Another easy one.

Line up a bunch of asparagus in a pan, frozen or fresh, it doesn’t really matter to me.  You can use foil if you’re lazy like me since it’ll be easier to clean.

Some olive oil and lemon pepper (we have a specially bought mill for this which has salt, which should be added at some point),  and maybe some strategically placed kalamata olives if you feel like it.

Bake it until it’s done.  Five minutes or so will probably do you.

The end!

This is apparently what the French of 1910 though the world of the year 2000 would be like: Machine Gun Jousting!

More here.

This one is curious:

What the function of the book grinder? Is it merely disposing of the obsolete education tools since they’ve been supplanted by the audio input of the headphones, or is it converting the knowledge into data to be installed into the students’ heads, a la The Matrix?

If only the French were around today to answer these questions.

Newsweek has a story on an upcoming experiment in Switzerland to find some thing called the Hoggs boson, or what is more fabulously named The God Particle.   If successful, this God Particle could answer everything ever asked, and we’ll all either call Steven Hawking a chump or crown him King of the Best Planet Ever.

Anything that makes religious nutjobs look even more foolish is a-okay in our book.  But we must keep in mind that the God Particle may not want to be found, much like if your employee tracked you down in the Bahamas to ask you to sign the timecards.

The God Particle may throw a fit and impulsively destroy the world by creating a tiny black hole with the singularity centered in Zurich.

Which would be an awesome way to go, and we could blame the Swiss.  A win win.

They’re not so much shredded as sliced….uh….widthwise?  But they fall apart and look like they’re shredded.

Anyway, this is very simple:

Melt some butter in a big pan and throw in the heaping mound.  It’ll look like it all won’t fit but it’ll reduce.  Fry or saute or whatever you want to call it for a while, and eventually throw in a bunch of chopped garlic, salt, and pepper.  And just keep it going for however done you want it, but I like my brussel sprouts pretty done.  There might be some reason for putting in the salt earlier to draw out extra moisture, but whatever.  And may want to do the garlic first but it might burn.

I’m not a chef but I watch a lot of Alton Brown.

Our Fidgeting Society

March 20, 2008

Um yeah, so it’s been five months since our last message from the future.  This is what happens when life distracts one from one’s pointless rants about theme parks and cartoons, when one ceaselessly seeks out an elusive dwelling to purchase, and when one’s occupation supplants one’s precious spare moments.  Oh, and getting engaged.

Also, video games.

Anyway, back to Disneyland.  An recent article in the LA Times profiled the upcoming, and much needed, addition to Disney’s Californialand.  Midway Mania is designed along the likes of Buzz Lightyear over in the better park, in that you sit in a slow-moving vehicle and shoot things with a laser.  This is a wonderful and popular idea, since lots of people like Disney rides and shooting things, so it’s a match made in Heaven, a chocolate/peanut butter sort of thing.

But then the last time we went on the ride, my Wife of the Future suggested that we not bother with the laser guns and simply enjoy the ride.  I had already been on the ride several times before, but I was amazed at how much I was missing because I was too busy trying to murder Emperor Zurg: tiny in-jokes, artistic touches, nuance and so forth.  The details that Disney is known for, even for a ride that’s pretty simple and minimalist by comparison.  Normally, there’s no time to take it all in since you’re focusing on the light-up targets.  I actually enjoyed the ride more after sitting back and looking at it.

So when Midway Mania is described as a “a ride-through 3-D video game,” I get a little annoyed.  And nervous.  I mean, I have video games at home.  Even ones where I can step in time (it’s the master) to pop music as well as swing a pretend tennis racket.  You know, interactive games (though what kind of video game is not interactive?).  So why would I need to drive ninety miles to play one?  What’s wrong with an old-fashioned ride where Disney does all the work to entertain me, you young whippersnappers?

Maybe it’s not a trend, but when Midway Mania opens, two of the last five rides in the resort will be this interactive type.  That may not seem like a lot, but they don’t add rides all that often!

Disney is putting forth so much effort, time, and money in creating these interactive rides.  Why not?  The line for Buzz Lightyear has been consistently long for three years now, while poor Monsters Inc., a much more immersive and impressive ride, has apparently lost its novelty and so its line dwindles.  Why?  Because Buzz Lightyear is apparently more fun for people because they’re doing something.

