Thursday, January 28, 2010

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other

SO THIS PICTURE was originally meant to represent my ingenious attempt to drain the last of a jar of Mount Olive dill relish in the absence of an actual sieve. I used the fine end of our lousy dollar-store cheese grater (that we got, in fact, I don't know where, I don't know when, probably as part of a set of something). But I have decided, in retrospect, that is looks like I was making my own relish, or customizing the Mount Olive stuff by applying a finer grain. So, fine; whatever you want to think. I am draining, making, or grating relish. It would please me if you decided I am doing whatever you think is the more impressive, nigh-on impossible, task.

You may have noticed the can of sliced black olives. Those I did modify, giving them a light chop before adding them to the tuna salad. The result, I regret to concede, is something that anyone else would probably call Mediterranean Tuna Salad, and so I suppose I have little choice but to call it that myself. But I will not relent. I have decided I am going to call this a Ground Elmo Sandwich.

(Of course it isn't red. You hafta skin and bleed the little son-of-a-bitch first.)

Up to this week, I had never had a Harp Lager. I have been aware of it for years-- same company that owns Guinness, after all, and I'm a HUGE fan of Guiness-- and I have heard people claim that the only way to make a Black and Tan is with this stuff. But to me, it's just beer. Not bad, not very good, just beer. Next.

The film of the day is The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three. As I said to the Wifey: the original, not that Travolta bullshit.* This is cheifly a matter of it being what is on right now, although I am enjoying it. At least, I am enjoying it waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than I did the first (and last) time I saw it. But I have a couple or three other stories I want to tell before I get to that. The first two are Steven Knight stories.

Steve Knight was a college mate of mine, a white-skinned, red-headed lilly-white from Piedmont North Carolina. College was a bit of a shock for him in a number of ways, not least of which, I think, was the sheer size of the population. I don't think there were more than two thousand living in the town he came from.

Steve was an architecture major who didn't buy all the crazy architecture theory he was being fed, and a mild-mannered Southern boy in the midst of a gang of rampant hedonists. As such, he was usually the brightest of us pennies come the morn. Often one of us would end up waking up on the floor, and occasionally find ourselves grasping two disparate things-- a shoe and a spatula, for instance. At a moment like this, Steve would softly start singing "One of these things is not like the others . . ." The rest of us started doing it, but it was always funnist when Steve did it.

The other story comes up because it's about Steve. At the time, "That's what SHE said!" was a most popular one-off gag, and we were all using it at every occasion. One morning after a raging party at Steve's suite, someone had to get to someone's car in order to get something incredibly important, and four or five of us tagged along, largely in the hopes that, after the very important item had been procurred, there might be some coffee to be had. At one point, one of us suggested we mgith gain some time and lose some territory by cutting through a parking lot. The others doubted it, and looked to me for confirmation. I said yeah, sure, that'll work, even though I didn't actually have any idea whether it would or not. A couple of hedgerows later, we emerged into the parking lot where the vaunted car had been parked, and someone said "Hey, that didn't take long at all!"

And Steve said "THAT's what she . . . said . . . "

These stories come to mind as I reminisce about the RDH (Resident's Dining Hall) at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and especially of the Omlette Lady. She was a large, pleasant, young-ish black lady, a solid thrid or fourth generation West Sider who had worked at the cafeteria at my high school and remembered me fondly, for whatever reason, and would therefore make the the most outrageous omlettes, one of which I had almost every morning before classes, egg behemoths filled with absolutely anything I asked for. One day at lunch, when she happened to be behind the grill, I had her make me a chicken salad sandwich, to which I had her add cheese, which I then had her grill. I thought I had invented something. (The Omlette Lady, whose actual name I did in fact know, acted like it was the greatest thing anyone ever thought of, but she acted that way about just about anything she made for her kids, as she called us.) I took the thing to a table and ate it, thinking to myself "Now, this is just wrong." (Or, actually, thinking this must be the kind of thing that the rest of the world would consider wrong. I loved it.)

