Thursday, December 29, 2011

If you don't know about Henry's Kitchen...

then I guess you don't know about it.  Now you can.

Smithfield ham epic: Part I

I went on my monthly grocery store trip today which, since I don't own a car and public transportation is nigh on useless in Nac, ends up being a Tolkien-esque walk home (only with a lot less singing and more profanity). This time though I decided to only buy what I could carry without too much fussin and cussin.* 

As many of you may know I love going to the grocery store during a weekday afternoon between one and four. The crowds are relatively minimal and I can take my time browsing and shooting the shit with old people and soccer moms. During this trip, while shuffling around the store selecting random salty things (anchovies, pesto, capers, kalamata olives, feta) and large amounts of greens, I came across Smithfield hams on after Christmas sale. Not just sale, hella wicked sale - $15 for a 16lb Smithfield ham. Carrying it home kind of sucked, since I had to Igor it over my shoulder whilst carrying everything else. I'm surprised I didn't get stopped by the cops for carrying a bloody burlap sack.

If you're not familiar with Smithfield hams then you should seek one out. They are the Cadillac of Virginia hams and usually go for a good chunk of change ($79.00 on their site). I've only eaten Smithfield once or twice and never on my own dime so you can see why I was excited to find one on sale. Below is the recipe from their site. Now I have to figure out how I can cook this bugger.

Suggestions for Cooking an Old-Fashioned Favorite: Official recipe from

To prepare ham:
Wash ham thoroughly in warm water. Use a stiff brush to remove surface mold if present. This mold is in no way injurious. Aged hams, like ages cheeses, mold in the process. To reduce saltiness, soak ham in cold water for 12-24 hours prior to cooking. Changing the water during soaking will aid in drawing salt from the ham. (If a milder salt flavor is desired, soak ham for 36 hours). Cook your ham using the Water or Oven cooking instructions listed below.
Water Cooking (preferred method):
Place ham skin side down in vessel and cover with cool water.
Bring water to 190 F (simmering, not boiling).
Cook approximately 25 minutes per pound or until 163 F internal temperature.
Add water as needed to keep ham covered
When done, take ham from vessel. While the ham is still warm, remove skin and fat as desired.
If a sweet coating is desired, sprinkle the fat side with brown sugar and bread crumbs and bake in oven at 400 F until brown (approximately 15 minutes)

Oven Cooking:
Wrap ham in heavy-duty aluminum foil joining edges carefully and forming a vessel with the bottom layer. Add four cups of water within the foil and place in oven with a tray or shallow pan underneath for support.
Cook by the following method:
Preheat oven to 300 F.
Bake ham for approximately three hours or 20 minutes per pound.
Using a meat thermometer, check for 163 F internal temperature in the thickest part of ham.
Remove ham and let cool to room temperature for one hour.
Remove skin and fat as desired.
If a sweet coating is desired, sprinkle the fat side with brown sugar and bread crumbs and bake in oven at 400 F until brown (approximately 15 minutes).

Suggestions for Carving:Use a very sharp knife and cut VERY THIN slices. With ham on platter, fat side up, begin slicing about two inches from hock or small end. Make first cut straight through to the bone. Slant the knife for each succeeding cut. Decrease slant as slices become larger.
CAUTION: Please be careful while slicing ham to avoid personal injury.

*A good trick is to have those cloth bags in tow and learn to guesstimate/Tetris the groceries into the bags with minimal effort.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

SWTOR intro cinematic and idle thoughts on the game and the 'verse

Truth be told I wasn't excited about Star Wars: The Old Republic until recently.  I had idly followed the swell of hype - for and against - the game.  I was excited when I learned that BioWare, creators of Knights of the Old Republic (an excellent game that is not quite as pretty or fun to play as it was several years ago), was in charge of this beast.  I never played Star Wars Galaxies though I have a friend who became one of the better known tailors in the game.  I also never had much experience with MMOs until the last few years.  The cherry on top of my indifference sundae is my ever fading love of the franchise.  Call it a case of pop culture over-saturation/fatigue but I now regard the entire enterprise with a jaundiced eye.  I'm a fan of the outsider art, the well done fan videos, scores, Robot Chicken specials, and hot chicks in Imperial uniforms but the rest of it I admit, I rudely roll my eyes and kind of sigh like an asshole.  Jedi is not a religion, in fact Jedi are kind of sanctimonious dickweeds who weren't blaster proof.

And yet, there's still a part of me that jumps up and down and claps his hands and giggles when I hear a light saber duel or the screech of a TIE fighter.  I still get goosebumps when I hear the first notes of the theme.  There's a big chunk of my brain still cluttered with quotes and trivia.  Hell, I even thought Episode III was pretty awesome (it's my #2 favorite of the films).  It was this part of me that wants to play SWTOR and this desire was greatly increased when I saw the opening cinematic in its entirety.  Now to be honest the real selling point will be whether there is space combat.  Wandering around WoW questing (gathering junk and body parts for lazy ass NPCs) isn't exactly a selling point for me but space combat will be - PvE and PvP.  The character classes and races sound pretty Star Wars standard fare except for the Imperial Agent class and Cyborg "race".  According to some of the info I've been reading the Agent sounds like the character I play in almost every game and can be specialized as a sniper with engineering skills (there are probably some forum posts and reviews calling the Agent "huntard").  Plus I'm an Imperial at heart.

I'll probably be picking this up in January once I get my computer woes resolved.  When I do, expect the usual slew of reviews.

SWTOR minimal tech specs

Well folks, once I can get my PC up and running again, looks like I'll be getting into some Star Wars action.

I am interested in purchasing Star Wars: The Old Republic but do not know if my PC can support it. What are the minimum system requirements needed to run the Game?
AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 4000+ or better
Intel Core 2 Duo Processor 2.0GHz or better

Operating System:
Windows XP or later

Windows XP: 1.5GB RAM
Windows Vista and Windows 7: 2GB RAM

Note: PCs using a built-in graphical chipset are recommended to have 2GB of RAM.

Video Card:

Star Wars: The Old Republic requires a video card that has a minimum of 256MB of on-board RAM as well as support for Shader 3.0 or better. Examples include:

ATI X1800 or better
nVidia 7800 or better
Intel 4100 Integrated Graphics or better

DVD-ROM drive - 8x speed or better (required for installation from physical editions only)

Internet connection required to play.

The Wild Hunt (2009) dir Alexandre Franchi

The Wild Hunt is one of those movies I watch that I don't think I particularly like but I continue to watch because I'm interested in what happens. The premise is a guy goes to a LARP to "rescue" his girlfriend (who seems like she's a few rolls short of a bakery). Protagonist Erik isn't into the LARP scene but his brother is very into his Viking character. This movie ends up devolving into some kind of indie horror movie that makes LARPers seem like a total bunch of assholes.  Conceptually the movie is interesting but there could have been more done with it and there could have been one or two likable characters besides Erik and referee Tamara (played the appealing Claudia Jurt - frankly I ended up only paying attention when she was on screen).  Unfortunately, unlike Darkon, I couldn't empathize with any of the other characters and frankly I thought of this picture quite a few times:

And I know LARPers, they are pretty cool reasonable human beings, but The Wild Hunt only seemed to play up the mouth-breather, cheeto-duster, rules-monkey stereotype that ruins every game.  Oh well.

On the upside the movie was well done for an indie Canadian "horror" flick, well shot, good sound design, solid cinematography, and interesting concept.  With a tighter script and fewer stock nerd characters this might have made a pretty interesting movie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

La Herencia Valdemar (2010) dir Jose Luis Aleman

This is one of those movies that I've been dying to see but it hasn't been imported to the States yet. Chances are it won't until it's remade as some piece of shit by Wes Craven.

Quad Movie Review!

Since my PC is out of commission I've been watching a lot of Netflix on ye olde XBOX so expect a lot of movie reviews this holiday season.

