grandson: Hype Music For Your Next Protest

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War. Racism. Gun Violence. Police Brutality. The Drug Epidemic. If you were looking for a record to score the fight at your next family gathering - look no further. No hot topic is left uncovered and they’re all backed by searing guitar riffs, crushing beats, and poignant lyrics. Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together (or cross your arms) for grandson.

grandson is Jordan Edward Benjamin, a Jersey-born-Toronto-raised musician making music tackling the topics you were too afraid to address on social media without fear of being disinvited to Thanksgiving dinner. He’s relatively new on the scene and has recently signed with Fueled by Ramen. If his debut EP is any indication, he is definitely an artist you’ll want to keep on your radar.

A Modern Tragedy - Vol. 1, dropped earlier this year and it is filled from front to back with fist pumping anthems. Blood//Water is the first single from the album and is the perfect example of grandson’s blend of rock, hip hop, blues, and political message. If you’re looking to dip your toes in grandson, start here.

“Thoughts and Prayers” explores the tragedy of gun violence and is accompanied by an even more tragic video that displays a map of the United States lit up by an ever growing number of school shootings. It’s heavy stuff.

If you decide to head further down the grandson rabbit hole you’ll no doubt find more songs to get your head bobbing and, more importantly, get you thinking.

A Modern Tragedy - Vol. 1 can be found on iTunes as well as Google Play and Spotify.

Posted on September 24, 2018 .

Serial: A Return To Form

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After over two years Serial is back and, in one episode, seems better than ever. With a change in formula season three now focuses on "one courthouse week by week" differing from the previous seasons which covered one case week by week. 

The first season which famously covered the murder of Hae Min Lee and the conviction of Adnan Syed was captivating, causing listeners to speculate on whether or not Syed was indeed the killer or just another victim of the murder. The podcast not only made amateur detectives of everyone listening but also promoted a new trial of Adnan set for 2019. It set the standard that so many podcasts strive for when covering true crime.

Unfortunately the second season, for me at least, left a lot to be desired with an in-depth investigation into the Bowe Bergdahl case. Perhaps it was the large scale of the case that was off-putting since the majority of America had dismissed Bergdahl as a soldier who just abandoned his post or maybe it was just too ambitious to cover a case that was already so big. Either way, season two lacked the intrigue found in the first season.  

In the interim, Serial teamed up with This American Life to produce S-Town. A podcast that, though wasn't a trial, grabbed the attention of the listener the same way season one did AND had all episodes streaming from day one. With S-Town's popularity it proved that going into a story blind was far more enjoyable than trying to change the minds that had already been fed with countless hours of coverage on a big news story.

Season three of Serial hits the ground running covering individual felony court cases out of Cleveland, Ohio. Instead of sitting on one case over a season we will be treated to multiple cases over the span of the next few months and I could not be happier.  

Serial: Season Three: Episode One AND Two are available by clicking HERE or going to wherever it is that you get your podcasts! 

ENJOY! 

Posted on September 20, 2018 and filed under Podcasts We Listen To.

Jack Ryan Analysis

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It seems like just yesterday John Krasinski was selling paper and falling in love with the secretary at Dunder-Mifflin. Now he’s Jack Ryan and he can’t seem to keep his shirt on for some reason. I finished watching Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan series last week. I was supposed to immediately follow that up with a review for Reservoir Geeks, but I couldn’t. After watching the new series I felt the need to go back and look in to all the movies that came before it. I’ve always been a fan of the character and I’ve even tried to force myself to read some of Tom Clancy’s dictionary-sized novels. I did not think that I could correctly honor the character of Jack Ryan-CIA Analyst without providing some analysis about the rest of his incarnations.

I started my trip down memory lane by watching the Harrison Ford led Jack Ryan films: Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and of course Air Force One (I’ll fight you if you say that’s not just an unauthorized “Jack Ryan is the president” movie). To this point I believe Ford’s portrayal of Ryan most closely resembles the character in the book. He’s a humble but confident and capable analyst who is tack sharp and regretfully gets sent out into the field. Unfortunately, the stories in both Ford’s films are nothing to rave about. In fact, I just watched both films this weekend and I couldn’t tell you the difference between the two. They are both decent films, but nothing special.

