Friday, November 30, 2018

poor presentation, good food

I couldn't stand watching this dude because his presentation style is simply awful, but he's a solid cook doing plausibly realistic Amurrican-style Chinese food, so give this video a whirl and just try to ignore how annoyingly douche-y the guy himself is:


This guy is one half of a pair of brothers, surnamed Green, who do cooking vids on YouTube. The other brother is more watchable, although you may end up screaming at him for what he does to a "real" Philly cheesesteak. Go read the comments section below the vid if you're too impatient to watch the vid to learn what his transgression was.





Thursday, November 29, 2018

have we reached peak stupidity yet?

The headline says it all:

Lord of the Rings Slammed for Perpetuating Racism through Depiction of Orcs

Jesus Christ. Here's an excerpt, if you can stomach this fucking nonsense:

On a recent episode of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, sci-fi author Andrew Duncan argued that the depiction of the orcs in Lord of the Rings is racist and will have “dire consequences... for society.”

“It’s hard to miss the repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others, or that some peoples are just worse than others,” Duncan said. “And this seems to me—in the long term, if you embrace this too much—it has dire consequences for yourself and for society.”

First of all, I think that it is important to point out that orcs are A) not people and B) not real, so starting some sort of social-justice movement over their treatment is probably the biggest, most idiotic waste of time that I’ve ever seen — and this is coming from an adult woman who spends time playing a game called “Pet Shop” on her phone.

Second of all, the idea that The Lord of the Rings’ daring to have an army of villains is going to have “dire consequences . . . for society” is absolutely bananas. I’m not much of a betting gal, but I’d bet everything I own that not even a single person has ever seen or read The Lord of the Rings and become racist as a result. Nobody is honestly sitting there thinking, “Man, all those orcs were bad. I guess that must mean that X race is bad! I’m a racist now!” I honestly refuse to believe that this would describe even a single person, let alone so many people that our whole society is going to suffer because of it.

Be sure to read the rest.

The left's vocabulary seems pretty much limited to racist, sexist, homophobe, transphobe, and the lovely catchall term bigot. From this twisted point of view, the world's ills can be funneled into this narrow perspective, thus allowing one to separate the righteous sheep from the unrighteous goats. Be me or be Hitler, right?



sad if true: Portland has fallen

During my huge walk in 2008, I injured myself and had to stay in Portland, Oregon, for two weeks. I spent most of those two weeks at an enormous communal (read: communist or socialist) home managed by a friendly Methodist minister. Most of the home's residents were older folks; one or two were homeless people who tended to come and go, benefiting from the home's open-door policy. I had the chance to walk around much of Portland while my injured knee healed. There were plenty of sights and sounds and smells, not to mention the stately Willamette River. Life inside the home itself was quiet and restful; the house's basement was basically a gigantic pantry with hundreds upon hundreds of cans and bags of various soups and flours and pasta. Sanitation might have been an issue, though, as I acquired some sort of infection that ate away a small patch of skin from underneath one of my eyes, and another alongside my nose, leaving permanent scars. Metaphor?

Portland, as a city, was beautiful. Like many European cities and towns, it had an environmentally friendly electrical tram. There were pedestrian zones, not to mention plenty of shops, restaurants, libraries, and places of cultural and historical significance. Portland also had a large and in-your-face homelessness problem in 2008, and I gather that that unpleasant reality hasn't changed much. I recall walking by a few tent cities—parks that had been taken over by the homeless.

But according to Paul Joseph Watson, many other things have changed in Portland. Perhaps it was last year, but I was shocked to hear news of violence in Portland's streets after Trump had been elected. PJW's report, which I embed below, shows that this trend has only continued. Portland's collective temperament had never struck me as violence-prone. What has happened over the course of the intervening decade, from my visit to Portland to now? Something within the city's core seems to have rotted. Or perhaps the rot had been there from the beginning, merely waiting for the right conditions in which to be exposed.

Here's PJW on how Portland, Oregon, has become a shithole:


I don't recall seeing anything remotely this aggressive when I was in Portland, especially about the rampant defecation. Something really did change from then to now. Something essential. True, Portland was already an out-there liberal city even in 2008, but it was a gentle-tempered place. I'm tempted to take PJW's video with a grain of salt, but I suspect that Watson is right, at least, to note that things have deteriorated to some extent. What a shame.



hypocritical shifts in attitudes toward illegal immigration

When Trump says it, it's bad:






tolerance levels compared

Keeping in mind my previous caveats (here, for example) regarding man-on-the-street interviews and small sample sizes, this is nevertheless an interesting video that largely dovetails with my personal experience:


I've had liberal friends un-follow me on Twitter and then never speak to me again in real life, and I only recently had one close friend who seemed willing to sacrifice our almost four-decade-long friendship on the altar of goddamn politics. In my experience, this sort of extreme, overdramatic way of handling conflict comes exclusively from the liberal side of the aisle. (Of course, I've been guilty of my own shunning behavior, too, so maybe I'm more liberal than I admit. Then again, when I cut people off, it's never because of a mere political disagreement: it's because I think the person is a fucking asshole who is no longer worth my time. It's about character, not political orientation. And the people I've shunned usually weren't friends to begin with.)



"The Hunted": review

2003's "The Hunted," directed by none other than William Friedkin of "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection" fame, stars Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro, and Connie Nielsen in a thriller about a government operative who snaps, goes rogue, and begins murdering people not on the US government's hit list.

The movie basically plays out as a chase, and the title "The Hunted" comes to have a fluid meaning as hunter and hunted constantly change roles. Tommy Lee Jones plays L.T. Bonham, a retired civilian attaché to the US military who used to teach soldiers stealth, tracking, wilderness-survival, and close-combat skills. Benicio Del Toro is Aaron Hallam, a decorated soldier and student of Bonham who suffers from PTSD after a particularly bloody mission in Kosovo. As Hallam felt his mind falling apart, he began writing Bonham letters about his mental state, but Bonham never replied to this correspondence, a fact that may have helped push the fragile Hallam over the edge in his moment of greatest need. FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Abby Durrell (Connie Nielsen) is in charge of tracking Hallam after four supposed "hunters" are murdered in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. The putative hunters, it turns out, may have been "sweepers" sent to kill Hallam after the latter went off program. Formerly a government asset because of his killing-machine-like abilities, Hallam is now a liability because of his skills, and because he knows far too much about government black ops. Bonham, Hallam's teacher and a sort of father figure, must track his former student down and either bring him to justice or kill him.

This is one of those action movies that's so full of clichés and predictable plot lines that you must simply switch your brain off and enjoy whatever goodness the movie offers you. Director Friedkin proves generally adept at pacing the action, but not quite as assured at building and maintaining suspense. Friedkin flubs several potential jump-scare moments, giving away the surprise before a tense moment has a chance to mature. This might not be entirely his fault: the story can only end up one way, after all, with a brutal fight between teacher and student, so the only suspense is in figuring out who will win that fight.

Despite Friedkin's competent pacing, mentioned above, the director did allow for some confusion about the passage of time to creep into the movie's third act: Bonham is in hot pursuit of Hallam, who has left the city and plunged back into the nearby wilderness, and somehow, Hallam has time to construct a series of large and elaborate traps for Bonham. Friedkin is also somewhat clumsy in his portrayal of Bonham's tracking ability: when we see the footprints that Bonham is following, they're screamingly obvious prints. The same goes for blood spatters, cracked branches, and assorted scuff marks. The movie could have been a bit less insulting to the viewer's intelligence, but if you know Friedkin's work, you know the man isn't one for subtlety. The art of the tracker is much better portrayed in the deeply affecting "Wind River," reviewed here.

The movie could also have done with a bit more characterization. Hallam isn't as demonic as he appears; we see that he loves a particular family, but he's become far too dangerous a creature ever to have a quiet home life with the woman and little girl he loves. When we meet Bonham, he's leading a quiet existence out in the boonies of British Columbia, helping injured wolves and dealing with his own demons. But the central teacher/student, father/son relationship between Bonham and Hallam isn't developed nearly to the extent that it should have been. The relationship, as it stands, feels as cold as the relationship between Sylvester Stallone's John Rambo and Richard Crenna's hardass Colonel Trautman. Instead, almost every meeting between Bonham and Hallam is reduced to the feral; the men obviously have little to nothing to say to each other anymore, and all that's left is the urge to kill.

