Day 219: The Man and the Rubbed Breast; ‘Aware’

My weekend treat to myself this week is juicy, succulent, incredibly flavorful and meaty duck breast! I am absolutely loving getting to experiment with these new ingredients and dishes. This time around instead of re-imagining a Filipino dish, I took a very classic approach to duck breast and just added a few bits of Filipino flair. I enjoyed this for dinner and was drooling during the prep, but I have to admit the mind is already thinking of future changes and improvements. That’s the exciting thing about cooking and creating! There is always room for improvement, improvisation, and imagination!

duck-overall

The most classic preparation I have seen for duck breast has been to score the fatty skin, season generously with salt and pepper, and then first sear it fatty side down in a cold pan brought up to temp (to render some of that incredible duck fat), sear all sides, and finish in the oven. The excess duck fat is set aside for future use (which I’ve done and imagine I could use with say, some Brussels sprouts and pancetta) and what remains is deglazed in some form of sauce. I say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Duck breast is such a luxurious item to begin with that I don’t want to go mucking about with it too much and ruin the best qualities of the meat.

duck-breast

Here’s how I changed it up a bit though. First, aside from the salt and pepper, I also generously rubbed the outside of the duck breast with Chinese five-spice powder. Five-spice powder is an essential seasoning in any Asian household. A wonderfully aromatic and complex mix of cinnamon, clove, fennel, star anise, and Szechuan peppercorns for a slightly spicy kick. After that I did the usual sear and then roast and as it was resting, I de-glazed the pan with some port wine and chicken stock. Once it was reduced to the consistency I liked, I tossed in some cut up canned lychees (a sweet, floral, delicate fruit grown throughout Southeast Asia and a popular snack in the Philippines) with the syrup it came in and after letting it cook a bit, finishing with a nice generous pat of butter.

duck-salad

I cut the breast into nice thick slices and was so proud of the crunch and snap of the crispy duck skin as the knife cut into the pieces. The center was beautifully pink and the five-spice powder had slightly charred and caramelized along the edges and released its full aroma. The lychees I tossed in a salad of watercress and then I spooned the lychee-port sauce over the duck and vegetables. I had a wonderful meal with a glass of port to accompany me.

mango-rum

In the future, I think I can be a bit more brave and really bring out some more Filipino colors. I’ve asked my parents to bring home some mango rum, which is a liqueur popular in the beach destination of Boracay. I’m thinking of using the mango rum, with some thin strips of dried mango along with the lychee, to create a bright orange, sweet and slightly sticky sauce instead (a sort of play on the classic duck a l’orange). I also find that with the sweet and tanginess of the sauce I am craving for some more pepper, so I believe arugula would be better with everything. I hope that along the way of my culinary journey I’ve been able to make some of you aware of the myriad potential and possibilities of Filipino food and cooking style!

Day 219

Man: 187 Loneliness: 32

Day 218: The Man and the Happiness to Have and Give; ‘Lush’

As the setting sun gently began to dip beneath the ocean’s waves, she looked back at me with those deep, brown eyes. Her back was towards the sun and it cast a soft glow around the edges of her slender, lush body. She smiled, a gentle, loving, warm smile, and she asked me the question she had asked me so many times before.

‘When did you know you truly loved me?’

As I bent down on one knee and reached into my pocket, I looked up at her. The breeze was playing with her hair, gently brushing long elegant strands across her face. There was something so tantalizing about the way she tucked her hair behind her ears to keep it away. This time, as I opened the tiny box in my hand, I finally had an answer.

‘When I realized I could never be happy without you.’

HA. God almighty that was painfully cheesy. I crack myself up.

I’ll be honest with you, maybe there was a time when I thought this would have been true and it was the most romantic and beautiful thing you could say to someone. (Who am I kidding, that’s not a ‘maybe’ that’s a hard ‘definitely’.) And maybe (definitely) there are some of you reading this thinking to yourselves ‘God I wish someone would say this to me’ or ‘Man I should definitely use this line sometime’.

DON’T. Don’t think it, don’t want it, don’t use it, don’t look for it, don’t believe in it.

Bad Idea.gifThis may be a hard pill to swallow but believe me, it’s the medicine you need to have. I am generally a very flexible and agreeable person. I invite different voices, opinions, I am never above discourse, debate, or discussion. But on this particular matter, I draw a firm line. This kind of overly romantic sentiment is dangerous to relationships, immature, unproductive, and puts too much pressure and strain on both parties involved. Besides, let’s be real with ourselves. It just isn’t true.

