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Dumpling Kitchen is not a dump

by Liping Huang

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   Chinese restaurants are everywhere. They’re in Mexico, Australia, Russia and obviously China. So it isn’t surprising that mountainous amounts of Chinese eateries are all around our gorgeous city of San Francisco.

   Dumpling Kitchen, a local Chinese restaurant located on Taraval Street between 29th and 30th Ave, is the typical run-of-the-mill Chinese restaurant. It doesn’t have koi ponds lying around or rolling carts of dimsum with ladies enticing you to order it. It doesn’t even have the rambunctious go big or go home mood during its lunch hours. But it does have some kick-ass dumplings.

   As my friends and I arrived to the plain and simply decorated establishment, a young and attentive hostess greeted us. Things were looking pretty good, but then we were seated near the fish tanks and the bathroom. Although I appreciate being near the crapper in case of an emergency, eating near a bathroom just isn’t pretty.

   And now for what everyone has been waiting for: the food! I ordered the (#48) Dry-Braised Green String Beans, (#12) Chili Oil Pork Dumplings and (#8) Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil. My friends, actress Gloria Jeung and senior Rachel Yee, ordered the (#6) Beijing-Style Boiled Pork and Chive Dumplings.

   I’m a super big fan of crunchy, flavorful and satisfying food. Bacon is number one of course, but they didn’t serve the crispiness of the gods in Dumpling Kitchen. So I settled for something close, green beans. I’m a huge fan of green beans. Like, if I were to marry a vegetable, I would marry green beans. And for just $7, I wouldn’t be single or hungry anymore. The chili pepper and garlic with the light crunch of beans was a great combination. It was a bit shiny and oily for my taste, but it didn’t stop me from devouring them!  Green beans are great ya’ll. Big kudos to Dumpling Kitchen for having this dish.

   Usually, I like wontons with soup and noodles. But I wanted to try something new that day. I mean, for only $5.50 for ten pieces, I had nothing to lose. The chili oil wontons were juicy, but the stuffing was under seasoned. At times, all I tasted was the oil, which lingered in my mouth for a little too long. I would reserve eating wontons with soup and noodles, not slathered with spicy peanut oil.

   Unlike its wonton cousin, the $6 for 10 pork dumplings in chili oil were quite a hit. The broth inside them was quite savory, and they were seasoned well. The presentation was awkward though. The dish was decorated with bits of chopped raw garlic on top, which I don't think really made it mega sexy. The chili oil was very vinegary. By itself, it was too overwhelming, but with the dumplings it was a great balance.

   Oh my Buddha, the Beijing style pork and chive dumplings were d-d-delectable. I almost had to call a SWAT team to disable this dish since it was the bomb! The dumplings were super savory, and the dough complimented everything. The broth inside, which was simple and elegant, was nothing like its chili oil cousins. I didn’t even order this, which was ironic. For just $6, Yee and Jeung made a great choice. Everything about the pork and chive dumplings was perfect. I don’t know why its Beijing style, but I’m sure its Chinese for “AMAZING.” (No its not.)

   The whole experience was worth a few mediocre dumplings. Looking back, I would have ordered the simpler dishes like steamed or boiled dumplings/wontons. They had more flavor, more simplicity, and there wasn’t chili oil clogging my arteries. The overall environment inside the restaurant was very casual. Families and friends were having lunch together and chit chatting. This is a family oriented restaurant, so make sure to go with some close friends. It is more fun to eat with a lot of people than by yourself, especially if you’re reviewing chili dumplings on the Note app of the iPhone. 

Downloadable content destroys the gaming industry

by Hans Oberschelp

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Five hundred dollars is a lot of money. With 500 bucks you could buy a new computer, a new guitar, 500 T-Pumps or “The Sims 3” and all its expansion packs. 

 

    Sadly, nowadays, more and more, the $60 paid for a new video game will get you an unfinished mess, a mere test build of what should have been. Getting a finished product requires forking over a lot of dough. Downloadable content, or DLC is killing the quality of games and ruining the video game industry.

 

    What good is the advanced new engine in “Battlefield 3” with only eight maps to experience it on? What good is your brand new copy of “Street Fighter 4” when you will have to shell out $40 more for the standalone expansion and then $30 more for downloadable content to stay competitive with the fighting game community? With the rise of DLC, the gaming industry has made a turn for the worse, and I'm afraid the damage could be irreparable.

