Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Maybe I shouldn't play pen and paper RPGs...

While I am a hardcore digital RPG fan and have been for a quarter-century I never got into pen-and-paper rpg's and LARPs.  I recall playing a handful of games during my youth but I was more of a Warhammer Fantasy Battle and 40K kind of youth (though now I just occasionally slap paint on a mini).  So I never got into D&D or Masquerade or any of that stuff.  Truth be told I think I just don't like analog games or the face-to-face social/competitive aspects of them.

That being said, a number of friends and acquaintances play them here and I do want to be more sociable and have friends so when I was invited to join in the Firefly rpg some friends are starting, I figured, "Shit, it ain't Masquerade".  I wrote up the first two-thirds of a fairly complex back story over the last week or so and set up a character I thought I would have fun playing with (I'll post the bio and character when I finish it).

I think I kind of bull-in-a-china-shopped the game and it almost immediately devolved into madness due to my character's refusal to cooperate with the suit and goons who came into my establishment with a forceful job offer.  Also I kind of demanded information on the job from the get-go.  On one hand I feel kind of bad for mayheming it but in my defense I was kind of put into the mix of it right from the get-go.  Plus, nobody bosses me around in my place, especially some suit who needs hired goons to weight his words. 

I'm a little wary of playing again, considering it might go a lot smoother if I just sit out and cook or hang out while they play.  We'll see.  Then again, I guess I could play sober. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

On the lamb...

I've had lamb on the brain for the past week or so but I really had no interest in most lamb recipes I was familiar with - mainly the roast leg o' with herbs and a mint jelly on the side. I also remembered having an aversion to the lamb-y flavor of the critter from when I was a kid. This venture was kind of uncharted territory in several ways: I've never made lamb, never made meatballs, and never made lamb meatballs. The recipe also called for cooking the meatballs with rice in them which required soaking the rice, then mixing with the meat, then boiling the meatballs. I found this recipe on Food & Wine – Moroccan Spiced Lamb-and-Rice Meatballs and it was a solid recipe (even though I only sort-of, kind-of followed the gist of it). I didn't add mint (frankly because I only really like mint in desserts) and I didn't have several ingredients either on-hand or in-stock at my place. I also plan to switch a number of the spices out for ones I prefer (e.g. ajwain seeds instead of cumin and Aleppo chile powder for the sweet paprika and cayenne, maybe add in some of this and some of that). One of the folks participating in the experiment doesn’t have much of heat tolerance but she does like flavorful. Fortunately I had a the last of a batch of Abuelita J’s spice mix in the freezer which filled the recipe’s call for Ras el Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend akin to curry blends/Latin American blends – it’s really not that complicated in the least).

The end result was quite tasty, it was a very successful experiment and I think will be an excellent dish for events (on my part) and for you folks at home who want to try something a little different but nothing too Martian.


I’m/we’re also looking into sides and things to round out the dish. Personally I think the meatballs would benefit from more heat/garlic/spicing and possible blending with ground beef to a) stretch out the lamb, b) cut the lamb flavor, c) add ingredients with carminative properties – or plainly put, plants that keep the belching and farting down and aid digestion. Fortunately most of my favorite herbs and spices have that property, so I’ll just add more.

We’re planning another trial run of these, this time with a cucumber salad and a grain. I’ll post more as things progress.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Supper clubs and underground dining.

As many readers may know, I cooked for a "May the Fourth Be With You" event and had a great time doing it.  Over the last month or two I've had some ideas about other potential events and talked to a fair number of people about what they liked, didn't like, etc., etc. .  In the last week or so I had a conversation with one of the event organizers about what I would like to do or aim towards in the future.  Then I was tooling around on ye olde Web and did a search for "supper clubs".  A majority of what I found were aimed at a potluck type of set-up either with friends or a combo of friends and like-minded strangers found on sites like chowhound.com and the like.  These are pretty cool and I like the idea quite a bit, though with a limited social circle and the knowledge of conflicting schedules and RL folderol I realize that the idea has an untapped potential but in practical terms wouldn't hash out (I can also be terribly flaky and forgetful unless I Memento myself).

