The suspense!

January 21, 2008

I should have asked this earlier, but I just took a batch of miniature carrot cakes out of the oven, but I made them with whole wheat flour, because one of my only resolution equivalents is to put more fiber in my diet. Have I made a horrible mistake? Will they taste like horse chow?

Late breaking news: They turned out fine, if a little less moist than usual. Extra frosting compensated for that.


There’s a rat in mi kitchen, what am I gonna do?

January 4, 2008

We watched Ratatouille last night, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I loved the setting, but a lot of things made me crazy about the movie as a whole.

1. I didn’t like either of the protagonists. I thought Linguini (the human) was irredeemably stupid, with phenomenally irritating voice work by Lou Romano, and Remy (the rat) was generally unsympathetic. I couldn’t root for either of them. [Edited because I’m sloppy and often incorrect. Sorry, Mr. Oswalt.]

2. I could root for Colette, the hard-working woman in a male-dominated kitchen, but I thought she got screwed and duped at every turn and ended up taking it all with a smile. Nice.

3. Just because you can do chase scenes really well doesn’t mean you have to do them quite so often. I would have preferred more frenzied cooking and less frenzied fleeing.

4. This is totally nitpicky of me, especially in a movie with rats running in and out of a professional kitchen, but working chefs don’t (or shouldn’t) taste food with the implements they’re using to prepare it. They have tasting spoons that they use once and set aside for the dishwasher, because they shouldn’t be seasoning their dishes with saliva. Or rat saliva.

5. There were too many subplots, and they didn’t come together well. Some good jokes about chef celebrity and nice bits about artistic innovation got bulldozed by a bunch of loud plot twists.

6. I’m sorry, but if it makes me a bad, closed-minded person if I don’t want a rat running around a restaurant kitchen, then I am a bad, closed-minded person.

7. That “I’ve got to be true to me” message really has some miles on it, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t all bad. There’s a scene at the end where a patron is transported by the power of really good food, and it’s beautifully and simply rendered. It’s a really thrilling moment of filmmaking, and it works perfectly. But the spirit of the moment is isolated in a movie that’s otherwise cluttered and shrill.


Rambling and linking

December 3, 2007

No, I won’t be needing a gift receipt: Whenever I set my mind to getting a start on holiday shopping, I always end up buying a lot of stuff for myself. I’m not proud of this, obviously, but there it is. I did manage to resist towels from Macy’s Hotel Collection, which are about as hot as linens can get, because they’re cripplingly expensive.

Survey says: I haven’t done an exhaustive search, but based on anecdotal experience, the best manga selection to be found in Pittsburgh is probably at the Borders in South Hills.

Weaponized baking: I always thought those cookie guns were among the stupidest kitchen gadgets imaginable until my partner bought one over the weekend. We made cheese crackers, and they are unimaginably delicious. And it really is fun to fire perfectly shaped drops of dough onto a baking sheet. I think my arteries are trembling in fear at this point.

So I don’t have to: I can move the second volume of Kazuhiro Okamoto’s lovely Translucent (Dark Horse) out of my “to review” pile, because Katherine Dacey-Tsuei has perfectly summed up the book’s merits in the latest Weekly Recon.

Minx links: J. Caleb Mozzocco takes an interesting qualitative/quantitative look at the Minx line to date over at Every Day Is Like Wednesday. The Washington Post names The Plain Janes one of the ten best comics of 2007. I don’t even think The Plain Janes is the best Minx book of 2007, but the inclusion of Aya delights me to no end.


Buckeye country

November 26, 2007

I had big plans for reading and writing over the Thanksgiving holiday, but I got sidetracked by an unusually active visit to family in Columbus. (These visits usually involve moving from couch to couch between random snack consumption, but we kept going places and doing things. I’m not complaining.)

First up was a touring production of Spamalot, which was amusing if not life-changing. By pure coincidence, I happened to be there on the same night as Mark Evanier, so I’ll just point to his description of the evening. (No matter how many Thanksgiving holidays I spend in Columbus, I always manage to forget that the Mid-Ohio Con is going on at the same time. It doesn’t really seem like the kind of convention I’d enjoy, to be honest.)

We had dinner before the show at Thai Taste. If you’re in Columbus and you like Thai food, GO. If you like pomegranate martinis and Thai food, GO OFTEN.

A large group of us hit a matinee of Enchanted on Saturday. I’m normally very pro-musical, though this movie wasn’t really on my radar before a niece or two expressed their profound interest in seeing it. A lot of reviews have described it as subversive, though I think they might have mistakenly identified cleverness. The real world that’s juxtaposed to the cartoon landscape isn’t really any more realistic, and there’s a weirdly retro vibe to everything. (It’s still reaffirming conventional relationships as much as any other Disney princess musical, so I’m not sure where the progressive, edgy underpinnings are supposed to be.) Amy Adams is spectacular, though. I’m getting sick of seeing the finest actresses of a certain generation (Michelle Pfeiffer, Meryl Streep, and, in this case, Susan Sarandon) reduced to playing vicious, oppressive harridans who hate youth even as they covet it, to be honest. And Patrick Dempsey’s appeal is entirely lost on me, apparently. He’s just grumpy.

