Jan 31, 2011

Beer Review: Bourbon Cask Aged Brews

One of the biggest things happening with beer right now is ale aged in bourbon casks.  The bourbon casks are usually charred white American oak that previously held whiskey for anywhere from 5-23 years.  Aging the beer for a period of time in these casks changes the character of the brew in just about every way.  It all depends on the time in the cask, the type of whiskey, the type of ale and the fermentation agenda. 

A couple of weeks ago, we picked up a few bottles of bourbon-cask beer before one of the many snowstorms that we have been living through up here in the Northeast.  So we figured we would do our own little tasting while we were being snowed in.  There are worse things I could do...

The first one we tried was from Widmer Brothers Brewing Company in Oregon called Barrel Aged Brrrbon.  This one was a Winter Warmer style ale, which usually means it's a heavily spiced ale.  At least in this country.  Nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon...pretty much any traditional Christmas spice is either added or the flavor is mirrored through the fermentation process.  Yeasts can do that, ya know.  It hasn't been running to rave reviews on the beer sites, and at around $13 a bottle (22oz) it is one of the more reasonable bourbon aged brews around.  Believe it or not.  But despite all that, we enjoyed it immensely.  It had a real nice whiskey kick/aroma and all that extra alcohol (9.6% ABV) didn't detract from the taste of the spiced ale.  A real nice beer.

The second one we tried was from Goose Island Beer Co. in Chicago called Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout 2010.  Goose Island is THE name in bourbon cask aged beers right now.  Generally the hardest to find and the most expensive around.  A 22oz bottle of this went for around $17 and came in at a whopping 13.0% ABV!!!  But it was soooo good.  I love a good vanilla stout, and the addition of the bourbon notes just really worked well with this brew.  A great sipping beer, you aren't going to want to have more than one of these.  A little too sweet for that.  The extra alcohol might dissuade you as well.  But only if you is the wussy kind of folk.  This is a great beer, and I highly recommend it.

The last one we tried that evening was also from Goose Island called Rare Bourbon County Stout.  Let me tell you a little about this beer.  The barrels that they use come from Pappy Van Winkle 23-year old Family Reserve Bourbon.  So the barrels have whiskey in them for 23 years!  Then this beer for another 2 years.  The result is...well, of course it's remarkable.  Big-time bourbon characteristics are heaped on top of an already pretty damn good beer.  Big-time alcohol as well, coming in at 13.0% ABV.  But here's the catch...it's really expensive.  We paid around $45 for a 22oz bottle of this stuff, and it is going for even higher on eBay.  There isn't a lot to go around, but it seems like someone is getting rich off this stuff.  So while it's a seriously awesome stout, I really wouldn't recommend it for the price.

Jan 28, 2011

A small gesture of kindness

So both Gia and I are sick right now.  She a bit worse off than I.  She came down with a case of bronchial pneumonia and I got the lesser winter cold version.  Not fair, because I was sick first last week, got better, then caught it again when she got sick.  Vicious circle, neh?

And then we got 18 inches of snow instead of the 2-5 inches that was predicted.  I was dreading the snow removal process.  I knew it wouldn't be good to do the shoveling myself...hell, it could have killed me.  So I was planning on waiting until Friday or Saturday to dig out.  But when you leave it for a few days, it becomes harder to shovel.  So like I said, I was dreading it.

Then around 2PM yesterday, I heard some people laughing and shoveling outside.  It was our neighbors.  They were shoveling out for us.  I saw them the day before and they knew we were both under the weather, so they decided to help us out a bit.

Isn't that nice?

I go back to hating humanity tomorrow, but for right now...you kids are alright.

Jan 27, 2011

The Coenfographic

25+ years, 15 films, 50 actors, 96 characters.  All courtesy of this this person.  Can you name all five Coen Brothers films that Steve Buscemi has appeared in?  Sure you can.  But if you can't, then click on that image below and follow the infographic, man. 

clicky clicky to diggy diggy

And a hearty thanks to everyone who commented yesterday. You kids rock and roll.

