Did you watch last night’s episode of Survivor? So much to say about the episode. where do I start?! I was watching it and… and… zzzzzzzz….
Maybe I would be enjoying this season more if there was a player I really liked or a player I could really enjoy hating but there’s no one. On the Love to Hate side there’s Tyson who comes close, but looking at him and listening to him talk truly nauseates me, and Monica also comes close but since she’s pretty much everything I don’t like in a woman I find her to be more depressing than anything else. On the Love to Love side there’s no one I care about enough to root for. But even with a well-defined hero or villain to enjoy I’m still not sure I’d be enjoying the season. Do you want to know why? Well, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you just that!
For many years now I’ve thought that Survivor was scripted in the sense that the show is edited to present different “characters” to us and, in many cases, to manipulate conversations in order to create drama and intrigue where none existed. Last night when I was watching Tina go out looking for an idol and everyone else was trying to follow her, I realized that in addition to that creative manipulation, the game has become so predictable (read: stale) that the players all act like they’re following a script. Sort of like Jeff and his, “C’mon in!” and “Do you want to know what you’re playing for?” and “Once again, immunity is up for grabs.” and “I’ll go tally the votes.” and of course the ultimate, “The tribe has spoken.” The players land on the beach and get separated into tribes and immediately go into Survivor script mode: A) Create alliance #1; B) Create alliance #2; C) Begin backstabbing those not in their alliance(s) (optional); D) Look for idol; E) Discover who has the idol; F) Try and flush the idol, G) Be a leader; Ga) Be a leader while being humble; Gb) Be a leader while steamrolling everyone in front of you; H) Play under the rader, etc., you get the idea.
Part of the problem is that everyone who puts on the buff has, over the past 13+ years, seen how to play the game and how not to play the game and while some players do it right and others make the same mistakes players before them made, they’re just doing the same things over and over again because that’s what the script calls for because behind all the hoolah the game is the same. There’s absolutely nothing that’s new about the game that would necessitate the need for a new strategy and the only thing that changes from season to season is the faces of the players and because of that the game is no longer interesting to me.
The producers have tried to shake things up with twists like Exile Island and Redemption Island and immunity idols and various types of stunt casting, but none of that works because the game itself continues to be played with no originality. The reason the game was so great in the beginning was because it was eight strangers playing against eight other strangers out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. And in addition to watching the players “survive”, we also got to watch the human interactions and how the dynamics of the game (isolation, deprivation, hunger, jealousy, anger, greed) drove the players. The game unfolded week by week as the players moved the game up and down different paths, not because they were playing for a merge or playing for a jury vote or playing for a blindside, or playing for an idol, but because they were simply being human and were playing to survive another day.
Maybe I’m overly harsh and I’ve just reached a point where I’ve outgrown Survivor but I’d like to believe that’s not the case. I’d like to believe the game – the game like it was back in Borneo in 2000 – is still out there somewhere and has just been hijacked along the way by a panicked production staff that felt the only way to stay “fresh” and competitive was to mess with everything. If I’m wrong about that then I’m wrong, but in the meantime I’ll continue to hope that the show goes back to what it used to be: eight strangers playing against eight stranger playing against the social structure of the game and stops being a show with a bunch of meaningless twists and turns. Twists and turns that only put me to sleep. If they want to change up the game and keep it fresh then don’t try and enhance it with a but of shiny objects and silly obstacles, change the game itself. Get rid of Exile and Redemption Island and get rid of hidden immunity idols and anything else that takes the influence of the game out of the player’s hands. Go back to Survivor 101 and then if you need a tweak, change the actual game itself by changing parts of the foundation of the game. Maybe not having two tribes, but only one? Maybe eliminate the merge altogether? Or, as shocking as it sounds, maybe just put everything back the way it was and leave it alone and let eight players play against eight other players and survive by their wits not because of chance.
Another addition to the countless reasons I can’t stand listening to commercial radio came this morning after I stopped on one of the Twin Cities two Country music stations, K102. The male half of their “Wake Up Crew”, I think his name is Muss(?), is ranting on the fact that George Strait won the Country Music Association award for Best Entertainer of the Year and he wasn’t happy about it. So, in typical shock jock fashion, he had to try and make us all unhappy along with him. Anything in the name of entertainment I guess. So Muss(?) takes a caller who just happened to share his outrage and he agrees that Strait doesn’t deserve the award because, ‘he just stands there and plays the guitar and sings.’ Hmmm. I guess if there aren’t any pyrotechnics and smoke and a two dozen dancers filling up the stage while the singer swings over the crowd and drops rose petals it’s just not entertaining anymore. You know, it’s odd, but I was never a fan of ex-Minnesota Orchestra conductor Osmo Vanska because he pretty much just stood there and waved his arms while holding a stick and I guess now I know why, but that’s another topic. On the positive side, if there’s one to be found for commercial radio, at least traffic during my morning commute didn’t feel so annoying for those 90 seconds.
