Thursday, February 22, 2007

Apartment Stuff

Two pieces of exciting news, both shopping related. (1) I finally bought a coffee table. This is totally wack, but I actually purchased the sucker from Walmart. After spending a few hours this past Monday with Mom looking (in three different stores!) I thought I had found a contender at Target. But I soon decided to check out Walmart just for kicks, and found this. They technically call it a TV stand, but it was just the right dimensions and look for what I had been seeking, so I went for it. It should arrive sometime next week. Once it's here I can take some pics of my mostly complete apartment and post em.

Also arriving next week will be ...(drumroll, please)... my new computer! (Boy am I going to have a painful credit card bill this month!) I have owned my current laptop for almost four years (it will be four this April) which as most of you know is around the usual lifespan of a PC. It has started to get very unreliable when playing DVDs or burning CDs, which is a pain, but bearable. Couple this, however, with its shaky security history (2 crashes, once with an unbelievable 156 pieces of spyware) and you can see why my mind has been leaning towards upgrading. Another factor that influenced my decision was that my laptop was never quite capable of the gaming I wanted to get out of it. I purchased CounterStrike: Source and Half Life 2 my senior year of college for I think around $80 and was never able to even open Half Life and had CounterStrike crash on me all the time. I am eager to get back to them both, as well as to finally purchase the copy of "The Sims: 2" that Keith has had on hold for me for ages at GameStop. I might finally get a clue about what had Lydia glued to the computer our freshman year of college. And with my new system (specs forthcoming) other games I've always wanted to play also become feasible: Civ 4, Age of Empires 3, Age of Mythology, and maybe I could even try to play DOTA with the boys now and again! Or at least go on and talk to them. So, without further ado, the specs:

- Operating System: Windows XP Media Center 05 (fuck that Vista shit…for now at least)
- Memory: 1 GB DDR2 SD RAM 667MHz
- Hard Drive: 250 GB (7200 RPM)
- Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 (1.8 GHz)
- Video Card: 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Graphics Card (I'm told this is pretty good)
- Drives: 48X CDRW/DVD Combo Drive and 16X DVD +/- RW Drive
- Bluetooth Keyboard and Optical Mouse
- 17 inch flat panel LCD monitor

It's nice, yeah? What I found amazing was that it is already (pretty much) impossible to buy a new PC that has XP not Vista. So I decided to go refurbished. I had been thinking about refurbished already anyway because of the price, but it's my first time so I was a bit nervous. Hopefully it should be fine. I had some help from Randolph in picking out my machine. In the end it cost me a grand for everything. Which I think is pretty good for what I ended up with. A little more than I wanted to spend, but the price I paid for avoiding Vista. The new PCs actually cost less in some situations, because there are all these Vista promos out right now. Although most of those computers don't have a graphics card as good as mine. Anyway according to Mrand it should be a "beast of a machine" once it's all nice and cleaned up. As for speakers and a printer, I'm going to use the ones I already had to go with my laptop, since the PC didn't come with and I don't want any more costs right now. So it's been an exciting week of spending, and hopefully now I'm done for awhile.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Now...debate online!

Holy god, just wait till the debaters get their hands on this one...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Nike does it again + Quiz Show

Nike has traditionally been one of the top 10 companies with regard to both expenditure and creative use of advertising dollars. On this note, I have to jump in and say that the ad I saw yesterday (for their new XX2 Air Jordan) captured me so thoroughly I immediately turned on my PC to see if I could find it on youtube and watch it again. However, though youtube does have a copy of it, it's poor quality and can be seen easier here. This ad is genius. Not only does it make use of one of my favorite pieces of all time, Mozart's Requiem (the Lacrimosa movement) it is a very artistically shot piece as well. It uses real looking people in a common situation, but arts it the hell up with some classical music. Love just the concept alone. Also, whoever did the sound editing was very smart. First, the vocals enter the piece just as the opposing team comes out of the shadows to steal the ball. Next, the music is ascending the whole time said opponent is soaring upwards towards the basket, and concludes its theme just as the ball goes in. Then tragedy strikes, felt in the dark overtones of the Lacrimosa. I especially love the shot of the guy ripping his jersey, and the wildcat head rolling on the floor. Great stuff. My only complaint (with the sound editing) is that the transition into Lacrimosa's concluding "Amen" could have been a bit smoother at the end. They sort of cut off the dark buildup before it climaxes. Feels a bit rough. But otherwise, I totally love this ad. A way to merge pop culture with older culture and create something accessible to a wide range of people. Well done, Nike.

