Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hmmm...shippy shippy shippy ship...

I'm kicking the tires on a couple of boats.  Before my brief break from EVE I was considering the Proteus - the T3 cruiser which could be a pretty awesome project to spend the summer working on.  My other option is begin the long slog towards the Kronos.  The Kronos is made for stomping through solo missions without having to go grab the Noctis when you salvage.  The downside to the Kronos is I'm a drone monkey and would be better served by a Dominix.  A downside is the Domi...well, she's kind of fugly and lumpy (in-game nickname is "The Boot").  Not chopped down the ugly tree with her face fugly (*cough* Gila) but she's not exactly my cup of tea.

The primary drawback(s) to getting the Proteus, besides cost, is the simple fact I love my Ishtar.  Now that my skills have begun to do the boat justice I've noticed marked improvements in performance.  There are still some core areas that need major work - putting weeks of time into Drone skills have left me on the back foot in others (new EVE players - take the time to sit down and plan what you want to do in the long run before skilling willy nilly).  From glancing at the forums I noticed that the Proteus isn't comparable to the Ishtar as a PvE droneboat (I'll spend some more time reading because I'm sure there are plenty of folks out there who disagree).  I also have n00b level skills for blasters so fitting it as a blaster boat isn't a current option.  On the other hand it would take me a very short time to get into a Proteus, though I have made the mistake of jumping into a boat with substandard skills and paid the price.  Additionally there's the maxim, "Never fly more than you're willing to lose."  At this juncture my pride would take a stronger hit than my pocketbook if I lost my Ishtar.

The Kronos is not only over a billion isk (vs 240mil for the Proteus) but would take me roughly seventy-eight days to get into.  Well, that solves that problem.

The Dominix is 85mil and would take me an hour to get in (Battleship 1) - this doesn't include Large Hybrid Weapon skills though.  I could slap mid and low T2 gear on her from the get go.  Looking at her attributes for the first time I'm kind of impressed.  As far an armor tank/drone boat, well that's what she was made for.  With a 6/5/7 fitting (high/med/low) I could damn near slap everything and a kitchen sink on her.  Plus with a 375m3/125 bandwidth I'd be up to my ass in drones of every shape, size, color, and possible use (even that deep fryer drone I picked up).

Downsides, besides aesthetics, are mainly based on a couple of practical worries and some less practical. First, it would mean a shift in the way I PvE, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Right now I can dictate the flow of combat primarily through speed and range (the "they can't hit what they can't catch" principle) and judicious use of drones and rails.  I feel that the depressing speed of the Domi (base 109km/s combined with 420 signature radius and 0.1254 inertia modifier) would be akin to pushing a turd up a hill with chopsticks in regards to handling (opposed to an Ishtar's base 191km/s, 145 sig radius, and 0.560025 inertia mod).  The drastic change in these elements would potentially mean being at the mercy of enemy frigates and cruisers (and their ewar).  I suppose I could put my trust in blasters, though in truth I prefer to have the foe dealt with before they get into blaster range (hence my preference in railguns).  I have seen the Domi in action and she proves to be tough nut to crack.  Hell, she's built like a brick shithouse and can just soak up abuse.

I guess for the time being I'll keep on keepin on with the Ishtar and make some long term plans for getting into a Domi.  Still, I miss that new ship smell.

What to do in EVE flowchart

Not exactly what I was looking for but pretty cool nonetheless.

After a year of EVE...

"If you look long enough into the Quafe, the Quafe begins to look back through you."

I had my first in-game birthday about a week ago.  Nothing really special happened, I blew up some up some Serps and completed a few more certificates.  I've been finishing off my drone skills (which has been taking for-fucking-ever) and getting back my sea-legs on L3 milk runs.  There was a new expansion,  Inferno, which had a bunch of shiny updates (missles and rockets for what they are worth - I don't use them anymore) and a new Unified Inventory which I can't tell if I like or not.  It seems like a change to something that didn't really need to be changed.  However, EVE's inventory control is magically delicious when compared to SWTOR, WoW, or The Secret World, so I'll just have to get used to it or integrate it to the in station menu and get used to that (even though having it integrated makes me feel like I'm wearing my underwear backwards).

