Tuesday, October 30, 2007

True Love food is truly unlovable

Set in the midst of a Victorian neighborhood in midtown Sacramento is an unassuming coffee house run by the legendary punk band Seven Seconds’ front man, Kevin Seconds, and his wife Allison. The duo started their business together on J Street in 2001, naming it True Love Coffee. They had live music almost every night, and stayed open late on the weekends in order to serve post-drinking waffles. The business temporarily closed, but they opened the doors to the current location on K Street in November 2006.

A multi-roomed, low-lit atmosphere with red, yellow and purple walls gives the True Love a cozy home vibe. There is outdoor seating in the front and back, complete with heaters for the cooler weather. The tables inside are two-seaters, which add to the coziness of the interior. There are strings of lights draped around various columns to help with the ambiance. This would be a great place to meet for a coffee date.

There are a wide variety of hot drinks to choose from. The normal coffee drinks like white mochas and cappuccinos are just right. You can even get your drink of choice made with soymilk and they taste delicious. They also serve hot teas like blood-orange tea as well as iced tea. The True love knows how to make a good tasting hot drink.

When it comes to food though, the True Love is in poor shape. Among various Panini sandwiches and salads, the menu also includes Tabouli with cucumber, tomatoes and pesto, which there is nothing special about. It tastes vegan, but at least the pesto isn’t too strong. There is also a humus plate with pita bread. The sun-dried humus is flavorful, but only slightly better than what is available at the grocery store. You can get a falafel plate with spicy humus. It is about the same as the falafel from Hana’s Deli on K Street. It is good, but nothing to write home about.

If vegan is not your style then there are also dishes for the cheese-lovers. You could get a plate of nachos, which look like something you would get at the school cafeteria. Canned nacho cheese is smothered over round corn chips and it is topped with sour cream and olives to add color. They offer black beans instead of refried, which helps with the overall lack of flavor, but it is mediocre at best. As Michael Althouse says, “They are competent nachos, but there is nothing special about them.”

They also have a burrito plate that comes with chips and salsa. The same round corn chips are served along side what tastes like Pace brand salsa. The burrito is made with melted cheese and heavy refried beans that taste like they have been cooked just below room temperature in a saucepan for far too long. The burrito is grilled on a Panini grill for some reason, which does not help the flavor, but instead makes it taste stale. Be warned of the burrito plate, it will sit in your stomach for days like a bag of wet sand.

The only good food item at the True Love is the bagels. They serve Noah’s bagels, which are by far the best bagels around.

Overall the True Love is perfect if you want to have a delicious drink while you play checkers or Connect Four with your friends (something available to patrons free of charge), but the food resembles what is served at a bar, mediocre and just part of the menu so that when customers get hungry, they won’t leave to find food somewhere else.

The True Love is at 2315 K Street In Midtown Sacramento. The phone number is (916) 448-LOVE and the web address is myspace.com/truelovesacto. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 11:00 AM – Midnight. Friday and Saturday 11:00 AM– 1:00 AM

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bishop's Pumpkin Farm

Halloween is a tradition that has lasted many generations. The celebration originated as a Pagan holiday by the Celts in Ireland called Samhain and was brought to Northern America in the 19th century by Irish and Scottish immigrants. It is now celebrated around the world with slight adjustments to each region’s culture and religion.

In addition to wearing costumes, trick-or-treating, bobbing for apples, and carving pumpkins, visiting pumpkin farms has become a tradition in the Untied States.

Bishops Pumpkin Farm in Wheatland California is one of those farms. Bishops is just under an hour from Sacramento and well worth the trip. The farm includes all the excitement that a Halloween junky is looking for, and it is family friendly as well.

Bishops has acres of pumpkins ranging from hand-sized to as much as 200 pounds. They specialize in Winter Luxury pumpkins, which are great for pies. The fields are so big that they have included free hayrides to help cart you around, especially if you have to carry a 200 pounder.

They also have a three-acre corn maze complete with a maze challenge that helps you navigate through the field. The stalks are at least eight feet tall so you have no idea where you are, or if you’ve already been at that spot before. If you complete the challenge, you win a prize.

Another adventure at Bishops is Coyote Mountain Mines. Coyote Mountain has a 30-foot and a 50-foot slide and a stream below where you can pan for marbles. This adventure is more exciting for the kids, but if you are young at heart, you will love to plummet 50 feet to the bottom. Plus, you get to keep the marbles that you find!

You can also ride the BPF Railroad while you are there. The train takes you on a tour of the entire farm, including the apple and walnut orchards and right past the horses. The train ride is a great way to relax and rest up after seeing the pig races and the chicken show.

