Friday, May 29, 2009

"Perfect Burger" update

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a survey which was being conducted by a local radio station. They were looking for the best burger in the Hartford area and, at the time of my writing, Red Robin was in the lead for the title.

Well, the polls closed last week over at DRC-FM, and I'm happy to say Red Robin did not take the title of "Perfect Burger." That honor went to GoldBurgers in Newington. Can't say I've ever been there, but I'm glad an actual local restaurant won, rather than a chain.

I'd point you to the results page on DRC's website, but they've already moved onto bigger and better things. Those "good time rock n' rollers" are always on the move.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What BJ's is really trying to tell you

Advertising. When it's good, it gives us information while being entertaining; when it's bad, it gives us headaches and the occasional groan-inducing scramble to switch television stations. And yet, regardless of quality, all advertising is done under such a microscope, passing through the hands of agencies, production companies, and vendors, that more often than not there are loads of tiny symbols hidden within the piece. Some of these symbols are there to influence the mind subconsciously, while others may try to make the product more relatable to a certain demographic. 

Such symbolism in visual advertising comes directly from symbolism in art, which has been around as long as people have been creating canvases or scrawling on cave walls. One of the chief examples of such talk is Jan van Eyck's 15th century masterpiece The Arnolfini Wedding:

On first glance, the painting seems nothing more than a portrait of a couple, yet further investigation shows multiple symbols that offer views on gender roles, class, and domesticity. The woman is near the bed, while her husband is at the window; she is domestic, while he is of the world. The small dog at their feet shows loyalty. The single lit candle on the chandelier may stand for the holy spirit, while the fruits near the window most likely represent fertility.

Honestly, the symbolism in this painting could fill a book (I know I once wrote a 15 page paper on it and felt I didn't even scratch the tip of the iceberg).

But we're not here for art history. We're here because of that pesky headline I wrote: What BJ's is trying to tell you. Mysterious sounding, I know.

Here is the photo that accompanied an advertisement I received in the mail from BJ's Wholesale just the other day:

It's a poor photo, there's no question. Everything looks very staged. The people are positioned in an awkward way that no family would ever stand. And there's some strange Photoshopping happening at the bottom with shadows.

But when studied closer, some very disturbing comments about family and gender begin to lift from the page.

First, the males are both higher in the image than the females. The poor "Mom" character is on her knees, while "Dad" stands tall above everyone with an assuring hand on the shoulder of his son. The guys are the dominant force in the family, the bread winners, the money. This thought is also displayed by the decision to have Dad's hand on the shopping cart. He's in control of the family, while Mom's the one down on the ground. 

That's not to say that women are nothing in the image. Their placement in the foreground gives them some dominance. To me it seems that BJ's may be saying "Men may be in control, they may be behind everything (literally and figuratively), but women know how to shop."

The dominance of male over female also is evident in the choice of BJ's to fill the space behind the males with products while letting the space behind the females drift into a white void. What does this say about BJ's thoughts of women? Do the products behind the males represent knowledge? Ability? Power? Or is the blank white space just an aesthetic decision to make the photo flow more into the text that accompanied it in the original advertisement?

Of course, anything is up for interpretation.

Look at what both the boy and girl are handing to their same-gendered parent:

Yes, that's right, daughter is holding eggs while son is holding mounds of hot dogs. Doesn't take a genius to figure that one out. And the way the father is looking down at the son makes it look like they're having some sort of "life lesson" conversation about what those hot dogs are for.

Why is BJ's telling us that women carry eggs and men carry wieners? Are they trying to reinforce some sort of "family" image? Does it tie into the symbolism of superiority of men that the image is already displaying?

Honestly, I don't know. It is pretty creepy, though, don't you think?

Now, I know there are plenty of smart people out there who read this blog. What do you see in this advertisement photo? Am I crazy for seeing the things I've just said? Is BJ's Wholesale really trying to push some strange "Man/Woman" family dominance on us all?

