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.

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