Tuesday, January 31, 2012

People Taste Bad

Recently I got into a discussion about the movie Grizzly Man with a friend.  I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it, but basically it's the true story - made from the actual video footage of an animal activist who decided to go up to Alaska and live with Grizzly bears.  As you may have already guessed, the movie ends with him getting killed by bears.  Anyway, this reminded me of a theory I've been mulling over for quite some time now - people taste bad.

The prevailing opinions about how humans have become the dominant species on the planet have revolved around opposable thumbs or a larger brain.  I even read one theory that we've developed intellect because of our flat backs - humans are the only species that can lay flat on their backs, enabling parents to have their hands free and play with and make eye contact with babies while they are laying down.  I know that now we have weapons and houses that keep us safe from animals, but it wasn't always so.  When humans were living in caves and only had sticks and rocks to defend themselves, how were they able to avoid becoming dinner for bigger and stronger animals.  Certainly we would be easier prey than faster and stronger animals.  Or animals with horns, antlers, claws, or teeth to defend themselves with.  My theory is that it's because we smell and taste bad. 

Whenever there are animal attacks on humans, the human usually isn't eaten.  Possibly killed, but most of the time the animal moves on and leaves the corpse behind.  Animals only attack humans when they are surprised by us, when they are defending their young, or when they are starving and can't find anything else to eat.  Even sharks, which will eat pretty much anything, don't eat people.  They take a bite and go on their merry way.  Dogs will lick us to decide if it's worth taking a bite, but rarely do.  And it's not just us - in all the nature documentaries I've seen other animals don't eat primates.  I saw one once where a crocodile ate a monkey, but that's it.  I don't recall any apes, monkeys, or orangutans being attacked.  What other explanation can there be?

Which brings me to the second part of the theory.  People that haven't bathed in a while can manifest a pretty horrific odor.  Just today a woman sat next to me on the bus who was a little ripe.  If that isn't a deterrent to being eaten, then I don't know what is.  Not to mention that the dietary habits of most are such that it's not a stretch to imagine that it negatively impacting flavor.  The one thing I haven't worked out is that I've frequently heard that pigs are anatomically the most similar to humans, and everyone well knows that pigs are the most delicious creature that God ever invented.  Does that mean that humans are equally delicious?  I don't think so.  I think we're just enough different that we taste repellent.  And that's how we got where we are today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder is now officially a Detroit Tiger and any Mariners fans holding out hope that we would sign him can close that book now.  And before the ink dried on the 9 year $214,000,000 contract, I let out a sigh of relief that the Mariners didn't spend that ridiculous amount of money on him.  He will most likely be quite productive for the next few years, but you can't deny the fact that a huge, long term contract and a fat man who loves his lucky gravy and dislikes exercise is a bad combination.  I wish Prince and the Tigers the best of luck, but I can almost guarantee you that in less than 5 years the rest of MLB will be thankful they don't have that albatross around their necks. 

In other news, it is very windy tonight.  It's noisy enough that I think I'll have trouble sleeping, and I fear a power outage.  High winds after the ground has been softened by substantial precipitation is a recipe for trees falling on power lines.  And no power in January is a recipe for a cold Scott. 

Finally, I got some coupons in the mail from the brand new Little Caesars that just opened up in Kirkland, and after a discussion with friends as to whether or not this is a good thing (of course it is), I came to the realization that I think I like cheap pizza.  As long as it's not Dominos.  I know that every few years they claim they've improved their quality and it doesn't suck anymore, but I still don't want any.  Little Caesars, though, does remind me of better times - eating lots of it during college.  I must admit I'm a little disappointed that it's not square anymore though.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Resident Evil

I was just watching the Resident Evil 6 trailer online.  The game won't come out until November, so it seems like this is awfully early to be starting up the hype machine.  Anyway, as I was watching it, I started thinking that since guns aren't very effective against zombies, some kind of weapon that they get tangled up in and keeps them from moving would be more effective.  Something like a netting.  Then for some reason I thought that Spiderman would be a very effective superhero for fighting zombies because of his web slinging.  He could either shoot the zombies with a mouthful of web so they can't bite anyone, or he could shoot them in the legs and trip them up so they couldn't walk.  Now I can't help wondering why, in a time when theaters are inundated with both superhero movies and monster movies, there hasn't yet been a fusion of the genres.  I think I would like to see Spiderman vs The Zombies.  Moreover, I'm interested in seeing a superhero get bitten by a zombie (or vampire or werewolf, etc), becoming a superzombie.  What would be scarier than Superman becoming a flying zombie?  Nothing, that's what.  I'm not sure the entire Justice League could stop a zombie Superman.  The only hope for the world would be Spiderman getting him all tangled up in a web.  Again it all comes back to Spidey.  Anyway, all you Hollywood executives who are reading this, be sure to give me some free tickets when such a movie hits theaters. 

