MS BEE HAVEN

FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE

Was’p, hivemind? I don’t like to swarm around Twitter feed-style buzz like this, and get caught with hands in the honeypot, y’know? It’s just none of my beeswax, and, after all, I don’t wanna get stung. But I gotta take a post here to give some nectar to comedian and talk show maven, Samantha Bee, for outright calling a Trump* a Trump*, and breaking off a stinger into Ivanka and Co.

The hum around the hive is that I think this Bee is a queen.

Therefore, forthwith and tallyho, I officially name today FAVORITE FIGHTING FEMINIST FRIDAY, a hashtag I just made up for y’all. #FFFF


 

*by Trump I mean ‘cunt,’ of course.


 

WHO WAR IT BEST?

In observation of this MEMORIAL DAY, 2018, I’m celebrating in the only asshat way I’m capable of: honoring the many a fallen hero of mine, who’ve fought valiantly in harrowing battles here, there, everywhere, against enemies both known and unknown, at home, abroad, and in deep space, for God, and Country, and, in many cases, the fate of all mankind, in this, MY TOP TEN LIST OF THE MOST BADASS SOLDIERS OF WAR FILMS.

Here they are, in perfectly descending order.

1.) [REDACTED] JOHN J. RAMBO

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OK, so come on. Say what we will about Stallone, and Frank, and their Instagram stories with President Drumpf, that’s not the point. What I’m asking is, WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT THIS BATTLE WEARY GOOD OLE BOY RIGHT HERE, HUH? John J. Rambo. He’s the ultimate one-man army; the mold-breaker. He’s got the movie that invented all the tropes. If this bullet casing-chewing bad dude hadn’t’ve survived ‘Nam, and lived long enough, through a litany of harrowing off-the-records missions to humbly jizz the venom out of snakes in the twilight of his life down on the banks of the fucking Burmese jungle, or wherever, upright and uptight Sheriff Teasle would still be haranguing drifters, and probably evolve into a big modern-day political proponent of rolling back immigrant right; Vietnamese pirates would be playing bamboo piñata with our POWs, in addition to the corrupt uppity-ups in the U.S. government getting the patsy in Rambo they’d hoped for; Trautman would’ve gave up his sweet patriotic gag order virginity to those Soviet hooligans in Afghanistan; and the witless Christian missionaries would’ve been hogsfeed at the hands of a pedophile militia dictator. All hail Rambo. Rambo is life.

2.) PVT. SILAS TRIP

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I mean if this shit isn’t the way, y’ know? Private Trip is the one true hero of this here godforsaken movie that proclaims to be about equality for black soldiers but is really about white soldiers fighting for equality for black soldiers, but Broderick as Col. Robert Gould Shaw still gets a longer character credit than Denzel does. It’s a great war movie, but another lugubrious, although at its core, essential, meditation on the black experience post Emancipation Proclamation, during the real fight of the Civil War. Trip here is, of course, a consummate soldier, and like so many other blacks at that time, and others throughout history, has got the honor and integrity and the boiling blood within him to fight a white man’s war against other white men (over the fate of SLAVERY, BTW). Still, he has to reckon with persistent racism in the ranks, and ultimately goes AWOL just so he can have some MOTHERFUCKIN’ SHOES, MOTHERFUCKERS in which to keep fighting this war in. The “wolf dancer” of this particular Edward Zwick white-wash, Col. Shaw, has him whipped for insubordination. And then of course, Shaw “sees the error of his ways,” and what not, and the two become fast friends. And yet, Trip that keeps fighting, even at the side of his oppressor.

3.) WILLIAM WALLACE

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I realize that there’s little-to-no historical merit to this movie, and Gibson is an anti-semitic, wife-beating, Jesus zealot fucknut. But, GODDAMN, that is a BIG ASS MOTHERFUCKIN’ SWORD FOR A MAN IN MAKEUP AND A SHORT PLAID SKIRT.

4.) MAJ. ALAN “DUTCH” SCHAEFER

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When it comes to “the undisputed greatest movie of all time,” Predator, you’ll see in a moment that Dutch ain’t even really my guy in the movie. But you can’t argue with the fact that DUDE BEATS A BALLER KILLER ALIEN WITH A BOW AND ARROW. All he was left with in the end was NONE OF HIS BUDDIES, a knife, and some keen-ass know-how. Also, thank Crom, a whole buncha mud. The only real unbelievable aspect of this movie is that Arnold’s last name is “Schaefer.”

SO. GET. TO. DA. CHOPPA. 

5.) BILLY SOLE

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BILLY KNEW THE PREDATOR BEFORE THE PREDATOR KNEW THAT BILLY KNEW THE PREDATOR SO WHO IS REALLY EVEN THE PREDATOR IN PREDATOR?

6.) SHAKA ZULU

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First of all, Shaka is not so much a soldier as he is THE MOTHERFUCKING KING, but, also, A FUCKING WARRIOR KING, so as long as I’m including him, I’ll just also include his royal bad-assness, warrior and protector, and one True King, T’Challa —

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I learned about the Zulu Nation mainly out of protest for that white-washed British war porn, Zulu, where none of the Zulu characters have names, and none of the actors that played the Zulu characters are credited, and Michael Cain plays some redcoat fucktwat, Captain Twixton Bumblethorpe, or some such white-ass aristocratic nomenclature, and he and his 140 snaggletoothed, tea-drinking fancy boys hold fast against an African army desperate to hang onto their homeland in the face of colonization. In the South African TV miniseries from 1986, which almost didn’t go into production because of sanctions there, esteemed actor Henry Cele, who, himself, hailed from Durban, South Africa, portrays King Shaka and is a goddamn vision of earthly delight, I’m telling. Do yourself this favor. You’ve never seen abs washboard like this motherfucker shit before, I guarantee it.

7.) MAJ. JOHN REISMAN

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“I never went in for embroidery, just results.” –Maj. John Reisman, the dirtiest of them all.