That evening was spent at a hockey game, of all places. As far as interesting, fast-paced sports to watch, I’d rank hockey fairly highly, though I’m never going to be the target audience for any of them. And there was interesting people-watching to be done, especially if you sat there and looked for parallels to comic fandom in the puck head set. (There was this guy in front of us who was maniacally, microscopically attentive throughout and seemed utterly miserable to this casual observer, but everyone has his or her own idea of fun, I suppose.)

I did manage to work in a visit to The Laughing Ogre, one of my favorite comic shops in the entire world. Maybe it was just because I was outnumbered by staff three to one, but they were tremendously helpful and friendly and readily admitted that none of them were really big manga experts though they were happy to look stuff up for me. See how that works?

And while I did get some reading done, this week’s Flipped will still be a day late because I’m lazy and tired.


Monday linkblogging, etc.

October 22, 2007

J.K. Rowling has revealed that one of the characters from her Harry Potter series of books, Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore, was gay. It’s nice, but I’d have been more impressed if she’d actually revealed that in the text, ideally before the character died.

On the one hand, she seldom devoted any space to the private lives of the Hogwarts faculty unless it was essential to the narrative (Snape) or factored heavily into a thematically linked subplot (Hagrid and Madame Maxim). On the other, it seems like his one relationship was pretty punitively disappointing. On another hand, I still think poor Tonks was the biggest beard in the fantasy canon, and that anyone who thinks Sirius and Lupin weren’t totally in love is kidding him- or herself.

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While not everyone agrees on the tenor of that Tigra sequence from New Avengers #35, there does seem to be general consensus that Matt Brady’s Newsarama interview with writer Brian Bendis was the kind of tounge-bath seldom seen outside of the cozy, secluded nests mother cats create to welcome their newborns. Here’s one of my favorite responses, and probably the most comprehensive.

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So I don’t seem completely grumpy, I’ll like to two reviews of books published by Dark Horse that made me happy, both the books and the reviews. First is Greg McElhatton’s look at Kazuhiro Okamoto’s far-more-interesting-than-it-sounds Translucent, and second is Ken Haley’s praise for the first two volumes of Adam Warren’s better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be Empowered.

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I love this sauce. I think it would be good on just about any kind of protein, and probably many vegetables as well. (Maybe someday I’ll point you to a healthy recipe. Don’t hold your breath.)

*

Speaking of cooking, wow, I gave up too quickly on Kitchen Princess (Del Rey). I thought the first volume was pretty uninspiring, but I caught up with more recent installments via complimentary copies, and it definitely picks up steam. It’s still not life-changing, but there are lots of pretty pictures of food and some reasonably moving story material.


The Monday randomizer

October 15, 2007

I didn’t get around to putting together a Flipped column for this week. I read lots of horror manga, but I ended up being too paralyzed with fear to write about any of it! (Okay, the truth is I had a day-job event and a delightful houseguest. Sue me.)

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I also made oatmeal cookies, and after considerable scientific research and extensive comparison, I’ve decided that they just taste better with dried cranberries in them. Sorry, raisins, you dried fruit of the average palate. (I’ve never made them with dried blueberries or, dare I suggest it, dried cherries, so Craisins could be bumped off of the throne any week now.)

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Not long ago, I was pondering ‘tween-friendly musicals like Legally Blonde, and MTV was kind enough to broadcast a taped performance of the show. It was pretty awful, so of course I watched all of it. Aside from “Gay or European,” the songs were incredibly uninspired, and the performances were really competent but not quirky in the ways they needed to be to really sell the resolutely so-so material. The audience for the performance ate it up, though, cheering on cue like the center of the basketball team just walked on stage.

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I knew I wasn’t the only person who found the “Poor, Poor Tigra” stuff creepy, but there’s something incredibly reassuring about seeing that it also bothered Graeme McMillan. Not that I want him to be bothered, obviously, but you know what I mean.

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“This is the worst column ever by the way Chris. I’m going to build an underground railroad just to get you out of this column. To help you escape.”

— From Part 2 of Chris Mautner’s interview with Tom Spurgeon over at Blog@Newsarama.

It’s not true at all, obviously. If you want to see Spurgeon in action as a critic, he thoughtfully provides more comics reviews in a single weekend post than I seem to manage to write in a year. Not that I’m feeling inadequate or anything.

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Still on the subject of reviews I enjoyed reading, check out Katherine Dacey-Tsuei’s look at With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child over at Manga Recon.


Death by chocolate

October 5, 2007

While I really enjoyed this season of Top Chef, I have to take issue with the choice of winner.

Spoilers after the jump.

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