I've reached a strange point in my EVE career.  I'm not really sure what to do.  I still have a small mountain of skills I can put time into in order to make me really effective at soloing L4's and dodgier areas, at least in a cruiser class or below boat.  I'm not a miner.  The corp I'm currently in is pretty small and it's rare if any of us are online at the same time.  In a game that is very much a sandbox and your fun is dependent upon you sometimes it's kind of easy to be at a loss for what to do - especially when you've completed a set of self imposed goals and have to think about what the next set of goals you want to set for yourself are.  I don't need stacks of credits simply because I currently don't need to buy anything and everything I'm salvaging and looting is gravy.  I don't particularly want to risk my current clone (yeah I can get a jump clone) or my current boat in some kooky jaunt across the dark places of Eden.

I'm curious what other EVE players do when they find themselves at a loss for things to do.  Is it time for me to start thinking of going to nullsec?  Is it time to start thinking about getting into a battleship (not that I really want one)?  Time to join another corp?  Should I, gasp, learn to PvP?  Ideas and comments are welcome.

Fly safe, capsuleers.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chronicle (2012) & Contraband (2012): mini reviews

Chronicle (2012) Y'know I kind of liked it.  The trailer pretty much shows almost all the movie and I spent most of the movie thinking, "Man, they could really make a live action Akira and do it justice."  The main character is actually kind of sympathetic and not just some mall-goth.  I'm not a fan of the first person camera angle thing that makes up most of movie but at least it wasn't found footage (because fuck found footage movies) or Cloverfield douches and waving iCameras.  Saturday afternoon or sick day watching.

Contraband (2012) A remake of Reykjavik-Rotterdam (2008) with Mark Wahlberg being all Mark Wahlberg-y.  I'll watch pretty much anything with him in it.  I don't care.  Other than that the movie was pretty solid action/crime thriller.  Beat the fuck out of Drive.  Another Saturday afternoon feature. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Steampunk is dead, long live Cowpunk.

Steampunk lost its appeal for me a few years ago when it simply turned into brown goth (swap out ankhs for gears).  While I was glad to see the renewed interest in Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells, dirigibles, and British Imperialism I rapidly became disgusted with this kind of mentality:

My own relationship with steampunk began in 1988 when I read about Frank Chadwick's Space: 1889 (GDW: 1988) in Dragon magazine.  Not long after I got hooked on Philip Jose Farmer's Dungeon series.  This series remains one of my favorite "fantasy" series and after rereading them a few years ago - probably not something I should have read when I read it for the first time (see also George Alec Effinger's When Gravity Fails).  I had forgotten about steampunk, for the most part, save for a manga here or there, Otomo's Steamboy (2004), and to a certain extent Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the graphic novel not the shite movie).  In the late 00s the steampunk subculture went mainstream and for a brief period of time I thought it was pretty cool.  Then the subculture seemed to blow up and you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a top hat with shit on it.  I think DragonCon 2010 was the final nail in the coffin for me (though there were some slammin hot cosplayers in steampunk gear but then again those men and women would look attractive in damn near anything).  It wasn't even a scene I was "into" or directly involved with (apart from living with a borderline steampunk-former goth-super crafter-ubergeek) so I my disinterest did not stem from my "scene" being taken over by n00bs and kindergoths.  No, I just got over-saturated and that resulted in me turning into a crankasaurus.

Recently a dear friend, fellow Havenite, and longtime fan of steampunk declared that she was done with the subculture and was ready to move on.  In the ensuing snark we batted around other ---punk genres that could be gotten into.  Personally I'm tired of 99% of (insert term)punk including but not limited to dieselpunk, atomicpunk, cuttlepunk (enough with the god damn Cthulu stuff people.  Lovecraft's best works didn't even involve Elder Gods), and coalpunk.  My money is still on the Weird Western; that brilliant genre that ranges (in my experience) from the classic show The Wild, Wild West (1965-1969), horror folk tales I grew up with (some with historical roots - the Donner Party - and a lot of Native American things that go bump in the night) to some of the works of Joe R. Lansdale to Ravenous (1999), The Missing (2003) and The Burrowers (2008) to a great deal of bizzaro sci-fi and horror that shared the same bottle as splatterpunk (I can't forget Red Dead Redemption either).  A number of excellent (now out-of-print) graphic novels appeared in the early 00s that did the Weird Western bloody justice.  Hell, I might even call Preacher a Weird Western at it's heart.  I was recently skimming through the brilliant Too Much Horror Fiction blog (seriously, if you're a horror fan you'd do well to check it out) and found a brief write-up of Razored Saddles, a Weird Western anthology edited by Joe R Lansdale and Pat Lobrutto.  I found it on amazon and bought a couple of copies (don't give me that look).  I haven't started it yet but the list of authors is fucking impressive.  Besides Lansdale, it features Robert R McCammon, Richard Matheson (yes that Richard Matheson), Richard Laymon, and F. Paul Wilson.  There are quite a few authors I don't recognize off the topic of my head but their names look familiar from other anthologies (e.g. Chet Williamson).