Or am I just seeing thing?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I have not vanished

Contrary to reports generated by myself, I have not disappeared. I did not get trampled in the Memorial Day parade. I did not eat some bad hot dogs at a cookout.

I've just been out of things to observe the past few days.

However, I'll be back tomorrow with a nice little piece about one of our gigantic superstores and their odd advertising practices.

Until then, hope you all have a good night.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Long weekend tidbits

 • This Sunday will mark the final curtain call for the Park Road Playhouse. In my short time here, I've never been to a performance, but it's sad to see it go. Here's an article detailing the closure.

• Did you hear that there's a zombie movie that only cost $70 to make that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival? It's true

• West Hartford's Memorial Day parade will begin at 10AM on Monday. The parade starts at the corner of Woodrow Street and Farmington Avenue and runs all the way to the Town Hall. Attendance is encouraged ...

• Is there a fight brewing between TV pitchmen Billy Mays and Vince "Shamwow/Slap Chop/prostitute biter" Shlomi Offer? According to a report from Pittsburgh's KDKA, Shlomi may have to start watching out for the bearded wonder:
He's still fighting with the bad boy of the infomercials, Vince Shlomi. Just mention "ShamWow!" to Mays and the sparks start flying.

"Sham pow!" said Mays. "What do you think? I'm going to take the high road on this but be careful what you name your product. I had the original product 'Zorbeez.' It laid the foundation. What he did was build the house. Now, I'm moving back in. I'm going to take back what's mine and if you're out there Vince ... 'ShamPow!'... okay?"

• And, finally, speaking of scary things hunting you down, there's the story of Ex-UConn and New England Patriots football player Eric Naponski, who was arrested this week in connection with a murder that occurred in 1994. Naponski is accused of shooting a man six times as part of a life insurance scheme.

His lawyer, one Jeffrey Chartier, is quoted as saying, "I don't know why they made such a big dog-and-pony show out of it," when referring to the arrest. Hmmm, it might have something to do with the six bullets fired into a man's chest. Plus, we're in Connecticut, we need  some action.

A Green Day rant

Oh, Green Day, must you continue to churn out these goofy "political" albums? They're beginning to make people take you seriously. 

Remember when you used to be just as bad but sang about things like playing with yourself? Remember when you were famous because you threw mud at people? Those were the days.

This morning I read an article on Yahoo! Music concerning your frustration over Wal-Mart's album censorship policy. Essentially a rehashing of Wal-Mart's long-standing rule in which the box store giant refuses to shelve albums that carry a "Parental Advisory" sticker, the article made it sound like you just suddenly discovered that stores like Wal-Mart censor music. The truth is, however, that anyone with any interest in music already knows that this has been Wal-Mart's policy for years and that lots and lots of bands have refused to conform to the corporate monster's wishes, which means that their albums have not been stocked on shelves at the store. 

Now, you're right when you say that it's ridiculous that one can go into a Wal-Mart to buy a violent video game, an R rated movie, and a gun, but they can't buy an album that has a sticker saying that people swear in a song (and the whole "Parental Advisory" sticker policy is a massive joke, with record companies deciding what does and doesn't deserve a label), but, c'mon guys, you had to know about what you were getting into before you started this now-public feud. If anything, Billie Joe, you should be arguing with your record label. They're the ones who decided to slap the "PA" sticker on your CD to begin with. But maybe that would be biting the hand that feeds you a bit too much, eh? Oh, man, that would be punk rock!

But things weren't always bad between you and Wal-Mart, were they? Didn't Wal-Mart offer some sort of "exclusive" version of your International Superhits! album? Yep, here it is. It's funny how you must have been completely comfortable to get in bed with Wal-Mart just a year or so ago, isn't it, but now you're soooooo angry at them?

In the Yahoo! Music article, Mike Dirnt, you're quoted saying  "As the biggest record store in the America, they (Wal-Mart) should probably have an obligation to sell people the correct art."

