Korsgaard's Commentary

Every truly great American city gave the world a deli sandwich. Philadelphia has the cheesesteak, New York gave us the reuben, and Richmond gave us the sailor sandwich. To the uninitiated, a sailor sandwich serves up hot pastrami, grilled knockwurst and Swiss on Rye, and is as ubiquitous around Richmond as Virginia barbecue, and a major reason we have so many delis around town, with a few like Boychik’s Deli not only ending up local landmarks, good enough to compete with the best New York can offer up. While there are dozens of delis and diners around town that offer sailor sandwiches or variations thereof, the restaurant where it was conceived during World War II is the New York Deli in Carytown, so today I swung in to see if the original can live up to the legend.
New_York_Deli_Carytown_RichmondThough the restaurant has been open since 1934, its clear there have been some recent renovations to help it fit in more with the Carytown bar scene, the mixture of brick walls and dark hardwood making it seem more dive bar than deli, a point pushed further by the enormous bar where the few other customers were seated. I however chose to seat myself in the dining room, which to my surprise, was entirely empty on a weekend night.

That surprise turned to understanding however, when I experienced the service, or lack thereof. Despite the restaurant being empty save a pair of barflies, it took the servers ten minutes to even address the fact I was even there, and a further five to get my drink – a warm can of coke that set me back $2.50. I placed an order for a sailor sandwich with fries, and it would be the last I would see of any employees for half-an-hour.
Sailor_SandwichAs my anticipation turned to annoyance, when my food finally did arrive, the lack of attention given to the food actually gave me pause. The sailor, served open face, was overcooked to the point that the meat has the taste of charcoal and the consistency of rubber, painfully dry and lacking any real flavor. The deli mustard served on the side was almost worse, entirely overpowering to the point you could feel it more in your sinuses than your taste buds. The fries, deeply salted and lightly seasoned, were passable if nothing special. As a whole, not only was it bad enough I had no desire to finish my meal, but I lost to desire to sit in the restaurant any longer than it took me to pay my bill.

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This is a time of transition for the comic book movie – ever since The Avengers took the world by storm and brought the genre into the big leagues, the studios have been in a rush to see who can best adapt to the world the Marvel Cinematic Universe hath wrought. Warner Brothers/DC continues to create PR disaster after PR disaster regarding the Man of Steel sequel where a murderous, genocidal Superman is supposed to go toe-to-toe with a Batman who can get stabbed through bulletproof armor, in what is more and more looking like a train wreck. Fox and Sony are both trying to create a shared universe for their Marvel properties, both entering the next stage of such next month, with X-Men looking way more ready than Spiderman.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe on the other hand, is continuing what I’ve dubbed the post-Avengers victory lap, with Iron Man 3 and Thor The Dark World both smash hits with audiences and critics and making a king’s ransom each at the box office. 2014 looks ready to be no different, with the trailer to Guardians of the Galaxy making waves, and more importantly, the Captain America sequel turning some serious heads. I’m a major fan of the original Captain America film, courtesy of the retro war film vibe and unabashed affection for the character and his heroic idealism – something one wishes the folks who decided to turn Superman dark and brooding should have taken note of – and after a breakout turn in The Avengers, things seemingly have never been better for the Captain.
Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-IMAX-PosterEnter Captain America The Winter Soldier, which even several months ago was attracting serious buzz and attention, to the point some were alternatively calling it the best comic book movie yet to bets that it will be 2014′s first billion dollar blockbuster. Like I said, it certainly turned some heads, mine included, and some trailers highlighting the struggle for Steve Rogers to face off against our less than moral present and mistakes of his past sent fans into a fever pitch. Topped off with some promising character introductions, namely the Falcon, it looked like another addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe victory parade.

So, does Captain America stand and deliver a sequel worth saluting, or does this film pan out to be more summer patriot than winter soldier? Heed the call my dear readers, and join me as I review Captain America The Winter Soldier.

