Sunday, January 30, 2011

Regular Ordinary Vegan Mealtime! which I create some swedish cuisine...

Hold on. Before you go any further, watch this video.

Needless to say, I too was impressed. I enjoyed the spectacle so much that I decided to craft a vegan version of a meal which is originally anything but. Here's how it goes:

Regular Ordinary Ingredients

Unsweetened Rice Milk
Parkay Squeezy Butter
Salt (ordinary)
Nutmeg (regular)
Nutritional Yeast (optional)
2/3 lbs. Macaroni
Vegan Sliced Deli "Ham"

[A note on measurements: in keeping with the video, I won't be using exact, or even approximate, measurements. This dish is best when eyeballed, anyway.]

Pour the rice milk into your pasta pot, add to this a bunch of squeezy butter, and generous pinches of nutmeg and salt, and bring the mixture to a low boil. Add the macaroni, and prepare to prepare the "sidepork."

Rub down a baking sheet with more squeezy butter and salt and lay down slices of the deli ham in a single layer. Wait until the macaroni is almost done to throw this in the oven; if it's kept in too long, the ham bits will dry out and harden.

Speaking of which, the mac is probably still boiling at this point. Let the batch simmer down, there's no draining here, we're cooking it directly in the eventual sauce. Nutritional yeast, at this point, can add some great umami to the dish, but if you don't have any, it can do without.

Cook the macaroni down until it's thick enough for your liking and serve it with the crispy ham bits on top. Done.

Bonus! A blurry photo of the finished product.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Blog Post-crastination which I forgo the completion of an essay...

I've got an essay due tomorrow, but that doesn't matter now. I've done a comic!

Inspired by this Neil DeGrasse Tyson video, which I watched tonight (instead of working). Hope you enjoy! Procrastinate Now!

Maybe someday I'll tell the story of the night I met Dr. DeGrasse Tyson (I'm a Physics student in addition to superstar blog sensation, after all) but I'll save it for another time.

Monday, January 24, 2011

From the Sketchbook

...a tale of Dungeons, Dragons, and Lizardmen...

It may surprise you to learn (because I'm such a cool guy) that I'm also an experienced player of Dungeons and Dragons--a Dungeon Master, no less. From my apartment, I run a weekly game for several of my friends in which we battle monsters, save damsels, and make dick jokes about every monster we encounter. You see, that's the magic (no pun) of a completely open-ended game like D&D. In what other fantasy game could we board a boat called the S.S. Fellow Ship and mingle with its all-gay muscle-bound crew, take the ship to Pirate Island, brave the dreaded Twisty Caverns, and castrate the defeated lizardmen inside (the player's idea, not mine) to sell their prized genitalia on the black market?

But I'm not here to talk at length about the game, since you're probably not interested anyway. It is the lizardmen that have brought me here, but for a different reason. I have a sketch.

And while this may look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon (because it is), it is, in fact, a lizardman from my game.

Rather than play using the miniature figures which were so pushed by the Wizards of the Coast marketing department, I've devised my own system of play, using one inch square tokens, each adorned with a lovely portrait such as this. If anyone is interested in the system I use, I could post some more details about it (I think it's quite clever), but if not, I'll continue to occasionally post pictures of the minis I'm proud of.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rapid Fire Reviews (#17-22) which I only watched one film from the last twenty years...

Not a whole lot to say about this round of movies. I was afraid of falling behind on my goal, but an all-day Star Wars marathon fixed that for me.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Queue
            Released: 1956
            MPAA Rating: NR
            Running Time: 85 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: A very tight noir crime drama directed and written by Stanley Kubrick. The film centers around the complex heist of a horse racing track. Although it's one of his earlier, less well-known works, his influence is definitely there. The shots are cleverly composed and the dialogue is full of that great 50s witticism that’s sometimes cheesy (definitely by today’s standards) but always clever. If you’re in the mood for some noir, check it out.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Queue
            Released: 2010
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 138 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: A really great psychological thriller revolving around a mystery on Shutter Island's high security mental facility. The plot is credible throughout, even though the reality and unreality of the situations are always in question. The mystery is sustained by fact that the supporting cast consists of very capable character actors, most of whom specialize in playing villains. Also note: Leo DiCaprio’s dreams sequences in this film are as good (if not better) than his in Inception.

