Nerd Lunch Podcast 26: Memories of Retro Technology

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On this week’s episode we turn our attention to some of the technology that was cutting edge during our youths. We’re joined by the best retro expert we could ask for, The Retroist himself. During our conversation we stroll past all manner of tech gravestones including the Kodak Disc camera, Atari 2600, audio cassettes, the VCR, and the Super Bowl Shuffle (huh?). In our Nerd To-Do’s, we learn a little about table-top wargaming and find out which nerd is attempting to assemble the Young Justice version of the Hall of Justice.

German (Nerd) Lunch Special: Döner Kebab

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IMG_4338Upon returning form Europe most people would probably talk about the diverse cultures, natural wonders, or historical sites they experienced. But I’ll leave that sort of thing to Rick Steves and focus on the really interesting stuff: fast food.

 

One of the few things I requested from my hosts was a trip out for the German version of shawarma, döner kebab. Döner has become the most popular fast food in Germany, so not only was it an easy request to fulfill but several of my colleagues actually have a regular place. Döner is basically a cousin to a Nerd Lunch favorite, the Chicago style gyro, with some key differences:

  • roast chicken instead beef/lamb meat
  • herb or garlic sauce instead of cucumber flavored tzatziki
  • topped with onion and lettuce/cabbage instead of onion and tomato
  • served inside a thicker flatbread instead on top of a pita

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The chicken meat and different style bread produce a different sandwich, but it hits many of the same notes that make the gyro excellent. Exceptionally tasty and by European standards even more affordable than the US equivalent. Should I ever make it back to Germany, döner kebab will again be on my list of eats with sausages, pretzel, and beer.

Nerd Lunch Podcast 25: It's a Re-Do--Smallville

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It's our big 25th episode and to celebrate we're not only borrowing a signature topic from our podcasting brothers The Atomic Geeks but one of the Geeks as well, Michael DiGiovanni. DiGio sits in for our own take on “Its A Re-Do” as we tackle America’s favorite teen angsty Superman show, Smallville. Listen to find out if we think the show needed more tights, more flight, or more Degrassi High. This week’s Nerd To-Dos run the gamut from Buck Rogers to DC Comics, plus the weekend for Pax’s viewing of Episode I in 3D has finally arrived.

Countdown to Avengers: Iron Man

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We continue the countdown to The Avengers with some looks at the five movies that lead up to the big kahuna on May 4. Nerd Lunch will carry some of these reviews and so will Cavalcade of Awesome and To the Escape Hatch. Collect them all!

Mini Review
As I've heard more about the internal strife that existed on set and the lack of a true script, I am only more and more impressed and how this actually turned out to be quite possibly the best super hero movie ever made. My opinion on that varies, but it's strength as one of the best cannot be argued.

It is a true Marvel story in that a flawed human with extraordinary abilities (in this case, Tony Stark with incredible smarts) is forced to use those great abilities for the betterment of society. This movie doesn't make the mistake other comic book movies seem to often make in that the focus of the movie remains on Tony Stark almost the entire film. The villain is not the star. The whacky sidekick is not the star. And there is not an over-abundance of characters that naturally take away from Iron Man (a problem that would creep up in the sequel…but that's another blog post).


Avengers Connections

This is the first of the "Avengers Initiative" movies and does a decent job of laying the groundwork for what was to come. In watching the movie again after having seen the others (except Avengers at this point), I took notes on every reference that deals with another movie in the franchise.

Quite a bit is said about Howard Stark. Since he showed up as a character in Captain America and ultimately was revealed to be connected to S.H.I.E.L.D., I will mention a few things we learn about him in this movie even if they do seem somewhat trivial:
  • It was mentioned that Howard Stark helped fight the Nazis and develop the atomic bomb.
  • He and his wife died in a car accident, something that seemed less than fitting for this great innovator.
  • Obadiah Stane knew Howard Stark and mentioned to Tony that his father would be proud of Tony and his invention of the Iron Man armor.
There is an appearance of Captain America's shield very briefly in the background of one of the scenes. Having seen Cap now, it will be interesting to see if this is referred to again in Avengers.

In the comics, Jarvis was the butler and aid to the Avengers. In Iron Man, he is an AI who is a part of Tony's suit. I believe that Paul Bettany will be reprising this role in Avengers, but whether he will only interact with Tony or the entire team remains to be seen.

I don't believe it will play a part in the Avengers, but in this movie, they begin laying the groundwork for the Mandarin by referring to the terrorist group known as "The Ten Rings." In the comics, Mandarin was known for his ten rings that gave him powers.