Next I tried to watch The Sum of All Fears. The keyword here is tried. I don’t think that this is a particularly bad film but it’s not particularly good either. There are Nazi’s and Russians, Ben Affleck tries his hardest, Morgan Freeman is there, and so is James Cromwell. I really can’t say much, I kept drifting off while trying to finish it and I eventually gave up. I think this was most of America’s reaction to Ben Affleck’s swing at Ryan. Maybe Ben just isn’t good at portraying “franchise” characters. He always does well when he plays an original character that he can mold but give him a character that’s already developed and he’s just a bucket of yuck. (i.e. Batman, Jack Ryan, Daredevil)

Did you know Kenneth Branagh tried to reboot the Jack Ryan series in 2014 with Chris Pine as the lead? I did, I think…. but I also didn’t….did I?. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was one of those films that looks like it could have been a big blockbuster with Kevin Costner, Chris Pine, and Keira Knightley. However, Shadow Recruit was given ho-hum reviews by film critics and fans alike. Fans of the books said Branagh tried to make the Jack Ryan character into too much of an action star. They may have a point, the poster is Chris Pine walking away from an explosion with a gun in his hand. I don’t know if that screams analyst.

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I saved what I knew to be the best film, for last. The Hunt for Red October is both the first Jack Ryan book and his first film. If you can manage to suspend disbelief for 2 hours while listening to a supposed Russian submarine Captain with a thick Scottish accent (it’s ok because it’s Sean Connery and he’s awesome) then this is THE Jack Ryan film to watch. The story is exciting, filled with twists and action. Some of my favorite character actors Sam Neill and Tim Curry have absolutely pivotal roles. Sean Connery plays a Russian Captain with map of the sea in his broken heart. He just wants to leave the memories of his dead wife behind him so he defects to the U.S. There’s good character development and subtle backstory for almost every character that needs it. This is also a master class of pacing, it does not feel like a 2hr 15min movie. There’s only one real problem I have with this film and I feel like I might need to ask for forgiveness for this one. I can’t stand Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. I don’t remember feeling this way the first time I watched the movie way back when but I really find him to be just the most obnoxious person in the room at all times. He seems smarmy. At one point I couldn’t help but roll my eyes when he’s crawling through the submarine talking to himself like he’s John McClane , which makes sense being that Die Hard and Hunt shared the same director. But Alec Baldwin is not Bruce Willis and Jack Ryan is not John McClane. Alas, if that’s the worst thing about this film then it’s really not all that bad though, is it?

With all that out of the way now I feel as if I can give you my opinion of this new Amazon Prime series Jack Ryan. Unfortunately, my aversion to posters showing CIA analysts walking about from explosions with a gun in their hand is triggered right off the bat with this version, but it doesn’t matter.

It’s good.

I mean it, it’s not just good compared to the other versions. It’s just good, it might even be great. The story is exciting, all the cast seem to be made for their parts. John Krasinski is surprisingly (to me, at least) perfect as the titular character. He’s smart, confident but not cocky, and definitely burdened with the cost of not making the right decisions. The is the perfect Jack Ryan. The character adapts to television like it was meant to be there from the beginning. Giving Ryan hours to develop his theories and plot his plan to fight the enemy is the perfect way to accurately portray his character. The first series is built on gradual moments of clarity for Ryan in which you can watch him take in all the information that is happening and then think (or talk) through the situation to get the solution to the problems that lay in front of him. Maybe the best example of this is (Spoilers! But not really Spoilers! I’ll say Spoilers over when I’m done) his time spent interrogating a couple of men in an American Military camp. While one prisoner is literally being tortured Ryan decided to share a meal with the other to get information from him. (Spoilers over! sorry?). Amazon’s analysts told them to renew this show for a second season before the show had even streamed the first season and they were right. I give Hunt for Red October a pass on the Scottish Russian captain because the story was great and Sean F’n Connery. I also give Jack Ryan a pass on the gun-toting, explosion-walking CIA analyst poster because of a great story and John F’n Krasinski.

Watch it.

Make & Bake

One of the only genres of reality TV that I can get behind is the creative competition show. You know… Project Runway, Forged in Fire, RuPaul’s Drag Race, etc. While I try to tune out any drama that may arise (it is reality TV, after all), I’m so in awe of watching talented individuals create something, anything, under time, budget, or competitive constraints. Heck, throw away all the constraints and I'd just watch creative process videos for days.

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One of my favorite shows in this genre is The Great British Baking Show and a new (slightly different) season just dropped on Netflix. I also just finished checking out NBC’s new Making It, which feels like a distant, crafty relative of all the British bakers I love, so I thought I’d give a rundown of each show. Not that it’s a competition.

Hosts

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GBBS: This season, both Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, who have hosted the series from the beginning, were replaced. Bummer. But not a total bummer because the new hosts are the wonderfully wacky Noel Fielding and the surprisingly emotional Sandi Toksvig. Their silliness is kept to a demure and distinctly British level and they really feel like a support system and friendly face for the contestants.