            Source: DVD - Owned
            Released: 1977
            MPAA Rating: PG
            Running Time: 121 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: You all know about Star Wars, so I won’t bother summing it up. It’s a real testament to film storytelling, and one of the most effective films in creating visual awareness and believability in a film. The only reason why I’m giving this a 4 instead of a 5 is because I’m watching the remastered DVD cut of the film, which incorporates so many useless cgi-laden scenes, purely for novelty effect. And for a movie so proud of its new cgi, the work done looks incredibly dated by todays standards; they should have stuck with the great model work and practical sets which made the original a classic.

            Source: DVD - Owned
            Released: 1980
            MPAA Rating: PG
            Running Time: 124 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: Hands down the best of the Star Wars. The cast does a great job of conveying the gravitas of the, often bleak, situations given to them in the film. The introduction of new concepts, characters, and locations keeps the film fresh (and who can say no to having Billy Dee Williams in their movie?). The remastered elements are used sparingly (as opposed to those in A New Hope), and to good effect this time, making up for bad effects that were products of their time, and the films original budget. Fantastic film with real, heartfelt emotions. 

            Source: DVD - Owned
            Released: 1983
            MPAA Rating: PG
            Running Time: 134 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: The climactic ending to the Star Wars series. Even though this film has the most visual spectacle of the three original films, I feel that it fell short on many key aspects. I will preface my complaints by stating that, as always, the ensemble cast is brilliant together, the visual effects are effective and groundbreaking for their time, and that the film, as a whole, is an exciting one. However—and I may be alone in this—but having another Death Star as the ultimate baddie in the film seems a bit of a retread. They could have pulled off the same emotional arc with a completely new threat, rather than relying on a call-back to the first film. And the Ewoks…don’t get me started on those. They might have been acceptable in the first act of a movie, being more of a lighthearted addition, but throwing them in a tense battle, and killing them for dramatic effect…it could have been done better. Great film, but not perfect.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 1984
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            Running Time: 73 min
            My Rating: 2/5
            Comments: This film, which focuses on a computer whiz who gets trapped in a game of death with an evil wizard (who might be the devil), is a jumbled mess. The plot consists of a series of barely related set pieces (each of which had different writers and directors) which pits our hero against our stock villain (played by Bull from Night Court!). Computers vs. Magic could maybe be an interesting concept, but just using your computer as a deus ex machina laser gun in every situation doesn’t count.  Also note: this is the source of Adam Savage’s famous, “I reject your reality, and substitute my own,” quote.

[Check out The Spoony One's very funny review of Dungeonmaster here.] 
[And, as always, thanks to GentlemanBeggar for the concept.]

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Going to the Gym!

...a tale of woe and disillusionment...

I've been going to the gym lately. No, this isn't a New Year's resolution kind of thing...I started going in December, thank you. And even though it's been great for keeping me fit, keeping me trim, I still really hate it. 

The thing about the gym that's the hardest to shake is the feeling that everyone else is somehow, better at going to the gym than you are. Everyone seems to be in their element, the machines become an extension of their taut, rippling, youthful bodies. I haven't yet been able to reproduce it. Hell, I haven't even been able to properly fake it. 
Everyone else. Well, the guys, at least.
But that's the thing I'm going to get off my chest with this post.

Myself. Based on true events.

It really is a strange and novel thing, being simultaneously worried that I may be sweating too much or, if I'm not pouring sweat, that I'm somehow not working hard enough to justify my position at whichever workout/torture machine that's causing me pain. But I really think that I'll be okay.

