Saturday, November 30, 2019

a walk and a meal with John Mac

My friend John McCrarey lives in the Philippines, but before he began life as a retiree there, he used to live and work in South Korea where, according to his version of things, life could be kind of rough when it came to interpersonal relationships. John had a great rapport with the people he worked with, but readers of his blog know that he thinks of himself as a work in progress, especially when it comes to his personal life. That said, he is the proud owner of two awesome dogs, a dedicated Hasher (member of a distance-walking/hiking club), and a charitable giver to his local community. He has made the PI his home, and he's a lot happier there than he ever was in Korea. However, John's ties to Korea remain strong, and he does come back, now and again, for visits. He arrived earlier this week with the intention of spending only five days on the peninsula, and he honored me by spending a large chunk of today going on a hike down to Bundang and then eating a late lunch or early dinner at my place, all despite the fact that he was dead tired after the walk, and in desperate need of a nap.

I didn't take many pics of this hike, mainly because I took so many pics of the Tan Creek hike over at my other blog (see here and here). Today, I snapped only three photos while on the trail, so here they are. Below is a pic of yours truly, bundled up for the cold: said it was 28ºF (-2.2ºC) at 8 a.m. But with no wind, it didn't feel as if it were below freezing. John arrived slightly early for our meet-up; luckily, I was outside waiting for him, and we marched down Gaepo Street to the Tan Creek and began our trek to Bundang. We had to take frequent toilet breaks; we also stopped plenty of times for photo ops, and I was my usual slowpoke self, so we ended up averaging about 4.5 km/h on our way down to Jeongja Station in Bundang. Most notably, the walk had taken me about 30K steps when I did it the first time, but today's walk barely crossed over the 25K-step mark. I'm going to guess that that's because John walks faster than I do, so I may have unconsciously increased my stride length (thereby reducing my step count) in order to keep up with John. It wasn't much of an increase; had it been an effort, I'd have ended up with blisters. All I had, at the end of the walk, were achy feet. And I already know what that feels like, so that wasn't an issue.

Below: a pic taken while I was seated on an artfully placed tree stump, waiting for John to do his business in a nearby restroom (of which, as you'll recall, there are plenty on this route):

In the following pic, we go meta. This is a pic of John taking a pic of a gathering of birds. Egrets? Storks? I have no clue. Maybe egrets. How would I know? I know nothing.

In the next pic below, we're back at my place, having taken a crowded Shin Bundang Line train to Yangjae, then a not-so-crowded Line 3 train back to my apartment. I had a bottle of La Chouffe beer left over from the previous weekend's get-together, and since I don't drink beer, and I wasn't about to throw perfectly good beer into the garbage, I offered the Belgian bière blonde to John, who gamely drank it:

John claims not to be a beer connoisseur. His comfort zone consists of "cheap shit" like San Miguel Light, as well as OB beer while he's in Korea. As he puts it (this is nowhere near a direct quote): if a cheap bottle of beer makes him as happy as an expensive bottle does, then he may as well stick with the cheap stuff. Makes sense to me.

The meal I served John was partly warmed-up leftovers, partly new food cooked for the occasion. Among the new grub: a chicken roulade, done right this time; some deli-sliced ham done up with honey, maple syrup, and mustard, almost to the point of candying; some bacon gravy to be used on the stuffing, the potatoes, and the aforementioned roulade. Oh, and bread pudding, which included the remains of the ill-fated pecan pie. As for the leftovers, we had stuffing, mashed potatoes, and peas & carrots. I think this meal was arguably better than the one I'd served last week. That's good for John, but not so good for my other friends, alas. Here's a shot of my immodestly filled plate (cornbread not pictured):

The trick to getting the roulade right this time was to cook it for 30 minutes less. The end result was a hell of a lot juicier, but the chicken was still cooked through. I'm not totally happy with shooting a pic of the roulade in its baking pan, but here's a shot of it all the same:

After a half-hour pause to allow ourselves time to digest, we turned our attention to dessert: bread pudding and vanilla ice cream. John Mac declared the bread pudding a winner, so I felt redeemed after my failure with the pecan pie. I'll be taking the rest of the pudding to work, where only two people, at most, will eat it. (Everyone else is on some sort of diet or other, much to my chagrin.)

John was utterly beat by the end of our meal. He said that, in the PI, he normally takes an afternoon nap around 1 p.m., and he had been up since 4 this morning. I could see him sagging in his chair, and soon enough, John knew the time had come for him to go, get some rest, and then prep for his return to the Philippines tomorrow. He's leaving on a super-early flight, so the earlier he can rest today, the better. It was good to see John; he told me twice that I need to go hit the Philippines. He's aware that I'm no fan of heat and humidity, but I might travel down there at some point—maybe next year—for a brief visit. I'm also thinking about hitting Qatar at the behest of a different friend, but that's a post for another day.

Safe travels, John McCrarey! Long may you walk!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Ave, Charles!

Charles writes a heartfelt post on being thankful. Good to read any time of year, really.

bread pudding: the redemption

My pecan pie didn't taste bad, but it was juuuust over the edge between overcooked and burned. I didn't want to waste the parts of the pie that were unburned and salvageable, so I discarded the crust and the pie's top layer, then mixed the pie's filling with both apples and the base for a bread pudding. Behold the results:

The pudding still needs to cool down and harden up a bit, but it is damn delicious. Admittedly, it tastes more like a church function's apple cobbler than a true bread pudding (mainly thanks to the cinnamon), but in all honesty, I don't care. When the rubber meets the road, taste trumps everything, and this is magnificent. I only wish I could have served this to my friends last weekend. Luckily, I have another friend coming over this weekend: John McCrarey. So I guess he'll be the beneficiary of this bread pudding. If John gives it a thumbs-up, I'll feel redeemed. No pressure, John; you're only preventing my seppuku.

leftover sandwiches

What do you do when you've got leftover chicken roulade, ham, cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls? Look at the brief photo essay below for the answer.

