Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Scenes From the Henderson Household

[one evening, at the Henderson abode, the following conversation ensues]

Rickey: Oh by the way, my mom bought yet another candelabra for the wedding. Here's a picture.

Ms. Henderson: Oh, nice. Looks good.

Rickey: Hey, does it feel like we've got an excess of candles?

Ms. H: No, why?

Rickey: I dunno, it just feels like this is turning into less of a wedding and more of a Meatloaf music video. Seriously, at what point do we need to start worrying about fire code violations?

[long hard stare from Ms. Henderson]

Rickey: Hey, why don't I go put stamps on the wedding invites?

Ms. H: Yes, why don't you go do that. You think you can handle it?

Rickey: Yes dear, I'm perfectly up to the complicated task of affixing stamps to envelopes.

Ms. H: Just put them on carefully--I spent an entire month schlepping to post offices searching for nice looking stamps with the correct postage.

Rickey: I still don't see why the "Legends of the WWF!" stamps wouldn't have worked...

Ms. H: And this is why you're not in charge of table decorations. Now get stamping.

[30 minutes later, Ms. Henderson inspects Rickey's work]

Ms. H: You are aware that in this country it's customary to put stamps on the right corner of the envelope and not the left corner, yes?

Rickey: Oh fuck me.

[30 frustrated minutes later of stamp removal]

Ms. H: Ok, now we assemble all the invitations. The invite card goes in the back, then the stamped RSVP envelope, then the RSVP card, then the website card, then it all goes in the blank envelope, which is stuffed into the addressed envelope, which we then seal shut. Got it?

Rickey: Explain to me why we're not paying someone to do this.

Ms. H: Because the wedding invitation people wanted $1,000.

Rickey: Fair point.

Ms. H: Pay close attention to what you're doing. If you forget to put something into an envelope, we won't know until the end.

Rickey: No dillydallying. Stay focused. Devil's in the details. Got it. I shall tame this Kafkaesque beast.

Ms. H: You do that.

Rickey: Why am I suddenly reminded of that scene of the office in "Brazil"?

Ms. H: Beats me, but you can hum the theme song if it helps.

Rickey: dum dum dum, dum da dum da dum... dum dum dum, dum da dum da dum... dum dum dum, dum da dum da dum...

Ms. H: Yeah, that's enough of that.

[45 minutes later]

Rickey: Done! [rises triumphantly to play Halo]

Ms. H: Uh, sweetie...

Rickey: Oh no, is that...?

Ms. H: Yes, there's an extra RSVP envelope lying on the table. We need to go through all the envelopes to mind the missing culprit.

[Captain Haddock-like cursing erupts in the Henderson household]

[30 long minutes later]

Rickey: Ok, we found it, crisis resolved. Now we mail these things off, right?

Ms. H: Yes, but there's a catch.

Rickey: There's always a catch.

Ms. H: We have to hand stamp each envelope with a special seal that the post office gives us. Otherwise, they'll feed all the invites through an automated machine to do it which will bend and mess them up.

Rickey: So a slightly crinkled wedding invitation mailed to a distant relative on the West Coast carries less weight and gravitas than a spiffy one?

Ms. H: Pretty much, yes.

Rickey: I think we should scatter DaVinci Code like clues throughout the invites which the recipient will need to decipher in order to discover the time and location of the wedding.

Ms. H: I think you should shut up and go play Halo.

[exeunt Rickey]

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Thrilling New Ventures in the Realm of Guest Blogging

Well we certainly hope that Adam, having demonstrated the pitfalls of wantonly granting guest-blogging privileges, kept you entertained for the last 10 days. Although Rickey would be remiss in not pointing out that Mets fans are by no means exempt from this sort of ribbing--witness Wright & Reyes' questionable photoshoot from a few years back (it's a strange and disconcerting thing when you've been blogging long enough to be able to draw upon older posts to formulate a semi-coherent argument).

Now for some news...

Rickey is going to be writing a weekly baseball column for Flushing University, a Mets-centric website. We're guessing that they were attracted to the fierce pursuit of truth and the artful use of f-bombs showcased here at RwR. Since we're certain you're just brimming with questions about the deep and meaningful implications of all this, we'll open this up for a Q&A. Yes, you up front?