Without getting too far into a self-esteem boosting screed about just being myself, or giving my all, I'm just going to suggest (to myself) that I keep going, if only for the hell of it. I think it's fun, and maybe, if I participate enough, I'll become one of those guys who seem at home in the gym.

Only then may the circle be complete, and I'll be able to laugh at those who will resemble my current uneasiness. Yeah. That'll be the day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

YouTube Recommendation - ralfystuff

...for all of you malt-meisters...

After my birthday extravaganza, in which I bought myself a bottle of scotch to celebrate, I've been checking out a new YouTube channel that I really enjoy. The channel is ralfystuff, and it's a great place to check out various whisk(e)y and scotch reviews.

This man can tell you everything you need to know about whisky (with a delightful scottish accent).

Now, I know what you're thinking. But Beatnik, I don't drink whiskey, why should I start now? Well, you might change your mind after watching this guy's videos. Not only is he informative about his drink of choice, but he's got a real energy that carries through into his reviews, and with 264 uploaded videos, he's got plenty of content to watch.

Now, if you're interested in a particular brand of whiskey or scotch, you can search for those by name. Otherwise, he's got several educational videos which cover the finer points of the beverage. I'd suggest you start out with these: Whisky Glasses, Nosing Whisky, and Tasting Whisky.

Or, if you'd like to know more about my favorite scotch (not a big stretch, it was my first and only bottle, so far), check out his review of Glenmorangie Original.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

News: My "New" Computer which I explain my absence...

First of all, I'd like to say thanks to all of you who visited from my twitter feed, especially to see my no-good Dune comic. Your support is really appreciated. Now that you're here, take a look around, stay a while.

In other news, my computer, my precious laptop, is no more.

It sounds dramatic, but I mean it in a sort of "Sure, Darth Vader killed Anakin Skywalker, but only in a vague metaphorical sense," kind of way. By that, I mean that the identity of my laptop has been destroyed, replaced by a shiny new OS and a clean hard drive. My old system was infested with more viruses than a.) an unprotected hooker, b.) a toxicology lab, or c.) a virus factory in Virus Town, you pick.

But now I'm back and faster than ever, but because of my computer woes, I haven't written anything or produced any art in several days. I haven't even been watching movies like I should.

In the meantime, here's another crappy comic about the hassles of a new computer. Enjoy, and see you soon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Because Muad'Dib is Too Hard to Remember me, as I reference Dune...

Too bad, Jamis was Sietch Tabr's chief Bi-lunar Specialist.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rapid Fire Review (#11-16) which tears were shed, and a birthday was had...

That's right, last tuesday, the 11th, was my 24th birthday, which ushers me into my...ugh...


So, I decided--fuck it--I was going to spend the day doing exactly what I wanted. All day. 

Instead of going to an amusement park, spending the day with loved ones, or having a nice dinner, I fulfilled my dream of sitting alone with a bottle of Scotch and watching my favorite movies. I would have nothing less for my birthday marathon. So, let's get started. I've even included an extra review, #16, for the happy occasion.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 2005
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 134 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: This film tells the story of two men who have the misfortune of falling in love. These shepherds turned lovers are trapped in a place and time that is hostile and fearful of homosexual relationships. The two leads (Ledger and Gyllenhaal) express the anguish of loving someone more than anything else, but being completely unable (or unwilling) to express that love in any kind of outward way. It really is a beautiful movie, told in very efficient visual shorthand that keeps the audience perfectly aware of the setting in a movie that spans thousands of miles and tens of years.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 2000
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            Running Time: 90 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: Another great Christopher Guest mockumentary. Love them or hate them, underneath, these movies really are masterful (and silly) character studies. Best in Show is quite a bit slower than other examples of the genre (Spinal Tap, Mighty Wind, et al.) but it's still a great flick. Oh, and filmmakers be warned: if you put Fred Willard in your movie, he will steal the show. Every time.

