Archive for September, 2010

Read this article. It’s a brilliant piece of satire that appeared in the UK’s Guardian recently. It sums up exactly how pretty much every article on some scientific finding is written up. It’s absolute genius.

And it explains part of why I’m happy to have stopped watching the news so much.

When we lived in PA, Tony and I were 24/7 news junkies – we had a standing evening date to watch Keith Olbermann (and sometimes Rachel Maddow, if we didn’t decide to jump ship to Comedy Central and watch Futurama instead). If we wanted the tv on for background noise, it was typically on the news. If we weren’t sure what to watch because nothing was on (typical, given we had 100 or so channels), then we’d turn on the news.  It turned into a lot of news.

There were some good things that came out of it: we could both name all 9 justices (how many people can still do that after 12th grade?), and between the two of us we could name at least 60 US Senators.

But the news, which was already dumbed down, got dumber. In part, I blame whichever studio exec it was who decided Twitter was fun and that the solution to falling ratings was to have the news announcers read the tweets of the unwashed, uneducated, opinionated masses. *insert several headdesks here* The thing is this: if you’re tuning into the news, chances are you want to see some actual NEWS, and maybe some commentary from an honest-to-Ceiling Cat EXPERT. What you don’t really want (or at least what I really, really didn’t want) was an ongoing relay of every tweet anyone (especially celebrities) had tweeted about whatever the hot news topic of the day happened to be. I have yet to figure out why I’m supposed to care what some random English teacher (being picked on because I’ve been one) has to say about the Obama Administration’s policy towards Georgia (the country, not the state)(though I don’t care what said teacher would care about policy toward the state, for that matter).

When they’re not reading tweets, the news channels are engaging in artificial shit-stirring of the type so brilliantly satirized by the article I linked to at the beginning of the post. Most of the time it’s in the political arena. (I mean honestly, was it *really* a big deal that Michelle Obama took a daughter to Paris over the summer? No. She went on vacation to visit friends. She took her daughter. They can afford it. They had fun. The end.) If it’s not politics, then it’s celebrities, and if it’s not celebrities, it’s the ONOES! (choose one) sugar/caffeine/exercise/red wine/excess fat/cats/lack of sleep/stress/chocolate/pencil skirts/work/unemployment/high heels/marijuana/carbs/vaccines WILL KILL YOU DED TOMORROW IF YOU DON’T WATCH THIS NEXT SEGMENT.

Frankly, people, it got old. And we moved out to Kansas, and suddenly we’re watching very little tv. I get my news from the Daily Show, which is as it should be, and from a quick flip through the New York Times website. If something looks important, I’ll read more. But my life is happier and much less stressful when I’m not paying attention to every ounce of maneuvering going on between John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi because, honestly, none of it matters. (It would matter if they ever accomplished anything, but anymore that seems too much to ask.)

Eat This.

If I have a favorite category of food, it’s “things on bread.” I can put almost anything on bread and be happy: Nutella, duck fat, cannellini spread, whatever (but, um, not at the same time). This recipe is one of my favorites, my best guess of a recipe that I modeled after something I had at a tapas restaurant once. I nommed the hell out of it last night while watching Sharktopus with Tony – good times.

The recipe is for a Spicy Tomato Goat Cheese:

You need:
2-3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
4-12 or so cloves of garlic, to whatever taste you like (I tend to go really heavy on the garlic, but I’m a nut), finely chopped
roughly 1.5-2 T tomato paste (if you don’t use tomato paste often, it’s well worth getting one of the tubes of the stuff rather than busting open a can every time you need a tablespoon – the stuff in the tube is higher quality and lasts for a year or two, so if you’re not going through much of it, it’s a big money saver to go tube)
a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
a handful of chopped fresh herbs (of the oregano/thyme/parsley-ish variety – whatever works) and or a hefty sprinkle of dried herbs
1 small log of goat cheese

1 baguette, sliced, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and toasted – or other bread of your choice (baguette is my personal love with this)

Heat up a drizzle – say 1-2 T – of olive oil in a frying pan to medium-low/medium heat, and throw in the garlic. The idea is to get the oil hot enough to cook the garlic but not so hot as to burn it. Once the garlic has been cooking for 3-4 minutes, move it to the side and toss in some red pepper flakes. You want these no matter what because they add really nice flavor, but adjust the amount to whatever heat level you like. I tend to throw in about a teaspoon here – it makes it hot, but not HOT – I’m kinda a babymouth when it comes to heat. Let the red pepper flakes cook in the oil for about 30 seconds and then mix everything around and let it go for about another minute. It will smell AWESOME.