On another note, watched "Quiz Show" on Friday nite, and loved it. The ending made me a little sad, I have to say, but what an entertaining movie! I've never been a huge fan of Ralph Fiennes, but I liked him in this. I've never seen "The English Patient" (it's in the queue) which seems to be one of his most loved roles. Though Lord Voldemort might win out by the time the HP movies are finished. The most memorable other things I remember seeing him in were "Red Dragon" which I absolutely hated, and "Schindler's List," which I mean, c'mon, who sits down to watch that on a regular basis? Great movie, but not something you have a strong desire to watch again. Apparently he's in "The Constant Gardener" which is also in my queue. So maybe I'll have to reform my opinion once I see two more with old Ralph. But anyway, back to "Quiz Show." Now there's a movie that's rife with "that-guys." You know, the one's you point at during the movie and go "HEY it's THAT guy!!" For example, Timothy Busfield, totally a that guy. I don't think he even has any lines in "Quiz Show" - maybe one. Same goes for William Fichtner, the Kevin Bacon look-alike who's always turning up in random movies (i.e. Armageddon, Contact, etc.) Actually I'm pretty sure he didn't actually have any lines in this movie, he was just in the background of a lot of shots at NBC. Also, Paul Guilfoyle, who I know mostly from CSI, it was totally random to see him. He played one of the legislative oversight guys, but again, hardly any lines. Anyway, I'm off the point. Crazy full cast, really cool story, very good film.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Holy Carp it's February 16th!

I can't believe February is more than halfway over. Where does the time go? This year is flying by. I haven't even used any vacation days yet. I could really use a small weekend getaway, but I just have been too busy at work. Plus I haven't really wanted to spend too much money, since I've been spending a lot on things for my apartment lately. I did get a snow day this week (on Wednesday) which was nice, except I got a little bored after spending the whole day in my apartment. I baked some Valentine's Day cupcakes to amuse myself, and I did have Keith around for half the day. I started a new video game - BTVS, Chaos Bleeds. It's ok, just a hack and slash basically, but it's kind of fun to hear the characters talking. They weren't able to secure all the actors to be voice talent for the game. Xander is definitely himself, but Buffy and Willow are sound-alikes (if there is such a thing). Giles I think might be himself too, and Spike definitely is done by James Marsters. What's weird is that the game combines plot elements from like the first 5 seasons, at least. Kakistos (Faith's vamp from Season 3 ep 3) makes an appearance, but so does the Magic Box. And Anya and Tara both exist, but Dawn doesn't. It's wacky. It's fun to turn on now and again though. I also finally started Chibi Robo (which Keith gave me for Hanukkah.) It's fun, but man, the sounds the characters make are SO annoying, and they won't let you advance the dialogue faster, or skip cut scenes. Arg. But I love Chibi - he's the cutest. And it's fun to explore. However, I'm stuck at the moment. I can't figure out how to get upstairs. I got down to the basement with no problem, but upstairs seems to be missing a step. Grr. Keith says I should just give in and go to, but I insist that it's cheating to check that site. He disagrees. Se la vie. But back to vacation, there is one that I'm thinking about. Besides hopefully going up to Beantown the third weekend of March, Keith and I just got an intriguing idea from Shaun the other day. We're now considering going to Ultra 9 in Miami. We went to the first Ultra NYC and had a great time, but the lineup of the NY show doesn't compare to what they've got going in Miami. It's just so much more established down there, plus it coincides with Winter Music Conference - gear and tunes at the same time, you know. Anyway, I'm trying to convince him that we should go down. The lineup is literally insane. They've only released 2/3 of the lineup and it goes something like this: Tiesto, PVD, Morillo, Sasha, Digweed, Ferry Corsten, Deep Dish, Sander Kleinenberg, Fat Boy Slim, Carl Cox, Danny Tenaglia, Richie Hawtin, Mauro Picotto, Timo Maas, BT, and so so many more. There are a bunch of Drum and Bass people that Keith likes too (most of whom I've never heard of.) It's two days of electronic music heaven. Way way better than DEMF. The only problem is that trying to fly to Miami in March is really expensive, and it's hard to find flights that aren't at 6am or 11pm. And hotels - foggedaboudit. Very very expensive. So I dunno what we'll do. If only I knew someone who lived down there that we could stay with. Or if other people who we liked were going that we could shack up with for rooming. Like 4 people in 1 hotel room or something. We'd be too tired from dancing all night to want to do anything but sleep, so I don’t see privacy being an issue. I'm sure Keith won't want to stay with Whippany guys if they're going down, though. Anyway, food for thought. I have a crazy weekend ahead of me. Party tonight at my sister's friend (and my old Piano teacher) Peter's house. I've gotta bake cupcakes and put the finishing touches on his stenciled shirt when I get home from work tonight, and then head to Montville to pick up Keith and go down there. I'll put up a pic of the shirt later (and maybe the cupcakes too!) For now, I should get back to work. Since it's crazy busy.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Good Morning Vietnam