What brought on the whole ---punk blog was when I was shelving the extra copies I noticed that Avon had categorized the anthology as "Cowpunk/Horror".  "Cowpunk"?  Nani?  So I took a look at wikipedia and found out that a good number of bands I am very, very familiar with bore the cowpunk moniker (including The Violent Femmes, Meat Puppets, The Cramps, The Mekons, and a number of bands I just thought were psychobilly -e.g. Nashville Pussy and Reverend Horton Heat).  Well, I'll be shipped in dit.  I didn't see any authors or mention of Weird Westerns on the wiki though.  I'm kind of curious how Avon came to slap cowpunk on the book and if there are other books drifting around in the sub-subgenre.  Mr. Lansdale and Mr. LoBrutto explain in the introduction:
But, the term Cowpunk is a joke, nothing more.  It is not the beginning of a movement.  No secret handshakes or code rings here.  It is a playful poke at such "movements" as Cyberpunk and Splatterpunk as it is anything. - xii
This makes me fucking happier than listening to Deadwood dialogue.  It's been a long time since I was genuinely "fat kid dancing with cotton candy" happy to read something.  Razored Saddles is also a little nostalgic for me.  This book reminds me of anthologies and assorted horror I cut my teeth on, starting around age 12 (most of which I should not have read until I was old enough to buy smokes).

I'll be making a follow-up/review post soon but in the meantime I'm gonna crack open a Lone Star and fresh pack of Pall Malls and get to reading.    

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Red Tails (2012) Dir. Anthony Hemingway

I, like many people I am sure, wasn't paying much attention to Red Tails.  I had seen the trailer and thought, "Okay, a WWII airmen movie about black pilots.  That's cool."  I had been familiar with the Tuskegee program but didn't know much more about the unit or its exploits in the European air war.  Truth be told, I had shrugged off seeing it because Cuba Gooding Jr. was in it.  Plus from the previews I figured it would be an uplifting tale about men being awesome even when the odds are stacked against them.  Paint by numbers WWII airmen movie a la Memphis Belle (1990).  When it comes down to it, Red Tails is simply a paint by numbers flyboy movie (if you're familiar with the genre then you'll probably only be in it to watch the aerial combat).

What sets Red Tails apart from its ilk is that the film focuses on Black airmen and their struggles to be recognized as equals in the eyes of white servicemen, the brass, and a society that systematically denied opportunities for equality.  Frankly Glory (1989) did it better, with a more convincing set of characters, and better dialogue.  I certainly don't have a problem with the subject matter of the film or treatment but Red Tails felt, for lack of a better term, safe.  On one hand, I enjoyed the film and cheered at the right points and laughed the right points and teared up at the right points but on the other I kind of winced at some scenes of white and black pilots coming together and the moments of "fight with your mind, not your fists" dialogue.  While I wasn't expecting (or hoping for) some kind of Spike Lee polemic I didn't expect such a two dimensional film.  Then again, it didn't need to be a political race movie because it ultimately was about pilots being awesome.

Terence Blanchard's score was pretty lacklustre but Anthony Hemingway and his technical staff put together a great looking movie.  Having the backing of Lucasfilm definitely showed because the aerial sequences were pretty bad-ass and I had a good time recognizing planes that I grew up knowing the names and makes of.  Seeing the ME-262 (the German jet that appeared near the end of the war) in action made me really happy, because ME-262s are fucking awesome.  Seriously, look them up.  Jet fighters in WWII.  Awesome.

I don't know why everyone went googly-moogly about Lucas being one of the executive producers.  He didn't write the script or the story based on John B. Holway's book.  He didn't direct it or edit it.  The reviewer on imdb is right about lots of the fallacies and might be right about the Tuskegee Airmen deserving a better movie but I'm not sure why he (or other reviewers - positive and negative) are putting such import on Lucas.  There's a bunch of stuff about Lucas on the Red Tails wiki but I'm not interested enough in reading it.

