Friday, December 17, 2010

Reality TV of the Future

Reality television is something I've had to learn to accept. My first real exposure to reality tv was when Survivor first came out back at the beginning of the decade, I wasn't sure what to think. For the next few years, everyone dismissed reality tv as a passing fad. But more and more shows kept cropping up, and soon it became apparent that for better or for worse, reality tv was here to stay. Today, as many as 30% of tv shows are "reality" shows, ranging from shows about Meter Maids to whatever the hell the Kardashians are. Reality tv is now as American as apple pie and watching baseball. So rather than continue to try to fight the idea, I've decided to embrace it. With that, I've decided to pitch a few ideas for some reality series, and not to toot my own horn, but I think you'll be seeing a few of these shows on tv in the near future.

Beef Jerkers
They've got a  dry sense of humor.

If you thought watching paint dry was fun, then watching beef dry will leave you on the edge of your seat! Follow these migrant factory workers as they explore the volatile world of industrial dehydration, with double entendres galore. They'll face salt shortages, FDA inspectors, angry shift supervisors, and their own hungry bellies. From slaughterhouse to fatty mouths, you'll salivate as these guys jerk some beef, reality tv style!

Airs: Saturdays at 9/8c on TLC.

The Real Housewives of Slovakia

Potatoes are like the Louis Vuitton of Slovakia.

New York City, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New Jersey, Orange County, Beverly Hills: these are the places you think of when you think of housewives. Well get ready to add another place to the list- Slovakia! Follow along each week as Bohumila, Hedviga, Nadezda, Olga, and Zdislava hit the streets of Trnava, where they dine, shop, and dish dish dish! Topics include Hedviga's constant hairstyle changes, Olga's porcelain cat collection, 1980s music, potatoes, and controversial Slovakian fashion magazine "Speváčky spievajú." Can you believe what Bohumila is wearing this week? Tune in for more!

Airs: Wednesdays 10/9c on Bravo.

Narwhal Hunters

Narwhals live forever unless their head is cut off.
There can be only one.
There is scarcely a better formula for successful entertainment than man vs. nature. On the new hit series Narwhal Hunters, this formula is put to the test, pitting man against (possibly mythical) beast. While it's true that no one has ever actually seen a narwhal, science and the media have led us to believe that if there's any animal that needs to be hunted down, it's this waterous monstrosity. Half whale, half unicorn, all asshole, watch each week as these brave men battle the elements, hippies in Greenpeace boats, and international maritime laws in order to hunt down a freak of nature that might not even exist.

Airs: Tuesdays at 9/8c on The Outdoor Channel.

The REAL Dave Coulier

You think you know Dave Coulier, but you have NO IDEA! Watch as a reality camera crew documents the life of everyone's favorite VH1 Surreal Life house member and former America's Funniest People host. From going to auditions to going to the post office to going to the bathroom, you'll get a first-hand look at how Uncle Joey spends his days. Special guest stars include Dave Coulier's mom, John Stamos' publicist, and a process server. Watch Coulier's amazing impersonation skills as he avoids his creditors on the phone! If you've ever wanted to know the true story behind Dave Coulier, now you have the chance- the REAL Dave Coulier.

Airs: Mondays at 3 a.m./2c on E! 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Texas the Beautiful: Disgusting Recipes from the Lone Star State

While doing some cleaning in the basement of our new place, my girlfriend discovered an old book. Now if movies have taught me anything, it's that her next step should be to skip school, find an attic somewhere and read the book from cover to cover out loud, and eventually a giant flying cocker spaniel will come pick her up and allow her to terrorize her enemies.
Today he's mostly used by the Army to gun down Al Qaeda operatives
Well, we tried that and it didn't work, because as it turns out, it's not a fantasy novel but a cookbook. Specifically, a cookbook printed in 1986 called Texas The Beautiful Cookbook. Written by an Australian (wtf?), it contains over 400 recipes that are supposedly authentic Texas cuisine, including many immigrant-influenced dishes. So I decided to flip through it and see what kind of fare it had to offer. I'll say this: about 85% of the recipes in this book look pretty delicious. It has some classic staples that I've been eating since I was a kid, including jalapeno cornbread, bread pudding, frito pie, fried chicken, and fried catfish.

And then there are the other 15%. These are the recipes that make you stop and go "wait, what?" The kind of recipes that make people from Texas look like a bunch of inbred backwoods hillbillies who eat whatever they can dredge up from the nearest mudhole. Basically, the kind of recipes that are good to blog about. So below, I've reprinted some of the most confusing, disgusting, or just plain bizarre recipes, for your amusement and, if you're brave enough, your enjoyment, along with some pictures found in the book. Bon appetite, y'all.