The Objective (2008) dir Daniel Myrick.  A modern military supernatural thriller set in Afghanistan.  Basically a CIA spook is sent to investigate an energy source and has some Special Forces bad asses as back up.  I can't say too much about the story without spoilers.  It's a solid watch but vaguely unsatisfying at the end.  The best elements of the movie are the actors, story concept, and setting.  Worth a gander.

We Are the Night (2010) dir Dennis Gansel.  Vampire chicks in Berlin, badly dubbed, not particularly memorable but then again most vampire movies aren't.  Frankly it's a predictable, well-shot, slickly produced German vampire movie (with no T&A which was surprising what with it being a lesbian love story).  I figure a 6/10.  4/10 with the absolutely shite dub. 

Yellow Brick Road (2010) dir Jesse Holland & Andy Mitton.  Meeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhh, one of the new brand of "art house" IFC-esque horror movies that have been floating around in the last couple of years.  I'm being to lose patience with this sub-side genre of art-thriller-horror.  These films attempt to emulate the new wave of European horror (which has been fading in quality) and sadly stumble or drop the ball.  Yellow Brick Road starts strong, keeps a brisk pace and ratcheting tension, and then just goes flop.  There are several elements in the film that seem added in simply because of the creepy factor.  I certainly don't need exposition or my hand held during a movie but YBR has points in the movie that are just, what the fuck was that for.  This is one of those movies that is worth watching because it is well acted, has some genuine creepy moments, the mystery (at the beginning) is engaging, there's some awesome ultra-violence, and the movie isn't your average American horror movie (although it reeks of Blair Witch).  That being said, the movie faceplants in the end, the sound quality is pretty uneven, and the story and scares end up wandering around aimlessly like old people in a supermarket.

I Sell the Dead (2008) dir Glenn McQuaid.  A period piece in the vein of Burke & Hare (2010) and would make a good double feature.  For all intents and purposes it's a grave robber versus the living dead and supernatural movie with British-esque humor.  Could have been better, could have been worse.  It's more culty comedy than horror so if that's your thing you should enjoy it. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Well that's just great.

I'm not sure what I did to anger Zardoz this time but my PC went derp last night.  In more coherent terms, the power comes but nothing shows up on the monitor.  The strange thing is everything was working fine until the last month or so when the machine would just switch off and then on (with no image) for no apparent reason even when doing simple word-processing tasks. 

I'm gonna try to fix this myself and have found the following possibilities:
  1. CPU is overheating
  2. PSU is crapping out
  3. Motherboard is crapping out
  4. id10t error
  5. The interior of the case is bad dirty dirty bad.  I wish I had read that before I cleaned my case a couple of weeks ago with my vacuum cleaner.  #facepalm
  6. Video card is kaput
Any way I slice it this is one of the suckier sucks that ever sucked a suck.  Since my PC is to me what a car is to other people this is kind of a major clusterfuck.  Any useful/helpful advice/ideas is welcome.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Well, so much for Skyrim

Yup, I finished the main story arc of Skyrim last night along with a vast number of side and misc quests.  Kind of anti-climatic frankly, though the end of the story arc was pretty awesome (no spoilers).  Then everything just kind of wraps up and now I'm left kind of scratching my head.  Was I supposed to go through the entire story arc first and then do all the side quests?  The story is complete and I still have free roam of the world (which is awesome, I hate when you complete a RPG and then it's game over) but I don't know if there's anything really to do.  I have one acheivement left to get, guess I could do that. 

Final thoughts:
  • A friend brought up a valid point when I said I broke the 200 hour gameplay mark, "Yeah but out of that time how many hours were games play and how many were load screens?"  Le sigh.  I realize it's a belaboured point folks.  I know but frankly those screens are one of the main reasons I won't be playing the game over again with a different character.
  • Replayability of Skyrim - for me at least is slim to none.  There seems to be minimal difference between races (from what I've read) and I've already become the Grand Poobah of every guild and group in Skyrim and the end of the main story just goes, "Right, there you are.  Carry on then.  Go on, explore this wide wonderful world."
  • Skyrim was a great exploratory experience with a solid story arc, some excellent voice acting, a gripping score, some excellent side arcs (I could play an entire Dark Brotherhood game), allies who were actually useful.  These were balanced out by:
  • Bugs that crashed quests as to make them unfulfillable (I don't really bag on a game for bugs as long as it doesn't crash the game or otherwise make the game unplayable, floating cows are funny), frequent lengthy load screens (fuck you I don't have a good PC for gaming), crappy melee combat (by combat I mean flailing about), game breaker stealth/enchanting/smithing systems (my current kit of light dragon armor is just over 700 what with perks, each item dual enchanted - a daedric bow that dishes out just shy of 200dps sans enchantments or arrows), and a shrug inducing There Will Be Done "I'm finished." ending.
  • Cooking was a total waste of code.  Seriously, a complete and utter waste of resources.
  • Horses are bat-shit awesome crazy on their own in combat.  At first I kind of poo-poo'd people who were saying they wished they could have fought on horseback but y'know that would have been awesome and could have opened up a kick ass combat style (lances, spears, short bows) and could have created some exciting combat sequences - hunting dragon on horseback a la Shadow of the Colossus.  Would that have been awesome?  Fuck yeah it would've. 
So is Skyrim an end all be all fantasy RPG?  No, and neither was Oblivion.  However it is important to note that Skyrim fills a need for a part of the market who doesn't play "Call of Bromance XIII".  My plan is to trade it in for full credit, pick up something to play during the break, and in two years I'll pick Skyrim used with all the DLC for less than $20.  In the meantime I might see if I can find a copy of Morrowind, maybe go back to playing NesTalgia.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The next to last Skyrim post

Last night I cleaned out my misc quest queue except for a quest to fight a dragon in case someone comes over and wants to see me fight a dragon and a few glitched quests that are either repeats or quests I can't complete.  The main queue has two glitched quests which there are PC fixes for but not console fixes.  Ultimately, in regards to gameplay, these glitches aren't important and only give shite rewards.  By the by, fuck the Stones of Barenziah sub-quest.  For all the leg work and searching (sans guides or cheats) the reward is worth fuck all by the time you turn the quest in.

I'm getting very close to the end of the story arc.  It's gotten to the point where I'm saving just to have a return point where I can finish out the rest of the sides and misc before finishing the game.  Honestly though I'm still not disappointed with the story line nor the curve balls it's thrown me and want to see how it all plays out.  I know there are a couple of sites I haven't explored.

I've been wishing there was a way to reset skills, perks, and leveling and I think I might have found a way, maybe.  Skill levels decrease when you are imprisoned but perks do not so I figure wreak havoc, get imprisoned, and then bump those skills up again.  Alternatively you can do what I've been doing - spam skills.  In the Mage's College once you complete a certain story arc you can basically stand in one place and repeat cast high level spells.  That or you can equip the armor you've been ignoring and wander outside Whiterun and stand there as beasties try to nom you.  It's a cheap gimmick but considering not being able to reset useless skills and perks at a late point in the game I think it's okay.  Yeah, that would take away from the role-playing aspect of the game but really how many of you "role-play" a single player game?

During my drive to up other skills I have to admit that magic in Skyrim is pretty awesome.  I seriously doubt I will replay the game as a mage (or replay the game at all truth be told) but I'm kind of digging the magic.  Illusion is my favorite class by far.  Being able to set foes upon themselves with Frenzy has been an added joy, though it makes combat pretty easy.  Plus the Illusion tree allows you to cast all spells silently which makes stealth healing a viable option (sans potions).  I also noticed that casting a spell like Magelight will not only draw enemies but will knock down fire pots.

