Wednesday, March 23, 2011

R.O.V.M - Barbecue Seitan with Potatoes and Experimental Salad which I get a new knife and really need to show it off...

In today's installment of Regular Ordinary Vegan Mealtime, I'll be taking you though the events of my day, through the course of a meal (with dessert, of course), and round and round the inside of my thought processes. For dinner tonight, we'll be serving delicious (though slightly chewy) barbecue seitan cutlets, rosemary roasted potatoes, and a salad of a strange mixture of broccoli and tomatoes served with a raspberry chipotle sauce (it sounded like a good idea at the time). Also, I bought myself a new chef's knife, and need to cut something with it. (Spoilers: I cut myself)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

We Are All Connected

...from a single clove of garlic to the big bang...

This whole rant starts with a single action. A clove of garlic left in my fridge for too long began to sprout roots. I thought it only fitting, since I had a pot of soil outside from a failed run at growing tomatoes, that I plant the clove to see what would happen. If my theories proved correct, I would soon beat out the consumerist engine that was supermarket garlic and would soon have the means of producing an infinite supply of my own garlic.

I was looking at my INFINITE GARLIC producing plant this morning and I realized something fascinating. While under the soil, the garlic clove that I planted contained nearly everything it needed to produce a sprout. This sprout, plus a bit of water, I imagine, is itself, made of garlic.

Better still, once its green bits peek above the soil, it will combine carbon from CO2 in the air, hydrogen from water, and energy from the sun's UV rays to produce hydrocarbons which will make up the bulk of the plant. The plant will then make more garlic, which I will eat. Upon metabolizing the garlic and breaking those hydrocarbons into simpler molecules, I will be harnessing the stored energy of the sun to power my body. In addition, those simple molecules will become bits of ME.

Even better still, we can trace the elements in the air, the water, the garlic, and myself back all the way to exploding stars, from which we can trace to coalescing hydrogen clouds in deep space, from there to elementary particles, and from there we can go all the way back to the big bang.

This is a simple example of how science is the very best tool we have for understanding our place in the greater universe. The further back and deeper into anything we go, the more it starts to sound like spiritualist, hippie nonsense, but's really not. Saying things like, "we are all star stuff" is well and good, but the clear connections are all there for us to find. While the spiritual viewpoint claims we are all connected, it skips all of the hard bits like evidence and proof, and that is why science will always win. 

Now, if we could only figure out how magnets work...

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Impressions - Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey tribute to Saint Paddy's Day...

This week, after unintentionally sleeping through most of Saint Patrick's day and missing out on all of the boozy fun I could've been having, I went out and bough myself some Irish Whiskey. I figured that Jameson had that classic, recognizable name and therefore should have, at least, a bit of quality to it.

I wasn't wrong. It's a very interesting, enjoyable drink.

Before I get into more detail, I'll tell you that this 750 ml bottle of 80 proof (40%) alcohol cost me about $26 dollars. Not bad for a mid-range whiskey, but I've looked around and I should've found it for cheaper than that. No matter!

Rapid Fire Reviews (#38-42) - Gone too long which I make my triumphant return with a lazy review post...

Well, I guess I should have told you that I was going on break. For those of you who have been missing my musings and nuggets of wisdom (nobody), I'm back with another installment of Rapid Fire Reviews. This week I take on four films to which I gave largely favorable marks, and a fifth which was an anime-styled street fighter remake. I'm looking forward to leaping from my Spring Break slovenliness with a flurry of new writing.

So, let's head down this path we call life and begin the reviews.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Minecrafty: The Great Fire (New Segment!) which I begin with a tale of tragedy...

Welcome, dear readers, to a new segment I'll be calling "Minecrafty." In it, I'll be telling tales from my corner of the Minecraft world. While I'm not the best or most creative player out there, I can still take part in the game's fantastic and organically created events. Along the way, I'll share any interesting structures that I've made or stories that I took part in. I don't think I'll ever be good enough to create anything rivaling the scale model of the Enterprise D, or the Earth, but I hope you enjoy.