Not world's most memorable air combat movie but not one of the worst either.  I guess the best thing about this movie for me is if some kid gets interested in WWII aircraft because of it or wants to learn more about the Tuskegee Project, that's pretty cool.  As far as making an effort to see it?  Wait until it's streaming on netflix or someone else wants to pay for the rental or you've run out of airplane movies to watch.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Show Me Where Ya Noms At

The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition (2012)

I am a big fan of the Witcher series (opening  & closing remarks) though I've not read the books or might not have nerded all over myself during my time with the first installment.  If that's the case then why do I call myself a "fan" of the games?  Because after playing through Witcher I still talk and think about it.  I recommend it to people.  I don't proselytize but I definitely talk the game up a bit.

When I found out that The Witcher 2: Enhanced Edition was coming to XBOX 360 I clapped my hands like a fat kid finding out he was having cake for dinner.  I still haven't gotten my PC up to the required specs for a game like Witcher 2 and looking back at my old posts (and in the interim playing other PC action games) I've realized that I kind of suck at using a mouse and keyboard for action games - thirty years of console controllers vs a few years of mouse and keyboard training, you figure out my handicap.

This is a first impressions post/review and, following a marathon gaming session yesterday, I'm roughly twenty-five-ish hours into the game (possibly near the end of Chapter One).  I'm going to try a list review with call and response rather than the standard pros and cons layout.

