Yes I sure did use that subject heading. It wasn't bad enough that we lose MJ a few years back. By the way, has it really been three years now?? Anyway, this cat made moonwalking famous long before MJ would make music history with his. And now he's gone too.
Former astronaut Neil Armstrong died this past Saturday from complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82-years-old.
It's rather ironic that this news should occur not that long after a controversial post on my page on The Book. I had mentioned that I found it hard to believe folks still don't believe we landed on the moon. It sparked several comments of folks arguing both points. If he had Facebook (and if he was on my friend's list), I'm sure Armstrong would have had some words of his own to express.
Contrary to what some pundits believe, I have no doubt that Armstrong landed on the moon. Not in some film studio. He really did get out there and take one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind. More importantly, he was the first person to ever do it. In a day and age where technology wasn't near what it is today he helped the USA take first in the space race.
Now it does still bring to mind the fact that with that first moon landing being over 40 years ago, how come we haven't come any closer to getting those "Star Trek" like spaceships? Or at least putting a man on Mars instead of that robot thing? I always wondered if pioneers like Armstrong ever put in their two cents with NASA to make sure the space program kept pushing ahead. Let's get some starships already. In the meantime, I do appreciate Neil opening the door with his Apollo 11 mission.
I have been to some training functions before where the training class I was with wasn't all that great. Either they weren't a sociable group or there was always that one teacher's pet who annoyed the entire class. There was always something that wasn't right. That wasn't the case with this group. In fact, one of things that worked to our advantage was we had a few people who were from around the area. That came in extremely handy when it came time to find good restaurants. Especially good seafood.
I may have grown up in the midwest all my life but I wasn't naive enough to realize that I couldn't get real seafood there. It would take a trip to an area close to some real open water to get fresh seafood. You couldn't ask for a better place to do that than Boston. Actually, we were staying in a small town outside of
Boston called Hopkinton. No open water there, but certainly closer than the midwest. Our local connection informed us that we could get as close as possible with Legal Sea Foods even though it was a chain.
The thing about chain restaurants is some of them are only regional. I'm used to seeing places like Gates and Famous Daves. They've never heard of those here. Legal Sea Foods is chain popular in New England. Not only do we not have it in the midwest (or Texas) but I had never heard of it. However, I had a funny feeling that it had to be better than Red Lobster (the chain we DO know). And keep in mind that I love me some Red Lobster.
Normally, I would have let the presence of a huge, corny looking fish on the outside give me second thoughts. Could it have been any more corny? But from the moment the appetizers came out, I could see the exterior meant nothing at all. Although I'm normally not a calamari fan their Crispy Montauk calamari struck a chord. It was regular, spicy, Rhode Island style (hot peppers and garlic). The spices gave it an extra zest that made the calamari hard to put down. Between those and the shrimp wontons I was confident that the actual dinner couldn't miss.
Everything on their menu looked SO good that I had a difficult time making a selection. I decided early on that one thing that would not be an option would be lobster. I was saving that for our trip to Rhode Island where we knew the lobster would be amazing. So I went with the seafood casserole. It was scallops, shrimp, lobster and scrod baked with cheese and cream sauce with a side of jalapeño cheddar polenta. I didn't know what jalapeño cheddar polenta was but figured it was hard to go wrong with a combination that included jalapeño and cheddar.
When she brought out the dish, I was a little disappointed. The dish the casserole came in was rather small. It was about the same size as the dish that I've seen shrimp scampi come in as a side dish. Looks were clearly deceiving in this case. That small dish was deeper than I had anticipated. And it wasn't bits of seafood in it. It was nice-sized chunks. Nice-sized, succulent, juicy chunks. It was amazing. My mouth is watering again now just reminiscing about it.
Now the jalapeño cheddar polenta was something else altogether. It was described to me from a local that it was almost like grits. It wasn't. Their version of it was more like a dried cornbread/crabcake hybrid. Only without the crab. I took one bite and quickly concluded it wasn't for me. That was the only glitch about the experience though. Given their other outstanding dishes and the very cordial service (although she had no place to go but up after the British Beer Company experience), I left wishing that Legal Sea Foods would expand to our area.
