Saturday, October 25, 2014

Treehouse of Horror Rewatch Part Deux

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XXIII (Season 24) 3.5 Soooo... apparently the ToH24 wasn't the first with a super-long pre-credits gag.  My bad. Good stuff, and it still holds up, even "And it'll be Obama's fault." 
  • Mayan Intro - 4.5 Good stuff all around, and I'll forgive using the Aztec calendar in a Mayan setting. El Castillo at Chichen Itza is pretty well-rendered, too!
  • The Greatest Story Ever Holed - 3.5 The accelerator doesn't find the Higgs Boson, but it does create a black hole. A workmanlike segment, but Zune jokes never get old*!
  • Unnormal Activity - 3.5 As a parody, meh**. On its own? Surprisingly good, saved by the ending threesome with Homer and 2 demons: "What's the safe word?" "Cinnamon"  "There are some things I want to try"... (Demon) "Cinnamon! CINNAMON!"
  • Bart and Homer's Excellent Adventure It's been 30ish years, time for a "Back to the Future" parody! This is one ripe for parody, but the Simpsons started at the wrong time -- a few years earlier and it'd have been a must, but they were too late. Fortunately, they stuck around until nostalgia kicked in.
"Even though you know it's comin', when you see your own beatin' heart, try to act surprised -- it's some kid's first time"
"Hey Marge, I'm setting my watch; what baktun is it?"
"I's rich! I's poor... and schackless"
"It's Homer - before his boobs came in!"
"You're just like Indiana Jones, son -- a role played by Richard Dreyfuss in our universe!"
"Crawl atop me... and meet your doom!" 
"Make Egyptian slave Homer do it!" "It's always me "
"Oh Marge, this is the purest love there is -- patient, supportive, ooooh! cleavage! Ahhhh-uhuh"

Treehouse of Horror XXII (Season 23) 0.5 2011 has made me realize that my standard criticism of The Family Guy is totally on point: it is a show made for YouTube, with lots of great 10-30 sec gags that are BARELY held together by a "plot". This is ok -- for 2-3 minutes. For 20+ week after week? Um, no. Easily the low point so far, and hopefully, overall.

  • The Diving Bell and the Butterball - 1.5 Yeah? Um, no. A few decent gags, but overall craptacular.
  • Dial D for Diddly - 2 Yeah, no. Apu's hot dogs? Telephone poles, killer whales zebras and tires. Mmmmmm... random... A rare segment where the payoff FAR outdoes the setup. This was going to be a 1, but the ending propped it up
  • In The Na'Vi - 0 uch. Not a fan of Avatar, less a fan of this dreck. Of course, you need substance to get a decent parody, so this one is on James Cameron -- and the world's filmgoers.
"Spend less time on your back and more time on your knees!" Flanders' advice to a hooker***
"Knitting one sweater for someone costs 27 Americans their jobs"

"He's got the proportionate strength of a paralyzed spider!"

Treehouse of Horror II (season 3): 3.5 A great start fizzles out badly.  On the bright side, the writers learned from this and stepped up their game considerably the next year

  • Lisa's Nightmare/The Monkey's Paw - 5 You're not getting a better mix of parody and straight comedy -- this is Treehouse gold.
  • Bart's Nightmare/The Bart Zone - 3 A classic Twilight Zone bit, but not bad at all.
  • Homer's Nightmare/If I Only Had A Brain - 2 A fairly lame brain transplant bit, though with some good one-liners.
"Hey! If you don't like it, go to Russia"
"Before I was just bored with their antics and their merchandise. Now I just wish they were dead."
"Behold! The greatest advancement in labor relations since the cat'o'nine tails!"
"Bad corpse! Bad corpse! Stop Scaring Smithers!"
"Ice cream scoop?" "Dammit, Smithers, this isn't rocket science -- it's brain surgery!"
"That fellow at Radio Shack said I was mad -- well, who's mad now? Mwahahahahaha!"

* Seriously, if you haven't heard Ballmer's reaction to the iPhone vs the Zune, you must click on this. "It'll do music, it'll do internet." Heh.
** I haven't actually seen Paranormal Activity. 
*** I'm assuming she's dead, so it's ok

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your Treehouse of Horror Guide

The Simpsons is now in its 26th season, which means the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode is turning 25! As a huge Simpsons fan and extremely unreliable blogger, I figured I'd put the week before Halloween to good use and watch all 25 episodes. Of course, this wouldn't be legally possible if it weren't for the too-good-to-be-true simpsonsworld -- every episode streaming online*. So, the plan is mix old and new -- starting with the most recent, I'll watch 2 episodes of "new" Treehouse to one of "classic".  And, of course, snark and review. Ratings are on a 0-5 scale, with 5 being the top, of course.

