Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pitt Fall is for sale

Anyone have an extra couple hundred grand sitting around? Because you could be the proud owner of Kennywood's Pitt Fall ride. The Post-Gazette reported last week that the Pitt Fall is now for sale. You can see the listing on International Rides Management's Facebook page.

I'll be honest, the ride terrifies me. I've ridden it a few times, but the sight of it gets me nervous and I start getting the shivers just getting in to the line for it. I've actually enjoyed it every I've gone through with riding it, but my nervousness about the ride has just gotten worse over time.

Here's a good video someone took while riding the Pitt Fall:

Despite only appearing in the late '90s, the ride is somewhat iconic for its black and gold paint job and visibility from the surrounding area. According to the Wikipedia page for the ride, it was the tallest ride of its kind in the world when it opened.

A follow up PG article suggested a ride like Cedar Point's WindSeeker could be a potential replacement, though that was refuted by a Kennywood spokesperson. Personally, I'd like to see something more tame, like the return of the Rotor or a Ferris wheel or maybe a tea cup-type ride. The latter two in particular would be good fits in the Lost Kennywood section where the Pitt Fall currently stands.

Super 8: Great Summer Pick

Last night I saw Super 8 at Loews Waterfront. I had very high expectations for Super 8 for two reasons.
Reason #1: I love Director and Writer J.J. Abrams because of my favorite TV series Lost.
Reason #2: J.J. Abrams wanted to "make Super 8 E.T. The Next Generation."
Neither of this two reasons let me down as I was very happy and entertained while watching the movie.

One aspect of the movie that I really enjoyed was the film production. I am not sure if everyone notices, but there is something about movies that were made pre-1990 that seem as if they are old fashioned. Post-1990 every movie looks a lot more crisp. I miss that "old feel" while watching movies, but Super 8 had the look that is was filmed years ago which added some romanticism to the movie.

In addition to the film production, I really enjoyed that the main characters were a group of kids engaged in a typical activity that I would have done in my childhood as the driving force plot behind the movie. The group of kids was led by Joe Lamb played very well by Joel Courtney. Lamb and a group of friends were producing a movie for an amateur film festival and almost instantly the plot begins to thicken as the boys witness a train crash and a mystery of how and why the train crashed serves as the catalyst for the plot as the group begins to uncover secrets that the U.S. Air Force wants to keep covered up. This movie reminded me of E.T. meets The Goonies. All three movies' adult roles are not that important, but rather the roles serve only to get in the way of the kids and allow you to become frustrated with the adults and more understanding of the group in Super 8.

I do not want to discuss the plot much more as to avoid spoilers, but the mystery in Super 8 basically revolves around four main conflicting groups and each conflict plays out in a different way.
Group #1: The adults who know better than the kids.
Group #2: The kids who want to discover the truth.
Group #3: The U.S. Air Force which does not want their secret to be discovered.
Group #4: The mystery from the train crash.
These four groups play against each other well for a very satisfying trip to the theater filled with drama, action, and thinking built around a memorable story.

I recommend Super 8 to anyone who wants to see a great good old popcorn eating summer movie. You will not be disappointed as this movie takes you back to the classics of the 80's and allows you to remember how fun a trip to the theater can be. Just be sure to stay for the credits in order to see the completed film the the kids made for the Super 8 Amateur Film Festival.

Pills gives Super 8 4/5 stars.

On a side note, we even had a special second feature following Super 8. Throughout the movie, three unruly girls were screaming foul language and they were repeatedly asked to "shhhh," but to no avail. Afterwards, many people scolded them and a verbal battle began between the three girls and the rest of the theater composed of more foul language, racial slurs, and derogatory remarks to everyone in the theater. Not only was there a verbal battle, but a possible hand to hand fight almost began as one of the three threatened to punch and hit another woman with her purse. As the three left the theater they claimed "we'll see all of you b*tches in the parking lot and we'll get it on!"  Once in the lobby the girls continued their raucous behavior with people from within our theater as police and security chased after them and most likely were caught and given a citation. That may have been as entertaining as the movie itself.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Man Accused of Exposing Himself to Wedding Reception

Randy Wayne Northcutt was charged with indecent exposure and open lewdness for exposing his genitals to a wedding party at the Doubletree Hotel in North Strabane Township located near the Meadows Racetrack and Casino on Saturday.  Witnesses claim Northcutt, 43, was standing completely naked in a fourth floor window at the hotel, overlooking the courtyard where the wedding reception was taking place.  He was told by a hotel manager to close the curtains, but a few minutes later Mr. Northcutt exposed himself again to the party for nearly ten minutes.  He was soon arrested by police.

