Thursday, June 12, 2008

Can You Beat RZA in Chess?

While most of us know that RZA, the de facto leader of Wu-Tang Clan from its inception, has mastered the art of producing eerie, unique beats, here's something you might not know: he's an awesome chess player.

The current champion of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, RZA is now plugging WuChess, a gaming site that merges social networking, hip-hop, and the world's classiest board game. Along with other Wu-Tang members, RZA himself will be competing on the site, which charges $48 annually. 

WuChess is holding a few in-person chess competitions around the country this summer. Check their blog for details.

Girl Power

In a historic and upset-ladden Top Chef Chicago Finale, Stephanie Izard became the show's first female winner. And while word across the blogisphere is that it was an honest win, the buzz out of the Top Chef kitchen was more about Richard's blunder than Stephanie's victory. On Ted Allen's Bravo Top Chef blog, he admits that not only was Richard's meal the most anticipated, but that it dominated conversation for the first 20 minutes of the meal.

The chefs were asked to create a four course progressive meal (fish, poultry, red meat, and dessert) fit for a king. Richard was charged with under-seasoning both his scallop and pork belly, and overthinking his poultry. At the judges' table Richard went as far as to say "I choked." That gets my vote for the most straight forward and honest moment in the show's history. 

Allen said that the following day in the San Juan airport, Richard was visibly out of it, pacing through the terminal. And while this was dubbed by Padme as the most important meal this side of the Mississippi, they'll be more and Richard will be fine. He's arguably the most decorated chef ever to grace the show and while he didn't win, he did show Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin how to freeze Tobasco with liquid nitrogen. Not all is lost. And Allen said his daughter was born two weeks ago. Things are looking up for Blias.  

One can only hope they're looking down for Lisa who is probably the second worst contestant to ever enter the Top Chef kitchen.

Friday, June 6, 2008


If you're looking to kick off the weekend with some funk, look no further than soul sensation Jamie Lidell. Don't let Lidell's black emo glasses fool you into thinking he's another awkward indie rocker--dude's got rhythm. 

Check out his interview on Pitchfork TV, and enjoy watching the reporter laugh uncomfortably while Lidell dances on the table. But Lidell's no gimmick. His music is complicated, evident by his "sounds like" description on Myspace:  "Prince serenading Moodyman while Otis Redding and Aphex Twin watch 'Wattstax.'" Someone with less talent wouldn't be able to pull that off, but I think Lidell's got "it." His newest album, Jim, includes standout tracks "Another Day" and "Little Bit of Feel Good." 

Thursday, June 5, 2008

No Beans

Beans, beans they're good for your heart, the more you eat the more you undercook them and are thus banished from Top Chef Kitchen. Sigh, Antonia. 

In part 1 of the season 4 finale (which delivered), we learned that our chefs are not kosher and look odd in Puerto Rican summerwear, and of course that Antonia will be dining with us no more. 

In an elimination challenge that was possibly my favorite of the entire season, the four chefs, Richard, Stephanie, Lisa, and Antonia, were given a 60 lb. oinker, a few knives, and an ex-castmate to create three Puerto Rican-inspired dishes. Dale and his green sweatband are back! 

Everyone seemed to have their culinary game tight, that is until Dale left Stephanie's pork belly out all night in a warm kitchen. Whoops. Can you say bacteria infestation? After a quick sniff, Stephanie decided she would not be serving E. Coli for dinner. Dale subsequently said he would kill himself if Stephanie didn't make it through, which would have made for a dramatic conclusion to the challenge.

But alas, Stephanie and Richard eased into the finale with solid dishes and pork that looked to be cooked to perfection. Richard took the day's top prize, a brand new...TOYOTA CAROLLA! I'm not sure if Rich was actually excited for his $15,000 automobile or was thinking of the 16-year-old he would give it too when he got back to Atlanta. He also made the smartest comment of the entire season when he said it's about bending the challenges to your strengths, not wowing the judges with a style you're not skilled at. How can this guy not win it all?

