Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crackpot ham

This is one of Amanda's, "Just so crazy it might work" ideas. Why not throw a ham into the crockpot and slow cook it in ginger ale? It turned out great.

Here's how simple this was:

  • 2 lb block of ham (boneless) cut into 1" chunks.
  • 12 oz. of stock - I used vegetable from the leftover stewed vegetables we made on Sunday.
  • 1 can of ginger ale. I used Verner's but I'm sure any would work.
  • 1 tbsp of ground ginger.

I didn't add any additional spices or herbs due to the vegetable stock we made and I didn't add any salt due to the saltiness of the ham. Three hours later at a high cook setting and voila -crockpot ham.

I suggest draining the ham - use the colander in a bowl method to keep all the stock/juices for later use.

The fat rendered down nicely, the ham was tender and a lot less salty than ham cooked other ways, and a scoop of ham and a scoop of the previous day's vegetables made for a satisfying dinner. With spicy mustard of course.

This creates a solid amount of leftovers so make sure you have a couple of free storage containers. I already have plans for the remainder of the ham:

  • Breakfast biscuits: grab a couple chunks of ham, pan fry and broken down in order to fit on a biscuit better. Cheese, tomato, smear of mustard, ham = I'm not hungry and cranky any more (for now).
  • Jambalaya at the end of the week.
  • Beans over the weekend.
  • Snacking. You laugh but a hunk of bread, some pickles, cheese, warm ham, and a beer is a good snack.

Super simple and super tasty. Thanks for the idea Amanda.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Friday the 13th (2009) Dir. Marcus Nispel

I have never been a huge fan of the Friday the 13th series. I liked the first one well enough but after that they were pretty...awful frankly. Jason Takes Manhattan? Jason in Space? Jason v Freddy? Yeah, bad. Wretched bad.

I wasn't expecting much from the "reimagining" of Friday the 13th but y'know...it kind of actually kicked ass. Let's break it down:
  1. Hot chicks and all but two of them (the heroines) got topless, and damn near buckass a'nekkid. Not just bottle blond skanks either. It's nice to see such lovely young ladies have such confidence and continuing the long tradition of Melanie Griffiths and Jamie Lee Curtises.
  2. Amanda Righetti.
  3. America Olivo.
  4. Willa Ford.
  5. Gore and one particular death that, as a horror fan, I really enjoyed. You'll know it when you see it.
  6. I have to admit that I liked the acting, certainly they were people I wanted to see impaled/sliced/diced, but still. I am surprised, even the naked chicks were acting.
  7. There were a couple of moments that were actually kind of tense. Not nail biting but, "Look out motherfucker! Jason's gonna get you! Run bitch run!"
  8. In Friday the 13th there were no fucking spooky Japanese chicks with unconditioned hair walking on the ceiling, climbing out a TV, or calling on a cell phone.
  9. It was far better than Hatchet.

Like I always say, I wasn't expecting Cherry Orchard or Shakespeare (though come to think of it Shakespeare has a lot of gore and T&A). I certainly wasn't expecting to enjoy Friday the 13th as much as I did. It had all I needed from an American slasher movie. T&A, gore, cheap scares. It's like a Big Mac, fries, and a Coke. Ultimately garbage but enjoyable for the short time you have together.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Baked Tofu in BBQ-Sauce w/mushrooms and stir fry.

Why hadn't I thought of this before?

My new - this week - habit is to look in the fridge in the morning and think about what to make for dinner. Yesterday I saw that we still had a block of extra-firm tofu. I like baked tofu, usually marinaded in something spicy. I was looking at what to marinade it in and I saw Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce. Hmmm, yes...yes it could work.

Damn it, it does work. I mixed the Sweet Baby Ray's with minced ginger, soy sauce, hot sauce, sesame seeds, and there was something else - lime juice? We sliced some mushrooms, tossed them with the cubed tofu, tossed all that in the sauce and baked it at 350 for an hour.

For the stir fry we separately sauteed some broccoli and red peppers. You could pretty much sautee any vegetables you wanted to.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Twilight (2008) dir. Catherine Hardwicke

There's been plenty of internet jumping up and down on this movie so I'll try not to join in.

From a Vampire movie stand point Twilight is pretty awful.  Not Lost Boys II bad but almost just as bad.  The standard vampire whining is in full effect, with blood drinking being a metaphor for sexual intercourse but of course denial of urges...blah, blah, blah... lingering looks...whatever.

Very simply:

Twilight fails as a vampire movie, as a teen girl movie, and as a movie (although it does work as a comedy - I haven't laughed that hard in awhile).  Most of time I kept losing interest in what was going on.  I kept wishing I had something to do while watching the movie - like my nails or drinking or both.  Twilight is painfully paint by numbers, with a lack lustre heroine, a jerky yet wussy (is that Emo?) vampire guy, a fairly lame Millenial hit soundtrack, and shrug worthy camera work.

