The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit

April 25, 2010

Friends, countrymen, assorted investors, allow me a brief moment of self indulgence. Allow me to tell you a story without any crude editing, without any trickery and, to some extent, without any narrative or logical progression. So. I’ve been feeling uneasy recently, mostly because of the launch of the iPad and certain new Facebook policies. The iPad is a big fancy toy, the cutting edge of mobile computing, as it were, and is made by Apple. I forget the exact details, but the guy that runs Apple, Steve Jobs, patented a technique to make your computer stop working until you interacted with it. And by it, I mean an advertisement. As though you were reading this, and then the words were blurred out until you took a multiple choice test as to why Apple is the finest maker of computers: a) Low Cost, b) Reliability, c)Durability, or d) cutting edge design. Kindly read more here:

Higher-higher at Apple apparently refers to this strategy as “the future of computing.” In my somewhat addled mind, this is related to Facebook, which has put in a bid to make itself the future of the internet. I signed up for a Facebook account because, while in Morocco, it was the only way I could get copies of photographs my friends took. Anyway, a whole bunch of websites are now facebook compatible, which I guess means that when you see something on that website, you can click that you like it, and then you’ll see ads for it on facebook. Or something. Also, if you’re logged into facebook and you visit a website, the site will look at your profile, see what you’ve listed as your interests, and then advertise related products to you. Oh, and they didn’t really mention it to anyone (or if they did I missed it) and automatically set everyone’s account to allow this.

So, anyway, I deactivated that, deleted all the personal information about myself, and deleted all of my photos except crappy cellphone pictures of food I’ve made. But I suspect that data is still in there somewhere? Anyway. I get the feeling that there’s a point coming where these technological advertising gimmicks are going to be all or nothing. You can either agree to advertisements everywhere, so on and so forth, or you can go get yourself a typewriter. You can have a phone with an internet in  it, or you can stock up on quarters and use the pay phone. So on and so forth.

I’m willing to go down the middle of the road. Facebook is a free service I use, as is this blag, and pandora, a sort of online radio station. I’m willing to let them advertise to me while I’m using their sites. It’s the sending my information to third parties and getting them to sell stuff to me that seems a little over the line.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that The Shadow is an excellent movie. Perhaps I should back up. Three or so years ago, I mentioned to the young lady I was seeing at the time that when I was little I used to watch Dragnet on Nick at Night with my mother. The young lady got me the DVDs of Dragnet as a graduation present, which was possibly the most startlingly thoughtful present I’ve ever gotten. Anyway, a year later, possibly when full of beer (as I am when I make all of my silly extraneous online purchases) I bought an MP3 disc with the run of Dragnet the radio show from the 40s and 50s.

They were awesome. Or as they said back then, They were awesome, see? Anyway. I really liked them. A few months ago I found a site online where you can listen to a lot of old timey radio shows, and so I was really digging it. I mentioned it to my father, who happened to come across some of the old The Shadow pulp novellas, and gave them to me. After a long while of searching, I found the Shadow on MP3. Not all of them. Roughly half. Though I did manage to get all the ones with Orson Welles.

Now, back in the day, we had some episodes of The Shadow on cassette tape. We’d listen to them on the way to Phillies games in our green minivan. In 1994, a movie version of The Shadow came out. We saw it in the theatres and, as I recall, really liked it.

I just rewatched it.

There is no part of it that is not awesome.

Let me just pitch you the general plot: The Shadow is a man who uses hypnotism to make himself invisible and fight crime in 1930s New York City. One day, the grandson of Ghengis Khan arrives, convinces Ian McKellen to build an atom bomb, and then convinces Tim Curry to steal it. From his headquarters in a giant, invisible hotel, he demands billions not to set off the device.

If that movie doesn’t sound awesome to you, you can leave. Right now. You are a dullard and a philistine.

Are they gone? Good. So, it was made in 1994, and some of the special effects are… rough around the edges, but it’s certainly no Mortal Kombat. I remember that thing ROCKING back in the day, and upon rewatching, I was startled to realize that Tron had more believable special effects.

Look. The point is, at the end of the movie, they are trying to disarm the atom bomb, which is perfectly spherical, and it goes rolling through the invisible hotel fortress as though it was a level in Marble Madness. That scene alone was more entertaining than all of The Avatar.