I agree with you 100%. However, when you look at your track record, you guys seemed perfectly fine to offer censored versions of your music before you became a band that talks about "important" topics (though, honestly, American Idiot is a pretty flimsy political statement when you really give it a listen). I mean, your first radio hit, "Longview" was heavily censored for language in order to appear on the radio. Heck, even "American Idiot" was censored for radio play. So, if you, as a band, are okay with censoring your lyrics and "art" in order to peddle your songs over the airwaves, why are you making a big deal about this whole Wal-Mart thing?

Hmmm ... Maybe it's because you're trying to stir up more interest in showing how "political" you are now, how "angry" you are with the corporate giants, even though, and let's be honest here, you are beyond becoming a similar giant, charging about $50 for a ticket to your concerts. Maybe you should change your name to Greed Day (okay, that was a bit low).

Could this "feud" be just another facade in your evolving image? Have you been talking to Madonna?

Perhaps this whole nonsense is just another identity shift of an already over-costumed musical act. We all know how much you've changed. After all, we must remember that you are still the guys who named an album Dookie and who aped The Clash in your early years to the point of exhaustion.

Whatever the reason, Green Day, I just hope that, over time, people begin to listen to true "political" songs from our current era and realize that what you've become is nothing more than AOR dream, a simple political statement for those afraid to bother thinking beyond the obvious.

That's all. Now, go back to putting on your eyeliner and moping. Thanks for your time.

P.S. If you're looking for a concept album that actually does work when it comes to the fear of living in the scary George W. world that we all suffered through, check out The Thermals' The Body, the Blood, the Machine. Absolutely brilliant! 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Burger lovers unite! We can't let this happen!

I was cruising this morning and listening to the "good time rock n' roll" tunes on 102.9, DRC-FM (have I mentioned how poor the choices are for radio stations here?), when I happened to hear that the station is having a "search of ... the perfect burger" poll. 

Needless to say, my interests were piqued, as I'm always up for a tasty burger.

Turns out, though, as of 8:30 this morning, Red Robin is the leading vote getter. Seriously! Red "according to our website we have over 250 locations in the United States" Robin!

Burger fans, we must unite and take over this poll. We all know that there are plenty of better places to grab a burger in the greater Hartford area than Red "endless basket of fries, hey, look at all this wacky stuff on the wall!" Robin!

Hop on over to the DRC website here and click on the "The Perfect" tab to vote. We cannot let the good listeners of the Big D think we're all zombies to the burger chains, no matter how cool it is to get your picture taken with their mascot at the Park Road parade!

Note: Truth be told, I actually don't hate Red Robin. For a corporate entity of a restaurant chain, the burgers aren't that bad. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Raven's Run

As a runner, every once in a while I find I need something to motivate me to tie on my sneakers and hike out in the rain or the cold to get my miles in for the day. The following video, from ESPN's Outside The Lines, is one of those motivators. It focuses on Robert "The Raven" Kraft, a man who has logged over 100,000 miles doing a daily 8 mile run along the Miami shoreline. He has never missed a day in 35 years, regardless of mother nature's interference or physical restrictions. It's a story of a man dedicated to something, which is so incredibly rare to see these days.

Check it out:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The new(ish) Silas Deane Pawn ad

A while back, I wrote about Connecticut's amazing amount of pawn shops and the massive amount of advertising each business does in an attempt to separate themselves from their competition. Well, one of these shops, Silas Deane Pawn, has a (somewhat) new commercial that I saw for the first time on television the other night. According to their YouTube post, this has been around since December, but since it's new to me, I figured I'd pass it along:

Now, did these guys already have these costumes or were they pawned by Macho Man Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan (he is going through a messy divorce and could probably use the extra cash)?

Our fancy new firetruck

Little boys (and girls, though I don't think many of you will care) of West Hartford, rejoice! There is a very fancy new firetruck in town for you to point at in awe from your car seats!