This was SO not news from home that I was expecting to hear while I was gone to training. When my friend told me an ISU professor had passed away, I thought for sure I wouldn't know who it was. It had been years since I had been there. I only remembered a handful of professors from my time there. Unfortunately, this was one of them.
Iowa State University journalism professor Barbra Mack passed away from a sudden illness in her home last Thursday morning. She was 59-years-old.
The few professors I recall at ISU all have special memories with me from my time there. Thomas Beel because he was my guidance counsellor (I can't remember what the actual name for it was, but he was the person who made sure I stayed on track with my credits and courses required to graduate). That one math professor who thought we should blow up the moon because it was an unnecessary object. Our EMS (Electronic Media Studies) teacher who always grunted when he tried to show us how to work the EMS equipment. Then there was Professor Mack for my most memorable moment in a journalism class.
She taught one of the weed out journalism classes. Us real journalism majors had to take it as part of our core curriculum. I think other folks took it because they thought it would be an easy course to ace to raise their GPA. Therefore, some students didn't give the class the due diligence it deserved when it came time for the assignments. One such occasion was called to the attention of the entire class one day.
The assignment called to write a short one page essay on a chapter we had to read from our course text book. It was a weekly assignment that was always a piece of cake. You couldn't ask for easier homework. A couple of classes after we had completed the most recent chapter, Prof. Mack did something she had never done before. She opened the class by putting up one of the student's papers on the projector. We all read it. It was decent. She then took it down and put up another student's paper. They looked eerily similar. The second one looked like it was the poor man's version of the paper we had just seen. We still didn't know what the purpose was.
After she took down the second paper, she proceeded to go into a tirade about how she would not stand for cheating in her class. Eloquently but very loudly exclaiming how these students had some nerve to try to commit plagiarism in a journalism class. She then called the two of them to the front of the room. She asked them to explain their actions. One of them was courageous enough to speak said they did look a little similar but it was just a coincidence since he didn't cheat. You could EASILY tell he was lying. She then told them both they had until the end of class to decide if they wanted to take an "F" for the class or get suspended for cheating. Not even seconds after that she yelled "Class dismissed!"
Up to that point, we all thought Prof. Mack was just a happy-go-lucky professor that enjoyed teaching journalism. We had no idea how passionate she really was about it. Not only that, we clearly knew that she was not one to be messed with. I had nothing but the utmost respect for her from that point forward. She was responsible for one of my favorite ISU stories and I will never forget her for that very reason.
So I never did get to tell you all the wonderful story about my flight to Boston. Now that I look back on it, there wasn't much to tell. I flew Jet Blue for the first time and was impressed with their spacious seating along with the ability to have some Directv channels available for viewing during the flight. However, I got stuck sitting next to a cat lady whose cat crapped in the carrier halfway thru the 3-hour flight, two bickering kids in front of me and a crying baby behind me. Thank goodness for my headphones. That about covers the flight.
Now you can bet that with two weeks in a city that I've never been in before that there would be some
eating out. Especially since I had per diem to do it. That meant that I would be taking every opportunity possible to try a restaurant I have never heard of and/or we didn't have back home. Why waste per diem on eateries I can find anywhere? I seriously doubt I'll be getting out this way again anytime soon so I've been all about experimentation while in New England. First up was the British Beer Company.
Those of you that know anything about me are probably wondering why a person that doesn't drink would try a place like this. Two reasons: I remember that the Raccoon River Brewer Company in Des Moines had good food even though they were known for all their different flavors of beer so thought maybe that was the case here as well. The other reason was even though I don't drink, most of the other folks in my training class do. They wanted to see what it was like. So a compromise was made.
Things weren't right from the moment we got in there. We had a group of 15 people which didn't sit well with them. But the place didn't take reservatioins so it's not like we could have called ahead. They made us wait 30 minutes while they found us a table. The "table" they found was actually two separate booths and one table top that were all in close proximity of one another. It seemed a little odd since they had tables that could have been pushed together for one big table for all of us, but whatever.