Later that year, on a trip to New York, my Dad and I wandered into a deli on Fifth Ave, one of those places that's now famous because it's one of the last of its kind, where I ordered and was served a chicken salad sandwich, grilled, with cheese. At which point I reasoned, well, if they grill it here, then you can grill it anywhere.

(Its' Up To You, New York, Nooo-ooooo YOOOOOOOOOORK!)

The first time I saw this movie, it was sold to me as a great plot-twist flick, so I watched it with a fair amount of anticipation, not to say impatience, and when the big plot twist came in, I felt a little gypped. Then, after they made that stoopid remake, I decided I ought to give this another shot. I am not judging it as harshly as I did the first time. Like all heist movies, it's not as smart as it wants to think it is (and, I swear to God, whoever wrote this learned all about the New York subway system by reading a book), and it causes some of its characters to do some fairly far-fetched stuff-- not going into details, that'd take all day-- but by and large, it was a fair enough choice for the afternoon's entertainment. It clearly has to be better than that piece of crap those Scientologists made. I haven't seen it, but just judging by the trailers, it sucks.

And, the Wifey has informed me, it's in our Netflix queue.

So do I recommend it? Absolutely. Just like anything you can boil down and smear on a shaved rat's ass will produce cancer, anything you can put on rye bread and grill with butter will produce lunch. And it's good to watch an old New York movie now and then. And hey, it's got Matthau. You gotta bet on that.

*There is one way the modern version might redeem itself: if the music for the closing credits were "Rollercoaster (Of Love)." Nah. Too much to ask for.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cold Comforts

TODAY THE WEATHER turned on us, yet again, and the two days of glorious sunshine turned into a grim, gray, dour, rainy winter day. The ground is swollen shut, still cold from the deep freeze of the last two months, so the rain is coursing off it in streams. The kind of slow, soaking rain that always seems on the verge of ending, yet seems as if it will never end. So the lunch of the day is soup and sandwich. The soup is Campbell's Soups Natural Selections Tuscan Chicken, and the sandwich is ham on rye, grilled. The face on the television screen is Thandie Newton in the fine film Run, Fat Boy, Run, which is not a bad film because David Schwimmer directed it, but rather because of the huge holes in the plot at the 1, 3 and 5 marks. Which is to say it's a fine enough thing to watch, so long as you are distracted by the bad weather, the good food, and the lovely Red Hook Winter Ale. (Which I also had with Ghiardelli's Christmas special peppermint bark, which was both a one-hundred-and-eighty degree skid around and dead solid perfect.)

The film of the day is not Requiem. One of the crew at the Onion AV club recently added it to their thier new cult canon series, which I can appreciate on several levels, but, I, just . . . Nope. No can do. The barrel is way too full of fish. And one of the plot threads is yanked straight out of a Rolling Stones song. It's that school of film that's supposed to reward us all for appreciating how rotten the human spirit is, malfunctioning aspiration machines strapped to dying animals. Oh, and by the way, fuck yer mom, too. (Love the soundtrack, though.)

The film of the day is the fifth season of News Radio. Actually, it started earlier in the week. No, it started last week. Or was it the week before? Whatever. I grabbed a link to Hulu, which I had never bothered with before, and ended up watching the entirety of Season 4, which was the season before Phil Hartman's wife went insane and killed him before turning the gun on herself. It was also the season wherein the writing went from very good sitcom to straight out, up-and-up abstract comedy, culminating in an episode wherein they reinacted the movie Titanic, to great and magnificent effect. In point of fact, I started with the Titanic episode, and then went back to the beginning of the season, the first episode of which featured Jon Lovitz as a man perched on a ledge, preparing to commit suicide.

