Saturday, December 28, 2013

UFC 168: What a card!

Earlier tonight, a group of us watched the latest UFC event on pay-per-view, UFC 168.  It was one hell of a card. 

Almost all of the prelims delivered entertaining fights.

Travis Browne knocked out Josh Barnett with vicious elbows and established himself as a serious heavyweight contender.

Challenger Miesha Tate took Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey past the first round for the first time in Rousey's MMA career, but in the end Rousey won again the same way she's ended all of her fights:  by armbar.  It was a great bout in which both women showed once again that they are true warriors.

In the main event, Chris Weidman retained his Middleweight championship by defeating Anderson Silva for the second time, but this match ended freakishly:  Weidman checked a kick, and Silva's lower leg snapped in half from the collision.  It was gruesome to watch.  Silva is clearly one of the greatest pound-for-pound MMA fighters ever, and we all can only hope that the surgery goes well and he recovers fully.  I fear, though, that this will end his MMA career, which will be a sad ending to an amazing run as a fighter.

Though Weidman won in this odd way, I believe he was winning both rounds before the kick, and I had picked him to win.  I expect him to hold the middleweight strap for quite some time.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Zombie Hunter

Kyle's visiting, so the bad-movie times are rolling here at our place.  Last night's second--and worse--movie was this classic bit of low-budget zombie fare, a film whose box boasted the presence of Danny Trejo but whose actual footage suffered acutely from a severe lack of Trejo mojo.  I don't normally review our late-night flicks, but I'm writing this short piece as a public service to those of you who, like the two of us, will give pretty much anything a try if Trejo appears in it.  Unless you're a desperate Trejo completist, I have to suggest you give Zombie Hunter a wide pass. 

If you do decide to invest 93 minutes (and, oh, are they padded minutes) in this one, be prepared for such wonders as

  • one of the oddest looking actors I've seen in quite some time
  • zombies who started with a popular drug, a sad origin story
  • more vomit scenes than any one movie should contain
  • the worst skin on an actress in recent memory
  • a semi-zombie wielding a chain saw on that same actress
  • giant mega-zombies who appear for no particular reason
  • more blood-on-the-lens effects than any movie in recent memory
  • possibly the single worst sex scene ever filmed--and, no, there's no nudity
Seriously, despite that awesome list, I can't recommend this one.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Peter Jackson's second installment in the trilogy he is managing to wring from a combination of Tolkien's novel and his own imagination is an amusement park ride of a film, a two-hour-and-forty-minute journey that entertains you and then deposits you outside the theater, unchanged except for the passage of time. 

This middle entry advances the plot in basically one key way (spoilers):  All the bad things are now winning.  At its end, our dwarves have failed, Gandalf is a prisoner, some new friends are about to turn into dragon crispies, and, as you might guess from that comment, Smaug is flying the Middle Earth skies, and, boy, is he pissed.  In the course of taking us to these places, Jackson keeps the pedal to the metal and avoids the boring stretches of the first film. 

I enjoyed this movie, even found it satisfying enough as an adventure, but I wanted to care more than I did. 

I can't imagine you don't already know if you want to see this one, but if you're on the fence, wait until you need a few hours of mindless film adventure to relieve the stress of your day, and then check it out. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Off doing Christmas stuff

If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a very merry, love-filled one indeed.

If you don't observe this holiday, I hope your day is still merry and filled with love. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And now, a piece of Christmas Eve advice from Holden

Holden, lacking any ability to type, asked me to post this for him.

Click on the image for a larger version.
Fellow creatures, 

Cold weather is here and going to stay for a while.  Even if your winter coat has come in as nicely as mine, consider getting a nice blanket or fleece for those afternoon naps and long winter sleeps.  You'll be glad you did.
He also noted that you don't have to wear your blanket.  You can snuggle in it.

Or even simply rest on it.

How can you possibly ignore such sage advice from such a stylish dog?

You can't, of course.

Photos courtesy of Allyn.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The award for the book that in 2013
Most Made Me Love It...

...goes to Nick Harkaway's glorious Angelmaker.

Before I turn to the novel itself, let me deal with a bit of inevitable bookkeeping business:  Yes, I know Angelmaker appeared in 2012, but I didn't get around to reading it until this year, and these are, after all, my awards, so just live with the date and let's move on, shall we?