I poked around a bit more and came across "underground dining" and "secret supper clubs".  The first to catch my attention was the Cloak & Dagger Supper Club based out of Portland, Maine who began operations March 2012 (I'm also seriously considering moving to Portland, ME in the next couple years).  I poked around a bit more and found Supper Underground based out of Austin, Texas and has been in operation since the mid-00s.  I also came across Ghetto Gourmet from Oakland, CA who have also been doing their thing since the mid-00s.  Then I watched their clip on current.com:

And then I went a little pie-eyed (and might have said one or two profanities out of jealousy and for kicking myself for not being on the boat sooner).  Then I realized that in one DIY way or another I had been doing this and cooking for events (work-related) in one form or the other for years.  Definitely on not such a bad-ass scale until last month but since that party this is pretty close to what I've had in mind, daydreaming about for the last month.  Not catering or anything that would stray too close to "work" but I dunno, just kind of a relaxed, grown up-esque event.  I'm thinking about one or two of the conversations I've had recently and here's a rough concept sketch/list of what I would go for:
  • Removing the curtain between diner and kitchen.  Not in a teppanyaki "Watch me make a volcano out of an onion!" kind of way but in a Yan Can Cook! You Can Too! kind of way.  Let people know that they can do whatever they want in the kitchen too.  Not that I'm Jacques Pepin by any stretch of the imagination but I want people to know it's not rocket surgery.  
    • Also by using ingredients your regular citizen doesn't use or buy because either they just buy the regular stuff every time they go to a grocery store or just don't feel comfortable experimenting I'd like to turn people onto ingredients or dishes they might really dig.  Man that's an unwieldy sentence.
      • Not just regular citizens but college kids too.  It makes me sad when I find out so many people subsist on ramen, weird microwave food, and Taco Bell.  Hell, I had one friend who lived off of canned food during her college career and when she finally got her own place was completely out of  her element in the kitchen.
  • Having a rapport with people while I cook makes me happy.  Y'know, happy in a "Wow, I'm sober and don't hate myself." kind of way.
    • I also love food history and foodways and learning about the background of what I'm cooking or what I'm cooking with. It'd be kind of cool to be able to just talk with people about not only what they are eating but where did it come from?  Why is it this way?  It's one thing to watch a show about it on Food Network or PBS or whatever but could you imagine eating and the cook giving you the 411 if you had any questions?
  • Having a recipe for what I made (along with suggestions/tips&tricks) after the meal.  Cooking is not some kind of Buddha on the mountaintop secret recipe affair for me.  If I can't tell you what I did that's probably because I have no idea what I did.
  • Remind people that eating just isn't jamming some food thing into your body for fuel.  If you wanted to do that you could live on MREs or astronaut food in a tube.
  • Remind people that you don't have to be a professional to make good food.  Chances are your Nana wasn't a professional but could still cook anyone under the table.
For myself:
  • Forcing myself to stop and think about what I am doing.
  • Writing down recipes beyond, "I dunno, it's done when it looks done."
  • Expanding my self-education about food.  None of that science jive.  If you want that go ask Alton Brown or read Harold McGee.
  • Expanding my skills by cooking for others.  Lord knows I've learned a lot just by cooking for people who aren't chileheads over the years.
  • Expand my repertoire outside my own comfort zone.  It's tough cooking for one person.  I eat a lot of meat and rice (or just rice) or salads or something cobbled together out of the regular stuff I have on hand.
  • Wear comfortable boots for the next event.
Not exactly some kind of manifesto or grant proposal but hell, if I can be happy making people feel warm and good and full of noms then I guess that's not a terrible thing.

Hope all of you are well and not having a bag of chips for dinner (even if you're grown folks who can have chips for dinner).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Assorted things und schtuffs

Just a quick post to say that I've had nothing to post about worth posting about.  Summer in Texas has started and it's gonna be a hot one.  Haven't been particularly inspired to game and only putting in minimal effort into EVE.  Been watching The Killing  on netflix and it's pretty good.  I finished off Supernatural except for the last season and I'm kind of annoyed that season four and five were mainly about crap and then six and seven are all awesome.  Meh.

Had a really crappy sub from Napoli's.  It wasn't one thing that was bad, it was the whole thing.  Their sausage and meatball subs are awesome but their cold subs are terrible.  Avoid.

The local liquor store started carrying a Scottish beer from BrewDog UK I was recommended by a buddy of mine in EVE (an Englishman in Scotland).  The Punk IPA was excellent and more floral than most IPAs.  It's a fucking great beer, the only downside is that it's $10.99 for a four pack of 12oz bottles.  I also got their 5am Saint which kind of punched me in the face.  It was good for a red but it's definitely not a sit down and drink a whole mess of.  The 5am actually seemed hoppier than the IPA and when I pick up some more of their stuff I'll be going for the IPA.  Their high power beers aren't at the shop yet and I'm not sure I'll be picking up a 14% IPA - my experience with those isn't the best.  I think I lost sight in one eye for a week after my last experience. 

And that's the long and short for the time being.  Hope all of you are well and don't let the bastards grind you down.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Beef and vegetable soup/stew with rice and Scotch Bonnets

So I overcooked my beef roast the other day, which kind of sucked.  I got kind of pissed and just poured a beer over it and put in a couple of teaspoons of beef stock concentrate and kept cooking it.  The next day I added more water and a bag of mirepoix.  It was pretty darned tasty.  Today I added two diced Scotch Bonnets and a cup of rice to the mix.  It's hot but it's pretty friggin good.  Sometimes the simplest things can salvage a potentially lost meal.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

"What's your favorite movie?"

