Monday, October 06, 2014

A Smidgen of Sanity Emerges in Ferguson

The bar is so low--it's basically on the ground--but it's a glimmer of hope for Ferguson: today, a federal judge declared the 'five second rule' that protestors in Ferguson had to be moving at all times or face arrest, was unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry called the rule "ad hoc," a nice way of saying police were arbitrarily making stuff up for the purpose of denying the right to peaceful assembly.

It is almost two months to the day that Mike Brown was shot and killed. Hundreds have been arrested protesting since then. The Ferguson cop who shot and killed Mike Brown, Darren Wilson, has not yet been charged. The grand jury has been given until January to decide whether to bring charges against Wilson. Late last month, the Department of Justice took the Ferguson police chief to task for allowing officers to cover their name badges with black tape and for wearing "I am Darren Wilson" bracelets. Despite the seemingly endless barrage of racist apologia, repression and stall tactics, a group of folks prevailed by staging the best protest ever at the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.



Wednesday, October 01, 2014

A Year Later, TV

It's been over a year since I've written here but good news! I still want to talk about teevee. And other stuff. But mostly tv.

Fall is here, which means a bunch of new shows are starting. Thanks to the growing field of made-for-streaming, I have already watched the entire season of a new fall show, Transparent. Transparent follows the story of Mort Pfefferman, a retired professor living in LA near his three grown children and ex-wife. Mort, played by Jeffrey Tambor (George Sr in Arrested Development, one of his many plum roles), is ready to share a secret he's lived with his whole life: he has always felt that he is a woman and at age 70, wants to begin living openly as Maura.

Tambor beautifully captures the excitement, anxiety, and fear of this transition. Mort is most concerned about sharing the news with his three grown children: Sarah (Amy Landecker), Josh (Jay Duplass) and Ali (Gaby Hoffman). Each of the kids has their own storyline unfolding along with their father's revelation, all engaging enough stories but--these kids are awful. Spoiled, self-involved, entitled and truly terrible. There are seeds of redemption dropped toward the end of the first season in each of their story lines which will hopefully bear fruit in the second season. Fingers crossed, because those kids are hard to watch.

To the writers' credit, Tambor's character isn't a saint; in flashbacks we see that he sacrificed his family in his effort to make space for some expression of his true identify. Judith Light is pretty great as Mort/Maura's ex-wife and Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney/Portlandia plays Ali's best friend. Helping Maura through her transition with humor and grace is Alexandra Billings as Davina, neighbor and friend.

I watched all ten episodes of Transparent in 3 days. Ready for season 2.

Next up: How to Get Away with Murder, new show by Shonda Rhimes, of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. I'm not a fan of Rhimes' shows: Grey's is ridiculous and Scandal is preposterous. Murder is a very similar show as Scandal, really: tough woman surrounded by adoring minions eager to do her bidding to prove they are the most loyal. Viola Davis is a much better actor than Kerry Washington, however she doesn't have that much to work with, dialogue wise.

I *just* realized that all of these characters are basically Debbie Allen in Fame. Where she thumped her stick in the opening and told them all they were going to sweat and they were all a little afraid but wanted to please her?


Feel pretty pleased with myself for making that connection.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Another Lazy Salad

There's so much internet hand-wringing about whether blogging is dead and I always say it isn't but look at me! Pathetic. Anyway, here is the second installment in my salad for lazy mofos series. I have been making this salad all summer but just getting around to writing about it now because lazy.

This salad is great for lunch, snack or a hot summer night dinner.

Prepare two cups of cooked grain and put in fridge to cool.

I'm partial to farro, a type of wheat that looks a bit like barley. Trader Joe's sells farro that cooks in 10 minutes, which is awesome for lazy people. Anything that involves soaking or long cooking times is total BS. Red quinoa is nice, which takes 15 minutes and needs to be rinsed before cooking.  I have always followed this step despite laziness. I think quinoa can be bitter and maybe this helps? God knows. Wild rice would probably be good, too. Whatever it is, don't overcook it.  Mushy grain sucks.

Pasta, you ask? I have made this with both whole wheat and regular orzo and even when cooked al dente, pasta lacks the needed oomph to make this salad a meal. Professional Critic discourages use of pasta in this salad but it's a free country.

While grain is cooking:

Shuck an ear of corn, cut off kernels and set aside.