The last post will be my final thoughts and my ending character build.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Studying for Physical Anthro final...

by watching documentaries and a gem from 1953.  Werner Herzog's documentary about Chauvet Cave, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) was particularly good, though a bit slow at time with some heavy handed scoring. Herzog wrote, directed, and produced this film exploring and documenting the paleolithic cave art found near Vallon-Pont D'Arc in Southern France.  The cave had been sealed for thousands of years due to the cliff collapsing over the entrance until some explorers happened upon the site in 1994.   Due to the preservation of the cave, the art itself is almost unsettling in both its quality and freshness, as well as the discovery that the art is not from a single point in time but was layered by humans over thousands of years.  I'm not one of these folks who believes that paleo and neo-lithic man were some kind of half-wits, and just because they didn't trade pieces of paper for goods and services and think digital watches were a pretty neat idea doesn't make them artless and thoughtless savages.  Caves of Forgotten Dreams is not something to throw on when you're craving explosions and techno but it's certainly worth watching.  I would recommend it when you're having a sick day and are bundled up kind of high on cough syrup.

Then I stumbled across Neanderthal Man (1953).  It's a B-monster flick but it's actually a pretty good B-monster flick, though there are some awesome, genuinely hilariously bad moments even for the genre.  You have to watch it, just for the first fifteen minutes and you will wet yourself with disbelief.  On the upside, it deals with the works of an anthropologist, who believes that paleolithic man was as intelligent and capable as "modern" man and that modern man's brain still contains millenia of memories yet his fellow academics scoff at him.  Particularly humorous was the display of progression of brain size from chimp to modern man because it features Piltdown man.  Athro humor FTW.  So the scientist concocts a formula to unlock those paleolithic memories.  Science goes awry!  Neanderthal Man is one of those B-Movies that may be kind of crappy but the sci-fi weirdo ideas it has are pretty cool.  The rant the anthropologist goes on when his colleagues poo-poo him is actually brilliant (it begins at the 10:05 point in the clip).  Heartily recommended.  Oh and it has both Beverly Garland and Tandra Quinn!

Friday, December 09, 2011

A double helping of Foxy Friday: Veronica Lake

Still from Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels a brilliant film that holds as much relevance today as it did  in 1941.

She was 4'11" of va-va-voom.

Foxy Fridays: Cate Blanchett with a shaved head


I love his expression because sometimes that the only way you can deal with how fucked up life is.  Also known as "Don't make eye contact with crazy person on the bus" face. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Yet another post about Skyrim...

if you want me to post about something else give me some money so I can indulge in some other form of distraction.

I've been meaning to put down a few thoughts I've been having on the skill/perk system and how I think it's working in the modern RPG.

I hit level sixty and have my primary skills at 100 (bow, sneak, lockpicking, pickpocket, speech, alchemy, enchanting, smithing) and a number of other skills 50 or below (one handed weapons, light armor, and restoration are all in the mid-60s).  Truth be told I was kind of sad that I hit those ceilings but then I realized that while I had maxed the skills I hadn't really invested in that many perks and had a lot of space for expansion.  Last night I was poking around and said, "Huh" and was looking at skills and what not.  I have a lot of expansion space that will garner me more SP and perks but could possibly change the way I've been approaching the game.  That is maybe it might be time to start huckin some destruction magic around.  Illusion has some pretty fun spells (Fury causes NPCs to attack one another - a trick I used on a target I was supposed to assassinate.  Cast Fury on target.  Target goes apeshit, gets killed by village guards.  The Aristocrats!) as do the Alteration and Conjuration schools.  Then while I was running around looking at stuff (casting Fury on bunnies, foxes, and goats for funzies) I figured out I could power level some spell skills by casting them on myself.  So I'm basically spamming "Magelight"* and then whatever other spell I feel like.  It's a cheap trick, like standing still in heavy armor and letting a wolf attack you while you go AFK.

I appreciate that I have the ability to keep levelling and picking up skills and perks by trying out different styles of gameplay.  Normally I'd be locked in to the set up and probably get bored with the game after getting all the side missions and the like finished.  Additionally using skills I normally don't has ramped up some of the challenge of combat.  Casting wussy fireballs at a Draugur Deathlord = oh fuck, heal...reload from last save.  I've been really impressed at some of the kill animations for one handed combat and eventually I'll start wingin around this Daedric two-handed whompin stick that feeds on dreams or something.  I dunno, I picked it up on a side quest and it's been mothballed in a chest in Riften for weeks.
I'm curious to know how you guys have been tackling the skill/perk tree.  Are you powering through an entire skill set or kind of cherry picking? 

* Magelight is one of my favorite spells in this game (I dunno if it's in other games.  Normally I don't use magic except for a coupleof heal spells).  Basically it's an an orb of light that sticks to whatever you aim it at.  It's handy as hell in some of the deep darks but I've also discovered two fun tricks.  1) Cast Magelight on your lackey then command Smitty to run into an darkened area.  I do this most often in the large open spaces (tombs, caverns, etc).  Thanks Smitty! (Smitty is an old name I designated to the NPC lackey games give you.  "Get the fuck out of the way Smitty!" is a common phrase. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Recipes from an Englishman that sound awesome:

Was browsing an online friend's food site and saw this awesome recipe for smoked pheasant tacos.  He also has a recipe for smoked rabbit tacos.  What the fucksicle?  Who let the Englishman have good food?  Joking aside he's got a good site and some excellent recipes and ideas (Yorkshire pud with pulled pork) and he seems to be as much a Pork-a-holic as I am (and some of you are).  Definitely worth checking out.  There are some Turkish recipes that I'm planning on trying once I can get the ingredients in.

Skyrim: almost to level 60. Now what

As we all know Skyrim has dominated the conversations and posts on my end for the past couple of weeks here.  I've blown past the jumping up and down and weeing on myself stage many many many hours ago.  I passed the 150 hours mark last week (yeah I know, my school work is seriously suffering as well but at least it's not COD) and have some thoughts about the good and the bad of Skyrim:
  • The 360 version of the game has Bethesda's trademark goddamn load screens every time you enter or exit a building, dungeon, etc.  Yes I know everyone and their Aunt Telulah gripes about these load screens but serious WTF.  I realize there is probably some kind of technical jibber-jabber I don't know about game design but these load screens are as archaic as lag.  I've heard that load times are next to nil on the PC but I don't have the juice to run Skyrim on my Plymouth Horizon computer.  According to some of the forums load screens only take a few seconds, whatever "forums" are worth.
  • Glitches are to be expected and really don't bother me too much.  The random floating item or guards stuck in a door amuse me more than anything else.  However this leads me to the next point - a game crashing glitch:
  •  The Ebony Armor of Boethiah glitch.  Maybe it's just my copy of the game since I can't find any info on this on teh googles but I wanna warn you folks SAVE BEFORE EQUIPPING THIS ARMOR.  I don't know why and I've tried different techniques but everytime I equip this gear to complete a quest Boethiah starts her blah blah blah and when she finishes my game goes derp.  I've tried different files and different locations all with the same result. 

The good and the ugly
  • Even after 150 hours I keep discovering places, even if it's not location of importance.  I found a slew of places at random the other day.
  • Some of the storylines have been particularly awesome.  For some reason I've been particularly keen on the daedric quests and while normally I play a fairly "good" character in this run through I've been a real fucker.  I crushed a woman on her wedding day with a pushed gargoyle.  I stabbed a horse in the face.  I hired a guy and lured him to his death.  Great fun is kiting a dragon into a village and letting the villagers know that they are not Dragonborn.  I use torture victims to level my mage skills. 
I have a post pending about the skill and perk system and my feelings on it.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Saturday Morning News und Schtuffz

Random news you folks might be interested in:

  • GamePro magazine is shutting down after over twenty years in the business. (Source:
  • A Pakistani woman in Karachi chopped up and cooked her husband but didn't eat him.  Waste not want not says I. 
  • The insanely awesome "researchers at MIT" (which always reminds me of the Govt official at the end of "Raiders" - "We have top men working on this.") have taught a computer to play Civ by giving it the manual?  Nani?  I'm a little confused and plenty intrigued.
  • Thomas Edision was a prick.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Quote of the day:

"Nothing matters very much, and very few things matter at all."
- Sir Arthur James Balfour 1848-1930

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) Bethesda Games - My first ten hours (give or take)

Achtung!  This post doesn't have plot spoilers but does discuss some elements of gameplay that you might not want to know about (especially if you didn't play Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and are unfamiliar with Tamriel and its inhabitants).  Other than that carry on:

Achtung Zwei!  The ten hours is actually probably longer since I had to load an old save file when the game glitched on me.