Read more:


Pens re-sign Duper

Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis celebrates 2009 Stanley Cup championship with sweet (?) tattoo
 The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Pascal Dupuis to a 2 yr / $3 mil deal today.  This comes in the wake of Pens GM Ray Shero deciding not to put in a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy, effectively making him a unrestricted free agent July 1.

 I wasn't personally in favor of signing Dupuis unless we got a great deal on him, and apparently Shero was able to pull it off.  Comparing it with the Crapitals / Brooks Laich deal, it looks really good.

To compare: the Crapitals re-signed Brooks Laich to a new contract which will pay him $27 million over 6 years - or $4.5 per year.  In 2011, Laich had 16 goals and 32 assists for a total of 48 pointsDupuis actually scored more goals in 2011 - 17 - although he did have less overall points at 37.  More goals, less overall points, and $3 mil less per year.  Looks like a good deal for the Pens as they try to sign more players before training camp begins.

In other news, it seems that Shero did not offer TK a qualifying offer because he did not want to wait to see how arbitration would play out.  If Shero offered TK a QO, the deal would have headed to arbitration, effectively tying up $2-3 mil Shero could use elsewhere.  Instead, Shero decided to free up that money right away, and look around the league at other UFA's.  And one of those UFA's looks like Jagr, and possibly still TK.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Green Lantern Does Not Get Green Light

Over the weekend I saw Green Lantern and I had mediocre expectations for this comic book turned movie. One of the reasons that I had these expectations was because I simply did not know much about this super hero. In addition, from seeing the previews Green Lantern seemed as if it would have too much computer animation, and for me that is distracting. Regardless of my thoughts, I went into the theatre thinking that it would be a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The movie began in traditional comic book to movie exposition attempting to build the personality and character of main character Hal Jordan played by Ryan Reynolds. As I discussed with someone over the weekend, Jordan's character never fully materialized and I never felt as if I got to know the man behind the Green Lantern. This is an essential aspect to any comic book movie. The viewer must be able to see the separation of super hero and human. Also, the viewer must identify with the character in some aspect of their life. This was severely lacking in defining Hal Jordan the human and skipped right ahead to his transition to becoming a super hero.

As I stated previously, I do not know much about Green Lantern, but something tells me that the comic book was not done justice in the movie version when Hal Jordan comes to terms with his power, position, and realization of his role as a super hero. The movie was only 114 minutes so I doubt that time was a real constraint, but the movie quickly progressed into Jordan needing to prove himself to Sinestro who is the best friend and protege Abin Sur. Abin Sur was the Green Lantern who gave the Green Lantern ring to Hal Jordan. The movie then moves to the "high point" with a strange rivalry with childhood acquaintance Dr. Hector Hammond. This had no real development outside of barely mentioning a childhood romantic rivalry over a co-worker and friend of both, Carol Ferris. Like I said, this rivalry moved way too quickly and I really don't understand why Hammond was such a villain to be the focal point of the movie.

The movie tries to fit even more into an already confusing and underdeveloped plot by attempting to add Spider Man like romance, complex family issues, and a rivalry with another Green Lantern. The bad part here was that the rivalry with the other Green Lantern is not shown until after the first 10 minutes of the credits and there is no explanation of why Sinestro would continue this rivalry against Jordan. Very poorly done with many questions left unanswered for no apparent reason.

The worst part of the movie for me had to be the computer animation. Don't get me wrong, CGI is great when done well, but there was way too much CGI effects and characters for my liking. Can you say "Jar-Jar Binks times 10?" I really was turned off by the CGI and I just kept thinking about how bad it was instead of focusing on the story.

You can call me overly critical, but Green Lantern is one comic book that should have stayed on paper not just because of the complex storyline, but also because I think drawings would have made the characters and effects look much better than mixing CGI and live action. Pills gives Green Lantern 2/5 stars.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Boston is lame, part 2

Cool hemp necklace, dude.