Jan 26, 2011


Lots of stuff going on in life right now.  Not all of it is good either.  Quite the contrary, actually.

But I decided a long time ago to fore-go spilling the intimate details of my life here in these pages.  Did a quick cost-benefit analysis, as I do, and the costs outweighed the benefits by a considerable margin.  So let's stick with generalities and vague pleas for help.

What do you do when the stresses of everyday life start getting you down?

I've been known to self-medicate with good times, good (and bad) booze and an active fantasy life.  That last one isn't as cool as it sounds.  It's just that I've always been able to calm myself by drifting off to sleep and losing myself in the Dreaming.  It's a talent...I can't explain it.

But all of that is just distraction from the bigger, more stressful picture.  Life.  Sure, it's helpful...especially when when there doesn't appear to be anything that can be done about the shit that is storming around your life sometimes.  But it's not a final solution.  Now THAT sounds ominous, doesn't it?

So seriously.  What do you do to compensate for the bad things that life stirs up for you sometime?

Jan 25, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

I have a confession.

I'll pretty much watch any film that Jason Statham makes.  He was great in Snatch, as the low-key, wise-ass thief/scam artist/boxing promoter.  But once he started showing off his martial arts skills in action films I was hooked.  Those Transporter movies?  Loved them!  The Crank series?  Good God, they were awful...but I loved them!  And now he has remade one of my all-time favorite films from the 1970's.  The old Chuck Bronson assassin film, The Mechanic.  And it also stars Ben Foster, and he always seem to do a competent to brilliant job.

So yeah...I'll be seeing this one.  Oh yeah.

Jan 24, 2011

The. Best. Bacon. Ever!

Got a surprise late Christmas present delivered to the house on Friday.  A gift selection of hickory-smoked bacon and smoked ham from Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Hams courtesy of Gia's folks.

I checked this place out about a year ago when I first started making bacon-infused bourbon because the original recipe from PDT in Manhattan used Benton's bacon..  But I didn't order it for some reason.  And I'm a bit pissed at myself.  Because this is easily the best bacon I've ever tried!  I should have had it a year ago!  Thick-cut with an incredible smoky flavor.  Nothing even comes close.  I honestly don't believe I'll ever buy another brand of bacon.  It's THAT good.

I was amazed to see that the vacuum-packed yummies were shipped without refrigeration.  It's because of the dry-cure process that Benton's uses.  They say their bacon will last for 4-6 months in the original packaging in the refrigerator after shipping.  I don't think it will last that long in our fridge...we are going to eat it up too quickly!

I slow-cooked it over low heat per the cooking instructions that came with the bacon.  It resulting in a uniform and as hearty-looking a bacon as I have ever seen.  I reserved the bacon fat to make some bacon bourbon.  Well, since this is bacon from Tennessee I decided to use Tennessee Whisky instead.  Good ole' George Dickel.  And THAT was fantastic.  Brought it over to my sister's house this weekend and made a few cocktails for her birthday.

My recommendation?  Buy this bacon right now.  You won't regret it.

Jan 21, 2011

Snow No! Not again!

Remember how I said I liked shoveling snow a week or so ago?

Yeah, I'm pretty much up to here with it now.  Starting to look like freakin' Alaska around here these days.

Still lots of work to do.
UPDATE:  Here's a video that expresses exactly how I'm feeling about Winter right now.

At least we've got Taco Doritos in retro bags for a little while.  Small consolation.  They aren't the same as the original Taco Doritos from my youth, but they will do in a pinch.  I guess.

