My Social Standards
Live Up to Your Standards

Reviewed by Danny Walker

My BBQ Standard – Baby Blues BBQ – *New Standard*


Visited: Monday night, 3/10/08 (have also been here several times in the past)

Location: 444 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, CA 90291 (eastside corner of Lincoln and Sunset Ave.)(map)(link)
Phone: 310-396-7675

Small, unpretentious Westside joint brings authentic Southern BBQ in a laid-back environment.

Deeper Insights

Baby Blues offers some of the best variety and quality of Southern BBQ in the greater Los Angeles area. Having been several times, it is consistently good, and I particularly enjoy the Lasker Burger and the Pulled Pork sandwich. If you can handle the heat and want to add some spice to your food, give the XXX hot sauce a try.

Baby Blues is small, which can lead to lengthy waits in peak hours, but the food is worth it. Don’t expect fine dining, but just good food in a relaxed environment full of personable people.

Breakdown

Attitude: Relaxed, unpretentious, down-home Southern mentality.

Bathroom: Tiny bathrooms in the back of the main dining room. You may mistake them for a storage closet.

Condiments: Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, Hot Sauce

Crowd: Wide variety of Westsiders looking to get quality BBQ

Décor: Fits the welcoming vibe – local photography (available for purchase) adorns the white walls, the kitchen counter is tiled blue, and the dinner plates are fun, plastic plates that feature sports teams and movie characters.

Delivery: Yes – call 310-396-7675. Available Sunday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday: Noon to 10 p.m.

Dress: Come as you are. It is BBQ, so probably avoid your Sunday’s best.

Drinks: Sodas are $2.00 and refills are free. Micro-brewed bottled sodas (root beer, cream soda, etc.) are $3.00, as is fresh-brewed iced tea (free refills). Once was BYOB, but they now serve an assortment of beer and wine.

Hours: Sunday: Noon – 10 p.m., Monday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Delivery available an hour inside opening and closing times

Line: No reservations are available. No wait on this evening, but the place is small and space is limited. There can be waits on weeknights of 20 to 30 minutes and longer on weekends around 6 to 8 p.m.

Tip: If you don’t mind the wait, but want to eat right away, you can get take-out.

Music: Classic rock

Order to Service: 15 to 20 minutes

Parking: Street parking or across the street in the Smart & Final lot.

Payment Options: Major credit cards accepted.

People Watching: Mix of ages (though rarely children there in evenings) and looks. This is a BBQ place, not a meat market.

Reservations: None.

Seating: Limited - About a dozen small tables on the dining side, and stools at the kitchen counter.

Service: All of the staff (including waitresses and cooks) are all very friendly, helpful and full of personality.

Smoking: Outside at the front of the restaurant.

Specials: Lunch specials available everyday from Noon to 4 p.m.

Take-Out: Yes.

Water:
Free ice water, refilled after a moderate wait. Bottled water for $2.00.

What I Ate:


Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Sandwich – Classic BBQ-ed pulled pork sandwich served dry on a bun topped with coleslaw. Plenty of BBQ sauce is provided to pour to your taste. The pork is tasty, but you’ll probably need a toothpick or two. $7.50

Lasker Burger (10 oz. prime chuck cooked with bleu cheese, topped with maple bacon, lincolnberry mustard, tomato, and coleslaw): Probably my favorite entree at Baby Blues, as it is always satisfying and brings a unique and great flavor to the typical burger, especially with the bleu cheese cooked into the burger. $8.95

Mac N’ Cheese – This fixin’ is tasty, homemade mac and cheese baked with a little bit of bleu cheese to add extra flavor. 2 Fixins’ come with the order of any of the Platters or ordered separately. $3

Fixins are $3 each or 2 fixins come with each Platter entree. Fixins include mashed potatoes, potato salad, and baked beans, along with more Southern items, such as sautéed okra and collared greens.

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My Idol Standards (Final 10)

Posted In: , , , , , . By My Social Standards

America’s past-time and water-cooler talk in early spring seems to have transformed from Major League Baseball Opening Day and March Madness to American Idol. Of course, that may be because I now work in an office with about 15 women and 3 or 4 guys. It took betting, but a recent office pool (we don’t do NCAA brackets, but American Idol brackets in my office) has drug me into this world and I decided to tackle it head-on. Since it’s my first year, really only two and a half episodes, into my American Idol watching career, My Social Standards thought a chat with Jeff - who is much more in-tune (get it? Yeah, I’m channeling my inner Rocky and Bullwinkle there) with this world - would produce some entertaining thoughts and remarks. This will be the beginning of a weekly insight (in future weeks also including Danny) of the thoughts of a couple guys on America’s most popular reality TV show. This is an actual AIM chat transcript directly copied and pasted (we filled in the names to make it easier to read). Enjoy…

