Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Five Best Things You Can Do With Meat Ever!

Get your minds out of the gutter, people. This post refers to removed pieces of animal, not metaphorical chunks of anatomy.

I am aware that some people do not eat meat, and I am also aware that those people believe they are all going to some type of sustenance-related heaven where they meet Oprah or something. It's been awhile since I updated my subscription to Veg!, so my knowledge of your cult is a little vague. Regardless, I should mention that eating meat in no way makes one superior to the chlorophyll swillers of Earth and that eating of meat has nothing to do with masculinity.

Regardless of my respect for those who do not partake of animalia, I am staunchly embroiled in the hobby of improvisational carnage related culinology. No need to run that sentence by, it means I like to cook meat. Further, I probably cook better than most of humanity and feel I should help out those less fortunate.

Anyway, I am starting this post up right, the order is 1-5, the subject is carne:

1. Braised to Perfection

Rub it with olive oil, salt (not too much), pepper, sage, a touch of cumin, and chile caribe. Sear it on six sides in a hot pan. Deglaze with a 50/50 combination of broth and bourbon, and for the love of God use the cheap stuff (cheap broth, not cheap bourbon). You should probably first drink some of the bourbon to make sure it's still good and hasn't spoiled. After you've scraped all the vulcanized goodness from the bottom of the pan, braise (fancy word for simmer) the meat and a good selection of carrots and onion in the liquid until the meat is tender. The liquid will reduce into a savory bourbon candy glaze coating the vegetables and meat. Note that chicken broth should be used with poultry or pork.

I have cooked just about every chunk of meat I can think of from one of those creepy lumps of deboned turkey to elk ribeye with this method and it always turns out somewhere between "really damn good" and "one night with Keira if she put on twenty pounds."

Caution should be used in selecting guests when this is on the menu. I conceived of this dish as an easy date meal for those occasions I decide to treat a romantic interest to a cooked meal instead of a purchased one. I tried it out on a casual fling figuring it would be safe, but became increasingly alarmed as she named our future children after assassinated presidents. I mean, the history nerd thing kind of got me horny, but the leachy infringement on my future of single living gave me the heebies.

Note: Do not let dinner guests smear you with the bourbon glaze while it is still hot, they will burn their tongue.

-So Casey has a lot more cooking knowledge than I would have guessed. I mean, I figured he could kill animals with guns, arrows, his bare hands...whatever. And I assumed that meant his killing would be followed by some kind of "roasting over a spit." Casey has that whole, "I could have been an Eagle Scout but they kicked me out for burning down a tent" thing going on. So who knew he was a pseudo-chef?

2. Only flip it once, and make sure it bleeds

If you have ever accurately cooked a steak, you immediately knew where I was going with this after reading my title. As a drunken friend once declared in a crowded restaurant - "Holding a raw steak is amazing." Cooking a steak is a subtle art form.

You have to begin my marinating the meat in some kind of concoction. If you only use something pre-made and out of a bottle you are cheating. I recommend using your favorite brand of Worcestershire sauce, a healthy dose of season salt, and a good bit of steak seasoning. Let the raw steaks sit in that for about a half hour (longer is fine too), and be sure to get both sides covered.

After the marinating, throw the steaks on a grill (or put them in the oven if you live in an this case I suggest a pre-heat of 325 degrees), and cook them approximately 7 minutes on each side.

Only. Flip. Them. Once.

Will the steaks be bad if you flip them twice or more? No. But you will be. This is an age old art form that should be respected.

If you have done your job successfully the steak will bleed a little when you cut into it. If it doesn't bleed you have ruined a perfectly good steak.

If you don't like my directions you can follow the wisdom of my good friend Chuck : Walk the cow through a warm room and start cutting.

-Absolutely. The only way to cook a steak is somewhere between mooing and vociferously objecting to being cooked. I can say that anymore, I forgo the marinating, but I still appreciate when others do so. I also agree that buying marinade is like paying for a massage. You may end up with something OK, but extraordinary pleasure is a reach exceeded by monetary grasp.

I would argue for preheating to 400, but that is subjective opinion.

