Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Conspiracy Fact

THIS PAST weekend, one of my vegetarian pals advanced Answer A as to his mania, which is the undoubt-edly cruel and terrible ways animals are treated BEFORE they are cruelly slaughtered and unnaturally packaged to be sent to our local grocery chain. As he was holding his diet up as universal palliative-- if we refuse to eat the results of these sadomasochists' efforts to soil God's Eden, they will eventually relent and take to embracing all the furry creatures of the fertile green earth as their spiritual brothers-- I fell into one of my more basic defensive positions, which is that I cannot, intellectually, convince myself that the entire world will change as the result of my own actions or inactions. "It's a big world," I informed him. And then I had to back off, change the subject. It's just too soul-crushing.

For him. Not for me. The fact of the matter is that human beings have been slaughtering animals in some very bizarre and cruel ways going back to the beginning of history, and not always with the intent of eating them. And even if we were to collectively stop eating animal flesh in this country to the extent that all the feed lots and slaughterhouses were to be forced to declare bankruptcy and go out of business overnight, they'd still be hacking oxen apart in the Philippines in a manner so brutal an inefficient that the animals die a slow, agonizing death of blood loss shock before their bodies are discarded into the surf.

It's also a fact that animals are being treated with far more dignity in these modern times than they have been since the dawn of the industrial age, and we know this to be true because their treatment and processing is being monitored by armies of inspectors, and you have to dig really deep to find something demonstrably wrong with the system. I mean, really, it's fine to claim that the animals being treated with antibiotics have diseases because they are being treated with antibiotics, but pardon me if I find the argument less than convincing, given that you'd have to have been autopsying every animal in a brood for ten generations in order to prove that the evolutionary change had taken place wherein every animal were genetically predisposed to disease because their natural immunities had been wiped out by a dependence on antibiotics.

Might be they're being given the antibiotics because animals get sick. Naaaaaaah. Fuck that.

Which brings us to the film of the day. The film of the day is a ham and cheese with bacon on rye with mustard, along with totletts and Ketchupo! and a Saranac Pale Ale followed by a Harpoon IPA. Nah. I didn't buy it either.

Sorry. The flick of the day was something I knew I was going to come across before too long, although I actually had figured I would get it from Netflix and spend the better part of a day bracing myself before venturing into it. Instead it turned up on one of the movie channels deep into the line-up. We get forty-seven million movie channels, including at least six permutations each of HBO, Cinemax, Starz and so on. The channel this turned up on is so far up the tier that it makes me think it's programmed for people who would be asking for some particularly strange fare. (Not the same channel the movie Twilight has been showing up on, but not far from it.)

Initially I thought I was going to have problems with this based on what I know about military research into mind control and behavior modification, which is actually kind of astounding for a civilian. Most of what I know came from military sources, and all of it indicates what, to me, is a rather mundane and logical conclusion: methods of mind control and behavior modification, from a military standpoint, are unreliable at best and offer neither a tactical nor a strategic application in intelligence gathering or in actual warfare. In other words, the best way to control the mind of your adversary is to point a big, big gun at him.

Not that I am advocating that. I am fond of saying that I am against the bombing because someone has to be against the bombing, but the fact of the matter is, and this is a fact, war is stupid. As a famous idiot once said, war is about killing people and breaking their things. What part of that sounds appealing to you? Killing people and breaking their things has never won hearts and minds. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a liar.


So based on the first viewing, I am undecided about this. I kind of liked parts of it, and there were a good number of laugh-out-loud moments, at least for me. And the things that were patently untrue were very clear-- the US military has never had an ex-hippie guru who tried all paths to enlightenment for the sole purpose of discovering methods of psychic warfare. (I could be wrong, but I expect I'm not.) The things that were reasonable bore close enough resemblance to actual events. There were a few moments of ham-fisted morality and baconny exegesis, but nothing that really sank it. On the other hand, it wasn't, I don't think, the down-and-dirty military satire it meant to be, and the plot's redemption arcs were a tad on the broad side. Still, it wasn't bad.

So I dunno. I can't recommend having ham and bacon on Jewish rye, because, karmically, the stakes are just too high. Especially putting bacon on anything purporting to be even remotely kosher. I mean, bacon is the porkiest pork of all, so that's just kind of asking for it. If you do, though, follow the pale ale with an IPA. It's just common sense. Oh, and never research the military's attempts to research anything besides really big guns. It turns out they're really interested in doing really mean shit to people, and not only are they neither bright enough or weird enough to make any of it very interesting, they are perversely convinced that it's all for our own good.

