Thursday, June 27, 2013

let's just go ahead and talk about tv

There's no sense in me pretending I don't watch an obscene amount of television, so let's just go ahead and discuss what's on TV right now. Basically, there's not enough to keep me happy and sedate, rubbing my belly full of biscotti (which: make these) while lounging lazily on the chesterfield.

(Does anyone call a couch a chesterfield anymore? My grandmother-in-law is the only person I'd ever met who called it that. She also used the phrase "for the birds" quite a bit, and to date, it's one of my all-time-faves.)

I am suffering from my annual bout of summer TV drought. As if people stop watching television during the summer. I guess we all ought to be out picking fruit in organic orchards and swimming in lakes and getting sunburns and canning peaches, and if you believe The Blogs Of The World, some people are really out there doing all that, every day. But during the week, on summer evenings,  I'm a big fan of my air conditioner and a nice program on my telly.

So here's a little rundown of what I've scrounged up to watch.

  • The Bachelorette. Quite possibly the dullest installment of this show yet. When three of my top five guys were eliminated on the second episode, I decided this season was going nowhere fast. So I looked up spoilers to see who the winner is, and I am baffled. Also baffled by the runner-up. I just don't give a flying fart about any of the people on this show. 
  • The Fall. This is a BBC psychological thriller you can catch on Netflix. It's actually quite good, although there aren't enough episodes (only 5) and it sort of leaves you hanging. It stars Gillian Anderson, whom I have loved since her X-Files days, and Jamie Dornan, who played the sheriff on Once Upon a Time for five minutes before they killed him off.  
  • Season 3 of the The Killing. I have a love/hate relationship with this show. The good news is they've promised to wrap the story up in one season this time, rather than drag the whole thing out for two (which: for the birds). It's vaguely boring, but I love the guy who plays Holder (he's also going to be RoboCop in the RoboCop reboot next year) and Peter Sarsgaard has been entertaining as the did-he-or-didn't-he guy on death row. 
  • Family Tree on HBO. Utterly, terrifically boring. Had to stop watching. Is it just that I don't get British humor? 
  • In the Flesh. Another BBC show you can catch OnDemand. There's been a zombie outbreak, but they've come up with a cure and are trying to rehabilitate former zombies. Problem is not everyone is on board with the rehabbed zombies being welcomed back into society. Sort of dark, but kept me entertained. Damn, zombies are like the new black, right?
  •  True Blood. There is only one reason to watch this stupid show any more, and that's so you can read the io9 recap the next day and laugh your ass off. Well worth the hour invested.
  • Real Housewives of Orange County. Lydia is my new favorite. Slade (omg the name Slade, I just die) totally did call Vicky Miss Piggy (and he totally won't take ownership of it, what a douche), and Vicky totally did get a facelift as a direct result! Way to call a slade a spade, Lyd. (See what I did there?)
  • Ray Donovan on Showtime. Really good stuff. Probably the best thing out this summer. He's a Hollywood "fixer." Love it. 
  • Under the Dome. Entertaining enough. Campy horror, a la Stephen King. It takes a few liberties with the book, although I admittedly only read the first 5%. 
Someone tell me what the deal is with Copper and Whodunit? Do I need to be watching these? Am I missing anything? I didn't bother with that Netflix werewolf show, but should I have?

Monday, June 17, 2013

two stinkers and a nice summer read

I'll get the two stinkers out of the way real quick so we can move on to the surprisingly enjoyable women's lit I just finished.

There are so many futuristic, apocalyptic young adult novels out right now. I think everyone wants to be the next The Hunger Games. The 5th Wave, for example, is a book that just came out and is getting a lot of buzz. I downloaded a sample* and it just didn't hook me so I didn't buy it. I might be wrong about it, though -- it's already in development for a movie.

Anyway, Icons is one such novel in which young people are living in a world that's been taken over by aliens. I think the reason I didn't love it was that I just never really connected with the characters. And I thought their "mission" was lame. It's going to be a series so I understand this is just stop number 1 for them, but I'm not personally willing to delay gratification for that long. If you have a series, you've gotta give me a little more to nibble on. Something a little juicier.

Now I think it's time for me to hand in my science fiction fan club membership card, because I hated Foundation.

The science fiction community considers this book to be practically Biblical in its importance, and many later works draw from it. But oh my word, is it boring. It reminded me of when I was a reporter and I used to cover city council meetings. Very rarely, there would be a meeting with an item of interest on the agenda, which I was always thankful for. But even with an interesting city council item, I'd still rather have been anywhere else on the planet than in those city council meetings, because they were still dry and dull. Like this book.

