March 1, 2007

12 Hotels Made of Ice

Just a few years ago, it was a novelty found only in Sweden: a hotel built entirely out of ice. Each spring it melted, and each winter it was rebuilt, bigger and better than before. The original Ice Hotel is still a hot (well, cold) property; each year thousands of people pay handsomely to sleep there on slabs of ice (covered with animal pelts and high-tech sleeping bags, natch). But now imitators have sprung up all over the world. Here are some of the places you can book a room in an ice hotel:

  • ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden: the original and (I think) the best, it has such amenities as an ice bar and even an ice church.
  • Ice Hotel Canada in Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, Quebec, this ice hotel also has a chapel (for white weddings, of course) and even offers daytime tours for people who aren’t interested in spending the night on ice.
  • The Aurora Ice Museum: at the Chena Hot Springs resort in Fairbanks, Alaska, can be booked for overnight stays, even though they no longer have actual hotel rooms made of ice, as they once did.
  • The Igloo Village ice hotel, part of the Kangerlussuaq Hotel and Conference Centre in Greenland, is pretty minimalist as ice hotels go.
  • Snow Village in Finland includes a bar and restaurant made of ice.
  • Lainio Snow Village in Yllas, Finland offers both conventional and icy accommodations. Book your own ice suite!
  • Snowland, also in Finland, is primarily an ice restaurant, but the property also features a handful of sleeping igloos.
  • LumiLinna SnowCastle in Kemi, Finland, has the customary ice hotel, restaurant, and chapel—plus what appears to be a drawbridge. That makes (at least) four ice hotels in Finland. Wow.
  • The Alta Igloo Hotel is located in Norwegian Lapland.
  • The Kakslauttanen Cabins & Igloos in Ivalo, Norway, feature your choice of accommodation—log cabins or ice beds in ice rooms—and is apparently quite popular with honeymooners. Go figure.
  • Hotel Ice Balea Lake in Romania is a relative newcomer, and doesn’t even have its own Web site. However, another site claims: “The rooms are equipped with matrimonial bed from ice, covered by lamb fur…” I think that description speaks for itself.
  • Iglu-Dorf runs five different igloo hotel villages in different parts of Switzerland each winter.

You can read more about ice hotels at Interesting Thing of the Day, the Wikipedia, Frommer’s, and Arctic Experience.


February 28, 2007

8 YouTube Videos Featuring Non-Newtonian Fluid Experiments

Non-Newtonian fluids are substances that can act like both liquids and solids, depending on the pressure exerted upon them. Here are some video clips showing experiments people have undertaken to show the various properties of Non-Newtonian fluids.


A pool filled with non-newtonian fluid: This clip from a Spanish TV show features very excited people walking across a pool filled with a mixture of cornstarch and water.


Brainiac John [sic] Tickle walking on custard live: Presenter Jon Tickle, from the UK TV show Brainiac: Science Abuse walks across a wading pool filled with water and custard powder.


Cornstarch Science: This experiment, which involves shaking a tray of Non-Newtonian fluid and blowing holes in it, was performed at the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas at Austin.


Cornstarch Monster 1: Watch as small shapes are created by sending vibrations through Non-Newtonian fluid.


Fluido no neutoniano: A bowl, two hands, and some Non-Newtonian fluid fun.


Non-Newtonian Fluid: The Riddell family explains and demonstrates the properties of Non-Newtonian fluid.


Non-Newtonian Fluid 2: This clip shows what happens when a container of Non-Newtonian fluid is placed above a sub-woofer putting out sound at 50 Hz.


Gloop: A musical montage of fun things to do with green gloop.


February 27, 2007

9 Films Featuring Penguins

With the win of Happy Feet for Best Animated Feature Film at Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, that makes two consecutive years in which a movie featuring penguins has won an Oscar (last year March of the Penguins won Best Feature Documentary). It may seem like the success of March of the Penguins has spawned the current crop of penguin-centric films, but Hollywood has had a long love affair with the waddling ones, as witnessed by this list of films.

