Sunday, April 05, 2015

Food: Sotto Sotto

My favorite Italian place in Atlanta is Sotto Sotto, Riccardo Ullio's wildly popular Inman Park restaurant. It gets crowded quick, but if you reserve in advance, you can dine out on the back patio and experience some really fabulous pasta and risotto. Here are some of my personal highlights:

Spaghetti alle vongole ($19): This is a pretty straightforward rendition of spaghetti with clam sauce, but it's fresher and tastier than you'll get in your local Italian joint.

The "naked ravioli" (i.e., spinach and ricotta gnocchi, $17): It's tough to tell in the picture, but each one of those greenish globes was really tender and absolutely bursting with flavor. This is one of those dishes that you savor, bite by bite, along with a good glass of wine.

Mushroom risotto ($17): Creamy, al dente, and rich in all the best ways. The only real complaint you'll have is that the dish was over too soon.

3/4 stars

Movies: It Follows

"It Follows" is a horror movie lover's horror movie, but not in the self-referential, "Cabin in the Woods" sense. Instead of winking at the conventions established by giants like Carpenter, Craven, and Cronenberg, director David Robert Mitchell has absorbed most of their lessons and fashioned his own deeply personal nightmare:

Maika Monroe stars as Jay, a pretty young woman living in suburban Detroit. After having sex with her boyfriend Hugh, she wakes up strapped to a wheelchair. Hugh explains that the sex "passed on" some sort of curse to Jay -from now on, a mysterious shape-changing entity will follow her relentlessly. It's slow, but not stupid, and if it ever reaches her, she's dead.

"It Follows" uses this elemental premise the way a musician uses a jazz standard. These are the same teens in danger and creepy suburbs you've seen in dozens of slasher movies, but Mitchell extracts the maximum amount of tension out of eerie Detroit ruins and lingering wide-angle shots. The movie is also blessed with a vulnerable, star-making performance from Monroe and an incredible chiptunes soundtrack by Disasterpeace,

That's not to say the direction is flawless, as several scenes are more or less lifted from "Halloween" or "Nightmare on Elm Street." The movie also loses some steam in its third act, as is typical for the genre. These are small quibbles, though, and they don't change that "It Follows" is a worthwhile nightmare to wake up from.

Rating: 8/10

Books: The Stars at War

"The Stars at War" is a collection of four space opera novels written by David Weber and Steve White.  The novels are set in the "Starfire" boardgame universe, where humans and their alien allies have colonized a handful of planets in a vast and unexplored galaxy. That vastness sets the stage for surprise invasions from two groups of aliens: the fanatical Thebans (the first novel, "Crusade") and the carnivorous Arachnids ("In Death Ground," "The Shiva Option"). It also creates the political tensions that lead to a Terran civil war ("Insurrection").

Weber and White's writing is the military sci-fi equivalent of a Michael Bay movie - there are giant fleets of ships clashing with ever-deadlier technology, big explosions, and broadly-drawn heroes. It's anything but subtle, and if you don't like reading about the point defenses of superdreadnoughts and light cruisers, you're probably not going to like this. That being said, White is a former U.S. Navy officer who served in Vietnam, so the books are also chock full of observations on naval life and fun callbacks to real-world history (the "Great Marianas Turkey Shoot" is referenced by name).

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Tech: Amazon Dash

It's hard keeping track of household products in the modern world. I mean, who can tell when you're running out of fresh Tide® detergent, creamy Kraft® Macaroni and Cheese, or rich Maxwell House® coffee? If you've ever found yourself staring in wild-eyed desperation at the empty rack of your Keurig K-Cup® coffee machine, than you need Amazon Dash:

Amazon Dash seamlessly integrates with your lifestyle. You simply place small plastic buttons, helpfully emblazoned with all of your favorite brands, everywhere around your home.  When pressed, the buttons send in an automatic order to your Amazon Prime account, sending the needed product right to your door. Like with your other Prime orders, you can get products delivered two-day, overnight, or, in some areas, on the same day, so last-minute trips to the store will be a thing of the past! Request your Amazon Dash buttons today!

...April Fool's!

...Wait? This is a real thing?