Sunday, January 31, 2010
:: Now, my childhood had its deliciously twisted moments, thanks to parents who were aware but not freakishly protective. But still, I now wish I'd had some of these Playmobil sets:
What fun! A plastic dessicated skeleton! Buzzards! Bandits with guns!
:: Hmmm...I could swear that someone suggested counterprotesting those Westboro Baptist Church morons just this way...I wonder who that could have been....
:: Identify the movie by the robot. I didn't get them all, I'm sorry to say....
More next week!
Roger asks some questions regarding the Super Bowl:
Do you watch the Super Bowl? (That's American football, BTW.) If so, is it for the commercials, the game or the halftime entertainment? Do you have special food for the occasion?
Yes, I watch the Super Bowl. In fact, with one exception, I've watched every Super Bowl since I became a football fan in 1988. (That exception was Super Bowl XXIV -- 49ers 55, Broncos 10 -- because I had something going on that night at college.) I don't pay attention to the commercials much; I tend to use them for their intended purpose (get more food, refill my glass, go to the bathroom, et cetera). In fact, every year when I hear people talking about their favorite commercials the next day, I'm always a bit clueless until I track them down online.
In terms of food, I just tend to get a bit of snack stuff, like chips and dip, if we're at home. Over the years we've been to a couple of Super Bowl parties at other people's homes. Lots of food is usually nice, but I prefer to be in the comfort of my own home.
And speaking of halftime, don't you find it interesting that it is The Who performing when the game is on CBS, since The Who provide the theme songs for all those CSI shows on CBS, such as CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, CSI: Kalamazoo, and CSI: Portland (both the Oregon AND the Maine shows).
Yeah, that occurred to me this past week. I'm hoping that since the game's in Miami, the halftime show starts with David Caruso on stage, saying something goofy in that oddball delivery of his, and putting on his sunglasses as The Who smashes into "Won't Get Fooled Again".
By the way, I didn't know that The Who was even doing this year's halftime festivities until just last Monday, when I said to my main football-discussing friends at work, "Hey, who's doing the halftime show this year?" And he said, "Yes." Luckily I thought over his answer for ten seconds and realized what was going on, before we launched into some weird Abbott-and-Costello routine. ("So at haltime, Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe talk about the first half and then they kick the attention over to who?" "Yes!")
If you don't watch the game, do you have a ritual for that? I had friends who always went to the movies on Super Bowl Sunday.
I watch the game. Sometimes I watch a movie earlier in the day.
And those of you outside the United States: can you even access the Suoer Bowl?
Obviously this is not applicable to me.
Do you know how to write 44 in Roman numerals?
XLIV. I think the Roman numerals thing is starting to look goofier each year -- we're six years out from the Super Bowl logo being a giant L. I think it would be funny if, when that year comes, the logo is simply a big cursive L like the one Laverne used to wear on all her sweaters on Laverne and Shirley. It would be funny to see all these big, hulking football players in the Super Bowl sporting nice, pretty, loopy, feminine L's on their jerseys.
Do you have a rooting interest?
I'm rooting for the Colts, but a Saints win wouldn't bother me much at all, except that we'd then have to hear a lot of crap about Peyton Manning being a choker and Gregg Williams's head would get bigger, and I'm sure the Super Dome has a hard time containing that guy's noggin already.
What do think of the Pro Bowl, the All-star game of the NFL, being played the week before the Super Bowl (i.e., today), instead of the week after?
The Pro Bowl sucks no matter when they play it. It just sucks. It's lame and boring and I never watch it because it's lame and boring. Plus, I don't like that lots of guys go because the guys actually voted to the thing don't, so you end up with something like half the league being called "Pro Bowlers". On the Bills, Marshawn Lynch is a "Pro Bowler", even though the only reason he got to be in the game a year ago is because a bunch of running backs ahead of him didn't play. Only the guys actually voted onto the roster should get to be called "Pro Bowlers", and frankly, if they just did away with the game and treated being voted a Pro Bowler as baseball does being awarded a Golden Glove, I'd be fine with it.
So yeah, I don't really care when they play the Pro Bowl. I do think that the NFL's rigid adherence to rules, thus requiring the Colts and Saints players to be in attendance even if they don't play -- resulting in them literally having to fly back to Indianapolis and New Orleans respectively and then turn right back around to return to Miami, since by another NFL rule, all Super Bowl players must travel with their teams together -- is just colossal idiocy.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
And lo, it was Teh Awesome.
For those interested, I made the dish as indicated in the recipe I gave on the previous post, with this change: when I sauteed the garlic in the butter/olive oil mixture, I threw in about half a pound of cooked shrimp that I'd previously thawed and drained. Then I just tossed the pasta with the shrimp/garlic/oil combination.
Maybe next time I'll try scallops!
It's not just the taste that's better; the drinks have a mouth feel that is so different from what I've become accustomed to after years of HFCS. They are less, well, syrupy. Sweetened soft drinks these days always tend to feel heavy in the mouth, as if both thick and thin at the same time. Not so with the Throwback drinks: they taste crisp and clean. It's not at all unlike having real maple syrup on your pancakes after years of using Mrs. Butterworth's. The drinks also smell sweeter, and feel less filling after consuming a full can or bottle.
I just discovered a couple of weeks ago that the current limited run of Throwback sodas now includes Dr. Pepper, which warms the cockles of my heart. I've always loved Dr. Pepper, which I have never had in a sugar-sweetened version (I didn't start drinking it until college). This stuff, called "Heritage Dr. Pepper", is a revelation in a bottle. (I know, sugar-sweetened Dr. Pepper has been available for years via a single bottler in Texas, but I've never thought it important enough to actually try to order some.)
Now, if Coke would get with the program...to taste Coca-Cola in its original, sugar-sweetened formula again would be amazing. (Again, I know that the stuff exists on an annual basis, marketed in Jewish neighborhoods so the Kosher laws can still include Coke around Passover, but I'm not sure if anyplace around here sells it. My own Store doesn't carry it.)
Condolences to friends and family. How often do we learn of wonderful people only after their deaths?
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
In a flashback to the honeymoon of Tracy Samantha Lord (Kelly) and C.K. Dexter Haven (Crosby), we hear "True Love" (which I believe is also the only time Grace Kelly ever sang on screen):
The film explains the musical content partly by positing Dexter Haven as a songwriter who is organizing a local jazz festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Thus the presence of Louis Armstrong and his band in the film, sometimes acting as a Greek chorus of sorts and goosing things along. Here, Louis prompts Dexter to sing the song he once wrote for Samantha:
The jazz festival all yields a song where Crosby and Armstrong explain what jazz is all about, in "Now You Has Jazz":
I mention above that the film includes Frank Sinatra, so of course, he has to get into the act with the film's music. He plays one of the two gossip reporters sent by SPY Magazine to cover the Tracy Samantha Lord wedding, and he's generally disgusted by the antics of the rich and wealthy -- until, in the course of getting to know some of them, he learns that they have their own real problems. Anyway, here's an early comedic number with Sinatra and Celeste Holm wondering "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire":
Sinatra also gets, of course, his own soulful love song, "You're Sensational", which he sings to Grace Kelly:
The film's best number brings Crosby and Sinatra together for the only time in the film. They're at a party and neither is particularly enthusiastic about the proceedings, so both duck into the bar for some frank talk about the rich and the gossip that surrounds them. Here's "Well Did You Evah":
This is the movie's only real show-stopper. I love the moment when Sinatra stops Crosby with the line "Don't dig that kind of croonin', chum," to which Crosby responds, "You must be one of the newer fellas."
The Philadelphia Story is probably the better film, but High Society is not at all without its charms.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Wow! Two of these posts in the same month! Will wonders never cease!
So, having addressed what I feel to be the most damaging scene in the Prequel Trilogy in the preceding post, we'll address what I consider to be the biggest missed opportunity in the Prequel Trilogy in this post. As much as I love Attack of the Clones -- and really, I love it, it's a terrific movie and I'll have words with anyone who says otherwise – George Lucas just didn't get the Naboo scenes right, and they drag down everything else that happens.
But first, after Padme and Anakin's fireside chat, we cut back to Obi Wan on Kamino, where he checks in with the Jedi Council (actually, just Yoda and Mace Windu):
INTERIOR: TIPOCA CITY, CORRIDOR – DAY
OBI-WAN stands with TAUN WE just inside the open door.
LAMA SU: Tell your Council the first battalions are ready. And remind them that if they need more troops, we will need time to grow them.
OBI-WAN: I won't forget. And thank you.
TAUN WE: Thank you.
