Friday, January 28, 2005

SUPERBOWL PREP STUFF: The Superbowl is--at this point--an actual American holiday. You have to do something on it, get together with friends and family, ask people, "So what're you doing for the Superbowl?" It's also a feast day. It's not centered around a single meal like Thanksgiving; rather, the idea is to provide enough types of food to last through the first half, and have a second wave prepared that you can fix at halftime. In this spirit I've been trawling the Internet--I don't want to pick up carryout this year or even do frozen jalapeno poppers or mozarella sticks or that sort of thing. I have Jim Henley's dry wing recipe--which sounds incredible--and I wish to contribute my family's own meatball recipe. The wings would be the kind of thing you would have at the beginning of the game; you'd keep the meatballs stewing in the crockpot waiting for people to pick through them at halftime. That's the plan.

So here it is, from a letter written to my parents in my greatgrandmother's own hand:

Grandma's Meatballs

1 pound ground pork (some people use half pork, half beef)
3 slices white bread (dry or stale)
2 eggs
pinch of salt
dash of pepper
"a small juice of garlic [cut] very fine;" garlic powder is mentioned as an acceptable substitute
You can stick in some hot pepper seeds if you like.

Mix in bowl with hands. Shape them into balls (she thought there was enough for twelve) and fry in oil. When they're done you can simmer them in your sauce for about an hour.

There you go. They're really good.

Other stuff I've been digging up:
Blue cheese & almond stuffed olives, part of Emeril Lagasse's dirty martini recipe.
Pepperoni pizza bread from the Hormel corporate kitchen. I'll probably use Bridgford pepperoni since it's much tastier.
Beef and potato burritos that I'm sure will not be of Taco Bell quality. I'm serious--those things are really good.
Tasty cheddarwurst and beans. I just wanted something to do with cheddarwurst, the finest of the packaged pre-cooked sausages.
This tricked-out recipe for miniature hamburgers, that seems too weird not to try.
Cap'n Crunch chicken.
Pork roll pigs in blankets (about half way down the page.)
Pepperoncinis stuffed with cream cheese and bacon or cream cheese and salmon.
Bacon wrapped scallops, which are easy and delicious.
The California olive industry's corporate kitchen.
Two words: Frito pie.

Basically I put every snack food I like through Google with the word "recipe" after it. Try it yourself. And enjoy the football contest.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

GIANT ROBO VOL. 1 ON DVD: This just arrived off my Netflix queue--some thoughtful person remembered to stick in the original, cartoony English dub as a voice track, along with a new somewhat more sterile English dub, plus Japanese commentary with English subtitles for the Japanese commentary. This is what I wanted the Akira rerelease to be. Thank you, Media Blasters.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

IDEA FOR A CHEAP INDY TAG TEAM GIMMICK: Rush Painkiller and Falafel O'Reilly. They'll be this real blowhard right-wing tag team that'll get on the mike and go on and on about their moral superiority and how in touch they are with the common man. They'll work heel in the blue states and face in the red states. Well, pro wrestling is probably a red state artform, so maybe they'll always work quasi-face. But--if they do draw a blue state audience--that audience will understand the cheap insults in their names, whereas the red state audiences will forgive them their transgressions.....or be insulted at the very idea of wrestlers named "Rush Painkiller" and "Falafel O'Reilly" and walk out in a huff. Red or blue, though, they'll agitate the rubes, and keep the gate receipts pouring in, which is always the important thing in pro wrestling.

You could do a left-wing version but it wouldn't be as funny. Actually, I think I just wanted to write "Falafel O'Reilly," amazed as I am that some people still take him seriously. Carry on then.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

FAKE MORAL OUTRAGE IN SPORTS WATCH: Didja catch the Packers-Vikings game? Did you notice when Randy Moss, after he scored, made a "mooning" action towards the crowd but did not actually lower his pants? Chris Collinsworth, clearly amused, said, "He's slipping the the moon!" or something like it. Joe Buck--clearly terrified of Michael Powell--than broke in with oh-that's-so-terrible and I'm-sorry-you-had-to-see-that and was just shocked, shocked at Moss' MIMICKING MOONING THE CROWD AT LAMBEAU.