  • March of the Penguins: This amazing French documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman in the English version, follows a colony of Emperor penguins during their annual inland migration in Antarctica.
  • Farce of the Penguins: Written and directed by Bob Saget (of America’s Funniest Home Videos and Full House), this parody of March of the Penguins features a multitude of comedic talents providing R-rated commentary for live-action footage of penguins.
  • Happy Feet: This animated film, featuring the voices of Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, and Robin Williams among others, recently won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.
  • Surf’s Up: Scheduled to be released in Summer 2007, the cast of this animated movie about surfing penguins includes Zooey Deschanel, Jeff Bridges, James Woods, and Michael McKean.
  • Madagascar: Although they are not the stars of this film, a quartet of sneaky penguins nearly steals the show.
  • The Pebble and the Penguin: Directed by legendary animator and director Don Bluth, who was behind such hits as An American Tail, The Land Before Time, and Anastasia, this film features Martin Short as the voice of Hubie the penguin.
  • Wallace & Gromit in The Wrong Trousers: The second Wallace & Gromit adventure produced by Aardman Animation, The Wrong Trousers won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 1994, and revolves around a plot cooked up by a mysterious penguin.
  • Cry of the Penguins: This 1971 British film, originally called Mr. Forbush and the Penguins, stars two-time Oscar nominee John Hurt and Oscar winner Hayley Mills.
  • Batman Returns: Tim Burton’s 1992 sequel to Batman stars Danny DeVito as the Penguin, one of Batman’s wily foes.

February 26, 2007

My 12 Favorite Signs in Hong Kong

On a vacation in Hong Kong in January, I kept noticing terrific signs that you’d never see in the U.S. I took pictures of a bunch of them, and here are some of my favorites.

water-hose.jpeg
I’ve seen “Caution: Wet Floor” signs, but never one warning me about a garden hose. Speaking of watering…

call-of-nature.jpeg
I thought it was fantastic that they actually said “call of nature” on a public sign like this. Some signs, however, were more direct…

urination.jpeg
Posted in a public park. I loved the graphic. And speaking of urination…

toilet-paper.jpeg
Posted in a public restroom. There was just one toilet paper dispenser for half a dozen stalls; if you expected to need any, you had to get enough, in advance, from that single dispenser.

stay-and-vend.jpeg
In the U.S., this would be “No Vending!” or a similarly strongly worded statement.

sudden-pushing-out.jpeg
The wording of this one made me smile.

drying-linen.jpeg
Posted in a public park. What, without this sign there’d be sheets drying in the trees?

contact-with-birds.jpeg
Posted in a zoo, the aviary of which was closed. Yes, bird flu is a big concern in Hong Kong.

disinfectant.jpeg
There were lots of signs like this one, which was posted in the elevator of a bank building. Public hand sanitizer dispensers were scattered throughout the building. And it was a good thing, too, considering all the bird flu worries.

relocation-services.jpeg
This was on the inside of a moving van door, and since the door was swung around to the outside of the truck, it was visible to people on the sidewalk. How weirdly polite.

releasing-fish.jpeg
Posted near a pond in a public park. Really, people have to be told not to do this?

mosquitos.jpeg
I didn’t see any mosquitos in Hong Kong—no doubt thanks to the hard work of the public health officials, who use signs like these to scare residents into action.


February 23, 2007

Seven TV Shows That Died an Untimely Death

Tomorrow, February 24, is the 18th anniversary of the death of Laura Palmer. (And to think that she was only 17 at the time…gosh, it makes me feel old.) Laura Palmer was, of course, the fictional character around whom the plot of the TV series Twin Peaks revolved. A few minutes into the pilot, her corpse was discovered washed up on a beach. And thus appears the central mystery of the show for quite a few episodes: Who killed Laura Palmer? Everyone in the town seemed like a suspect, or at least everyone had a secret. For almost two decades, this quirky and much-maligned series by David Lynch was my favorite television show of all time. But it was too good for network television: it was cancelled after a grand total of only 30 episodes, leaving major questions unanswered and plot lines dangling.