EXTERIOR: TIPOCA CITY, KAMINO LANDING PLATFORM (RAINSTORM) - LATE DAY
OBI-WAN comes out from the tower into the driving rain. The door closes behind him. He pulls his robe around him and stands braced against the gale. OBI-WAN glances back toward the closed door, confirming that LAMA SU has left.
Below, a huge wave crashes against the stilts. Spray flies high and whips across the platform to where OBI-WAN is standing. He walks over to his Starfighter, looks to see if anyone is watching, then addresses ARFOUR.
EXTERIOR: TIPOCA CITY LANDING PLATFORM, JEDI FIGHTER (RAINSTORM) - LATE DAY
The R4-P17, OBI-WAN'S Astro-Droid, who is still sitting on top of OBI-WAN'S Starfighter, switches on and BEEPS.
OBI-WAN: Arfour, relay this, "scramble code five," to Courscant: care of "the old folks home."
ARFOUR BEEPS and WHISTLES. The panels light up inside the cockpit. A transmitter disc emerges from the top of the Starfighter and the message is transmitted.
INTERIOR: JEDI TEMPLE, YODA'S QUARTERS - LATE AFTERNOON
YODA sits with MACE WINDU. between the two Jedi, a hologram of OBI-WAN speaks.
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) I have successfully made contact with the Prime Minister of Kamino. They are using a bounty hunter named Jango Fett to create a clone army. I have a strong feeling that this bounty hunter is the assassin we're looking for.
MACE WINDU: Do you think these cloners are involved in the plot to assassinate Senator Amidala?
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) No, Master. There appears to be no motive.
YODA: Do not assume anything, Obi-Wan. Clear, your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind the plot.
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) Yes, Master. They say a Master Sifo-Dyas placed the order for a clone army at the request of the Senate almost ten years ago. I was under the impression he was killed before that. Did the Council ever authorize the creation of a clone army?
MACE WINDU: No. Whoever placed that order did not have the authorization of the Jedi Council.
YODA: Into custody, take this Jango Fett. Bring him here. Question him, we will.
OBI-WAN: (V.O.) Yes, Master. I will report back when I have him.
The hologram of OBI-WAN fades.
YODA: Blind we are, if creation of this clone army we could not see.
MACE WINDU: I think it is time to inform the Senate that our ability to use the Force has diminished.
YODA: Only the Dark Lords of the Sith know of our weakness. If informed the Senate is, multiply our adversaries will.
I wouldn't change any of this. The Kamino sequences are extremely well done; as has been so often the case in this series, I keep finding things that are well done in this trilogy of movies that most people have derided as wall-to-wall suck. Oh well.
I like that the mystery apparently shows no sign of being solved at this point; in investigating an assassination attempt on Padme, Obi Wan has happened on something much larger. I like how Yoda and Mace Windu are now suspecting that something very grim is going on, and that it's something they've failed to sense. The implication that the Jedi have been so successful for "over a thousand generations" by virtue of their ability to sense what the servants of the Dark Side were up to is a big one, as is their suspicion that those days are at an end. This scene lays it out clearly: the Jedi are on the wane, and they are nowhere near their top form anymore. One snarky complaint about the Prequel Trilogy I often hear goes like this: "Jeez, the Jedi sure get their butts kicked! How can these be the cream of the Jedi crop?" Obviously, they aren't. It amazes me how often George Lucas's critics manage to completely miss the point.
By the way, I love that Obi Wan's coded reference to the Jedi Council is "the old folks' home". The Prequel Trilogy is full of little details like that which are awesome; it's almost as if George Lucas thrives on the small details and thus sometimes loses sight of the entire thing.
Anyhow, just after this, we cut back to Naboo. Anakin is trying to sleep, and having some difficulty: we see him writhing about in bed, moaning a lot, before he suddenly wakes up. Clearly he's having a nightmare, although the way the scene is filmed, well...let's just say that it's shot in such a way as to allow the more juvenile members of the audience to jeer the screen as though Anakin is doing something else in bed. By himself.
Anyway, here's where Lucas made the mistake of showing Anakin having a nightmare about his mother without actually showing the nightmare. After Anakin awakens, we fade to a gorgeous Naboo sunrise (really, the shot of the sun-dappled waters of the lake is one of the most beautiful shots in the entire Star Wars saga), and Anakin standing on a veranda, watching it:
EXTERIOR: NABOO LAKE RETREAT, LODGE, BALCONY OVERLOOKING
GARDENS – MORNING
ANAKIN is on the balcony overlooking the gardens. After a moment, PAMDÉ comes onto the balcony behind him. She sees he is meditating and turns to go.
ANAKIN: (eyes closed) Don't go.
PAMDÉ: I don't want to disturb you.
ANAKIN: Your presence is soothing.
PADMÉ: You had a nightmare again last night.
ANAKIN: Jedi don't have nightmares.
PADMÉ: I heard you.
ANAKIN opens his eyes and looks at her.
ANAKIN: I saw my mother. I saw her as clearly as I see you now. She is suffering, Padmé. They're killing her! She is in pain... I know I'm disobeying my mandate to protect you, Senator. I know I will be punished and possibly thrown out of the Jedi Order, but I have to go. I have to help her! I'm sorry, Padmé. I don't have a choice.
PADMÉ: I'll go with you. That way you can continue to protect me, and you won't be disobeying your mandate.
ANAKIN: What about Master Obi-wan?
PADMÉ smiles and takes his hand.
PADMÉ: I guess we won't tell him, will we?
This scene starts out really well, as shot: the gorgeous sunrise, the way Anakin is standing on the veranda, with his hands behind his back, suggestive (and therefore foreshadowing) of the shots in the Original Trilogy of Darth Vader standing on the bridge of his Star Destroyer, and the awkwardness between Anakin and Padme after the conversation the night before. I also like what Lucas is trying to do here: he's setting up another of the many parallels between Anakin's experiences and the later experiences of his son, Luke. Remember in The Empire Strikes Back, how Luke is tormented by visions of his friends suffering, so he abandons his Jedi duties to go after them, with disastrous consequences? Anakin is doing the same thing here, and the consequences will be even more far-reaching.
And yet, I'd replace the scene entirely. Bummer. Why? Because, while I think the scene is nice and gets some things done nicely, those things can be done better in another way, and some other things that need to get done can get done.
In previous installments, I've argued that Padme's feelings for Anakin come to the fore a little too quickly in the film, and that they need something to help them along. In the great movie traditions, what drives film romance is often shared adversity. So I'd use this part of the film to give Anakin and Padme some adversity to share, in the form of something I've thought the film needed ever since I first saw it: a third assassination attempt on Padme. So here's how I would rewrite this entire sequence:
INTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – bedroom – night.
ANAKIN is sleeping restlessly. He is tossing about and moaning.
ANAKIN: Mom...no...Mom, look out!
ZOOM IN on ANAKIN as we FADE TO a series of confusing shots: SHMI SKYWALKER standing in the Tatooine desert, holding out her arms to ANAKIN; ANAKIN trying to reach her but not being close enough; SHMI being set upon by shadowy attackers and carried off; SHMI and ANAKIN screaming.
ANAKIN snaps awake. He is sweating heavily.
His shout is loud enough to awaken ARTOO, who whistles with concern as ANAKIN rubs his eyes and swings his legs out of bed. He gets up, pulls on a robe, and exits the room. ARTOO follows.
EXTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – balcony – night.
ANAKIN emerges from the house onto the balcony and gazes at the moonlight upon the lake. Then he glances down and sees the boats tied at the pier.
INTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – Padme's bedroom.
PADME is awake as well. She is sitting in an armchair, sipping a cup of tea and looking at some holographic photos of her life, from the time of the occupation ten years earlier. She glances at the table beside her, and we see what she is looking at: the little wooden pendant that ANAKIN had carved for her ten years before. She sighs, and then gets up and exits.
EXTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – beach - night.
PADME is walking along the beach, a short distance away from the villa. She comes to a particular spot, where she removes her robe, revealing a beautiful but discrete bathing suit underneath. She wades out into the water and then starts swimming toward the small island she'd indicated earlier.
EXTERIOR: Naboo – Lake retreat – island – night.
PADME swims onto the shore of the island and walks up onto the grass, and then onto the knoll where the small island's highest point is. She gasps: ANAKIN is sitting there, gazing out at the water. She starts to say something, and then doesn't; she turns to go back when ANAKIN speaks.
ANAKIN: Don't go.
PADME: I didn't realize you were here.
ANAKIN: I wanted to see this island. You talked about it the other day.
PADME: You said you don't like to swim.
ANAKIN points to where he beached the boat.
