Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan's trilogy featuring the Dark Knight, also known as Batman, comes to a close with The Dark Knight Rises, in which Christian Bale returns to the leading role of the Caped Crusader. Unfortunately, this final film missed the mark on too many accounts for it to be deemed a success. While it continued to stand on a strong platform, I expected so much more and didn't get enough. There was so much more I expected.

With a long list of villains to choose from, the villains selected for this film include the robotic-masked Bane, played by Tom Hardy, and the manipulative, sexy Catwoman, played by Anne Hathaway. The two do not team up in anyway, but both cause their own form of mischief. Bane wants to cause destruction and obliterate Harvey Dent's law, which put plenty of bad guys in prison, as Catwoman wants to take from the rich in order to give to herself.

At the start of the film, it has been eight years since The Dark Knight and Gotham City is remembering the loss of Harvey Dent, who became Two-Face and was killed in The Dark Knight. Given the blame for this "mess" that occurred, Batman heads into retirement. After the issues being caused by Bane and Catwoman, Bruce Wayne, Batman's alter ego, is convinced to return as Batman and take down what these two have in store. One of these events includes the shooting of Commissioner James Gordon, who is planning to resign due to guilt over Harvey Dent's death. This all leads up to the climax in which Bane wants to destroy Gotham City with the use of bombs placed across the city and a big bomb that he intends to cause ultimate destruction with.

The Dark Knight Rises was meant to be judged on acting, storyline, and action. The acting remained a bit consistent as to what this portion of the series had to bring. Unfortunately, it was NOTHING like The Dark Knight from 2008. Much of that, though, had to do with who the villains were, and NOBODY was going to top the performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Nobody really knew that Ledger was going to do such a spectacular job, so surprises are always bound to happen. This film wasn't much about story line, but when it was, such as with Bane's background, was fairly decent. Catwoman, while a villain, has always been able to seduce Batman. In this film, her actions toward putting Batman into an awful financial situation and for stealing the pearls were left open-ended, and her portion of the conclusion (which I will not explain) was left unexplained. Bane, on the other hand, was an interesting choice for villain, but the destruction could have been so much better.

On the subject of destruction, I came into the film being told that there was going to be a boatload of destruction, that included a destruction of Heinz Field. All I saw was a destruction of the playing field. It was kind of like a giant doing a cannonball in a swimming pool in the backyard. It may do some damage to the pool and cause the water to overflow, but not so much damage to the yard. I expected all out destruction and didn't get it. As for the action between Batman and Bane, it was a typical fistfight. Nothing that involved incredible gadgets or sly moves, just something that could be seen at a bar after midnight in the event that two guys had to much to drink and pissed one another off in some way or another.

The Dark Knight Rises did not live up to expectations and is one of those comic book box office movies that didn't hit the mark. Would I recommend it? See it the first time to satisfy your need to watch another Batman film and then wait until it comes to DVD to satisfy your need to own the entire collection. There's no need to keep going back a second, third, fourth time, and so on, and so forth, because it's not spectacular.

Verdict: 6/10

On a final note, I want to make mention to those in Aurora, Colorado who either lost their lives or were hurt by simply expressing their love for the Batman series by attending the midnight premiere and were shot by someone who felt making news would be fun. In reality, it isn't, and people like that should be hunted down and either locked away or executed in the same way they executed the people in which they hurt or killed. For the victims attending the premiere in Aurora, Colorado, my thoughts and prayers go out to you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The World Series Of Poker 2012: The Finalists Are Revealed, Who Will Take It?

It's highly unfortunate that the World Series Of Poker is not shown on television like other sports events and that the best way to follow is by going on the website ( to check the final results. Then again, it's not set up like other poker events. Being a fan of High Stakes PokerPoker Superstars, and the National Heads Up Poker Championship, I have learned about plenty of poker players and their personalities. Unfortunately, the World Series Of Poker, the tournament that started it all and has run annually since 1970, is the only one that remains.

Within the last few years, the final table has been played in October or November instead of right then and there. It's generally played in November, but this year will be played in October due to the presidential election coming up in November. A pattern that has been going on the last few years is that the champions are young, breakout male poker players. On many occasions, the record for youngest champion has been broken. It hasn't been broken since Joe Cada did so in 2009, but nevertheless, new poker stars are being introduced and many (and on many occasions all) are appearing at their first final table.

The "October Nine" for 2012 include chip leader Jesse Sylvia, Hungarian player Andras Koroknai, Greg Merson, Russell Thomas, Steven Gee (who at age 56 is the oldest of the final nine), Michael Esposito, Robert Salaburu, Jacob Balsiger (who at age 21 is the youngest of the final nine), and Jeremy Ausmus. To be quite honest, I have not heard of any of these players before this final event, which goes to show you how new blood has been dominating the table. The only familiar names within the last few years at the final table include Michael Mizrachi, Jeff Shulman, and Phil Ivey. Nevertheless, these guys remain excellent poker players.