  • Graphics/Load Times/Basics
    • I couldn't have run W2 on my PC, or perhaps I could have but it would have been like trying to run the Iditarod with kittens.  On the 360 the game runs pretty smoothly.  I've noticed a few moments of tearing and voice synch has been off here and there.  In the area I'm currently quest/grinding in though the game looks and runs excellently.  There have been a few moments where there's been pop-in but those are rare (at best).  
    • Load times are damned quick (enough for one swig of beer before moving on to the next area) especially in comparison to Skyrim (or any Bethesda game).
    • I love that not every piece of crap is pick-up-able.  If you can use it or it's worth picking up you can loot it.  There's no, "I just picked up a plate that's worth fuck-all.  Wheeee!"
  • Sound & Score
    • Sound is solid, Dolby DTS, though I'll have to tweak my settings a bit.  Ambient sounds are well done, combat is crunchy, and dialogue is well channeled.  A downside is I wish there was a way to turn down Geralt's footsteps.  He stomps/sloshes/squishes around with no grace.  He doesn't need to be some kind of sissy stepping knife ears but there are times his walking sounds like a fat lady jumping in a kiddie pool of oatmeal.
    • Adam Skorupa and  Krzysztof Wierzynkiewicz worked on the score and it is fucking brilliant.  "Assassins of Kings" is a good example - opening theme is much better.  Skyrim does have a "better" score (e.g. "Opening Theme") but in all honesty I prefer W2's score.
      • That being said, the edition I was given had a cracked soundtrack CD otherwise I would be listening to it as I wrote this.
  • Combat/Magic/Alchemy/Traps
    • Combat is as smooth as fucking silk, especially since I unlocked a couple of basic swordsman skills (riposte & dodge distance).  You're going to face quite a few mobs in combat who will tear you apart if you don't manage to dictate the flow of combat in one of several ways.  You can spam attacks on some opponents but at my low level of skills right now even lumpen bandits will house me if I get swamped.  Higher level enemies require a combination of reflexes and skills (especially if you're playing on Hard) and it's easy to get caught with your pants down if you're just derpin around (I was looking to complete a side quest and just doing a bit of grindy grind and this beastie just knocked my dick in the dirt as I lifted up my skirts and ran shrieking).
    • Magic is often one of the weakest links in games for me since I tend to take Conan's corner on spellcasters.  Geralt is a different animal than Conan though and magic - like his bladecraft and penchant for alchemy - is another tool for putting a whompin on foes.  You start off with all the spells unlocked - albeit at base level - and can only be used sparingly.  I'm sure magic gets more wicked awesome if you level it up but for my needs I just need stun.
    • Alchemy.  Mmmmmmmmm...alchemy.  Crafting bombs, combat drugs, poisons, and weapon enhancements.  This is my kind of magic, good old fashioned grenades with AoE.  My favorite so far is the Red Haze - a grenade which releases psychotropic gas thus causing enemies to attack one another.  
    • Traps, dirty dirty traps.  Combined with grenades and lures these can be brutal.  However, you can easily slaughter yourself since the traps can affect Geralt as well (I thought I was being all slick and bushwackery and a gribbly set off a combustion trap I got trapped in, then I burned to death).  Also you can't just spam traps and kite, foes have a limited engagement range (for the most part).
  • Story and stuff
    • W2 is a direct sequel to The Witcher but if you didn't play the first game then it's okay, W2 catches you up pretty quick.  The downside to just picking up this game without playing the first is the joy of meeting old characters again and there are a lot of inside jokes, quips, and asides which you'll just miss if you jump right into W2.
    • I also wish there was a way to bridge my experience in the first game to this - a la Mass Effect.  One of the great things about ME2 (I haven't and probably won't play the third installment of that series) was the continuity of choices made in an earlier game.  That being said, in W2 I'm very conscious of my actions because I know repercussions can come sooner and later.  
      • Consequences are (one of the elements) that set both games apart from other RPGs.  More accurately put, there is no way to gauge consequences.  It's not some simple BioWare be a dick or a nice guy choice.  If you try to work the middle ground some  NPCs will fuck with you.  In most (if I have the choice) RPGs I'm Yojimbo,  Playing this way has made W2 more difficult for me (especially since I'm not save/quit/reloading conversations).  There's an impending conversation I've put off for now because I want to think about how I'm going to play it.  I know things are going to come out badly either way I play the hand dealt but I feel I need to be careful.
    • While you can just pick up and play W2 I wholeheartedly suggest picking up The Witcher.  Yes, it's only available on PC but if my piece of crap jerry-rigged machine can play it then I'm sure yours can as well.  If not, W2 does do the back story justice.  I guess.
  • Misc. and a warning or two
    • Misc
      • If you're looking for Bethesda free-roam randomness then, sorry, W2 does not have that.  The exploration areas are bigger than they were in The Witcher but paths and areas are still limited (along the lines of Dragon Age: Origins but not the piece of shit sequel).  Some of the paths (in the area I'm in) double back on themselves and it's easy to get turned around and short-bussing.
      • You are limited to 250kg of gear/loot but most everything has some kind of use and junk items are in a junk items folder in inventory control so they are easy to either drop or sell.
      • You can reloot crafting items after a day or two (in game) meaning, you walk into a house and loot the place you can later reenter the place and get more loots.  Stupid NPCs.
      • I know this is common sense to old RPG gamers but talk to all the NPCs.  There aren't glowing doodads above quest givers so it's easy to miss quick XP quests (or in some cases involved XP quests).
        • Downside to some of these random sides so far is that you have to search for the end trigger.  I spent quite a bit of time looking for one woman all over hell and high water until I gave up, ran another mish, and found her by accident.
    • Warnings:
      • W2 is a game for grown-ass folk who don't get sand in their vaginas about adult themes, Hot Coffee, or the term "sand in their vaginas".
      • It is not an easy game, unless you put it on easy but even then that doesn't impact story.  I'm playing on Hard and the combat is brutal.  Even crappy bandits and nekkers can shred me if I'm not on my toes.  Also on Hard, loots and pickups yield less, so I've been  more cautious about spam crafting and using items (aka I has a kajillion grenades and Clawers nerf nerf nerf).
        • Seriously, Hard is hard, at times frustratingly so.  After dying during a side mission for the umpteenth time I almost rage-spiked my controller.
      • If you're looking for some kind of JRPG or KRPG or Dragon Age simulacra then you might just want to avoid W2.  I don't have much respect for Asian RPGs anymore and BioWare and Bethesda just kind of disappoint me.  

I'm not totally in love with W2, I'm not gonna Whedongasm, but it is one of the best console RPGs I've played in quite some time.  I did realize that I'm taking a different approach to most RPGs I play/ed.  I feel like I'm playing a dual role with Geralt, seeing events through his eyes and limitations and not being some sort of omnipotent (bored) player.

We'll see if I feel the same way when the bloom is off the rose.

