Friday, December 15, 2017

The Great Holiday Movie Countdown (with notes)

Pic by BrianFagan via Flickr

I haven't blogged in a while. It's not that I haven't had anything to say...it's just that all of the things I wanted to say had a lot of swearing involved and I didn't feel like it. You know how they say, don't go to bed angry? Well, I think "Don't blog angry" is probably good advice as well. So, I waited, and waited, and waited until I wasn't mad anymore and I'm still mad. But, there is something going on that I'm not mad about and here it is:

The Great Holiday Movie Countdown (with notes)


I lay out all of the Christmas movies on the coffee table (I don't drink coffee but I don't have a better word for that table that sits in front of the couch that mostly exists for the cats to slide across after a nice run/jump). And I put them in order of when they'll be watched. They can be in any order, except for the last three movies. Two absolutely must be watched on Christmas Eve (yes, I'm an atheist, but that's another blog entirely) and one must be watched on Christmas Day.

So, here's this year's list.

Dec. 15
It's a Wonderful Life

I haven't watched this film for a couple of years, so tonight, I will sit down and do it some justice. This is a classic holiday film, filled with all the feels and nonsense one expects from an "uplifting" story. But I love it. Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight. Buffalo gals won't you come out tonight aaaaaaaannnnnnndd dance by the light of the mooooon.

Dec. 16
Die Hard

Die Hard is a great Christmas movie. It has all the feels. Hans Gruber thinks he's just so smart. And John McClane walks on glass! And a dead guy rides up the elevator. The jerk gets shot and you don't know how you feel about that, but the other jerk gets punched in the face and you're so glad. Christmas!

Dec. 17
Die Hard 2

Die Hard 2 is not as good as the first one, but it's still good and you've just watched the first one so you might as well do it. It's not like you'll get a chance again until next year. And frankly, it's not like you'll ever say to yourself, "I think I'd like to watch Die Hard 2." Of course not. If you want Die Hard, you'll go to the original. But you've watched them both every Christmas for so many years now, you just do it and don't really feel like you have to explain yourself.

Dec. 18
Home Alone

One of the best Christmas movies ever made, am I right?! This is a must-see every year. (Technically, these are all "must-sees." That's why they're on the list. Well, okay, not the first one. It's true that I skipped the first one for a while.)

Home Alone is so wonderful, with the old man and all, and the little kids singing, and the fabulous opening song! It's not Christmas without it.



Dec. 19
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

How can it be possible for the sequel to outdo the original? I'm not completely sure it does. Maybe they're tied. They're both so fantastic. This one has the pigeon lady (seriously, that's her name). And Tim Curry! "Get on your knees and tell me you love me." OMG.

Dec. 20 
Trading Places and The Year without a Santa Claus*

While I don't really understand what's happening with the buying and selling of Trading Places, I have to see Dan Akroyd, drunk, wearing a dirty Santa suit on the bus, pulling a smoked salmon out of the lapel and biting off a hunk...with all the fake beard hair mixed in. It's just not Christmas until I've seen that.

The Year without a Santa Claus is one of those old, weird, stupid tv shows. It's pretty ridiculous. But...it's tradition.

*All of the second mention films will actually be watched before the main feature, but I couldn't list them first, because they're not as special as the main features they accompany. (It makes sense to me.)

Dec. 21
The Santa Clause and Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever

I'm not a big Tim Allen fan, but The Santa Clause is pretty adorable. I get a bit peeved at stories that promote "belief," and cringe at the "seeing isn't believing, believing is seeing" bullshit line. But other than that, I like it. Judge Reinhold's character is worth it.

This will be my first viewing of Grumpy Cat's movie. I got it as a gift last year. I hear it's awful. But is it awful, as in, I'll be donating it? Or is it, say, Sharknado awful, gaining it a spot on my traditional Christmas movies list? We'll know on Dec. 21.

Dec. 22
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

Despite the killing of the cat, Christmas Vacation is an absolute necessity for the holidays. The reindeer mugs, Cousin Eddie's dickey, the burnt turkey, and the insulting in-laws. The whole movie screams family togetherness.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is one of those movies I grew up watching as a kid. So, I kind of have to watch it. It's rather dark, when you think about it, what with Abominable and all.

