Wednesday, February 27, 2013

2-Minute Ghost

Yesterday Sarah and I were watching one of those TV programs about ghosts and UFOs. The concept of the show is they find compelling "evidence" of unexplained phenomena (usually a YouTube video) and then they try to explain it. The way they go about it, though, is a little time-consuming and probably quite expensive.

In one case, they were studying a piece of footage shot on the Queen Mary, a huge ship in California. According to the guy who filmed the video, he just happened to set his Flip camera down, didn't realize it was filming, and they caught a vision of a ghost walking down the hall. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was fake, but these guys had to figure out just how in the world was it done?

Before you could say the words "editing effects" they were there trying to re-create how in the world it happened. They filmed someone walking in front of a black sheet. Then they brought in a fog machine and filled the hallway with smoke. Then they brought in a movie projector and projected the image of the walking guy onto the smoke.

Gee, darn, that wasn't it.

So then they took one of those pieces of teleprompter glass politicians use to read their speeches in public and sat that in front of the video camera. Then they projected the image of the walking man onto the glass and the image was captured by the camera.


Seriously? This filled up 30 minutes?

As they were revealing their findings, they very quickly, in one throwaway line, said, "We were also able to recreate it with video editing," and then they went on to re-cap the extensive lengths they took to re-create this stunning piece of video.

I don't know how long it took them to set up, shoot, tear down, set up, shoot, and tear down again. I do, however, know this: I shot this video with my Flip cam and got identical results. From the point I started shooting to the time I was finished rendering the final video, it was two and a half minutes.

Next time, guys, just call me first.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Best Mexican Restaurants

Back in March of 2005, I decided to compile a list of my (and my friends') favorite Mexican restaurants. I sent out an email blast to all of my contacts asking them to send me their favorite place to grab a South-of-the-Border bite. Seeing how eight years has passed, I'm going to assume no one else would like to submit their choice.

Actually, I just stumbled across this file and had forgotten all about it. I don't know what I had planned to do with it, but here it is. Some of the places are no longer in business, but that's OK. I feel they should still get their due respect.

Feel free to comment with your pick for favorite Mexican restaurant!


