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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Very Special Lileks Thanksgiving

From today's Bleat:

My guest did not arrive... Turns out that there are other people attempting to leave the East coast by plane this time of year - go figure - so he's driving, and should roll up to Jasperwood Wednesday night. Which means we will have an Aussie for Thanksgiving.

Mmmm-mmm! Them's good eatin'!

Now, the best way to cook Aussie, obviously, is on the barbie, but that might not be practicable in Minnesota in late November. I assume the Aussie in question is Tim Blair, who looks a goodish size, so I hope you have a large oven. Otherwise you're going to have to cut him up and freeze him (or, in Minnesota, just store him out in the back yard).

This is the perfect time to post my recipe for Stuffed Aussie[*]. The very first ingredient you will need (er, besides the Aussie) is beer. Lots and lots of beer. Don't be getting that Foster's crap. Australian for beer is not Foster's, but Victoria Bitter. I don't say it's good beer, but it's way more popular than Foster's. But you probably don't have a supply of that on hand at such short notice, so any beer will do, although he may kick if you try to feed him Bud (or Busch, Pabst, Schlitz, Blatz, or Miller).

Besides beer you will need:
About 100 cups of bread cubes (see below)
1 bunch celery
2 medium-to-large onions
4 or 5 mangoes
4 cups white raisins
2 cups chicken broth
4 lightly beaten eggs
8 tsp ground sage
12 tsp salt
4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Butter, softened
More beer. Quite a lot of beer.

Now, once you've poured enough beer into your Aussie, he'll pass out (note: for an Aussie, this requires an awesome amount of beer). The trick is not to pass out yourself, and there you're on your own. After he's good and unconscious, you can dispatch him by any convenient method. Then you must clean and gut him, and there again you're on your own. I don't even cut up chickens anymore. You might want to truss his legs up so he fits in the oven better.

Now, if you want to roast him whole it's going to take a good while, so you might want to start the proceedings as soon as he arrives. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Farenheit.

For the stuffing, you're going to want to use damper; this is a very popular bread in Australia, sort of a pioneer bread I guess. Brumby's Breads makes a nice spinach and feta cheese damper, but again you probably don't have that on hand. So while you're waiting for Tim to arrive, bake up a bunch of drop biscuits. Damper is essentially a giant drop biscuit, so you should be all right with those. My cookbook doesn't have a recipe for roast Aussie, but it says that you'll need 12 cups of bread cubes for a 12 pound turkey. I make Tim about 180 pounds (hard to tell, since I don't know how tall he is), but the body cavity on a human is smaller, in proportion, than a turkey's, so let's say 100 cups of bread cubes. It might be a good idea to make more biscuits, just in case you find you need them.

So, once your biscuits are baked, break them up into cubes (Gnat can help with this, if they're not too hot), and stick them back in the oven to dry on a low temperature. Meanwhile, slice up a bunch of celery and two medium onions, and sautee them in butter until the onion's clear. Peel and pit the mangoes and cut them into small cubes. They just love mangoes in Australia, for some unknown reason, so this will go well with your Aussie. Combine bread cubes, celery, onion, mangoes, raisins, chicken broth, and seasonings. The broth won't be sufficient to moisten this much stuffing, so add more beer until the bread is thoroughly damp, and just a little soupy. Add eggs and mix thoroughly.

Rub inside with salt. No, the Aussie's inside; I suppose after this much beer, I need to make that plain. Add stuffing. Dot Aussie with butter, place in shallow baking tray, and cover lightly with foil. Roast at 325 for 24 to 36 hours. Yes, in the oven. Baste frequently with beer. Remove foil for last 20 minutes.

When you can wiggle his leg freely, remove Aussie from oven and let rest for ten minutes. Discard stuffing. Discard Aussie. Drink the rest of the beer. Prepare chicken nuggets for child and tell her they're roast Aussie. Remove child to safe place, such as the basement. Load guns. Practice screaming, "You'll never take me alive, coppers!"

