MUNCHMOBILE: Clint's Place

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Food

WEEK 2 — CLINT’S PLACE

For this week’s edition of the Munchmobile, our fearless munchers made their way to Center Street in Provo to find a place that would satisfy our sandwich needs. We looked no further that Clint’s Place, located on 42 W Center Street. Upon entering, we had the impression that the place was called Hickory Kist, because the window displays a large logo sporting that name. The cashier informed us that the name of the eatery was Clint’s Place and that they used products from Hickory Kist Deli in Spanish Fork.

After the confusion cleared, we searched through the menu to get a feel for what Clint’s Place had to offer. It was clear that the owner has a passion for classic rock based on the names of the food items, ranging from Zeppelin’s Coda and Abbey Road sandwiches to the Strawberry Fields and Rainy Day Woman smoothies. The options used to be limited, but just recently they beefed up their menu to over 13 loaded sandwiches. They also have five breakfast sandwiches that looked rather intriguing and an assortment of smoothies. As is customary here with the Munchmobile, we took a few recommendations from the house. Ben went with The Clintster, which they said was their most popular. Jake decided on Mojo Risin’, one of their new selections that is gaining popularity fast. What did the munchers think of their meals? Let’s see what they had to say.

Jake Welch — Mojo Risin’

IMG_0131

Mojo Risin'

I have to admit that I was a little wary of this sandwich because it had all the makings of a typical house favorite: chicken and bacon. However, I was rather impressed with this sanny, not because their chicken and bacon was superior to that of a deli. What got me was the little things. As soon as the sandwiches were served the waitress informed us that our bread was grilled with honey butter. Again, I was unsure of the gimmick but, trust me on this one, it works. The little touch of sweet balanced out perfectly with the cream cheese and avocado. I was also a big fan of the bread, which is baked on-site daily. It’s not hoagie bread, which gives this place a nice change of pace from other sandwhich shops in the area like Gandolfo’s. The only knock that I had with the place was the price. I was pretty hungry so I went with the whole sandwich, which came out around $8. Usually something has to be pretty darn satisfying for me to justify spending that much. In the end, I felt good about my purchase. It was definitely worth it. Four out of five dill pickles.

Ben Wagner — The Clinster

IMG_0132

The Clintster (right)

According to the waitress behind the counter, the Clintster is the most popular sandwich at Clint’s Place and rightfully so. The Clintster is a hearty sandwich comprised of breaded chicken, turkey, and bacon, with the usual trimming of lettuce, tomato and mayo. Then Clint’s Place adds in its cream cheese and signature honey-buttered bread to complete the tasty concoction. The honey butter bread was the biggest difference one would notice from a sandwich at any other deli. The sweet taste of the bread gave the sandwich a unique taste not found at your nearest $5 sub joint. While the Clintster is an expensive sandwhich at $8, it’s worth the money if you’re looking to expand your sandwich horizons. 4 out of 5 chip bags.

So looking back, the only thing our munchers advise you about with Clint’s Place is the price. Most whole sandwiches range from $6.75-$8.00 and the half’s go for around $4-$5. This might scare off most of the student readers because they can always get a five dollar foot long at Subway. Please don’t let that fool you. Subway offers you the lowest quality meats and cheese on the market for five bucks. If all you want is to get filled with meat that is 88% moisture and vegetables that were fresh weeks ago, then Subway it is. However, if you care about getting a quality meal and you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks then Clint’s Place is a safe bet. 4 out of 5 Clintster’s.

To learn more about Clint’s Place, visit their Web site.

For suggestions on where you’d like to see the Munchmobile head next week, send an e-mail to rhombusmag@gmail.com or send a message on Twitter to @rhombusmag.

Ben Wagner and Jake Welch are correspondents for Rhombus Magazine and they seem to have some issues with Subway. Let them know what you think by sending a tweet to @ben_wagner and/or @jraywelch.

COLUMN: The Further Sins Of Glenn Beck

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Politics

Steve Pierce

Steve Pierce

Rhombus recently took some heat for some rather vitriolic comments I made regarding Glenn Beck in my review of his appearance at this year’s Stadium of Fire event at BYU. I criticized his dress, his demeanor and his very being. I called him “douchey” and a “borderline psycho.” I said that I wanted to punch him in the face.

