Get Off My Lawn!

I turned 31 yesterday, which I think officially makes me a Crotchety Old Man, entitled to complain about anything and everything. Here's what's bugging me this week:

  • So it turns out that Hannah Montana was not born wearing trendy fashions from Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe and is, in fact, naked under her clothes. This, apparently, is a Major Problem. And I mean, "Major Problem" on the order of "the Dixie Chicks dared to criticize the President" Major Problem, as this has at least one Internet Moron proposing a Nazi-style public bonfire to burn Hannah Montana merchandise.
  • Other Internet Morons are claiming that Barack Obama has somehow sacrificed his right to complain about his treatment at the debacle that was the recent ABC debate, because he turned down Hillary's absurd offer for yet another debate. What does Obama possibly stand to gain from it? How could that offer be even remotely attractive to him? Of course he's not going to do it, but that doesn't mean he's sacrificed anything or given up his right to complain when the media persists in asking him about Reverend Wright and an offhand remark he made while addressing a private audience of chardonnay-sipping San Francisco liberals.
  • Has any internet phenomenon gone from amusing to annoying to enraging faster than "Stuff White People Like"? Even LOLCats had a longer shelf life. It was funny the first time I saw it, then I looked again and thought, "Hmm, kind of a one-trick pony, isn't he?" and now, it's all I can do not to strangle someone who tells me how funny this misbegotten shitheap of a humor blog is. Yep, white people are liberal weenies. As Homer Simpson would say, "Oh, it's true, it's true! We're so lame!"
  • Saturday is Free Comic Book Day. No, FCBD isn't annoying me - it annoys me that I forgot to put up a countdown widget on my sidebar this year, but that's beside the point. Here's what's sticking in my craw: The great big giant Iron Man movie is coming out on Friday - maybe you've heard something about it? I hear they're promoting it just a bit. So...a big comic book movie is coming out on Friday, Free Comic Book Day is on Saturday. The smart folks at WizKids, who make the popular HeroClix game, have provided an Iron Man HeroClix figure as a giveaway for FCBD. Pretty clever, right? Synergy, they calls it. So, naturally, the smart folks at Marvel must have done the same thing, right? Maybe people who just saw Iron Man on Friday night stop into a comic book store on Saturday, and you give 'em a free Iron Man comic. Brilliant! Maybe people stop into a comic book store who haven't seen the movie yet, and you give 'em a free Iron Man comic, maybe even one that ties into the movie somehow, and you promote the big movie right alongside the comics. Brilliant! So...why is Marvel giving out a fucking X-Men comic for Free Comic Book Day? You have the perfect confluence of dates, and you just don't care. Way to promote your ostensible primary product, Marvel!
  • DC's not a whole lot better, by the way - why are they giving out a Superman comic (though it is, admittedly, an awesome comic, by general consensus the best Superman has been in years) when there's a big Batman flick coming out in six weeks? Sports columnist Bill Simmons talks about teams needing a "VP of Common Sense" to analyze trades and draft picks. I think maybe Marvel and DC need one of those, too, in their marketing departments.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Now enjoy one of the best hockey calls of all time, courtesy Mike Haynes, voice of the Colorado Avalanche.

Okay, so Haynes has always been a bit of a homer. But goddamn, that's a great call. I'd rather have a homer who gets excited when TOTALLY AWESOME SHIT happens than Joe Buck droning through one of the most exciting plays in Super Bowl history as though it was a two-yard run by an unknown running back in the third quarter of a pre-season game.

Mr. Mole Maker, Won't You Make More Mole for Me?

I love to cook. Why? Well, because I love to eat. Every now and then, someone asks what my favorite food is. My response? Well, how could I even begin to choose? How can I have a favorite in a world so full of fantastic, amazing, incredible, wonderful food? How could I possibly say that I like the sublime beauty of sushi over the less-refined but more id-pleasing joy of digging into a paper carton of General Tso's chicken? I can't, no more than I could really say that I like a great ribeye more than I like a great cheeseburger. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite food - but I do know that mole has to be near the top of any list.