Episode One: The Great Fire

This happened on the first few (in-game) days of my latest playthrough. I had punched some trees, made some tools, and had barely entered into my iron age. In the valley that spread all the way from my simple home to the sea, there were several trees which, after being cut down, still retained their leaves. While in real situations, leaves generally fall to the ground when the tree is removed, this is a common occurrence in minecraft. Gravity affects some things differently than others, and in this case, leaves float in a very unnatural way when their tree is detached. It's generally a waste of time to dispose of each leaf block individually, so most of the time, the leaves will continue to hover above the ground like green, Vogon spaceships. They mocked me with their hovering unreality, a constant reminder that I existed in an imperfect simulation.

They must be destroyed, I thought. But, I had a plan.

Having recently made a firestarter, I walked up to the floating, leafy abominations and lit them ablaze. The fire would quickly take care of the leaves, erasing them from existence. No more unsightly floating leaves in my front lawn. No sir.

The fire quickly spread, taking the leaves with it. However, it spread too quickly, and the trees in the valley were too close together for what I thought was a controlled burn. Almost immediately, another tree caught fire, followed by another, and another. I ran around frantically trying to stem the blaze by cutting down vulnerable trees, doing my best to stop the fire from spreading. But I was too late; I had flicked the first domino and the rest were bound to fall.

Before taking this screenshot, I planted the sapling to add a bit of poignancy to the image.
There was nothing that I could do. I would have fallen to my knees and shouted to the heavens (if that were programmed into the game) but instead, I stood and watched in agony as an entire forest burned down around me.

It was my fault, and for what? A few unsightly leaves, which probably would have eventually died and disappeared. Had the hubris of man destroyed another ecosystem? The screenshot to the left is only a small taste of the extent of the fire. At the peak of the blaze, there was nowhere to turn without seeing the destruction. The fire continued to burn into the night, lighting up the landscape in a bizarre, flickering, twilight. When it had finally burned itself out, all that was left of the forest were hundreds of charred and smoking stumps, looking far more unnatural than any clump of leaves.

The next morning I took a walk to survey the damage. It was heartbreaking. The forest floor was littered with items dropped by the roaming wildlife. Feathers, scraps of leather, and pork, fully cooked by the blaze, were scattered in all directions. Useful items, but also reminders that the animals had burned to death in a fire of my own making. The extent of the damage was enormous; it would take weeks for trees to grow again.

I learned a lesson from the fire, one that I won't soon forget. I destroyed my firestarter (throwing it into a pool of lava) I began to plant trees to replace those that I'd destroyed (the new forest is coming along nicely), and I've decided to pay tribute to the fallen animals by becoming vegetarian in-game (growing wheat to make bread, instead of eating the pigs for health).

And that's don't play with fire.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Institution of Marriage which I repost a valid opinion...

[posted by Reddit user isakk21]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

From the Sketchbook - Captain Cabinets

...Captain Cabinets, trapped in cabinets..

Based on a Mighty Boosh crimp. Inspired by this conversation.

Bonus: a terrible cartoon of Digby!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Short Fiction: He Stood in the Shadows which I write extemporaneously...

He stood in the shadows, behind the wall, listening to the faint conversation. They would soon finish, murmur words of satisfaction, and leave. New ones would take their place, and he'd hear the cycle start anew. He found it interesting, the way the Master conducted the room. For long stretches, hours sometimes, he would hear only silence. But sometimes--as though silently beckoned--the adjacent space would swell with activity, bringing an exciting new array of sounds. Listening to the voices individually was a skill he'd quickly learned, though the speakers' words remained foreign to him. He always became excited for these loud times. The loud times brought the smells. Pressing his nose against the drywall, pressing so hard that his face would become sore, he gathered what he could of the sensations that were, he imagined, so clear on the other side. The smells made his mouth water, his heartbeat race; they made his breaths deep and intentional. He savored these moments; there were all he had to look forward to besides sleeping, which he also enjoyed.

My Boy knows nothing outside of the shadows, the noises, the smells. Eating the morsels which appear during his sleep, relieving himself down a small grate, the excitement of the lunch and dinner rushes, this is his life. Existing in a space barely large enough to stand, let alone to lay down, sit, or move, has changed his body. He stands now, at all times, though not through the strength of muscle and bone. The confining walls have become a mold into which he has been poured; his legs, useless for anything but small movements back and forth. If he knew the truth of his situation, that his entire life will be spent in a crawlspace, he would weep. But his ignorance, his devotion, keeps him happy. If he knew that the voices on the other side were just like him, but free, what would he think? It would destroy him. Would it be cruel to release him from his prison, to show him the world which had been locked from him? Yes, of course. I made the choice for him long ago, and it cannot be changed.  My son will never--never!--be taken by the cruelness and sin of the world. I have given him a life for which so many of us yearn. His care and love will come only through me and he will know nothing of evil.

