Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Social Network

is one of the most intelligent, engrossing films I've seen in a very long time, a feat made all the more amazing by the fact that it contains so few sympathetic characters. Writer Aaron Sorkin and Director David Fincher make a great team, as Sorkin's trademark rapid-fire dialog and Fincher's strong visual style pull you in and never let you go.

By way of full disclosure, I must confess here to being a stone Sorkin fan. If the man wrote a script about doing laundry, I'd watch the film version of it.

On the other hand, I'm not a big Jesse Eisenberg fan, but I also have to say that his performance in this movie was wonderful. At turns detached and fully engaged, insecure and arrogant, and technically brilliant while socially challenged, he is always running on a combustible mix of intellect and anger. Even more impressive is the fact that he sustains this performance while being on screen almost the entire film.

I'm not going to bother to recap the story because either you already know what it's about or you probably won't enjoy the film. I will note that it's rather amazing that we're watching an adaptation of historical events that started a whole seven years ago; time is certainly flying ever faster.

If The Social Network doesn't garner at least four Oscar nominations--Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, and Best Picture--it'll be a crime. Go see it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

On the road again: Portland, day 5

I'm never going to be thrilled at the prospect of waking up in the sixes, but this morning went about as well as one could reasonably expect. Traffic was light on the way to the airport, so I actually reached the gate seven minutes ahead of my plan--which always leaves plenty of slack for error.

The plane flights were also all anyone could reasonably hope for: on time, uneventful, and, thanks to being in first class and the presence of bandwidth on the first leg, friendly to work. I do love my airplane bandwidth.

I'm exhausted, so I'll leave you with a little music, a song I've flagged before, but this time with the official video.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the road again: Portland, day 4

I forgot to mention one other interesting event yesterday: the fine folks at Intel filmed another of the videos of me answering questions about tech stuff. They even let me push Children No More and the child soldiers rehabilitation and reintegration work with Falling Whistles. I don't know when they'll finish editing the video and take it live, but as soon as they tell me it's available, I'll pass on the news.

Work is, as always, confidential, so most of the day must remain off limits.

Dinner was at June, a place new enough that, to my amazement, it still doesn't have a Web site. We went there because Daniel Monduk, the chef and owner of Sel Gris, a Portland restaurant I loved, was working there after he was unable to reopen Sel Gris after a series of disasters (as best I understand it, none of them his fault) kept closing it. Given how much we liked Monduk's food, we were hoping he had a big hand in the fare at June.

On a first reading, the menu was promising and very much in the style of many Portland restaurants: short, vague descriptions that sound enticing and that also clearly conceal something of what's going on in the dish.

The food we tasted, though, was uniformly not as good as we had hoped. Frequently, as in the noodles with spicy lamb, one ingredient (in this case and rather unfortunately, fennel) overwhelmed the dish. The corn chowder was superb, the crab meat stuffed in the large pepper sitting on it was okay, and the pepper itself was a non-entity. In almost each dish, we felt they went one ingredient too far. Sadly, nothing about the main meal left us wanting to use up one of our precious Portland dinners with a return trip.

The best things we tasted were the two desserts we tried, an apple cobbler with cinnamon ice cream and a butterscotch pudding. Those would almost--but not quite--tempt us back.

I hope to read one day that June has reached the potential of its chef de cuisine, but right now, it does not compete well with the best Portland has to offer.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

On the road again: Portland, day 3

Today was one of those work travel days that started quite early and will run quite late, with work pelting me like a hurricane. So, is it any surprise that during a break in the action we popped into Voodoo Doughnut, each got one of these

and ate it? Yes, that is the famous Maple Bacon Donut!

And, before you can ask, yes, it tastes good, damn good, bacon-y good.

Dinner tonight was a late meal (8:45 seating, which then started half an hour late) at the wonderful Beast. At this warm restaurant, you sit at one of two long tables and so end up discussing your meal with those around you, as you would at home. The small staff prepares the food right in front of you, dancing or swaying much of the time to rock songs they like (tonight, an 80's mix). The menu is fixed, and they don't do substitutions; you show up and eat what they serve.