Here’s a video from a guy who just stands there and plays the guitar and sings. A real Country song from an old school singer, and one you probably won’t hear much on K102 anytime soon. At least not in the morning. Or at least until he comes back through town and the station “presents” him.
Doesn’t this look good?
I like to cook and I like to eat but I’m not really a recipe guy so rather than grab a bunch of recipes and follow them, I just take the foods I like and make meals with them. I know, I’m probably missing out on a bunch of good dishes – and spices - but, be that as it may, I’m not unhappy with the food I make.
So this meal has stir fried broccoli (florets and julienned stems), mushrooms, carrots and diced garlic. The round brown things are sliced veggie sausages and the squiggly things are Barilla PLUS Rotini. I like Barilla PLUS a lot because I love pasta (and rice) but I try not to eat a lot of carbohydrates and the Barilla PLUS is not only lower in carbs, but higher in fiber and protein.
After draining the noodles I dumped the vegetables in with them and then I ground a bunch of black pepper over everything so it had a nice bite. If I had to categorize or label the taste of this dish I would call it umami simply because that word is fun to say. Seriously, try it. Whether or not this dish really is umami, I have no idea.
For the official recipe lovers out there, or for those who just like to follow directions, here’s the recipe for my satisfying stir fry, which I’ve not so coincidentally named, “Michael’s Satisfying Stir Fry”.
Michael’s Satisfying Stir Fry
Julienned broccoli stems (Optional. Some people don’t like these and I don’t know why.)
Sliced white mushrooms
A lot of diced garlic
Veggie sausage or veggie burger (sliced or diced)
Barilla PLUS pasta
All quantities are dependent on how much you want to eat.
Boil the noodles until soft. Stir fry everything until it’s the tenderness you prefer. Drain the noodles and add the stir fried vegetables. Cover with ground pepper to taste. Stir.
I’ll probably be making this a lot now until I get bored with it and look for something new.
I made a surprising food discovery this morning. I’m not a big breakfast eater – except on the weekends – and to make things worse, I don’t often leave a lot of time during weekday mornings to eat breakfast. In the past, toast or a bagel, or a heaping* bowl of Count Chocula would suffice, but once I switched my diet around and reduced my carbohydrate intake a few months ago those options flew out the window faster than Post could change the name of Super Sugar Crisp cereal to Super Golden Crisp cereal.
I didn’t want to skip breakfast so I started eating egg whites. There’s not much in the food world that’s more boring than egg whites. Plus I didn’t like taking the time in the morning to cook them. I started cooking them the night before and I quickly discovered that there is one thing more boring than egg whites and that’s cold egg whites. Finally I discovered fat-free cottage cheese. On the plus side the stuff is low in calories, it has no fat, it’s filling and it’s got a ton of protein (one cup has 28 grams). On the negative side it’s got too much sodium and it’s got additives and it uses artificial coloring and I have a tendency toward being lactose intolerant. Well, there comes a time in a person’s life when he has to throw the dice and take a gamble. In other words, he has to “man up” so I started eating cottage cheese for breakfast (with the thought that I’ll just do it until I find something better and as convenient) and I’ve dealt with the stomach gurgles and (the sometimes more than) occasional toots (In all honesty, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’m really tempted to take that side effect out of the negative column and move it over to the positive column). I was happy until it dawned on me that fat-free cottage cheese is just about as bland as egg whites.
Simple solution: I started adding pepper to the stuff.
Not bad. For a while.
A couple of work weeks in and I’m juggling cold egg whites and fat-free cottage cheese and all I really want is to just want to sit down to a box of Count Chocula. Or Cap’n Crunch (stays crunchy, even in milk. I don’t drink milk but it stays sort of crunchy in water, too). I wanted something tasty and fast and rewarding; I was, sadly, becoming cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. And then this morning it happened.
I open up that big tub of cottage cheese and go for my pepper grinder and it’s the mother of all tragedies: I’m out of pepper. Feeling a little panicky I look in the cupboard for something to sprinkle onto those tasteless curds and I find a bottle of garlic pepper. Hmmm. Garlic. What could be bad? It’d be like garlic cheese bread without the bread, right? I sprinkle it on and it’s good. Seriously, it’s out of this world good. I’m talking Out. Of. This. World. Good.
So I’m back in the game. Sorry, Count. My apologies, Cap’n. See ‘ya later, Sugar Bear. It’s me and my garlic-pepper cottage cheese and we’re moving on.
Since you’ve been kind enough to read this far I thought it’d only be fair of me to share my recipe with you so here goes…
Fat-Free Cottage Cheese with Garlic Pepper
Step 1: One serving of fat-free cottage cheese. I like Old Home but you can substitute any brand you want.
Step 2: Add garlic pepper to taste.
