Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Titillating Trivia Tuesday

I've come up with the idea of a new trivia Tuesday for my blog. I'll make the first one pretty easy and if you can guess the answer first, I'll be sure to give you a shoutout. If you guess three answers in a row first, then I'll provide you with the movie/a movie with the actor as a prize.

Each Tuesday, I will provide details for a mini game that sometimes will be 'Name that movie', 'Name that actor' or something else movie related.


Character Name:

Famous quote: "I want you to be nice...until its time to not be nice"

Early movie in his career: The Outsiders

Like I said, I made this one pretty easy. Next week will be more difficult...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Shhh....It's a secret

So when exactly did it become the 1920s again. If you talk to anyone in the fashion industry, they will be the first to agree that styles are cyclical. What was once trendy, will quickly become a passing phase, only to be revived years upon years later. Look at bell bottoms to boot cut jeans, or even the neon craze that occurred in the 90s just now becoming rejuvenated. So what trend am I talking about? Stealing a phrase I used in my most recent restaurant week posts:

Cue the Speak Easy.

So what exactly is a speak easy? Wikipedia describes it as:

A speakeasy was an establishment which illegally sold alcoholic beverages during the period of United States history known as Prohibition (1920–1932, longer in some states). During this time, the sale, manufacture, and transportation (bootlegging) of alcohol was illegal.

So the purpose of these speakeasys no longer is pertinent, but the idea behind is just now thriving. It isn't any different than any other themed bar, this theme, however just creates a very different environment than most people are used to. To name a few, The Violet Hour in Chicago, Bourbon & Branch in San Fran, Varnish in LA, PDT in NYC and last but not least, The Gibson in DC. These bars are quite amazing to be honest. The allure of the speak easy is that its hidden, intimate. When first created, it was to sell alcohol when it was not allowed. Now, these speakeasys take provide in providing you with an elite cocktail. You don't go to this type of place for a rum and coke, but your more traditional adult beverages, a Manhattan perhaps, to give you an idea of these timeless drinks. The bars will only use the top shelf liquor and provide you with mixers you either never heard of, or would never think to use.

My first experience was in NYC in the East Village. PDT, Please Don't Tell. Similar to the first rule of fight club, you don't talk about please don't tell. But here I go blabbing about it to all 6 of my readers (up from last week!). You walk downstairs to enter Crif Dogs, and immediately upon entry, you see an old school phone booth on your left. Walking in it looks like your run of the mill hot dog joint. You have plenty of people eating in the restaurant and you see an expansive menu by the front counter where you order. Much to my surprise, the friend I was with went straight to the phone booth and picked up the phone. Wait for it...the phone doesn't work. It's actually a door bell into the private cocktail lounge on the other side. The false back opens up and you see a beautiful dimly lit bar on the inside. Reservations are not required, but are definitely encouraged as the place is quite small. This isn't a place you take a big group of friends, but really just those you would like to enjoy conversation with. We were able to procure a nice booth that fit the 5 of us and squeezed in a 6th. The cocktails were pricey, but well made. I didn't recognize any of the drinks on the menu, but I like alcohol, so let's be honest, I was okay with anything. The drinks come out slowly because the bartenders hand craft each drink with several moving parts. That being said, I now want to educate myself on more of these timeless drinks that I can ask a cultured bartender to make. The experience was amazing. The service was fantastic, and all it takes is a little patience for a table. Probably the best thing about this bar, or any of these bars, is that a seat is required. No patrons standing around the bar. PDT was not crowded in the slightest, but had a long wait. Is this elitist? Perhaps. But I see it as more of the owner wanting a certain feel and experience to his bar, and that's exactly what he got.

Much to my surprise, it turns out there are a few speakeasys in the DC area. It's funny because at the time in NYC, I commented to those who I was with, there needs to be places like this in DC. Let's be honest. There are so many areas and so many things to do in DC, its easy to not know of everything, but considering this would be on the 'cool' side of things, I'm a very 'uncool' person so its no surprise I wasn't aware these places existed. Alexandria has PX which is located above Eamonn's restaurant. DC has The Gibson. It seems that Eric Hilton owns every cool bar in DC. For those of you who are not aware, he is from the musical group Thievery Corporation. I wouldn't be surprised if many of you are saying to yourself, who in the world is Thievery Corporation, but you will recognize this song from the Garden State soundtrack that everyone has. I would recommend a lot of their other music, but getting back to the point, Eric Hilton owns all the cool bars in DC. At least in my opinion, including 18th Street Lounge, Marvin and most recently the Gibson.