8.) STEVE ROGERS

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ASTHMATIC. 5’5 & 90LBS. FLAT FEET. JUMPS ON A LIVE GRENADE TO SAVE HIS INFANTRY AND BECOMES A SUPERHERO. ANY QUESTIONS?

9.) PVT. JENETTE VASQUEZ

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The. Perfect. Woman. Er, person. Soldier. Also female character. COLONIAL MARINE? Also, just gaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh I LOVE HER SO MUCH.

10.) LT. COL. BILL KILGORE

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I mean, I’ve gotta put one fucking asshole on here, right? I’m sure any Vet can attest that in service there’s a fraction of the enlisted that are bloodlusting, trigger-happy, amoral nutjobs, which provide for all the photo-negative perceptions we have of the American Armed Services ideal.

That’s Kilgore. A sadist. A killer. A warmonger. All hail Red, White, & Blue.

That fucking neckerchief though? It really ties all his psychopathy together.


 

Memorial Day has a lot of heft, I know, and I would always mean to address it truly in a real way, but I am stunted by the possession of a child’s brain, unfortunately, and a great cynicism for the culture of war and the intentions of our country’s government. Therefore, so in order to not dishonor while I honor, please accept this modest asshatery as substitute for genuine sentiments.

Thank you to all who have served, living and dead. You possess a willingness to do a job I could never hope to, on my bravest day.


 

YEAR OF THE BURGER #series — THE APPLE PAN

P1320604THE APPLE PAN 10801 Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90064

So, we’re six burgers in, and I am still walking upright, with, as far as I know, a regular and consistent heartbeat. I’m sure my cholesterol is skyrocketing, but glory doesn’t come without a price, so in the spirit of ground beef, let’s burger on, dudes.

The third stop on our ravenous tour came not a moment too soon for this epic and legendary throwback. After grabbing good (but, admittedly, not great) burgers at two once bygone, now retro-fitted, and updated establishments — Cassell’s and The Oinkster, respectively — it was refreshing to grab a seat at a stool at a short-order counter that’s still running the burger tried-and-true game LITERALLY EXACTLY THE SAME WAY as it has always been since it opened its doors in 1947.

You heard right.

The Apple Pan was founded by Ellen and Alan Baker over 70 years ago, and its still serving the same original hickory burgers that made it famous, according to the same time-tested recipe they developed in their home kitchen before they took the show to the flat-top at the joint’s location in Westwood. And the tills still only accept cash, not unlike one of my other favorite temples of indulgence in LA, Casa Bianca Pizza Pie in Eagle Rock. And I always marvel at how decades-old stalwarts like these two have survived on “cash only” for upwards of a half-a-century,or more, considering that we’ve officially evolved into a cultural generation that swipes for everything, and possesses an attention span of only 140 characters.

In any case, let’s get to the grease, so I can give you the pickles and onions on what’s raw and what’s cooked about this westside favorite.

Like all those plays-on-words? I’m feeling veeeeeeery cheesy. 

At one time, see, the neighborhood around The Apple Pan wasn’t densely populated as such, but nowadays, it’s a fucking congested and high traffic area. Especially at night, you’re going to find parking a little bit of a challenge BUT I IMPLORE YOU, YOUNG ONE, DO NOT TO LET THIS DETER YOU FROM YOURN QUEST; DO WHAT YOU MUST DO FOR TRUST ME WHEN I SAY THIS BURGER MUST BE YOURS FOR THE EATING.

So, like I said, The Apple Pan doesn’t just make its burgers the same as always, it still looks and runs the same as always. So when you do, and you better do, enter with the wide eyes and open mind of a traveler. A time traveler. Anything you see is like nothing and everything you’ve seen; perplexingly foreign and familiar at the same time THEY FOUND ME I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME! RUN FOR IT MARTY!–

No.

Don’t run, Marty.

Stay.

Yeah, the fucking shit is old school, but it’s so in the most authentic and correctly-spelled version of the term. We got formica counter, lacquered wood, exposed brick. There’s a U-shaped counter around open griddles, where cooks/servers — many who’ve been there for decades or more, themselves — fill coffee carafes, flip meat patties, and slice the NO JOKE BEST BANANA CREAM PIE AS I HAVE EVER PUT TO MY LIPS. Buckle up, McFly, because your sodas getting served on ice in paper cones, broh WHICH WAS SO MIND-BLOWING TO ME I HAD TO TAKE A PIC AND TEXT IT TO MY WIFE CUZ I WAS LIKE WTF?

PAYPYERRRRR CONEZZZZZZZZ.

Real deets are thus: expect the wait. In fact, embrace it. The counter stools are first-come-first-serve, and that’s all the seating there is. As a word of caution: there are some very old, very dedicated regulars who abide by a strict Apple Pan etiquette based on eons and eons of trust and consistency, so if you try to blow in there like some cocksure scofflaw and vulture over counter spots when your number hasn’t even come up, well then I will guarantee you, Fasthands Von Slydog, you’re gonna get bushwhacked by a furious grey-and-polyester tornado of hearing aids and false teeth, and it shall deliver upon thee a vicious smiting from which you may never recover.

My advice? Be generous, be courteous, be patient, and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS CONCEDE. Just wait for your moment. Once you taste what this fresh wellspring of meat geyser has to offer you and your rumbling gut, you’ll be forever blessed with a Zen countenance upon every time you return.

Oh, and don’t fucking save a bunch of seats until your party-in-full has arrived, broh. This ain’t a movie theater. And when people be fiending for one of these burgers, I’m telling you that any ordinary man becomes capable of some very savage, Walking Dead-style shit.

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The Baker Family’s pride and joy is the Hickory Burger. True to the tales of it, this sucker does not disappoint. Legend has it that once The Apple Pan tried to change the recipe of the hickory sauce dressing this glorious discus of sirloin, because they just wanted to, y’know, jazz it up somewhat. Or something. Maybe it was the eighties? Who can say. They wanted to keep up with the times. But one bite, and the regulars noticed, and they got to changing that recipe right back to the O.G.