I know that Mexican restaurants are kind of stuck for an easy answer when somebody asks, "What is mole?" How can you describe mole in a few words? "It's a sauce made with chiles and chocolate" is sort of the standard answer. Which, yeah, is a fairly functional explanation, but it's sort of like if someone were to ask you, "Who are the Beatles?" and you were to reply, "A band from England that was popular in the '60s."

Once, a restaurant I was working at got a new chef. When he had been there for a couple of weeks, he introduced a new appetizer involving mole. Curious, I asked, "What kind of mole is it?" There are as many kinds of mole as there are little villages and towns in Mexico, after all, with different ingredients, different colors, different flavors. I sort of expected that he'd have at least some familiarity with this. This was a chef, after all, who had just days before spent a good five minutes angrily bitching out the entire waitstaff about our lack of knowledge because none of us was familiar with the word concass├ę, with the implication being that none of us idiots were fit to serve his brilliant artistic creations to the hungry masses. So I expected at least a little knowledge from him when I asked what kind of mole he was making.

"It's a very traditional mole," he said. Oh, okay. Sort of like asking what kind of sauce he was putting on a pasta and hearing, "It's a very traditional pasta sauce." Not unexpectedly after such a response, that shit tasted like the man had tossed some jalape├▒os, a banana and a Hershey bar in a blender and dished it up.

I'm pleased to say that, with an assist from Rick Bayless, I think I'm beginning to get a handle on mole-making. For dinner guests last night, I decided that mole would be just the thing. This required a trip to a different grocery store than either of the two we usually shop at on Sunday afternoon and, when that one didn't have the dried chiles I needed, a trip over to one of the Mexican grocery stores on Federal Avenue. Sunday afternoon and evening was given over entirely to mole making.

Reconstituting the toasted ancho and guajillo chiles.

A variety of ingredients draining after being fried; clockwise, we have almonds, raisins, white bread (a sliced Mexican bolillo roll), corn tortilla, peanuts, pumpkin seeds.

Frying onions and garlic.

Two purees waiting to be mixed; on the left, a mixture of spices (chile seeds, sesame seeds, grated avocado pit), the nuts, raisins, bread and tortilla, the onions and garlic, tomato and tomatillo, plus chicken broth. On the right, the chiles.

I had to pause to wash some dishes in the midst of the process, because I was out of counter space in the kitchen.

The two purees are combined and set to simmer, along with some more chicken broth and some Mexican chocolate.

The great thing about mole is that you can make it in advance, and it will only get better sitting in the fridge for a couple of days.

I have fallen madly in love with the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducin' Grilling Machine that we got as a wedding gift. It makes a thoroughly convenient way to cook even a big mess o' chicken.

And there you have it!

Mmm...mole. Delicious, delicious mole. Spicy, sweet, smoky,, so good.

Open, Sez Me

This weekend was an annual event called Doors Open Denver, in which various local landmarks open their doors for the public to come in and take a peek around. A lot of them are churches, and it's kind of cool to go into a church and not have to hear about Jesus and stuff. Above, stained glass at the St. John's Episcopal Cathedral.

Trinity United Methodist Church

The world-famous Brown Palace Hotel's atrium - they opened up the "Beatles Suite," where one of the Fab Four stayed when the boys played Red Rocks in '64 (or at least, I assume only one of them stayed in the particular room that was open to the public, as there was only one bed and I don't think they were that friendly with one another), and the Presidential Suite, which has hosted every president since Teddy Roosevelt except that rat bastard Calvin Coolidge...

...and in which the bed linens match the wallpaper. The Beatles Suite looked like pretty much any other fancy hotel room. The Presidential Suite was a step above.

Notre Dame Hockey rally that happened to be going on outside the downtown Comfort Inn, across the street from the Brown Palace, as the Irish hockey team boarded their team bus to head over to the Pepsi Center for the NCAA hockey championship game (which they lost to Boston College).

Here's a picture of our kitties, because they're cute. I'm in ur window, watchin ur brekfist.

Rose Window, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The inside of the Cathedral is pretty amazing - there's more windows than in any of the older cathedrals we saw in Italy, letting in loads of light.

And it's all really, really beautiful, too.

Also fascinating are the bas-relief Stations of the Cross that line the interior walls.