Located off of 14th Street on the corner of U St. is the ever popular Marvin. Right around the area you will find other popular bars such as Cafe St. Ex or even my friend's beloved Bar Pilar. U street continues to be the up and coming area and the recent addition of The Gibson is a testament to that. Beside Marvin at 2009 14th St. is an unmarked door with a small doorbell pad to the left. The most advertisement you will find is the top button with a strip of paper with 'The Gibson' printed on it. Inside the door is a random bare hallway that goes upstairs. It looks as if its the entrance to a storage area. The first door on your left however, leads into the bar. Manned by a nice gentlemen, the door is unmarked with a simple sign that says 'Please wait for host'. Inside is a dimly lit bar that is spacious. The dark wood bar is one of the first things you see with about a dozen seats. A few booths line the side into a larger room with a few tables sprawled along the sides. If you continue to the back, a backdoor seating area is available, opening up the bar for several more patrons at a time. Unlike your traditional bar, there is no standing room here and everyone must have a seat.

The music was fantastic, the ambiance unbeatable, and the wait staff very helpful. Often times, customers order traditional drinks like I discussed above and our waiter was curious as to what types of drinks we enjoy so that he can provide some good suggestions. My first drink was a summertime manhattan which was similar to a mint julep in that it was a manhattan with mint leaves. My second drink was a martini entitled a 'Scorched Earth' which was described to me include Laphroaig which is a very smokey scotch. I'm not a big scotch drinker (read: hates scotch) but it was pretty tasty. Would I recommend this place to anyone? Absolutely. Would I say its the cheapest place? No. But you must remember, like at any bar, you pay for not only the alcohol, but the experience and ambiance.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Restaurant Week Aug '09 Part 3

Considering that this is the third and final post in regards to restaurant week in the summer of 2009, I hope everyone isn't expecting much. Similarly to the film industry, trilogies are rarely good and I will warn everyone that this post will likely follow suit.

That being said, and now that all 5 of my readers have stopped, I'll make sure I put in as much effort in this post as the two others.

Cue (Thanks Robby) Charlie Palmer Steak.

If you have heard of this place but had NO idea where it was, then you'd fill the exact shoes I was in. I've heard of this elusive Charlie Palmer several times when speaking of the best steak houses in the city. It fills the list with others such as Bobby Van's, District Chophouse, Smith & Wollensky.

Located off of Constitution and 1st Avenue, it is just a block away from our nation's Capitol building. Walking into the lobby, you get the distinct feel that this is an upscale establishment. You walk into an expansive opening with a bar directly ahead of you. There are several small tables and booths along the side of the restaurant for those who are just drinking at the bar. The bar itself is long and narrow, filled with people that are way more important than me. Beers are served in glasses although they had no drafts. Clear sign of what kind of place this is. Another clear indication was the extensive scotch selection that they have on display. For some reason, when I think of Capitol Hill and lobbyists, I think of Scotch drinkers. We thought about getting a drink at the bar, but it was overly crowded and my attire was not pressed enough for me to feel comfortable with the other clientele, so we hopped down the block to My Brother's Place.

Fast Forward and its 730 and time for our reservation. Walking past the host's station, you walk down a small hallway that opens up to the rest of the restaurant. It's surprising how large this place really is. The tables were placed far apart so that conversations could remain quiet, a positive for important politicians I'm sure. The hallway is actually created as a corridor between the wine room. It's actually slightly raised and acts as a bridge over an internal pond of sorts which adds to the ambiance. The open room is well lit with nice artwork and designs that add to the experience. The general manager stopped by our table which was a very nice gesture. He provided us with business cards and said to be sure to call if we plan on another visit. Although it was obvious that we were younger folk that probably don't head to these dinners often and was clearly there for restaurant week, I respect it. It's the little things with me, I've said that my entire life.

