Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ammo to the Atmosphere!

Saw this over at Kent's place - Kind of cool, claim that they got 120,000 feet up! Wonder if a 50 BMG would have gone as high?
Video source:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Stadium Review: Camp Randall Stadium, Madison, Wisconsin

I had the chance to check out my favorite college football rivalry this past weekend while visiting family over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Minnesota vs. Wisconsin: The Battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe.

I'm going to attempt to be as unbiased as possible in this review.

Frankly, I despise the University of Wisconsin. As a University of Minnesota grad, I think the Twin Cities home of the Golden Gophers is a much better scene for a college education, from the buildings to the coeds.

That said, the University of Wisconsin has really put some work into the outside of Camp Randall since my days as a high schooler trolling around campus. Improvements to the facade and a new trophy room with giant glass windows allow fans to look in and see Ron Dayne's Heisman Trophy and everything else that has been collected by the Badgers over the years.
Camp Randall's North Entrance and Newly Renovated Facade

As a Minnesota fan, seeing most of these trophies made me sick to my stomach.

As you walk in the gates, it feels like a typical college stadium. There is something about the gates at most collegiate facilities that still feels amateurish. It's kind of a cool feeling. For whatever reason, most schools don't tend to put money in this area because it doesn't do much for recruiting --- at least that's my hypothesis.

Inside, Camp Randall is a good place to watch a ballgame. The field is flanked by a giant scoreboard and jumbotron one one side and the old Wisconsin fieldhouse on the other side. The old fieldhouse is a great piece of history that I'm glad Wisconsin has decided to spare any advertisements or other defacing features.

You can barely make out the Wisconsin crest on the fieldhouse just beyond the far endzone.
The gameday atmosphere at Wisconsin carries a pretty strong reputation across the country. From the notorious Wisconsin drinking, brat grilling and overall great tailgating scene to the loyal fanbase that hasn't seen a losing team in about two decades.

The fanbase was very friendly on this gameday. While the student section is known for chants of "a$$h@ole!" at opposing team's fans and other chants laced with obscenities, most of the adults in the stadium are fairly cordial and won't have you reaching for brass knuckles. (Note: this is especially true if the visiting team jumps out to a 17-3 early lead).

On this particularly chilly day, Wisconsin's Camp Randall did not strike me as a particularly loud crowd. That is, no amount of third down noise was particularly disruptive to the players on the field. With a packed house of more than 80,000 in attendance, I expected better.

Perhaps if the student body was as focused on football as they were on House of Pain's Jump Around, it could have been a better home field advantage for the Badgers.

In terms of food, you're not going to want to eat inside this stadium. It's normal, stadium-fare. But outside, you can get stereotypical Wisconsin/German food that's just so much better. From brats and sausage of pretty much any type to beer, you can't go wrong with just about any place on nearby State Street. Also, there are a number of public brat cookouts around campus where you can get a brat for a couple bucks to take in the whole "Wisconsin experience".

As for the game itself, it was a good game. Minnesota took an early 17-3 lead but Wisconsin stormed back, keeping Paul Bunyan's Axe in the longest consecutively running rivalry game in the United States, dating back to 1948 --- with the "Slab of Bacon" trophy pre-dating the Axe by about 15 years. (Wisconsin "lost" the Slab of Bacon and thus, the axe trophy was born). 

Paul Bunyan's Axe... held captive by these animals.
It's a good place to watch a game.

I imagine it's an even better place to watch the visiting team win a game. Something that hasn't happened for my Gophers since 1994.

Final score:
Minnesota 24
Wisconsin 34

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cigar Review - Romeo y Julieta Reserva Toro

Had a chance to take a mid-day walk with the dogs and light up for the first time in a week or so.

romeo y julieta lit cigar
Romeo y Julieta's Reserve Toro Cigar

I really like the way these cigars are constructed. Fairly firm, with a beautiful wrapper on them, I really expected this cigar to knock my socks off. I picked up a 5-pack of these as part of a Romeo y Julieta sampler at Cigars City.

It didn't.

