Culinary Misadventures

They say that some people shouldn’t be allowed to own cameras. Unfortunately, I happen to be one of those people. I also happen to own a camera. So, when I was searching for something that would make for an easy lunch and my eyes fell on a tin of canned octopus, I thought: sandwich. Then, I thought: Maybe the Internet would like to hear about this. These are perhaps the sort of thoughts I should ignore, but hey, what the hell, right?

The ingredients: “Vigo” brand canned Spanish octopus (in soy sauce and olive oil), “Country Ploughman’s” pickle (note: that’s pickle, not pickles. those familiar with British food will know the difference; those unfamiliar with British food: you’re probably better off anyway).

The octopus, decanted, drained, and washed. I had to wash it because, the last time I ate that brand of canned octopus (yes, that has happened more than once), I found the black crud on the outside of the octopus bits truly bitter and awful.

Spreading the pickle on the octopus. Because making a sandwich with nothing but octopus would just be silly

Lunch.

Judgment: You might think that a sandwich made with canned octopus and vegetable spread would either have to be awful or wonderful, but as it turned out, the sandwich was rather…blah. Aside from a few tongue-tormenting encounters with leftover bits of the black crud, the octopus didn’t taste like much of anything, and towards the middle of the sandwich, the pickle totally overpowered it.

Flavor: Like pickle mingled with the smell of genitals. 5/10

Texture: Like eating a bunch of canned meat with pickle spread on it. 5/10

Hunger Satisfaction: Probably nutritionally equivalent to eating your own foot, but a lot less painful. Did leave me with a nasty, greasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, though. 8/10

Stay tuned, because God willing, I’ll be eating other such strange things in the future. After all, not far from where I found the octopus is the second crown jewel of my pantry: a tin of escargot.

Note: I wouldn’t reccomend trying this. For a few hours afterwards, I had a lovely feeling of having oil on the brain.

Hubble Finds a Mystery Object

As is my habit, I was scanning through the news today, and came upon a story that really caught my attention: the Hubble telescope has spotted some sort of mysterious object in space. While this is hardly the first time that’s happened, this time, there’s a twist: the object behaves like nothing else we’ve ever seen. It’s been described as belonging to a possible “new class of astronomical object.” Apparently, it appeared, brightened, and dimmed, and disappeared within a few hundred days. Here’s the really weird part: nobody knows what it is. The way it brightened and dimmed isn’t consistent with a supernova or any other kind of known object. Additionally, it moved so strangely that nobody knows how far away it was. According to astronomers, it could have been anywhere between 130 and 11,000,000,000 light-years away.

Being a sometimes writer of science fiction, it’s hard not to speculate as to what the Mystery Thingy might have been, but even if it was something fairly mundane, this is still pretty exciting.

You can read more about the Mystery Thingy (which I’m hoping will catch on as the object’s official name) here.

Movie Review: “Burn After Reading”

It’s not often that I’m drawn to a movie by big-name actors, but when I read that the Cohen Brothers’ Burn After Reading starred both Brad Pitt and George Clooney, I got interested, and when I found myself in need of something to do, I went down to the movie theater with Burn After Reading in mind.

The film opens in Langley, Virginia, at C.I.A. headquarters (is there even anything else in Langley?), where we meet analyst Ozzie Cox (played by John Malkovich), who is demoted due to a “drinking problem,” then quits and goes home to his ice-queen wife and failing marriage. This is the point where it gets very tricky to try to summarize the film, for fear of accidentally ruining the jokes or giving away the dramatic twists, which are sprinkled liberally and unexpectedly throughout the film.

Suffice to say that Chad (Brad Pitt), an employee at a gym, accidentally comes into possession of secret information, and gets everyone around him embroiled in a twisted and complex web of lies and intrigue that also manages to involve Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney).

I’ve complained before about overly complex plots (Syriana being the inevitable example of a plot too twisted for its own good), and Burn After Reading is proof that it’s not just the fact that I was raised on plotless action-movie drivel. You see, although the plot of Burn After Reading is very intricate, it’s also accessible and perfectly understandable. The Cohen brothers manage to flawlessly weave together the lives of at least four major, well-rounded characters more seamlessly than I’ve ever seen. The film is like a cinematic Rube Goldberg machine: clever set-ups and excellent design allow what should be an impossible plot to come together believably. Even though every single character is stupid or shallow in their own way, they’re all stupid and shallow in the same way that real people are stupid and shallow. Pitt plays a goofy, air-headed bicyclist. Malkovich is a distant and somewhat sullen dullard. Clooney brings to life a nervous, paranoid ex-U.S. Marshall. Actress Frances McDormand is the familiar sufferer of a midlife crisis, bent on renewing herself in every way but the important ones. At first, the characters were hard to empathize with, but in the end, they all have a weird likeability.

The movie is also incredibly funny, with the kind of dark, bewildered deadpan humor that hits me just right. Although the plot is potentially grim and serious, it’s impossible not to laugh. Burn After Reading reminds me in some ways of the late great Kurt Vonnegut’s dark, sadistic, cynical humor.

This is the point where I’m supposed to lay out some criticism for the sake of balance, but with this particular film, that’s pretty hard to do. It’s so incredibly well-constructed and entertaining that I can’t think of any obvious dead spots or plot holes. The worst I can do is say that the dialogue seemed slightly stilted a few times.

That’s it. That’s all the criticism I can come up with. Burn After Reading is a wonderful satire of the shallow superficiality of our lives, of the veneer of solidity and invincibility over our government (and our relationships), and it’s also hilarious in a wonderfully subtle, understated way.

Final Judgment: Excellent. You should definitely see this film.

Rating:

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     `     (9.5/10 asterisks)

Absence…Again

Once again, I apologize for the complete lack of updates lately. Once again, life (mainly my latest batch of classes) is stealing all of my attention. I promise some more updates soon, just as soon as I can write anything worth posting.