Thursday, March 29, 2012

Taste This, Slappy!

My taste buds have shifted considerably in the last 15 years. At some point, the same set of receptors which craved endless quarts of chocolate Yoo-Hoo and heaping bowls full of Lucky Charms slowly crept towards consumables with far more complex palates. Chocolate drinks and marshmallow cereal lost their appeal against a growing appreciation of robust red wines and delicately prepared bouillabaisse.

Even the sugar in my coffee began to ease up, until a steady diet of café espresso led to simple bold, black coffee. A monolithic sweet tooth had eroded to silt, perfectly sated by a fun-sized York Peppermint Patty or a Hershey's Kiss.

Yet, the single thought of batter-driven breakfast foods accompanied by maple syrup will bring me to a halt. French Toast? Oui, s'il-vous-plaît. Waffles? Want 'em. Pancakes? Grab a spatula. Best part is: nowadays, most everywhere you can order them offers an option of whole wheat batter/breads.

Two other things I really enjoy are travel and kitsch. Many trips (business and pleasure) have comprised of long drives to witness and taste some great, out of the ordinary stuff. A beanery I just found out about yesterday combines pancakes, travel and kitsch all in one: Slappy Cakes in Portland, OR

How's this for fun? You can order from a menu of made-from-scratch pancake batter and add-ins. These are are brought to your table, which is equipped with a built-in griddle, to begin preparing your very own pancakes as you like them. Observe the young lady's demonstration below on location at Slappy Cakes...

Photo © and courtesy of Anthony Rush Ledbetter

Note: she actually doesn't work there. That's Janey Ellis, proprietor of the "Atomic Redhead" blog. Janey is a very lovely, creative proponent of things vintage. As you can see from the pic, she's quite enthusiastic about mid-century fashion (and modern-day pancakes).

So now I gotta put together a trek to the great Northwest. So far, I know in Washington, it's coffee and seafood in Seattle, and a trek to Mt. Rainier. Then onto Oregon for Slappy Cakes pancakes in Portland, followed by a visit to Grants Pass to honor Carl Barks (who I understand also liked his pancakes). Carl might enjoy it if I could visit his resting place after imitating our mutual friend pictured below.

"Breakfast of Tycoons" by Carl Barks
 Image © 1996 The Walt Disney Company

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Day at the Beach

Ah! The sun, the surf, the... AAAAAGGHH!!! WHY? DEAR GOD, WHY?

Image courtesy of

iTV - Steve's Parting Gift?

Steve Jobs left us far too soon, but not without a making sure there was something new and different in development that bore his fingerprints. According to a Huffington Post article published earlier today, Taiwan's Hon Hai (assembler of Apple's touchscreen hardware) took a 10 % stake in Sharp Corp., manufacturer of Sharp flat screen TVs. With this information, Techies know they just inched a bit closer to Apple's long-rumored "smart" TV. The device was teased in Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Steve Jobs.
"'I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,' [Jobs] told me. 'It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.' No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. 'It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.'"
The veil of secrecy surrounding new concepts out of Cupertino, CA is roughly five feet thick. It isn't clear if Apple's physical TV will pair with, or replace the current Apple TV box you can use to connect and stream content to your current flat screen.

Most pundits seem to agree that Apple's TV will utilize the interface of the ubiquitous iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. Based on the information from today's article, that sounds like a sure thing. Since the touchscreen component is an unlikely sell to couch potatoes, what we'll likely receive is:
  • A motion sensor will allow viewers to swipe and point into the air, similar to the gaming interface of an Xbox Kinect
  • A remote app to control the TV from your iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
  • A voice recognition and response feature (Siri may soon be getting to know us even better)
Of course, the most interesting tidbit from Jobs's quote is "cable channels" - I have a notion this device will give cable TV services their first big shake-up. Should the networks and channels open up to make their broadcast content available to Apple's TV, the game will forever be changed. If it catches on like the iTunes store, you may find some steep discount offers from the local cable provider lining your mailbox and inbox.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mad Logic

Last month, Elle UK ran a feature on Mad Men star, Jon Hamm. There has been growing coverage and follow-up regarding a particular statement by Hamm during the course of the interview:
"Whether it's Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian or whoever, stupidity is certainly celebrated.... Being a f**king idiot is a valuable commodity in this culture because you're rewarded significantly."
Slightly crude, but well said!

For over a decade, public focus on reality television and the personalities it inhabits has steadily increased, further empowering the genre. Birthed in an era of exponentially expanding media outlets, ever-hungry for new content, the explosion of reality programming arrived with precision timing. Television was never perfect, but the quest for quick, non-scripted and economic programming has diluted the quality of the medium. Not everyone is guilty of watching these shows, but nearly everyone knows the names and antics of the infamous personalities featured.