I wasn't impressed with the menu selection at all. Sure, I wasn't expecting to get my fill of real New England seafood in a place like that; however, I just expected there to be a little better variety. The closest thing I could find to something I would like was the BBC steak. Even though I knew full well that a steak in New England wouldn't taste anything near as good as one from the midwest or even Texas for that matter. It was decent, but definitely nothing to write home to Mom about.
What was noteworthy was the customer service. And not in a good way. I swear our waitress was doing her best to avoid our table once we got our food. A brotha couldn't get a refill on water to save my life. I finally had to break down and get the attention of another waitress close by to get some more water. Then our original waitress was the one who brought it out and had nerve to have some attitude about it. I realized when our tab came why she wasn't going out of her way to be helpful. The 20% gratuity was already included because of the size of our group. Even though they split us up into three separate groups AND we had three different waitresses.
The real drama came after we started leaving in groups. I thought that would have made it easier for them since there were less people to deal with. I guess not. Those of us that were ready to go home left while those that wanted to try other beers and drink more stayed. I would find out later on that waitresses got even more rude with those that stayed. Even went as far as refusing to serve two of the girls claiming they had already had enough to drink. They hadn't even had a single alcoholic beverage. Then they had the nerve to say they hope we come back again soon. Yeah...that'll happen.
So overall, not a real good start to experiencing cuisine in the Boston area. Fortunately, it was a location that wasn't actually in Boston so I didn't hold that against the city. Also, it's not like it was an actual restaurant so I wasn't expecting their food to be outstanding anyway. They didn't have to do much to exceed my preconceived low expectations and they STILL fell short. That's one chain that can stay in the northeast.
You know how I have that unsung category of "thought they were already gone"? Well you can add this one to that group. What's worse is once I found out I had to struggle to remember why she was famous. She was of those celebrities that I knew just because she had been around so long but was never in anything very memorable to me.
Comedienne Phyllis Diller passed away peacefully in her sleep in her Los Angeles home this past Monday.
She was 95-years-old.
I was trying to think of what my first recollection of Diller was. This is going to be really bad, but it was from a Scooby Doo cartoon. My generation may remember that back during the days of Saturday Morning Cartoons, Scooby Doo started doing something new during one of their seasons where they had guest stars appear in episodes. Yes, it was odd to have guest stars appear in cartoons. However, I wouldn't have known who Diller was at that age were it not for that.
Diller would guest star in several other shows after that but her other most memorable appearance to me wouldn't be until years later. She would show up on the short-lived sitcom "Titus" as the grandmother. If you ever have a chance to find reruns of that show on Hulu or Youtube or anywhere then I highly suggest you do so. That's joint was HILARIOUS! Definitely cut short way too soon.
Diller had no role in "The Wiz" but I always felt as though the character Miss One (Thelma Carpenter) was heavily influenced by Diller. She seemed very much like nothing more than a Black version of her. Not sure if that was Carpenter's intent, but that's what I still think to this day. So now all I ever think about when I see that scene is Diller. Probably even more so now with her gone on.
Have you ever come across one of those movies that clearly doesn't look like's your cup of tea but it has that train-wreck appeal to it that has you compelled to watch it? Okay...maybe it's just me that is odd that way. That was certainly the case with this flick. The thing I failed to realize...again...is nothing good can ever come from a train-wreck.
The extremely thin plot is teenager Thomas (Thomas Mann) is about to celebrate his birthday. He's never been popular at school but does have is own clique of a few close friends. These friends, led by the over-ambitious Costa (Oliver Cooper), come up with the brilliant idea to throw a party at Thomas's house since his parents will conveniently be gone out of town. They hope to also boost Thomas's popularity in the process. One thing leads to another and before you know it
the party is so out of hand that nearly an entire neighborhood is destroyed.