Toast a few TB of nuts in toaster oven.
Aim for light brown but forgive yourself if you scorch them and have to re-do. We've all been there.  Slivered almonds are my favorite. Pine nuts are also nice though bonkers expensive. Any nut (chopped up if you're using walnuts or pecans) is really fine but try to avoid nut skins as they can be bitter. When done, set aside to cool.

With a box grater over a large plate/cutting board, grate 2 small or 1 medium zucchini (the large ones are too watery), 1 small-medium summer squash, 1 large carrot

Optional: finely chop a small shallot or half of a small red onion.

Please resist the urge to start cooking before all veggies are prepped. The cooking time is so quick, your veggies will be mush if you do this and your salad will be sad.

Heat saute pan with slug of olive oil til shimmering. Cook shallot/onion til just soft. Add all veggies. Cook for 1-2 minutes. You aren't cooking as much as gently nudging the food out of rawness. Remove from heat immediately, transfer into large Tupperware, put in fridge.

Depending on how hungry or impatient you are, wait for everything to cool, or don't.

Mix grains and veggies in the large Tupperware. Throw in nuts. Add some crumbled cheese, 3/4-1 cup works but if you're really into cheese do what you need to do. I like feta but any other semi-hard cheese with backbone will work. I squeeze a quarter lemon over the whole shebang, add salt, a bit more olive oil, some balsamic vinegar. 

Eat as is, or serve over a bed of mixed lettuce. To make the meal more substantial, add a chopped hard boiled egg, or some cooked turkey or chicken. Add more lemon juice/oil/vinegar if needed.

Bon appetit, my lazy friends!





Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Summer Media Picks n Things

Happy nearly summer, reader! What are we watching over here at chez Professional Critic?

1. Kittens! Better than any show or book is a cat family I'm fostering. I'm enraptured by the shennanigans of four one-month kittens and their patient, sweet mom, barely out of kittenhood herself. Each kitty has a very distinctive personality--feisty, shy, adventurous, talky. Some are better at the litterbox than others, if you know what I mean. If you have the time this summer, consider becoming a foster family with your local shelter/rescue organization. It gives animals a break from the stress of being in a shelter, which in turn helps them get adopted more easily, which reduces the number of animals being euthanized every year. Donations to spay/neuter programs are always needed, too.

On to the media march!

2. Veep with comic genius Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Not too many people are watching this show, so I hope HBO doesn't ax it as it did Enlightened. Still mad about that. Dark and downright filthy, Veep has an amazing cast: Tony Hale from Arrested Development playing a more functional version of Buster Bluth, Anna Chlumsky is the suffering Chief of Staff and Sufe Bradshaw as the acid-tongued assistant.

This clip is extremely NSFW:



3. Game of Thrones. I like it. I don't love it. Two of the main characters are somewhat wooden actors, sorry to say. Looking at you, John Snow and the Queen of Dragons. Couldn't they have done better with a show this expensive? Bit of a headscratcher, that.

4. Arrested Development! After canceling my Netflix account months ago due to tired content, the restart of one of my favorite shows prompted me to resubscribe. I'm only a few episodes in and looking forward to watching and rewatching, as there are always jokes I don't catch on the first (or second) viewing.

5. Nashville, a nighttime soap opera that is about country music the way Friday Night Lights was about football--sort of, but not really. They laid the drama on rather thick in the season finale, which verged on the ridiculous, but I'll be back. What can I say? I love me some Connie Britton and the music, much of it by T-Bone Burnett, is quite good. Catch up this summer if you missed this one.

This clip has one of my favorite songs, sung by an Australian and a Brit. Amazing:



6. Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23. Alas, this very original and very funny show starring the always wonderful Krysten Ritter, who played Jane in Breaking Bad, was canceled, but it is definitely worth watching.

7. Finally, if you don't know Maria Bamford, it's time--she is an amazingly talented comedian/weirdo. Start with The Maria Bamford Show on YouTube. You will love.

Happy watching!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March Madness: A Tale of Two Vermin

Reader, while you're all caught up with your brackets and your sweet sixteens, I'm dealing with some March Madness of my own: vermin. I have lived with dogs and cats my whole life so have weathered multiple flea infestations. Which is why I was so sure when I woke up a few weeks ago covered in welty, itchy red bites that they could not possibly be fleas. I had never seen a flea in my house or on my cats. No crazed itching, no hot spots. No sign of flea dirt, anywhere. My conclusion: BEDBUGS OMG.