Charles's rolls toasted up beautifully, and the sandwiches were delicious.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Titania McGrath's origin story

In an earlier post, I highlighted a tweet that had been embedded on Instapundit. The tweet was by a certain "Titania McGrath," and Instapundit noted the tweet was "satirical." I took that to mean that McGrath was tweeting in the same spirit as, say, the left-leaning Onion or the right-leaning Babylon Bee. But as it turns out, the rabbit hole runs deeper: Titania McGrath is a fiction created by British standup comedian Andrew Doyle. Below is an interview in which Doyle talks about his satirical approach to comedy and the origins of Titania McGrath for those of us who aren't on Twitter and don't know of her:

Somewhere around 1:38 in the above video is a Kensington-and-Cotswolds joke that I found hilarious. Doyle fires off the joke while describing the sort of uppity, overprivileged, out-of-touch person that the fictional Titania is. I'm American, but even I have heard of the frou-frou, stuck-up Cotswolds, so I got the humor.*

*Sure, there's plenty of farming and working-class activity going on there, but the Cotswolds are also where many famous people live, giving it a snooty, Hamptons-style vibe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a shot of today's Thanksgiving meal:

I ate a Thanksgiving meal this past weekend, and I'll be eating Thanksgiving-themed food this coming weekend, so on Thanksgiving Day itself, I permitted myself the rare luxury of visiting the Burger King across the street. I haven't been to BK in months; I've noticed that the local joint's interior is constantly changing. There used to be self-help machines (for ordering your meal) on prominent display; those machines are now shoved off to the side, allowing customers to continue to order from an actual human being at the counter. I have to do this—not because I don't know how to use the machines (I do; it's easy), but because the machines don't allow you to do things like say "no onions, please." Ordering from a human being allows for nuance. The above photo shows my typical BK meal: a Whopper, a "long chicken" sandwich (I have no idea whether it's called that in the States), fries, a Coke, and two little cups of corn salad. Every now and again, it's good to pay homage to the king.

May your Thanksgiving be a happy one full pf peace, blessings, conviviality, and most important, good food. Stay warm and cozy, hug someone you love, and for the love of Jeebus, try to avoid talking about politics.

ADDENDUM: oh, yeah: here's a shot of some pumpkin pie:

seen on Tuesday's walk

Christmas comes early to Korea:

Are these trees wired up like this all year? I can see how that might be convenient, but I can also see how that might lead to degradation of the wiring since the wiring is exposed to the elements without relent. I guess I'll have to wait until May, when we're well past winter's cold, to see whether the wiring gets taken down.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

la tentative Krispy Kreme

My girlfriend Claire (well, she has a boyfriend, alas) tries to make gourmet-level Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This is another video that might be of interest to my buddy Charles, who bakes as a hobby/passion. The video below isn't about baking so much as it's about frying, but it's all about bread* and proofing and other things of interest to all those who deal with dough.

*Yes, I said bread. Unless a doughnut is a cake doughnut, it's bread. Period. You say that bread, by definition, is baked? Think again. Maybe you disagree; you're not alone. But that's my stance, and I'm sticking with it.

Jack Ma gets his own kung fu film

This is an amusing little short film in which Jack Ma, whom you may know as the multibillionaire CEO (well, former CEO) of the huge Chinese corporation Alibaba, plays the role of a wandering kung fu master. It's obvious when the stunt doubles are being used, but it's a cute story and a fun ride that even features the great Donnie Yen. Another short film appears after the main story is over. Enjoy.

the "if" meal

For Saturday dunch/linner, if we eat at my place, I hope to be serving Herr McCrarey some Thanksgiving leftovers, but I'll also have some freshly made items for the groaning board. So the tentative menu is (with the fresh stuff starred):

*chicken roulade (made a different way)
*deli ham pan-cooked with honey-maple-mustard glaze
cornbread stuffing
mashed potatoes
peas & carrots
cornbread with butter and honey
*pecan-nut bread pudding (recycled from pecan pie, but freshly baked)

For the ham, I'm going to be lazy and buy some John Cook Deli Meats "whole muscle" deli-style, thinly sliced ham from the meatateria in the building where I work. Come to think of it, I also need to buy more mustard: I had used up the last of my Süßer Senf (sweet mustard) when making last week's ham glaze.

John has lost a significant amount of weight over the past few years thanks to a very disciplined regimen of dieting and walking (he averages close to 25K steps per day; I'm happy whenever I break 10K), but he's still a naturally large dude in terms of his frame, so here's hoping the above menu will suffice to satiate The McCrarey.

UPDATE: the local meatateria isn't carrying the whole-muscle ham I want, so I must search elsewhere for deli-sliced ham. Most likely places to find the ham are Costco, which requires a cab ride out to Yangjae, or the local SSG Food Mart, which is a block away.

a stroll in the cold

Tonight (well, Tuesday night), I went for my first long walk since returning from the big walk—out to the Han River and back. It was only 22,000 steps total, but that's more than enough. I'll do another such walk on Thursday, and then I'll be meeting my ancient enemy John McCrarey for a walk down to Bundang this coming Saturday, to be capped off with lunch... somewhere. We'll be eating at my place, maybe, or possibly at Jamshil Lotte World Mall if it's rainy on Saturday, or possibly somewhere in Bundang which, according to a coworker, has turned into a minor foodie mecca over the past decade.

Meantime, it's nice to start walking again. I've rested for a month, and I think that's enough. Now, I need to get myself a new pair of walking shoes...

"Love, Antosha": one-paragraph review

Young actor Anton Yelchin died at the age of 27 back in 2016. The cause of death was a freak accident: he was found pinned against his home's brick-pillar gate by his own Jeep Grand Cherokee, which apparently popped its brake and rolled forward, trapping Yelchin and suffocating him. This year, a touching documentary titled "Love, Antosha" came out, paying tribute to Yelchin's short but full life. Yelchin was a prolific diarist; Nicolas Cage reads many of the young man's entries in voiceover. We learn about Yelchin's father and mother, Viktor and Irina—Russian figure skaters who escaped the Soviet Union in 1989, when Anton was still a baby. As much as little Anton loved to express himself, he was extremely devoted to his parents, especially to his mom. Anton wrote many cards and letters to his mother; he was often worried that he would never be able to capture, in words, the love and appreciation he felt for her. And with every card, he would sign his Russian nickname: "Love, Antosha." As I suspected from seeing Yelchin's acting, he was the type of person who lit up a room and made friends easily. He also had a nutty, naughty side that intensified as he grew older: he would lurk in the seedier parts of whatever city he was in, taking artsy photos of wacky, marginal people. A talented guitarist, Anton would jam with his group, the Hammerheads. On the set of JJ Abrams's Star Trek, where Yelchin played Pavel Chekov, he would jam with Chris Pine (who played Captain Kirk), a fellow guitarist. It was Pine who gave voice, in the documentary, to the painful thought running through my head: Anton Yelchin had been fighting cystic fibrosis all his life, so what a horrible twist of fate it was that he was killed by a vehicle that crushed the life out of his already-struggling lungs. "Love, Antosha" is a hard watch; I was nearly in tears pretty much throughout the whole thing. I have nothing but sympathy for Viktor and Irina, who, we are told, visit Anton's grave every single day. I recall feeling unwontedly sad when the news of Yelchin's death was announced; at the time, I knew next to nothing about him, except that he had a bright personality and an infectious energy. He was on his way to greatness; he loved acting and all forms of performance—a point this beautiful documentary drives home. He was also apparently loved by all the women, which was also part of his naughty charm. The world is a darker place, I think, without Anton Yelchin, but "Love, Antosha" is a well-made and fitting tribute to his brief time on this earth.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tim Pool on the need to face reality

Some quotes:
On every major political front, Donald Trump is winning. From impeachment to immigration to fundraising, reelection, support among minority communities—he is winning on all of these battlefields.