The meal begins.

Sadly, I won't be able to provide as many details since the restaurant's website doesn't have the menu up any longer. That being said, I started with a Chilled Local Corn Soup. I talked about it before, but I would have to reiterate the quality of a great soup. I don't order them often, but it was quite tasty. The Maryland Blue crab was a delicious addition that was subtle and not overpowering. Any good bisque comes down to consistency and this chef had it spot on. There was a small dab of tarragon added which provided a nice balance of color and balance. The entree was a roasted sirloin with thinly sliced small potatoes. The dish isn't on their everyday menu and sadly, this is for good reason. While the cut of meat was good and the steak was prepared well, it wasn't something that screamed eat me. It was previously discussed amongst my friends of whether or not steak places are really the best establishments for restaurant week. There is no need to really showcase your restaurant because a good steak is a good steak, no nouveau fusions of flavors and foods necessary. You got your beef. You got your potato. You got your dish. That simple. The dessert turned out to be some sort of raspberry soup that looked much better than it actually was.

Would I go back? Probably. I don't think that I really had a dish that was representative of how good of a steak this restaurant can prepare, but at the same time, the restaurant is very well put together. I am left with mixed feelings. The one aspect that did 'wow' me was the fact that they had a portion of their wine menu that was called '25 for under 25' in which they listed 25 bottles of wine for $25 or less. What was really nice about this was that there were bottles that were even cheaper than $25. It was a very nice, unexpected touch to a high-end dinner. If you're going to spend $37 on a steak, it doesn't mean you necessarily want to spend $83 on a bottle of wine.

So that was it. All 3 of my restaurant week experiences. My friends and I discussed the idea of going to a nice dinner once a month that way we can try out more of these nice restaurants more often. I like the sound of it so perhaps I'll be able to do more of these restaurant write-ups. Don't everyone jump for joy at once...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Restaurant Week Aug '09 Part 2....

Cue Cafe Atlantico

I'm not sure if you all are like me. My guess is that none of you are like me, but may have a few common habits with me. One is watching television that I never thought I'd watch as a child: History channel, Discovery channel, HGTV, the food network and especially the travel channel. Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations is as good as programming comes in my opinion. He travels the world learning of different cultures, focusing on their culinary traditions. Recently, he came to DC during season 4 and visited a few local establishments you may have heard of: Ben's Chili Bowl, Busboys and Poets, Eamonn's to name a few. But, most importantly, at least for the purposes of this post, Mini Bar.

Minibar is a restaurant within a restaurant (kind of cool concept if you like that elitist type of thing) that is upscale in every possible way other than appearance. The restaurant it's in was the destination of my 2nd of three restaurant week reservations, Cafe Atlantico. The restaurant is located off of 8th and Pennsylvania which is hidden by a large fountain/outdoor area. Pennsylvania Avenue has a number of great restaurants that you should check out if you're ever in the city and want to try out a quality dining establishment. To name a few that I've been to, I would probably revisit Central, 701 restaurant and Chef Geoff's in that order.

Centralized by a Latin American theme, the restaurant spans three stories and is much smaller than one would assume when walking in. You are greeted immediately upon entry with what seemed to be 3 hostesses and a general manager (I'm sure this was just the case because it was restaurant week and it was even more high traffic than usual). You walk up a flight of steps and immediately see into an open kitchen with several chefs hard at work. Similar to Central, I like the idea of an open kitchen. It seems to be the recent trend and I approve. It seems silly, but it almost shows a confidence in what you're doing, even if no one really pays attention to what the chefs are doing. The tables are tight and the ambiance is lively. It being not the quietest restaurant, it almost adds to, not detracts from the experience. On the second floor, in the corner is an additional small kitchen, this, is Mini Bar. There are 6 seats located there and reservations are near impossible to get. With 2 separate reservations times a night, an intimate group setting for you and a date or small group of friends. This is a post about Cafe Atlantico, so I'll save more discussion for after I am able to procure a reservation.