    I have three gripes with downloadable content. First, it very simply results in more expensive games. Obviously, buying a new content pack every month hurts the wallet. In the upcoming “Battlefield 4”'s case, Electronic Arts is even offering a deal: all the future downloable content to everyone who pays $50 in addition to the $60 game at launch. 

 

    Downloadable content doesn't just inflate the price of new games. Because DLC is almost always digital, it is impossible to transfer and sell content packs to others. In 10 years, “Battlefield 4” will be $10 on Craigslist, but all the DLC, which will make up the majority of the game, will cost whatever Electronic Arts want it to, as they will be the exclusive salesmen of the content.

 

    Second, DLC forces shifty marketing techniques. When was the last time you saw a video game trailer that mentioned that the game would launch with content intentionally withheld to be sold for extra at a later date? Video game companies suppress information about their games to trick consumers into thinking they are buying the finished product, only to find out that they have to pay extra to access content they are locked out of on the disk of “Street Fighter X Tekken” they bought!

 

    Lastly, and more importantly, I believe the new trend has made the video game industry shift focus from making customers happy to making customers desperate. When the Nintendo 64 released in 1996, Shigeru Miyamoto developed “Super Mario 64” as a launch title knowing that if he failed to produce a fun game, the entire system could flop. He created arguably the best platformer of all time, because the game's success depended on if the game was fun, not if it got players to buy additional content.

 

    With the new Xbox One coming out, instead of designing an innovative new game to show off the new console's power, Microsoft has commissioned Rare to revive an old series, “Killer Instinct” and created a mediocre sequel to mooch off its predecessors' successes. 

 

    The game will launch for free but with an unplayable character count of 1, which makes the game about as fun as watching the San Francisco Giants play themselves 100 times. Not surprisingly, to get the other seven characters (bringing the total up to a still abysmal eight), players must pay $5 per character, plus some extra on top if you want all the customizable costumes. 

 

    Rare has even let slip that there will be even more characters to buy, advertising the characters at launch as the “first” eight. Who knows how much players will have to shell out, piece by piece to get the full game.

 

    The problem with DLC is that it encourages developers to create mediocre games that will hook the players' interest but still leave them wanting more. As the video game market shifts further towards being based on incremental payments, I'm afraid that the days of buying a complete, polished, enjoyable video game are numbered.

Paradise Fears bares their "Battle Scars"

by Charlotte Woo

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The first chords of Paradise Fears's new extended play "Battle Scars" ring out as lead singer Sam Miller's golden voice begins the introduction to the EP. The spoken-word/rap introduction, appropriately titled "Intro (Prelude)" is a fast-paced overview of what the EP is all about: just live life and try not to worry.

Released June 25, "Battle Scars" was immensely anticipated by fans of their music, including myself. More than two years after their last extended release, the EP is the perfect daily inspiration. 

"Battle Scars," the title track, was written by all six members of the pop-rock band -- Miller, Cole Andre, Jordan Merrigan, Marcus Sands, Michael Walker and Lucas Zimmerman -- with additional help and lyrics from Brian Logan Dales of The Summer Set and Jordan Schmidt, producer to bands such as All Time Low and Metro Station. Incorporating a strong melody and a spoken-word section, I agree wholeheartedly with the opening lyrics that state, "This is an anthem for the homesick, the beaten, the lost, the broke, the defeated." It inspires me to keep moving, keep persevering because it will be all worth the effort in the end. 

The album then transitions into "What Are You Waiting For?" Just four days before the release of "Battle Scars," the Paradise Fears boys posted a music video for "WAYWF?" The video depicts seven different people facing their fears and accomplishing a task on their bucket lists, including wanting to commit and wanting to start over, among others. This song tells listeners to let go, to do what they need to do and to not be held back by people who think they know what's best. 

Previously released in January as a single, "Warrior" is a familiar song to Paradise Fears's listeners. I thought it would be the single version, but a spoken-word verse closes out the EP version rather than just a round of the chorus. The final line resonates in my brain as the chords fade out: "To not have some battle scars is to never have lived." This one line is my new mantra; it makes me believe it really is okay to make mistakes because then at least I'll have tried. What's life without a little bit of risk?

The final chord of "Warrior" blends seamlessly with the next track, "Lullaby," which was also previously released as a single in May. Breaking the pattern of songs with deep meanings, "Lullaby" discusses relationships and imagining being with someone while physically being apart. 