The Hartford Courant, doing its best West Hartford News impersonation, has an article all about the $818,000 "quint" truck (meaning it can be used as a ladder, pumper, aerial, hose, and water truck) that's now residing at Station 3 in Elmwood. You can read all about it over here. No word on if they're going to be giving free rides up and down the boom, though if they charged a buck a ride, that thing would be paid off in no time! 

One question remains: When it transforms, is it an Autobot or a Decepticon?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Scenes from my new office

It wasn't until I unpacked that I realized how many toys I have. Most are from when I was a kid, though I will admit to getting some as an adult. Here are a few:

Urban Oaks Organic Farm plant sale!

The Professor and I were on the hunt for some tomato seedlings for our veggie patch (we're not skilled enough to bother trying to grow them from seeds on our own), but we didn't want to bother with the Home Depots of the world (Home Depot and I just don't mix very well together. I honestly think the store tries to keep me from finding anything and then sends me to the least educated of their employees to try to solve my problems). So, after much web searching, the Prof stumbled across the Urban Oaks Organic Farm's spring plant sale, which just happened to be starting yesterday. 

Oooh, were we lucky!

They had a huge variety of heirloom seedlings, from plums to beefsteak to cherry, and they were only $2 a piece! Add in peppers and herbs and one could walk out with a full garden for under $40.

If anyone out there is looking for seedlings, they should give the folks down at Urban Oaks a visit.

The plant sale is on Fridays and Saturdays until supplies have been exhausted. For more information, visit their website.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New news outlets to keep you up to date on the important stories breaking in West Hartford

I noticed today that, a daily online newspaper dedicated to all things West Hartford, exists. If that's not enough, the recently launched also covers pretty much anything and everything West Hartford.

Now, I understand the use of having a weekly town paper (a' la the recently improved West Hartford News), but is this town so important that it needs two separate entities covering it 24/7? I thought the Hartford Courant did a pretty decent job of keeping us informed of all the important stories. Plus, we have NBC30 right here in town, waiting with baited breath for anything to cover.

I mean, do we need to have a news story about our town's preparation for swine flu? seems to think so:

We're a community of about 62,000. We have the state's biggest daily newspaper literally next door in Hartford. The weekly West Hartford News and the monthly West Hartford Life should be enough, don't you think? 

But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps we DO need more news coverage. Maybe there are hundreds of wonderful nuggets of news waiting to be discovered.

Or maybe we're going to end up with two gigantic community bulletin boards.

Well, good luck MWHL and I hope you don't get too bored waiting for something major to happen. Oh, and if you want to know about a place that might be a drug den, drop me a line. I'll point you toward my old neighborhood.

Monday, May 11, 2009

One thing I did observe ... the H2oly Cow

Last night, after completely wiring all of the electronics back together in the entertainment center, I saw a television ad for the strangest product called the H2oly Cow. It's a sprinkler system for your yard that's shaped like a cow. According to the ad, it makes watering your yard "fun." I wish I could find the commercial somewhere to embed. It's pretty bizarre.

Here's a picture:

The website for the product has a short video clip you can watch, but it doesn't include the funniest part of the television commercial, which involves children playing around the Cow like it's some sort of really cool toy. Meanwhile, they're just getting pelted by water. But what got me is the fact that the end of the hose is flailing around throughout all of this, sending the metal end at high speeds near their heads and arms and legs. I just kept thinking, "One of those kids is going to end up in the hospital!" What an awkward conversation that would be in the ER.

About that final night . . .

I am sore and tired, but I have moved. The Professor and I slept in total silence last night. We almost didn't know what to do with ourselves.

Because I've been packing and moving, I can't say I've really been out and about "observing" many things lately, but I did want to share with you a little tale about the final night I spent in my old apartment.

It began that afternoon. The Prof and I had brought one final carload of stuff to our new digs, and as we pulled into our old driveway, we saw the Emperor, our upstairs neighbor, carrying stacks of cardboard boxes out to the garbage.

"Spring cleaning?" I asked him.

"I have to clean. My girlfriend is going to move in with me."