Turn the broiler on to high (this is usually when I slam the bread in the oven to toast for a minute while I keep cooking the tomato mixture).

Then move everything off to a side again and squirt the tomato paste into an open area of the pan, mooshing it into the oil so that it begins to pick up some heat and flavor. Let it go for about 30 seconds to develop some flavor, and then stir everything back together again. If you’re using dried herbs, add then now. Then toss in the tomatoes. The tomatoes will start releasing their juices in a couple of minutes. Let them go until everything is sort of spicy-slightly-runny-tomato-garlic-awesome, and then pull it off the heat. If you’re using fresh herbs, toss them in right as the tomatoes are done.

Take the goat cheese and put it in a medium-sized ramekin or small casserole dish. Pour the tomato mixture on top of it. Put the dish under the broiler for a few minutes until the goat cheese starts to melt and the tomatoes start to caramelize a bit on top.

Be careful about the goat cheese dish, since it’s likely to be really hot. To eat, spread some of the goat cheese/tomato awesomeness onto bread. Enjoy. Nom.

High School Musical has a RiffTrax…

… which was entertaining to find out and almost as entertaining to actually watch.* It was worth watching just to see Tony collapse in on himself trying to cover his ears to get away from the singing. And the Riffers, the A++++++ team of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy, were in rare form. So I have to say that this particular RiffTrax/horror movie combination is a definite “must watch.”

What concerns me coming out of having seen this film is what’s going to happen to poor Zac Efron’s career. The thing is that while watching HSM, there were actual moments where it looked like Mr. Efron was actually ACTING – moments where things like genuine concern floated across his face, completely out of place with the inanity of both the plot and his character. While acting during a Disney film admittedly shows a marked lack of judgment on Mr. Efron’s part – because doing so can constitute nothing other than a waste of effort – it doesn’t deny the fact that it looks like the kid CAN ACTUALLY ACT. Which makes me realize that I feel sorry for him.

Why should I feel sorry for Zac Efron? The kid is so absurdly good-looking that *insert absurdly over the top metaphor of your choice here – I’m tired and not in the mood to think of one*, and yet he’s only done one film this year that got any advertising (why hello there, Charlie St. Cloud, your commercials maketh me to need the insulin shots).** Meanwhile, someone like, say, Michael Cera, who is both not good-looking and ludicrously overexposed, is in pretty much everything. Because Michael Cera is not-good-looking in a sort of quirky hipster way that means he can be taken seriously as an actor, whereas Zac Efron is so insanely good-looking that he could out-act Sir Ian McKellen and people would still assume that he was only given a role due to his looks.

I think this is roughly the type of issue that made Brad Pitt start taking awesome roles in films like Fight Club. Which means, I hope, that we can have the opportunity to watch Zac Efron do something completely outrageous here in a few years, if only to prove that he’s more than just a pretty face.

*Yes, I realize that “to actually watch” is a split infinitive. No, I don’t care that I just used a split infinitive. No, I am *not* going to revise my wording. Because, to be perfectly honest, the only reason that I’ve found for not using split infinitives in English is because it’s impossible to split infinitives in Latin – therefore, because it can’t be done in English, some doddering fop in Victorian times (or earlier) decided we shouldn’t do so in English either. Perhaps because it’s barbaric or something. Who knows. Either way, I do and shall continue to gleefully split infinitives because, well, I CAN. Suck it, Latin.
**It occurred to me during the writing of this blog post that Zac Efron would have made a way more convincing Edward Cullen than RPattz did. That, however, is an issue for someone else to unpack – I’ve spent way more time during this blog post than I’ve ever meant to spent in weighing relative celebrity guy hotness.

