the bartender made my transitions to the table effortless, offering to bring me my brew and my tab instead of making me wait. It gave me the ability to enjoy the company of my friends instead of waiting on a tab.

I met a couple of people there for dinner, and I was excited to review the fare. However, though the menu has an amazing variety of authentic Scottish dishes and elegant casual dining meals, both of my dinner companions gravitated to the sausage rolls for dinner. I had the Scotch eggs appetizer and one of my companions started with the Scotch egg salad.

Hot from the oil, the Scotch eggs did not disappoint. I would have chosen a different beverage, as the assertive flavors overwhelmed my Scotch ale (perhaps a thick Xingu or hoppy Gumballhead would have been better). The eggs are hard-boiled, then wrapped in a spicy sausage coating and fried to perfection. They are served with a garlic-coarse red pepper aioli with just the right heat to balance the sausage. If you’ve never tried them- you are in for a treat that elevates bar food. The Scotch egg salad was a garden salad topped with sliced Scotch eggs, avocado, and bright red peppers. While the salad was good, the eggs are better alone with the aioli.

The sausage rolls are 5-ounce sausages wrapped in a puff pastry- think Sausage Wellington. The delicate pastry was tender, yet flaky, indicating it was not only made correctly, but also didn’t sit in the back for long before being brought to the table by our server. The side of beans was more of a palate-cleanser than an interesting dish.

Our server was attentive without being overbearing, and he was available when we had questions or requests. Despite the fact that it was a busy Thursday evening and we were finishing dinner around ten o’clock as the bar crowd arrives, he didn’t push the check onto our table until we requested it. Our glasses of ale or water were always filled, and we didn’t have a lot of interruptions or feel like the server was in our laps. The service staff was a mix of young, attractive folks that would have blended well with the bar’s clientele except for their black t-shirts and aprons.

Well done, MacNiven’s. I highly recommend this place for a brew, a scotch, or a full meal- either right after work or late in the evening, the menu and atmosphere are sure to please you.

Atmosphere: [rate 4]
Beer Selection: [rate 5]
Wine Selection: Not rated
Food: [rate 4]
Service: [rate 5]

The Slippery Noodle Inn

Link to restaurant information

One of the things I enjoy most about my city is that there is so much diversity in restaurants. What I don’t like is how many chain restaurants there are. So, in an effort to support local eateries, I decided to post my restaurant reviews.

My very first review is of a much-beloved establishment: the Slippery Noodle Inn. Known as a great place to listen to live music, it also has a diverse food menu and even more diverse beer selection, with many brews on draught. It’s really nice to go to a place that actually cares to pour more than domestics and fake Irish red beer.

The Noodle has a really fun bar at the entry with a bartender who actually knows his stuff. He was affable and entertaining even though the place was quite crowded for a Wednesday. However, the atmosphere- and knowledge- stops there. The atrium has sticky formica tables and cheap brass chairs on dark blue indoor/outdoor carpet. All of the glass makes it very loud, a fact that is not helped by the extremely noisy server’s stand. Seriously, they were dropping plates into bins so loudly that I couldn’t hear the person right next to me. This happened not just once but throughout the evening.

Only four of us were eating, so we ordered drinks and dinner quickly. A kitchen helper- not our server- brought out a large tray of food and set it on a tray stand across the aisle next to our table. It sat there so long that we wondered whose it was…then realized it was ours. We continued to talk, and the food just sat there. It was almost 10 minutes before it was served. By that time, the toppings on the nachos had soaked the chips and the cheese had become one sheet of cheddar. This pattern was repeated with two other tables, though their waits were only 3 minutes or so.

I had the steak salad, which promised tender steak and bleu cheese on top of a garden salad. The bleu cheese was satisfactory, but the “steak??? was shaved beef that had been soaked in a teriyaki-like sauce that was not complimentary to the earthy tang of the cheese. The meat was not seared to create delicious fond, but appeared to be simmered in the sauce; it was so cloyingly sweet that I couldn’t finish it.

The other dining guests had hamburgers and the aforementioned congealed nachos. The flavors in the nachos were actually very good. Bar nachos aren’t supposed to be authentic- and these weren’t either- but they were flavorful. The hamburger was also passable, but the home fries were spongy, fried potato discs that clearly revealed that the fry oil was old. Fried foods are the stuff of bars- using stale grease is not excusable.

The servers were attractive young women in sportsbar-esque tight t-shirts and low cut jeans, except for the aforementioned male bartender. Our server was not familiar with two of the three dishes that were ordered.

I’ll still go to the Noodle to meet friends for a beer- it’s a downtown establishment that attracts a diverse crowd of music lovers and the post-work crowd. But I’ll sit in the front bar and not eat, thank you.

Atmosphere: [rate 3]
Beer Selection: [rate 4]
Wine Selection: Not rated
Food: [rate 0]
Service: [rate 1]

Coconut Rum (For Me Grog)

I was bottling my homemade coconut rum (from Midwest Supplies) last night, and this tastes wonderful. I’m going to be making some homemade grog from it, plus it’s great on the rocks or in a smoothie.

The process is long and involved and requires much more attention during the fermentation. Add sugar to water, boil, cool, add yeast. THEN, rack after three days, monitor fermentation, add packets A and B, wait another day, add packet C, blah, blah, blah, until finally I’m on packet F. Six extra steps! I think I’m too lazy to do it again, even though the end result is delicious.

However, it’s not as clean and bright of a tropical flavor as I would like, and despite following all of the directions, it’s still cloudy. I did multiple rackings and filtrations to rid it of the carbon haze, but no luck.

So, as a chemist in my right mind, I’m thinking that it would help if I distilled that stuff before adding the coconut flavoring. I am woefully aware of the laws of our country that forbid distillation of alcohol by the private individual. But why? I brew my own beer all of the time. It certainly isn’t a safety issue, so what is it?

I would think that even the religions that prohibit alcohol use would be delighted if this were legal. Well, not delighted, but not unhappy either… every beer I brew of my own is money the alcohol industry doesn’t gain. As a political conservative, it appeals to my desire not to pay the large “sin??? taxes levied on certain industries.

So what’s the deal? And, in a country where counties fight to STAY dry counties, is it a hopeless case for me to lobby?

I’m annoyed.
Taste: [rate 3.5]
Ease: [rate 0.5]