Monday, March 30, 2009

Revisiting an Old Mistress (Poker) Part 1

Upon arriving at the Grand Casino Coushatta I promptly withdrew $300 which was my set amount of withdrawal for the casino weekend. I wasn't going to lose anymore than that. Immediately $220 was going to the poker tourney.


Upon entering the poker room a flood of memories hit me. I used to be a poker player and a damn good one.

The Early Years
Poker started getting really big in early 2003. The World Poker Tour came on tv and everyone was watching it. Everyone wanted to play Texas Hold 'em. Including my friends. I never really liked the idea of gambling, but it seemed that if I could work hard early I could get the head start and begin winning money. I remember the first book I read was How to Win at Poker from the Clear Lake Library. In hindsight it wasn't a very good book and I never returned it (I still have it to this day). I tried to implement some of the principles, but really to no avail. Throughout the spring my wins were modest. Anytime you adjust a strategy in poker you are going to win less until you learn the strategy and pick up steam. My next book was by Phil Helmuth. The book went into the lessons of conservative hands to play. The best lesson I got from the Helmuth book was categorizing players into types. If you can understand the attitude of a particular player you can guess how he will respond in certain situations and get his money. I started playing Helmuth's hands which had the highest odds of winning, and meant that I had less room for error. It worked well. I begin to be "in the money" more than half of the time and starting picking up money here and there.

Late Spring I started playing outside my group of friends and would play with anyone that I knew through at least 3 degrees of separation. Most of these people were even worse at playing poker. I would win very often at this point and decided that this was my new job while I was in college. Early summer I read the book that would make not just a good player, but a great player "Hold 'Em Poker" by David Sklansky. Sklansky went into how to win even if you didn't have the cards. So I didn't just need good hands anymore. If I learned to play players and play position I could win without even having the best hand. This was exciting. This more aggressive strategy took me about 3 months to really get a handle on and thus I had moderate success. Sticking with it though really improved my game.

Sklansky got me doing something else too. I started keeping a poker chart of my winnings. I sadly don't have the original, just the one I kept at the very end of my career:
You may not be able to read it, but it had the following: Buy in, Hours, Earnings, Total Earnings, Hourly Rate, Average Hourly, % of Buy In Won, and Average % of Buy In One. Over the course of my "career" I averaged $10 an hour and won between 4000-6000.

I went back to A&M in August of 2003 with a mindset of playing poker on and around campus. I lived in one of the freshman dorms named Dunn Hall:
Harold Dunn Hall @ A&M Pictures, Images and Photos

My roomate occasionally played poker with a few of his friends who came up to Aggieland as well. They also lived in Dunn Hall. I organized and we played our first tournament in early September. As we would play people would walk by and ask if they could play next week. The tournament started growing and growing. After awhile there were at least 40 players every week. I kept track of all the money and entrusted certain players to deal at each table. This ensured that no one could shark the deal. I soon became in charge of the largest on campus tournament at Texas A&M. People started seeing me on campus and coming up to talk to me about the game. In the poker circle I was one of the most respected players. This gave me alot of ins to alot of games around town. The largest tourney we had was a 40 man tournament with buy backs. We ended up having 6-10 buy backs. I remember winning that tournament and calling Matt because I had just pocketed around $500 in about 3 hours.

My roomate was considered the best player out of his group of friends. It was weird because he never seemed that good and showed alot of poor habits, but apparently he won ALOT. He had invited me to play with some guys at an apartment off campus. I went to the apartment and started what would be a six man tournament. Slowly guys starting going out until it was my roomate and me left. We took turns dealing. I remember making a huge read and folding a very good hand to him. I can't recall what the hand was, but the people watching were shocked that I made the play. I finally ended up winning on my deal when I hit trips to his two pair. Now it normally would have been insignificant except for the fact that I was approached by his friends a month later. Apparently, my roomate had been down decking himself for several years and gotten so drunk one night that they were able to catch him. He was never allowed to play poker with the community again and missed out on a lot of action. I was excited though. To think that I beat someone in a heads up match that was cheating every other hand. Man things were starting to click and I knew that soon I was going to be making a whole lot more money.