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Making It: Aside from being crafty, the main reason I wanted to watch Making It was for the hosts. Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman walk the contestants through each week’s challenges and it’s obvious the two are good friends in real life. In this situation, Nick is the arts & crafts aficionado and Amy is the not-creatively-inclined-but-arts-appreciative sidekick. I was a little off-put by how over-the-top the side segments were, though. There was no subtlety to their gags and puns and it felt like it was taking time away from the main focus of the show.

Judges

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GBBS: The newest season of The Great British Baking Show sees Paul Hollywood back, but not veteran Mary Berry. I was a bit worried about the new hosting dynamics, but I actually really enjoyed Berry's colorful replacement, Prue Leith. Both Hollywood and Leith gave honest and humble praise when earned and constructive and helpful criticism when necessary. With the exception of the technical challenges, the judges roam the room, observe the contestants, and ask insightful questions to make the most informed decisions in the final judging. And more than any other season, I believe, contestants emotionally accept the coveted Paul Hollywood Handshake.

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aking It: The judges for Making It are Dayna Isom Johnson and Simon Doonan. Both have legitimate crafting cred: Johnson is Etsy’s Trend Expert and Doonan is a Barneys NY Creative Ambassador. Unlike GBBS, the judges for Making It appear only after the first challenge and then interact with the contestants for the second challenge before revealing the winner for the week. Like GBBS, they offered thoughtful criticisms and praise, but the interactions felt a bit bland. I didn’t ever really feel like they were totally wowed, except maybe on the last episode.

Facilities

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GBBS: All the baking goes down in a tent on the grounds of an English estate. While picturesque, the outside weather often affects the outcomes of the bakes: chocolate melts, custard oozes, and bakers drip.

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Making It: Contestants craft in a chic, modern barn in the woods. While most stayed inside to complete their challenges, a few contestants popped outside to work in a bigger space or make use of the power tools.

Challenges

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GBBS: The Great British Baking Show consists of three challenges: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper. Contestants are able to plan and practice for the signature bakes and show-stoppers, but the technical challenge is like a pop quiz on a subject of which you have no knowledge. It’s intense.

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Making It: Making It features two challenges: a faster craft and a master craft. The faster craft is done in just a few short hours and the master craft in, what seems like, a day. While GBBS contestants must rely solely on their own knowledge and skills, there are assistants helping the makers construct and assemble their master craft projects.

Prizes

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GBBS: Each episode, a Star Baker is chosen and, in the end, the winner is given a crystal cake stand trophy. And maybe some flowers.

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Making It: Each of the two challenges per episode has a winner, who receives a patch. In the end, $100,000 is awarded to the winning Master Crafter, though the hosts are quick to emphasize that it’s not about the money… it’s about a job done well.

They’re pretty similar, right? In structure, anyway. Amy even references the GBBS at one point in Making It. I had high hopes for Making It as a craft enthusiast myself, but, if it wasn’t obvious, my love runs deep for the British. To me, the camaraderie and relationships among the bakers is, no pun intended, more sweet than that of the makers. The series also really showcases the nuances of baking and it bothered me how little Making It actually showed of, well, making stuff. It felt very rushed and like so much more was being crafted behind-the-scenes. I was very pleased with the winner of Making It this season and would watch again if they come back with more, but I’d probably tune in after my GBBS fix.

Posted on September 9, 2018 and filed under TV Reviews.

So, I had a Colonoscopy!

This all started about a month ago. I went for a regularly schedule blood donation. Part of the donation process is they check your hematocrit level. Basically, they see if you have enough red blood cells per volume of blood. I failed my screening. The tech doing the test didn't seem concerned so I figured nothing to worry about. She said come back in a couple days and it should have come back up. Two days later, I started my day with a big breakfast and went to donate. I failed my blood test again. This time it was lower. This time she seemed concerned. On the way home I called my doctor and he had me come in for some tests and an exam. He did a physical, took some blood and took an oral history. Well, part of my history is I have been dealing with IBS-D for over a year now. Its been going on so long and I otherwise felt healthy so I just started living with it. My Doctor however thought that is a big red flag and should have come in much, much sooner. I'm sure he is right, but by this point, it was easy to deal with. Even before he had the results of the blood work back, he suggested I see a Gastroenterologist and start taking iron supplements to get my levels back up. There was a concern I had a bleed in my stomach or colon. I took the list of recommended doctors and picked a close one with good reviews. 