Upon reflection, I felt that I probably came off a little strong and a lot of the criticism was undeserved. After all, Glenn didn’t do that poorly and was actually quite affable as an emcee for the evening. And that moment near the end of the show where they retired a ginormous American flag by burning it… That one pulled at my heartstrings and made me proud to be a citizen of this great country. After speaking with multiple readers and hearing their more fair-minded assessments of Beck and the show, I decided that I had probably put a toe over the line in my criticism. I felt quite contrite, even penitent.

I don’t feel that way anymore.

Today’s issue of the Daily Universe has brought back all that fire — and then some. DU metro editor (and friend of Rhombus) McKay Coppins has a brilliant front page piece about — prepare yourselves — how the Freedom Foundation, the event’s sponsor, (and their knowing conspirator, Mr. Beck) faked the flag retirement! It was all a rouse, a fake, a fabrication! And how do they respond? They laugh it off!

Acting on tips from volunteers and employees at the event, The Daily Universe contacted Provo City Fire Marshall Lynn Schofield and asked if the flag had really been burned in the stadium, as the audience of 50,000 had been led to believe.

He said he had not allowed the flag to be burned because the noxious fumes produced by the fire could have been a hazard to those present.

When soldiers carefully placed the flag in a large cauldron-shaped container, attendees saw flames arise, creating the illusion that the flag was burning.

It was a somber moment for many, aided by an emotional speech by Glenn Beck, who acted as emcee for the event. He told those in attendance how lucky they were to witness a rare flag retirement.

“If our American flag could speak, oh the stories she would tell,” Beck said, fighting to hold back tears. “She is what we make of her and nothing more.”

In reality, the flag was sitting safely inside the container. Volunteers who were present at the rehearsals the night before said Beck was likely aware that the flag was not actually being retired.

I knew Glenn Beck didn’t have a genuine or sincere bone in his body. Just as on his television show, his appearance at the Stadium of Fire was merely an opportunity for him to generate a response. While he usually attempts to provoke outrage on the airwaves, he hoped to provide SOF attendees with a mirage of a patriotic experience. He even choked up as he talked about the flag, supposedly being destroyed before our eyes, that was actually lying safely in the bottom of the cauldron at mid-field. What a guy.

Sure, the fire marshall told the Freedom Foundation that they couldn’t burn the flag because of safety concerns. That’s understandable. But the fact that Beck chose to play along like there was something actually happening to the point that he was literally crying over our non-burning flag is shameful. It’s just all so disingenuous. They could still have created a memorable experience by allowing military personnel to perform the retirement ceremony without the (fake) flag-burning aspect — but they didn’t. Instead, they laughed in the face of the paying customers who felt duped. They turned a potentially wonderful, patriotic experience into a facade. They cheapened the experience for all involved.

I won’t lie: I don’t have a lot of respect for Glenn Beck because I don’t feel like he has much respect for anybody else. He showed his true colors again last Saturday night. I feel justified in my disrespect.

Steve Pierce is co-founder and editor of Rhombus. He feels better about calling Glenn Beck “douchey” in light of recent events.

MUSIC: RuRu, Desert Noises, Code Hero At Graywhale Tonight

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Graywhale Entertainment, located at University Mall in Provo, presents the next entry in their biweekly Local Artist Showcase tonight at 7:00 p.m., featuring a killer line-up of Provo musicians.

RuRu, the stage name of local folk wunderkind Isaac Russell, will headline the evening with a full band set that is sure to please. If you happened to catch his spare, acoustic-driven set at the Vibrant Sound’s CD Release party in June, you are in for a treat. As excellent as young Russell is all by his lonesome, RuRu is an altogether different beast when drums, pedal steel and electric guitar are fully featured. Furthermore, the artist has promised new material for tonight’s show, which should be enough to whet your appetite, considering Russell’s considerable songwriting ability. Do yourself a favor and amble over to Graywhale for a bit tonight. You won’t regret it.

The show will also feature local boys and RuRu labelmates (over at Joshua James and McKay Stevens’ Northplatte Records) Desert Noises, as well as Code Hero. Desert Noises recently released their first EP, chock-full of folk-rock songs that resemble some kind of lovechild created by Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes. I first stumbled onto Code Hero at last year’s Sego Festival during their set on the main stage and remember being significantly impressed. We’ll see if my memory serves me correctly tonight.

