Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

Posts made in: December, 2013 (66) Currently Viewing: 61 - 66 of 66

December 30, 2013 at 9:20am

Eat This Now: New dishes and drinks at The Swiss

Eat This Now: Stuffed roasted portabella mushroom appetizer at The Swiss in downtown Tacoma. photo credit: Jackie Fender

Though The Swiss has earned the reputation as a live music venue, the entertainment isn't the sole reason to visit. The menu, paired with ample libations, is prime pickings for lunch and dinner daily, while the ambiance is hip and casual with worn wooden tables and art adorned walls that transition well from the 9 to 5ers lunch crowd and late night partiers.

Upon hearing The Swiss busted out a few new dishes and drinks, I found one dish that blew me away: stuffed roasted portabella mushroom appetizer ($6.99) on its happy hour menu. This large and meaty fungus swells with zesty Italian sausage, flavorful caramelized onions and whole chunks of tender roasted garlic - topped off with gooey mozzarella cheese. Highly recommended by my server, this dish is absolutely delectable, a full flavor start to your Swiss dining experience. Dare I say I'd order it by its lonesome as an entree - so long as I had no intention of smooching.

The roasted portabella stuffed mushroom is just one of many new dishes added to The Swiss' menu before the New Year. Other nibbles include pub faves such as mini corn dogs, a hummus plate and two pasta entrees - a shrimp linguini alfredo ($13.99) and a baked vegetarian cannelloni ($11.99) stuffed with ricotta and parmesan cheeses and spinach topped with a house made marinara.

Its cocktail list has been updated with hot beverages, including a hot buttered rum made with Bacardi Oakheart (spiced rum) as well as a twist on the original hot toddy, The Swiss Toddy, concocted with Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Whiskey.

THE SWISS, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, 1904 S. Jefferson, Tacoma, 253.572.2821

Filed under: Food & Drink, Tacoma,

December 30, 2013 at 10:57am

Nerd Alert!: The finest nerdy projects of 2013

Sharlto Copley (District 9) stars in trippy sci-fi mystery "Europa Report" about a crew of international astronauts sent on a private mission to Jupiter’s fourth moon.

Besties, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

Welcome to the first week of January, aka the annual geek doldrums. Good movies came out at the end of December to qualify for Oscar nominations, leaving only a sad Paranormal Activity sequel debuting this week. With the nerd-neutral exception of Downton Abbey, TV season premieres don't begin till later this month. There are no geek events planned locally this week. There isn't even a new play opening (though I will be at the debut of Lakewood Playhouse's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Friday). I thought about filling this void by compiling a Best of 2013 list, but the truth is I haven't caught up on all last year had to offer. Instead, please allow me to rattle off the finest genre projects I have been able to take in over the last 12 months. That'll at least give you some quality entertainment to binge on through this cold winter hiatus.

No one ever accused Doctor Who of excessive consistency in tone, but when it's on its A game (usually meaning showrunner Steven Moffat, who also runs the excellent Sherlock, wrote the episode) it's as entertaining as anything on TV. I thoroughly enjoyed a cuddly telefilm about the origins of the series, An Adventure in Space and Time, and the massive episode it introduced, "The Day of the Doctor." All this was to set up the departure of 11th Doctor Matt Smith, in Christmas Day's poignant ep "The Time of the Doctor." Here's the good news: the BBC's rerunning the lot of it on New Year's Eve.

I can't pretend to be a fan of modern horror, thanks to its overreliance on shock effects and sadism. (Seven Saws plus two branded video games in a decade? No, thanks.) The Conjuring was a rare and welcome exception, however, thanks to great performances from Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor, plus a goosebumpy script by the Hayes brothers of Portland, Ore. It's available now on Netflix, including Netflix Streaming, and I dare you to watch it with the lights off.

Though it probably slipped under your radar, the "found-footage" sci-fi film Europa Report gets impressive mileage from a mere seven-digit budget. An international team of scientists is en route to an ecologically promising Jovian moon when its ship loses communication with the earth. What happens next will remind you less of Prometheus and more of 2010: The Year We Make Contact. The action and settings feel unusually plausible, and it's a fun change of pace from less cerebral efforts. (Oh, Pacific Rim ... where should I even begin?) Europa Report is also available on Netflix Streaming.