Moving right along, I saw a ton of movie previews while watching playoff football games today, and for the most part they looked pretty bad.  Ghost Rider was a terrible movie, how in the world does a sequel get greenlit?  It boggles the mind.  There's absolutely no way I can imagine part 2 being anything but a bomb.  Ditto for the equally abysmal Clash of the Titans.  I'd say Wrath of the Titans looks like a career killer, yet somehow the producers have managed to bring back most of the big names from the original cast.  But at least it will be in 3D! 

Which brings me to my next tangential topic:  am I the only one who is beginning to think of 3D as a massive gimmick?  The majority of movies shot in 3D to date have been pretty bad, and yes I'm including Avatar in that list.  While visually stunning, the movie itself was quite bad.  But my point is that it has gotten to where I more or less write off a movie if I see it advertised as 3D.  The previously mentioned Ghost Rider 2 and Wrath of the Titans will almost certainly be bombs.  The latest iteration of Underworld is currently receiving unfavorable reviews.  And Journey 2 - the sequel to Journey To The Center Of The Earth doesn't look good, and even though it only has 10 reviews so far on Rotten Tomatoes and it's too early to officially declare it rotten, only 4 of those 10 have been favorable.  Which should come as no surprise with The Rock starring in it.  I'm sure he's made a watchable movie, but off the top of my head I can't think of what that movie was.  Long story short, I feel like 3D has become a crutch to prop up low quality movies, and just as we now look back of 3D movies from the 50's and think they are cheesy as hell, coming generations will look back at 3D movies of our time and think of them as equally cheesy.

Over the last few days, I watched the 6 episodes of Portlandia that are available streaming on Netflix, and I'm unimpressed.  It's a fabulous concept, gently poking fun at some of the self important fringe members of society (who are prevalent in the entire Pacific Northwest, not just Portland), but it fails in it's execution.  There are an abundance of vegans, burned out hippies, people who want to live in a commune, belligerent bicyclists who hate anyone who drives a car, and countless others who derive a sense of self worth out of some action or ideal and rightly deserve a little skewering to deflate their egos.  It's not mean spirited, it's some good natured ribbing, so no one should take offense, but the simple fact of the matter is that the show just isn't funny.  After sitting through six episodes, I can think of only one moment that made me laugh.  The series just feels very forced and tedious to me. 

Finally, I'll finish up my entertainment rant by saying that I recently found out about a movie titled Tucker & Dale vs Evil.  It's a relatively low budget horror/comedy and it was surprisingly humorous and enjoyable.  It gets the coveted Craw Fu seal of approval.

Friday, January 20, 2012

John Rabe

Ever since reading Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nanking several years ago, I've been interested in learning more about the topic.  I've seen a few film like Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre and Nanking as well as reading what I could find online.  But since these sources focused on the atrocities committed during the Japanese occupation of Nanking, I was excited to see a movie made about John Rabe, head of the international safety zone committee in Nanking.

I've had this movie in my Netflix queue for quite a long time, but have put off watching it for a couple reasons.  First, the content is somber and gut wrenching, similar to Schindler's List, so I felt I had to be in the right mood to watch it.  Second, since John Rabe was a German businessman, I expected the movie to be in German and had to be in the mood to read subtitles.  As luck would have it, about half of the movie was in English so I didn't have nearly as much reading as I had anticipated.  I would estimate 40% was in German and 10% in Japanese.  I actually found it quite odd that a movie set in China would contain virtually no Chinese dialogue. 