Fish Pl: Restaurant review

Fish Pl.
1302 North Street
Nacogdoches, TX

Delacroix's closed awhile back and a new fish joint moved in, Fish Pl.  Now, as many of you know, I used to eat at Delacroix's very often - at the height of addiction I think it was about three or four times a week.  The Sunday brunch was awesomely awesome with awesome sauce.  I was upset about the place closing and frankly kind of annoyed that another seafood/"Cajun" place would move in.  However, after Fish Pl. opened a few weeks ago I started hearing reports that it was indeed, "pretty good" and "delicious".  Last night I swung by there with some people.  Walking into the remodelled establishment felt weirder than weird - like wearing someone else's underwear awkward.

Frankly, I am not impressed based on my first meal.  They have a tiered combo menu ($6.50/$8.50/$10), a selection of po'boys, a couple of other salad/entree things, and tacos ($4.00 ea).*  I had heard good things about the fish & chips and I love fish & chips so I got the fish & chips (fish & chips Malkovitch).  With a small side of cole slaw ($2), tax, and tip it came out to be $16.  A little pricey but it was one the most expensive combo so it didn't come as sticker shock.

There was a sauce/condiment bar with ten (?) selections including creole mustard (had kind of a weird cream aftertaste which Zatarain's mustard doesn't have), cocktail sauce, a poblano ranch (which was sadly bland), chipotle mayo, and a couple of other things.  Shrug, they were okay. 

The fish & chips is not "fish & chips" with the light golden brown crust greasy British deliciousness or something panko encrusted.  It's the cornmeal enamel polisher that is often used with catfish (I don't understand actually paying for catfish in a restaurant).  To be fair the crust was well done and not overcooked and the cod was nice and flaky.  But the combo plate was far too much breading and starch (as is the case with most fried dish combo plates) since toast and hushpuppies are included as well (the hushpuppies were good but overdone and kind of bland).  I'm also not a fan of the cornbread breading.  The cole slaw was a dry-ish standard cole slaw blend that wasn't bad except it had an overpowering amount of black pepper in it - of all the things that should have been bland-ish the cole slaw had the most kick.

After taking my time and looking at the menu I think there are only one or two things I would try if I go there again.  The #8 red beans & rice with andouille or boudain balls ($6.50), a salad (which are the same price as at The Barn), or the Cajun shrimp po'boy. 

All in all, I'll go again if someone else wants to check it out but since I'm not a fan of cornmeal breading I won't be getting the fried fish again.  Plus, truth be told the Fish Pl. prices are the same and in some cases more than The Barn's (especially the lunch specials and sandwiches & burgers) so if it's just me then I'll walk over to The Barn.

*The menu online is different from the in-store menu (upon which they misspelled Nacogdoches).

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Epic Gameplay Trailer - Assassin's Creed 3 (Xbox 360) - IGN Video

Epic Gameplay Trailer - Assassin's Creed 3 (Xbox 360) - IGN Video

I played the first Assassin's Creed and was disappointed, not by the score, story or premise but the fucking awful missions and god damn beggars. I think I rented one of the sequels and was amused for a weekend. This latest installment I was not particularly thrilled about until I heard it was set during the American Revolution. Then my ears kind of perked up. Personally, I'm a Royalist (that's a whole 'nother topic for another time) but I thought that this part of history - largely neglected by non-PC strategy games - would be kind of awesome for a setting. Last night I watched the preview and have to say, kick ass. I wanna Magua the shit out of some dudes. Be all like "TOMAHAWK, WHITE DEVIL!" I won't buy this right out of the gate (GOTY edition will work) but I'm looking forward to it. Now if only they'd release a kick-ass game set during the Napoleonic Wars or World War I.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

More pics from Artist's Haven.

Is that supposed to be a "thinking" face?

With great steak comes great responsibility.

View from the balcony.  

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Previously on, "Artist's Haven"

Artist's Haven "May the Fourth Be With You" Party or How to Cook for an Unspecified Large Number of People.

One of the most common complaints you hear about Nacogdoches is that there is nowhere to go and nothing to do.  A number of people I know and respect are working hard to change that.  Some of those folks have been working on an idea dubbed "Artist's Haven" - that is setting up a locus for like-minded people to spend time together.  It's not some fruity Cape Cod art commune knock-off where people swish around drinking chardonnay.  The idea is to create a space for art, sure, but also have somewhere to go that isn't a complete dump or college cesspit.  The lynch pin for the Haven is founders Heather and Ryan's monstrously large apartment.  The place is so damn big you could set up one of those kiddie choo-choos to get from one side to another.  The photo above is the kitchen, centered in the middle of the apartment, and has a gas fucking stove, multiple sinks, and counter space, lots of counter space.