While Gravity fudges near-terrestrial orbital mechanics for maximum impact, it also boasts a fine performance by Sandra Bullock, plus what I think we can all agree are the most dazzling visual effects of the year, maybe ever. Sadly, Alfonso Cuarón's epic two-hander vacated Tacoma and Olympia cineplexes, but it arrives on Blu-ray, including a 3-D edition, Feb. 25, flush with what I expect will be a raft of Oscar noms.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is, however, in area theaters. If you passed on it because you found its predecessor lacking in the thrills department, now's a good time to reconsider. Every conceivable aspect of this installment is better, thanks in large part to a change of director. It has visceral excitement, better effects, richer acting and a promising setup for Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2. Between this and American Hustle, that lovely young Jennifer Lawrence is having quite an annus mirabilis.

I'm working my way slowly through critics' top 10 lists of 2013 novels, having just finished Meg Wolitzer's expansive The Interestings, but few include the book I found most un-put-down-able: Lexicon, by Australia's Max Barry. It's about an underground society in which so-called "poets" wield linguistic "persuasion" tricks to manipulate the masses, for crusades both kind and abominable. It's a riveting thriller with a cerebral, satirical pulse, my favorite since Ready Player One.

If you have Xfinity On Demand, you can binge-watch all 10 first-season episodes of the BBC's Orphan Black for free, and you totally should. It's amazingly good, y'all, especially the manifold performance of Tatiana Maslany. That she didn't receive an Emmy nomination casts that entire nominating process into serious doubt. Here's the setup: A young British woman named Sarah (Maslany) spots another woman, Beth (also Maslany), in a tube station, just before Beth leaps to her death in front of a train. Sarah then swaps identities with Beth to get herself and her daughter out of a jam. That's how she meets Katja (uh, Maslany) and Alison (holy crap, Maslany again), plus three more vivid characters - all played by, yep, Maslany. Defiance be damned, Orphan Black was far and away the smartest sci-fi telly of 2013.

That said, I sure enjoyed me some Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 5. Memories of embarrassing prequels faded thanks to killer episodes like "Point of No Return," culminating in a series-finale arc in which a young Padawan is wrongfully accused of mass murder. It's true Clone Wars was all over the tonal map, perhaps by necessity, but it sure made my DVR fun on Saturday mornings. All five seasons are available on DVD or Blu-ray, harder to find on legal streaming services.

The summer movie season was bracketed by two apocalyptic comedies, This Is the End and The World's End. Both were hysterically funny. Both are available on something called HitBliss Streaming, or for disc rental on Netflix. Neither, I promise you, is G-rated, but only the former includes Jonah Hill getting menaced by a priapic demon. So yeah. Good luck wiping that image from your brain.

This was an unexpectedly strong season of The Walking Dead, especially episode 3.8, "Made to Suffer." Oh! And I gather there was some sort of wedding on Game of Thrones? I don't subscribe to HBO, so my wife and I are eagerly awaiting the Blu-rays Feb. 18. Don't you dare spoil anything for us! Nothing warms our hearts more than a glorious wedding. Felicitations and mazel tov, you beautiful Stark kids!

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and vartix velkor mannik wissick, may you send me a stack of Regal gift cards courtesy of the Volcano head office.

See Also

Judging by the Trailer

December 31, 2013 at 6:53am

5 Things To Do Today: New Year's Eve parties, Woolworth Windows, First Night, DJ Dead Air and more...

DJ Dear Air will spin you round like a record round round tonight at The Brotherhood Lounge in downtown Olympia.

TUESDAY, DEC. 31 2013 >>>

1. A legitimate excuse for frivolous hedonism comes but once a year, so we say make the most of it. Don a silly hat (everyone else will look stupid, too), pop a magnum of champagne and blow your horn: 2013 is finally done. Check out the Weekly Volcano's Music Calendar and Entertainment Calendar for ideas.