But Twin Peaks wasn’t the first or the last great TV series to have its life snuffed out prematurely. Needless to say, “great” is a matter of taste, but here is my personal list of the top shows that deserved a much longer life, in order of how sad I was/am at their cancellation:

  1. Firefly: It’s simply not open to debate. Firefly was the Best Television Program Ever, but its light was snuffed out after only 14 episodes (only 11 of which originally aired, though all are available on DVD, on iTunes, and in syndication). Yes, it was a science-fiction western, and yes, that’s as odd as it sounds. But every inch of it was utterly brilliant, from the writing to the faux-handheld effect for the CGI space footage that Battlestar Galactica later appropriated. The sequel movie, Serenity, was equally shiny.
  2. Twin Peaks: It’s dead…wrapped in plastic (on DVD). The first season has been out for a while, and the second season is finally being released in April. You still can’t officially get the pilot on DVD in the U.S.; find a region-free import from Hong Kong on Amazon.com or eBay.
  3. Arrested Development had its development arrested halfway through its third season. It may not have been the funniest comedy of all time, but it was certainly the smartest. I was constantly amazed at the show’s subtle cleverness; clearly it was too subtle for mainstream audiences.
  4. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip appears to be about to ride into the sunset. It’s gotten terrible reviews during its single season on the air, especially when compared with 30 Rock. But Studio 60 is one of very few shows on TV I can watch without feeling that my intelligence is being insulted. The dialog, if frequently implausible, is zippy, and the acting is first-rate.
  5. Star Trek: The Original Series boldly went where too many other great shows have gone: into syndication after a mere three seasons. Of course, it’s been reincarnated many times over, but it still amazes me that the series that started it all had such a short run.
  6. Boomtown: had a solid first season of 18 episodes, but then busted six episodes into the second season. It was a crime drama, but with the unusual twist of showing the same events from several different points of view within an episode. Once again, as a show that expected too much of its audience, it got the boot.
  7. In Justice: was unjustly cancelled after 13 episodes in 2006. It must have been Kyle MacLachlan, playing another oddball character. OK, it was a merely average legal drama, though no worse than most. But I liked the fact that it tackled the extremely important if unpopular subject of wrongful convictions. Yes, it does happen, and far too often, with devastating consequences. I thought that a TV show with some slightly wacky characters would help to get the message out, but…I guess there’s no justice.

I know everyone’s going to disagree with something on this list, and have favorites of their own. Feel free to vent, commiserate, or offer additional selections in the comments.


February 22, 2007

Six and Three-Quarters Ways to Run Windows on a Mac

“Hello, I’m a Mac…and I’m a PC too.” Yes, you really can have the best of both worlds. Now that Macs run on Intel processors, it’s easier than ever for Windows and Mac OS X to coexist on the same computer. So whatever your biases against the “other” system, just get over it and run them both. Of course, you still need a Mac to do that—not that I’m complaining.

I’ve written an ebook called Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac ($10) that goes into all the details about why and how to do this, and I was surprised to find out how many different ways you can get Windows software to run on a Mac. Not counting heavy-duty hacks and fringe projects, here they are:

  1. Boot Camp: Apple’s official solution, Boot Camp lets you divide your hard disk into a Mac partition and a Windows partition, install Windows XP on the Windows volume, and then switch between OSes by rebooting. Only kinda works with Vista at the moment, but that’ll be dealt with as soon as Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard ships this spring. Intel Macs only. Free for now during the public beta program; that may or may not change with Leopard.
  2. Parallels Desktop: The current favorite among many Mac users, including me, Parallels puts Windows windows side-by-side with Mac windows. No rebooting, drag and drop between OSes, support for pretty much every version of Windows in existence (plus DOS, Linux, and so on), and plenty fast for most needs. Intel Macs only. Costs $80, but my book includes a $10-off coupon.
  3. VMware Fusion: VMware has the latest entry in the Windows-on-Mac competition, but they’re hardly newcomers to virtualization. The beta version of their product, code-named Fusion, looks pretty hot, and is better in some respects (including raw speed) than Parallels. Runs many different operating systems without rebooting, including hundreds of prebuilt “virtual appliances.” Intel Macs only. Price not yet announced.
  4. Q: This open-source app is based on QEMU, a popular way for Linux geeks to run Windows (or other OSes). You can’t beat the price, and versions are available for both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs, but the performance on the former is glacial, while the latter is merely painfully slow. Free.
  5. [Virtual PC for Mac](http://www.microsoft.com/mac/products/ virtualpc/virtualpc.aspx): Unlike Parallels, Fusion, and Q, which are virtualization programs, Virtual PC is strictly an emulator. It runs with legendary slowness on PowerPC processors only, but at least it’s expensive: $249.
  6. GuestPC: Regarded by some as superior to Virtual PC and by others as unusably slow, GuestPC has fewer features, but also less overhead—not to mention a lower price. Unlike Virtual PC, you can’t get it bundled with Windows, though; you must buy Windows separately. PowerPC Macs only. $70.

Entries 6.5 and 6.75 belong to software that lets you run Windows applications—but not Windows per se—on a Mac:

  • [6.5] CrossOver Mac: Based on an open-source project called Darwine (which is in turn based on WINE, “WINE Is Not an Emulator”), CrossOver lets you install and run some Windows applications without having to install Windows itself; it uses the X11 system to draw the UI. If you happen to need one of the few apps for which CrossOver offers full support and don’t mind the weird interface, it can save you some money. Intel Macs only. $60.
  • [6.75] Cider isn’t something ordinary users can buy and install. It’s code game developers can license and build right into their applications. To oversimplify somewhat, programmers wrap an existing Windows game in this thing and it’ll run on a Mac as though it were written for Mac OS X in the first place. That’s the claim, anyway.

February 21, 2007

32 Edible Insect Foods You Can Buy Online

Entomophagy (literally, “insect-eating”) has been practiced throughout human history and continues to this day. Modern enthusiasts cite the economic and environmental benefits of using insects as a major source of protein in their diet; some even admit to liking the taste. Although I can’t personally vouch for the tastiness of any of the following items, if you’re interested in taking up entomophagy, here are a few things you could try.

Ants:

Crickets:

Larvae & Worms:

Scorpions & Water Bugs:


February 20, 2007

Six (or More) Names for the Day Before Lent Begins

In Western Christian traditions, the period of Lent begins 40 days before Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday. The day before Ash Wednesday is known by a variety of names, and is frequently marked by celebrations, such as the famous Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, and the Carnevale of Venice.

  • Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday”): French-speaking countries and most of North America
  • Shrove Tuesday: UK, Ireland, Australia
  • Pancake Day: UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada
  • Sledziówka (“Herring Day”): Poland
  • Vastenavond (“Fasting Evening”): Netherlands
  • Carnival, Carnaval, Carnevale, Karnival, Karnaval, etc.: Used for the celebration period ending the day before Ash Wednesday in various other parts of the world

February 19, 2007

2008 United States Presidential Candidates

In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is the current list of Democratic, Green, Libertarian, and Republican candidates for the 2008 US presidential election. For the list of Independent candidates, consult Wikipedia. Note: This list includes only the official candidates, and not potential candidates who may join the race at a later date.

