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Feel the Kaine-Mentum. No, Really.

[ 216 ] July 23, 2016 |

The Clinton-Kaine ticket will be hard to beat. I was downright shocked by the shrewdness of the Clinton-Kaine event I just witnessed. Shouts out to Latinos and the military community? So smart. What was even smarter was the highlighting of Kaine’s social justice roots. Smarter still? The damn positivity of the whole event. It was a STARK contrast to the Trump speech, which was wall to wall gloom and doom. If these two candidates keep campaigning like this, they will be unstoppable. I’m comfortable putting this on record now.

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Vampires Are Dorky

[ 38 ] July 21, 2016 |

One of the reasons I loved “Let the Right One In” is because it was a fresh take on the vampire genre. Whereas vampires are often portrayed as attractive, sexy, aristocratic and powerful, LTROI imagined a vampire as extraordinarily vulnerable–young, lonely, desperate and poor.

Similarly “What We Do in the Shadows” is fantastic because it’s another fresh take on the vampire genre. Only this time the filmmakers don’t imagine them as vulnerable, they imagine them as dorky–kind of every day blokes who have to deal with flat mates, chore wheels and cleaning up all the blood–there’s so much blood!

“What We Do in the Shadows” does for vampires what “This is Spinal Tap” did for rockers–it makes them less sex gods and exposes them more as dork gods. And it’s so very very funny because it does so.

One of my favorite scenes is a montage of newly-turned vamp, Nick, going around bragging about being a vampire. He wears a fang necklace and screams “Twilight!” at people. Because, you know, the “Twilight” franchise is known as being the pinnacle of cool.

Later, Nick eats a French fry and almost immediately begins to vomit up gallons of blood. Chips are his “favorite food.” And suddenly being a vampire isn’t so cool. “Don’t believe the hype” he says forlornly into the camera.

“What We Do in the Shadows” is gleefully–almost impudently–absurd (which, of course makes it brilliant).  At one point, Nick introduces his friend Stu to the gang. And the gang immediately take to human Stu, making Nick feel left out. There’s a scene of Stu showing the old vampires how to take selfies…and, of course, porn. No wonder they like Stu! Deacon gets annoyed at Nick because he wears a jacket similar to his. Viago is tired of Deacon never cleaning all the (literally) bloody dishes. It’s over-the-top silly. Plus, you know, it’s the guys who brought you “Eagle Vs. Shark,” Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. So, obviously see it immediately.

TWILIGHT!!

Two Quickie Recipe Reviews

[ 17 ] July 17, 2016 |

Asian Charred Broccoli Salad

 

First up, Martha Stewart’s Beef and Pineapple Red Curry

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
1 pound sirloin steak, trimmed and cut against the grain into very thin strips
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
12 ounces pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

PREPARATION

  1. In a large skillet or wok, heat oil over medium-high. Add curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  2. Add steak and cook, stirring, until browned, 2 minutes.
  3. Add green beans and pineapple; cook, stirring, until pineapple starts to release juices, 1 minute.
  4. Add broth and coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer until green beans are crisp-tender, 8 minutes.
  5. Garnish with basil before serving.

This is a lovely recipe–quick, easy and healthy. I didn’t have basil on hand, so I used mint, and actually recommend using mint. I also recommend using a teaspoon or two of brown sugar in the recipe if you’re using fresh pineapple (as I did). I think the recipe needed a bit more sweet and heat, and–odd as this may sound–I think canned pineapple chunks in syrup or juice would serve you well here. You could probably omit the sugar if you went that way. The curry paste I used was mild. Had a I had my druthers I would have added some chopped fresh chile or red pepper flakes to the dish. That being said, this is absolutely a keeper of a recipe and I plan to make it again soon. I served it over hot cooked rice.

 

Next up is Rachel Ray’s Asian Charred Broccoli Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 tsp. peanut oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds broccoli florets
  • 1 tablespoon ponzu sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped honey-roasted peanuts
  • Sliced red chile

Directions

  1. In wok or large skillet, heat 3 tbsp. oil over high. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender and charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes; season. In bowl, whisk ponzu, vinegar, garlic and 2 tsp. oil; toss with broccoli to coat. Top with cilantro, nuts and chile.

Another lovely, easy healthy recipe I am absolutely putting in the ol’ recipe rolodex. I think would it make a fantastic meatless entree if you served it over rice or noodles, though I would let the salad cool to room temperature. I didn’t and wish I had because it would have improved the flavor, and–technically–it is a salad.