The cigar itself wasn't horrible when it came to flavor but I was picking up a lot of earthy flavor, which really isn't my cup of tea. I typically prefer some of the coffee type notes and would have even preferred pepper to what I was getting out of this stick. Mmmm. Dirt.

That wrapper is a Nicaraguan wrapper and the photo doesn't do it justice. It was spectacular to look at it. Inside, the filler tobacco on these guys is also Nicaraguan.

Beautiful to look at. Mediocre to smoke.

It did give me a little bit of a nicotine buzz for the afternoon, sad to say. I'm not good at the whole "walking and toasting" thing. I tend to smoke too quickly when I walk at the same time. I don't know if I get nervous just holding the cigar or what the deal is.

Either way, it was a nice afternoon delight and the dogs enjoyed the walk.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dumb and Dumber To - Movie Review

Dumb and Dumber To movie
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels star in the sequel to the 1994 smash "Dumb and Dumber"
I had the chance to catch an advanced screening of Dumb and Dumber To Wednesday night at a charity event here in Knoxville, Tennessee in a packed Regal theater.

Personal Background

The original Dumb and Dumber film is still standard fodder in my everyday conversations. You know, pulling the random, "I like it a lot" or "pretty bird" quote out and injecting it into casual conversations. As sad as it is to admit it, the original film released in 1994 may be one of the more influential of my miserable life.

However, this Dumb To isn't the first film released in the Dumb and Dumber series since the original (you might remember the God-awful "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" from back in 2003). Because of that failed prequel attempt, I entered the theater pretty apprehensive about where this latest effort would wind up. However, the inclusion of the film's original stars and directors had me convinced if there was a sequel to see, this would be it and there was potential.

Where We Pick Up in Dumb and Dumber To

Harry and Lloyd riding a deer sculpture in the movie Dumb and Dumber To
Harry and Lloyd riding a deer sculpture of some sort.
This latest Dumb flick picks up 20 years after the original left off. The original cast, well, the only two that matter, Harry and Lloyd are played by the original actors (Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey).

Without both of these guys the film simply wouldn't have happened and frankly, I don't know if anyone could imagine a credible sequel not having both Daniels and Carrey in the mix.

With that in mind, I'm not sure if they shot this film sequentially but I had a hard time getting into the rhythm of the film for the first 25-30 minutes. Timing seemed off to me, Lloyd Christmas (Carrey's character) took on more traits from his The Cable Guy title character than what I remember of the original Lloyd Christmas.

Basic Plot of Dumb and Dumber To - No Spoilers

Shortly after the start of the film we learn Harry is in need of a new kidney and without it, he's facing a death sentence. With no family outside of estranged parents and Lloyd unwilling to part with one of his vital organs, they set out to reconnect with Harry's mother and father.

While visiting his parents, Harry picks up his old mail and discovers a postcard from Fraida Felcher (a love interest mentioned prominently in the first Dumb film). In the note she wrote 20 years ago, Felcher alerts Harry that she is pregnant. So, Harry and Lloyd set out to find her and what they hope will be a healthy son or daughter with a kidney Harry can harvest for his own use. The boys are on another road trip and the Farrelly Brothers (directors) are hoping you'll think hilarity ensues.

Secondary Characters

Rob Riggle as a correspondent for The Daily Show several years ago
Rob Riggle in his Daily Show and Comedy Central years.
For the most part, Daniels and Carrey carry the film, as you'd expect. However, a few prominent secondary characters get decent screentime and for the most part performed admirably. To ensure no spoilers are spilled, I'll just divulge the actors involved.
  • Rob Riggle - The Daily Show, 21 Jump Street, The Hangover
  • Laurie Holden - The Walking Dead
  • Kathleen Turner (Fraida Felcher) - The Virgin Suicides, Peggysue Got Married
  • Rachel Melvin - Days of Our Lives
  • The Blind Neighbor & Bird Kid - Dumb and Dumber (the original actor +20 years is back)
  • Honey Boo Boo's Mother - Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (talk about bad-timing... just as TLC cancels her show for involvement with a child molester, her cameo appearance hits theaters in Dumb To)
There were rumors that former NHL star Cam Neely (Sea Bass) was set to appear in the film. I tried to keep an eye out for him but I didn't see Sea Bass on screen. If he was there, it certainly wasn't milked for all it could have been. The diner scene with Sea Bass in the original Dumb film continues to be a classic comedy scene ("kick his ass Sea Bass!") so I think had Neely signed on for a role, it would've been pretty prominent.