What made this year stick out was how dominant the women were with regard to making a mark in the game. There were women who were fighting for a spot at the final table. Throughout the history of the tournament, the only female to make the final table at the main event was Barbara Enright, who in 1995 made the final table and finished in fifth place. This year, Gaelle Baumann and Elisabeth Hille competed and finished in tenth and eleventh respectively. If one of both of these ladies made the final table, I could honestly say that this would have made for an interesting, competitive, aggressive, and memorable showdown. Though with the final nine proving their worth and making alternations in the rankings in what is such an unpredictable game to begin with, this main event final table should still be interesting. Other women that made noticeable finishes included Marcia Topp (71st), Vanessa Selbst (73rd), and Susie Zhao (90th).

Amnon Filippi was another noticeable player that made a huge finish at 39th. Others included Gavin Smith (96th), Daniel Negranu (160th), Freddy Deeb (211th), and John Juanda (237th). Of the previous champions, the two that finished in the money included Johnny Chan (353rd) and Huck Seed (527th). Granted, there hasn't been such a far run for champions in this main event since 2007, where Scotty Nguyen finished in 11th.

Celebrities has been known for competing in the World Series Of Poker, along with other tournaments. The one that made a huge run this year was Kevin Pollak, who finished in 134th.

The World Series Of Poker, which consists of plenty of other events, featured several other tournaments that consisted of several styles of poker. The one that stuck out from this year was a new event called "The Big One For One Drop," which consisted of a million dollar entry and just forty-eight participants. Antonio Esfandiari would go on to win this tournament and won over eighteen million dollars. Money that came out of this event went to the One Drop Foundation, which is a charity founded by Cirque De Soleil founder Guy Laliberte.

The main event final table for this tournament is so unpredictable that I have no idea who I will be rooting for or predicting will win the whole thing. I just hope that the game is competitive and the person who does the best job and plays their cards right is the one that wins it all. What we do know is that those who made a good run will surely be known and that the female poker players who broke the Top 100, especially Baumann and Hille, are on their way to becoming celebrities in the world of poker. The October showdown should definitely be an interesting one, regardless of who wins.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: Aesop's Fables

The book I'm about to be reviewing isn't officially a book, because Aesop's fables have been published in several collections. This collection happens to be the Barnes & Noble Classics collection, but nevertheless, Aesop's fables have played a large influence on literature, entertainment, and the language of which we speak. It's incredible how a storyteller could make their mark during a time period in which stories weren't written, but told orally. Plus Aesop, the one who allegedly told these stories, could have simply been a group of storytellers and not one individual with the name. While some may have never heard of Aesop, the majority of people have heard of or read a revamped or original version of one of their works.

There are plenty of Aesop's fables that are overlooked everyday. "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," "The Tortoise And The Hare," and "The Lion And The Mouse" are only a few of which you have overlooked as being an Aesop fable. These fables, which were short in structure, being one page at the very most, had one goal. This goal was to deliver a moral. In "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," also known as "The Shepherd's Boy And The Wolf," delivers the moral that a liar cannot be believed even when telling the truth. In "The Tortoise And The Hare," the moral is that slow and steady wins the race.

On that subject, plenty of expressions that we use everyday come from Aesop's fables. "Don't count your chickens before they hatch" comes from "The Milkmaid And Her Pail," which had to do with a milkmaid who was imagining everything she would do when she would turn the milk into butter and what would happen in her future. She dropped the milk pail and watched her dreams shatter. Others expressions include "Honesty is the best policy" and "think twice before you act."

Some of my personal favorites are those that aren't as familiar to most. These include "The Fox And The Crow," in which the crow has a piece of cheese in their beak that the fox wants. He mentions how beautiful the crow is, but wants to hear her sing to make sure she's completely beautiful. When she opens her mouth to do so, she drops the cheese to the fox for it to eat. "The Ass And The Lapdog" is another memorable fable. For the record, a donkey is referred it as an "ass" throughout the fables. In this particular one, the ass becomes jealous of the dog's position and how he gets to be in the house and sit on his owner's lap. The ass then tries to be like the dog and even sit on the owner's lap. The moral had to do with satisfaction, which became an interesting fiasco with the ass. I saw an online slideshow that made this one look hilarious. "The Wolf And The Crane" is another favorite of mine, in which a wolf had a bone stuck in his throat which the crane easily pulled out. The crane expected a material reward for this action, but the wolf reminded the crane that the reward was that he spared her by not eating her. It goes to show you how we expect immediate material rewards for our actions, while we ignore the more powerful, non-material rewards.

Aesop's fables are highly clever pieces of literature that offer bits of common sense. The Barnes & Noble collection does an excellent job putting together 284 fables and showing how brilliant Aesop or the group of storytellers known as Aesop were in creating these pieces. The stories that are used are incredibly funny and use everything from humans to gods to animals to plants and anything and everything else in between.

If you have yet to read a collection of Aesop's fables, there's much you have missed. Plenty collections exist, but the one I read from is a part of the Barnes & Noble collection that can be found at Barnes & Noble. I urge you to start reading them and digest the powerful words of wisdom.