Jan 20, 2011

WTF with Marc Maron

OK, I'm a little under the weather.  Fighting off a cold.  I tried calling it "messin' with Sasquatch" in a text message earlier today, but that sounds a little too much like masturbating.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.  I've messed with Sasquatch so much in my life that he's a beaten man, er, Bigfoot, er, Yeti.  Whatever.  Let's just say he's my bitch.  What was I saying?  Oh yeah...I've got a cold.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the funny.  And Marc Maron, in his weekly podcast where he interviews some cool folks, brings the funny.  His latest interview is with Kevin Smith, and as critical as I have been about Kevin Smith the filmmaker, I'll never get tired of hearing him talk about being a filmmaker.  Or about getting kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight.  Or about getting high with Seth Rogan.

This particular interview made a few waves in the Celebrity News sites this week because he kinda said that Bruce Willis was a dick when they worked together on Cop Out last year.  Not that he hasn't said that before, but in the past he never specifically used Willis' name.  Now it's out there.  Your move, John McClane.

Welcome to the party, pal!

Jan 19, 2011

Our Tiny Christmas Miracle

Well, miracle is a strong word for it.  But we thought it was pretty cool.

So you know how we named one of our cats Wolowitz after Simon Helberg's character in The Big Bang Theory, right.  In case you've forgotten, here is our Wolowitz and below him is Simon's character from the show:

Wolowtiz the cat

Wolowitz the nerd

Well, every since we named our boy after Wolowitz, Gia has had this idea that maybe we could get a picture of Simon Helberg and our cat together. I mean, we knew that getting a picture of the two of them in the same place would be nearly impossible. We don't get to LA all that often.  But we thought we might be able to swing getting a picture of Simon holding a picture of Wolowitz. A little Wolowitz-on-Wolowitz action, if you will.

But how does one go about that?

Well, I first looked to see what Simon Helberg's online presence was like. And his online presence was basically nada. No Twitter account. No blog that I could find. Only a contact address for his agent. And I didn't want to go that route. It seemed kinda creepy to ask his agent for a photo.  So I basically forgot about it for a while.

Then, for some reason, I looked again a few weeks before Christmas, and I saw that he finally opened a Twitter account. Which I immediately started to follow...looking for a way to get him to fulfill this incredibly stupid request of ours. That's when I saw that he was basically using Twitter to help promote his wife's film project that she was hawking on Kickstarter. I wrote about that here a while back. Her name is Jocelyn Towne.

So I checked out the project, and I thought it would make an interesting Christmas present for Gia.  I would pledge enough to get her listed as an Associate Producer on the film.  So for $100, she would get a screen credit plus a whole bunch of other goodies like a copy of the DVD, a signed poster, etc...  Since I jumped into the project fairly early, I thought Jocelyn Towne might contact me via email or board post.  Maybe then I would be able to ask her about getting a picture of Simon with our cat.  Yeah.  Weak, but why not?

You know what?  That's exactly what happened.  She wrote to thank me for pledging toward her film project.  I wrote back telling her how we named one of our cats after Simon's character from the show.  She replied thinking that was hilarious as they were cat people themselves.  They have three cats named after famous film detectives.  That's when I asked her about getting a photo with Simon holding a photo of our cat.  She thought it was a great idea and asked me to send her a photo of Wolowitz.

That was the morning of Christmas Eve.  A few hours before midnight and Christmas itself, here is what showed up in my email:

Wolowitz and Wolowitz

Jocelyn Towne and Simon Helberg are two of the coolest cats in the world. Thanks, kids!

Jan 18, 2011

U.F.Oh Shit...

I think I want to become a UFO buff.  What kind of dedication does it take to become a buff?  Do I need to stop doing anything that can be considered living a "normal" life to dedicate those hours of the day toward my new hobby, er, obsession, er, calling?  Do I need to do something to get on an FBI watch list?  Should I stop showering?

OK, I don't really want to become a UFO buff.  Maybe I just want to become a bit of a conspiracy theory buff and UFOs seem to be behind a lot of those.  But being a conspiracy theory buff sounds exhausting.  How but just a conspiracy theory hobbyist?  That sounds harmless.  But I know me.  I get obsessed with my hobbies, whether it be comic-books, movies, beer or midget-fetish porn.  That last one nearly did me in.