-Steve

Episode Airing: 3/25/08

Steve: u catch american idol tonight?
Jeff: as always
S: there are only 4 with a realistic chance of winning and that Cook guy was actually really good tonight
S: that Billie Jean cover was genius
J: Chris Cornell should get some of the credit for the actual rearrangement, but credit David Cook for choosing it and giving a great performance
S: For real, someone else had already done that?
J: yeah. chris cornell (lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave)
J: seacrest mentioned it, but he was drowned out by the fans
S: I didn't catch that. I thought it kinda had a Stone Temple Pilots sound too
J: definitely 90s alternative rock sound, which is always fine by me
S: Has there always been a couple guys with the more rock sound or is this a new development?
J: Bo Bice was sort of the first rocker a few years ago, but he had a more Southern vibe. There have been several pretenders like Constantine, and then Chris Daughtry has been the most successful of the "Idol rockers"
S: Is this Cook guy better?
S: Do you think he has a legit chance at winning?
S: Or is some teeny bopper going to take it again?
J: i think David Cook should get top 3 at least - he may have more creativity, but daughtry has the awards and platinum records. daughtry came in fourth, which is now considered a mistake
S: who won that year?
J: Taylor Hicks in first, Katharine McPhee second and Elliott Yamin in third. All ahead of Daughtry and the first two were dropped by their labels after one record
S: haha I can't remember, was Hicks a guy or a girl?
J: the gray-haired guy
S: OHHHH he was that 40 year old guy huh?
J: yeah
J: so as an Idol newbie, who do you see having the potential to win it all
S: I see Cook, Archuleta (I think his song choices suck but all the girls love him because he is 12 ), maybe Smithson, but more so Johns after the last two weeks, and that Syesha really has a chance now - between them it's a roll of the dice I guess.
S: I don't know how these things go usually
J: probably some good guesses. Syesha has come on strong after being on the bubble
J: she's got charisma, great voice and is quite pretty
J: only the last of which can be said about your girl Kristy Lee
S: Hot blond country girl is too boring but nice to look at, dreads guy reminds me of a good homeless singer that I should put $.50 in his guitar case, ramiele sounds like a girl at a karaoke bar, Chikeze or however you spell it, is too much like that past winner that flamed out and piano girl (I think Brooke) has no range and is too boring
S: they should save us time and cut those guys now
J: not sure about that. Jason Castro (the lucky recipient of your 50 cents) had the great performance of "Hallelujah"
J: but that was a few weeks back, and he hasn't changed his style whatsoever
S: Didn't see it, so I don't care. I didn't start until the vote off show for the top 12. Also, get a haircut!
J: i agree with that
S: What have you done for me lately?
J: Brooke also has potential, albeit limited. she was a disaster stepping away from her piano last week
S: I think that's why I don't like her. She was so awkward on stage. While a lot of these guys are good singers, only a couple have any stage presence at all and that is what is being seen, not the studio versions first (Britney wouldn't have had a chance had she had to go through this before making ...Baby One More Time and getting to pull the school girl act on MTV before actually performing)
J: Danny thinks she's totally fake, but she's grown on me thanks to "Let It Be" a couple weeks ago
S: Once again, only saw a snippit of that
S: Good song though
J: great song, even if most of the words are "let it be"
J: good point on the performances. on the big stage, you can really look awkward
S: haha, same could be said for a lot of our generation's top songs too...
J: very true. or even some all-time greats like bob dylan
S: But for every song like that Dylan had, he also had a Hurricane (BTW, How else would a white guy ever get away with saying the "n" word on a pop song?)
J: yeah
S: sorry, I'm off track here...back to idol
J: okay, seacrest
S: Hey, none of that...Who are your favorites?
J: david cook is the only person whose album or music i could see myself listening to. i could see enjoying brooke as like an opening act at a small club. syesha could have some likable radio songs. michael johns, who knows? he seems to have star quality, but only shows it on queen songs
S: what other queen song did he do? or just from tonight?
J: Bohemian Rhapsody in the Hollywood round
S: Ahhhh...he's obviously a fan - he's the one from Australia right? - They must be a little behind the times out there
J: probably. he could end up with an INXS-style of music eventually - really driving home the Australian aspect - but just don't think he'll go all the way on Idol
J: who are your favorites, as opposed to likely finalists?
S: Syesha and Cook, but for the most part I look for songs I like and idolist's that don't screw them up. Then I leave my guard down to let one or two an episode sneak up on me and say "Damn, you are good." - brings me to the last question here...who are your bottom 3 and who is going home?
J: Bottom 3 - Ramiele, Chikezie and Kristy Lee. I think the country crowd saves Kristy Lee another week, despite the cheese tonight. Ramiele leaves b/c her song choices never fit and despite the voice, she doesn't seem like a star
S: I agree with Kristy Lee and Ramiele, but I think Smithson. You're right Cook somehow is always the maid of honor, never the bride, and gets to stay, same with Smithson 2nd week in a row, and Ramiele is probably toast. I haven't seen a good performance by her yet.
J: nope
S: We'll see if we're right...until next week, same bat time, same bat channel...
S: Lata
J: That’s a wrap

Let us know what you think. Please leave your comments on our opinions, what you would like us to talk about, and if you think we are complete idiots in the “comments” link below. If we don’t think you’re an idiot, we will value your opinion – honest! Remember American Idol airs on both Tuesday and Wednesday Nights, check your local FOX listing for times if you want to know what we are talking about.


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Music Review – Snoop Dogg – Ego Trippin’

Posted In: , , . By My Social Standards

Reviewed by Steven Frith

Reviewed on 03/24/08

My Rap Music Standard – 2pac – Me Against the World

The aging rapper is, not unexpectedly, nowhere where he used to be, but The Doggfather is still much more listenable then a lot of other current rappers.

Release Date: 3/11/2008

Executive Producer: Snoop Dogg

Other Producers: DJ Quik, The Neptunes, Rick Rock, Everlast, Teddy Riley, and more.

Guest Appearances: Kurupt, Charlie Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Too Short, Pharrell, Everlast, The Gap Band

Review:

Honest Opinion: This CD is good. It’s not great; it’s not bad…just good. I do like that Snoop Dogg is still trying to evolve in his old(er) age and try new things. In his first song, “Sexual Eruption” (the dirty title), he actually sings for a good portion of the song alongside a very catchy beat. It’s one of those love it or hate it songs though, and I’m sure if you’ve heard it, you’ve already made up your mind on that one. By the way, how long is this vocoder (voice box) thing going to last? I liked it in “California Love”(Is that Chris Tucker at the beg. of the video?) back in 1996, but it must be a requirement to make a CD to use one now. Roger Troutman is probably rolling in his grave as we speak!