Fricassee of Armadillo

1 armadillo (about 4 lb dressed)
3/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup oil
3/4 cup milk

Disjoint armadillo as you would a chicken (wtf?). Dredge in flour, salt and pepper. Brown in oil. Remove from pan and pour off oil. Return meat to pan, ad milk, cover and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Serves 4-6.

The cattle rustlers of western lore have been replaced by the modern turkey wrangler.

East Texas Stew

2-3 squirrels
Wine or salt water to cover
2 1/2 quarts water
2 tbsp salt
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 cup chopped onions
3 cups canned tomatoes
3 medium potatoes, chopped
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3 carrots, chopped

Cut cleaned, prepared squirrels into serving pieces. Marinate in wine or salt water overnight. Drain, place in large pot and add water, salt, celery, onion, tomatoes, potatoes, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, pepper, oil, jalapeno and carrots. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until meat is tender, 4-5 hours. Serves 6.
You see that right there? That's grade A squirrel meat. Won't find that in Oklahoma.

Shrimp Mold

1 (10 oz.) can condensed tomato soup
3 (3 oz.) packages of cream cheese, softened
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 cups cooked, peeled shrimp, cut up
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small onion, grated
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 pinch garlic powder
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley

Heat soup and dissolve cheese in it. Soak gelatin in cold water, dissove in hot cheese mixture. Cool about 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Pour in 2-quart oiled fish mold, chill. To unmold, run a knife blade around edge and dip mold  quickly in hot water. Invert on a serving plate. Serve with unsalted crackers. Serves 10-12. 

(I almost vomited when I thought about eating that. Seriously.)
A) what is this doing in a cookbook, B) why are the dancers on ladders?

Peanut Butter And Bacon Sandwiches
(I know you're reading that and thinking "damn, that sounds awesome!" but trust me, it gets worse)

2 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp mayonnaise (yeah, I told you it gets worse)
1 tbsp finely chopped sweet pickles
4 lettuce leaves
Freshly ground pepper
8 slices buttered rye bread

Combine bacon, peanut butter, mayonnaise, pickle and pepper to taste (to taste what? Satan's anus?). Spread filling on 4 slices of bread, top with a lettuce leaf, and then remaining slices. Makes 4 sandwiches (meaning you can get 4 meals out of this recipe, since if you're eating this you obviously have no friends or family).
Yeah, your chili looks delicious, but get your damn boot off the table. That's disgusting dude.

Orange Flip

1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1 egg
1 cup plain yogurt
pinch of sugar

Place all in a blender and blend until combined. Serves 2-3. (dear god, why would you want to drink a raw egg unless you are training to fight Apollo Creed?)

Queen of Puddings
(I included this one not because it sounds inherently disgusting, but because of the odd title. I didn't realize puddings had a monarchic system of governance.)

2 cups milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 1/2 cups soft white breadcrumbs
3 eggs
3 tbsp raspberry or other berry jam

Heat milk just to boiling point and stir in butter, lemon rind, and 2 tbsp of the sugar. Pour this over the breadcrumbs and allow to stand for 15 minutes. Separate the eggs, beat yolks, and stir into breadcrumb mixture. Spoon into a greased 4-5 cup casserole or individual ovenproof dishes, bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15-30 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven and spread jam over top of pudding. Whip egg whites until they hold firm peaks, beat in the remaining sugar little by little to form a stiff, glossy meringue. Spread the meringue over pudding, swirling it into peaks on top. Return to over for 10 minutes, or until tipped with gold. Serve warm or cold, plain or with cream. Serves 4-6.

The King of Puddings approves of this recipe.
I'll leave you to your now undoubtedly watering mouth. If you want to pick up the Texas the Beautiful Cookbook, its current incarnation is available at here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse in the Long Term

Alright, so you've survived the total breakdown of society and watched most if not all of your family get snacked on by the undead. You've brained zombies, you've killed walkers, you've survived mayhem, panic, chaos, and anarchy, and come out unscathed, or at least not a zombie, which means you win.

Now what?

Well, conventional wisdom, i.e. just about every zombie movie, book, and tv series out there, will tell you to find other survivors to increase your resources, help defend against further zombies, and to help try and rebuild society. But here's the thing: rebuilding society is a huge pain in the ass.
There's a reason Habitat for Humanity volunteers are usually court-ordered.