[*] Obligatory disclaimer: Not a real recipe. Do not kill people and eat them. Do not expose human tissue to temperatures of 325 degrees Farenheit. Do not shoot at police. Keep away from small children. Have a bit of flippin' sense, for God's sake.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Guardian Update

Two weeks ago I found that my humble, unassuming blog had been mentioned in the Guardian, in connection with some drivel I wrote on the subject of Charles and Camilla's visit to the U.S.

Well! Cool beans, eh? But what did they say? Niles refused to call and get his parents out of bed to drive to Milton Keynes and find an open newsagent, so I was stuck with the Guardian's digital edition. I could pay a pound and a half for twenty-four hours access, or I could wait until that issue was precisely two weeks old and get it for free.

I am dead broke and dirt cheap, and so I chose the latter option, and yesterday I made my spring, and downloaded the PDF. The mention appears in a little sidebar on p. 2, entitled "Today on the web: Charles and Camilla", and my portion reads:

What some newspapers have called the Un-Diana tour has so far failed to grip the country. "Are there Americans really give a damn about whether there's a Queen Camilla? As some of us keep pointing out, we fought a war to make sure we'd never have to care again."

[N.B. Only the words in quotes are mine.]

THAT'S IT? That's my quote?? I'm not complaining about the brevity, but the levity. This is the least funny bit in the whole post! I mean, the next two sentences are: "Surely you've read about it. It was in all the papers." Now that's funny. Unoriginal, but funny.

I was going to cease taunting them out of gratitude[*], but now that's all off. I shall continue to mock them like nobody's business. Leftist toads.

Thanks again to master Guardian baiter Scott Burgess for the heads-up.

[*]This is a lie.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Time Lag

One of Instapundit's readers notes that today's "Doonesbury" (which I didn't see; I haven't read it in years) comes from an alternate universe in which Harriet Miers is still being considered for the Supreme Court. This was also true of last week's "Opus", which was at least amusing and non-partisan.

Perhaps Breathed has decided that being cutting-edge topical is too difficult and risky, because this week's "Opus" is recycled from an old "Bloom County" strip, in which Steve Dallas comes home to find his mother in his house. She's been cleaning and opens up his anxiety closet to discover that she's in it. He even uses the same damn punchline!

At least "Opus" is charming and occasionally amusing. I used to love "Sylvia". I went so far as to attend a performance of Sylvia's Real Good Advice in Chicago, many years ago. (Featuring the cat national anthem "Everything Here Is Mine".)

Alas, Nicole Hollander has come down with a bad case of Bush Derangement Syndrome and has sacrificed her wit in favor of non-stop Bush bashing. Here are a few completely fictional examples that I think will give the flavor of her recent work.

(Sylvia is watching TV.)
TV Announcer: Here's a tiny news item. It involves something the government did about two weeks ago. We really can't do it justice in the three panels of this cartoon. But if we say it fast, it'll sound funny.
Sylvia: Rita, can I...
Rita: No, Mom.

The Woman Who Lies in Her Diary Goes to Washington DC...
Woman writing: "Today I went to DC and who should I run into but Donald Rumsfeld! 'Rummy!' I cried. 'I just love you! Can I have your autograph?' And then I whipped out my favorite purple fountain pen and thrust it into his eye, stabbing repeatedly until the blood gushed and his brains spurted. 'This is for the poor innocents at Abu Ghraib!' I shouted, as thousands cheered."
Woman (to viewer): "Oh, like you never thought of it."

The Rhino series.

A. I would really like for President Bush to meet with me personally and show me all the intelligence he got which implied that Saddam Hussein was working on WMDs and carefully explain that he honest and truly did not lie to get us into a war so that his old oil buddies would become 0.0001% richer.

B. I'd rather be buggered by a rhino with Saddam's mustache.

If you didn't think any of that was funny, then I have accurately captured the tenor of "Sylvia" these days. Sad, really.

Not the Best Part of Wakin' Up

Since Niles and I returned home from our Rita-induced exile, we've had a whole new explanation for life's mundane little vexations and oddities. For example, we woke up yesterday morning to find that our beloved jungle-print sheets were cut to ribbons, and there was a further patch that was worn thin and full of holes. We never noticed the thin patch before, and have no idea how holes could have been made so quickly.