One of my favorites on the CD is the 2nd song, “Press Play.” Using a sample of “Voyage to Atlantis” by the Isley Brothers, Snoop brings his long-time friend, Kurupt, aboard to rap to a DJ Quik-produced track that brings back some of that same old Snoop Dogg feeling that you can sit back and “chill” too.

The more you listen to this CD, the most you start to think that Snoop is just trying to show you that he has an eclectic taste is music. In “My Medicine, The Doggfather teams with Everlast in a very Johnny Cash inspired country joint (had to throw one joint reference in here, after all this is Snoop). Snoop surprised me by concluding the CD with two, very emotional, somber tracks showing that Snoop has a Sears side (a softer side…if you don’t get it, it used to be the jingle for Sears…and I’m showing my age). In the final song, “Can’t Say Goodbye,” (a track that seems to piggy back “Changes” by 2pac) he talks about fatherhood, and how he has to be different, but how the streets don’t say goodbye. I really don’t like “Why Did You Leave Me,” though, as the beat just doesn’t fit the Snoop D-O-Double G we all grew up to know and love. But then again, a lot of the album doesn’t seem to.

1st Single Representation: “Sexual Eruption” is a fairly good representation of this album, because it is quite a bit different then anything Snoop has put out before. A lot of what is on the CD, while not like that song, is Snoop trying to toy with his production, beats and style.

If You Are Going to Download Three Songs (legally of course), This Is What I Would Download: “Press Play,” “Sexual Eruption” and “Cool.”

Rule of 4: My personal test to buy a CD (that isn’t one of my favorite artists that I’ll be waiting in line to buy the day it’s released) is to take a listen to as much as I can, and if I like 4 or more songs a lot, I’ll buy it. I figure that if I really like 4 there are at least a couple more I will somewhat like and so on. Ego Tripping is about as borderline as you can get to fitting this rule, but just does for me. I really like the first 3 I listed above in downloads (Press Play, Sexual Eruption and Cool) and there are 2 or 3 that are ALMOST to that level, but not there, but I figure if 3 are close enough to the “really like” description, that it is worth it.

Verdict: If you are a Snoop Dogg fan, you should probably pick it up. If you are just a casual Snoop fan that just liked “Gin and Juice,” “What’s My Name” and his other Death Row hits, I would recommend avoiding this and just maybe download a song or two you might like as they become singles and you see if you like them. In an era, where in my opinion, most of the rap sucks, sadly, it is actually one of the better rap CDs to come out in 2008.


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TV Review – Miss Guided (ABC)

Posted In: , , . By My Social Standards

Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Current TV Comedy Standard – “How I Met Your Mother”
My All-Time TV Comedy Standard – “Seinfeld”


Airs: ABC – Thursdays, 8 p.m/7 p.m. Central time and 8:30 p.m./7:30 p.m. Central time
All episodes also viewable at abc.com

A grade-A lead performance cannot overcome an uneven tone and familiar plots that should be sent to detention.

Length: 30 minutes

Genre: Single-camera comedy

Starring: Judy Greer (27 Dresses, 13 Going on 30, “Arrested Development”), Kristoffer Polaha (“North Shore”), Chris Parnell (“Saturday Night Live”), Brooke Burns (“Baywatch”), and Earl Billings (Thank You for Smoking)

Produced By: Ashton Kutcher, Caroline Williams (“The Office”), Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”), Kevin Etten (“Desperate Housewives”)

Synopsis: Quirky high school guidance counselor Becky Freeley returns to her alma mater to give advice to students and vie for the affections of Spanish teacher Tim. She must deal with administrative issues and try to finally outdo former high school cheerleader and current English teacher, Lisa Germain.

Review:

Honest Opinion: She may not be the classic beauty and has been relegated to supporting roles in film, but I have always really liked Judy Greer. She’s cute, quirky and seems like one of those women whose personality really grows on you. In “Miss Guided,” she fits that definition to an extent and enthusiastically throws herself into the role of Becky Freeley. Unfortunately, her character is a bit too pathetic at times, which makes it tough to root for and really care about her.

On the whole, the inconsistent tone is one of the weaker elements of the show. At times, Becky is painfully naïve and unaware, which generates some humor, but at the cost of her character seeming real. Without an anchor to reality and surrounded by wacky characters (Chris Parnell channeling his Dr. Spaceman character from “30 Rock”) who are more amusing than actually funny, the show strains to maintain interest. The writers would be wise to take a page from the aforementioned “30 Rock,” and make Becky more similar to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon character in terms of being smart and relatable, in spite of some geekier quirks and wackier traits.

“Miss Guided” only has four more new episodes airing over the next few weeks. With ABC scheduling back-to-back episodes of the show on Thursday nights, it seems like they are not giving it much of a chance. The show would benefit from being surrounded by new episodes of popular shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” or paired with a similar comedy like “Samantha Who.” Instead, a show that struggles to maintain interest over thirty minutes is forced to do so for a full hour. Overall, “Miss Guided” is amusing, has its moments, and is led by the great Greer, but isn’t funny or endearing enough to inspire any “Save Our Show” campaigns.

Directing: The show employs a “talking to the camera” element similar to “The Office,” but without any justification for it. While it leads to a few funny scenes or humorous revelations, it slows down the pace and seems unnecessary. Similar “Family Guy”-esque cutaways are also very hit or miss and instead of doing anything new, seem to remind you of shows that do and have done it better. Aside from that, the direction is fluid and non-intrusive.