To be continued...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tour De Houston

*Note Included pictures are from the tour de houston website*

Gearing up for the race I was worried since I hadn't rode since the Gator Ride 2009 a couple of weeks before. This event is significantly larger (5000 compared to 2000) and upon entering Discovery Park it was very evident. There were masses of people everywhere. That said the flow of traffic was very good and it was easy to get to the food stations and various tents for goodies. (More so then the Rodeo Run) They released the 70 milers first followed by the 40 milers (my group) and then the (20 milers).


Starting was awkward and I almost got in a couple of wrecks as people tried to get launched. They release you in groups of about 100 so and thus you are constantly starting and stopping. Add to the fact that people are trying to move up in groups and there are alot of accidents happening all around you.

Overall the scenery was much better then the Gator Ride. We were taken through the neighborhoods surrounding minute maid, and got some great views of downtown. Unfortunately, getting up at 6am was not condusive to remembering my camera and thus I don't have any pictures.

Rice University in Houston Pictures, Images and Photos
My favorite areas were Rice Village and the Heights. Rice village is very genteel and everything has an air of sophistication, but the influence of student life makes it less pompous then what you would expect. The museum district is within walking distance and this provides a community of well to dos with a love for art. We passed alot of awesomely designed houses with some great yard sculptures.

Heights area-growing value Pictures, Images and Photos
The Heights is just classic old town sophistication and has alot of artistic influence. The crowd here is much younger and a little more hip (very Austin-like though not on the same scale). I love going to all the novelty and art stores in the area and almost all of my art I got from one place or the other in the Heights.

We skipped the first rest stop as it seemed the most crowded and just went straight to the second stop located near a YMCA. The rest stops were actually very efficient given the large amount of people that were serviced. It was very easy to do what you had to do. I think part of this was the fact that we were ahead of the pack so it may have been worse for others. I know as we were leaving the restroom lines were getting long, but not unmanageable. We got in and out relatively easy and headed on our way.

My only cons for the ride was that at times things got really really congested. There were several times where the road bottlenecked into a very small bike lane. This made it very hard to make turns and avoid others. Also you had to stop for quite a few lights on the ride, and while the police officers did a great job on what intersections they were located at; it was annoying and at times dangerous to be involved in heavier traffic.

The road conditions were ocassionally very bad as well. The crew did a good job of trying to identify hazardous area, but I still saw a number of wrecks. I must commend the race organizers for doing a great job at responding to accident scenes. I never saw a wreck without a ride marshall present and they had alot of gear to help at the scene. I felt terrible as one lady had literally fallen on her face and was cut up very badly.

The ride finished where it started and getting food was not a problem at all. Race volunteers did a good job of asking people not to sit down or place gear near the tents. Everyone got a sandwich from Antone's along with chips and cookies. Various energy bars and goodies were also available at neigboring tents.

Overall, I would say that I enjoyed my experience and I would definitely consider doing it again. It's hard to say if I liked this more than the Gator Ride or not. I think they both offer different things. Tour de Houston is much larger and has way better scenery and atmosphere. The Gator Run is smaller and the road conditions and crowds are much more manageable. I think if your focus is on the experience then the Tour De Houston is for you. If you are gearing up for the MS150 or just looking for a quick good ride then I would suggest the Gator run.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Smokin' Sunday #5- Bijan Persian

Bijan's is another restaurant located on Hillcroft. The area is very heavily influenced by Middle Eastern and Arab natives. Thus most of the good restaurants for this type of cuisine are over here.

Bijan is one that we found online and decided to try based on reviews. The restaurant sign is very noticeable compared to most of the restaurants in the area. It has a more professional look to it. Upon sitting down we are given fresh pita bread along with a plate containing fresh onion, parsley, radish, and mint.

The bread is extremely good and I would probably go so far as to say the best pita bread I have ever had. It comes off hot and is made in house. The bread is a solid 8.5 and is all you can eat.