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When Carl Sagan’s Cosmos aired on PBS back in 1980, it was for lack of a better phrase, out of this world. Through the 13 hours that would make up the series, astrophysicist Carl Sagan would take the audience on a personal journey through the universe, made possible by ground-breaking special effects, an iconic soundtrack, and of course, Sagan’s own warm narration, who in between exploring the very edges of the known universe, took the time to remind the viewer that “we are all made of star stuff”. It proved one of the biggest watershed moments in the history of television and science education, with the series defining the way an entire generation would see the universe.
Tyson-and-Sagan-and-the-CosmosSo over thirty years later, word of a revival resulted in much excitement and trepidation from I, your humble narrator. Excitement, because it would be helmed by Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the greatest minds and personalities in modern science, and for the possibilities on what it could do for a way a new generation could view science and the universe. Trepidation, for it was being produced by Seth MacFarlane, whom even putting aside my personal feelings about his work, is known mainly for moronic sitcoms and making rape jokes at the Oscars, and that the series is being released to a world where space exploration has reached the point many don’t even believe the moon landings actually happened, and where science education in the United States is the joke of the developed world. Still, if MacFarlane wants to use his clout to provide a sequel to Cosmos instead of another Family Guy spin-off, I’m more than willing to give it a chance. So like millions of others, for the last three weeks, I’ve been tuning into the broadcasts of Cosmos A Spacetime Odyssey – and this is what I think.
Cosmos_Standing_Up_in_the_Milky_WayThe most obvious difference you’ll immediately notice is the enormous graphical face-lift given to the series, thanks to a combination of Hollywood special effects and a greater view of space thanks to three decades of shots from the Hubble telescope and various probes – this is immediately notable during the tour of our solar system that includes footage of Uranus and Neptune in the same way Sagan showcased Jupiter and Saturn. The science is updated as well – already, there have been mentions of dwarf and rogue planets, the exact age of the universe (13.8 billion years if you were curious), extremophile bacteria and even passing references to possible multiverse theories

Of course, the greatest similarity and strength of Cosmos is the same as the old one, that is breaks down these immensely complex cosmological subjects and breaks them down in a fashion that makes them understandable to the casual viewer without losing the scale or grandeur of the facts themselves. This is best seen in the first episode, where Tyson gives us a guided tour through an update of the same Cosmic Calendar that Sagan showed us in the first episode of the series – nothing will really make the scale of how small our place in the universe is hit home like learning that every deed, discovery and date in recorded history would take just the last fourteen seconds of new years eve on a calendar.

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In an age where Hollywood cranks out remakes, reboots and re-imaginings like clockwork, and with so many of them being ill-conceived or mismanaged to disastrous results, the times where it results in something wonderful really stand out. One of the most memorable of these was The Muppets, which not only gave Jim Henson’s famed puppets a long-needed return to the limelight, but reminded us all just why we loved them in the first place. It’s not every film that can get a theater full of grown-adults misty eyed as Kermit sings ‘Rainbow Connection‘ even as attending kids sing along for the first time.
Muppets-Most-Wanted-PosterSo, again, this being Hollywood, it’s of little surprise that the successful reboot now has a sequel, something that has, in true Muppet fashion, already been the subject of parody by Kermit and the gang. Titled Muppets Most Wanted, trailers for the movie promised a continent-crossing, identity-swapping caper as only the Muppets could do, roping in a promising human supporting cast to join them along the way. The amount of goodwill the last film earned should be evident that in a month that also promised a 300-sequel and a Schwarzenegger, I couldn’t wait to see the latest adventures of a nearly forty-year-old band of puppets.

So do Kermit, Gonzo, Piggy and the rest deliver another memorable Muppet movie, or is it time for a curtain call after this second act? Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s my review of Muppets Most Wanted, yaaaaaaayyyy!

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First let me begin by apologizing for my recent slacking in updating the website – I’ve got plenty of backlog though, so have no fear, I’m more than making up for lost time.

That said, I suppose I owe all of you an explanation though, don’t I? The reason, my dear readers, can be summed up with one word: Java. More specifically, thanks to massive security vulnerabilities in the Java platform, some truly nasty malware managed to get around every security measure on my laptop and killed my hard drive within short order.
Java_is_dangerousIt would seem that I am far from the only one. The last few years has seen Java at the source of several nasty outbreaks in computer viruses and malware, with seemingly any and every malicious program under the sun able to circumvent security measures across Windows, Apple and Linux computers by means of exploiting gaping flaws in Java’s security protocol.

