The Sidetrack burger is #19!

According to this list of “The 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die,” the “famous burger” at Ypsilanti’s very own Sidetrack Bar and Grill.

The Sidetrack does indeed have a very good burger; I mean, I don’t know if it’s a must eat before you die (that’s a mighty high standard), but it is what I often get when I go there.

I think such a memorable hamburger is really based on atmosphere and place and such, so for my money, the “best burger” is actually at the Hamburg Inn #2 in Iowa City. But back in those days, I didn’t think a whole lot about calories, fat levels, cholesterol, etc. Like I said, it’s a lot about time and place.

Damn you, Borders parking validation…

We went out to dinner tonight and followed it up with a stop at American Spoon for the excellent gelato. Dinner was at Palio, which was the first time we had been there, actually. Pretty good stuff.

Anyway, while the family was finishing up the gelato at American Spoon, I ran across the street to Borders to get my parking validated. I am accustomed to doing this when I am in this part of dowtown and I have to park in the deck there. If you buy something in the store, they will validate you for two hours. If you don’t buy anything, they will validate you for one.

Or, more accurately, they used to do this.

I went up to the register and the young person started into a well-rehearsed speech. “I’m sorry, but we no long validate parking without a purchase. If….” When he got to this part of his speech, I picked up a piece of chocolate at the register. “Oh, well thanks for doing that,” he said.

“When did you guys started to do this? And where is this posted?” I asked.

“Yeah, it sucks, doesn’t it? It’s posted here,” he said, pointing to a completely unreadable piece of paper posted far behind the register. “They’ve posted it for us but not for anyone else.”

“So, can I still get two hours if I buy anything?”

“No, just an hour now,” the kid said. “They told us it had something to do with competition from other places giving validation.”

“No one around here validates parking.”

“Really?!” said the kid, realizing that once again the corporate line from the Borders managers lied to him. At least I think they lied to them; to the best of my knowledge, there is no other restaurant or store or anything that validates parking in town. Someone correct me if I’m wrong, please.

Anyway, this will make me think twice about the need to go into Borders the next time I have to park in the deck. What’s the point?

For your Iowa City food needs

I came across the web site for John’s Grocery in Iowa City, IA today because a friend of mine (actually, the same friend who sent me the bit about the Monty Hall puzzle) sent me a link to an article about a guy who used to be a roommate to this friend, a guy who is now the wine guy for John’s.

Funny how things change. Now, John’s Grocery describes itself as “Iowa’s Epicurean Oasis,” a claim I suspect is reasonably accurate. When I was in college, John’s was a good place to get beer and that was about it. I guess they had some gourmet items, but since my cooking skills back then were limited to tuna cassarole made with Kraft macaronni and cheese, I didn’t notice. And back then, everybody referred to it as “Dirty John’s” because it was one of the first places in Iowa to sell Playboy magazine.

Purging my Netflix que

I think Netflix is a pretty good deal/good service, even if you only watch DVDs about two or three times a month, for a couple of different reasons. First, you can get pretty much anything that’s out on DVD– well, at least as far as I can tell. Maybe we’re not requesting obscure enough movies though. Second, no worries about returns. You just keep the movies, send them to Netflix when you’re done with them, and then they send you the next movie in your “que,” which is your “wish list” of movies.

And it’s these strengths that conspire to make Netflix a potential pain in the ass.

First off, the very cool and easy to use Netflix interface allows you to put a ton of movies into your que. It’s constantly giving you recommendations and ideas about different movies, along the lines of “members who liked movie X also liked movie Y,” and so you click on movie Y and think “sure, that sounds cool,” and you add it to your que. Before I knew it, I had a que with about two dozen movies, all kinds cool and interesting and artsy things.

But here’s the problem: sometimes you’re in the mood to watch an artsy-fartsy movie, sometimes you’re in the mood to watch the latest Hollywood release. When you go to the video store and browse the shelves in person, you more or less know what mood you’re in and you pick appropriately. Netflix, on the other hand, makes you watch stuff in order on your que, and there’s quite a distance between when you’re adding movies to your que and when you actually want to watch the movies. Sure, you can update the order of things on the que, but there have been several times when I had forgotten to do that, and we end up getting something we’re not really in the right mood to watch.

The result? Annette and I have three Netflix DVDs right now, and two of them are kind of quasi-artsy-fartsy movies, and one is a foreign movie. They’re movies we haven’t really wanted to watch (they’re long and too serious or just not “right” for the time), but we also don’t want to just return them unseen. We’ve had the foreign movie since December. DECEMBER, people!

So I decided to go to my Netflix que and just purge the whole thing, just delete it all. And instead of all the artsy-fartsy stuff, I added summer movie kind of fare: Ocean’s Twelve, Ray, Collateral, The Aviator, and Kinsey. Okay, maybe Kinsey is kinda artsy, but that’s it. We’ll see how many of these things we actually watch in the next month or so.

iTunes and silent movies, all in one week

I had two multimedia “firsts� this week.