Angelmaker's protagonist, Joe Spork (how can you not love that name?), repairs clockworks and other mechanisms in a shop in a dodgy, little trafficked section of London.  His profession and his ancestry lead him into a set of adventures that I won't even bother trying to describe, because all I could do is diminish your experience of the novel.  Suffice to say that as the stakes ratchet upward, and oh how they do, Spork's world becomes more complex and more enchanted, in good ways and bad, than he could ever have imagined.

Our world does the same.

A novel in the grand fantastic tradition, Angelmaker is a glorious, insane, love-suffused ride that I encourage you to take.  I have recommended this novel more than any other this year.

I do not know Harkaway, but, Nick, if we're ever at a con together, please find me, because the drinks are on me all night long.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

[ONE] restaurant: World-class cuisine in the Triangle

I've reviewed [ONE] in multiple past posts.  I've talked about its good start, some less good periods, and its recent dramatic transformation.  I've talked about its potential. 

Last night, I got to experience that potential.  Calling [ONE] the best high-end restaurant in the Triangle is accurate, but it's also inadequate.  As someone who has eaten in many Michelin three-star-rated restaurants and in many of the places ranked in the top fifty in the world, I'm here to tell you that the full truth about [ONE] is so very much better than that bit of praise.  It's simple.

[ONE] can deliver world-class meals.  The one I ate last night was on par with anything I've had anywhere, from El Bulli to Robuchon, from The French Laundry to Guy Savoy (the real one in Paris). 

In an earlier blog post on [ONE], I talked about my desire to have its star chefs, Kim Floresca and Daniel Ryan, cook the meal they would love to create were there no restrictions on price or creativity.  Last night, a group of us ate a version of that meal--not the full, no-holds-barred version, which was not possible due to this being a holiday Saturday night, they told me, but a version good enough to merit a world-class ranking. 

The chefs created this meal despite having to deal with a large group with two vegetarians and a pescetarian.  Here's the menu I ate.  (The distortion is due to the angle at which I had to take the shot not to have my phone's shadow in the picture; sorry about that.)

Click on an image to see a larger version.

The meal began with four snacks, each a lovely bite-sized morsel, all delicious. 

Then, the menu began.  I'm not a fan of the beet, a trait I consider a foodie weakness but nonetheless the truth.  Thus, I was a little nervous about this dish.  I did not express this dislike to the chefs ahead of time, however, because I have learned something important over the years of superb meals:  When a great chef prepares a dish that includes ingredients I think I don't like, I often find I like the food after all.

Tonight's beet dish had me scraping every last bit of flavor from the dish.

While we were enjoying this beautiful and delicious mixture of ingredients, Chef Floresca showed us a loaf of rye bread in which they were baking the rutabagas that were central to the next dish. 

You can barely see many of the ingredients in this one because of all the white truffle shavings, which Floresca applied herself to each of our plates.  Wow, was this superb!

Next, they threw us a curve ball, as Floresca said in her introduction to the dish, by adding a dish to our menu. 

A mixture of lamb tail, lamb heart, and lamb bacon in an amazing sauce over absolutely flawlessly prepared pasta--all topped by black truffle shavings that she again applied--this small bowl was as perfect a dish of pasta and as perfect a winter food as I have ever tasted.  I would love to have this available every time the weather turns unreasonably cold. 

I could go on and on, through every dish, but the outcome was the same each and every time:  The food was creative, fun, and, most of all, delicious.  Our table filled with laughter and exclamations of joy as we ate.  The desserts, which I had once critiqued as weak, were delights.  I didn't catch the pastry chef's name, but he did great work.  In my previous entry on [ONE], I'd praised the snowball as a dish that showed what this team could do.  Here it is, now refined, in a special ice sculpture and with fingerlime caviar atop it--an addition that elevated the already great concoction.

After the two dessert treats on the menu and the two small ones they added, I spent a few minutes in delightful conversation with Floresca.  We talked about food, art, the value of experiences, the importance of humor in art, and many other subjects. 

I cannot recommend [ONE] too much.  It wasn't full on a Saturday night, so I worry (I hope needlessly) about its future, but I very much want it to succeed.  It deserves to be a destination restaurant, the kind of place that brings foodies in New York and LA to North Carolina. 

If you live in the area, do yourself a favor:  Open yourself to culinary wonders, let the chefs cook whatever they'd like, and eat a world-class meal at [ONE].  If you don't live nearby, no worries; you can get to RDU from just about anywhere in two flights. 

Chefs Floresca and Ryan, as well as the whole team at [ONE], flat out deliver the goods.  This is a world-class cooking team. 

Go eat their food.  Be sure to come by and say, "Hi," if you see me, because I'll be there every chance I get.


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