Luckily thanks to yours truly, I was able to get a reservation for 10. I was shocked when I could not make the reservation on open table, but it seems the restaurant does not allow reservations of over 6 or 8 to be saved online. A couple phone calls later, we get a table on the third floor right by a back kitchen and we are on the side, almost getting a more private setting. The artwork on the walls were great, simplistic and somehow giving off a South American vibe. So after some good talk, it was time to start with the meal.

Starting off with some drinks, we pick out a couple of bottles of cheap wine, a malbec and a pinot noir, that everyone joins in to taste. Two of the girls order signature cocktails: an infamous passion fruit martini (orange rum and passion fruit juice with a ginger jalapeno infusion). I had a taste and I generally like 'stiff' drinks over sweet ones, but this one was a winner. No shock to anyone, Jon got a sweet martini as well, this one was of the magic variety. The Magic Mojito is poured atop a tuft of cotton candy, adding a sweet replacement to the traditional sugar cane. I must admit, it was pretty cool to see. After enjoying a few spirits, it was time to hit the menu...

The Appetizer

Carrot Soup: organic Tuscarora carrots, passion fruit

Heirloom Tomato Salad: watermelon, Cotija cheese, sherry dressing

Tuna Ceviche: coconut milk, avacado

Dominican Conch Fritters: jicama-avocado raviolis, passion fruit oil

At first glance, I really took a liking to the Tuna Ceviche. I love raw fish and love any sort of tartare dish. That being said, coconut milk scares me a bit. Not really anything scary about it, but it reminds me of thai food and how thickening it can be and wanted something a little less dairy. With my options now limited to three, I went with the Conch Fritters. I've only had conch once before at the airport at BWI (probably not the best location) but figured it sounded intriguing. I cannot emphasize enough how good of a decision this was. The fritters came out, I believe 3 or 4 puffy crunch pieces on a plate. It looked a little lackluster to be honest, but once you cut it open, you instantly began to salivate. The conch was prepared to perfection, a beigish color of sauce flooding out, balanced so well with the fried shell. Perhaps it was the passion fruit oil (I've never used or had this before), but it was a phenomenal start to the meal.

The Entree

Duck Confit: brussels sprouts, apples, raisins, pine nuts

Portobello Mushroom: huitlacoche, Chihauhua cheese, roasted beets, beet oil

Braised Beef Short Ribs: grilled eggplant, squash

Salmon, Veracruz Style: tomoatoes, olives, onions, and capers fresh lime and avacado

Grilled Skirt Steak
: mushrooms, green beans, truffled potato espuma

Being able to choose from an option of five different entrees showed me that Cafe Atlantico wasn't a restaurant that participated in restaurant week to merely get bodies into and out of the restaurant, but it was to impress those that came in. Providing a full gamut of types of food, I decided to select the Skirt Steak. It's funny because I chose the Skirt Steak because of an earlier experience at Georgia Brown's. I wasn't completely sold on any one particular dish, and defaulted to the skirt steak. A similar situation happened at Georgia Brown's, but i did NOT select the skirt steak. It turned out to be delicious and exceeded everyone's expectation. Although my steak was quite tasty, I was not wow'd. The food was tasty and the sides were crunchy and provided a little spice. The meat itself was very familiar and used a flavor I could not pinpoint. That being said, it wasn't a new flavor for my taste buds to dance around about. The green beans were in fact solid, however, definitely complimenting the steak well and adding to the overall satisfaction to the meal. The table actually did a great job of trying everything but the mushrooms and if I were to have another go at ordering, I'd order anything BUT the skirt steak. The salmon looked quite appetizing with a lemonish foam on top of the cut of fish. Cafe Atlantico is known for its use of texture with foods and restaurant was no different. The braised short ribs looked flavorful and seemed to fall right off the bone. Robby's duck confit was a large portion, with a colorful array of vegetables acting as a bed underneath. Again, don't get me wrong, I was not disappointed with my meal. It was one of those situations where you don't dislike your food, but all you are interested in is eating everyone else's dishes.

