Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Green Hornet

I wanted to embrace this movie completely. I really did. I wanted to love every second of its campiness, report that Seth Rogen had finally found the perfect role for him, and gush with love and appreciation for the first excellent superhero film of the year.

I can't.

The Green Hornet has its moments, and on balance I'm still glad I went to see it, but it is so clearly all about Seth Rogen--star and writer and executive producer--that it never lets us simply vanish into the story. Britt Reid, Rogen's character, begins the film as a young man with a cruel, inattentive father. The scene that establishes this point is so over the top that it might as well be a billboard reading "His childhood made him a dick, okay?" For the rest of the film, Reid is indeed a dick. What few improvements he makes are shallow and unbelievable, thanks to both Rogen's weak script and Rogen's weak acting.

Okay, okay, I know: why am I talking about characterization when I should be focusing on all the cool shit that goes boom?

Because Rogen makes sure to give himself plenty of time to emote and show personal growth. Those times are painful.

That said, the shit that goes boom is big fun, and Jay Chou as Kato is even more fun. Riding through the streets in a big 'ol piece of heavily armored and even more heavily armed American heavy metal is inherently fun, and the movie's good times all come when you're watching our heros shoot stuff and fight people.

If you're tempted by this one, wait for the bargain theaters or get a group to split the cost of a DVD.

Friday, February 4, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 5

When you wake up in Boston, look out your hotel window, and see an inch of snow and ice coating the cars in the parking lot, you think nothing of it.

When the same thing happens in Austin, it's rather a different story.

After a morning phone meeting, we checked out, a process that consumed entirely too much time as the front-desk clerks debated how to process my bill, and then began the skate to the airport. Austin is not equipped to plow roads, not even major ones, so we drove at times on snow, at times on ice, and whenever we could in the ruts worn by earlier travelers.

As you might imagine, it was a very slow and tense drive.

The airport was exactly the sort of calm, quiet place you'd expect from a city besieged by winter and dependent on a major hub, DFW, that was canceling hundreds and hundreds of flights. After rushing wildly to make a flight that our extremely cranky gate agent said was already boarding, we...waited. Two hours.

The brightest spot of the trip was lunch during that time: barbecue from The Salt Lick at the airport. Any day with BBQ in it can't be all bad.

A gate change later, we made the short hop to DFW, survived the disconcertingly uneven landing, and found that my flight home had already departed. Fortunately, the good folks in the Admiral's Club at AUS had reserved a seat for me on a later flight, so I grabbed some bandwidth and went to the gate for that flight--only to find that it had moved. Off to the new gate at a brisk pace because the flight was boarding. Nope. False alarm. Another hour-long wait, and then, finally, we boarded.

That flight was a dream. I had a first-class seat via an upgrade. They brought me Diet Coke and water, the guy in the seat next to me fell asleep, and I dove deeply into work. The trip passed in an instant, and finally I was home.

I am ever so pleased to be here, where I shall remain for the nine days until the next trip.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 4

Wow, has today been crazily busy and even more insanely cold. I expected the first from a trip to Austin, but the second remains an unpleasant aspect I hope not to repeat anytime soon.

About the only activity I can discuss today was the excellent dinner at Uchiko, the new restaurant from the folks behind the equally fine Uchi. Four of us ordered omakase, which is basically a tasting menu the chef creates. I enjoyed every single dish and will definitely go back there, though the experience was not for the budgetarily weak of heart.

Tomorrow, the possible snow and the already present ice permitting, I head home.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Ice everywhere. The high for the day 30, maybe. Stiff winds making it even colder. Pipes frozen all over the place. Rolling power outages.

No, I'm not talking about Boston or Chicago; I wish I were. All of that happened today right here in beautiful Austin, Texas.


Meanwhile, back home the high was nearly 70. Go figure.

I, of course, didn't check the weather before heading south. I did, though, pull the lining from my nice warm coat, rendering it little more than a windbreaker.

Shrewd move on my part.

Dinner tonight was at The Driskill Grill, where the chef from last night's meal at Congress used to work. After last night's quite lovely tasting menu, tonight's meal, another tasting menu, suffered greatly by the comparison. Don't get me wrong: the food was good. It just wasn't in the same ballpark as Congress'.

Congress is now on my short list of the best places to eat in Austin, while I won't go back to The Driskill Grill until I hear it's greatly improved.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 2

When I was preparing for this trip on Sunday, I commented that though I would have preferred not to have to travel just then, at least I was going somewhere warm. It was indeed warm yesterday--but that all vanished last night. Today, the high was in the 30s, a strong wind seemed to be blowing everywhere I was, and I experienced my first truly cold Austin day.