We decided to go with the standard of all middle eastern restaurants and try the hummus. It couldn't have been anything else as David is on this massive hummus kick and eats it at every opportunity.

The hummus had a very thick texture and the tahini was very noticeable in the flavor. The only problem was aside from chick peas and tahini there wasn't much else going on. Generally in good hummus you will see either lemon juice/zest, garlic, etc. This didn't really have much flavor. It was ok and a solid 6, but we've had better at most restaurants we've been too.

As always I decide to be adventuresome and try a drink known as doogh. The description given by the waiter is that it is a yogurt drink with mint and very salty. I can tell by his face that he doesn't think I will like it. He is right. This is the worst drink I have ever had in my life. Think semi curdled milk with green floating in it. I tried a sip and could not get myself to really drink much more. I can't rate this because I don't know if it was made well or not but I would NEVER EVER order this again.

We go with waiter recommendations and David orders the Bijan special skewer of chicken and beef chenjeh with sour cherry, cranberry, almond, and pistachio rice.
His rice is excellent in the combination of flavors is very refreshing and palatable. I really enjoyed the rice tremendously and could have eaten a whole bowl of it. His chicken kabob was a little on the dry side, but had excellent flavoring and is probably the best spiced kabob I have had. The beef I didn't really get to try. I give his dish a 6.5 though the rice was excellent.

I ordered the Chennjah Sotani skewer of lamb and the skewer of beef kubideh. The lamb was extremely good and I could have eaten 5 or 6 kabobs. I was extremely impressed with how flavorful and tender the meat was. The beef kubideh was essentially very finely ground beef. It tasted basically like eating hamburger and I wasn't super excited about it. It also didn't have the spice that the other two did. I give my dish a 7 overall.

We asked if they had any good desserts and the waiter suggested 'walnut cake'. It's really carrot cake. See the little carrot on our actual slice. It was terrible, not fresh and not very appetizing. There were no walnuts either, it was pecans. The dessert was very bad and you could get a better slice from a premade cake at Walmart I give it a 4.

This is a pick your poison sort of place. If you enjoy nice scenery the porch is a great place to just relax on a Sunday. You can also get a hookah and smoke it as well if you so desire. If you like kabobs and want a light meal then this is somewhere you should try. If you are looking for value and/or good hummus then I suggest you go somewhere else.

Ambiance: Great porch area, relaxing and has a nice fountain 7
Food: The lamb kabob is extremely good and the bread is to die for 6.5

Overall: 6.5 (Just not a great value at the end of the day)

Bijan Persian Grill
5922 Hillcroft St
Houston, TX 77036
(832) 242-5959

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Smokin' Sunday #4 Addisaba

Seeing as we had hit most of the continents I decided that we must find a place that served African food. Compared to Asian, Mexican and South American, African cuisine is very underrepresented in the Houston area.

Addisaba is located just off the corner of Bellaire and Fondren (an area most known for its Asian cuisine). The restaurant sits inside a shopping mall and looks very plain. To be honest, upon seeing the outside we didn't have very high hopes for the food.

Upon entering the room is very modestly decorated and the small dining room opens up to a very large club like area. The curtain was almost fully closed and the lights were all off so we didn't get a good look at the club. The restaurant was filled with native Ethiopians and I believe that we were the only group speaking English. I was now excited, because I have discovered that generally when you go to an establishment occupied by locals of that country the food is very authentic.

We sit down and realize that the table includes napkins, but not silverware. We are going to be eating with our hands. This is awesome. The waitress was a very cute Ethiopian woman who spoke very poor English, but smiled alot. The menus were suprisingly well done and explained each dish extremely well. Our roomate Gary had accompanied us and so we decided to order different meats and try some of each. David had chicken, Gary ordered beef, and I was planning on ordering lamb. I asked the waitress which one was better and she urged me to get a particular beef dish. I agreed since she promised it would be spicy and it's probably that area of my pallet I am working most on right now.