There's what you know, and then there's what you can prove. For instance, it's well documented that the fifth season was pulled together in spite of the fact of Hartman's absence, in fact because it was felt that Hartman would have wanted the show to go on. Lovitz joined up in his friend's absence, but knew he wasn't taking his place, because no one could take Phil Hartman's place. The fifth season has a kind of rhythm to it, one, two, one, two, with a fairly conventional plot followed by a more surreal and absurd episode. (More or less; this is a matter of appreciating intentions as much as anything else.) It's also indisputable that every single member of the cast found themselves channelling Lovits at one time or another. But I know . . .

Lemme back this up a step. I am on record as having a very vague and thoroughly unexplainable understanding of some kind of afterlife. No idea why, not attached to any kind of belief system or religious upbringing, just some vague notion that there is something left over, some other kind of existence out there somewhere. And somehow I know, I just know, that from somewhere, out there, Hartman was looking out at the show as they filmed it, thinking that there's no way the season would have played out that way if he had still been in it.

And he smiled.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

This One's Eating My Popcorn

IN VERY strange news, the picture for the last entry should have been the one to the left here. Two cheese grilled cheese sandwich etcetera etcetera. The other pic is the Usual Suspect, which is a tuna melt with American and Mexican cheeses-- about which more in a mo-- with the first experiment with the curly fries. The tuna went well enough with the Tsing Tao, and having the zingy hot Ketchupo!(TM) along was a positive boon. The conclusion I finally reached, after a week of Tsing Tao for lunch, is that you really do need to be eating in the Chinese restaurant. I had a pretty good experience having the Tsing Tao with Chinese take out, and I did manage to psych myself out about two thirds of the time having Tsing Tao with lunch at home, but-- and this is wholly psychological-- it really doer taste better with the Chinese food in the Chinese restaurant.

The "Mexican Cheese" in this case is not in any way Mexican. It's some gringo interpretation of what mexican cheese is supposed to be. And, as such, I don't have a real problem with it. I've had people lecture me all my life about American Mexican food not being real, or being some homogenized version of some thirty-seven separate and distinct regional cuisines, and I'm sorry, but I don't think I buy it anymore. I feel fairly certain that there's someplace down in Mexico where they do cover everything with molten cheddar cheese (or maybe some version of Monterrey Jack, I've seen that done too) and red sauce. And I have a hard time wrapping my head around the notion that the only only cheese they use in the entire nation of Mexico is the white queso that tends to get called Farmer's Cheese around here. That just seems odd. So while this is in no way authentic, I still use it. In this application, it does present something of a challenge: the cheese is bagged/shredded, so one must first place the American cheeses (white and orange) on the slice of rye, then place the tuna salad concoction on top of that, then make a bed of the shredded cheese on the other slice of rye, and then flip the layerd assembly onto the bed of shredded cheese. Then all that get's lifted gently into the prepped pan (heated and buttered). By the time it's ready for the first flip, however, the bed of shred has melted, and the connstruction is sound. Easy.

The curly fries, actually, were a little more of a challenge. Cooked by the specifications on the package, I ended up with a frair proportion of burnt ends. What is on the plate (in the photo at the top of the previous entry) is about two thirds of what I loaded in the oven. What you see here is every bit of it, cooked for about five minutes less thant he manufacturer recommended.

This is in no way the movie of the day, not for the least reason that the Wifey is here. I would never subject her to this. I quite liked it, but, for whatever reason, I have the feeling that it would get to her pretty quickly. Because, I think, this film is nothing if not unrelentingly ugly. Not in appearance, but rather in attitude. I mean, there is a definite sweetness to it as well, but the way to it is very, very foul natured.

Which is to the film's credit. When I told some folk about having seen it-- which was about three months ago, actually-- I described it as being dogged in sticking to it's conceit. Which it is: what if clowns were a segment of our society, wherin there were castes, taboos, conventions of dress and speech, power structures, separate social clubs, and so on. The plot is actually fairly conventional, the good guy (Shakes) wins and gets the girl, the bad clown-- be right back there too!-- is exposed and humiliated and driven out of the society, shunned by the rest of the clowns as well as those outside the clown community. And the whole thing gets driven by the single fact that clowns are a dualistic device in our society: they can either be a happy diversion for children or a creepy evil threat. So it makes equal sense for some of these clown being sad sacks who are hoofing their way through life, drowning their sorrows in whiskey by night, substituting cocaine for originality when pressed, aspiring to be the next big attraction if only they could get their lucky break.