Haha, if you thought I was late on the last one, you'll see I'm really late on this one. Actually, I guess I don't intend to really review this movie, since it's so old. But I did want to go on record as saying I'd finally seen it, and that I quite enjoyed it. There was one thing, though, that I thought was weird. It may be due to the era we live in and that we're so used to scenes of war, or that I've seen quite a few Vietnam movies besides this one (Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Forrest Gump), but I felt like this movie did not really portray the horrific magnitude that said war had. I know that that wasn't really the main focus of the movie. The character of Adrian Chronaur was the main focus, but he was also being used as a metaphor for what was wrong with the whole way we approached the war (I think that was the intent, anyway.) And so if you're going to do that, you have to show something a little more real. I feel like I saw the same 2 cut scenes a hundred times; it was either the one of marines boating through a tributary or the one of marines laying on their Jeeps in the sun listening to the radio. I mean c'mon. The bloodiest the film ever got was the explosion at Jimmy Waa's. Not a real good portrayal of the war. But overall that's my only real complaint. Otherwise, a funny yet poignant movie.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Spinach, Tomato, and Feta Pizza

Tried this recipe tonight, and loved it! These little suckers are really filling, and full of healthy but tasty ingredients!

Spinach, Tomato and Feta Pizza

4 large wheat pita(s) - I use Thomas' Sahara Wheat Pitas
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
10 oz chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained of excess water
1 can of petite diced tomatoes, drained - I use Hunts
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
dried oregano, to taste
garlic powder, to taste

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Throw pitas in oven while it's preheating (for about 10 minutes, so they crisp up a bit before we put the ingredients on.)

While this is going, I prefer to use fresh spinach instead of frozen, so I cook the spinach during this time. First I wash it (a 10 oz bag) and then, with just the water that clings to it, cook it in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally until all the leaves are wilted. Then I roughly chop it up a bit.

Take pitas out and place on a baking sheet. Spoon ricotta over pitas, to within 1/2" of the edges. Top with spinach, tomato and feta; sprinkle with oregano and garlic powder.

Bake until edges of pitas are golden, about 12 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Delicious!!!

The Departed

Keith and I went to the movies today to see this. And we both liked it, though we disagreed a bit about how it should have ended. My argument was that it ended the only way it could have to leave watchers feeling justified about each character's appropriate ending. Keith wanted certain characters to survive, but mostly for the frivolous reason of thinking we could maybe get a sequel. Anyway, it was a little bloodier than I prefer my thrillers or mob movies, but I lived. And I thought it was an excellent story. And pretty impeccably acted. Even by old Jack (who's getting a little too old to play a badass in my opinion). Stellar supporting turns from Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin (who says my favorite line in the movie - "The patriot act! I love it! I love the Patriot Act!" -- You have to see it to get why it's funny.) And oh man, just like that, btw, all Leo has to do is take his shirt off onscreen and I'm back in Romeo and Juliet la la land where I have a huge crush on his poor soul. Aaaanyway. Weird to see Matt Damon so dark. He was the one character I wasn't entirely convinced with. Every once in a while I felt like he let his acting guard down, and I didn't believe he was that bad.

The movie theater in my town, btw, is really cute. It's only 6 theaters, but they tend to play decent stuff (a mix of popular and art-house), and pretty comfy seats. Small theaters too, but with big screens, making for an up close and personal (but not too close) movie-watching experience. Plus there's a starbucks less than a block away, where Keith and I happily went for a coffee afterwards. Then I made us a yummy dinner, which will be a separate post, because I want to share the recipe!

Oh, also, final note: Keith and I checked out today, and holy shit there are some great ones. I highly recommend "Tea Partay" and "Condoms." We were rolling on the floor.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Crusted Honey Mustard Chicken

Had my parents over for dinner last night - grand old time. They really enjoyed seeing the apartment, and I enjoyed having some company! It was especially nice to have someone to eat with. Also nice for them to see that I really am living in a nice place. Hopefully it made them feel good to see that I am living comfortably and enjoying myself. And that it hasn't been a struggle to make it happen. I tried out a new recipe, and give it two thumbs way up!

