Monday, May 23, 2011

Because I'm too lazy to type or write*.

*but not too lazy, it seems, to do 4 hours of video editing while being increasingly frustrated by Windows Live Movie Maker. Multiple crashes, one bad enough to restart my computer for me, and and file issues made this extremely frustrating. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Scrivener

Behold: a ScribbleBlog which I was initally not to happy with, but I wanted to save the pages.

Also, just to show you what I've been doing between the 45 or so daily minutes where we learn something and we aren't waiting for the system to start working again, I will show you.

PS: I hate it when you've got a book you know nothing about and buy and read and like and then it ends unsatisfactorily because it's the first part of an as-yet-unwritten quadrilogy. Fuck.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Paying Off

I took a punt on a comic today due to the lure of a bargain.

Now, as I've mentioned before, certain types of comics get me down. Like way down. I hate bleak, nihilisitic topics, and tend to find both ultra-violence & cyberpunk grating and uninteresting.

So I was as surprised as you when I both purchased, then enjoying the living hell out of TransMetropolitan.

It's really, really good.

I had been avoiding it for ages, despite my liking of The Authority & NextWave & Fell & Planetary, due to the one Vertigo short I had read consisting of Spider Jerusalem running through a party shouting sound-bites at people.

The main book is like that too, but also much more awesome. It's funny, and it's rude (Mr Ellis seems to be tired of the word fuck, some uses new combinations, such as "whorehopper"), and clearly has a message. The futuristic city (which, as seemingly every future city needs to be, has every square metre plastered with shrieking ads, but at least the characters dislike it as much as I do) is far enough into the future to make what needs to be possible possible for the story. Need a gun that causes bowel release? They have a kit for that. (Yes. Yes, they do. And it's hilarious.) Need your sidekick to be an incontinent gecko-hunting two-headed cat who smokes? Done. It's a place where even the on-board AI on a food-dispenser is addicted to drugs.

So I highly recommend TransMet. Go read it. Especially you.

I also understand that the liking of this counter-culture book may have coincidently occurred on the day I have to buy new formal shoes, shave off my sideburns, and take out my eyebrow ring to go work for my first proper corporate job. Yeah.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Alternative Character Interpretation: Part 1

So this is part 1 of 4 of a series of thoughts I've been having based around characters, specifically those from Lord of the Rings and Fallout 3.

I've always been one to over-analyse. It's an interest I fostered in high school which then went into overdrive in University & beyond. As Simon Pegg put in in his autobiography "Nerd Do Well" (which I highly recommend):
(read the whole paragraph, you, not just the highlighted bit)

Many people's reaction to over-analysis of film or television is "God, you're wanking on a bit. Can't you just enjoy it? Well, yes. Though this stuff mostly comes out in things like Lord of the Rings, which I have seen in its 11-hour-extended-edition-entirety upwards of 30 times. It's a trilogy I love. I love it so much, in fact, that I've become slightly numb to the obvious moments of greatness. And it's that numbness that allows you to notice smaller things that are going on. Which is what we come to today.

Part 1: Wormtongue
Azula: I can see your whole history in your eyes. You were born with nothing, so you've had to struggle, connive, and claw your way to power. But true power, the divine right to rule, is something you're born with. The fact is, they don't know which one of us is going to be sitting on that throne, and which one is going to be bowing down. But I know, and you know. (sits on the throne)Well?
Long Feng:....(kneels before Azula) You've beaten me at my own game.
Azula: Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.
— Avatar: The Last Airbender
(I know, I know, different universe, but it illustrates what I'm talking about so well!)
(also, let's be clear, I'm discussing the film version, as portrayed by Brad Dourif)
So there's this kid, right? He's shorter than all the other kids. He can't run as fast. He's no good on a horse. He is a terrible sword-fighter. In fact, he's terrible at pretty much anything physical. But he's always thinking. He quickly realises that this can be something important and useful, so he develops his mind. He studies medicine, political intrigue, relationships between those in power. He organises things, and through this, becomes quite valuable. He trades favours and offers advice, gaining position through flattery, bribes, blackmail, threats, and in some cases, poison (which his medical studies made him an expert in). Eventually, though, he finds that in this kingdom, you can only go so far without might or skill with a sword. So he looks elsewhere, makes a powerful and dangerous allegiance, weakens the king, and takes his place as the Bismarck to the King's Wilhelm. He essentially infects the entire court with Munchausen-by-proxy: You need me here, to help the King. Once this is established, he is King in all but name, despite only being the conduit for another power.