The Epoch Times reads, "The number [34% black support for Trump currently] is notable because only 8% of blacks voted for Trump in 2016."

Quite possibly, to me, what may be the biggest victory for Donald Trump of all is the admission that there are a lot of people who don't like him who are still prepared to vote for him.

Pool also mentions the influence of Kanye West, who wears a MAGA hat and seems to have embraced Jesus in a big, evangelical way. The route to the black vote runs through the black churches, or so the political wisdom goes. Kanye may be the author of a huge demographic sea change. He's out there telling black communities that, in the 1800s, the pro-slavery party was the Democrats. (True.) He's encouraging blacks to leave "the plantation," i.e., the ideological enslavement predicated on the racist notion that, if you're black, you shouldn't be (voting) Republican/conservative.

Larry Elder on impeachment shenanigans

seen on Instapundit

I'm no longer on Twitter, but there's apparently a row going on (when isn't there a row on Twitter?) regarding a disparaging comment about Indian food, which some bloke declared to be "terrible." One of the gems to arise from the ensuing chaos was this satirical one, which Instapundit just highlighted:

Monday, November 25, 2019

Angry Foreigner takes on Tim Pool

Self-professed immigrant Angry Foreigner takes on Tim Pool!

I'd like to see these two in a room together to hash out their differences, but for now, I think it's therapeutic to see a takedown of Tim Pool as a reminder that no one, not even Pool, is perfect or perfectly consistent in his or her views. These correctives are necessary; at least, they're necessary for me as a way to remind myself not to lionize anyone in the alt-media. Although I now trust the alt-media far more than I'd ever trust the mainstream media, alt-media figures are far from perfect.

finally! a comprehensive critique of Andrew Yang

If you believe this absolute genius, then "taxes are the price we pay for civilization."

Keep that in mind as you watch Styx's critique of Andrew Yang's UBI proposal:

I won't go as far as the libertarians and claim that taxation flat-out equals theft (that's a good page, by the way; give it a read), but I can see where the libertarians are coming from. Property tax comes to mind as morally problematic: if you have to pay property taxes on your property in perpetuity, then in what sense do you actually own your property? The moment you stop paying your property taxes, you become a tax evader, subject to arrest, and you will be physically, forcibly removed from the property you had thought of as "yours." How can you own land, or a car, or any other thing that's subject to property tax? You can't. And you don't. There should be a limit to one's obligation to the government when it comes to paying property tax: once you reach the agreed-upon X amount, your obligation to the government is fulfilled, and you officially own your property. But that's crazy talk, right?

From the above-linked libertarian website:

2. Three Counter-Arguments

Most people are reluctant to call taxation theft. How might one avoid saying this? Following are three arguments one might try, together with the most obvious responses.

First Argument

Taxation is not theft because citizens have AGREED to pay taxes. This is part of the “social contract,” which is a kind of agreement between citizens and the government, whereby the citizens agree to pay taxes and obey the laws in return for the government’s protection. By using government services (such as roads, schools, and police), and remaining present in the government’s territory, you indicate that you accept the social contract.

Reply to First Argument

There simply isn’t any such contract. The government has never actually written up and offered such a contract, nor has anyone signed it.

Still, the use of government services might imply agreement to pay for those services if people who didn’t use the services were not required to pay. But in fact, the government forces citizens to pay taxes regardless of whether they use government services or not. Therefore, the fact that you use government services does not indicate anything about whether you agree to pay taxes.

Remaining present in “the government’s territory” also does not indicate agreement to the putative social contract. This is because the government does not in fact own all the land that it claims as “its territory”; this land is, rather, mainly owned by private individuals. If I own some land that other people are using, I can demand that the other people either pay me money or vacate my land. But if I see some people on their land, I cannot demand that they either pay me money or vacate their own land. If I do that, I am a thief. Similarly, when the government demands that we either pay it money or vacate our own land, the government acts as a thief.

A pro-tax partisan might argue that the first paragraph of the above "Reply to First Argument" involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what a social contract is. I might even agree with that riposte. Be that as it may, the meta-issue of whether a social contract can even be fleshed out as something specific—instead of being the vague, amorphous, toothless entity it is—is very much a live issue open to debate. I'm willing to bet that, with nearly 350 million Americans, there are nearly 350 million notions of what the social contract is. That makes the very idea of a social contract close to meaningless in legal, practical, real-world terms. I think that the first paragraph of the reply, interpreted charitably, was written in that spirit.

three to watch

Tim Pool on how the Dems continue to shoot themselves in their collective foot:

Styx on how to understand polls:

Styx on the possible advent of a "red wave" in the House:

Trump is lucky to have avoided the fates of previous presidents, almost all of whom, in recent decades, have suffered the ignominy of having both houses of Congress flip against them, usually during the midterm elections of their first terms. By keeping the Senate GOP-dominated, Trump has shielded himself from the direst consequences of impeachment because a GOP-dominated Senate won't be inclined to take him down. (As things stand, it's looking worse and worse for the Bidens as more information about Ukraine comes to light—the Trump Effect strikes again.) If Trump manages to win back the House while also keeping the Senate in 2020, he'll have at least two years of bliss before the next midterms in 2022. Of course, there's a good chance the do-nothing GOP will dither and fritter away those two years doing fuck-all on the agenda; both parties are guilty of becoming focused and energetic only after they've lost power. We'll see. I think Styx is probably right, though, and 2020 is going to be a massacre, on state and local levels, for the Dems. As always: you can tell who's more in touch with reality by whose predictions tend to come true.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

the pre-Thanksgiving dinner

All in all, the food I served for our pre-Thanksgiving get-together was... edible. The chicken roulade was disappointingly dry, despite assurances from my friends that it was okay; the pecan pie ended up being a bit too burned on the bottom and sunburned on top from broiling in the oven. The foods that passed muster, at least by my standards, were the stuffing, the cornbread, the apple pie, the pumpkin pie, the corn pudding, the mashed potatoes, and the peas-and-carrots. The latter dish was barely touched, though, because only two out of three of us ate vegetables. (My buddy Tom refuses to touch most veggies, although he makes exceptions for beans, potatoes, and garlic cloves that have been fried in sesame oil to the point where they're nearly unrecognizable.)