The show starts tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 p.m. at Graywhale Entertainment, located next to the food court at University Mall. Admission is free, so you really have no monetary excuse for not being there. Rhombus promises an evening of great local music for the optimal (non-)price. We hope to see you there.

To hear tracks from each of tonight’s featured artists, please visit their respective MySpace pages here: RuRu, Desert Noises and Code Hero.

COLUMN: "Um, Gov. Palin? You Forgot Your Hoe!"

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Okay, seriously, this is turning out to be a roller coaster of a year for the GOP. First, they lose the presidential election. Then, they lose two potential party front-runners (Sen. John Ensign of Nevada and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina) to extramarital affairs, but that’s not all. Now Sarah Palin is stepping down as governor of Alaska.  This may seem like Christmas Day for most liberals (assuming liberals still celebrate Christian holidays), but a Republican can’t help but wonder what has happened.

On her back lawn, in a very folksy manner, Palin offered up several reasons for her resignation while dropping subtle hints about her future ambitions.   After expressing a desire to protect her family and its finances, both of which have been significantly drained in an attempt to escape ethics probes, she stated her determination to further advocate for issues that are important to her, such as national security and energy independence.

Honestly, I applaud the hockey mom for her desire to protect her family: things were getting a bit hairy between her and David Letterman for a little while, not to mention the huge uproar about her pregnant teenage daughter. It’s been a rough patch for her and her family. But the pressure has not only been coming from national sources. Ethics complaints had been raised against Palin for the firing of a public safety commissioner who had been reluctant to dismiss a state trooper. It later surfaced that the trooper in question was involved in a divorce with Palin’s sister, creating a potential conflict of interest on the governor’s part. Palin reportedly spent over $500,000 in an attempt to clear her name of these allegations, so you can imagine the family is a little strapped for cash right now. (Perhaps she could sell her McCain campaign wardrobe…)

Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association, told Fox News (the source of all truth and goodness) that Palin “wants to spend more time campaigning for candidates.” Well, if you ask me, how much credibility could she bring to a campaign? She is a definite “mover and shaker” as far as politicians go, but what will people think of someone that just gave up mid-term because the job was just too difficult?

I hope there is no one (especially Sarah herself) that is thinking the former governor should still run for the presidency in 2012. Her decision to resign speaks volumes about her problem-solving abilities: things got rough and she quit. She didn’t regroup. She didn’t finish out her term. Nope. She quit. Thank goodness Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and half a dozen other presidents chose otherwise when things got rough for them. As you and I both know, the presidency requires a great measure of sacrifice and dedication, even at the expense of family time. A candidate must be willing and able to hoe to the end of their row. I think Sarah Palin just removed herself from that category of viable presidential hopefuls.

Granted, if she has her family’s interests at heart, then a resignation is justified; however, her intentions to work in other areas of the political arena that may be even more demanding cast suspicion over such claims.

With Palin’s stated intention to continue as a public figure, it’s hard to see how she will be protecting her family at all. If, in fact, she follows through with her decision to help other candidates, she will be exposing herself and her family to not only national criticism, but also to local criticism from individual states. Furthermore, she just freed herself of her biggest obligation and time-filler: the governorship of Alaska. She will now be very much available to attend different venues and events around the country that will be far more time-consuming and infinite in number than all her duties as governor combined.

As always, you are the umpire in this situation. You make the call.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. He doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of Sarah Palin’s decision-making skills.

TECH: iPhone vs. The Field

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

In the summer of 2007, Apple released the first generation of their groundbreaking smartphone, the iPhone. The device recieved rave reviews for its revolutionary mobile web browsing and touch-screen interface, but received criticism due to its lack of 3G support and third party applications. Sales were strong for the phone and Apple sold 6.1 million handsets in its first 5 quarters; strong numbers, but not strong enough to bring down international smartphone leader Nokia. By the 4th quarter of 2007, the iPhone had gained a 5% international market share and was showing promise as a new leader in the smartphone market. Apple corrected many of the mistakes of the first generation with the second iteration of the phone, the iPhone 3G, in 2008 by adding 3G support and, perhaps most importantly, creating the iTunes App Store. Apple also dropped the phone’s price tag and added more then 70 new international carriers.

