Monday, January 23, 2017

Half-assed Gormet: Chik-Fil-A's Berry Protein Blast

You  know, I'd write more about Chik-Fil-A except I have one big problem with it: No, it's nothing political. It's  just that I loathe having to type "Chik-Fil-A" and remember how to spell it each time.

The chain has revamped its menu a bit recently, not necessarily for the better. It got rid of my favorite breakfast item and seemingly raised the prices on everything else. The place has tasty chow and outstanding service, but it's not perfect and it's hardly a "value" compared to other fast food joints, which helps me from going there every week despite it opening a location very close to Cultureshark Tower.

I had a gift card, though, and a desire to reward myself after a trip to the auto mechanic (Every time I walk out of there with any money left in my account at all, I consider it cause for celebration), so I hit the place for breakfast last week. I was thwarted in my attempt to order lunch because  it was too early, but I didn't go all Michael Douglas; the cashier informed me in a polite and friendly manner (there's never any other way at Chik-Fil-A) that I could get lunch in about 10-15 minutes. I settled for breakfast despite the appalling continued absence of the thing I used to get.

After breakfast I decided to try their touted Berry Protein Blast item.  Let me tell you, there is no way I would have bought this had I not been using a gift card. It looked good, but it was something like 4 1/2 bucks. 4 1/2 bucks for a beverage??? OK, a smoothie.  This ain't Starbucks. I know the coffee drinkers of the nation have voted to pay outrageous prices for "premium blends" and fancy caffeinated beverages, but I don't recall smoothie fans ever getting any say in making their preferred treats so damn expensive.

I don't even think it's an issue that ingredients are so expensive. Let's see, berries, some kind of dairy (milk/ice cream), a little granola on top? In a modest plastic cup? Hardly worth $4.50. It's not just Chik-Fil-A, either, although the prices are high across the board there. Go anywhere and look at the beverages: soda, tea, etc. is one price, but introduce the concept of "healthy" or even just "bare minimum of nutritional value," and then you're gonna see a much higher price.

I was tempted to get a milkshake because, even though it was all empty calories, it was about half as expensive and probably twice as big. However, I wanted to try the Berry Protein Blast, so I surrendered my $10 gift card again and ordered one...and I wound up having to surrender a penny out of my pocket.  A basic breakfast meal with no add-ons nor upsizing plus a small smoothie should not cost more than a single Alexander Hamilton. I'd like to think Harriet Tubman, were her visage on the $10 bill, would be appalled that she would not be sufficient for that haul.

Bottom line: Was it good. Yeah! It was quite tasty, and I suppose it gave me a PROTEIN BOOST to kickstart my day.  It's just not worth the cost.  I think smoothie lovers of the world should unite and demand lower prices .In the meantime, I think I'm gonna take very good care of my Magic Bullet.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 43 (Special #HereWeGo edition)

1) Netflix: One event this week made it obvious that Netflix is number one this week and, for all practical purposes, is still the clear #1 in streaming video and will be for the foreseeable future.

It wasn't the debut of Jason Momoa's Frontier nor the arrival of more Voltron nor the announcement of a premiere date for the next set of House of Cards episodes. It wasn't the addition of vintage He-Man and She-Ra, nor was it the Neal Brennan standup special, nor the original film Take the 10.

I'm talking about a news item regarding a project that won't even be ON Netflix until  "late 2017." Jerry Seinfeld is taking Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee--the whole library and upcoming episodes--to the service (in addition to two standup specials and possibly other projects). The telling thing to me is the reaction. Look at the comments wherever the story is posted, and you will see people saying things like, "Good, finally it's on Netflix," or, "Now there's no reason to watch Crackle." I know I'm glad I don't have to struggle with Crackle's crummy interface to see the show. Netflix is perceived as the industry leader and rightfully so.

2) Amazon Prime: Not a huge week for Amazon, but I have to be selfish here (because I am so detached and objective every other week) and say that Prime Video offers fodder for a podcast episode we're taping this weekend, so I have to give it props.