Prior to our food arriving we are given what looks like a giant plate with a salad on top. Upon further inspections it's actually a giant soft sourdough like bread. When eating Ethiopian food you place pieces of meat (served family style) onto a spot on your bread plate and eat it. This novel concept alone made the dining experience worth trying as I have never done anything remotely close to this.

The dishes we ordered are as follows:

David- Ye'doro Wet- spiced curry butter, onion, garlic, and boiled eggs

Gary- Yes'ga alicha- beef chunk, mild curry laced in Ethiopian spices, potatoes, vegetables

Kevin- Awaze Tibs- beef cubes, awaze sauce, onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger

All of these dishes were very stew like in that the meat appeared to have been cooked in the relative sauces. This leads the meat to be extremely tender and also inherit alot of the flavor in the dish.

David's dish was almost Indian like in nature. The curry had a eastern spice to it and the flavor danced on your tongue. It reminded alot of Indian cuisine without the yogurt flavor mixed in with the curry. It was the smallest of the entrees and so I only had a little bit. His sauce had the texture of a curry paste. It was a decent dish overall and I give it a 7.

Gary's dish reminded me of roast. Though the spices and flavor made it unique. The dish had a very mild sweetness that brought out the flavor of the vegetables very nicely. It was very hearty and at the same time felt very healthy. His sauce was very gravy like. I gave his dish a 7.5.

I liked my dish the best and I think most people at the table did as well. The onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger were stewed with the dish for an extremely long time. The dish wasn't near as spicy as advertised, but had enough to lend some flavor. The sauce was made from the juice of the meat as well as the tomato juice and allowed to cook for a long time. The flavors were melded together nicely and the food was hearty and at the same time felt light. I would order this dish again in a second. I give it an 8.

If culinary adventure is one of your hobbies or something that you enjoy doing then eat here. You are in for a dining experience unlike one you have ever had before. The food is relatively "safe" in terms of flavors, but the presentation and atmosphere is something that lends itself to adventure. I wouldn't bring a date here that you are trying to impress as the decor is severely lacking and definitely not set to impress. If the girl though loves trying new things (one of my musts with any date) then take her here and have fun.

Addisabba Ethiopian Restaurant
7668 De Moss Dr
Houston, TX‎
(713) 995-0333‎

Ambiance: Almost non existent 5
Food: Very good and native approved 7.5
Value: Excellent 8.5

Cost: $$
Overall: 8 (uniqueness is worth at least a point)

10 things

I try and do something new every month and see how it improves my life. Last month was giving up video games and the month before that I gave up alcohol. I haven't done my write up on video games. In a nutshell, it made me do something else which left me more active, and increased my creativity for activity.

My new activity for the month is identifying 10 things every weekday I am thankful for. This makes me aware of my abundance and leaves me in a state of thankfullness everyday. We go through life often and don't realize all the things we have been blessed with. When we see what we have and appreciate it we make room for more. If you are feeling down or in a slump give it a try. You'll be suprised at what you find. O ya and no repeats!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Review: The Lemon Tree

I was excited about going to the Lemon Tree. Peruvian restaurants aren’t your run of the mill fare in the Houston area. The menu seemed unique and just daring enough to try. We would definitely be scoping it out.

The ambiance of the restaurant is nothing special. The walls are minimally decorated and the tables are standard. The lightning is nicely done.
There was a musician playing which is always fun and made the atmosphere bubbly and cheery. I had a good time. Though I'm not so sure about the "When the Saints Go Marching In" cover. He rocked out though... respect.

The first thing you have to mention about the Lemon Tree is the unique beverages they offer. Several beverages from Peru are available and so David and I set out to each try one. I chose the Inca Kola and David chose Purple Corn Drink. Houston what you know about Purple Drank!

Inca Kola tastes alot like Cream Soda Dum Dums or Big red without the bite. It's VERY sweet. I love Cream Soda and so I sipped it enjoyingly throughout the meal.

Purple Corn Drink to me tasted like carbonated barbecue sauce or a really watered down weird tasting cranberry drink. Not good at all. If you head over to Lemon Tree don't try it.