I did not have peanut oil on hand so I used olive oil and a couple of drops of sesame oil. I did not have fresh chiles on hand, so I sauteed some red pepper flakes in the oil before adding the broccoli. I wanted to use up some veggies, so I added sliced onions and one fresh tomato to the mix. However, I made sure to char the onions and broccoli first, and only added the tomatoes at the end, so they wouldn’t interfere with the charring process. (Oh, and I used baby broccoli, instead of regular broccoli. )

While the honey-roasted nuts add a bit of sweetness to the dish, I–again–think a teaspoon or two of brown sugar or honey would round out this recipe nicely.

I’m an Important Thinkfluencer Who Writes about Popular Culture & Apparently You Should See Tarzan because of Its Lush…Cinematography

[ 93 ] July 16, 2016 |

 

I learned this from literally the best movie review I’ve ever read. We should probably all go see it?

Sexy Dating Stories from LGMers

[ 154 ] July 15, 2016 |

 

If you make me snort aloud and I’ve got that TGIF feeling, you may end up on the front page. Fair warning.

Thanks to The Temporary Name and wjts for the timely and much-needed larfs.

wjts says:

“I like biking and swimming. How about you?”

“No. I don’t like the outdoors.”

“Foreign movies?”

“I don’t like reading subtitles.”

“Cooking?”

“Why bother when you can get take-out?”

“Tonight was fun, but I’m not sure it’d really work out between us?”

“Just because I don’t meet every stupid criterion on some dumb little list you have in your head? HOPE YOU ENJOY DYING ALONE.”

The Temporary Name says:

It’s completely unfair to ask why I’m wearing an orange outfit and shackles.

 

wjts says:

I’m ever so sorry that I’ve failed to live up to Your Highness’ exacting standards for grooming and personal hygiene. Why can’t you lighten up a little and accept that it’s the 21st century now and lots of people show up for dates covered in blood?

 

The Temporary Name says:

I’m not allowed bring mom along on a date? Okay, Ms. Tolerant Liberal, tolerate my goodbye!

 

wjts says:

I’m not seeing the problem – you said you liked long walks in the woods. Now grab that shovel, because Mr. Hobo here isn’t going to bury himself.

The Temporary Name says:

Listen, in the culture that you pretended to love so much not two minutes ago, loud burps are perfectly acceptable.

wjts says:

So you’re willing to stuff your face with quinoa and tacos and all that weird South African food, but it’d be “gross” to eat the dog I ran over.

The Temporary Name says:

You had some fuzz on your blouse, I had some snot crusted in my nose. We both got rid of it right?

wjts says:

The very first question you asked me when we sat down 15 minutes ago was, “What are your hobbies?” I said, “Sexually propositioning waitresses.” So stop acting like this is some big surprise.

I Ain’t Afraid O’ No Friday Links

[ 167 ] July 15, 2016 |

 

“The Witch”

[ 55 ] July 12, 2016 |

Thank you to commenters who recommended “The Witch” to me. I watched it and it was excellent. It’s a film about a Puritan family who is banished from their village for the nebulous “sin of pride.” They move to a new location, roughly a day’s ride away, and try to begin a new life. It does not go well. ***MAJOR SPOILERS***  (The corn is bad and straightaway the family’s baby is stolen, perhaps by a witch. One by one, the children are taken from their parents, strange events foment suspicion, and family members begin to turn against each other.)

The film is spare and elegant and completely engrossing. The sets, costumes and acting are superb. You are in that Puritan frontier world. And, boy is it dark and depressing.

I think that–like “It Follows”–“The Witch” gives the audience some wiggle room to figure out what message to take from it.  Is the film about the corrupting power of religious fervor? It absolutely could be. I also think it could ultimately about the place of women in Puritan society. *** MAJOR SPOILERS*** (When the mother so readily turns against her daughter, at one point referring to her as a “proud slut,” it made me wonder if witch-hood was perhaps the only viable option for young women of the time. It made me wonder if actually being a witch was simply preferable to being suspected of being one.)

Whatever you take from the film, it is a fine, fine offering. See it immediately. (And, also, might wanna watch with CC on, because it’s the easiest way to get a good grasp on the thick accents and ye olde fashionedy language.)

You the Critic

[ 214 ] July 10, 2016 |

I enjoyed our conversation about “It Follows” so much, I wanted to continue it by asking our commentariat for more horror recommendations…but I know not everyone here enjoys horror and I don’t wanna leave you guys out. So I’d like to broaden the conversation to ask this: What are you watching these days? Any movies or television shows you’d like to recommend?

Me, I’m currently watching “Wayward Pines” and “American Gothic.”