Verdict: 10/10

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Big Cheeses: Sartori Extra-Aged Asiago

I was skimming through my posts to see how long it has been since I did a "Big Cheeses" segment, where I pick a cheese and review it. When I skimmed the list, I realized that the last time I did such a review was in December of last year... making it seven months! With that being said, combined with the fact that I'm working in a supermarket (but as a cashier, not in the deli or the nonexistent cheese section), endorsing a cheese has been long overdue. This is only the second time I recommended a specific company and type, as I have generally recommended cheeses as individuals, but this was too good to pass up. This cheese is Sartori Extra-Aged Asiago. I have always been one for harder cheeses and I will attest to the fact that cheese ages well if kept in proper condition. With this cheese, it brings significance to my case.

Sartori is a Wisconsin based cheesemaking company created by Paolo Sartori, an Italian immigrant who came in America in 1939 in order to contribute to his piece of the American dream. In America, he invented and patented machines such as the cheese curd machine and the curd mixing and kneading machine. Joe Sartori, also a part of the family, would go on to create Sargento, another cheese company in which he would eventually sell his interest. As for Sartori, they have created plenty of specialty Italian cheeses, whether they be classic versions or gourmet versions. One of these is the Extra-Aged Asiago, which won first place in the World Championship Cheese Contest this year.

This version of Asiago is at least a year in age, making it a more aged version of the variety. Asiago is an Italian cheese named for the Italian town of which it originated. This town happens to be in the Alpine regions of Italy and is made with cow's milk. Plenty of companies have had their take with them and plenty of people have found ways to incorporate this cheese into their recipes. One of which was grating the cheese on top of a bagel. My favorite way to eat Asiago, especially from this company, is just the way it is.

The wedge that you receive is a fairly healthy size, especially for the price of the cheese. While it's from America and not imported from Italy, it is in very good quality. This is exactly the reason that their version of Parmigiano Reggiano is called Parmesan (the former term could only be used if it was made in select sections of Italy).

As for the taste, it's absolutely delicious. Asiago in general has the texture of Cheddar and the flavor of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I could agree with that statement, though this version is a bit harder in texture (which is obvious due to age) and tastes just how I mentioned. I will attest with the Parmigiano-Reggiano flavor, but I also think about Pecorino Romano when I eat this cheese, only Pecorino Romano is a sheep cheese that has a much stronger flavor. The savory, but reserved flavor of Asiago melts in your mouth.

Whether you want to eat it plain or with a partner, this is a cheese you should definitely check out. Sartori does have their own site, which could be accessed immediately when you type "Sartori Cheese" into your Google bar (or what ever site you use). This Asiago will definitely be something I buy and buy again and I'll put my wagers on others doing the same.

Make A Statement By Using "Rate My Professor"

Our college experience is a one of a kind experience that can be costly, but highly beneficial at the same time. Much of this experience has to do with the professor you have and whether or not they teach the class well. You pay and you pay well for the college experience, so you highly expect a professor that that's just as well as the money you put down. If they're good, it could make the ultimate difference... for the good. If they are terrible, it could make the ultimate difference... in a way that puts a hole in your pocket, a declaration of wasted time, and a statement of: "what the hell did I just put myself through?" Rate My Professor is the ultimate solution to the problem as to how to find the right professor. It provides just the right information and feedback from the students, those who have had the instructors hands on.

I learned about Rate My Professor while taking Academic Success in my first year of college. It was mentioned as a powerful suggestion that impacted the tenure of one of the instructors and how his extremely strongly negative reviews caused him to resign his position with the school. Like all opinionated sites, RMP should be taken with a grain of salt. However, fifty consistent strong reviews and fifty consistent poor reviews... or just fairly consistent opinions is strong enough to prove a point. There is going to be a biased person every now and then, but read through the opinions and see which ones are most believable and thorough.

As for how it works, it's simple. You rate each professor anonymously on a scale of 1-5 based off of easiness, helpfulness, clarity, and rater interest on the subject. You can also provide comments that are up to 350 characters long. You also include the class you had them for, some other information that isn't shown or is occasionally optional, and a chili pepper that signifies whether or not you think the instructor is hot (physically attractive).

With that being said, I myself have used the site to rate every professor I have had. I give my honest opinion as to what I thought about each and contribute to the rating as to which each of them has. I feel that it is a civil service that all students should put their time into. It allows good professors to be given attention and more students and has bad professors dealing with students who steer away from them. On some occasions, it makes the grand difference in whether or not a professor stays of goes.

Unfortunately, there have been some colleges that have withheld the information as to which professor will teach which class because of Rate My Professor. Students have really looked into this site as they selected their classes, which is most definitely a good notion. The exercising of the first amendment has really made an impact and it's doing what should be done. Withholding professor information because of this is censorship and should not be tolerated. Bad professors should not be given the credit of more classes. I have always been against tenure and feel that professors should always perform to the best of their ability. Those who aren't good should be given the boot. The best society is one that is constantly flowing for the good and those who stall should be swept away.

My most important factors in selecting a professor is word of mouth from family or friends, whether the time fits, and if Rate My Professor shows a consistently good or bad flow. I myself contribute to this flow and suggest that you do the same in order to contribute to the values of merit.