Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

At the drive in as a double feature with The Dark Knight, was The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. I saw it with Jeff and Amber, and when they fell asleep, I was left as the sole witness in our group to the sad state of the Mummy franchise.

Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is as much worse than The Mummy Returns as that film was worse than the original Mummy. Thankfully, the Rock's The Scorpion King remains the low point in the series.

Brendan Frasier returns as Rick O'Connell, mummy slayer extraordinaire. His role hasn't changed, he still has a quicker wit than the character lets on, and an even quicker trigger finger.

Rachel Weisz does not return as Rick's wife, Eve. Instead, she's replaced by Maria Bello. I was not a fan of this move. Bello opts to abandon the clumsy stylings of the librarian out of her depth that Weisz conveyed, and replaced it with a kind of airheadedness more appropriate in an episode of the Hills.

Luke Ford plays the now 21 year old Alex O'Connell. He's in the midst of a struggle between himself and his father better reserved for a teenage character.

Isabella Leong plays Lin, Alex's crush, and an immortal Chinese ninja who's mission is to destroy the Dragon Emperor.

Jet Li plays the titular Dragon Emperor. The first emperor of China, who unified the realm, built the Great Wall, and mastered the five elements. Cursed to terracotta form by a witch, he slumbers with his army, awaiting the opportunity to begin his conquest again.

The movie opens with a recap of the life of the Dragon Emperor. The first emperor of all of China, he conquered everyone who stood against him, then cursed them to forever hold up his works, as he had them executed in a mass grave, and built the Great Wall of China upon their bodies. It doesn't take an engineer to tell you that the cursed corpses of the lost and the damned make a poor foundation material. He goes on to master the five elements, but soon realizes that there is one thing he has not yet mastered, death. As he ages, he sends Ming, his most trustworthy general to go find a witch, who supposedly has the secret to immortality. Upon finding her, she turns out to be a beautiful woman, and the emperor immediately declares that no man is to touch her save him. The witch claims not to know the secret to immortality, but she knows where to find it, in a hidden Buddhist monastery. The Emperor sends both the witch, and Ming to find this secret. As they search the many tomes together, they fall in love, and consummate their relationship. Returning to the emperor, the witch cast a spell upon him. Satisfied, he leads her to the balcony, where he asks her to be his wife. She refuses, and he reveals Ming, in the square below them, a quarterhorse tied to each limb. Ming is dismembered, and the witch flees. The spell she casts begins to take effect, turning the emperor and his army into Terracotta.

The film then jumps to modern times with an expose of the O'Connell's opulent home in Oxfordshire, England, earned as a reward for their actions safeguarding priceless artifacts in the Second World War. 13 years after The Mummy Returns, their son Alex is now 21 years old, and secretly conducting an archaeological dig in China, searching for the tomb of the Dragon Emperor. A British diplomat approaches Rick and Eve with one final task, taking the Eye of Shangri-La to the Chinese Government. Eve's brother, Jonathon, now owns a nightclub in China, the aptly named Imhotep. There they run into Alex, and the traditional father son spat ensues. As tempers cool, Alex offers to show his parents the exhibit he'll soon be opening at the very museum that the O'Connell's need to deposit the Eye.

While inspecting the sarcophagus of the Dragon Emperor, Alex's partner reveals a treacherous plan by renegades within the Chinese military to use the Eye of Shangri-La to resurrect the Dragon Emperor and establish China as the center of his new, worldwide, empire. As the emperor reawakens, he escapes, despite the best efforts of the O'Connells. Heading towards a remote monastery, the emperor takes the Eye of Shangri-La, which will unveil the location of Shangri-La, and the pool of immortality. It's up to the O'Connell's to stop him.

The visuals, acting, and story are all what you'd expect from the Mummy series. That is to say, great, sub par, and dumbed down, respectively. The plot is written more for the 10-14 year old demographic, so it seems a little slow for the older viewers. some of the plot points get to be a little excessive, especially when the yetis get involved.