Democrats:

Greens:

Libertarians:

Republicans:

Source: Wikipedia


February 16, 2007

Six movies in which Eddie Murphy plays more than one character

When I first saw the ads for Norbit, Eddie Murphy’s new movie in which he portrays three different characters, I had a strong case of déjà vu. I thought, hasn’t he just been in a movie where he has more than one role? When I looked into it, I realized that he hasn’t done so since 2000, when he took on eight characters in Nutty Professor II. But looking at all the movies he’s made, it does seem like Eddie Murphy enjoys, or at least has made a regular habit of, appearing as more than one character in a movie.

  • Norbit (2007): Norbit/Rasputia/Mr. Wong
  • Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000): Professor Sherman Klump/Buddy Love/Cletus ‘Papa’ Klump/Young Cletus Klump/Anna Pearl ‘Mama’ Jensen Klump/Ida Mae ‘Granny’ Jensen/Ernie Klump, Sr./Lance Perkins
  • Bowfinger (1999): Kit Ramsey/Jeffernson ‘Jiff’ Ramsey
  • The Nutty Professor (1996): Professor Sherman Klump/Buddy Love/Cletus ‘Papa’ Klump/Anna Pearl ‘Mama’ Jensen Klump/Ida Mae ‘Granny’ Jensen/Ernie Klump, Sr./Lance Perkins
  • Vampire in Brooklyn (1995): Maximillian/Preacher Pauly/Guido
  • Coming to America (1988): Prince Akeem/Clarence/Randy Watson/Saul

Update: This post was featured in the February 23, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Cinema.


February 15, 2007

15 Absurdly Expensive Things You Can Buy on Amazon.com

I’ve bought all kinds of stuff from Amazon.com: books, DVDs, electronics, kitchen gadgets, and so on. It’s great for those quick, easy purchases, but what if you’ve got money to burn? You’ll be delighted to know that you can put your American Express Centurion Card to good use with any number of extravagant purchases from everyone’s favorite online store.

Even ignoring obvious typos, of which I found quite a few, there are an awful lot of things that are so expensive that I can’t imagine buying them online, no matter how wealthy I were. I found hundreds of items costing $20,000 or more; here is a small sampling. (By the way, each year Amazon.com posts a list of the most expensive items people actually purchased. In 2006, the most expensive item they sold was a $24,795.00 Cartier watch. Cheapskates.)

HP StorageWorks ESL9595S2 – tape library – SDLT – SCSI (293411-B28): $351,816.00 (refurbished). Shipping is a mere $1,154. Look, nobody has to tell me how important backups are, but if you have that much data to deal with, are you really going to trust it to a refurbished machine?
Ladies Diamond Earrings with Two Fancy Yellow Radiant Cut Diamonds and Two Princess Cut Diamonds, Accented with Pave Diamonds, Set in Platinum and 18KT Yellow Gold: $227,906.00—You Save $129,594.00 (36%)! At that price, you can’t afford not to buy them.
Cartier Ladies Tank Francaise WL4081KF Watch: $225,000.00—You Save $15,000.00 (6%)! Yes, it has lots of diamonds. However, the case itself is made of stainless steel. Are you kidding me? What a rip-off.
IWC Watch: $204,000.00—You Save $36,000.00 (15%)! Features lots of dials and buttons. Plus: it’s extra shiny, with actual gold in the case (unlike the Cartier)! Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait 1–2 weeks for shipping.
Antique Russian Floral Bouquet Plaque Paperweight, circa 1840–1860: $85,000.00—Gift wrap available!
Super Bowl XL Opus MVP Edition: $40,000.00 (free shipping!)—an 80-pound, 800-page, leather-bound book featuring autographs of every living Super Bowl MVP.
24-Station Silhouette Fitness Center: $39,999.99. That’s right: an entire fitness center in a box (well, probably lots of boxes). Building not included.
Relaxman Relaxation Capsule: $39,995.00. Your very own sensory deprivation chamber, in which you can lie on a warm waterbed mattress in complete darkness and silence, meditating on how much frackin’ money you spent on the thing.
Michael Jordan Signed Bulls Red Game Worn 1997–98 Championship Season Jersey: $38,461.54—includes certificate of authenticity and tamper-proof hologram.
Russian Sable Fur Coat, Size 12: $37,500.00. Or, if that’s too expensive, a nice bottle of vodka can also keep you toasty on those cold winter nights.
Taylor Mobile Generator Set – 175 kW: $35,499.99. Expedited shipping “may not be available” to post office boxes.
Gulbransen Bottle Organ: $33,150.00—You Save $5,850.00 (15%)! Features real beer bottles—don’t be fooled by those cut-rate bottle organs with fake beer bottles. MIDI-compatible, too!
Gorham Chantilly-Grand (Sterling Hollowware) Tea Set: $24,999.00—This 14-piece set won’t actually keep your tea very hot or anything, but it’ll look really impressive perched on your butler’s hand.
Microsoft SQL Server Enterprise Edition 2005 32 Bit CD/DVD 1 Processor License: $22,374.11—You Save $2,624.89 (10%)! Gift wrap available! (Or, just say no to the Evil Empire and go with MySQL instead.)
Molecular Brain Research (Journal Subscription): $21,340.00 ($323.33/issue). No kidding! But hey, you get a full year—66 issues—for one low price, with free shipping!