Dec. 23
A Christmas Carol and Frosty the Snowman

I've probably seen every adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol ever made for tv or film, including the one with Henry Winkler (egad) and there are only two that I love and watch regularly. The first (not the best or my favorite) is the one with Alastair Sims. The old man is a perfect Scrooge. Tiny Tim could be tinier, but you can't have everything. And what's really cool is that Mrs. Naugatuck is Mrs. Cratchit! Was that woman always old?

Frosty the Snowman is another one from my childhood. One of those stories that doesn't really make all that much sense (I mean, how does Karen get to the North Pole and back before dinner?), but who cares, there are bunnies.

Dec. 24
The Muppet Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best and my favorite Scrooge movie! The muppets! The sets! The music! Tiny Tim is just the right amount of tiny! You can't beat this film for Christmas cheer and feels!

As for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, make no mistake. I'm talking about the original cartoon television special. I watched it every year as a child and it's still a favorite. Little Cindy Lou Who who was no more than two. Max in his antlers. Max disappearing beneath the bags of Christmas shoved out the chimbly! It's wonderful.

That other Grinch movie with Jim Carey is an abomination. No, seriously. I tried to watch it three times and it's just so bad, so horrendously awful, in every way--story, acting, costuming, directing, timing--in every possible way, Ron Howard screwed up that movie. I need to calm down. I hate that movie so much!

Dec. 25
A Christmas Story

I have this on DVD, but I won't necessarily need it. At least one channel will show it non-stop on Christmas Day. But I do like it without commercial breaks now and then.

A Christmas Story is the second best Christmas movie (after The Muppet Christmas Carol) and that's why I save it for last. (Again, this makes sense to me. Christmas Eve is actually the best night so my favorite is watched then and Christmas Day is the second best day/night, even though it comes last.)

I don't want to talk about that abomination live show they're doing. Putting my hands over my ears and shouting BLAHBLAHBLAH. That doesn't exist. It shouldn't exist. There is no way it can measure up. And why do you want to do that anyway? Why take a fabulous film and try to do it again, knowing full well that you'll ruin it? Beats the hell out of me.



So, there you have it. The great Holiday Movie Countdown. I have a lot of movies to watch in the next ten days, so I better get to it.




Happy Holidays.*



*That's right: Happy Holidays, ya filthy animals!








Monday, October 30, 2017

The weird and the wonderful: Epcot Food & Wine Festival



It's become a tradition! Every year, we trek over to Epcot and pay a huge amount of money to sample foods of dubious deliciousness. Some are supposedly authentic to a particular country. Lately, however, Epcot has added booths of less "international" flavor, probably to keep things shaken up enough to warrant return trips year after year.

This year, we made it a point to choose things we've never had before--things we might not otherwise want to eat. It was interesting, to say the least. And I feel like we ate more this year than last year. I don't know if that's good or bad.

So, here's the run down!

1. First stop. Coastal Eats. New this year. No country affiliation. Just seafood.

We chose "lump crab cake with Napa cabbage slaw and avocado lemongrass cream." $5




The "lump" in the crab cake must mean the lumps of breading, because as crab cakes go, this one had the typical amount of crab--as in, not all that much. The crab cake was not very tasty, rather bland, and was mushy. It was overpowered by the avocado sauce, which was pretty good. So, I guess that's a win? The slaw underneath had a soy taste, not appealing.

And we had the "seared scallops with roasted corn and butter bean succotash and chili-chipotle butter sauce." $6



The scallops were seared very nicely and the succotash was yummy! We ate all of this one.

2. Next stop, Active Eats. Also new this year.


Here we had a "sweet avocado crema with strawberries, yellow cake, and tortilla streusel." $3.75

It tasted of vanilla. We couldn't taste any avocado in it; but the strawberry was strong and sweet. The crunchies on top (is that the tortilla streusel?) were nutty, a bit bitter. Over all, it was a nice dessert.

3. The Cheese Studio

At the cheese studio, we had the "braised beef 'stroganoff' with tiny egg noodles, wild mushroom, and Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs cheese sauce." $5 That's right, stroganoff was in quotes.





The beef was very tasty. There was a warm mushy pickle on top of this dish which gave it a warm, mushy pickle taste. It wasn't bad. The "tiny egg noodles" were like thick, tough bits of fried dough, completely lacking in any flavor at all. But the beef was good. Did I mention that already?

4. Ireland! 

Finally, a country! We stopped here for the "warm chocolate pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur custard." $4 We always stop for that. 