Writing: The writers give Becky some interesting characteristics, but the lack of consistency is annoying. Becky also needs to become more relatable, as only Greer prevents the character from being a shrill, annoying, mess of a woman. There are moments when Becky seems to be a great guidance counselor and self-aware, while other scenes suggest differently. Tim’s Spanish teacher that is struggling to learn the language is funny and becomes more rounded as the series goes along, which is nice.

The plots and characters arcs are all pretty typical. There’s the obligatory will they-won’t they romance, rival from the past that constantly reminds Becky how lame she was in high school, and the charming outsider who threatens Becky’s loyalties to Tim. If anything, the show needs to establish more overarching goals for the characters and the plot. Otherwise, the series can never grow and it seems like Becky is forever hopeless.

Acting: Given the material, the actors all do a pretty solid job. Judy Greer is the standout and carries the show through the inconsistencies of the writing. Brooke Burns will never win an Emmy, but she also isn’t a detriment. Parnell’s vice principal character could be toned down a bit to resist becoming too much of a caricature. Even Mr. Belding wasn’t this over-the-top.

To Quote the Show: “Keena, homecoming is spelled C-O-M.” – Becky Freeley

Verdict: Check it out if you like Never Been Kissed or have nothing else to really watch. It isn’t bad, but not worth Tivo-ing or altering your normal TV-viewing schedule.


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Reviewed by Jeff Walker and Danny Walker

My Casual Dining Standard – Truxton’s American Bistro (Westchester)

Visited: Thursday night (3/20/08)
Locations: 185 Culver Blvd., Playa Del Rey, CA 90293-7659 (between Culver Place and Esplanade St.)(map)(link)

Phone: 310-823-6222  

Other Locations: 2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403 (map)
Phone: 310-449-1171

Solid, but unspectacular burgers cannot overcome a beach vibe that is too laid-back and results in long waits to get your food.

Deeper Insights:

The Shack isn’t as small and rundown as its name implies, but by no means is it a place for gourmet food or a trendy crowd. On the menu are a number of burgers and chicken sandwiches that come with a variety of tasty toppings. At a reasonable price, they are decent for a casual lunch or dinner with friends, but not ideal for your next hot date.

In fact, unless you’re going there for a few drinks (there is a full bar), karaoke or just have a lot of time to kill, you would best go when there is no crowd at all or simply stay away. On a Thursday night with an average-sized crowd, it took almost 30 minutes for diners to get their food. One pair of guys even waited that long for their potato skins.

Once finally getting the burger, it was filling and satisfying (albeit surprisingly lukewarm temperature-wise), but not worth such a long wait. The tiny kitchen could use an expansion, while the employees could use a bit of urgency. The relaxed beach atmosphere seeps its way through every bit of The Shack leaving it as a decent place after a day at the beach, but definitely not a destination spot.

Breakdown:

Attitude: Hang loose, chill out, watch some sports highlights and think about the size of the next day’s waves.

Bathroom: Tiny bathrooms in the back that can be reached by both the restaurant area and the patio. Men’s urinal is practically in the corner of the men’s room, meaning you may get hit by the door. Stall was serviceable, but there was no lock on the door – there is one on the main bathroom door if you want to try that for some privacy.

Condiments: Ketchup, mustard and Tabasco sauce on the tables.

Crowd: Laid-back locals ranging from twenty to fifty, with the occasional college kids.

Décor: Beach vibe – hanging surfboards, wood tables, and promotional posters that adorn the walls. In some ways, it represents its name well as far as feeling smaller and more cramped than it is and not having the sleekest environment.

Dress: Come as you are.

Drinks: Soda and water from dispenser (free refills). Beer and hard alcohol available from the bar. $12 for a pitcher of Newcastle that served a little under 4 pint glasses.

Hours: 11:30 a.m – 1:30 a.m.

Line: At 8:15 p.m. on a Thursday night, there were only two to three people ahead in line, but the wait for food was quite long given the lack of line.

Music: Sports broadcast played softly over the speakers.

Order to Service: 30 minutes to receive food. Sit at a table and wait for name to be called.

Parking: Limited street parking. Parking available in nearby strip mall lot and a hidden lot next to the strip mall.

Payment Options: All major credit cards accepted.

People Watching: Unique crowd of locals that doesn’t provide a great pick-up opportunity unless you’re drunk, older or find a night when more co-eds show up.

Reservations: None.

Seating: A half dozen or so tables in the front seating area with another half dozen (including booths) further back. Seating also available at the bar and along a counter against the wall.

Service: Cashier was friendly, but was also forced to help in the kitchen when they got very behind on the orders. It took the busboy 10 minutes to clear off our table. The staff was unflappable under the face of pressure, but seemed to take much longer cooking the burgers than they should have. A larger kitchen would probably help solve this.

Smoking: Patio on the left upon first entering.

Take-out:
Yes.

TVs: About a dozen TVs visible from the bar and the tables.

Water: Free in dispenser.

What We Ate:

Kelsey Burger (1/4 burger, Swiss cheese, bacon, avocado, BBQ sauce served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and mayo on a sesame seed bun): The burger was supposed to be medium, but came out medium-well and not as warm as desired. Despite the extra crispness, the meat still had a nice flavor to it. The bacon was not as fatty and limp as a lot of places serve it, while the avocado was fresh and decently portioned. The combination of ingredients made for a good burger, but definitely an unmemorable one. $7.25

The Shack Burger (1/4 burger, Louisiana Hot Link on top, served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, and mayo on a sesame seed bun): The signature burger provides a decent meal, but overall uninspired. The hot links are moderately spicey but nothing that most people wouldn’t be able to handle. $6.00

Added French Fries: $1.25 with Burger

Tip: Get $1 off burgers on Tuesday nights.