She comes to his side and sits down in the grass.
PADME: I don't remember it being this cold up here when I was young.
ANAKIN: Most planets feel cold to me. It took a long time after I left home to get used to that. Sometimes I miss Tatooine. I guess that seems weird to you...you saw my planet....
PADME: It's normal to miss home, no matter where that is.
ANAKIN: I guess.
A silence. Away to the north, the surface of the lake is dotted with golden lights.
PADME: Anakin, I shouldn't have been so harsh with you before.
ANAKIN: You were right. It's time I stopped dreaming about you.
Something in his voice makes PADME look a bit sad. There is another silence. PADME points to the northern end of the lake.
PADME: Those lights, out there? Those are Gungan fishers. As it gets close to dawn, they come up from their cities, near the surface, to catch the lampfish that gather at the top of the lake. Now they're moving back north and deeper into the water. They'll get dimmer and dimmer until they're all gone. Tomorrow they'll do it again.
They watch the lights for a few moments.
ANAKIN: It's beautiful. But...
PADME: But what?
ANAKIN: Why are three of those lights coming this way?
He points. Three of the golden lights are, indeed, moving toward them.
ANAKIN: Come on. Those aren't Gungans.
They get up and run down to the boat. PADME jumps in while ANAKIN shoves it into the water and climbs in and starts to fumble with the engine.
PADME: I'm sure it's nothing.
ANAKIN: That's not what the Force is telling me.
He gets the engine started and points the nose of the boat back at the villa. They can now hear three ENGINES whining behind them.
ANAKIN: Do the Gungans use craft with engines to go fishing?
The boat moves slowly across the water. ANAKIN looks back and sees three WATER SPEEDERS bearing down on them.
ANAKIN: We're not going to make it back to the villa. Hold on.
He yanks the rudder and aims the boat right at the beach. Seconds later they run aground and ANAKIN and PADME leap out.
But it's too late. The speeders run aground around them, and the three ASSASSINS on them leap out onto the shore, firing blasters at their feet to stop them. ANAKIN and PADME come to a stop. They are surrounded by human ASSASSINS who level blasters at them.
ASSASSIN #1: You were hard to find, My Lady.
ANAKIN: Who are you? Who hired you to--
ASSASSIN #1: Shut up, Jedi. Your Council should have known better than to send a Youngling to do a man's job. You couldn't even remember to put on your lightsaber.
ANAKIN glances down at his belt. His lightsaber isn't there. A look of intense anger is coming over his face.
ASSASSIN #1: You Jedi are getting worse and worse. "Guardians of Peace and Justice!" You can't even stop the Republic from falling apart.
There is a sudden WHISTLING sound. Everyone turns to see ARTOO rolling out of the grass onto the rocky beach.
ASSASSIN #1: An astrodroid?
ANAKIN: He's no astrodroid. Now, Artoo!
ARTOO snaps open one of his compartments and extends a probe that emits a crackling burst of electricity that SHOCKS one of the ASSASSINS, who leaps back in pain. In that instant, ANAKIN thrusts out his hand and uses the Force to RIP the blaster out of the ASSASSIN's hand. The weapon flies to him, and he quickly blasts the first two ASSASSINS. Then he whirls about to face ASSASSIN #1, who has already grabbed PADME from behind and is holding his own weapon to her head. He is holding her by hair hair, pulled back tightly.
ASSASSIN #1: Ahh ahh, Jedi. That will be enough. Thanks for doing that, by the way. Now I don't have to kill them myself.
PADME: Killing me won't stop opposition to the Separatist movement.
ASSASSIN #1: Senator, what makes you think I care about your politics? This is just a job. Now, Jedi, you just stand there while I take the Senator away. I promise that when I kill her, I'll make it fast and painless. She won't feel a...a....
A strange look comes over the ASSASSIN's face. ANAKIN is staring at him, hard, his jaw clenched. We hear the low RUMBLE of the Force being used. The ASSASSIN opens his mouth and his eyes grow wide. Suddenly he can't breathe. He involuntarily releases PADME, who falls to the ground, and reaches for his throat, which is being constricted by something invisible. ANAKIN's eyes are blazing with rage. The ASSASSIN is choking to death. With his dying gasp he lifts his blaster and tries to aim it, but ANAKIN Force-grabs it from his hand as well. The ASSASSIN falls to his knees, still clawing at his throat. PADME watches as ANAKIN comes forward and, standing over him, makes full eye contact with the ASSASSIN as he finally falls over dead. ANAKIN suddenly HOWLS with rage and kicks the corpse.
PADME: Anakin! Anakin, it's over.
She rushes to his side and puts her hand on his shoulders, trying to calm him in his rage. Finally he snaps out of it, a little. He stumbles away and rubs his forehead as if what's happened has caused him physical pain.
ANAKIN: That...didn't feel...I've never done that before...using the Force shouldn't feel like that....
Finally he looks at Padme, and gets some control over himself again.
ANAKIN: Pack your things, Senator. We can't stay here.
PADME: I'll talk to the Queen. There is a place in the mountains --
ANAKIN: No. Ask the Queen for a ship. We're leaving Naboo.
PADME: (growing stubborn) Anakin, you can't command me.
ANAKIN: I was charged with your protection, My Lady. Whoever wants you killed just found you, and they'll find you again. I listened to you before and they almost murdered you at the secret place "you know very well". We can not stay here.
PADME: Then where will we go?
ANAKIN thinks for a moment. He suddenly has another flash of memory from his dream: he sees SHMI again, smiling before being taken away. He looks at PADME.
ANAKIN: We'll go to Tatooine. Can you get us a ship?
PADME is a bit taken aback at his intensity. She nods.
ANAKIN: Good. You'll be safer there, My Lady.
He turns and starts walking back toward the villa, with ARTOO rolling along behind him.
ANAKIN: Artoo, don't ever let me go anywhere without my lightsaber again.
ARTOO whistles. PADME glances one more time at the dead assassins on her family's ancestral beach, and hastens to follow.
Another attack would have helped matter so much, I can't fathom why George Lucas didn't think of it. I think it would save the whole Naboo sequence of AOTC from feeling like the "Romancey" part of the movie; it would add some more tension and nuance to a part of the film that's pretty tension-free; and it would start to move Anakin in our minds toward a more adult view. He's not just a child or a teenager. By giving Padme a new way to start seeing Anakin, it would give us a new way to see him.
And of course, shouldn't we see the first time Anakin uses the Force to strangle someone? His first hint of using the Dark Side of the Force? Why not?
That's a good place to stop for now. Next time, we're done with Naboo and we're almost done with Kamino as well, which means we'll go to Tatooine and to Geonosis. Stay tuned!
Foods which disgust the crap out of me: Broccoli's health benefits, coupled with the fact that it tastes like the essence of Satan distilled into a vomitous weed, offer proof that God has at least a wee bit of perversity inside him.
TV show I loathe: Anything on FOX "News", particularly Glenn Beck, which I sometimes have to endure at the Y because I'll get the exercise bike that's in front of the teevee playing it. The man's a stupid and deranged lunatic.
Movie I loathe: I could go on for some time on this (and probably have), but for now, let's just say The Usual Suspects.
Music genres I loathe: I wouldn't say I "loathe" any particular kind of music; there's just music that is of little appeal to me. Rap, for example -- I have no use for it at all.
Magazine which annoys me: Entertainment Weekly sometimes has some fun content, but its "Hipper than thou" tone and its critics in general make me want to open a vein when I read them. Lisa Schwarzbaum makes me want to vomit, she's just so twee in her effort to anoint herself as the next Pauline Kael (whose writing never really rang my bell either, to be honest).
Makes me cranky at restaurant: When the server completely disappears when literally all there is left for me to do is pay the check. That bugs the crap out of me.
Makes me cranky in public: It's pure luck of the draw, of course, but I'm always irritated when I arrive at the place where I'm buying coffee, and all I want is a medium coffee, and I get behind the person who orders the Double Caramel Latte With Extra Foam.
Makes me cranky in general: In Washington, "Bipartisanship" is defined as "Republicans getting what they want no matter what". Also, gutless Democrats.
Pisses me off at home: For a long time, our apartment building had only three of eight units rented, and it was nice and quiet. Now they're up to six of eight and it's noisy and the people downstairs play crappy music and there's often less hot water when I shower than I would like.
Pisses me off at work: People who assume that my tools are common property and that they therefore have a God-given right to borrow them at will, without even asking. Sometimes they're mystified when they learn I take them home every weekend.
Pisses me off in general: Ayn Rand fans, Creationists, climate change denialists, and the New England Patriots.