At the GI Doc, he reviewed the blood work and took another oral history. Thankfully, my hematocrit had come back up and everything else looked normal on the blood screening so that was a great sign. During my conversation with the Doctor, I mentioned I am a frequent blood donor. I go every 8 weeks like clockwork. Donating blood is easy, painless and is something you can do to help the community as a whole. Well, turns out, even donating at a safe interval, it can cause you to become anemic. Basically, you deplete your iron faster than you can build it back up and at some point, there isn't enough to make new blood so your red count goes down. Looks like I am a victim of doing too much of a good thing.

But...I still have IBS-D. Its still something that needs to be dealt with. The Doctor suggested we do an Esophagogastroduodenoscopy and Colonoscopy. Big words sound scary, but in reality, its just  putting a camera in both ends to take a look at the plumbing.

I know more than a few people that have had such a procedure and knew the part to fear is the prep, not the actual exam. Think about it, if they are going in to look at the plumbing, you need the pipes to be as clear as possible. That means flushing your entire GI tract. I am here to walk you though that process, let you know what to expect and give a few tips to make the process easier. 

A key part of that flush is you need to be on a liquid diet for 24 hours prior to the procedure. This is the part I was fearing the most. I absolutely hate feeling hungry. I am always thinking 2 meals ahead. I was sure this would be the worst part... I was wrong...

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This is a 3 step process.

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Step 1: The directions given say the day before the procedure, have a liquid breakfast, followed by a full bottle of magnesium citrate. So, I made a cup of beef broth and sipped it while staring down that clear bottle of Drano for humans. What magnesium citrate is is magnesium salts flavored with artificial lemon flavor. Think salty Lemon Pledge. My poor stomach did not like this stuff one bit. I tried to lay on the couch and watch some TV, but the churning going on within was like a tempest looking for an escape. The bottle says expect a movement in 30 minutes to 6 hours. Like clockwork, at the 30 minute mark, the event had officially begun. Im going to save you the horror of the play-by-play, but I will give you some tips. Get the best toilet paper money can buy. Spare no expense. Wet wipes. Get them. The medicated kind. Go ahead and get yourself a tube of diaper cream. I didn't do this, but knew I should. I was tempted to venture out and get some, but the thought of being away from my sacred bathroom sent chills down my spine. Now, this is the biggest, #1 tip I can give you. If you take one thing away from this it needs to be this. Do not, and I mean do NOT, eat spicy food for upwards of a week before the flush. That's all I will say about that. You are all smart enough to know why this is good advice.

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Step 2: At lunch I am to mix a full 238 gram bottle of Miralax with a half gallon of the clear beverage of my choice. I chose lemon-aid Crystal Light. I have had Miralax before, its not bad plain, but a half gallon of it is no joke. You will need to flavor it, chill it and drink it over ice. Oh, and you have to drink it all in the span of 2 hours. At this stage in the game, you might as well bring that laptop to the bathroom and pull up Netflix. You aren't going anywhere for quite awhile. You may think this is enough fluid, but its not. You need to be drinking water or something clear constantly. Both products so far work by pulling tons of fluid into your colon. You will start to feel dehydrated. 

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Step 3: 2 Ducolax tablets at 8:00pm. By this point I am hangry, cold and feel absolutely hollow inside. This phase feels like insult to injury. Seems sadistic to do this to someone with nothing left inside. But, oh no! You are not empty. Those 2 little pills somehow shake loose any remaining anything left on your gut. Its ruthless. The directions say no fluids at all after midnight so I attempt to go to bed at 11:30 or so. 

Sleep is an elusive vixen. I think I had about an hour of actual sleep before my 5am wakeup call. 

The procedure: I arrived at the GI center and signed in, filled out the appropriate paperwork and waited my turn. The pre-procedure stuff if standard. They take my vitals and ask the standard questions then lead me to a gurney where I put on the ever so stylish gown and start the waiting game. Soon, my nurse anesthetist came in and introduced herself and gave me some Versed to calm my nerves. It put me in a happy place. Once in the procedure room, I was given the sedation which was a cocktail of Propofol and fentanyl. Then, I woke up! I remember absolutely nothing. No pain, no discomfort whatsoever. Next thing I know I am in recovery and my nurse is taking my drink order. That was the best damn diet coke and stale saltines I have ever had. After about 30 minutes, my Doctor comes in, talks to me about what he saw and found and I was sent on my way. Thankfully, other that some gastritis, everything looked good. While that is a relief, I would still like to know what caused my IBS-D. I say caused because for whatever reason, I haven't had any issues at all since the procedure. Its like they reset the computer, or in this case, pooter!! Sorry, potty humor is never not funny.