At first I couldn't figure out why Buck got so hopped up at that moment--I can't recall him playing a moral arbiter on teevee, merely a somewhat smug play-by-play man. But I think it must be above, he was thinking Big Picture for Fox and tried to head off three hundred letters from L. Brent Bozell at the pass, all full of outrage that somebody had dared to pantomime buttock-exposure during the family-friendly confines of an NFL game. Because I can't believe he would actually care to the degree that he did. And then he never mentioned it again, obviously having to fight through his teeth-clenching outrage for the rest of the game.

If you were at all shocked or outraged by what Moss did, and you weren't for the Packers, you're clearly insane.

By the way, Favre had what I am thinking was his final playoff meltdown today. I didn't watch the whole game, but heard there was quite of bit of Favre-fellating on it. This has never really bothered me, as I like Favre, but agree he gets away with a lot of dumb decisions based on his past acheivements. Now the incessant Peyton praise--which always sounds like teachers praising that one kid who sucked up to them and got wonderful grades while his peers knew he was an ass--that I can't stand.

Friday, January 07, 2005

IDEA FOR SOME KIND OF WEIRD ART PORNO: It would involve an enchanted penis. Not in a good way either--more of a cursed penis. The lead character would find himself handling his package at odd moments and then this weird throbbing techno music would gradually start playing and the landscape would suddenly become pornographic. His cursed penis, it seemed, was a kind of gate between some fantastic reality shadowing our own, where every whim was given expression. Gradually it began to consume him and threaten the world around him.

See, with good casting, the sex parts would take care of themselves, but the weirdness and pathetic attempt at a plot would make it art-porno--which is not quite art, of course, but something that looks like porn but is not chiefly intended for use as a self-gratification tool. Wait--that is art. Anyway, I'm sure this can be done relatively cheaply, and will launch my career as black-sunglasses-wearing porn-punk auteur. It'll be just to get 'em talking--then I'll move on to the five-part Cinemascope mature audiences epics for Vivid, which will either be my sellout phase or my maturity as an artist, where I will bring to life the Great American Porno I've had playing in my head for years. Then would be my decadent phase and you'd--you'd want to avert your eyes from THAT.
ON THE PREPONDERANCE OF DUMPY GUYS WITH HOT WIVES: I am glad this guy at Slate picked up on something I've noticed: there are a lot of fat guys married to petite, attractive women in sitcomland (such as it is in the year 2005.) Read it, fat boy:

In the current sitcom lineup, by contrast, several shows pair extremely attractive women, who are often clad in plunging tops and tight jeans suitable for a Maxim photo spread, with TV husbands who are not only not studly, but downright fat, and a couple who are not only not mensches, but are ugly on the inside, too. On The King of Queens (CBS, Wednesdays, 9 p.m. ET), smoldering working-class babe Carrie (Leah Remini) is paired with beer-gutted Doug (Kevin James). On Grounded for Life (WB, Fridays, 8:30 p.m. ET), the lovely, voluptuous Claudia (Megyn Price—my favorite), is paired with the dumpy and scraggly-bearded Sean (Donal Logue). Perhaps the most jarringly incongruous couple appears on Still Standing (CBS, Mondays, 8 p.m. ET), in which Judy (legendary '80s hottie Jamie Gertz) is married to the surly Bill (rotund, high-voiced English actor Mark Addy, whose character sounds just a little too English to be from Chicago). Bill is a scurrilous (and not terribly funny) creation, unpleasant even to listen to.

