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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Lindsey Stirling - Album and Video

Not to exaggerate, but Lindsey Stirling is the best person in the world.  Not the best violinist or musician, the best person.  Once Lindsey Stirling walked into a room, and World War III ceased to exist in history.  You didn't know there was a World War III?  That's because of Lindsey undoing the past by walking into that room.

Other than that, I'm a totally unbiased reviewer.  Balanced, centered, reasoned.  I have no emotion, I am a reviewing machine - analytical and cold.  A professional!

This is Lindsey's latest music video:

It is as if the essence of bacon were made into a video.

She also has a full album now!  It is a very predictable series of music - in that it is predictably awesome from start to finish!
Album cover.

I've been converted from metal to violin music!  I don't know how this happened, but I'm happy to go with it.

Incidentally, if you're wondering who films Lindsey's awesome videos (and you should be!) then you should check this out:

The guy's name is Devin Graham and he is Lindsey's boyfriend.  His videos consist entirely of awesome people doing awesome things.

So let's recap here.  We have the best violinist (sorry, person) in the world creating violin dubstep music - while dancing - and epic music videos filmed by her boyfriend who essentially dedicates himself to the pursuit and enshrinement of awesome.

Where did these people come from!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Kick Ass Review - Best Movie Ever

Okay.  So I haven't quite worked out my gradient scale of "best movie ever," work with me here.

Kick Ass is very near a perfect movie in my books, as it combines aspects of pretty much everything that can make a movie good. It has great action scenes, is hilarious, has a good story, interesting characters and Nicolas Cage. Add to that a cool premise, a tinge of general awesome, and Nicolas Cage and you've got a flawless combination. Did I mention Nicolas Cage is in this movie?

Just based on the trailer I anticipated a great movie, but I expected to be bitterly disappointed. There was no way they could actually pull off a movie that looked that cool. But pull it off they did. The basic plot is that the main character – Dave – randomly wonders one day why no one has ever been crazy enough to dress up as a superhero and just go and do it. He knows its a stupid idea, but hey, why not? Predictably this doesn't go too well for him, several times, he is nothing if not persistent.

Then when he's about to really cop it, an 11 year old girl aka Hit Girl stabs a guy through the chest with a spear.

Now most things bore me rather quickly. I can get bored mid sentence and divert onto an entirely different breakfast of eggs and bacon with mushrooms and DayZ is an awesome game... Sorry. But there are exactly four things I can watch endlessly. Lindsey Stirling playing the violin, Gangnam Style, Thor smashing things with his hammer and Hit Girl brutally murdering people. I'm generally not a proponent of brutal murder, but there are exceptions to every rule.  Also bacon.

Let's break down this movie a little.

Nicolas Cage plays a character called Big Daddy, who is basically Batman who murders people.  His daughter is Hit Girl aka Chloe Moretz.  This has to be one of the smartest combinations in movie history.  Admittedly combining Nicolas Cage with anyone is awesome, but combining him with an 11 year old girl who shoots people in the balls is awesome to the power of rad (thanks for that phrase Anthony!)

On top of that, the humor and style is quite brilliant.  I haven't actually been to a superhero movie before where a scene caused half the audience to gasp and jump, but this one did (The car crash scene for anyone wondering)!  There are several scenes that just leave you gasping with laughter, in fact I'd say the humor is even better than in The Avengers, which is saying something given the awesome Joss Whedon was behind that.

Finally, I really found the development of the main character, Kick Ass to make sense and be rather cool.  The movie does a good job convincing you that this kid went from awkward nerd to kind of crazy dude in a costume to being a genuine hero, as best he could without any particular skill or ability...

I really hope they do make a sequel to this as it truly deserves one. This movie was made entirely on the budget of Director/Producer Matthew Vaughn as no movie studio would back it.  That kind of dedication to making your vision reality deserves recognition and reward and hopefully a film studio will come in and offer some epic budget to truly do a sequel justice.

Out of 10, this movie gets BACON!

Pan's Labyrinth - Review (kind of)

Pan's Labyrinth is a movie that takes some small part of your soul and taints it forever, yet somehow makes you grateful to it for doing so.