I used to think this was what love was all about. Finding happiness. And living a life constantly seeking one relationship after another, constantly finding validation and value in the times I was with someone, it was enough to go by. It was also, after all, the mentality with which I began this entire year-long experiment. That for a year I would be fighting unhappiness in the form of loneliness, because happiness was being in a relationship. But what I’ve come to begin to realize (yes begin, I’m not entirely ‘wise man on the mountain just yet) is that relationships aren’t about finding or gaining happiness.

Let’s talk about how that kind of mentality can affect the times before, during, and after a relationship.

If you truly could not be happy without someone, what does that do to all the times you’ve had before being with this person? As beautiful as it may be to say to someone ‘my entire life before you has been nothing but a fuzzy haze and your love is the brilliance that has finally brought everything into crystal clear focus’ , it just…god I hope it can’t be true. What have you Bono Diagram.pngbeen doing your entire life before this one person happened to come across your path? The truth is you’ve been out there developing and growing and becoming someone interesting. You’ve gained experience, insight, gathered stories, you’ve been living a full life, the life that makes you who you are and desirable to begin with. Someone wants you for you. I’ve no doubt that there were hard times. Difficult times. Times of very deep and profound sorrow. Hardship. But I also believe you’ve known, had, and experienced happiness too. It may be difficult in the scope of a relationship to remind yourself of this, but it’s there. I know too well how easy it is to be so engrossed and enamored with the bliss and happiness of being in a relationship that all the other times before it seem mild and dull in comparison. Being in love kind of gilds those memories so they naturally shine more. But don’t let it take away from the value and worth of everything you were beforehand. If you’ve ever woken up one day in a relationship that you know is nearing its end and thought to yourself ‘who was I before this’ then you know that feeling of being lost, as if the entirety of your being was seemingly attached to this couple mentality. Maybe you were in a relationship for so long you almost forgot, or maybe you honestly have had the wonderful chance to learn and grow and experience and develop so much in the time you were with this person that you’ve forgotten how much you could achieve on your own. Either way, if you are single, are contemplating going back to being single, not looking, or have never looked or been looked at, know that you are capable of happiness, seeking and gaining your own happiness, and enjoying it all on your own.

When you’re in healthy relationship, I know how happy it can be. I know what it’s like to be making those memories that you hope to have and cherish for the rest of your life. There have been times when I find myself in similar situations as a single guy that I was in face-of-boejust a year ago with Beautiful and I was worried I could not be nearly as happy as I was. Last year I went to Cabo with Beautiful and I thought it was the greatest vacation I had ever had. We ate, drank, danced, explored the desert, and just had the company of each other the entire time. This year I went to Cancun with my family and I thought it couldn’t compare. And yet, in different ways, I found a whole level of happiness that came from really spending time and focusing on family. I grew closer to my parents and I feel that this was the first vacation where my brother and I felt like equals with our parents. There were no ‘kids activities’, no branching off. We could go to a bar and drink together and share stories we might not have shared or censored before. Last year when my parents and brother were in Las Vegas and I had two weeks to myself, she was spending the nights here and we were cooking and coming home to each other and living this idyllic simulation of domesticity. This year they are in the Philippines and I have two months to myself and I thought, ‘to what end could I enjoy this on my own’. Yet here I am cooking these incredible meals for myself, spending time on my own, going out and honestly, genuinely, with no need to force or convince myself, having a great time with just my company. Honestly, I haven’t even really desired or had to call out to my friends this entire time either.

The other thing about being happy in a relationship is it casts too much pressure to assign happiness to the other person. No one really seeks the responsibility or task of being the sole source of happiness for another person. Much like the ‘soulmate’ mentality, this idea of ‘I could never be happy without you’ creates a dichotomy between you and the person you are with. Do you know what you were before you were together? You were a fully-formed human being, capable of your own emotions, experiencing your own desires and happiness. Do you know what you should be when you are with someone? Almost exactly the same. I say ‘almost’, but I’ll get to that more later.

Obviously though, this thinking is the most dangerous post-relationship. And god, that’s the worst. Speaking from personal experience, of course. When you’ve hitched your happiness to the same one person for so long and that person isn’t you…you feel lost, empty, hollow when they’re gone. Some people can’t seem to be able to climb their way out of those holes. And those people, they drag the people down around them. They fixate and obsess over this one thing and it starts to flatten someone who once was complex, layered, and fully formed. After the breakup, I had to remind myself of all the things I used to do alone that made me happy. I had to redefine my relationship to my friends before I began to simply proxy them and it created more tension than there already was. It is most important when you are down and feeling your most alone that you remind yourself that you were happy before, happy during, and all indications point pretty overwhelmingly to being happy after it all as well. When you realize that you gain a whole new level of strength and resolve. ‘I could be happy with or without you’ is just as true as ‘I could be sad with or without you’ as well. The truth is there is no one universal shield to any emotion, and besides, who would want that? No one person can promise you to always make you feel one way or never feel another. The truth is we are all free to experience the full depth and complexity of human emotion and the best thing, the best thing about being with someone you truly love and who truly loves you, is not that they deny you one and give you only another, but that they are there to experience it all with you and to heighten the great and soften the not so great. It’s weird. Honestly, what I really desire to be able to tell someone, is to look at this beautiful woman across from me and say, ‘You know, the truth is I could be happy with or without you. I just don’t want it to be without you.’ It’s real, honest, genuine, but most of all, it’s this freeing no-pressure gesture of love.