Step 3: Stir cottage cheese and seasoning to mix ingredients and then wait about two minutes while the spices blend into the cottage cheese. Eat & enjoy.
*: Half a box
Heh, The Walking Dread. Cool name for a reggae band.
I have no idea why I’m still watching The Walking Dead. It’s probably because I like zombies, but even the zombies – and the obligatory, once-weekly, zombie attack, not to mention those inane jump scares – are wearing thin. Why am I still watching? Maybe I’m sticking around to see psycho-in-the-making Carl finally lose whatever grip on reality he has and climb up to the prison’s guard tower and start shooting everyone in sight. Shooting everyone in sight and then getting naked and bathing in their blood. Carl. Why did I even have to mention him? Carl. The biggest child pain in the ass TV character since Danny Partridge. I dislike Carl as much as I disliked his mother, Lori.
What bothers me is that every week I watch TWD and at no point do they ever talk about – let alone get closer to – some type of cure to the mysterious – and unexplained – pathogen that has infected everyone on the show, ensuring they turn into a zombie regardless of how they die. I think it was explained in an episode (an episode that feels like it aired about 15 years ago now) that if a person stubs their toe and gets an infection, and dies from that infection, they’ll turn, for whatever reason (Virus? Bacteria? Alien spores? Andrew Lincoln’s wooden acting? Leaving this life is better than a life on the same planet as little John Wayne Gacy Carl?) into a zombie. I know that dying without a zombie bite and reanimating is pretty common (I believe that’s how it works in George Romero’s zombie world) and I accept the mysterious nature of the plague since that’s common in just about every zombie movie and I get that there aren’t any answers and I get that simply surviving is a priority that takes up every part of everyone’s day, (well, everyone but Night Stalker Carl who is out pulling the heads off of squirrels and gophers and showering in their blood) but just once it’d be nice to at least see the subject brought up in passing so I know it’s at least a minor concern.
“Hey, Joe, ‘ya think we’ll ever find a cure for this whatever-it-is thing that turns everyone into zombies?”
“Uh, I dunno.”
“Mmmkay, let’s get back to fortifying that fence.”
“I thought we was a-diggin’ graves?”
“Mmmkay. Better go ask Rick then.”
Wishes aside, the show feels directionless to me and it moves as such a slow pace that I wonder if anyone in charge really knows where the story is going and if they have an end in mind. I don’t ask for much, just give me a little something that gives me the feeling that someone has an idea where the ride is taking us and that I’m not simply watching another aimless series like Lost only to find out in another three years that everyone’s already dead. Or worse, that it’s all been a dream. In fairness, they did drop that little garbled radio transmission this past Sunday talking about a “sanctuary” and that was kind of cool.
I thought this past Sunday’s show was silly. And boring. But mainly silly. Karen and David are dead. Dead and burned. Okay, I know that Karen was Tyrese’s girlfriend, but who the heck was David? The big mystery of the hour was who killed the pair and since the cast of characters is pretty limited, it’s really not much of a mystery. While I’m sure the miniature Hillside Strangler Carl would have loved to have killed them, and drink their blood afterwards, it’s pretty obvious it’s not him. So who does that leave? Baby Judith? That would have been an interesting headline: Apocalypse Baby Born With Supernatural Strength. Kills Infected and Stops Plague. Humanity Lives! Everyone Rejoices and Has Sex! Think it through and the only obvious answer, the one that was telegraphed by the writers, was Carol. Soft, shy, sexually frustrated (c’mon Darryl, make a move already) Carol. The same Carol who Tyrese said is good with people and good with caring for people, and the same Carol that Tyrese trusted with the care of his very own sick sister Sasha. How can such a noble woman commit… (bum, bum, buuuummm) Murder?
The real mysteries to this past show for me were not why Carol committed two mercy killings, but 1) How did Carol manage to drag both dead bodies out of the prison and into the open yard by herself? 2) How was it that no one saw her or the trail of blood? 3) How did no one see the fire that burned the bodies to a crisp? 2A) How did no one smell the bodies being burned? 3) Why did Carol drag the corpses out into the courtyard and burn them rather than simply use the knife she carries on her hip to stab them in the head and leave them where they were? 4) How did Rick, super sleuth that he is, determine that it was Carol who killed the two? The only things I saw him do while investigating the murders were walk around the corpses, à la Adrian Monk, and then later discover a bloody handprint on the edge of a door. 5) And last, and least, who cares anyway? It’s not like mercy killing a friend/loved one on this show is new territory. Andrea killed her sister Amy after she reanimated and Darryl killed Dale after he reanimated (thanks for precipitating Dale’s death go to Pint-sized Norman Bates Carl!) as well as his own brother Merle, and Rick himself killed little Sophia and his best friend Shane in, what some might believe to be cold blood. Yeah, sure, it was arguably self-defense, but I think Rick had other options besides giving the guy some hope for the future and then shoving a knife into his heart. And then he had the nerve to hold a dying Shane’s head and shout at him something like, “You did this. You brought this on.” Why? Because he slept with your wife? Hell, Rick, you should have thanked him and rewarded him for that. Oh, and then didn’t Wee Jeffrey Dahmer Carl kill Shane after he reanimated? In any event, Tyrese should be on his knees thanking Carol for what she did, for making sure Karen didn’t reanimate, not plotting his revenge.