I think one of the reasons I wanted to see this because I was subconsciously thinking of "Weird Science". I still think that's what thinly inspired the idea for this one. The difference being in that movie when Lisa (Kelly LeBrock) planned and executed the party for Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) she was able to clean up everything as it never happened. So they were able to live out their dream without any real consequences. Not so much the case here since it was supposed to be a little more realistic. VERY little.
Ever since I saw the trailer for this one I wondered how it would be possible for a house party to even get to the point where this one did. Maybe...MAYBE...back in the day when cops were a little more lenient. Not anymore. Would they really get called out for a disturbance and do a half-assed job investigating it before leaving the scene? Not so much. But even worse than that...how possible is it to have an entire backyard of drunk teenagers to be entirely quiet while the police are there so they don't get busted? Not possible at all.
Of course there was also the predictable storyline about the one girl-friend who Thomas is cool with but doesn't realize she's girlfriend material until it's too late. I suppose that could happen, but would it really have taken him THAT long to realize what he was missing out out? He's a teenage boy. A heterosexual teenage boy. No way it took him years to realize how attractive she really was AND that he wanted her as more than a friend. Times may have changed since my high school years but they haven't changed THAT much.
Don't even get me started on the most obvious aspect about this movie that had me turned off early on. The title. Is that really the best they could come up with? Naming it after a Matthew Broderick film from the 80s that many of still hold near and dear? Of course Hollywood could because the kid of today are too aren't diverse enough to even know that the first film ever existed. All they see is a movie about the best party ever which, of course, some of the stupid ones will then try to emulate.
I had put off watching "Project X" for the longest time times since I knew it would be exactly what I expected. I'm not naive to realize that sometimes I can be wrong. I just wish doing so wouldn't waste my time in the process. I have no one to blame but myself though. This was clearly not aimed at my demographic that sees it as nothing more than a propaganda film to fuel kids' stupidity fires. I swear sometimes I really weep for our youth.
Okay...I am SO far behind on my blogging that it's not even funny. As of the writing of this post, I still have three restaurant reviews to do (if you count this one) as well as two movie reviews. That's not even counting a brief synopsis on my trip to Boston so far. I don't even have a viable excuse as to they aren't getting done since I haven't done a shoot in a minute. Well, unless you count the day gig which has now been occupying my time. So stay tuned as there's a lot I have coming up that you may (or may not) want to catch.
First up is this Pluckers place. If you're not familiar with the name, it's exactly what you think it would be with a name like that. Chicken. No clue why they couldn't have been more original. Or at the same time, why they had to choose something that was so close to having a double entendre. I can't even say the name with a straight face. But Mariah wanted to eat there having heard so many great things about it. I've been on this kick to try as many new restaurants in the area as possible so I was game.
Pluckers is yet another wing joint. Like Buffalo Wild Winds. And West Cyde Wings (that's an Ames thing). And Twin Peaks (although that's a stretch for them). And who knows how many other wing joints that are out there. That is why I wasn't too geeked about going there. Even less so when we got there and found out it was going to be 45 minutes to get a table. I understand it was a Saturday night and all, but was it really that serious? I would have thought that with all the options for restaurants that the wait wouldn't be like that. Guess I thought wrong.
Their menu wasn't a whole lot different than any other wing place I've been to. Except for one glaring omission: there was no caribbean jerk wings. I was really in the mood for those for some reason. Wait...actually, I know the reason. It was those caribbean jerk wings that AJ made for Fourth of July. Yes, I'm STILL thinking about those months later. The closest thing I could find to those were the cajun wings and the spicy ranch. Both of them paled in comparison. In fact, both of them were a rub instead of a sauce which disappointed me even more.
Mariah, on the other hand, went with a standard medium hot sauce. The waiter said their medium was probably considered hot at any other wing place. I tried it and it definitely tasted medium to me. More importantly, it was GOOD. It had just the right amount of spice and flavor so that you could still enjoy the wings without having to burn your mouth. I ended up ordering extra sauces of that sauce to put on my wings. As far as medium sauces go it was the best sauce I've ever had.