Get this burger, and IMHO, though, get two.

Look, this burger is small! It was invented in the forties! Everything was smaller then. I don’t need your judgement! The only thing that solves the problem of a small burger is another small burger, and if you’re like me, guys, there’s just never enough burger, anyway. So, do yourself the favor. For your follow-up, even consider switching it up to a classic steakburger. You absolutely can’t go wrong.

My partner-in-burger, SM, who, as I’ve mentioned in past posts, grew up in LA, and has been ranting and raving about this spot since we started this artery-bursting endeavor, was 100% not wrong about this place. If you love burgers, get your fat ass to The Apple Pan for a meat-lovers experience the likes of which will never be duplicated.

And if it does, I hope it fails.

Oh, and get the fries.

And the pie.

God, get the pie. It’s so good. —11/10


 

 

 

AS, LIKE, OR THANOS

In the spirit of Avengers: Infinity War having the grip of the infinity gauntlet itself around last few weekends’ box offices, I wanted to tell you all that I’ve been thinking hard about the intricate and ambitious machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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Forthcoming, my movie discussion podcast The Wild Brunch — available wherever your fine podcasts are downloaded — has on its docket our most recent relevant episode concerning said MCU magnum opus, A: IW, with our own assembly of LA’s mightiest comics nerds, so I’ll post essential links when the ep drops. Otherwise, trust that I’m hard at work on a meatier piece concerning my own personal opining over this behemoth-of-a-movie and all the thusly machinations that furnished its place in the comic book filmic pablum, but in the meantime, I just wanted to whet your ooooooobvious collective appetite with a little Marvel-y tidbit: a taste of the roster draft game I’ve been preoccupied playing with myself that I like to call SUPERHERO FANTASY LEAGUE.

Since Avengers: Infinity War is the sum total of ten years worth of comics-to-film content, I thought it only fair that, as I approached the premiere, I took in the broad spectrum of characters adapted and introduced in these movies and play S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury, and choose my very own Earth’s mightiest favorites, based on standards of merit according to me and only me, and draft those favorites into a fabled super team all my own.

It’s a fantasy league based in a fantasy world. Care to enlist?

If you want, screen grab some of your own fave MCU characters from your own fave MCU movies and — cough — ASSEMBLE THEM into a roster and post that roster the comments section of this post. Maybe we pit team against team, engage in trades, and indulge in some spirited shit-talk, you know, like any normal fantasy league, and we can see which of our superteams, hypothetically, stands the best chance to come out on the other end unscathed of Thanos’ intergalactic jazz hand doo-wop apocalypse.

So, without further ado, let me debut to you here and now my all-star lineup of MCU MVPs.

STEVE ROGERS aka “CAP” (from Captain America: Winter Soldier)

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I mean, the OG characterizations of Captain America were never really my cup of tea, but I don’t really drink tea, anyway, so it never stood a chance. I got not beef with boy scouts, but he’s a little too And The Band Played On for me, and, no offense, but I’m just not super into flag-waving right now. But, this covert-ops-esque “Agent America” that stealth free falls and cracks skulls and audits vet PTSD self-help groups in Cap film number two not only sets the right tone for the rest of a) his series and b) the whole universe, but it is also the beautiful beginning of Steve’s evolution into what basically becomes Captain America: Rogue Nation. He’s a superhero without a superteam, a man without a country, a rebel with a cause.

TONY STARK aka “IRON MAN” (from Iron Man Three)

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Seems counter-intuitive to put this guy and Marvel’s Ultimate Yes-Man, Cap, in the same all-star supergroup BECAUSE WHO WOULD SING LEAD VOCALS, and I mean, OK, I’ve grown pretty weary of Tony “Quips” Stark, what with RDJ playing everything a little too droll all the fucking time. But, Shane Black is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, so perhaps this installment in the draft is a little bit skewed. What makes it stick for me, though, is that in this third, and what could end up being the final, installment in Iron Man’s arc doesn’t even let the eponymous hero be the hero. It’s Tony Stark that’s the hero, and this movie is not called Tony Stark Three. The circumstances of this film pits our genius engineer against a worthy red herring backed by an even worthier foe, putting His Starkness to the ultimate test and forcing him to use both the tools that come to him naturally and also the tools he’s gained from his dual life as an Avenger. To such a degree that it is in this film where Tony Stark becomes fully defined as a character.

HULK (ok, Banner, too) aka “THE CHAMPION OF SAKAAR” (from Thor: Ragnarok

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I’d like to think it’s hard to argue with me on this one. Hulk in a hot tub? C’mon.

OKOYE (from Black Panther)

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This HBiC right here is the ultimate bad-ass in a technologically advanced nation full of ultimate bad-asses. She’s so bad-ass, in fact, that King T’Challa straight-up has to check in with her before he does something else that will also be bad-ass. Okoye is the ultimate good soldier, not unlike Cap, and evolves within just the first film’s narrative similarly to how Cap takes his sweet time evolving over the course of four fucking films. When she’s faced with potentially having to execute her beloved W’kabi in the final action set piece of Black Panther, her willingness to follow through with the act is heartbreaking, but also, it’s like, WHOA, THIS WOMAN DOES NOT FRONT. Her devotion is to her nation and its people, what she and the elite all-female fighting force, Dora Milaje, are sworn to protect no matter what. Despite the rigid sense of duty and devotion to Wakanda’s throne she covets, though, she’s also a free and open thinker, adaptive, and a morally nuanced “modern” woman. She fucking does her job, but in a pinch, she will break rank and start a fucking revolution if it’s for something she believes is right, and when that revolution comes, best believe you don’t want to be on the fool’s end of that spear of hers, amiright?