Crusted Honey Mustard Chicken

2/3 cup lite honey mustard dressing
1/8 tsp table salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dill, freshly chopped
1 medium scallion(s), finely sliced
1 cup cornflake crumbs
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, four 4 oz pieces

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. In a small bowl, combine honey mustard dressing, salt, pepper, dill and scallions.
3. Place corn flake crumbs in a shallow bowl. Dip chicken breasts into dressing mixture, then corn flake crumbs. Place into shallow baking pan well coated with cooking spray.

4. Drizzle any remaining dressing mixture over chicken breasts.
5. Bake until chicken is golden and no longer pink, about 15 minutes.

I served this with twice baked feta-cheese potatoes, and some steamed broccoli with garlic.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


I know, I know. I'm about 5 years too late on this movie. But that makes it no less reviewable. Maybe there are others out there like me who missed it the first time, and then the next 25 times people were watching it in the college dorms. Maybe. Anyway, this was a real gem, as many already probably know. I was a little afraid to watch it at first, because of how hyped up it had been from friends. A story about the lives of ordinary people has been the setting for many a movie, but Amelie uses beautiful cinematography and images, and stellar acting, to art-up the seemingly mundane focus. The movie starts with back-story to explain how Amelie got where she is today (on the day that changed her whole life). One thing that I think is weird about Amelie as a character though, is that she grows up from someone who was starved of human contact, to be someone who avoids human contact. I would think that someone deprived of affection, attention, and all that other jazz would be absolutely desperate to seek that kind of connection as an adult (and probably would be seeking it in all the wrong places). But instead, Amelie isolates herself from other people. And they try to explain that to you in a way that it makes sense, but I had a hard time at the start buying into it. I soon realized, however, that I was going to have to buy in to move forward with the story. And it does eventually make sense. Even though she pursues the "album owner" (let's call him, to not spoil it) in a way that is secretive, avoidy, and beat around the bush-like, it's because she really does want human contact but she's afraid of it. All the characters she interacts with in the film are well imagined and interesting. For example, I loved the dude with the tape recorder in the café. And of course, I also loved "the glass man" - how could you not? I also really appreciated some of the creative story-telling techniques used in the movie. Like this: instead of developing a character over a long time by gradually revealing to you their innermost idiosyncrasies, they announce these facts upon the first view of the character. This is Amelie: she enjoys cracking crème brulee with a teaspoon, skipping stones, going for walks in the sunshine, and trying to guess how many people in Paris are having an orgasm at the same time. It's great to have that feeling of intimacy with a character as soon as you meet them. Anyway, to cut this ramble short, it was a lovely film, and comes highly recommended from me and countless others.

Friday, February 2, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada

Note: Semi-spoilers to follow. I love love loved this movie! I can't even tell you! Meryl Streep is a goddess. I love her wig in this movie; I think it's a good look for her. She plays her character so so well. She's cool as a cucumber, only revealing emotion through the most minute and rare gestures or looks, that if you blink, you could miss. Although in the book (apparently, I've never read it) she is a totally unredeemable ice bitch, the movie garners some sympathy for Miranda Priestly through some added plot elements (her divorce) and a more sympathetic take on Andy. Let's talk about Andy. Everyone harped on Anne Hathaway's performance, but I thought she did an alright job. To be honest, her character wasn't the most important character in the story, and the writing reflected that. On the plot, I think it's a little silly that in the end Andy and her beau end up sort of patching things up - I mean he's going to live in Boston for cripes sake. But if the writers really felt the need to tie up the 'romantic' vein of the story line I can't really complain too much, since it didn't affect the main plotline. On another note, the woman who played Emily (what was her name? IMDB, hold on…) - Emily Blunt - she was frickin awesome! She stole every scene she was in (or at the very least, the best lines were written for her!) Some of my favorite scenes were: when Miranda goes on a rant about Andy's "cerulean" (*not blue*) sweater, the scene with Emily and Andy before Andy's interview, the first shopping of the "runway closet" with Andy and Nigel. Some things that bothered me: they did NOT have to make Andy end up a size 4!! The message they're sending there is that she accepts it's totally not okay for her to be a size 6 and that's fuckin ridiculous. Also, the fact that she sleeps with Christian. Anyway, these are mostly minor things. Overall, I thought this was a highly entertaining piece of film, and would suggest a view to any readers who missed it.