I would venture to say that Buffalo Wild Wings still has Pluckers beat when it comes to wings joints. They just have a better variety of sauces. That's what I look for when I got to a wing joint. You can have as many sauces as you want but if the selection isn't that great then it doesn't matter. Quality is always better than quantity. That being said, Pluckers' medium sauce is about as memorable as they come. It almost made that 45 minute wait worth it. Almost.
I had no intentions of watching the local news while here in Boston. Just figured that two weeks of local news wouldn't be worth my time. So instead I've been catching my normal world news to see what's going on everywhere. I sure didn't expect this little tidbit to cross the screen though.
Famed "Top Gun" director Tony Scott died this past Sunday when he jumped from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro, CA. He was 68-years-old.
When I first saw the quick one-line cross the bottom of the news feed, I thought it had to be an accident. Maybe he was filming some action film and it happened by mistake. Like some stunt that went horribly wrong? But it clearly said he jumped. So then I thought that maybe it was bungee jump type thing. As if perhaps he was tying to live out the action part similar to his adrenaline movies? Apparently not.
There was enough information available to prove that he indeed commit suicide. Left a note and everything. What is most disturbing is there are apparently SEVERAL copies of video of the event. People saw a man climbing preparing to jump and recorded it with cell phones. A surveillance video even caught it. Now folks are even trying to shop the video. I'm actually rather shocked that TMZ didn't show it. Looks like they have some scruples afterall. Some.
But why would the director of one of the greatest action movies ever made want to commit suicide? The same man that brought us "Beverly Hills Cop II" and "Enemy of the State". Granted, it had been years since his last blockbuster, still. These are classics. Maybe a stretch to qualify "Beverly Hills Cop II" as that, but you get the points. Just further proof that you never know what could really going on in the lives of the rich and famous. Things aren't always as rosy as they seem.
I was going to do an entry about my "amazing" flight from DFW to Boston for my next entry. Then it occurred to me that I still hadn't made any mention about my near death experience that happened on my last flight back in May. At the time I didn't say anything because it involved an interview with my now current job. I couldn't say anything until everything was official. I'm good now.
So the deal was my now current company wanted to fly me out to Dallas for a final interview with the hiring manager. I was all good with that. It meant I would have to take a day off work; however, since I had over three weeks vacation time that I didn't plan on using anyway it still wasn't an issue. They even offered to fly me back a couple of days later so that I could spend more time with my children while I was down there. That would have worked if I didn't already have a prior engagement. I sure appreciated the offer though.
The flight was supposed to take close to two hours to get from Des Moines to Dallas. It could have been a half an hour and I still wouldn't have cared. I still don't like flying. Which is why I try to get to sleep the minute I get situated in my seat. I figure maybe I can sleep through the headache part. Even though it never works. This time was no different. Only something went unexpectedly wrong shortly after I nodded off.
I zoned back in to hear the flight attendant announce we would be beginning our descent. It seemed like I was only asleep for 30 minutes if even that. Was I really out that quick and that hard? I looked at my watch and I was right. We had only been in the air 20 minutes. The flight attendant got on the intercom to repeat her announcement. Apparently the cabin wasn't pressurizing properly. That's why it was so hot in the plane. They couldn't figure out what the problem was so they made the decision to turn back around and land in Des Moines to get the plane checked out.
Now after hearing that last announcement, all I could think about was that incident similar to that where the PGA golfer Payne Stewart died. They were in a private jet where the cabin pressure malfunctioned or something and everybody ended up dying. They evidently didn't catch theirs in time. This alert stewardess did. If she wouldn't have, we could have all been casualties. I wouldn't even be doing this post right now. I chalk that whole thing up as my second near death experience.
As for the interview that was scheduled that day, it didn't happen. They werne't able to get the plane fixed in time and couldn't get a replacement flight. I had to reschedule to another day. That meant taking another day off work, rescheduling the interview and having to fly all over again. However, it turned out still working fo the best. I ended up getting the job. Plus, I'm still alive.