Seriously, who wants to be the new architect of humanity? Not me, that's for damn sure. And besides, if there's only a few dozen of you left (best case scenario), it's going to take a long time, and probably not going to be worth the effort. Most Americans I know can't even tell you how air conditioning works, much less lay out the plans for repairing the shattered remains of modern living. I've played enough Sim City to know that by the time you're done, you're thinking "why the hell did I spend so much time on that?"
Besides, if you're anything like me, your society will always end up looking like this anyway.

Fortunately, I have the answer for you. Traditional wisdom tells you that there is safety in numbers. Traditional wisdom is wrong. You see, in every zombie movie, book, tv show, etc., there is always trouble when people band together in groups. Turns out most people aren't mentally or physically prepared for an apocalypse and the end of life as we know it, and this tends to cause problems. Relying on other people for support means that you are only as strong as your weakest link; in other words, one idiot is all it takes to completely transform your heroic story of survival into a tragic tale of caution. 
See that guy with a skateboard? That is basically what I am talking about.
The answer is to keep to yourself. Being responsible for only your own survival (or maybe one other person, if you have a significant other you like enough to want around) is the best way to ensure that someone else won't cause your demise at the hands of zombies due to their survival ineptitude.
Zombie survival in the long term requires two things: finding a way to live relatively zombie-free, and being able to procure and maintain food, water, and shelter. Fortunately, there is one location that will easily (well, maybe not easily, but reasonably) provide both requirements and allow you to live out the rest of your days in relative peace and quiet.

The mountains.

I've always said that the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse for a long period of time (or really any apocalypse) is to head as far up into the mountains as you can and make your home there. I'll lay out a few reasons why.

1. Isolation

The mountains are a tough place to live. Consequently, most people tend to avoid them. This might sound horrible if you're addicted to Twitter and love shopping at the mall regularly, but it's actually probably the single biggest benefit in a zombie apocalypse. Living in the mountains means that people have to work to access you, and this is no different for zombies. Not only does being sparsely populated mean that you'll have less zombies to deal with at the outset, it also means that it's much more unlikely that zombies will just wander into your camp and try to eat your flesh while you're out choppin' wood or acting out scenes from Jeremiah Johnson. The point is that living in the mountains means that anyone who wants to get to you, be it a zombie looking for your delicious flesh or another survivor looking to steal your squirrel jerky, will have to work for it. And if there's one thing I know about Americans, it's that they're lazy as shit. The mountains will keep you safe, at least safer than living out your days scavenging for food at abandoned gas stations and elementary school cafeteria stockrooms.
You think a zombie is just gonna roll up on you when these are your digs? No way.
Which brings me to my next point..

2. Resources

If there's one thing I've learned from watching Jeremiah Johnson dozens of times (and I've learned WAY more than one thing), it's that the mountains can sustain human life indefinitely. People have been living in the mountains for centuries, and that's because they're able to. If you pick the right mountain, you will have ample access to food, clean (i.e. not polluted) water, and plenty of wood to build a shelter, keep a fire going, and generally hang out and grow a beard and do all the other stuff that mountain men do. As I said before, staying in an urban or even a rural area means that you're going to be constantly scavenging for food, all while dealing with zombies and other survivors who are competing for the same limited resources you're seeking. Not in the mountains. With a little survival know-how, you can hunt, fish, plant, and harvest all the food and water you need, all while not having to worry nearly as much about surprise zombie attacks and/or hungry survivors who just "happen" upon your camp. Granted, you may have to deal with things like bears and wolverines, and living entirely off the land would be pretty difficult, but let's face it, it's the end of society as we know it anyway, and living anywhere is going to be difficult. You might as well live in one of the few places that has enough natural bounty to keep you alive, right?
Of course, you'll want to choose your mountain carefully...

Splash Mountain is probably not the best choice.

3. Climate

Living in the mountains offers many distinct advantages over many other types of terrain, and one of the main benefits is that it gets COLD in the mountains. This is particularly important in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. As everyone knows, zombies are basically humans that aren't alive anymore, only they can walk around and eat brains and not get tired. However, even zombies have limitations, and one of them is that they're made of mostly water. This means that when it gets balls cold and everything freezes, guess what: zombies freeze too. One of the biggest problems with a post-apocalyptic zombie world is that you always have to watch your back. It's like living in Baltimore, only the drug dealers are zombies and the crooked cops are also zombies.
Unfortunately zombies don't whistle before they attack.
However, living in the mountains means that eventually it will get cold enough to freeze anything that's not alive and stay that way for a few months. Meaning that for a few brief months, you can sleep at night knowing that all the zombies in your area are frozen stiff and covered with snow. And if they were wearing jewelry when they became zombies, that basically makes them Christmas trees. Horrifying, hellish Christmas trees. Plus, if you're into that sort of thing, you can make dispatching wayward frozen zombies a fun game to pass the long hours of winter. And if you have a snow machine and gas, well, your winter just got a lot more bearable.
And if you have one of these, your winters are going to be sweet.