Uh Rickey, your blogging has slowed to a snail's crawl in recent days. How exactly is all this going to pan out?

Deadlines motivate Rickey. Despite some affable heckling from our hardcore readers (you proud few) Rickey just hasn't had the urge to write much recently. Rickey's been focusing more on life, work, wedding planning, blah blah blah... But hopefully this new venture will help to turn the tide and inspire Rickey to cast aside reality and pay more attention to his imaginary online friends.

This Flushing University, what's it all about?

It's similar the University of Phoenix: not a real university, but a handful of misanthropes with a rickety server, some opinions, and a burning desire to have their voices heard in the ever widening realm of Mets blogs. Rickey's either getting on the ground floor of something big, or enlisting in the internet equivalent of a Ponzi scheme. Either way, it should be fun.

Doesn't it concern you that your non-Mets posts are far funnier than your Mets posts? Or that you know relatively little about the realm of sports?

Not one bit! (panic panic panic panic panic) Rickey knows all sorts of things, friend. Rickey knows the existential blight of being a Mets fan, from the highly illogical contracts, to the inevitable midseason injuries, to the now customary September collapses. If folks like Peter Vescey or Mike Vaccaro have taught us anything, it's that sports columns aren't about saying anything new--they're about shoehorning facts and stories into posts that confirm greater trends and biases in one's mind. Yep, Rickey's pretty sure he's up to that lofty challenge.

You're getting paid for this, right Rickey?

Er, no word on that. Rickey's still waiting to hear back from the folks at FU concerning his adamant request for a blackberry, company car, and personal dressing room. Evidently there's some sort of economic downcycle going on at the moment.

Conrgats boychik! I'm so prouda you!

Thanks Mom, now will you please stop pestering Rickey about why he isn't writing for the New Yorker?

So will posts continue here at RwR, or are you casting it aside like a red headed stepchild?

Posts will indeed continue. Most likely on a biweekly basis. When Rickey's not busy fucking up putting together wedding invitations. (But we'll get to that story later this week). In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled each Thursday for a new and exciting Mets column from Rickey over at Flushing University, complete with customary third person action.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Caption Contest! A-Rod Doing Himself!

Hey folks,

While dining on Rickey's magnificent Steak Diane, take a moment to offer your best caption to the picture below. The winner gets bragging rights as usual.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Cooking With Rickey: Steak Diane, Dish of the Huntress

In our latest installment, we pay tribute to a long lost dish from a bygone era: Steak Diane. This is one of those 1950’s dishes that nobody cooks anymore but absolutely should because it’s incredibly tasty, albeit ridiculously caloric. It’s the sort of thing that Don Draper from “Mad Men” would consume on a regular basis, in between all the oysters rockefeller, martinis, cigarettes, and general awesomeness. (Ms. Henderson frequently jokes that Rickey would've felt right at home in the late 1950's and she's absolutely correct. Much like Christopher Walken in the cinematic opus "Blast From the Past," the modern world frightens and confuses Rickey).

Not being gastronomical historians, we're going to venture a guess that Steak Diane draws it's name from Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt (well, uh, either that or Wonder Woman). If Rickey's Edith Hamilton serves him correctly, Diana was known for her strength, beauty, and hunting prowess. One day she was bathing in the wilderness when a hunter happened to stumble upon her. Enraged, she responded in perfectly proportionate measure by turning the poor schmuck into a deer. This story explains two things: 1) why most men prefer playing those lousy Deer Hunter videogames in bars to the real thing, and 2) why women get so mad when guys accidentally walk in on them when they're in the bathroom. Fast forward to the 1950's, when Diana lent inspiration to one of the most savory meat dishes of all time. A meal that became a big hit due to its flamboyant preparation and pseudo French roots. A meal that sorely needs to be worked into your repertoire.

A big reason why Rickey enjoys this recipe is because it requires only one pan. We're not sure about you, but the sort of multitasking that cooking on several burners at once requires can be occasionally daunting. You're constantly worrying: is that part done yet? How much time is left for this part of the dish? Am I forgetting something? Why is that sparrow on the windowsill peering into my soul? The one pan approach in this recipe does away with all the fuss. It's simple, easy, and a great way of impressing your significant other. For this dish, you will need the following items:

2 good sized filet mignons
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1 cup shitake mushrooms
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/2 cup brandy or cognac
A fire marshal and/or fire prevention plan consisting of evacuation procedures in the event you set your entire kitchen ablaze

Start off by heating a promethean cast iron pan to medium high and adding some olive oil and butter. A heavy regular pan will do in a pinch, but given the fact that a Lodge cast iron pan only costs $25, there's really no excuse for not owning one. You cheap lazy bastard.