The best part of the trip to Bishops is the food. This year, the farm has built “Pigadeli Square.” Here, you can munch on pizza, corndogs, hamburgers, BBQ tri-tip sandwiches and delicious icecream. Mrs. B.’s Bakery offers baked goods that Martha Stewart would envy. The apple-pumpkin muffin is the mort popular item, but make sure you take home a pumpkin pie. Bishops is the only farm where you can get a from-scratch pie made with pumpkins fresh from the farm.

Bishop’s Pumpkin Farm is open every day at 9 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m. on weekdays, 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is free, but it costs $8 to park on the weekends, and the maze, train, and mountain each cost $3.50. If you plan on participating in all three adventures, then you can get a fun pack for $8.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Future is Here.

Andy Warhol once made a prediction that in the future everyone would have fifteen minutes of fame. The future has arrived in the form of youtube. There are many other streaming video websites on the Internet that follow the same format, some of them are much better, like megavideo or tvlinks, but none have been so pervasive as the google-owned youtube network.

A perfect example of the “ten minutes of fame” theory is the self-directed video by Gary Brolsma lip-syncing to the song, Dragostea din tei by the German band O-Zone. If you type “singing guy” into youtube’s search engine, this video is ranked number one out of 19,000 singing guys. Brolsma’s low-quality, homemade video caught the attention of so many fans that hundreds of parodies have been made in response. It became so popular that a new phrase was coined, the “Numa Numa” dance. Brolsma’s fame prompted him to make a higher quality follow-up video called New Numa.

Amateur directors have received their mark of fame on youtube as well. Millions of songs have been re-imagined by digital camera owners with delusions of grandeur. The Tony award-winning Broadway play, Avenue Q includes the song, “The Internet is for Porn.” This clever song about the “real” use of the Internet has been parodied by a number of directors, but the best one is the World Of Warcraft parody. It comes from a website called warcraftmovies.com, but the youtube version has been added by over 200 fans. It is well done and hilarious to see characters from the video game doing their own Numa Numa dancing to the song.

Celebrities have also had their hands in the proverbial cookie jar of youtube. Will Ferrell, co-creator of the video website funnyordie.com stars in the Adam McKay directed short film called, “The Landlord.” Ferrell had an uncomfortable confrontation with his drunken landlady played by two-year-old baby, Pearl. The original short has since been removed for copyright reasons, but the parodies go on and on. Clark Duke and Michael Sera wrote and stared in the TV shorts series, “ClarkandMichael.com,” a CBS experiment with internet-only show releases. The ten-minute shorts are delicious morsels of comic genius that can all be found on youtube, as well as some post-show revisits and some great stand-up work by the duo.

Before youtube gained so much popularity, you could watch a whole episode of your favorite TV show. You had to watch it in ten-minute increments, but it was worth it to see funny BBC sitcoms that hadn’t made it to the United States in any other way. The latent fame of shows like “The IT Crowd” has since prompted the BBC to make them available on DVD to us.

By far the best reason to visit youtube is the music videos. There is almost no stone unturned when it comes to the millions of bands posted. The live performances are some of the most rare glimpses at bands that you may never see play live. Lipcream is a Japanese hardcore punk band that started in 1983. You can find videos of this band playing live back in the mid to late 80s. Obscure bands can be found on youtube as well, including your friend’s brother’s band that you saw play at the local bar last week. If you just want to watch funny music videos, White and Nerdy by Weird Al Yankovic is a hit. Yacht Rock is a series of shorts that makes fun of easy-listening musicians such as Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald.

Youtube is one of the Internet’s greatest achievements, allowing amateurs and professionals to share the limelight in a vast sea of time-wasting ten-minute clips. So you had better get busy if you want your fifteen minutes of fame (or ten).

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Life of an Outdoorsman is the Life for Me

He stands six feet and two inches tall, has a thick white beard which obscures most of his face, and wears a lucky bear claw around his neck at all times. Tom Stienstra epitomizes the great outdoors, something he has been writing about for more than a quarter of a century. His passion and enthusiasm for wildlife has led to a career as an outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, a job as the host of a TV show, 12 books on outdoor adventuring, and almost 100 awards for his various writings.

Tom loves the outdoors. He spends more time enjoying nature and wildlife than he does actually working. He has hiked more than 25,000 miles and visited almost 100 lakes. He has boated across most of the California coastline and has caught world-record fish. Recently he has averaged 180 adventures per year and has no plans to slow down. His life is nature.