Celebrity I hate: "Hate" is kind of strong, but Kirk Cameron is incredibly irritating.
Music artist I hate: Again, no "hating", but most of today's pop music leaves me cold.
I couldn't care less about: the notion of "fashion". It's herd mentality nonsense.
Blogger's habit that annoys you: Hmmmm...I'm generally happy with the blog, actually.
Feature on your blog you hate: I don't hate anything about my blog.
Movie star you despise: Despising movie stars seems kind of out there...but I'm not much of a fan of Robert Pattinson.
Politician that you hate: Most, if not all, of the R's, and some of the D's.
Beverage you hate: TAB soda. Remember that stuff? It was the broccoli of the pop world!
Monday, January 25, 2010
:: What would Earl Warren, the California governor nominated as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower (reportedly, to his lasting regret), and who served from 1953 to 1969, think of this new ruling? He would have opposed it vigorously. How do I know? I asked him.
:: I cooked again today! It's so weird -- this isn't like me at all. It's a happy side effect of being pregnant again, I guess.
:: We’ve all probably had the experience of reading a great SF novel and lending it to a friend—a literate friend who adores A.S. Byatt and E.M. Forster. Sometimes our friend will turn their nose up at the cover, and we’ll say no, really, this is good, you’ll like it. Sometimes our friend does like it, but often we’ll find our friend returning the book with a puzzled grimace, having tried to read it but “just not been able to get into it.” That friend has approached science fiction without the necessary toolkit and has bounced off. It’s not that they’re stupid. It’s not that they can’t read sentences. It’s just that part of the fun of science fiction happens in your head, and their head isn’t having fun, it’s finding it hard work to keep up. (Terrific essay by Jo Walton on the particular difficulties of reading SF.)
:: Oh Syfy, where would I be without your crappy movies about homes made of bones? Where would I be if you didn't start all movies about haunted houses with some kid being forced to climb over a vine tangled iron fence to retrieve his Babe Ruth baseball before getting mangled by some evil house? THAT is just good writing, bitches. I see nothing wrong with going inside the door that the evil house has so generously opened for you. Nothing ever bad ever happens then, right? (One of my favorite blog finds in quite a while. This fellow produces an astonishing amount of content on a daily basis. He makes me look as though I have blogstipation. Yes, I just made that word up.)
:: I have long considered Caitlin Flanagan the most flagrantly stupid woman in print.
A rich woman who lives in one of Los Angeles' most pretentious neighborhoods with a staff of many, yet has the blazing nerve to tell less well-off working wives that they ought to stay home with their kids, Flanagan is the Phyllis Schlafly of the Late Boomer set. She writes about domestic subjects in a reactionary rage so extreme that it often seems self-wounding. If the more politically correct moms in Flanagan's neighborhood decided it was healthy for kids to be raised with pets, Flanagan would slaughter puppies on her front lawn just to prove them wrong.
:: I've been fuming for several days now, thinking I wanted to write a nice, long, expletive-filled, no-holds-barred rant about recent political developments. About cowardly, disarrayed Democrats who don't have the conviction of their own ideals, and about a President I still basically like and respect, but who really needs to get it through his head that the other side ain't going to play nice with him, like ever, and it's time he drops the "cool and aloof" thing and actually leads his frickin' party. A party that I continue to vote for because I really have no other choice -- it's not like a third-party candidate has a chance in hell of getting a national seat; Mr. Nader, I'm still pissed at you! -- but which continually lets me down and embarrasses me. (Tell me about it. F*** the Republicans, f*** the David Broders of the world who wet themselves if something gets passed with zero Republican votes, and f*** the United States Senate which set this situation up by taking their sweet time because of their stupid traditions. Pass the damn bill. Now.)
All for this week.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
I'm probably going to be rooting for the Colts, although a Saints win won't bother me all that much if it happens. My general inclination is to pick the Colts on the basis of experience and the fact that the Saints combine awesome offense with a bend-but-don't-break style of defense, which isn't a combination that tends to serve teams well in the Super Bowl. (Just ask the Buffalo Bills.)
I didn't watch the AFC Championship Game, figuring it would be the lesser of the two games (watched Attack of the Clones instead), but I watched most of the NFC Championship. For all the usual worship of Brett Favre, I thought he looked worse and worse as the game went on, which is usual for aging quarterbacks. His throws looked more and more forced, but even I thought that maybe he'd keep his unshakable faith in his own superhuman status under wraps by the time the Vikings had the ball in field goal range with the twenty seconds on the clock in a tied game. No dice; Favre made a move that is classic Favre, and not just from the NFC title game two years ago, either. He threw a pass that everybody on Planet Earth knew he shouldn't even consider attempting, and it got intercepted. The Saints forced OT, and then drove for the winning field goal themselves. After the pick, Brett Favre never touched the ball again.
So now, the two weeks until the Super Bowl. Otherwise known as "Yawn Week" in the NFL. Not even the stunt of having the Pro Bowl next weekend can make this week interesting. But maybe we can get an early jump on the 2010 edition of "Will Favre play next year or not!", which is always wild, whacky fun!
More next week. I hope.
In terms of rooting interest in the Super Bowl, I'd love to see the Saints get a win...but I'd also like to see the Colts win it all, if only to shut up the Jason Whitlocks of the world who still insist that Peyton Manning is a choker, even if he's already got a ring. So maybe Jets-Saints, so I could root for Drew Brees in peace...but I just don't see the Jets winning today. Mark Sanchez has to remember he's a rookie sometime, right?
Ach, screw it. I have no idea who's going to win.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Here's Nigella Lawson, making a quick chicken pot pie using puff pastry:
A few years ago -- Heavens, I need to do this again -- I made my own Chicago-style deep dish pizza. And yes, it's a pie, not a casserole.
Here's a wonderful video about Chicago-style pizza. Wait until you see the cooks at Gino's East putting the sausage into the pizza:
Thinking about pie always makes me hungry, but it can also take one's thoughts in a rather, shall we say, cosmic direction:
And then, of course, there's a whole other galaxy of uses for pie:
So whether you celebrate National Pie Day by baking a pie, eating a pie, or getting hit in the face with a pie, Happy National Pie Day!
Friday, January 22, 2010
1. What’s the last thing you wrote? What’s the first thing you wrote that you still have?
The last thing I finished? One of the two short stories I wrote last year. I don't recall which came first, but I ran both on this blog ("Only Begotten Son" and "Partita for the End of the World"). As for the first thing I wrote that I still have? Ye Gods, let me look and see if it's still here...yup, it is. The Star Wars fanfic I wrote in high school is still around. I really should burn that thing one of these years.
2. Write poetry?
Rarely, although I like to think I'm not awful at it.
3. Angsty poetry?
Well, gee whiz, what's the point otherwise? I'm not entirely sure what counts as "angsty" poetry, but I do like my poetry to contain emotion. Actually, I like all of my art to contain emotion.
4. Favorite genre of writing?
It varies, really, but usually I'm either doing fantasy or horror. I've written exactly one story that would qualify as SF (the above-linked tale from last year). I'm writing a space opera now, but, like Star Wars, it's really a fantasy set in space.
5. Most annoying character you’ve ever created?
My characters rarely annoy me. I always kind of like them, even the villains.
6. Best plot you’ve ever created?
Hmmmm. I rather like the plot of the space opera I'm writing now, actually. I'm not going to say anything about it, though.
7. Coolest plot twist you’ve ever created?
I like the little twist at the end of "Twelve Presidents". It's not really a twist, actually, but I like it.
8. How often do you get writer’s block?
Not often. More often is the general lack of enthusiasm for writing in the first place.
9. Write fan fiction?
I wrote Star Wars fanfic as a kid, in screenplay form. What I did was create new characters and put them through the basic Star Wars plot, with some changes along the way.
10. Do you type or write by hand?
I used to love writing longhand; now I mainly type. But longhand is enjoyable.
11. Do you save everything you write?
Yes, except for some stuff I wrote in my college years that is only saved on 3.5 inch diskettes in whatever file format the Macintosh was using in 1990. Yeah, I'll never see those files again.
12. Do you ever go back to an abandoned idea?
Kind of, on occasion. I don't so much resurrect an old idea as sometimes incorporate an old idea into something new. My current space opera project actually recycles a subplot I had in mind for one of my proto-Star Wars tales.
13. What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
I honestly can't name one. I tend to be overly impressed with the sound of my own writing.
14. What’s everyone else’s favorite story you’ve written?
Relatively few people have read anything I've written, with the exception of "Twelve Presidents", so I guess that's the answer here.
15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
No teen drama, but I do include romance as an angle in most things I write.