Antonia and Lisa were called out to the judge's table for their sub-par fare. Antonia undercooked her pigeon peas and slopped her feast onto a single plate. Lisa, who said she was sure she was going home, was called out for a lousy Puerto Rican tostone and overall less than stellar execution. In the end Lisa won out (unfortunately) and will scoot onto the finale.

In a high diva moment following, Lisa bitched to both Stephanie and Richard for not congratulating her for making it to the finale. Lisa and her hair, have been my least favorite chef for going on the entire season. When Richard and Stephanie let out a "Oh, congrats Lisa," it was about as believable as a promise from a used car salesman. 

Hands up, utensils down. Onto the finale.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Other Carrie B.

With last week's movie release of Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw is back, in a big way. (And with the constant SATC reruns on TBS, she never really left.) 

But there's another Carrie B. worth swooning over:  Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein. One of the first riot grrrl bands, Sleater-Kinney helped define a movement in the nineties combining rock and feminism. After 10 years and seven albums, the band broke up in 2006, but Brownstein continues to be a creative force. In November, she started blogging about music for NPR at Monitor Mix. Her writing is witty without being snarky, and her knowledge of music goes well beyond indie and punk. 

Brownstein also collaborates with SNL's Fred Armisen on Thunderant, an online comedy sketch show. I think I've watched the "Feminist Bookstore" skit at least a dozen times, and still laugh. Though this Carrie wears Chucks, not Manolos, I think she's still high class. 

Friday, May 30, 2008

Abra Cadabra

And the island disappears. In quite possibly one of the coolest Lost moments of season four (sans the smoke monster eating a missionary for lunch), there was a flash, shake, rattle, and the island (and those still on it) was gone.

In an episode that pitted science (Jack) vs. the supernatural (Locke), we learn that at least for now the kooky sci-fi stuff wins. While handling "leadership stuff" on the top deck of the time-traveling and final Dharma station, The Orchid, Locke tells Jack, "This [the island] is the place where miracles happen." "There is no such things as miracles," Jack shoots back. After giving up on convincing Jack, he tells him that he must lie about everything to save those still on the island. "If you do it half as well as you lie to yourself, they'll believe you," Locke says as he and Ben drop into the depths of the Orchid. Man, was he right.

After blowing out the back of the time travel machine in the basement of The Orchid, Ben tells Locke that the price to pay for moving the island is that you can never come back. He says adieu and wishes Locke the best as new leader of the Others. "Goodbye John," Ben says. "Sorry I made your life so miserable." 

Locke meets up with his new crew, which seems happy to see him, and Ben ventures even deeper into some arctic land, or alien land, for that matter. Once in the Antarctic cove, Ben is little surprised to see a glowing oversized stone wheel. After he begins to move it Ben looks up teary eyed, "Well Jacob, I hope you're happy." 

Later, Desmond reunites with Penny (woo!), Jin (presumably) dies when the freighter is blown to smithereens and Locke is (presumably) dead and alone in a coffin three years into the future under the alias Jeremy Bentham. While Jack views the coffin stoned out of his mind on Oxycontin, Ben appears from out of nowhere to let Jack know that he won't get back to the island by hoping to crash on a passenger plane. "All of you need to go back." This includes the dead Locke as well as Jack's beard. Booonnnng. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sounds and Colors

The colorful image at left is the work of New York City artist and blogger Andrew Kuo. His work is regularly featured on the New York Times music section.

His pieces are usually visual representations of his thoughts on music--whether a song, an album, or a live performance. This one, for example, charts his opinions on T.I.'s single "No Matter What." The colored bars represent his opinion at each second (or lengthy span) of the song, ranging from "I'm a sucker for this beat! Epic!" to "Dashboard Confessional-style emoting! I have a hanky for you, homie!"

Others--like this one--are practically impossible to follow, but they sure look intriguing.

Kuo posts regularly on his blog, which you can find here.