So I guess I just would prefer to skip all the research, psycho-babble and speculation about aliens and UFOs.  I want to just...know.  That way, if there is a massive underwater fleet of UFOs lurking under the Southern Ocean near Antarctica and if the United States has been in a state of constant warfare with the alien horde, I can be prepared when WikiLeaks reveals it all to the world.

Especially if they are causing earthquakes and tidal waves and shit.  I live near the water, people.  You can't be too careful.

Jan 17, 2011

Faux Times Two

The other night, Gia and I watched two films that were incredibly alike yet totally, um, not so.  Wait...lemme explain that a little bit.  They were both "documentary-style" films, with one of them being obviously a mock-umentary, while the other one required a bit more thought on the subject.  Yes or no?

The first film, the one that required a bit more thought on the subject, was Exit Through the Gift Shop.  This was an absolutely brilliant film.  Directed by famed British street artist Banksy, it started out as a "documentary" about an amateur filmmaker named Thierry Guetta who became obsessed with street art and artists.  But it turned into something entirely different, as Guetta was encouraged by Banksy to create his own art.  The intriguing and often unbelievable story that follows makes for an incredible film.

I'm not going to spoil anything, and there has been no consensus from either the critical world or from the participants itself, but...well, the whole thing is quite possibly a hoax.  I'm leaning toward 100%, but hey...ya never now.  Wait, did I say I wasn't going to spoil anything?  Shit.  Did I just spoil that?  Crap.  But believe me, the journey is well worth it.  I give this one the highest of recommendations.

The other film was an obvious faux documentary called The Last Exorcism.  It's filled with familiar looking actors and unbelievable scenarios, but it's a lot of fun anyway.  It tells the tale of a lapsed Christian preacher who has convinced himself that he was still doing important work, because if the people he was "helping" felt like he was genuine then he was actually helping them.  One of his duties was to perform exorcisms, and it was all a smoke and mirrors game for him.

For one last time, he hired a film crew to follow him so that he could prove that exorcisms were all a bunch of crap.  But, of course, some spooky shit goes down.  Interesting, but not really that scary.  I was expecting a whole lot more from this film than what I got, but besides from a few small chills the film was pretty ordinary.

So I would highly recommend Exit Through the Gift Shop, and meekly recommend The Last Exorcism.  One was brilliant, the other was just meh.

Jan 14, 2011

Planet of Sound

A few years ago, I was searching through the shelves in my mother's extra room. I call it an extra room, because it really has no purpose now. It used to be a bedroom, but it was probably designed to be a small den. Now it's got a bunch of my sister's kid's toys and crap in it. And it's got a big closet, so it's usually where all the coats go when she is hosting a big event. Like my nephew's Christening last weekend.

But for about 10 years, it was my bedroom. All throughout high school and college and for a couple of years after that before I moved out. So there is still some of my crap hidden on those shelves amidst all the kids stuff that is currently taking up space. Mostly books, but also some LPs (remember those?), cassette tapes (remember those?) and VHS tapes (remember those?). There was one VHS tape that intrigued me enough to dust off the old VCR and check out. All it said on the label was "Planet of Sound".

Here's the first thing that popped up on the tape. A performance of "Planet of Sound" by the Pixies on the old Dennis Miller Show. Way back when. Check it out.

Man, they were really my favorite band for a while there in the 80's and early 90's.

Anyway, the rest of the tape was about a dozen episodes of Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures from the late 80's. Anyone remember that? The revival was the brainchild of Ralph Bakshi, he of Fritz the Cat fame. Yeah. So there was a lot of adult drug and sex references going on, even though the show aired on Saturday mornings. You had to be hip to catch them all.