The iPhone 3G became a smash hit. The phone sold more then 6.8 million units in its first quarter, more than its predecessor sold in over a year of production. In its first 3 quarters the 3G sold in total more than 14.5 million units and Apple’s stranglehold on the smartphone market began. Apple released the third generation of the iPhone hardware, the iPhone 3G S, last month and the phone reportedly sold more then a million units in its first week. While the numbers aren’t perfect, certain reports suggest that, as of the June 25th, Apple has a 69% market share in the U.S. smartphone market. Internationally, the iPhone has yet to overtake Research-in-Motion (makers of the Blackberry) and leader Nokia, but seems to be gaining ground.

In the last year, several companies have tried to stop Apple’s stranglehold on the market by creating “iPhone killers.” Phones such as the Blackberry Storm, the HTC G1 and the new Palm Pre have all been touted as the new “It” phone, yet Apple has maintained (and grown) its dominant market share. The question is, “How?” Well, there are several answers to this question:

  • The App Store. To date, there are more then 50,000 apps available for the iPhone and there have been more then a billion downloads from the iTunes App Store. As of today, the Palm Pre app store has about 30 apps. Literally, whatever I need to do on my iPhone, “There’s an app for that.”
  • User Interface. Simply put, the iPhone user interface just works: it’s simple, easy and anyone can pick up the phone and figure it out. I know plenty of people who can’t even navigate the finder on their laptops or open the Start menu, but they can navigate an iPhone.
  • Multi-Touch. The touch-screen technology used by the iPhone is second to none. The multi-touch technology works great and is very intuitive.
  • Form Factor. Let’s face it:  the iPhone is sexy.
  • Marketing. The marketing team at Apple has done a brilliant job of touting the phone, while other phone makers have not successfully pointed out the phones flaws: the lack of MMS, tethering and a decent camera. However, Apple has now added these features and, as a result, there are now very few identifiable flaws. Research-In-Motion could point out that the iPhone lacks a decent enterprise-level mail client or HTC could highlight the device’s lack of a tactile keyboard. No Blackberry will ever match the iPhone’s media player and no Palm will ever possess an equivalent touch interface. These companies should stop trying to outdo Apple at what it does best. Instead, they should focus on promoting the features their phones have that the iPhone lacks. The timing of Apple’s releases have been critical as well. The Palm Pre received lots of buzz around the Internet for months prior to its release. However, the week the Pre was released Apple also announced the iPhone 3G S, effectively killing any momentum the Pre had been building since January.
  • Dependence. iPhone users find themselves dependent upon the apps on their phone. This makes the very idea of switching to another phone seem ludicrous, considering the money they have invested and the need they feel for their apps. I personally have about $60 worth of paid apps on my phone and plenty of free ones. Switching to another phone would mean the loss of thar $60. As the number of iPhone owners increases (especially with the recent price drop of $99 for the 8GB 3G), Apple will find ways to make users more dependent then ever on the handset. With the release of iPhone OS 3.0, manufacturers are now allowed to create accessories that connect with the phone’s dock, creating all new possibilities. Medical, scientific and gaming equipment will all be compatible with your iPhone very soon. For example, GPS maker TomTom has announced an app and car kit that will dock with the iPhone, boost the device’s built-in GPS and allow for turn-by-turn voice instructions. Similarly, various medical companies are creating new technologies that will dock with the iPhone. Need to see your blood sugar levels? Plug in your iPhone and get a readout.

Like it or not, Apple’s touch-screen phone is here to stay as the leader of the smartphone market. If you don’t own one yet, there’s never been a better time, especially with the 8 GB 3G now priced at only $99. I’m just warning you now: you may never go back.

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus and is admittedly addicted to his iPhone. Give him advice on how to break the habit by sending a tweet to @ben_wagner.

CONCERT REVIEW: RuRu, Desert Noises, Code Hero

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Wednesday night saw the return of Graywhale Entertainment’s biweekly Local Artist Series with a prolific performance by headliner RuRu.

To be honest, Graywhale’s University Mall store is not the ideal venue for a live show. The acoustics aren’t the best and the sound system is middling. In short, it’s a record store, not a live venue. Almost every set I have ever seen performed at the store has been sub-par, not necessarily as a fault of the artist, but because the sonic element of the space often contributes negatively to the overall sound. That being said, the fact that Graywhale is willing to open its doors and book great artists for free is amazing and, despite the venue’s shortcomings, deserves to be supported. After all, you’re not paying for it. Graywhale is one of the few independent record stores we have around here and Utah Valley music fiends need to support them in any way we can, especially considering the state of the record industry today.