Overall Impressions

As I mentioned, the film starts really poorly and struggles to find the chemistry and charisma that made the first Dumb film so good in the first place. 

There were portions of the storyline that brought genuine laughs but for the most part, this effort tries too hard and goes too far. Some of the brilliance of the initial installment was that it was non-offensive humor (for the most part) that wasn't overtly sexual or dirty. Plainly put, the humor in the original was so dumb it was smart.

In this case, the comedy crossed a bit of a line with racial jokes and more sexual innuendo than simpletons like Harry and Lloyd are supposed to be capable of. While "believability" may not be the best word - the caliber of humor simply wasn't fit for the characters we know and love. The writing wasn't as clever and while every sequel gets accused of this - it felt to me, as a viewer that this film was done out of obligation or profit-motives rather than having a great script for a film that had to be made.

That said, if you are a fan of the original, it's worth seeing. In a lot of ways the film will bring you back to the 1990's and I think that was done purposefully. A lot of the old gags and taglines make a reappearance, which delighted the crowd, much to my chagrin.

This film isn't likely to have me quoting any new lines from it for 20 years, but it'll keep you entertained for 90-minutes and, these days, I think that's about all you can ask for. It's worth seeing but make sure you lower your expectations as you take your seat or you'll leave sorely disappointed.

Finally, the Farrelly Brothers are now helping breed rumors that a Dumb and Dumber 3 movie could be made.  Based on this film, there's nothing left in the tank so a third installment would validate my fears that this series is now completely about money with no regard or respect for the original film's legacy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Kiffpocalypse Is Upon Us

So, I'm a pretty big football fan.

Living in Knoxville, you sort of have to be. Otherwise, you'll just think you're surrounded by idiots who love the color orange for fun on Saturdays in the fall.

Five years ago, the University of Tennessee fired long-time, National Championship winning football coach Phil Fulmer.

Fulmer was viewed by many as "past his coaching prime". A graduate and former player of the University of Tennessee, Fulmer left by most accounts as a class-act. Bowing out gracefully and finishing his coaching career in Knoxville with a 152-52 record. (Not bad, right?)

Phil Fulmer with the 1998 National Championship Trophy

Shortly after Fulmer's season ended, the University announced they were hiring Lane Kiffin. A young, boisterous, some might say "pompous" former NFL head coach.

And he was bringing his smokin' hot wife, Layla, with him.

The Kiffins with Mike Hamilton at the introductory press conference
The introductory press conference. Courtesy:
What unfolded over the next five years may be the biggest and saddest tale detailing a relationship between a single man in a community you will ever hear.

Immediately upon his hire, Kiffin was a media darling by most accounts.

He accused other conference coaches of breaking NCAA rules. He pushed all the right buttons, claiming that Tennessee's team couldn't wait to sing "Rocky Top" all the way back from Gainesville after beating the Gators (they lost 23-13).

It was a beautiful fit for the local media. Kiffin was the exact opposite of Phil Fulmer so it played well that this young, edgy coach could come in and bring new life to a football program that had gone 11 years since winning a national title.

Heck, shortly after he took the job, he even named his first-born son "Knox", in honor of Knoxville and Knox County, the community he planned to be at "for a long time".
Layla Kiffin with her oldest son Knox
Yes, I could have found a photo of Lane with Baby Knox, but who wants to see him?

Then, it all came crashing down. Seemingly out of nowhere.

After one 7-6 season, Kiffin then made himself the most hated man in East Tennessee. A child of privilege (son of a famous of NFL assistant coach) and carrier of white-swagger. (White swagger is similar to black swagger but funnier) Kiffin couldn't sit outside the bright lights of a major media market for long.

In January 2010, Lane Kiffin hastily left his position as head coach of my community's beloved Tennessee Volunteers football team to take his "dream job" at the University of Southern California.