“Wayward” has much in common with the zombie genre, in that its focus is really on consistently asking the viewer “Who’s the real monster here?” ***MAJOR SPOILERS***It’s a show that takes place 2000 years in the future, in a time when most humans have devolved into pale, creepy killing machines called “Abbies.” A group of people set up an idyllic refuge from the Abbies, but it’s idyllic only insofar as it’s beautiful look at. The show is about the constant struggle between the need for (at least some) order and safety… and liberty. And Wayward Pines is–straight up–a fascist state.

“American Gothic” is a soapy murder mystery with the best set design/wealth porn I’ve enjoyed since “Dirty Sexy Money.”

I unreservedly recommend both “Wayward” and “American Gothic.”

So, what do you recommend?

“It Follows”

[ 118 ] July 9, 2016 |

 

It Follows” is a 2015 horror film about a young woman who contracts a sexually-transmitted “follower” after sleeping with a young man. This follower takes various forms–an old woman, a naked woman, a shadow-eyed man, her own friends–but always follows, slowly and menacingly. She must pass it on (sexually), kill it, or forever elude it.

I missed the first twenty minutes of the film the first time I saw it, so I did some research on it to fill in some gaps for me. (I’ve since seen the whole movie.) I found some interesting stuff. One thing that fascinated me about the film were its sets. “It” was filmed in Detroit–decrepit neighborhoods that look like ghost towns, the crumbling inner city, and the modest suburbs that looked like they were barely clinging to respectability. One theory about the film is that it is a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic of the 80’s. Interestingly, the sets/costumes make this somewhat plausible because they seem to evoke every time period from the late 70’s right on up to the Aughts. It’s like the filmmaker was purposely trying to obscure the time period. But I don’t find the AIDS metaphor particularly intriguing. It’s the idea of creeping poverty that excites me. Detroit–crumbling from the inside out–seems to me the perfect metaphor for economic downturn, how eventually it will effect everyone. It follows. You can’t escape it. It’s the thing about “It Follows” that really stuck with me. It wasn’t just that it was enduringly creepy–it was. It was that it was astonishingly depressing. I’m not sure I would have had much hope for these kids even if they weren’t being followed by scary sex-phantoms.

It’s a credit to “It Follows” that I was thinking about it long after I finished watching it; I think it’s a sort of Rorschach Test of a movie: you can overlay any of your fears on it. Plus, it’s that horror film that actually delivers quality scares and resorts to very little gore to do so. I heartily recommend it.

Nobody Makes Moussaka Moussaka Pasta

[ 25 ] July 7, 2016 |

This is Moussaka. You won’t be making that today. Nobody makes Moussaka.

 

I had some ground lamb and eggplant in the fridge and wanted to use them both–Moussaka seemed the obvious answer. But let’s face it–Moussaka is a bit of an ordeal. Nobody has time for Moussaka–NOBODY! (I’m telling myself  to make myself feel better also trying to get “Nobody makes Moussaka” into the lexicon.) Anyhoo, I decided to make a pasta sauce that incorporates most of the elements of Moussaka. It would give me the feel and flavors of Moussaka without the hassle. It turned out better than I could have imagined.

Ingredients (are approximate in some cases because I don’t measure when I cook):

  • 1 lb. ground lamb (or beef)
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 medium potato, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 heaping half-cup of Ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. hot cooked pasta of your choice
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Hard, grated Italian cheese, for serving

Directions:

  1. In a dutch oven, brown the ground lamb in a bit of olive oil. Stir in the onions, garlic, zucchini, eggplant and potato.
  2. Sweat the vegetables for a bit to remove some of their moisture. (They won’t release as much in oven.)
  3. Add in the spices and season everything generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring up any bits of fond. Then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and beef broth.
  5. Cover and put in a 350 degree oven.
  6. Cook for roughly an hour and half, long enough for the flavors to meld and the veggies to get quite tender. If desired, take the lid off the pot for the last half hour of cooking. This REALLY thickens up the sauce, giving it more of a “Moussaka” feel to me.
  7. Remove the pot from the oven. Stir in the fresh parsley and Ricotta cheese.
  8. Serve over pasta, with a sprinkling of hard Italian cheese, if desired.

Post-4th Open Thread

[ 28 ] July 5, 2016 |

I hope you all had a safe and happy Fourth of July.


This is an open thread. Talk about whatever you like.

Trump Supporters Through a Gauzy Lens, Sort Of

[ 96 ] July 4, 2016 |

This veers too much, too often into “bothsidesdoitism” for my taste; and the prose is a little florid for me at times…plus it’s really really really long. But, still, I think it’s absolutely worth a read: The New Yorker’s George Saunders on Trump supporters.

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