The most famous drug reference was the so-called "cocaine scene" that was part of The Littlest Tramp episode. In it, Mighty Mouse crushes up a flower and inhales the dust. Yeah...it kinda looked like he was snorting cocaine. Bakshi, who was mostly producing the show, hadn't even seen this portion of the episode. But he initially agreed to cut the 3.5 seconds from the final product. John Kricfalusi (who later went on to create Ren and Stimpy) convinced Bakshi that the scene was indeed harmless and Bakshi had it put back in. And the episode aired in October of 1987 like that.

About six months later, the American Family Association (ugh) stepped in and stirred some shit. As they do. They railed against CBS for hiring a known pornographer to produce children's television. Yeah. Bakshi was furious and fought back, but he eventually agreed to cut the 3.5 seconds from all future airings of that episode.

Was it the show's creative staff's intent to make it look like Mighty Mouse was snorting coke? Bakshi says no, but it wouldn't be the first time that animators and writers snuck something in under the producer's, ahem, nose.

Here's an screen shot from that scene. You decide...

Um...the powder is pink?

PS - Bet you thought that VHS tape was gonna have a little some-some on the sexy tip, right? Sadly...no.

Jan 13, 2011

Snow Nerd

We had another big storm here in the Northeast yesterday.  And my little town on Long Island was hit particularly hard. The official totals say 18-20 inches, but I dunno 'bout that.  Maybe I was only shoveling where the snow had drifted.  Because it was clearly over two feet in most spots around our home.

But that's okay, because (as I've mentioned before here) I really don't mind shoveling snow.  I mean, I don't look forward to it.  I'd rather spend each winter on a beach someplace in the South Pacific with tropical ladies handing me tropical drinks with tropical umbrellas in them.  In the drinks, not the ladies.  Ahem.  But as one of those things that I've had to do all my life in the wintertime, it's just something I've learned to be peaceful about and kinda enjoy. 

Enjoy shoveling snow?  Relax...I'm not coming to your house to dig you out.  But since it has to be done, I've made my peace with it.

And I take a practical and (IMO) thoroughly efficient route when taking on the task.  If I think about what needs to be done in totality, I'm gonna get overwhelmed.  So I concentrate on one stretch of walkway/driveway/stairway at a time.  I need to.  Because we live at the bottom of a hill and I have to dig myself UP to the street level where we keep our cars during snowstorms.  Just getting to the street usually takes a couple of hours after a heavy snowfall.  Once I get up there, I usually have a bit of help.  The guy next door has a plow and he cleans out the area in front of the house pretty well.  Just a little clean up on my part.  Then it's on to get the cars cleaned off and moved.  We park them down the road in front of some woods so that the plows can really clean out the front of the house.  Gia helps out with that.  Cleaning off the cars and powering through the drifts while I'm cleaning up parking spots out front.  Then it's making sure the mailman can get to our mailbox, and I'm done.

So I take it slow and I don't stop until it's done.  Do this patch, then do that patch, then onto the next.  Keep it going, keep it slow, get it done.  And since it's repetitive and mostly automatic on my part, it allows me to pause every once in a while and admire some of the beauty of the hills and trees covered in snow and the iced-over harbor out of our back door.

Sometimes it's comforting to move through life two feet at a time.

PS - Accidentally posted this early yesterday...so you might see it twice in your feed reader.  Lucky you.

Jan 12, 2011

Simon's Cat

This guy's cartoons about his cat are absolutely spot-on!  Especially this one about how much his cat loves a good empty box.  Our boy Wolowitz will concur.

Hope everyone enjoys the big Winter Storm tomorrow! Well, those of you in the path of the storm. Ya know.

Jan 11, 2011

100 Books

Sometime early in 2009, a meme popped up on Facebook asking folks to see how many of the 100 books listed below that they've read.  With instructions on partially read books and what not.  The meme went on to say that the average person has only read 6 out of the 100 books.  Seems a bit low to me, but the list itself is pretty odd.  Even odder, no one seems to know where the meme originated.  It says that it came from the BBC, and there is a list similar to it from back in 2004 printed by the BBC...but nothing about the average number of books the average reader has finished.   And the list is different.

