Monthly Archives: July 2008

More than a side-dish to me…

I’ve only covered one food item so far in this blog.  This does not accurately reflect my feelings/excitement in regards to a bellyful of good grub.  So, it’s time I blogged up another one post-haste!

16.  Stove Top Stuffing          

As we are several months away from an occasion that would typically call for this foodstuff, I am, naturally, craving it.  Being in Britain puts me at a bit of a distance in sating this foodlust as they don’t sell the brand over here.  Us Yanks usually start eating it by the boxfull around Thanksgiving, of course.  But, my relationship with Kraft’s greatest ever invention runs much deeper than that.  During my college years, when everyone else in the Weinstein dormitory on Washington Square Park was eating ramen noodles, I’d fire up my hotplate to make a box of Stove Top.  Nothing wrong with ramen.  It’s exotic!  My friend Joe used to sprinkle the flavoring over it and eat it raw.  I don’t know if he was lazier or hungrier.  But, ramen doesn’t offer the same warm and comforting feeling of sage and thyme infused familial love that Stove Top does.  Those first few months of being away from my Mom and Dad and getting acclimated to life in the big world of NYC were greatly eased by heaping portions of Stove Top.  I turned culinary tradition on its ear by eating half a box of the stuff as a main course instead of a small portion as a side-dish.  I literally stuffed myself with it.

Even my roommate Molly would join me in this.  She was a dancer and Stove Top was popular with her because you could control how much butter you put into it…or use a lower fat butter substitute if you wish.

Stove Top, like so many excellent things, was born in the 70’s–1972 to be precise.  It was dreamed up by this lady here, Ruth Siems.  Ruth, bless her clever soul, passed a couple of years ago.

Patron saint of side-dishes

Patron saint of side-dishes

The secret to her success was down to isolating the perfect breadcrumb.  Seriously, it’s what her patent relied on.  She needed to find the ideal size for the re-hydration process–too small meant a soggy result and too big was unwieldy and crunchy.  Thank you for persevering until you unlocked the secret, kind lady!

I’ve read articles where it’s stated that up to three Nobel Prize winning scientists also contributed to the origins of Stove Top but I can’t verify it (wikipedia based only as far as I can tell).

I know Stove Top is probably full of all kinds of artificial crap that I shouldn’t be putting into my body but I don’t care.  There is no healthier substitute.  I haven’t tasted a homemade stuffing that can match its perfect balance of seasoning.  And it’s so fluffy!  Fluffy beyond compare!  In contrast, eating homemade stuffing is like chomping on a mouthful of croutons.

Varieties of this magical  mealtime accompaniment include cornbread, chicken, turkey, pork, beef (of this flavor, I am skeptical…who eats stuffing with a beef dinner?), sage, garlic, San Francisco sourdough, mushroom and onion, and tomato and onion.

The only real room for improvement I can see is making a veggie-friendly version.  As far as I can tell, all of the varieties include chicken stock as an ingredient and it’d be nice if I could share my enthusiasm for Stove Top by cooking up a batch form my veggie and/or vegan friends (like my buddy Ari, who–blog shout out time–runs this site arionthedaily ).  One can certainly dream of a better tomorrow where we can all pass the stuffing to each other.  Perhaps this utopia isn’t too far off.  If only we had the scientific mind of someone like Ruth Siems with us today to help usher in this golden age.  That would truly be a day of Thanksgiving.

Please to have some Stove Top?

Please to have some Stove Top?

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You ever hear of Lady Fair cigarettes? She invented the quick burning paper…

Today’s great thing is a performance in one of my favorite movies.  Is the word ‘genius’ too much to use when describing “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”?  I don’t think so. If it is, I keep good company as it is in British film director and all around smartypants Ken Russell’s top ten as well–so there.

It’s a fantastic movie and a supremely quotable one but Janeane Garofalo’s performance as Heather Mooney is a shining star to zone in on.

15.  Janeane Garofalo as Heather Mooney in “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”.

In character...

In character...

As she was only a minor character in the film, she didn’t do much press to promote it.  In fact, the only thing I could find video-wise was this interview from “The Daily Show”.  This was way back when Craig Kilborn was hosting it.  She, of course, is intelligent and adorable in the interview but it’s also  got a worthy little clip from the film in it.  It’s the first appearance of Janeane’s character, Heather Mooney, in the film and already, you get a sense of what her character brings to the table.  Heather is smokey, bitter, sarcastic and though she is revealed to be a bit sensitive later in the film, she can’t be bothered with anybody’s crap.  Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

I’m a big fan of Garofalo in general.  So, of course, I wanted to find out all about her experiences on the set.  In my dream world, I want everyone that I get these little fan-girl urges for to get along.  For instance, it irks me to read stories about the ladies from “Sex and the City” not being friendly with each other in real life, or when I heard that Uma Thurman and Daryl Hannah couldn’t stand one another on the set of “Kill Bill”.  I like to imagine that there are no divas or personality disorders in Hollywood and that in between takes, everyone is the best of friends and that maybe, just maybe they all have the same taste that I do.  They all worship at the alter of Amy Sedaris, love Ben and Jerry’s Fossil Fuel, and watch “The Simpsons” rerun every night at 6PM.  So, I was really hoping to learn about all the laughs that Janeane Garofalo had with her fantastic co-stars, Mira Sorvina, Lisa Kudrow, Camryn Manheim, and Alan Cumming but there really isn’t much out there.  It worried me further when I watched the DVD’s gag reel and saw that she was barely featured in it.  You know, you just kind of think, maybe she didn’t fit in?  Maybe nobody got her humour?  Maybe it was cliquey and they just kind of ignored her?  Why doesn’t it come across more like everyone was really chummy?  I really feared for the worst.

As it turns out, Lisa Kudrow is a real-life friend of Janeane Garofalo’s (not just in my head!!!) and it was an excuse for them to work together.  Probably the only reason that she’s not very prevalent in the gag reel is because she’s not in it that much.  Whew.  My anxiety is quelled.

This is a perfect role for Janeane.  I can’t imagine anyone else being as succesful spouting the following dialogue:

[ Romy ]
WELL-- 

[ Clears Throat ]
I GUESS I WON'T BE SEEING YOU AT THE REUNION, BUT I'LL TELL
EVERYONE YOU
SAID "HI." 

[ Heather ]
WHY DON'T YOU TELL EVERYONE TO GO FUCK THEMSELVES FOR MAKING MY
TEEN YEARS A LIVING HELL. 

or

Romy: Heather, um, has anyone ever told you that smoking can kill you?
Heather: No. No one. Thank you.

or

[Heather thinks she’s never made anyone’s life hell]
Toby Walters: Since you never got around to it in high school, I was wondering if you would sign my yearbook. And please don’t tell me to fuck off, because it really hurts my feelings.
Heather: I hurt your feelings?
Toby Walters: Yeah, all the time.
Heather: Tremendous! That’s tremendous! Go get your stupid yearbook, I would be happy to sign it!

I wish there were more parts out there for Garofalo like this one.  As it turns out, I’m not alone in that.  When trolling the Internet for tidbits on this here great thing, I came across actual Janeane Garofalo fan-fiction.   Well, it’s more like amateur fiction with her as the dream casting choice.  For instance, I found a fanfic “My Name is Earl” script where the amateur author lists her as having a guest role.  I also found a one act play about fairies in Ireland where the author would like for her to play the reporter character.  So…you know…take note Hollywood.  It’s obvious that people are desperate.

Zany in a good way...

Zany in a good way...

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Super-fit

It was such a toss-up today.  I really couldn’t decide what to write about.  I was in the middle of researching something else (and yes, by researching I mean googling videos and reading IMDB), that I stumbled across one of my favorite ever SNL digital videos.

“Dick in a Box” is fab, sure–but I think this one is just as funny.  It’s just a little more subtle–if that can be a word to describe it.  The digital videos are really good at parodying pop culture stylings…especially 80’s throwbacks.  I mean, “Dick in a Box” is essentially a Color Me Badd video.  This is another fine piece of 80’s mockery.

Today’s great thing is:

14.  SNL’s Body Fuzion video

There’s no sense raving about it anymore until you’ve seen it, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 There’s not much written about “Body Fuzion”, especially in comparison to some of the flashier SNL digital video shorts.  But I like so many things about it.  First of all, the women on “SNL”, have always been hilarious–but this clip highlights what I think is a bit of a shift in focus for the show.  You hear stories about how women need to fight tooth and claw to get their sketches on the show or how they have to beg the writers to for a showcase type of opportunity.   Here’s a video where all of the female castmembers of the time (yes, a paltry 3 + guest host for the episode, Drew Barrymore) shine.  It looks even better after you watch a clip of a real 80’s workout video, like this one featuring Jane Fonda:
 
 
 
Dead on, right?  The real thing totally has that soft-porn feel that the SNL video parodies.  Capital!
I think my favorite bits are:
-Maya Rudolph’s enthusiastic ‘wooh’ during low level exertion
-Maya Rudolph’s pencil lifting
-The close-ups of sweaty leotards
-That Drew’s ‘friends’ include two Donnas
-Drew’s head popping up from crotch-level
 
When is SNL going to release ‘best of’ type compilations for players like Kristen Wiig and Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph like they have for the guys?  If they don’t soon, I may just have to keep featuring them on this here blog so that I have an excuse to watch clips like these.
 
 
 
 
 

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The artist formerly known as Batman

So, right now, “The Dark Knight” is at 95% on the Rotten Tomato-Meter.

http://uk.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_dark_knight/

That’s pretty great when you consider that Tim Burton’s version sits at only 69%.  If I remember correctly, that was considered a blockbuster and a crowd pleaser.  About as good as a batman pic could get.  But the current incarnation…my oh my!  I don’t think anyone could have foreseen just how serious a Bat-Movie could be.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love, love, loved “The Dark Knight”, but it’s interesting to reflect on the progression of the films.  Tim Burton’s “Batman”, when compared to 1966’s “Batman:  The Movie”, WAS the grim and gritty Batman that we were all hoping for.  Burton’s version was comparatively dark and violent–a real slap in the face to the cheesy sixties version..  Nicholson’s Joker was a convincing nut job.  Everybody thought he was a terrific psycho kind of villain.  Us comic nerds, were pretty much sated in our quest to be taken seriously.  This was the gritty caped vigilante that we all wanted to see on the big screen.

Batman extra-light

Batman extra-light

Sure things devolved back to square one when Schumacher took the helm, but while Burton was in charge, the pictures had a very respectable balance of the light and the dark.  With Christopher Nolan’s direction, we are probably at about as real as a Batman film can get.  And it’s great.  Great, great, great.  I love it.  If there actually was a combat-trained super detective out there with an unstoppable budget and a grudge against criminals, this is surely what it would look like.  But there’s one thing Nolan’s films could never pull off– precisely because of how real we’ve gotten and that’s a tie-in soundtrack by an eccentric popstar.  That’s something that only the late 80’s marketing team at Warner Brothers could have brought us.  This, of course, is today’s great thing:

13.  Prince’s Batman Soundtrack

Batman regular

Batman regular

Batman extra-gritty

Batman extra-gritty

Of the four Batman films that were of that era, this is also the only one that is the sole vision of one musician.  The others of course are all stuffed with the likes of Seal, U2, and The Flaming Lips.  All credible, but there’s hardly a unifying vision.

Like his “Purple Rain” this is a soundtrack that is inspired by a film’s themes.  Not all of the songs from the Batman original soundtrack are actually in the movie.  The ones that are, however, are perfectly placed.  Who doesn’t love the “Partyman” scene?

Danny Elfman loved Prince’s soundtrack so much that he even incorporated parts of the song “Scandalous” into his score for Burton’s “Batman” film.  “Scandalous”, with the lyrics “I can’t wait til I can wrap my legs all around you girl” and “Tonight, why don’t we skip all the foreplay and just get down here on the floor”–yes, that “Scandalous”– is a song that Prince co-wrote with…HIS DAD!!!!!  Holy crap, I can’t think of anything more mortifying.

They must be close.

The album was done on the fly and received mixed reviews when it came out, but I think it’s a tad misjudged.  This was Prince still at the top of his game.  This was Prince pre-glyph.  The album and movie were also perfectly timed to come out right before I entered high-school.  The realization of the Batman on film combined with the sex-fueled musical stylings of Prince served up a very appealing combination that pleased both my geekiness and my hormones.

I remember thinking how deep the ballad Prince shares with Sheena Easton “The Arms of Orion” was.  Really I was just pleased with myself for being familiar with the constellation.  Admittedly, besides The Big Dipper, it was the only one I could locate in the night sky.

“Lemon Crush” is still one of my favorite Prince songs.   Fruity and sexy

It’s fairly clear that Prince was actually in to the project as well:

–He wound up dating Kim Basinger and that has to be a positive.

–He still performs some the songs off the soundtrack during his live shows.

character hog

character hog

–He certainly enjoyed playing the ‘Gemini’ character.  That would be the half-joker half-batman (see thumbnail pic at the start of the entry) that he debuted in the video for “Batdance” and reprised in the video for “Partyman”.

 

Speaking of “Batdance”, let’s talk about that for a second.  Prince, has the uncanny ability to legitimize what would otherwise be complete and utter camp.  He’s put bat-ears on what looks like the same girl from the “Kiss” video–you know, the one with the veil covering her face–and she’s been choreographed with other bat babes in a very crimey-dancey sort of way.  You’ve got a kickline of Jokers.  You’ve got Prince playing ALL the instruments:  slap bass, keyboards, one of his custom guitars… It all looks very much like “Batman:  The Las Vegas Extravaganza”.  But, because it’s Prince, it’s not only forgiven, it’s completely awesome.  Now watch this and remember how instrumental it was to your childhood.

 

 Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Johnny 5 is Alive!!!!

Everyone loves Wall*E.  That includes me.  I just saw it last night and like all the world over, I am smitten with it.

Let’s not forgot that lovable robot from the 80’s though that, in appearance, kind of looks like Wall*E’s dad.  Johnny 5.  They’ve both even been compared to Christ figures!  For those of you that have seen “Wall*E”, does that make EVE the Mary Magdalene?

Father?

Father?

Demanding a DNA test...

Swears that Guttenberg is the dad...

Though the two bear some striking similarities, career-wise, they are quite different.  Whilst Wall*E is a trash-bot, Johnny 5 is a reformed warmonger.  Anyway, as you can probably guess, our twelfth entry into the hall of greatness is:
12.  Johnny 5
Please keep in mind that I was ten when I saw this film.  It was really the perfect age to enthuse over a sassy robot with a heart of gold. 
This was also an era when we saw the potential of real robots as toys…sure they weren’t very advanced–mostly models like Radio Shack’s Robie the Robot and an assortment of robot pets that could essentially go forward, reverse, and make noises.  Still, the promise of having your very own Johnny 5 seemed like it would only be months away!  Additionally, the late 80’s was a time when films came with hit soundtracks (or at least singles).  Chart-toppers like El Debarge’s “Who’s Johnny” from “Short-Circuit” and Cyndi Lauper’s “Good Enough (Goonies Are)” from “The Goonies” served as a pleasant flashback to the film everytime you heard them on top 40 radio or spun the 45 on your turntable.  This only served to deepen my obsession with movies.
Johnny 5 was, of course, a robot who was intent on learning about the human experience.  Hit by an electrical surge, he becomes ‘alive’, rejects his original purpose, that of destruction, and ambles on his robot treads into the lives of Stephanie Speck and Newton Crosby.  His heartwarming and comedic adventures include protecting his human friends from the destructive forces of NOVA robotics (usually whilst screaming ‘no disassemble Stephanie’), watching “3 Stooges” films, and learning how to disco dance.  Coincidentally, the director of “Short Circuit”,  also directed “Saturday Night Fever”.  You can watch him recycle his footage here!
You notice how Stephanie keeps pushing Johnny 5 to go to bed?  Do robots have a bed time?  I guess if he really wants to learn how to behave like a human, he’ll have to at least pretend to sleep in the evening.  But, if you’re gonna get that pushy, you may as well demand that he go to the toilet as well.  And that would just be nuts.
Or…maybe I’m missing something here and she’s actually lonelier than we thought and is just trying to get him in the sack.  It’s rated PG, so that’s probably not the case.  Though he is definitely a more appealing option than Steve Guttenberg in that regard.

