The Society That Cried Wolf

The fire alarm went off this morning at work.  A loud, ear-piercing alarm accompanied by flashing strobe lights warning everyone that something is amiss and we should vacate the premises immediately!

And not a single person moved, including myself.  After about 20-30 seconds of it going off, I grabbed my phone, keys and sunglasses and started to amble out of my office to find everyone kind of looking at each other (there’s a phenomenon called "prairie dogging" in cubicle land and it was in full effect, with everyone’s heads popping over to see what everyone else was doing), wondering what to do.   The alarm stopped at that point and everyone went back to work.

Why do we ignore fire alarms?  We also ignore car alarms and to a certain extent, smoke detectors (unless they go off in the middle of the night).  I suppose that there are a few theories: perhaps it is because car alarms are set off by a good rumble of thunder and a smoke alarm by an over-cooked pancake.  It could be because so many things have alarms that we have become somewhat immune to them.  Or it could be a fear of acting upon an alarm that could lead to getting into trouble if you do something wrong?  Perhaps it is simply an unwillingness to admit that something is going awry.

It reminds me of a time a few months ago when I was in a supermarket and the fire alarm went off.  Some of us paused, looked around and apparently we collectively decided that since there wasn’t an blazing inferno heading towards us, we were fine.  Others didn’t even bother to look up from inspecting packages of meat and checking nutritional panels. 

Eventually, the staff came out of the back, yelling at us, saying "you people need to GET OUT!!!"  As we begrudgingly left our carts behind and walked towards the front, the distinct smell of electrical smoke – that acrid, burning metal aroma – filled the area.  Everyone became more alert, and started moving faster.  The fire department showed up and I just left, leaving my abandoned cart in the cereal aisle.

Mentos and Coke Overflowing With Joy

This morning on the Grocery Manufacturer Association’s SmartBrief newsletter, there was this nugget of news:

Internet home videos turns into brand explosion for Mentos
Mentos has gained more than $10 million in free advertising from the onslaught of do-it-yourself videos on the Internet featuring gushing bottles of Mentos and Diet Coke, estimates a Mentos marketing executive. The company has approached the makers of one of the more elaborate Mentos and Diet Coke ruses for a possible marketing deal. 

The full article is posted at Wall Street Journal, which you need a subscription to access, so excuse the lack of full link or article. 

I had never heard of this whole Mentos and Diet Coke thing until this past May when a visit to the Oddfellow Theater in Buckfield, Maine revealed a video done by Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz with 200 litres of Diet Coke and 500 Mentos were sent cascading through the air in a breathtaking video, which can be seen here

It inspired some experiments of my own at home and generated some ponderables.  Well, mainly two of them:

First, who was the poor soul who was eating a Mentos then took a swig of Diet Coke and realized that it was an explosive combination, and is he still alive?

Secondly: if you mixed 151 proof rum with Diet Coke, and then dropped a Mentos in it, could you create a flame thrower?

Let Me Tell You A Story…

I honestly believe that the ability to tell a story well is a great asset to you throughout all aspects of life.  It makes you more interesting to other people, makes it easier to meet others, comes in handy if you have kids and can even help you with your career, since the ability to express yourself clearly will always be valuable.

Today, Reveries had an article about storytelling that got me thinking about it and wanted to share some of the links that were given in the article:

National Storytelling Festival

The Storytelling Center of New York City

The Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild

They should do community outreach for people who are bad storytellers.  Oh you know who they are.  The people who ramble on and put in the wrong details and mix up name and locations and use too many pronouns.  Who give away the ending before the drama and tension is built up.  "Bad storytellers anonymous" – now that is a good idea.

“Cookies and Brownies” Don’t Rock Dammit!

I had heard about this a while ago, but now it is official – on June 27th, 2006, KISS will open its first…..


Yes, indeedy, the bad-ass make-up-clad, flame and blood spitting glam rockers who are all about sex and rock n’ roll and partying will be opening a….


The press release is here, which starts off with an extensive description of the new perfume line they are also launching.  The perfume thing I can deal with, especially since it has pheromones, which fits the "sex sex sex" image of KISS. 

The coffeehouse is different thing entirely.  Oh Gene, what have you done?  They are still trying to be the vicious rock n’ rollers, but its tough to do when the press release contains lines like:

"[the café will serve] KISS Frozen Rockuccino, the most caffeinated and refreshing coffee beverage on the market, as well as a full array of cookies brownies and cupcakes"


"Added [Paul] Stanley, ‘the KISS Coffeehouse is our way of providing everyone with a buzz of great, quality treats and coffee filled with enough sugar and caffeine to get the party started and keep it going!’"

Cupcakes are good.  I like cupcakes.  Especially chocolate ones with chocolate frosting and white creamy filling.  Or yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  But I digress.

I don’t think of cupcakes when I think of KISS.  I think of demons, rock n’ roll, partying, and fashion models being violated by Gene Simmon’s tongue.   Now I just picture Gene in a fucking apron cooking up batches of danish and cupcakes.