I can't talk about most of what I do each day on these trips, because it's business, but two bits deserve comment.

The first is my pillow overflow. I like a lot of pillows on my bed, with five being the ideal minimum. (It has to do with my notion of the sleep nest; don't ask.) My bed had only three, so I asked the hotel to bring some more. When they didn't do so, I asked again. When I returned from my meetings, they had indeed come with extra pillows--twice.

Yes, I now have nine pillows. Though some would say that is too many, I take it as a challenge to use them all wisely in the creation of a superbly enhanced nest. I am up to this challenge!

Dinner is also worth reporting. We ate at Congress Austin, a relatively new restaurant that features Chef David Bull, who had taken the food of the Driskill Grill (where I'm eating tomorrow night) up several notches. The tasting menu we tried was not adventurous, but it was interesting, used many local ingredients, and most importantly, was delicious. When Chef Bull came to talk to us and asked for my favorite dish, I had to name three--always an excellent sign. As is so frequently the case at otherwise very strong restaurants, however, the sweets could not keep up with the savories. Mind you, they were good, but they were definitely a notch below the rest of the meal.

Finally, courtesy of Gina turning me onto it, I watched today this touching video of street performers around the world doing versions of the King, Lieber, and Stoller classic, "Stand By Me." Enjoy.

Monday, January 31, 2011

On the road again: Austin, day 1

Ah, the glamor of business travel: Up after a few hours of restless sleep. Shower. Drive to the airport. Join the mewling animal queue. Get scanned once again by the new machine, too tired to bother protesting its senseless invasion. Work in the Admiral's Club--a nice reprieve as the world goes away.

The plane. No first class. No exit row. Bag under the seat like a good resident of the oversold zoo. Seat in front so close that work is impossible. Warm, over-breathed air. Back curled to try to cram shoulders into a seat never built to contain them. Fatigue and space make even reading almost impossible. Try to sleep but just play the head-bob game. Air grows warmer and ever more stale.

I have rarely been so happy to land in Dallas.

The day improved markedly from there, with an upgrade on the next leg, the rental car ready (albeit filthy), and the drive to the hotel uneventful. Hours of work followed, the world vanishing as it does for me when I focus.

What is that in the evening distance, beckoning me, turning everything around?

Oh, yeah: it's Texas barbecue, courtesy of The County Line On the Lake, about which I've written often. A beef rib, a little sausage, and a little brisket later, and I'm a happy man.

A stop at the Amy's Ice Creams by the Renaissance Hotel, and the overheated, overstuffed plane was already a fading memory.

Doug and the Slugs are playing on the portable speakers in front of me. My computer is working, my room is cool, and I am reminded yet again that I have known bad times and, crappy three-hour flight or not, these aren't them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Neck like a leg

In an earlier entry, I recounted my recent suit-purchase expedition. To go with that suit, I also needed a new white dress shirt. For most people, meeting that need is simple: go to the store, and buy the shirt.

Those people have normal-sized necks.

I don't.

I'm a little under 5'9". Most guys my height wear a shirt with about a 15.5-inch neck. I'm significantly heavier than I should be, so it's natural that my neck also be a bit larger than normal, but weight isn't the problem. I just have a huge neck--and always have. How big?

For a shirt collar not to choke me, I need a shirt with a 19.5-inch neck.

As the seamstress (more on her in a minute) observed, I have a neck like a leg.

Buying a dress shirt with a neck this large is easy: you go to the embarrassing "Big" section and order it. The shirts that go with this collar, however, are huge. My new shirt (also from Nordstrom; ref. the earlier post) billowed around me like a circus tent that hadn't been tacked down yet. The sleeves dangled way past my wrists. In rough weather, whole families could have taken refuge under it. In New York City, I could have rented the space as two efficiency apartments.

It was big. Huge, in fact.

No problem; I know a great local tailor shop. I headed there, whereupon the seamstress, who does know me, offered the above observation and suggested, "Next time, you bring a collar you like, and I'll make the shirt." I had considered that option, but it turns out to be dramatically more expensive than having her alter the shirt. Boy, did she have to alter it. She had to shorten it dramatically, take in the body, cut many inches off the sleeves, etc.

The result, though, was a shirt that fits--and, more importantly, fits my needs for the suit.

Neck like a leg.


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