First #1: I bought a complete album online, the Dave Matthews Band new CD, Stand Up off of the iTunes store. By the way, don’t give me any shit for liking the Dave Matthews Band. I’m too old to really care what is (or isn’t) hip, and I was listening to them before they caught on with the frat boy crowd. I like ‘em, so sue me.

I’ve downloaded some music from “less than legal� sources before, but, besides not being quite legal or ethical, I find that it takes way too long and I as often as not end up with a file that isn’t worth listening to. I have bought music with iTunes before, but just a song at a time. This was my first full album, and I’m not sure I will buy a CD from a store again. It’s cheaper by a couple of bucks than buying the actual CD, and all I had to do was download it from the iTunes site to my computer and then to my iPod. Easier than going to a store by far.

Okay, not that big of a deal. But still.

First #2: We all saw the 1924 silent film version of Peter Pan Thursday night at the Michigan Theater. A couple of things made this a pretty cool night. For one thing, the Michigan Theater was pretty much sold out for the show. As Russ Collins (the guy who runs the Michigan Theater) said in his introduction to the show, it was probably the biggest crowd to watch a silent film in… well, in a long time, weeks at least. For another, it featured musical accompaniment by the Ann Arbor Symphony, conducted by Gillian “not the one from X-Filesâ€? Anderson. Cool music, too.

On the down-side, the show started late and we didn’t have Will home until about 10 on a school night. Not good parenting. On the up-side, it was pretty cool to see a silent film the way that it would have been shown way back in the day. After all, the Michigan Theater opened in the late 1920’s as a silent film theater, and back then, they really would have an orchestra for most of the shows (that and/or the extremely elaborate organ they’ve got there). Anyway, good music, good show, good experience.

Incidentally, this version of Peter Pan is quite a bit different from the Disney version, which isn’t surprising. I don’t have the time to rehash it all right now, but most of the intertitles (you know, the words that pop up during a silent film) come from J.M. Barrie’s original story, and it’s pretty clear to me where the whole idea of the “Peter Pan Syndrome� comes from. Weird stuff.

“May the farm be with you”

I don’t know if this is worth the download time or not, but it’s kind of cute:

(Grocery) Store Wars

Personally, I like to buy organic whenever I can and whenver it is practical, and I’m willing to spend at least a little more money on organic foods. But sometimes, it’s just way too expensive and/or impractical. I guess we all do what we can, right?

Will’s food rating system

We had lovely family dinner at Gratzi last night; it had been a long time since we had gone out to dinner, so we decided to go to someplace nice. A good meal was had by one and all.

Will’s dish of choice at Gratzi is penne pasta with an alfredo sauce (or is that alfrado sauce? I’ve seen both spellings), and he thought it was great. “How would you rate that on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best thing ever?â€? Annette asked.

“I’d say… 9 and four-fifths,â€? Will said. And he then proceeded to give ratings to several other foods. Here’s a selection:

Asparagus: 0

Regular Milk: 2

Licorice flavored jelly beans: 2

Broccoli with ranch dressing: 4

Hot dog with bun: 5

Strawberries: 6

Chocolate milk: 7

Hot dog without bun: 7.5

Gratzi pasta: 9.5 (or 9 and four-fifths, though this morning, he said that was a 10 too)

Vanilla-flavored milk: 10

Most kinds of candy: 10

“Waiter, I think there’s a drag queen in my pasta”

So, I’m killing a little time while eating this morning while watching this episode of Molto Mario on the Food Network. Mario’s show features three “guest” diners who ask Mario (what I presumed are usually scripted) questions about the food he’s cooking. Normally, the guests look like very well-heeled and well-goomed New Yorker yuppies, the sort that probably frequent his restaurants.

But this morning, one of the guests was a woman who looked kind of like Linda Richman, the Mike Myers character from Saturday Night Live way back when. Then she started talking, and she sounded like Mike Myers doing Linda. Okay….

Long story short: it became clear as the show went on that she was probably a he. Mario seemed unusually uneasy during the show, and at one point, he referred to his guests as “the fellas.” One of the other two men tried to gently correct him. “Ah, Mario,” he said, “you mean you two fellas.”

Mario’s response? “Well, let’s say two and a half fellas.”

As Jerry Seinfeld famously said “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but not the sort of thing you’re expecting from a cooking show.

Check out “Pound”(y), and don’t miss the Weight Watchers cards

In the course of surfing around yesterday while I should have been working on my textbook, I visited this post by John “A Writing Teacher” Lovas about blog writers who got book deals. I’m mostly interested in this for “official” (aka, English professor job) reasons, but I thought I’d post here because it was that post that took me to Wendy McClure’s web site “Pound,” which actually is http://www.poundy.com. Apparently, “www.pound.com” was taken. Anyway, on John’s web site, there’s a link to a San Francisco Chronicle article about how it was McClure’s blogging that lead to a book deal.

McClure has a memoir coming out called I’m Not the New Me, which I know nothing about other than it is a pretty good title. But personally, the part of her site that will keep me coming back is this collection of bizarre Weight Watcher recipe cards from the 70s. What ugly food they used to eat.