Upon sitting down we were greeted with chips and salsa. I was disappointed that the chips resembled the cheap bagged chips you get at the store, but after trying the salsa I see why they use them. The salsa is literally hands down the best sauce I have ever paired with tortilla chips. It is creamy and yet light with a hint of avocado and perhaps parsley, and then has a great kick to it after a few seconds of placing it in your mouth. We quickly went through two baskets. I have to rate the salsa a 9 because I have never had better and I have MANY salsas in my day.

After having the chips we went with waiter recommendations for entrees and chose the Ceviche Mixto and Lomo Saltado (medium rare).
For those of you unfamiliar with ceviche it's a dish consisting of raw or very lightly cooked seafood with fresh vegetables (most often corn, onions, tomatoes, etc.) and marinated in lime or lemon juice. Think light seafood salad. Here is Lemon Trees description of my exact dish:
Raw fish, shrimp, mussles and calamari with onions, cooked with lemon juice and served with corn and sweet potato.
The ceviche came out and was well put together, but the spice and flavor profile just was not complex enough for me (which is disappointing because the sauce is so spicy and so flavorful). The lemon took over the dish and the parsley was there, but the spice was all but missing. The seafood was really fresh and really good quality which I appreciated. The corn was fresh and seemed to have come right off the cob. Overall, it was a good dish and I give it a 6.5 for being well done but not memorable.

David ordered the Loma Saltado. Here is the restaurants description:
Pieces of Tenderloin sauteed with onions and tomatoes, served with fries and white rice.
There are few things that in my opinion are a culinary sin and shouldn't be allowed. One of those is advertising a certain cut of meat and presenting something completely different.
Folks, here's the beef. Tenderloin is located at the top of the cow and is the meat that goes along the backbone and is extremely tender, rare and one of the most expensive cuts of meat you can buy. Skirt steak is gathered from the flank of the cow and is one of the cheapest cuts of meat in the butchers repertoire.

Why am I pointing this out? Because our "tenderloin" was inside skirt steak. I could tell not only by the meat composition and look, but also by the fact that it was brined to make tender and sliced rather thinly (which you have to do with skirt steak in order to make it tender). You would not use these techniques with tenderloin EVER. On top of all that it was cooked medium well. I did like how the fries were set under the meat and allowed to soak in some of the sauce and juice. The sauce though overall was lacking and had no flavor complexity. I give this dish a 3 for promising a $15+ per pound cut of tenderloin and replacing it with $5 per pound cut of inside skirt steak. I would NEVER EVER order this dish.

In hopes of saving the meal we ordered dessert. We went with the traditional Tres Leches and a dessert made with Lucuma:
Whoops. Forgot to take pics so let me go over each in detail. They were that good.

The tres leches was excellent and probably the best or second best tres leches I have ever had. It was sweet, but not too sweet and presented beautifully (again my bad for not taking pics). The cake was towered by two chocolate sticks over the dessert and chocolate sauce beautifully decorated the plate. An A+ presentation and A+ taste. I give this dessert a 9.

The Lumuna cake in style and look very much resembled a meringue pie and had a cinnamon biscotti sticking out the top of it. It had a fresh sweet taste and the crust had a hint of cinnamon and crumbled in your mouth to reveal sparks of sweet sugar. It was presented just as beautifully as the tres leches. An A+ presentation and an A for taste. I give this dessert an 8.5.

The beginning and end of the meal were excellent and got me excited about the entrees. Unfortunately one of the entrees was extremely poor. If you decide to grab entrees (and I must admit some of the other dishes looked excellent) then go with the seafood as it seems to be the focus of the restaurant.

The Lemon Tree is bring your own booze and my suggestion: grab a bottle of wine surprise a date and go for dessert while listening to the music. You'll both have a blast.

Price: $$$
Overall Rating: 6 out of 10
Ambiance: Modestly minimal

The Lemon Tree
12591 Whittington Dr
Houston TX 77077

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Smokin' Sunday #3- George's Pastaria and Devine

Once you do something three times it becomes a tradition and deserves a moniker. Therefore, today became the third and yet technically first Smokin' Sunday. As we like to say smokin' sunday is the best day. What does it entail? Going to a new restaurant, smokin' hookah, and watching a new movie.