I’ve been trying for two nights now to write a rough draft of my entry for Steph’s blogfest. I’ve been getting nowhere thanks to the deadly combination of fussing over every word and overthinking every detail. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to manage to write anything at all, fearing that my first blogfest entry would be some sort of pomo-bullshit “this is a blogfest entry” accompanying a picture of some text or some such nonsense.

And then, as I was sitting here, beginning night three and feeling already frustrated, it occurred to me that I ought to try what I’ve told others to do, and I popped onto Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die. I told the program 800 words in 45 minutes. 42 minutes later, I have exactly 1000 words of rough draft. I had to write: when I didn’t, IT RICKROLLED ME.  Bastard.

It badly needs tightening, I haven’t figured out a good name for any of the three characters, I need to cut some dialogue and spend a few more moments narrating. But here’s the thing:  I can do all that in editing. And now I have a draft, so I actually *can* edit it.

Glee! Productivity feels lovely.

A creative writing exercise

My blog, as with all blogs, gets hit with spam comments from time to time. Wordpress has a program that will catch the spam comments so that they don’t clog everything up with links to viruses and attempts to sell everyone the latest Viagra-style product. As I get these spam comments, I’ve been deleting them.

However, I’ve realized I’m wasting an opportunity here. See, wordpress also allows the blog author to edit comments. This means I can take the idiotic spam comments and tweak improve completely rewrite them into something fun. From now on, I’ll be rewriting all comments to whatever specifications make sense to me at the time, and posting them.

O_o Opossums?


I… don’t know what do to with this.


I mean, she’s either the craziest duck that ever quacked or she is 100% absurdist genius.

The opossum does not look pleased, especially when she has it upside down on a pillow and it’s trying to get the hell back up. And then she SWEEPS ITS AURA OUT. 

This, people, is worse than the “Cat Chakra Balancing Formula” I found on some insane “natural pets” website.

I’ve now been laughing about this for twelve hours, in between groans of “OHCEILINGCATNOOOOOOO” and “they absolutely positively CANNOT BE SERIOUS, right?” and then more laughter.

Hollywood has decided, apparently, that the time is right for a film of a particularly long and dense epic poem.

I’m not honestly surprised that they’re doing a film of this poem, as it’s been getting references all over the place in books being written right now, especially in the world of YA, where it feels like I can’t open a book without a 50% likelihood of this poem being referenced, if not heavily leaned on.  I blame Philip Pullman.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, they’re making a film of PARADISE LOST.  Really.  In 3-D most likely, and which, as the second article says, “will be crafted as an action vehicle that will include aerial warfare.”  Of course it will.

Yes, Paradise Lost will be an action film.  Directed by the guy who directed The Crow.  It’s like life just handed me a freshly baked cookie.

I’m heartened by this is many ways, as the fun parts of Paradise Lost should make an effing FANTASTIC action film.  Angels throw mountains on each other in Paradise Lost.  Think about it.  How COOL would it be to watch ANGELS THROW MOUNTAINS ON EACH OTHER.  I am *all* over this, and I want popcorn, and a Guinness, and maybe some Reeces Pieces, and then HELL YES I WANT TO SEE THIS.  On an IMAX screen, if possible.  OTOH, if for some reason the director et al decide *not* to include angels lobbing mountains on each other, I’m going to feel cheated.

(As an aside, sorry for the yellies here.  I’ve been laughing about this for hours now.  It kept me up at night because I was laughing so hard.  I can’t believe I managed not to wake up Tony because my laughter was shaking the bed.)

The part that has me worried is that there’s no way in fucking hell they’ll EVER manage a plausible interpretation of the poem that manages to even glance at the depth of meaning in it, or recognize any of the major themes (much less do them any justice).  I also figure almost goes without saying that Satan will be played by Hot Guy, and that, being Hot Guy, he’ll be the hero. Big misreading of the poem, no matter how sexy Satan is in the beginning.  To put it in modern terms, Satan in Paradise Lost is the rhetorical equivalent of Glenn Beck, if Glenn Beck looked like Clive Owen rather than a pink-faced fuckwit.  Satan’s arguments, when parsed, hold exactly as much water as do Mr. Becks (i.e., none), but he’s blustery enough that he comes across as sexy as hell* anyway.  Until God turns him into a snake and Satan turns, if possible, MOAR EMO.  Really, though, if you read the poem carefully, it’s pretty clear Satan is the bad guy, no matter what William Blake et al thought.