 Abuelo’s - Dallas, Hiway 121 in Beford, just east of Ft. Worth.
  • Huge portions. Great vibe. Pricey. (Chris Hauser)
Anna’s Taqueria - Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • It is the only authentic Mexican food in that state as far as I am concerned being a native of Southern California, so believe me when I say that the search for some real Mexican food was hard till I came across this place while on a date.  It is not a chain, however, the owner now has 3 in the area.  There are 2 in Boston/Brookline, MA area and 1 in Cambridge, MA.  You can just say the location is Boston, MA if you want though.  Each time I go back to visit Boston I get one meal their no matter what.  In some cases I think it is even better than some California places.  Now that is saying a lot! (Melissa Ke)
BENITO’S - Los Angeles CA
  • I was on a promotional radio trip with artist Paul Wright. We had spent the day in San Diego visiting friends at radio stations and had decided to run south of the border…just to say that we did it. We made it across and back without incident and raced back to Beverly Hills in time to catch a showing of “A Mighty Wind.” On our drive back to our Hermosa Beach hotel, it was late and we were famished. Soon, Paul spotted a sign advertising “24-hour Burritos” and we had to stop. I don’t know if it was because we were so starving and tired or what, but the food there was amazing. The next time you’re in the City of Angels and have some serious late-night hunger pang’s, you know where to go. (Ed Placencia)
  • Can't beat it!  Get the carne asada w/ nachos just cheese. (Paul Wright)
BURRITO WAGON - San Luis Obispo CA
  • Ah…the Burrito Wagon. In a word: AMAZING. Paul Wright and I were visiting a radio station in San Luis Obispo and we left right around the noon hour. Paul and I had made a pact between ourselves to only eat at Mexican restaurants while we were in Sunny Cal. I mean, why not? The folks at the station had given us two options, one of them being Burrito Wagon. I forget the other. Need I say more? One thing that stood out was the service. From the moment we walked in, we were greeted with a smile like we were old friends. After placing our order, we found The Wall of Postcards. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones that left the Burrito Wagon with a good impression.  Postcards from literally around the world had been sent in, telling the Burrito Wagon what an excellent time they had dining there. We ate on the back porch that overlooks a small stream and is very cozy. The food came out to us and the portions were amazing. Just the way we like it. When in San Luis Obispo, the Burrito Wagon is a must!! (Ed Placencia)
Casa Bonita - Denver, CO
  • I remember it from living in Denver from '82-'85.  And I absolutely laughed my ass off when SOUTHPARK did an episode where Cartman went to great lengths to get Kyle to invite him to join his family for a birthday dinner at Denver's Casa Bonita.  It's weird when a worldwide famous cartoon depicts a real place that you've actually been too.  I was rolling.  It has the Black Caves or some kind of dufus haunted house like playground for the kids, plus a cliff diver who dives into this makeshift lagoon from a 30-40 foot waterfall.  I LOVED it as a kid... and so did Cartman. (Ed Doney)
Casa de Bandini - Olde Towne, San Diego, California
  • Impeccable atmosphere, soothing patio w/ coolers in the hot summer and heaters in cooler months of SoCal.  Beautiful fountains.  Authenic Mexican & courteous wait staff.  Tasteful band. And I haven't even spoken of the food...Perfect, perfect, perfect... and the guac. is to die for! (Val Hoback)
Casa de Maria - Anaheim CA
  • There is a very good Mexican restaurant across the street from Anaheim stadium called "Casa de Maria." (John Placencia)
Casa de Miguel - Lancaster CA
  • Very excellent! (John Placencia)
Casa Fiesta - Nashville, TN, Bell Road by Super 8
  • I love [it] because on birthdays they shove sundaes in your face. (Anne Marie Tucker)
Casa Fiesta - Columbus, OH
  • My favorite Mexican restaurant in located in Columbus Ohio. It was called Casa Fiesta. It is now called El Acapulco. It was less than 5 min from work, so I have had many a lunch in their booths. (Lorien Boyer)
Casa Jose - Arlingtin, Tx.
  • Recently burned down. Quality had been slipping but I ate authentic mexican food there since 1982. (Mike Walker)
Chez Jose - Nashville, TN
  • The best healthy Mexican food I’ve ever had! How can a humongous Mexico City Burrito be good for you? Visit Chez Jose on Elliston Place in Nashville and find out! Don’t forget the fire red salsa for chips and as condiment. (Derek Jones)
Don Juan’s - Lakewood, CO