Living in the mountains is a tough game. You have to battle the elements, fight for survival, and devote most of your time and resources to staying alive and well off only your wits and the natural resources around you. But once society is gone and all that remains are the ghostly demons that walk the earth in search of fresh meat, all that sounds pretty awesome compared to scavenging for scraps in the urban wasteland that used to be called America. 

And no, I'm not telling you where my mountain refuge is going to be. If you want my brains or my jerky, you better come get it now.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Justin's Guide to Christmas Music

Christmas music is probably some of the best music there is. Just hearing it brings back warm feelings of holiday cheer, family, friends, gifts, and all the other trappings of Western middle-class privilege that most of us have grown up experiencing. So it's no secret that people love Christmas music. It's catchy, it's nostalgic, and it's one of the few genres of music that most of society knows all the words to.

But have we ever stopped to consider what these songs are really about? Lately I've been listening to Christmas music and realizing that these songs are not always the cheery, fun-filled holiday romps that I've come to know and love over the years. No, many of them, when closely examined, paint a much different picture of the Christmas season in America than Currier and Ives and those Coca Cola polar bears would have us believe (side note: who in the hell thought that polar bears would be a lovable mascot for the Christmas season? They are basically walking chainsaws with maces for hands that will swim 60 miles at a time just to murder other animals. What the hell does this have to do with a sugar-based carbonated drink?)
Always Coca-Cola.
 With that in mind, I thought we'd take a look at some popular holiday classics to determine what's really going on behind the merriment and good cheer.

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to ride and sing
A sleighing song tonight 

I don't know where these people came from, but the idea of riding around in an open carriage behind a horse with enough snow on the ground to warrant a sleigh is NOT fun, it's insane. Do you know how cold that would be? The wind alone would make you freeze in mere minutes, and you certainly wouldn't be singing any sleighing songs. Don't believe me? Wait until the dead of winter and drive around for a few minutes with all your car windows down. And I have some sad news for you-- if you're being driven out into the middle of the woods in the dead of winter by a crew who is impervious to bitter cold and laughing about it the whole time, guess what: you're probably not coming out of those woods. In short, Jingle Bells is about a bunch of murderous psychos driving their next victim out into the woods to harvest their flesh. 

Laughing all the way, making lampshades out of skin..

Winter Wonderland

In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He'll say: Are you married?
We'll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you're in town.
Later on, we'll conspire,
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid,
The plans that we've made,
Walking in a winter wonderland.

This one is only slightly creepier than the last one. Apparently the author is perfectly ok with not only inventing a person out of snow, but then having that imaginary person perform a legally binding wedding ceremony. And notice the next verse- conspiring to face the plans the person has made without fear. This is pretty much what serial killers do before they go out and murder people. In short, if a crazy person invents imaginary people and wants to conspire with you by a fire, don't take any sleigh rides with them.
Merry Christmas. The hour of cleansing is at hand.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town

Growing up, I was always told that Santa Claus was a benevolent figure that used some kind of preternatural powers to separate the good from the bad children and award gifts accordingly. This song paints a different picture. Santa Claus is watching you, all the time, even when you sleep, and will put you on a list and dole out your punishment accordingly. Hmm, extremely paternalistic, likes lists, no crying or dissent of any kind allowed, stern warnings precede his arrival... I think I know where Santa is going with this.
This guy wants a different kind of white Christmas.

Little Drummer Boy

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum

I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum 

I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum? 

So let me get this straight, guy: you show up to see a newborn infant, knowing you are too poor to get balloons or a onesie or anything, and your solution is to bang on a damn drum?? Let me tell you something- babies are fragile. They will wake up at the slightest noise, and their bodies are so delicate. THEY HAVE A FREAKING SELF-DESTRUCT BUTTON ON THE TOP OF THEIR SKULL FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! What in the hell makes you think it's a good idea to beat a drum in front of a newborn infant? I guess this is why you're poor.
Not much different than the drummer boy's gift

I'll get to some more songs soon.