16. What’s your favorite setting for your characters?
I'm not sure I have one. I have some settings I like -- the Buffalo-like city of New Mowbray, Michigan, for one; the rural Appalachian town of Corley's Crossing, Pennsylvania for others. Setting depends on story.
17. How many projects are you working on now?
Too friggin' many, that's what. I have: the space opera project, a story that takes place on the peripheries of the life of Jesus, a long-abandoned horror novel project that I'm trying to turn into a screenplay, a story about a maritally-troubled couple on a whitewater kayaking expedition in Alaska, and several essays I've started and abandoned. Oh yeah, and The Promised King is always lurking out there, waiting to strike me.
18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Unless winning the Buffalo News's short story contest two years ago counts, then no.
19. What are your five favorite words?
I couldn't possibly name five favorite words, so here are five words I like: Misty, Golden, Ice, Byzantine, Calliope.
20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Hmmmm. Not sure, really. I don't do roman a clef much, except for a screenplay I wrote as an exercise a year ago that is based on incidents from my life.
21. Where do you get your ideas for your characters?
My story ideas tend to suggest their own characters. I rarely create characters before the story idea comes to me; most of my tales have their genesis of the form "A person finds him or herself in this position...."
22. Do you favor happy endings?
I'm not sure, really. Bittersweet, I suppose -- my endings are rarely completely happy or sad. Some are deeply sad, though.
23. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Somewhat. But not a whole lot. I tend to do well with spelling and grammar along the way, but when I edit, I tend to trap lots of passages that aren't grammatically wrong but just awkward.
24. Does music help you write?
Immensely. I'll listen to lots of things, but I find film music my general favorite kind of music for writing, since good film music tends to be inherently dramatic.
25. Quote something you’ve written. Whatever pops in your head.
OK, here's the opening of the whitewater kayaking story I mentioned earlier -- that is, here's the opening of that story in its current incarnation.
The seaplane banked sharply as it came round the last of the mountains and then dropped toward the surface of the icy blue lake. Stephanie Cooper closed her eyes and dug her fingers into her thighs as her stomach struggled to right itself; her husband Eric leaned as far forward as he could, rubbed his temples, and swallowed again and again, trying to keep from throwing up by sheer force of will. Their pilot, a wiry woman named Rhoda, merely reached into the seat beside her and grabbed another triscuit.
"Almost down," Rhoda called back.
"We're almost down," Stephanie said to Eric.
"I heard her the first time," Eric quickly replied, as if his wife's voice might distract him from his work of avoiding vomiting.
Stephanie turned her head away. She'd long since given up trying to figure out how a man like Eric, who paddled the harshest rapids like he owned them, could get airsick.
The cabin suddenly went dark as the plane dropped into the shadow of the deeply forested mountains that ringed Fire Moon Lake, and beyond those mountains rose even higher mountains where the forests gave way to peaks of ice that sired the glaciers that flowed, a foot or two per year, toward the Arctic Ocean. Someday those peaks would feel the bite of the chainsaws and the tread of the logging trucks, but not now, not yet. The Yukon still had places deep in its interior that were unsullied, and for now, this would still be the realm of the elk and the mountain goats and the bears and the wolves and the salmon.
Stephanie and Eric hadn't come for the mountains or the glaciers, though. They'd come to meet Paul Sydon, the greatest river runner in the world or so it was said, who lived on the banks of Fire Moon Lake and who, once a year, would invite someone to follow him down the River Persephone.
This river was only runnable for about four weeks a year, when its banks were filled with just enough snowmelt to make for a river but not too much to turn that river into a hundred-mile-long raging torrent. It was such a remote and unknown river that it didn't even appear on any known maps of the region. Maybe that was because it was only a river at all for less than half the year, or maybe there was another reason. Those who had run this river before spoke of the Persephone in hushed tones. To run it was to become a member of a secret society as exclusive as any, and this club required no knowledge of arcane rituals or secret handshakes. To ask directly to run the Persephone was to guarantee that one would never have the chance, and no one who had run it would ever discuss it with those who hadn't. All a paddler could do was dream, and hope, that one day he might find a letter in the mailbox sent from this far-off place, a letter which read simply, "If you accept, I will guide you down the Persephone. We shall depart on the date written below. Paul Sydon." Eric still had that letter, carefully folded and kept in a drawer at home. As proud as he was to have finally been invited to run the Persephone, it wouldn't do to post the letter to the front of the fridge. All that was ever said was that the Persephone was the hardest river in the world, harder even than the streams of the Himalayas. And Eric had run a few of those already.
And there you have it!
Thursday, January 21, 2010
So, here are things I'd like to say. To...someone.
1. With your pathological need for being right combined with your obsessive taste for arguing the smallest point in any discussion in order to salvage some ground on which to claim victory, it's a wonder you're not a lawyer.
2. Look, instead of cutting entire sections out of the piece because they're hard, why don't we roll up our sleeves and rehearse them so we can do them?!
3. You can show me all the pictures of your spouse and kids all you want, but I refuse to believe that you have ever released one ounce of your pent-up sexual energy.
4. Don't you think that the fact that the house you were working on was torn down on order by the city after being condemned reflects poorly on your work as a contractor?
5. Yes, I realize that you have a photographic memory for where all conversations ended, but I don't, so please stop trying to pick up on "where we left off" in discussing something six months ago without giving me any kind of context, OK?
6. That flower I gave you yesterday? I gave that to you because you're ridiculously cute and I want to go out with you. Why didn't I say that yesterday? Because I'm a moron.
7. I see. And just telling me that at the time would have been so much harder than all the angst since then, right?
8. Oh, you're holding me accountable on the basis of ____. Well, that's all very nice. And I'm sure you'll be having similar conversations with everyone else here who does the exact same thing. Of course, if you do that, you won't have anybody left to turn out the lights at the end of the day, so....
9. Hey genius: If you knew the movie was going to suck as much as you're saying that you knew it was going to suck, then why the hell are you here at midnight seeing the damn thing? Who willingly stays up this late to have an experience they know is going to be unpleasant?
10. You're really telling me that, for the purposes of pricing, your daughter is under the age of twelve. When she's six foot two, is driving your car under your supervision, and is wearing a D-cup.
11. Hey, is there some particular reason that my asking you out basically turned me from a person you'd say "hello" to and chat with to a person you wouldn't douse with a bucket of water if flames were rushing across my body? Because seriously, that's some harsh etiquette, there.
12. I can't imagine why she likes you. You're short and stupid.
13. I can't imagine why you like me. I talk too much and accomplish too little.
14. Oh, you're a Republican. Well, this means that we can never have coffee together. Oh wait, it doesn't mean that at all.
15. I'm not hitting on your girlfriend just by asking if I can refill her empty coffee cup, dumbass. I'm a manager here, and one of the things I do to interact with my customers is wander about offering people refills. So slapping your hand over her cup and giving me the skunk-eye just makes you look like a dick.
16. Welcome home, and I'm grateful for your service over there.
17. Hi, you called yesterday and left me a message about coming in for an interview. I'd love to! When's a good time?
18. Oh my God, you're actually serious. You're making us watch a videotape of the junior high girls' basketball team you coach, when the Steelers are on.
19. Were it not for the fact that you know who you know, you wouldn't amount to anything at all in this company.
20. So what? Is there some minimum amount of time you can be gone before I'm allowed to wish you were here?
So...was I talking to you? (Almost certainly not, unless some people suddenly read this blog for the first time...and in some cases, travel through time to do so....)
Here's Coach Gailey, on the Georgia Tech sideline:
And here's another Chan. This is not the guy the Bills hired.
Well, this pic I found (here) doesn't inspire confidence:
Although the linked article does opine that Gailey is more suited to the NFL than the college game. Interesting....
What do I think about Gailey? Well...it feels like a potentially interesting hire that is unfortunately overshadowed by the white-bread way the Bills went about conducting their job search, which deflates a lot of the potential interest in the guy. So it ends up feeling "Meh". This is not an exciting hire. Maybe it's a good one. We'll see.
One common complaint I've heard is that Gailey has never had great success in his previous head coaching jobs, and that since he's an offensive coach by trade, his hiring is basically the offensive version of Dick Jauron. I think that's overstating things. Gailey may not have any championships to his name, and his head coaching resume in the NFL is very brief (two years with the Cowboys), but he's certainly been generally more successful than Dick Jauron ever was. Gailey's been recommended for jobs by Bill Cowher; Jerry Jones (of all people!) has expressed regret for firing him after just two years; stuff like that.