ROCKET (from Guardian of the Galaxy Vol. I & II)

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What can I say? I want this rabid little motherfucker on my team, yo. Not only does this particular role continue to be the best work Bradley Cooper has ever done, but the pathos elicited for “it” in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I — as “it” is the end result of a series of violent and invasive genetic experiments — was palpable. Rocket’s origins manage to fully justify the shitty attitude, the hyperbolic Napoleon complex, and the all-around general love for total chaos and anarchy. In the immortal words of alternate cinematic universe Agent Fury, Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson in 1997’s Jackie Brown): “When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.”

PETER PARKER aka SPIDER-MAN (from Spider-Man: Homecoming)

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Every top tier team gotta have some youngblood, you know? And this incarnation of Spidey has all the spunk and sass of his best manifestations from the comics and past films. This is truly the best depiction of a fifteen year old genius orphan from Queens who wakes up one morning a with superpowers the result of a bite from a radioactive spider, man. His overwhelming desire to be a part of The Avengers super-cliche, and not any of his high school cliches, and ultimately to prove himself to surrogate father-figure, Tony Stark, is wholly refreshing, because they’ve finally characterized Parker as a kid who’s actually allowed to know and be comfortable with his place in the world. The reluctant nerd, Parker, has finally been vanquished, because he is a bygone archetype because nerdom is now mainstream, which makes this particular version of the character the most believable the titular hero has ever been.

JOE-VENGERS! JOE-SSEMBLE!


Also ***SPOILER*** in light of the very Kansas-esque (the band) demise of some of our favorite, and newest, MCU characters in Avengers: Infinity War, I know that this particular above mash-up of Avengers, old and new, has no chance of existing. Old guard, I think, has to retire, and new guard has to rise up to take their place. Plus, contracts are up, and it’s become public knowledge that actors like Chris Evans and Robert Downey are ready to retire their armor and their shield, respectively. My theory is that, in the follow-up film to Infinity War, due out next year, we’ll see the surviving old guard somehow manage to trade places with our fresh-cut newbies that were so surprisingly offed by Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, and it’ll pave the way for a whole new team, a whole new franchise, and another ten years of billions of dollar in ticket sales for Marvel Studios.

That being said, since I’m not really providing any content of substance this week, incorporating narrative arcs from the film and the comics, I though I’d drop a few hopeful top picks for Avengers 2.0.

BLACK PANTHER

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The King is the obvious option for the Avengers’ new leader. Of course, splitting time between ruling Wakanda and running an elite Government superhero program might prove a challenge, but with Shuri, Nakia, Okoye, and the rest of the Dora Milaje at his side, I’m confident he’d be up to both tasks. Although, yes, I realize the disparity in making T’Challa choose between governing his own African nation, and basically, working for, like, The Man.

White-Wolf

Word is, since Bucky has finally completed his study abroad program in Wakanda, and been appropriately debugged of that pesky Winter Soldier mechanism, in future films he may adopt the guise of White Wolf. Although I have no arguments if it’s a direction MCU decides to go, I’m also not sure we need another white face to spoil any Wakanda’s beautiful beautiful blackness.

FALCON

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We’ll discuss it more in a minute, because in the comics Sam Wilson does actually don the shield in light of Rogers’ end, and I think the MCU might be poised to make the same torch pass in the films. Falcon is yet another dope character that’s gotten a lot of background play, but, c’mon, he’s proven himself ready for prime-time.

STORMBREAKER

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I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’re quite done with the One Eyed Space God like we might be with some of the other first wave Avengers. With the advent of forging the replacement for his hammer, Mjolnir, and the franchise reinvigorated thanks to the fucking joyous Thor: Ragnarok, this might be one old vet that still has a little avenging left in him.

BLACK WIDOW

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This bitch ain’t done yet, broh. No one blames the MCU for torpedoing Hawkeye because, JESUS, enough, bro, ALL ARROWS POINT TO: Y’BASIC. But Black Widow got consistently and repeatedly underplayed. Once the MCU gets its shit together and blesses us with her forthcoming solo film, I think we can count on the ultimate Russian superspy to fire off a bunch more rounds.

THE IRON SPIDER

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We got a fresh take on Spider-Man in Infinity War thanks to Tony Stark gifting Parker a new Iron Man-esque ensemble, complete with AI-powered metal spider legs. This tech is gonna help afford our Friendly Neighborhood Genetically Altered Stark Industries-approved teenage superhero every opportunity to get into lots more trouble, and after the intergalactic exploits of Infinity War — my dude hitched his web to a motherfucking SPACESHIP — his neighborhood just got bigger.

SHURI

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I mean, if Wakanda’s princess genius wunderkind doesn’t end up a Stark Labs intern, donning some badass Bast-inspired Iron Man armor, then the MCU has made a waste of a the most perfect Avengers 2.0 set-up.

NEBULA

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Look, I just want this bitch to get some peace.

DEADPOOL 😉

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A mercenary can dream, can’t she?

FALCON as CAPTAIN AMERICA II

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Like I said, in the comics, Sam Wilson hangs onto Falcon’s wings, but picks up Cap’s shield. Bye, Steve, you’ve served your country well, but let’s let Captain Falcon take to the skies!

RIRI WILLIAMS as IRON MAN II

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Yo, Riri, Shuri, I don’t really give a shit, just get one of these women inside a Mark XXV or XXX or whateverthefuck, and let’s set our pulsar blasters to OH MY GOD YES.

MILES MORALES as THE FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN II

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Even if Peter Parker stays in the MCU, and works full-time with The Avengers as Iron Spider, I think it creates a really generous opportunity for Miles Morales to joint the MCU, donning the web-head as the more friendly, neighborhood type, just like in the comics, and keep a his “sense” on he and Parker’s home turf in NYC.


 

DC BOOK CLUB #series — SUPERMAN: RED SON

OK, so, when my buddy RM and I decided to embark on mining the rich, anachronistic, mid-thirties-and-past-our-prime-friendly ore of the DC Universe, we wanted to start with what would be a sure thing. You know, like, you gotta set a solid tone straight away, which is why Bell Biv DeVoe is always the first track on any killer mix-tape.