The Dessert

Warm Chocolate Cake
: warm chocolate cake, banana

Sorbet of the Day
: Mango

The dessert came and the chocolate cake was filled with warm chocolate fudge. The portion was sizeable and the cake was moist. Assuming that they probably served this to everyone that was in the restaurant, having so many well baked desserts is kind of impressive. A few people tried out the sorbet and enjoyed the mango, but I will admit seeing orange ice cream was kind of funny.

So that was it, Cafe Atlantico. It was tasty, good lively date spot, but I probably won't go back until I get a reservation at Mini Bar. Although the restaurant was high on the ambiance, I think the food was above average, but not exceptional. Maybe its the Latin American tinge, maybe it was just that it was restaurant week and the chef's didn't bring their 'A' game. I would never say that I won't go there again for dinner, but I'd probably choose to go to the plethora of new restaurants that I have yet to visit before making a repeat appearance.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Restaurant Week Aug'09...Part 1

I learned about restaurant week a few years ago and will admit that I am quite hooked. Perhaps its my desire to be a chef some day, or the idea of going to high brow venues, but i tend to make several reservations each season. This year was the first time I planned one for lunch though. Boy do I not regret it. I was slightly tentative because some restaurant's portions at dinner even are small and petite, so I can only imagine what it would be at lunch. I decided in order to really pull off a mid-day lunch that is 2 hours long, I should invite those whom I work with, that way they can't yell at me for taking too long. The trouble was that a trip into DC would take up WAY too much time, especially using the metro. Some of my coworkers don't ride the metro, so then they would have to buy metro cards, blah blah. DC nixed. Where then? Arlington has several restaurants, but I tend to believe the purpose of restaurant week is to try new places you wouldn't normally try or need a reason to patron. So, I'm left with NOT DC and NOT Arlington. Doesn't give me many options. Falls Church it is.

Cue 2941.

Where to begin? The restaurant is located off of Fairview Drive which is between Falls Church and Vienna. It's off the beaten path, close to the beltway, off of what seems to be an office park. The turn is hidden and to be honest, you would have zero chance of stumbling upon this restaurant, although you would be pleasantly pleased if you did. You drive up what seems to be a private drive and are greeted with complimentary valet parking. Always a nice touch. You walk up to a restaurant who's walls are made of enormous panes of glass. It takes up the corner of what seems to be an office building, with a small walkway above an enormous Koi pond. I don't know how much you know about Koi, but they are not cheap. These were the largest Koi I have ever seen. The pond was full of them, dozens. To the left you see how it trickles into a large waterfall into another small pond. Off in the distance is a man-made pond that is quite large, leaving what I would imagine an incredible view at night with the lights.

The interior was just as visibly pleasing. The restaurant was open, not too crowded, but you could see it wasn't enormous either. Tables were spaced far enough apart so that you could have private conversations. Immediately upon entering, you are wow'ed by a large glass/plastic 'jellyfish' looking display behind the hostess. The ceilings must be 20 feet tall, adding to the spacious feel. To the right is a small bar area that is intimate for perhaps a cocktail or two prior to your meal. I was astonished by the sheer size of these expansive mirrors 15 feet off the ground that lined the interior walls. Above one entryway, there was a classic painting of nude women. If you see artwork that includes nudity, you know you're at a high-class establishment.

Enough about the ambiance. Why did I really want to go here? The food. The restaurant is ranked No. 14 in Washingtonian's top 100 and No. 2 for restaurants in VA. Knowing this going in, my expectations were high and I will be the first to admit, I was not disappointed. The menu, although limited, still supplied a great range of dishes.

The Appetizer

The restaurant decided to give a typical 3 options:

Local Beet Tartare
: pickled cherries, Sicilian pistachios, petit salad

Hawaiian Red Snapper Carpaccio: citrus gelee, cilantro, heart of palm

Chilled Pea Soup: poached shrimp, summer truffle, orange oil

Out of those, I went with the Red Snapper Carpaccio that I'm sure most people would. 3 out of the 4 of us ordered this, with one ordering the pea soup. I'll discuss more about soups in the upcoming Charlie Palmer's post, but soup is underrated.