And they're wrong.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Eiger Configuration*

THE LONG TERM effects of the ongoing chili dog experi-ment-- about which more shortly-- included another in a series of lifelong explorations into the possibilities of grilling things inside slices of white bread. This time, instead of JUST chili and cheese, I added sliced turkey. My initial thinking was that the addition of the deli meat would add a degree of stability to the tower, but I was also somewhat curious as to what, if any, effect it might have on the overall flavor of the device. Right now I don't have an answer or a slant or a take on that, something I am still getting my mouth-slash-head around-- and lunch was over the better part of an hour ago. I mean, it was terrific, a chili-cheesy-mustard-schmeared delight, and the totletts were awesome alonside, dunked in Ketchupo!(TM). But as to what the turkey added . . . Let me get back to you on that.
I had to add this pic though, just to give you an idea of the scope. Check out that cross-section . . .
The chili-dog experiment began as a result of something or other that reminded me how much I love a good chili dog. This was reinforced by a visit to a local bowling alley, where I did not bowl, but instead elected to sample their footlong, adorned with mustard, slaw and chili. About a month after that, I found myself foraging for lunch at the local Harris-Teeter, and tumbled to the chili dog conclusion. Which turned out to be that, four about ten bucks, I can pretty easily set myself up for four very solid lunches.
After this-- you can see a pic of one of the early configurations a coupla-three-four entries back-- I went through the variations, including using different chilis, various cheeses, different mustards, and the addition of chopped shallot-- not onion, shallot, which, trust me, is worth the difference, even though the only reason I tried it was that it was what I had on hand. One of my favorites was a particular lunch when I had two dogs, each with a different cheese, chili, and mustard. Awesome.
Eventually, I ended up with a chili that didn't really go well with the dogs, an Armour Star product that was more of a stew than a sauce. This cooked down far more than I intended it to, to the point that it was basically a paste. (It didn't help that I had mistakenly grabbed the chili WITH BEANS, which I would normally never do, and which is precisely the wrong thing to use as a chili dog sauce.) But the end result was that I added water, heated it up, doctored it with spices, let it cook down, and shortly, I had the perfect chili for the grilled chili cheese sandwich. Richard Drefuss could have made stalagmites with this stuff.
Still considering the turkey angle. I'll get back to you.

This was not the movie of the day. It was the movie of the day yesterday (during which I ate a grilled turkey and bacon on white, which was terrific). I didn't see this when it first came out, I think for reasons to do with the distribution-- I seem to think that our local theater chains interepreted it as the usual Woody Allen movie, which in this market back in those days meant it was supposed to hit the art house theater six or eight weeks late, rather than send it out as the first-week blockbuster it was supposed to be. Also, I guess, I was in college at the time, and I didn't go out to see a whole lot of movies while I was in college. But I had been a low-level Woody Allen fan, mainly enjoying his work in Sleeper and Bananas and especially Take the Money and Run ("It says 'I have a gub.' What's a 'gub?'"), as well as some of the brainier bits, especially Manhattan, which would eventually have nothing whatever to do with my own infatuaion with great, grand, grubby Gotham. And this got alot of awards, and ended up on averybody's year end best of list, and is often used as a perjorative in regard to Allen's later works, so I guess I always kinda figured I would eventually see it. Turns out yesterday was the day.
And just let me say this about Zelig. There was one line in there I still get a great deal of use out of-- "I love baseball; it doesn't have to mean anything, it's just beautiful"-- but other than that, I have no use for that long, hard slog through early psychoanalytic horseshit.

Anyways. This was not a bad film. In addition to being superlative mid-eighties New York porn, just scene after scene of lucious streetscapes and excellent tracking shots and on and on, it features some really lovely performances, including a perfectly mid-tempo turn by Sam Waterson as an architect demonstrating precisely how right everything wrong about New York is. (That's not what his character is meant to do, but that, in my opinion, is what he ends up doing. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.) But by and large, it's the standard Allen template: nerotic New Yorkers have a grand old time screwing up their lives. Man dissillusioned by his ordinary life convinces himself that he is in love with his wife's sister! Near-incest infidelity leads to neurotic breakdown! Aging artist must face up to the young lover he can no longer keep! Flighty would-be female artiste flits from art form to art form, oblivious to the fact that she's not terribly good at any of them! And, as always, it's near impossible to say whether Allen is being misogynistic or sarcastic in the way he draws his female characters.
But oh! Those performances! Diane Weist! Michael Caine! Barbara Hershey! Allen himself, doing 'imself in that impeccably hilarious, neurotically charming way he hardly ever does anymore! New York! And, as near as I could tell, not a single blow job referrence.
Or maybe I missed it. There was a sandwich involved on my end at one point.
So do I recommend it? I dunno. Maybe next time I'll skip adding the turkey.
*So. Um. In a way, this film has big things in common with both The Eiger Sanction and The Eighth Configuration. It has both deep intrigue thrust against the backdrop of stunning location shots, and a bunch of whackos plunked down amidst astonishing and imposing architecture. Consider these elements cleverly written into the review. (Of the sandwich. Nothing like that could be said of what I wrote about the movie.)

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Goat Men Of The Greater Panhandle Ride Again!