#13. Die Hard
            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 1988
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 131 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: I know what you're thinking. "Oh, Die Hard," you say, "It's just another action movie with a silly, manly-sounding title." You're wrong. Yes, it is an action movie, and it does have a very manly-sounding title, but it's so much more than that. The story is tight and the telling is extremely efficient, the film is shot very well, considering what could have been a very cramped setting, and the characters are phenomenally well written and acted. I really can't say enough good things about this movie, it's a testament to really solid filmmaking. Oh, and Alan Rickman, a british actor playing a german terrorist? Genius. Scene-stealing. Amazing.

            Source: DVD - Owned
            Released: 1996
            MPAA Rating: PG
            Running Time: 94 min           
            My Rating: 4.5/5
            Comments: I don't care what anybody says—I love this movie. It's phenomenally silly, yet cleverly written enough to pull it off. The actors and direction really sell the absurdity here, and it serves the movie well. The movie is based on a series of children's books, but the movie works for all audiences, especially fans of absurdist comedy.

#15. Rent
            Source : DVD - Owned
            Released: 2005
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            Running Time: 135 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: One of the most emotionally moving and engaging musicals, adapted into an engaging and emotionally moving film. This was a lossless transfer to film, especially with most of the original broadway cast reprising their roles. There's a good mix here between the musical numbers and conventional dialogue. The two new actresses, Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms, are welcome (and, in my opinion, superior to the original) additions to the cast. One of my all-time favorite films; it makes me cry, several times throughout the film, every time. Thank you, Jonathan Larson. 

#16. Dune
            Source: DVD - Owned
            Released: 1984
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            Running Time: 137 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: This is my favorite movie of all time. Hands down. Now, that's not to say that I think this is the best movie of all time. It has its flaws: too exposition heavy (especially for a lynch film), the wierding modules (uggh.), and the film didn't follow the book in many important ways. However, what the movie gets right, it gets right perfectly. The casting is spot-on, the sets and costumes are intricately designed, practical, and expansive, and David Lynch's directing puts this film on the top of my list. I watch this movie at least once a month, often more, and I think that you should too.

[As always, thanks to GentlemanBeggar]

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starbuck Mountain which I deal with my caffeine addiction...

Yes, I did just watch Brokeback Mountain and drink Starbucks.

The best way to view this image is: Stare longingly at it. Once you've got that single tear built up, turn away sharply--you can't let it know how you truly feel. Look softly into the middle distance, let that tear fall, and play this. You're welcome.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From the Sketchbook which I post some pictures...

Just when you thought this blog wasn't going to be all about cats, I've included two more drawings of of Jesus.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rapid Fire Reviews (#6-10) which I continue the segment...

Welcome back to the second installment of my Rapid Fire Reviews. This time I've got a strange mix of movies to review, from disastrously bad horror to disastrously bad mockumentary.

You'll also notice that I've added more specificity to my "Source" category. Since the vast majority of the films are going to be from Netflix Instant, I'm going to elaborate and tell you how the movies were chosen. Some, like #6 below were chosen at random (go to a category, choose a film by die roll or random number generator), others will just be chosen on a whim (I'm whimsical like that), and others will have been placed on my instant queue.

Here we go.

            Source: Netflix Instant – Randomly Chosen
            Released: 2007
            MPAA Rating: NR
            Running Time: 105
            My Rating: 0.5/5
            Comments: This movie is so poorly made…I mean, it's on par with an amateur high school level production. It's trying very hard to be something like Paranormal Activity, but with wooden actors and a bland script, it falls flat on every conceivable level.

            Source: Nextflix Instant – Queue
            Released: 2007
            MPAA Rating: NR
            Running Time: 87 min
            My Rating: 3/5
            Comments: A movie with a fascinating premise, but only decent execution. The filmmakers did their best to liven up the plot, which basically took place in a single room, with subtle changes in setting, but the film still feels a bit confined. It doesn't help that the acting is, at times, either forced or stiff. The premise alone saves this film from what would have been a poor rating.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 2010
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 107 min
            My Rating: 1/5
            Comments: This story might have been compelling if it were told through different means. This Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary was, at no point, believable or worth becoming emotionally invested in. There is credence to be given to a Riches-to-Rags story such as this, but in the end, nothing was gambled, nothing was lost.