Immediately, I rejoiced in the fact that I would no longer be living below him. See, the Emperor's girlfriend is a heel lover. She wears them every single time she visits, including when they go to bed.

And, although I wanted to reply, "Thank GOD I'm moving," I held my tongue and went inside.

Jump to 10:15PM. The Prof and I decided to head to bed to get some extra rest for the big move day. As we were slipping under the covers, we heard the sound of a truck. I looked out the window. It was the Emperor with a U-Haul.

Then the sound of heels from overhead rained down.

When he told me that his girlfriend was moving in while we stood over at the garbage cans, the Emperor forgot to end the phrase "in about four hours."

So, from about 10:30 to 12:30, we heard Heely and Emperor march UP the stairs with boxes, then DOWN the stairs to get more. Oh, and it was raining, so they were constantly stomping on the carpets in the stairwell to, apparently, dry their feet.

After the first hour of tossing and turning, the Professor got up and went into the living room to watch television. I followed. She ended up pulling the cushions off of a chair and curling up with them on the floor. I laid down on the couch.

We ended up sleeping there all night. At one point, probably about 1AM, we heard the Emperor starting the U-Haul up and driving away. Of course, the Heelinator stayed behind and continued to, I can only gather, move furniture above us.

And that's going to be my final memory of that place. Crashing on the couch with the television singing an infomercial lullaby. Sleeping about 4 hours before getting up to get my own U-Haul.

I pity the poor fool who is the next to live there.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Max Burger Fatty Melt experience

For those not in the know (or from out of town), Max Burger, in addition to being the latest offering from the slightly ubiquitous Max Restaurant Group, is West Hartford's newest burger joint. With its opening, we West Hartford-ites can now choose from three "burger dedicated" restaurants located within a mile and a half of each other (with Plan B and The Counter completing the trifecta). Oh, and then there's Red Robin, but I wouldn't really count that place.

Last night, the Professor and I stopped into Max Burger for dinner. I was instantly struck by the decor, which, to me, rang in as "calculated casual." That's not to say the place wasn't nice. It just felt like someone in the planning room said, "How can we, you know, slum it down a bit while staying classy?" Then someone else said, "How about old-timey milk glasses for water? And we'll have the waiters wear jeans!"

But we weren't there for the decor. We were in for the food. And, let me tell you, the burger I ordered may have been one of the most decadent sandwiches I have ever eaten.

It was called the Fatty Melt. An 8 oz. burger with cheese served between two grilled cheese sandwiches, it was a messy mouthful. Oh, and did I mention that one grilled cheese had tomato and the other was filled with bacon?

Yowza! What a burger!

The Professor got the Inside Out burger, which had a cheese center. I have to say, hers was cooked more to order than mine, but they were both delicious and were served with pickles, house fries and a garlic aioli for dipping.

We finished with the house whoopie pies. While quite tasty, the cake was a bit dry.

As we drove home, our stomachs full, we debated if Max Burger was "better" than its competition. Our conclusions were mixed. In my opinion, Max Burger will never have the neighborhood feel of Plan B. Perhaps this is because of its high class upbringing, as a fair amount of the customers looked as if they would normally be at Max's Oyster Bar or Max Downtown, but "wanted to see how the peasants ate." (A good example of this was the guy sitting at the table next to me, who The Professor noticed made an exaggerated eye lift when I announced, not terribly loudly, that I had eaten everything on my plate. Of course, he then proceeded to cut his burger in half - cardinal sin - and eat portions of it with a fork).

But as I said earlier, who cares about the decor, right? The Fatty Melt is a foodie's dream come true and the type of burger that can make a place famous.

So, is Max the best burger place? I'm going to have to say that I can't say. The sandwiches are wonderful, but are in almost every way similar to Plan B (sans the extra flair). And the menu certainly doesn't give you the fun options that The Counter offers, but that's to be expected. However, there's something oddly unique at Max Burger that makes its existence make sense. I guess you'll have to try it for yourself.