At risk of giving them more credit than they're worth, I'm going to go on my second anti-Boston diatribe in less than two weeks. I certainly didn't plan it that way, and they certainly aren't anything special that deserve this must consideration, but I'd be remiss if I didn't relay the experience of sharing a stadium with them at last night's Bucco game.

Throughout the game, every time Boston'd even get a hit, all the Boston fans would stand up and basically do an in-game slow clap. It was as if they were trying to say, "See, it's only a matter of time before we take this game over." And this was going on even when the Pirates were up by three.

On the way out of the stadium was the worst though. The Pirates had just won their second straight to clinch the series and the Sox fans were on the defensive. During the whole walk across the Clemente bridge, they were yelling things like, "Baseball's played past June" and "If you want to come see the Stanley Cup, you can find it about 10 hours north!" Of course, no one was saying anything to them, so they were just being tools.

You know when a TV show has gone on for too long, and the characters have, in essence, become caricatures of themselves? Entourage is an example of this. Any redeeming value the show had when it first started has basically been wiped out as the characters began to play up their own stereotypes. I get that same feeling from Bostonians. Based on my limited interactions with people from Boston compared to how they're portrayed on TV and in the movies, they are EXACTLY who you expect them to be based on their stereotypes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Furries Invade Pittsburgh

Furries from all over the world are making their way to the City of Pittsburgh for the Anthrocon Convention held this weekend at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.  More than 4,500 anthropomorphics fans are expected to descend on the city for the annual gathering that began in 1997.  This is the sixth year that Pittsburgh has hosted the event. 

Convention attendees are enthusiasts of art, literature and games featuring anthropomorphic, or human-like, animals.  Fans dress as their favorite cartoon, mascot, or fairy tale characters and will attend lectures and workshops as well as nightly raves at the convention center.  The Furries take on the persona of animals.  They not only dress in full costumes, but some bring litter boxes with them to local hotels to relieve themselves in during their stay.  Local Furry, Gary Guy Matthews of Greentree, has even gone as far as trying to change his name to Boomer the Dog.  The judge sadly denied Mr. Matthews request, but he is continuing to appeal.  The cost is $30 for a day and $50 for a weekend-long pass.  The convention is expected to generate an estimated $5 million to the city.

Read more:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Goodbye Children's Hospital, Hello Greenspace

The iconic hospital that stood on the corner of Fifth Ave and DeSoto St. in Oakland for over 70 years is gone. The demolition of the old Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP) has finally ended and in its place some much needed greenspace.  CHP moved to its new location in Lawrenceville in 2009 and the leveling of the old building began in the Fall of 2010.  Here are some pics of the demolition and landscaping.

CHP as it once stood
First phase of demolition

Demolition Continues into the Spring of 2011

Completed greenspace, corner of Fifth Ave and DeSoto St.

Close-up of the new lawn

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Carnegie has the best mailman

I was sitting in traffic this morning in Carnegie on my way to a business meeting when I came across a glorious sight. Suddenly and without warning, he appeared around a corner of a building, strutting as if onto a disco dance floor. Possibly the greatest mailman in all of Allegheny County, if not all of Western Pennsylvania:

And just as suddenly he was gone. I know the picture might not do him justice, but I argue that his essence could never be accurately captured on film anyways. His powerful, yet beautiful mane was something I'll never forget.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Steelers adding Giant Name?

Tiki Barber
Complete bore and arrogant prick Tiki Barber is looking to get back into the NFL.  That’s not surprising news to anyone, as most football players who get out of the game too early try to give it one more shot at making it back in the league.  Some are successful, but most are not.
The surprising twist to this story is that Peter King has announced that the favorite horse in this race is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  HCMT is apparently close to the Barber family after coaching Ronde in Tampa, and wouldn’t have any problems cutting Tiki if he can’t get the job done.
But hey, if Tiki’s comeback falls short, at least he knows he can go back to hooking up with 20 year old chicks and/or embarrassing himself on national television.  Either way, he can always reminisce on all the money he threw away by thinking he was more than just another jock. 
Side note to this story:  Hopefully Tiki’s story can serve as a warning to Mendenhall.  Mendenhall needs to realize he is a professional football player first and foremost, despite what his twitter bio indicates.  If Mendenhall continues to concentrate less on football and more on anything and everything else, I could see him out of the game early, and then trying to make a comeback once all his money runs out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Father's Day to-do list for the first year father, or, where did this porn come from