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 1974
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 93 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: This was definitely a childhood favorite. Though, when I was growing up, I apparently only caught the highly censored TV edit of the film. But now, adult James is seeing the Adult version of the film (and I'm catching a lot more of the in-jokes this time). It's a classic, and one of the best of Mel Brook's works. 

            Source: Netflix Instant - Whim
            Released: 1982
            MPAA Rating: PG
            Running Time: 114 min
            My Rating: 4/5
            Comments: Anything that Stephen Spielberg touches is GOLD. By all accounts, I shouldn't like this film. I'm not particularly into horror (tell that to my viewing history, I know), the effects are dated, they use real cadavers in the filming (!), but this movie somehow transcends those reasons to become a really entertaining flick. The actors sell the scenes well, and it's shot beautifully.

[As always, credit goes to GentlemanBeggar for inspiring the segment.]

Friday, January 7, 2011

The "I Write Like:" Test which I subject my writing to a very unscientific algorithm for no better reason than to stroke my ego...

So, I know that you all have probably heard about I Write Like, which takes a sample of your writing and, through some sort of witchcraft, outputs a writer with a similar writing style. For example, say you're a terrible writer, it'll probably spit out something like Stephanie Meyer. You get the idea.

So, for the sake of an easy blog post, I'm going to put a few of my posts into the machine and tell you who I write like, good or bad.

For my post, Bored in the Lab, I wrote like: ARTHUR C. (motherfucking) CLARKE 

Getting my favorite author on the first try certainly isn't bad. Though it might mean that my work is derivative of his...let's keep going.

For my story, The Missing, I wrote like: Neil Gaiman.

Not too shabby, though I do expect that the algorithm wouldn't tell me if my writing were laughably terrible (which I sometimes suspect it is).

Remember my Corny Star Wars Fanfic? That was written like: Dan Brown.

Dammit. Oh well, since I was deliberately writing that one poorly...nope, no excuses. My bad.

Okay, one more. This one I consider to be the epitome of my writing--this is my masterpiece. My favorite piece of my own writing is, unquestionably, The Gospel According to Thom.

Part 1: Cory Doctorow (Blogger and Scifi writer. Sorry Cory, had to look you up. I'm ashamed.)
Part 2: Dan Brown (again? Shit. Oh well, he gets published, I don't.)
Part 3: Kurt Vonnegut (Well, good.)

So, that's the end of the experiment. I'm not sure that we learned anything, but we had some fun doing it, right? I'm a little bit worried that in one, continuous story I wrote like three very distinct authors. It's either my fault for being inconsistent, or the site's fault for being unscientific. I'll blame the site.


Oh and just in case you were wondering, I put the entirety of this post into the analyzer and got Cory Doctorow as the result.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Film Review - Laserblast (1978)

...when a movie is so good that it defines a genre...

What genre you ask? Well, it's got elements of Sci-Fi, some teen movie, and some stick-it-to-the-man moments, but this film is undeniably


Yeah, the word really doesn't look as good written out like that. You know what I mean. This film loves the seventies, and all of those tropes that make films from that era distinctive. There are nonsensical sci-fi plot lines, bad special effects and makeup, hell, the movie takes a break in the middle for a fucking pool party. On top of that, the movie is so excited to exist in the seventies that our protagonist, for nearly two-thirds of the movie, doesn't bother wearing a shirt. Oh, and he drives a sweet van, and the inept police of the small town are potheads, oh, and the love scene in the film is scored by a sexy jazz flute. I've made my point.

The Premise

Our protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.
This film is your average, downtrodden boy finds a lasergun in the desert kind of story. Apparently some aliens (who look like the children of ET and a dinosaur) leave a wrist-mounted lasergun behind for our shirtless protagonist to find. The lasergun, along with a magical amulet that allows him to control the gun, somehow take control of his mind? So, when he's asleep the gun turns him into a zombie/mutant thing that seeks revenge on his enemies? Wait, now the aliens are chasing him, trying to get the gun back?