2. Good news: a new round of art installations move into the Woolworth Windows today. For a sneak peek, click here.

3. First Night is a coordinated international phenomenon with hundreds of cities worldwide manifesting (relatively) drunk-free celebrations that allow people not interested in being totally smashed to come out of their homes to celebrate New Year’s. In Tacoma, past celebrations have included giant puppets, parades, scavenger hunt, giant snake, pirates, racing pigs, rolling heads, music, performers, fireworks, medieval sword fights and more. First Night Tacoma is back with a Year of the Horse theme this year, as well as a soapbox derby race, world's shortest parade, ice walk, Tacomapoly, coconut shell stampede and tons of music. Venues for this year’s offerings are all about Broadway — the Rialto Theater, Theater on the Square, the Pantages and indoor and outdoor spots from Seventh to 13 streets. Click here for the First Night Tacoma full schedule.

4. Speaking of First Night Tacoma, the event has always been an embarrassment of riches, and this year's installment looks to be no different. The New Year's Eve celebration is packed with any number of bands worthy of highlighting - bands like the lovely OK Sweetheart, the dance-rock of The Fame Riot, and that elder statesman of throat-singing oddness, Baby Gramps - but my eyes were immediately drawn to Fly Moon Royalty. This electro-soul duo on the rise combines the talents of producer/MC Mike Illvester and singer Adra Boo. The interplay between producer and vocalist is classic, each performer building off of one another to create a funky stew that challenges the folded-armed hipster. Adra Boo's smooth vocals mingle perfectly with Mike Illvester's compositions. It's a unique thing to be found at this year's First Night at 9:45 p.m. on the Main Stage, so don't go sleeping on it.

5. Celebrate New Year's Eve at The Brotherhood Lounge. For a reasonable price, one of Olympia's most fun bars will take it a notch higher, with 50 percent of the door earmarked for Safeplace. It will be awesome, ladies and gentlemen. DJ Dead Air will be the entertainment for the evening, and the playlist is composed of '80s, rawk, punk and disco. The Broho is also bringing back the midnight balloon drop. Even if your hipper-than-thou ass has to pretend like you're going to be all ironic and shit, you know that this is the kind of party you want to use to forget about 2013. 


December 31, 2013 at 12:36pm

Judging by the Trailer: "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones"

They call this "Activity"?

It's the end of 2013, and by this point we've all been flooded with a deluge of year-end "best of" lists. How sick of them must you be? But fear not! At Judging by the Trailer, there is no best of. There is only Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - one of the most laughably inept trailers I've seen in quite some time.

And why shouldn't it be laughable? As the fifth installment in that franchise of diminishing returns, Paranormal Activity, The Marked Ones is left to pick up the pieces of a broken genre (found-footage horror) and listlessly toss them out in that cinematic graveyard known as January.

We begin with the exploration of what historians may note as the most fearless amateur cameraman of all time. It's one thing to document every waking moment, as this gentleman seems to do, but when it comes to courageously filming gang violence, breaking and entering and (not to put too fine a point on it) horrifying fucking apparitions, this guy deserves some sort of Egon Spengler medal of bravery. He is an honorary Ghostbuster. He may as well have his own crystal skull-themed brand of vodka.

Things go from bad to worse to SPOOKY when two teenagers break into a murdered old lady's apartment to find it adorned with some variety of voodoo hocus pocus, after which one of the kids finds himself possessed (don't you hate it when that happens?). Gone are the modest days of strapping a video camera to an oscillating fan in the hopes that something might jump out and scare you - this ain't your grandma's found-footage horror. What we have now is essentially a standard narrative with bad cinematography and a mouthy camera operator.

The scariest thing about The Marked Ones, it seems to me, is that anyone with a functioning brain and a tongue they've yet to swallow might find themselves ordering a ticket for this nonsense. Happy New Year!

See Also

The finest nerdy projects of 2013

December 31, 2013 at 2:59pm

Check This Out: "Gandhi" (1982)

"Gandhi," the epic biography of the man who led India's struggle for independence, was voted best film of 1982 by the New York Film Critics Circle.