So ultimately, my reaction to the hiring of Chan Gailey is that it at least has potential to not be disastrous. The real indicator will be the quality of players the new coach and GM bring in next year. Although last year's draft was generally good (Aaron Maybin notwithstanding, but even he might have benefited from a less-shitty coaching staff that might have thought to try him out at linebacker, given his undersized-for-a-DE status), the two people responsible for most of the personnel moves during the last decade of futility, Tom Modrak and John Guy, are still here. The people who drafted John McCargo and signed Bennie Anderson are still here. That, by far, gives me the most pause.
Here's ZZTop, with "Rough Boy".
"Ain't got no rap, ain't got no line, but if you'll give me just a minute I'll be feelin' fine...."
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Case in point: Ben Shapiro's list of the ten most overrated directors in history. Ben Shapiro is one of those people who thinks that every single thing under the sun needs to be examined for its conservativeness (or lack thereof), often with laughable results. Like this article. Here are some of his more laughable assertions (and most of them are terribly laughable):
On Ridley Scott:
Ridley Scott has, for some odd reason, received accolades that far outpace his actual accomplishments. He’s made one entertaining film, Gladiator, and a host of second rate films masquerading as masterpieces. Blade Runner is a bizarre and massively overpraised mess. Thelma and Louise is liberal tripe, although it does provide the best imagistic summary of modern feminism: two irritating “independent” women driving themselves off a cliff...Then there’s Kingdom of Heaven, which is an homage to the “religion of peace” and a slap at Christianity through and through. Alien is slow. GI Jane is hysterically terrible. Plus, it’s got Orlando Bloom, who has about as much charisma and credibility as Al Gore.
Nice editing there; Orlando Bloom isn't in GI Jane but Kingdom of Heaven, which Ben disses two films previously on grounds that make clear, if you've actually seen KoH, that the only way Ben would approve would be if it depicted Muslims as murderous without exception and Christians as holy without exception. And thank God we have the Al Gore reference! Hoo-boy!!
On Michael Mann:
All style, no substance.
That's always a pretty useless complaint, but it certainly indicates something about Ben that he couldn't find any substance in Heat.
On David Lean
Everything Lean made is too long by at least half an hour. I know it’s mortal sin to suggest that Laurence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Ryan’s Daughter are anything less than masterpieces, but … they’re all less than masterpieces.
It's not a mortal sin. It's just stupid. Kind of like saying Hamlet is "less than a masterpiece".
On Quentin Tarantino:
I recently watched Inglourious Basterds and marveled at Tarantino’s skill. But he is a gifted high school child given a camera for his birthday, and entranced with his knowledge of cinema. Which means, in simple terms, he doesn’t know how to tell a story.
Given Ben's all-too-obvious inability to read or watch a story, it certainly seems odd that he would quibble with Tarantino's ability to tell one. But Pulp Fiction is pure story, brilliantly told. Ben's babblings about plot make clear what's happened: he's failed to understand the movies he's watching.
On Martin Scorsese:
Goodfellas is similarly disgusting – you feel the need to take a shower after watching. Why anyone would want to spend several hours of his/her life with coke-snorting Ray Liotta and Co. is beyond me. The Last Temptation of Christ is baffling.
Umm...no, it's really not baffling at all. Unless you're stupid, that is. As for Ben's take on Goodfellas, well, I suspect there aren't enough trees in the world to yield sufficient paper to contain a list of items that make Ben want to take a shower afterwards.
But his Number One choice for Overrated Directors is an utter hoot:
...wait for it...
He never made a great film. He was the Stephen King of the silver screen: he made films with great premises, but he never knew where to go from there...North by Northwest relies on the tried-and-true random helpful coincidence to save our hero, time and again. It brings to mind one of Twain’s rules of writing, directed toward Fenimore Cooper: “the personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.” Not so much for Hitchcock...Rear Window makes one reach for the fast-forward button.
So many assertions! Stephen King never knows where to go with his stories! North by Northwest relies too much on coincidence for an established fan of 24 like Ben Shapiro to follow! Rear Window taxes his ability to pay attention! Although, I suspect that last isn't out of boredom; rather, I suspect that looking upon Grace Kelly gives Ben the urge to take one of those showers of his.
Is this an apology? Well, no, not really. The complaint voiced in the several e-mails I received on this post was phrased almost identically in each case: "This isn't what I come to Byzantium's Shores for." While I sympathize to a certain extent, it's only to a certain extent, and I reserve the right, as always, to write this blog for reasons that may not match up at all times to the wishes of those who read it.
I write in this space to express thoughts that I feel like expressing. While I don't express every thought in my head here, I can in no way guarantee that sometimes the thoughts I express here won't be the uglier ones. If on very rare occasions I don't live up to your expectations of me as a blogger, well, I think that's more on you than it is on me. In the end, the only expectations that matter are that what I post here is a real and accurate depiction of something I think. If not, then the blog is a waste of everyone's time -- mine for writing it, and yours for reading it.
Now, in the past when I've had the taste for pulled pork, I've bought it already-made at The Store, either our own make of it or a brand like Lloyd's, which comes in a tub and just needs to be heated up. But while I used to love Lloyd's products, over time I've come to find them too saucy and too sweet, and I've further learned that pulled pork is basically a very cheap hunk of meat, cooked until it shreds, and then simmered a bit in sauce. More or less.
So I bought two items the other day. I bought a small roasting pan, with rack; this is to supplement our larger roasting pan, which is big enough to roast a nice-sized turkey, but is a bit cumbersome when one wants to roast a six-to-eight pound cut of meat or a chicken or a game hen or...you get the picture.
The other item I bought was, obviously, the meat. I bought an eight-pound shoulder butt pork roast, which I laid out on the rack of my new roasting pan and seasoned on both sides with a rub:
Then I covered the roast with foil and put it into the oven at 375 degrees, where it remained for the next four hours. It was about an hour into this process that I discovered a flaw in the Homemade Pulled Pork Plan: even though the cooking time is six hours, your home smells like wonderful pulled pork after just one. Talk about hunger being the best sauce, and smells stoking the hunger....
After four hours, I removed the foil and popped the roast right back into the oven, for another ninety minutes or so. At this point I was checking the roast's temperature every twenty minutes or so, aiming for about 175 degrees; when I finally reached that point, I took the roast out of the oven and let it "rest" on top of the stove for ten or fifteen minutes. (Believe me, folks, allowing cooked meat to "rest" before doing anything else is so essential to good cooking that, well, it's almost a deal-breaker; cutting meat just after removing from the heat will pretty much destroy any effect you have from your careful preparation. Trust me on this.)
Then it was time to shred and simmer a bit in sauce. I grabbed a couple of forks and shredded away, dropping the hunks of meat into my trusty crockpot. This took a lot longer than I had originally thought it would; even as tender as the meat was after that long in the oven, it still takes a while to physically shred eight pounds of the stuff by hand. Once I had it all shredded (except for a couple of large hunks of fat, which I removed), I poured in most of a bottle of barbecue sauce (a "Kansas City" style recipe sauce, although not the stuff that my good friend Mark likes to recommend because he knows the people who make it, but next time, that's what I'm using because trust me folks, it's good sauce), and then ran the crockpot on high for about half an hour, just to bring everything to a nice piping-hot temperature.
The final result? Utter sandwich heaven:
Of course, being that our household is just the three of us, this process yielded an enormous amount of pulled pork for us. We each ate two sandwiches that night; The Wife and The Daughter had some more for lunch the next day; I had it for lunch yesterday and will have more today; and yet, as of this writing, there is still a huge container of it in our fridge. So far we've got seven meals' worth of meat out of that roast, and we're not close to done yet. Total cost will be under a buck a meal for each serving we end up getting out of it. That rocks.
My process here wasn't any kind of "official" method for making pulled pork, but I put it together from reading some recipes online and looking at the shredded pork recipe in Emeril Lagasse's cookbook devoted to pot-luck dishes. It's as easy a cooking process as I've encountered. If you've never made your own pulled pork, give it a shot. It's easy!
Monday, January 18, 2010
(BTW, with comment moderation being the rule here now, I'm reopening comments on these posts, with certain rules that are known to the persons who have need to know them.)
:: That’s why Lott was offensive and Reid wasn’t: deeds, not words. Maybe one day the right will get that. But I’m not holding my breath, because really, all they’re interested in on this issue is juvenilia and playing gotcha, because that’s all they think it is. They don’t get it, and that’s just sad.
:: The most depressing thing is that if Fineman absolutely had to try to make some sort of convoluted connection between President Obama and President Bush, there was a natural analogy that sort of fit- the tsunami in 2004. (The "Katrina and the Haiti earthquake are the same thing" meme is pretty obnoxious, isn't it?)