I love it.

Tonight's highlight was a small foie bon-bon on a personal charcuterie plate, but the pheasant pot pie was also amazing. In fact, every single dish was at least good and often downright delicioius.

Beast is another must-eat place when you're in Portland.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On the road again: Portland, day 2

You know I can't talk about work stuff, so don't even ask.

There, aren't you glad we got that out of the way?

Now, on to the bits I can discuss.

One of those is my unusual room in this pleasant but distinctly odd little downtown boutique hotel. The strangeness begins with the door. (If you can't read the title on it, click on the photo, and you'll get a much larger image. I almost always upload large images for your ease of viewing.)

I've never thought of myself as a Chateau Bianca kind of guy, but perhaps it's time to reconsider that aspect of myself.

Or not.

Open the door, and to the immediate left is the closet. Hanging in the closet is this pair of robes and, should one want to buy them, matching pjs and complementary socks.

Oh, yeah: I'll be purchasing the complete room outfit just in case I someday need a Halloween costume of Hugh Hefner visiting Elvis' jungle room (a meeting that I'm not aware of ever happening but that certainly should have occurred).

The room itself is downright cavernous, larger, I'm convinced, than my old NYC apartment. Check out the view from down by the bathroom (which is opposite the door).

Note the two widescreen, HD televisions. Look carefully, and you'll see that the nearer one is facing slightly away from the bed. I had to do that because otherwise the remote control by the bed would turn on and off both TVs.

I'm all for stereo, but that was not working for me.

Now consider the space from the other side of my bed.

Note the teddy bear. No, I'm not going to buy it, but if I get in a bad enough and lonely enough mood, that sucker might just end, I refuse to say; you can imagine its fate--and don't blame me for where your sick imagination just went.

To find the bathroom in the dark, you either have to turn on a nightlight in it, hire a local guide to sleep by the foot of your bed and lead you should you have to go, or risk inflicting grievous bodily injury on yourself as you crash into the desk.

I'm here on business, so I'm not going to say which option I chose.

There goes your imagination again. Stop that.

On to dinner, which was at the wonderful Le Pigeon. I had the pigeon and foie appetizer, the duck, and shared the foie gras profiteroles and sesame devil's food cake, and as always, every single bite was delicious. As I was sitting in the small restaurant between courses, wondering why I liked it so much, I realized that in odd ways it reminded me of sitting alone at night writing: the chefs were doing something they loved, music was playing, and all felt right with the world. Le Pigeon is one of my all-time favorite places to eat. If you live in Portland or are traveling there, do yourself a favor: do not miss this place.

Monday, September 27, 2010

On the road again: Portland, day 1

Nothing says fun like leaving the house at 6:15 a.m. to head to the airport.

Actually, pretty much anything says fun better than that, but nonetheless, this morning I left at that godawful hour. Travel pretty much ate the rest of the day, though thanks to bandwidth on the plane and the Admirals Club during a huge layover in DFW I was able to stay current with work.

Lest I appear ungrateful, I must also hasten to add that the flights themselves were spectacularly better than any of my other recent trips: I was in First Class on both legs, both were early, and no one bothered me while I worked.

I did lose a little over an hour to hassling with AT&T a company I won't name that had terrible, inefficient, offensively incompetent inadequate customer service, but at least we finally resolved the issue and I didn't spontaneously convert to energy, flow down the phone line, zip through the switches, rematerialize, rip the head off the incompetent "helpers," and laugh as I pissed on the bloody stumps. So, it's all good now.

Dinner was a very pleasant meal at the Laurelhurst Market Restaurant. The foie torchon appetizer, which we split, was the high point. The meal was good enough that I'd be willing to go back--but not strong enough that I'm at all tempted to add the place to my standard Portland rotation.

Now, more work, and then, finally, some sleep.

My appearance on SF in SF: you can watch it now

Ticia recorded the event and then secured permission from Amelia Beamer and Rina Weisman to post them. I've embedded the six parts below.