Another reason to mourn the lack of development of the father/son dynamic is the spectral presence of Johnny Cash, whose voice is commandeered to provide a sort of disembodied, bookend narration based on the Genesis story of Abraham and Isaac. If you're familiar with the story, then you know that God commands Abraham to sacrifice his boy—or as Cash sings/speaks it, "kill me a son." By the end of the movie, it could be said that Abraham has reluctantly offered up Isaac to God. But despite the theological tenor of Cash's narration, the movie's plot doesn't offer us the requisite resonant depth. The story could have shown us how the sacrifice of Isaac was as necessary as a divine commandment, but we're given little foundation for the conflict between Hallam and Bonham aside from the fact that Bonham trained Hallam, and Hallam snapped. The movie aims for profundity and misses.

Those complaints aside, "The Hunted" offers some brutal fight choreography that apparently comes to us courtesy the Filipino martial art of kali, which appears to be all forearms, elbows, wrist locks, and quick strikes to the neck and torso. Most of the movie's emotional intensity is played out in these fights, and as with many action movies, a man's connection to another man can only be expressed through violence. I enjoyed the fights; these were some of the film's best moments. The cat-and-mouse chases, however, lacked suspense, and 2003 was a bit before the era of parkour-style chase scenes, with their kinetic momentum and flow.

In all, "The Hunted" was watchable, but something of a disappointment. I didn't mind the simplicity of the story, but the movie could have given us a great deal more emotional depth as a way to make the central conflict more meaningful. Without that, the movie was just a tame version of "Apocalypto" or just another milquetoast adaptation of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game."



Wednesday, November 28, 2018

made a bit too much, I guess

Our little get-together was this past Saturday. It's now Wednesday evening, and there's still leftover food from the feast. I had brought all my leftovers to the office, and my coworkers and I have been chowing down both at lunch and at dinner. I tried offering food to the IT team next door, but they apparently had other dinner plans on Monday, so fuck 'em. We're almost down to zero food, though: I think the last of the 'tovers will finally be eaten by tomorrow evening. It'll be nice to take a bunch of empty plastic containers home. But, damn: it will have taken five people, eating twice a day, five days to clear out all those leftovers.

In other news: KMA texted me to say my December class had been canceled because of a lack of registrants. So... as predicted, my time with KMA ends not with a bang, but with a whimper, and with a whimper, I'm fuckin' splitting, Jack. At least I can breathe easy every Saturday from now on. I have plans for a two-day hike out to Paldang Dam and beyond sometime soon, hopefully before we get any major snow. A cold, bracing hike—that's the ticket.

ADDENDUM: I looked over the amount of leftovers I had and decided I could finish everything up tonight myself as an impromptu dinner. So that's what I'm doing now: I'm dinnering myself, and no one can stop me. This pleases the anal-retentive side of my personality because I can now wash all my empty containers and reset my kitchen for the next massive culinary adventure. On repart à zéro!



get paranoid

While the notion of orbiting space debris is nothing new, this Kurzgesagt video* is one of the clearest, most succinct presentations of the problem that I've seen:


Every launch, manned or unmanned, is a huge risk these days.



*The German word kurz means "short," and gesagt is the past participle of the verb sagen, which means "to say" or "to tell." So kurzgesagt means "said shortly," i.e., "in short." On YouTube, the channel translates its title as "in a nutshell," which is close enough. I'm reminded of the French en bref.


talking down

This puts me in mind of Joe Biden, back in 2012, telling blacks that Mitt Romney was "gonna put y'all back in chains." Cringe-inducing video here.

The researchers found that liberal individuals were less likely to use words that would make them appear highly competent when the person they were addressing was presumed to be black rather than white. No significant differences were seen in the word selection of conservatives based on the presumed race of their partner. “It was kind of an unpleasant surprise to see this subtle but persistent effect,” Dupree says. “Even if it’s ultimately well-intentioned, it could be seen as patronizing.”

Dupree and Fiske suspect that the behavior stems from a liberal person’s desire to connect with other races. One possible reason for the “competence downshift,” as the authors describe it, is that, regardless of race, people tend to downplay their competence when they want to appear likeable and friendly. But it’s also possible that “this is happening because people are using common stereotypes in an effort to get along,” Dupree says.

So much derp.



the migrant "caravan"

You've doubtless been bombarded with news about the migrant "caravan," composed mostly of men from Honduras. Is it mainly women and children? As Styx points out, that's not the demographic most likely to take a thousand-mile walk. No: the "caravan" is composed mostly of men. But what few women and children there are have been placed in the front lines to take the brunt of the reaction from US border-defense forces.


And here's a telling video about the "caravan" itself:






Tuesday, November 27, 2018

taking me back to the 80s

The taxi driver's radio this morning was blasting a song from the mists of prehistory: Lee Seon-hui's "It's OK" (괜찮아), a pop single from the mid-80s that was playing when I was in Korea for the first time in 1986. Here's a modern rendition:


It warms my heart to know that some old fart out there is rockin' to this beat.

(lyrics here, in Korean)



media manipulation

One reason why it's so hard to talk to people on the other side of the aisle is that many of those people don't realize the extent to which they're being hoodwinked by their mainstream-media sources (a.k.a. the MSM). This is why I've switched almost entirely to the alt-media for my information, media that depict a very different universe from the one the gatekeepers want you to see. Instapundit recently linked to a particularly egregious example of gatekeeping, in which many of the major news networks reporting on the situation at the US-Mexico border decided to tweet almost the exact same image and report it almost the exact same way. If this isn't evidence of bias, groupthink, and other Orwellian tendencies, I don't know what is.


Others in the alt-media have noted the hypocrisy of decrying the use of tear gas now, when the fact is that Obama had done the same thing for years. (Granted, the Washington Times isn't alt-media, but you don't have to go far to find alt-media remarks on this topic.)

Is it possible to convince your interlocutors on the other side of the aisle to drop their current media sources and switch over to alt-media? I doubt it. The switch is difficult for any number of reasons. Ego plays a major role: switching over means admitting one was wrong, and if there's one thing that's hard for people (especially men) to do, it's to admit they are wrong. Fear—which is related to ego—is another reason: we fear to step out into a new world, a new way of thinking. The way we currently think is comfortable; being thrust into a new thought-world threatens who we are. And to be charitable, a third factor making it difficult to switch over is the sincere belief that people like me are the crazy ones, the arrogant ones, the self-deluded and condescending ones. How dare we adopt, or arrogate to ourselves, the mantle of truth? Then, of course, there's a fourth factor: good old Buddhist attachment to our perspective. Face it: it feels good to hate Trump because it places us on the moral high ground. It allows us to be self-righteous, to virtue-signal. It feels good to abandon our own humility, to forget about the beam in our own eye, as we jeer at the Clown-in-Chief. Every silly gaffe Trump makes reassures us that we are, at least, better than him.

And all of this relates back to Factor 1: ego.



now subscribed to Sam the Cooking Guy

Sam is a 50-something Canuck with a slightly foul mouth, a wonderful radio voice, and a bland-but-decent sense of humor. He doesn't take himself too seriously (as you'll see by the Almazan-style, over-the-top titles he gives his videos), and he's not afraid to catch hate from commenters for taking a beloved traditional recipe and putting his own spin on it. He's normally good about noting when he's departing from orthodoxy, and his explanations of what he's doing usually come via jovial delivery. I've watched maybe five or six of his videos thus far, and I'm guessing that his preferred domain is comfort food because that's mostly what I've seen. Check out the embedded videos below, if you want. I enjoyed his heterodox take on the California burrito (see below), but that could be because it wasn't really that radical of a departure, at least not from my Virginian's perspective (when you apply the adjective "California" to food, you're usually saying "fusion" and "anything goes"). Sam isn't always as articulate as, say, Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, probably because Sam isn't a food-science guy like López-Alt or Alton Brown. This is particularly obvious in the smash-burger video embedded below, when Sam fails to explain that the burger's umami comes from wider exposure of the beef's surface area to the griddle, thus allowing more meat to undergo the Maillard reaction, which is what creates the tasty browning. Sam's own explanation sort of hints at the food science, but he doesn't quite get there. Then again, I came into Sam's videos with no expectations at all, and now that I've seen some of his work, I don't expect food science from him. He's more of a home cook with fancier-than-usual equipment (you'll quickly see what I mean when you start watching; I would kill for his kitchen setup), but from what I've seen so far, he's a pro YouTuber and very watchable.

