Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Great White North -- Automobile Maintenance

For anybody coming up from the States for the summer skiing, tips on getting your car ready.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Movie Review -- Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

One Word Review: Ouch (as in -- please stop, I can't breath anymore and my stomach hurts from laughing so hard.)

One Sentence Review: I can't believe the stones on this guy, and neither will you.

Sacha Baron Cohen is my master now. It's one thing to sit in a studio and mock politicians by being deliberately obtuse (his previous gig). It's another to try to kiss New Yorkers (who seem to be really uptight about their personal space), join a craps game in a black ghetto in the middle of the night, run naked through a convention of mortgage brokers chasing another naked guy with a fist-shaped dildo, or deliberately mangling the Star Spangled Banner at a local Texas rodeo.

He'd hired himself a bodyguard for this last stunt. The body guard ran away after the crowd started booing so hard it spooked the horses. That's the kind of guts he has. I'm not sure why he wasn't thrown in jail. Or shot. Or shot, then thrown in jail. Or jailed, then shot.

You get the idea.

Now, I could go own about the socially redeeming qualities of this this movie, restating the obvious & redundant point that nobody made these people act like drooling, in-bred morons. I, for one, cheered every time another red-necked racist/misogynistic dick was exposed for who they were.

Some people chose to act with grace, and did so. Good for them. Though I can't really blame the southern belle for calling the sheriff when Borat's date, a prostitute, showed up to the dinner party. She was probably already fed up with him after having to show him how to use the toilet.

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Restaurant Review -- Bavarian Inn

One Word Review: Yummy!

One Sentence Review: Worth the trip, especially if you like German food.

Karl & Darlene have been trying to get us out to dinner with them for the last six months. Between one thing and another, we only just made it out to the Bavarian Inn this past Friday. It was worth the wait, and lived up to the hype. Good thing, too, since I'd been thinking about schnitzel all day, and my mouth would start watering every time.

Now I know that "German cuisine", like "bagpipe music", seems an oxymoron to some. Then there are those of us who know better. My parents are German, and my mother was a cook of mythic status. Cathie knew that she'd been accepted into the family when Mom allowed her to stir the gravy one night. We'd been married for a year at that point.

I think my Mom's cooking was always good because she bought the best ingredients she could, and prepared it fresh. That's what this restaurant is like. I've been to many places that claim to be home-cooking, but this is the first place that tasted like home-cooking to me.

For an appetizer I ordered the Camembert in fillo pastry. The wild game menu was tempting, but I stuck to my original Jaegerschnitzel. Goulash, buffalo Rouladen, and beef tenderloin rounded out the table. Silence descended as each concentrated on our own plates, punctuated by the occasional primal grunt. If you want good quality food, dining, atmosphere, and a meal that actually fills you up, there is little better than this restaurant. None of this panty-waisted urban French cooking here. I surprised the servers aren't fatter, since they get to eat there each day.

Definitely going back. We'll have to find an excuse to drive out there soon.

Web Page: Bavarian Inn (includes phone number for reservations, directions, and menus)

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Great White North -- Becoming Canadian

Part five of the Great White North II -- how to become a Canadian citizen.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Restaurant Review -- Bear's Den

Two Word Review: Special Treat

One Sentence Review: The place in Calgary to take somebody you want to impress, if you're willing to drop the coin.

Cathie & I went there a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night, as our Valentine's dinner. I went on a recommendation from one of my bosses, who is a bit of a gourmet. One of those guys that can not only tell you which wine goes with which food, but will start making recommendations about which vintage.

I had a salmon salad and steak (they are one of the only places in Alberta that serve AAAA beef). Cathie had the pumpkin soup and elk steak. We let the waiter choose an appropriate glass of wine for each of us, which he did handily.

I knew the food was going to be good, and expensive. Be prepared to lay out $100 per person, plus booze. The service was impeccable as it better darn-well be at that price. The architecture was also gorgeous, which I didn't expect. Tall, elegant ceilings with relief sculptures of wolves, bison, and mountains. All very well done. I felt like a bit of hick as I asked to wander around the second dining room to take it all in, but we did anyway.

By the way, if you like martinis at all, their feta stuffed olives are a real treat. I'm off to stuff my own olives now, have a good Alberta Family Day long weekend!

Web Site: http://www.bears-den.ca/

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Restaurant Review -- Majuru Sushi

One Word Reveiw: Good

One Sentence Review: Authentic, friendly, fresh -- definitely a nice quiet place to get some good sushi for those in the know.

I was out and about for the Chinese New Year yesterday, heading down to Chinese Cultural Centre and stopping at some of the second-hand bookstores along the way. A pleasant day with my two girls. I'd never been here before, and my usual Centre Street sushi place was closed for the provincial long weekend. So we stopped in to give it a try.

The place is small and neat, and doesn't feel crowded. There are a couple of private booths along the side, and lots of light from the front windows. We had a couple of lunch specials, a vegatable roll and a bowl of "sticky rice" for Nichole the eleven-year-old. Also Ebi Tempura. Victoria's big on shrimp.