Jet Li isn't nearly as impressive an actor when he isn't doing crazy martial arts stunts. Given his retirement from Wushu films after Fearless, this is disappointing. Brendan Fraiser is still the high point of the film, with his fly by the seat of your pants attitude of Rick O'Connell portrayed perfectly. I've already stated my issues with Maria Bello's job, and Luke Ford comes off as too whiny.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor is a mediocre film, sufficient for fans of the genre, but not for general audiences. The film is 114 minutes long, and was given a 31 on metacritic.
I give the film a 4/10.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Beer is a Lie!

At least they didn't promise us cake...

Anyways, while at AT, the Brigade thankfully say the idiocy of attempting to cram 3,000 soldiers in the middle of nowhere for nearly a month without any sort of R&R. So about 9 days into it, all the squad leaders went around and asked if we wanted to go to this water park, Roaring Springs, in Boise. We were told that we would be authorized to have two beers each. Hot Damn! Needless to say, I threw my name in as willing to go.

The Brigade rented out this water park for several hours. All after the park would have normally closed, so the park wasn't loosing out on too much income. As we had our accountability formation and safety brief, the platoon sergeant dropped the bombshell on us. Unfortunately, there will be no beer at Roaring Springs, and those of us who volunteered to go, were required to go. Gee, thanks...

Now, the only thing uglier than a brigade with alcohol, is a brigade who had alcohol snatched away from them. The ride over there was hellish. People would not shut up, and they screwed up even the simplest of commands. Part of that was that we were sharing a bus with Alpha Company, and they are essentially the distilled essence of an XBox live chat during a round of Halo 3. Gibbering morons only begins to describe them.

We got to the water park, and a magical thing happened. Every surly and jaded soldier stuck against his will in this besotted desert, suddenly became a 10 year old kid. It was priceless. I saw platoon sergeants racing each other down the twin slides. I saw a captain flip an E-2 in the wave pool. I saw a lieutenant colonel come running up to the line for a slide and gleefully ask what this slide did. I watched 4 squad leaders jump onto a raft and get launched into the blackout tunnel. I watched an empty raft come out the other side of the tunnel, followed by 4 squad leaders one by one.

The lifeguards probably helped the situation out quite a bit. Granted, they were all straddling the jail bait line, but they were still by far the best looking females any of us had seen in almost two weeks. Four hours passed like lightning. Once we all loaded back onto the bus, we looked forward to a late wake up the next morning.

All in all, it was no where near the clusterfuck it could have been. After seeing the effect going from a desert to a water park had on us, I think we might have found the solution to the problems in Iraq. Build them a Wild Waves!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Drina Daisy

Back in July, while in Astoria after the Mirror Image school, I ate lunch at an excellent little Bosnian restaurant called Drina Daisy.

Drina Daisy is located in downtown Astoria, on 915 Commercial Street. That block was hit pretty hard by a fire years back, and still hasn't recovered. There are a lot of empty storefronts around Drina Daisy, but the eatery seems to be doing all right for themselves. The interior is tastefully decorated, and managed to capture some of that old world charm. The service is friendly, attentive, and prompt. At no time did I feel rushed, nor neglected. My only complaint is that the bar chairs are bolted to the ground, and a little too close to the bar for me to be comfortable. That shouldn't be a problem for anyone with an inseam less than 36 inches though. They play Bosnian artists over the speakers, and the music is quite complementary to the theme as a whole.

While the service and ambiance are important, the key to a good place to eat is to have good food to eat. Drina Daisy has that. The menu is Bistro sized, 8-12 entrees, but the chef knows how to cook. She's a third generation chef who ran her own restaurant in Bosnia for 20 years. They have a decent selection of imported beers to complete the Balkan dining experience. They lack a bartender with experience with cocktails however, so if your looking for something other than a straight shot to quench your thirst for liquor, you might be disappointed. But believe me, the food makes up for it.