Probably gets enough crap from other blogs

Probably gets enough crap from other blogs

 

 

I also like how a Johnny 5 out-acts Ally Sheedy in that scene.  Her line readings are actually more robotic than the robot’s.
FYI, Tim Blaney–a puppeteer–supplies the voice for Johnny 5.  He was the voice of Frank the Pug in the “Men in Black” films.  He also played the voice of The Navigator in “Flight of the Navigator”, which, in my opinion, is close enough to playing another robot that we might be able to consider a pattern here.  To my knowledge, he has never played any gorillas.
If you’d like to read more about Johnny 5’s greatness, check out this site:  http://www.johnny-five.com/
It’s full of all kinds of excitement…old articles from Starlog magazine, interviews, photos, video clips.  Even some promotional stuff like this Five Alive tie-in.   What a great pairing, robots and juice!  For those of you
who may not have heard of Amstrad, the makers of the computer system that you could win with this promotion, Amstrad computers were, as far as I can tell, the equivalent of a Coleco. 
The guy behind them, Alan Sugar, is the mogul used in the British version of “The Apprentice”. 
Dimension Films have acquired the rights to do a remake.  I hope Johnny 5 has a good agent because he deserves a shot at reprising one of technology’s most loveable scamps.

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Phil Collins=Gorilla

Those of you here in Britain will undoubtedly be familiar with our eleventh great thing:

11.  Cadbury’s Gorilla Commercial.

Sometimes, an advertisement comes along that, really, has little to do with the product but is succesful because it is, in itself, a memorable little work of art.  This is definitely one of those ads.  It’s entirely weird and delightful.   My favorite bit is when the rockstar/gorilla cracks his neck joints before the beat kicks in.  Watch here, and then we’ll discuss!

This is the type of commercial that catches you off guard initially, but then you find yourself hoping that it’ll come on during whatever program you happen to be watching.   This campaign, created by Fallon in London, was a giant leap away from traditional advertising with the intent on making ‘entertainment pieces’ that would have a greater success with word-of-mouth and viral marketing.  I don’t nothin’ about that industry mumbo-jumbo but I do know that watching Gorillas rock out on Phil Collins’ songs makes me want to chomp on chocolate bars real good! 

What I love, is that the creators are obviously intelligent enough to follow the golden rule that comic books stumbled on eons ago.  “Everything is better with monkeys”.  If you’ve got something that’s sorta good, but you want to make it great, add an ape!  Superdickery.com expounds on this theory greatly.  Here is one of the many comic covers (enhanced by the presence of apes) that made it into their galleries.

as I was saying...comics are a serious form of...oh, dammit DC!  Stop undermining my arguments.

as I was saying...comics are a serious form of...oh, dammit DC! Stop undermining my arguments.

The actor in the Cadbury’s ad, Garon Michael, has played a gorilla on at least three other occasions:  once in “Congo”, once in “Planet of The Apes” (the Tim Burton one, I’m fairly sure), and once in “Instinct”.  One thing I’ve learned since starting this blog is that if you play a gorilla once, the opportunities (for gorilla-mimicry at least) come rollin’ in.  (See the Princess Mombi blog).    To give credit where credit is due, most of the facial movements were done by remote control puppeteers.  So, the studly guy below can’t quite hog all the glory. 