This is some good stuff. But, the more I eat it, the more I think it looks a lot more chocolate-y than it actually is. Wait...did I say this last year? It's as if they made this thing bigger, which I'm sure they did, and yet, didn't double the amount of chocolate. It looks very dark and rich, but it doesn't have nearly the chocolate punch I'm expecting. I might skip this next year. (Sacrilege!)


5. Spain

"Seafood salad with shrimp, bay scallops and mussels, extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, and smoked paprika." $5.25




This was not good. At all. The seafood was tough and chewy. The vinegar overpowered the dish. We didn't eat very much of it. The green olive was really good though.


6. On to Craft Beers

Here we had a "Scotch egg wrapped in sausage with mustard sauce." $4 
This description is ridiculously redundant. A Scotch egg is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage.

I've never had a Scotch egg before and was looking forward to it. So much so that I dug in before remembering to take a picture. Sorry about that.





Unfortunately, the egg was very hard boiled (a softer boil would have been much better) and flavorless (they could have salted them before wrapping them in the sausage), and the sausage had only the very slightest hint of flavor. The mustard sauce was fabulous.


7. Hawai'i

I had to try the "teriyaki-glazed SPAM hash with potatoes, peppers and onions and spicy mayonnaise." $4



The SPAM chunks were very salty and definitely tasted of teriyaki sauce. And soy. Overall, it tasted of generic Chinese food. But hey, I tried the SPAM hash and that's all that matters.


8. Flavors from Fire. Another new booth. 

We went all out here with three items. First, "Piggy Wings: roasted pork wings [wait, what?] with Korean BBQ sauce and sesame seeds." $4.50




I didn't like the sauce but hubs said it was all right. This was the best of the three samples we had from this booth. I still have no idea what piggy wings are. I assume it was pork.

Next we had "smoked corned beef with warm crispy potatoes, pickled onions and blonde ale beer fondue." $5




Very salty and tough. The chips were okay, though surprisingly not salty at all. I guess they figured we'd get plenty of salt from the beef. It was pretty much inedible.

Then we had the "sweet pancake with spicy chipotle chicken sausage, onion jam and maple butter syrup." $4



The pancake was dry, thick, and tough. It had a sweet corn taste, but the texture was just awful. I liked the sausage well enough, and it had a spicy aftertaste.

We took a break here, having tried all of our "must haves." I saw this adorable dragon.




Turns out, his name is Figment, and he has a ride. I shouldn't have gone on the ride. I liked Figment so much better before I was subjected to his grating voice and annoying manner. Oh, well.

9. Next we went to the Chocolate Studio for the "liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle with warm whisky caramel." $4.75



Basically, this is hardened, barely flavored, and very creamy, ice cream. I have no idea what the white powder on top was. We decided it was a sweet shaky cheese of some kind. (We call the parmesan we put on spaghetti "shaky cheese.")


10. Earth Eats, Inspired by The Chew
Here we had the "peanut butter and white chocolate mousse with a caramel drizzle." $3.50



This was the best thing I ate all day! And it was the cheapest,  too. (Well, the strudel could have been cheaper, but I don't have the receipt for that.) Just yummy. If you go, get that. Lots of that. It was like a buckeye without the chocolate, but so good you hardly notice the chocolate isn't there.

11. India
At the India booth, we had a "pistachio cardamom bundt cake with chocolate coconut mousse." $3.50
Tied, price-wise, with the peanut butter lusciousness above, but sadly, symbolically more expensive because it sucked.



This cake had a lovely, spicy flavor, but it was so dry and heavy it was ruined. Like a dry lemon 50 pound cake.

12. Germany

Last, we had the strudel. Why do we always go for the strudel? I think I think hubs likes it. But neither of us do.




The strudel is not sweet at all. At all! If anything, it's sour. It's such a shame. I mean, I get that it's not apple pie. In fact, I'd say that apple pie is almost always too sweet. But the remedy is not to cut out sugar entirely. This was just not good. I vow to pass it by next year.

Despite what you might think, based on my food reviews, we had a great time! We rode the Gran Fiesta Tour featuring the Three Caballeros.



And we visited The Seas with Nemo and Friends. We skipped the Frozen ride, but there didn't seem to be a line (so unlike last year). All the lines were short. 

We were hoping for some drunken excitement, with maybe a famous person, an athlete perhaps, being dragged out of the park by police. But we only came across one seemingly drunk couple, dancing as they walked.