So today we started out going over to Dairy Ashford to try out the Lemon Tree looking for some good south american food. Unfortunately, they closed at 4. So we went with plan B and used the beamer to come up with an alternative. That led us to George's Pastaria and Devine.



The thing I love about independent restaurants is that they are completely unique and very often you get to hear the story of how they got started (from the website):

After graduating from high school in Pawling, a small, upstate New York town, George Reed came to Texas to attend Baylor University. After graduation in 1981, George moved to Houston. His six year quest for delicious Italian food that reminded him of the numerous small Italian restaurants of his childhood gave him the desire to open his own restaurant.

George and Rene' founded George's in November of 1987 endeavoring to serve plentiful and delicious Italian food at moderate prices. For over seventeen years now we have "piled it high and sold it cheap".

Dave Devine grew up in California and moved to Houston in 1983. After arriving in Houston, Dave met George and they became good friends. Dave has over 20 years experience in the restaurant business. Throughout the years, Dave has taken numerous trips to Italy exploring their great wine tours and fabulous cuisines.


Upon sitting down you are greeted by a plate of hot of the press garlic bread. It's straight of the oven and you get as much as you want. We decided to get two dishes and an appetizer and split it between us.


The calamari was excellent and I can honestly say that I have had it better at only two places in my life. The breading was light and the meat wasn't overly fried leaving it crisp. The marinara sauce accompanying the calamari was excellent consisting of fresh tomatoes, basil, oregano, a little garlic, and small chunks of meat. Really well balanced and delicious.


My entree of choice was the Seafood Maximo. It is described as such:
Fresh shrimp, scallops with mushrooms and scallions in a white wine butter garlic sauce, served over imported angel hair pasta.

I will tell you that often white wine butter sauces are too heavy. The purpose of the wine is to counteract the heavyness of the butter and smooth out the sauce. This is rarely done well (generally the white wine isn't allowed to reduce and the sauce to meld well or the butter can burn and become too nutty in flavor) The sauce was made extremely well and didn't overpower the dish at all letting the seafood do it's thing.

David had the Rigatone Campagnolo described as such: Imported penne' pasta with mild Italian sausage and peppers in a tomato-ricotta sauce, garnished with goat cheese and fresh basil.

Goat cheese is such a great flavor and really added value to the dish. At times the Green Bell Pepper could be overpowering, but the sausage was really delicious in the meal and it all melded together nicely. Often these dishes are really buttery and this wasn't the case here at all. The sauce had been handmade and really allowed to simmer and meld together. You could tell this wasn't an out of the can sauce (see Olive Garden). I was very impressed at the quality.

We both had a Peroni with the meal which is an excellent Italian Beer that I highly recommend. It has a great flavor and depth to it. Overall I would recommend this restaurant. It's a little pricey, but the food is very well made and the owners are present giving it a certain homeliness. This place has alot of regulars and makes the place really fun to be around.

Cost: $$$ (3 out of 5)
Taste: 7 out of 10
Ambiance: Family style restaurant open kitchen

If you want to check it out:
George's Pastaria and Devine
722 S. Dairy Ashford Houston TX, 77077
Phone: (281) 558-1717

2009 Gator Run

See pictures here

Headed into the ride I was definitely nervous. I didn't get to ride last weekend and I was signed up for the 62 miler. My dad asked to drop down to the 42 mile route because the wind was supposed to be above 20mph (for those of you who haven't cycled it gets very difficult to ride into a wind that strong). I was more than relieved that we were dropping down.

Upon arrival the hustle and bustle of all the riders was exciting. You had some really serious riders that were part of teams waiting to take the ride together counteracted by some families and even one guy carry his dog on the front of his bike. It was really funny when he rode, the small dog would stick his head out of the mini duffle bag and let his ears flop in the wind.