To protect him fully, I have locked him away.

[Note: Wow, what a weird story that turned out to be. Sorry if it got a bit dark, I wasn't sure where it was going until I was nearly done. Somehow, the idea of a boy trapped between walls in a crappy restaurant and what life would be like in that situation just came to me. Kind of a Plato's Cave sort of story. Anyway, I think I'll quit before it gets any creepier. Good night, all.]

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ordinary Vegan Meal Time: Drunken Riz avec Pain Brulée least, that's what the online translator called it...

I'm going to do this Ordinary Vegan Meal Time a bit differently. It's based on the impromptu preparation of dish I concocted last night after watching too much Anthony Bourdain and drinking too many beers. The post will take you through my production process, step by step. It's not going to taste good to the sober, and today I can't quite recall what it tasted like last night. Getting excited yet? Good.

In order to properly prepare this dish you're going to need a few things:


Beer - at least a six-pack, doesn't need to be fancy, a decent domestic will do
Wine - in case you run out of beer

Rice - 1 cup
TVP - Textured Vegetable Protein, it usually comes in dried flakes, 1/2 cup
Spices - whatever you happen to have on hand

Bread - one slice
Onion - about 1/2 cup
Garlic - one clove


1. Drink at least three of your beers. You're going to need a good, pre-cooking buzz for this to taste right.
2. Measure out the rice, TVP, and spices into a rice cooker or pot. I used a rice cooker, mostly for the "set it and forget it" ease of operation. I seasoned the rice and TVP with salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and a few more things...I think. Pretty much, if it's in your spice rack, it belongs in this dish. Most of the ingredients I used are incredibly bland, and require ridiculous amounts of spice to taste of anything.

[Note: Remember that you've been drinking a bit by this point. So, when adding the spices, feel free to add a bit of a flourish to your technique. Do some heel spins, yell, "BAM!" as you add the paprika, try to throw pinches of salt from across the room, etc.]

3. Turn on the cooker and drink another beer.
4. Next, we're going to start on the garnish. If you're motor skills are becoming impaired, don't worry, only basic knife work is required from this point on. Dice the onion, slice up the garlic, and throw both into a hot pan with a bit of olive oil or butter.
5. Once the onion and garlic are cooking through and becoming fragrant, tear a piece of bread into tiny pieces and throw them into the pan. Add more butter and continue to cook on high heat. Now don't worry, this is going to be the crunchy counterpoint to our soft and fluffy rice/TVP mixture, so feel free to burn the shit out of it. I certainly did.
6. At this point, the rice should be about done, the fake pangrattato is about to catch on fire, and you should be pouring another beer. Preferably do this last one into a nice pint glass (you're about to sit down to a fine dinner, why not treat yourself with glassware?).

[Note: You'll notice that there are no accompanying photos for this blog entry. While I was trying to fix my camera's tricky battery configuration, my bread was burning behind me. The result was a burnt mess, a broken camera, and a lackluster blog post.]

7. You're almost done. Serve the rice mixture in a bowl with the garnish sprinkled on top. I served mine with some Sriracha and it was fantastic...I think.

In Conclusion

So that's it. I strongly suggest that you do not try this at home. If you can, imagine for a moment the situation in which I found myself last night: delusions of grandeur from hours of watching cooking shows, belly full of barely alcoholic grain-water, and a soul filled to the brim with sadness. I sat, hunched over my coffee table, drinking my last beer in a vain attempt to wash down the crunchy nonsense detailed above. I really don't expect any of you to go through with this recipe. That's okay. I meant to write this out as a penance, or maybe a cautionary tale, warning all of you to never put yourself in the sad position I did.

bon appétit

Monday, February 28, 2011

Poetry Time: Tonight, We Ride

...guess what? Apparently I lied about the blog hiatus...

If you'll notice in the previous post, the only reason that I was going to take time from the blog was that I needed to get work done. Now, I'm just procrastinating harder than ever, I've got a 1,200 word essay due in less than twelve hours, and I'm on twitter, writing stupid poetry.

Well, that's not entirely true. I wrote a few tweets out of boredom that I edited into poetry, but that's a distinction that I'm not certified to make. In fact, I probably shouldn't even be calling my drivel "poetry". Oh well, here goes.