Well, the sure first track, it turned out, to our little comic geek mixtape, here, was Mark Millar’s DC Elseworld prestige format modern classic, Superman: Red Son.

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BAM! off the top of the dome, I’m going to tell you geeks that if, for whatever reason, you have not held a copy of this book in your hands and read it — maybe you’re a shut-in or maybe you’re an invalid, but I don’t know your life, man, maybe you hate things that are awesome? I DON’T KNOW — get your shit together and get in your Yaris and drive to the fucking mall and cringe as they swipe your debit card, and don’t forget to validate your parking, and drive back home and sit on your couch and do all this shit right now, Eric. Or Darren, or Chris, or Laura, or whatever the fuck your name is, or give me your goddamn postal address and I will have Amazon heli-drone a copy of it right into your fucking home, or whatever they do now, like, maybe they’ll roll it up and fire it at you out of their Amazon.com cannon!

Oh, and for the sake of you disappointing and shameful lot, I’ll try to make this shit short, and as spoiler-free as possible, btw.

One of the main reasons RM and I chose Superman as the foundation on which to build this book club empire of ours, aside from the fact that, y’know, he’s the real OG and what not, was because we got suddenly keen on the many modern retellings of DC’s Silver and Bronze Age comics, as well as reinterpretations of the many-splintered aspects of Superman’s origin story, specifically. Also, Superman’s been in the vocab anyway, thanks in big part to the release and current run of Geoff Johns’ dope Watchmen/DC remix, Superman: Doomsday Clock.

For all the many above reasons, Superman: Red Son, in my humble opinion was the total imperfectly perfect choice with which we should begin.

In the alternate comic reality of Superman: Red Son, Kal-El’s spaceship crash lands on a Ukranian collective farm in the early part of the 20th Century, obvs instead of Kansas,  USA. Then, in 1953, Superman is revealed to the rest of the world as the Soviet Union’s dominant military asset, at which point America’s trip-wired Cold War panic sets in motion a CIA-sponsored anti-Superman plot, with co-conspirators Agent James Olsen and S.T.A.R. Labs scientist, Lex Luthor, running point. The result of the effort is a US-issued Superman clone,  and when things predictably go south, the consequences give delightfully justified birth to Luthor’s lifelong pursuit of Superman’s undoing.

The storyline presents alternate comic versions of DC favorites Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and others, as well as alternate reality version of historical figures like John F. Kennedy and Joseph Stalin. It’s a wondrous and complete reimagining, if not just a touch incoherent in its probability.

What I mean by that last bit is, if the logic of this alternate reality holds water, then Superman is basically a trigger for the existence of most, maybe all, of DC Comics’ cast of dramatis personae.

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Look, up in the sky! Holy shit, Carol! It’s a communist!

That criticism is a mere trifle, though, compared with the overall. This comic is the right stuff, Chuck. Epic stakes rooted in the very real era politics of the mid 20th Century, and its particular depiction of Superman as national figurehead, absent of a secret identity, by the way, is as appropriate or clear and well-drawn as any that has ever existed. So much so, that if this Superman is the Superman that such circumstances would produce, then I’d prefer the Soviet Union just have him, because Miller has tapped into all the quintessentials.

More often than not, I find Silver and Bronze Ages comics don’t really line up with my then or current (or forever) sensibilities, and that’s one of the reasons I never really fell in line with DC when I started reading. They have a tendency to be too cornball for my taste, but that is in no way meant to imply that I don’t consider them relevant to the culture-at-large, or to all the many other readers tastes. Like I’ve been saying, it’s become clear to me that I’m a late-in-life covert to the DC, and so I’m still fuzzy on a lot of the mythology — like post-Infinite Crisis universe continuity, for example, as well as the many resultant editorial efforts to reclarify and establish particular storylines as “neo-definitive.” Still, on occasion, despite their newness, I continue to find that even the retconned elements of many storylines run quite antithetical to my liking.

But this is why I found Superman: Red Son to be so imperfectly perfect. This comic manages to capture to maintain the heart, but its eye is cynical. It’s like when Daniel Desario gets down on some D&D with Sam, Bill, and Neil late in series on Freaks & Geeks. Superman: Red Son (and let’s face it, Mark Millar) is the badass dude in the leather jacket who somehow found his way to your table top fantasy role-playing game, and you’re all asking yourselves how we all ended up here.

As a final note, the one-two gut punch of the far-flung future epilogue posits a predestination paradox that will make any geek boner blast off into outer-fucking-space, so get to your shop, or get online, and buy this shit right now. You will not regret. —10/10


 

YEAR OF THE BURGER #series — THE OINKSTER

FF0857F5-2B6C-44DD-BAAB-B77741D353C6-47533-00000ACC5243F00FTHE  OINKSTER 2005 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Here we are. Number two on the list. A little the fatter for wear, but, as it happens, have a spot on the east side, near where I live, which, honestly, gives it points on the upfront with a one-two punch of being A) easy to get to, and B) easy to get home from, when, invariably, I’ll have sufficiently stuffed myself with enough red meat and beer to shame myself into hiding from public view. The sammiches available at this joint are easily categorized as “build-a-burgers,” one-half a metric that partner-in-buger, SM, and I have established for scoring. To me, these are the burgers I tend to prefer — diner-style smashburgers worthy of instant onset cardiac arrest.

As a beginning note, now that two burgers are finally up on the leaderboard: when SM and I first decided to go on this foodie adventure, I thought I’d be throwing up 10/10s willy-nilly, like the Katy Perry on American Idol of foodporn review blogs. Truth be told, I’m enamored with burgers, and I possess no real rubric or acumen to write critically about food, so the resolution was that I was probably just going to love ALL THE BEEF. But, sorry not sorry, discerning tastes are forming, burger babies, and this is now where we start to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Or the ground from the sirloin, if you will.