In addition to their girth, a signal characteristic of these men is immaturity. Most of them are unable to master the simplest daily tasks. A recent episode of Grounded for Life was propelled by Sean's inability to take a phone message while a typical King of Queens knee-slapper was fueled by Doug's inability to keep his hands off a co-worker's Koosh ball, which he, of course, loses. And virtually every episode of According to Jim is sparked by Jim's selfishness and impulsiveness—he fights with Santa and the next-door neighbor; he pouts about having to give up his vices so Cheryl can get pregnant. Indeed, the promixity of these men to their childhood selves is often directly invoked. In a recent episode of King of Queens, for example, Doug's dad visits for a model train convention, which dredges up bitter memories about how as a child, Doug was not allowed—I am not making this up—to play with his dad's train. When Dad is called away from the convention and Doug offers to fill in for him, Dad is still reluctant to let his dumb-ass son work the controls. (And when he does, Doug promptly destroys the train set, along with its fake mountain landscape setting. See what happens when you play with Daddy's train?)

Later adding, "On According to Jim and Still Standing, the single sibling is an attractive but romantically hopeless sister of the wife. That's the choice: fat guy vs. spinsterhood." This is the kind of article I would have loved to have written, except I've barely watched any of these shows--I have merely noticed that Jim Belushi's tv wife is nine times more attractive than he is, and there are similar pairs in sitcomland. And in adland--remember those beer ads with Cedric the Entertainer matched with a hot chick? And in animated sitcomland--Peter Griffith and Lois, who are derived from Homer and Marge. And Homer and Marge would be the early version of the fat husband/thin wife syndrome, except they were copied from the Flintstones--who were of course copied off the Honeymooners. So this isn't actually a new thing; it's just sort of more prominent now, though that's debatable. I certainly am not watching enough teevee to make a strong case either way--I can barely keep up with my Netflix.

Monday, January 03, 2005

HERO: AM I PROPAGANDA OR NOT?: So I got Zhang Yimou's Hero for Christmas and I had this preconceived notion before watching it that it was, in fact, a propaganda film, given that the Chinese Communist Party was supposedly firmly behind it and--perhaps because of that--the fact that Jet Li's character, Nameless, willingly allowed himself to be executed to preserve national Chinese peace was interpreted as a Strongly Worded Suggestion to Taiwan, that they follow Nameless' example and put aside their silly independence notions in the name of unity. (I am too lazy to provide link-based evidence for the above assertions. I give you my word as a blogger that they are true.) There were additional interpretations that the Li, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung threesome represented Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong in some combination--maybe in this reading Nameless is Hong Kong, willing laying himself down for overall Chinese prosperity, and the Ziyi Zhang character is poor forgotten little Macau, but that is probably a far too literal interpretation of the film.

I actually read a lot of reviews that argued not the above exactly, but that did argue that Hero was a big Riefenstahlian nationalistic story: gorgeously presented, unflaggingly in favor of Our Land, China. And thus simply part of the increasingly illegitimate Chinese Communist Party's attempt to hold onto power by shifting attention away from their own corruption, and towards a fascistic nationalism. I was starting to agree with them, until I read this review (watch out--it's a pdf):

However, such a view is unfortunate, because the film can easily be read the other way, even if it may stray from
conventional interpretation.

In case they [film critics] forgot, Zhang ’s earlier films – from Red Sorghum to Judou – have always been critiques of China ’s leadership.

At the core of the movie – and the controversy – lies the question: What defines a hero? In a typical Hollywood shoot-’em-up,it will be a protagonist who will not think twice about spraying bullets or slitting throats to save the world.

Zhang ’s model is one that is deliberately distanced from that.Hero purposefully highlights the "xia"(honour)instead of the "wu"(fighting)in the "wuxia"genre.It is the pacifist side of the pugilist,where,in the words of Jet Li (who plays the assassin Nameless), the whole ethos is that of "da, jiu shi bu da"(fighting, is in not fighting).It is perhaps this aspect of the movie that confounds the audience.I mean,what kind of a hero dies without a fight?

Yet, in puzzling the general audience and the Western media, Zhang may have hit the nail in addressing the opinion divide towards China's administration.