Every Tuesday, "Check This Out" recommends movies available at your friendly local library. So you can satisfy your next film fix at the place with the books.

"Drama is life with the dull bits left out," the wise Hitchcock tells us. So what excitement could one possibly find in a three-hour-plus film of a man who does nothing? He doesn't fight back when others bully and beat him up, he lets himself get thrown into prison multiple times without a word of complaint and sometimes he even refuses to eat. But Gandhi (and the 1982 film of the same name) proved to the world that rejecting the status quo packs plenty of drama, and, against all odds, quiet inaction can still bring down empires and inspire millions.

Winner of the Oscar for Best Picture, Gandhi tells the story of one man on a grand scale, and remains one of cinema's last old-fashioned epics before the assist (or crutch, some would argue) of computer-generated imagery. (Interestingly, director Richard Attenborough would usher in moviemaking's digital age indirectly a decade later with Jurassic Park, playing that polite British creator of deadly dinos.) The film achieves its most dazzling effect with nothing more than makeup and the performance of Sir Ben Kingsley, who seamlessly transforms from dark-haired, dark-suited lawyer to white-haired, white-robed global revolutionary.

Early in life, Gandhi gets thrown off a train in India for not moving back to third class, the designated section for people of his heritage. From that incident is born a nearly 50-year fight to secure his nation's independence from the British Empire. Yet he doesn't spur his countrymen to wage war with weapons or bloodshed, but quite the opposite, by using passive resistance. The film does a fine job exploring how this quiet riot ripples out across the continent, all the way to England's highest government leaders, whose initial arrogance towards this willful "little brown man" gets cut down to confusion, frustration, and finally defeat.

Like other powerful sagas, Gandhi packs thousands of extras and crosses multiple eras and landscapes, yet never loses sight of telling the very personal story of an individual who dared to defy. With its anti-imperialist message and call for religious equality, history itself suddenly seems not this buried and forgotten thing, but a voice crying to be heard today.

LINK: The first-ever filmed interview with Gandhi

Filed under: Screens,

January 2, 2014 at 7:30am

Thursday Morning Joe: Madigan doctor just does it, weather, exploding rubber duckie and more news ...

Rikki Long, a shift supervisor at the Lakewood Starbucks at Highway 512 and South Tacoma Way, has a cup of joe for you. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

GRAB A CUP & READ THE MORNING REPORT FOR 1.2.14 >>>

The "Spartans" of 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), have once again come into the mountains of Afghanistan, because they are bad asses.

Air Force Col. Richard H. McBride wants all service members to be part of a new arms race. And by arms race we mean he wants service members to roll up their sleeves and donate blood to help their fellow service members and their families.

A lot of people start the beginning of every year making a bunch of empty promises to themselves, but it doesn't have to be that way.  A doctor at Madigan Army Medical Center in Joint Base Lewis-McChord has made a sound resolution backed by promoted by the surgeon general of the Army.

The U.S. has transformed a boat into a super drug sniffer with a high-tech system that can neutralize lethal chemical weapons such as nerve gas with water and bleaching compounds ... and it's going to set sail for Syria.

Skype, the popular Internet phone call provider, is not just for conversations with your easily amused parents or faraway best friends anymore. It's also for bad guys in the Syrian Electronic Army.

They were called the Stern Gang and it catapulted British MI5's involvement with counterterrorism during the Cold War.

The new year got a little happier for one Iraq War vet. He made the first pot purchase in Colorado.

But hey, happy new year! Let's all look forward to the year of the horse, the salamander, the e-engagement, the modest sheath dress, family farming, Luigi, the haggis, vertical downspacing and 48 other things proclaimed by writers all over the world.

Did you know calendars repeat periodically? Yep! The year 2014 has the same days and dates as 1975. Therefore, Morning Joe crew will live this year by the 1975 Marvel Comics calendar.

Where are they now? There were 16 overlooked deaths from 2013, including the crazy person who gave us "Wild Thing."

Oh, the horror! The giant rubber duckie that has been going around the globe for the past few months - bringing peace and joy to all of humanity - has exploded in Taiwan.

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