This is how we meet Wormtongue. He is "advisor" to king Theoden, while being used by Saruman to control Rohan. He keeps the King weak and confused (implied to be through "witchcraft", but possibly through drugs as well) and whispers his & Saruman's wonts into the King's ear. He is still a weak figure, but he is able to command power, changing rules, and banishing those who oppose him. In return, he is promised more power, and especially the "hand" (....yeah) of Eowyn, the King's niece.

Of course, in ride Gandalf and our heroes, and we all know what happens: they awaken the King, who literally throws Grima from the hall. Grima would have been slaughtered, had not Aragorn stepped in.

Grima runs to Saruman, looking for a new place to set up shop. He brings information with him, still his only currency, and trades it to Saruman for shelter. He explains who cast him out (right down to what jewelry they were wearing) as well as the weaknesses of the Helm's Deep fortress wall. At this point, Grima has given up all the information he has, selling out his court, his King, and his people, out of desperation, and of slim hope of his expected reward (regime change, get the girl, all those people I hate go away).

Saruman takes this information and reveals some of his plan: he has gunpowder, all the better to exploit the weakness in the fortress. Oh, and he also has 10,000 magically-frenzied Uruk Hai outside the window, fully armoured and ready to attack. Grima's information was mildly useful, but not essential. He has played his entire hand and lost.

Here's where it gets interesting and I had my little revalation. What I noticed is in the visual composition of the scenes between him and Saruman. Initially, Grima is seated on a throne-like chair, nursing his wounds while Saruman paces. Grima's position implies power, almost as if he is recovering his strength. Once the gunpowder is revealed, Saruman takes centre stage, with Grima crouched behind him, both literally and figuratively in his shadow. Specifically, Grima is holding a candlestick in his right hand. The candlestick is about 40 cm long and has a tiny stub of white candle on top, which is lit. This candlestick is a miniature version of Saruman's wizard staff (a tall black rod, topped by a white ball). This again demonstrates the power difference between them at a glance. Saruman even, in a comical moment, holds Grima back to stop his candle from coming too close to the gunpowder. Apart from the obvious ("Don't blow us up, idiot"), this is Saruman asserting dominance ("What little power you hold, I can control at will"). They cross to the window, and we (and Grima) see the army. The air from their roars snuffs out his candle. For a moment, He and Saruman stand side-by-side, Saruman with his staff in his right hand, Grima with his (now useless) candlestick. The visual comparison is clear. Grima was never more than a pretender, a wannabe Big Bad.

Grima, up until this point, has been a power-player. He has played both sides off the middle for so long that it is second nature to him. He gives the information to Saruman, thinking that while it might allow Saruman an advantage, the Big S was biting off a bit more than he can chew by attacking Helm's Deep. Then he sees the army.

Then he realises that Saruman does not want a regime change. He does not want to win a battle. He wants genocide. He wants all men gone. Grima might have been trying to push other people out of the boat, but he wasn't drilling holes in the bottom. He realises that he's been played, that he had no real power, and that there is now absolutely nothing he can do about it.

So he holds very still, and weeps.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Brain food

Our whole neighbourhood smells of charcoal due to a neighbour having a barbecue. Tanja's always a bit sickened by the smell due to too many charcoal chicken shops nearby to where she lived when she was younger. It raised a question in my mind, though. Why is the smell of charcoal/roasting things so arresting, even if we're not hungry?