(brownies CAN be "rockin" but they are usually "special" brownies if you know what I mean)

Also, when I think of ways to "get the party started and keep it going" a frozen coffee drink isn’t usually at the top of my list.  A shot of SoCo and a Jack & Coke works better for me, I find.

Anyway – good luck to them.  Hopefully Gene  can make enough money to restuff his bed mattress.  I don’t drink coffee, but if I ever find myself in Myrtle Beach, I’ll be sure to stop by.

What’s Goin’ On

A few things that have caught my attention in the last week:

First of all, thank you Fox network, THANK YOU!  I just saw an updated fall schedule in Entertainment Weekly, and they are moving American Dad in between the Simpsons and Family Guy, putting the idiotic and terrible "War At Home" show at 9:30 after the animated series.  I’m not a huge fan of American Dad in comparison to The Simpsons and Family Guy, but I’ll take it over War At Home and I think it is a good show to put between them.  Kind of a palette cleanser.

Also in exciting TV news, Pee-Wee is back!  And not in a porn theater!  I need to start watching Adult Swim more often.  I hope they get their own network soon.

Equality has gotten the better of some of those who  fought the hardest to achieve it: there might be no more "ladies nights" in Europe!

Get drunk, save a leopard.

The link with the video is blocked at work, but I can’t wait to watch it, and I just thought it was interesting that viral video is spreading across all cultures.

How much longer until $20 bills have "Just Do It" on them now that companies can put their logo on postage stamps?

Disney has started to put their characters on fruit.  I think that’s a great way to get kids to eat healthier – fruit needs something to combat the cute mascots of the junk food industry.

However, Disney is also going to start selling "Old Yeller" dog food.  Old Yeller DIED in the movie.  Who would feed their dog food named after a dog who DIED? 

At the other end of the spectrum, McDonalds is selling a special burger for the World Cup that is 40% bigger than the Big Mac and weighs in at 669 calories.   There’s an interesting quote in there about McDonald’s success with healthier products and the President of McDonald’s UK saying that "It’s time to be proud, to say ‘We’re a good burger company."  Very interesting.   

Cool idea of the week: a service that helps to facilitate chipping in for a present called.. umm.. ChipIn!

A detox clinic for video game addicts.  Where were they when I was playing Tetris so often I would be dissapointed with anythign less than 500 lines?

Last but not least: forget online shopping – in-home parties are all the rage.  How wonderfully retro.  I’ll bring the collins mix!

I’m a Hophead

It started innocently enough with IPAs and ESB’s.  Then came double IPA and beers like Dogfish Head’s 60-minute and 90-minute IPA.  After a while, you realize it… you’re addicted to hops.  And I’m not alone – a recent article in the NY Times said that more hops in beer is a growing trend. 

While dining at the Sunset Grill & Tap recently, I had the opportunity to enjoy a few double IPA’s.  They even have a handful on tap now, which is impressive, since if I remember correctly, I don’t think that they had that before.  Its an interesting trend and one that matches up with several other culinary trends towards bolder, stronger flavors in food and drink.

Hoppy beers are an acquired taste, though I’m not sure how you acquire it.  Its bitter but flowery, tart but sweet… I think you either like it or you don’t.  I’m not a huge fans of stouts and porters, but I’ll take a hoppy beer any day.  Here’s my list of my favorite hoppy beers:

Moylan’s Moylander Double IPA

Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA

Stone Coast 420 IPA

Victory Hop Devil Ale

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

Harpoon IPA (not the hoppiest of the bunch, but an old standby)

House of Cards

I just finished reading Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, a story of a group of MIT students who figured out an effective and efficient way of winning at casino blackjack and won millions.  I read it on a recommendation from Meghan, and I have to thank her for that.  It was an easy, entertaining read with a good storyline and fascinating background.  The writing isn’t the greatest prose in the history of literature, but it is easy to read and the topic is so interesting that it easily holds your attention.

The drama that arises at the end of the story makes it particularly interesting and worth the read.  If you like playing blackjack (or even poker), or enjoy going to casinos, this is worth your time.

Fire & Ice Improvisational Grill

I don’t know what to say in this post other than I love Fire & Ice restaurant (sorry – "improvisational grill" – a marketing term that I think is brilliant).  I know some people can’t stand the place, but if you like to cook but want someone else to do the work and clean up for you, its about as good as you’re gonna get without having a maid. 

For the uninitiated, you fill a bowl with all sorts of noodles, meats, vegetables, fish, etc. and then choose a sauce – or mix several sauces – and bring it to a big round grill.  The "chef" takes it from you and does a stir fry with it along with all the others.  When the grill gets full its pretty impressive.