3. Campfire Perfection

Most of my enjoyment of the fine art of campfire cooking probably has to do with the fact that by the time dinner rolls around I am figgity-fucked-up. If you do not understand gettin' figgity (yo!) out in the woods, I probably would not associate with you. This is because you suck.

Back in my golden god era, which most archaeologists agree occurred throughout most of the early 2000's, I camped out as often as possible. I would write something here about camping being an escape from California, but all my writing on the Golden State descends into vitriolic scatology with some haste. Point is, take a chunk of something red, any chunk really, slice it into one inch sections, slather one side in honey, one side in Wild Turkey, roll the fat edges in some salt and black pepper (garlic powder for game meat). Lots of black pepper. Throw that shit over a fire (I usually take the grill mesh out of an old BBQ with me camping), and wait just until you see the fat, sealed with the pepper, start to bubble. Your meat, of which I prefer cow elk, is done. At least done enough. That shit is good. Especially if your camping with me since 1) we are already drunk 2) I've already broke out the harmonica and guitar/mandolin/banjo and the Bob Marley. Things are good when you have music, food, and serenity.

Serve steak on a stick. Make out in the tent. Wake up hungover and mountain bike. You are a badass.

-Mmmmm, steak on a stick. And don't let anyone call it "satay" neither. If I enjoyed camping I am sure this type of thing would be my highlight. Unfortunately, I was raised "wussy" with the idea that "camping is pretending you don't have a bed."

4. Jerk it out

If you are looking for specifics on how to turn beef into jerky you are going to be disappointed. I am sure I could look it up, but I actually prefer to have this dried salty goodness remain a mystery, because there is some chance that the "mysterious quality" of jerky is part of what makes it delicious.

Beef Jerky is the ultimate snack. You can take on any type of trip, it would survive a nuclear bomb, and it involves copious amounts of salt and meat. And, aside from all of the sodium, you can get some great protein from a snack of beef jerky which is more than I can say for my tube of Pringles. The truth be told, I will eat anything that is in jerky form. Chicken? Yup. Pig? Pig is great. Alligator? Tried that too - tastes like chicken. If you have ever avoided jerky for any type of aesthetic reason I encourage you to push through it, pay your money, and enjoy the salty-goodness. Just make sure you keep yourself hydrated.

-GSR, jerky rates right up their with smoking in my pantheon of meat-related deity. Covered in salt, loaded with protein, no fat to speak of. This stuff and a good stout has been proven by scientists* to be the best workout recovery combination possible. I do wish the jerky makers of the world would back off a little with the "lemon-grass teriyaki" and "mandarin-creole BBQ" nonsense. It is meat that is dried, fancying it up accomplishes nothing.

The last entry here will be for all of you to decide. I would like to see something along the lines of bacon, or sausage, and don't forget to be all the food snob you can be. I should mention here, that several preparations of meat came close to my favorites including the Buried In The Ground With Hot Rocks method and the very pleasant Smokehouse process.

Have fun kids, and stay away from the tofu, it lowers sperm count.

*I routinely hear this from the scientists I keep as friends. They may be geologists and hydrologists, but I assume they have at least some knowledge of physiology. Don't argue with science!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The FIVE Best Women(Womyn?)-Centric Movies EVER!

Alright ladies and gentleman (Chimmy), GSR is back at the controls here at The Five. That means you can sit back, relax, and get ready for your weekly dose of estrogen thanks to this week's topic: The FIVE Best Women-Centric Movies EVER!

Before I kick things off, allow me to offer the criteria that is being applied. The movies that we will be listing are movies that have to (1) appeal to a majority of women that we know (we would never be so bold as to speak for all women), (2) have characters/themes that were purposely marketed with women in mind, and (3) they have to be movies that could be enjoyed by men who are watching with their mothers, girlfriends, or sensitive-clarinetplaying-metrosexual-blogger friends.

Make sense? Great - cause I have a great first pick.

1) The Little Mermaid

That's right. I said it. The. Little. Mermaid. Yes it is a cartoon, but we never said that cartoons don't count. Especially one as woman-centric as this one.