The organizers staggered the start to give everyone space and I was in the second group. This would be a futile endeavor though as a train would soon hold everyone in front of us up. As I'm riding along a girl looks over at me and says my name. At first I'm sure it must be how hot I look in biker tights (think Lord of the Dance but totally macho). But alas, it's a girl that works on my client. We chat for awhile and she soon leaves me in her wake as we head up the bridge that never seemed to end. Going up it was a beast and I wish I had a picture. The down slope was awesome and I achieved a top speed of 28mph. This was within the first 10 miles or so which is brutal because it just devastates your legs from the get go and you still have 30+ miles left.

It didn't seem that long until we were at the first rest stop. The rest stop was run by a local church and everyone was extremely friendly. They handed out PBJ, bananas, gatorade, water, and cookies to anyone that needed some. I ate my first kashi bar and then we headed into the line for the ferry. The ferry ride was cool because you have one or two cars and 300 cyclists on a tiny boat. Looking over the bay was quite a site and for some reason I always love the smell of salt water.

The scenery was mediocre at first as cutting in and out of the chemical plants made you wonder if you were in fact giving yourself some sort of horrid cancer just by being there. Once things opened up to fields it was a good ride. People would wave to us from their porches and little kids would laugh and clap when you waved to them as you passed by. I wore my dad's A&M jersey and plenty of people said gig 'em and gave me the thumbs up as I passed by.

I pulled apart from my dad heading into the third stop. I waited... and waited... and waited some more wondering why he wasn't coming in. Eventually after 20 minutes or so I assumed he had skipped the last rest stop in order to beat me to the finish. I pushed out the remaining 8 miles and got to the finish line. Now I started to worry... he wasn't THAT far behind. I decided to take my chances and see if he made it to the car. No dice.

I have no other option, but to wait as my cell phone is stuck in his car. After another 20 or 30 minutes he eventually comes around the corner. He had gotten a flat and had to change out his tube. I now felt really bad because I had essentially abandoned him. He wasn't upset though and for the most part seemed to enjoy the adventure.

Overall being my first ride it was fairly decent. My dad said that alot of the other rides were way more organized and put together. I can see that. Apparently the sag wagons were not able to carry bikers and thus my dad had to change his tire using a CO2 cartridge and wait to blow up his tire at the rest stop. I'm thinking of doing the Tour de Houston next. So after that race I'll have something to compare the Gator Run to.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen a Review

***Note that I will indicate at what point this article becomes a spoiler. Here is a preview of the plotline for those who have not seen it (no spoilers)***
Non Graphic Novel Readers: 7 out of 10
Graphic Novel Readers: 6 out of 10

It’s now 1985 and Nixon has been elected to a 5th term. The Vietnam War still lingers on everyone’s mind and tensions between Russia and the US are at an all time high. During the last 40 years ordinary men have stepped up as masked vigilantes in an effort to protect the common man. Since the Keene Act of 1977 essentially banned these vigilantes, the age of the superhero is now seemingly over as most have retired and even a few have revealed their identities. One of these masked heroes (the comedian) has recently been murdered. Are masked heroes being hunted?
The Review (no spoilers until indicated)

I think that the individual who has not read the book will probably enjoy the movie. Overall it’s well done, and different enough to be enjoyable. That said at times it’s cartoony, but overall carries the plot well. If you liked V for Vendetta, or 300, or Sin City, then you will like this movie. In my opinion the acting of the main characters is spot on. The way the characters talk, carry themselves, etc is just how you would imagine while reading the graphic novel. The movie was shot extremely well and often times I thought “Wow they handled that part from the book extremely well.” When looking at the movie independently apart from the book I think it’s definitely one of the better movies adapted from a comic book/graphic novel (Though if you are expecting the next Superman/Spiderman you would be severely disappointed).

I’m going to comment from the perspective of one who has read the book, because that is what I did prior to watching the movie and it gives the best basis for where the movie was lacking. As a reader I was appalled originally after the ending plot alteration, but see why the director did it and after 12 hours to sit on it realize that the change wasn’t too terrible.