Embrace your inner OCD child and remember to do all your prep work beforehand. Chop up your shallots and shitake mushrooms.
Arrange the meats on a plate. Take a picture of them.
Mmmmm look at that marbling... The flavorful veins of fat running through the tender meat... Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom.... fap fap fap fap fap fap fap...

Ahem, anyway, now we will pan fry the fillets. And for the love of god, remember to open up the kitchen window and turn on your stove fan before proceeding to this step. If you're like the Hendersons, then your octogenarian Yugoslavian landlady has installed smoke detectors in the apartment which emit ear piercing klaxon noises when you so much as cast a glance in the direction of the kitchen stove.

Curse you, foul overly sensitive smoke detector. You are the bane of Rickey's culinary existence. Rickey loathes you with the light of a thousand suns and a million moons.

Remember to season your meat with some salt and pepper right before cooking it. Start off by pan frying your fillets in a heavy pan in the butter and olive oil. When the meat has seared for 2 minutes on each side, remove it and place it in the oven on warm.
Add more butter, some chopped shallots and the shitake mushrooms to the pan and cook until softened. Then add heavy cream to the pan, the dijon mustard, the wostershire sauce, and stir until bubbly and golden. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Then toss the steak and any accumulated juices back into the pan.

Cook for 2 minutes or so (4-5 for medium doneness) and then, for the coup de grâce, get your brandy ready: It says Hennessey on the label, so you just know it's good. Hennessey, the preferred drink of English Lit professors and rappers alike! Folks, there's comedy, and then there's purchasing a flask of cognac at your local liquor store immediately after a two hour workout session at the gym.

Shopkeep: uh, why are you all sweaty and smelly?
Rickey: because I'm jonesing for a stiff drink and only sweet sweet Hennessey VS will sate my unquenchable thirst, now fork it over!

To quote the immortal Xzibit song, "[Rickey] can drink a whole Hennessey fifth, some call it a problem but [Rickey] calls it a gift." Anyhow, add a liberal splash of the cognac to the pan, back the fuck up, and carefully ignite it. Voila, you are now a culinary wizard in the eyes of your significant other. Either that, or you're now on fire and running frantically around the kitchen like a panicked flaming dervish rueing the day you took cooking advice from a misanthropic lunatic who writes in the third person. Please note that your reading of this paragraph constitutes a legally binding agreement not to sue Rickey for property damage caused by fire.

Flambéing, by the way, is not just for show. (It's also a great way of demonstrating your familiarity with French accents!) Actually, igniting the alcohol in any recipe intensifies the flavor of the finished sauce. How? Well, our good friend caramelization is at work. Rickey will now channel his inner Alton Brown to attempt to explain this to you. See, when you caramelize something at 300 degrees or higher, the intense heat causes the sugars in the dish to undergo a series of chemical changes, thus elevating your sauce into another flavor dimension altogether. The resulting product of the flambéing is unctuous and savory beyond any measure of description. Also, it looks very cool. Behold: Assuming you haven't scorched your eyebrows off, cook the dish for a few more minutes, and serve it up with some well buttered and salted potatoes. Rickey opted to skip the vegetables, because there's really no point in pretending that this is a remotely healthy meal. Enjoy.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Movie Review: In Which Rickey Watches The Watchmen

Maybe it's the inner snob in Rickey speaking, but we're guessing that a lot of folks walked out of this three hour bonanza either completely disgusted or scratching their heads. And that's why Rickey's here to explain it all to you.

The good news for detractors of this movie is that it is the one comic book film you'll see all year that is guaranteed not to spawn a sequel. The property was originally created by a nihilistic British excluse and is famous for it's bleakness and inaccessibility, so naturally, Rickey completely loves it. A line of action figures won't be popping up on store shelves, and it's a safe bet that a Watchmen themed balloon won't be appearing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade this year (although the idea of a gigantic blue inflatable Dr. Manhattan drifting down Broadway is admittedly fun). It is, in essence, a property that defies marketing, however that apparently hasn't stopped Warner Brothers from trying their damndest to prove otherwise.