When he was nearly 20 years old, Tom tried out for the Oakland A’s. He had been playing baseball for most of his life. He was really good, but according to the A’s coach, not good enough. His dreams were crushed. Tom became a sports writer for a local newspaper at the time, but something about it wasn’t quite right. He was beginning to feel that he had more passion for baseball than the players did.

“I was covering the Oakland Raiders and, I remember that moment where there were 60,000 fans in need of a hike, and 22 guys out there in need of a rest.”

He didn’t want to be on the sidelines of his writing career anymore. He wanted to take place in the action that he was writing about. He wanted to be a wildlife adventurer, so he quit his job at the paper after the season was over. He grabbed his backpack, his guitar and his dog and hit the road. Soon, he was selling his articles to the San Francisco Examiner, and after a rough road to the top, he finally got his gig. The previous outdoors columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Ed Neal, was retiring and they offered the job to Tom.

“People say, ‘How did you ever create a life like you’ve got?’ And the answer is, I refuse to do anything else.”

He has spent almost every day of his life since then working to capture the majesty of the wildlife experience. His love and devotion to nature, especially in Northern California, shows through with every word he writes. He says that he truly feels that his life is blessed because he gets to spend so much of his time reveling in the outdoors.

“Being in the outdoors is the most humbling thing there is, and to be in the greatness of it, we’re just lucky to be surrounded by it and to take in all the five senses that are out there.”

In 2005, Tom was offered a job as a TV host for San Francisco’s CBS station for his own outdoor adventure show called, The Great Outdoors with Tom Stienstra. The show did so well that it was picked up by other CBS affiliates, including Sacramento’s CW-31, where it faired even better for ratings. In 2007, the show has over 600,00 viewers and plays every week on three different CBS-affiliated channels.

Today, Tom is doing exactly what he wants to do. He lives everyday to the fullest and never takes advantage of his time. He is always planning adventures in order to take in the wildlife, even if it’s just for a few hours.

“Always have a place to go to as a refuge where you can find what I call ‘A power of place’ and all of the other stuff that happens along the way- the fish, the wildlife, the weather-that is the unexpected and what makes it a fortune hunt.”

Monday, October 1, 2007

Technology Has Done it Again

In the early 1970s every single movie theater in Sacramento County employed union projectionists. Now, in 2007, there is one theater left using the union. There are only seven projectionists in Local 50. The Crest Theatre employs them all. Union-paid projectionists are a dying breed, and they will never repopulate the movie industry.

In the early days of the movie theater development, projection work was a trade skill. Projectionists had to know a lot about the mechanics of their work. Film was run on reel-to-reel until the mid 1970s. That meant they had to constantly be ready to transfer film from one reel to another. Every 20 minutes the film had to be switched from one machine to another as the reels ran out. Burn marks in the film signaled the projectionist to switch from machine number one to number two, and if done correctly, it went unnoticed by the viewing audience. After the machine switched over, the projectionist set up the unused machine to run the next reel.

By the early 1980s, movie projector technology progressed, allowing the projectionist to only have to make one change over in a film. Movies were still run on reel-to-reel machines though, and projectionists still had jobs.

Technology became the downfall of the industry as the advent of the automated machine was developed in the mid 1980s. That machine was the death toll for the union projectionist. They no longer had to remain in the booth to watch the film and change the reels. Film was “built” onto a platter big enough to hold the entire film and then automatically sent to the projector. Automated machines were also set up to dim and raise the lighting as well as lift the curtain of the movie screen. This allowed the projectionist to just push a button to start the movie, and then go out for lunch for a few hours.

Major corporations like Century Theaters and United Artists caught on that projectionists’ jobs were less demanding and by the 1990s they took union projectionists off the payroll and hired minimum-wage employees that were trained by the union workers they replaced. Making the profit margin for big businesses grow even wider.

The unfortunate result of losing union projectionists is that film work is no longer treated as an important element of the movie viewing experience. During the union’s heyday, projectionists had to pass a test, proving they were worthy of the trade. They cared about the film, making sure each reel was spliced correctly, and that there were no scratches on the print. Today, moviegoers are subject to dim lighting and scratches on the film, missing seconds in the movie due to poor splicing, and even films that start in the middle because the projectionist didn’t know how to properly build the film onto the platter.

The future of projectionists is even worse. In California there are approximately 100 theaters employing union projectionists, most of them on a part-time basis. Only major metropolises like Los Angeles and New York have any significant numbers among them. As technology continues to progress, all projectionists, not just union-paid ones, will become obsolete.