Sam on smash burgers:


A very impressive chicken club sandwich:


A travel special in which Sam visits London and offers his top-ten list of things to try while in the capital of Old Blighty:


There are some interesting arguments in the comments below this video as to how "authentic" the London food was. I think you should just take Sam's experience as a tourist for what it was. This was never meant to be a local's top-ten list. And although I'm defending Sam on that point, his attempt at an English accent, which he tried several times throughout this video, was indefensible.

Finally, the aforementioned California burrito:


If you're interested, check out Sam's YouTube channel.



Monday, November 26, 2018

global warming/cooling scares throughout history

Via Instapundit:

The American Thinker has an amusing list of global-warming and global-cooling scares over the ages, as screamed from the headlines of heedless newspapers that prioritize fearmongering over the dissemination of facts, starting all the way back in 1895. It really does seem to ping-pong back and forth between global warming and global cooling. Jack Hellner, author of the AT post, has this to say:

In light of the new, much-hyped “official” report on global warming that is being pushed by almost all the media and the record cold that is occurring now in many parts of the U.S., it would be helpful if some enterprising journalist actually reported how often the people have been scared by previous warnings of global warming or cooling.

An article in Wattsupwiththat.com from 2014 encapsulates the multiple intentional scares from 1895 on. Throughout the entire 120 year period fossil fuel use was growing exponentially, population growth was exploding, and CO2 concentration was increasing. The fact that temperatures both rose and fell during this period shows that there is no correlation between temperature, fossil fuels, CO2 and the human population.

"No correlation"? Personally, I'm not so triumphalist, but I get where Hellner is coming from. A couple things: all signs do seem to point to a very slight average warming over the past hundred years—about a fraction of a degree Celsius. I don't think this has proved quite as significant as the more wild-eyed "experts" claim. Islands that, five years ago, were predicted to be under the sea by now are still above the waves and going strong. The much-ballyhooed polar ice caps often seem to expand, not contract (see here, for example: NASA, 2015). In all, the threat from any "warming" seems, at best, minimal. And these days, I'm hearing more about the sun's entering a period of "solar minimum," in which the star's radiation will, for a period, be measurably less than normal, quite likely affecting climate on Earth. The sun's activity apparently follows an 11-year cycle with peaks and troughs: the so-called "solar max" and "solar min." The solar min heading our way is said to be especially minimal, whatever that might mean. Assuming it happens, it'll certainly throw off any dire predictions of warming—a point made by any number of people, including the makers of "The Great Global Warming Swindle," which argues that solar activity has much more of an effect than anything we puny humans can do to the planet.

This isn't to say that we're not affecting the planet's rhythms at all. I actually take very seriously the idea we could be polluting ourselves into nonexistence. You don't have to look far to see evidence of the megatons of chemicals we belch into the air every second, or the megatons of trash we vomit into our rivers and oceans (not to mention our massive littering problem). While I'm no tree-hugger, I also don't deny that, viewed collectively, we are a filthy species. And if the basic premise of environmentalism is that it's better to live somewhere clean than to live in a toilet—surrounded by and buried under filth—then I absolutely agree, and I applaud the myriad measures being taken both to reduce and to process our trash output. I also don't think that the advent of a solar minimum necessarily confounds the global-warming alarmists: once the solar min is over, warming may again begin to trend upward, either because of the sun's vigorous output or because of human activity. That question isn't going to be settled by the existence of the solar min, but the solar min might force some stubborn people to realize just how much the sun influences global climate.

For me, there's plenty of room for rational debate on a variety of global-warming-related topics. I'm all for open discussion. What I'm not for is basing unsound environmental policies on unsound scientific "reasoning." Science doesn't work by "consensus"; it works by aligning with reality via empiricism and logic. Losing your university job just because you're a louder skeptic than most is an indication of ideology at work, not science. And basing environmental policy on ideology is a dangerous route to take. So is the repression of dissent when open discussion is called for.

What Is Environmentalism?

Jordan Peterson and Environmentalism

Interconnection and Environmentalism



he was a little guy with big, big dreams


And here's Freddie Mercury soundalike Marc Martel, who actually does Mercury's singing voice in the new movie "Bohemian Rhapsody," starring Rami Malik:






Sunday, November 25, 2018

Saturday shindig

We had elected to meet at 6 p.m. on Saturday, but everyone came early. Charles had a reason to come early: he was making bread, and he had also brought along the ingredients to make our dessert of apple crumble (no photo of that, alas). Tom and Patrick both arrived around 5 p.m., but not for any good reason. They'd heard that Charles was coming early, and Patrick added that Tom had said he'd be at my place between 5 and 5:30, so Patrick based his arrival time on Tom's dubious rhetoric (I don't see Tom saying that anywhere in my email archives; he must have spoken or texted directly with Patrick).

The dinner itself went off okay, though not spectacularly. Ideally, Charles's homemade bread (which was spectacular) would have been timed to come out right as I got done reheating my final dish, but instead, the bread came out by the time my dishes had begun cooling down. It's not tragic, and I'm certainly not blaming Charles for the timing; I'm the one who should have coordinated better. In the larger scheme of things, this wasn't a big deal, but because I've been in the habit of feeding large numbers of people over the past year and a half, I've begun to think more like a caterer, and "food choreography" is now something I worry about.

Here's the impromptu Big Hominid Rating Scale for Shindigs:

6 = excellent
5 = very good
4 = fair/minimally satisfactory
3 = not so good
2 = actively bad
1 = shite

You get a point for every "yes" to the following questions:

1. Did the guests compliment the food?
2. Did the guests eat all the food on their plates?
3. Did the guests go back for seconds?
4. Did the guests ask to take any food home with them?
5. Did the guests claim to be full?
6. Did the guests claim to be so full as to be in pain/have difficulty getting home?

By the above reckoning, I think I managed a 4: some guests failed to finish their food (Tom and Patrick couldn't finish dessert, and Charles handed me the final rib on his plate so I could finish it off for him), and no one asked to take any food home—two strikes. But the food did get complimented, everyone had more than one plateful, and people were indeed talking about how full-to-bursting they were. Patrick, in particular, looked as if he might not even make it to my building's bank of elevators. But everyone left the building and got home just fine.

Conversation veered from beer to politics (I generally abstained from this phase—which was marked by rhetoric about how awful Trump is—given that I wasn't really on the same page with anyone in the room) to aspects of family life. The subject of capsaicin also came up, and both Tom and Charles said they wanted a taste of the devil sauce, so I brought it out and allowed them to take their teensy samples of it. Each took about a drop's worth of sauce, and both proclaimed it hot as hell. This particular sauce isn't one of those that "sneaks up on" you, the way some other sauces do; no, this one punches you in the face pretty damn quick.

Anyway, here are some photos of what we ate—except for Charles's wonderful apple crumble, which really ought to have been memorialized here. We start with a repost of a photo of the baby-back ribs because I somehow managed not to take any rib pictures on Saturday:


Saturday also turned out to be our first noticeably snowy day:


Here's Charles making Irish soda bread sur place:


Mac and cheese, before it had cooled down and congealed:


Chicken satay, which started off overcrowded in a frying pan (overcrowding produces too much steam and actually impedes frying, which is why the pro chefs always tell you never to overcrowd your pan—which I did, anyway, out of impatience and unwisdom), then got moved to my much larger griddle:


Here's my homemade peanut sauce, which I daren't call "Thai" because it has too many non-Thai ingredients in it. My take on peanut sauce involves winging it, with the goal of starting sweet and moving the profile toward savory. So I begin with, in this case, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter. To that, I add soy sauce, sriracha, powdered onion, powdered garlic, powdered ginger, water, heavy cream, and coconut milk. Finally, some Korean chili flakes to add a visual accent and a tiny bit more of a kick.