That being said, Wednesday night was not RuRu’s best set ever, mostly due to the venue. However, when you’re Isaac Russell, one of your weaker shows is still better than a lot of bands’ strongest effort. Russell completely eschewed his traditional acoustic guitar for his eight song set, instead opting for the fuller sound of a Gibson hollowbody electric. The setlist was split almost evenly between new songs and older material from his 2008 album, Elizabeth.

While old favorites like “Why” and “Excuse” will never get stale for Russell fans, the show’s most interesting moments came when the artist debuted his most recent songwriting exploits. Opening with a newly completed, untitled song, Russell provided a glimpse into the future direction of his writing. More rocking than usual, his new songs hew closer to the more rock-oriented sounds of Conor Oberst than the alt-country feel of Ryan Adams. The set’s second song, “Be Honest,” wouldn’t have felt out of place on some of Oberst’s later Bright Eyes records, featuring the singer constantly fluctuating between a whisper and a scream over a single guitar.

However, the night’s highlight came in the form of Americana-tinged rocker “The Light At The End Of The Tunnel.” With beautiful guitar work and a comparably awesome keyboard part to boot, the song embodies everything that is great about Russell’s brand of folk-rock: the simple, but infectious melodies, the tight musicianship and the penetrating insights on topics well beyond the intellectual and emotional range of most 17-year-olds. When the frontman contemplates which supernatural force controls death and comes to the conclusion that “it all depends on who you like,” it represents not only a young poet wise beyond his years, but also a stark assessment of the nature of religion in modern society. This, my friends, is what great music sounds like.

The show opened with performances by Code Hero and Desert Noises. As previously stated, almost nobody sounds great at Graywhale, so this wasn’t exactly Woodstock. However, both bands turned in solid performances — or at least as solid as the venue would permit. I look forward to seeing both bands play again outside the walls of a record store in hopes of experiencing their respective live shows at their full potential.

To hear tracks from these artists, please visit their respective MySpace pages here: RuRu, Desert Noises and Code Hero.

PHOTOS:

IMG_0242

IMG_0216

IMG_0239

MUSIC: Bon Iver, Jenny Lewis Kick Off Twilight Concert Series Tonight

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Our prayers have been answered: the music gods have looked upon Salt Lake City and they have blessed it – abundantly.

Thursday evening marks the first show of the Twilight Concert Series at the Gallivan Center in Salt Lake, which will feature the excellent indie-folk group Bon Iver and opener Jenny Lewis. The free concert series has become increasingly relevant in recent years by recruiting top-notch national acts, including Nada Surf, the Roots, Andrew Bird, Broken Social Scene, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Neko Case, among others. However, the Salt Lake City Arts Council (the series’ host) has really upped its game for 2009. In addition to Bon Iver and Lewis, Salt Lake City will welcome a plethora of talented artists to town this summer, including the Black Keys, M. Ward, Sonic Youth, Iron & Wine, Okkerville River and Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears. This excellent line-up should have downtown rocking every Thursday night all summer long.

Thursday’s headliner, Bon Iver, took the music world by storm in 2008 with its sparse, aching debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago. Crafted in a secluded Wisconsin cabin by frontman Justin Vernon, the album and its recording process instantly reached mythical status amongst critics and fans alike. The album ended up on virtually every critic’s “Top Ten” list for 2008 and propelled Bon Iver onto the national stage. Since then the group has released an excellent EP, been featured on multiple television shows and toured the world. Not half bad for a couple guys from Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

You may remember Jenny Lewis, who will open Thursday’s show, from her childhood role as the young lead character in the 1989 movie Troop Beverley Hills. If you were fortunate enough to miss that flick, you may also recognize her as the frontwoman of beloved indie band Rilo Kiley. Lewis’ first solo album, Rabbit Fur Coat, received critical praise following its release in 2006 and her latest full-length effort, Acid Tongue, has continued in its predecessor’s worthy footsteps. If you like sweet folk melodies and angelic vocals, Jenny Lewis is your girl.