The Oinkster took up occupancy over ten years ago in the former site of a Jim’s Burgers on Eagle Rock’s Colorado Blvd, where it operates Sunday thru Thursday, 11am to 10pm, with an additional hour of operation on Fridays and Saturdays. The retro signage, the A-frame storefront, the proclaimed menu of “slow fast food,” and its significance in the Los Angeles burger festival scene have made it a metropolitan culinary staple.

Right off the tri-tip, this is what I love about the east side: parking is a fucking cinch. Now, SM had a particularly bullshit week, so we were planning on pounding some beers. Since Eagle Rock is close to Los Feliz, as I was saying before, we just hopped a ten minute Lyft ride from my house. If you’re driving, though, the location has a modest parking lot, but unregulated street parking in this hood won’t set you back but a couple trips around the block.

Inside, The Oinkster is counter ordering, so, depending on what time of day you decide to hit it, you’ll probably encounter a line. Use this time to contemplate the gut-buster-of-a-menu, or an array of well-chosen craft brews on draught. The staff is super-friendly, and help make the whole experience a total no-rush. Get your number, find a seat, and prep your lower GI for the oncoming stress test. Since SM and I are on this kick to knock out every burger joint on Eater’s updated 2018 list of LA’s best, ordering a couple of The Oinkster’s famed house specials, The Royale, was unavoidable.

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Thanks a lot, you sadists at © EaterLA

I mean, look at this motherfucking Satan’s cheat day right here. Because The Oinkster specializes in house-cured pastrami — and do a toight sammich of the ilk — the little piggies apparently couldn’t justify a signature burger without their signature meat, so this unholiest of joinings is thusly both burger and pastrami sandwich at once, and, in case you wanted to put off an annual physical for another couple years, IT’S GOT FUCKING CHILI TOO.

My honest hot-take, though? THE ROYALE IS *NOT MY JAM*. Let me say, I really enjoyed the experience of going to The Oinkster. Like I said, it’s a super chill joint in a throwback spot with a dope staff, and the surrounding hood is popping. Also, the tap beer selection is absolutely ace and the fries are great, but this beast-of-a-burger, The Royale, was just too much. The components of it are prepared to all exceptional standards, but, like, so are the components of a Colt .45 but I don’t want to eat that, either. No, this burger is like a Real Housewives marathon. It’s like more than one Domino’s Pizza coupon code on a single order. It’s me trying to fit in with my 7th grade flag football team.

JUST. TOO. MUCH.

My distinct burger fascination notwithstanding, currently holding the majority stokehold in my ambition for 2018, I’ve always loved burgers. Who doesn’t love burgers? Burgers are so wantable, even vegans got scientists up in a lab trying to suss out how to make a burger they can eat. But, man, I just feel bad for The Royale. It’s trying so hard. I just want to say, “Be a burger,” and then hug it and hug it and hug it until we go full Good Will Hunting, and it’s like, I’M OK YOU’RE OK WE’RE OK LET’S EAT.

Partner-in-burger, SM, was also not a fan of The Royale, but, like I said, he’d had a tough week, so maybe his tastebuds were informed by mood. In any case, I think The Royale ends up on the leaner side of both our “out-of-10” rating scales, which is surprising for a dish that serves up with so much fucking meat. He gave it 4/10.

The Oinkster is a perfect local joint, theoretically. And as I further explore the unobtrusive fabulousness that is Eagle Rock, I won’t say I’d never wander back through the A-frame for a beer and to wrestle with one of their famed pastrami sandwiches. But also, like Jules in Pulp Fiction, this brush with death has shaken my countenance, so gimme my wallet and I’ll be on my way.  — 6/10


 

VOORHEES A JOLLY GOOD FELLOW

Jason-770x470
Never rush the goalie.

Hey, first of all, thanks Neil deGrasse Tyson for hitting Twitter early to take the wind out my supple superstitious sails this weekend —

You’re like a debonair, brilliant, astrophysical photo negative of your evil Twitter twin —

The truth is, Neil, I actually fear days like Friday the 13th, even though I know the superstition isn’t logical. Because I think I secretly get a fucking ego boner over the idea that our Universe might somehow be conspiring against me. It’s a sentiment, although ominous, that makes me feel like I, alone, have a shred of relevance amid the cosmic cataclysms that became, somehow, existence.

All y’all are a real joie de vivre suck, that’s for sure.


 

 

DC BOOK CLUB #series (Ed.)

My wife went out of town for a week and I was under a lot of stress so, in her absence, I attempted to bottom out alone in classic style — all sunk into the couch like an ingrown toenail, clad in the most minimal and blowziest of my pajama and/or pajama-adjacent articles, thumbs atwitch, hovering over the Dominos Pizza app on my phone, and, to the chagrin of my man-bae, AG, with whom I’d forged a blood-pact o’er the very ceremony in which I was about to undertake, I decided to blow three hours of my life and hate-watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

So, basically, Superman was my first crush when it came to comics. And He is, in fact, a perfect fit for love when we comics readers take to the pages young, the joy indigenous to human hearts still present within and, as of yet, undeterred. Almost every DC Comics character, hero or villain, seems to align with an unweathered sense of idealism. For me personally, It wouldn’t be until the inky tentacles of teen angst siphoned off the last of that glittering optimism that I would lean toward Marvel and its dramatis personae of freaks and geeks, all lab accidents and military experiments gone all wrong. That evolution of my comics readership occurred because as I turned 13, 14, and 15 years old I felt as though I, too, was gone all wrong.

Now I’m closing in on 40, and I’ve started to get comfortable with who I am, or, let’s be honest, grown equipped with the operational procedures to accept the fact that this is just who I am, and as much as I still wish I could be the hapless victim of a run-in with a radioactive spider or discover some latent mutant power, I’m gonna stay this way. So, as I ripen further only semi-reluctantly into middle-age, the gleaming one-sidedness of the DC Comics denizen — characters I could never be no matter how much gene splicing I underwent — have suddenly become appealing to me again.