What's the comic book about? Well, to best answer your question, we must engage in wanton hyperbole. For a comic book enthusiasts (read: geeks. massive raging geeks) like Rickey, "Watchmen" is ground zero for what the genre is capable of. Written between 1986 and 1987, the story revolves around an alternate history of the United States in which masked vigilantism has been outlawed and a nation in steep societal decline edges closer to nuclear war with Russia. Over a twelve issue span, writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons proceeded to deconstruct the entire superhero genre, cog by cog. For a graphic novel, it is surprisingly literate yet unabashedly violent and pulpy. It's an intimate character study that gradually widens to become epic in scale. It is simultaneously rousing yet bleak and somber. Above all, it has an incredible weight and density to it. It is the comic book version of "Moby Dick" and "The Wasteland" combined. And it's a serious shame it wasn't made ten years ago when it might have had a greater impact.

Ten years ago, when a movie like "The Incredibles" hadn't examined the notion of washed up Golden Age superheroes coming out of retirement, or when Chris Nolan's iteration of Batman hadn't delved into the neurosis that drives a man to dress up like an angry night rodent, "Watchmen" would've seemed fresh and inventive. This isn't to say it's a bad movie, it just isn't nearly as good as it could've been given better timing, better acting, and a director who had a firmer grasp of the subject matter.

With the exception of a woefully rushed ending, the script does a solid job of touching all the major events and weaving in all the memorable dialogue from the original graphic novel. The acting is all over the place, ranging from inspired with Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach to downright cringe inducing with Malin Akerman as Laurie Juspeczyk. Also, it's a serious shame when the best actor in the film, Billy Crudup, is relegated to portraying a character like the largely emotionless quantum superhero Dr. Manhattan. It's simultaneously discomforting and awe inspiring to consider that an entire CGI animation team was probably tasked with bringing a certain, ahem, body part of his to life. Fire a few of those guys and the studio would've had plenty of money to devote to casting Tom Cruise as Ozymandias as was originally hinted at, thereby making this movie eminently more entertaining.

Rickey's biggest issue with the film is that Zack Snyder, the director, has absolutely no grasp on how to convey the looming terror of the nuclear brinksmanship depicted in the original graphic novel. He casts aside gravitas for farce in his depiction of a third term Richard Nixon grumpily cowering in an exact replica of the war room from "Dr Strangelove." Snyder devotes his energy to the recreation of elaborate set pieces, which to his credit, do a great job of bringing the panels to life. From a terrific opening credits sequence, to a decaying 1980's Manhattan, to the desolate surface of Mars, to a snowy Antarctica, Snyder proves himself to be adept at glossy facsimile.

The problem is that Snyder is excellent at visual mimicry but unable to give a proper voice to any of the deeper themes from the property. Completely stripped from the movie are Moore's ruminations on the bestial nature of mankind, the hunger for power, the inevitable march of time, and the analysis of the number of events that need to go wrong in one's life in order for them to feel compelled to dress up like a giant moth. What we're left with are one dimensional personas who are as flat and uninteresting as the kind of comic book characters that the original "Watchmen" so brilliantly lampooned.

Most alarming is Snyder's unyielding devotion to shooting elaborate fight scenes showcasing unnecessary wire work and brutal violence which far exceeds anything showcased in the comic book. It's ironic given Alan Moore's distaste for the superhero genre and the violent revenge fantasies that it fosters. While Moore artfully critiqued the genre's tropes, Snyder gleefully traffics in them. It's sad that Snyder has made a mass market movie that fetishizes gory violence rather than depicting its consequences like the original material did. It's sad that most current movie directors don't understand the psychic value of implying or hinting things rather than blatantly depicting them. It's also sad that after feeling compelled to write a paragraph like this, Rickey now suspects that he qualifies for a senior discount at the movie theater.

In the end, maybe it's all about expectations. Maybe a great "Watchmen" movie is impossible to film. Maybe getting nostalgic about a twenty year old celebrated comic book property is slightly unhealthy. This much we can all be assured of: there will be no sequel. We hope.

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