And who doesn’t like doing something?  I do something all the time.  But we’ve been becoming more and more a society that cannot stand not doing something.

When Disneyland first opened, there was barely anything to do.  A few slow rides, a few shows, but still, millions of people came and handed out money freely.  It was fun to go and just look at everything, to experience the park.  Again, the novelty doesn’t last, and so more rides were added, bigger, faster, and more visceral.  And the park became even more fun than before.  But that doesn’t seem to be enough anymore.  The audience is less content about simply being an audience.  Moving through a story is not as rewarding as being a part of it.

Now we need joysticks and triggers to be entertained.  We’re like cigarette junkies looking for something to do with our fingers.  We need higher scores.

We at Men of Science support and encourage technology and toys, but every now and then, we should ignore the targets, put down the laser cannons, unplug your damn earbuds, and instead take in the artistry of a fabricated environment.

Now get off my lawn.

The people that know me know that I used to be massively into The Simpsons to an embarrassing degree.  The girlfriend and I could have entire conversations consisting of nothing but quotations from the show.  Yes, we were those people.

But the love has faded, and I swear it’s not my fault.  We had a good relationship, this show and I, and I stuck around for much longer than I should have.  But all the effort I was putting in wasn’t being returned.  As the years went by, the show’s enthusiasm for itself peetered out, and now it just doesn’t even try anymore.   I’d heard the show recently made an attempt at reconciliation with a movie, but it’s too painful to go back.  Not for twelve dollars per ticket anyway.

Some of you may have experienced the horror of finding a past love on a youtube video making an idiot out of themselves.  This is what happened to me yesterday when I happened across a clip of this Sunday’s episode guest starring indie comic book “celebrities” Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, and Dan Clowes.  The clip has predictably been taken down, so I’ll give you the gist of it:

There’s a new comic book store in Springfield for some reason, but it’s the arty hipster type of store rather than the nerdy pisshole normally seen in the show.  There’s some attempts at jokes about the three comic book writers, such as how Alan Moore writes dark, serious superheroes; how Dan Clowes creates books that appeal to intelligent loners like Lisa but he really wants to write Batman; and how Art Spiegelman…….uh………well he doesn’t get a gag until a little later when he throws on a Maus mask and yells, “Maus is in the house!”

Oh how droll.

Anyway, Comic Book Guy shows up and complains as usual.  Frustrated in his failure to lure customers back to his store, he goes on a feeble rampage through the store.  The three comic book creators don’t like this one bit, so they tear off their shirts to reveal rippling muscles (a la Groundskeeper Willie), and then beat down the fatty to the tune of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

As the clip played, it was made quite clear how inept the creators behind this show have become.   The animation is fancier, but somehow far less charming and engaging.  There was a distinct lack of jokes, and what they tried to pass as jokes were so awkwardly fumbled that of creating laughter, there is instead a singularity of anti-laughter, sucking in all hilarity in the vicinity.  All that’s left is the sound of me groaning.  (Groening?)

It’s impossible to determine exactly where and how the show went off the rails, but before I stopped watching the show altogether, I noticed a worrying tendency of the writers choosing to not weave the jokes into the narrative, and but rather have the characters loudly proclaim the ridiculousness of the situation, as if we couldn’t tell.  I suppose you can call these meta-jokes since they’re sort of commenting about the scenario at hand. 

An example of this:

Homer steals nine Segways at once, all stacked on top of each other, while yelling, “I’m stealing nine Segways at once!”

And the worst offender off the top of my head:

A tiger attacks Bart and bites his arm.  So Bart screams, “It hurts when the tiger bites my arm!”

It’s like if instead of telling you a joke, I skip the whole ordeal, and even the essential punchline, and merely yell the explanation of the punchline at you: “The genie misheard the word penis!”

It’s like….yeesh. 

It’s exactly like yeesh.

But it’s not a joke; it’s not even a joke about a joke.  There’s nothing funny about a character pointing out the obvious.  There are no layers, no audience interaction.  There used to be irony between what we knew and what the characters knew.  Now, the show parodies itself more than real life.