This is a movie about a mermaid named Ariel, who just so happens to be a princess among regular mermaids. Life appears to be good under the sea, but deep down this strong independent minded redhead wants to break free of her pedantic days of swimming, singing, and collecting items from the world above. To highlight her boredom with her collecting, Ariel at one point informs the audience that she has collected over 20 dinglehoppers, and she follows this declaration with the existentialist question, "But who cares?" [Wife and MG! - please stop your singing here. You are scaring the people in the coffee shop].

To make a long story short, the plot of this movie boils down to a young girl who needs to follow her heart and search for true love, even if (especially if) it involves rebelling against her father and breaking some rules. And of course the movie has a happy ending. Growing up my younger sister loved this movie, and I have still yet to meet a woman who didn't like it. It has turned into a classic, and it will forever be around to help young women understand that sometimes you have stand up to your father, follow your heart, and wear sea-shell-crafted bras.


Everything in the last two paragraphs never happened. Ever.

My nomination is:

2) Gladiator

Oddly enough, this movie almost made in the list last week for one of the best man-centric movies ever. Stay with me on this one.

First off there is Russell Crowe. Obviously, the female demographic was in mind during casting call. It's not that I don't like Russell, in fact I think he is an amazing actor and I would drink beer with him given the chance. However, when I am locked in lipped passion with a lover, my mind does not form Russell Crowe out of my carnal antagonist, and I have on good faith that every woman I know in fact does just that. All those sweet nothings girls whisper to me, all the little hugs and pats that octogenarian women give their wrinkled and pickled men, they are all for Russell. Given the fact that men are in the minority of the planet (49.7%), if Russell ever created and ran for the office of High Chancellor of All Terrestrial Being, he would be elected. Probably be a margin of 50.3%.

And the reason Gladiator is one of the best woman-centric movies ever, is that if he were elected, I don't think I would have a problem with that. If we were invaded by aliens, I would not worry. Did you see Gladiator? He would kick their ass.

And so, I move that all matters uteran are intimately embroiled in the existence and teddy-bear looks of The Crowe. Refute me if you can.

-I think you are missing the point of our Women-centric post. This is not a post about "male actors who it is okay to man-crush on," which is obviously what you are doing with your "teddy-bear looks" Crowe. This is about finding those movies that help women embrace their inner goddess (or princess....or princess/mermaid). Let me reorient this list back to the topic:

3) An Affair To Remember

I have no trouble admitting the following two facts: (1) When my wife told me we were going to watch this movie I sulked like a petulant child, and (2) By the end of the movie I was completely absorbed in the characters and story. This is a great movie.

It makes this list because it is another movie that most women that I have met seem to agree on. It has a love story, Cary Grant, and some really great acting/dialog. In fact, there is a scene in Sleepless in Seattle where a group of women talk about this movie and start tearing up just at the thought of the ending. My wife and my mother-in-law do the exact same thing.

This movie earns classic status because for those who have seen it and enjoyed it, they think about it every time they see the Empire State Building or a glass of Pink Champagne. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. If you saw it and you didn't like it, I want to hear about it in comments. Especially if you are a woman.

-Ok, this movie is fine. The plot isn't great, the acting is so-so, but at least it doesn't involve a piscine prostitot. And don't even pretend you are not a pervert for liking that show. Perfectly fitting clam shell bra my ass, Chester. The movie in question here, though lacking explosions or helicopter is more or less fine. I can watch it, though not too many times and not after a hard day at work. At least I don't feel gay after this nomination. I knew there was a reason I stayed away from woodwindies. Orc-dorks por vida!

I nominate:

4) Sleepless in Seattle/You've Got Mail

I have to admit to not really being able to tell these two apart. One involves a rich software guy who lives on a boat(?), one involves a rich bookstore guy who lives in a boat(?). I don't know what exactly goes on in the two movies, but I can remember some decently funny parts. I like Tom Hanks, so he can add a shot of comedic value to whatever weepy slush-fest they cast him in. These movies also have Meg Ryan, and I could stare at her all day because she's just so darn cute. I don't even care that she doesn't get naked. She is adorable and I want to give her a hug. I also like the nerdy aspect of Tom Hanks' characters in these two movies. it makes me think I may have a chance with curly headed women, though crushing reality should set in soon enough.