Go see the Shadow. And then, the rest of you, start making products that are actually reasonable, and then you won’t have to cram it full of gimmicky advertisements to make a profit.

EDIT: Here’s a piece of trivia I just learned. How awesome was The Shadow, back in the day? It’s considered canon that Margot Lane, The Shadow’s confidante and companion, is the SISTER OF LOIS LANE.


No Subject.

April 23, 2010

At work today, a guy had his radio tuned to an evangelical station. The disc jockey was talking about earth day. He wanted people to call in and give their opinion about earth day. So far so good. But, he asked, is earth day getting too out of hand? How do we react towards earth day, as Christians?

A woman called in and said that she was really worried, because her children were being taught nothing but the love of the earth in school. She started to explain that she was concerned that this was clearly a resurrection of the old Native American beliefs about worshiping the earth.

The host of the show cut her off before she could continue. The only word to describe what he did is “ejaculated”, though I hesitate to use such language. Anyway, he blurts out “EVERY HYBRID CAR WILL BE CONSUMED BY FIRE WHEN THE LORD DESTROYS THE EARTH AGAIN FOR OUR EVIL WAYS.” It was as though he had been waiting all week for that caller to lap dance the words out of him. The two of them chuckled.

I’m going to refrain from making a judgement on this. All I’m going to say is, no matter how great you are, no matter what you do with your life, no matter how fantastic of a human being you are, somewhere, someplace, there will be another equally intelligent person who thinks that driving a car that gets more than 8 miles per galllon means that the ghost of Sitting Bull is trying to rasie your children to build a tower in Babel.

Well. At least now I’ve shit my pants at work due to something besides a hangover.

A visit!

April 22, 2010

My first batch of visitors, Anthony and Kathy, came last weekend. We got to go to some of the restaurants I’ve been wanting to try for a gazillion years. The Chinese place was sort of a let down – I convinced them to give us the ‘traditional’ menu, but when the food arrived, it was different from when I’d been there with some Chinese folks. I guess they toned it down for the white folks? We also found a great breakfast place, and while we were waiting for a table, I found a cast iron pan at the thrift store next door. The thing is awesome. Oh! We also went wandering the streets and found some good antique/thrift/junk stores.

You know how sometimes after a person shakes hands with their idol, they’ll say they never want to wash that hand again? I felt a little like that. We had a katsudon that was so tasty, I never wanted to use the bathroom ever again.

Finally, I’m getting grumpy with technology. Everything seems designed to sell me stuff, which I wouldn’t mind, but it’s all flimsy plastic junk. Or, stupid gimmicks that no reasonable person needs. I guess the blogs is a weird place to mention feeling that way, but whatever.

Learn from my Mistakes

April 9, 2010

The group I work for specializes in so-called ‘bendable concrete.’ It’s so awesome, that we have made a bridge deck link slab out of it. The bridge is in Ypsilanti, and I took some guys there yesterday to see it. Next to the bridge there’s a bike path, and where the bike path crosses the street the word YEILD is painted on the ground.

And that’s why you should always carry a camera with you, folks.


April 8, 2010

You might recall that I wrote a little book called Shnoo the Hell is Going on Hnaa?  A Beginner’s Guide to Moroccan Arabic. My old language teacher mailed me a copy of it full of corrections. I’ve made them all, and I’m starting to ramp up new content for it. Here’s the thing: The book satisifies my kleptomaniac tendancies. Other people collect baseballs and glassware. I collect idiomatic expressions.

On an unrelated note, an iguana got into my apartment somehow and pooped on the floor. I went to the walgreens, and the cute girl behind the counter asked why I needed four gallons of bleach, and before I knew what I was saying I told her I was a victim of a reptile dysfunction.


Easter time

April 2, 2010

So! It’s Easter time, somehow the most solemn and joyous holiday on the Christian calendar, when we remember that our lord and savior rose from the dead and hid eggs in our yards.  I hate talking about religion almost as much as I hate asparagus, and I’m deathly allergic to asparagus. Anyway. I  just saw a Walmart commercial bragging that if you shop there, you can provide your children with bigger easter baskets, and they will thus love you more. I’d be just as annoyed at it if it were for another religion’s holidays. But at Passover time, all I remember is the grocery store stocking matzoh and that weird fish hot dog thing that has a place on every seder table. There were no commercials suggesting that you be a mensch and take a trip down to Crazy Schlomo’s for totally fokakta prices on a new or used Toyota. But I digress.

