Monday, May 23, 2016

The Nice Guys

is that rare film that has an amazingly funny set of trailers and yet manages to be funnier when you watch the whole thing.  The movie has an engaging and complicated plot, wonderful performances, great dialogue, and so many laugh-out-loud moments you can't count them all.

Shane Black is at the top of both his writing and his directing games in The Nice Guys.  The shots love the sets and the 70's setting.  Yes, it's a violent film, but it manages to be both funny and at times touching in the violent moments.

All of the actors turn in strong performances.  Russell Crowe is funnier than I thought he could be, and Ryan Gosling delivers one wonderful moment after another.

I don't want to tell you any of the plot, because the trailers have already given away enough.  Wait until you need a fun-filled two hours, and get to the theater to see The Nice Guys.  You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Next Level Fight Club

Last night, Kyle led a small group of us to watch local mixed martial arts matches at the Raleigh Convention Center, courtesy of area promotion Next Level Fight Club.  I've been to multiple live MMA events before, but all of them were from the UFC, which is the leading promotion and easily the largest and richest and best of them all.  I wasn't sure what to expect from a local show.

I'm happy to report that all of us had a lot of fun.

The setup was bigger than I had feared, and though in this shot it's mostly empty,

Click the image to see a larger version.

by the time we'd finished the first three (of nine) fights, the place was about two-thirds full.

The fighters ranged from featherweights to heavyweights and from clearly talented to just learning.  We saw decisions, submissions, and one rather amazing 16-second knockout.

What struck me the most was that all of these people had to be doing this for love and for dreams, probably dreams of one day making it big.  No one was getting rich.  The fighters went into the cage, gave their all, and won or lost, but the money could not have been enough to justify the expense of training.  Like so many people, including most writers, they were following a passion despite the fact that they were unlikely to ever be successful at it.  I respected that a great deal.

By the standards of Vegas shows, the seats were cheap, though by comparison to movies, they were expensive:  some cost $30, while front-row seats, which we enjoyed, ran $80.

I would absolutely do it again, and I recommend it to anyone interested in live MMA events.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

When I saw the first trailer for Star Trek Beyond

I knew I would be excited to see the movie because, hey, Star Trek, Justin Lin, and JJ Abrams.  Of course I'd be there.

After watching this new trailer, however, I'm completely psyched for this summer blockbuster.

We now have more action, aliens boarding the Enterprise, and Idris Elba in full forehead alien mode.  Face it:  everything gets better with Idris Elba.

Oh, yeah, I am so ready for this one!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Are you having trouble sleeping?

Cone Man can help.

Of course, first you have to persuade him you are worthy.

He's a sneaky bastard who respects sneaky people, so your best bet is to start by trying to sneak up on him, as if he can't see your side-on approach.

Click the image to see a larger version.

Of course, he can see you, but he won't be able to stop himself from spinning to look at you.

Once you're face-to-face with him, give in to his psychic pressure, draw closer, and stare into the blackness of his eyes, twin voids that link directly to his soulless true self.

Oh, you'll fall asleep then, once he locks his gaze on yours.

What happens next, though, and what you dream, well, no one can help that.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The best dog in the world protects a bone

For no reason I could fathom, one evening not long ago, Holden decided that everyone in our den was a threat to one of his bones.  Having reached that decision, he leapt into action to defend the bone.

First, he tried distracting us all by moving his head and tail so quickly that they became blurry.

Click an image to see a larger version.

That ploy worked briefly, but we must have paid too much attention to the bone, because he then decided to draw away our attention by walking toward a person and psychically broadcasting, "Follow me with your eyes, me, just me, not that bone, only me."

He next tried a blend of fast motion and psychic persuasion.

I must not have responded as he wished, because he then decided to reassess whether the bone was worth all the effort it was causing him.

Eventually, he decided that it was indeed a worthy bone, so he beseeched me directly not to let anyone touch it.

Holden carried the day.  I agreed we would all leave the bone in his able care.

The bone thanked him.

The greatest dog in the world averted another crisis.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

HB2 screws North Carolina--and me--again

I've written a few times about our noxious House Bill 2 (HB2), which among many awful things basically legalizes discrimination against transgender people.  I hate this bill.  Most of the North Carolinians I know hate this bill.  The Attorney General of the U.S. is suing North Carolina over this bill.

Yet our jerk of a governor and our equally awful Republican legislators continue to stand behind it.

A while back, I had tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show that Cirque cancelled in response to this bill.  I'm sorry I missed the show, but I had to support their decision to boycott the state.

Earlier tonight, I was to be sitting with Scott and others enjoying a performance of the legendary violinist, Itzhak Perlman, with the North Carolina Symphony.  We had seen Perlman perform once before and had greatly enjoyed the show, so we were looking forward to tonight's concert.

Perlman cancelled yesterday.  In a statement, he said,

As my fans know, I have spent a lifetime advocating against discrimination towards those with physical disabilities and have been a vocal advocate for treating all people equally.  As such, it is only after much deliberation that I have decided to cancel tomorrow’s concert in North Carolina as a stand against House Bill 2.
As much as I wanted to go, I once again have to support this decision.

According to Perlman's agent (read more here), Perlman was going to play the show, make a statement, and donate his proceeds to Equality North Carolina.

The NC Symphony, however, is a state-supported non-partisan organization and so could not allow the statement.  I respect their decision, in that to sustain their funding and to avoid getting in serious trouble with our state government, they had to make this decision.  Fair enough.

That stance, though, cost them a sold-out concert, a great deal of money, and probably a lot of disillusioned supporters.

If our government won't repeal this bill, we in North Carolina need to make damn sure that we replace it in November with a government that will remove the blight that is HB2 and provide equal rights to all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Counter shines again

If there's a better restaurant in Austin than Counter 3 . FIVE . VII, I want to eat there ASAP.  After multiple visits to this downtown restaurant, I have yet to taste a dish worse than very good, and almost all of them have been excellent.  Tonight's meal continued the winning streak for Counter, with seven wonderful courses that proved once again that this team has serious culinary game.

The menu was the usual intriguing set of seven courses, only one of which I've tasted before.  (They've created 102 dishes in the past year.)

Click an image to see a larger version.

That repeat, the rhubarb with Newsom's ham and brown butter,

was one of my favorites, a tantalizing combination of salty and crunchy and spicy, with the richness of the brown butter making everything a bit better.

Perhaps my favorite dish this evening was the rabbit,

which was a riff on a Provencal stew but with local rabbit and some Carolina Gold rice beneath the meat.  As the chefs meant it to do, it was a perfect transition dish, one that highlights the end of cold days and the transition to warmer ones.

The weakest course tonight was the dessert, which used many flavors of carrots supporting a scoop of cardamom ice cream--and I liked it so much I almost licked my bowl clean.  At most places, it would have been the strongest dish.

Counter 3 . FIVE . VII is a world-class restaurant that you should visit if you can.


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