On the upside:

The Collins (Vampire family) had a dynamic I kind of enjoyed.  As a fringe "good guy" blah blah blah we only feed on animals bunch of vampires they were oddly likeable.

Billy Burke, playing Charlie Swan (the protagonist's divorced and depressed town sheriff Dad) reminded me of a young Tom Skerritt.  I liked the character and the way he was portrayed.  It wasn't enough to save the rest of the movie but I'd like to see Mr. Burke in another movie.

Twilight makes other vampire movies seem better.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ghostbusters (2009) XBOX 360

I'm pleased to say that the Ghostbusters game does not suck. I've only played through the beginning (2 hours) but I've enjoyed it quite a bit. I hope the game picks up a bit to tell you the truth.

The problem I'm having is that I'm just not sure if the game has legs. The graphics are good, the story hasn't kicked in yet, the game was written by Ramis and Akroyd so it's amusing, but there's just something missing. I'm not chomping at the bit to get home and play.

I'll play some more and report back.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

"A Song of Ice & Fire" interactive rights optioned! Huzzah!

Thanks to Amanda for bringing this to my attention.

My favorite fantasy series, George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice & Fire, has been picked up by a French video game studio - Cyanide Studio - that plan to create a RTS and RPG based on the books/verse.

Looks like Cyanide also does a Blood Bowl - a football game set in the Warhammer Fantasy realm - so they aren't a complete hack/fly by night studio.

I'm pretty excited about this development - more excited by the prospect of what the RPG will bring more than the RTS. I have to wonder how many are going to be playing as Crows. Personally I would lean towards a supporter/resident of Winterfell but we all know their track record. Maybe a Lannister if I was feeling Lawful Evil. Hands down, if I can play a character i am picking Sandor Clegane.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens "Remember Me"

Okay, all right, all right this is my call to arms. Apparently every band on Deptone Records is excellent but if your soul is in peril, perched upon the precipice of Lord only knows what, wakes you up in a cold sweat in the darkest moments of the night and you need a sound to show you the way, well then I guess you need a heavy dosage of Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens.

Remember Me is a classic, solid, reason that faith makes sense, Gospel/Blues album. From start to finish Remember Me is...

In all honesty just download/buy/boost/blue light special this album. No. Seriously.

The Budos Band - The Budos Band II (2008)

If I had to place blame on any one thing for my love of Afro-Pop/Beats and the variations, deviations, and derivations there of it would have to be Afro-Pop Worldwide, hosted by the brilliant Georges Collinet.

If I had to place blame on anyone for turning me on to Staten Island's The Budos Band it would be mi amigo Jorge - the dude I work with not Mr. Collinet. Jorge played a video of The Budos Band at work and my ears did that weird rabbit twitch thing - y'know, when you hear something on the peripheral and you're just drawn to it? Like walking past a club and you hear something that draws you in? Well, for me, The Budos Band have it.

I'm listening to the Daptones release of The Budos Band II. To say it is good is an understatement. To say it is fucking awesome doesn't even come close. There are a large number of readers and friends I have get in touch with due to the colossal sound of this album. This is a syrupy, brassy, deep-fried, molten centered beso of goodness. Not to sound insane but I think this was the album that I was waiting for.

Hear me out, I love Afro-Beat. I love scores & sndtrks. I love West African rhythms. I love music so fucking funky it makes your goose pimples ripple.

To clear up any confusion - The Budos Band should have scored the latest incarnation The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Yeah.

The Budos Band II knocks it out of the park. The opening track "Chicago Falcon" thrums (thanks to Mike Deller on organ - are those the dulcet tones of a Hammond?) with unrepentant Soul. The omnipresent wall of brass the album leans against really hits it's stride off the mark but really shines on "Mas O Menos". This track reminds me of Carlito Brigante, manos down. "Adeniji" is puro Afro-Soul. How do they do so much in under three minutes? There's even brilliant jazz flute via Daisy Sugarman. I wish I could play this track so loud it would crack the pavement. "Adeniji" slinks into "King Cobra". Let me put it this way. If I was a lady and I heard "King Cobra" my panties wouldn't fly off and get hurled at the band. They'd poof right off. "His Girl" starts with the memorable beat from "My Girl" and then turns into, well it sounds like a cut off Bobby Womack's Across 110th St. I have to say that "His Girl" they also lift a cut from "Disco Inferno" on their breaks. In no way is this bad but it caught my ear. "Origins of Man" is the longest track on the album, shaving close to five minutes, and it is a get a drink from the drink from the bar track. If we were looking at Budos Band II like an LP "Origins of Man" is a side two bridge cut that is brought back on task with "Scorpion". "Scorpion" is not my favorite track and I have to fight the urge to skip it just to get to the album's final track. It's sounds too loose after the taut first half of the album. "Deep in the Sand" the album's final track allays all fears. There's still a whisper of noodle but it gets tied together neatly in the last minute.

All in all I give this album a solid Right On, Right On review, while I listen to it again.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Random thoughts about the state of gaming - on a personal level.