Finally, the most obvious, Agent Coulson and Colonel Fury appear in this movie both referring to a past of dealing with this type of stuff. Coulson says, "this is not my first rodeo" and Fury says, "You think you're the only super hero in the world?" Both are agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it is S.H.I.E.L.D. that will tie all of the heroes together. This is truly kicked of with the post-credits sequence when Fury says, "Mr. Stark, I'd like to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative."


How will Iron Man fit into the Avengers

Tony is a genius who uses people early in the movie, but in losing his heart, finds it. He barely gives Pepper the respect she deserves and is very secretive and not entirely trusting of those around him (see Rhodey). This movie doesn't paint a great picture for how Tony will be on the Avengers team, but he'll likely be cocky and do his own thing a time or two without consulting the others. He will likely come off as disrespectful of his teammates and leadership in particular, but that is probably not his intent, he is just calculating how to improve 17 different features on his armor at the same time he's being forced to stand around for a team meeting.

Iron Man 2 actually offers some additional insight into how he works with others so more on that to come.


Some thoughts from Robert over at To the Escape the Hatch
"Not really being into comics growing up, I didn’t know much about Iron Man, other than he had a drinking problem and his suit fell in love with him once. I really enjoyed this film, however – Robert Downey Jr., Jon Favreau’s directing sensibilities, and a great first act tied together to tell a rousing story. And the fact that this film was the first in a series that would ultimately deliver The Avengers? Icing on the cake. Little things about this film are what made it memorable for me. Stark’s initial experimentations with flight. Iron Man swiftly kicking ass and saving lives in Afghanistan. And Nick Fury popping up at the end of course.

I mentioned that I wasn’t much for comics growing up, but this film obviously doesn’t appeal to just fans of the comics. I don’t think anything like these films had ever been tried before, and I can really appreciate that as simply a film lover. A lot of passion and attention to detail went into this film and I believe that set the tone for the whole series. This first film had a lot riding on it, whether the filmmakers knew it at the time or not. A lot of energy was invested to make what some thought was impossible – a fresh superhero movie. With The Avengers due later this year, I think it’s safe to say that investment paid off."

Nerd Lunch Podcast 24: Give it a Chance--Spirited Away!

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In what we hope will be a franchise topic, we have our guest guide us through an examination of some new territory. Up first is our old friend Shawn Robare from Branded in the 80s to lead us into anime with the Hayao Miyazaki film "Spirited Away". Listen to find out what three anime newbies think of one of the most celebrated Japanese movies of all time. Plus in this week’s Nerd To-Dos we get CT’s review of the Star Trek TNG “The Next Level” Blu-ray sampler and learn about Shawn’s growing OMFG addiction.

Buckaroo at Midnight

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I mentioned on episode 23 of the Nerd Lunch Podcast that I would be going to the midnight showing of Buckaroo Banzai that was playing at FSU's Student Life Cinema. And I did just that. I was joined by Aaron Nix who was our guest on episode 22 and also Vince who I met when producing episode 1 of Nerd Lunch: The Web Series.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed but did get over that quickly. It was my understanding that this would be a print of the movie shown on their really nice theater. This was something I called and "confirmed" before showing up. When Aaron and I got there, we were shuffled into the second, "not-as-good" theater and just watched a DVD on a projection TV. You know, the DVD that I own. That I could watch at home. On my big screen TV. Not at midnight.

No matter. We made the choice to stay and it was still rather fun. I've talked before a couple times about how I like this movie, my history with it, so I won't rehash that here. But needless to say, this has been a long-time "go-to Saturday matinee" movie for me. It made into my "Rewatchable Film Festival" four and a half years ago and is a movie that I repeatedly find enjoyment out of no matter how many times I go back to it.

So since I had seen it so many times, I was actually able to enjoy the reactions of those around me. Now, I'm not one to really care about audience reaction, but this is such a quirky movie, that I really wondering how people would take to it.  Even though I really like this movie, I'll be the first to admit that there are some nonsensical things that happen. But that adds to the charm for me and give the world flavor and texture. So I was worried that the movie showing might turn into a huge episode of MST3K with 50 people chiming in with jokes instead of just three guys. That wasn't the case though. The crowd really seemed to get into it and there was lots of appropriate laughter. Hopefully a new group of Buckaroo Banzai fans were born that night (although the girl sitting behind me and Aaron was probably not one of them).

All in all, a fun time even if it wasn't a print and was up past my bedtime.

This report on the movie also serves as my first entry into the League of Extraordinary Bloggers. Brian over at Cool and Collected has set up a fun little program were a bunch of bloggers all post about the same topic and share links to the other blogs. Great idea. This week's topic was your "go-to matinee." Great timing!