In the meantime, I do want to know where that garbled radio broadcast was coming from and what it might lead to and I want to know what happens to the gang out hunting for antibiotics and currently surrounded by a zombie horde so I, uh, guess I can’t wait for next week.
Capturing a live musical performance so the magic of the performance transcends the vinyl (or whatever it is people listen to music on nowadays) and transports the listener into the experience of the music is a rare thing. The Grateful Dead were masters at it thanks, in large part, to the fans who taped all their live shows, but with other groups/artists, live albums seemed like more of a novelty, or a way, like a ‘greatest hits’ compilation, to buy some time between albums than an actual attempt to capture a moment in time and make that moment come alive.
Live albums aren’t new, probably every band at one point or another has put out a live album and a lot of them are really good and a few of those very good releases rise to the top and become classics. Bands like The Who (Live at Leeds), Bruce Springsteen (Hammersmith Odeon – London 1975), Van Morrison (It’s Too Late to Stop Now), The Allman Brothers Band (At Fillmore East), KISS (Alive! – controversy about the album notwithstanding), Johnny Cash (At Folsom Prison), The Band (The Last Waltz), The Rolling Stones (Get Yer Ya-Yas Out), all of those would probably top anyone’s “Best Live Album of All Time” list, including my own, but with apologies to fans of all those bands, I put Lou Reed’s Rock N Roll Animal at the top of the list and, by my admittedly subjective standards, believe it to be the best live rock and roll album of all time. Of course, as always, your mileage may vary.
Lou Reed, rest in peace.
The World (yawn) Series
If you would have asked me back in March to give you a list of teams I didn’t want to see in the World Series, Boston and St. Louis would have not only been on the list but they would have been at the top of the list.
I used to like the Red Sox. Eighty-six years without a championship made them, to me, America’s Team. The team for the average shlub like me: the guy who works hard and dreams big but for one reason or another falls just a little bit short. Like Carlton Fisk waving that ball fair in the 1975 World Series and winning the game in the most dramatic fashion possible, but losing the series. You could watch the Red Sox and dream.
Then came 2004 and the Red Sox, and Curt Schilling’s goofy bloody sock (not one but two bloody socks!) (and why in the world is that bloody sock in the Hall of Fame?) won the World Series and suddenly the Red Sox were everywhere, or so it seemed. Suddenly Johnny Damon’s hair is news. Suddenly Manny Ramirez’s hair is news. Suddenly Ben Affleck is shown sitting in the first row at every televised game. Suddenly you can’t turn on a Sunday night game on ESPN without seeing the Red Sox play the Yankees. Sadly, the Red Sox became the Red Sucks.
And the Cardinals. I used to like them, too – back in the 1930’s when I read books about the Gashouse Gang. And as a guy growing up it was hard not to like guys like Steve Carlton and Tim McCarver and Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith and Bob Gibson (with whom I share a birthday). But then came Mark McGwire. And Tony La Russa. And the fact that I don’t like Budweiser beer. And that I don’t like teams whose fans refer to themselves as the best fans in baseball. My dislike of the Cardinals isn’t as deep as Drew Magary when he referred to Cardinal fans as, “…poorly disguised Yankees fans in ugly Christmas sweaters carrying a Jell-O mold to your neighbor’s door.”, but it’s still not very pretty. I just have a thing for successful teams. Or an anti-thing, depending on how you want to look at it.
So I couldn’t care less who wins the World Series.
If you’re going to pressure me for a prediction then part of me wants the Red Sox to win because they have a couple of ex-Twins on the roster and one, Craig Breslow, was a guy I liked when he pitched for the Twins and the other, David Ortiz, reminds me, every time I see him or hear his name, how bad the Twins organization is. But then the other part of me wants the Cardinals to win because… I don’t know, because I like National League baseball better than American League baseball and I like teams with small payrolls. (Not that the Cardinals have a small payroll but their $102.7 million places them in the middle of the pack and is quite a bit lower than the Red Sox’s $140.6 million)
My prediction: Because Boston has the home-field advantage I’ll go with them. Whoever wins, I just hope it’s in four games because I can’t handle more than four games from either of these teams.
And off the topic of the World Series? Can someone tell me why the Giants signed Tim Lincecum to a $35 million, two-year contract?
So let’s see, what have we got – about 118 days until Spring Training?