Point is, Jon Hamm is 100% correct and a class act. Here's hoping his model of thinking on idiot culture will resonate further and provide a bit of clarity for those who may have sunk too deep into the trench.

Oh, and one of the best shows on television returns Sunday, March 25th with a 2-hour premiere. If you haven't been watching, now is a perfect time to start.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

UPA on DVD Coming March 15th

From the late 1940s through the mid-1950s, some of the most imaginative and ground-breaking animation emerged from a studio called UPA (United Productions of America). Their Academy Award winning animated short subjects were theatrically released by Columbia Pictures. UPA is probably best known as the creators of Mr. Magoo* and the animated adaption of Gerald McBoing-Boing by Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel. However, their oeuvre is as eclectic as a patchwork quilt on Jackson Pollock's studio floor. The contemporary feel and unlikely sources (adapting the work of authors such as James Thurber, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ludwig Bemelmans) boldly set the studio apart. This gave UPA bragging rights as animation for the intellectual set.

UPA boasted a mighty talent pool of master animators, writers, and designers who pushed the envelope of "safe" studio animation design to reflect post-modern art and mid-centutry graphic sensibilities. Their creative team generates a list of animation who's-who. Here is a mere sampling of contributors to the UPA shorts: Jules Engel, Bill Scott, Bill Meléndez, Bobe Cannon, and John Hubley (a remarkable animator about whom I plan a lengthy post). These pioneers of the golden age of animation contributed largely to forging the art style which has come to be known as "Cartoon Modern."**

On March 15, the original UPA shorts are being released together on DVD for the first time courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and Sony Pictures. UPA - The Jolly Frolics Collection consists of 3 discs containing 38 theatrical shorts, each remastered and many featuring restored titles. The set has been overseen by Film Authority and Historian Leonard Maltin and Animation Historian Jerry Beck, who have also contributed audio commentaries on selected cartoons. It is exclusively available at TCM's website here: UPA Jolly Frolics DVD, where the list price has been marked down to from $39.99 to $34.99. If you sign up for TCM's mailing list here, you can order the DVD and any of their great movies for an additional 10% off your order. Go, man, go!

* You will find one Mr. Magoo cartoon here, the character's debut short Ragtime Bear - but the complete theatrically released UPA Magoo series will have a home on an official Shout! Factory release this June. You can check out the specs of that DVD set on Amazon: The Mr. Magoo Theatrical Collection (1949-1959).

**  More about this art movement of the 1940s through the 1960s can be found at Amid Amidi's blog: Cartoon Modern.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Chili à la Mobile

This will be the first post via Blogger's mobile app for iPhone, which is free via the App Store and utilizes a very simple interface. The tech takes a backseat to the vital message I want to convey.

As winter grudgingly creeps off to his drafty old boarding house, he takes with him one of the few pleasures the unholy frigid one possesses. Yes, Panera Bread will soon be placing their seasonal Steak Chili back into a deep freeze, until we too, are placed back into a deep freeze at the end of 2012.

They first offered this savory bowl of warmth in late 2010, and the item proved to be exceptionally popular: popular enough to return for the colder months the following year.

What do I find so unique about Panera's Steak Chili? Unlike most quick-serve chili, Panera's chili features the unique addition of slow-cooked beef brisket. This creates a unique flavor when combined with ground beef, onions, bell peppers, kidney beans and garlic, all simmered together with cayenne and ancho chili powder. The chili is served up in your choice of a bowl or cup, and generously topped with coarse chunks of lightly-sweet cornbread. This goes great with their fresh lemonade or iced tea.

Yeah, ya can't go wrong (unless you're vegetarian, then you can order a nice salad at Panera). Point is, get there SOON! I went tonight and the Manager told me there's not much time left before the chili goes into 6-month hibernation. I plan to go back for a few quarts to store in my own deep freeze, and enjoy a bowl in June/July with some blue corn tortilla chips. I can see it now: full of chili, warm from the summer sun, quietly giving Old Man Minter the bird. Best of both worlds, Old Man.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tale of the Title

Image © and courtesy of

So, why is this blog named "I Can Break Away"?

The image above provides the inspiration: The Beach Boys recorded the song "Break Away" as a single in 1969, with an underlying message that they were happy to break away from their contract with Capitol Records. Instead of getting personal and angry, the song was upbeat and put a positive spin on the situation: now they were free to pursue new horizons.

I like that attitude... it's a pretty healthy way to look at things. I don't know if it's my favorite song by The Beach Boys, but it's fitting as the mantle of what will take place here.

Here's a live performance of "Break Away" via YouTube, with a brief montage of 1960s beach and surf iconography during the intro:

Please Stand By

Official posts will begin soon, just getting things things established 'round here.