Charles's soda bread, fresh out of the oven:


Each roll was roughly the size and heft of a bull testicle. It was a dense, heavy bread—quite delicious, and very butter-friendly. The flavor was neutral enough for the bread to be useful in a wide variety of contexts; Charles told us it could be served at breakfast with butter and jam.

Note: on Sunday, I ate more of the bread, which was utterly unchanged from the night before. Unlike a finicky baguette, which wilts and denatures after 24 hours, this bread was still solid and trustworthy. I wonder what it might taste like when pan-fried.

Below: chicken satay which, for all my caution about burning it, turned out just fine. After I moved the chicken onto the griddle and split the fat pieces of meat in half for faster cooking, it all turned out the way it should have. And people liked the peanut dipping sauce.


Dem beanz:


Spicy corn salad, which was good, but which could have used a little sugar:


Sausages! Only Charles ended up eating any of these, and he got shit from Tom and Patrick for being a goddamn sausage lover. Charles noted he's fine with teh GHEY, but that that's just not how he rolls. I find this to be a good libertarian position, and it's about where I stand as well. Gayness, to me, doesn't even register as a moral issue; it's merely a matter of wiring and preference, like liking or hating onions on pizza. I might cringe at onions, but I'm not about to condemn you to hell for liking them on your pizza.


A few regrets: I didn't get a shot of Charles's apple crumble, which we ate with rock-hard vanilla ice cream. Charles also mentioned that we hadn't had a chance to try his lovely wife Hyunjin's cranberry sauce (I had it the following day; it was delicious). He also later texted that he hadn't had a chance to eat my stuffing. I'll be packing most of this food to take to work this week, where my coworkers will snarf it all down. No time for regrets. Life must go on.

We sign off with this gesture made toward the French contingent. I had everyone gather for a posed selfie with signs in French saying Allez, la France! ("Go, France!") and On Vous Baise Embrasse! ("We Fuck Kiss You!"). The French will sign their emails with valedictions like On t'embrasse, literally "We kiss you," but translating more realistically as something like the English-language valediction "Kisses." Meanwhile, the verb baiser, which today means "to fuck," used to be a perfectly innocent verb meaning "to kiss" centuries ago. Strangely, it's still permissible to say donner un baiser à quelqu'un ("to give someone a kiss"), where un baiser still means "a kiss" and not "a fuck."


I looked at my squinty smile and was reminded of Captain James Kirk's death scene in "Star Trek: Generations," in which, with the help of Captain Picard, he saves billions of lives from destruction and summarizes the adventure by saying, "It was... fun," and then smiles his own squinty smile before beaming up for good:


I hope you all had a most excellent Thanksgiving and a most excellent post-Thanksgiving weekend. Best wishes for the rest of this year. If you're in the States, good luck dealing with the crass materialism of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and all the other tacky shopping events from now through New Year's. I'm happy not to have to deal with that nonsense here in Korea, but we've got plenty of our own, homegrown peninsular foolishness to contend with.



Saturday, November 24, 2018

getting angry when you can't flush your own poo

Little kids reach a certain age where they begin to assert their independence and actively reject help from parents and other older people. Tonight, during our post-Thanksgiving dinner, I heard stories of kids who would explode if someone tried to cut their food for them. And then there was my buddy Tom's story, which was about his son Thomson. Thomson apparently hates it when someone else flushes his poo, and part of the reason for this is that the boy likes to send his poo off with an actual "goodbye." Tom told us about how upset his son was the other night, and then he mentioned that he had captured the incident on video and placed it on YouTube. Watch and enjoy, and if you don't have little kids, be thankful.






protein onslaught

Sausages, sausages, and more sausages, done in my new griddle and finished in beer (some sort of stout this time). I poured some beer into the container you see below, so the bottom and middle layers of sausages are currently soaking up a good bit of beerage:


Baby-back ribs, done the Chef John way, which turned out pretty damn good.


I'm realizing that I'd love to have giant chafing dishes and/or warming trays so I can lay all of this out without having to reheat everything sequentially in either my regular oven or my microwave oven. The problem with sequential reheating is that the first thing you reheat is also the first thing to cool back down.

I'm also realizing that, with so many barbecue-ish items on the menu, I don't really want to do barbecue chicken. People will get sick of the monotony. So, change of plan: I'm going to do satay plus peanut sauce. Take that, mothercluckers.



Friday, November 23, 2018

Thanksgiving elsewhere

My brother Sean and his hubby Jeff went to my brother David's place in Alexandria for Thanksgiving. According to Sean, the menu was Komerican:

• Cornish hens
• Mac & cheese
• Stuffing
• Green-bean casserole
• Japchae (Korean cellophane noodles w/veggies & meat)
• Vodka (oho!)
• Charcuterie & cheese
• Galbi (Korean short ribs)
• Korean banchan (side dishes)

I noted, with a pang, to my buddy Mike that Mom would've prepped a turkey. That said, the above menu sounds marvelous, and the photos below seem to bear that out.










ribs about to do their ribbing thing

Costco has been selling baby-back ribs since forever, and I've long wanted to sink my teeth into them. I finally bought some Costco ribs in preparation for tomorrow's shindig, and below, you can see what the ribs look like after having been thoroughly rubbed down with Chef John's recommended rub. (When I eventually become rib-savvier, I'll develop a dry or wet rub of my own, probably Korean-tinged.)

Ribs—rubbed and just about ready:


Get all the meat-rubbing masturbation jokes out of your system now. That's what the comments section was designed for. Charles already texted me his.



2nd batch of pulled pork

Second time's a charm:


This was a better batch than the first one, not least because I had the foresight to add some pork tenderloin to compensate for lost volume from pork-shoulder fat: I had sliced away about a third of the two-kilo slab of meat even before placing everything in the crock pot, and after the meat was done, I slapped on my rubber gloves and ended up scraping and plucking away even more fat.

Below, a belated photo of the sauced pulled pork. I had wanted to take a pic of the pork right after it had been pulled and right before it got sauced, but in the morning bustle, I somehow forgot to do this. Then, while I was gooshing barbecue sauce onto the pork, the plastic nozzle of the sauce bottle popped off, and a torrent of barbecue sauce glopped onto the meat. At first, I thought there was too much sauce, but as I mixed the meat, I realized the amount of sauce was exactly right. The last thing you want to do with pulled pork is over-sauce it because, obviously, pulled pork is much more about the meat than it is about the sauce. While this new batch still didn't strike me as all that much larger than the previous batch, it tasted mighty fine, and once it's paired up with the rest of the meal, I believe we'll discover the quantity to be Mercutio-perfect: "'Tis enough; 'twill serve."






what's done so far

Whew. Thursday was a bigger prep day than I'd anticipated. Part of the reason was that I was incapacitated Wednesday evening; I wasn't able to make the stuffing until Thursday morning. Thursday evening was devoted to making the baked beans, setting up the new load of pulled pork, and crafting three different slaws. I made a standard, mayo-based slaw that won't be eaten by Charles because he doesn't like mayo-based slaws; I made a vinegar/sugar slaw for Charles—a small load that'll be mostly for him, although I admit that, when I sampled the slaw, I thought it tasted pretty good (but it needed a bit of an accent with lemon juice); and I made a corn slaw that won't be eaten by guest Patrick, who has already expressed an apparent aversion to corn slaw; and since my buddy Tom refuses to eat any vegetables at all (except for potatoes and beans and, bizarrely, oil-fried garlic cloves), he won't be having any of these three slaws. Upshot: more leftovers to take to the office, where people are far less picky and far more likely to just eat unquestioningly.*

Monday's pulled pork got eaten at work, and it was a small load, anyway, so it deserved to die at the office. A new load of pulled pork is currently mijoter-ing in the crock pot. Here's an overly bright shot of the baked beans, which were a labor of love:


I soaked a batch of Great Northerns overnight, then put them on the boil. Strangely, they didn't need a full hour to turn soft: they were done in thirty minutes, which was fine by me, as that gave me time to finish the beans ahead of schedule and move on to other dishes sooner than anticipated. I bathed the Great Northerns in ketchup, then fried up some thick-cut bacon until crispy. The bacon went straight into the beans; I used tongs to hold the bacon strips, and kitchen shears to cut the bacon into little, crunchy pieces that got mixed into the beans. With all the rendered bacon fat, I had plenty of grease for my favorite No Brand hot dogs, which I halved, diced (well, "semicircled" or "half-mooned"), and fried up in the bacon grease before using a slotted spoon to drain the dogs and toss them into the beans. For the beans themselves, I added barbecue sauce atop the ketchup, plus a blot of mustard and a goodly glug of Worcestershire sauce. Last but not least, a cup of brown sugar went into the mix. Yeah, I'm shameless. I wanted Tom to be able to eat this side, so instead of adding minced onion, I added a bit of powdered onion to the beans. You can barely taste it.