The soup was good -- I usually don't like the watery, bitter miso that most places seem to serve. All the food was served promptly, fresh and tasty. The sushi and sashimi was generous (a touch colder than I like, but what can you do -- those darn health inspectors), and the presentation was well laid out. Victoria even noticed that they made it look pretty.

The best part? I love finding a good place my other sushi snob friends haven't discovered yet. I'm so going to lord it over them

919C Centre Street NW (around the corner from the Starbucks, just before you go down the hill and into downtown)

Phone: (403-276-8008)

p.s. Victoria says thanks for keeping her purse safe when she left it behind, and for returning it in perfect condition.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Movie Review -- Pan's Labriynth

One Word Review: Wow.

One Sentence Review: In the entire history of movie-making, this film sets a new high-water mark.

I really don't know where to begin. I thought "Children of Men" was good, but it was just a warm up.

The plot goes something like this: Mom remarries and moves out to the country-side to join her bastard of a husband to give birth to a son. Army Captain cruel & paranoid step-father is busily suppressing the remaining anti-fascist guerrillas. Pre-teen daughter of the previous marriage discovers a labyrinth, and this is where the fantastical starts weaving its way into the story.

OK, I'll explain it like this: I went to see this with my wife Cathie. About halfway through the movie I mentioned to her that the director, Guillermo Del Toro, had a collection of over 150 books of fairy tales from which he drew his themes and plot lines. She went "Oh, I didn't see that." Which surprised me, 'cause usually she's tuned into things like that. Afterwards, she told me that what she was getting out of it was cruelty of war. I keep wanting to go back to see what else I missed. My point? This movie works on so many levels, that you could go into it for years and get something out of it every time.

The technical support, acting, directing, and all the craft of cinematography disappears into the background as the story, the characters, and the emotion step out front & centre. It's a beautiful movie, a wonderful story, a penetrating morality tale, and a raw tragedy.

Go see it.

p.s. Don't take your kids unless you can afford to pay for their therapy. This is a movie for mature audiences, and not because of any gore or sex.

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Movie Review -- Ghost Rider

One Word Review: Disappointing.

One Sentence Review: Writers should never be allowed to be directors.

Went to see this with my son last night. We should have stayed home and watched the "Dead Like Me" DVD I borrowed from a friend at work instead. Cool special effects, but that's not enough anymore.

"Ghost Rider" is an example of what happens when somebody without talent a) tries to compress an entire years-long serial story-line into two hours, and then b) goes on to film it themselves. Not having anybody call bull-shit on you when you're seriously self-delusional results in a meandering, non-sensical plot, reliance on special effects instead of characters, and an audience that's falling asleep by the end of the movies. You think I'm exaggerating. I'm not, and it wasn't just me. Another child-hood memory smothered and soiled.

The movie did have three redeeming features: Nicholas Cage -- always a good actor, even when the lines he's given have all the passion and power of a dead hamster; and playing his love interest, Eve Mendes. She has other assets, but not enough to rescue this seriously flawed (but glossy) movie.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Darwin's Rottweiller

I'm not an atheist, but if I was, Richard Dawkins would be my God.

Er, wait, that's not right...

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Secret Life of Toothpaste

Did you know that toothpaste can be used to clean drinking glasses, fix scratched CDs & DVDs, polish silverware, and refurbish cast iron sinks?

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Roasting Your Own Coffee

I thought I liked coffee -- apparantly not as much as this guy...

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Best Rant Ever

Some guy I've never heard of, but it's the best rant ever. Joel Johnson takes a wack with a big stick at gadget makers, reviewers, and even the consumers that always have to buy the latest & greatest, and therefore support a ever-churning compost heap of crap. The title of his well written and funny hate missile is "Consumer electronics are a joke. It's everyone's fault but mine. You assholes."

...and you know what? He's right. I dropped my Palm T3 one too many times and broke it (again), and I've been using an old old old Zire 31 ever since. You know what? It works just fine. The only thing it doesn't have that I wish it did is a voice memo recorder, but for the $500 upgrade, it can wait. A long long long time.

An excerpt to whet your appetite:

"While we're on the subject of your torpid, irresponsible copy, stop calling stuff "*tastic." Especially "geektastic," your slackest-jawed portmanteau. Would you drop that bon mot to a woman you were trying to hit on in real life? Of course you would, because I know you guys, and you're dorks."

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Great White North -- Forgot the Topic

Sorry, we forgot to bring a topic, Karl phones in sick, and he loses his toque. He's not having a good day, eh?

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ten Things You Shouldn't Buy New

DVDs & CDs
Little kids toys
Sports equipment
Software & console games
Office furniture
Hand tools

Find out why here...although I get screwed every time I buy a car, used or not. Gotta figure out how to avoid that next time.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ten Things You Shouldn't Buy Used

Car Seats
Plasma TVs
DVD Players
Vacumn Cleaners
Wet Suits

...find out why here.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tightening Large Lashings

When you're out in the woods building a large structure, like a bridge or tower say, and you need to really tighten your lashings, now you can just whip out your frapping mallet.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Great White North -- Hoserland's Who's Who

If you remember this music, we should talk -- we belong to the same Canadian generation.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Good Design -- A Stapler

A design for a stapler that always works, and is just as easy to use as before. Simple idea, big pay-off.

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