Having worked in congregate living settings over the years I know how difficult and expensive it is to get rid of bed bugs and if I had them, I wanted to start treating immediately. I called the building super and asked, possibly demanded, that he come over to inspect right away.

Later that evening, I saw a note on my kitchen table that he had seen two fleas in the area between my kitchen floor and dining room rug. He said he killed both of them and left them on said note for my viewing pleasure, but there were no dead bugs in sight. The Walking Dead: Vermin Rises.

Immediately, I flea combed both cats and found not one flea, not one piece of flea dirt. Nothing that looked like an egg. I called the vet and asked if it was possible to have fleas without ever seeing a sign of said fleas? Reader, you know she laughed. Of course it is!  But not to worry, we see this all the time. Come into our office right now and buy some incredibly expensive Advantage! Also, vacuum your house sixteen times a day until you die and wash everything in your house and then askdkasfkjagfljsDVBNS.jkfg.sdgf/sjDFH.SHdf

We are closing in on week 3 of Operation: Die, Vermin. I have vacuumed every day (if you know me, you know this is BANANAS), dutifully popping the vacuum bag in the freezer between vacuums. I have washed everything and those things I couldn't wash also went into the freezer. Hello, wool throw blanket that now smells of stale ice and frozen chicken! Still no sign of a flea. I think I can stop but then I see things like this that scare me into continued vacuuming: During the flea cycle only about 5% of fleas are actually living on your dog or cat. The other 95% of fleas (in one stage of the flea life cycle or another) are living in your house.

Reader, you must be thinking, Professional Critic has gone around the bend. I would stop all this nonsense by now! And I would, except I have withheld some slightly disgusting information about the impact of these fleas bites. Here it is, since you asked: I had a patch of bites on my upper arm, maybe six or so, very close together. I must have scratched them in my sleep and didn't realize they had opened and were draining the whole next day. By that evening, my arm ached and I could feel how hot it was through my shirt, which didn't seem like a great sign. I was also feeling a touch queasy and shivery. I went into the bathroom and discovered my shirt was glued to my arm with pus from the elbow up, when I gingerly peeled the shirt off my skin, my entire upper arm from the elbow to the shoulder was hot, red, lumpy and hard. Since the shirt I was wearing was brand new, the whole area was also blue from the dye. If there weren't a hundred people sitting right outside the bathroom silently meditating, I'm sure I would have screamed in horror.

Long story short = I'm fine. But, twenty days later my upper arm is still lumpy and itchy. Yes! So that, dear Reader, is why I am still vacuuming, in hot pursuit of invisible fleas.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

When Encountering a Passed Out Girl at a Party: A Guide

Reader, in the aftermath of the Steubenville rape trial an alarming phenomenon has come to light. Some young gentlemen have a very narrow view of the options before them when encountering a passed out young lady at a party.  Here's an example of a post-verdict tweet from such a young man, charming Josiah:  



I've been in the presence of several passed out women over the years and managed to not rape any of them. Not to be a braggart, but maybe I should toot my own horn a bit since this is apparently a rare accomplishment! In fact, I did better than not committing even one rape: I didn't film myself carrying around anyone unconscious, or joke about urinating on her, or send her intimidating texts after the fact to scare her out of reporting. But since Josiah has alerted me to what "most people" would have done in this situation and that perfectly normal rapey response can "ruin" a promising sports career and necessitate registering as a sex offender, I compiled this handy guide. Hang it on your refrigerator, or put it in your wallet or car--anywhere you might encounter a passed out young woman.

Things To Do When Encountering a Passed-Out Young Woman at a Party That Don't Involve Raping Her

1. Check to see if she's breathing.

2. Call 911 if she isn't.

3. Find her friends to take her home.

4. If #3 isn't an option, call her mom/dad.

5. If that isn't an option, call the most sympathetic mom. Maybe your own mom! Preface it like this: "Mom. I'm sorry to be calling so late, but I'm at a party and there's a girl who's in trouble and I think she needs help. Can you please come?"

6. If those options won't work, get her out of the way and turn her on her side. We all saw Breaking Bad, right? Don't be like Walt.

7. Put a blanket on her.

8. If you can't bring yourself to do anything actively helpful, how about just doing nothing? This is preferable to perpetrating harm. 

Some might call this guide "common sense." Others, "being a decent human being." Perhaps, but these things are rare, as we are learning today. Hopefully not as rare as Josiah would have us believe.