Today is a very special day for me. It is my very first Father's Day that I am an honoree. I didn't realize that Father's Day would mean so much to me until the big day started approaching. Being a new father pretty much means that you have been moved to the lowest priority level in determining what a given day is going to be like. Whatever Mom and baby want pretty much determines the direction of your day. But not on Father's Day. Father's Day is the one day of the year set aside specifically so that you can decide what you want to do. So, that said, here's my very own Father's Day to-do list:

  • "Eggs and bacon please": check
  • Some time alone with the Sunday paper and coffee: check
  • Pirates, U.S. soccer and the final round of the U.S. Open all on TV: check
  • Buy myself a case of fancy beer: check
  • Listen to rock music all day long: check
  • Grill a delicious piece of meat and some veggies: check
  • Season finales of Games of Thrones and The Killing on tonight: check
  • Take a hike in the woods with family and dog: check
  • Find porno!:

Big check!

That's right. Late this morning on my hike in South Park, I came across the porno above in a pavilion garbage can. And, now that I'm sitting at home with my games on tv and a beer in my hand, I need to figure out how the above porno ended up in the garbage can at the West Virginia pavilion in South Park. I'm going to posit a few of my theories in the comments. I invite everyone else to do the same.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Famous Pittsburgh Mustaches

Pittsburghers love their mustaches so what better way to recognize them then to post the best of our own celebrity 'staches.

The Classic Football Mustache:

The football coach mustache: (L-R) Cowher, Ditka, & the Wannstache

Mark Malone, Rocky Bleier, & Boss Hog Russ Grimm

The Mustaches of the Pirates:

The great Bucco logo from the 90's, Jim Leyland, & Sid Bream

Spanky Lavalliere, RJ Reynolds, & Bob Walk (Please bring it back Walky)

Cy Young Winner Doug Drabek, Don Slaught & Rick Rhoden

The Candy Man, Dale Berra of the drug trial years, and Scrap Iron Phil Garner

'Operation Shutdown' Derek Bell's walrus 'stache, Pops Stargell, & Jeff King

The Hockey Mustaches:

Bryan Trottier, Crosby & his DTM, and the classy Kehoe 'stache

George Parros & his Mon Valley 'stache (born in Washington Co), Frankie Pietrangelo, & Max Talbot's Fu Man Chu
The Bylsma Movember stache

Industrial Barons and Pioneers/Inventors:

Ferris Wheel inventor Geoge Ferris & condiment maker HJ Heinz

Secretary of Treasury & banker Andrew Mellon & electrical industry pioneer George Westinghouse

Pizza entrepreneur Dominic Mineo of one of the best pizza places in the 'burgh, Mineo's Pizza House, Squirrel Hill

Media Personalities; Oh, the grace and class of these upper lips:

"I'm Stacey Smith, you stay classy Pittsburgh," John Steigerwald, & John Fedko.  Alby Oxenreiter (bottom)
Around Town
Adam Paul Causgrove, winner of the 2012 Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award

Celebrity that should be a Pittsburgher:

If there is one movie star that most resembles a Pittsburgher it is Dennis Farina.   Farina became a Pittsburgher to me in his role as Capt Nick Detillo in the Pittsburgh filmed "Striking Distance."

Many of these mustachioed individuals are not native Pittsburghers, but the city made a lasting impact on their lives.  My favorite is the Rick Kehoe with George Parros coming in a close second with his 80's hockey player style.  What is your favorite?

This story has been recently referenced by the Huffington Post....Congrats! see story

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Boston is lame

While Pittsburgh has a long, proud tradition of producing sports-centric music to honor our teams, most notably in polka form, apparently the creative juices don't flow so strong in Boston. Because rather than coming up with something wholly original, they have instead co-opted Pittsburgh's own Wiz Khalifa's hit homage to Pittsburgh, Black and Yellow.

From today's PG:
"I hear a song, and I think, 'I like this; I kind of want to rap on this.' I go to the studio and make my own version of it," he said Tuesday. "When I first heard 'Black and Yellow,' I immediately thought, 'Oh, Bruins!'"