Did I mention it was odd?  "The Chronicles of Narnia" listed as one book, and "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" as another?  Last I checked the latter was part of the former.  And "The Complete Works of Shakespeare"?  That's a whole lotta Shakespeare.  I've read some/most of them, but not all of them.  Just a strange, strange list.

I guess it's still making the rounds.  I'm not on Facebook, so it never made it to me.  Until I got together with my family over the weekend and my sisters and Gia were talking about it.  So I had Gia forward it over to me via email for blog fodder.  Voila!

How many of these have you read?  I'm going to list the ones I read in bold.  A partially read book is an unread book in my opinion, so no italics or anything.  Either I've read it or I haven't.  So there!

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy.
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth.
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt.
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo 

That's 43 of the 100 that I've completely read.  Not bad, but not great either.  There is a bunch of stuff up there that I really should have read at some point in my life.  Then again, there's a bunch of stuff up there I've never heard of.  Odd list.

Like I said, that's leaving out stuff like the Shakespeare or Sherlock Holmes compendiums.  Stuff I've only partially read.  I left out "The Bible" as well, because...well, I have no idea if I've read it all.  I know I've read a lot of it.  I come from a pretty religious family.  I know I read it at times, but I can't say for certain that I've read it all.  So it's off my completed list.

How did you do?

PS - I'm posting this at 1:11 AM on 1/11/11.  Just because, just for scuzz.

Jan 10, 2011

Still Only 25¢: The Invaders #6

Disclaimer: Part of an on-going series of blog posts about comic-books, the mid-70's and a wee boy named Earl. Or not really. You know my name isn't really Earl, right? - Earl

Right around the time I started reading comic-books as a child, Marvel realized that they could double-up or triple-up on the titles they were producing starring some of their more popular characters.  That was the idea behind Marvel Two-In-One or Marvel Team-Ups.  Another idea they had was to take some of their popular characters that were introduced in the Golden Age of Comic-Books and create new stories for them set during the WWII era.  That was the idea behind The Invaders, the greatest superheroes of World War Two!

The core team, Captain America, Namor the Sub-Mariner and The Human Torch, were all characters introduced back in the 1940's.  And they had plenty of experience fighting against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.  All the Axis, in fact.  Some of the greatest propaganda that was produced during the war came from some of those comic-books.  The very fist issue of Captain America, published almost a year before the United States joined the war effort, depicted Cap punching Hitler right in the kisser.  And it was a trend that continued with the Marvel/Timely publications for the next half-decade.  Readers loved to see their heroes kick some Nazi or Japanese ass on full-color magazine pulp.

click to expand
The Invaders #6, and pretty much the entire run through the mid-to-late-70's, are absolutely burned into my memory.  When I was browsing through Cover Browser (the reference site I use for the images for this post series) the other day and saw some of these covers, well...it brought me right back to a place and time when things were simpler.  Especially me.  That was probably the non-monetary idea behind the title anyway.  Although most folks consider comic-books to be an outlet for children or young teens, the publishers often targeted older readers and collectors.  And putting some of the more popular current characters into a setting that some older readers remembered from their own early years was one way to do that.  It was also a way for Marvel to either bring back and ret-con characters that hadn't seen the light of day for decades, or to create new heroes or villains that wouldn't make sense in the Nixon/Ford/Carter era, but would fit right in fighting against the Nazis.

The Liberty Legion, actually introduced in The Invaders #5, were one of the examples of the former.  Timely Comics characters from the 1940's that were re-introduced, ret-conned and assembled into a new super-group.  With characters like Whizzer (not for peeing), Miss America, The Patriot and Jack Frost.  All characters with back-stories and abilities that mirrored other heroes that were being published at the time, or they were predecessor for characters that Marvel would develop during the Silver Age in the 1960's.  Captain America's sidekick, Bucky, was also a a member of this super-team.  Actually the leader of the team, as he was the one to assemble the squad.