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Movie Review – Semi-Pro

Posted In: , , . By My Social Standards

Reviewed by Steven Frith

My Comedy Movie Standard – Old School

Viewed on: 2/25 and again on 2/29

Sticking to the formula of “Will Ferrell as ________,” this comedy about the final season of the ABA, while not a classic, is still a comedy that will make you laugh.

Starring: Will Ferrell, Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin (aka Andre 3000 from Outkast), Andy Richter and Maura Tierney

Rating/Length: R / 1 hour 30 minutes

Directed By: Kent Alterman (no major previous direction that I could find)

Written By: Scot Armstrong (Old School, Road Trip, The Heartbreak Kid)

Synopsis: Former one hit wonder musician, Jackie Moon, is the owner, coach, and player of the soon-to-be defunct American Basketball Association’s
Flint (Michigan) Tropics. In order to survive as a team and make the move to the NBA, the Tropics find out midseason that they must escape from last place and finish in the top 4 of the league. Madness and antics (as only a Will Ferrell movie can do) ensue.

Review:

Honest Opinion: Semi-Pro was exactly what I expected - Will Ferrell bringing his offbeat, random comedy back to the 70’s as in Anchorman. But unlike Anchorman (as well as Old School), Semi-Pro fails to live up to the comedy expectations that many now expect of Ferrell. However, I do have to say that this was much better then both Blades of Glory and Kicking and Screaming.

The biggest difference between Anchorman or Old School and Semi-Pro may have been the main supporting cast. Woody Harrelson and Andre 3000 are just not the first guys I would think of to have in a comedy. I’m not saying either did a bad job, but they just didn’t bring the laughs as much as you would like for a movie like this. Other Will Ferrell regulars make appearances throughout the movie, but none have what you would consider a significant part. All that being said, I did laugh my ass off during most of the movie and there are plenty of one-liners for you and your drunk friends to recite.

On a side note, making this movie R-rated probably hurt it in the box-office more than anything. They obviously threw some cussing in there because they could, but (even though I know it can) it didn’t really help the movie this time. The movie would have still been just as funny had they made the movie fit in the PG-13 rating. That way, all the 15 year-old-boys (who Ferrell’s comedy seems to appeal to the most) would be able to see it in theatres without parental permission.

Directing: Directing a comedy shouldn’t be that hard, I (without any experience I will admit) would think that in a movie like this, it is a matter of not screwing it up more than doing a good job. By not screwing up, Alterman did a good enough job to let Will Ferrell do his thing and kept what story there was moving.

Writing: I’ve always wondered how much of Will Ferrell movies are written and how much of it is improvised. There were obviously scenes that were written and Armstrong can make you laugh by himself as well. As far as the story goes, there wasn’t much of one, but it at least kept you interested enough to see what would happen next. No major plot turns to speak of, and nothing overly creative (although I did like what Jackie dreamt for in the final game).

Acting: I thought the acting was fine. I feel like some of the characters (such as Woody Harrelson and most of the basketball team) were miscast. While Harrelson was fantastic as a comedic actor in Kingpin, he just didn’t have “it” in this movie. I don’t know if it was because he’s older, just doesn’t fit in this type of comedy, or what – but he just seemed awkward. Andre 3000 was just okay, but I think he actually would have fit better had someone else been there to play Harrelson’s character. I needed more comedy from one of those two characters. Maybe the casting director was just trying to find guys that could actually play basketball as Woody and Andre 3000 are known to be able to do.

Music: I actually really enjoyed the soundtrack. There were a lot of fun 70’s songs if you like the Earth Wind and Fire, War, and Ohio Player hits. I also really liked and actually downloaded Will Ferrell’s (or should I say Jackie Moon’s) song from the movie. It had a surprisingly catchy beat and is pretty funny, check it out on iTunes.

To Quote the Movie: “In the anals of history, people are going to be talking about three things: the discovery of fire, invention of the submarine, and the Flint, Michigan Mega Bowl.” – Jackie Moon

Verdict: DEPENDS – If you like Will Ferrell movies, it is worth the $10 price of admission. If you didn’t really like any of his old ones, this movie isn’t going to convert you, so go ahead and wait for DVD.


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Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Casual Dining Standard – Truxton’s American Bistro (Westchester)

Visited: Friday afternoon (3/14/08)
Location: 720 Allied Way, El Segundo, CA 90245 (in Edge section of Plaza El Segundo) (map)(link)
Phone: 310-535-0025

Other Location: 4213 Campus Drive, Irvine, CA 92612 (University Center) (map)
Phone: 949-509-0003

A healthy alternative to the typical casual restaurant, The Veggie Grill serves variations of classic sandwiches and entrees that use veggie protein blends that are surprisingly tasty and have you wondering if it’s actually real meat.

Deeper Insights:


If you are looking for any real meat (or Coca-Cola for that matter), don’t even bother coming in here. However, while one would expect an array of vegetables, The Veggie Grill is more like a healthier alternative to a Chili’s or a burger joint. The entrees feature seemingly familiar items such as Carne Asada or Chickin’ Marinara, but use seasoned and marinated veggie protein blends instead of meat. In the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ sandwich, the veggie substitute was startlingly similar to real chicken in terms of looks, taste, and texture. While disarming mentally, the actual sandwich was quite satisfying.

That’s the thing with The Veggie Grill. If you can get over the fact that you’re eating veggie blends that are really similar to real meat, then you’ll enjoy the food. If not, stick with a soup or salad, or go elsewhere.

Even if you want to feel like you ate a healthy meal, you may want to opt for the Whole Foods across the street. The meals at The Veggie Grill are hearty and lack the light, cleansed feeling one gets from a salad or “healthy” food. Entrees may be rich in proteins and minerals and be free of cholesterol, but with some of the food being fried, you still feel like you pigged out a bit.