If you’ve ever lamented the (previously) sad state of Utah’s concert scene (or even if you haven’t and you just like great music), you should be at the Gallivan Center every Thursday night for the next two months. Nowhere else in the country will you be able to see this caliber of artist for free. This type of cultural opportunity doesn’t happen often in Utah. Take advantage of it while you can.

Bon Iver and Jenny Lewis will play tonight (Thursday, July 9th) at the Gallivan Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The show starts at 7:00 p.m. and admission is free. To hear tracks by these artists, check out the songs included below.

TECH: Best of the App Store (Part 1)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

I’m am, admittedly, an app store addict. I try and stay away from the iTunes App Store because, once I get into it, I will undoubtedly download five or six new apps. With 50,000 different apps available, both free and paid, it’s sometimes hard to sift through the garbage to find the store’s true gems. Luckily, that’s why I’m here. Following is part one of my “Best of the App Store” series, with today’s entry  focusing on free utilities (non-gaming) apps.

Honorable Mentions

  • Darkroom — For iPhone and iPhone 3G users, this app is a must. Darkroom uses the accelorometer to measure when your phone is steady as you take a picture. Once you hit the shutter button on your camera, the app waits until the phone is completely steady before taking the picture. This allows for much clearer shots, especially during low-light conditions. Unfortunately, this app is not yet compatible with iPhone OS 3.0 and iPhone 3G S and is, therefore, relegated to the honorable mention category.
  • Skype — The popular video chat client released its mobile iPhone version some months back and I instantly loved it. While the iPhone version doesn’t feature video chat, it does feature free voice calls (when there is a local wi-fi connection) to any of your Skype friends. This feature can save you minutes and works great. The instant messaging feature also works great, allowing you to IM with your online friends over a 3G connection. Don’t be surprised if we see an iPhone external webcam released in the near future and Skype adds video chat over wi-fi to this app. Therefore, I put this app in the honorable mention category because it has yet to reach its full potential.

Top 5 Utilities

  • Shazam — So it’s late at night and you’re getting kicked out of the library as they blare music over the speakers and you just can’t quite identify the song playing as you’re packing up your books for the night? Just open up Shazam! Let it listen to the song being played and within seconds it somehow scours its massive database of just about every song ever written and tells you the name of the song, as well as handy info such as the artist, links to iTunes to purchase the song and accompanying YouTube music videos (if available). This app is scary accurate and I have no idea how it works. I figure there are only two logical explanations: a) there are people a lot smarter then me, or b) black magic. I’m leaning towards b, but it could go either way.
  • Flixster – This app is simple: it uses the GPS device in your phone to find your location, then searches for movie theaters in your vicinity and displays the movie showtimes for those theaters. Simple and easy to use. It is one of the most used apps on my phone.
  • Stanza — There are a lot of free e-reader programs for the iPhone, but what sets this one apart from the pack is the converter program available from the Lexcycle Web site. This converter program allows you to take any document on your PC or Mac, convert it to a Stanza format, then sync it to your iPhone. Like that latest column on Rhombus and want to read it on the road? Copy the text, put it into Stanza, convert, sync and — voila! — you have it in an easy-to-read format right on your phone. It converts everything from PDFs to simple .txt files, so you can make virtually any document portable.
  • Twitterfon — There is a plethora of Twitter apps available for the iPhone: some are free, some are not. I find that it completely unnecessary to spend money on a Twitter app when there is a great one like Twitterfon available for free. Twitterfon is fully featured and easy to use. I like the user interface so much that I often find myself using Twitterfon instead of my desktop Twitter client. If you use Twitter (and if you don’t, then why are you really reading this?) and have an iPhone, tweet with Twitterfon.
  • Evernote — Evernote is a fantastic app for Mac and Windows. On the surface, it is a note-taking application. Add in the fact that Evernote uploads all of your notes to the Internet where they can be accessed from any web browser and you can begin to see the potential it has. Then add in the iPhone app which allows you to access your notes from your phone and you have a truly great way to record and access information. Last semester I took all my class notes in Evernote, which were then synced to the Web. Come finals time, I was able to study my notes from my iPhone while waiting in the massive line to enter the testing center. The synchronization between PC, Web and iPhone is fantastic and seamless and requires no manual effort: it is all done automatically in the background. Throw in the ability to create to-do lists and store photos and videos and Evernote stops becoming a note-taking app and becomes a new way to organize and retrieve information from wherever you are. If you are a student and you have an iPhone, believe me: this is a must-have.