And now I, some idiot with a dumb website, will fix the show by offering actual jokes for the previously described scene, free of charge.  And unlike all those other people on the internet who have their own suggestions, I’m actually correct:

-Alan Moore is not dressed weirdly enough.  The guy is a practicing sorcerer, or something, play up that angle.

-Art Spiegelman should have been wearing the Maus mask the entire time.  And when someone asks him why he’s wearing the mask, his reponse would of course be, “What mask?”  An obvious joke, but at least it’s a joke.

-When Lisa fawns over Dan Clowes about how Ghost World made her feel that she wasn’t alone in the world, Clowes should have said, “Oh no, there’s plenty of you.”  And then he could pull out a tape recorder play short sound clips of different girls saying, “Like I wasn’t alone.”  And of course the last voice would be Lisa’s.

-You could keep the Batman joke in there, but lose the whole spiel about the utility belt (Why was he pointing to what looked like a penlight when he said, “That’s where he keeps his change!”  Also, the wizard’s key and so forth.) 

-After Art Spiegelman tells Alan Moore to chill out after his corporate rant (which should have been more colourful), Alan Moore should have cast a spell on him to, I don’t know, make him burp, to go with an old chestnut.  Alan Moore would then chuckle evilly.

-Bart’s response to Alan Moore’s question, “So you liked it when I turned Radioactive Man into a blah blah blah who’s not radioactive?” should have been, “Yeah, it was so true to the character!”  Because the current, “I just like it when he punches people,” doesn’t work when it seems logical that Radioactive Man would punch less people if he was a jazz critic, or whatever the line was.

-Comic Book Guy should tried to use pornography instead of ninja weapons to entice kids to return to his store.  Though this probably wouldn’t have gotten past the censors.  And the Hip Comic Guy should have responded with something, anything, better than, “That’s weak.”  Which is.

-And Comic Book Guy’s rampage was boring.  Add some music cues for Christ’s sake, and play up the pettiness of it.  As it is, he’s just hitting thing with a sword.  Whoop dee doo whoop dee doo.

-Instead of ripping off their shirts, the League of Independent Comic Writers (or whatever the line was) should have donned costumes.  Alan Moore could throw down a smoke bomb, revealing some crazy wizard outfit and proclaim that he’s “Captain Magician!”  Art Spiegelman could’ve just put a bandit mask over the Maus mask to become “Power Maus!” And Dan Clowes wouldn’t change at all and just yell, “Dan Clowes!”

-What’s with the Sousa march?  Surely a 60’s Batman theme parody would be more appropriate?

And there you have it.  It may not spectacularly funny, but it’d be better than what we got.

If Matt Groening is reading this, I work cheap for the writing credit.

Your Capsule Movie Review

November 8, 2007

Ratatouille:

Rewatched last night on the newly released, skimpy DVD.  There will undoubtedly be a loaded version in the future but I bought this one anyway.  As much as I love having fistfuls of extras on my DVDs, I’ve been neglecting to watch any of them for quite a while.  This’ll do.

I’m glad to hear that this movie is cleaning up in Europe, which just proves that they’re better than us Americans.  We don’t take kindly to nuanced allegories of class structure and elitism.  We do love eating, though.  We have a whole cable channel devoted to it.  We just don’t care how good it tastes as long as it gets into our faces as fast as possible. 

I haven’t researched too much into the production history, but I do know Brad Bird was brought in part way and he subsequently revised much of the plot and the characters, so I have no idea how much of the movie’s themes were there initially or were inserted by him, but that won’t stop me from diving headfirst into my own conclusions.

His involvement forces me to wonder if Bird was consciously–or even subconsciously–trying to make reparations for a fundamental flaw in his previous movie, The Incredibles.   Now, I love The Incredibles.  It’s genetically engineered to be the perfect superhero movie.  But–without getting too much into it since it’ll turn into a whole other article–there’s an underlying problem with the conflict between Syndrome and Mister Incredible: the justified resentment towards the superhero who gets accolades and special treatment and cool gadgets from the normal but inventive kid who gets kicked to gutter.  There are no origin stories presented in the movie, so we can only assume that superpowers are genetically inherited.  Thus, people with powers are basically better people.  In short, racism!  Boooo!