In being tasked with assassinating the Qin king, Jet Li ’s
character embodies the ideals of the anti-Chinese
government establishment. It is perhaps to address this
ambiguity, which can encompass anybody from the
young idealistic Chinese to the disdainful West, that
Zhang calls this character Nameless.

Colour is a key element in this movie. Zhang had
previously mentioned that the colours red,blue and
white stand for jealousy, love and truth respectively.
In telling his original story, Nameless paints a red
picture of jealousy, hatred and revenge among the
three assassins,suggesting the three states as an
entangled, unhappy mess.

On the other hand, Qin’s (and hence, the authorities’) blue vision is one of love. It speaks of the ultimate sacrifice when Maggie Cheung’s character Snow willingly gives up her life for her cause and her lover.
Qin’s story is a parallel to how the Chinese authorities see their relationship with their subordinate states – one of
closeness and unbreakable bonds.

Zhang ’s take, however, is that the pure, white truth is somewhere in between – where there is anger and resentment among the parties over past disagreements, but at the same time a very real, if unexpressed, love.
The fact that the pro-and anti-government factions – best personified by Snow and Tony
Leung’s Broken Sword – cannot see eye to eye is ironically playing itself out in real life, where
the general attitude of the critics towards Zhang and his Hero is: "If you’re not with us,
you’re against us."

But anyone who needs evidence that this movie isn ’t simply pro-establishment
rhetoric need only watch the critical scene where Nameless spares Qin’s life
but tells him:"Always remember the lives of the people you take."
Subsequently, Nameless’ stoic stance to a bombardment of Qin arrows
brings to mind the one man who stood in front of a Chinese tank during
the Tiananmen incident and personified a whole generation.
Zhang amply displays in his movie that confrontation need not
always be the best form of protest or the most effective channel for
change. As someone who has had almost all his movies banned
by the government, he should know more than most.
In changing his approach to filmmaking, the fact that Hero
has reached out and spoken to more people in China than
all his previous movies shows that it’s perhaps Zhang who
has the last laugh – even if his Hero is not what people want
it to be.

By Teo Cheng Wee--whoever that is. It's a Singaporean site, so he probably isn't a CP apologist. Anyway--let me say that I like this reading of Nameless as Tiananmen Square Guy, effecting change by highlighting just how brutal the people he's up against are. It explains why Zhang Yimou is suddenly making propaganda films--he isn't, even if he fooled a whole lot of critics and the Communist Party into thinking he was. It's a thinly veiled message, maybe too thinly veiled, but it's not like the Chinese state came out looking good at the end of Hero. The King gave in to his own cowardice when he had Nameless killed, egged on by his Greek chorus of hangers-on. In this reading, Nameless is a hero because he does not fight--not because he dies so that China may live.

It's a nice reading, though clearly a minority opinion. But it does fit Hero in to the rest of Zhang's films (some I haven't seen in years, or ever, I should mention) and not force us to accept that he's suddenly a total sellout. Oh, hey--did I like it? Yes, I did. The late Tony Leung (looking weirdly like Eddy Guerrero the whole time) was all meaningfully gazes into the camera. Jet Li didn't do a lot of Jet Li stuff, but it didn't really matter. Zhang Ziyi was stuck in there I guess so all the people who saw Crouching Tiger would see this. (I guess this was the big martial arts art flick for Leung, Li and Maggie Cheung, like what Crouching Tiger was for Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh. It's nice that all the old Hong Kong stars are making big budget art movies now after the decades of cheapo, cultish Hong Kong stuff.) Maggie Cheung is Maggie Cheung. It's good stuff.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Fox is actually covering this thing the way I wish all the news channels would--by tracking New Year's celebrations as they happen across the country. I just saw Nashville, New Orleans and Chicago. The New Year's Fox hosts are enormously dippy, of course.

Or maybe they're stopping now. That's less cool. Anyway, Happy New, ye Internet.