Suffice it to say that I wasn't the happiest camper as I assessed my own efforts. (Charles brought over some perfectly made cranberry sauce and dinner rolls. The sauce was great, but the dinner rolls were perfectly crafted works of art, and I spent a few minutes marveling at them.) So, dissatisfied with my efforts, I'm only reluctantly taking you on a tour of yesterday's food, which ran the gamut from great to bad.

The "pecan" pie wasn't a true pecan pie: I used Sahale brand nuts, which I found at the local SSG Food Mart. Specifically, I incorporated Sahale maple pecans and Sahale pistachios, and I made other alterations to a standard pecan-pie recipe—enough to make the recipe my own. The original recipe called for dark corn syrup, for example; I didn't have that, so I used Korean mulyeot (clear corn syrup) plus brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup to darken everything. This worked out perfectly.

But as you see below, the pie came out a bit suntanned on top, and the crust was burned on the bottom. I wrote up my own recipe for this pie, and I've now adjusted the oven temps and cooking times to reflect what I've learned from this experience. Charles gave some good advice re: burned bottoms: make a tin-foil shield that forces the heat of the oven's burners to reach the pie along an indirect path.

My verdict is that the pie's filling tasted great, but the top surface and the bottom crust were burned enough to de-motivate me from eating a second slice of pie right away. I could tell that, had I tried eating two slices in a row, the burned taste would have accumulated in my mouth and would have eventually dominated (and ruined) the pie-eating experience. Grade: D+. Below mediocre and not very inspiring. A good dessert should make you want more.

Here's the pie below. The pitch-black spots are raisins, not burns:

I can't serve the above pie to my coworkers this coming week, so I'm going to break it up and incorporate it into a bread pudding.

Next up is my motnani (misbegotten) apple pie—one of two apple pies that I'd made. The nice thing about baking the pie in the rectangular dish is that you need only half of your complement of dough, and you can fold the remaining flaps of dough over to form the pie's top—sort of. In this case, the pie started out with the apples piled high, but as the apples cooked during baking, they shrank and sank while the pie's top shell remained puffed out like a covered stadium's dome. Still, the pie tasted fine, and the crust wasn't burned, so I'll count this one as a win. Grade: B.

With the remaining apple filling, I made the pie you see below. It sat under the broiler a little too long, so one part of the top is slightly burned, but the smell coming off this pie is fantastic. Grade: B. I'd give this a higher grade if it weren't a bit overcooked on top.

Next up: a pic of my mashed potatoes and the cornbread. Both of these came out the way I wanted them to, although it was rough going for the mashed potatoes at first: I had made them early in the week and had stashed them in the freezer; I allowed them to thaw at room temperature on Thursday or Friday night, and the taters separated, as they melted, into liquid and solid parts, which I found disconcerting. I pondered whether I should just drain out the liquid and keep the solid part, which seemed to be the correct texture, but instead, I went the harder route and whisked everything together, then poured the runny mix into a bokkeum pan, where I heated the taters up to boiling and stirred them constantly until they firmed up. I should probably have just drained the water off earlier: cooking the taters amounted to the same thing as draining them. No matter: the result was perfect mashed potatoes. As for the cornbread: it came out way blonder than I expected, but I didn't mind: the bread's texture was firm, and the rough-ground cornmeal added a bit of crunch to the mouth-feel. Most important: the bread went well with butter and honey. Cornbread that fails the honey/butter test can't be considered real cornbread. Grade for both: A. The cornbread has the extra advantage of both freezing and microwaving well.

Below: glazed ham. My buddy Tom likes this particular Costco ham because it is, as he puts it, a good value for your dollar. A 1-kilo ham of this brand costs only W9900 at Costco, or about $9, US. That is indeed a good deal, but by my lights, this ham is something of a fixer-upper. When you cut into it, you instantly see that it's actually a pressed-together monstrosity composed of several different muscle groups (rather queasily, the image of meat glue comes to mind; I wouldn't be surprised to find out that this ham is actually a meat-glue creation); you can, in fact, feel the textural inconsistency through your knife as you're cutting. Be that as it may, I salvaged the ham by painting it with a fairly standard honey-maple-mustard glaze and baking it for 35 minutes. No one complained about the end result. Grade: B, mainly because of the less-than-ideal quality of the meat.

Next up: the chicken roulade. What a beautiful failure. It looked good on camera, I think, and the taste wasn't all that bad, but the texture or mouth-feel was disappointing: I had baked the roulade for too long, as it turned out, so the resulting chicken (breast and tenderloin) was unpleasantly dry and mealy—at least to me. Neither Charles nor Tom complained about the roulade; Tom, in fact, had seconds and even asked for the recipe, which was nice of him. Charles said the chicken wasn't as dry as I thought it was, but I know that, if I ever make this recipe again, my approach is going to have to be radically different. If anything, I think the time has come to buy a probe thermometer so I can yank the chicken out of the oven at the correct moment of doneness. (Thanks to the phenomenon of "carryover heat," your meat will still be cooking, and may even rise in internal temperature, after you remove it from the oven just before peak doneness.) I'm also going to switch to a fattier chicken meat, like the thigh. If I stay with breast meat, I might avoid grinding it and instead pound it out to do small roulades instead of one big roulade, pan-cooking the meat in lieu of baking it.

Anyway, here's the roulade, looking simultaneously appetizing and maggot-like:

A slightly more food-pornish angle:

The all-important cross-sectional view:

Before we move on to the gravy below, let's talk about what went into the roulade. The meat was a combination of chicken breast and chicken tenderloin, ground up, with salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary (finely minced) added. The filling was crumbled bacon, goat's cheese, fig spread, and roasted pine nuts that had been crushed. The exterior was simple bacon, wrapped around the roulade. When I did this with turkey a few years back, the result was a major success at the office. I think, this time, I ought to have cooked the roulade at a lower temperature, and for a bit less time. The flavor combination was fine; that wasn't the problem. The lack of fattiness and the cook-time snafu were the culprits here. Mea maxima culpa. Grade: C-. Slightly below mediocre.