Honorable Mention
I’d also like to give a special nod to the Ace Hardware Outlet, whose Amazon.com store lists so many commonplace items with astronomical prices that I can only assume their computer system likes to put the decimal point in the wrong place. Since these are obviously not real prices, I didn’t want to include them in the main list. However, if you hurry, you might be able to buy, among other things:


February 14, 2007

14 Offbeat Valentine’s Day Movies

If you’re looking for movies to watch with that special someone this Valentine’s Day, I suggest one of these gems as an alternative to the usual “date movie” suspects. These films highlight the sorrows and comedic travails of their quirky heroes and heroines in their search for true love.

  • A Fish Called Wanda: John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis steam up the screen in this quirky comedy.

  • Amélie: Audrey Tautou gives a great performance as a hopeless romantic too shy to pursue the object of her affection.

  • As Good As It Gets: Jack Nicholson plays Melvin, a man difficult to love, yet who somehow gets under your skin.

  • Better Off Dead: John Cusack went on to star in more mainstream romantic comedies, but in this film he artfully captures the angst of teenage love.

  • Brokeback Mountain: This tearjerker is a moving study of love and loss between two ranch hands (Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal) in Wyoming.

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The heart of this movie is the quiet chemistry between Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat.

  • Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind: What do you do when love goes wrong? Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet star in this strange but beautiful film from director Michel Gondry.

  • Groundhog Day: A delightful comedy about the lengths to which some people go for love.

  • Lost in Translation: An unlikely friendship between an older man (Bill Murray) and a young woman (Scarlett Johansson) shows that connections can be made in the strangest of circumstances.

  • Moulin Rouge!: Paris is the romantic backdrop for this splashy and tragic musical featuring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

  • Nights of Cabiria: One of my all-time favorite films, this Fellini masterpiece stars his wife Giulietta Masina as the love-starved Cabiria, who retains her romantic fantasies in the face of a cruel world.

  • Pride and Prejudice: The 2005 film adaptation of this Jane Austen novel was well-done, but this miniseries, starring Colin Firth as the proud Mr. Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as the headstrong Elizabeth Bennett, is pure magic.

  • The Princess Bride: Sword fights. Rodents of Unusual Size. True love. Who needs more?

  • Wedding Crashers: Although it could be written off as comedic fluff, there’s a genuine sweetness to this raunchy comedy.


February 13, 2007

11 US College Match-Ups I’d Like to See

I’m not much of a sports fan, but I am intrigued by the nicknames colleges give to their sports teams. Although many are uninspired (e.g., Bears, Beavers, and Bobcats), others provide great fodder for creative visualization, like this list of team match-ups I’d like to see.