One downfall of one of the movies is the inclusion of children. I like kids, hell, I probably have some, but kids on screen annoy the shit out of me. They never seem to add a damn thing to a movie save make those prone to sympathy tear up when the little shits start fake-crying. These are the same people who keep asking children how life makes them feel. They are kids, life doesn't occur to them. I would prefer from here on out if they cgi'd kids into production. I would watch more chick flicks if Calvin was the snotty little shit who gets the reluctant, but flirting, parents back together, if for no other reason than the movie might have a T-Rex. Calvin with the stuffed tiger, not Calvin the reformationist exegist, just to clear that up.

-Casey, you have made a fine selection here. I actually debated using one or both of these movies when I was making my contributions. As for your comments on The Little Mermaid, I never used the adjectives "perfectly fitting" in relationship when describing the sea-shell bra. Those are your words, and I find them very revealing (but not as revealing as the outfit they dressed Princess Jasmine in for Aladdin....)

-Absolutely. If she were not animated with possibly irritating paints and inks, she'd be on my list of five thing to do before I die. And, honestly, I didn't really read The Little Mermaid shit. I figured at some point you'd mention the movie's only redeeming quality.

We'll leave five up to you guys again, though icthyan porn will get your ass booted, but for the record I nominate Predator.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Five Best Man-Centric Movies Ever!

**Note: The comments are now fixed-thanks.

Alright, GSR got to go first last time, so it's my turn this week.

I'll have to leave a quick note before we get started to tell everyone I will be an absentee blogger for a couple of weeks. You all have fascinating looking places to read set up, but my ability to read, let alone comment will be limited for a while.

On to the list. The movies available to rate are required to be mostly about and, to a point, targeted at men. No movie fitting that description would make my five top movies of all time, and that is the point.

1. First Blood

We talked about this movie the other day and it inspired this list. If you can get past the incoherent speech defect of Stallone long enough to watch the movie, you'll notice some fairly good acting on the part of the supporting cast. Also, the realism of this movie compared to any of the others in the series is shocking. I have seen many more violent movies, but I have to admit to getting a little squeamish at the life and death portrayed in First Blood.

However, realism in violence and acting are not what make this movie great. The story powerfully demonstrates the trials of reassuming an identity. Most of my appreciation for this film stems straight from personal experience, so I am a truly biased observer. Biased observation seems to be a recurring theme of this blog thus far, so I believe I will rest on my laurel of authorship when it comes to this movie. More than any other soliloquy, with the possible exception of the ramble in Prometheus Bound, I am touched by the climax ending this psychodrama: "Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of million dollar equipment, back here I can't even hold a job parking cars! "

A lot of my friends are having a pretty tough time, one of them is homeless, I have nothing but empathy for their plight.

-Casey, I can't argue with this one. First Blood has held up in a way that a lot of other movies from that "genre" have not. There is a lot more to the movie than a man with some big-ass guns and a lot of ammunition. Is there are chance that this will be the first "5" where we are in complete agreement?

2. Rocky

I know, I know - Casey already picked a Sylvester Stallone movie, but this movie is the real deal. The movie is about a broken down boxer and his broken down trainer in the broken down parts of Philadelphia, and every time I see it on cable I sit down to watch.

The character of Rocky is an everyman that you can always root for, and his trainer (played by the dare-I-say incomparable Burgess Meredith) is the kind of salty old man that you can't help but like. Everything from the opening scenes of Rocky fighting in a broken down gym, to the final scene of his fight against Apollo is amazing well done (especially when you factor in that Stallone was the actor AND the writer).

I've never been in a boxing ring, but every time this movie comes on I find myself saying, "Man, I should really take some boxing lessons. That would be awesome." Fortunately now I have a wife that points out what a horrible idea it would be for me to box since I am lucky to weigh in at 160 pounds and I have no discernible muscles. This movie might actually be in my top 10 movies of all time, and before you groan - it did win the academy award for best picture.

-GSR, I agree completely with you on this one. This movie rocks on so many levels. Consider for a moment the fact that it was released in the midst of the cheesy '80's movie bullshit period when people like Tom Cruise and the young and cheeky Val Kilmer (as opposed to the gritty Val that's made his appearance lately) and Don Johnson ruled our collective thoughts of masculinity.

