Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Waxing Nostalgic

Every now and then, you find a restaurant that you really love to visit. Maybe they serve the best pancakes you've ever had. Maybe they have a beer selection that's second to none. Maybe it's the fantastic sushi. Whatever the reason, there are certain restaurants that you don't just love them. The very thought of eating there fills you with excitement, and you always leave with a smile on your face. I'm fortunate enough to have quite a few such restaurants in my life.
Today I discovered that one of these, the Market Street Ale House, is no longer with us. I didn't visit the Ale House often, but each trip was memorable.
My first visit to the Market Street Ale House was back in 2004. The Wife and I were looking for a nice Valentine's day dinner, and we found an ad for a four course meal for two at the Ale House. For a reasonably low price (that I don't remember anymore), we'd each get an appetizer, a salad, a main course, and a dessert, each with a matching beer. We went, along with my brother and his wife.
The food was fantastic - Filet mignon and lobster tails, with beer that was just as delicious. We raved about it afterwards, and we returned the next year, bringing my parents along.
We returned again in 2006 with yet another couple in our party (due to our raving about how wonderful it was). This time, when I made the reservation, I even had the opportunity to talk to the chef, who welcomed any input I cared to give regarding the menu. Talk about service!
They discontinued the Valentine's day special after that - probably because we were the only people who showed up. The rest of Pittsburgh has no idea what they missed.
The Wife and I visited the Ale House two more times after that, both times when we were in town to see a show. The food was always delicious (seared ahi tuna, anyone?), and the beer...well they had Belgian beers on draft. Need I say more?
Where the Market Street Ale House once was, there is now a Mexican restaurant. It made me sad to see the Ale House's muted brown sign gone, replaced with a bright yellow one. A personal favorite has gone, leaving only memories. But what memories they are...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Physics and Weird Al

Recently, I started reading The Elegant Universe, by Brian Greene. Yes, I read physics books for fun. Note the title of this blog if that seems odd to you.
Anyway, back to my story. *ahem* The other day, I was reading the chapter on Einstein's reconciliation of Relativity with Newtonian gravity when something very amusing happened. I encountered the following passage in the book:
"...the gravitational force between two bodies is proportional top the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them."
This passage activated a heretofore unknown earworm, and my brain started singing "Weird Al" Yankovic's Pancreas:
"My pancreas attracts every other Pancreas in the universe With a force proportional To the product of their masses And inversely proportional To the distance between them
Woo woo woo woooooo"

In fact, it happened again as I was quoting the book. How many geek points is something like that worth?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tool: What's Next?

The other day, I was thinking about Tool. Specifically, I was thinking about their album covers. It seems to me that Tool treat album covers as an artform unto itself. In this day of digital downloads, I'll still go to the store and buy a Tool CD. Take a look, they're all worth it:


The first album (OK, it's actually an EP) was a little light on the artwork. What was included, however, was strange and vaguely unsettling - a theme that Tool would build on.


The second album took on a much darker appearance. Dark enough that certain stores (I won't mention names, but they involve the syllable "Mart") refused to stock it. Tool's reaction to this was to release an alternate cover, just for these uptight merchants - a giant bar code.


This is where Tool really started to push the envelope. It comes in a specially designed lenticular jewel case, so that when you tilt it, the cover image appears to move. There are several additional images in the liner notes that also appear to move when inserted into the lenticular cover.
The CD tray also features a lenticular "moving picture."


This album comes packaged in a translucent gray plastic sleeve with the band's name and the album title on the front, and the tracklist on the back. Removing the sleeve reveals an image similar to what one would expect to see in an anatomy text. The booklet that this is printed on is made of transparent plastic, and as each successive page is turned, another layer of the "body" is taken away, revealing musculature, bones, and eventually organs.

10,000 Days

as of this writing, this is the most recent Tool album. Unlike previous Tool albums, 10,000 Days isn't packaged in a Jewel case. It comes in something similar to a digi-pak, albeit one made of much stronger cardboard. This is necessary because of the two plastic lenses contained in a flap that, when used to view the liner notes, creates a 3-D stereoscopic effect.

See what I mean?
Not only are Tool's albums creatively packaged, but the packaging for each album is more interesting, fascinating and just plain cool than the last. This leads me to wonder: What awesome idea will they have for their next album? Time will tell, and I'll be right there at Best Buy to check it out.