If you can swallow the idea of veggie substitutes for real meat, The Veggie Grill is a nice lunch option and represents the best of both worlds. You can eat food that tastes better than most vegetarian or health food, without sacrificing all of the health benefits.

Breakdown:

Attitude: The Veggie Grill lacks the pretension one can associate with healthy food, while aiming to satisfy and fill you with natural, wholesome food.

Bathroom: The men’s bathroom is large, modern (unique sink in particular), and very clean. It serves one at a time and has a urinal, toilet, and a working lock.

Condiments: Unless provided with your meal (as stated in the menu), condiments (including organic ketchup) are only available to the left of the drink dispensers. None are on the tables themselves.

Crowd: Diverse mix of men and women (singles and couples) ranging from teens to people in their 40s.

Décor: Clean white space accented by bright reds, oranges, and greens.

Dress: Come as you are.

Drinks: Only dispensed drinks are water and teas. Bottled natural sodas and organic beer, wine and coffee are available.

Hours: 11 a.m – 10 p.m.

Line: On a Friday afternoon, only one person was ahead in line. Moves quickly – order, pay, and wait for your food.
Tip: Take-out is available by calling 310-535-0025.

Music: Noticeable, but not intrusive pop-rock that ranged from Bad Company to Five for Fighting to Miami Sound Machine to Smashmouth.

Order to Service: 5 to 7 minutes to receive food. Sit at a table with a number and then your food is brought to you.

Parking: Plenty of free parking in the shopping center.

Payment Options: All major credit cards accepted.

People Watching: Don’t expect to find a hot date, but you may find a new yoga partner.

Seating: About 25 small tables scattered throughout the place and tightly packed together. Also, are another ten or so tables outside on the patio.

Service: Workers were helpful, friendly, and seemed ready to answer any questions. None of the silver or plateware is plastic, so all plates are cleared by the workers.

Smoking: Outside only.

Water: Free self-serve water in a large cup. Lemons are available.

What I Ate:

Santa Fe Crispy Chickin’ Sandwich (Crispy fried chillin’ chickin’, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, southwestern spiced vegan mayo served on a wheat bun): The veggie protein blend looked and tasted like real chicken. It was almost like a gourmet McChicken sandwich without the actual chicken. I’m an avocado aficionado, so more would have been nice, but the sandwich still tasted good thanks to the southwestern vegan mayo that provided some mild kick. $8.95



Sweetheart Fries (Sweet potato fries, with chipotle ranch): Fries were piled high and were more than enough to fill me up. They had a subtle sweet taste that provided nice flavor and no blandness. The chipotle ranch was excellent for dipping both the fries and the sandwich. $1.95 (normally $3.95, but substituted for side of slaw with entrée)


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Reviewed by Steven Frith

My Ultra Lounge Standard – The Park (Sacramento)

Visited: Saturday Night (2/23/08)
Location: 908 15th St. Sacramento, CA 95814 (map)(link)

The owners of Cabana Nightclub and Ink Eats and Drinks combine to offer a unique and satisfying upscale experience in a space barely large enough for a “hole in the wall” bar.

Deeper Insights:

First of all, I must commend Dream for making good use of the space and never allowing in enough people where it felt over-crowded. That is saying a lot considering the small amount of inhabitable space for the patrons. Actually having elbowroom (huh - I never knew elbowroom was just one word, no dash or anything…anyways) and an opportunity to have a conversation was a breath of fresh air (no pun intended). That combined with the colored lights, couches, art, widescreen HD LCD TVs playing sports highlights, friendly staff, and fireplace somehow combined a quaint “Cheers: everybody knows your name” bar with the plush modern lounges that are so popular today.

A major drawback of Dream (because of its small size) is the fact that there is no dance floor. People seemed to make due with the space that would most mirror a dance floor, but it only marginally worked. It was a shame too because the DJ really seemed to captivate the crowd with a lot of short snippets of popular songs from the 70s to today. The combination of the desire to dance and alcohol led to a lot of people dancing wherever they saw fit, but nearby tables and people standing and talking amongst the dancers seem to be an accident waiting to happen.

Overall, I really enjoyed myself. As one of the newer nightspots in Sacramento, Dream offers a nice change of scenery from the few other “ultra-lounge” spots such as The Park. Although, those looking to get really far away from The Park are out of luck as the clientele and prices are very similar (that and Dream is only 3 blocks away).

Breakdown:

Attire: Normal club wear. Guys: Jeans (not overly baggy), dress shoes, polo shirt/collared shirt, no hats, etc. Girls: Dream is nice enough where you can take advantage of the opportunity to dress up in a dress or at least some kind of nice top with jeans.

Attitude: Since it is brand new, I still think it is trying to develop one. It’s a place that they want you to come to eat after work and enjoy happy hour, but also a place where they want you to come for a night on the town.

Bar/Bartenders: One reversed “L” shaped bar stretched most of the length of this small establishment. There were approximately three bartenders with a bar-back. All of them were friendly and made good drinks – female staff left little to the imagination. Only a minute or two wait on drinks.


Bathrooms: Had to go through the narrow aisle-way all the way to the back to use the restroom. The men’s room contained one closeable stall and one urinal, which actually seemed sufficient considering the size of the bar. At least they plugged speakers in the bathroom so you could still hear the music.

Bathroom Attendant: No (updated 3/14/08): No for men, but unconfirmed reports from two woman say that they think there was one recently on a Friday night.

Bottle Service: Yes, there were VIP booths that could be reserved, couches that could be reserved and a back VIP area. The waitresses were more then happy to assist you in taking out a loan for bottle service.