"Fought For Me" follows the trend of relationships from "Lullaby." It discusses the darker side of how feelings and emotions can develop in a relationship, such as "If you ever really wanted me, you would have fought for me, you would have died for me." Though the last part of the lyric is slightly extreme, that is the type of action anyone truly in love would take, and I appreciate the sentiment.

The seventh track of the EP “Used,” consists of a calm and soothing melody, primarily played by a piano and consists of very sad lyrics. Written predominantly by Andre, it's a song about the stage in life everyone has where they are the saddest they've ever been. It describes a person who feels like nothing will ever get better even though deep down, the person knows life will eventually take a turn for the better. 

The EP closes with a reprise of the title track and a bit of flair. Dales's voice blends with Miller's as they belt the chorus one more time.

To promote their new EP, Paradise Fears took to the road, playing six headlining release shows and 19 dates opening on Parachute's Overnight Tour. On Monday Sept 16, I was lucky enough to see them perform at The Chapel in the Mission. Their energy on stage is infectious. As if I couldn't be more excited, the second they took the stage, I was completely speechless. I was overloaded with emotions throughout their seven-song-set. I was in awe of the talent that stood before me on stage. The lyrics felt even more important performed live than on the album and finally seeing them perform live pretty much made my year.

To make the night even better, I was able to meet four of the six band members between the sets of Matt Hires, the other opening performer, and Parachute, the headlining band. Speaking with Andre, Merrigan, Miller and Walker had me shaking and at ease at the same time. Holding a conversation with Walker was especially great because he is the Paradise Fears keyboard player, and I play the piano, so we bonded. He said as a band, their biggest goal has always been to inspire people, and in my opinion, they have definitely achieved and surpassed that goal.

Six young men from Vermillion, South Dakota decided to defer college -- or high school graduation in Zimmerman's case -- to pursue becoming a pop-rock band. With one full-length album and four EPs under their belts and another EP on the way, I can only expect huge accomplishments to come from this band. More information about the band and its music can be found at www.facebook.com/paradisefears.

Arctic Monkeys continue to thrill with their latest LP

by Henry Menteiro

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Arctic Monkeys was likely the first band to become truly popular on sites like MySpace back in 2004. Presently, they are one of the most popular rock groups in the world, outliving their UK punk revival contemporaries, The Libertines, and touring with the Black Keys for a co-headline tour. And with “AM”, their follow-up to 2010’s disappointing “Suck It and See”, they show why they’ve managed to stay popular for as long as they have.

 

With the opening track and official first single, “Do I Wanna Know,” the change of sound is already made clear. After the dark psychedelia of “Humbug” and the harder rock of “Suck It and See,” Alex Turner and friends land on a wide variety of songs that generally fall under the umbrella of a bluesier style than before, with songs like “Do I” and “Knee Socks” sounding like outtakes from the latest Black Keys album. Some songs, like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” and “Arabella,” even have a Hip Hop influence through the use of drumming that steers closer to a grooving R&B tune than the Garage Rock style seen on their previous albums.

 

    Over the last 20 years, album production has become more and more important for the complete quality of an album, and luckily, this is one of the best sounding albums I’ve heard all year. Every note played is perfectly punctuated. The album never turns into a barrage of noise, and it’s always at the very right volume. The parts that are supposed to be quiet are quiet, and the loud parts are loud. Adding to this is just how great Alex Turner’s songwriting is. Too many Rock musicians rely on one monotonous guitar part for an entire song, and even if some of the songs are based around one guitar part, the listener will never feel bored while listening to it, due to the music constantly changing, never becoming repetitive while keeping a groove.

 

Even beyond Turner’s talents, the album shows the skills of the rest of the band. From Matt Helder  and Nick O’ Malley’s excellent rhythm section to the group harmonies present on nearly every song, the album comes off as much more of a group effort than their previous albums, with the singer merely functioning as another member of the band. The album as a whole really does feel like all members of the band sat down and worked on the album collectively, unlike a band like the Foo Fighters where one member is clearly in charge.

 

As a whole, I’d say there is only one weaker song on the album: “Mad Sounds,” the first song on the second half of the album. While still a pretty good song, it does suffer from repetition, and there’s just a general sense of the band not knowing where they wanted it to go, unlike the rest of the album. But as a whole, the album is one of the best of the year so far, showing off the melodic side of the group without sacrificing their sharp songwriting and knack for punchy guitar work.Their best album since “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” “AM” shows just why Arctic Monkeys are bigger than ever.

 

 4 Stars Out of 5