I may be thinking too much into the subtext, but if we want to get literary about this sort of thing, and we do, I must get it out of my head.

Oh yeah, back to the rat movie.

So now we have the class structure reversed, and the subjugated individual is the one with the superpower, and the ruling class is out to kill him and his kind, all disguised as a cartoon movie about cooking.  But through the cooking, another argument for equality is made.

In a review of the movie on some other website, the critic there failed to recognize a vital aspect of the movie, the ego of Anton Ego.  He states that Ego seems, “for no apparent reason, to harbor an enormous grudge against all those who can cook. From his cadaverous appearance to his coffin like office, we know he’s the bad guy, but we never find out what’s at the bottom of his disdain for Chef Auguste Gusteau (Brad Garrett) and his restaurant. This lack of a deeper understanding of Ego weakens the dramatic impact of his participation in the story’s final conclusion.”

This reviewer apparently wasn’t listening during the very first few minutes of the movie when they blatantly say that Ego took great offense to Gusteau’s claim that “anyone can cook.”  Ego is an elitist.  It’s in his freakin’ name, for Christ’s sake.  He revels in being better than others.  He considers himself the superior authority on food and Gusteau was a threat to that.  Ego’s ego is only punctured when he discovers that the chef who cooked the meal that finally gave him a positive emotion, a surge of nostalgia, was a lowly rat.

The movie’s egalitarian “Anyone Can Cook” message falls a bit short considering that it’s not true, though the movie admits as such with Ego’s final monologue.  He still disclaims that anyone can cook, but great cooks can come from anywhere.   Which is the big truth of the movie, as much as I hate admitting that all animals are not equal.  Unfortunately, we’re not clones, and some of us are not as smart, as attractive, or as capable of making a tasty goulash.

On a strange side note, the included advertisements with the DVD had a ten dollar rebate if you bought the regular and Blu-Ray versions.  Now, unless you were planning on giving one away, why in the sweaty hell would you buy two copies of the same movie?  Nice try, Crafty Disney, trying to get me to buy Blu-Ray with the lure of ten entire dollars.

Your Capsule Movie Review

October 30, 2007

Manos: The Hands of Fate:

The two people who read this site undoubtedly know about this movie, intimately.  But just in case…..

If you’re like me, and I certainly hope you are, and you spend your nights watching one awesome movie after another, there comes a time when you have to remind yourself there are some spectacularly awful movies out there.  Not just bad in the Must Love Dogs kind of way, but the Mystery Science Theater 3000 way.

My personal favorite awful movie is Batman and Robin, and as epically stupid that movie is, at least it could be considered competently made.  Manos is both and everything and more.

Its plot is simple and generic enough: a wayward family find themselves trapped in a spooky place and are terrorized by weird people who do bad, evil things to them.  There have been literally millions of movies with this same story.  How Manos succeeds at its failure is textbook filmmaking.  Every single facet of this movie should taught at universities: Don’t Do This 101. 

A lot of the blame is naturally heaped on the director, Hal Warren.  Rightly so, but his greatest mistake was using a camera that couldn’t record sound and could only film for thirty seconds at a time.  The budget was only a meager 19,000 samoleans, but really, that was 1966.  Where in the sweaty hell did all that money go?  He reportedly didn’t pay any of the actors, many of the actors made their own costumes, and he apparently didn’t build anything close to resembling a set.  Surely he could’ve gotten a decent camera.   But such as it is, he ended up with a slapped together mess of thirty second shots of silent footage, under lit and badly dubbed over and menaced by swarms of moths.

No wait, his greatest mistake was the script.  I mean, Robert Rodriguez shot El Marachi for a six pack of cervesa and with guns that could only shoot one blank at a time before they jammed.  That movie was turned out great because he knew how to edit, whereas our Hal didn’t.  Also, write.  Robert McKee’s Story didn’t exist back then, but I’m hoping that someone told our Hal that your movie’s conflict shouldn’t be based on the inexplicable bad decision of the idiot protagonist (played by Hal Warren) to stay at the strange lodge (I believe Roger Ebert had a term for this called The Stupid Plot).  The plot structure meanders from there, and when the conflict is almost resolved as the family finally comes upon the brilliant idea of “running away” from the danger, the wife trips and sobs a bit.  In a normal movie, the husband would drag her to her feet, yell a rousing speech right in her face, and keep on like a good American.  But this is Manos, so our Hal relents and they trudge back to certain doom.  Thus, the scene accomplishes nothing but killing screen time.