For those who are unaware, Java, not to be confused with the surprisingly unrelated JavaScript, is a programming language developers use for some applications on a computer, in two forms, one on your computer, and one within your browser. While the Computer run-time app is for the most part harmless, it’s the browser plug-in that has seemingly opened the viral floodgates, as it allows a way around almost every security program on the machine. Hackers and criminals have used this vulnerability to commit fraud, identity theft, or even just spread malicious programs and exploit kits.
Java_Exploit_kitThese vulnerabilities could put as many as one billion computers in danger, and Kapersky Lab attributes 50% of all cyber attacks last year to Java, including attacks that temporarily disabled both Twitter and Facebook. It’s become such a reoccurring issue that not only have Mozilla and Apple blacklisted Java from being used on the Mac OS or the Firefox browser, but the Department of Homeland Security has actually made statements encouraging people to disable or uninstall Java.

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So you’ve got one day in Richmond?

Despite the large numbers of hipsters and the vocal minority that continues to mourn the defeat of the Confederacy, I dare say Richmond is a great city. That’s not just because I’m somewhat biased, having been born and raised here – the capital of Virginia boasts a long, rich past, a present that sees a midsize city with both a diverse and growing population and an economy and cultural scene on the up-and-up, and a future that promises to make Richmond even better still. There’s much to be proud of being a Richmonder.
City-of-RichmondFor that reason, I do enjoy showing people around the city, like today, when I showed a couple of friends from out-of-town around Richmond – it’s something I do enough that I like to think I’ve come up with the short list of things everyone can and should do if they’ve got a day to kill in Richmond. Whether you’re coming in off a jaunt up or down I-95, or you’ve been planning a trip to the River City already, here are some places to go and things to do in Richmond to make that one day one to remember.

Historic Sites:

Richmond is positively steeped in history, with cobblestone streets and historical buildings seemingly on every other corner. The city has found itself at the heart of some of the nation’s biggest struggles, between being a major colonial city and a Patriot hotbed during the American Revolution, serving as the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and even playing host to some notable moments of the Civil Rights Movement. The winds of change have a habit of blowing through Richmond, and anyone visiting the town needs to see that for themselves.
virginia-state-capitol-buildingThere’s no place better to start with than at the State Capitol Building, which was the first of many neo-classical building in the United States designed by Thomas Jefferson, is where the Virginia General Assembly meets, and is free to tour. The surrounding Capitol Square features some magnificent monuments, including the only statue of George Washington for which the man himself posed for, and it’s a short walk to the Executive Mansion, the oldest continuously used Governor’s residence in the United States, and the final resting place of both Stonewall Jackson and Arthur Ashe.
Tredegar_Iron_Works_Richmond_VirginiaFrom there, head to the old Confederate White House, which is next door to the Museum of the Confederacy, which together house the world’s largest collection of Confederate artifacts. From there, head down to Tredegar Iron Works, which is the centerpiece of Richmond’s Civil War sites, serving as a massive museum and nexus for many of the other sites around town, and has just been renovated for the Civil War Sesquicentennial. From there, you can take one of several trails to Shockoe Bottom – I recommend the Richmond Slave Trail, which covers several sites memorializing the many black Americans held in bondage, especially since our current mayor wants to build a baseball stadium on top of it.
Monument-Avenue-RichmondOnce you’re in Shockoe Bottom, you’ve got your choice of several old sites, but my personal favorite is St. John’s Church, where Patrick Henry delivered his famed “Liberty or Death” speech, and you may have the chance to watch a reenactor deliver is as well if your timing is good. Just avoid the Edgar Allen Poe museum – admission price is a ripoff and its nothing more than a house with a souvenir shop. Don’t forget to take a drive down Monument Avenue while you’re here of course!

Cultural Landmarks:

This certainly isn’t your grandfather’s Richmond culturally – the city is in the midst of a cultural blossoming that is quickly putting Richmond on the map as much as our past put the city in the history books.
LandmarkTheaterRichmond Center Stage is one of the biggest groups leading the charge, an association between various acting troupes, musical orchestras and other performers around town that have formed a string of partnered theaters and programs around the city. Some of the highlights include the Richmond Symphony, Richmond Ballet, Theater IV, and the Virginia Jazz Society among others, but nearly any show in town is worth the ticket. Often times the theaters themselves are worth a visit, with several historical venues around the city, but none more storied or more lovely than the Landmark Theater.
science-museum-of-virginiaNeedless to say, between the history and cultural renaissance, Richmond also offers some fine museums, all well worth a visit, but some of the highlights include the Science Museum of Virginia, the neighboring Children’s Museum of Richmond, the Black History Museum & Cultural Center, and the Virginia Holocaust Museum, but the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is a cut above the rest, with rotating showcases that routinely earn headlines, and exhibits ranging from Ancient Greek or Indian art to a collection of Picasso paintings.