We didn't make it to the Molly Brown House - which would have been worth doing mostly because this is the one time in the year that it's free; I don't know that I would be willing to pay to see it, the Daniels & Fisher Tower or the Capital for a vanishingly rare dome tour...well, there's always next year, I guess.


Here we have the cover to Fantastic Four #1 - if you're a reader of superhero comics, you surely recognize it. Drawn by Jack Kirby, it's one of the most famous, iconic covers in the history of the genre.

And, kind of sucks. I mean...look at it!

It proudly proclaims that it features, "'The Thing!' 'Mr. Fantastic!' 'Human Torch!' 'Invisible Girl!' Together for the first time in one mighty magazine!" Uh...well, yeah, they're together for the first time. And, as of the publication of this first issue, they're together for the only time, as it's the first appearance of all four of these characters. It's not like they're giving us, "Superman and Batman - Your two favorite heroes in one adventure together!" or the first team-up of four heroes who have, oh, I don't know, any sort of publishing history at all...I know that absurd hyperbole has always been sort of Marvel "house style," but this is just ridiculous.

So here we have the Human Torch. So far, so good. More or less dead-center in the composition, as is befitting the character with the most visually dynamic power of the quartet. He's also always been my favorite FF member, so I've got no problems with the presentation. Sure, he looks a little odd here compared to later depictions, but it always takes an artist a little while to refine the way he draws a new character. At least Johnny's looking better here than his opposite number, the X-Men's Iceman, did in his early and rather ridiculous "snowman" form. The central placement may also have been meant as an enticement to readers who remembered or were familiar with the original Human Torch, and might have wondered if this was the same character.

Next, let's take a look at the character destined to become the fan favorite, Benjamin J. Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing. Not to be confused with the ever-lovin' one-eyed thing...totally different. All seems well and good...until you notice that he's randomly smashing some poor schnook's car as he prepares to "take a hand." A bit of collateral damage is inevitable when superheroes are fighting a monster, of course, but does Ben really have to exacerbate the problem? Also, his dialog seems to indicate that he's been sitting on the sidelines, just watching while his teammates battled the big green monster, before deciding that he might as well go help out.

We turn our attention now to Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl,, well, "can't turn invisible fast enough." For what, Sue? What the damnhell good is turning invisible going to do you? The monster has you in its grip, and its focus appears to be pretty focused on the Torch and the Thing. What the hell does it matter if you're visible or not? And why does it matter if it takes you the blink of eye or thirty seconds? It blows my mind that Stan and Jack didn't realize, just on the basis of this cover, that they had given Sue a fairly useless power. It took them nearly two years to add her force field ability! How could they not look at her failure to "turn invisible fast enough" and think, "Hey, maybe she should be able to do a little more than that if we're going to have her fighting big green monsters and such..."

Yeah, it's true. When your power is that you're, like, stretchy and stuff, it will indeed take more than ropes to keep you out of action. Who in the name of Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ tied you up? Did the monster tie you up? Did the monster attack while you and Sue were playing some sort of kinky bondage the middle of a busy Manhattan street...while fully clothed? I mean...I mean...I mean...I know it's gotta be tough, even for Jack Kirby, to draw a dynamic and exciting cover that tells you right away what each character's power is. But I really gotta the hell did Reed get tied up in the first place?

Okay, it doesn't actually suck. It's just, well, it's just damned odd, that's all.

Stupid Human Tricks

This guy may just look like an extra from "The Sopranos," but I assure you, this is The Most Talented Human Being in the World. That's right. Move over, Guy Who Juggles Ping Pong Balls With His Mouth! Step aside, Lady Who Bulges Her Eyes Out to a Creepy and Disturbing Degree! Guy Who Kicks Himself in the Head 30 Times in 30 Seconds, Guy Who Eats a Marshmallow with a Mousetrap and a Blowgun, Guy Who Drinks a Beer Through His Nose? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Ladies and gentlemen...Guy Who Can Play Any Song With Handfarts:

Springtime in the Rockies Redux

Yesterday, we sat outdoors in our shirtsleeves, eating ice cream. Bonnie Brae, by the way, is perfectly decent ice cream, but nowhere near as good as Liks, which scoops the Mile High City's best cone. After ice cream, we strolled in the park, just another couple in amongst the vast crowd of other couples, familes, bicyclists, rollerbladers, runners, dog-walkers, frisbee-throwers, volleyballists, and all the others out enjoying the fantastic weather. We sat on a bench in front of the lake. Moments after we sat down, a submerged bird burst to the surface of the water, a flopping fish clutched tightly in its beak. It gulped the fish down whole, and we could see it still flopping as it slid down the bird's throat. It was a beautiful day, perfectly typical for April on Colorado's Front Range - Springtime in Denver is glorious!

Today at 11:00 am, it was snowing in great big fat swirling ploofs, and probably didn't get above 40° all day. Gloomy clouds scudded across the sky all afternoon. Every time I stepped outside, I regretted not bringing gloves or a hat. They're predicting more snow for later in the week. It was a miserable day, perfectly typical for April on Colorado's Front Range - Springtime in Denver is lousy!

RIP Charlton Heston

Yeah, everyone's going to be talking about The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur and probably how he turned into Mr. NRA...

But's all about The Planet of the Motha-Fuckin' Apes, yo.

"Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"

"A world where apes evolved from men?"

"I can't help but think that somewhere in the universe, there must be something better than man!"

"It's a madhouse! A MADHOUSE!"

"Oh my God...I'm home. We finally did it. YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!"

Beat the Crowds

I had to wait for-fucking-ever to get this photo. Fortunately, I think it was worth the wait. It's not my best from our trip to Arches National Park, but I think it's pretty good. We sat there for a good ten minutes below the North Window, waiting for people to clear out. First there was a guy just kind of standing there for a few minutes. Then, his wife came up to join him under the arch. She handed him a camera and said, "Now go back down and take a picture of me!" And she stood there while he dutifully trudged back down the slope, camera in hand. Then she stood there for a good long while, shouting instructions down at him. "Move farther down! Now go about five feet to the left! No, come farther back up! George...George! George! Move back over! Now take the picture! Okay, take another one, just to be sure! Now move over to the right! Now take the picture!" God Almighty, I wanted to throttle her. But once the epic picture-taking process was complete, she went off to join poor George and the arch was free from human presence for several minutes.

And that, when you think about it, is pretty remarkable. In the middle of the afternoon on a day with weather as gorgeous as we had (scattered clouds and 65°) at one of the park's main attractions, the opportunity to take photos like this:

...and this: pretty cool. If you're looking for a time to visit Arches, you could do worse than early April. A lot worse. I can't imagine what it would be like trying to take anything resembling a worthwhile photo of the Windows site in July. There were more than a few people there, but nothing like the hordes who must certainly come up from Moab (and, for that matter, down from Grand Junction) in the middle of summer. Though it was annoying waiting for Ms. "Go Take a Photo of Me, George!", it was at least possible to wait her out. When the park is truly busy, each of these photos would also feature two or three groups of bored parents completely ignoring their thirty or forty screaming children crawling all over the geology, right in front of all the signs that explicitly say to stay on the marked trail, because there would be no convenient gaps in the crowds during which to take photos of the deserted site.

Beat the crowds, I say. With a stick, if necessary.

Where's Batman When You Need Him?

The bachelor party has been as much fun as one could hope - a good group of guys, good food, plenty of alcohol, and, of course, a fair amount of, ahem, "gentlemen's entertainment." At the conclusion of the festivities, myself, my brother and Simon are getting into Simon's car, parked a few blocks up Montgomery from the, ahem, "gentlemen's entertainment" district of North Beach. While Simon is putting some things into the back to make room in the back seat, my brother and I are climbing into the car. I hear a noise and sense a presence on the sidewalk behind us. Thinking it's the usual city nuisance of a bum asking for change, I turn to shoo him away.

And rather than the extended and upturned palm I expect to see, there's a gun pointing at me. If I was a gun person, I might be able to tell you what kind of gun it is, but I'm not. So what kind of gun is it? It's the silver kind, and the kind with a hole in the business end where a bullet comes out. Most importantly, it's the kind of gun that is pointed at me.