The words of a true artiste. You can read the full article here, or check out the video below. I hate to judge an entire city based on one clown, but, yeah, Boston is real lame.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Hangover Part II: Raunchy, but Expected

I just saw The Hangover Part II and I have to say that it was a fine sequel to The Hangover. We all know that when an original movie is done right, making a sequel can sometimes be better left alone. In my mind, the sequel rule does not apply to comedies for the simple rule that a comedy is its own genre of film which traditional rules do not apply. That being said, there have been many sequels to comedies that should never have been made. The Hangover Part II was one of those times when I feel that the sequel at least lived up to the original. The Hangover set the bar for raunchy comedies very high, but the sequel truly pushed the envelope and made things work for the better.

I love raunchy, locker room humor when the time is right, so walking into The Hangover Part II I knew what I was getting into and I loved every minute of it. Although many fans love the series for its outlandish scenarios, what steals the show for me is the previously under the radar comedian Zach Galifianakis. There is just something about is body language, mannerisms, speech, and comedic style which always have me in stitches. I rarely laugh out loud throughout movies, but Galifianakis was able to deliver and provide well timed and scripted lines throughout the movie.

I thought that The Hangover would be hard to be topped with walking the viewer through their night of antics, but this "blackout" storyline may not have matched the original, but the surprises and being able to visibly see the raunchiness of the plot line gave the audience many opportunities to shudder, burst out in laughter, or "oohhh" in disgust. This is what I like in a comedy.

All in all it was a good movie that you did not have to think about and it was worth the entrance price. Sometimes you need a gross comedy and The Hangover Part II was just what I was looking for. If you go, just be sure that your fellow movie goers have the same sense of humor as you.

Pills gives 3/5 stars.

PITT PSU Rivalry Renewed

It is official: The Pitt PSU rivalry will be renewed starting in 2016.  The first game will take place at Heinz Field in 2016, with the 2017 contest taking place at Beaver Stadium.

The real question is: Who will have more head coaching changes by the time the game actually takes place?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nice ironic sunglasses

This screen shot from tonight's Pirates game makes me hope I never spawn attractive daughters.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A day at Beer Fest

I attended the 2011 Pennsylvania Microbrewers Fest at Penn Brewery this past weekend. While I'd love to give a full recap with some detailed beer reviews, the sheer number of beers being served combined with the effects of trying most of them means I can't remember them all well enough. So, I'll just go with the highlights.

The event was set up much like the Penn Brewery's Oktoberfest festivities, with the beer stands set up in the parking garage. There were 30 brewers listed in the program and each one was typically serving at least two beers. Some of the more prominent names there were Brooklyn, Flying Dog, Great Lakes, Magic Hat, Rogue Ales, Sierra Nevada, Stoudts, Erie and Troegs. Local brewers were also well represented with Church Brew Works, East End, Fat Heads, Full Pint, Rivertowne Pour House, the local Rock Bottom and, of course, Penn Brewery.

There were many fine brews and a great atmosphere. I probably didn't taste any beers that I would consider to be my favorite or anything, but there weren't really any duds either. On top of that, the atmosphere, food and people were all great and I can't wait to go back in 2012. With that said, here are just a few of my personal beer fest superlatives:
  • Most disappointing: Magic Hat. They only were serving #9, which is available almost everywhere you go these days. You'd think they could do better for a crowd like this.
  • Best showing: Three Rivers Association of Serious Homebrewers (TRASH). This consortium of local home brewers was showcasing four beers at a time, rotating hourly. I think I had 2 from each hour, as well as sipping some of the others off of my brother, and all of them were good. They had both a "smoky" and a "spicy" brew that came very much as advertised.
  • Most prevalent variety: IPAs. Seriously, every booth had one.
  • Best celebrity sighting: Gene, of Gene's Place fame. I even got a chance to say hello. He, very unfortunately, told me that he believes Gibbons Beer has ceased production.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Johnny's Place: Great Food and Greater Service

There are many famous eateries in the Oakland/Shadyside/Squirrel Hill Area. You can choose from late night classic "The Original," morning hot spot "Pamela's," or a favorite for munchies and drinks "Buffalo Blues," but none compare to the food and hospitality of "Johnny's Place" located at 256 North Craig Street in North Oakland.