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All in all, parts of this process weren't near as bad as I thought they would be and parts were way worse. I don't want to scare you off from getting this done if your Doctor recommends it. Colon cancer is a silent killer. You can have a terminal case before you have any symptoms at all. I just want all to know what really to expect. In real terms. Its rough, but necessary. Listen to your body, if you think somethings wrong, go see a Doctor. If they want to do some tests, even a colonoscopy, do it.  

 

Posted on September 7, 2018 and filed under Friendly Advice.

RG Restaurant Review: Farmbyrd

Have you ever loved a restaurant so much after your first time there that you went back again the very next day? That's exactly what I did after my first visit to Farmbyrd, the great "Rotisserie and Fry" restaurant in Plano.

Posted on September 6, 2018 .

Henry Cavill Nabs New Netflix Series

Netflix announced this morning that Henry Cavill has signed on to play Geralt of Rivia in it's new series based on the popular fantasy book and video games series, "The Witcher".  The series of fantasy books was originally written by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski and was subsequently adapted to a popular and critically lauded  series of video games starting in 2007. 

There have been rumors of a film going back as far as 2012 but this incarnation is set to be a whole series for Netflix. Lauren Schmidt Hissrich  known for Marvel’s Daredevil, Marvel’s The Defenders, Umbrella Academy is set as the writer, EP, and showrunner. Hissrich announced Cavill officially joining the project via twitter “He was my first meeting...I didn’t have writers or scripts yet – just a greenlight and a lot of passion. That was four months ago, and I’ve never forgotten the passion he brought. He IS Geralt. He always has been. I’m so thrilled to welcome HENRY CAVILL to the Witcher family.”

Cavill is undoubtedly most well-known for his most recent stint as Clark Kent/Superman in the new DC Universe films and also his mustache did great work in the newest Mission: Impossible. It should be noted that this isn't his first foray into the world of television. Cavill spent 4 seasons working on the critically acclaimed Showtime drama, "The Tudors".

Is there anyone you would rather see Geralt than Cavill? Put your hands together for good casting.

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Summer Binges

What do you watch when you get home from work? (I’m assuming here that most people plop, exhausted, on the couch after work every single night because that’s exactly what I do) I noticed this summer that my post-work TV viewing revolved around suspense dramas and murder, so I thought I’d rank the six shows I binged between June and August.

How To Get Away With Murder (streaming on Netflix): We’re obviously starting with the worst because, man, this show. It’s a few years old now, but I’d never seen it, so I watched the first season and half of the second and then I turned it off for good. A law professor literally teaches her students how to, well, you know - get away with murder. It was interesting at first, but then it became a huge tangled web of deceit with no resolution in sight. When one situation or threat was cleared, another (more implausible than the last) had already started brewing. It caused more stress than a day at work and I know murder shows aren’t all relaxation and mindlessness, but jeez. No thanks. And I couldn’t get past Alfred Enoch not being Dean Thomas from Harry Potter.  

Goliath (streaming on Amazon Prime): This show is ranked second lowest on my list, but that’s not to say it was bad; it just wasn’t as intriguing (to me) as the other shows I watched. Billy Bob Thornton plays a smart and once powerful attorney who now drinks more than he practices law. In the first season, he’s talked into taking on a wrongful death case against a large corporation who happens to be represented by his previous firm (that he helped build) and conspiracies are unveiled. I liked the plot of first season more than the second, where a young boy is framed for murder; howeverrrrr… the second season had some pretty surreal situations that I feel need mentioning. Mark Duplass plays an unscrupulous developer who has some pretty specific turn ons involving H.R. Pufnstuf and I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it was one of the most bizarre things I’d seen on TV for awhile. I just sat on my couch with an unbelieving and horrified look on my face - and doesn’t a reaction like that at least make for decent television?

The Tunnel (streaming on Amazon Prime and PBS Passport): My first (and not last) British show on the list. This is where my true love of crime procedural lies - across the pond. Or, in this case, across the Channel. The Tunnel is three seasons of the British working with the French to solve trans-Channel murder and crime. And yes, there are some subtitles. Like Goliath, the first season is the best and most plausible, but they’re all cleverly developed. I enjoyed the interaction between the two lead detectives -- Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones) and Clémence Poésey -- as they learned to trust each other and work as a team. They’re short at six episodes per season and the third and final season aired this summer.