The appetizer was probably one of the most amazingly delicious appetizers I have ever had the treat of consuming. The taste was light, the heart of palm was tasty and balanced the flavors of the fish while adding a little texture and crunch. The red snapper was prepared to perfection with subtle flavors that seemed to balance so well with gelee. I can probably write about this appetizer at length, merely reiterating the same ideas of light and balanced, but I won't. I've eaten a lot of things in my day and I stand that this was incredible. If it was possible, I would have just eaten this as my meal.

The Entree

Veal Cheeks Ravioli: tomato confit, butter poached lobster, parmesan

Grilled Pacific Monchong
: lightly grilled and stained with turmeric, basmati rice, lychee, curry leaf

Grimaud Farms Guinea Hen Duo: crostini rillette, roasted breast, Jerusalem artichoke, natural jus

Based on the number of links that are included above, some of these dishes are not your spaghetti & meatball type of dish. I am always confused why particular restaurants make their dishes sound so overly complex, but if you read up on each of these topics, it makes sense. I think it just sounds complex to a lot of us because we don't come across it often or prepare food in this way.

First choice with the Ravioli is what I ended up going for, but I had trouble not choosing the monchong. I've been in a seafood kick recently and I had never even seen this type of fish offered before. The ravioli was delicious, as it sounds. The dish came back and the ravioli were not your run of the mill, typical ravioli shape. These were almost rectangular box. Each ravioli was filled with ground veal that was perfectly cooked (not under or over cooked). I was surprised by the number of ravioli (6 to 8) given the amount of food jammed into each pasta casing. It seemed that half of the plate was covered with balsamic vinegar and the other half filled with the tomato confit. It wasn't your thin, runny pasta sauce, but more of a finely chunky tomato sauce you would encounter at Ballston's Tirolo. The butter poached lobster wasn't mixed into the ravioli as I had expected, but rather strewn throughout the dish in little chunks to add into bites at your leisure. The entree was presented cleanly, of a good portion, and satisfied all.


I'm not the biggest dessert person. I've definitely gained a sweeter tooth for chocolate cake (although I dislike chocolate in general), which has opened up my ability to order desserts at restaurants since they are often chocolate focused. Again, the table had an option of 3:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwich: Westmoreland County sweet cherries, sable breton

Pennsylvania Raspberry Parfait: fromage blanc panna cotta, lemon balm, warm madeleines

Semolina Pudding Cake: tulip poplar honey mousse, blueberries, sweet corn ice cream

Each one of these sounded delicious. It was not an easy decision, because if the Ice cream sandwich was not mint chocolate chip, and just regular chocolate chip, I think I would have pulled the trigger for that, however, with my sudden obsession with raspberries, I went with the Parfait.

I'm not exactly sure why, but I did not think the desserts would be overly classy, maybe just a little flair on the dish with some powdered sugar or chocolate syrup, but in reality, they were aesthetically beautiful. My parfait, which I assumed I was going to get in a sundae glass with the madeleines on top, was actually a bar, with layers of ingredients with the madeleines and raspberries placed on the plate with class (a touch of raspberry sauce strewn about). It was a good portion (not too large so you still had room for coffee) and was delectable. The lemon was not overpowering and the panna cotta had a great consistency.

I should have mentioned this earlier, but the restaurant also specializes in bread. The head chef bakes his own personal bread blends everyday that includes a multitude of different ingredients. I believe the blend we had was some sort of olive. Even his fresh baked wheat bread was tasty and I am not a fan of wheat bread at all.

The service was impeccable. Continuously ensured our glasses were full of water, any finished plate was immediately removed and even dusted the table for crumbs between courses (a personal pet peeve of mine that I love). There were so many people working it seemed like each table had their own personal server.

Immediately afterwards, I knew that this restaurant would be the winner of this restaurant week season, even though I had reservations at a couple of other great restaurants... In hindsight, my gut instinct was right.