Check out some of the other blogs on this topic:


(Nerd) Lunch Special: Bulldogs Grill

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The Diner BurgerBulldogs Grill is a local joint with two locations in my area of the Chicago ‘burbs. After some recent rave reviews on TV and one of my favorite food blogs, Burt’s, I quickly moved Bulldogs to the top of my fast food itinerary. Aside from Five Guys setting up shop in the area, the premium burger craze has been a trend that I’ve mostly missed over the last few years. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when the line to order snaked out into the street at 7 PM on a Saturday night in the dead of winter, I knew Bulldogs was doing something right.

 

The formula at Bulldogs is pretty simple:

  • Premium ingredients with all the fat and sugar
  • Lots of specialty burgers with interesting toppings
  • BIG portions
  • The Asylum Wing and Bluto Burger Challenges that would be worthy of Adam Richman

 

Fresh cut fries, with mustardRather than diving into the deep end with one of the specialty burgers, I went with the conventional single burger, The Diner, so I could more easily compare it to my other favorite burgers. The Diner can be outfitted with mustard, ketchup, pickles, onion, etc. and at 1/2 pound is the smallest burger on the Bulldogs menu. To round out my meal, I got a small order of fries and a small vanilla shake. Yeah, all of the photos in this post are the smallest sized items on the menu.

 

The burger was fantastic; high quality beef and cooked on the griddle like the best hand-formed, pan fried burger I could make at home. The fries and shake were also quite good, though did not stand out as much as the burger. I think I may be spoiled from all the places in my area which serve fresh cut French fries and custard; it’s just hard to go wrong with those. The basics at Bulldogs were so good that I’m excited to try some of the more adventurous fare. For my next visit pencil me in for the Scarlet Johansson burger with cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon with some fries cooked up in duck fat.

 

There are two downsides to food of this quality: it doesn’t come cheap nor quickly. In my review of the aforementioned Five Guys, I dinged them for their high prices and slow service though Bulldogs is just as pricey and slow. Somehow the prices and the fact that it took me 30 minutes to get a burger and some fries did not not bother me the same way as it did with Five Guys. It may be because Bulldogs is local rather than a chain or that it feels more like an event than a trip to a quick service restaurant. I’m not sure, but I won’t be deterred from future visits.

 

A small vanilla shakeIn short, Bulldogs is great eats. I fully intend to take my buddies there the next time they visit and if Nick from DudeFoods ever wanted to stop over on one of his Chicago visits, Bulldogs would be a worthy stop for a hossin’ blog crossover.

Nerd Lunch Podcast 23: Time Travel in Pop Culture

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We gotta get back in time! No, we’re not revisiting episode 2 about Back to the Future, but we are talking about some of the best and worst uses and methods of time travel in pop culture. Of course, Doc Brown and his DeLorean are mentioned, but we also dig up some gems like The Final Countdown and Timecop. In our Nerd To-Dos, we hear about Pax’s preparation for seeing Phantom Menace in 3D, find out why CT will soon be hanging out on the Banzai Institute Facebook page, and discuss a little news (gasp!) about the long rumored Star Wars TV show.

Nerd Breakfast

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I recently received a copy of The Great American Cereal Book to review from Abrams Books. Written by Marty Gitlin and Topher Ellis, this book is 368 pages full of cereal history. Ellis is a cereal expert and editor of a long-running cereal publication and that expertise shows in this book.

There is not much of a narrative in the book. There is a lot about the early days of cereal beginning in 1863, but the true impressive nature of the book comes in that it is a list of every American cereal produced and contains hundreds of pictures of actual product.

As a kid, I didn't get a lot of sugary cereals growing up, but I'm very familiar with them as I pined for them thanks to Saturday morning commercials trying to push them on me. In a way, I feel like looking through this book is like many of my trips to the grocery store with my family when I was in grade school. Oh, that cereal looks good! I wish I could try it. Sadly, much like the answer I got 25 years ago, the answer is no. But this time it's because a lot of these cereals are no longer in production.

Cereals are huge and there have been thousands of different types with hundreds of different franchises from Star Wars to Batman getting their own cereal. I have to admit that I was slightly blown away at just how much a part of American culture this stuff really is. This is a great book for anyone looking to walk down memory lane...or in this case, the memory cereal aisle.

Nerd Lunch Podcast 22: The Expendables Of Other Genres

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We steal from the playbooks of Sly Stallone and guest Aaron Nix this week by assembling our own superstar teams for movie genres. First up is a Western where we come up with a list of stars worthy of the obvious headliner Clint Eastwood. Then we put together a Rom Com cast which includes the “John Wayne of romantic comedies” and that should strike fear into boyfriends and husbands everywhere. In our Nerd To-Dos, we find out which nerd has a gold Yoda Pepsi can in his collection and hear Pax’s review of the dreck that is Transformers 3 (Hey kids, can you guess who’s writing this episode description?).

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