You'll notice that I'm using a lot of question marks there. I'm as confused as you are, dear readers. The movie doesn't make much sense. But hey, who cares about that? We've got a POOL PARTY!!!!!! 

But seriously, that's about it. I watched the whole thing, I took notes, and I still don't understand the story.

The Review

Yeah, it's something like this.
I'm not going to lie to you and say that the film is good. It's not. However, it is a mindless romp through our most cherished decade, and hey, there are lasers. The most noteworthy aspect of the film, besides appearing in an episode of MST3K, is the aliens' animation, which is smooth and well done (even if the aliens themselves look like crap). So, if Seventiesploitation doesn't sounds like your cup of tea, it might be worth checking out the riffed version, but otherwise, I think you're safe in skipping this one.     

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rapid Fire Reviews (#1-5) which I begin a new segment...

I watch a lot of films. Rather than try to review them all in a conventional sense, I've decided to try something a bit more concise. So, I'm beginning a segment in which I will watch and review at least 200 films this year, and bring them to you in groups of five.

Credit where credit is due: I got this idea from a fine blog called GentlemanBeggar, in which he did the same.

So, I'll be making a lot of these kinds of posts throughout the year. If you have any movie suggestions for me, or if you disagree with any of my reviews, leave a comment. Here we go.

#1. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
            Source: Netflix Instant
            Released: 2010
            Running Time: 78 min
            MPAA Rating: PG-13
            My Rating: 3.5/5
            Comments: Decent superhero crossover. There was an overuse of shaky-cam effects in the fight scenes which was distracting and removed me from the action. Listen for Summer Glau, voicing Supergirl.

#2. Brief Interviews With Hideous Men
            Source: Netflix Instant
            Released: 2009
            Running Time: 80 min
            Rating: NR
            My Rating: 4.5/5
            Comments: A series of monologues turned into a carefully disjointed film that breaks conventional narrative structure in a novel way. The 'logues were well acted and the cinematography added a great deal of depth to the film. Well done to John Krasinski in his directorial debut.

#3. Paranormal Activity           
            Source: Nexflix Instant
            Released: 2007
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 86 min.
            My Rating: 4.5/5
            Comments: Very effective and efficient thriller. The scares were built up so slowly and believably that I was completely hooked. In my mind, it redeems the generally awful "found footage" genre. 

#4. The Asylum's Sherlock Holmes
            Source: Nextflix Instant
            Released: 2009
            MPAA Rating: NR
            Running Time: 89 min
            My Rating: 4.0/5
            Comments: For a movie with a "straight to DVD" budget and delivery, it was strangely entertaining. The plot wasn't nearly as ridiculous as the DVD cover would lead you to believe (London being attacked by dinosaurs and sea monsters), but here, that's a very good thing. The movie was a steam punk inspired take on the Sherlock Holmes story. Very interesting, though I think they cast Holmes too young.

#5. Ip Man
            Source: Netflix Instant
            Released: 2008
            MPAA Rating: R
            Running Time: 106 min
            My Rating: 5/5
            Comments: This film has instantly become my favorite martial arts film of all time. It's beautifully shot, the story is fantastic and moving (and based on the real Master Ip), and Donnie Yen is amazing, in and out of the fight scenes. I can't recommend this film enough. Go watch it.

So, that's it for the first round of reviews. I hope you like them (because they're going to keep coming, regardless *evil laugh*). Again, all credit goes to GentlemanBeggar, who hopefully won't mind me ripping him off.

[Poster images courtesy of]

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Continuing Adventures of Digby!

...because everyone loves cat-toons...get it?

 Just a few more comics to illustrate some of Digby's most perplexing habits. 

She does this to frighten us; I'm sure of it.
Kitties can be Time Lords, too.