Chances are if you're a movie buff/geek/nerd/addict/snob/mouth-breather/any other subspecies, you have gotten asked that question.  Now, I dunno about you fine folks but I always have to ask what genre?  Like, do you mean decade?  I'm not splitting hairs, I just love categorizing stuff.  Then finally, when I pick something out of a hat the person goes, "Oh."

So I'm gonna do a top whatever of my favorite movies across all genres based on this qualifier, I can watch this movie anytime (at least once or twice a year) and enjoy it.  This is not in any order, and these might not be my favorite movies/films (those which made a strong impact on me or I deeply enjoyed/took an experience away but never rewatch are not included i.e. Suzuki Seijun's Branded to Kill) but they are the ones I have on regular rotation.

  1. Master and Commander - I'll just throw this movie one while I'm playing EVE.  It makes me feel salty.
  2. Rango - the newest addition to the rotation
  3. Big Trouble in Little China - I don't need to explain myself to you
  4. Altered - one of the best horror/sci-fi movies to come out in the last decade
  5. The Lord of the Rings (Director's Cut) - usually on long cooking days
  6. Braveheart - cleaning day movie.  Best line, "God seyz I'm fine but yer fooked."
  7. The Skeleton Key - creeps the shit out of people.  I love it.
  8. The Last of the Mohicans - I think I need to write about this movie and what I feel is a companion piece in another post.  I'm gonna watch this when I get home.
  9. The Missing - Tommy Lee Jones in one of my favorite Weird Westerns.
  10. (edit) The Dualists - I actually watch that far more often than Robocop - as awesome as Robocop is.
There, the ten movies I watch several times a year.  Truth be told sometimes I'll just put them on and watch with one eye while I'm on the computer or puttering around the house.

add: If I had Barry Lyndon on DVD I would proably watch that pretty often but I don't so I don't.

Watching cult movies with someone watching them for the first time.*

I recently struck up a friendship with a young man who is fresh off the boat when it comes a lot of the movies I taken for granted that people have seen.  It's not that he is disinterested in movies (he loves them) he just didn't have the opportunity or exposure to most of the stuff I've seen.  Also, during the 90s I didn't have access to the internet and so was constantly finding out about new stuff from friends - in particular my buddy Mike who introduced me to wild and wooly world of HK cinema and a slew of 70s & 80s stuff I had missed(1).

So my new friend and I are watching a documentary about Troll 2  last night titled The Best Worst Movie.  It's basically about the resurgent popularity of the movie among a demographic - mainly the Upright Citizen's Brigade/Alamo Drafthouse/Ain't it Coolers as shown through the eyes of the cast as they meet again after nearly twenty years to do openings and cons.  It's a pretty depressing documentary filled with failure and sadness.  He was asking me questions about what "cult" movies were (let me say that trying to explain what cult movies are by saying, "Uh, y'know - cult movies" isn't a good explanation).  Then we watched a martial arts movie Bodyguards and Assassins which had Donnie Yen in it and wasn't bad but wasn't great.  He had never seen a martial arts movie either (ay dios mio).

So I was thinking about it and I am putting this post together as a primer for the guy with a shout out for your input.  I know more about some areas more than others (weird action movies vs Pink Flamingo-esque) and different decades than others (classic 80s Hong Kong Action vs HK from the 00s).  So if we brain storm we can come up with a pretty good selection.  After all it takes a virtual village to educate a promising film buff:

I'm gonna start with a couple of categories and titles but I'm hoping you guys will pitch in, if not here than on the FB group.

Carpenter and Russell:  Lightning in a bottle
  • Escape From New York (1981)
  • The Thing (1982)
  • Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Cronenberg: Humans are made of meat.
  • Scanners
  • The Brood
  • Videodrome
  • The Fly
John Woo: before and after his stint in the US
  • The Killer
  • Hard-Boiled
  • Better Tomorrow I & II
  • Bullet in the Head
  • Red Cliff
Tsui Hark: Wuxia Master
  • The original Zu Warriors from the Mystic Mountain
  • Once Upon a Time in China I & II
  • The Blade
Ringo Lam:
  • Destruction of the White Lotus Temple (aka Burning Paradise aka Burning Paradise in Hell)
  • City on Fire
  • Full Contact
Alex Cox:
  • Repo Man
  • Sid & Nancy
  • Straight to Hell
  • Walker (which is actually really fucking good)
John Waters:  You fans will need to help me out.  I only really like his one man shows.

Troma Pictures:  Mark - this is your area of expertise.