Next up...Cafe Atlantico

Monday, August 17, 2009

One of those moments

I had one of those moments. You know, the moment you might come across while watching the history channel, or discover channel, or national geographic channel. Maybe its reading a biology text book. Maybe its watching/reading anything Carl Sagan ever did. The moment when everything comes into perspective. On a day to day basis, you never think about the world, or yourself, you go on living your life the way you do. I'm currently reading a book called The Mind of the Market by Michael Shermer I'm not sure why I got it, but every few months I hop onto Amazon and buy 3 or 4 books. This happened to be one of them months ago and I'm just now getting to reading it. I'm only 20 pages in, and I can assure you its not exactly what I thought it was. Well it is and it isn't at the same time. The underlying tone and message I think is on point, but the supporting arguments are a little unexpected.

I came across this excerpt (bear with me, its not short):

Life is a self-organized emergent property of prebiotic chemicals that came together in a manner that allowed them to be self-sustaining and capable of duplication and reproduction.

Complex Life is a self-organized emergent property of simple life, as when simple prokaryote cells coalesced into the more complex eukaryote cells of which we are made, which contain within them organelles that were once prokaryote cells (such as mitochondria, which have their own DNA).

Multicellular Life is a self-organized emergent property of single-celled life forms, which merged together as a cooperative strategy for more successful survival and reproduction.

Immunity is a self-organized emergent property of billions of cells of our immune system working together to combat bacteria and viruses.

Consciousness is a self-organized emergent property of billions of neurons firing in complex patterns in the brain.

Language is a self-organized emergent property of thousands of words spoken in communication among language users.

Law is a self-organized emergent property of thousands of informal mores and restrictions that were codified over time into formal rules and regulations as societies grew in size and complexity.

Economy is a self organized emergent property of millions of people pursuing their own self-interests with little awareness of the larger complex system in which they work.

So I can see how the author tried to explain how economies are organic, a product of evolution over time, but it made me think about life in general. Its like when you watch a Carl Sagan documentary and you realize how small our planet is within the universe. And then you think about how small you are in comparison to the planet. And then you think about what you are actually made of. It's utterly amazing. And you have to think that this impossible coincidence of chemicals and environment a billion years ago has to have occurred elsewhere. I think that those who believe there is no other intelligent life in the universe is an idiot. Plain stupid. Will a District 9 scenario occur? (see what I did there bringing this back to a movie) Probably not in our lifetime, but that doesn't mean it won't ever happen.

I don't often think about things like this, but I doubt I'm the only one that ever does from time to time. It was just one of those moments...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Movies Galore

I don't tend to write as many posts about upcoming movies as I should, but with all the hype and press that District 9 has been getting, it's gotten me excited for what else is on the horizon. I may have written about a few of these in the past but just deal with it. Nothing beats 30 minutes on Apple trailers every few weeks to see what else is coming up. I don't really buy Entertainment Weekly or any of those types of magazines so I don't necessarily read up on as many movies as I would like. So without further ado, here are some upcoming movies I look forward to and why they strike my fancy, click on the movie name to see the apple trailer:

District 9: August 14
This sci-fi thriller is based on aliens reaching our planet 20 years ago. They have been quarantined in South Africa and you may have seen some if their viral marketing with no alien signs etc... on park benches, buses. The renowned Peter Jackson (King Kong, Lord of the Rings) is the producer working alongside the major feature debut of Neill Blomkamp. It was rumored Neill was going to direct the currently scrapped project of Halo, but worked on this converted short film, Alive in Jo'burg, instead. Rotten Tomatoes currently has it rated as an 87% by Top Critics if that convinces anyone to go, but to me, reviews are useless.

Inglourious Basterds: August 21
Talk about a recipe for success. Quentin Tarantino. Brad Pitt. Enough said. An over the top film that takes place during World War 2. A secret band of soldiers that goes apeshit on Nazi Germany. Gratuitous violence? How can anyone say no. Guys will go for Tarantino and the bashing of Nazi soldiers. The girls will go to watch Brad Pitt.

Extract: September 4
Mike Judge is making movies again. Its been 3 years since his last film Idiocracy. I don't think it was a crowd favorite, and I will admit that I did not like it the first watch through, but after the second viewing, it was pretty damn smart. I have a lot of faith in his new project 'Extract' with the help of talents like Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristin Wiig, and J.K. Simmons. I never really liked Kristin Wiig at first, but she's really grown on me as a comedic actress. Jason Bateman was involved in the greatest sitcom the world has ever seen, Arrested Development. Mila Kunis seems to be transitioning well onto the big screen from her tv career. After watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall, its clear she can handle herself and carry a film with a supporting role. Oh yeah, and Ben Affleck is in it, but that doesn't really add much for me.