Special thanks to Adam Joshua Smargon for his exhaustive online list of College Nicknames.

Interested in learning more about the origins of college sports nicknames? Check out The College Names of the Games: The Stories Behind the Nicknames of 293 College Sports Teams on Amazon.com.


February 12, 2007

Nine Overused Baseball Metaphors on The Apprentice

I followed The Apprentice avidly during its first couple of seasons, but the show has gotten progressively more annoying. Among the things that irritate me most is the fact that the contestants all speak some weird dialect of Business English that seems to consist mainly of clichéd baseball metaphors. Some of the phrases I hear way too often are:

  1. step up (to the plate) If they could get through an entire episode without anyone saying “step up” even once, I might be willing to watch for another season.
  2. touch base
  3. cover (all) the bases
  4. off the bat
  5. home run
  6. hit/knocked it out of the (ball) park
  7. strike (struck) out
  8. out in left field
  9. major league(s)

February 6, 2007

13 Disasters That Didn’t Kill Us on Our Vacation to Indonesia

Morgen and I recently returned from a month-long trip to Indonesia and Hong Kong. It’ll take us a while to sort through all our photos and write about our experiences. But we’ll say this much: we’re alive and well. This despite the fact that before, during, and after our trip, Indonesia has made international headlines repeatedly with a variety of major problems that might be regarded as travel deterrents. Among the things that didn’t kill us:


January 22, 2007

8 Alcoholic Beverages Featured in Movies & TV Shows

With the release of the latest James Bond movie, Casino Royale, moviegoers were reintroduced to 007′s favorite tipple, the martini. However, this reincarnation of James Bond (a laconic, rough-edged Daniel Craig) eschews the familiar request for a “shaken, not stirred” martini, instead opting for the Vesper martini (gin, vodka, and Lillet) described by Ian Fleming in the original novel.

While the Bond franchise has probably done more for the martini than any standard product placement could ever accomplish, there are other movies and TV shows that have created similar pop culture ripples through the opportune mention of a particular alcoholic beverage.


January 15, 2007

16 Unique Toppings for French Fries

As with potato chips, there are a great variety of flavors that go well with French fries (or “chips”, as the case may be). While there are some nearly-universal favorite toppings for French fries (salt, ketchup, and mayonnaise), there are also many that are specific to certain regions.

  • Cheese, Carne Asada, Sour Cream, and Guacamole (US)
  • Cheese Curds and Gravy (Canada)
  • Cheese Powder (Philippines)
  • Chopped Raw Onions (Netherlands)
  • Curry sauce (Ireland)
  • Garlic (US)
  • Lemon (Mexico)
  • Malt Vinegar (UK)
  • Mint Cilantro Sauce (Pakistan)
  • Mustard (Norway)
  • Oregano (Greece)
  • Peanut sauce (Netherlands)
  • Remoulade Sauce (Denmark)
  • Sugar and Butter (Vietnam)
  • Turkey Stuffing, Peas, Cheese, and Gravy (Canada)
  • White Vinegar (Canada)

Sources: Food Services of America and Wikipedia.


January 8, 2007

7 “Good” Movies of 2006

2006 was a banner year for “good” movies–that is, movies with the word “good” in their title. I’m sure it’s just coincidence that all these “good” movies were released in one year, but it’s tempting to believe there is some kind of conspiracy afoot. Perhaps these filmmakers hoped to gently convey the merits of their movies via their titles; it’s true that other movies with “good” in their titles have had critical success in the past (eg. Good Will Hunting; Good Morning, Vietnam; As Good as It Gets; A Few Good Men). Or maybe, as these examples show, it helps to have Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, or Matt Damon in the cast. If that’s the case, The Good Shepherd should do very well.

According to metacritic.com, all of these movies had their theatrical and/or DVD release in 2006:

Update: This post was featured in the February 2, 2007 edition of the Carnival of Cinema.