Is it

a) the smell of charcoal and roasting brings to mind happy memories of eating, family, satisfaction, etc, so our brain jumps the queue and goes "charcoal=happy"?


b) the smell of cooked-down wood on fire breaks right through all the rational memory and hits our reptilian/Australopithecus centre of the brain and goes "Smell of smoke=fire=potentially dead=BE CAREFUL DUMBASS".

I lean towards the latter. In either case, the reaction is the same: nostrils flare, heads up, looking around. Evolved, ain't we?

Also, apropos of nothing, I want to post this bit from Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith's Fell (all ownership theirs, fair use, etc etc, this is educational):

Ted, you need to make this at Mars Hill.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Cooking Tuesday: Egyptian Stuffed Flatbread

So, despite my initial idea that I had done quite a few of these recipe posts, turns out I only actually did two. Go figure. I thought I had at least three. Oh well. This is one of my go-to "we're hungry, it's a weeknight, hurry up!" recipes.

Egyptian Stuffed Flatbread
I have no idea if this is authentically Egyptian, but frankly, I don't care. It's good. Serves two as a meal, or 4 as a starter. Goes great with soups.

--Your Oven
Preheat it as high as it will go. Seriously.

--Prep Your Bits:
It just sounds so rude! Nah, basically, all this step involves is taking whatever bits you're using (chicken, lamb, pork, etc) and chopping it up into bite-sized pieces. Admittedly, if you don't have any leftovers, you can just buy a couple of thigh fillets, cook them on a grill and chop them up. But the idea here is to use what you already have in the fridge. Though not pizza. Anyway, chop the bits and put them in a mixing bowl.

--Start Your Mixture
You know that bowl with the bits in it? Crack in the two eggs, and dump in your spices. Zest your lemon, chop the zest up fine, and throw it into the bowl as well. Squeeze on half of the lemon over the bowl. Slice up your spring onions and put about 3/4 of them into the bowl too (keep a few aside for later). Pinch of salt, bit of pepper, into bowl. Mix the whole shebang together, making sure all your bits are coated and the eggs get beaten. You could beat the eggs before, but that's another step and another bowl to wash.

Get out your baking trays. This bit is done easiest with spray olive oil. Spray the inside of one tray and lay your flatbread in it. I use two if they're big, three or four if they're small. You're going to be folding them over like a quesadilla, so just put your filling onto one half. Smooth it out with your spoon, so it's level. Keep it clear of the edges, or it'll run out. Now spray the bottom of the second tray with your oil, fold the flatbreads over, and put the second tray on top, so it holds them down. This also means both sides will get crispy.

Put the trays into the oven for 8 minutes.

WHILE THIS IS HAPPENING (I love dramatic headings)
Get a big plate. In the middle, dollop your yogurt. Grab a handful of mint leaves and tear them up over the yogurt.

Wait a bit. A small bit. Until the 8 minutes is up. I don't know, maybe sing a little song or something.

Ding! Flatbreads are done. Take them out of the oven (the top layer should make noise when you tap it with a fork. Seriously) and lay them out on your cutting board. Slice the flatbreads into triangles (or trapezoids or dodecahedrons) and arrange them in a circle on the plate around the yogurt. Leave one side of the plate free, and dollop on your hommous, making a little well in the middle of the homous and pouring on some olive oil.

Scatter over your leftover spring onions and a little bit more sumac, cumin and zahtar (don't go mad, though).

And that's it! Mine usually ends up looking something like this:

*Disclaimer: original recipe from JAMIE'S AMERICA by Jamie Oliver. I do not claim to own this recipe, I just make it a lot. Dude, why would I claim this is mine? I don't want to get sued.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Live From Nando's, It's the Live-Action Space Invaders Counselling Hour!

For those of you who were missing the T-Shirt of the week:

This is my Live Action Space Invaders shirt. It's one of the few shirts I feel weird about wearing around Tanja's parents.

So yes! Today. I write things down. Again.
(Click for bigger photos if my writing hurts your brain.)