We don't have a cat, nor a poltergeist, nor, to our knowledge, a small time warp which caused the sheets to age overnight. So we must rely on our new all-purpose fall-back explanation: "Hurricane did that."

Industry has apparently embraced this handy excuse as well, as evidenced by this incident (third one down, under "BEVERAGES"):

AINSWORTH, IOWA - Marjorie Morris was shell-shocked
[har -- A.S.] by what she found in her freeze-dried coffee.

Morris, 77, of Ainsworth, said she found a dead baby turtle in a 2-pound package of Folgers last Sunday. Morris said she had been making coffee from the package for a month before she made the discovery...

Morris said a Folgers representative explained that because many Folgers facilities are in New Orleans, the turtle might have been in the coffee because of Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane put a turtle in that woman's coffee! Fear the power of the hurricane!

In other Folgers news, their plant in New Orleans has returned to full capacity:

The plant, which produces more than half of Folgers coffee, has slowly resumed operations since the hurricane...

Coffee supplies were disrupted, causing some shortages, and some Folgers was shipped in metal cans.

Everyone knows that turtles spontaneously generate in metal coffee cans. That's why they stopped making them.

By the way, Mrs. Morris says she does not plan to sue Folgers, which makes her rarer than a turtle entombed in coffee.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Comet of the Mapes

Come back with me now...back...back to the last century, when the Web was new and dewy. In those sepia-tinted days, a comet did appear, and it was called Hale-Bopp. And an amateur astronomer did take an image of it with his CCD rig, and he did find something unexpected: a Saturn-like object.

That's in that top photo. The very bright blob is Hale-Bopp, and the bright thing to the right, with the line through it, is a star. Except the "astronomer", Chuck Shramek, didn't see it on his star chart. This was due to the odd behavior of his astronomical software. That sort of thing might happen to anybody (I "discovered" Mars once in a similar fashion), but Shramek immediately leaped to the conclusion that it was a spaceship following the comet. Who wouldn't? See here if you want all the fun details. Nearly ten years and the page is still going strong.

Well, radio host Art Bell got hold of that, and there was a great disturbance in the Force, and the astronomical Usenet groups burned with the news for months. More responsible heads tried to explain the origin of the line through the object (diffraction spikes), and the fact that proper use of the star chart showed there was an ordinary star at that position, but some were determined to be unconvinced.

In particular, one fellow, whose name I did not note, claimed that just because the star was a star and not, in fact, a spaceship did not mean that there was no spacecraft accompanying the comet. After all, the aliens could be hiding behind the comet! There, what do you have to say about that, Mr. Smarty-Pants scientist?

I was agog. Leaving aside the incredible improbability of the whole thing for a moment, the only "evidence" for a spacecraft was the strange object. Once that was explained, there's no reason to believe in comet-tailgating spacecraft.
I thought I'd discovered the world's stupidest human being.

Apparently, I was wrong.

I owe that man an apology.

(The thing that really steams me about the whole Mapescapade is that this is a woman, several years older than I, who had a position of tremendous responsibility in a media giant, yet she seems not to have the brains God gave gravel. OK, OK, I can sort of accept that after months -- I think it was -- of careful research, she was unable to discern that there was something fishy about the print on the memo in question. But even now, after it's been explained to her and everyone else in gory detail -- multiple times, so the slower kids can catch up -- she still believes there's an AWOL following Comet Bush, and we'd all see it if those reactionary, close-minded blogologists weren't suppressing the Truth.)

(Also, for the sake of my title, I hope "Mapes" is pronounced "Mapes" and not, e.g., "May Pees", because I managed to get through the whole Miers contretemps without hearing about it on TV, and so for the longest time I thought her name was pronounced "Meers", and it was only when various wags started coming up with titles such as "Miers Deniers" that I twigged.)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

University of Horror!

Niles and I are big MST3K fans, but, alas, it is no more. The MST principals have picked up a few other gigs here and there, though. Mike Nelson, for example, provides audio commentary for a version of the horror "classic" Carnival of Souls.