SO Some-where along the line, after a brief vacation with extended family, a pair of nights spent in close quarters with derby folk helping the skaters in our new league get through assessments, an evening of wall climbing, and then a weekend derby double header, most of which was spent screaming my lungs out and hugging all the old friends in our old derby league-- and I am not exaggerating when I describe these in dozens-- and finally a day off in celebration of the Wifey's birthday, I became the ONLY PERSON IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE EXTENDED GROUP to have come down with a head cold.

Normally, something would have been going around and someone or other would have just gotten over it, but nope-- not this time. This time I had a fitful time getting to sleep Monday night, during which I interpreted my intermittent coughing fits as the side effects of cheering myself stupid at the derby. It wasn't until my nose started stuffing up, somewhere around one thirty or two in the morning, that I realized I was legitimately sick.

So I spent the following day trying to convince myself that I was no longer sick, which almost worked, until shortly after lunch-- more chili dogs-- when my sinus passages took on a sudden and troubling resemblance to an LA freeway. Today I am feeling much better, but a lingering of the symptoms reminds me that I might not be entirely over the cold, so I decided to have an egg salad sandwich.

Hey, listen: it doesn't HAVE to make sense to you. It made enough sense for me to boil three brown eggs (cage free, I'll have you know), chop about a tablespoon's worth of shallot, throw in about an eighth of a cup of dill pickle relish, add mayo, three kinds of mustard (yellow, deli brown, dijon, & Chinese prepared), salt and pepper to taste (or, in my case, substantially beyond), slap the mixture between two slices of white bread (with both white and yellow American cheese) and grill the thing silly. This, as you might have guessed by the photo above, required the use of a knife and fork, but was totally worth the concession to etiquette in order to consume it.

The film of the day is not MST3K, in any of its permutations.

Not that I am against or dislike MST3K, or the Satellite of Love, Joel and the Bots, Mike and the Bots, the Doc or TV's Frank or any of the lot. Its' just that, well, I'm done.

The Wifey, for reasons passing understanding, decided not too long ago that she wanted to give this stuff a spin, having either missed out on it or rejected it out of hand back when it was originally on Comedy Central (originally The Comedy Channel, but I'm just not going there right now). Her research led her to the episode wherein they took on the notorious stinker Manos: Hands of Fate. This was, according to her findings, the episode consistently rated best by the powers that be.

This is largely because Manos is a terrible, horrible, stinking turd of a movie. It was made on a bet-- and the bad kind of bet, too, not "I bet YOU can't make a movie!" but "Hey, I bet you I can make a movie!"-- by a guy whose obsessions apparently included lingerie sand wrestling, unilateral polygamy, half-man half-goat creatures with chronic arthritis being forced to do menial labor, and the long term effects of low-level narcissistic megalomania in west Texas.

Wait a minute. I think I just described Dan Jenkins.*

Anyways. I think my favorite part of the movie was the five hundred thousandth time the evil meanie in the movie held his black cape out just so we could see the bright red hand prints emblazoned three feet across it on either side. These, we are left to conclude, must be the prints of the manos of the title, which, one may assume, are the purported hands of fate. It's my favorite moment because it's one of the few that doesn't make me want to scream out loud "WHY THE @#$% AM I WATCHING THIS!?!?" (Really, 'cause it's just a guy wearing a cape by that point.) When you look at it from a production standpoint, it's kind of incredible for a film shot outside of El Paso with a camera with no sound that only shot 32 seconds of film at a time with actors from the local theater group and a director who had ABSOLUTELY NO @#$%ING IDEA WHAT HE WAS DOING.

But when in considering it as a film viewing experience, one may only conclude OH MY GOD! WHAT KIND OF A SADISTIC, MEGALOMANIACAL CREEP WANTS ME TO WATCH THIS INTERMINABLE BULLSHIT!?!

Which brings me around to why I am kind of done with MST3K. It's not that I don't like the series-- like I said above, I have nothing but love for the guys aboard the SOL (think about that for a moment) and their alleged tormentors-- nor that I don't see the entertainment value in making smart over old sci-fi movies, industrial shorts, and old PSA bits. It's more that I am reminded, or rather was reminded, of the kind of mean-spirited bastards who insisted to me back in my college days that I HAD to see this stuff, describing it as "Like going to the movies with a bunch of assholes!" (Gleefully, like that was a good thing.) And where the central gag here is really, really funny and totally right in my wheel house as a running gag (repeating the flick's title over and over again as there is, for the better two thirds of the movie, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to make any fun of whatsoever, and this culminating in two of the robot characters breaking down in tears over the impossibility of making anything useful out of this incredibly, impossibly stupidly vapid material), the fact remains that the reason this is continually held up as the paragon of MST3K virtue is the fact that the film itself is really, really awful.

Such things should not be judged, in my opinion, by degree of difficulty.

So I'm just kind of done. Not that I will never watch MST3K again. I've seen plenty, and I could well see some more. Just not the crappy one all the assholes tell me to.

*Just kidding. That would be EAST Texas.

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