Then You have a movie about a meat packer who takes on the whole world through the escalation of II, III, and IV. V never happened.

3. Over The Top

I have no idea why I'm nominating this. It is a movie about arm wrestling. I don't even know what the studio was thinking when they greenlit the script. It's cutesy and trite, but I can remember more about this movie than I can remember from any of my years of school.

Yet another movie where a hero rises from the ranks of the popular grind and takes fame and fortune from the heap of money that seemed available to everyone in the 80's, provided you did not have a job involving sweat. I should note here somewhere that my dad was and still is a truck driver, and my two brothers and I have an unhealthy fixation on large freight moving vehicles. I love trucks. I took my first steps across the doghouse of a cabover Pete. If any reader knows what that means, I will have a beer with you. The way they smell, the rubber of the tires and the asbestos of the brakes, the whine of the turbos when they go by, the chatter of the Jake brake; I never grew out of wanting a truck to play with.

This movie, where the truck driver thwarts the snotty suit, plays large in all or part of my personal philosophies. Sly wrote this movie as well, so it has the occasional unbelievable dialog, but the depictions are very accurate. He very believably drives the trucks with the skill of a veteran. I can really appreciate that extra effort. Then there's the part where the truck goes crashing through the gates of the rich man, the analogies come easy and profound. If you didn't like this movie, I can only assume you are not only tasteless, but part of society's problem.

-Casey, don't forget the part where the movie culminates in the ultimate (professional) arm-wrestling competition, during which Sly's character is essentially arm wrestling for his truck AND his kid. Talk about fatherly love and devotion.

Since all of our current choices star only Sylvester Stallone, I feel the need for a change of pace:

4. Tango and Cash

This movie stars Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. And the movie is awesome.I saw this movie when I was 12 and it was huge for me as a kid. Part of it being "huge" was that it was R rated and I was allowed to watch it. My parents were typically very strict about this sort of thing, but my dad stepped in on this one because he was fairly certain that, "That movie will kick-ass." What can I say? My dad is a man of few words, but when he speaks we all listen.

The plot for the movie is hazy for me, but I do remember that Tango and Cash are rival cops who get forced into working together, at which point hilarity ensues. Except when I say "hilarity" I mean lots of guns, gadgets, souped up cars/trucks, and lots of explosions. My older brother (older by a year) and I still talk about how this was a bonding moment with our dad, and we almost forgave him for making us watch Gone With the Wind with our mom. The movie was awesome as a kid, and it is still fun as an adult. As a bonus, the movie also featured a very hot Teri Hatcher and the always-bad-assed Jack Palance. What's not to love?

-Man, I was wondering how long it would be until Jack Palance showed up in this entry. I remember quite a bit about this movie, as it was my first R-rated movie I was allowed to watch. The devil's minivan won this movie over pretty quick. Terri Hatcher is Kiki Tango. Enough said.

-So there you have it. Four of the top five "Best Man-Centric Movies Ever!" Just like last week we are turning it over to you the readers to contribute. And keep in mind - these are not the "Best Movies Ever!" That will be a separate post. And also, I may be able to talk Casey into a "The 5 Best Woman-Centric Movies Ever!" I'm pretty sure the conversation will go like this:

GSR: Hey man, can we do a post about the five best woman-centric movies? I've got some great ideas.
Casey: If I lived in D.C. I would punch you, make you drink bourbon, and puke the sissy out of you.
GSR: So....that is a yes?
Casey: I honestly worry about you.
GSR: ...
Casey: You can post it while I am away for the next week and a half. Let's never speak of this again.

-On the contrary, GSR, I can think of several good woman-centric movies. What was that one where Raquel Welch was a cave-woman?

Thoughts/ideas in comments.

*Last weeks Winner was judged and decided as Paradise City by Guns-N-EFFING-Roses, with Sister Christian taking a close second.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The 5 Best Songs by Really Bad Bands Ever!