But the reason why this particular book stays with me is a character called Blue Diamond who had, er, diamond-hard impenetrable skin and superhuman strength.  Thanks to a, er. blue diamond that he found on an expedition to Antarctica whose shards were embedded into his skin when his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat.  Back around 1990, when I began to read and collect comic-books once again, I had the hardest time trying to remember which book featured this character that I remembered so vividly.  I knew his back-story.  I knew his powers.  I knew that it somehow involved World War II.  But I just couldn't find those old issues that I remembered and loved so much.

And it was all because I had somehow combined his back-story and abilities with another character from the Liberty Legion...Jack Frost.  Not that he would turn to solid ice, but I thought he turned into a solid diamond at will.  And whenever I tried to explain it to my fellow comic-book geeks, I started with "this WWII hero who was made of diamonds!".  Some even pointed me toward The Invaders and the Liberty Legion, but when they showed me what Blue Diamond looked like I was positive that they were wrong and I was thinking of someone else.

Turns out that I wasn't.  It's just that my pre-teen memory combined different characters from the same book into one mish-mash of the two.  Or so it would seem.  But here's the thing...I'm not 100% sure that I did combine the two characters.  A part of my brain STILL thinks that there was a character like the one I remember.  And I even think that I finally found that character back when the Internet came around.  And it wasn't a recurring character.  Just someone who appeared in one or two issues of something.  Maybe as a "comic-within-a-comic" or something.  Or in an ad that appeared in the 70's in a comic-book.  THAT sounds about right.  (UPDATE: Something like this)

But now I can't find it again.

And it's killing me.

Jan 7, 2011

Zombie Vagina

A friend of mine pointed me toward this video that stars a friend of his.  See...the circle of life.  It's called "Dawn of the Dance!" and it's a whole shitload of zombie hip-hop fun.  His buddy is the second zombie in the feature, singing about...zombie vagina.

If you have the time (around 10 minutes) and you are into this kind of thing, well...I guarantee you'll be humming the zombie vagina song later today at some point.  It's catchy as all hell.


Jan 6, 2011


I don't know who out there recommended the trivia site Sporcle to me (or the larger blogosphere, to be more precise), but I either want to thank you or kill you.

It's become my pre-sleep habit for going on a month now.  Every night before bed, I check out the new quizzes on Sporcle for that day.  And sometimes I'll browse the archives, but I usually wind up on the site for a good half-hour or so before calling it quits for the day.  Probably not the best idea for someone who has trouble falling asleep in the first place, but whatever.

They've got some great stuff on there.  And a lot of it is more a test of your memory than it is actual trivia, but I dig it just the same.  Trying to name all the countries of the world by looking at a blank map made me realize that I know nothing about Africa and the former Soviet satellite nations.  Or how to spell shit properly.  And that ticking clock doesn't help jog your memory at all.  Quite the opposite.  Even easy stuff like naming the characters on The Office become frustrating when you are under the guy.  I couldn't remember Stanley's name!  And he's probably my favorite character on the show!

So yeah...thanks.  Whomever you are.

Do you Sporcle?

Jan 5, 2011

I no can stop looking

click him to watch him go
James Van Der Beek is an internet treasure.  His sobbing face from Dawson's Creek has made it's way onto many a blog post that I have read over the years.  I've never used it myself...I don't know why.  It's really a much more perfect image for expressing grief (or disgust or hilarity) than just about anything out there.

Well, since he's apparently not doing much else, he has decided to take the ball and run with it.

Check out James Van Der Memes.

You are most welcome.

PS - Why do gifs work on some Blogger posts, but not on others?