But one good thing to come out of the chicken dish was the gravy. I took the fatty drippings, added flour to make a roux, sifted in a bit of chicken bouillon, and poured in a steady trickle of milk as I heated the mixture while stirring constantly. The gravy was good while hot... but then again, what gravy is good when it's cold? Grade: A-. I'm weirdly proud of the gravy, which was a quickie, almost impromptu effort:

We interrupt this list of dishes to give you a picture of Old Man Tom, now with glasses since he's almost 50 like so many of my friends (Charles, a young'n, has a few years to go before he reaches the half-century cliff):

And now, we turn to the matter of things that are round and firm. Charles invited us to feel his little buns which, as I said earlier, were exquisite works of art. It takes hard work to have buns like that, and I'm sure Tom appreciated Charles's soft-yet-tight little globes as much as I did.

On a serious note: the bread really was perfectly made. Charles left me with three of the dinner rolls, and I pan-toasted two of them with butter today. Amazing. Grade: A+.

Charles also made cranberry sauce for the occasion. He told us that the standard recipes for cranberry sauce generally call for twice as much sugar as he deems necessary, so he cut way down on the sugar and allowed the sauce's other flavors (e.g., lemon juice) a bit more prominence. I admit I have a sweet tooth, which means I normally prefer a sweeter cranberry sauce, but Charle's sauce wasn't overly tart by any means, and the sauce's consistency was perfect. I just enjoyed more of it today. Grade: A.

I think it was Tom who wanted to take a group shot of him, Charles, and our mutual friend Patrick, who couldn't make it to the get-together because he's in the States with a Korean baseball team. As you see in the pic below, Patrick nevertheless appears in proxy thanks to a cell-phone pic:

Charles, who was hung over après une nuit bien arrosée, arrived uncharacteristically late to the party, but when he served himself, he composed his plate very artistically, so I took a pic of his meal. This is also, apparently, the only clear pic taken of the peas-and-carrots. Dr. Atkins would definitely not approve of this carb-heavy repast:

My guests came bearing gifts and left bearing gifts as well. I just heard that, over at Charles's place, the verdict on the whole "pecan pie versus apple pie" affair is that apple pie wins "hands down." That sounds about right. Who wants an over-caramelized pecan pie, anyway?

A word about the pumpkin pie: no one ate any pumpkin pie during the party. I cut myself a slice last night, after everyone had left, and the pie proved to be so soft that it had trouble holding its shape. So I baked it at about 350ºF (roughly 180ºC) for 35 minutes to firm it up, and that seemed to help when I had a second slice of pie today. Costco sells pumpkin pies this time of year; I think their secret for keeping the pies firm is to refrigerate them, which I haven't tried. I'm going to have to, though, if I expect the apple and pumpkin pies to last through next week. As for the pecan pie... as mentioned above, it's going to be reincarnated as bread pudding this coming week, so it's not a completely lost cause.

As I said at the beginning, dinner was edible. There were high points, like the stuffing, the apple pie, and Charles's food, but there were misfires as well, like the pecan pie and, sadly, the chicken roulade. Live and learn, as they say; I'll do a better job next time, assuming I ever replicate this exact menu.

Saturday, November 23, 2019


Get ready for some blood! Here are two pics of my sliced-open thumb. A day has passed, and the thumb is still bleeding, so I'm probably going to go to the local hospital on Sunday. I don't think the cut can be stitched because the skin can't be pulled closed, but maybe the docs can stick some sort of blood-stopper into the wound:

It's funny: the wound isn't that big, but it's a bleeder. I controlled the bleeding with medical gauze and Leukotape (the first photo, above, shows an unsuccessful attempt; the second attempt was much more ambitious), and I managed not to bleed all over my bed last night, but even after nearly 24 hours, the thumb is bleeding at the same slow rate as it had been yesterday. So, yeah: I'm probably going to pay a visit to the local hospital tomorrow. I live close to the prestigious Samsung Hospital (which was also, rather embarrassingly, ground zero for a MERS outbreak a few years ago); maybe the docs there can help me out.

UPDATE: the bleeding has stopped. Could it be that scabbing has begun?

and now, I have a handicap

As is Murphically inevitable whenever I acquire new kitchen knives, I cut myself last night while I was slicing carrots to be boiled and eventually mixed in with the peas. The cut took off a tiny bit of flesh off the tip of my right thumb, which makes life massively inconvenient as I move into the final stages of food prep. I now have to do my food prep almost one-handed: I can still use my right hand, but the bleeding (which I think I finally stanched before going to bed around 4 a.m.) has necessitated that I wrap my finger in gauze and Leukotape and a Ziploc bag: I seem not to have any more of those nifty little finger condoms I had purchased a few years back. On top of that, I'm now wearing a rubber dishwashing glove on my right hand, which I suppose makes me a fat, low-rent Michael Jackson.

Anyway, the show must go on, but it now goes on with difficulty as the food-prep marathon draws to a close. Typing on this Mac-laptop keyboard is a bitch; I keep hitting the "k" key for no good reason, so I have to backspace and correct myself every two or three words. Thumbs are crucial for almost every activity, as it turns out.

Expect blood-soaked photos later today, right alongside the food pics.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Alistair Williams fisks Jonathan Pie re: Greta and climate change

Worth a listen:

the cooking marathon nears its end

Tonight: I'm baking a tiny Costco ham and two more pies: apple and pecan. For the apple pie, I need to remember to sprinkle some sugar onto the top crust this time. when I baked two apple pies earlier, I put sugar on the smaller one but forgot to sugar up the larger pie. Didn't seem to matter to those who ate the pie at work, but I was inwardly kicking myself.

Saturday morning, the marathon concludes as I cook up the rest of the Thanksgiving meal: bacon-wrapped chicken roulade, gravy, and peas & carrots. The roulade will need a significant amount of oven time. At some point before my guests arrive, I also need to give my floor a good cleaning (it's always hairy, even though I use a lint roller several times a week) and make sure my bathroom isn't speckled with shit splatter. Can't have my friends retching.

more prep done

Cornbread stuffing is now done. And so is the pumpkin pie. The cornbread came out surprisingly blond, but it tasted great. I used a mix of rough-ground cornmeal and finer masa harina. The bread was beautiful; it was almost a shame to use it in the stuffing.