Oh, and Florence Henderson plays the desparate, middle-aged one-night-stand Shakes is frantically escaping from in the beginning of the flick.

In a way this kind of has the same allure as the mything Jerry Lewis movie, The Day The Clown Cried. Not to the same degree, no-- of the Jerry Lewis joint, it is rumored that there is one sole extant copy, locked away in Lewis' own private vault-- but same kind, in a way. Very few people have seen it, and you would have to have sought it out specifically, and the odds of you wanting to watch it, based on subject matter and face value, do seem pretty remote. But, by all accounts, this is definitely worth the viewing. Good to be able to say: I have seen Shakes The Clown. And, too, I got Goldthwait's point. He set out to do precisely what he did, and that, in a nutshell, is in fact the central gag behind the whole thing. And it's funny as hell.

So do I recommend it? Hell, no. Always post the right picture of your sandwich. Never put yourself in a position to have to go post some cockameme, overly-long, utterly pointless explanation as to why the picture of the sandwich in the previous post was not the item described, but rather the object herein described is that sandwich down there, and this one up here you just saw is the other thing. And, by the way, cultural trope no one cares about it.

Shakes The Clown? Hell yeah. So long as you're over 21 and don't have any serious clown issues? Go for it. See Shakes The Clown. You'll be a richer soul for it.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Who You Gonna Believe, Me Or Your Own Eyes?

A COUPLE OF weeks ago, a friend of mine confessed-- scratch that-- iterated a love for pepper jack cheese. Which is not precisely the inspiration for today's lunch, more of a catalyst, I guess. The purchase of the pepper jack was in advance of several options, not the least might have been a tuna melt on rye with pepper jack cheese, and beyond that, perhaps the Jamaican jerk chicken patty with etc etc. A series of coin tosses lead here: a two-cheese grilled sandwich with curly fries and Ketchupo! Which is working out smashingly.

I like hot stuff. I didn't think I did as a kid, but that was based on a bad experience at the wrong Tex-Mex restaurant in Dallas, back in the 70's, in the days when the movement was all macho-macho, and the goal seemed to be, as near as I could tell, to hurt oneself so badly as to erase any other feelings, emotional or physical, from the psyche. But, after all, I do like hot stuff, and this is a great example. The Ketchupo!(TM) has three different distinct hot sauces (The 3 Cholupa's, and my regular readers will know what those are), and the sandwich is made of premium American cheese and pepper jack, with Plochman's yellow mustard on one side of the bread and mayo on the other. (The mayo makes a suprising amount of difference.) This is one of those combinations where the heat builds, slowly and gently, as the meal goes on, and the creaminess of the grilled cheese mitigates it just slightly, giving the whole thing a funky factor that is out of this world. This is the fourth instance where the Tsing Tao is working perfectly. Think of it this way: it's not entirely dissimilar from a decent Mexican lager, say a Carta Blanca or Modelo Especial. Nice nice.

This is definitley not the movie of the day. It's in heavy rotation on the movie channels right now, and I almost almost got sucked in the other day on the strength of the fact that Damian Lewis aned Jason Lee are in it, but we watched it once before. When it first came out on DVD. The whole goddamned mother-humpin' thing. Here's how bad it was: we watched it thinking it couldn't be that bad, it's Stephen King. And the Wifey had read the book, said it wasn't the BEST Stephen King, but far from the worst. And clearly, it was Stephen King: had alot of regretable psycic powers, childhood alliances brought fast forward to adulthood, malevolent spirits which exist for no particular reason, and bodily functions. In that last matter, it's alot like The Passion Of The Christ with shit and retard jokes.