If you want more humble fare, just hit the streets – you’ll find a few dozen different venues, coffee shops, art galleries and the like just by walking around and discovering them for yourselves.

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I am unashamed to say that as a moviegoer and a critic I think 300 may be one of the best movies since the turn of the millennium. Though initially ripped apart by critics, moviegoers stormed theaters in droves to see it, setting pre-summer box office records that would stand until The Hunger Games, making actors like Gerard Butler, Lena Heady and Michael Fassbender household names, and making director Zack Snyder one of the biggest names in action cinema – at least until he became one of the co-conspirators behind the character assassination of Superman. Overall, thanks to a winning combo of innovate action scenes, hyper-stylized look, insanely quotable dialogue, and a winning combo of bombast and bravado, 300 remains a true cinematic crowd-pleaser just as good as the day it was released.
http://www.korsgaardscommentary.com/2014/03/300-rise-empire.htmlThat said, like any truly successful movie, there came scores of imitators ranging from Beowulf to Clash of the Titans, which with rare exception, all proved terrible. Despite dozens of action movies trying to ape its aesthetic, and nearly every sword-and-sandal film of the last decade trying to emulate it as much as possible, not one managed to recapture that same lightning in a bottle that made 300 such a success, either financially or with fans. That is one of many reasons that should give anyone hoping lightning may strike twice with the long-delayed sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. Ignoring the fact it’s spent most of the last eight years in development hell, the trailers bode ill for the film already – where 300 offered a textbook example of a great trailer, I couldn’t tell you anything about the trailers for 300: Rise of an Empire, despite having seen it dozens of times. Still, I vividly remember writing off 300 as a shock-and-schlock snoozer ala Sin City, before walking into theaters to have my mind blown away, so I decided to give 300: Rise of an Empire a chance – time will tell if this is madness.

Should moviegoers prepare for glory, or tonight do we dine in hell? Join me my dear readers, as I put its name to the test, as I review 300: Rise of an Empire.

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Given how I’m spending the weekend at Katsucon, and how discounting Akira, I haven’t reviews an anime series since this time last year, I figure I’m overdue for one. Luckily, one of the shows I’ve been watching just aired the series finale on Toonami last night, so I imagine today is a good day to look back and review what may be one of the most interesting anime series’ I’ve watched in a good while – and I mean that in both good and bad ways. This, my dear reader, is Sword Art Online.
Sword-Art-Online-episode-screenshSword Art Online is based on a series of light novels, and prior to its port to Toonami, already had quite a meager media and merchandising empire in Japan, and given the utter amount of Sword Art Online merchandise and cosplayers I’ve seen at Katsucon, I’d wager it’s already made something of a splash here on our side of the pond as well. Is it worth all the hype though, or even worth watching though? Read on and find out my dear readers!
Sword_Art_Online_I_Welcome_You_to_my_worldIn the near future, where virtual reality is commonplace, and the most hotly anticipated virtual MMORPG, Sword Art Online, has just launched with over 100,000 people logging in to test their digital mettle against the best virtual reality has to offer. Unfortunately, the players get far more than they bargained for when they find they cannot logout – the game’s creator Akihiko Kayaba, in a mad desire to lord over his creation, has trapped them within the game until the last level is cleared and the final boss is defeated. Worse yet, the game’s ‘no respawn’ point takes on a whole new meaning as now if you die in the game, you die in the real world as well. With no way out, the world of the game and the quest to escape it consumes the players completely, as the quest to beat the game quickly morphs into just one of surviving another day.
Kirito_Sword_Art_OnlineAll of this is largely viewed from the perspective of the main protagonist, Kirito, a hardcore gamer who serves as the main window into the world of the game itself for the viewer, as we watch both him and the developing virtual society around them evolve. Watching him interact with the various other players trapped in the game, the niches they’ve carved for themselves, the sociological and psychological exploration of all these people trapped in virtual reality changing as time goes on is one of the biggest draws to the first half of the series.
Sword-Art-Online-battleAs the arc goes on, I actually finding myself wishing it would add some filler, or take more time to develop it – the set up for the first half of the show is fantastic, and it really leaves you wishing they’d used the other half of the series to explore it further.
Sword-Art-Online-episode-13-Grouping-upOf course, a major part of that is – SPOILERS – they switch gears in the middle of the series when they beat Sword Art Online in a sudden twist, and the remainder of the show follows an adventure through a different virtual MMORPG, Alfheim Online, which as opposed to the life or death struggle of Sword Art Online, centers on either trying to rescue the love interest from the second villain – more on that in a moment – or a slightly jarring incestuous love triangle that comes out of nowhere, and thankfully, goes nowhere.