Here are some general thoughts, basic tips, and errata:
  • Keep multiple save files in case of glitch or data corruption.  By multiple I mean at least three in addition to the autosaves.  Basic entry level stuff but seriously I lost about four hours of gameplay because an game progressing item became lodged in a mountain.
  • I've been joking about alchemy and the like with some friends on teh FB (switch to G+ suckas) and I realized that I have an "inner Renfield".  I basically go cross-country eating things I catch and find.  The purpose of doing so is to learn the alchemical qualities of these items and thus brew potions and tinctures.  This boils down to running across fields chasing bugs, ripping their wings off, and eating them (or splashing around in a river catching fish or gnawing on bones or just eating random things).  Kill Screen's Gus Mastrapa "Things I Ate in Skyrim" is a brilliantly hilarious article that really does the whole insane process justice.
  • The three main crafting skills are kind of awesome.  Alchemy, blacksmithing, enchanting (every single time I use this skill I say, "Enchantment?  Enchantment! a la the idiot savant in Dragon Age: Origins) are useful and since I'm the kind of player who is constantly gathering, stealing, and collecting crafting items I can put them to use and never have to actually pay for anything.  The skill that I am kind of unimpressed by is the cooking feature.  It's not even really a skill since you don't gain any higher competency or bonuses.  You make various items into food and then the food has effects (health boost, etc) but the effects are kind of worthless compared to alchemy.  Additionally food by itself often fetches a higher price than prepared dishes so there's not much point in cooking and then selling the junk.  There's probably some side side quest where someone want you to make them a mammoth steak but other than that cooking in Skyrim is kind pf pointless.
  • One thing you can do with produce is sell it to farmers who will pay you as some kind of day laborer farm hand.  Wait what?  I AM DRAGONBORN!  I mean sure I'll help you gather fucking cabbages for a pittance.  Bloody peasants.
  • Speaking of dragons, THERE ARE FUCKING DRAGONS IN THIS GAME!  And not just there's a monster at the end of this dungeon boss dragons.  The fuckers are flying around at random.  Two favorite encounters with dragons so far.  I was on walkabout with my retainer up in the mountains out in BFE and was heading out of a village when people started screaming.  Yup, dragon breathing ice breath on the poor shit shovellers.  So I stealthed into a copse of trees and started ranging the scaly fucker.  I got over-confident and tried to close range for a clearer shot.  Dragon spotted me and levelled the trees around me.  Fuuuuuuuuuuu.  The other encounter involved me walking around the countryside chasing butterflies when a shadow passed over head.  I promptly ran like hell towards the nearby windmill and pretended to be Brave Sir Robin.  Wish I had a rocket launcher and Matthew McConaughey driving me around.  That'd be sweet.
  • I have already contracted vampirism.  Seriously?  Vampirism already?  In Oblivion it took me at least longer than a dozen hours.  So much for seeing the sun.
  •'s Robert Brockway "5 Personality Flaws Skyrim Forces You to Deal With" is pretty funny.
  • Jeremy Soule's score is kind of better than awesome.  It's so fucking awesome it comes on four cds.  Epic, sweeping, grand, amazing yeah yeah yeah all well and good.  Stopping what I was doing in an inn to listen to the bard?  How's that for impressive?  I'll be picking this up (unless I should wait for Christmas?  ahem).
  • Mark Lampert's sound design is equal to the score. 
  • The voice acting is as solid as it should be.  Plus Max Von Sydow and Vladmir "Should Have Been Thor" Kulich are on the roster.  Too bad they couldn't get Mads Mikkelsen.
  • Many, if not all, of the reviews talk about the scenery and vistas and their quality.  I could quibble about how trees and bushes don't look all that great and and some of the draw could use some work and say I bet this would look better with GTX560 GPU but then I'd be one of those guys.  Skyrim's landscapes and world really shine when you least expect them to and the game really does an excellent job of immersion.  For example I was coming out a dungeon crawl in the mountains and it was night.  Across the night sky were the northern lights and the town in the valley had flickers of light, near the base of the mountain was a bonfire belonging to giantsI wish I had been able to get a screen cap.
  • In addition to the pretty vistas Skyrim is a kind of bizarro trip to Skandinavian lands I have never been to except seen in movies (I have Swedish ancestors too).  I really, really dig the vibe of the meadhalls, jarls, thanes, Northern gods, lycanthopic berserkers, and all that good skull splitting bludgelt stuff*.  It's more than a welcome change from the typical fruity Elven Land of Summer rpg though it does dovetail nicely with The Witcher.  Plus I'm enjoying playing a non-Nord Imperial so the NPCs treat me as more of an outsider and this kind of deepens the game experience for me.
And those are the long and short for the time being.  I'm enjoying the hell out of just wandering aimlessly but really that's the primary reason I pick up Bethesda games. 

Hope you folks are well.  Keep your blades sharp and your wits sharper.

* I predict, and you've heard it here first folks: Skyrim is going to make mead sales in America skyrocket.  I shit you not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Skyrim impression #1 and something to make you feel old.

Skyrim is awesome, very awesome, vast and filled with things to eat.  It also has a bug that is forcing me to restart after four hours of gameplay because the corpse I need to loot to progress the story has fallen into the scenery.  Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu...

Skyrim note:  To all those mouth breathing paste eaters who are unable to pronounce the title of the game - you are fucking idiots.  It's not skeeram or skreem or skeksis it's fucking SKY-RIM.

In other news:

We are old.  Legend of Zelda celebrated its 25th Anniversary.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Witcher - closing remarks and assorted nonsense

I finished off The Witcher this last week and I have to say, well that was satisfying but I'm not sure if I'll be playing it again.  I ended up polishing off the game and side quests (a vast majority of them) at around sixty hours which, for a game that didn't boast a vast world is a good run.  The game ends on a high note with an awesome cinematic that sets up the next game.  The way I played through the game awarded me with a solid "good" ending.  I few suitably proud of myself for making the "right" decisions though during the game I had some second doubts.  All in all I'd have to give The Witcher a middle-high 8/10 B+.  The story and character development was excellent, I was really impressed by some of the story arcs but the denouement, fairly dull combat system, and lacklustre skill development made the game less of role play and more of follow the story.

In other assorted news:

After receiving a higher than average paycheck thanks to working Halloween I was able to take care of mid-month bills and have a little extra to put towards Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.  Plus I already overstocked on groceries so be expecting a post about my initial squeeing over Bethesda's new set of load screens, uh, game.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Manly Monday: Paul Newman in short shorts.

I've always dug Paul Newman more than Robert Redford.  In any case, as a counter-balance to Foxy Fridays (Gillian Anderson in a cat suit is my highest viewed post in the history of HYR), here's one for from the collection.  L'chaim!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Witcher 2 Video Review Video - PC - IGN

Remember, remember...

Ellen Barkin
to set your clocks to standard time this weekend.

In other random news:

Beverly Garland gets ogled in It Conquered the World (1956) also starring Peter Graves and Lee Van Cleef

"And I really got hot when I saw Janette Scott...
Anne Francis Forbidden Planet

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Witcher - Enhanced Edition (2008) - PC - CD Projekt Red Studio

About two years before the much feted Dragon Age Origins  appeared on the scene The Witcher had been getting the love PC RPG fans.  At that time I didn't really give much thought to PC gaming so it fell in the cracks for me (I was all about Elder Scrolls Oblivion anyway).  Last month I saw The Witcher: Expanded Edition for $15 on Steam and figured what the hell, I'll give it a shot.  I'm now about twenty-ish hours into the game and I have to say I'm pretty impressed.  Is it the world's greatest RPG?  No but it's really good.