Below, and also overexposed, is the stuffing, another labor of love:


My stuffing isn't particularly imaginative. The vegetables include diced celery ribs, minced onion, finely chopped celery leaves, and mushrooms (oyster mushrooms in this case). The sausage is homemade breakfast sausage with an emphasis on sage and maple syrup. I also added diced, cooked apples done up with sugar and cinnamon. On top of that, I sprinkled extra sage over the whole thing, plus my own makeshift herbes de Provence. While some of the trendy cooks recommend baking your stuffing (technically, dressing, but I'm not going to change my speech habits at my age**) after adding a custard-ish solution of chicken stock, cream, and eggs, I simply made a broth-and-cream mixture that I poured onto my stuffing, after adding panko, in order to moisten the bread and get a heavier consistency. I've never baked my stuffing before; it comes straight off the stove.

Below—a shot of the pulled beef:


The meat—eye round—had very little fat, as I noted earlier, so I had to sauce it quickly before it dried up on me. I think I succeeded, but we'll know the truth only after I've re-warmed the beef in either the regular oven or the microwave. I made sure to use a distinctly different barbecue sauce with the pulled beef as a way to distinguish it from the pulled pork. I also baptized the beef with a blot of French honey.

Charles's slaw is below. Officially, it's called "Susan's Vinaigrette Cole Slaw," but when I containerized it, I simply labeled it "C-Slaw." Sounds more surgical that way. The slaw really does taste good, but I'm a bit worried that, given its vinegar component, it'll be well on its way toward pickling itself by the time we're sitting down to eat on Saturday. With vinegar slaws, I don't think inadvertent pickling is a tragic thing (not as tragic as when it happens with mayo/cream-based slaws, where the exudation of fluid can be aesthetically gross), but I'm still hoping for minimal picklage.

C-Slaw:


Funny thing about the above slaw: the recipe calls for poppy seeds, but I didn't know where to find those, so I bought black sesame seeds instead, and I think they make the dressing taste even better than poppy seeds would have.

Below is the corn slaw. Patrick might not want any, but a bit like a first-time father, I'm bizarrely proud of this batch of slaw, which was a fairly simple build: corn, Korean chilies, and some small red and yellow peppers, along with my standard pickle/mayo dressing, some fresh cracked black pepper, and a special ingredient: a dusting of chili powder to keep the whole thing within a Tex-Mex flavor profile.


The final picture in this brief photo essay is the regular cole slaw, which is composed of shredded carrot, shredded cabbage, pickle/mayo dressing, and cracked black pepper. As I noted long ago, once I arrived at this recipe for cole-slaw dressing, I saw no reason ever to change it up. With only three ingredients (pickle juice, mayonnaise, black pepper) the dressing couldn't be easier to make. Compare Iron Chef Bobby Flay's vaunted cole-slaw-dressing recipe, which is the epitome of overthinking slaw.


Still to come: pulled pork, sausages, baby-back ribs, BBQ chicken, and bacon mac and cheese. Sausage and ribs are a Friday prep; chicken and mac will happen on Saturday to ensure freshness. When it comes to chicken, those plump, firm breasts must be treated with the respect they deserve.



*Yes, I admit I'm picky, too, with my aversion to onions-in-certain-contexts.

**And if we're going to get pedantic about terminology, consider this: the conventional cook's wisdom is that it's stuffing if it actually, physically goes inside the bird, but it's dressing if it never enters an animal's body cavity. I say that it's stuffing either way because, even if you make it entirely separately from any bird, you can still, in theory, stuff it into a bird at any moment. So: whether it's potentially stuffing or actually stuffing, it's stuffing either way. Here's an analogy to help you out if you're still resisting this argument: you call toothpaste "toothpaste" even when it's inside the tube and not on your teeth. Whether it's potentially on your teeth or actually on your teeth, it's still toothpaste. The same should apply to stuffing. Dressing, meanwhile, is for salads, and it's a liquid.



Thursday, November 22, 2018

this almost fucking killed me

Sorry for the blurriness, but here's a pic of the thing that almost killed me last night:


You're probably aware that capsaicin is the chemical that makes a hot chili pepper hot. Imagine distilling that essence, turning it into a sauce of its own, and selling that at the local grocery. Out of sheer primate curiosity, I bought myself a bottle of the stuff yesterday, and all day long in the office, I was—pardon the pun—burning with curiosity about it. I didn't actually crack open the bottle until I got back to my place, however, which turned out to be a good thing. More on that in a moment.

The bottle of capsaicin sauce was made of plastic; it had a narrow nozzle that made the bottle look as innocuous as a container for honey. Very unwisely, and with only the faintest idea of what I was about to experience, I squeezed a half-teaspoonful of the sauce into a spoon and rammed the sauce into my mouth before I could think twice about what I was doing. (Oh, yeah: I did sniff the sauce before tasting it, but the smell test revealed very little.)

The burn started almost immediately, and as the sauce trickled from my mouth and into my esophagus, I began hiccuping uncontrollably. The clinical part of my brain intoned, Some people react to spicy food by hiccuping. Thanks, Spock. Alone in my apartment, I said to myself, "You and your goddamn oral fixation." The pain inside my mouth was becoming unbearable, and I was flooded with a jumble of wild thoughts, including, This sauce is supposed to be mixed with other stuff. My breathing rate was beginning to change, and I was already starting to sweat. Mentally, I cast about for something that could act as first aid. My first thought was Find cold water, but my inner medic rejected that because water, as a treatment for ingesting capsaicin, can often make the situation worse. I ripped open my fridge and yanked out the pitcher of cold water, anyway, pouring myself a tall glass that I then began to sip at a slow, steady pace, hoping that, at the very least, the addition of water would dilute or diffuse the harsh effects of this most evil of sauces.

Sweat squeezed itself steadily out of my scalp and ran joyously down my face and neck, like kids sprinting down a hill. I kept sipping, vainly hoping for some sort of relief, but per the medical wisdom, the water really wasn't helping except in a temporary manner: the cold liquid would wash over my tongue and quell the burning for about two seconds, then the burning would return full-force immediately after, thereby necessitating more desperate sipping. This wasn't working. I began to think about alternative methods for dealing with a wildfire that was rapidly spreading from my mouth to my throat, and I lashed myself with a series of curses punctuated with a refrain that I chanted over and over: how could you be so fucking stupid?

An idea came to me: antacid tablets. I had a huge bottle of Kirkland antacid tablets, so I schlepped over to the bookshelf serving as my medicine cabinet, grabbed the antacid bottle, poured out five tablets, and chewed them down gratefully. This move produced an immediate effect, but it wasn't enough. My mouth still burned, and now there was a new problem.

The water I had been swallowing had carried the sauce down into my stomach, and my stomach had finally noticed the appearance of lava in its midst. It began as a warm glow, but rapidly turned into a hot, smoldering coal that burned with a hellish fire. Within a few minutes, and very much in spite of the antacid tablets, the heat became a monster that felt as if it were trying to punch its way out of my abdomen. The rest of my body responded in various crazy ways: my arms and legs became weak and shaky; my head began to spin, as if I were about to faint; my breathing became rapid and shallow. And because the pain was radiating outward from my stomach now, there was no comfortable position for me to assume. I tried lying on my bed, to no avail: I rolled onto one side, onto the other (I didn't dare roll onto my stomach!)—but no matter the degree of my pitch and yaw, the burning radiated outward in all directions. At one point, I was almost laughing as I felt a sudden urge to shit, even though I knew the sauce hadn't made it into my intestines yet. The urge passed.