Marcella (streaming on Netflix): Another British murder drama, this time with an extremely flawed and complicated lead (wait, isn’t that every murder mystery?). The first season aired a few years ago and I loved it. Anna Friel (from Pushing Daisies) plays Marcella Backland, a headstrong detective and mother who goes in and out of often-violent blackout episodes stemming from an unrealized traumatic event in her past. The second season aired this year and she finally delves deep enough in her psyche to understand what she’s been trying to bury for the last several years. There are definitely some intense scenes and, honestly, some are very disturbing and dark - notably more so than in the first season. Is it weird that that’s exactly what I love in a suspense show? The crazy ending leaves an opening for further seasons, but on a completely different path. Definitely check it out.

Sharp Objects (streaming on HBO Go): Sharp Objects is based on the book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, of Gone Girl fame. Over the course of a year or so, in the sleepy Missouri town of Wind Gap, two girls have been found brutally murdered. A reporter from St. Louis returns to her hometown to cover the latest murder and is brought face-to-face with her haunted past. Family and town dynamics are explored at a slow, but satisfying pace. The show feels distinctly Southern Gothic and patience is key for the reward of a shocking twist at the end… don’t skip the credits. I usually read books before I watch the TV or movie adaptation, but I was so disgusted with How To Get Away With Murder, I jumped into Sharp Objects without reading first. I’ve heard the show is slightly different than the book, so I think I’ll pick that up soon.

Endeavour (streaming on Amazon Prime and PBS Passport): Alright. This is it. As much as I love crazy, dark, and twisted murders, there’s nothing better than a British cozy mystery and Endeavour very much satisfies that sub-genre. My favorite class in college was British Detective Fiction - we read a mystery each week and broke down the genre from its origins to present-day trends. Everything from Agatha Christie to Colin Dexter, who, as it happens is directly connected to Endeavour. Colin Dexter is known for Inspector Morse - a slightly-more-than-middle-aged man who solves crimes across the city of Oxford, England. He debuted in 1975 and appeared in more than 13 novels across more than two decades (there was also a British TV series based on the books than ran almost as long). Endeavour imagines Morse as he would have been in the 1960s before he moved through the ranks of the British constabulary system. It’s just delightful and well-made. Each episode is approximately 90 minutes, so there’s plenty to sink into if you’re looking for a long-term relationship with a fictional character.

Posted on September 2, 2018 and filed under TV Reviews.

Friendly Advice: Hiring a Roofing Contractor

Picture this scenario, you are woken at 3 AM to what sounds like golf balls hitting your roof and windows. If you live in North Texas like I do, you know all too well its hail. Big hail. This exact thing happened to me early this summer. Thankfully, it wasn't too bad at my place. No broken windows and the truck was in the garage, but my roof took a beating. The second such beating in 3 years. I knew it was time to get the roof looked at before I developed any leaks.

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This was a kid brother of the bigger ones.

If you are like most people you don't have a roofer on retainer. Shortly after I moved into my house, I had another wallop of a storm and had to get a roof then also. When a big storm happens, roofer swarm the area like flies to a fresh turd and if you don't do your homework, that's exactly what you may get.

I got lucky and saw a neighbor about post Golden Rule General Contracting, his roofing contractor, on the Nextdoor community website. I decided to do my homework and check him out. They had great reviews on every platform I looked at so I decided you give them a shot. I was not disappointed.

In order to help anyone navigate the perils of finding a quality roofer that's stands by their product, I decided to site down with Randy, owner of Golden Rule G.C. and get some sound advice.

Doug- "So Randy, what are the first things you should do or check if you find a leak in your roof or experience hail damage?"

Randy- "First thing is to always stop damage from getting worse. Collect water, make sure it’s not going to damage the floor or cause your ceiling to collapse. Get an experienced roofing contractor to complete emergency repairs to keep leaks from getting worse."

D- "What are some good resources to use to find a good roofing company?"

R- "It is important to check references such as the Better Business Bureau, Home Advisor, Google My Business, Angies List, etc. The app Nextdoor can be a valuable place to find recommendations from people in your area who have had a good (or bad) experience with roofing contractors."

D- "Are there any you should steer clear from?"

R- "Anyone that has been in business less than a year. Our area experiences hailstorms on a pretty infrequent basis, so the person who was cutting your grass last week could be installing your roof the next. Anyone who is from out of town or doesn’t have a track record of doing business locally. We call them storm chasers in the roofing industry, and it’s important to hire a reputable company so if there is a problem with your roof in the future you can call them to honor their warranty."

D- "When talking to an roofing company, what are some key things to look for?"

R- "How long they have been in business. Their reviews. If they’re insured and bonded or not. Do they pull permits in municipalities that require permits. Do they have a Jobsite Foreman who stays on the job to oversee the work during the entire process? Do they take pictures to document the work? Does their warranty cover labor and materials, and damages caused by leaks. Do they have a pre, during and job completion checklist to ensure quality of work?"