The sauces are the key – everything from Teriyaki to barbecue sauce; from sweet chile to green curry.  I like to mix my sauces to get a little bit of heat and some different flavors, depending on what I get – lots of fish and udan noodles usually gets a teriyaki and spicy chile sauce mix.  Sausage, chicken, shrimp and pasta gets a spicy sauce to do a jambalaya type thing.

There are a number of people who I know that don’t like – or even hate – Fire & Ice, but I think it depends on how comfortable you are with mixing ingredients.  If you aren’t good at mixing flavors and being comfortable in the kitchen, that you’ll probably be lost in a sea of seafood, meat, and other ingredients, never mind the 15 sauces you have to choose from. 

The good part is that you really can’t go wrong with the combinations, other than picking something that is too spicy for your tastes, but everything is marked clearly and there’s little tasting cups for each sauce.  Go crazy!

I didn’t realize until this most recent visit that there are only four of them: Boston, MA; Cambridge, MA; Providence, RI; and Tahoe, CA.  I always thought it was a bigger chain, which means making Fire & Ice a recommendation to out-of-towners qualifies as a unique local experience, which makes me feel better about recommending it, since I always thought of it as similar to recommending someone should go to the Cheesecake Factory or Fridays.

Size Matters

As part of a day trip to the New England Aquarium, Meghan and I went to see Deep Sea 3D at the Simons IMAX Theatre.  It got me thinking about an article a few months ago in Entertainment Weekly about the future of the movies in light of the downward box office trend of the last few years. 

In that article, a theory was given that the movie experience might become closer to the experience of movie going in the past: a more elite experience that might cost more, but will be shown on gargantuan screens while patrons sit in comfortable seating in a luxurious movie theatre, rather than the cookie-cutter ones we have now.  We’ve already seen this trend with movie theaters returning to stadium-style seating, adding more amenities, and some movies being released in regular and IMAX format at the same time.  And now nearly all first and second-tier – as well as several third-tier cities – have IMAX theatres. 

Could IMAX be the future of the movies?

A major argument for this would be the ability for IMAX to keep the experience of seeing a movie something of a spectacular event.  Consider that for a few hundred dollars you can buy an out-of-the-box home theater system that will shake your windows and wake the neighbors.  So there’s no longer the need to go to the movies for great sound.  In fact, I think that a Dolby DTS/THX-certified DVD (geek alert!) on a good sound system can sound BETTER on my home theater than in the movies.

One might say that the big difference is the screen; but that may be just for now.  As all television sets transfer to HDTV in the coming years, picture quality will get better, and more and more people are spending money on a big screen TV set.  The quality will be as good, if not better than you get at the theater (though still not quite as big) and the sound might be better.

Watching your DVD at home will also allow you to avoid the nuisance of people coming in late and talking and cell phones ringing, as happened during a recent viewing of The DaVinci Code.

So as I was sitting there watching amazing underwater cinematography on a gargantuan movie screen with a thunderous sound system, it did occur to me that this could be the future of movies.   However, the seating would be more comfortable and the tickets would be more expensive.  The more expensive tickets would mean that you’d think twice about walking in 5 or 10 minutes late – maybe the theaters would even stop people from entering, as they do with plays and musicals.

The best part would be what could be done from a movie production standpoint with the higher resolution, bigger screen and bigger sound that comes with an IMAX theatre.  We’d probably have to put up with some mindless action stuff, but eventually a director will figure out a way to effectively utilize IMAX film in a way that the medium can help to convey emotion and a sense of connection.  Maybe it’ll even be in 3D.

A Few Thoughts to Share

I came across a few news items this morning that I wanted to share with everyone:

First of all, Australia is using Barry Manilow to fight loud cars.  How do you think that makes Barry feel?  I mean really: "Rockdale councilors believe Manilow is so uncool it might just work" is a direct quote.  Plus, has Barry become so uncool that he’s cool? 

666 baby!!  Get out the sacrificial altar, find a virgin and put on some Iron Maiden!!  Tomorrow is 6/6/06, which is why the remake of The Omen is coming tomorrow, but also why casual Satan worshipers everywhere will be dancing around bonfires naked at midnight tonight.

Thank god I’ll be able to watch TV while filling my gas tank now.  I know I hated having 5 minutes to myself to actually just… you know… what’s that thing?  Umm… "think"! The sad thing is that if you’re filling up a SUV, your cable bill will be cheaper than your gas bill!

Schilling goes evil to benefit ALS.  Good for him.  ’nuff said.

Deadwood is one of my all-time favorite shows, and after last night’s uber-disappointing season finale of the Sopranos, it is definitely my all-time favorite cable TV show.  Looks like they will be making some changes, by way of a few TV movies to help speed things up and have more flexibility.  I didn’t know that this season was supposed to be the last.  I’m glad that we’ll have a few more hours out of this fine drama.

Speaking of the Sopranos, can I just say that I was really disappointed in last night’s season finale?  The last eight episodes that will be airing next year have a LOT of work to do, since we have no cliffhanger to get us going into next season.