  • We pronounced it Don Joo-on's to make fun of our Illinois-bred lack of cultural. Anyway, they're famous for their tortilla soup.  I liked their hamburgers.  Yes, I was a stubborn 12 year old who wouldn't venture out into the world of mexican cuisine... it was HAMBURGERS OR NOTHING!  F*** YOU WORLD FOR DEMANDING THAT I ORDER MEXICAN AT A MEXICAN RESTAURANT! Oh, but their chips and salsa kicked ass. (Ed Doney)
El Burrito, Jr - Redondo Beach, CA
  • I love it, been going since high school.  It's a little hut of a place, but really awesome food. (Melissa Ke)
El Farralito - Concord, CA
  • It’s a hole-in-the-wall called “el farralito” (Which, I think, means little light or little lighthouse. This is only odd in that the restaurant is located in Concord, Ca, which is roughly 45 minutes from the water ) The food is definitely authentic, (though a few of its more popular items have been influenced by California and now include avocado) the English is definitely broken and I am definitely there about once a month. (Justin McRoberts)
El Mariachi - Nashville TN, Thompson Lane
  • It is really good! (Anne Marie Tucker)
El Rancherito - on the 3800 block of Main Street, East Chicago, Indiana.
  • They have the best carne asada tacos, guacamole and anything you can name. (Bobby Pena)
El Serrano's - Lancaster PA
  • They have the best Grande Burrito - YUM!! (Ann D’Alessandro)
Iguana Mia - Ft. Myers Beach, FL
  •  Our waitress’s name was Alejandra. Kevin [my husband] asked if the meal he was ordering was big enough to fill a man of his size (6'3 210lbs.) and with no expression on her face or excitement in her voice she said, "Sure." When his meal came it was on the biggest platter we had ever seen in our lives--NO JOKE--and the waitress asked if the meal was enough and Kevin said it was more than enough--he finished the meal leaving no morsel behind but he was miserable the rest of the night--he rates it as being the best Mexican food he has ever had. (Denisa Geeting)
Juan’s Flying Burrito - New Orleans, LA
  • My favorite place to eat Mexican (not Mexican't) HAS to be Juan's Flying Burrito. While I prefer the Magazine Street location, the newer Mid-City stop tends to have the special "fish tacos" a bit more often. I know they sound grody, but trust me. They are the greatest. Mmm. And check out the "gutter punk" special... (Libby Krimsier)
La Hacienda Tacqueria - Nashville, TN on Nolensville Rd. next to Phono-Luxe.
  • Very cheap. Very authentic. Lotsa cilantro. (Chris Hauser)
Las Palmas - Cool Springs, TN
  • That’s the best. (Chico Gonzalez)
La Terezzas - Nashville, TN on the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville, next to Kroger
  • [It] is the BOMB-DIDDY. I'm sure Hauser and others have submitted some of the other restaurants in town, but they PALE in comparison to the chow at this place. And their prices are outstanding - portions are HUGE as well. From a guy who eats Mexican food way too much and has been to just about every place in Nashville ... this place rocks. (Rick Welke)
Los Nopales Mexican Restaurant - 1014 Hogansville Road La Grange, GA
  • For me los nopales is the quintessential Mexican restaurant. I guess it's because I grew up going there, and I can remember when it was just a hole in the wall place. Now that I think about it, it was the location of my first date when I was sweet sixteen! It's in my hometown of LaGrange, GA and it is as authentic as they come. The servers barely speak English. The queso dip is white (not some orange don Pablo’s hybrid Velveeta version that you could make for yourself much better at home). I think the owners must have come straight from Mexico and it has wonderful food. Having been to Mexico several times myself in life, I think I can safely say this place is the real deal. Here's my story. As previously mentioned, my first real date took me there. He was a senior and I was a junior. Appropriately enough we met in Spanish class and became friends because basically he was hilarious. Two of our friends played a part in letting it be known to the two of us that we were interested in each other. They were giddy with delight that we were going on a date. Please note that Lagrange, GA is a very very small town. We got to los nopales and sat down. We were in that awkward moment of "we are friends but now we are on a date". So we certainly didn't need any added awkwardness. But it came. Oh it came. Moments later our friends that had "fixed us up" from Spanish class came in and as luck would have it, were seated right in the booth right behind us. So I had a giggling audience for my first date, but it was certainly fun. The dating relationship didn't last but los nopales still has the best Mexican food I’ve ever had (outside Mexico). (Meridith Long)