:: From the iconic opening riff of "Sweet Child o' Mine" and the driving staccato rhythm of Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song," to the weeping wail of Gary Moore's "Still Got the Blues," this behemoth is one of the most coveted instruments on the planet. If the Fender Stratocaster is the precision sniper rifle of the guitar world, then the Les Paul is a veritable Howitzer of sound. It's meaty tone can go from raunchy clack to the smooth and buttery lament of angels with just the flick of a switch.
:: And I? Well, although I am a mother who has long maintained that we are letting them go from the moment they arrive in our lives, I have learned this week that this is far more easily said than lived. But I'm fine.
:: Only on page 17ish and already seeking out “an incomplete concordance to Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco.” (Ah, I read that book when I was in college. I loved it...but I'm pretty sure I actually understood less than half of it.)
:: Cats make excellent jurors. (Oh no they don't! They'll decide someone's guilt based on whether the box is clean or the food dish is full. A cat would acquit Ted Bundy if he filled the dish and petted him or her.)
:: Let me return to the original question: Isn't it sad to be unable eat or drink? Not as sad as you might imagine. I save an enormous amount of time. I have control of my weight. Everything agrees with me. And so on.
What I miss is the society.
:: No matter what I do, it seems like I always will wonder about the road not taken. (Lynda's blogging is always best when she's being all existential! But she's working her way through what potentially could be, for her, a huge decision.)
More next week!
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Well, it's not a crash cart, obviously, but it's my tool cart at work. If Batman had to push around his best weapons in a Rubbermaid cart, maybe it would look like this. Or something like that. OK, the Batman thing's a bad metaphor, but this is the cart I use at The Store as I roam around, fixing stuff. Most of the tools I tend to use on a daily basis are here, plus some I use a bit less frequently.
On the top shelf, there are three main items. First, and most obviously, is the case for my DeWalt 18-volt cordless drill. That's the only power tool I tend to wheel about as a matter of course; I do have others at my disposal, but I use none of them frequently enough to elevate to "Cart" status. Beneath the drill case, not really visible, is a flat box that is separated into a bunch of small compartments. This box contains screws and fasteners of different sizes and types.
In front of the drill case is my main tool bag. It's an electrician's bag by Husky, and this one contains the hand tools that I use most frequently. Here are all of my screwdrivers, nut drivers, lineman's pliers, diagonal pliers (sometimes called "dikes" for short), tongue-and-groove pliers, locking pliers, hammer, combination square, torpedo level, probes, inspection mirror, Allen wrenches, digital multimeter, and so on. The tape measure you can see there is my backup; my main tape is always on my belt.
On the bottom shelf of the cart I keep things I use less frequently. Way at the front, tucked near the corner, is a box of electrical repair supplies: wire, wire connectors and nuts, cable ties, fuses, and the like. Behind that is a second tool bag in which I keep things like crescent wrenches, a socket set, chisels and files, a flashlight on a folding tripod, Torx drivers, and most of my drill bits.
Behind that tool bag is a plastic tote that contains my kneepads, an extension cord, two kinds of Velcro, WD-40, air duster, wipes, and fishing line. (This is for hanging signs at work, which is a big part of what I do.) There's also a canvas pouch teetering there which contains my safety glasses, earplugs (essential for me when I'm using the table saw), a knit hat, and two pairs of work gloves.
Up top, by the handle where I push the cart, are several small compartments where all manner of stuff tends to accumulate: screws of odd sizes for which I have no assigned space in my fastener box, note pads, pens, and various other little things that pile up in the course of the job. Throw in a cup holder, and there you have it: my Cart of Infinite Repair. All I'm lacking are missiles with which I might target and destroy my foes!
The main headline there refers to Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who may have a big day in today's playoff game against the Jets. Hence the pun in the headline, "Pearly Gates".
Except, over there in the sidebar on the left, the lead item is about a Chicago Bears player who died this morning. Seems a bit odd to have the giant headline "Pearly Gates" juxtaposed with the news of a guy who's just died, doesn't it?
It reminds me of a time in high school, when during a football game, a player on the opposing team was injured sufficiently for the ambulance to be driven out onto the field. (No idea what came of that, but we never heard that it was truly awful, so I'm guessing he broke something.) During the delay, the fellows running the PA system decided to put on whatever music was on the radio. The song that came on, right on the chorus, was "Don't Cry Out Loud" by Melissa Manchester. Oops.
:: The Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, in Legos. This is amazing.
:: Who doesn't like a good food fight in a movie? Here's a top ten list of such food fights. I'd personally put The Great Race ahead of Animal House, but that's just me.
:: Not weird, but extremely cool: the USS Independence:
I read about the ship over on Toolmonger, and they're right: that is just an impressive-looking vessel.
More next week!
Saturday, January 16, 2010
The one getting the most coverage here in Buffalo is a woman from West Seneca, a Buffalo suburb just across the street from Casa Jaquandor, who was in Haiti when the earthquake struck. She was there to complete the paperwork on adopting a child from that country. She is safe, as is the child; however, she had to return to Buffalo yesterday without her adoptive son, because there is no functioning government in Haiti right now to issue the kid a passport.
The news is possibly worse for another former Buffalonian, a college professor who used to teach here and who was inside a Port-au-Prince hotel when it collapsed in the quake.
The narratives from Haiti are very sad right now. Here's hoping they turn the corner as quickly as possible...but this is a country that has almost no infrastructure to handle anything even remotely of this magnitude. It's unimaginable.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
"You can keep the dime...."
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Heavens, it's been a while since I left off. A long while, actually. Oh well, sorry about that...even if there hasn't exactly been a massive clamoring for me to continue this series. But really, if procrastination was an Olympic sport, I'd be Bruce Jenner. But now we're back to it, so hopefully I can work up a bit of momentum.
(Before I get back to my own business at hand, a brief word about something that's been shooting 'round the Interweb of late: some guy's 70-minute long rant-review of The Phantom Menace. No, I haven't watched it beyond the first 90 seconds or so. First, I found the guy's voice very odd – he seems to keep saying "Phrantom Menace" instead of Phantom; second, from the plaudits being heaped on that video by the usual suspects (people who like to bitch about the Prequel Trilogy on a regular basis), I gather that the review says nothing that I haven't heard before about the movie. He apparently puts on display some of the footage from the "Making of TPM" feature that's been in the DVD for years, footage from the first screening of the film's rough cut at Lucasfilm, and the apparent atmosphere in the room that TPM-haters like to interpret as everybody but George Lucas realizing that the movie is crap. No, folks, this stuff is not new, and I don't think it's particularly revelatory, either. Basically, though, I'm just not interested in yet another iteration of everyone's favorite complaints about TPM. I just don't share them, and for some of the many reasons why, see my previous posts on the subject (although I would single out one particular complaint in the video I've seen cited by people high-fiving it, that TPM has no "main character". For many reasons that I've already discussed, this is complete nonsense.) Jason Bennion also comments on the 70-minute review, for those interested.)
And now, back to Attack of the Clones.
When we'd last left off, Anakin and Padme were hanging out by the lake on Naboo while Obi Wan was actually doing some Jedi work-related stuff, investigating the creation of a clone army on Kamino. Specifically, Obi Wan has just finished meeting Jango Fett and left the bounty hunter troubled to the point of deciding to leave Kamino with his son, Boba. After that, we cut back to Naboo and the romantic adventures of Anakin and Padme – with, in my opinion, some very poor results. This sequence features what is, for me, the single most damaging scene in the entire Prequel Trilogy. But first, we get a brief look at Anakin and Padme at dinner (red type indicates material not in the final cut of the film):
EXTERIOR: NABOO LAKE RETREAT, LOUNGE - LATE AFTERNOON
The setting sun touches the mountain peaks. The lake glows in the rose-tinted light. Floating lamps gleam softly like jewels at the lodge.
INTERIOR: NABOO LAKE RETREAT, DINING ROOM - LATE AFTERNOON
NANDI places dessert in front of PADMÉ. TECKLA does the same for ANAKIN. The dessert is some kind of fruit.
ANAKIN: And when I got to them, we went into... aggressive negotiations. (to Teckla) Thank you.
PADMÉ: "Aggressive negotiations," what's that?
ANAKIN: Uh, well, negotiations with a lightsaber.
PADMÉ: (laughing) Oh.
PADMÉ picks up her fork and goes to spear a piece, but it moves! She frowns and tries again - the fruit moves. She looks up at ANAKIN. His eyes are on his plate.
PADMÉ: You did that?
ANAKIN looks up - wide-eyed innocence.