After my initial viewing of this movie, I wasn't sure if I wanted to ever see it again.  I didn't really feel I could sit through all that a second time.  Eventually I did watch it a second time and it burned no less that time around.

I'm going to stop here and tell you to go and watch the movie now if you haven't seen it, because I don't feel I can discuss this movie with any meaning without presenting spoilers and this isn't a movie I want to spoil for you.  This isn't so much a review as a retrospective.

The movie begins showing the protagonist Ofelia, a girl of about 10 years, lying on the ground with blood on her face, apparently dying.  It then skips back in time to the start of the story, but this certainly didn't bode well for her future and it leaves a constant weight over the film as you are left waiting for that scene to unfold.

The basic plot is that Ofelia's widowed mother got remarried to a psychotic army captain (Captain Vidal).  The two of them moved to live with him at his post commanding a small camp in post civil war Spain.  It is taken from the viewpoint of Ofelia and how she confronts all of this.

Vidal is one of the most brilliantly crafted characters in all of movie history, in fact he would serve very well in a study of psychosis.  The man is utterly insane, but of course he knows he is sane, and no one else would dare question it.  The extent of the character's madness is such that his mere presence on screen creates an air of unease, like at any moment he is about to snap and kill everyone.

The whole tone of the movie is dark and oppressive and it rarely relents for long.  The (partial) contrast to this is the "fairy tale" side of the story.  Because in the midst of all the death, doom, gloom and brutality is a world only Ofelia appears to be aware of and yet is apparently quite real.  Even this side of the story is twisted and disturbing though, with fairies and fawns that look more like the stuff out of nightmares than children's stories.

In this other world Ofelia is in fact the reincarnated princess destined to resume her place in a fairy tale kingdom after she proves herself by passing several challenges set for her.

As the story unfolds the darkness of the world Ofelia lives in becomes ever more apparent and so too does the seeming reality of this alternate, fantasy world as it appears to influence factors in the "real" world.

Finally everything goes to hell and Ofelia is left running for her life with her baby brother, trying to escape into a labyrinth and into her world as a princess.  But she must pass one last test and sacrifice the blood of an innocent - her baby brother - to be deemed worthy.  She refuses and Captain Vidal catches up with her and we are returned to the opening scene of the movie, with her lying, dying on the ground.

A drop of her blood is spilled, the blood of an innocent, and we see her fairy tale kingdom and her being welcomed home as princess, and her slowly dying, and her being celebrated as the long lost, much loved daughter of the king, and her eyes closing as she finally succumbs to death.

The movie is very much open to interpretation.  It can be seen as a story of a true fairy-tale princess finding herself and escaping a terrible world to return home to her beautiful kingdom.  That would certainly be a nice way to look at it, but that isn't the impression I was left with and I couldn't help but find it far darker.

To me it was a story of young girl escaping the utter horror of her reality by inventing a fantasy and slowly coming to believe it to be real as her only way of coping.  She had no hope of any happiness or freedom in life, so she could only seek out a better world in her imagination and as the real world become more terrible she fled further and further into her own world.  Only having known so little good in her short life, even her imagination was a dark and terrifying place.   Her fantasy kingdom was dark and empty.

In the end the only thing she had left was her own integrity, not with reality which she long since lost, but just with herself and despite knowing she would lose the only hope she had left and having known no real love or care in her life, she couldn't sacrifice her brother to save herself.

And as she lies dying she imagines herself being freed from the terrible world she was in and moving to a better place.  As the one small beacon of light in a world of evil.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Shark Fin Inn Restaurant Review

My quest for culinary transcendence (that is to say the attainment of a higher state of being through food) continues as I am brought to the Shark Fin Inn on Little Bourke St. in Melbourne.

The Shark Fin Inn was founded by Sun Tzu in 522BC.  Before his fame as a great general and his famous work "The Art of War," Sun Tzu sought to achieve world peace through the harmony of food.  In doing so he created a place of sublime dining where people the world over could come to eat and sort out their differences.

Following this there was a 7 year period of peace and harmony on Earth, until the White Walkers attacked and almost destroyed humanity.