So I’m torn.  On the one hand, this is assuredly going to be a disaster on any philosophical level, pretty much guaranteed to debase the poem from greatness to a handful of headache-inducing 3-D special effects battle scenes.  On the other, ANGELS THROWING MOUNTAINS ON EACH OTHER.

Thoughts, oh world?

*Forgive the pun here, please. It was unintentional (when I first wrote it, anyway – obviously I decided to leave it).

A blogfest!

My completely awesome friend, the lovely S.E. Sinkhorn, is hosting a blogfest on her blog in honor of its one-year anniversary.  She announced it back at the beginning of the month – here’s the link to the announcement  so that more people can join, because you all totes should! – and I’ve been brainstorming for far too long ever since to try and come up with a good story idea.  The idea is to mash up two separate genres into some sort of crazywonderful piece.  She gives an excellent description on her blog.

If all goes as planned and the characters behave themselves (not that this is often their wont), I’ll be doing a mashup of Dante’s Inferno and a high school crush.  Posting October 1st.

Happy birthday, Mario

I feel old.

When I was 7, my parents bought my brother and I our first Nintendo.  I have happy memories of many childhood hours spent playing Super Mario Brothers both alone and with my brother, delightedly squealing as we sank down tubes, fell down holes, discovered warp levels, and found out (yet again) that the Princess (then nameless) was in another castle.  It was and still is one of the greatest video games ever created.

Today I found out that Super Mario Brothers is officially 25 years old, meaning that it was already two years old by the time I was able to play it.  In video game terms, 25 years old is pretty much older than dirt (or at the very least older than Feudalism, which would probably be defined as the day the first Final Fantasy game came out – December 18th, 1987).

So, if you can find a way to do so, the best possible procrastination technique of the day would involve a good solid hour or six of playing Super Mario Bros.  If you can’t play the original, you can probably play one of the others, or at the very least a few rounds of Mario Kart.  Enjoy, and return to productivity tomorrow.  Maybe.

**** LATE (well, sort of) NIGHT EDIT:  this is a link to a video of someone beating Super Mario Bros in five minutes flat.  WIN.

Dr. Wicked’s “Write or Die”

I’m writing this on “Write or Die” by Dr. Wicked.  The goal with this thing is to have a word count goal (any goal you want to put in) and a timer.  I put 200 words in ten minutes.  Then the program does, well, we’ll find out here soon, in order to help you get going and write.  I’m playing with it to write this blog post, curious to see what it does.

When you put in your word count and time limit, it takes you to another screen.  This new screen is white with a word processing box in the middle.  You write in the box and it automatically counts the words to make sure you’re working on your goal.  The word count of your current page and the countdown timer are located at the bottom of the screen – out of sight unless you scroll down to see them.  This gives you the opportunity to watch your progress or ignore it, depending on what you find most helpful. 

The best part: if you’re not actively typing, it gets mad.

For instance, if I let it sit still long enough for me to quick check another browser tab, the background turns red.  When I start typing again, the background goes back to white.  If I ignore the red background, then it starts emitting a sound (in my case, it was a cartoonish baby crying “wahhhhh” type noise).  Merely typing a letter or hitting an arrow key is enough to make the crying stop.

Once you’ve hit your word count goal, the screen warnings stop – this is apparently when you’re allowed to rethink anything you’ve written, read it, reread it, or just keep on keeping on (with the writing, of course). 

I think this type of tool works well for a couple of reasons.  If you need some kind of pressure, however artificially induced, in order to write, this is a good way to get started.  It’s also really good for writer’s block – if you’re blocked and having a hard time getting going, the best thing to do is write.  This program will make sure you write *something*, however inane, until real thoughts get going in your head.  Writing really does beget writing.

Try the link if you’re having a hard time getting going on a project.  It could be helpful. I’ll put a link to it on the sidebar of my blog so that it’ll always be easy to find.

%d bloggers like this: