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Found 8 results

  1. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) was founded in 2003, and is an English hotel conglomerate owning such brands as Holiday Inn, Kimpton, Staybridge Suites, Crowne Plaza, as well as several others. They're based in Denham, Buckinghamshire, England, and currently operate over 5,000 hotels worldwide, most of which are franchises. Believe it or not, the origins of the company can be traced back to 1777. Practically speaking, being an IHG Rewards Club member (the IHG Rewards Club is the world's largest hotel loyalty program) can result in many unwanted emails unless you're pro-active in preventing it - I just now changed my subscription preferences. I suggest using a "secondary" email account with them (I personally have a secondary email account that is used exclusively for things "such as this," but even that needs to be weeded out from-time-to-time, in order to prevent so much unwanted spam that it's unusable). Nevertheless, if you can control the spam, or don't mind the spam going to an email account used for this purpose, it's a worthwhile group for special offers and discounts (that said, I don't think I've ever taken advantage of one).
  2. Oops, and I've even been to the Tate Modern - I saw the coolest bottom-floor artwork there (I also saw "Whaam!") It was called "Marsyas" (etymology) by Anish Kapoor, and was, by *far*, the largest indoor piece of art I've ever seen - it was literally impossible to see the entire thing at once. To say it was "awesome" doesn't do it justice. <--- That's a person standing on the left.
  3. What do people think of Talenti gelati and sorbets? The first time I ever tried them, I thought they were about as good as any premium brand of ice-cream product on the market, and I *still* think they are, but has anyone noticed that they've become ubiquitous, and that you can even find them at Rite Aid? I suspect the reason for the massive increase in distribution is that the company (which was founded in 2003) was acquired by Unilever, the world's third-largest consumer goods company, with $60 billion in annual revenue, in Dec, 2014. Although Talenti is a subsidiary, they're still accountable - literally accountable - to Unilever, and I'm wondering if anyone has noticed a change (I'm not convinced I have, except for the increase in distribution; although I did just recently notice that they're going out of their way to explain why they're using dextrose). My guess is that if they're left alone, they can maintain a high level of quality, but if they're micro-managed, the product will go the way of Häagen-Dazs (General Mills) and Ben & Jerry's (also a subsidiary of Unilever, which, to me, foreshadows The End of Talenti in the next 5-10 years). If you haven't noticed a precipitous drop in quality in Ben & Jerry's over the past fifteen years, then you're not my target audience. Cheers, Rocks
  4. I have never before seen anything like "The Triplets of Belleville," and I doubt I will again. A delight for the senses, this animated film is funny, dark, satirical and sweet. This excellent review by Roger Ebert says almost everything I want to say about the film, except a mention of Bruno, the dog and one of the stars of the story. Bruno's creator must be a dog lover, for Bruno's every twitch, scratch, bark and eyebrow raise reminded me of my sweet old yellow lab, Angus.
  5. I post this not because I like David Ortiz (I am, after all, a Yankees fan) but for a number of reasons both positive and negative. On the positive side, and setting aside my Yankee fandom, he is an icon for the Red Sox. He is a beloved character in Boston and was a member of three world championships ... after 86 years without a championship in Fenway Park. And there have only been four players to play on three world championships and hit 500 HRs, with Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Reggie Jackson preceding him. On the negative side, he has an association with PEDs. Of course, there is no "proof" per se, but his best friend on the Red Sox during those championship years was Manny Ramirez, who was caught and suspended multiple times for PEDs use. A few others of those Red Sox players during that period of time were also suspected of PEDs use, and Big Papi (or "Big Sloppy" to Yankees fans) was at least gulty by association. Besides, how did he lose that hole in his swing that he had when he was David Arias of the Twins? (But my primary gripe about any and all of this is simply that the 500 HR Club is not what it once was. When I was growing up, it was the absolute power hitter mark of excellence, the line of demarcation between the very good and the great. Now, it has been removed from that status by the stench of PEDs use. And that is a shame, pure and simple.) Anyway, from a Yankees fan, here is a tip of the cap to Ortiz, for his accomplishments, for what he means to his fan base, and for his eventual enshrinement in baseball's Hall of Fame.
  6. Wow, I could write an entire book about this one, thirty-minute episode. If it shows how little about television I know, I never heard of this series, "Bullshit!", hosted by Penn & Teller, until a couple of days ago, and I'd never seen an episode until just now - after it was over, I could not believe that this ran on Showtime for 7 seasons, with 89 episodes being aired. I guess this is what 24-hour cable television did to things. I first saw Penn & Teller at the National Theater in June, 1989, and remember thinking to myself that Penn came across as being a real jerk. We could buy programs about the show, and wait in line to get Penn's autograph, and he was just a loud, pompous, ass out there on the sidewalk, not even acknowledging people, or looking at anyone - just standing there and screaming like a lout, as he mindlessly grabbed peoples' pamphlets, scribbled his name, and threw them back. Over the years, I remember seeing articles about him - one in particular in Time Magazine, I believe, and he came across to me as creepy to the point of off-the-charts, don't-leave-your-child-with-him creepy. I can't be sure it was Time Magazine, but I distinctly remember a section about him beginning his days with watching porn in the morning (this is in the VCR days), and there was a picture of him crouching over a TV set with a creepy grin, and a blurred-out porn movie in the background. If anyone else has read this article, I can't imagine that they'd forget it, and (exact magazine aside - it might not have been Time), I'm pretty sure my memory is accurate - that said, I can't find *any* reference to it on the internet, so I can't prove it. Okay, *so what* if the guy wants to spend his private time watching porn first thing in the morning, but is that something you want to say in a national magazine as an important part of a feature article? Really? I'm sorry, but that defines "creepy." And then I discovered he was an Atheist. But not just an Athiest; a militant, in-your-face, Angry Atheist. I have no problems with anyone's religious beliefs (or absence of religious beliefs), as long as they don't hurt anyone, or impose their views, but he strongly imposes his views of Atheism. I guess George Carlin did, too, and I kind of like George Carlin, so I'm ambivalent on this issue. Anyway, in the past couple of years, I've seen Jillette pop up from time to time - in a sketch, or a story, or an interview, and my feelings about him being an unabridged asshole started to soften - the man was becoming more-and-more thoughtful, and underneath the very large, very loud, veneer of a big doofus doing nothing but screaming, seems to lie something of a thoughtful person. Opinionated? Oh my goodness, yes. But so what? He listens to people, and tries to reason; I just wish he wouldn't come to conclusions about things so quickly, when the answers aren't readily apparent. Well anyway, there's this series called "Bullshit!" which consists of - you can pretty much guess - challenging widely held viewpoints (and yes, it's a very one-sided and biased show). And there's one episode that caught my eye because it involves a person that I've often (silently) called bullshit on: Maddox. Maddox (whose real name is George Ouzounian), as many of you know, was an internet pioneer, hosting a supposedly popular website called "The Best Page In The Universe," which is geared towards a fraternity-level mindset and sophistication. That's all fine, but way back before DonRocks existed, I never quite understood why he was so popular - some of his stuff was funny in a "Diceman" sort-of way, but it got old very quickly. His idea of comedy is to make fun of people (including the elderly) while trying to act "manly," all justified, of course, by the fact that it's just parody, and his critics don't understand him. Well, I understand him, and he's just not very funny, and he's not very smart either. Season 8, Episode 8 of "Bullshit!" is entitled "Old People," and sets out to debunk commonly held beliefs about old people - a sector of the population which is, and has always been, particularly dear to me. And a sector of the population that, in my opinion, our culture should be hanging its head in shame about when it comes to how they're treated. Old people are a common target of Maddox's high-school humor, and unfortunately for him, he got caught in the crosshairs of someone bigger, louder, more opinionated, and more famous than he is: Penn Jillette, and Jillette, in this episode, makes him look like the exact opposite of the image Maddox so desperately wants to portray: I have no doubt that