This week we are taking a break from the literary realm, and entering into the equally as entertaining world of music. For those of you read our other blogs you are by now very familiar with the idea that Casey and I love music. We don't always see eye to eye, but more often than not we are coming from a similar place.

So in the spirit of music, this week "The 5" is counting down the top 5 Best Songs from Really Bad Bands. The criteria is simple: The songs have to be ones that we really liked at the time of their release, and at the same time the band has to be one that we otherwise would never consider putting on the jukebox. Make sense? To help illuminate the topic I present to you:

(5) Here I Go Again - by Whitesnake

This song has everything that a good power ballad needs. Slow buildup? Check. Drums that start on the second verse? Check. Crazy-ass lead singer? Check. Kick ass music video with hot lady? Check -and I know that at least Mysterygirl! has already mentally filled in the name of said "hot lady." Every time this song comes on at a bar or on the radio I want to crank it up, and I secretly hope that everyone around me will start singing along.

But with all this said, I would never ever play another song by Whitesnake on the jukebox, mp3 player, or my clarinet (but that does now have me thinking....). In fact, I can't even name another Whitesnake song, let alone the name of one of their albums. This all adds up to a kick ass song, but terrible band.

Man, are you serious? This song is terrible, even if I do know all the words. This song immediately takes me back to alligator shirts and shitty TV reception we had to pull in from Albuquerque. I'm having flashbacks of my sister's Hairnet hairspray wafting through the faux-wood paneled house. Yes, it has all the earmarks of a power ballad, way to go. It's songs like this that lead someone into November Rain, and that is just not acceptable. I have to say, though, this song does improve my pool game. So does Freebird. I'm not sure what that means.

To try and redeem this list:

(4) Home Again - by Hootie and the Blowfish

I know, the band is terrible, the album was painful, and the singer sounds like he gargles retard juice. The point is, this song is beautiful. It touches on all the great requirements of a real, unpowered, ballad. 3/4 time. Key of D, though capoed up to E. A guitar solo that builds counter melody through the second verse and explodes in clean toned awesomeness. To indulge music trivia a little, imagine a 3/4 slowed down bluegrass shuffle going IV , V , I , IV , vi, IV , V , V7sus4. I'm crying a little just thinking about that progression. And in the second half of the verse where they drop the Em, it's like the sky is crying along. The literal sky, not the song that's probably eligible for this list. Let's all go home again, indeed. Find where we have been. Time is never understood. In fact, I want to get a letter from you that will say: "Dear Casey, I'm sorry for the Whitesnake, could you stop to see me, :-)"

By the way, this band is notorious, at least locally, as in with me, for throwing a genius song onto a lackluster album. These guys are a big reason I picked up guitar and played only songs from before 1972.

Casey, I will give you credit for picking a terrible band. As for that song, I'm pretty sure it is still performed by Darius Rucker and his voice drives me bat-shit crazy. Plus, David Coverdale from Whitesnake would totally take down Darius "Hootie" Rucker if there were ever locked in a steel cage. Also, I'm pretty sure your "Roman Numeral Lock" was accidentally depressed a few minutes ago. Now, if you will excuse me *ahem*: I've made up my mind, and I ain't wasting no more time, cause here I go again....

(3) More Than Words - Extreme

Man does this song bring back memories. This song came out when a string of the so-called Monster Ballads were on the radio, but this song always stood out to me. Great acoustic guitar play. Harmonies in the vocals. And the entire slow, sweet song boiled down to a guy trying to get a girl to sleep with him. I played this song for many ladies back in high school - not a single one fell for it. I don't blame the song though, and I am more inclined to think I struck out because I thought snapping a girls bra strap was a legitimate dating "move." Once again, here is a great song by a band that went on to absolutely nothing else. Nada. Zip. Zero.

GSR, I have to agree with you on this one. The song is timeless. The band is 1990. And, no, all my time mastering this song out of Acoustic Guitar eXtreme Monthly did not help me get laid. That is until I learned the secret formula. Fuck the guitar, buy a motorcycle.