Now go out and download ‘em! I mean, they’re free. What do you have to lose? Check back tomorrow for my top five free games!

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondant for Rhombus. Let him know what you thought about his app recomendations by sending your thoughts on Twitter (hopefully using Twitterfon) to @ben_wagner.

SPORTS: Remembering "Air" McNair

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

The day was January 30, 2000, and Super Bowl XXXIV was the occasion. I remember watching as Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans marched down the field and came within six yards of victory.

I was breathless along with the rest of the country as Kevin Dyson stretched out his arm only to come one yard short of a touchdown that would have tied the game. One yard from Super Bowl glory.  While the events of that day may be considered tragic, they are nothing in comparison to what transpired last Saturday.

McNair (who was married and had four sons) and his 20-year-old girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, were found dead in a condo in downtown Nashville, Tenn. He was shot four times, including once in each temple. Detectives have determined that McNair’s death was a homicide but have not made any announcement about Kazemi.

While many questions remain concerning his death, there is only one thing I can say for a fact: Steve McNair was one heck of a football player.

Whenever an opposing defense found themselves playing against McNair, they knew they were in for a dogfight. It became customary for him to drop back in the pocket, avoid three tackles and then throw a strike for a first down.

He was also known for his intestinal fortitude or, in the sports vernacular, guts. The man played through more concussions, breaks and strains than you can count on your hands and feet. Had he stayed healthy throughout his career, there is no doubt he would still be playing today, putting up Hall of Fame-type numbers.

If anything he, along with Warren Moon, set the mold for the rising generation of black quarterbacks. He was the first to come into the game as a mobile quarterback that was also accurate in the passing game. Too often you get guys that can scramble (Michael Vick, Travias Jackson, Aaron Brooks) but never really complete passes on a consistent basis. McNair was a perfect blend of mobility and decent accuracy, making the right decision about when to throw or when to tuck and run. While many might never see him as one of the best in either of these categories, he excelled in both and became only one of three quarterbacks to throw for over 30,000 yards and rush for 3,500.

While I do recognize that McNair was a great player on the gridiron, recent events surrounding his demise have left many questions about his character off the field. Regardless of what professional athletes accomplish in their respective sports, they will always be subject to the same weaknesses and downfalls as the rest of us.

So as we look back on the life of Steve McNair the quarterback, we can undoubtedly respect his abilities, accomplishments and groundbreaking career. As far as Steve McNair the person, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Jake Welch is a sports writer for Rhombus. He also contributes to the magazine’s weekly Munchmobile feature, which will appear later this week.

FILM: The Oscars They Are A-Changin'

Written by Mckay Stevens on . Posted in Film

Does anyone remember when the Oscars were still on TV? All the stars in their glitz and glamor would walk the red carpet and be presented as nominees for the most prestigious awards in the movie industry. It was a real spectacle, and a chance for us as fans to see our favorite actors being recognized for their roles in our favorite movies. Ah, those were the good ol’ days.

Okay, okay, so the Oscars are still on TV. Barely.

In an attempt to bounce back from the lowest ratings ever received for the program, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the guys who do the Academy Awards) is announcing some serious change, and it all begins at the top: Best Picture.

Diverting back to a standard that hasn’t been in place since 1943, the Academy will be announcing twice the number of nominees for the Best Picture award. This means that the 2010 Academy Awards will feature ten (yes, 10) nominees in the Best Picture category.

So here’s how it works: according to the Academy website, there are over 6,000 members. Each belongs to a specific branch depending on their specialty. They vote for the five best that fall within their category. If the first film/person on their list gets eliminated, their vote will count for the second name on the list, and so on.

The Best Picture Award is slightly different, however. All members vote for their top ten movies of the previous calendar year. The ability to place ten titles on the list seems like a small change at first, but more underdog and “uncategorized” films are now sure to make the list, which will call for more loyal fans to participate in the Awards.

In the San Diego Union-Tribune, a similarly related article last week cited a quote from academy president, Sidney Ganis, responding to a follow-up question regarding the reason behind doubling the nominees for Best Picture: “I would not be telling you the truth if I said the words ‘Dark Knight’ did not come up.”