I ordered some bread for an appetizer. The bread was cooked in house, and was fluffy without tasting bland. To drink I ordered a bottle of a Bosnian pilsner, which is sadly the only Bosnian beer they can get with regularity. It was good, a little sharper than mainstream American pilsners. For the meal I had a rack of lamb. It was exquisite. Cooked perfectly, it was served with a side of assorted fruit slices that set off perfectly with the spices uses. It came with a spiced red bell pepper paste, normally I hate bell pepper, but this was pretty good. A piece of baklava for desert finished off a transcendent meal.

They have an website they're in the process of putting together, you can access it here. Drina Daisy was quite a find for me. You can be assured, that the next time I'm in Astoria, I'm going to be eating there. 9/10.

Monday, August 25, 2008

College Football: Against the Spread: Week One

As a test to see just how well I can predict football games, I'm going to be tracking the AP Top 25 against the spread. All spreads are the spreads, found here.

1: Georgia: vs. Georgia Southern, -33. Take Georgia, they're going to score at least 50.

2: Ohio State: vs. Youngstown State, -34. Ohio State, they have such a soft schedule outside of one game.

3: USC: @ Virginia, -19.5, 45.5 ov, Virginia isn't a complete slouch, but they're a different team than they were last season, take USC, and take the Over.

4: Oklahoma: vs. Chattanooga, -48, I don't think Oklahoma's offense is quite that explosive, look for something in the 42-3 range, and take Chattanooga.

5: Florida: vs. Hawaii, -35, 71 ov, Florida beats the spread, but they don't reach the over. Don't be fooled by the gaudy numbers, Hawaii was a mediocre team last season, and got a lot worse this season.

6: Missouri: vs. No. 20 Illinois, -8.5, 59.5 ov, This is going to be a shootout. I think Missouri will cover, and the two will reach the over. Game of the Week.

7: LSU: vs. Appalaichian State, -24, LSU will cover, Les Miles might be a douchbag, and a mediocre gameday coach, but he will not fall into the same trap Llyod Carr did last season.

8: West Virginia: vs. Villanova, -35.5, Take West Virginia in a blowout.

9: Clemson: vs. No. 24 Alabama, -5.5, 48.5 ov, Neither team is as good as their rankings, but Clemson will win by a TD, and the teams will take the over.

10: Auburn: vs. Lousiana-Monroe, -26.5, 48 ov, Take Auburn and the Under.

11: Texas: vs. Florida Atlantic, -24, 67 ov, Texas will win, but will not cover, take the under.

12: Texas Tech: vs. Eastern Washington, -35.5, Texas Tech will Cover, possibly by twice the spread.

13: Wisconsin: vs. Akron, -26.5, 53 ov, Take Wisconsin and the Over.

14: Kansas: vs. FIU, -36, 57.5 ov, Take Kansas and the under, but only because FIU is that god awful.

15: ASU: vs. Northern Arizona, -31.5, I don't think ASU's got all the kinks out of their system, Northern Arizona will lose, but cover.

16: BYU: vs. Northern Iowa, -21.5, BYU will look to make a statement early, and will cover easily.

17: Virginia Tech: @ East Carolina, couldn't find a line for this one, but VT will win by between 7-14 points.

18: Tennessee: @ UCLA, -7.5, 47.5 ov, Tennessee has been terrible when visiting the West Coast, UCLA will cover, take the under.

19: South Florida: vs. Tennessee-Martin, -39.5, South Florida will fail to cover.

21: Oregon: vs. Washington, -13.5, Washington will cover, given Oregon's current uncertainty at QB.

22: Penn State: vs. Coastal Carolina, -39.5, Penn State will cover.

23: Wake Forest: @ Baylor, -12, 50.5 ov, Wake Forest will cover, take the under.

25: Pitt: vs. Bowling Green, -12.5, 56.5 ov, Bowling Green is an explosive offense, Bowling Green covers, take the over.