Sun Tzu then went into hiding for a couple of thousand years and has now returned to reignite the sparks of his humanitarian crusade. *

The Shark Fin Inn - specifically the one on Lt. Bourke St. - is definitely my favorite place for Chinese food in Melbourne.  It is always packed out but you can usually get a seat reasonably quickly and it leaves you with no doubt the food is fresh.  I'm surprised they can even fit enough food in the building given their throughput.

Although they have fancy dinners and banquets and so on the real stand out here in the yum cha.  The food is absolutely top notch with a massive variety and it is almost offensively cheap.  I've had epic meals here with 10 people eating until we all had to get annexes to our stomachs and we still didn't manage to get past $22 per person.

I've eaten at the Flower Drum and several other top rated Chinese restaurants and while there is no doubt they too are excellent, you are looking at five times (or more) the price for a very similar quality of food.

For the betterment of the human race and to forward Sun Tzu's will, you must eat at this place.

* Disclaimer: All of this is a lie.**
** Disclaimer: It's totally all true.

Shark Fin Inn on Urbanspoon

Friday, 14 September 2012

Thor Review - Best Movie Ever

Okay, so we are just going to forget what I say about my future posts and go with what actually pans out. Moving right along. A review of Thor, as the title might suggest, Thor is the best movie ever made. I regret failing to see it on the big screen, but know that this was because I am a bad person and for that I am deeply sorry.

This is Thor.  He has a hammer.

I'm going to spoil the movie for you now.  Thor is about a bad-ass dude/demi-god named Thor.  He has an awesome hammer which he uses to smash things (Ice Giants, walls, etc.).  His hammer is taken from him and he must get it back, so that he may smash things with it.

And that is the entire plot of the movie, though there is also a love interest.  After all, what's the point in being a large man with an epic hammer if you don't have a girl to show it off to?

This movie understands everything that is important about life and is indeed a celebration of living.  Too many movies these days try to burden the viewer with complexity and layers of meaning, perhaps because the writers consider that complexity and depth are the same thing when they rarely are.  It is the simplicity of the movie that makes it awesome, you have an epic character with a simple but vital purpose and he relentlessly pursues his goal to the end.  What better message could be put in a movie?

The simplicity of the main character is also a key part of the movie's appeal.  Thor (the character) is awesome.  That is basically his entire description.  There's no need to discuss his beliefs, his attitude, his desires and other nonsense, because he can be described with just a single word.  In the context of our ordinary world he appears odd rather than awesome as he clearly doesn't fit in but you can see by his own bearing that he knows he is awesome and the opinions and reactions of everyone around him are irrelevant to his knowing.  The definition of personal integrity right there.

If I were to rate this movie on a scale of 1 to awesome, it would be 12.37 multiplied by the square root of epic.  Go see this movie.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Places of Culinary Excellence

Yesterday I said my next blog will be about copyright.  It has since become apparent that this was a lie, most callous and vile.  Turns out writing a finished essay on copyright takes some doing, whereas writing about food does not and thus procrastination.
In the mean time.  Bacon!

What began as a hunt for the perfect French toast and the perfect waffles ended with neither sadly, but did result in a fine list of awesome eateries.  We'll go through the basics first:

Pete's Charcoal Shop - 562 Mt. Alexander Rd. Ascot Vale
They have a kebab with chips, egg and cheese in it.  That's right, chips in the kebab.  Sold!

Crazy Kebabs - Mt. Alexander Rd. Ascot Vale (At some servo near Pizza Hut)
They open at 6:30pm and close at 3:30am (5:30am on Friday and Saturday) = awesome!  The kebabs aren't bad either.

Luke's Eatery - Highpoint Shopping Centre
This place makes me weep a single tear each time I think of it.  We've all been to that place that had awesome food, you go there for years, never failing and then one day you show up and there's a goat testicle on your soufflĂ©.  Or it just isn't as it used to be.  Both can happen.

Luke's Eatery can be found opposite Target at Highpoint and does have some very nice food and some of the best waffles I've had but just a few weeks ago they made an utterly offensive change to their menu.  They removed their "Plowman's Plate" and their fancy breakfast stuff and basically genericified their menu.