Looking marginally more human...

Looking marginally more human...

Exercise caution when tempted to do this to a real gorilla!

Exercise caution when tempted to do this to a real gorilla!

 

The ad is high concept but relatively clean and bright and joyful, which is pretty much what the makers were going for.   I dare say, it’s almost a bit Wonka-ish in its revelry of the ridiculous.   Naturally, it was favorably received and the parodies and knock-offs soon followed.  You can find tons of these on Youtube, of course.

Personally, I think the follow-up ad, this one here about airline vehicles that are pimped out and using the midnight hour for some fast and furious style racing, is a lot less joyful…which is bizarre because Queen is sooooo much better than Phil Collins.  I don’t think anyone could have predicted that. 

 

Perhaps this is further evidence that anthropomorphic monkeys are better than trucks.  Take that, Transformers!

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What Would Artemis work out to?

 

Ever watch “Clash of The Titans” and think, ‘Ya know?  There’s something about robot owls and gorgons that really makes me wanna cut loose on the dance floor.’  Well maybe you have and maybe you haven’t,  

I don't think you're ready for this jelly.

I don't think you're ready for this jelly.

but I’m glad that somebody has.  Because, as it turns out, the blend of Greek Mythology and experimental 70’s disco is wicked awesome.
10.  Hercules and Love Affair  is today’s bit of greatness.  When I first saw the video for “Blind” (a single off of their self-titled debut), I was sweating on the Precor elliptical machine at my local Virgin gym. The gym always has several T.V. stations on display so that you can choose either news, sports, or music videos to distract yourself from the self-flagellation that is a 30 minute cardio workout.  Normally, I just listen to my Mp3 player and gloss over.  But, the cute girl who stars in the video caught my eye and I decided to tune in for a moment.  The video looked super conceptual but a bit cheesy and I naturally assumed that Hercules and Love Affair were some German club confection that I could dance to but never really understand.
Later, when I read in a music review that they were actually from Brooklyn, I decided that maybe I could give another track a listen.  That’s when I heard “Hercules’ Theme”.  It’s probably one of the best songs on the album and was a lock in getting me to purchase the whole enchilada.

Big Pimpin'

Big Pimpin'

It’s irresistibly disco but seems artsy and improvisational at the same time.
Through its throwbacks, the album sounds fantastically unique.  If pressed to summarize their style, I think I could accurately describe it as a blend of Earth Wind and Fire, early Moby, and Nathan Johnson (he composed the horn-heavy score for the movie “Brick”).
 
Besides conjuring up images of Xena and Gabby doing the hustle at Dinah Shore, Hercules and Love affair already have massive gay appeal.  Though it’s described a a ‘musical project’ featuring several members, it seems quite obvious after reading several interviews that DJ Andy Butler would be the ringleader for this group.  It’s his love affair with Greek mythology and his demands for dance music that is both intelligent and respectable that created this whole thing.  This article gets in to much more detail about his influences http://www.musicomh.com/interviews/hercules-and-love-affair_0408.htm.  If you’re a bit obsessive, like me, it’s a very interesting read.
 
The contributing vocalists definitely add a certain complexity to the product and serve to gay it up even more.  Antony Hegarty, Nomi, and Kim Ann Foxman all lie somewhere on the LGBT scale.
 
 
 
Let's just cut to the chase.  Gay.  All of 'em.

Gay. Like how good disco should be.

 Here’s bit of H and LA for you.  “Hercules’ Theme” was written in the style of a Greek chorus.  How cool is that?

Hercules and Love Affair

 

Hercules and Love Affair are now on my radar for live shows.  I don’t go see lots of live shows because I’m lazy and boring, but if they ever pass through Manchester, I will wear my best golden fleece and haul my ass down to the dance floor.

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