Lying down and sitting up were becoming impossible, but I forced myself to shamble painfully over to the fridge because I had remembered that a carton of heavy cream lay within. The cream was supposed to be for the stuffing, but I was in fuck-it mode, and thus ready to do anything to survive. I reached the fridge, opened the door, feebly grabbed at the carton and, hands shaking, somehow managed to get it open without fainting. I guzzled a third of the heavy cream right then and there, then went back over to the antacid tablets and crunched down three more. That was eight tablets total—about double the normal complement I take when I have severe indigestion or acid reflux.

The heavy cream had a significant effect. I could feel the fires dying down, and I once again limped over to my bed and lay down, breathing rapidly and shallowly, my head cradled on a stack of pillows, and another pillow jammed under my jaw. I stared at the ceiling and pondered dying. Slowly but surely, my breathing began to smooth out, and the angry furnace of my stomach began, at long last, to simmer down. My mouth felt fine; my throat felt fine. After about twenty minutes in bed, my stomach was also fine, and even though all I wanted to do was sleep and recuperate from such a stupid mistake, I made myself stand up, put on a coat, and lumber out into the blessedly cold night to buy a stack of yogurt cups and other stomach-soothers. I made my purchases, came back to my place, downed the yogurt and sundries, then resolved not to prep my Thanksgiving stuffing until the following morning. I had laid the stuffing ingredients out before tasting the hot sauce; I quietly put everything back into the fridge and pondered how fortunate it was that I hadn't tried the sauce while still in the office: my coworkers would have had to call 119, the local emergency number.

This morning, after a blissful slumber, I woke up about two hours earlier than usual and set myself to prepping the stuffing. No ill effects from the previous night, thank Cthulhu; I was very worried that I had managed to give myself an ulcer. In the end, my jury-rigged, self-administered first aid had proved effective, but during those hellish twenty minutes, I had seriously wondered whether I was going to die. The thought made me chuckle bitterly: die here? In this goddamn apartment? That wasn't how I wanted to go. I cut up my onion, celery, and mushrooms, cooked the vegetables and the homemade sausage, cooked a batch of diced apples to add to the stuffing, herbed and seasoned everything, prepped a chicken broth to which I added the remaining heavy cream, tossed in my usual load of panko (apologies to all you bread purists), and made what I sincerely hope will be a decent stuffing. I was simply glad to be awake and alive and, with my apartment smelling like sage and maple syrup, I left for work a little bit wiser about the potency of capsaicin.



best trolling seen today

Hilarious. Bulgarians piss off Russians by repainting Soviet monuments as American superheroes and other icons, including Ronald McDonald and the Joker.



Happy Thanksgiving!

Watch my girlfriend Claire make stuffing:






Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Ave, Charles!

My buddy Charles argues that turkey sucks, and the American culinary tradition at Thanksgiving is in need of a change. Spoiler: while Charles does discuss our upcoming non-traditional meal, he doesn't offer specific recommendations as to which protein should supplant la dinde, except perhaps for a nod toward chicken and duck. I wouldn't mind switching over to a gigantic lobster served with a nice, warm butter-garlic dip.

Some years back, the final battle on the Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef" was between chefs Marco Canora and Marc Forgione. Forgione won that battle partly because, as he claimed, he chose to make a meal based on research about what would have been eaten in 1625, and that meal had absolutely nothing to do with turkey. As I wrote in my post about the Iron Chef battle:

Chef Forgione did his own venison roulade wrapped in caul fat (trivia: the opening credits for Season 7 of "House" feature brief, amusing images of swirling caul fat in addition to all the normal graphics), but he chose chestnuts as a component of his stuffing—a wiser choice given the time constraints. Forgione also decided to forgo the conventional notion of a Thanksgiving dinner, preferring instead to honor a vision of what the first Thanksgiving dinner (Forgione said it occurred in 1625... historians?*) would have been like. He went heavy on seafood and venison for his proteins; I think he also went for the duck. Turkey was nowhere to be found, and neither were white potatoes, since both ingredients were absent from that first Thanksgiving feast. Overall, I thought this was the better strategy, because riskier. I also felt that Forgione produced what was, overall, a more imaginative and tastier-looking menu. Canora's food was generally praised, but the critiques he received were about some embarrassingly basic matters, such as seasoning.

An incomplete clip of that battle is here:


So—to turkey or not to turkey? However you decide to celebrate your Thanksgiving, may your day be a tasty and convivial one.



*Wikipedia says that the meal took place in 1621, and it largely agrees with Forgione's notion of the original dinner ("waterfowl, venison, ham, lobster, clams, berries, fruit, pumpkin, and squash"), but notes that there may also have been wild turkey, a fowl that was abundant back then. However, Wikipedia also says, "...turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By 1857, turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England."



Jordan Peterson and environmentalism: a good rant

Impressive rant by Dr. Jordan Peterson on trying to find solutions to environmental issues. To my mind, this ranks up there with George Carlin's stand-up rant about the arrogance inherent in the notion of "saving the planet":


[We have to dip all the way back into the 2006 archives to find a blog post of mine that quotes Carlin's rant at length.]



college = a hell of snowflakes

The state of American higher education in a nutshell (emphasis on "nut"):


I'd like to think this is an isolated incident, but I suspect that those two jokers would provoke the same reactions no matter which US campus they set foot on.

ADDENDUM: at Leeds Trinity University, students are apparently afraid of capital letters and tough, stern language, so cut it out, professors! Be nothing but kind to your charges!



it's a hardscrabble existence if you're a feminist

On Scrabble and feminism: here.

Since the World Scrabble Championship began in 1991, all winners have been male. The North American Scrabble Championship has had one female winner (in 1987) since its founding in 1978. All eight finalists in this year’s French World Scrabble Championships were men. Competitive Scrabble constitutes a natural experiment for testing the feminist worldview. According to feminist dogma, males and females are identical in their aptitudes and interests. If men dominate certain data-based, abstract fields like engineering, physics and math, that imbalance must, by definition, be the result of sexism—whether a patriarchal culture that discourages girls from math or implicit bias in the hiring process.

But there are no cultural expectations that discourage females from memorising dictionaries—a typical strategy of competitive Scrabble players, often in a foreign language that the player doesn’t speak. Girls are as free as boys to lap up vocabulary. Nor are there misogynist gatekeepers to keep females out of Scrabble play; the game, usually first learned at home, is open to all. According to Hasbro, 83% of recreational Scrabble players 25 to 54 are female.

Championship Scrabble, however, rewards typically male obsessions: strategy, math, a passion for competition, and a drive to memorise facts. [World Scrabble Champion, Nigel] Richards’s mother told the Guardian in 2015 that he “related everything to numbers” when he was growing up. Feminists will need to employ circular logic to conjure forth a discriminatory barrier in Scrabble: Males’ excellence at a certain activity itself keeps females out. But that leaves unanswered the question of how males came to excel at Scrabble—or any other abstract, competitive activity—in the first place.

Finding excuses for underperformance is an amusing activity when viewed from afar.



pulled beef: done

I had bought a very lean cut of beef (hongduggae-sal, 홍두깨살, a.k.a. beef eye round*) normally used by Koreans in jang-jorim, a boiled-beef dish in which the beef is cubed or chunked and left to boil a long while in a broth that's heavy with soy sauce. The beef can then be eaten as is, or it can be shredded and used as a topping/accent for other dishes. This cut is a bit risky, in terms of pulled beef, because it can dry out almost as soon as you pull it from the crock pot. I shredded my beef as fast as I could this morning, then sauced it all before everything dried up. A taste test after the saucing showed me that the meat was fine, and I immediately containerized the final product, which is why I didn't linger to take photos.