3) YouTube: What a joy it is to hear a song, mock it, then be able to go to YouTube and rediscover the music video, which is even funnier.  I hate to leave you hanging, but the song/video deserves its own post.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I have another post planned touching on some content one of my new favorite uploaders presented this week, but since I feel I should name at least one specific thing, I'll mention the promo clips for A.K.A. Pablo, Norman Lear's sitcom flop showcasing Paul Rodriguez and a Latino family. It's funny seeing the attempt to link this new family to the Bunkers and the Jeffersons; it's even funnier to see Hector Elizondo's toupee.

4) Hulu: Broadcast TV is coming back after the holiday break, so it's time to remember Hulu is there for us.

5) TuneIn: See #3. I enjoyed various 1980s stations quite a bit this week.

6) Pub-D-Hub: Any week that brings an episode of Richard Diamond is a success, even if the quality is ecch. I also give credit for the addition of 99 River Street (1953), though I really recommend the recent Kino Blu-Ray release with the Eddie Muller commentary!

7) PIX11: back on the charts on the strength of a new Magic Garden section offering Carole and Paula introducing vintage clips from the show. But while I enjoy seeing old news stories about, say, John Wayne's terminal cancer, I'd like to see some more non-bummer material from the PIX news vaults.

8) SeeSo: I had no idea the writer of Blackadder had a new sitcom about William Shakespeare on BBC2 last year, but it's now on SeeSo...and so is Blackadder. This is an intriguing development.

9) HBO: The Young Pope debuted this week, Bill Maher returned, and Sarah Jessica Parker and The Rock won People's Choice Awards for their respective HBO series. No, that last one is not meaningful, but I felt I needed a third item.

10) The CW: I'm all caught up now on my CW "stories," and this spot is mainly in anticipation for the "hatewatching" event of the year: the premiere of Riverdale this week and the (I hope) debut the next day on this Roku channel.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Brooks on Books: Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Since standup comic Jim Gaffigan credits his wife Jeannie as co-author and co-creative director for his whole act as well as this book, I want to credit her, too, so let me put it this way: The Gaffigans are geniuses. "Food," a collection of insights about all things edible, is hilarious. We throw the term LOL out a lot today (at least I do; have the kids moved on to something else?), but it's rare for me to literally laugh out loud while reading a book. Yet I did just that just about every few pages in 'Food." The rest was "merely" really, really funny.

If you've ever seen Jim's standup, some of this will indeed be familiar. The book is not just a regurgitation of his stage material, but it does reference, draw on, and expand on much of it. "Food" is organized as a series of very short chapters with subsections devoted to types of food, local food specialties, shopping for food, ways to consume food...You get the idea. Sprinkled throughout are pictures of members of the Gaffigan family (including their 5 children) eating. They add a pleasant charm to the text, and the captions are often witty.

I could go into a breakdown of everything discussed here, but why bother? It's all funny. Yes, he talks about Hot Pockets. Of course he gives you his take on pizza (he's in favor of it). He explains how he divides the United States into different regions based on their food, like "Mexican Foodland" and "Super Bowl Sunday Foodland" (and even has a nifty map).

His style is extrememly joke heavy but always readable. Even though it seems like every other sentence has a line about his lack of control, it's never repetitive nor forced, and the whole thing sounds like, yep, this is Jim Gaffigan talking to  you. Sometimes there are clever callbacks to previous chapters, an indication that the book is not just a collection of jokes as well as proof that the writing is much more skilled than one might anticipate from such an easily digestible (sorry) humor volume.

In short, if you like Jim Gaffigan, read this. It's a riot.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Instant Gratification Theater: Recommended pop culture documentaries!

Adjust Your Tracking: The Untold Story of the VHS Collector: I saw this amusing documentary at VHS collectors on Shout! Factory TV. It's a compelling look at the subculture. Because the avid VHS fans seem to be horror fans, you get a lot about that genre and not much about others, but the film focuses on the individuals. Check out the dude who built his own mock video store in his basement.

I don't think this movie paints the most flattering picture of these collectors, but I don't think it judges them, either. These folks are really into VHS! I recommend this entertaining documentary, and it is especially watchable if you grew up in the era.

Electric Boogalo: The  Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films: Speaking of growing up in the 1980s! This is a fast-paced look at the outfit that brought us the American Ninja films and other epics and aspired for something like world domination. It's often too fast paced for its own good, but it is loaded with great stories, and I guarantee you will not be bored. One funny thing is that the actual brothers behind Cannon made their own documentary and rushed it out to beat this one to the market. I haven't seen that one, but I do recommend Electric Boogalo. It's available on Netflix.