Cover: I was actually on the guest list for a birthday, but I believe it was $10. (Updated on 3/14/08, Thanks Heather!) If you join Dream's MySpace page, then you can usually be added to the guest list for free entry before 10pm.

Crowd: For the most part, the crowd looked to all be young executives, suburban twenty-somethings and midtowners. The guy to girl ratio was actually fairly even, but this was assisted by two bachelorette parties that were there. BTW – what’s with the crown and penis straws?

Dance Floor: Wherever you wanted it to be…if you could find room. There was no “dance floor” but a lot of people were making the area in front of the DJ booth one anyway. (added 3/14/08, Heather with the scoop for us) - Apparently, a new room is opening in about a month that will include a dance floor.

Décor: Upscale (for Sacramento) lounge with very modern white furniture. Lights that changed hues throughout the night and a fireplace that separated the outdoor area with inside added to the appeal.

Drinks: They were good drinks, but rather pricy. Even the wells were premium I believe. $6-7 a drink.

Food: While I didn’t get there early enough to consume any of the “eats” (I’m not going to say “American Nosh” as Dream’s website states because I had no idea what that was until I googled it) that form the restaurant part of the establishment, I hear they are very good. The unique cuisine includes items such as Lobster Melts, Buffalo Burgers, and Crispy Duck Rolls.

Hours: Restaurant from 4:30 – 10 p.m. where they serve “American Nosh” which from what I can gather is glorified finger-food appetizers. Happy Hour goes from 4:30-7:30. From 10 p.m. to “bar time 2 a.m.” (or 1:15 for your average watch) is lounge hours.



Line: Not too much of a problem. I got there at 9:45 and walked right in. The wait didn’t seem to be any longer then 5-10 minutes until 11:15 or so when Dream reached capacity. At that point, the wait time increased significantly.

Music: The DJ took a trip down a mid-twentysomething’s memory lane. It was 20-30 second clips of choruses from many popular songs from the last 30 years or so mixing into each other. Everything was played from rock, rap, R&B, country, old school, and classic rock.

Parking: No direct lot. Street parking is free after 6 if you can find it, if not there is a nearby garage you can pay to park in. (added 3/14/08, again, thanks Heather) There is also valet parking available on some nights.
TIPS:

1) Keep in mind that Dream is located across the street from the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium, so if an event is going on, that could affect your parking.
2) Don’t quote me on this, but from my experiences, if you are going for Happy Hour, the meter maids downtown stop checking at around 4 pm, so you should be okay if you don’t feed the meter. Use this at your own discretion; if you get a ticket, I’m not paying for it.

People Watching: Lots of good-looking people of both genders dressed well for the most part. Some girls were wearing clothes that may have been a tad small for their body type, but nothing overly offensive.

Seating: Three different tiers of VIP’s. We had couches that night which were right next to the makeshift dance floor although seating was very limited even on those. There are also booths and a larger VIP room.

Smoking: This is California, nothing allowed inside, but the patio outside is where smokers seemed to congregate.

Water (free): Yes


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NightSpot Review - Pure (Las Vegas)

Posted In: , , , . By My Social Standards


Reviewed by Jeff and Danny Walker

My Club Standard – Tryst (Las Vegas)

Last visited: Saturday night (1/20/08)
Visited half dozen times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays over past two years
Location: 3570 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89109 (inside Caesars Palace)(map)(link)
Phone: 702-731-7873

Once the crown jewel of the Vegas club scene, Pure still attracts celebrities and generates a good time, but has lost some luster due to an increase in crowds and less than stellar clientele.

Deeper Insights:

With a large venue, world-class DJs and tons of beautiful people, Pure quickly elevated itself as the club standard. However, over several visits in the last year, the club has become overrun by too many people.

Similar to sibling LAX, the crowd outside the VIP entrance resembles a large mob as the club’s opening time approaches. If you get there early enough (9:15 pm to be safe), it’s almost preferable to wait in the general admission line where you can at least enjoy the dances of the Pussycat Dolls in the gaming area.

Once inside, on the rectangular-shaped, main dance floor, you’ll find yourself lucky to avoid errant elbows and spilled drinks, while still managing to bust a move. The dance floor isn’t small, but it just cannot accommodate the masses. The rooftop patio provides fresh air and a spectacular view of the Strip, but free space to dance to techno is at a premium there as well.

While the Red Room is VIP only, one can pay an additional cover (usually $5-10) to get into the Pussycat Dolls Lounge. Revelers here can get their blood pumping dancing to 80s and rock music, and by peeping at gorgeous dancers giving burlesque shows. The room tends to fill up fast, so if you miss out, you can still sneak a quick peek through the glass walls that line the stairwell leading to the rooftop patio.

If you can find some room to roam in the main room, Pure’s pleasures become more apparent. Depending on the DJ (guest DJ Samantha Ronson was fantastic), the music can keep you dancing all night and the eye candy is solid for both men and women. Unfortunately, a recent influx of “creepers” will have the ladies seeking safe haven in the club’s many VIP areas. If you’re one of the select few, you can enjoy the raised VIP section that overlooks the dance floor. Celebrities ranging from Usher, UFC champ Rampage Jackson to Lance Bass scope out the scene and can even make you a few dollars if the weather calls for a “rain shower”.

Pure may have lost some of the hype it once possessed, but all is not lost. The club feels luxurious and is well-designed, but they simply need to limit the capacity without restricting access to the normal, non-VIPs. Allowing clubgoers room to dance, get a drink and meet someone new would go a long way to reestablishing Pure as one of the top nightspots in Vegas.

Breakdown:

Attitude: Where the elite meet, but the normal folk can still get in.