"Aright, get on th' ground and gimme the money," says he.

"Oh, holy shit," says I, sitting down involuntarily in the front seat of the car.

"Get on th' ground and gimme your wallets!" says he.

"Okay," says my brother, handing his over. I follow suit. As we're both basically in the car, we don't actually get on the ground, but Guy With Gun doesn't seem to mind. Fortunately, my wallet contains only about $25 in cash, plus debit card, driver's license and school ID. My brother and Simon, who had been taking care of the Guest of Honor (that's me) had substantially more.

"What else you got?" he says. "Empty your pockets!" I've got a handful of change in my pocket, but nothing else. I attempt to hand over the change - knowing it's absurd but also not wanting to get shot for holding out on Guy With Gun - and he says, "I don't want that shit," dropping coins all over the sidewalk. In a flash, he's gone, along with another who had been emptying the cash from Simon's wallet. Amazingly, he takes the cash but drops the wallet, making Simon the lucky one who doesn't have to replace his ID and cancel his credit cards.

The whole thing takes thirty seconds, maybe as much as sixty.

Driving across the Bay Bridge, we agree that we're lucky that none of us was actually shot or pistol-whipped, that they didn't decide they wanted the car (wide open and with keys in Simon's hand at the time), that they didn't take our phones (so my brother was able to call his wife so she could cancel his cards right away), that I had the debit card for my personal account in my wallet but not the one for the joint account that has all the wedding money in it, but we all still kind of feel like shit.

Simon queues up the "Raiders March" on his iPod (also, remarkably, unstolen) and I briefly imagine punching the guy in the jaw and deftly taking the gun from him, as the good Dr. Jones surely would have.

Later, at Simon's house, my brother and Simon seem to have shaken off the experience, sitting in the hot tub, drinking martinis. I still feel like shit. My brother now has a date with the DMV all afternoon the next day in order to get the paperwork he needs so he can get on a plane without photo ID a couple of days later. Both of them are out a substantial chunk of change. And why? Because they'd taken me out, wanting to show me a good time.

Well, I don't think either of them is really pissed off at me about the matter, and it really can't possibly be construed as my fault...but I still feel like shit about it.

Y'know how on cop shows like CSI and Law & Order, or the old classics like Dragnet, they bring in the victim, show him a lineup and he's always like, "Yes, number three, that's the guy!" Pure fantasy. I may or may not have lost my faith in humanity, but I've certainly lost my faith in the reliability of eyewitnesses. All three of us agreed that we wouldn't have a hope of identifying either of the muggers in a lineup, or describing them to a sketch artist or any of that other bullshit you see on TV. I don't think Simon ever saw the face of the guy who took his money, and my brother and I agreed that the only description Guy With Gun we could possibly provide is, "He was black, and he had gold grill, and a Pittsburgh Pirates hat." Not exactly a lot for the cops to go on.

Even so, I console myself with the fantasy that CSI: San Francisco (theme song: "Magic Bus") is on the case, using all their high-tech "SCIENCE!" gizmos and bad techno music to track down the perps. And as we all know, CSI always gets their man.

The Marriage of a Nerd - Part VI: Home Again

We've arrived safe and sound back in Denver after a fun mini-honeymoon road trip. Big thanks to Monkey for offering her comfy futon at a moment's notice when we discovered that almost all of the roads in Yosemite were closed and thus diverted to SoCal instead, and thanks to Mle's Oldest Friend for changing her plans and coming to have dinner with us (and Monkey) on equally short notice.

Delicious-as-always lunch at In-n-Out ("Those are good burgers, Walter!"), this time at the Las Vegas location, a charming stay at the Budget Host Knight's Inn in Richfield, Utah, free dessert from the waitress at the JB's Diner in Richfield - the wedding gifts keep on coming - who insisted that Mle wanted the cheesecake instead of pie, a fabulous but too brief visit to Arches National Park, a waitress with a permed femullet at the Moab Brewery (They have brewpubs in Utah - who knew?), and then a decision that arriving home late and seeing our kitties and sleeping in our own bed was way, way better than staying in Grand Junction or Glenwood Springs tonight...

And here we are. Home, and married.