D- "What are some red flags you should avoid?"

R- "Take a look at the vehicle they arrive in. Does it look professional? Ask how much experience the representative has, is he/she a salesman, or do they know the roofing industry. Pushy salespeople. Did they thoroughly inspect your entire home or just take a quick look at your roof? If they didn’t have time for you prior to you signing the contract, chances are they won’t have a lot of time for you after. Never give a roofing contractor money upfront. First checks should be given when materials are delivered and the job has commenced, with final payment upon your complete satisfaction of completion."

D- "Is there any type of maintenance you can do to keep your roof in top condition?"

R- "Leaves and debris should be kept from piling up on your roof and/or gutters. Tree limbs should be kept from rubbing/brushing the shingles. After the first five years, boot jacks should be inspected to ensure they’re not cracking around your plumbing pipes. After that every two years they should be inspected as the average life expectancy of these flashings is around 6 to 10 years, and are frequently the cause of leaks on roofs."

D- "What sets Golden Rule GC apart from the other?"

R- "We focus on providing top-notch customer service. Our job is never complete until the customer is 100% satisfied. Upfront, we do a thorough inspection of the entire home, not just the roof. After inspecting the roof, we inspect the exterior of the home, from paint to windows, rotten wood on soffits and fascia. We check the windows for proper seals. We check the foundation for issues and erosion. We check that the home is properly ventilated. We check the soffit and roof vents to ensure proper attic ventilation. We check dryer vents, whether roof or wall mounted to ensure these vents are not clogged with lint and present a fire hazard. After a thorough inspection we advise customers on the pros and cons of filing an insurance claim as if it were a claim on our home. Once a claim is filed, we make sure that the claim is properly paid for and that the insurance company didn’t miss anything that should be paid for. We document everything with pictures and negotiate the claim with the insurance company on the customer’s behalf. We check local building codes to ensure all work is completed meets that minimum standard. Upon finishing negotiation with the insurance company and prior to starting work, we inform the customer of all changes to ensure complete transparency. We provide an English/Spanish speaking Jobsite Foreman on all of our jobs to ensure communication between the roofing crew and the customer will be facilitated. We take pictures during the entire process, and take great care to install proper underlayment and flashings on all roofs. We install Ice and Water Barrier in all valleys, low slope areas, walls, and flashings to help ensure there are no leaks which is backed by our Best-in-Industry Five-year warranty on labor, materials and any damages caused by our faulty workmanship."

D- "Do you have any other advice you could give someone with a leaky or hail damaged roof?"

R- "The best piece of advice I can give you when dealing with a roofing contractor is – go with your gut. If you don’t feel completely comfortable with the person you’re dealing with, don’t sign anything. Roofing salespeople can be as bad as used car salespeople sometimes."

Speaking from experience, I have dealt both both the "storm chasers" and a top quality contractor. Believe me, you will sleep much better at night using a seasoned professional. For my money, Golden Rule G.C cant be beat. If you are in their area, I suggest giving them a call. If not, take heed to Randy's advice. 

 

Posted on August 31, 2018 and filed under Friendly Advice.

BEST IN WEST: KOLACHE (and KLOBASNEK) SHOWDOWN

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If you've ever made the trek from anywhere North to anywhere South in Texas you've probably passed through West, Texas. If you have, there's a pretty good chance you've pulled off the highway and grabbed a hot kolache or klobasnek. It's basically a road trip tradition. Depending on the direction you were heading, Czech Stop or Slovacek's may have managed to slow you down, but did you know there were other options no more than a stone's throw from the highway to help you get your kolache fix?

Let us take you on a kolache and klobasnek tour of West, Texas.

*It must be noted that while each of these establishments offers multiple varieties of each item we opted to test the classics.*

THE BASIC SAUSAGE ROLL

 Before we begin, let's take a look at what some might confuse with a kolache. This sausage roll is technically a klobasnek, but we'll forgive you. (We just learned this today). You can find these at any donut shop down the street. They're not bad, but they also aren't the best. We're looking for something more. 

Before we begin, let's take a look at what some might confuse with a kolache. This sausage roll is technically a klobasnek, but we'll forgive you. (We just learned this today). You can find these at any donut shop down the street. They're not bad, but they also aren't the best. We're looking for something more. 

 This good-sized klobasnek was stuffed full of ground sausage. It was wonderfully seasoned and the roll had a nice yeasty sweetness to it. I also picked up two jalapeno sausage rolls for the road and they were  delicious ! 