Maybe next year


P.S. The pictures are supposed to be in the center all the way down and according to Blogger...they are. I can't spend any more time messing with it. 






Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Embrace intolerance...

Intolerance is a virtue
Photo by Dreams&Stuffs via Flickr

I'm about to lay some intellect on you. I'm giving you a heads up here: if it's too much for you, just skim it and I'll sum up briefly after the quote. Here goes:

“The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.
"Less well known is the paradox of toleranceUnlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
― Karl R. PopperThe Open Society and Its Enemies

Okay, so for the tl;dr crowd, Popper was saying this: you can't be tolerant of bigotry and hate without tolerance losing and intolerance winning. You can't truly be "tolerant." It's a paradox.

But it's really very simple when you think about it. You can't tolerate everything. The very idea is ridiculous. The key is to tolerate what ought to be tolerated in a free and just society and shun everything that seeks to undermine the ideals of freedom and justice.

So, in a free and just society, you have to tolerate women having abortions*, college students protesting things you find silly, or the winner not always winning because the system is whacked**. And, in a free and just society, you should not tolerate Nazis roaming the streets, carrying torches and swastikas, chanting derogatory things about Jews. And you should not tolerate police officers killing innocent people and getting away with it. If all of this is not clear to you, what's wrong with you?

I am a very intolerant person.

I will not tolerate (among other things):
bigotry
racism
hate for those who are different
fascism
forced patriotism
bullying
willful ignorance
Donald Trump
Donald Trump supporters
Donald Trump apologists
and, I'm sorry to say, stupidity

I'm sorry about the stupidity part, because I realize stupid people can't help it. Nonetheless, I can't tolerate it.

So, there you have it. I've embraced intolerance. And it feels good.




*This is a civil rights, personal autonomy, and privacy issue. Get over it.
**Until you change the whacked system, of course.




Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hells Bells, Irma...




To paraphrase AC/DC: rolling thunder, pouring rain, she's coming on like a hurricane.

Irma is on her way and as of today, the eye of the storm is aimed right at Brevard County, FL, where yours truly lives. I'm one part calm, one part panicked, and one part concerned I won't have enough Ben & Jerry's to get through it all. (I've got a stash of Oreos in case the freezer goes out.)

I'm a lucky person, often. Certainly in the last few days. First, I didn't want to go get gas or money, so my husband came home from work and went back out again to do it for me. Maybe that's not luck, but I'm chalking it up.

Second, I needed water. My local Publix was out. My BJ's was out (Except for some kooky flavored waters. No thank you.) And Walmart was out (except for Fiji Water and I'm sorry, but I'm not paying for Fiji Water). Then the next day I went back to BJ's and I saw people coming out with brown boxes that said Zephyrhills on them. Six, eight boxes per person. (Greedy bastards.) I hurried in and managed to get myself one box (That's right ONE box people, because I wasn't the only poor soul gathered around there, trying to get the last few off the pallets). I'm sure they'll keep bringing pallets of water out as the days wear on.

Then I decided I wanted more granola bars. Walmart had none. But, as I was uptown for lunch with hubs, I decided to pop over to the other Publix and sure enough, they had my favorites. I got a few boxes, the above mentioned Oreos, some Cracker Jack, and as I was looking for flashlights (nobody had any flashlights!) I was at the back of the store when they rolled a cart full of water out from the stockroom and those of us lucky to be in the right place at the right time were allowed to take some.

"We won't make it to the shelf with them," the stock dude said. He was right.

Then I went over to Lowe's and got two really cool flashlights. The only downside is that they take AAA batteries and I'd already bought a dozen Ds at BJ's. That's the trouble with BJ's. You have to buy in bulk. I was forced to get about a thousand paper plates and about five-hundred paper bowls. What am I going to do with all of them? I refused, flat out, to purchase four-hundred plastic cups! Forget it. Luckily enough, I was able to get some at Publix.

I'm all stocked up on Diet Coke, too. So....emergency averted, right?

Odds are, we're not going to get hit as badly as it looks right now. The odds are that way because that's the way it usually turns out. Brevard County is in some sort of sweet spot. We had one, back in 2004, the Year of the Hurricanes, that was barreling right at us at a category four or five. We bugged out and had the worst experience ever. That stupid hurricane hit Brevard County as a Cat 2. (Nonetheless, there was quite a bit of devastation in our area. I don't mean to make light of other people's experiences.)