Yesterday's pulled pork has been totally eaten, so that was a loss. Today is really the start of the cooking project for Saturday. I've done the pulled beef, now, and tonight, I'll work on making the stuffing—well, technically, the dressing (because it doesn't go inside a turkey) for this weekend. I made my breakfast sausage last night, and an experimental cook showed that the sausage is both edible and fairly tasty. I infused the meat with the usual suspects in terms of herbs and spices, but I also added an immodest amount of maple syrup to the mix to make the sausage, well, maple-y. Stuffing is easy to make, in principle, but the prep work involves a ton of chopping, slicing, and mincing. That'll be meditative, I think. I'm not averse to the scut work that comes with preparing a meal.

As for pulled pork: I've rescheduled the prep for tomorrow night. I bought a second pork shoulder, plus a pork tenderloin to increase the meat-to-fat ratio. Gonna be good.



*This site makes the ludicrous claim that the eye round is "one of the few unredeemable cuts of meat; think tough and tasteless. Save money but eat well with chuck steak, the cut of big flavors and some tenderness." As is true for the rest of the beef-eating world, chuck is my go-to cut for making hamburgers, so I've got nothing against chuck. But what this lady writes about eye round indicates to me that she needs to take a trip out to Korea to see just how "unredeemable" this cut is. And hey: even I, despite being an utter non-expert when it comes to making Korean food, was able to discover a non-Korean way to "redeem" this perfectly fine, perfectly usable cut of meat. Sheesh.



Michael Jai White on proper striking

Most of the information in the following video is familiar to me, and it's information I've passed on to women and children as to how to make a fist, how to keep the fist aligned with the forearm so as not to hurt the wrist, and how to generate power when punching (I've mentioned dealing with people who obviously don't know how to fight; in general, you have little to nothing to fear from such people). That said, it's cool to see actor Michael Jai White—who is a practicing martial artist—offer a master class on striking. Much of what he says will be instantly familiar to anyone with a taekwondo background, and toward the end of the video, he mentions techniques from Japanese goju-ryu. Amusingly, he also talks about the focusing of force when doing the shot put. According to Wikipedia, White holds black belts in eight different martial disciplines, at least two of which are Korean. In his movies (I reviewed "Black Dynamite" here), his kicks definitely have a Korean flavor to them: they tend to be crisp and linear, with plenty of "snap action," not circular like in certain Chinese styles, and not whole-leg movements like in muay thai or capoeira.






Tuesday, November 20, 2018

pulled pork, but...

I bought a huge hunk of pork shoulder from Costco last week; I had kept it in the freezer until last night, when I planned to dunk the hunk into my crock pot for a nice, long, slow cook in a bath of my special witches' brew (Coca Cola, Worcestershire, apple-cider vinegar, rough-chopped onions, soy sauce, black pepper, and maybe some garlic). This morning, the smell of the cooked pork was awesome:


I was, however, worried about how much usable pork I'd get. Pork shoulder is a fatty cut of meat, and during a slow cook, the fat either renders out (making the broth into something awesome) or sits there as a gooey, slippery mass (that can probably still be rendered into something usable). Part of the pulling of pulled pork involves putting on kitchen gloves and literally pulling apart the muscle fibers. In my case, not being a fan of greasy clumps of fat that cling to my meat, I do my damnedest to remove any and all traces of fat, gristle, fascia, and sundry connective tissue once the cooking is done.

Today, I woke up too late to do the pulling at home, and I knew I couldn't leave a cold crock pot full of cooked pork shoulder at home all day, so I shrugged and spent some extra time packing the meat up and taking it to the office to be pulled there. That fateful decision led to another: if I truly planned to pull the pork in the office, it would be churlish not to offer any pork to my colleagues. So I bought components for cole slaw and other toppings, brought along a grater to grate carrots for the slaw, and bought bread from the local bakery to make sliders. Because all of this made me very late in arriving at the office, I offered my apologies to the team leader and immediately set to prepping lunch (partly as a way of saying "Sorry I'm late today").

The pork was amazing, and I left it fairly chunky. I don't like it when a pulled-pork sandwich is too fibrous, if you know what I mean. Gimme soft, juicy chunks of meat. Luckily, that's what I got with this batch, as you'll see in the photos below. Unfortunately, I also noticed that there wasn't very much usable pork, so I made a command decision and decided that this batch would go to feed my coworkers at the office. I'll buy another hunk of shoulder tonight, along with a tenderloin (which has almost zero fat) as a way to up the meat-to-fat ratio.

I rationed out three sliders per person. Here's my plate:


The cole slaw was made on the spot, in the office. I used my go-to recipe of cabbage, carrot, black pepper, mayonnaise, and pickle juice. Worked like a charm. Other toppings were cheddar cheese and pickles. The classics. Does anyone put tomatoes on their pulled-pork sliders? I do tomatoes on burgers, but never with pulled pork. And I don't think I'm alone in this way of thinking. Here's the pork, up close and personal:


And finally, a wide shot of the humble spread. No sides like chips or anything—just components for sliders:


The slaw looks a bit gross, swimming in its dressing. I drained it before storing the leftovers, which will be served this evening to the native-speaker English teachers.



why you shouldn't be too hasty on Twitter

Seen on Gab. The "narrative," indeed:






Monday, November 19, 2018

in the grand scheme of things, I'm small potatoes

Watch this Indian grandpa make enough chicken biryani to feed a whole neighborhood of local orphans (not to mention quite a few local adults):


Me, I'm just having a few guests over this Saturday.

Check out this guy's samosas-for-an-army here.



I don't even know what to say

This is actually happening:






get a load of "Pinched"

The animation for this engrossing story about an apparently schizophrenic thief reminded me of nothing so much as a cartoon from the late 70s or early 80s:


Some of the comments beneath the video are surprisingly hilarious.



a Genesis moment

Freddie Mercury, brought to life through incredibly detailed, small-scale sculpture:






food-prep schedule

Over a week ago, I created a Google Docs file charting out the food prep that I must do this coming week. I've got the usual luminaries coming over on Saturday the 24th, the weekend after Thanksgiving, for a non-traditional, post-Thanksgiving shindig. Our theme started out as BBQ—not true barbecue from the Texan point of view, mind: Texans dichotomize barbecuing and grilling: grilling is high heat for a short time (think: burgers, dogs, and chicken legs), while barbecuing is "low and slow," as they say: your meat is in the smoker for hours and hours, softening up on the inside while developing a lovely bark on the outside, as would happen with a brisket. That's true barbecue, but the only things I have to work with are my oven, my slow cooker, and my kitchenette's meager stovetop range. Now, however, our theme has boomeranged back to Thanksgiving, and we've added cranberry sauce, apple crumble, and stuffing to the menu. In the meantime, the main thrust of what I'm cooking remains BBQ-themed, and I've arranged the various dishes on a meal-prep schedule, on which I've tried to sequence the dishes logically, ascending in order of priority, like a sort of culinary triage moving forward in time but backward in urgency from least delicate to most delicate: the least delicate dishes can be made early and stored in the fridge or freezer with little danger of spoiling or otherwise degrading; the most delicate dishes have to be made the very day of the meal so that they're fresh, not reheated. I'll now share that schedule with you:

MONDAY: prep the pulled pork. When done, freeze that fucka' for Saturday.

TUESDAY: prep the pulled beef. (I'm still getting used to saying "pulled beef" as opposed to "shredded beef"; "pulled beef" sounds awkward to me, but I've since found plenty of recipes online that use that very term.) Freeze the beef when it's done. For Saturday.

ALSO TUESDAY: make sage breakfast sausage. The meat needs to sit overnight.

WEDNESDAY: prep the stuffing. I've already bought all the ingredients I'll need to make a smallish batch of stuffing for four hungry guys. One of us—Tom—most likely won't be eating the stuffing because it'll have things like minced onion and celery in it. Tom avoids vegetables. He still isn't dead despite this.

THURSDAY: prep the two slaws in the evening: corn slaw and cole slaw. In theory, both of these are easy to prep, and if stored correctly, they'll both be crunchy and fresh on Saturday.

FRIDAY: prep the sausage and the baby-back ribs. I'll be pan-frying the sausage and finishing it all in beer. When I did this a short while back, the smell in my apartment was glorious. The baby-back ribs will be an oven-baked prep, courtesy of Chef John. The ribs will need to start thawing (they're currently frozen) on Wednesday night to be ready for Friday's bake. The sausage can start off frozen; that won't matter so much.