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With yet another snow storm ready to blanket the Eastern seaboard with yet another blizzard, I can imagine more than a few of you are sick of snow. While granted, I am an exception – I live and breathe for the cold – I can certainly sympathize, yet I would ask those worn thin with winter to try to look on the bright side. Among other things, its perfect soup weather, and I have the perfect soup to recommend to warm your bones and stick to your ribs: the Original Soup Man.
http://www.korsgaardscommentary.com/2014/02/try-bowl-original-soup-man-soup.htmlFor the uninitiated, The Original Soup Man brand may be offering some of the best soup available on store shelves. It began as a New York City restaurant opened by immigrant soup chef Al Yehaneh in 1984 quickly became a New York City landmark known for two things: the strict rules of its crabby restaurateur, and a bowl of soup so good it would change your life. Needless to say, the latter must have been more powerful than the former, because it had people lining up around the blocks every day of the week.

While the names Al Yeganeh or Original Soup Man might not be known too widely outside of New York City, I guarantee more than a few score of you know of it already by ways of the Seinfeld episode they inspired, the “Soup Nazi”, the plot of which revolved around a no-nonsense restaurant owner that offered life-alteringly good soup. Originally livid about the representation – Yeganeh was so furious he demanded an in-person apology from Jerry Seinfeld, whom evidently giving an insincere one, was soon after banned from the establishment – Yeganeh then smartly decided to market that infamy, and launched both an Original Soup Man restaurant chain and an in-store brand of his soups, both of which have been expanding ever since.
http://www.korsgaardscommentary.com/2014/02/try-bowl-original-soup-man-soup.htmlWhile the soup may not have been good enough for Jerry Seinfeld, plenty of other people have proven willing to sing the praises of the Original Soup Man. Endorsed by celebrities from NBA all-star Shaquille O’Neal to former Seinfeld actor Jason Alexander, and most recently getting coverage during the Super Bowl. Critics have been singing Original Soup Man’s praises for years, including Zagat, and Consumer Reports calling the brand’s Chicken Vegetable Soup “the best Chicken Soup in America”.

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As a gamer, I am a long-time fan of the work of Sid Meier, and especially of his Civilization series, to which I have lost hours of my life beyond measure in global conquest schemes that would make your typical tyrant blush. So needless to say, a recent offering by the fine folks at Humble Bundle caught my eye.

For those who are unaware, Humble Bundle is a series of special offers made from various sources, including authors, game developers, and musicians where they offer a selection of different packages of their collective works, offer them at steeply discounted rates that are chosen by the buyer, and the profits are often split between the bundler and a charity of their choosing.

In this case, we have the Humble Sid Meier Bundle, which as far as I can tell, offers every game Sid Meier has slapped his name on after Alpha Centauri. If you donate only a cent, you will get the complete edition of Civilization III and Civilization IV, both of which are classic strategy games, 2013 tactical dogfighting game Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol, follow-up Ace Patrol: Pacific Skies, and 2006 business sim Sid Meier’s Railroads. If you donate more than whatever the average donation price is – as we speak, it’s around six dollars – you’ll get Civilization V as well as its Gods and Kings DLC, the former of which was the first video game I reviewed on the site back in 2010, and still one of the best, the latter its brilliant expansion pack. Better still, if you donate more than $15, you will get Civilization V: Brave New World, last year’s DLC pack that added some facets and factions to the game that all but made the game an absolute must-own. All with the soundtracks from the incredible Civilization games thrown in for free.

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