PADMÉ scowls at him. PADMÉ jabs at the fruit – ANAKIN subtly moves his hand and it lifts up from the plate and hovers in front of her.
PADMÉ: That! Now stop it!
PADMÉ laughs. ANAKIN laughs. She reaches out for the fruit - it loops.
ANAKIN moves his fingers. The fruit flies into his hand.
ANAKIN: If Master Obi-Wan caught me doing this, he'd be very grumpy.
ANAKIN is pleased. He cuts the fruit into several pieces and sends one back to PADMÉ. She bites it out of the air and laughs.
The only thing that genuinely bugs me about this scene is, frankly, the special effects, which always look off to me. The relative size of the fruit Anakin levitates across the table seems to change, and when Padme takes a bit of it, she doesn't seem to exert any actual effort, so it actually looks like what it is: she's biting nothing. The pear (or whatever it is) has been added digitally. But that's a small complaint, and I like Anakin's description of something he's done as "aggressive negotations". It's a nice little scene, and I like the idea of mischievous Anakin using the Force to move Padme's food around. That strikes me as exactly the kind of practical joke a Jedi would do. (It occurs to me that a Jedi pie fight would be a pretty creepy thing to watch, though – just a bunch of people standing still while pies are Force-thrown through the air.)
And then...the fireplace scene. The fireside chat. The scene by the fire. The scene that...well, while I don't think it's the worst scene in Star Wars history (that's still in The Phantom Menace, this is the single scene I'd re-do in a heartbeat if George Lucas himself asked me to make a single change in any Star Wars film. Seriously, this scene, in terms of the impact it has on what comes after, is orders of magnitude worse than Greedo shooting first.
Why? Well, we need to look at the scene itself:
INTERIOR: NABOO LAKE RETREAT, LODGE, FIREPLACE ALCOVE -
A fire blazes in the open hearth. PADMÉ and ANAKIN are sitting in front of it, gazing into the flames. She looks up as ANAKIN leans in to kiss her.
PADMÉ: Anakin, no.
ANAKIN: From the moment I met you, all those years ago, a day hasn't gone by when I haven't thought of you. And now that I'm with you again, I'm in agony. The closer I get to you, the worse it gets. The thought of not being with you makes my stomach turn over - my mouth goes dry. I feel
dizzy. I can't breathe. I'm haunted by the kiss you should never have given me. My heart is beating, hoping that kiss will not become a scar. You are in my very soul, tormenting me. What can I do? I will do anything you ask...
Silence. The logs flame in the hearth. PADMÉ meets his eye, then looks away.
ANAKIN: If you are suffering as much as I am, tell me.
PADMÉ: ...I can't. We can't. It's just not possible.
ANAKIN: Anything's possible. Padmé, please listen...
PADMÉ: You listen. We live in a real world. Come back to it. You're studying to become a Jedi Knight. I'm a Senator. If you follow your thoughts through to conclusion, they will take us to a place we cannot go... regardless of the way we feel about each other.
ANAKIN: Then you do feel something!
PADMÉ: Jedi aren't allowed to marry. You'd be expelled from the Order. I will not let you give up your future for me.
ANAKIN: You're asking me to be rational. That is something I know I cannot do. Believe me, I wish I could wish my feelings away... but I can't.
PADMÉ: I am not going to give in to this. I have more important things to do than fall in love.
There is silence as they stare at the fire. ANAKIN is thinking.
ANAKIN: It wouldn't have to be that way... we could keep it a secret.
PADMÉ: Then we'd be living a lie - one we couldn't keep up even if we wanted to. Mt sister saw it. So did my mother. I couldn't do that. Could you, Anakin? Could you live like that?
Silence for a moment.
ANAKIN: No. You're right. It would destroy us.
That first bit, with Anakin leaning in to kiss her, isn't in the finished film; but the way the scene plays, there's about six or seven seconds of body language between Anakin and Padme before he begins his "From the moment I met you" speech. Padme is turning away from Anakin, looking uncomfortable with something; Anakin is looking sad and disappointed. This makes clear that something has just happened, but the way it plays onscreen, we don't know what.
And then there's Anakin's speech itself, in which he just bluntly lays it all out there, making his love for Padme sound like an awfully unpleasant feeling. Now, since he's a Jedi and since he's been in love with the only girl he's ever met since he met her, I suppose it's possible that he wouldn't have picked up on this, but telling the object of your affections how miserable you are by feeling the way you feel about her isn't a strategy that's likely to bring her into your arms. But that speech isn't even my big objection, even though I'd rewrite it to be a bit less overly dramatic. Anakin is, after all, a deeply immature person, and this speech again strikes me as something that is awkward and overly dramatic by design. Anakin's a teenager in love with an adult, and he can't help but voice his feelings in the way teenagers sometimes do. Teenage love can be pretty unpleasant, sometimes. So I can somewhat see what's behind Anakin's lovelorn speechifying here, even if he comes off a bit too stalkerish. (Plus the simple fact that at one point he uses the same word twice in the same sentence -- "I wish I could just wish my feelings away!" I remember that line ringing horribly in my ear when I saw the movie at a midnight screening opening day.)
Where the scene starts to really go wrong, though, is Padme's response. She discourages him, yes; she tells him they shouldn't, that it's impossible, that she's a Senator and he's a Jedi...but she admits that there is something there. That's the crucial mistake. Lucas has Padme slamming on the brakes, when she shouldn't even be admitting to being on a ride in the first place. She should not even be aware of her burgeoning feelings for Anakin yet, much less admit their existence. And she absolutely should not seem to at least be partially open to the idea of keeping a relationship a secret. So, what should she have done?
She should have smacked him down, hard.
Yes, it would seem harsh and maybe even a bit mean, but it would also establish her as the clear mature person here; it would clarify Anakin's lack of maturity, so that over the remainder of the film he could be seen more clearly to have grown; it would make their love story more real by showing it to be more of a struggle and less of a pre-ordained drama to be acted out. It would establish Padme more as a strong character in her own right – we don't get nearly enough of a look at things from her point of view – and it would focus our sympathies on Anakin, which is where they should be. We need to be rooting for Anakin, which is hard when (a) he's being depicted as something of a crazy guy already, and (b) it's already being conceded that he's on his way to getting the girl.
So, it seems to me that the fireplace scene should go something like this:
Fire blazing in the hearth, ANAKIN and PADME sitting on the couch, looking at the flames.
PADME: You haven't said anything in a while.
ANAKIN: I just don't want this moment to end.
She meets his gaze, and he leans in to kiss her, but she turns her head away at the last second.
PADME: No, Annie. It was a mistake before, I can't let it happen again.
Silence as ANAKIN turns away and glowers. She makes no motion to comfort him.
PADME: You're still not saying anything.
ANAKIN: (angry) Anakin.
He looks at her.
ANAKIN: My name is Anakin. I was 'Annie' ten years ago, not now. Why can't you see me for who I am?
A silent moment....
ANAKIN: From the moment I met you, all those years ago, a day hasn't gone by when I haven't thought of you. And now that I'm with you again, I'm in agony. The closer I get to you, the worse it gets. The thought of not being with you makes my stomach turn over - my mouth goes dry. I feel
dizzy. I can't breathe. I'm haunted by the kiss you should never have given me. My heart is beating, hoping that kiss will not become a scar. You are in my very soul, tormenting me. If you--
Finally Padme grows exasperated and stands up.
PADME: Stop it, Anakin. Can't you hear yourself? You live in a real world. Come back to it! You've been living a dream. How can I be "in your soul, tormenting you"? You barely know me, Anakin! I'm ten years older than you. Like it or not, you're still a Jedi Padawan, and I'm a former Queen and a Senator.
ANAKIN looks like he's been kicked in the gut. PADME shakes her head.
PADME: I see now that this was a mistake. I shouldn't have allowed the Jedi Council to assign you and Obi Wan to my protection. When this affair is over, I will speak with them.
She goes to leave the room, and stops at the door.
PADME: None of this was your fault, Anakin. But I'm not the person you've been dreaming about. No one is.
She exits, leaving a devastated ANAKIN to stare at nothing.
That's how the scene should have gone, I think. We know that Anakin's already in love with Padme, but she needs some time to get there, and a reason to get there. The reason the scene, as originally written and shot for the film, doesn't work is that if you're going to have a character acting weird, you need to have someone acknowledge that his behavior is weird. No one does that here, and it's damaging, as we can see that Anakin's love for Padme isn't the healthy kind.
And that's a good place to stop. Next time, we wrap up Obi Wan on Kamino and Anakin on Naboo. And I promise it won't be seven months until the next installment!