Oregon State: @ Stanford, -3, 46 ov, OSU covers, take the under.

Annual Training 2008: The Rundown

Annual Training 2008

Location: Gowan Field, Idaho
Duration: August 2nd-21st

Average Wake Up Time: 0543
Earliest Wake Up: 0200
Latest Wake Up: 0815

Average Lights Out: 2316
Earliest Lights Out: 1900
Latest Lights Out: 0300

Missions Run: 14
Weight of Battle Equipment: 49 lbs
Flushing Toilets: 0
Showers: 5
Brass Burns: 2
Falls: 3

Rounds fired: 840
MREs Eaten: 30
Cots Destroyed: 1

Movies Watched: 15 (Boondock Saints, Hitman, Borat, Lord of War, Rescue Dawn, The Italian Job, Underworld: Evolution, The Longest Yard, Eurotrip, Enemy at the Gates, 300, Beerfest, The Departed, Rocky Balboa, The Rock)
Books Read: 5 (American Gods, Neverwhere, Cobra II, The Flight of the Eisenstien, Fulgrim)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm back baby!

Like MacArthur unto the Phillipenes, I have returned.

Unfortunately, I'm really tired. So this is all you get at the moment.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fixing College Football: The Big East

Let's start the specific conference realignments. We'll start on the east coast, with the Big East.

One of my goals for this realignment is to maintain traditional rivalries as much as possible. Here's the lineup for the expanded Big East.

University of Louisville
University of Kentucky
University of Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania State University
University of West Virginia
Syracuse University
University of Cincinnati
University of Connecticut
Rutgers University
University of South Florida

The two notable changes are the addition of Kentucky from the SEC and Penn State from the Big 10.

Kentucky is a notable rival of current Big East member Louisville. Kentucky has always been kind of an oddball in the SEC, and really doesn't share any sort of rivalry with anyone, save maybe fellow outcast Arkansas. Unlike Arkansas, however, Kentucky shares the state with Louisville, who is another solid football school right now.

Penn State was in a similar boat in the Big 10 as Louisville was in the Big East. Chasing money, Penn State latched on to another conference, and save perhaps the lopsided match up against Michigan, Penn State really lacks a rival with the kind of hatred that they had with Pittsburgh.

With these changes, hopefully the Big East will become a little more competitive.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Drink of the Moment: B-52

Here's another shooter for ya'll. The B-52 is a drink that'll go down smooth, taste decent, and leave you feeling warm.

The B-52, like the Martini, has a somewhat murky past. We know it was first made in the 1970s. Some will point to California, others to Canada, and still others to New York... again. The B-52 kind of feels like a Canadian drink to me, and certainly not a New York drink.

The B-52 is a layered drink, and like all layered drinks, it is not "poured" or "mixed", it is "built". To build a B-52, you'll need Grand Marnier, Kahlua, and Irish Cream.

Begin with a shot glass. Pour 1 part Kahlua into it. Then take a spoon, and carefully pour 1 part Irish Cream onto the back of the spoon, so that it gently layers on top of the Kahlua. Next take 1 part Grand Marnier and layer it on top of the Irish Cream. If you've done it correctly, then it should have three pronounced layers. Down the shot, and picture yourself riding the bomb to ground zero.

There's a special variation of the B-52 that a lot of people are interested in making, but very few people I've seen have actually done it correctly. This is the Flaming B-52. The first thing I must stress is that you need to be sure to have a flameproof shot glass. Be certain of it, or this could get messy. The preparation is the same except that you sub in a over proof rum, like Bacardi 151, instead of the Grand Marnier. Fill it to the top, so that you don't expose any more heat than is needed to the glass. Lite the rum, and sip it through a fireproof straw. You can try to down it as a shot, but that needs skill, and if you screw up, you could very easily scorch your esophagus. It's not worth it.