Treehouse of Horror XXV (Season 26) Only a week old, this is standard late-model Simpsons Treehouse: a parody of arguable timeliness, with two (fairly) original segments. However, they did make with the laugh laugh, so it's hard to 
  • School is Hell - 4.5 Bart flourishing in a school for demons? An unpromising premise far exceeded by the constant flow of jokes, from low to high brow -- and Homer's donut-eating torture gets a quick cameo!
  • A Clockwork Yellow - 4.5 A timely*** romp through most of Kubrick's oeuvre through the lens of "A Clockwork Orange" -- there's even a callback to "Barry Lyndon".
  • The Others The original Simpsons have returned several times, so this one was a bit weak -- until the ending. Seeing South Park, Miyazaki, Archer and Despicable Me versions redeemed the bit.
"Thank you for choosing the Burns Hellport, a division of Gulf and Western"
"You went to Hell and came back a winner -- just like Jesus!"
"You should not be out lugging, shin-slicing or eye-groining"
"The power of Chrysler compels you!"

Treehouse of Horror XXIV (Season 25) 2013's offering was very up and down -- one spectacular intro, two decent segments and an all-time dog. Here's the intro:  

  • Guillermo del Toro's Opening credits5 Three minutes of insanity referencing classic horror movies, novels, authors, the previous 23 episodes and del Toro's own movies
  • Oh, The Places You'll D'oh! - 4 The Seussian rhymes often do impress, even when the violence goes to excess!
  • Dead and Shoulders - 0.5 Oof. This was a dog. This is exactly the kind of hack-y crap The Simpsons should parody, not produce.
  • Freaks No Geeks Nothing outstanding... until the twist at the end, including the fake newspaper.
"From you I've learned to feel compassion for these disgustos"
"A wedding is no time to worry about threats from the bride's former lover"

The Simpsons Halloween Special (season 2): 3.5 Of all the Treehouses, this one stands out -- the writers clearly weren't sure if they were doing a comedy or a 80s-style mild horror, it's still good, after a very weak first segment.

  • Bad Dream House - 2 Some good bits, but no stand out lines. Like the rest of the episode, this was a bit too indebted to "The Twilight Zone"
  • Hungry Are The Damned - 4.5 The only segment that would be right at home in a later season, it's both a parody of classic sci-fi and funny in its own right.
  • The Raven It's not hilarious, but is there a better version of the Raven than narrated by James Earl Jones with Homer as the protagonist and Bart as the Raven? I'm going with no.
  • Best Non-Poe Line: "Everyone that comes from a race that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand" and "Well, it was written in 1845 -- maybe people were easier to scare back then"

This is exactly the sort of development that would have been fatal to my college career, had they had the internet on computers** back in the early 90s. 
** If you didn't recognize this quote, you desperately need to watch more of The Simpsons.
** 43 years isn't timely?

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Disney & Pixar, Click These!

Cool "princesses" throughout history and fiction that are too... something for an animated movie? I'm in. All stories, artwork, coolness and credit to:

Mariya - the badass soviet tank driver who BOUGHT HER OWN TANK to avenge her husband's death at the hands of the NAZIs. That's right -- the fing Nazis.

My favorite, though? Hatshepsut -- badass Egyptian pharaoh:

So, go and check 'em out. They're each awesome in their own way!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Cologne Space Invader Hunt

I've been a big fan of Space Invaders sinceI saw an exhibit in Ljubljana in 2006.  I've searched them out in Paris, London, Brussels, Amsterdam and Ljubljana. But I never found any in Cologne, in spite of living twenty minutes away.  In my defense, I couldn't waste time looking -- if any Kölners found out that a loyal 'dorfer was on their territory, I was at risk of being force-drunk kölsch*. However, Friday was a holiday, and I wasn't traveling.  So I figured I'd go on a hunt. Here's what I found. One I expected was missing -- did The MAN pull it? Or just some asshat civilian? Hard to say. But I'm betting on The Man.

The first was easy -- on the bridge from Deutz to the Hbf:
The next few were tougher, one on a pedestrian bridge:
One at Heumarkt:
Two near the Dom:

Some in the hipster section:

And a few near the tracks:

 * OK, in retrospect, it seems like I should've done this. Repeatedly.

A Tasty Test in Triplicate

I LOVE pulled pork. Juicy, smoky, tasty, it's the pinnacle of porkly arts*. Why, I wondered, don't we see more variations? The basic idea of slow-cooking** a fatty cut so that the flavor of the rub and the pork blend perfectly. But could the traditional cumin/cayenne/garlic/onion/brown sugar mix be expanded? Obviously, yes. My first test? Dried Mexican chilies to go for an almost dry mole flavor.

However, I am my mother's son, so a single test wasn't enough. I had to opt for a secondary cut because of circumstances beyond my control***, so I didn't get the preferred shoulder with a nice fatty layer. To counter this distinct disadvantage, I made two adjustments: 1) After I covered the meat in rub, I wrapped the cut with bacon -- then covered that in rub. 2) I had prepared for a few months by adding a bit of a fatty layer to the cook, too.