The basic premise is you play Geralt, a Witcher, who supposedly died (I keep waiting for the game to make the same Snake Plissken jokes I've been making) and has returned from the grave with amnesia.  Witchers are basically humans who, through alchemy and somethin somethin, have become more human than human in order to combat monsters, gribblies, and undesirables.  The downside is Witchers have been broken as a cohesive force and there are less than a handful left.  Regular human beings have taken their defense into their own hands and now view the Witchers with fear and contempt.  Yeah it's a well worn theme but The Witcher makes it work.  Geralt has to deal with humans and nonhumans (elves, dwarves, etc) and is constantly getting shit from all sides.

What I like about The Witcher is that it somehow manages to breath some new life into dark fantasy.  Truth be told, playing this makes me wonder how many of the Dragon Age creators we fans of The Witcher.   While some of the side quests involve "get me ten of this" some of the side quests are actually kind of intense and long running.   CD Projekt Red Studio is a Polish designer/distributor out of Warsaw and I think there's an Eastern European flavor to the game as well, a certain hard edge that Western games try for but miss 95% of the time.  This certainly is not a Peter Molyneux fantasy romp.  Plus The Witcher is certainly one of the more adult games I've played in awhile, not cheezy Kratos boot knocking, but this is an adult themed game.  Geralt is kind of like Ian Fleming's Bond, he's very good at killing things, drinking heavily, and having sex with bodacious chicks.

Now if you haven't played The Witcher and give it a shot you might be put off by its graphics.  It's not Battlefield 3 and there are times when it makes Dragon Age look pretty.  Really though the graphics are pretty solid and everything looks the way it should.  There's no character customization or party set up - you've got Geralt, which is okay since he's fuckin bad ass.

Controls are, well, never really having played a PC RPG actioner before it's taking me some time to get used to the keyboard & mouse control set up.  Now I know why the trackball mouse is so popular among PC gamers.  I guess I could go through the effort of mapping a controller but that would require effort.  I like the quickness of accessing menus and hot keys of the keyboard but exploring and camera control still kind of pisses me off sometimes.

This game looks like it might have some legs on it since I'm twenty hours in and only in the first or second chapter of the game.  I've been surprised that actions have consequences - a doofus statement I know but how many games promise this and the consequence is worthless or absurd?  I saved a cat from a tree later I received a sandwich from the cat's owner.  Derp.  Not all the secondary quests have blinky lights over their heads so tracking them down makes for some fun in the game.  There are one or two parts I've gotten a little frustrated at but I figure answers will be forthcoming.

The Witcher worth picking up if you're in the market for some dark fantasy PC goodness.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nomads (1986) dir John McTiernan

I had never seen or heard of Nomads, McTiernan's first feature film - written and directed by him.  In all honesty I'm not surprised, it's kind of awful.  However, it's one of those 80s movies that is so bizarre and original that the awfulness is outweighed by the originality and imagery - example The Keep (1983).

The basic premise is French cultural anthropologist Jean-Charles (Pierce Brosnan) "discovers" a bizarre nomadic gang led by Adam Ant and Mary Woronov.  This turns out to be a bad thing since the nomads begin to terrorize him and his wife.  Okay, cool pretty straight-forward.  Here's the kicker - and not a spoiler - the last week of Jean-Charles' life is being experienced by Dr. Flax (Lesley-Anne Down) in a sleepwalking hallucinatory state after an emergency room encounter between the two.  To say anything more about the plot will give too much away but let's just say there's some weird shit going on.

It's not a fantastic film by any stretch but there are some concepts and imagery that I feel are going to stick with me for some time.  There's a briefly touched upon theme of the modern nomadic lifestyle (in reference to LA).  There are a couple of points in the movie that are genuinely spooky, not in a scary ooga booga way but in a that's just kind of unsettling way like Malcolm Morley's Beach Scene (1968):

Nomads isn't going to end up on the top of your "must see" spooktacular movie list but it is worth checking out.  It's certainly better than most of direct-to-video horror schlock out there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Thing (2011) dir Matthijs van Heijningen Jr

As many of you long time HYR readers and friends of mine I put John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) in my nebulous top five favorite horror movies. I also really enjoy The Thing From Another World (1951) .  I genuinely love that movie and though it's turned into a movie I throw on in tandem with another Carpenter/Russell team-up there are moments that still get to me.  Rob Bottin's effects still look excellent - the complete edition has long interviews with Bottin about how the effects were pulled off - and the sheer inventiveness and imagination in design and creation fill me with joy.  In case you don't know who Rob Bottin is, he's the man who worked on the effects and creature design in The Howling (1981), Legend (1985), Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990), and more.  Ennio Morricone's score is still harrowing (and impossible to find for a reasonable price).  Wilford Brimley doesn't have a mustache.

Needless to say I went into Matthijs van Heijningen Jr's prequel very very wary and armed for snark.  I had avoided all reviews, trailers, junkets, or anything related to the movie.  One or two things had popped about the quality of the film from people I trust but still I was prepared for suck.

Note: contains spoilers but if you've seen the 1982 version you know what's coming and
 if you haven't seen the 1982 version then stop reading now and go sit in the corner.  
You can rejoin the class when you don't suck.

MvH Jr's version is a damned faithful prequel and comes across as real tribute from the pacing, effects, scoring, down to nitpicky details I was looking for.  Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. led by Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis did an excellent job with effects (considering they've not exactly worked on any gems since the 1990s - their creature effects in Skyline were okay) that in some sections of the movie I wish I could have paused and rewound.  They stayed faithful to the original design and feel of the Thing as horrific gribbly but with some really nice polish from the modern age of technology.  Marco Beltrami (one of the best new generation of composers) lifts tell tale cues from Morricone's score and puts together a solid score.  I don't know if it could stand on its own but I'm willing to track down the score to check it out.  The cast is solid though I didn't recognize anyone, though when I checked Mary Elizabeth Winstead's imdb page she's been in a lot of movies I have seen.  I really appreciated the fact the Norwegians were Norwegians and not Englishmen pretending to be Norwegian, plus with all the Norwegian horror movies coming out it's nice to see a potential jumping off point for new horror fans.  What got me was the sound design - digital sound really amped up the horrific noises the Thing makes.  It's pain/anger cry is top notch.

However my over-all impression isn't blown away.  Part of it was the theater, the screen was filthy and vast expanses of white were marred by weird stains.  A large portion of the movie was dark yet it didn't simply seem to be part of the design but just poor cinematography.  There were a couple of moments were I felt a little squinty but at least the movie wasn't in 3-D.  A section or two of the movie just felt out of place.  Additionally the pacing did not convey the isolation and claustrophobia that 1982 did, which ratcheted up the tension.

I'm certainly going to watch The Thing again if only to be able to instantly watch 82 afterwards.  The way the two films dovetail is one of the high points of the prequel.  Well worth seeing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (PC) 2011

Truthfully the boss fights and end(s) of Deus Ex: Human Revolution sucked.  The three boss fights weren't simply difficult (which they were), annoying (which they were) the main problem was - and I've read this in other eviews - the boss fights come out of left field and consist of the tactic: hoard ammo and guns use them all in a boss fight because otherwise you're fucked.  If you've put your efforts into creating a stealthy hacker and not dermal armor plating and shooting skills then a) you're gonna get dead right quick and b) the boss fights do not allow for any other course of action besides run and gun.  In one fight I saw a series of crates hanging from the ceiling and after getting killed for the umpteenth time tried to find a way to drop them on the boss.  Nope, sorry. Fuck you.  Well maybe I could hack some sentry guns...yeah fuck you.  Could I...sorry fuck no.  Each of the fights made me dread the next one, not because it was hard but because I simply didn't have the option of playing the fight out in a different way.  In the final fight I ended up backtracking through the entire level and scavenging every round of ammo and guns I could find and I still got shredded time and time and time again.  Finally I had to drop the difficulty down to Tea Cup ride and that still was a bitch.