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This subject came up randomly with a pal of mine, and partner-in-geek, RM, and so we together decided to commit to the rediscovery of DC Comics hero by hero, both mythos and canon, reading and discussing our way through must-read essentials.

And so thusly, DC BOOK CLUB was born.

Honestly, it’s a seemingly productive way to hang out in a city that ain’t really retrofitted for such tomfoolery, get high or shoot hoops or eat burgers, and sit around peacocking our mutual geekery, riffing on the inane and unimportant shit that catches side-eye from the wives.

I mean, yo, at least I’M READING, right?

In any case, beginning with the Man of Tomorrow, himself — SUPERMAN — RM and I are in the midst of reading through a list of requisite titles. At the completion of each, we’ll discuss, and I’ll include my personal thoughts here, along with the veritable highlight reel of our collective opinions — where we aligned, where we differed. Then, we’ll move on to the next title. Once we feel like we’ve tackled the bulk of a hero’s most notable installments, we move on to a new character. The intention is, at the very least, I think, to work our way through all core and extended members of the Hall of Justice.

So stay tuned! #whiteboy #geek


NOTEI’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it many times more, the respective cinematic universes of Marvel and DC are what are driving me back to comics, themselves, although not that I ever truly strayed. But I waited most of my life to see my favorite comics characters on screen, and now I regret every ticket stub and every Blu-Ray. The MCU, the tsunami of comics-to-film, top-heavy and oversaturated, has somehow fed and starved a growing audience that has now become desperate for fresh takes like Thor: Ragnarok and, obviously, Black Panther. Then, of course, there’s DC — or to be fair, Warner Bros. — who is like an overconfident upperclassman who bought new shoes but didn’t show up to practice. What a misguided notion that a DCCU could stoke fire on Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy without having to gather any kindling of its own.

It’s an obvious bummer that DCCU is a shit to the bed. But, I have to say, this DC BOOK CLUB is getting me through. –JT


 

SUPERMAN: RED SON by MARK MILLAR

OK, so, when my buddy RM and I decided to embark on mining the rich, anachronistic, mid-thirties-and-past-our-prime-friendly ore of the DC Universe, we wanted to start with what would be a sure thing. You know, like, you gotta set a solid tone straight away, which is why Bell Biv DeVoe is always the first track on any killer mix-tape.

Well, the sure thing, it turned out, was Mark Millar’s DC Elseworld prestige format modern classic, Superman: Red Son.

superman_redson_hardback_cover_by_devilpig

BAM! off the top of the dome, I’m going to tell you geeks that if, for whatever reason, you have not held a copy of this book in your hands and read it — maybe you’re a shut-in or maybe you’re an invalid, but I don’t know your life, man, maybe you hate things that are awesome? I DON’T KNOW — get your shit together and get in your Yaris and drive to the fucking mall and cringe as they swipe your debit card, and don’t forget to validate your parking, and drive back home and sit on your couch and do all this shit right now, Eric. Or Darren, or Chris, or Laura, or whatever the fuck your name is, or give me your goddamn postal address and I will have Amazon heli-drone a copy of it right into your fucking home, or whatever they do now, like, maybe they’ll roll it up and fire it at you out of their Amazon.com cannon!

Oh, and for the sake of you disappointing and shameful lot, I’ll try to make this shit short, and as spoiler-free as possible, btw.

One of the main reasons RM and I chose Superman as the foundation on which to build this book club empire of ours, aside from the fact that, y’know, he’s the real OG and what not, was because we got suddenly keen on the many modern retellings of DC’s Silver and Bronze Age comics, as well as reinterpretations of the many-splintered aspects of Superman’s origin story, specifically. Also, Superman’s been in the vocab anyway, thanks in big part to the release and current run of Geoff Johns’ dope Watchmen/DC remix, Superman: Doomsday Clock.

For all the many above reasons, Superman: Red Son, in my humble opinion was the total imperfectly perfect choice with which we should begin.

In the alternate comic reality of Superman: Red Son, Kal-El’s spaceship crash lands on a Ukranian collective farm in the early part of the 20th Century, obvs instead of Kansas,  USA. Then, in 1953, Superman is revealed to the rest of the world as the Soviet Union’s dominant military asset, at which point America’s trip-wired Cold War panic sets in motion a CIA-sponsored anti-Superman plot, with co-conspirators Agent James Olsen and S.T.A.R. Labs scientist, Lex Luthor, running point. The result of the effort is a US-issued Superman clone,  and when things predictably go south, the consequences give delightfully justified birth to Luthor’s lifelong pursuit of Superman’s undoing.

The storyline presents alternate comic versions of DC favorites Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, and others, as well as alternate reality version of historical figures like John F. Kennedy and Joseph Stalin. It’s a wondrous and complete reimagining, if not just a touch incoherent in its probability.

What I mean by that last bit is, if the logic of this alternate reality holds water, then Superman is basically a trigger for the existence of most, maybe all, of DC Comics’ cast of dramatis personae.

superman-red-son-movie.png
Look, up in the sky! Holy shit, Carol! It’s a communist!

That criticism is a mere trifle, though, compared with the overall. This comic is the right stuff, Chuck. Epic stakes rooted in the very real era politics of the mid 20th Century, and its particular depiction of Superman as national figurehead, absent of a secret identity, by the way, is as appropriate or clear and well-drawn as any that has ever existed. So much so, that if this Superman is the Superman that such circumstances would produce, then I’d prefer the Soviet Union just have him, because Miller has tapped into all the quintessentials.

