Friday, May 30, 2008

Speed Racer - The Movie

Tonight we are having a girl scout sleepover at our house. As such, I made plans to not be home. Somehow having a large number of ten year old girls in my home doesn't sound like the ideal evening. ;-)

So I took Jacob to see Speed Racer. He loves the original cartoons, just as I did when I was a kid. If you aren't familiar with it, the show Speed Racer is early Japanese anime. The style was very unique for its time, and what kid isn't impressed with a 5000HP car that has buttons for things like jumps and underwater operation.

As an adult Speed Racer is fairly comical to watch, because Speed will invariably crash, fight bad guys, save the girl, and still manage to win the race by pressing the accelerator down more than the other drivers... Still, it's good fun and the movie looked like it would be fun.

And it was.

First off, it has a very surreal look. The color palette is very bright, and the saturation has been turned up another 50% or so. Somehow it works. The races involve a lot of cars smashing into each other, spinning seems to be part of the standard way to drive, and all of the tracks have things like loops and jumps. Not exactly the streets of monaco, but again, somehow it works.

The movie definitely plays best if you are a fan of the original series. There are many little things that aren't explained, it is expected that you will know, for example, that pops is a wrestling champion. The movie takes elements from the series, like that companies live or die on winning races, and expands it into all the races being fixed. Speed, of course, does not play by the rules of the "big sponsors" which is why people are always trying to kill him.

The movie was fun, but definitely slow in parts. I felt like this would have been a better movie with about 20 minutes trimmed out of it. It was an odd mix of hyper-fast racing action with lots of slow dialog. Slow parts aside, the movie was entertaining, which is the point of movies to begin with.

My 7 year old asked if we could buy the movie when it was over, so obviously he liked it a lot. As a speed racer fan, I enjoyed it too. If you like the original series, you will probably enjoy the movie, but if you have never seen speed racer, most likely you will find the movie rather odd.

Based on the critical reception and box office, I'd say more people are familiar with the name Speed Racer than the actual show...


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Serious about coffee

This is the back of my truck, loaded with 650 pounds of green coffee beans. A few years ago while out in the desert with our 4x4's, my friend David and I began talking about the idea of roasting our own coffee. When we returned to his house for dinner we ordered up a sampler pack of green coffees from Sweet Marias, an excellent website for the home roaster. We didn't actually own a roaster at that point, but we decided we wanted to try. The next day David's wife bought something like 7 popcorn poppers at a local thrift shop. With those poppers we began roasting coffee. Roasting on a popper is not a fun experience. It's loud, it takes a while, the batches are tiny, and it makes an awful mess. But it's a great way to get started.

These days we roast on a commercial roaster and we go through somewhere around 1000 pounds of coffee a year. A lot of that is sold to the church coffee shop which uses our espresso in all of their coffee drinks. We can provide coffee to them that is higher quality and much cheaper than they can get anywhere else.

Coffee is an amazing product. There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the flavor profiles of coffee. What you find in a can of folgers or even in the standard "pike's place blend" at starbucks is a far cry from what is out there. You can get a hint of it at Starbuck's with their "black apron exclusives" which are high quality coffees roasted in small quantities. These are the kinds of coffees that we buy and roast. The interplay created between the flavors when you blend is where the really amazing cups of coffee come from.

After unloading this, we roasted for almost four hours. What a great night!