The denouement is less frustrating but kind of let down on its own, sort of like Fallout 3 and Fallout: Vegas.  Despite my loathing of the boss fights Deus Ex: HR had a solid, mildly convoluted cyberpunk, story with dynamic character interaction.  Communicating with side characters was a high point of the game for me and one particular conversation will stick with me more quite sometime - let's just say it didn't go well.  The ending just goes yup and the end.  Shrug.  I wasn't looking for Return of the King but a little more would have been nice.

All in all I enjoyed the game.  It was a solid forty hours of adventuring though I doubt I'll be replaying it or bothering with the DLC anytime soon.   

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Vexor, Vexor, Vexor, Vexor, Ishtar! Ishtar!

Finally I am one day away from getting into the Ishtar!  From what I read on EVE-fail and Memoirs of a Carebear I should be in for a good time.  Happy fat kid hand clap glee.  I'll post pics when I finally take it for a spin.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011): Eidos Montreal

I love cyberpunk (except for the piece of shit Shadowrun FPS) in fact I think it's been my favorite genre since forever.  Unfortuantely it's a genre that is drawn upon but otherwise marginalized.  Hell, it's been nigh over a decade since Eidos Interactive released Ion Storm's Deus Ex for the PC - it was released in 02 for the PS2 which is where I played it.  Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel to Deus Ex (yes I know Invisible War was released but we're gonna Crystal Skull* that one) that begins in 2027 Detroit.  I'm about six hours into gameplay and here are my current impressions:

All the reviews tout DE:HR's adaptability and multiple mission approaches and let me tell ya, it's in there.  Frankly I don't know why this type of game play isn't the norm.  As you folks may well know I'm a sniper/klepto/hacker kind of player, more comfortable with hacking enemy turrets than taking the gunfight to the enemy.  That type of game approach is actually well rewarded in DE:HR - exploration and nicking things huzzah!  I spent the better part of last night sneaking around the Detroit PD, raiding desk drawers, hacking computers, and this was when I had permission to be in the building.  The conversation I had to gain access to the building really highlighted one of the best bits of the game for me - I actually had to pay attention to what the person was saying and respond appropriately.  It is a lot more engaging than the color coded chat wheel that's been prominent lately.  Also the dialogue is good and oddly convincing (well written dialogue in a game?) and except for the protagonist's pseudo-Clint Eastwood accent (which works it's just he sounds like Dirty Harry).

The writing is really good - I haven't delved that much into the main story I'm still working on well crafted side quests - which isn't too surprising based on my experiences with Eidos titles in the past (Batman: Arkham Asylum had an awesome story for a Batman game).  What really sets the writing apart is the amount of life they managed to put into the world.  I overheard a conversation about Robocop in the Detroit PD.  Evesdropping in DE:HR is fun and while doesn't directly influence the game makes for some entertaining listening.

Combat kind of sucks for me.  I'm playing the game on the highest difficulty which is fine when I can get the drop on or avoid an enemy but getting into a fire fight means death.  I supposed I could become a combat beast with the right augmentations but that's a low priority for me.  The AI is pretty good but not flawless (in one area I camped the end of a hallway and tranq darted gang members as they ran out to help one another).  Actually the AI can be kind of a sharp eyed keen earred bastard sometimes thus proving in RL I would last roughly 5.6 seconds as a cybernetically enhanced cop.

I love the look of the game but it might be off putting for some because the game thus far is orange.  Nicotine yellow?  Detroit is polluted amber yellow?  I'm exaggerating of course, the fancy buildings looks fancy, science buildings look shiny and sciencey, and endless miles of airvents look like endless miles of air vents.  I personally dig it because it's part of the look of cyberpunk neo-noir.  I get frustrated sometimes when I get turned around in air ducts or the sewer system and end up exactly where I don't want to be (ex. while in the PD I was scurrying around the air ducts and got lost and found an unopened vent cover that led to an office.  I opened the cover, the noise of which alerted the two cops in the room who promptly shot the fuck out of me).

I also like DE:HR right now because I haven't figured out how to break it yet.  Fallout: New Vegas was pretty damned easy (though a few hundred hours of training on Fallout 3 didn't hurt).  I imagine Skyrim though hopefully brilliant will be breakable.  I'm not thinking DE:HR is unbreakable but it's been tough to balance my slow skill building.  For example there's one side mission I am working on that I need a higher level hacking to complete but there's another side mission I needed a soft landing augmentation for.  Decisions, decisions. 

Oh helpful hint/trick to consider before heading into D-Town via rooftops - have both enhanced jumping and soft landing.  The problem with soft landing is that it is an automatic skill - there's one jump that involves jumping from an apt rooftop to a fire escape.  Before I got soft landing I was making the jump fine because of momentum and trajectory.  With soft landing the skill kicks in the moment you starting heading down (soft landing prevents death from falling great heights).  This is a life saver skill, unless you need the extra momentum to carry you through.  Damn it.

I look forward to playing DE:HR further and really exploring the side stories.  More news to follow.

*In reference to the 4th Indiana Jones movie.  All data expunged.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finally trying the Pankot Masala...

I decided to try to the chile paste I made over the weekend in my ramen.  How is it?  Delicious.  Smoky, fruity, there's that bhut flavor and some garlic.  The heat?  I only used a bump (is a bump a reasonable unit of measure?) and the heat is pretty intense but I can still taste what I am eating and the flavors of the other things I put in my noodles.  So one bump per two cups of water brings the sweat and snot, actually I don't know if it's the Trinidads but my ocular cavities are kind of pulsing.

I look forward to using more of the paste in a bigger meal.  Wish I could make jumbo prawn in chile paste.  That'd be damned tasty.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday in the kitchen with Abuelita J: Chile paste

The Trinidad/Bhut blend is on the left.  The other is a blend of Santaka and Ring of Fire

I got my chores done and the kitchen clean so of course I had to make a mess of my kitchen again.  The pile of Trinidads and bhuts on the counter were half dried.  I fired up the oven to 450, tossed the chiles in olive oil and put them in (I didn't know this but Pyrex measuring cups are oven safe as well - a handy thing to know for the future) for about thirty minutes.  I also had about a dozen dried bhut jolokia in the freezer that I reconstituted in boiling water.  Now there are two cups of bhut jolokia tea sitting on my counter which I'm wondering what to do with.  The roasted chiles and reconstituted bhuts all went into the food processor with roughly two tablespoons of oil.  Then the paste went into a hot pan.  All windows were open and the fan was on but it was kind of intense going for a bit.  I added a couple of tablespoons of garlic puree, the zest and juice of one lemon, a pinch of salt, and a good slosh of fish sauce (it seemed like a good idea at the time).  Fried everything together until the excess liquid was gone, let cool, and jarred.  I did a scaredy cat taste test (I nibbled a little from the end of a spoon) and it's kind of evil.  Mola Ram god damn black blood of Kali evil.  So I'm naming this blend: Pankot Masala.

