Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas, y'all.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Voyage to the Bottom of the Cheese

SO I GUESS you could call this the logical extension of the plowman's lunch. Rather than just having the cold ingredients, I produced three planks of cheese bread-- one of gorgonzola, one of fontal, and one with a combination of fontal and white cheese-- and had them with a variety of olives and the last of the salami. The beer is Guinness, 'nuff said. As a mid-day repast, it was plenty satisfying, as is the notion of dubbing it the Ex-Plowman's Lunch.

Not that I would do such a thing again. Nor that I never would. I am simply unsure as to how soon I might again have gorgonzola, a cheese which, I quipped to the wife, is not actually named after the mythical monster, although it might as well have been. I love it, but it is some strong stuff. There are great lovers of heavy roqueforts, stiltons, and other pungent blues who consider gorgonzola not just strong, but, actually, crude. So I don't recommend it and I don't not recommend it. Try it some time if you like. You will either burst with joy or run screaming into the hills.

I can recommend today's movie, which was an Irwin Allen film, maybe even THE Irwin Allen film, although that's a hard thing to qualify. I remember seeing this for the first time when I was maybe fifteen or sixteen. When I turned it on, I first thought it was something else entirely, and I was watching chiefly in an effort to figure out whether it was what I thought it was or something else entirely. My Dad wandered through about the time the credits came up, and said "Oooooh! That's a good one!" I have no idea, to this day, if he was kidding or not.

Because it is a hell of a thing-- high concept stuff about the end of the world, conflicting personalities, and how their reactions can spur us to action or make us freeze in paranoia, and Barbara Eden's in it-- but, too, it's a hulluva thing-- flat characters, high concepts that are laid out like Scrabble tiles, and special effects that have all the exhilaration of playing with plastic boats in a bathtub, and Barbara Eden's in it. So I was able to get through it with a combination of nostalgia, fascination, disbelief, and beer. Other ways this might be recommended: after a head injury, while in traction, while feigning conversation with someone you find not at all interesting but to whom you are somehow honor bound to converse with, during oral surgery, or while teaching a film class.

But it was interesting to see, on this viewing, the second, some twenty-something (seven) years later, how many elements Tom Clancy lifted out, and I mean just plain stole, from this movie for use in both the book and the movie The Hunt For Red October.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Pictures Worth 105 Bucks

Designed my own running shoes at Totally worth it.


Friday, December 05, 2008

This Is Getting Redundant

NOT ONLY do we have, as today's lunch, more egg-laden noodles, but we also have as out subject some re-commentary based on previous photos of lunchal items. Didn't I tell you? Redundant, but, I hope, not dull.

The first comment I will deal with would be from Tiff (BTW, Tiff, the reason I never comment on yer blog is that by the time I get there, you've already got 13 comments and somebody has always-- ALWAYS-- already said what I was going to say; I kid you not, it's like voodoo), which was that the previous outing of noodles and eggs, which had twice the egg of any previous sample, was either genius or madness. The second comment, which came from my arch nemesis Annikins, and came some months ago, expressed astonishment and, I think, admiration at the notion of having eggs and beer. And, to be doubly perverse, not only have I listed the matters in reverse chronological order, I am going to discuss the one I have labelled second first, so that I might not even have bothered switching up the order in the first place. It's a service I provide.

Eggs and beer is something that dates all the way back to my high school years. I think the first time was while making an omlette at two in the morning, after a late jam session with a musician pal or while watching back to back Twilight Zone episodes on PBS. The natural thing would have been to have coffee, but, I figured, if I was going to sleep at all that night, coffee might not be the best thing. So I had beer. It seemed pretty natural; I think the omlette contained, at least, cheddar cheese, onions, black olives, and ham. And it worked. In later years I would conclude that having bacon and eggs for lunch was a perfectly acceptable thing, leading to many a micro-lecture from my mother on the wisdom of consuming such large amounts of cholesterol ("You'll shoot your eye out!"). And on those outings, almost always a Saturday thing, beer seemed the ideal mealtime libation. So yes: eggs and beer. I heartily recommend it, so long as a) you like eggs, and 2. you like beer.