"Johnny's Place" is a little known secret to people who are tired of the same old Oakland eateries, people who want to avoid the crowd, or simply those who have entered the restaurant on a whim and have been returning time and time again because they are sure to have a great meal and friendly service. I do not eat at "Johnny's" as much as I would like (usually about two times per year), but regardless of my frequency Johnny always welcomes me in like an old pal and quickly remembers my regular drink order and has it on the table for me. "Johnny's" is an unassuming restaurant/bar located on the once thriving street corner of the intersection of Centre Avenue and North Craig Street. Now, "Johnny's" sits next to a vacant lot and a boarded up Giant Eagle. That has not stopped "Johnny's" from serving the greatest sandwiches in Pittsburgh.

Johnny is the face of the restaurant while wife and business partner, Karen, is the mastermind in the kitchen. Each one of their creations has its own unique spin on a classic meal. Today, I ordered the Teriyaki Burger served on a hoagie bun. You can never go wrong with one of their Asian inspired dishes as Johnny hails from Korea and moved here as a boy. Each sandwich is mammoth in proportion compared to competitors and leaves you satisfied with only a half, if you are wondering whether you should order the whole or half. Another popular pick from the menu is the classic Reuben. This comes out of the oven sizzling just daring you to eat it while it could still burn your tongue, but don't fear, just order a side of his great french fries which you can "kick up with a little spice, scale 1-10" if your mouth is watering. These fries rival the famous "O-fries" and I feel edge out the previously crowned champion because no ketchup or sauce is needed to enjoy these fries. Another pair ordered the steak and egg and both were more than satisfied with this behemoth sandwich topped with tomato, onion, lettuce, and mayonnaise. One happy eater even proclaimed "this is better than any Primanti sandwich" which could be considered blasphemous here in Pittsburgh.

Although the food is amazing it is the character and conversation which keeps customers going back to "Johnny's."  Since the first time that I ate there, Johnny made sure to make his customers and I feel important. Although the restaurant may be bustling at lunch time, Johnny takes the time to catch up with all of his customers by sharing his life while learning the lives of his customers as well. In addition to the personal charm of Johnny himself, the restaurant is filled with sports memorabilia which pays homage to local sports legends from classics such as Mario Lemieux and Jim Leyland to lesser known sports teams and athletes such as the Pittsburgh Stingers and former Pitt Panther great, Tom Tumulty. The inside of "Johnny's" is well kept and clean with seating at the bar, a section with booths, high chair tables, and a few big screen TVs. You can tell that Johnny loves his work and restaurant.

Although "Johnny's" is a great place to eat, the only downside is that it is mainly a lunch restaurant. It is often difficult to make it in to the restaurant before it is locked up as Johnny likes to close around 5 PM. Just be sure to call ahead or stop in and he will be glad to stay open for you if need be. "Johnny's" has been at its current location since 1988 after a brief five year stint downtown. Not only has "Johnny's" changed locations, but it has also changed dramatically over the years as it used to be open to serve the late night crowd, but has scaled back its hours and discontinued alcohol sales. As long as "Johnny's" stays open we will all be happy.

I rate this restaurant 5/5 stars and recommend that everyone sample something from the menu. I have had everything on the menu at least once and never have I been disappointed. Keep up the good work, Johnny!

Editors Note:  Unfortunately this restaurant has closed after many great years, see Obituary:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

X-Men: First Class Does Not Disappoint

I saw X-Men: First Class last night at my movie stomping grounds Loews Waterfront. If you remember my comic book background based on my review of "Thor" you will know that I do not deem myself a comic book aficionado, but I have enough background to know a good movie when I see it. "X-Men: First Class" was exactly that, a good movie.

I always remember reading X-Men comics, playing the video games, and watching the cartoon, but the X-Men that I grew up with had already been portrayed in the theatre around 10 years ago. I knew the background of the Professor X vs. Magneto rivalry, but I guess it never occurred to me that there was a story line revolving around how they began on the same team. At a running time of 2 hours and 15 minutes, I was a bit weary thinking that this was too long for a comic book movie. Again, I was wrong. The plot was intriguing and moved at a fast pace with just enough action, special effects, and emotions so that my interest was always held. There were fabulous cameos spread throughout the movie which gave comic book fan boys ample opportunities to cheer or laugh at parts of the film that only comic book readers would understand.