Jan 4, 2011

Circle me, Bert

Like clockwork, this time of the year means one thing for baseball fans.  The annual Hall of Fame debates.   And for the past 15 years or so, the debate has been strongest (on both sides) for Bert Blyleven.  Good ole Bert was a damned fine pitcher in his 22 years in the majors.  He won 287 games, pitched 4,970 innings and struck out 3,701 batters.  Among the tops all-time in each category (wins - 27th, innings - 14th, strikeouts - 5th!!!).  Pretty much all the guys ahead of him on those lists are already in the Hall or will be when they become eligible.  Or they are named Roger Clemens.  Ahem.

But there are many voters who refuse to vote for him using the "you had to be there" argument.  Meaning that they don't believe that Blyleven was ever dominant enough in his time to be rewarded with inclusion to the Hall.  Many of those same voters, however, will vote for Jack Morris.  A fine pitcher with less illustrious career stats than Blyleven.  But boy oh boy...he was a big game pitcher.  He single-handedly won Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, right?  I guess "you had to be there".  Ahem.

And you know what?  I'm fine with that.  I happen to believe Blyleven deserves the honor of induction.  Certain voters do not.  Whatever.  As long as they have a good argument.  And Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated wrote an entire article on why he was not voting for Blyleven, even in the face of some newer statistical work that suggests that Blyleven may be one of the all-time greats.  Bravo, Mr. Heyman.  He even made some good points.  Not a lot of points that I agree with, and they all boil down to the "you had to be there" argument.  But at least he tried.

Then he goes and ruins it on the second page by including his own criteria for voting in Jack Morris, which is as follows:

Morris. He finished with 254 wins and 175 complete games while leading the league at various times in wins (twice), starts (twice), complete games, shutouts and innings pitched.
That's very nice.  Except if you use the same criteria for Blyleven, you would have the following:

Blyleven. He finished with 287 wins and 242 complete games while leading the league at various times in starts, complete games, shutouts (3 times), innings pitched (twice) and strikeouts.
So it seems his real argument against Blyleven is that he never led the league in wins in any particular year.  Because the rest of the numbers he himself uses are at least the equal of Morris' numbers, and in some cases much better.

By the way, one of the years in which Morris led his league in wins was the strike-shortened 1981 season.  He finished with 14 wins that year, tying three other AL pitchers. The other year was 1992 when he led the AL with 21 wins (tied with Kevin Brown), but also posted a 4.04 ERA.  Which was around league average that year. 

But to truly see his greatness?  Well...I guess "you had to be there".

PS - If you want to read a much more intelligent argument for Bert Blyleven (and some other fine players), well...there's always Poz.  I, personally, probably wouldn't vote for Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire or Alan Trammell like Poz did.  But I don't really have a problem with anyone voting for them either.  Well...maybe McGwire a little bit.  Gonna have to figure this whole "steroid era" out one of these years, eh?

Jan 3, 2011


So hey...it's 2011. And we got our new kitteh. His new name is Bennington.


Gia came back from SC with him on Sunday.  And he really might be the cutest thing I've ever seen.  I can't say that too loud in front of the other cats.  They get jealous.  Besides, they were all equally as cute at this age, and they still rock the cute to this very day.  So enough already!

He's got the oddest/most awesome coloring I've ever seen.  White boots, dark tail...those crazy Grandpa Munster tufts of fur in his ears.  Then there are those three white splashes on his face.  Like someone swiped him with a paintbrush and some white paint and it just hit him in those three spots. And even though his eyes look blue in that picture, they look mostly green in person.  Which is cool.

The other cats haven't really welcomed him into our home yet.  He's mostly been hanging out in the bedroom on the bed.  I don't blame him.  But they will eventually let him into their reindeer games.  It may take a few days though.

Oh, and he's named after this madman.  That's how we do.

And Happy Birthday, Mom!  (She doesn't read this)

UPDATE: And a Happy Birthday to J.R.R. Tolkien.  Well...of course he's dead now, but still.  Raise a glass to "The Professor" tonight at 9PM, if you are into that kind of thing.