Couldn't be that bad, but oh, it was. It was so bad, in fact, that we watched the "alternate ending" on the grounds that the ending in the movie was not the same as the ending in the book, and profoundly hoping that it would be better than the ending we just saw. And it was worse. Oh, my GOD, it was sooooooooooo much worse.

So never again. Never, ever, ever, ever again. I liked Damian Lewis in Band of Brothers, but I don't know why in the hell he did this. And I don't watch that damned cop show he's in either. And I will watch Jason Lee in any number of things, up to and including Dogma and My Name Is Earl, but this? Forget it.

The movie of the day was almost Leverage, since TNT was doing a Leverage-a-thon. But that was yesterday, and I couldn't find the proper poster image for it on the web. So the movie of the day is Sneakers.

When I first saw this flick, back in the early 90's, I thought of it as a great, big, what-if of a movie. This, after all, was at the dawn of the internet, when half of the people who knew about it thought it was going to lead to transparent corporate government and an end to global strife, and the other half thought it was going to lead to the governmental equivalent of date rape. But the fact is it's just pretty. It's just terribly, terribly pretty. It's alright that it isn't all that smart. Someone will look out for it. Just because it's just so god-damned pretty. (And never mind that Ben Kingsley can't maintain a Brooklyn accent for any real length of time. We all owe him time off for Ghandi behavior. Right?) As it turns out, they had about five decent ideas about the state of modern espionage (at the time) and they rubbed them together enough to make a reasonable amount of static. Also, they packed it with actors-- Redford, Poitier, Straighthairn, Akroyd-- whom I would pay to watch play tiddly winks. And River Phoenix, who would have to be playing with a ping-pong paddles just to make it interesting, and Mary McDonnell, whom we always refer to as The President, because whenever we see her in anything, we can never remember her name right off, and the only thing we have seen her in together is Battlestar Galactica. (The good one. Or the gooder one, anyways.)

Which brings us to this.

Some of my skater pals have been trying to get me to watch this show for awhile now. The first episode I caught a little of during one of this month's alotment of white nights, so I was not exactly in the best mood. Also, it was the Bilderbung Group episode (which the Wifey, appropriately enough, calls the Build-A-Bear Group). I saw about fifteen minutes of it, during which the schmucks following these heads of state around and trying to pry into their private meetings act suprised when they start getting followed by their highly trained, highly paid security details. (Said schmucks then claimed that the Build-A-Bear Group's big meetings concern thinning out the population by infection and innoculation, which what the fuck!?! WHY. WHY WOULD THEY WANT TO DO THAT? It would mean, chiefly, fewer people to consume the resources they largely control. Idiots.)

Actually, let me just stop there: idiots. The next episode I caught, almost in it's entirety, concerned the search for the Manchurian Candidate. Unfortunately, I know way to much about that shit. The Government cannot modify someone's behavior to the point that they can turn the individual into an unknowing assassin who would forget that they were programmed to kill after completeing the mission. They spent millions, actually more like billions, proving that they couldn't do it. About ten of the CIA's major famous fuck-ups involved them spectacularly failing to control people's behaviors. This includes the guy who was unwittingly does with LSD and, a week later jumped through the glass out of the window of a fourteenth floor hotel room in New York City, to his death, apparently under the impression that he was about to be tortured for the details of a secret mission he wasn't on. And the mentally ill inmates they gave acid and heroin to, in order to see how far they'd go to get more drugs if they stopped handing them out. Much much worse shit than Governor Ventura and his crack squad of exotic dingbats ever dreamed about digging up.

Want more? Alright: the next episode purported to be about how and why the 2012 bullshit might be true. I didn't watch much of it, but the bits I did watch centered around doomsday scenarios propped up by NASA research. NASA has been spewing junk science faster and harder than any other institution on earth since the early seventies. See, after they proved that the farthest away any manned mission could ever go is the moon, they had to start churning out lots and lots of justification for why the government ought to continue to spend the billions upon billions of dollars on them. Per year.

Now THAT's "conspiracy fact."

