Moneyball (2011)

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Riverpark: A Tom Colicchio Restaurant

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I was really sad that I missed this restaurant earlier this month when it was listed on the original restaurant week list.  Though New York did extend their restaurant week event through the beginning of September, Riverpark did not decide to participate in it further.  So I tried to put the restaurant out of my head, but I found that I just couldn’t.  Finally one day, we were walking through the east side of Manhattan and the opportunity to go arose.

It was not the easiest restaurant to find, located near the NYU Medical Center and along the edge of the river, separated only by the freeway.  Though hard to find, the location offered a wonderful view.  The noise from the FDR Drive was quite disruptive, but I was still content with the setting on a whole.  The weather was pleasant enough that we opted for outdoor seating with the traditional dinner menu.  Apparently we were among the first to dine in this section of the restaurant patio, and we were continuously reminded of it by one particular member of the wait staff.  The environment of restaurant was new and sleek, classy but not arrogant and the kind of place I liked.

I began the evening with a pint of Founder’s Centennial IPA while I decided on dishes from the restaurant’s ever-evolving menu which changes frequently with the season and the availability of produce from their garden out in front of the building.

Our meal for this evening was kicked off with the Squid Ink Chitarra.  I had no idea what this would be and what chitarra is.  Apparently it’s not food, it’s guitar in Italian.  A tool that looks like a chitarra is apparently used to prepare pasta, which came to us tonight in a blackish color covered with small ring-shaped chilies and pieces of octopus, squid, and shrimp.  I now know why it has the name ‘squid ink.’  It demonstrated a good combination of sour flavor and the seafood.  I always prefer western style seafood on the slightly sour side with a heavy portion of lemon/lime juice, and this dish did it.  I actually can’t imagine it as a great entree, but I think it made the perfect appetizer, exciting me for the rest of my meal.

I was told the Roasted Leg of Lamb incorporated many highly recommended ingredients from their garden.  But, the taste of this dish was not as impressive as the appetizer.  The ingredients were of the freshest quality, except for perhaps the eggplant which was quite bitter.  The flavors and feelings varied from bite to bite in a strange way; they were light, but it was as though different sauces were spread throughout different regions of the plate, creating an intriguing melody of sensations.

The Duck Breast impressed more than the lamb.  It was nothing like Peking Duck, but then again I didn’t expect it to be.  The meat was cooked medium-rare, a difficult task as it commonly happens.  Surrounding it was a very filling wheat product called freekeh, which reminded me a lot of buckwheat from the Russian restaurants.  Not particularly delicious, but everything else on the plate was.  One intriguing piece was the sweet sticky rice-like clump in the corner of the dish.  I don’t know what it was, but combinined with the duck, it reminded me of a highly evolved American dish with Chinese origins far deep in its roots.  It’s indeed not fusion food, but it reminds me of it in a good way, something that’s rarely achieved by any restaurant.

Eventually we got our Black Forest Sundae, which the waitress complimented us on ordering.  For me, it was a great ending to a delicious meal: moist brownie covered with ice cream, whipped cream, cherries, and pistachio.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, though on a whole, it was relatively unoriginal dish.  I don’t like pistachio flavored ice cream much, but I did savor the few pistachios that were scattered around this sundae.

On a whole, this meal was fantastic, but it really gets lots of bonus points for the seasonality of the menu.  The food prepared this evening was perfect for a cool summer day like today and added significantly to my overall experience.  I have always been a fan of restaurants with regularly changing menus.  I’m not against them keeping staple dishes, but I love to see chef’s branch out and continuously try working with new dishes and new ingredients.  It is important that the top chefs don’t just sit on their laurels and strive to achieve more.  Only then will advanced culinary evolution be possible.

Waiting for ‘Superman’ (2010)

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I had heard that this was a breathtaking documentary, and in the end I would agree.  It gives a fairly dismal outlook for the American education system and gives the teacher’s union a pretty bad wrap.  I always do my best to avoid jumping to conclusions about groups like the teacher’s union after this type of documentary.  But what does seem clear is that there is a significant problem with US education, but the kicker isn’t that we don’t know how to do it right, it’s that there are so many forces working against it being done right.  It really makes me quite worried about the future when I have kids.

I guess this issue is not a new one.  Having had some public school experience both in China and the United States, I had a very clear perspective of the differences in performance.  A relatively recent New York Times article also reminded me of this last December.  Still, I didn’t know just how poor the conditions are before seeing the statistics in the movie on reading comprehension and math proficiency.  It really does make me wonder where all the money poured into the education system ends up.

I think a key factor that was mentioned briefly is that the system was good for the time when it was developed, but it has failed to evolve since about 1900.  The powers that be need to rethink how the entire system works, and turn it upside down.   Michelle Rhee’s work is commendable although it was swift, and in instances, it may have been unjust.  But just looking at this system makes me think that it’s one of those situations where we need to destroy everything, and just start over from scratch unless some significant changes happen soon.

How is it that teachers are not held accountable for students’ education?  A teacher who reads his newspaper during class earns the same as a teacher who is working hard and putting in extra time to tutor his students?  Sounds wrong to me.  Maybe its too business-minded of me, but I feel teacher salary should at least partially be based on their performance.  I wonder if I will be forced to enroll my future offspring in this type of system where their education will depend largely on luck of the draw.  If so, I may be headed to China or Hong Kong, either that or I’ll have to saddle up for a good private school.

I recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about the state of education in the US today.  It may be a slightly skewed point of view, but I support it and think its necessary to get some of the points across, i.e. something needs to change.  Even Bill Gates comes out to say, “We cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless we have citizens well-educated in math, science, and engineering.”  I’m sure other innovators/billionaires would agree as well.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

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Only after I began watching today did I realize, that I had only ever seen the theatrical version of Superman II and never this newly re-released version, despite having heard so much about it.  After watching the opening scene, and seeing that I was looking at something relatively new, I became very excited.  After all, my childhood hero was Superman, and I do own the entire DVD collection of the four movies.  Unfortunately, I had purchased it before the Richard Donner Cut was officially released.

I mostly judge this movie in comparison to the original theatrical release, which despite hardcore fans’ criticisms, holds a special place in my heart.  It is also because the original release holds a special place in my heart that I cannot rate this edition above the original.  However, I can see the complete difference in the entire tone of the movie from beginning to end.  It indeed does link much more closely with the first Superman movie.  It also features much less of the original “campy” humor lines that were in the Lester directed version of the film.

I am neither a proponent nor an opponent to these changes; I only see them two very different ways of telling the same story.  Sadly, the original version featured some pretty poorly integrated scenes  in addition to scenes containing a drunk Margot Kidder.  But the new one had its own share of drawbacks, mostly likely due to the fact that they only used original shots and that it was re-made only through editing processes.  This means there were no new scenes shot and some of Lester’s scenes had to be used align parts of the plotline.  Poor editing also caused subtle inconsistencies in the video and audio quality when switching between camera angles and scenes.

Overall, I’d still say this version is more suitable for a more faithful Superman fan, and that the theatrical version by Richard Lester is much better for a broad audience which is looking for more of a fun film featuring Superman.  The Richard Donner Cut does indeed seem much more dark.  And because no additional filming was possible, some of the scenes and transitions still seem slightly disjointed.  Also, the musical score is not as well matched in this version since they were not able to re-hire John Williams for it, and merely had to use, again, what they already had available in their stock.