Bartenders: Four bars total (one in main room, one abuts Pussycat Doll Lounge, one in the VIP Red Room and the last one on the rooftop patio) and about 2 tenders per bar. Bartenders can be slow and the large crowds do not help. Female bartenders are attractive, while the guys are rather average.

Tip: Bypass the mass of people at the downstairs bars and get your drink on the rooftop patio. Things move a bit faster and the Strip view is stunning.

Bathrooms: Left of the main dance floor and also on the rooftop patio. Lines are long, but move steadily.

Bathroom Attendant: Yes

Bottle service: Bottle service is available with table reservations. VIP booths in main room, VIP red room and on the rooftop patio (cabanas available as well).

Cover: $30 for males, $20 for females. Free entry for hotel guests with room keys. “VIP” cards accepted at discretion of bouncers. Entry to the Pussycat Dolls Lounge is usually $10, but not worth the extra fee. Holiday weekends kick the guy's cover up to $40.

Crowd: Predominantly mid-20’s and 30’s. 55/45 guys to girls ratio.


Dance Floor: Located in the center of the main room surrounded by VIP areas. Gets crowded very quickly and only two entrances onto it. Small oval dance floor on rooftop patio.

cor: A clean white appearance with flowing curtains and plush couches. Even the Red Room has a vibe that reflects the club’s name.

DJs: Resident DJs include DJ AM, Grandmaster Flash and DJ Hollywood

Dress: Typical Vegas club style – ranges from men in nice jeans and button-down shirts to suit jackets and ties. Women wear sexy club attire – jeans and clubby tops to slinky cocktail dresses.

Drinks: Good size and strong pour, but $10 to $12 for your typical drink. $8 for a bottle of VOSS water.

Hours: Tuesdays and Fridays through Sundays – listed opening is 10 pm, but tends to open closer to 10:30 pm. Open until 4 am.



Line: General admission line starts between 9:15 and 9:30 pm next to the Elton John store. Officially opens at 10 pm, but actually moves at 10:30 pm. VIP/Bottle Service has separate line/cluster and are admitted closer to 10 pm. Separate line for girls only. Guys, get there early and wait in line or suffer waits of an hour or two.
Tip: Head to the club around 9:15 pm to check the status of the line and guarantee quick entry. Gamble nearby, enjoy the Pussycat Dolls show and bring a case of beer to ease the wait.

Music: Can vary depending on the DJ, but typically the usual – hip-hop, pop, top 40.

Parking: Free parking and valet at Caesars Palace.

People Watching: For the most part, attractive, high quality men and women with some celebs and a growing number of creepy guys.

Seating: Only available with bottle service.

Smoking: Smoking allowed on rooftop patio.

Water (free): No - $8 Voss Water is available


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Reviewed by Jeff Walker

My Bar Standard – Busby’s (Santa Monica)
My Club Standard – Tryst (Las Vegas)

Visited: Saturday night (2/9/2008)
Location: 5364 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036 (map)(link)

Lacks the charm of its Santa Monica sibling, but offers a more club-like experience and at a smaller cost than the usual Hollywood hotspots.

Deeper Insights:

Busby’s East will never be the Hollywood “it club” that attracts young starlets and mentions in US Weekly. However, it does provide a nice middle ground for those who want to dance and have a good time amongst attractive, friendly twentysomethings, without having to worry about strict bouncers, steep covers and $15 drinks.

Busby’s East combines a sports bar, hip lounge and large dance club into one tri-level package (with each on its own floor), which is appealing for groups of friends with varied interests. There is even a pool table and some games on the second floor.

The only downside to Busby’s East is that it lacks a distinct identity. It isn’t as quaint and charming as its smaller sibling on the Westside, nor is there the “must-see” aspect possessed by other nightspots in the area. The line (guys should arrive no later than 10:30 pm) and cover ($10) can seem a little much for this bar/club hybrid, but there are still plenty of good times to be had.

The Breakdown:

Attire: Collared shirts, designer tees, nice jeans, dress shoes for the guys – no shorts, hats or athletic wear.

Attitude: More approachable than Hollywood clubs, but still a meet up/hook up mentality.

Bar/Bartenders: 1 bar on each of the three levels. 3-4 bartenders for each bar. Mix of guys and girls. 3-5 minute wait on drinks.

Bathrooms: Bathrooms on second floor. Men’s bathroom has two stalls (with locks) and four urinals. Urinals have no dividers and are against the wall.

Bathroom Attendant: Yes

Bottle Service: Yes

Cover: $10

Crowd: Lots of people, but the layout helps separate them. Second floor lounge gets very crowded, extending the wait for drinks TIP: Avoid the long wait and go to the third floor bar instead. 55/45 guys to girls ratio.


Dance Floor: Large dance floor on the top floor that can fit hundreds of people.

Décor: Redefined, upscale sports bar with blue hues and flat-screens lining the walls.

Drinks: $7 for well drinks. Strong pours.

Extras: Pool table and a few games secluded in the back corner of the second floor.

Hours: 9 am – 2 am. Dancing starts at 10 pm.

Line: Get there close to 10 pm – 30 people were in line at 11 pm and the line moves slowly, especially for guys.

Music: The usual - hip-hop with brief stretches of popular Old School, rock and techno. Electronic and ambient techno music in the second floor lounge.

Parking: Limited valet (full at 10:45 pm). Street parking. Small $4 lot by Bank of America.

People Watching: Lots of attractive, personable young Hollywood (junior execs and assistants) types. Few creepers.

Seating: Two elevated VIP sections by the main dance floor. Lounge seating (ottomans, couches) on the second level.

Smoking: Small smoker’s section on the second level.

Water (Free): Yes

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