The story line beginning with a young Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) showing his mutant strength within a Nazi concentration camp set the tone for a dark side of X-Men that I was not familiar with. There, young Erik developed his hatred for his rival throughout the film, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). The movie perfectly balanced the themes of good vs. evil, racism, acceptance, revenge, living in harmony, and evolution. These themes played played well as they took place during the Cold War Era and allowed people to see how the X-Men wanted to work for the good of their country, mankind, or the future mutant race. This then built into the classic rival that most people know between Professor X and Magneto.

"X-Men: First Class" will be a tough movie to beat as the Summer 2011 blockbuster films have already begun.

I rate this movie 4/5 stars.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pirates take Gerrit Cole

The Pirates had the dubious honor of picking number one in tonight's first round of the MLB Draft. Rather than go with the stud 3B that fans have been clamoring for over the past year, the Pirates went with UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole.
Here's some info I dug up on Cole:

There is going to be a lot of second guessing this pick, as Rendon had previously been compared to MLB stars Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman and had been seen as a lock at #1 after last year's draft. I already heard 93.7 host Andrew Fillipponi (who sucks, by the way) giving some nonsensical instant negative reaction to the pick. But, I think it's pretty hard to be overly critical of the pick when you consider the following:
  • This wasn't a pick based on cost, as the Pirates are proven big spenders in the draft and Cole isn't going to come cheap
  • Rendon fell all the way to #6, so there may be more serious concerns regarding the shoulder injury that caused his numbers to fall this year
  • If the Pirates are going to be legit contenders, they are going to need a frontline pitching staff, which is nearly prohibitively expensive on the free agent market for them, so they need to stockpile arms in the draft. Cole, by most accounts, was the premiere arm in the draft, at least among college pitchers.

I'm a firm believer that you should want to see management taking the guy they believe in most, not necessarily who the fans want or what the magazines might say. Almost no one locally who I've already heard criticizing the pick has actually seen any of these guys play, nor know anything about scouting, which makes them as knowledgeable on the subject as myself. I get that the position player theoretically is the more likely to succeed and I'll admit that I personally was hoping to see the pick be Rendon. But, I'm not a scout and I'm pretty happy to see the Pirates ignore the hype and get the guy they want. That's what the Steelers would do.

Update: Wow! The Pirates just took Josh Bell as the first pick of the second round. He's a HS OF who is rated as the 5th best offensive prospect in this year's draft by Baseball America. The story on him though is that he absolutely wants to go to college, so won't sign a contract. The Pirates taking him here suggests they are going to try to blow him away with a big contract offer. It's not quite the same thing as winning lots of games, but the Pirates continue to show they're serious about acquiring young talent.

PNC Park, Chart Topper

With the recent news that this weekend's crowd at PNC Park was the largest in stadium history, I thought it would be a nice time to share another study that revealed PNC Park as the best ballpark in the nation.

Appearing in the NY times, the author took the average rating for each of the nation's 30 ball parks from a review site,  All of the ballparks had plenty of reviews, which factored into the ratings.  This ranking system was also interesting because it figured in reviews on other variables such as: concessions, seat size and bathrooms; to name a few.  And the winner by a long-shot was, of course, PNC Park. 

From the article: "The winner by a country mile is Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. More than 80 percent of reviewers gave it the top, 5-star rating, and its average score was 4.77 points. It is followed by Boston’s Fenway Park (4.59 stars), San Francisco’s AT&T Park (4.57), Minneapolis’ Target Field (4.53), and Baltimore’s Camden Yards (4.47)."

Courtesy of NY Times

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Even our Amish will fight you"

Check out the maps in this blog post that feature information/stereotypes from around the United States, including the above map of movies that best represent the state they are set in. Pennsylvania got Groundhog Day, as well as The Office for the TV map, which hopefully means we have a good sense of humor about life in our state.

I have to say, Gummo is a fucked up movie and a great choice for Ohio. But Florida only wishes that Scarface were its best representation. I'm fairly certain the following cinematic classic is much more representative of the Florida experience:

Some other good stuff from PA:

  • Bad thing we lead the country in: Arson
  • Thing we lead the country in: Number of hunters
  • Google's first autofill suggestion when you type "Pennsylvania": Pennsylvania State University (FYI, Virginia Tech is also on this one)
  • Food: Cheesesteaks
  • Beer: Victory
  • Is sodomy illegal?: No!