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Friday, November 28, 2014

REAL MEN COOK XXVI: Popcorn Grits

There is a show on PBS put out by Anthony Bourdain in which he examines some of the world's top chefs, learning their influences, interests, inspirations, and what makes them cook.  Its a bit uneven with the best of the show in the first season, but it was fascinating viewing on Netflix.
One of the recipes that was on there I haven't made but would like to try some time (with margarine instead of butter).  Its a pretty simple recipe that although being fussy and time consuming is something anyone could try at home.  
And it has very few ingredients:
  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Butter or margarine; butter gives best results, I expect
  • Water
  • Salt
Hardware required:
  • Wire Strainer
  • Saucepan
  • Spoon
  • Another Strainer
Now, Chef Patterson cooked the popcorn very old fashioned style on the stove in oil, but I recommend my Home Microwave Popcorn recipe just for simplicity's sake.  You'll want at least one bag's worth, probably 2 would be ideal for a breakfast.  Pop it up and set the popcorn aside.
Warm up several cups of water and several spoonfuls of butter (if you want exact measurements, use 3 cups water and a quarter cup butter) in a saucepan.  You don't want boiling, just hot.
Toss some popcorn into the water; how much depends on your sauce pan but you want just enough that the popcorn will soften and become soggy.  Strain out the popcorn, saving the liquid.  Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and warm again, repeating this process until you've got all the popcorn a nasty soggy mass.  Stay with me.  When you've done all the popcorn leave the liquid in the bowl you strained it into and set it aside.
Now get a strainer out, not the wire mesh kind but a more sturdy one with bigger holes if you have it. toss a handful of soggy popcorn into the strainer and use a large spoon to mash it through the holes in the strainer.  once all you have left is hulls and seeds, discard that out and start with a new batch until you've mushed all of the popcorn through.
Now I'm reasonably sure you can store the remaining guck for a few days in the refrigerator in a closed container.  I find old margarine containers are good for storing leftovers etc.  But you want to eat now.
Toss the strained guck into your sauce pan with a cup of the water/butter liquid.  By now enough corn starch and flavor will be part of the liquid to add to the popcorn.  Cook this until you get a texture something like thick grits.  Because that's what you just made: grits.
But these grits taste like popcorn, so they are even better.  And usually grits takes like 8 hours to prepare from corn kernels, but this took a half hour or less.
Salt and eat.
Again I've not attempted this so I don't have any insider tips, but I watched the chef prep them while talking to another chef and it went pretty smoothly.  And it sounds delicious.  You make this for the family and they're going to think you're a culinary deity.
*This is part of the Real Men Cook series.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

INSIDE THE HINDENBURG

"Oh the humanity!"

Most people know of the Hindenburg from a Led Zeppelin album cover or the famous radio broadcast.  I suspect that the immediacy and that reporter's horrified, genuine shock at what he saw ended the entire idea of airships, which is a real shame because they are wonderful craft.
These days airships are starting to build interest and momentum again, which I hope takes off.  People think of air travel as expensive, uncomfortable, but fast.  They should change their thinking to be more like cruise ships for zeppelins.  Not very fast, but incredibly scenic and luxurious.
The Hindenburg was big.  As in, vastly enormous.  Bigger than you think.  It was much, much bigger than even the biggest planes ever built, by several times.  The Hindenburg was 135 feet across, or half a football field. You could have a picnic on the top and not worry about falling off.
As you can see from size comparison, modern passenger jets are dwarfed by the Hindenburg.  At 245 feet long, it was longer than the White House:
It held 50 passengers and had a top speed of almost 90 miles an hour.  With separate gas envelopes totaling over seven million square feet, it had enough lift to move more than 250 tons.  If you've seen how big the Goodyear Blimp is well...

The Hindenburg cruised in pretty good luxury.  But pictures of the interior are not as impressive as you'd initially think.  A lot of the interior was very simply built, and weight saving measures were used everywhere.


As you can see the interior bulkheads were light and simple.  The chairs and walls remind me of my junior high school in the 70s.  It actually doesn't look nearly as classy as I expect.  I was thinking more like the beautiful dining area of the zeppelin in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I like the images on the walls though.



Some of the interior shows the weight saving.  That ladder, for example is light weight and the folding luggage holder.


In any case, its fascinating to me to glimpse almost 100 years in the past and see inside the doomed airship.

Monday, November 24, 2014

PAT NOVAK FUN

"I rent boats and do anything else that goes with a weak will and a strong stomach."