So tonight Niles and I snuggled in with this movie, little realizing the sheer horror that would await us.

Carnival of Souls begins in some nameless burg (which is actually Lawrence, Kansas) with a couple of juvenile delinquents challenging three girls, who look like Sunday school teachers, to a drag race. After some initial hesitation ("Do you think we should, Doris?" "Oh, I don't know, Emma."), they accept. When the race takes them over a narrow bridge, the delinquents repeatedly ram the girls' car, then act all surprised when it goes into the river.

Three hours later the cops are dragging the river, but have just about given up, 'cause of the strong current and the silt and the fact that the river's five, maybe six feet deep just there. But wait! One of the girls (who probably had a name, but I wasn't paying attention) is crawling out of the water! How she got out after three hours, or where the others are, or what Teddy Kennedy joke should go here, she can't explain.

A couple days later she goes on merrily to her pre-arranged job as a church organist in Salt Lake City. But she does not escape so easily, for all the way to Salt Lake, and at her church job, and in her dismal rented room, she is stalked by a man in too much make-up (Herk Harvey, director and Head Zombie). She's repeatedly drawn to an abandoned amusement park, where in the end Herk and the Zombies grab her and drag her into the lake. The cops find her last traces there, but her footprints in the sand lead nowhere. She turns up who-knows-how-long later, back at the bottom of the river with the two other girls in Lawrence. Gasp!

So, of course the filmmakers really wanted the horror to lie in the overuse of make-up and the partying zombies and the times when the woman seems to vanish from the world of the living. But the real horror lies in her scenes with her fellow lodger, the groping, leering, oleaginous John. Ewwww!

John shows up at her door shortly after she gets there. She's just out of the bath, and opens the door thinking he's the landlady. Seeing her clad only in a towel, he naturally tries to ooze in, acting as if he couldn't imagine how a lubricious stranger might threaten a woman by trying to push his way into her room while she's half-nekkid. (I've known guys like that.)

Now, back in '62, especially in places like Lawrence, women didn't know how to administer groin kicks or instep stomps or Vulcan death grips, so she has to get rid of him politely. He is not deterred, however, and shows up the next morning with "unsanitary coffee" the moment her alarm has stopped ringing. He pursues her like this for a couple days, at one point molesting a stair banister while he asks her on a date (no, really). We are led to believe that this woman feels no need for human contact ('cause she's dead, see), and yet she prefers the company of the loathesome John to being alone with her lurking zombie nemesis. Frankly, I don't see it.

John's performance was so oily, so sticky, and so grimy as to comprise the true terror of this film, making the climax -- where she's chased down by the cheerful zombies -- seem a happy ending in comparison to what might have awaited her in the rooming house. I'm pretty sure this was unintentional.

But that wasn't the really scary thing.

The really scary thing happened when we looked at the "special features" included with the movie, and learned that the man who played "John", Sidney Berger, is now Doctor Sidney Berger, Director of the School of Theater at the University of Houston.


I'll never sleep in this town again.

By the way, this version of Carnival of Souls is colorized. I do not understand this burning desire to colorize black-and-white movies. Depending on the movie, it could even be sacrilegious. But this is a darned good colorization, except, as always, for the skin tones, which look like they were hand-tinted by third-graders wielding Crayola crayons ("flesh").

Oh, yeah: Dr. Sidney "John" Berger is co-founder and producer of the "Children's Theatre Festival". THE HORROR. THE HORROR.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Holy cow. According to Scott Burgess, this humble blog was mentioned in no less than the Guardian -- today's print edition only, apparently, so no link -- in connection with Charles and Camilla's visit to the US, and Charles's ill-advised (purported) scolding of Bush.

I got an email today from a fellow on the subject. I wondered why I had a reader.

Oh, goodness, and I didn't even dust, or look up the proper spelling of "feng shuied" (turns out there isn't one, so that's all right then).

So, welcome, Guardian consumers! Make yourselves comfortable, take a look around. Try some of this pate: made from force-fed, battery-kept baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, ritually humiliated and mechanically separated in Chimpy McHitlerburton's AmeriKKKa. Enjoy!