A closeup of one piece:

The stuffing looks ugly, as it always does, but it tastes fine. Aside from using cornbread instead of panko, I also added boiled chestnuts to the mix:

And for good or ill, here's the "pumpkin" (dan-hobak) pie, which hasn't cracked yet:

There's a cute-but-annoying bubble right in the center of the pie. I thought about popping it, then decided not to mar the pie's surface, which looks as if it has at least the potential to crack.

Everything's coming together.

FRIDAY UPDATE: still no cracks! And that central bubble has popped on its own.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Alistair Williams on the global news's obsession with Trump

Pepple on Islamophile hypocrisy and couardise

Here. An excerpt:

Ever since 9/11, and maybe even before, the left in the West has been swooning over Muslims and bashing anyone who it deems is an Islamophobe. But now that Muslims are under siege in various non-Western regions, where are these concerned citizens of the world? They are silent.

It's the same lack of testicular fortitude seen in other contexts: bash the US for environmental problems, but not China (looking at you, Greta the Specious), which will lock you up if it catches you; bash Christians for their backwards fundamentalism, but not equally fundie Islam because Christians don't lop people's heads off. Bash law-abiding gun owners and not the criminals with guns who are actually causing the problems. Never attack anyone you know will punch you in the throat for your impertinence. It takes real courage to attack those who would never attack you, doesn't it. Cowards.

the meal continues to form

The "pumpkin" pie filling, which is actually made from my buddy Charles's favorite fruit, the kabocha squash, a.k.a. what Koreans call dan-hobak (단호박), or sweet squash:

The above filling is missing one ingredient: eggs. I'll put them in tonight when I bake the pie. Charles has expressed his deep, deep love for this particular dessert on multiple occasions, so I'm dedicating this effort entirely to him.

Next up: taters! Behold:

Ingredients: potatoes, heavy cream, butter, salt, pepper, cayenne, powdered onion, powdered garlic. Subtly seasoned so as not to overwhelm the taters.

Below: apple-pie filling to be mixed into the cornbread stuffing:

Last but not least: corn pudding!

So the taters are in the freezer; according to online sources, potatoes don't usually freeze well, but mashed potatoes that have been made with plenty of fat (such as the aforementioned heavy cream and butter) actually freeze just fine. The pumpkin-pie filling and the corn pudding are in the fridge, along with the apple-pie filling that's going to end up in the stuffing. I very badly wanted to try a bit of corn pudding, but I resisted temptation.

Tomorrow, we make the stuffing and the pumpkin pie. I'm not at all worried about the stuffing, which always turns out delicious, but I'm nervous about whether the pumpkin pie will come out cracked. Cracking apparently has much to do with rapidity of cooling; the secret to avoiding cracks in the pie, according to the experts, is to remove the pie from the oven before it has completely set. We'll soon know if that's true.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Larry Elder on Elizabeth Warren's kooky healthcare policy

prep cooking and plans

Homemade Amurrican breffus sausage:

I did some prep-cooking last night: the cornbread stuffing is going to have sausage in it, so I cooked up a kilo of my own breakfast sausage, which is a variation of a recipe I'd found online long ago (basically, I amp up the sage). I've never done the sausage the way I'd like to, i.e., with way more fat content. To do that, I'd need to grind up a bunch of bacon, the same way I did for my new-and-improved andouille sausage (50% fat content, bitches!). True: you lose a lot in the cooking, but the flavor goes through the roof. That said, even though this batch of sausages lacked bacon fat, the meat tasted great when I was done with it and had drizzled a bit of maple syrup onto a half-cup of crumbled sausage to taste my handiwork.

Tonight, the actual cooking begins. I'll be working on mashed potatoes and corn pudding because those can withstand refrigeration/freezing for a few days. From Thursday to Saturday, I'll be working on progressively more perishable menu items, so the schedule looks like this:

Wednesday (today): mashed potatoes, corn pudding
Thursday: stuffing 2 ways,* pumpkin pie
Friday: ham, apple pie, pecan pie
Saturday morning: chicken roulade, peas & carrots, gravy

I have only one small oven, so keeping all the menu items hot for the meal service will be impossible. We may have to do a "plate up and microwave it" style of dinner, which isn't ideal. I wish I had some chafing dishes, warming plates, and a steamer contraption that I could put inside my giant, 15-liter pot; those would ensure that everything stayed warm. But maybe next time. What I'd really like is a larger apartment with a full kitchen that includes a breakfast-bar setup, cuisine island, tons of easily accessible storage space, acres of counter space, and plenty of seating. This is the sort of thought that makes me think I need to move back to the States, where property values—if you're in the right place—are far more reasonable.

*One of our number doesn't eat vegetables, so I have to purée the veggies for him.


It might be fun to visit a universe in which physics worked like this:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

looks bad, tastes good

Okay, the slice of pie doesn't look all that bad, but the pie as a whole still looks kind of rough. It tastes fantastic, though. If I have a complaint, it's that the crust could afford to be just a wee bit thinner. That's funny because I did make an effort to roll the pie dough pretty damn thin, but it thickened up in the oven, anyway, as you see below:

My coworkers didn't mind the look of the pie, despite its motnani (못난이, ugly, misbegotten) appearance. Taste-wise, the pie tastes like a classic apple pie, so I guess that's a win. One interesting thing I noticed as I rifled through many online apple-pie recipes was that there was very little divergence from a classic formula for pie filling, which looks something like this:

6-7 cups peeled, cored, thinly sliced apples
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
big spritz lemon juice (approx. 1 tsp.)
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 heaping tbsp. flour or cornstarch

Recipes will vary slightly in proportions, and some will add things like cloves or allspice to the list of spices, but for the most part, what you see above is the bog-standard ingredients list for what Eric Cartman would call eppel peh.

Pride compels me to mention that I've made pie filling dozens of times—just never a complete pie before. I can eyeball the assembly of pie filling with no problem, but a nagging voice in my head made we want to check myself against the standard recipes just to be sure I wasn't screwing this whole thing up. I wasn't.

So, as Charles mentioned in a comment, I need to get back to crimping my pie shells to make a decent seal. Since I seem to be good at fork-crimping, I'll stick with that technique until, one day, I'm more comfortable with finger-crimping.

Oh, yes: did the docking and blind-baking help the pie's bottom crust at all? I'd say no; the crust doesn't appear to be any different from previous crusts for my savory pies, so as I'd written before, I'm not at all convinced these are necessary steps.