Now, I'm not saying that I'm not bugging out because I think that's going to happen again, or that I think we're invincible, or that I just don't want to leave. But I'm implying it.

We've got storm shutters to put up and a garage door that no category of wind could ever budge. A weak and old roof, to be sure. But we're up on a bit of a rise where our neighbors are a tad down below.

Speaking of sitting up on a hill of sorts. As I was coming home from Lowe's I noticed that the right lane of traffic was at a dead stop and the left (my lane) was moving along just fine. I couldn't figure out what the deal was. They were all just sitting there as we moved past them. They weren't even trying to get into our lane. Was some huge school getting out early? No. There must have been an accident in that lane. No, they'd all be moving into our lane.

It turned out that these people were in a miles long line of cars trying to get into a local park for free sandbags! Holy Cows!

I didn't get any sandbags. I think we'll be okay. It could be bad. But chances are, for us, it won't be catastrophic. Unfortunately, for others, it may very well be. In fact, it already has been. So, we'll be riding it out and hoping for the best for everyone in Irma's path.

And let's not forget that José (wtf, José ) is right behind her.

I'll try to get the Wayward Cat Book News out as usual on Tuesday. And if my electric holds out, I'll be online through the storm.

Stay safe, everyone!











Saturday, August 26, 2017

Textures of the North Charleston Marriott

Hotels have the most interesting textures and art. Some of it's bizarre, certainly. The crazy vases or chairs with eight-foot high backs. But a lot of it is a delight. And I like to take pictures of the stuff. So, here are some cool images from my recent stay at the North Charleston Marriott.


In the convention area, the hotel has what can only be...tables, that look like petrified tree stumps. Here's one in its totality* of awesomeness.


And they're just sitting there, looking funky, totally unused and probably unusable. Too low for a side table. I want one!


This is the base of a table in the lobby. Very cool. The weirdness behind and reflected in the golden slats is the carpet design.


I love taking pictures of pillows and chairs up close! The texture is amazing.


Above is a wall, sort of. Impossible photograph well. And it offers no privacy. It's just there for decoration. Here's the best pic I could get of it.


I don't really remember what this next one is. I think it's the drain of a drink dispenser in the convention area.


It's got personality, doesn't it?


A bouquet of sugar packets.


Another pillow.


This is a small part of some artwork on the wall in the convention area. 



I can't remember what this is. But it's very cool.


More art, I think.



Coffee mugs.


One of the vendors at the convention had a display of Scrabble tiles. I think we were supposed to make words, but I just wanted to take a picture.


This is a close shot of one of the crazy vases around the hotel. You can see the brick wall in the background. Below is the complete vase.


Useless, isn't it? 



I really didn't get a good picture of this...thing. But I wanted to share it anyway. I think it's art. 



This vase is more functional than the others, but still beautifully weird.



Pillow or chair.


This is what the backside of the bar stools look like in the lounge. Useful and funky.



They got really loud with some of the artwork in the lobby.


And just across the room, it's all very quiet, contemplative.


Candle holder.


This sliding glass door in the lobby tells you how cold it is indoors.


This is an outlet of some bizarre kind. It was on the wall in the ballroom. It took me forever to get a decent shot of it.


Oh, look. I took a picture looking down into the hole of one of those crazy, useless vases. 


Lately I've noticed that it's a thing to put water dispensers in lobbies filled with water and fruit. You think you're getting lemonade, but you get water with a hint of fruit. A hint of lemon in my water? No thank you.


Pineapple maybe. At least there's a chance of a bit of sweetness.


This is slat art. Or pyramid art. It looks different from different viewpoints. But it wasn't a picture. That's what you want to see. If you stand on this side, you see Washington crossing the Delaware and if you stand on the other side, you see Jimi Hendrix. That's what you want from art. Not blobs of color. Although, I did take a picture of it.


Stacked water glasses in the ballroom.


Yep. It's an exit sign.


These were the lights in the ballroom. They're actually huge. Three feet across, maybe. But, it was a pretty dim room.


And each of the big lights had a slinky effect wrapped around it. Pretty strange.



They had a camera, or a light, or something to do with the conference and it cast this weird reflection on the back wall.



Some artwork on the wall in one of the convention area rooms. Don't look at it for too long or it'll start moving around. Freaky.



And finally, a lamp. Hotels always have the coolest ways to put lamps on the walls in the hallways. 
Impressive.



That's it for my weird art obsession.



*That was an eclipse joke.