The blend on the right is the one I made before and is just Santakas and Ring of Fire roasted, blended, and fried.  It's actually got a human consumption heat level and gives the dishes I've used it a cayannesque kick with a richer flavor.  This one is probably one I will branch out with and work on for the upcoming holidays.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A bunch of brief movie reviews:

Been watching a shit-ton of movies lately so here's a quick run down:

13 Assassins dir Takahashi Miike.  I wasn't particularly hyped to see this movie until I heard some good things about it from friends.  For one I figured it was a Seven Samurai knock-off and for another Miike directed it.  Don't get me wrong I liked Miike once upon a time when I was all about Japanese cinema but recently I just find his movies kind of boring.  13 Assassins knocked me for a loop though.  It's the best Tokugawa era chambara I have seen in ages, really top-notch quality, excellent filmed, paced, and acted, Miike reigns in his penchant for the absurd and bizarre, and the action is brilliantly done.  One of the things I enjoyed the most about the movie was the camera work - it was steady and captured the action.  I loathe shaky cam and it was extremely refreshing to see hardcore action without it.  Nicely done.  Well worth watching.

Tangled - Disney's latest princess movie based on the Rapunzel story.  Meh, I'll stick with The Princess & the Frog or Mulan.  I just didn't really enjoy most of Tangled - there were a couple of cute jokes and I liked the use of skillets - and I didn't really like Rapunzel for some reason.

True Legend dir Yuen Woo Ping.  This movie is about Su "Beggar" Can who apparently created (?) Drunken Fist wushu during the end of the Qing Dynasty (mid 1800s).  This movie is paint by numbers and actually kind of boring and predictable.  The martial arts is as solid as should be expected from Yuen Woo Ping but except for one fight sequence in the middle of the movie the action is kind of paint by numbers.  If you're still a fan of wire work, wushu, and wuxia then True Legend is pretty solid.  For me I prefer no CGI or wires in my martial arts movies.

Hanna dir Joe Wright.  This is a strange little movie that I want to like but for some reason can't commit to 100%.  It starts strong, keeps a tight pace with action and pulsing score.  The international feel of the movie was engaging.  Saoirse Ronan is pretty bad-ass, actually she's super bad-ass, and she dishes out some ass whuppin.  Eric Bana is cool.  Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses but she had this weird American accent that reminded me of Clarice Starling, it was really distracting.  The action camera was spastic - in a few sequences the camera was jiggly even when there was no action happening.  Tom Hollander was a high point of the movie for me, channeling Taylor Negron and sporting a track suit.

X-Men: First Class dir Matthew Vaughn. X-Men doin X-Men shit in 1962.  Michael Fassbinder's Magneto was kind of the high point of the movie for me though his Irish accent came out near the end of the movie.  X-Men was pretty much what you'd expect from a X-Man movie.  They have powers, some hide their powers, others don't.  Humans are afraid.  Blah blah blah tortured teen drama bullshit.  The best parts of the movie were Magneto before he gets a happy memory unlocked and the team recruitment sequence, oh yeah and Emma Frost's (January Jones') breasts which aren't the best on Mad Men but are the best in this movie.  Meh, I'm just not a huge fan of the X-Men in general.

Thor (2011) dir Kenneth Branagh.  Man, Thor is an asshole.  I guess if you're the God of Thunder you might be a little cocky but damn Thor is just a dick.  I couldn't stop thinking that throughout the entire movie.  Movie wise Thor just felt weak when compared with 2008's The Incredible Hulk and the first Iron Man.  Not sure if Branagh was the best choice as director (though I still enjoy his movies) but then again I don't really think he had much to work with.  Thor just isn't very interesting.  And Nick Fury isn't black.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Santaka's on the wire!

I just made my first fried chile paste.  My entire apartment reeks in such a good way.  Thank god the weather is good so I can have all my windows open.  Instead of crafting a sambal or a nam prik I decided to go for a foundation - pure chiles with only adding oil and a splash of lemon juice.  Salt, dried shrimp, lemon grass, any and all other additives are being left out for the time being.  My idea is to have this chile paste and add to it as the dish requires.  As it stands, the paste has a vicious bite to it but due that magic of roasting (SCIENCE!) there is also a really rich bass note to both the heat and flavour.

I will be storing this batch and sending it out in the next week.  I will have some on reserve for further blending purposes.

Here's what I done did recipe:

  • A couple of beers
  • Roughly two dozen fresh Santaka chiles
  • A tablespoon or so of olive oil
  1. Drink beers.
  2. Preheat oven to 450.
  3. Destem chiles and throw in large bowl.
  4. When all the chiles are destemmed, coat/toss in oil, put in Pyrex baking container, then put chiles in pan in oven.
  5. Roast for about thirty minutes.
  6. Take out of oven, put in blender with the juice of on half lemon.  Blend.
  7. Heat a skillet on med-low.  Put contents of blender in pan when hot.  Add the juice of the other half of lemon.
  8. Add another tablespoon of oil to pan.
  9. Keep chiles in pan moving.  DO NOT BURN.
  10. After about five minutes put the chiles back in the blender.  Important safety tip:  Do not put hot pan full of chile oil in the sink and then pour cold water in it.  I didn't do that because it was something I learned years ago.  Hot pan with chile oil + cold water = chile steam.
  11. Blend the chiles again in the blender.
  12. Tada!  Put paste in pyrex (not plastic) container or other glass container.  Store in fridge.
More news to follow once I stop sneezing.

Now I definitely have to get my computer up to snuff:

a crew of folks, RAGE Team, are making a mod to turn GTA IV into GTA IV: VC

I hope this is real because I think I just pooped a little.

Crimson Alliance (2011) Certain Affinity, Inc

I downloaded Crimson Alliance last night and gave it a couple of run throughs.  It's a dungeon crawler that is pretty straight forward.  Three character classes to choose from: wizard, fighter, rogue.  I had the best luck with the wizard's combo of ranged attacks.  Combat is pretty straight forward.  I don't think the game has the skill tree depth of say Torchlight (or the lot hunting) but Crimson Alliance has what Torchlight is missing: co-op.  Frankly with my recent play-through of Kill Team and now Crimson Alliance I wish I had a regular gaming friend with which to play.  The downside to Crimson Alliance co-op play is that it seems some of the puzzles are unsolvable without help.  Kind of a drag since I haven't taught Moxie how to use a controller yet.

The game looks like a dungeon crawler, controls like a dungeon crawler, and is generally fun.  If you're the kind of person who often has a friend or friends over for gaming then definitely take a look.  If you're on your own then stick with Torchlight.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Julia Child

This might be old news for some but i just found out. Julia Child is a badass. follow the link to the article.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Counting the Cost - The battle for the South China Sea

As a chilehead...

an armchair food historian and epicure I find joy in reading about the uses of chiles across the globe.  One of the things I truly love is browsing recipes from dissimilar cultures and regions containing chiles and realizing that the similarity of basic chile paste is the same.  Certainly in some regions ingredients are different due to availablity (ex. galangal) but the basic quartet of chiles, garlic, citrus, and salt are all the same.  Some recipes call for a sweetener.  Some call for dried chiles, others fresh.  Some recipes have more than a dozen (some kari and other curries and moles).

Not to sound touchy feely "We Are the World"-y but this commonality in recipes and love of chiles redeems my faith in humanity a little or at least brings out a feeling that food can create bridges between people and can allow individuals to self-educate about cultures other than their own.  It also lead to the imperialistic Western European drive across the globe but we're gonna just gloss over that.  That whole sugar and slavery thing...yeah, that was kind of a catastrophe.  However without the Spanish conquest of the Western Hemisphere there wouldn't be nam prik or sambal or zhoug or doro wat (okay there would still be doro wat but it wouldn't be so damned tasty).

been-jamin is trying to either...

A)  Kill me.
B)  Make me see beyond time and space.

As some of you might have noticed my old friend has posted on HYR and has been sending me some of his latest chile crop.  Today I received in the post a slew of Santakas (my current favorite chile) which I will definitely make into a fried chile paste once I find a recipe I like.  Additionally there is a gorgeous, I mean stunning, Trinidad Yellow Seven Pod.  I wish I had a decent camera because the yellow is just so damn vibrant. Additionally, and the reason I think that the man is out to get me, there is the Trinidad Scorpion.  Yes, that Trinidad Scorpion.  I swear to god the fucking thing hissed at me while I was sorting out the peppers.  I might not eat it, I might just use it as a ward against sorcery and restless spirits.  Or I might powder it, mix it with tetrodotoxin and bone meal and make me some good old fashioned zombies.  Or I might eat the thing and if I don't die I'll get it inked on my chile tattoo arm.