(2) Fishin' In the Dark - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Once again, how did this band make this song? With the exception of their appearance in the terrible movie Paint Your Wagon Red, I have never heard them play a single song I like. I hate shitty country music bullshit, but this song makes me feel like selling all my belongin's and living on a raft. The intro to this song, with its stuttering acoustic guitar playing a simple walk and the plainative vocals are a sure fire way to get me singing in a bar, provided enough liquor has been sacrificed to the gods of inhibition. I love the melodies. Growing up in a confusing, snake-handling cult-like religion in the backwoods of Colorado, I have an abiding soft spot for country accents and their harmonizing. This song could almost be sang under a tent with all day singing and dinner on the ground and not be out of place.

Plus, rivers garner totemic status with me. And women lying on their backs in moonlight with all the holiness of hydrological mysterious morphology going by in the eddies of black water gets my geology bone tingling.

-I'll chime in on this one to say that I grew up on the music of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, so they hold a special place in my heart. A little known fact about the NGDB is that they were the first U.S. band to be granted a world tour in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. In fact, many Cold War scholars believe that the friction between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. was ultimately diffused by a combination of the NGDB visit, and the movie Rocky IV. If you have never seen Rocky IV, let me just say that at the end of the movie Rocky delivers the final blow to the Cold War (which ended shortly after the movie release).

-Do you have any evidence to support this? I hate to raise the bullshit flag, but the wind is blowing and the brown tide is in. I think you made all of that up. I applaud you for adding another aspect to the aesthetic of this site--complete fabrication. For complete fabrication involving Rocky, I raise the chant of ovation!

-And for #1, we the management have decided to leave that wide open. Since this blog was designed with the hope of getting some audience support and participation we are asking you to contribute your #1 song to the list of "Best Songs by Really Bad Bands Ever!" (Ed. note - you will be required to use an exclamation point) The management will analyze and vote on the entries, and later this week we will add the best entry to our current list of 5.

GSR thinks this blog is about audience support. I think it is about being right. Try and add something for us to agree on by Saturday.

Best Songs by Bad Bands in comments.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Five Best Books Ever Written!

The M.O. of this blog is indulgent pretense and hyperbole, so let's light it off right. I choose for this weeks Five for rating and commentary:

The Five Best books ever written.

This is subjective as hell, but anyone who is a literary critic of any ability will agree with me. Keep in mind this is not a list of the best authors or the most significant books, merely a run-down of quality.

The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck

It gets no better than this book. Analogy, opium, popular revenge, concubines, geologically analogous women, and a touching story. This book humanizes the characters to the point that you are raving in their acquisitions and beaten with their losses. And it helped inspire the American Communist Party. A better book does not exist, though I'm sure you'll have your unenlightened arguments.

I give this book 9.7 Chevelles.

Personally, I've never read The Good Earth. I'm inclined to believe that it is a good book, but it is on too many high school required reading lists for me to endorse it whole heartedly. Don't get me wrong, some books that show up on a lot of high school reading lists are good. But others? Let's just say they all aren't the finest examples of pen put to paper. So in conclusion - I can't disagree with Casey's assertion that it is good, but I can disagree with his claim that it is the best book ever.

I understand the squeamishness associated with high school reading lists. They are often more about social issues than actual literature. This one I have to say is not one of those. There are social issues, but the social issues are incomprehensible to an American, so they are neutralized, at least a little. I also like the overall snootiness I can claim as my own having read it.

Cue my nomination.

My first contribution to this list has to be:

2.The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.

This book is one of the most technically perfect books I can imagine. The writing is top-notch, the characters are fantastic, and the social issues that Ellison presents still persist today in many different forms. You can read this book as a straight forward good read. You can read this book for symbolism and meaning that happens on several deeper levels. Most importantly, you can reread this book several times and find lots of new reasons to love it. If you haven't read this book - go now. If you read this book and did not like it - I am not-so-silently judging you right now, but I'm open to hearing your reasons.

I give this book a 9.9 (I don't know as much about cars - so I'm not going to try and compete)

The car thing was an experiment. I'm sure I'll rate everything with different standards as I whimsically choose to do so. You would if you didn't suck. I have read the book a few times. Unfortunately, the first was in seventh grade when my tastes were more juvenile. I hated the book. It was painful for me as a seventh grade boy with a motherfucker of spring fever going on to sit and read a book where nothing explodes and there is no mechanical porn to speak of. Reading it as an adult, I have to say that I would put it easily in the top ten, and it probably deserves a seat in the top five. On the other hand, we're American, and our bias will become apparent.