EPILOGUE, 7:27 p.m.: my supervisor stepped into the office about 45 minutes ago. I offered him a slice of pie. He bit into it, then gave me a surprised look and said this was the best apple pie he'd ever had in Korea. "You should sell this!" he exclaimed. I was actually a bit taken aback because this was a first-ever attempt, and neither the pie dough nor the filling were from recipes original to me, so the supervisor's praise didn't feel deserved. All I can take credit for is putting the thing together and seeing it to completion (more or less). That said, it's awesome to receive such a compliment, which is in the spirit of previous compliments along the lines of, "You should start your own restaurant." Yeah, baby. Call me Tart Bae.

So where da wimmin at?

apple pie: delicious disaster

I have a lot to learn.

Here's my first-ever attempt at apple pies:

You can't see it from this angle, but the larger pie's top crust isn't even attached to the bottom crust: I failed to fuse top and bottom properly, so the top crust shrank a bit, exposing some of the pie filling. I also chickened out, after all my bluster about not needing to dock and blind-bake the bottom crust... and I docked and blind-baked the bottom crust. Lord, have mercy.

The dough for the larger pie has a bit of muscovado sugar in it—just a spoonful to slightly sweeten the crust. I'll be taking that pie to the office in the morning. We'll see then whether the docking and blind-baking were worth it. As for the smaller-but-taller pie: I didn't dock or blind-bake the crust, and I didn't add any sugar to it, either. I did, however, dust the top with some turbinado sugar after laying on the egg wash. The dough was also very impromptu compared to the dough I'd made for the larger pie: for the smaller pie, I used room-temp butter (cue piercing screams and thunderous opening notes of "Carmina Burana"), although I did stick to incorporating ice water. I refrigerated the dough for an hour, allowing the butter to firm up, and from what I can tell, the pie crust turned out just fine. This amazing (and amazingly simple) pie-dough recipe really is idiot-proof.

So the one major skill I need to acquire is learning how to lay on the top crust correctly, with a perfect seal. I suppose I could avoid the problem by making a latticed top crust instead, but that also takes some skill. As I said above, I have a lot to learn. And I have to learn it by Saturday, when we're having our Thanksgiving shindig. But that's one of the reasons why I decided to bake a pie for my coworkers: this is a rehearsal, and practice makes perfect. Or something close to perfect, I hope.

Monday, November 18, 2019

absolutely essential Tim Pool

If you watch no other Tim Pool video, please watch this one:

Pool again makes the point that the right—and the right-wing and alt media—are closer to reality than the left is, even while bad-faith actors like CNN's Brian Stelter try to make it sound as if the right is hiding inside its own fantastical, reality-denying bubble.

My metric for which side to trust has long been predictive value. Pool makes this point in the above video, too: the right can predict what the left will do and say, but the left consistently fails to predict what the right will do and say. I watch people like Tim Pool* and Styx because they often have the balls to predict trends and events, and they're usually right. That can only come from a clear-eyed understanding of human nature and an actual, serious dedication to the truth, not to spin. So when Tim Pool argues that the left is currently mired in paranoid delusion, I'm more apt to listen to him than I am to listen to scum-suckers like Brian Stelter.

Pool himself represents hope that the left doesn't have to be this way, that its scotosis isn't inevitable. People on the left, if they choose to make the effort, can see reality clearly, but in this period of history, the left's collective head is jammed so far up its collective ass that clear sight isn't going to be possible for a while.

*Pool might be a leftie, but he has a rightie's groundedness in reality.

the coats are out in force

As if on cue, Koreans switched over, en masse, to wearing winter coats several days ago. I'm still in short sleeves during the daytime; I wear a light windbreaker at night when I'm leaving the office. Generally speaking, and I'm pretty sure I've written something like this before, Koreans follow a calendar when deciding how to dress for the weather; they don't follow the weather itself. One sees this a lot in the spring: people insist on wearing their winter coats long past the time they should be stashing their heavy vestments in the closet and enjoying the spring air. The Korean folkloric calendar marks "official" moments throughout the year for things like the hottest day of summer, etc.; I think this—and not common sense—is the calendar that determines people's dress.

when the seal talks, we listen

I love the uninformative subtitling in this video:

Those subtitles can be used to teach the difference between translation and transcription. This is clearly transcription, which tells you nothing but is still hilarious and fascinating.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Kevin's Walk 3 epilogue: finally DONE!

It's taken me almost two weeks to write, but I've finally finished the epilogue post over at Kevin's Walk 3. Go take a gander if you're willing to read a lengthy, rambling blog entry. I even managed, at long last, to figure out a walking poem. Now, it's just a matter of memorizing it and, hopefully, putting it to music.

[NB: If you went over, tried the "SKIP" button to get past the section about my poop, and the button didn't work... well, it's fixed now.]

Saturday, November 16, 2019

if R. Lee Ermey were black

Meet Eric Kelly, boxing trainer. I think I lost thirty pounds just by listening to him. The following video has been ruthlessly stolen from my friend Justin Yoshida's blog:

Debussy's "Clair de Lune": a good interpretation

I'm finicky when it comes to interpretations of Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune." My favorite rendition of it is here, but below, I've embedded an interpretation that I find both beautiful and respectable, mainly because it avoids the trap of being overly hasty, which is the downfall of so many inferior attempts at playing this lovely piece.

Cho Seong-jin apparently won a competition with his rendition of this piece. I'd say the win was well deserved. He approaches "Clair de Lune" with great sensitivity and perceptivity.

Alistair Williams: national treasure (part 2)

I have now subscribed to this brilliant comedian. His rants are actually funny and not just ranty. More people need to watch and listen to him. I'm happy to proselytize.

Epstein DID kill himself—and here's the proof!

I haven't watched this guy in a while. Hilarious as usual:

the pie try

The local Daiso didn't have American-sized pie pans for baking, so I bought the next best thing: those shallow, Korean-style stew pots for cooking jeongol and jjigae. They're made of very thin metal, so there ought to be little difference between them and traditional metal pie pans. I actually already have something like pie pans at home, but they're square, and I was determined to bake round pies.

So I'll be whipping up two full batches of pie dough and trying my hand at baking apple, pumpkin, and pecan pie—the Big Three Pies of Thanksgiving, which Mom used to bake. Expect photos. And a slightly altered pie dough to make it a wee bit sweeter.

the privative theory of turkey

The so-called privative theory of evil, normally attributed to St. Augustine, is the idea that evil is simply the absence of good, just as blindness, as a condition, is the absence of sight. My own privative theory is that, in the absence of turkey, all you've got left is chicken.