December 15, 2006

18 Potential Acronyms for the Democrats

A long time ago the Republican Party gained the nickname “GOP,” which is usually understood as an acronym for “Grand Old Party,” although there have been exceptions to this. I think it’s time that the Democrats had their own handy acronym, and I’ve listed some potential ones below. I offer this list in a spirit of good-natured bipartisanship; I aspire to be an equal-opportunity offender.

  • ALP: Atheist Lovers Party
  • BOP: Boring Old Party
  • CARP: Cut And Run Party
  • CLAP: California Liberal Activist Party
  • COP: Congress Owning Party
  • GAP: Gay Awareness Party
  • HIP: Hollywood Ideas Party
  • LIP: Leaving Iraq Party
  • LISP: Latino Immigration Supporters Party
  • PEP: Pro Evolution Party
  • POP: Party On Party
  • RAMP: Republicans Are Mean Party
  • SAP: Save America Party
  • SCAMP: Social Conservatives Are Mean Party
  • SCRAP: Stem Cell Research Advocacy Party
  • STEP: Save The Environment Party
  • TAP: Totally Awesome Party
  • TARP: Total Abortion Rights Party

December 8, 2006

Intriguing Potato Chip Flavors From Around the World

When I was in Argentina a few years ago I found a bag of potato chips with a flavor I had never encountered before–Patagonia Lamb. I wasn’t sure I would like the taste, but I had to buy a bag to satisfy my curiosity. It took a little time to get used to the flavor, but they were definitely edible.

You wouldn’t think you could learn about a country by tasting its potato chips, but I think you can (not that I need more excuses to eat them). There are some flavors that are popular in many countries (eg. Salt and Vinegar), and others whose popularity might be unique to a certain country (eg. Consommé).

I have tried some of the brands below (Pehuamar, Old Dutch, Kettle Foods), and I am very interested in trying the others (Eta, Jonathan Crisp, Walkers); in the case of the Calbee chips, I may never get the chance. Apparently it’s common in Japan for new flavors to be introduced and then quickly replaced, so the flavors I’ve listed below may not currently be available. For photos of the types of Japanese chips listed, go to greggman.com.

Pehuamar (Argentina)

  • Bife Criollo (Steak with Onions and Sweet Peppers)
  • Cordero Patagonico (Patagonia Lamb)
  • Provoleta (Grilled Provolone Cheese)
  • Tomate y Hierbas (Tomato and Herbs)

Old Dutch (Canada)

  • Buffalo Wings
  • Cheddar & Sour Cream
  • Crispy Bacon
  • Dill Pickle
  • Ketchup
  • Onion’n Garlic

Kettle Foods (USA)

  • New York Cheddar with Herbs
  • Honey Dijon
  • Yogurt & Green Onion
  • Roasted Red Pepper with Goat Cheese
  • Spicy Thai
  • Cheddar Beer

Eta (New Zealand)

  • Chilli & Sour Cream
  • Feta & Italian Herbs
  • Honey Soy Chicken
  • Mature Cheddar & Caramelized Onion
  • Roast Chicken, Sage & Onion
  • Roast Lamb & Mint
  • Smoked Salmon & Capers
  • Sundried Tomato & Balsamic Vinegar

Jonathan Crisp (UK)

  • Black Olive & Garlic
  • Black Pepper & Ginger
  • Horseradish & Sour Cream
  • Mature Cheddar & Red Onion
  • Sundried Tomato & Basil

Walkers (UK)

  • Heinz Tomato Ketchup
  • Lamb & Mint
  • Marmite Yeast Extract
  • Pickled Onion
  • Prawn Cocktail
  • Steak & Onion

Calbee (Japan)

  • Caesar Salad
  • Caramel Butter
  • Cheese Curry
  • Consommé
  • Kimchee
  • Mapodoufu (Tofu in a Spicy Pork Sauce)
  • Tandori Chicken