Over the May break I've torn through Fallout 3: Broken Steel, Bioshock (replayed from beginning - revised review pending), Star Ocean: Last Hope, Godfather II, Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher's Bay, Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena, and have taken a pretty large bite out of Red Faction: Guerrilla. While there have been elements of each game I liked, hell I played the wheels off Fallout 3 and am really enjoying Red Faction: Guerrilla, I feel a bit let down right now.

Every gamer goes through a slump, a bout of ennui, where games just don't take you where you need to go. I start to nitpick games and game design. In RF:G I have a problem with the button configuration: L2 is melee and R3 is zoom in, normally this is reversed. I could change the controller set up in options but I only want to change those two buttons not the entire config. The HUD mini-map is always there without the option of minimizing it or enlarging it. I like the zoom in/zoom out feature on the mini-map though.

I think my main problem is that I'm bored. I don't feel challenged. I'm not talking about difficulty level (enemies have more health, I have less health, etc etc etc), I mean on an intellectual level. There's also a good dose of "been there, done that" thrown in. I haven't really been forced to used my problem solving/tactical skills lately. If memory serves that was one of the strong divisions between console and PC games. Where the PC had RTS and large scale strategy/tactical games the console was lacking.

Just had to gripe. Thank you for listening.

Godfather II Last Impressions and initial Red Faction: Guerilla (2009) review/tips.

So I knocked out Godfather II in about twenty-three hours. That's not good or bad per se, I don't know how much longer I could have rerun the same capture enemy businesses, build up defense, move on to next target formula.



Side note:



It seems that Strategy styled games need a boost. Pretty much all games have stuck to the formula - attack in force, capture, hold, bolster with defenses, move on. The classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms series added a lot more to the mix - with economics, intrigue, and the looming threat of famine. I know a balance can be struck between action and thrills and - for all intents and purposes - accounting and logistics.



The Godfather II was ultimately a disappointing game and if I had paid full retail I would have been pissed. There's essentially no replay value unless you just want achievement points. Even if it wasn't part of the Godfather-verse it's still lacking in the crime empire genre.



***


I only played the PS2 Red Faction FPS games briefly and never really got into them as much as I should have. I might have to go back and play them based on the strength of Red Faction: Guerilla. Now I've put in a solid day of gaming on this new release and have to say it's a really good game. I hit a wall last night but that's because I think I've completed all the side missions I can before moving on with the story. That's the way I play sandbox games like RF:G - I complete every single side mission I can before moving on with the story. By doing this I essentially "level" my character, unlocking weapons and having enough resources to avoid scrambling later in the game, and roaming across the map allows me to familiarize myself with the lay of the land early on - also helpful later in the game when the shit hits the fan.


The best thing about RF:G is that, until I hit the wall, the game is fun. Really fun. There are two elements to all this fun: cinematic moments and the sheer joy of blowing shit up. I don't mean cut scenes when I say "cinematic moments" - I mean moments that could have come from a movie and are one of the cornerstones of good game design.


Example: While exploring and mining in the Badlands (aka Marauder territory aka Miranda) and generally not paying attention to my surroundings I noticed some enemy blips on the radar. I hadn't really encountered Marauders up until this point so I unlimbered my assault rifle and took aim. Things to remember when dealing with Marauders; 1) They don't die easy & 2) More and more show up the more noise you make i.e. shooting/blowing shit up. So a swarm of Marauders show up on the radar and I haul ass back to my dune buggy - which my dumb ass wandered away from exploring. The swarm of Marauders is chasing me across the freaking dunes until I get to a main road across from an enemy checkpoint, avoid the checkpoint and screech to a halt. The gunner at the checkpoint opens fire but for once not at me - at the Marauders who have chased me all over hell and high water. Several civilian vehicles stop and the occupants jump out and fire upon the Marauders. I just watched the mayhem. It was awesome and I actually laughed.
Apparently the big selling point to this game was Geo-Mod 2.0 -which basically means nearly every building, structure, and assorted goodies blast to shit super awesome style. It works, works amazingly actually, the Demolitions Master challenges are a great highlight. In the challenge you have to destroy a structure within time and gear limitations, often one strategically placed mine or implement of destruction will bring the whole shit house down in one go. The trick is finding that weakspot.
I have to admit that I had a twinge of guilt for flattening all these structures like Romans on Carthage. After liberating a sector from the bad guys I drove through it again and civilians were wandering around a barren wasteland. While I had buckets of glee razing eveything to the ground - in particular bridges. No matter what the game I love fighting on and/or destroying bridges. At one particular bridge I saw vehicles stop and turn around and have to take the long route around the canyon. Is this what they mean when they say, "With great power comes great responsibility"?
Based on first impressions I strongly, very strongly recommend picking up RF:G. Just don't surprised if you start making lots of Firefly/Serenity jokes. Amanda's running joke is, "I don' wanna git ate!" whenever she hears me yelling about "Goddamn Marauders!"

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