My guess is that most of our readers have seen The Dark Knight, which is the sequel to the famous rebirth of the Batman franchise, Batman Begins, starring Christian Bale and written and directed by Christopher Nolan. If you are one who has seen the film, you can most likely agree that it should have at least been nominated for Best Picture, although you may not be able to pinpoint the exact reasons why. I will briefly attempt to do just that, hopefully without detracting too far from the purpose of the article.

Although falling under the category of “comic book movie,” The Dark Knight was so much more than that. It was so unique to its own genre that it became a lost puppy of sorts. The acting was more than convincing (Heath Ledger was scary-good), the score was engaging (Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard tag-teaming), the special effects, stunts and visuals were spot-on, and you could tell that not one person cut corners on their job. It was a monster of a film. It had certain expectations as a sequel and as a ‘comic book movie,” and it far exceeded both. It ended up being nominated for eight awards anyway, but it never made it on the Best Picture top five, even though many thought it should have.

So the question at hand here is: If a movie like The Dark Knight would have been among the nominees for Best Picture, would there have been more people watching? The Academy seems to think so and, therefore, changes are coming.

Considering all of this, I am going to be so bold as to suggest my list of Best Picture nominees for the 2009 year. Obviously we are barely into our seventh month, but I have done a lot of research to find what I believe will be voted as the ten best films of the year. Please take into account that I have not seen many of these films but I am basing my choices off the selections from previous years, the actors involved, the current hype and the new intentions of the Academy.

In no particular order, I present:

1. The Stoning of Soraya M. This is a shot-in-the-dark selection. A powerful topic, based on a true story, completely unique, Jim Caviezel is extremely talented, underdog film, and potential Best Picture quality based solely off that criteria.

2. The Hurt Locker Jeremy Renner has my vote for most underrated actor in Hollywood. The film looks gritty, new, raw and, with all joking aside, explosive. I actually doubt it would ever make it to be a real nominee for Best Picture but, with a few exceptions, this is a bad year for movies.

3. Cold Souls looks so intriguing I find myself wondering about it in random moments of the day. Paul Giamatti is one of those guys who acts because he loves acting, not because he loves money. It’s listed under “comedy” and the chances of something besides a drama making it to the realm of Best Picture are slim, but with five more slots being open, we could have some surprises on our hands.

4. Public Enemies has been one of the best reviewed films of the year and, with Christian Bale and Johnny Depp starring opposite each other, it just screams Oscar victory. I am positive it will be a nominee in several categories, including Best Picture.

5. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince promises to be the most exciting Harry Potter yet. Last year I would have been mocked for even suggesting Harry Potter as a Best Picture nominee, but having ten spots open in a year full of copycat horror films and cookie cutter chick flicks, our list will be very expansive.

6. Angels and Demons is another gripping story from the talented Dan Brown. His ability to mix real-life organizations, artifacts and locations with fictional characters and settings has proven to be a much-craved recipe, and it appears to have transferred well to the big screen, at least for those who enjoy this type of literature. Also, Tom Hanks.

7. Burma VJ uses smuggled footage of a 2007 protest which included over 100,000 people and over 1,000 monks. Went to Sundance. ‘Nuff said.

8. Moon is a surprising pick for me, even though I picked it. I don’t know if I would have ever given Sam Rockwell that much credit (see GalaxyQuest). Moon looks startlingly great.

9. Away We Go has been the recipient of more praise than almost any other movie this year. It has a certain Juno feel to it, but with its own uniqueness and character. It’s a movie with heart, and I’m sure it will be recognized as something special.

10. Star Trek is a movie I am in love with. I generally like to keep my strong opinions as something you find as you read between the lines of my articles, but I simply cannot hide my infatuation with Star Trek. It is a complete film from start to finish. It satisfies the old school Trekkies and the newbies (generally speaking). It is the Dark Knight of 2009. Also, I saved it for last because it’s my favorite.

Chances are you will be tuning in to the Academy Awards on March 7, 2010. I say that with a seemingly shallow confidence, but I am confident nonetheless. More of your favorite movies from 2009 will be there, and it should give you more reason to be there as well.

Mckay Stevens is a film writer for Rhombus. He really liked Star Trek.