The food is still good, but $16 for a massive plate of meat, cheese and pickled vegetables made it one of my favourite places for breakfast.  Now it's just my waffle joint.  Coffee is quite serviceable too.  And you can get a massage at ZHONG'S! opposite after (I can't say the name without yelling).

UPDATE 21/11/2012:
I happened to be at Highpoint and hungry a few weeks ago and tried their new steak sandwich, which replaced the Plowman's Plate.  It's actually very good, so I partially forgive the menu change in light of that.

Luke's Eatery on Urbanspoon

Frankies Pizza - 152a Epsom Rd. Ascot Vale
I'm waiting for my pizza as I type this.  Open after 4:30pm, this has become my goto place for last minute dinners and late night pizza's for some time.  The veal/chicken parma is good and the pizzas are some of the best I've had from a place that home delivers.  The stand-out feature of this place is the $1 fee for home delivery in the area.

$14.5 I get a nice veal parma with chips and salad at my door in half an hour, hot, tasty, without fail.  Pizza the same.

Respect.
http://frankiespizza.com.au/

Little Byrd - 160 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
Now we are moving up a notch in the world.  The higher class of dining.  I am indeed a big fan of this cafe.  It's situated opposite Video Ezy on Union Rd. and is quite small with mostly group table seating.  The menu is small too, with only 8 or so items on it.  But all the food is excellent and cooked out in plain site, which I always like.

The owner is there every day and seems to know every customer and their order on sight, in fact it seems almost every customer knows every other customer there with all the greetings going on.  It's a good environment to wake up in the morning.

Predictably their coffee is excellent and they cook some mean bacon.

Highly recommended to one and all.

Little Byrd's Facebook

Little Byrd on Urbanspoon

Reverence Specialty Coffee and Tea - 155 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
Just down the road from Little Byrd is another great cafe!  The name is so long I actually get bored trying to say it and occasionally fall asleep mid sentence when recommending it to someone.  It is however a great cafe and I'm struggling to choose a preference between the two.

The coffee at this place is truly outstanding and they have a variety of teas and coffees to choose from.  Their burger is good, as are their pot pies and French toast (my favorite of the ones I've had lately), but their true standout is their breakfast.

Oh their breakfast took me by surprise.  I had their other meals first and liked them, but the coffee is what mainly brought me back... Until their breakfast.  Good Lord.

It's not cheap I'm afraid, $21 for the plate I normally get but it is worth every cent.  Eggs on bread with bacon, beans, tomato and relish.  But to say this was mere eggs on toast would be irresponsible.  This was art, and maybe even a little bit of God.

The eggs were scrambled, but to perfection, with green stuff in them (I know about eating, not cooking) and were fluffy and full of flavour.  The beans weren't just from a can but some epic pot of sauce and spices.  The bacon, oh the bacon.  I asked for it crispy and they delivered the goods.  The fat was perfectly cooked and it just falls apart in your mouth as you take a moment to breath deeply and embrace the sensation of joy filling you with each bite.

The bread I can only assume was baked in house with a circle of butter on top.  Yes, butter, not margarine, not "I Can't Believe It's Not Congealed 'Gentleman Juice'" but proper, fatty butter and the relish made a perfect topping.  This is the kind of breakfast Thor eats before smashing his goblet and demanding more!

And there is one final thing that applies to both Little Byrd and Reverence.  This little fact makes me swell with joy just a little each time I see it.  It shows that the world is not entirely doomed, that there is hope for humanity and that there is still a sense of pride and aesthetics left in the world.

When you sit at your table in either cafe, you have condiments.  These are salt, pepper and sugar.  Sounds normal so far, but it is not.  Because it is cracked salt, cracked pepper and a tub of raw sugar!  Now I don't know when it was decided that saving 5 cents a year by providing ground rubbish was a good idea, but these places will have none of that!  There is no situation where ground salt and pepper is better than cracked and these cafes know you are there to enjoy food, not merely fuel your meat sack for another day's work!

And most importantly, the raw sugar.  Now most places have raw sugar, but understand this.  These cafes have only raw sugar.  There is no "white sugar" option.  There is no Splenda or Equal or Cyanide or whatever else the peasants are snorting these days.  There is raw sugar and only that.  I'd like to one day actually ask a waiter at either cafe for some Splenda just to see what happens.  In my mind I picture myself being thrown out and blacklisted forever.  I'm not going to ask so I can keep that picture real.