SATURDAY: some things need to be served fresh out of the oven or fresh off the stove, so I'm devoting Saturday morning and early afternoon to making the bacon mac & cheese and the barbecue chicken. I've had two kilos of chicken breast sitting in my freezer for months, and it's time to break those breasticles out and let their cluck flag fly. They'll start thawing on Thursday, then I'll brine them for a couple hours on Saturday morning before cooking them to what I hope will be plump and juicy perfection. The mac and cheese (Mike Symon's recipe again) can't be made in advance and refrigerated for several days: it'll seize up, and the pasta will take on a strange texture if I reheat the dish on Saturday. No: it's better to cook the mac & cheese just before the guests arrive.

To this medley, I might add an apple-cinnamon side—essentially, a pie filling—that will pair nicely with many of the sausages on offer. I've got a range of sausages, too: kielbasa, Knackwurst (lots of Knackwurst, for some odd reason), Weißwurst, Bratwurst, and Regensburger Wurst. Along with ribs, chicken, pulled pork, and pulled beef, that really ought to be more than enough protein for the troops. Whatever's left over will, in part, go with any guests who want to cart off leftovers; the rest will be distributed to coworkers at work, and if I end up running out of certain things (like the pulled meats and the baby-back ribs), I'll buy more ingredients and cook more food because that's how I roll.

Expect lots of photos.

ADDENDUM: Charles will be bringing bread, the aforementioned apple crumble, and the aforementioned cranberry sauce. He was also supposed to be bringing along his wife, but they're getting divorced or something (juuuust kidding).



Sunday, November 18, 2018

po' boy

It's Sunday, and I'm at the office trying to get ahead on one of two projects. My team leader is also here; he's from Louisiana, so I decided to make a remoulade last night, bring it in, and do chicken po' boys for lunch today. The local BBQ Chicken provided the crunchy tenders. I provided the remoulade, lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles; the Kim Young-mo bakery down the street provided the baguette for our sandwiches.


Not bad, all in all. And now: back to the grind.



Saturday, November 17, 2018

"Searching": review

I had already heard plenty of positive buzz about 2018's "Searching," directed by Aneesh Chaganty and starring John Cho as a father desperately looking for his missing teenage daughter, and Debra Messing (of "Will and Grace" fame) as the officer helping with the search. I had hoped to see "Searching" in Korean theaters, but after coming back from France, I was too late to catch it there. Luckily, the movie is already out on US home video, so I picked up an iTunes copy and watched it last night.

The movie begins with a biographical overview of the Kim family, Californians living a happy, modern life while utterly plugged into the online world—social media, text and video chatting, etc. David Kim (Cho) is married to Pam (Sara Sohn); they have a daughter named Margot (through the years: Alex Jayne, Megan Liu, Kya Dawn Lau, and finally Michelle La), and we watch Margot grow from a little tyke to a young high-schooler. But tragedy strikes when Pam dies of lymphoma (no worries: this isn't a spoiler; it happens very early in the film and sets up the situation), and her death fundamentally alters Margot's relationship with her father. From her father's oblivious point of view, things seem to be on a more or less even keel, but one day, Margot turns up missing after going to a study-group session. At first, David isn't alarmed: Margot's sudden silence coincides with a scheduled camping trip. But as David pokes around, as time passes, and as signs become more ominous, David begins to realize something terrible may have happened to his daughter. Finally reporting Margot as a missing person, David comes in contact with Detective Rosemary Vick (Messing), who does what she can to help David track Margot down.

Saying much more about the plot would inevitably take us into spoiler territory, and this is a movie with so much simmering tension and so many plot twists that to spoil the film would be to ruin the experience for you. Let's talk, instead, about the film's central visual gimmick: like the movie "Chronicle," the story is told entirely through screens and cameras: cell-phone cameras, desktop cameras, laptop cameras, and even the cameras of news crews who get involved as Margot's case goes public. In the early flashback scenes about the Kim family, we see old Windows-format desktops and icons, an amusing bit of nostalgia. In modern times, we see the massive use of Twitter, Google, FaceTime, and a Periscope-lookalike. At one point, when David suspects someone close to him, we see the action through tiny security/spy cameras that David secretly places in this person's house. Much of the software is Mac-based; it was a bit surreal for me to be watching the movie on my Mac laptop and seeing ethereal screensavers such as normally appear on my own MacBook Air. I reflexively checked, several times, to see whether a cursor on my screen belonged to the movie or to my own computer.

While still trying hard not to spoil the movie, I will say that, when the final reveal of the culprit happened, I hadn't anticipated who the culprit might be, but at the same time, I didn't feel all that surprised. As with any mystery involving a very limited cast of characters, the villain inevitably ended up being a person who was right under our nose the entire time, resulting in that forehead-slapping "Oh, I should've guessed that!" moment. Even though I couldn't predict who the perpetrator might have been (and the movie was savvy enough to offer several candidates, as well as to wonder aloud whether Margot herself might have been the cause of her own disappearance), I wasn't shocked when the revelation occurred.

Another interesting facet of "Searching" is how the Kim family's Korean ethnicity plays zero role in the plot. The Kims speak no Korean with each other, although David's brother Peter (Joseph Lee) does spell out, in Roman letters, the Korean terms "eomma" and "appa" ("Mom" and "Dad") in a text to David. Aside from that, the movie dwells not at all on the Kims' Koreanness, and the ethnicity of other minor characters in the story isn't highlighted, either. The focus was entirely on the situation: a father is searching for his missing daughter; this could be any parent's ultimate nightmare, regardless of ethnicity.

The movie does tip its hand, though, somewhere between the two-thirds and three-quarters mark, and this allowed me easily to predict the film's ultimate question: would David find his daughter dead or alive? I can't say too much about how the movie accidentally leaves this hint, but it's primarily a matter of the timing of the reveal, and once the reveal happens, most of the movie's suspense drains away in the final few minutes. This isn't to say that the reveal ruined the movie for me; I thoroughly enjoyed "Searching" for the entirety of its run time. But with a slight tweak to the script, the tension could have been ratcheted up just a wee bit higher, and for a wee bit longer.

Another flaw of the movie is that, because it focuses so specifically on the technology of 2018, it's going to date itself and become laughable (or at least cute from a condescending point of view) fairly quickly. A second viewing of the film, say, ten years from now, will be cringe-inducing as we look back at this snapshot of the end of a decade. Think of a movie like the 1980s-era "Wargames," which also leaned heavily on computer technology, and which now appears rather silly, given how poorly it's aged.

That said, along with offering us a taut family thriller, "Searching" also gives us some excellently biting social commentary about the artificiality and hypocrisy of people who suddenly find themselves in the orbit of someone famous. Early on, when David is combing through Margot's list of social-media contacts, most of Margot's classmates tell David noncommittally that they weren't close to Margot, making David wonder whether Margot had any actual friends at school and elsewhere. Later on, when Margot's disappearance has made the news, these same people suddenly pop up on social media, some even crying crocodile tears, now claiming to have been extremely close to Margot. David, the beleaguered father, comes in for his own share of abuse as the missing-persons case goes public: at one point, he's subjected to a parodic LOLCats-style meme showing his face and a sarcastic caption to the effect of, "World's Best Dad," suggesting he's to blame for his daughter's having run away. The movie gives us a realistic portrayal of how family disasters unfold in modern America.

Cho and Messing play off each other quite well. Their relationship goes through several beats and phases—from prickly to conciliatory, with the establishment of trust being a constant, running issue between them. For those used to seeing Debra Messing as a comic actress, her role in "Searching" will be eye-opening as she proves to be more versatile than one might think. And having John Cho as a lead in something other than a Harold and Kumar movie is also refreshing; Cho is convincing as an increasingly distraught father. "Searching" stands in stark contrast to "Crazy Rich Asians," a film that gently smirks at how over-privileged, ethnicity-conscious Asians live their detached-from-reality lives; this movie is about a family, already reeling from one tragedy, that finds itself in the midst of a second tragedy in the making. Privilege and ethnicity are the last things on anyone's minds in "Searching," and that right there is reason enough to recommend this well-crafted film.