he was selectively edited (and therefore hosed in the process), but he comes across as a wavering nerd - the absolute opposite of "manly" - in fact, he comes across as a shy, scrawny little kid, who makes impossibly stupid, generic, cruel remarks about the elderly, and is then made to look like a complete ass - which is what I've always thought he was. He's not funny at all; in fact, he's probably the kid who got bullied in grade school. Of course it's all satire and parody, so none of this matters, right? Let me ask you all this: Does *anyone* think this guy is funny? He has this supposed "legion of followers" that claim people are "too dimwitted to understand his style of comedy." To borrow a phrase from the show: Bullshit! He has no talent, and someone needs to pull him aside, and gently tell him that he desperately needs to take a public speaking course. Thus Penn Jillette, once a Maddox-like lout in my eyes, continues to redeem himself to some degree. Here's the episode. I must warn you: It's pretty boring, and not particularly good TV, but at least you get to watch a jerk - who does what he does under the guise of "comedy," "satire," and "parody," - being decisively slapped down, and for that alone, it's worth watching (although you can see the entire take-down in my previous link). Train wreck on track nine - beware: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxJt0ynGshQ
  7. Well, I did something yesterday I hadn't done in probably ten years: bought a second-growth Bordeaux off a retailer's shelf, and drank it that same night. I've been wary of the 2003 vintage in Europe since the summer of 2003. The was the year of the great European Heat Wave, and in France, elderly residents in nursing homes without air conditioning were actually dying. Incredibly, that Wikipedia article claims that 14,802 heat-related deaths happened just in France, mostly among the elderly (it just does not get that hot in France, so *lots* of people don't have air conditioning, including Magdalena). Anyway, as you might imagine, grapes all over Europe were bursting with sugars, early ripeness, and deficient acidity. The wine market was promoting 2003 as "another 1959!" but there is *no way* that's going to happen - those are empty promises that will never come true: 2003 is a terrible vintage, continent-wide. But I was fascinated by the Gruaud-Larose, and the price was j-u-s-t low enough to seduce my intellectual curiosity ($49.99 which is unheard of for a 12-year-old second growth of any stature, or at least "a price unseen by me for quite awhile."). Gruaud-Larose is one of the traditional "Big 3" "Super-Seconds" of Saint-Julien along with Ducru-Beaucaillou and Leoville-Las Cases (although many connoisseurs will squirrel away Leoville-Poyferré while trying to keep it a secret). The wine was brutally tannic, to the point where I suspect it had been shelved by the retailer (Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church) that day, and had been shaken up. There was some powdery sediment at the bottom 1/2-inch of the bottle (which is good), but I also wonder if some of that became suspended as colloidal material in the wine (powdery sediment is extremely bitter, and if you own a red wine that's older than 5-6 years, my personal experience tells me that you need to stand it up for at *least* a day, and for older, bigger wines, sometimes for up to a couple of months. That was not a typo: I said a couple of months). This was also very plummy, to the point of being somewhat pruney which is exactly what's to be expected in an overripe vintage. These were dark, black-purple fruits in abundance, but the fruit stood in opposition to the tannins, and couldn't overcome them. The 2003 Gruaud-Larose is entering an early phase of maturity, with some bricking around the rim, but still retaining a dark purple inner core - it will last, and slowly fall apart over the next twenty years, instead of integrating (which, for example, the 2005 vintage will do). I also have a couple wine-knowledgeable friends who told me today that they feel Gruaud-Larose fell apart in the mid-1970s due to poor winemaking, but these were off-the-cuff comments, and from what I remember, I've had perfectly fine 82s and 86s. At $49.99, the wine is both expensive and inexpensive. It's unusually inexpensive for a second-growth Bordeaux, but it also emphasizes that there are so very many better red wines than this for under $50, in other Bordeaux vintages, in other wine-growing regions in France, and certainly in other countries as well.
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