I should note that I haven't watched them, but I know that Ticia had to work from the audience and we had boom mikes in front of our faces, so I expect the audio may suffer from time to time. I also don't know if the pieces below are in chronological order; as I said, I haven't looked at them yet.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

UFC 119: How we did

The undercard fights we saw were generally stronger than those on the main card, but we all had a good time watching the shows. To get right to the bottom line first, Kyle and I tied. So, I reversed my slide, but just barely.

Now, on to the fights.

Steve Lopez vs. Waylon Lowe

We didn't get to see this one, but Lowe indeed won, as we expected.

T.J. Grant vs. Julio Paulino

Another fight we didn't see, but another one we called correctly, as Grant carried the day with a unanimous decision. Go, us!

Mark Hunt vs. Sean McCorkle

So much for our momentum. I'd said I'd be surprised if the fight lasted two rounds, and I was right on timing: it finished in the first. The problem is, we both chose Hunt, and instead McCorkle finished Hunt with a wicked armbar that almost certainly will put out Hunt for six months.

Thiago Tavares vs. Pat Audinwood

This fight, on the other hand, went exactly as we predicted: Tavares dominated Audinwood for a few minutes, then choked him out.

We were tied at 3-1 heading into our first disagreement.

C.B. Dollaway vs. Joe Doerksen

Doerksen looked good for a short time and had me worried, but then Dollaway turned it around and submitted him in the first for the victory. Go, me! I was 4-1 to Kyle's 3-2.

Matt Mitrione vs. Joey Beltran

Though Beltran did manage to rock Mitrione a couple of times, the man of stone kept coming forward and dominated the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory. These guys really tore into each other. The UFC liked the match enought that they earned one of two Fight of the Night awards.

We'd both chosen Mitrione, so we were 5-1 (me) / 4-2 (Kyle) heading into the main card.

Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens

This fight was one of those matches that had the outcome we expected--with Guillard's hand raised in victory--but did not end the way we'd called it, which was Guillard with a finish. Instead, the two fighters went at it for fifteen minutes, after which the judges delivered a split decision.

At 6-1 to Kyle's 5-2 and with the undefeated Evan Dunham coming up next, I was feeling pretty good.

Evan Dunham vs. Sean Sherk

So much for that. As Kyle said, Sherk put Dunham on his back, though nowhere near as much as Kyle had predicted. At the end, Kyle even agreed with me that the fight should probably go to Dunham, though by a razor-thin margin. The judges, however, disagreed and awarded the split-decision victory to Sherk. This bout was so good that it earned the other Fight of the Night award.

Their verdict left us in a tie at 6-2 heading into the last three fights, on whose outcomes we had agreed. The only question was whether our selections were correct.

Chris Lytle vs. Matt Serra

These guys tore up the octagon for three rounds. During that time, Serra seemed determined not to try to take down Lytle. So, Lytle, the superior boxer, just hit him over and over and over, a tactic that led to all three judges awarding all rounds to him. Unfortunately for us, we'd chosen Serra, so we dropped to 6-3.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Ryan Bader

We called for Bader by decision, and Bader by decision it was. The fight wasn't pretty, and Bader had far more trouble taking down Nogueira than we had expected, but he did it enough and held his own in striking just enough to carry the day--and to push us to 7-3.

Frank Mir vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic

At one point in this lackluster contest, color commentator Joe Rogan actually said that it looked like the two fighters had made a secret pact not to be too aggressive with each other. Then, in the last minute, Mir caught Cro Cop with a knee and knocked out the Croatian.

So, we called the right victor, but, boy, was it a sorry showing by both fighters. I expect Cro Cop to be done in the UFC, and I hope that after Velasquez loses to Lesnar they give him Mir as a thank-you for taking on the monster. I want to see Mir fight someone who's actually trying.

At least we ended the night a respectable 8-3.

Of course, despite our success tonight, as always, don't use us for betting advice!


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