Before Dragnet, before everyone knew him, Jack Webb did several other radio shows.  The best of them was called Pat Novak for Hire, about a boat owner and general odd jobs guy who kept getting involved in various pulpy adventures.
What set this show apart was the writing, which was noire hard boiled writing at its absolute best.  The primary writer Richard L. Breen who went on to write such films as State Fair, Niagra, and PT 109.  And his work was poetry.  The interaction between Novak and his nemesis on the police force Lieutanant Hellman is classic and usually hilarious, and the philosophical monologues and musings of drunken ex-doctor Jocko Madigan is unique to the show.
So not feeling really on top of my game I'm going to give you some quotes from the show's all-too-brief 1946-47 run.
Every show starts with a grim and often bitter intro by Pat Novak about how hardcore his life and the world he moves through is.  This is San Francisco back before the hippies, the toughest place in America and one of the roughest places in the world.
"Around here a set of morals won't cause any more stir than Mother's Day in an orphanage. Maybe that's not good, but that's the way it is. And it wouldn't do any good to build a church down here, because some guy would muscle in and start cutting the wine with wood alcohol. All you can do is try to make the books balance, and the easiest way to do that is to keep one hand on your billfold and the other hand on somebody else's."
"Down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, you always bite off more than you can chew. It's tough on your windpipe, but you don't go hungry."
"Pat Novak, for hire. It's about the only way you can say it. Oh, you can dress it up and tell how many shopping days there are 'til Christmas, but if you got yourself on the market, you can't waste time talking. You got to be as brief as a pauper's will, because down in the waterfront, in San Francisco, everybody wants a piece of the cake, and the only easy buck is the one you just spent. Oh, it's a good life. If you work real hard and study a little on the side, you got a trade by the time you get to prison."
Almost all of these are worth listening to and as hardboiled as a fifteen year egg.
Then there were the descriptions.
"He stood at the door for a minute, and then he walked out. You got a funny feeling that he didn't walk into the night, that he was big enough to wrap it around his shoulders and take it with him."
"I watched her as she turned and walked out the door. She was wearing a flowered print dress, and as she walked, the roses kept getting mixed up with the daisies. She walked with a nice friendly movement, like the trap door on a gallows."
"Hellmann rolled him out onto the linoleum--a dapper little guy, except for a piece of cord around his throat, tied in a funny knot. He was deader than a broken drum. Somebody had pulled too hard on that piece of cord. The veins were standing out in his forehead, and his face looked like a roadmap lying around there on the floor."
"The reception committee didn't help much. They were sharks in dark, all three of them, with rolls of loose oily fat where there necks should have been, and small pig eyes that squinted through the cigar smoke rolling out of wide nostrils."
"He was about the size of a golf bag with arms. If he had a cigar box, he could see over a pool table."
And then there were the moments, where Pat Novak had to say something for the audience when he really didn't want to.
"He slipped out of my arms and stopped paying taxes." 
"He couldn't have made it with a prayer book in both hands. He slid down to the floor and trembled for a moment and then flattened out like a leaf in a pool of water. Just before he died, he grabbed his side, as if he didn't like the way it hurt, and then he didn't care. I rolled him on his back and let him look at the ceiling. His eyes were open, and he looked surprised, like a guy who didn't figure on a change in the weather. There was a scar that ran across his forehead and dug deep into his hairline. And he was lying there with a bunch of pink gum showing, as if he was trying to pick up a few bucks with a toothpaste ad."
Novak wasn't fond of Hellman, despite the fact that the Inspector wasn't such a bad guy.  After a few episodes you notice that he's smarter than he seems, and uses Novak to solve his cases.
"I crossed over and knocked at the door. The guy that opened it had a face like three pounds of warm putty. It was moist and pink, and you got the idea they put the color in with a spray gun. And if his heart was made of the same stuff, they drained the oil out first."
"Hellmann, you ought to rent an idiot. The heavy thinking's too much for you."
"You couldn't strike oil in a filling station."
"I can't wait that long, Hellmann. You couldn't find a tractor on the back porch. I'd hang if I waited for your boys."
"He was a tough, hard cop, with a heart big enough to hide behind a piece of birdseed." Hellman: How 'bout that guy on the couch?
Here's a sample exchange between them; Imagine Hellman's voice as read by Raymond Burr, because that's who played him. And he played him plenty tough.
Novak: There's a gal up there, but that's all.
Hellman: Does she wear suspenders?
Novak: What?
Hellman: Then take my word, it's a man.
Novak: And you're gonna tell me he's dead, Hellmann.
Hellman: No, I'm not gonna tell you he's dead, Novak. He may be a soft breather.
And then there just were the lines, like poetry written in bullets, with a wreath of cigarette smoke around them.
"Father, you better be on call when I catch up to the guy. He's gonna have a lot of praying to do."
 "For some reason, I felt like a man in quicksand complaining about his height."
 "His head was over to one side, and his body was twisted over the other away, as if he couldn't make up his mind which direction to die in."
 "I tried to follow the conversation, but it was like trying to put a smoke ring in your pocket."
 "I didn't have any leads. There wasn't anything I could do but sit on my hands. It was like taking your niece to a nightclub."
If you want to listen to some shows, there are a few on Youtube, and most of the broadcast run on various Old time Radio sites such as Dumb.com.  Here's one show on Youtube to enjoy:


Friday, November 21, 2014

THE PRINCIPLE OF REVERSAL

"A spanking! A spanking!"
-The Nuns of Castle Anthrax

In the early 1970s, there was an effective principle that feminists would use to try to get people to rethink their presumptions and behavior.  They said that people should reverse the genders in their stories and treatment.  For example this ad:
Now, feminists said, reverse them.  Have the woman in the bed smug and arrogant, and have the man kneeling servile and cringing before the man, showing her its a woman's world.  How's that seem to you now?  Or take this scene from Goldfinger:
James, say hello to Felicity. (Hello!) Felicity, say hello to James. (Hello James) James say goodbye to Felicity.  Woman talk (smacks James on the hind end).
Its a pretty effective tool and  its something I try use in general life: how would I feel if it were reversed?  How would I react, is it just or reasonable still?  This did actually get men to stop and reconsider their behavior and attitudes, because they hadn't ever thought it through before.  They were just behaving how everyone did and didn't consider it at all.
These days, the reversal is nearly complete.  Feminists are the ones that are doing the mindless ill-considered hammering and they would benefit significantly from using this little tool.  There has been some truly ridiculous stuff in the news lately, but one I want to draw attention to first is a bit obscure.  It has to do with a college urinal.  Cathy Young writes at Minding the Campus:
[Michael] he waxes enthusiastic about “rape awareness” measures that treat all men as potential rapists–such as “splash guards” on a college’s public urinals with the slogan, “You hold the power to stop rape in your hand.”
This is a real thing.  As Mrs Young notes:
imagine proposing that 'You are looking at someone who can stop terrorism' be inscribed on bathroom mirrors at a campus Islamic center
This is one of those ideas that seems great in the planning room while surrounded by like-thinking folks but in practice is at best really tacky and insulting.  The presumption that all men are rapists is standard among the really angry feminist crowd, but extending that to official college campus equipment is nearly criminal.
And of course, there's the whole shirt fiasco.  A scientist is lead on a team of engineers and designers that managed to land a craft on top of a comet to test it out - a truly astonishing feat of engineering - and what happens?  His Hawaiian shirt is attacked by the bitter, humorless left.
Now, apply the principle above to this.  How would the women react if a woman did something this amazing and world-class in science, and the guys in the audience... fixated on her clothing?  This is such an obvious, no-brainer its hard to imagine how someone could possibly not think through more carefully but again, sometimes you can get locked so much into a culture you don't even have the beginning tools to consider what you're doing.  So isolated, so surrounded by like-thinking people who reinforce your worldview that it never occurs to you to question what you say or do.
This graphic does a good job of illustrating the basic problem of approach here:

These are the same sort of women that hounded Chancellor Summers from Harvard for daring to suggest that maybe there are fewer women in sciences and math because... brace yourselves... maybe fewer women are interested in these fields?  Inconceivable!
Everyone that works in an office knows that women can hang shirtless hunky men in their cubical but men cannot put anything remotely resembling a beautiful woman up without being attacked for objectifying women, creating a hostile workplace, and facing potential dismissal and at best going through sensitivity training designed to crush individuality and enforce a certain leftist ideology.
The truth is, the feminists involved in this fiasco that crushed the engineer's spirit so badly he was weeping openly on camera apologizing for wearing a celebratory shirt a woman made for him are not very popular these days.  Feminism in general has waned in power and influence largely because they accomplished their goals.  When your movement wins, people tend to pat you on the back and move on.
And this group of unpleasant sorts represents a very unattractive side of the left these days; the kind of people who want to restrict your drink sizes, change your child's lunches, take candy out of their hands, prevent you from doing anything fun at all because its potentially harmful/sexist/bigoted/bad for the environment etc.
People use words such as "puritanical" and there's some historical validity to this claim, but the truth is, these sorts of people have always been with us, and shift from political or religious group to another without regard to the group.  They aren't about the religion, they are about control and power.  They are about making everyone else do what they wish and stop doing what they don't like.
These are the book burners, the witch dunkers, the people who ban trans fats in restaurants, the kind of people who ban smoking in bars and demand first base coaches wear helmets in baseball like a retarded kid who you're afraid will bash his head.
And almost all of them these days are on the left, because that's where the power is.  That's where they have the greatest ability to enforce their will on others.  They know best, you are inferior and stupid and wrong.
And these kind of people should never, ever be given the power to implement their will, because in the end it always leads down the road to Katyn Forest, The Killing Fields, The Disappeared, and Auschwitz.