Los Reyes Mexican Restaurant - Nashville TN on Murphreesboro Rd. about a half mile from I-24.
  • Why? Because it's simply TOO good NOT to be in California or Texas. How it landed in Music City, I have no idea... How I found it: I was eating at Las Palmas (on Charlotte Avenue) about ten years ago and asked the waiter where I could find the best "real" Mexican food. He asked what I meant, and I said, "You know, a place that actually serves a lingua (beef tongue) burrito." He then gave me a knowing look and reached into his back pocket to produce a business card for Los Reyes Mexican Restaurant (located on Nolensville Road in those days). (Jay Swartzendruber)
Los Reyes - Atlanta GA
  • Pretty special. (Anne Marie Tukcer)
Marquez Bakery - Arlington, Tx.  
  • Great pastries.  Great sauce and excellent tamales.  Breakfast chorrizo and huevos rancherous really really good.  I give it a 3 thumbs up. (Mike Walker)
Mexican Villa - Springfield, MO
  • It’s off the hook. (Jeff Jackson)
Molly's La Casita - Memphis, TN.  
  • It's located on Madison Avenue, right next to Ardent Studios, where Clear recorded several times.  The food is very good, but what keeps me coming back is the refried beans.  They are absolutely amazing.  Salty, greasy, unhealthy, but so delicious. . (Nate Larson)
Morrison Inn - Morrison, CO
  • THEN.... THERE'S PERHAPS THE GREATEST CHIPS AND SALSA IN THE WORLD..... The Morrison Inn just outside of Denver (the town of Morrison, I believe).  That shit will melt your mouth like lava... and yet you CAN'T STOP EATING IT.  IT'S LIKE COCAINE FOR A ROCK STAR... YOU KNOW IT'S KILLING YOU, BUT YOU'RE WILLING TO DIE FOR JUST ONE MORE BITE. F***! (Ed Doney)
Old Town Mexican CafĂ© - San Diego CA
  • My favorite Mexican Restaurant is Old Town Mexican Cafe in San Diego (of course!)  It's very authentic, and they have window where you can watch women hand-make tortillas - yummy! (Linda Spuck)
Pappasito’s - Houston
  • Part of the Pappas family of restaurants – the Mexican side of it. Huger portions, costly but worth it! (Chris Hauser)
Placencia’s - Garrett, IN
  • Their salsa rocks. I like salsa that is not so chunky and it is perfect. It sticks to the chip just right. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. (Todd Sattison)
Poncho Kelly’s - Auburn, IN
  • Their salsa rocks. I like salsa that is not so chunky and it is perfect. It sticks to the chip just right. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. (Todd Sattison)
The Rustin House - Lancaster CA
  • Excellent! (John Placencia)
San Antonio Zoo
  • There is a little shack on the San Antonio ZOO grounds that is out of this world. (Pete Orta)
Senorita Burrita - Lancaster PA
  • My favorite Mexican Restaurant is Senorita Burrita, a fairly new establishment in the heart of downtown Lancaster.  It is run by Jen Foster - a former Christian Musician and member of the band Scarlet Thread.  She has cool names for her burritos named after family members, local sights, etc.  You can also pick your own burrito and make your own.  The restaurant has a cool vibe and atmosphere with tile tables that Jen and her friends made, antiques, art on the walls and alot of iron and metal finishes that her brother Eric worked on. (Fred McNaughton)
Taqueria 17 - Houston, TX
  • I also really liked a taqueria in Houston (I think it was called Taqueria 17) but it's been so long since I've been there I don't know if still exists.  It was off of Washington somewhere.  Very good and the real deal as far as authentic goes. (Mike Walker)
Taqueria Mexico - Charlotte, NC
  • Taqueria Mexico  Charlotte, Nc. on South Blvd.  Great sauce, hot and mild, great choices, plain tacos are excellent as are several pork specialties. (Mike Walker)
Ted’s Escondido - Oklahoma City, OK
  • It’s in Oklahoma City and is so popular that it doesn’t matter what time you go you will have to wait 2 hours to be seated.  The salsa is amazing and so are the fajita’s...I think it’s been around for 20 years or something like that.  It is a household name for authentic Mexican cuisine in OKC. (Jerusha Ghazanfari)
  • My Favorite Mexican Restaurant is in Oklahoma City, OK and it is named "Ted's Escondido". The food is about the best Mexican I have had and the service is great. Whenever I have gone with my family it has always been a wonderful experience. Just thinking about it right now makes my mouth water! (smile) I really like their flour tortillas and that is what makes their fajitas melt in your mouth. The restaurant is owned by Christians and I have heard that they treat their employees really well. (Joacquin Stevens)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Fly in the Ointment