Max Burger can be found on LaSalle Road in West Hartford. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A brief break from packing/moving

The constant cycle of "pack boxes, fill car, bring boxes to new apartment, come home, go to work, eat, sleep, start again" is beginning to take a toll. I think the Professor and I will have to get out of the circuit tonight and take a break.

In the meantime, I offer you this very strange video of elderly banging heads to death metal. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

What does this say about the driver?

I was driving behind the car in the above photo the other day. My good fortune found my digital camera handy. 

Now, maybe I'm just cynical, but something struck me as both funny and sad seeing a person use a "Proud to be an American" bumper sticker to cover a massive crack in their bumper. 

It felt like an incredibly loaded image that could mean so many different things.

A trip to Ted's Restaurant

I was jonesin' for a burger yesterday, but the Professor was working at her office, so a trip to Max Burger, which we've been discussing, had to be tabled. Instead, I opted for some old fashioned Connecticut cooking.

I decided to find Ted's Restaurant in Meriden. Their steamed hamburgers are things of legend among foodies and the restaurant is often featured on those ubiquitous diner programs that seem to be on television at any hour. So I got a map from the old interwebs and headed off.

The Drive

The drive to Ted's was a bit disappointing. Google Maps sent me along the Berlin Turnpike, which meant I got to drive past lots of seedy hotels that were next to even seedier strip clubs and "adult" stores. I hoped that this wasn't some sort of sign of things to come (My suggestion if you're planning a jaunt to Ted's: Find a route with better scenery.).

Thankfully, as I turned onto Broad Street, the world turned back to normal. Ted's was easy to find. It was the place with a million cars in front.

The Restaurant

Needless to say, the place was busy.

And incredibly small, with only a few booths and a counter for eaters to consume mass quantities of beef and cheese.

I waited in line. When it was my turn, I ordered probably the most obvious meal: steamed cheeseburger, home fries, and a Pepsi (Ted's doesn't do french fries. It's home fries or no fries.).

I lucked out and was able to find a seat at the counter. This is easily the best place to sit at Ted's. Because the lure of the place is the steamed cooking style of the burgers, watching the cook constantly fill tiny trays with beef and cheese is certainly a must if possible. The counter also lets diners get a good look at the heaping piles of home fries that are constantly on the restautant's grill, browning to a lovely crisp that borders on burnt (but burnt in a good way).

The Burger

My burger came out after about ten minutes. It was made to order with lettuce, tomato, and onion. The cheese was so bubbly that it oozed out of the pinwheel center of the bun. I can honestly say that it looked heavenly.

It was incredibly juicy. And kind of funky. For whatever reason, it felt like the type of burger Wimpy from Popeye would crave (and con someone into buying for him). But the fact that it was steamed left me wanting a bit. I missed the taste of the grill. Maybe it was a bit psychological of me. Now, that's not to say I didn't like the burger. I practically inhaled the thing. It was tasty, just a different kind of tasty. I really can't describe it. It's an experience I think you have to try to understand.

My belly full, my wallet lighter only $7 (before tip), I stumbled back out to my car. I was satisfied in my trip. I headed back up past the creepy hotels and strip clubs, and made my way home.

Ted's Restaurant can be found at 1046 Broad Street in Meriden.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Mini news on media move day

Got the keys to the new apartment last night. Very excited. We move in a little over a week, but today was devoted to hauling most of our media from Crummyville to the new digs. With the amount of books and DVDs and CDs that we own, such a move is very tiring.

As you can imagine, I'm not in much of a manifesto mood.

But I wanted to remind everyone that tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. What is Free Comic Book Day? Well, it's pretty self explanatory. Comic shops all over the country will be offering up special free comic books to whomever walks through their doors. I'm not a gigantic comic book reader (it's amazing to see the stacks that guys are buying every time I go in and spend my five dollars), but this event is always fun to attend. For more info, visit

Also, my friend Jay emailed me the link to some amazingly cool commercials that were created for Scrabble (one of my favorite games). Check 'em out:

He came across them over here at BeaucoupKevin.