I signed on/volunteered to make food for the event.  I had been onboard for a previously planned party but due to logistical bullshit fell through (which I was secretly glad because it was a zombie themed party and everyone knows I have a severe dislike of zombie pop culture).  No big deal except this May the Fourth Be With You party had less than a week to be planned.  Fock.  The hosts came through with an excellent DJ Keith "Fatbaby" Williams who did magic DJ stuff for about five hours and I can't remember disliking one track (which is surprising considering I'm such a cranky fucker).  The word was put out via social media.  I kind of kicked around food ideas (sort of, not really) but only really cobbled together a meal idea while shopping for the party.   Ryan had picked up stacks of sirloin earlier in the week so I figured, okay fajita-esque, that's easy.  Here's a run down of the pros and cons of the party and some suggestions for you folks if you're going to feed a whole bunch of people but you don't know how many or who eats what:

  • Fajitas - or some kind of sliced meat thing put on tortillas - are an excellent option.  If you don't know who eats what or won't eat what you can easily make everything separate and on the side - I made the peppers and shallots apart from one another and bowled them apart so people could pick and choose.
    • I didn't think of condiments like cheese and sour cream and that jive but frankly they weren't missed.
    • Take the extra time to warm your tortillas (especially flour).  They stay warm a long ass time and don't have that weird gummy texture that tortillas out of the bag do.
  • I was thinking there would be an early (smaller) group of people coming to eat so I also had a large salad and a couple of non-meat options:
    • This would have been awesome if there had been the first round of guests.  As it was I think two people ate salad.  Stupid salad.  
  • If I had been smart I would have put the food out in different intervals (again a time and unpreparedness on my part) or remembered to have dishes that can be keep warm over a long period of time - I've worked on food for events at the museum and forgot about that.
  • The hummus got no love.
    • The awesome pretzel chips I found on sale also got little love but people love the shit out of tortilla chips.  Have to remember that people go toward the familiar.
  • Cooking at the Haven is fucking boss, especially since it's my dream layout for interacting with people.
  • Roping off the business end of the kitchen was a good idea and gave myself some breathing space.
  • Paper plates are fuckin sweet.
  • Making a sauce out of rum, Dr. Pepper, butter, and Sriracha at one in the morning for a counter full of drunk hungry people was really fucking fun.
    • Favorite interaction:  "Wait?  You're making a sauce?  Right now?" "Yeah, why the fuck not?" "Ooooo."
    • Drunk people are easy to cook for.
  • Jambalaya is absurdly easy to make in large batches.
  • I actually barely drank any booze at a party and feel good about myself.  What the fuck is that about?  
Here are some random thoughts on what I need to do for myself for the next party:
  • Bring my own gear.  I have a knife roll thanks to an old friend. There were a number of times I got kind of cross-eyed trying to look for stuff in an unfamiliar kitchen. 
    • I also want to figure out how to make a crash kit for spices, salt (Samwise was a smart motherfucker), and assorted stuff I have at arm's reach in my house.
  • Punk rock my chef's jacket so people won't think I'm a professional.  Fuck, put on a chef's coat and have cooking related tattoos and people think you're some kind of cook person.  Albuelita J is not a professional - he's just a guy who makes food.
  • Have cooler of my own because BYOB means drink everyone else's booze.
  • I'm definitely going to make a slow-cooked dish or two for the next event.
  • Wear my boots.  My brogues didn't do shit for my footial comfortitude.
  • Do as much as I can - prep, etc - the day before.
  • Figure out how to make finger food.  
    • Figure out where to get enough fingers to feed a large group.
  • Buy a shit-ton more spices and work on blends to sell to folks.
  • Find a hat that's kind of cool.
  • Figure out the industry secret of keeping one's ass crack from going tropical.  I wonder if you learn that at the CIA?
So yeah, all in all, people were happy and said nice things about the food and that made me feel good about myself.  It was also awesome to be part of something actually kick ass.  Thanks to my friends who made this possible and thanks to the folks who showed up and got their nom on.

I have the antidote for sale to the highest bidder.  

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