The entire movie is like this: nothing happens, and then when something happens, it takes forever to happen, and then it takes forever for something to happen again.  I should have timed it, but when our hero Torgo is told to stand up, he takes what feels like five full minutes to do so.  Supposedly the….things he was wearing in his pants was causing him real physical pain, but come on, Hal, edit that sucker down.

Oh yeah, Torgo has huge knees, if you didn’t know.  This is meant to be scary.  He also talks like Stephen Root in Office Space.  Legend has it the actor became addicted to pain killers in the course of this movie and eventually committed suicide.  Which just piles on the tragedy.

You can read more details and in depth analysis of this movie at Yakmala! and the Agony Booth. There is so much to talk about in a movie where almost nothing happens.

But yeah, this movie was bad.  Thankfully I watched the Mystery Science Theater version, wherein the evil scientists had to apologize to Joel for subjecting him to it, no less.

PS: Oh yeah, forgot to mention the inappropriate jazz soundtrack and the random couple who make out for a full twenty four hours and have nothing to do with anything.

The Hyperreal Museum, as I am told, is a term coined by Umberto Eco for Disneyland, the much loved and much maligned Happiest Place on Earth.  Though I own it, I’ve not yet read the book it comes from, Travels in Hyperreality, so I don’t know whether he meant it as a positive or a negative.  It could go either way: either you enjoy monuments of exaggerated reality, or you don’t.

Disneyland, as a place and a concept, is collection of places that don’t exist and never will.  Fantasyland is obviously just that; Tomorrowland will never come to pass; Frontierland is long gone; Main Street only recently gone; and Adventureland is exoticism manifested as jungle, tropic, and desert mashed together.  The add-on area of Toon Town is blatantly cartoony.  The closest we can get to realism is New Orleans Square, and even that’s a romanticised version of Old Swampy.

Without getting into the nitty gritty of the theory of theming, what elevates Disneyland above other theme parks is this tenuous connection to reality and its ability to exploit historical and fictional motifs.  The park, or rather the people who designed it, specifically went after aesthetics that people wanted but couldn’t have.  Walt said so.  You can read it on that plaque.  He walled off reality so he could create his own and control it, like some anal retentive freak.

So what happens when the nostalgia wears out, when the exhibits get old and worn down, and only the most fanatical bother to care anymore?  The locals become used to the status quo and the tourists don’t know any better. I will swear up and down that this almost happened early this decade.  The management stopped bothering when they decided that not good enough was good enough.  They found that if they didn’t try as hard and didn’t spend as much money, they could make more profit since people came anyway. Paint started peeling, light blubs burnt out, rides started creaking, and more and more of the standards were chipped away.

I mean, look at California Adventure.

But I really mean, look across the country and the bigger sister park: the Magic Kingdom at Disneyworld.  Kevin Yee over at MiceAge had a recent article about this very problem. The “museumification,” as he calls it, is in full effect there. They still have the Carousel of Progress, for god’s sake. Now there’s an artifact of antiquity, a 1964 New York World’s Fair original, a delightful testiment to Futurism.

So how long must a Hyperreal Museum remain static before it becomes a museum to itself? How many times can you ride Pirates of the Caribbean before the appeal comes from the recognition of the ride rather than the pirates? When does it turn from nostalgia into familiarity?

Thankfully, tides change.  And executives move on to mall jobs, where they’re better suited for cookie cutter production. Now, the emphasis seems to be more on innovation than preservation. But there are those who will lament the loss of any exhibit from the Hyperreal Musuem. As a Man of Science, I embrace the future. It’s too bad that the future of Tomorrowland has been hijacked by cartoonery, but that’s a different article.

O! the shame….

October 23, 2007

We direct you to a blog detailing what could be described as Embarrassing Movie Posters.

I, on the other hand, would call them Awesome.

Seriously, how can you not love such a tagline as, “This brain wants to LOVE….and this brain wants to KILL!”

And then there’s the accompanying painting. Pure genius, I tell you.