A Tennessee fans up a "We Hate Lane Kiffin" sign

Chaos reigned the night news broke in Knoxville as students burned mattresses, the community angrily couldn't understand what just hapened and the media attempted to get Kiffin on the record before he got on a private jet bound for Southern Cal.

Seen as cowardice by most, Kiffin turned his back on a community that identifies most with its college football program. All that was left for Volunteer fans as solace was a loss in the Chick-Fil-A bowl and the promise of glory days that Kiffin's leadership never brought to fruition.

Kiffin coached for four years in Los Angeles and probably earned a boatload of money. USC is a private school so you never can figure out exactly how well they compensate most of their employees. Kiff-Daddy finished with a 28-15 record at USC and even won the (then) Pac-10 South in 2011.

the stadium that is home to the University of Southern California Trojans
The home of the USC Trojans in Los Angeles.
But after a 3-2 start in 2013 with a back-to-back conference losses that put him at 4-7 in his most recent 11 games, USC canned him before he boarded the team bus in Tempe, Arizona. Whammy.

For most Tennesseans, it was karma and cause for celebration. This was, after all, proof that God was listening. Kiffin landed his dream job and was fired under ugly circumstances.

They (whomever "they" are) say, "Time heals all wounds".

Moe's Sign in Knoxville - Lane Kiffin Never Heard of Her

But not in SEC country, apparently.

Since USC showed him the door, Kiffin has once again landed a coaching gig. This time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama under Nick Saban as Offensive Coordinator of the powerhouse University of Alabama football team.

This Saturday (October 25) Kiffin will return to Tennessee for what is likely his first time on Appalachian soil since the scent of burning mattresses filled the air on campus.

It's a night game, which is fitting since most Knoxvillians remember Kiffin's departure as happening under the cover of night. (Although, he may have actually flown out with the sun shining).

I would not be surprised if there is an additional police presence around campus for this game. 

Lane Kiffin's image in the Sunsphere
I'm not sure of the original source on this. I'll site @MarkNagi as the source but I don't think it's his.
It's kind of a running joke that the most hated many in Tennessee is a former coach who only lived in the state one year.

However, it's remarkable that after 3 years of Derek Dooley and in Butch Jones' second year as Tennessee's Head Coach there seem to be people who love hating Lane Kiffin as much, if not more than they love Tennessee football.

They wanted to name a wastewater treatment center after the guy, using his name in mudslinging political ads and still have a sour taste in their mouth after the coach left town.

They're even going after Kiffin for the $14 haircut he allegedly didn't pay for before leaving town:

So while most of East Tennessee will be at Neyland Stadium this weekend, pitchforks in hand, I will be in a bomb shelter. (Unless Layla Kiffin is making the trip, then I'll be on campus in a tux).

The Kiffpocalypse is nearly upon us and in a town where college football is king, there is no way this is going to end well.

Canned goods, ammunition and water bottle donations are welcomed.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homemade Ebola Protection

Seen at Dulles Airport:

Because you never know... :)

I hope that Ebola doesn't get him or her. JC Penny will have lost their last customer.

Stay vigilant and enclosed in whatever garbage bag you can find, my friends.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Living on the Edge - Cigar Style

CAO 'VR' Moby Cigar

Somewhere, someone else is seeing just how close to falling they can get their ash.

It's a fun little game I play with myself.

Sad?  Nah. Just another way to cherish each puff!

The photo above is one of the CAO cigars - the 'VR' Moby. I picked it up over at Cigars City.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would to be honest. It was much smoother in terms of pepper and spice than I expected, damn near "velvet". It has some Mexican filler tobacco (along with Nicaraguan) and generally when I hear Mexican tobacco I think of a harsh burn that really is going to taste more like budget than smooth sailing. This wasn't the case with this stick. I'm guessing there isn't much Mexican tobacco in the filler mix and it's about 99% Nicaraguan but I'm not certain.

A nice toro stick, it took about 45 minutes to toast start-to-finish. Thinking about bailing out of the office early to go home and see if I can't get in a quick stick before dinner. We'll see, lots to do so I probably shouldn't be blogging!