I saw the following movies on Showtime, which has a weak library of feature films but a strong selection of pop culture documentaries:

All Things Must Pass: Colin Hanks' affectionate look at the rise and fall of Tower Records is not as..I don't know, transcendent as I hoped, but it's very well done. There are strong comments from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, and (of course) Dave Grohl, but it's best hearing from some of the people who actually ran the franchise. Who would have thought we'd all be so nostalgic for stores that sold CDs for 18 bucks a pop?

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon: Excellent at detailing the origins of the magazine and the impact it had on the culture, but it seemed to run out of steam when chronicling the publication's decline. Maybe the participants just didn't have the heart to delve into some of that as much. I still recommend this one, too.

Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall: It's directed by Spike Lee, but don't hold that against it. This is a solid look at the pre-Wacko Jacko years, a reminder of the power the man had as a performer and talent before the tabloid stuff overwhelmed the creative stuff.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Streaming Video Power Rankings: Week 42 (Special Best Weekend of NFL football edition)

Note that you will not find the NFL's Roku channel on this list anytime soon. If the football turns bad or you just aren't that into "Spot the Concussion," you might want to check out some of these streaming video outlets. #HereWeGo

1) Netflix: Back on top after a strong week filled with adds like Alice Through the Looking Glass and--OK, let's pause here. I love to use to keep up on Netflix additions, and I notice each time any high-profile movie appears, it shows up on the site's list of most popular titles. Are people genuinely excited to learn that a movie they know is probably crap is available? Is it just like, "Eh, it's new, might as well watch it"? It goes to show you why people really watch Netflix--not for Cheers reruns like I do.

However, I also saw Cinco, the new Jim Gaffigan standup, and it alone earns Netflix the #1 ranking. The new Lemony Snicket series premieres this weekend, too.

2) Amazon Prime: Amazon Prime: Yep, I'm into season 2 of The Man in the High Castle. Yet I still find time to watch goofy crap like compilations of random 1950s/1960s game show footage. I haven't seen it yet, but Bryan Cranston's Sneaky Pete deserves some attention, too.

3) Hulu: Mere hours after last week's power rankings were released, news broke that Hulu was adding The Golden Girls. Hey, at least someone is still out there adding "vintage" material. I'd like to see more a little older than that, but Hulu just seems to be trying harder these days when it comes to remembering TV existed before 2007.

4) Shout! TV: I penalized Shout! last week for major buffering problems I suffered, and the January update was the usual batch of MST3K, Cavett, and Jerry Lewis, but again: it's all free. I think people are sleeping on this one.

5) NBC: I could be watching Miami Vice on Hulu, but for some odd reason I think I'm watching it here just to spite Hulu for "losing it" for a few days.

6) Pub-D-Hub: Another solid if unspectacular update last week. It's odd that a random Naked City episode was added to the movies section, but, hey, it's still a Naked City episode. And I enjoyed seeing Bing Crosby and Jerry Colonna (but oddly, not Bob Hope) pitching Pepsodent in a vintage commercial.

7) YouTube: Some of my favorite old-school commercial uploaders came through again last week, and I enjoyed some more vintage AWA wrestling as well. I just saw a news story about a mom who built a house for her family using YouTube tutorials as her guide. A HOUSE. I tried to use a YouTube video to change a fuse, and it took me half a day to figure it out.

8) TuneIn: Would be higher, but I hit one of those stretches where somehow I kept hearing songs I hated. Nothing against the late George Michael--well, this pretty much IS against him because it's his song--but I would like to hear songs other than Father Figure when I put on an 80s station. It was cool hearing the Beatles' Ain't She Sweet on an oldies channel, though.
9) Days of Dumont: I didn't watch anything here, and nothing new  happened, but I am not gonna drop this one just yet. I meant to watch it. I'll do better this week.

10) Warner Archive Instant: I give it a bit of a pity ranking because it DID add 40 new titles this weekend. At least, it says it did. For some reason, there is still no Newly Added category, making it hard to tell what is there. Oh, and the titles they highlighted in their news announcement? Many of those were on WAI but have just returned. Why am I ranking them in the top 10 again? If I keep writing, I will probably change my mind. So let's wrap it up. Have a great weekend, and see you on Monday!