Every once in a while I think back to my stint as a radio promotions manager at a Christian record label in Nashville. It's a job that, although somewhat important in your radio-listening experience, is one that most people probably don't even realize exists. Basically  I would call or email every radio station each week and try to get them to play the current singles by the artists on our label. I only worked at the label for two years, which is nothing compared to the others I know in the field doing the same thing, but it's a slice of my life that left a strong impact.

The hardest part for me was hearing the music director at a radio station say "No." I knew it was never personal but it always killed me a little bit because I believed so much in the music the label was putting out at the time. I never had to fake it and I genuinely liked and listened to (and still do) what we were promoting. What was hard for me was they were saying no to people I genuinely cared for, musicians who really were at the top of their game. I still get a little sad when a song pops up in my iPod that I thought was going to tear up the charts but never did for one reason or another. (I realize this makes it sound like we never got any airplay but that's far from the case. We did have some nice success with some songs I really loved, but like Jerry Seinfeld once said, he could have 999 people laughing, cheering, and applauding but the only one he'll remember after the show is the 1 person who just sat there. Why do we do that?).

Despite how much fun I had at the label and how many close friends I made whom I still keep in touch with today, there's one memory that always bubbles to the surface that to this day I still find unsettling/surprising/disappointing. I was on the phone with the rep from a pretty big station in the South. They were a heavy hitter and they knew it and it was always really difficult to get them on the phone (even when I called during their designated "tracking hours"). When I would finally catch him, he always talked to me like I was wasting his time and wasn't worthy of actually speaking to him. This behavior always sort of puzzled me, especially since the songs they were playing were the ultra-cheesy, snooze-inducing cookie cutter songs most people who don't listen to Christian music think of when they think of listening to Christian music.

One day I finally caught the music director while he was in his office taking calls and I asked if he'd listened to the new single from (I forget which artist)  I had sent to him. He said he had and that it was nice. I asked him if he thought he would be adding it to the station's music rotation and he responded by asking me how much money the label was going to give him to do so. It threw me for a loop and sort of took me back for a second, mostly because although a lot of listener-supported stations get a lot of exemptions, I was pretty sure payola was still illegal for everyone.

I honestly thought the man was joking, but he wasn't. I remember telling him all we had to offer was really good music and he simply thanked me and hung up. He never took a call from me again and it was a long time after that before they would play a song by any artist from our label.

That incident still blows my mind today. It's still incredible to me that someone saw themselves as so big and powerful and influential, they felt it was completely within their rights to be so blatantly...illegal. And douche-y. It poisoned my perception not of the music industry, but of the Christian music industry and I know that's not fair.

I should point out this was the only station I dealt with to ever do anything remotely like this. The very large majority of the stations I dealt with were very cool people. Still...sometimes it just takes one person to wreck the fun. It's sort of a bummer that, of all the nice people I dealt with and were kind to me and played our music, that guy is the one I always remember when I look back. I resent that guy not only for denying airtime to some great artists but also for still having such a strong place in my memory.

Monday, February 11, 2013

I'lll Never Tell

I had the oddest dream today when Sarah and I fell asleep on the couch.

We were in Ireland with a couple of our friends. We were in a small town during some sort of Heritage Days celebration. We were standing on an old stone bridge that overlooked a small section of town and were surrounded by people whom I somehow knew were local celebrities (but of course since we weren't from the area, I had no idea who any of them were).

Pretty soon a parade came marching through the village - and under the bridge on which we were standing - and it stopped momentarily. A girl in the parade with hair so red it made her look like a real-life version of the girl from Brave began singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" and everyone was indeed smiling and clapping.

When she finished, the parade continued on and the crowd began to disperse. One of our friends bent over to tie her shoe and when she did, a strange guy who looked like Colin Firth in his 20s walked up to her and began rubbing her head. She was wearing her hair pulled back in a kerchief and the guy cooed, "Aye, you have the hair of an old woman."

He said it like he was saying the most lovely poem in the world but our friend just stood up slowly and glared at him. None of us said anything mostly because we had no idea what to say. Our friend held the Death Look for a few seconds - but the awkwardness of the situation made it feel like a few hours - and then the dream ended.

Upon waking, I told Sarah about it and she said, "Don't ever tell her you dreamed that."

I'm not sure why I'm not supposed to say anything. I thought it was funny and random and figured our friend would get a kick out of it because she most definitely doesn't have old lady hair.

So I'm not saying who it is and now all of our female friends can wonder and be self-conscious and if you ask me if it was you I will just smile and say, "I don't know."

PS. I can't tell you how nice it was to be in Ireland again, even though I really wasn't there. But just thinking I was there made me super happy and gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. So, you know, hint-hint Irish employers looking to hire and re-locate  Americans for cool jobs.