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Subjekt Zwei

SO THIS is not today's lunch. This was yesterday's lunch: chili cheese fries. Bush's stopped makign their chili, so I was compelled, after several months of chili-cheese-fry-less-ness, to once again go back and try the Armour chili as a component. Initially, I was far less than optimistic. Despite having added all 3 varieties of Cholula-- chili garlic, chili lime, and original-- two kinds of chili powder, a dash of sea salt and a double dose of gracked green peppercorn, nothing seemed likely to defeat the chili's overall consistency, which was that of something thickened with far too much corn starch, or perhaps epoxy resin. At one point in the process, I turned the burner to low for a long simmer, but apaprently the sauce didn't have the residual heat to make the simmer happen. Next I checked on it, the contents of the pan were calm as the Sargasso Sea. I bumped the heat up to a low setting, which after a few minutes resulted in a low, rolling boil, which translated into a simmer. Now, any chef wil tell you that's the wrong thing to do, but in this case, the wrong thing turned out to be the right thing. The sauce broke! which translates out into no more sticky-gumminess. Which also meant that my additives sang out like robins of the spring! Which means this was some damned fine chili cheese fries. (Screw grammar. I was happy.) I had this (these?) with a couple of Saranac Pale Ales, which has been the beer of the week. It will also be the beer of the day today, with either a Jamaican patty etc. or a double cheeseburger. Or maybe yet another tuna melt. Time will tell.

I'd just like to cut in here and assert that I am the worst Facebooker ever. The Wifey got me hooked up there three days ago-- yes, I couldn't even bring myself to make the physical effort of typing in my freakin' information, someone else had to do it for me-- and I have like 34 friends and I've made a total of three comments, one of them on my own wall. Hell, at least I'm trying.

The film of the night before last was this. The Wifey was off at derby paractice-- yes, the Wifey is a Derby Girl-- and, as often happens, I stumbled across something I thought she wouldn't watch in a million years. With the resul that, I think, we're considering putting this in the Netflix queue.

It was good. It was nothing particularly groundbreaking-- I mean, this is alot like a Stephen King joint, everything is stolen form somewhere else, except where it's hung out like's it some kind of homage or something-- but it's mighty finely acted, and done in such damned earnest that it's just goddamned adorable, and the scenery was so beautifully filmed that I feel warmly reassured, once again, that I don't have to go back to Colorado again yet. (Went there twice as a kid. Yeah, it's beatutiful, but it's also alot of trouble getting up to the beautiful. Especially not worth it if you hafta go through Denver.) And also-- and I don't think this is giving anything away-- the one guy looks sooooooooooooooo much like a very young Jack Nicolson, of course they dressed him up as some kind of genius-doppelganger McMurphy! (Our Hero from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.) And yeah, I saw the big damned plot twist coming a mile and a half away, but the thing was just such a numb pleasure to watch, by the time it came along, I had actually forgotten it. (Goodrich doesn't have a blimp!)

The one thing that bothered me came during the credits, which I watched because the cinematography is just so goddamned lovely. Can one say "nepotism?" There were an awfully small group involved here, and some of them seemed like, maybe they were, um, flogging a product. Like maybe craft cabin kits. Like you might be watching this mad scientist/genius doctor/fake kill his med school grad student sycophant/assistant (you'll have to watch the film to get all that, I'm not gonna try to lay it out here) over and over again so that he can use his blood-replacement nanobots to revive him, and the whole time be thinking to yourself, "Hey, if I had that craft cabin kit, all's I'd need is a little plot of land with a long driveway, and I'd have my very own Rocky Mountain resort!!!" Which was, actually, the creepiest part of the whole thing, really.

So do I reccomend it? Hard to say. If you make your own chili and have some left over, that's probably the safest thing, so long as you made real chili and not chili-soup. There is not a single brand of chili on the market these days I can vouch for, for any application other than as hot dog topping. I got lucky; that doesn't mean you can count on the sauce breaking. SubjectTwo? Sure. Drink heavily, wear helmets, face forward, and a canoe is not just as good.

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