The drink stays in layers because of the differences in the specific gravities of the liquors. If you know the specific gravity of a different liquor, then you can easily create an infinite variety of variations simply by subbing the new ingredient in the right slot. If you pour them out of order though, the layering will be ruined. The taste however, will not.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Heisman Hype

As we approach the start of the college football season, the hype machine for the most prestigious individual award in North American sports, The John Heisman Memorial Trophy, begins to gear up. For those of you who wish to be on top of the way the action goes down, but don't feel like sifting through hours of sportscasting and pouring over tons of stats to do so, I have a gift for you. The are two websites that are really all you need to stay on top of the race for the Heisman.

On the analysis side is The Heisman Pundit. The Heisman Pundit is an LA based blogger who makes his living by sifting through the mess of sportscasting, and presenting them to his readers in a nice, easy on the eyes, method of analysis.

And on the predictive side is This site has predicted the Heisman Winner, and the order of the finalists, every year since the site's inception in 2002. If you want to look like Nostradamus to your friends, this is the site to check just before the trophy is awarded.
Stick to these two sites and you'll never be out of the loop.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Drink of the Moment: The Martini

Ah, the Martini. The quintessential "cool" cocktail, staple lunch item of businessmen throughout America, and icon of the heroes of the Jet Age.

The Martini's history is somewhat murky. Some attribute it as a streamlining of the more complex "Martinez", first made in Martinez, California in the late 19th century. The New York Times claims that the Martini originated in 1912, in the Big Apple's Knickerbocker Hotel. Personally, I think New York's getting greedy.

The Martini really began to clinch it's mystique when it became know as the drink of choice of such personalities as Ernest Hemingway, Dean Martin, FDR, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Winston Churchill, and of course, Ian Flemming's James Bond.

There are two primary types of martini, the Gin Martini and the Vodka Martini. Both can be used in the same ratios, but the preparation differs slightly between the two. The ratios vary wildly depending on whom you ask, but I'm more a classic martini drinker.

To make the Martini you'll need 3 parts either gin or vodka, and 1 part dry vermouth.

If you're making a gin martini, pour the two ingredients into a shaker with ice and stir. Strain it into a cocktail glass and garnish. You'll want to have both ingredients chilled before hand. If you shake the drink, you'll kill the vermouth, and bring the gin too far to the front.

If you're making a vodka martini, place the two ingredients into a shaker filled with ice, shake vigorously, then strain into a cocktail glass and garnish. Keep the vodka cool, but not chill, so that the temperature differential will lower the bite of the alcohol. The key is to shake it hard to maximize the chilling at that point. If the vodka's too cold at first, then it'll overpower the vermouth, but if the drink doesn't get cold enough by the time it's drunk, it'll taste a little too thick.

The garnish is traditionally a martini olive on a toothpick. Some prefer a lemon twist, some a Marciano cherry. Myself, I go for three olives. Go with your gut, but don't be afraid to try new things. Once you've finished garnishing, take a sip, and imagine yourself in a tuxedo.

The amount of each ingredient used will vary. The modern martini is 5:1 gin to vermouth. The european martini is 6:1. The Old Martini is 2:1. Some recommend coating the ice cubes with vermouth to impart flavor, without actually adding vermouth to the drink. Some of the extra dry martinis might go as high as 10:1 or 15:1. Winston Churchill's martini was famed for being made from 3 parts gin, and a glance at a bottle of vermouth from across the room.

There are a ton of variations on the martini. I'll cover just the bare bones here. A perfect martini uses 1/2 part dry vermouth and 1/2 part sweet vermouth. A dirty martini adds some olive juice to mask the alcohol. A naked martini is made with no ice, but the ingredients and glass chilled.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Normally I'm pretty in touch with the collective social consciousness when it comes to judging movies. I might be a point high or low, but I can generally pick what people would consider a good movie and what they'd consider a bad movie. Wanted came out different.

I saw Wanted at the drive in theater with Julia, it was part of a double feature with The Strangers, but as we had to do the Relay for Life later that night, we didn't stick around for The Strangers. I probably wouldn't have even if we weren't pressed for time.