If anyone needs me I'll be in the kitchen.

Space Marine Demo (2011) THQ & Games Workshop - and a word on "Warhammer 40K: Kill Team"

"FOR THE EMPEROR!" is one the phrases that makes me giggle with girlish glee.  Ever since 1988 I've been a fan of Warhammer 40,000.  As far as the digital incarnations, though I haven't played the Dawn of War series (I will once I get my new vid card) I have played Space Hulk, Warhammer 40K: Squad Command, Fire Warrior, and I could have sworn there was another one in there somewhere.  Most of them are only cool because it's a Warhammer 40K game other than that they aren't the world's greatest games nor have they really done 40K justice.  Last night I downloaded the demo for the latest foray into the grim darkness of the future, Space Marine.  Just from the demo I started making noises like the village idiot receiving a basket of glitter kittens that secreted mini-marshmallows.  You control Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, battling - in the demo - the greenskin tide.  I don't know what took so long but this third person shooter actually rocks.  From Bolter to Chainsword to crushing gretchin under a power armor shod foot Space Marine  actually feels right.  There is no cover system and no health packs - instead the game rewards you for whoopin and whompin every living thing in sight.  Switching from melee to ranged and back is absurdly fast so blasting the living shit out of the greenskins as you storm into the fray and then firing up the ol chainsword for a bit of the ultraviolence is smooth.  Narf narf narf.  The game also looks right, which is just proof that a proper Warhammer 40K game was just waiting for the technology to catch up.  There's supposedly an online multiplayer mode but I don't know jack about that.

Potential downsides:
  • I noticed in several instances the camera was kind of useless until I still started tweaking the camera as I moved in combat.  There were several times all I could see was either a welter of gore or a wall.  Corners and under catwalks were the main problems.  In open areas, using ranged weapons, or when able to step back from the scrum camera issues were far less noticable.  However, for a game that leans towards melee, a sloppy camera can spell death.
  • I get the impression that Space Marine will be a short linear game with minimal replay value/ exploration/etc.  In other words?  Not worth $60.
  • Multiplayer with the same assholes who play Gears of War.  Yeah, the robble robble argy bargy tossers.  You know who I mean. 
I'll have to wait for the reviews to come out.

Kill Team for the XBOX Arcade was a fun taster for Space Marine - though Kill Team is in no way shape or form as intricate as Space Marine.  Basically a top down shooter with player Marine v Orks I spent about a day playing through several times with various Marine classes (Librarian, Devastator, Assault, Techmarine) mainly because I had nothing else to do but I also wanted to test out weapons.  I am looking forward to the opportunity to play Kill Team co-op as I think the game will really shine when  there's more mayhem to be had.  For 800pts it's worth the value plus you can unlock some kind of whompin stick for Space Marine.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Beef is made from cows: Part I

I spent the better part of yesterday cooking and I have to say that I might have learned something very obvious that I hadn't considered before.  Beef is not pork.  Beef is made from cows.  Beef also cooks very differently than piggy.  I also had forgotten that beef will retain it's beefy flavour unless nuked from high orbit with a spicy ion cannon.

I purchased about three pounds of stew meat, marinaded it all in cider vinegar and pineapple juice.  I rendered down about a half pound of salt pork then sauteed onions, garlic, and four congo black chiles (aka chocolate habaneros) in the drippings and crumblies.  The majority of the cooked salt pork is now in a container in the fridge waiting for various nommings.  I then added the beef, put the heat on low, and commenced drinking.  About the time I was drunk and realized that I was hungry I had some leftover pizza and passed out (fortunately I had remembered to turn off the stove and put the pot o'moo in the fridge before going to bed).

I woke up hungry so I made some rice and heated up some of the beef.  The beef has become pretty much the consistency of barbacoa  and tastes like barbacoa.  A bonus is that I cooked it so long that all of the fat melted so there's none of that Barbacoa Russian Roulette - will this bite be delicious meat or wad of fat with the texture of dairy phlegm?  The flavour is intensely beefy, even though I didn't use any stock, and that's awesome.  So why am I kind of disappointed?  Well for one I don't have tortillas, fresh cilanto, or lime to make tacos.  For two I don't taste anything but beef.  Thirdly something happened to the heat - it's impulse power warm.  Maybe I just scooped out a dud spoonful.  When I get home from work today I will put the pot back on the stove and add more chiles and stuff.

Am I missing something specific to preparing spicy beef?  Do I need to ramp up the amount of spices I need to counteract the natural flavour?  The salt level is decent thanks to the salt pork.  Is beef kind of a building block for other ingredients?  Am I just out of practice with beef that isn't a steak?  Ideas, questions, comments, suggestions welcome.  I'll post part two when I get some time this evening.

Burke and Hare (2010) - dir. John Landis

I'm not sure where to start on this review.  John Landis hasn't made a movie that I enjoyed watching since his comedic masterpieces of the early 80s.  Okay, Family for Masters of Horror was pretty enjoyable.  I'm also suffering from a mild case of Simon Pegg overexposure.  Frankly I wasn't expecting much from reading the description but I was interested enough after the trailer to download it.

Burke and Hare is based on the lives of two rogues who went from rags to riches selling corpses to the Edinburgh medical community in the early 19th Century.  Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis play Burke and Hare, respectively, and the movie is really fun to watch.  It's quite possibly the funniest period piece based around murder that I have seen in quite sometime (p.s. fuck Burton's Sweeny Todd.  Go Lansbury or go home).  Pegg and Serkis have a really solid on screen rapport, and their back and forth really pops.  Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft's script reminds me more of a stage production instead of your standard comedy script.  The cast is a veritable who's who of British actors ranging from Tom Wilkinson to Hugh Bonneville to Tim Curry.  There are a couple of excellent cameos as well.  Landis really knocked it out of the park with Burke and Hare, everything just kind of meshes into a really solid black comedy.  The ending stumbles a bit but does not face plant the way most comedies do (movies in general).

I downloaded it from XBOX for the price of a regular movie ticket as an advance view but it's definitely tracking down a copy or seeing in the theater if you get the opportunity.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

A review.. sort of.

Well, the upload went not so good ( 1 to 2 second delay on the audio). The vid explains the rest Enjoy.


A fine Morning Pick.

A bit of of color for today.

So my cinematic skill withstanding, here is a quick vid of this morning's harvest. Hooligan and I have a shared love of the capsicum.. has anyone noticed? I have been growing peppers for about 5 years now and have recently graduated to what is rightly called "Super Hots". Mind blowing nasty little demons that this vid just doesn't do justice.

I hope that anyone with the culinary need for capsicum will enjoy this.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Foxy Fridays: Ellen Ripley

My favorite incarnation of Ellen Ripley (also my favorite movie of the series).


Santaka time

Santaka chiles are akin to cayenne in heat but have a fresh, bright flavor to them.  I diced three fresh and added them to a tomato based pasta sauce - fried them with the garlic and onions first.  They added just the right amount of heat without hindering taste.  An excellent chile, simple and tasty.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One of papers I am gonna be working on this semester...

is going to be an attempt to find some aspect of the connection between martial arts films from the 1970s and American (regardless of race) culture that hasn't been covered by quite a few more well versed people than I am.  I never thought my familiarity of chopsocky movies, Blaxploitation, and film scores would be actually useful.  I also never thought I would be listening to the Wu Tang Clan discography for research.  Did you know that the Wu Tang Clan was not to be trifled with?  Nor did I think that I'd be watching Fist of Fury or The Five Deadly Venoms as research.

Any helpful ideas, source material, or input would be much appreciated.  

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