Law Abiding Citizen: October 16
Just recently came across this film mostly because I have a small man-crush on Gerard Butler. Most of you know of him as Leonidas from '300', but most recently you might have seen him in a preview for the romcom 'The Ugly Truth'. I normally watch films based on the actors included, and not always because of the story and I will definitely see more of Butler's movies. (Maybe not Gamer, which seems to be like Death Race in a different medium). The most recent film I saw him in was Shattered which was well done. But back to the point. Gerard Butler seems to be back to his bad ass role in 'Law Abiding Citizen' after his child was murdered and the judicial system doesn't work the way he wants it to. Jaime Foxx finally moves away from his most recent trend of 'Ray' and 'Soloist' roles into a lawyer or detective that needs to figure out what's going on and stop Butler. F.Gary Gray directs the film which also makes me think the movie will work out. He's come a long way from his award winning Waterfalls music video. He's directed other well known films such as 'Friday', 'The Negotiator', and 'The Italian Job'. Hopefully everyone reading this has seen each of those movies.

The Box: October 30
Although you might think so, this is not a porno film. It pains me to admit to it, but wanting to see this movie means that I want to see a film that stars Cameron Diaz. Getting over that hurdle, this has cool movie written all over it. The concept is fantastic, but executing it well might be tough. Richard Kelly writes and directs in this suspenseful supernatural thriller about a box that kills a random person in the world, but then betters their life. It seems to be from the trailer more of a movie about good and evil and how it plays out with humanity, but Frank Langella stars as what could be the devil. I think what really excites me about this film (again it has religious undertones) is that Frank Langella stars as the creepy old guy. I thought his role in 'The Ninth Gate' (a favorite Johnny Depp movie of mine) was fantastic which seems to have a similar genre to this upcoming film. We'll see how much press this movie gets in the upcoming month or two, but I wouldn't be surprised if it flops. Although Kelly also wrote and directed Donnie Darko, a cult favorite, he was also behind the movie 'Southland Tales' which was absolutely horrendous. I'll cross my fingers on this one, but wouldn't be surprised if I couldn't find anyone to head to the theater with me.

The Book of Eli: January 15
Since I was just talking about Mila Kunis, it seems fitting she made it onto a second upcoming film watch of mine. Denzel Washington stars as one of the few survivors after the end of the world. The trailer is pretty light in plot, but it seems has has a book that holds the balance of the fate of humanity (seems like a lot of movies use this plot). Gary Oldman stars as the evil villain, and to be honest, he plays this party so well. Other than his role as Sirius Black (if you don't know who that is, you should be ashamed) I can't really think of any 'good guy' roles hes played. He was an awesome bad guy in 'The Professional' and in 'The Fifth Element'. Both movies you should see immediately if you haven't done so already. Denzel has a good track record with movies. Especially with badass roles. 'Man on Fire' comes to mind, another film that's a must watch. I even liked his recent film 'Deja Vu'. So I think its pretty safe to say that even if this isn't an oscar worth film, you won't regret spending a couple hours to watch it.

Legion: January 22

I don't know what it is about me, but any sort of religious movie always gets me. I'm trying to think of examples, and they are few and far between, but movies like 'Stigmata', 'End of Days', and 'Constantine'. I went to catholic school as a little kid and although I'm not very religious, it all fascinates me a great deal. Paul Bettany plays the Archangel Michael who is out to save humanity from all other angels. You may recognize him from classic films such as 'A Knight's Tale', 'A Beautiful Mind' and 'Wimbledon'. Enough movie name dropping. It looks as though there is the typical special child that will save humanity and its a religious war to end all wars. Story seems simple, but I never get tired of it. Scott Stewart directs for the first time from a very successful visual effects career which leads me to believe this is going to be very fun to watch. And if you need another reason to go see it other than my backing (which I'm sure you all do), Kate Walsh is in it and what guy isn't in love with her?