I can't believe you had to read that book in seventh grade. I disagree with your teacher's choice and not because of your "motherfucker of spring fever." What were you reading in 3rd grade? To Kill a Mockingbird?

Speaking of American bias in nomination:

3: The Log From the Sea of Cortez, John Steinbeck

This is a very unpopular book. It was published the same month Pearl Harbor got its shit handed to it, and I feel that may have ruined its chances to be ranked higher in the hearts and minds of the literati. Unpopularity aside, this read is amazing. Amazingly nerdy. Throughout the arc of great and not-so-great Steinbeck, his internal nerd monologue was stifled and edited out. In this narrative, he lets his littoral ecology freak flag fly to devastating effect. There have been no writers I have encountered that capture maritime life in littoral regions like he does. I understand if you haven't read this, but I still judge you as unworthy.

Wow. You are quickly on your way to out-nerding me. You should know that this is not something that I am used to, and I always imagined when this happened I would start to feel "cooler." Sadly, this is not the case.

As you probably guessed, I have not read The Log From the Sea of Cortez. I am in fact suspicious of whether or not it is a real book, but due to some inherent laziness today I will not be fact checking. I will say that given the little I know about your background, if you endorse a book based up the way it presents some maritime themes I should be in no position to doubt you.

I have spent a good portion of my life on the water, so you should automatically defer to my judgement of such matters. As for being "out-nerded" you should remember that you are dealing with a minor Jedi master of nerdiness. Not that it matters when you bring up Faulkner.

Sticking with our American bias:

4. The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner

This is easily the most challenging book that I have read. Insert your "Well that doesn't say very much..." jokes here. Regardless, I experienced three false starts with this book where each time I was convinced I would not get past the first section, and I was even more sure that I would never enjoy it. By the time I broke through the first section I was off and running, and I have reread this book in parts and in its entirety several times since.

The book has (thoughts of) incest, guilt, alcoholism and suicide. The second section as told by Quentin is one of the finest pieces of stream of consciousness writing that you can find, and the final scene where he talks with his father amazed me each time I read it. I know that Faulkner can be a divisive "love him/hate him" author, and you can put me on the side of "big fucking fan." In fact, I almost love Absalom, Absalom just as much. If you are a Faulkner hater I want the opportunity to convince you that you are wrong.

I have been foiled. Judging by the "incest, guilt, alcoholism, and suicide," I'm assuming this all happens in a Visalia, CA trailer park? I remember vaguely seeing this pop up on the list of unrelated reading material they think I should like. They also tried to sell me on The Da Vinci Code. Why my purchase of Dark Night of the Soul would convince them that either of these books should be my next purchase is beyond me. I can say I was intrigued by the title, and I severely hope that when I do read it the book will live up to the name. If it does not, I'll take it upon myself to write a book called The Sound and the Fury that will have an appropriate number of explosions and boobs. And vikings.

To keep Ol' Glory waving:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain

Mark Twain is the three ton hairy chestnut of American writing. He is without a doubt the master of words and phrase that Thomas Jefferson had in mind when he penned the declaration, and you know, writing letters to John Adams. I would have used Letters From Earth, but I'm not sure if a compilation would be allowed. The scope and depth of the characters in this comedy(?) are unsurpassed in literature as far as I, and by extension everyone else, am concerned. Also, the plot is funny and sad at the same time without losing the piquancy of either, no mean feat. So, in conclusion, Mark Twain is the motherfucking man. 9.875 pyroclasms.

I feel sorry for the other countries, they haven't produced any of the top five books ever written. They must suck.

I won't fight you on Huck Finn or on Twain. Both are deserving of some high praise and anyone who is on the side of banning that book is completley bat-shit crazy. Now I'm pretty sure we could each add a few more books to the list, but at this point we're turning it over to you the readers. Got a problem with our list? Put in the comments. And if there is a book that you are convinced we should read there is a more than decent chance that I will take you up on it.