This good-sized klobasnek was stuffed full of ground sausage. It was wonderfully seasoned and the roll had a nice yeasty sweetness to it. I also picked up two jalapeno sausage rolls for the road and they were delicious

 We were in for a real treat with Village Bakery's kolache. The cream cheese is the hero in this confection. It was unlike any other in our taste test. Angel kisses must be on the list of ingredients. The pastry had the same sweetness as the sausage roll and that's a good thing. 

We were in for a real treat with Village Bakery's kolache. The cream cheese is the hero in this confection. It was unlike any other in our taste test. Angel kisses must be on the list of ingredients. The pastry had the same sweetness as the sausage roll and that's a good thing. 

 King-Sized portions seems to be the name of the game at Gerik's. This massive klobasnek was filled with perfectly spiced ground sausage and cheese. The only thing that could make this roll better is more meat! It's that good!

King-Sized portions seems to be the name of the game at Gerik's. This massive klobasnek was filled with perfectly spiced ground sausage and cheese. The only thing that could make this roll better is more meat! It's that good!

 Another HUGE pastry. A little more bread than cream cheese, but that's ok. We found this bread to be even better than Village Bakery's, but that comes at the cost of slightly inferior cream cheese. You can't beat angel kisses.  If you're into gargantuan baked goods (and who isn't) be sure to check out Gerik's cinnamon rolls. They've got wedding cake and PB&J versions if you're looking to get crazy and they all look to weigh about 3 pounds.

Another HUGE pastry. A little more bread than cream cheese, but that's ok. We found this bread to be even better than Village Bakery's, but that comes at the cost of slightly inferior cream cheese. You can't beat angel kisses.

If you're into gargantuan baked goods (and who isn't) be sure to check out Gerik's cinnamon rolls. They've got wedding cake and PB&J versions if you're looking to get crazy and they all look to weigh about 3 pounds.

 Ah, Czech Stop, my old road trip workhorse. I can't count how many or your kolaches and klobasneks I've devoured over the years.   The sausage link is terrific. There's that little  snap  as you bite into it followed by a little heat from the pepper. The roll is definitely smaller than our previous contestants, but that just means you can eat more. The bread is great on this almost bite-sized roll. 

Ah, Czech Stop, my old road trip workhorse. I can't count how many or your kolaches and klobasneks I've devoured over the years. 

The sausage link is terrific. There's that little snap as you bite into it followed by a little heat from the pepper. The roll is definitely smaller than our previous contestants, but that just means you can eat more. The bread is great on this almost bite-sized roll. 

 Czech Stop packs a punch with its cream cheese. It's sweet and tangy and there's a ton of it. There's a reason why so many pledge allegiance to this little bakery.   Be prepared to wait if you swing by Czech Stop. It's a popular place, but totally worth a little line time. Czech Stop also has a large variety of other assorted baked goods. Their breakfast sausage rolls are incredible!

Czech Stop packs a punch with its cream cheese. It's sweet and tangy and there's a ton of it. There's a reason why so many pledge allegiance to this little bakery. 

Be prepared to wait if you swing by Czech Stop. It's a popular place, but totally worth a little line time. Czech Stop also has a large variety of other assorted baked goods. Their breakfast sausage rolls are incredible!

 Slovacek's sausage roll was nicely proportioned, although the smallest of the four we tasted, and the sausage link had a nice heat to it, but the bread itself was underwhelming. Maybe we were just spoiled by our previous contestants.

Slovacek's sausage roll was nicely proportioned, although the smallest of the four we tasted, and the sausage link had a nice heat to it, but the bread itself was underwhelming. Maybe we were just spoiled by our previous contestants.

 Again, we were left wanting a little more from the bread. It was like a little tasteless raft carrying cream cheese to our mouths. Speaking of cream cheese, it was good, but not life-changing.   Much like Czech Stop, Slovacek's offers a lot more than just kolaches. Think of it like a miniature Buccee's. 

Again, we were left wanting a little more from the bread. It was like a little tasteless raft carrying cream cheese to our mouths. Speaking of cream cheese, it was good, but not life-changing. 

Much like Czech Stop, Slovacek's offers a lot more than just kolaches. Think of it like a miniature Buccee's. 

 

We headed out to West with every intention of crowning a Kolache King, but we see now that it's impossible. There are so many great options in West that you'd be doing yourself a disservice by only trying one. So, start with Slovacek's and work your way a little deeper into West. It only gets better from there. 

 

Taste Tested by Andy, Doug, and Chris. All photographs by Chris.

Posted on August 29, 2018 .