More often than not, I find Silver and Bronze Ages comics don’t really line up with my then or current (or forever) sensibilities, and that’s one of the reasons I never really fell in line with DC when I started reading. They have a tendency to be too cornball for my taste, but that is in no way meant to imply that I don’t consider them relevant to the culture-at-large, or to all the many other readers tastes. Like I’ve been saying, it’s become clear to me that I’m a late-in-life covert to the DC, and so I’m still fuzzy on a lot of the mythology — like post-Infinite Crisis universe continuity, for example, as well as the many resultant editorial efforts to reclarify and establish particular storylines as “neo-definitive.” Still, on occasion, despite their newness, I continue to find that even the retconned elements of many storylines run quite antithetical to my liking.

But this is why I found Superman: Red Son to be so imperfectly perfect. This comic manages to capture to maintain the heart, but its eye is cynical. It’s like when Daniel Desario gets down on some D&D with Sam, Bill, and Neil late in series on Freaks & Geeks. Superman: Red Son (and let’s face it, Mark Millar) is the badass dude in the leather jacket who somehow found his way to your table top fantasy role-playing game, and you’re all asking yourselves how we all ended up here.

As a final note, the one-two gut punch of the far-flung future epilogue posits a predestination paradox that will make any geek boner blast off into outer-fucking-space, so get to your shop, or get online, and buy this shit right now. You will not regret. —10/10


 

THE JAWS OF ATTRACTION

As of yesterday, I am officially, and for the first time in my life, unemployed. The Irish bar in Los Angeles which I’ve run for the last three years has closed, and it feels to me, psychically, as though the Universe is perhaps ushering me out of 20 plus years of service in the food and beverage industry unceremoniously, which honestly has me feeling a little like —

IMG_0727

If you got any leads, I’ll be the shish-kabob’d guy sliding out the chewed-up aft of my sloop into the mouth of a giant bloodthirsty homicidal shark.


 

YEAR OF THE BURGER #series — CASSELL’S

The storefrot of Cassell’s Hamburgers in Los Angeles’ Koreatown.CASSELL’S HAMBURGERS 3600 West 6th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90020

So this is the first stop on our list, here, and in my opinion, the list could just stop here. I mean, shit, one grease-drenched, cheese-covered, doublestack meat sammiches from this joint and my Year of the Burger is already off to the artery-clogging start I expected. Admittedly, though, Cassel’s gonna get granted a little bit of a leg-up as such here. I’ll make it no secret that, as self-styled burger connoisseur, I tend to favor simple, diner-style smash steakburgers over the farm-raised gourmet fork-and-knife bourgeurs that have risen up recently to represent the “new era” of burger eatery.

Cassell’s Hamburgers was established in 1948 and now occupies the lower level of the historic Hotel Normandie, where it operates 7am to 11pm daily, and til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays. Cassell’s has a storied legacy in Los Angeles — a city that prides itself on hanging onto establishments unchanged for decades — first as a burger stand and then as a restaurant that dwindled in popularity until it finally closed in 2012. It reopened as part of the neighborhood’s revitalization project and is now on prominent display at this busy corner on the topside of K-Town.

Parking in that neighborhood at night, no matter what day of the week, is a bitch. The epitome of what parking in LA is at its worst — pushing already borderline metro area drivers, circling the block again and again and again until, at the teetering brink of insanity, they wedge the car up on a curb and toss the keys in the gutter. Best bet, IMO, whether they have their shit together or not (because when I went, THEY DID NOT) is to leave your car with the valets of the Hotel Normandie. It’s worth the five dollars so that you don’t road rage so hard you split in two and give up on your own life.

Inside, the diner will be bustling, probably, because, though it’s possessed still of some of its old-world charm, has become another typical 21st Century burn-and-turn. Staff are clipped and direct, but its because they’re busy not because they’re dicks. My partner-in-burger, SM, had already grabbed a table by the window by the time I got there, so we settled in and started the night off with a couple beers and an order of fries.

When it comes to the main event, you have your choice between a A) hamburger or B) cheeseburger or C) some vegetarian bullshit, with further options of patty size, as well as a number of add-ons, such as “sauce.” The burger comes presented on metal cafeteria trays, with tomato, lettuce, onion, and pickle as basic trimmings.  I ordered a cheeseburger, DOUBLE, one-third pound, and I ordered it WELL DONE, and you can all say what you will about me, America, I ain’t embarrassed that I like my meat cooked.

For my money, this burger came exactly how I like them. It was smothered in American cheese, which did not eclipse the taste of the burger, the meat of which maintained the perfect greasy zest that makes diner steakburgers so goddamn good. It came on a traditional Parker House hamburger bun, so, y’know, none of this fancy-ass highfalutin’ brioche crap that’s become so indicative of the “$20 BURGER” phenomenon, that it’s just become a fucking bun. I dressed the burger to my liking with regular ketchup and mustard and some of those pickles. I finished all two-thirds of a pound of beef and cheese with LITTLE TO NO GASTROINTESTINAL INCIDENT.

Our server seemed, at first, a little on the bitter side, but once we made it clear that we were working through Eater LA’s list of LA’s Best Burgers, he blossomed like a flower. It turned out that he wasn’t all about the gig, he is all about burgers. He maintains an Instagram page devoted to a cheeseburger-a-day journey.

Follow @chasing_cheeseburgers, although I have to warn you, he’s “pretty into patty melts right now.”

Partner-in-burger, SM, who’s a Los Angeles native, grew up on Apple Pan, which we’re getting to, so he favors that taste and experience in particular. Cassel’s ended up on the fair end of our “out-of-10” burger rating scale, but nothing special. He didn’t particularly care for the fries, which is a cornerstone for a burger experience for him, and which I admit, were, in this case, a little lackluster. He gave Cassell’s 6/10.

In Cassell’s defense, however, when Al Cassell first opened, he didn’t make fries. In fact, he flat out refused to, and he served homemade potato salad instead. In any case, for me, this was a great burger experience. Although I’m increasingly excited that this was the inaugural outing for my Year of the Burger, it’ll be tough to wade through 20 more hamburgers before I can come back to this boss bitch for round two.  — 9/10