Part of the reason I started this whole taking-pictures-of-my-lunch bit was the enormity my lunches had started taking on. This is something that has mitigated in recent memories. Not that I am not having hearty lunches, nor to say that the era of pound-and-a-half sandwiches is over, but, clearly, Ramen noodles don't make for the heartiest meal. Thus the inclusion of eggs. (Thus, ironically, the exclusion of beer. If I'm having beer with lunch I think it ought to be something solid and substantial. Don't ask me why. I have a couple of rationals for it, but none of them make a whole hell of alot of sense.) Back when Ramen noodles first entered my universe, boiled egg was actually one of the serving suggestions on the back of the packet (another of which was chicken, which, amusingly, after a short period of time turned into "cooked chicken," and then into "COOKED chicken," and then into "cooked meats," with a variety of icons meant to represent chicken, beef, pork, and as near as I could tell, midget). Taking the suggestion at face value lead to some forays into egg drop soup, some successful and others not so much, but I never seriously considered adding the boiled egg to the Ramen noodles until fairly recently. The result is both interesting and benign. The egg adds substance and flavor, but complements the soup and anything you used to spice it up. This example had a quartered egg added to shrimp flavor Ramen with soy and chili garlic sauce, which was just lovely. The species Tiff had actually commented on had two quartered eggs in "oriental" flavor Ramen with two types of soy sauce (a regular dark and an extra dark sushi soy). Tiff was right to be skeptical. That was a strange, strange balance, but it worked out alright. I am sure I will do it again sometime, but I don't know that I can reccomend it

THIS, I can recommend. I have run across it twice, both times completely by accident, so I have yet to see it from the absolute beginning, but it is the neatest collection of talking head testimonials, antecdotes, outakes, observations, quips, and out and out andmissions of guilt by actors, directors, producers, and other Hollywood players I have ever seen. (Which isn't saying much. It's hard to come across such a thing that isn't 90% self-agrandisement.) It's also largely under the radar. There's no atricle for it at Wikipedia, the folks at the Onion AV Club have yet to review it, and when I asked Blockbuster Online to find it, it first ate my browser before reporting that it knew of no such thing. The only place I have found any mention of it at all is at HBO itself. Which is just,well, weird. But then, HBO. From what I've heard, HBO is peopled with weirdos.

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Monday, December 01, 2008


BEHOLD, the plowman's lunch.

This is, of course, something for which there are many variations, and I have even heard it said (and seen it written) that a true plowman's lunch consists purely of cold mutton and boiled vegetables served with crusty bread. But to hell with that. I think any combination of bread and cheese is the foundation for a good plowman's lunch, and then you can add anything you like. Here, the cheeses-- yeah, that's right, two different cheeses! Color me bold!-- are a gogonzola and a milder soft-cured fontal. The combination is completely fortuitous-- this is what my Dad gave me this past weekend as a belated birthday present-- but it works splendidly. The fontal in this case functions as something of a palate cleanser, in that it helps tone down the lingering taste of the gorgonzola. I mean, I do love gorgonzola, but WOOF! It lingers.

The bread is a take-and-bake from the local grocery chain, which is to say that it is freshly baked insofar as such a thing applies. It is not Fresh Baked Bread. I am not a fool. But it certainly works in this capacity. The sausage, also courtesy of my Dad, is a Genova salami, which provided me with what I have decided to start calling a DOH!ment. This sausage was packed in an inedible casing. So all those smartly cut little discs will have to be peeled individually. Always test the casing before slicing the sausage. The olives, also from the local grocery chain, is a medly of kalmata, prune and green olives (which I call Greeks, simply because that is one place I know they come from, and to distinguish them from the Spanish olives that everyone knows as "green olives), and if you are under the impression that olives only come in two varieties, black and green, well . . . That's fine, I suppose. Nothing wrong with that.

The beer, also a birthyday gift, this time from my brother, is Rogue Yellow Snow IPA, whic also reinforced a previous lesson. Know your brewer. The beer itself is a pure delight (to me), a bitter brew packed to the shoulders with hops, absolutely delicious. But I made a brief mistake in the serving; the big bottle provides two generous glassfuls of beer, and I made the mistake of pouring the second one in two installments, with the result that I infused it with a healthy portion of sediment. The fine folks at Rogue breweries seem to believe that a handmade-style beer ought to have a generousl supply of sediment. Which is fine. I could have done better in the pouring, but it's not the end of the world.

The film of the day has been Nanking. I cannot recommend it. While on the one hand it is very good history, on the other, it's a partially left-handed approach. About 90% of the film is straight documentary, but that latter 10% is what I could only call "characterization," with a handful of very good actors portraying figures from the time, reading from their diary entries. Which is fine, but kind of off-putting at times. And Mark Valley plays someone called The Stagemanager, who juts in on occasion to set the narrative scene. And if all of that doesn't give you pause, keep in mind that this is a film about the Rape of Nanking. Not the most pleasant subject. And while on the one hand I think that it is important to know your history, here's what you most need to know about the Rape of Nanking: 1937, Japanese invasion, six weeks of serial atrocities commited against the citizens of Nanking including summary execution, mass murder, rape, vivisection, etcetera. Ninety minutes is not long enough to catalogue the attrocities, but it is far too long for most people, I am guessing, to be confronted with them.

In a way, the film and the Rogue Yellow Snow IPA are alike: I could caution you against overpouring, but it's entirely unlikely to expect the average person would want to partake of such a thing to begin with.

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