Tonight, We Ride

My good-hearted men,
we flee at dusk!
Our places be empty,
'fore the sun shows us gone.

Our horses are driven,
hooves pounding the plains.
The dry ground beneath,
shows no sign of our passage.

The mountains, they beckon,
nearer, nearer.
The forest is calming,
Its shade can restore.

We sleep in the trees
throughout the midday,
not listing our troubles.
For tonight, we ride.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Short Break, Back Tuesday which I preemptively distance myself from the blog...

I'm going to be gone for a few days, potentially until tuesday. I've got several essays due on Monday; and if I've learned anything from my Red Sonja review, it's that you can't write essays when you're spending several hours researching an obscure film.

So I'm going cold turkey from the blog for a bit, hopefully I'll get some real work done, and I'll be back tuesday with some kind of written thing.

Thanks for reading, see you soon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Rapid Fire Reviews (#33-37) which all five of these movies were new to me...

I've decided to tack on a new stipulation for my version of GentlemanBeggar's 200 movies in a year challenge. Since the rate of movies is no problem (I'm ahead of the curve despite being lazy in my watching), I've decided to require that at least half of these movies be those that I've never seen. Now, this may seem like an easy task, but I'm like a 6 year old when it comes to film; I have a small set of movies that I love to watch over and over, sometimes until the DVD catches fire (I've worn out a copy of Dune that way). If you're interested, the current ratio is 20 new out of 37 total, or 54% for those maths-minded.

Okay, let's get started.

#33. Contact
            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 1997
            MPAA Rating: PG
            Running Time: 150 min
            My Rating: 3.5/5
            Comments: Based on Carl Sagan’s novel, Contact follows a radio astronomer (Jody Foster) as she intercepts an alien broadcast. It’s interesting to see the difference in responses between the religious right, the government agencies, and the scientists as they all attempt to make sense of the broadcast. The film’s climax is really imaginative and visually beautiful. The slow buildup and deliberate, though often meandering, plot makes for a interesting watch, but at 150 minutes, it’s a bit too long. If you enjoy seeing science portrayed in a generally honest and realistic way, it’s worth the watch.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 2009
            MPAA Rating: NR
            Running Time: 83 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: This strange mix of documentary filmmaking and improv comedy gives information and insight on the long running double act of TJ Jagodowksi and David Pasquesi. The documentary portion of the film shows what goes on inside the minds of these two performers, and for the last half of the film, we get to see them in action. It’s a funny and insightful look at an often overlooked type of live comedy.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Queue
            Released: 1985
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            Running Time: 89 min
            My Rating: 2/5
            Comments: Most of my thoughts on the movie have been covered by my review here. I can say that this film is fairly typical, given the genre, but seriously lacking in entertainment value. There are many scenes in which you will laugh at the lack of acting talent, low budget, and boring fights, but that’s usually not what you want in a movie. In the end, the movie doesn’t have much to redeem it.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 2005
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            Running Time: 131
            My Rating: 1/5
            Comments: This obnoxiously pretentious documentary on the current state of winemaking has aspirations of artfulness, but the execution of an ADD afflicted 12 year old. The constant shaky, poor quality,  and unfocused cinematography too often takes the focus off of the individual being interviewed and onto minutia in the periphery, I guess to try an add a sense of atmosphere. The sound is poorly recorded and the musical choices are odd at best. Most importantly, the point of the documentary was muddled by meandering interviews, poorly made points, and the shaky visuals and sound. I love wine, but hated this film.

#37. Final
            Source: Netflix Instant - Random
            Released: 2001
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 111 min
            My Rating: 4.5/5
            Comments: I really enjoyed this film. Dennis Leary—well, his character, Bill—wakes up in a mental hospital with a tenuous grasp on his memories and reality. His confused journey, told mostly in flashbacks and dialogues with his doctor, tell a very complex and non-linear story in an interesting way. Critics will claim that this movie is too slowly paced, but I happen to love them that way. It tells as much of the story through silence and visual cues as it does in dialogue. The film was shot simply, sometimes producing grainy shots, but I’m able to overlook the blemishes in this case. It’s a great story with a lot of hidden meanings and content below its surface. It’s definitely worth watching. (Also, there’s an unexpected cameo from comedian Jim Gaffigan, surprisingly playing a straight, non-comedic role)