I went to my local Costco Friday evening to see whether it might be carrying turkey, given that the Yangjae area has plenty of American expats, many of whom will be looking to celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey. Result: nada. No turkey, and not even any ground chicken.

So I'll probably be heading back out either to Costco or to the foreign-food mart in Itaewon this weekend to buy myself a kilo of frozen chicken breast. I saw some lovely recipes for rosemary chicken with figs and goat cheese; I'll be converting that into something that can be made into a lovely, bacon-wrapped roulade.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"The Magnificent Seven" (2016): review

Directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D'Onofrio, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier, Haley Bennett, and Peter Sarsgaard, 2016's "The Magnificent Seven" is a fairly faithful remake of the 1960 film that starred Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn. Some effort was put into having the remake's characters correspond almost exactly to the characters from the older film (knife-thrower, shell-shocked veteran, etc.), but there are important differences in both the characters and the overall story. Sadly, this movie is also composer James Horner's final film; he died in a plane crash during the making of the film, but because he had completed most of the score very early on as a surprise for the director (Horner and Fuqua were close friends), his friend Simon Franglen was able to complete the score after Horner's death. The music references the tempo of the 1960 score but doesn't pay an open homage to it until the ending credits are rolling.

The Western town of Rose Creek has been taken over by robber-baron Bartholomew Bogue (Sarsgaard), who has basically enslaved the locals, working them almost to death in his mines as he digs ever deeper for gold. The townspeople have had enough, and when Bogue and his henchmen murder several complainers, a call goes forth to find men who might be willing to fight for the townspeople's freedom. First answering the call is US Marshal Sam Chisholm (Washington), who at first isn't interested in helping the people of Rose Creek until he finds out who the source of all the trouble is. Along with Chisholm come gambler/gunslinger (and hobbyist magician) Joshua Faraday (Pratt), Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Garcia-Rulfo), ex-Confederate sniper Goodnight Robicheaux (Hawke), and his knife-throwing compadre Billy Rocks (Lee). The group also tracks down formidable mountain man Jack Horne (D'Onofrio), and the seventh man to join the group is an ostracized Comanche warrior named Red Harvest.

The story is a simple one. The seven ride to Rose Creek, eliminate the token force of Bogue's men, and help prepare the cowering townspeople, most of whom have no idea how to shoot or otherwise fight, for the coming of Bogue and his army. The seven get hold of dynamite from the nearby mine, and they seed the town with traps, trenches, and fortified positions as they prepare to take a stand against impossible odds. Ostensibly, the men are motivated by money, but each man in truth has his own reasons for helping the people of Rose Creek. The only real question for the viewer is who, among the seven, will survive the upcoming fight.

It's been years since I saw the original "Magnificent Seven," and I don't remember much of it. In fact, I think the version I saw was dubbed in French; I must have watched it while I was studying in Switzerland and living with a family that had an extensive VHS-tape movie library. (This was the 1989-90 academic year, after all; VHS was king.) I specifically recall that one of the characters told a joke whose punchline was "Jusqu'ici, ça va; jusqu'ici, ça va," which translates "So far, so good; so far, so good." Chris Pratt's character tells the joke in the 2016 version, so I've been refreshed on both the joke and its punchline.

Jokiness is a major aspect of director Fuqua's movie. I was happy to see that much of the humor was politically incorrect: the racism of several of the white (and off-white) characters was overt and shameless, very much in the spirit of Clint Eastwood's Walt Kowalski in "Gran Torino," i.e., a racism that's there, and that's crude, but that, in the end, doesn't mean much because the men form a bond as they prepare for war and actually fight alongside each other. It's the sort of humor that would raise the hackles of today's ubiquitous and oversensitive cancel culture. It also constitutes only a minor part of the overall plot; Fuqua, in his films, tends to bring up racial issues without obsessively dwelling on them. Compare this movie to his "Training Day" (which, by the way, also starred Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, both of whom have enjoyed working with Fuqua on several projects), a movie that also has a prominent black/white component but doesn't make race the central focus of the narrative. In "Seven," the humor extends beyond race to questions of class and education level; one funny exchange between Ethan Hawke's educated Robicheaux and Chris Pratt's uneducated Faraday highlights the difference between the cultured and the uncultured.

But while the interplay between and among the principals allowed for some decent character development (Billy Rocks, for example, gets enough screen time for us to learn he's not just a taciturn Korean knife-thrower), there were other moments in the film where development seemed a bit lacking. A possible romantic subplot between Faraday and Emma Cullen (Bennett), the beautiful, gutsy widow who brought the seven together, goes unexplored. Maybe, with so many characters on the screen, it's asking too much to expect fully fleshed-out characters, so we should be thankful for the character development we do get.

There were some painfully predictable moments as well. I might have noticed more of them had I had a fresh memory of the 1960 film. I knew, for example, that because the evil Bogue had an American Indian warrior working for him, that warrior would have a final encounter with Red Harvest for some Injun-on-Injun violence. Fuqua could have subverted our expectations there, but I guess the ethnic symmetry was just too tempting. When one of the seven gets cold feet and buggers out before the big battle, it was easy to predict that he would return in the nick of time, guns blazing. Aside from that, though, I had a hard time predicting who was going to survive the battle. Had I tried to play the odds, I might have lost a lot of money. And perhaps that's one of the film's virtues: the likability of a character did not equal plot armor. I was sad to see some of our heroes perish.

All in all, this was an entertaining movie, with plenty of gunfights, trick-shooting, horse-riding, explosions, and verbal twanginess to satisfy anyone jonesing for a good Western yarn. As remakes go, "Seven" may lack the heft and gravitas of the original, but that may also be because the 1960 film, which didn't actually do that well in the US box office when it came out, has gained a kind of cult status over the years. The new movie tells the same basic story, but slightly differently, and with a plot as simple as the plot in Kurosawa's "The Seven Samurai," upon which both cowboy movies are based, you can't realistically expect cosmic-level profundity. So go into this film knowing you'll be in for a good ride. Root for the characters you hope will make it out, and mourn them when they don't. While I wouldn't rate "The Magnificent Seven" as highly as some of my favorite Westerns—like "Silverado" and "Unforgiven"—I think this was a very good effort, and one in which the cast all obviously had fun in their respective roles.