That said, the backstory of this film is that in 1937, early in WWII, the Japanese military invaded China, and in it's conquest and subsequent occupation of the city of Nanking, committed unspeakable atrocities against the city's residents.  In a move of desperation, John Rabe, along with several other foreign businessmen, missionaries, doctors, and professors founded an 'international safety zone' - a demilitarized refuge in the city for the civilian residents to remain safe.  Using whatever political connections, international media attention, or other pressure they could muster, the got the Japanese army to agree to remain out of the zone.  Despite helping to save the lives of over 200,000 Chinese civilians, John Rabe was subsequently arrested upon his return to Germany in 1938 for his attempts to pursuade the German government to intervene.  Following the war, he was stripped of his work permit by Allied forces for his membership in the Nazi party and died penniless.  One final tragedy.

This film is based on the diary of John Rabe, and from what I know of the subject is fairly historically accurate.  It does not dwell on the carnage of the massacre, but rather the individuals involved in creating the safety zone and the struggle to maintain it.  Since the safety committee members are so diverse - some German, some British, some American, there is a great deal of friction among themselves that must be overcome in addition to the struggles of protecting and providing for an enormous group of refugees.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the interplay between Rabe and Dr Robert Wilson, played by Steve Buscemi (the lone actor I recognized).  Their mutual dislike is palpable and yet the respect for each other's dedication allows for enough common ground for them to work together.  The acting is superb, and I felt that the interplay between Rabe and Wilson in particular shined. 

I enjoyed the cinematography, and one particular technique which I found quite effective was when a scene would start in grainy black and white, making it appear like archival footage, and as the scene progressed would slowly transform into full color.  It was used a few times and I felt it added gravitas to the scene and made it feel more genuine.  And while the film slowed at times, overall I thought the pacing was about right.  It allowed time for the emotions to sink in before rushing off to the next scene. 

I feel like there is a lot more I should say, but mostly I think that the story is an important one and the script is well written.  Ultimately I found John Rabe to be a very powerful and poignant film.  It's a reminder that one man or a small group of individuals can stand up to overwhelming odds and make a very real difference.  It manages to be both tragic and uplifting at the same time.  While certainly not a feel good movie by any means, it is still an important movie to watch. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

White Coffee

After much curiosity and some reading on the internet, I finally decided to try some white coffee. What I learned before diving in is that white coffee is basically a very light roast. It is still comprised of arabica beans like any good coffee, but they are roasted barely beyond green, I don't believe even until the first crack. You see, green coffee beans have a sheath around them, and during the roast the beans expand in size until the sheath explodes, making a cracking sound, not unlike popcorn popping. If roasted for long enough, the beans will crack a second time as the beans themselves break apart.

With the roasting basics out of the way, it's time to talk about what's really important: how it brews. For starters, white coffee doesn't smell like traditional coffee, it has a mild aroma of peanut butter. After brewing, the peanut smell remains but it also has an earthy scent - kind of grassy. The shots are quite different than a traditional espresso shot too, a light caramel color with a high degree of transparency.

But how does it taste, you ask?  It should come as no surprise that along with a mild aroma and mild color, it also has a mild flavor. And like the aroma, it also has a nutty, earthy flavor. I would say similar to green tea with a hint of peanuts. Based on the caramel coloring, I decided to make my first drink a caramel macchiato. It turned out ok, but because of the mild flavor it lacked the rich fullness of traditional espresso roast. I also made a mocha and again, it was too mild. The benefit for those who want a good buzz but don't care for coffee is that white coffee has a higher caffeine content. Two drinks got me fairly wired. I could see it catching on with the folks who add copious amounts of flavored syrups and sugar to mask the coffee flavor. I don't think it will ever sway those who love the rich, deliciousness of dark roasted coffee, however.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ode To Snow

I love snow.  I love that it covers the filthy world with a blanket of white, taking what was once corrupt and making it appear pure and clean.  It provides insulation, quieting all the noise and giving the world a peaceful quiet.  Even road noise is reduced to a gentle muffled crunching of snow.  As long as drivers don't run into anything, at which point there is a loud crunching of metal.  When it snows, the world slows down, the stresses of daily life disappear, kids are outside playing, and adults are smiling and relaxed.  For a brief couple of days, the world is a better place.  People are friendlier and everything is more beautiful.  We are afforded a glimpse of how the world should be.  Yes, snow is one of life's little miracles.  Not to mention that it's pretty sweet to nail some unsuspecting fool in the side of the head with a tightly packed snowball.