I had high hopes for Wanted. The serial that it was based on was probably one of the more insidious comic runs that I've seen. Bending bullets looks like a pretty cool idea. Angelina Jolie is sexy as all hell. It had a lot of things going for it.

James McAvoy plays Wesley Gibson, a white collar cubicle rat who's pathetic existence is sectioned between being pushed around his unfaithful girlfriend, his best friend fucking his unfaithful girlfriend, or his obese manager at work. He suffers from extreme anxiety attacks. It turns out that his father was the best assassin in a guild of assassins called The Fraternity. Those anxiety attacks enable him to slow down his perception of time. When the Fraternity loses his father, they approach Wesley to avenge him. Think the Matrix.

Angelina Jolie plays Fox, one of the assassins in the Fraternity. It is Fox who finally brings in Wesley to the Fraternity.

Morgan Freeman plays Sloan, the leader of the Fraternity. He interprets the Loom of Fate to hand out assignments.

Thomas Kretschmann plays Cross, a rouge assassin seeking to destroy the Fraternity.

Common plays a minor role as the Fraternity's gunsmith. His role is only notable because he apparently went to the Keanu Reeves school of acting. Just awful in this movie.

The film opens with a wicked gun battle between Mr. X, and several other gunmen. Mr. X demonstrates inhuman abilities by leaping across the gap between two skyscrapers, killing several men during the flight, and killing the last man by bending a bullet around the chimney the man was hiding behind. Pulling out a phone, he receives a call from Cross, a rouge assassin, they trade barbs, until Mr. X notices that he's standing on the x. Literally. His head bursts open as a bullet tears through his cranium. A slow mo rewind shows the bullet travelling, shedding stages as it goes, from the point of origin, Cross's rifle, situated in a small nondescript house miles across town.

We are introduced to Wesley Gibson, as he googles himself in his cubicle, and recounts why his life sucks. He counts his woes until at the pharmacy, he's abducted by Fox, as she returns fire at Cross. A high speed chase ensues, with Wesley gibbering like a terrified idiot the whole way.

Upon their escape from Cross, Fox takes Wesley to an assuming Textile mill, where the Fraternity is based. Here, Wesley learns of his abilities and his origins. After severing his connection with his previous life, he returns to the Fraternity and undertakes a rather brutal training regimen to become a member.

Upon the completion of his training, he is taken by Sloan into the inner sanctum of the Fraternity. Here Wesley see the Loom of Fate. Yes, the most elite order of assassins in the world takes their orders from a machine that makes curtains. The Loom reveals the intended target through binary code based on skipped threads. Here Wesley gets his next assignment, Cross...

The special effects are well done, and the movie as a whole has a kind of fluorescent afterglow that speaks of the white collar nihilism that permeates the story. The audio is very harsh, and kind of grinding on the ears. If you've seen 30 Days of Night, it's very similar to that.

The film is really disjointed in its editing. It can be very difficult to follow at times. There's a twist, because what movie doesn't have a twist now days, but it's fairly pedestrian, and if you can't see it coming, then maybe you should stop watching films for a while. McAvoy does a good job playing the meek cubicle lemming, but Jolie and Freeman were pretty disappointing.

Another thing that I took issue with was how, like V for Vendetta, they castrated the main character. They turned Wesley from an unambiguously evil anti hero, to a good little boy who fell in with the wrong crowd at first. Much the same as they took V from a terrorist who killed innocent and guilty alike, to an avenger who only killed people who deserved it.

Wanted is 110 minutes long, and brought in a 62 on metacritic. That surprised me, because I didn't think the film was that good. I give it a 4/10, it might not kill you to watch it, but I'm not making any promises.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Brief Hiatus.

Well, it looks like I'm going to be at AT with B Co. until the 25th. I've got a few backlogged posts that will be automatically posted in my absence. Please enjoy them.