The point is, find a habitat for humanity or a soup kitchen or, if you’re the religious sort, a Salvation Army outpost, and spend your easter with your loved ones doing something practical. I’m not an authority on the subject by any means, but I’m pretty sure the good lord is happier to see you sweaty and grimy and covered in zucchini peels with a shirt stained with chicken runoff after 2 hours in the soup kitchen than neat and pretty after 2 hours in a church.

Cooking leads to Confidence. Confidence leads to Injury.

April 2, 2010

The last few months, I have been cooking more and more for myself. I think I have finally figure out what sorts of recipes I need to be making, and what sort I need to stay away from. For instance, I’ve made pickles a dozen times. And I always think they’re going to rock. And they do; but the fact of the matter is that I cannot eat pickles sufficiently swiftly to justify making them. I end up sitting in the dark, sobbing, my hands reeking of vinegar and mustard seed as I try to stuff them down and avoid wasting them. Simple recipes are what I need to take a whack at. Ones that may take a little time, but don’t create a whole gallon of food that I will get tired of no matter how good it is.

The reason for this is McDonalds. When the hell did they get so expensive? When I was in limbo after moving out of Philly but before moving into Michigan, I got a Big Mac meal. It was $8. $8 for something that is 95% water, 0% nutrition, and at any rate I’m only really going to be able to hang on to for an hour. Do you know what you can buy in the grocery store for $8? A pound of fresh salmon, a package of brussel sprouts, and a bottle of coke. A half pound of ground lamb, a pound of couscous, an onion and a zucchini. A pound of whole wheat pasta, a can of sauce, and a pound and a half of italian sausage. I can go on and on. Suffice it to say that fast food is fast, but it’s not cheap by a damn sight. And I’m not buying the ‘there’s no time to cook’ justification for McDonalds. It took me 20 minutes yesterday to make fried zucchini (the only good kind of zucchini), pasta, and a nice little salad. And that 20 minutes includes washing all the dishes in my sink.

In the past month I’ve been trying to cook a lot of fish. Because I like fish, but it’s always intimdated me. Catfish was my first shot (it’s cheaper than ground beef!) and aside from the fact that it’s a fish that is 99% oil, it was delicious baked in the oven. I made homemade scrapple again. I even made ceviche, which is raw fish marinated in citrus. It was delicious.

Today I tried out a new tofu recipe. I’d made it before, but decided to kick up the spice a notch. Put the tofu between paper towels and under weight (a can of soup on a sheet pan) for two hours to get the water out. Put it in the marinade for an hour. Flour, eggs, panko breadcrumbs, fry it in oil 3 minutes per side. Delicious and good with some spaghetti.

What was the marinade I used? Half brine from a jar of pickled jalapenos (with some of the jalapenos thrown in for good measure) and half homemade chipotle hot sauce (boil chipotles in vinegar for 20 minutes; discard peppers if you want it mild, blend it all into a paste if you want it obscenely hot.) I added a dash of honey and a dash of Worcestershireire sauce.

Did I mention this marinade is the spiciest thing I’ve ever made? That’s where the injury came in. I wasn’t sure how spicy it would be. But it’s a marinade, right? How much could be absorbed? I had my first bite, and I was really enjoying it, until I felt something not dissimilar to the feeling of billions of slinkies slinking down stairs just underneath my skin. I looked at the clock, only to see the hands gyrating wildly as time flew past my sweating eyes. I staggered to the mirror, where I realized that my skin was the color of an overripe tomato, and that’s the last thing I remember seeing because I passed the hell out. When I woke, it was the next day, and there’s a strange person-shaped outline in the carpet where I had been laying. My lips are chapped beyond recognition, and I’ve lots a not insignificant quantity of hair. My teeth have turned the shape and color of a neglected farm gate.

What I’m trying to say is that it was very spicy. I am considering bottling my marinade and selling it as either a delicious condiment or a riot control paradigm.