The Good:
Most of what I feel was right about the movie I noted above. I thought the overall attitude and demeanor of the characters was captured extremely well. Each one acted as I felt that they would on a film screen. The only character done poorly was Richard Nixon (thankfully he isn’t a large part of the movie). Think of an over the top comedic persona of Nixon. This was the character to a “T”. The weight of the situation (seemingly impending nuclear war) gets lost because we can’t help, but laugh at the ridiculousness of the character.
Another great thing done by the director was the homage to the reader of the series. Many little items and set pieces were maintained from the graphic novel even though they weren’t fully explained in the movie (Keene Act Riots, knot tops, the paperman and comic book reader, Hollis Mason’s book, Hollis Mason’s trophy, the maintenance sign, etc.). You felt inside the book at times and much of the great dialogue was maintained. For the most part scenes that were taken out were done so tactfully and didn’t leave me upset (save instance noted below). The special effects were excellent and done even better than I would have imagined. Archie, Jon’s abilities/look, Mars castle, Rorschach, and the explosion were all done extremely well. I don’t think that it could have been done better.

The Bad:
The character depth was poorly done and I think the biggest tragedy from novel to screenplay. The GREAT thing about this book and the reason why it landed on Time Magazine’s top 100 list is the constant battle within the characters to define justice, what’s right and wrong, and see how the pursuit of their motives or the vision of the world through their flaws creates a marred sense of reality. The movie set to identify heroes and villians without leaving us with the muddied Moore masterpiece of perceived right and wrong through each character’s eyes. The Rorschach scene early in the graphic novel where he is gleaning information from the city’s underbelly is a great moment for seeing the animalistic Utilitarianism that defines the character. In the book, we see that his moral compass is essentially really a compass that points towards vengeance and retribution and almost feel sorry for his view of the world, because deep down he can never be happy and never find true peace. We also in this moment learn why the population at large fears him. He has no rules just objectives. Constantly on a search for “justice”. The other big let down character wise was that of Adrian Viedt. We don’t see his public perception or realize just how deep his influence is. It’s merely mentioned, and the strong value and respect given him by the public and the “heroes” is not conveyed well. His personality is one of constant self improvement and achieving the best for himself, society and those around him. He is an idol and hero to the general populace. Viedt comes off in the film as a smart dork with some money who goes a little crazy.
The next biggest let down semi-related to the above is several of the interrelationships that occur through the movie. Most notably the triangle between Jon ‘Dr. Manhattan’, Mrs. Jupiter, and the Nite Owl. In the novel, the relationship of Jon and Laurie0 is much more developed. We see a man perfect in every way except completely devoid of emotion. He can literally give Laurie everything she wants and yet ultimately he can give her nothing, for all she wants is love that feeling of vulnerability that two people share. Dreiberg is her outlet to humanity. She literally falls into him because she hasn’t known true intimate contact with anyone in the last twenty years. Dreiberg is emotionally relevant and understanding and for that she loves him, and yet she leaves him to go with Jon because in every other way Dreiberg is lacking and Jon can save the world. Great interaction that I felt was ‘watered down’ to the point of obscurity and lust.
Obviously the straying of Viedt’s ultimate plot from the “monster from outer space” to Dr. Manhattan will piss off a lot of purist Watchmen fans. I feel that the greatest disappointment from the change is the great interplay between Viedt and Jon in the novel. In the novel, we see that Jon (an ultimate representation of logic) is the first supporter of Viedt’s plot. Jon understands Veidt and almost respects Veidt as surpassing his humanity for the greater good. Jon leaves the planet because his one connection (and his shred of humanity) no longer exists as Laurie has now fallen in love with Dreiberg.

As I said before, if you like this genre of movie you will love this film. It’s a great film on its own and deals with some great surface level conflict leaving the viewer to ultimately think about their place in the world. If you are a fan of the book you will find the movie adequate and overall impressive, but feel that the film lost some of the magic and greatness of Moore’s graphic novel (though is that not always the case).