With these changes, I threw it into the oven and awaited the results. And this is what I found:

The foreground is the bacon, which is all kinds of tasty. This is definitely going to be added to the rotation.  The meat itself was dry and a bit tough -- definitely a far sight from the shoulder. And the rub? A win. It's a darker flavor, and not as sweet as my standard recipe (taken from here). But the anchos gave it a smoky flavor. It needs a bit of a lighter hand, so I'll try it next time with more cinnamon and some ground coriander. I'd like to get some cilantro in the mix, but I think the ideal will be fresh cilantro garnish and avocado slices on a homemade tortilla. Sadly, this will have to wait until the next batch.

A VERY rough approximation of a recipe:
6 Ancho Chiles
4 New Mexico Chiles
2 Pasilla Chiles
One handful whole cumin seeds
One handful whole black pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

Grind the chiles, cumin and pepper, then mix all together to make the run. Then, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of tastiness!

* OK, fine. It shares its place atop the pork pyramid with bacon.
** If you want to claim that only smoked pulled pork is "real" pulled pork, that's cool. But you won't get any of what I make in the oven.
*** I woke up too late for the farmer's market.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Your UPDATED! Guide to German Unity Day

Today, October 3rd, is German Unity Day. How do you celebrate? SHOULD you even celebrate? Here's your OFFICIAL JTinGermany guide to the holiday -- eight years in the making. If you want a throwback view of the day, check out my 2011 or 2009 guides*.

Do you live in Germany? If so, enjoy the best kind of holiday -- commemorating a (mostly) happy event, but without any annoying requirements. Enjoy coffee on your balcony**, write a snarky blog post***, go for a bike ride****, hit on an Ossi or just wear socks with your sandals. Go wild! But if you live near Munich, you damn well better hurry if you want to get a spot in a tent today!

Do you live in Texas? Continue your Ebola panic! 
Do you live in the rest of the USA? Either ignore/be ignorant of the day (the popular option), bitch about how Germans already get too many holidays & vacation days (if you know me or other Americans living in Germany), or make a joke about how 24 years of unified peace means it's almost time for Germany to start a war the USA will win***** (everyone else).

Do you live in the UK? If anyone mentions Germany Unity Day, reply with "Do they also get VE Day as a holiday? Oh, right, they don't." This should get at least a smile from even your most uptight of colleagues (i.e., your most English of colleagues).

Do you live in Russia? Mark your calendar for the looming new German holiday, "Russian Unity Day" coming in just a few years!******

Do you live in Austria? Have a schnitzel!

Do you live in France? You're probably unemployed or joining ISIS (too soon?), so enjoy your day off. If you're one of the "working" French, sit back with a Ricard and some Gauloises and reflect on how the rest of the world doesn't understand the laughable tragic opera that is life.

Do you live in Poland? Go sign up for a baking class and ignore the sound of tanks coming from the west.

Do you live anywhere else? I got nothin'*******.

Yes, I do make a bunch of the same jokes. Let's see you blog intermittently for 8 years with only new material.
** Done. 
*** Doing now.
**** Will be done after this. 
***** While ignoring the fact that the USA starts armed conflicts with alarming regularity. Unless you're talking to a German, and then you should preempt their pretentious statement of same by making a joke about it. That really chaps their hides.
****** And if you support the illegal invasions of Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, fuck right off. And when you get finished? Fuck off again, you jackass.
******* Which could probably have been the answer for the other questions, too. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Eff Tha Police

So we've got NYC police "men" choke-holding a man til he's dead and Missouri cops shooting a teen for, apparently, being black*. To respond, I have to say...

And, if that isn't clear, then...

Monday, July 28, 2014

London Book Benches Bike Binge

So, London has been flooded with book-shaped benches that each celebrate a book that is part of London's literary heritage (except Dickens, and, for some reason, Peter Pan, get two each).  Of course, "literary" is a flexible term, as one of the benches celebrates a... cricket almanac. However, the idea that cricket is a sport is a fiction*, so there's that.

The "Books About Town" event is sponsored by the National Literacy Trust and consists of 50 benches along 4 trails: Bloomsbury (near the Brit Museum), City (around St. Paul's and the Bank of England), Riverside (across the river from the Globe for about half a mile) and Greenwich (in, um, Greenwich). The Greenwich trail is cleverly located outside the range of the Boris Bike system, so you either get to pay some extra fees for keeping the bike too long or walk. Since I was hurting for time**, I opted to bike and then lug it back on the train.

My favorites:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe:
From London Book Benches 2014

A Brief History of Time:
From London Book Benches 2014

The Diary of Samuel Pepys:
From London Book Benches 2014

Most Disappointing? A tie between The Origin of the Species:
From London Book Benches 2014

and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
From London Book Benches 2014

And a slideshow with each of the benches

* I also think baseball is not a sport, so shut up about "Americans not understanding cricket". I understand it, but any "sport" that has breaks for tea time is a game.
** Also, I am lazy.