Ninety percent of the book is dialog between human men (the only species in the book, which I found surprising and boring, given that the book is set in a multi-planet world), and only men. Two women appear in the book, for about a page each, to demonstrate their pettiness and love of jewelry. I shouldn't be so harsh -- the book was published in 1951, so perhaps Asimov couldn't yet envision a world in which women were men's equals. But another problem with no women in the book was there was zero romantic tension, which I think every book needs.

The most pressing problem with the novel is that nothing happens. There's a lot of discussion of the fall of an empire and a certain group's attempts to prevent the unsettled period from lasting more than 1,000 years. Even with references to nuclear power and traveling faster than light, it is so frigging boring.

This book was written by an actress, which I wanted to be annoyed by. Lauren Graham is in Parenthood and Gilmore Girls. I saw her promoting her book on TV one day, and I made a note to just download a sample and see what I thought. My usual opinion of books written by celebrities is that they are crap. So I was really surprised that I enjoyed her book so much, and more than that, I think she must be a very cool person.

They say write what you know, so that's pretty much what Graham did -- it's fiction, but it's about a young woman living in New York, trying to make it in show biz. She's given herself a three-year time limit to make it before throwing in the towel, and she's on her final six months. She doesn't necessarily fit the mold of your typical skinny starlet with perfect hair, and her ego seems a little lacking. She talks about all the actors she's training with and all the casting calls she reads for, which I found really interesting. She's also mixed in a little love triangle for fun.

I found Graham's observations to be well-expressed and insightful, and at the same time Someday, Someday, Maybe is really just some light summer reading, great for vacation. 

One thing you should know if you do decide to read the book is that I think it might be better to read the actual book rather than the electronic version because there are a few illustrations. I downloaded it to my ancient kindle and found some of the illustrations hard to make out. That said I bet it looks way better on the kindle fire or the ipad.

I have no idea what's up next. I just don't want to get skunked again! I'm considering Night Film or The Andalucian Friend, or 2312. Recommendations are welcome!

*books I downloaded samples of recently and decided not to read:
- The 5th Wave
- The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. I wanted to want to read this, but I could tell it was going to be a while before we got to the good part. I guess I do not love books too much.
- Unwritten: A Novel. Just didn't grab me.
- Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. I actually found this fascinating and inspirational so don't ask me why I didn't download the rest of it to read. It talks about a variety of artists and what they do every day. Really interesting. Many of them work hard in the mornings, then in the afternoons they sort of dick around. I've been doing it the complete opposite for forever, and I think I've been doing it wrong -- my mind is fresher mid-morning, so I need to be taking advantage of that.
- The Execution of Noa P. Singleton. I could tell I wasn't going to like a single character in this book, and after Foundation, I was feeling a bit impatient with that kind of crap. This book is being touted as the next Gone Girl, which I loved. But I don't buy it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

breakfast potatoes

This is simply too good not to share. I came across this recipe on Amateur Gourmet last week and it has changed my breakfast life.

Because I have tried to make hashbrowns OH SO MANY TIMES. Using various types of potatoes, adding in onions and peppers. Frying on various heat levels, in butter, oil, or both. I've tried recipes from otherwise totally legitimate cookbooks. And I have failed every time.

Mistake number one is trying to make hash browns rather than country potatoes or whatever the alternative to hash browns are called. It's not worth the time and effort. Grating the potatoes, then squeezing the liquid out of them? What a mess and a hassle. Forget about it. They will never turn out right.

But this? Oh, man. I should have known all along the secret miracle-ingredient would be bacon fat.

It's such a simple recipe, you'll basically memorize it right off the bat. The only way my recipe differs from the Amateur Gourmet version is that I used yukon gold potatoes instead of russet (only because I couldn't find organic russet potatoes and potatoes are one of those things you're supposed to try to eat the organic version of. But the yukon were really delicious), and I learned you should salt them only once. Don't over salt.

I liked these oh-so-much that I made them twice last weekend. I may make them again this weekend. This will definitely be one of those staple recipes I turn to repeatedly. I hope you try it and it blows your mind, too.

(Also, I should disclose Amateur Gourmet was using a Marion Cunningham recipe from her cookbook, The Breakfast Book, which I'll be requesting for my birthday.)

Serves 2-3 people

4 slices bacon (I used thick cut, makes more grease)
1 large russet potato or two to three yukon gold potatoes
salt and pepper
1 scallion, sliced - optional

Slice the bacon into strips and fry in a large cast-iron skillet. While it's frying up, wash your potato(es) and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut it up into half-inch cubes. Remove the bacon from the skillet when it's cooked (I drain it on a paper towel), and turn up the heat to medium-high. Your bacon grease will be smoking. Then add the potatoes and arrange them in a single layer. Salt and pepper them and let sit for about three minutes. Then turn them with a spatula, and let sit for another three minutes. If your skillet dries out, add some canola oil. So on and so forth until they look and taste finished. Season to taste, if necessary. Add the bacon and scallion, if using, and serve immediately.