What these cafes are saying is that they know you are there to enjoy food, to enjoy the aesthetics of taste and the environment.  If you are there worrying about your body, you are doing it wrong.

Reverence's Facebook

Reverence Specialty Coffee & Tea on Urbanspoon

Laksa King and Chef Lagenda - Pin Oak Crescent, Ascot Vale (near the corner of Racecourse rd.)
For some reason I don't consider Asian food in the same category as other foods.  For example I'd never want to have breakfast in a cramped room filled with a hundred people, but I'd feel like something is wrong if I'm eating a Laksa in a room any less full.

But I digress.  These two places are right next to each other and are the same.  They appear to consider themselves separate restaurants but I think they are just confused.  I like to think that the guy who runs one used to work at the other until his family was dishonored or something and so he decided to open his own identical place next door to avenge his father's death... Or his dishonor... Or some other Asian movie trope that is fitting.  Perhaps none of this is true, but it makes me feel like some kind of covert operative when I alternate between the two on a regular basic.

In short, the food is great.  They both have excellent laksa, their other stuff is all quite nice and they are crazy cheap.  About $10 for a meal and tea and because they are both so busy it only takes about a minute or two between ordering and getting popular dishes.  Chef Lagenda seems to be about 50 cents cheaper on everything, which lends credence to my bitter feud belief.

As for differences, I prefer the laksa sauce at Chef Lagenda, but they don't offer a beef laksa which is my favorite.  Chef Lagenda also has a kind of meal deal with meat and soup which I don't think Laksa King has, they also have a Nasi Lamak Special (item 100, probably spelt entirely differently) which is rather interesting.

Overall I go to Laksa King when I want a beef laksa and Chef Lagenda for anything else.  Not for any particular reason, it just happened that way.  One thing I do love about Chef Lagenda though is the outdoor eating area with fire in the middle.  Because there is fire in the middle.  Okay it's just a gas heater, but it contains fire and in winter that is awesome.

And so there we have my review of awesome places to eat in the Western suburbs.  I expect I'll follow with my favourites in other areas at a later date but as I'm living and working in the West at the moment it seemed the best place to start.

Now, to see if I can confront finishing my essay on copyright.  Tentatively titled "Copyright, George Lucas and Mind Control."

P.S.
It appears I have done a great disservice to humanity, as I neglected one of my favorite places to eat.  In my defence I was preoccupied with my regular haunts and didn't think about a place I frequent less often, but for special occasions.

Arcadia Gastronomique - 152 Union Rd. Ascot Vale
When I first saw the name of this place I got an image of a fantasy kingdom and an astronomical bowel movement.  It turns out that Gastronomy however is "the art or science of food eating."  I'm not even kidding, there is actually a word for that.  God I love the English language.  On top of that, I assume the use of "Arcadia" they intended refers to the Greek utopia.  So this place is the "Utopia of the art of food eating."  If that isn't in your top 5 most awesome things ever, you need a new list!

This place is mainly open for dinner (I think on either Saturday or Sunday they do breakfast), and it is a place worth going to.

Their crispy skinned salmon I assume is how they derived their name.  Their lamb is cooked to perfection.  But their dessert.

You will go here and you will order a sticky date pudding or your life will never be complete.  You are welcome.

Arcadia's Facebook

And that officially ends this series of reviews!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

First Post!

As this is my first official blog post ever it is vital I decide on my life's priorities prior to posting.  The implication that life's priorities prior to blogging were unimportant notwithstanding.  What is the most important thing in the world to me?  What is the most awesome thing I can think of to greet the world with?  Could anything be more important than bacon?

Well.  No.  Not really.

Ideally I'd like to start out combining my two favorite things in the world (at this particular moment),  Lindsey Stirling:

And bacon:

Unfortunately the Photoshop skills required for that are beyond me and that would be way creepy (like totally), so we'll have to settle for them being separate.

So now that the important things are taken care of, I can move on.

Next topic.  Copyright.