Martial arts movies of the new Century: need some reminders, preferably sans wire work
  • Yimou Zhang
    • Hero
    • House of Flying Daggers
    • Curse of the Golden Flower (boring but real nice to look at)
  • Tony Jaa will fuck your day up
  • Even though I hated it, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
I'm gonna kick off the bizarro road movie category with:
  • Six-String Samurai
  • Rubin & Ed
  • Kalifornia
  • Easy Rider (I'm not a fan but it is kind of an important movie in American cinematic history - overblown importance but still)
Similarly I am gonna kick the "WHAT THE FUCK ARE THE JAPANESE THINKING?" category:
  • Damn near any Takashi Miike movie (except the monumentally good 13 Assassins)
    • Particularly Happiness of the Katakuris
  • Tetsuo & Tetsuo II
  • Biozombie
  • Mermaid in a Manhole
  • Hanzo, the Razor
  • Tokyo Zombie
  • Lone Wolf & Cub (though the manga are excellent)
I realize this doesn't scratch the surface of 80s kids movies, sci-fi actioners of the late 80s/early 90s, 70s creature features (aka pollution makes animals kill people), giallo, and the insanity of the Corman empire. 

Guess I might have to unbox my VCR in order to rewatch some of these movies.  God only knows how some of these bootlegs of bootlegs are gonna look on a HD tv. 

*This headline was inspired by Spacemen 3's Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs to (1990).

(1) Additionally, during the late 90s I "worked" at the Key Theater in DC for a couple of years (by worked I mean was a useless, shitty snot of teenager) an art theater that showed all kinds of films.  When I moved into Austin I lived two blocks away from Vulcan Video and watched about a half dozen movies a week while ordering in books about Asian and Cult cinema at work.  Man, I watched a lot of crap.  During the late 00s I started being less hardcore about my movie watching and stopped reading most of the blogs and assorted sites.  Since living alone again I've been watching more movies.  Man, I'm watching a lot of crap.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Hooligan Youth Reviews: the facebookening

I'm working on getting a Hooligan Youth Reviews facebook page set up for all the random stuff I find on the internet that isn't a full blog post of bloggy-blogness (videos, pictures, snark).  Right now I have a picture of Tom Selleck being sexy and some assorted nibbles.  Feel free to stop by and validate my existence.  For the Love of Christ, just like me!

You'll have to type in Hooligan Youth Reviews for now.  Trying to figure out how to get a simple button to work is becoming a pain in my nethers.

The Woman in Black (2012) dir James Watkins

The reviews of The Woman in Black had been favorable for the most part - especially from reviewers I like and trust compared to the ones I don't (*cough* fuck the Austin Chronicle) - and I'll give any haunted house movie a shot.  My interest was piqued by the trailer and the setting more than the cast or director James Watkins, whose other directorial endeavour Eden Lake (2008) I haven't seen simply because it looks kind of boring - urban couple versus gang of kids (but it does star Michael Fassbender).  Watkins also wrote the script for The Descent 2 which was shockingly good as a sequel.  I know a lot of people made noise about Daniel Radcliffe being in a horror movie.  Not being much of Harry Potter fan I didn't give a shit.

So my one of my horror movie buddies came over the other night and we watched it.  I hadn't known that it was a Hammer Films production and that made me very, very happy.  If you're not familiar with Hammer Films then click the link and educate yourself.  Also Ciaran Hinds showed up and I'm kind of a huge fan of his.  Do yourself a favor and check out his performance in the Irish ghost movie The Eclipse (2009)

The movie is excellently produced and shot, a top notch old school Hammer Film.  In true classic style (and the mark of a quality haunted house movie) the house is a central character in the story.  There's a heavy sense of foreboding and menace over the entire film.  The scares are kind of refreshing in their simple classic style-remember the banging in The Haunting (1963)?  Yeah, that kind of scare.  There are a couple of jump scares but they work.  The eponymous Woman is the dark figure standing at the end of the bed.  If you let your munchkins watch this movie it will freak their shit out (if they have the patience to sit through it).  The suspense starts from damn near the get-go and really kicks into gear once Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps reaches the creepy British hamlet (again a classic set-up for English horror).  As a Hammer film The Woman in Black works well.  I look forward to more modern Hammer flicks.

If there's a downside to the movie, I'm afraid it's Radcliffe's vaguely twitchy performance.  Maybe it's because I kept expecting Peter Cushing to suddenly appear and say, I got this.  Go make a romantic comedy, kid.  A majority of the reviewers I read mention Radcliffe's age as a detriment.  I don't think it's Radcliffe's age - the role is made for a man approaching middle age, if not middle aged.  Imagine Ryan O'Neal in George C Scott's role in The Changeling (1980) - one of the best haunted house movies ever made.  It just wouldn't work.  I'm not saying Radcliffe (or any of the cast) turned in a poor performance.  I just think the movie could of had more of an impact with an actor who could have sold the role.

All in all definitely worth watching with the lights out on a dark and stormy night.

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