So I did say before that I think you should ‘almost’ the same when you’re with someone as you were before. And I want to clarify that last. What I mean by that is…what I’m learning and hoping to do…is I want to be someone with happiness to share when it is that I am lucky enough to meet someone again. I’ve spent so long looking and trying to define these relationships as walking up to someone and saying ‘can you make me happy’. And for a time they could, and they would, and it was great, but when they stopped, my happiness went away and it was fleeting and impermanent. But here I am living this life, gathering these experiences, putting myself in a certain position and situation to be truly, wonderfully happy. And it is in that moment that I sit back and think, ‘you know, I want to share this happiness with someone’. And it is in that moment that I want to open myself up to love again and find someone with the same mentality. I want to make someone happy because I have this happiness that is eager and desiring to be shared. Because the truth is, I have been happy. I will be happy. But eventually, soon, I will want to share that happiness.

Day 218

Man: 186 Loneliness: 32

Day 216: The Man and the Bone to Pick; ‘Heard’

Just in case the high-fat cholesterol-laden taba ng talangka hasn’t killed you yet, over the weekend I also made a dish using rich, fatty, super meaty and incredible bone marrow. Is it any wonder between the talangka, the bone marrow, and all the pork dishes that heart disease is a big problem with Filipinos? Hahah. In case you were wondering how I probably go, it’ll most likely be with a piece of meat.

beef-bonesBone marrow is the spongy, flexible tissue found inside the bones that contain the stem cells that turn into red or white blood cells that help carry oxygen through the body and fight against disease. You’ll find the largest concentration in the larger bones, especially the femur. That is why whenever you go to the supermarket or your local butcher’s to pick up some bone marrow for cooking or roasting, it is often either just the femur bone (which can then be halved or split lengthwise) or the shank, which is the meat on the upper hip centered around a big piece of that split femur bone.

As an ingredient, bone marrow is a prized ingredient in many world cuisines, not just inbeef-shank the Philippines. For example, the classic Italian dish osso bucco is made by braising beef shanks (veal shanks preferred) in vegetables and white wine. In fact, the name osso bucco in Italian roughly translates to ‘bone with a hole’, referring to the rich marrow in the center of the shank that provides the rich beef flavor and is a treat to suck out of the bone at the end. In Vietnam, it is the collagen-rich beef marrow bones that are used to create the deeply flavored broth that is essential to good pho. If you’ve ever had pho and wondered how they can create such a complex and meaty broth, the secret is in boiling the bones with seasonings for a very long time to completely melt the marrow and have it practically dissolve into the broth. You will often find bone marrow split lengthwise and roasted, sometimes simply with salt and pepper, other times with a gremolata like paste spooned on top and then roasted to create a rich, smooth, butter-like spread that can be either enjoyed with a spoon or spread onto crusty bread.

One of my all time favorite food experiences was at the Black Hoof in Toronto. We each Wicked Spoon Marrow.jpgordered our own plate of bone marrow and after we finished it, we used the now hollowed out bones as a luge and did shots of whiskey pouring it in one end and drinking it from the other. The whiskey get into every tiny nook and cranny and carried the last bits of rich meaty goodness and oh man…that night was a blast. If you’re ever in Toronto I HIGHLY recommend the Black Hoof. Or if you’re in Vegas, my vote for best buffet in the city of buffets is the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan, where, among there myriad offerings (they have this orange mousse dessert that is incredible) is a giant heart-attack inducing pile of spicy kimchi marinated roasted bone marrow. Look, let me tell you, there’s a reason why roasted bone marrow is known as the ‘butter of the gods’. It’s smooth, spreadable, decadent, and if you eat enough of it in one sitting you’re guaranteed to meet your maker.

So here’s my Filipino twist on it. I wanted to recreate the flavors of bulalo, which is a clear Filipino stew that is made rich with by boiling the thick beef bones for several hours. With the soft, smooth bone marrow melting into the soup and the rich beef stock and tender boiled beef, bulalo is a hearty yet simple stew great for winters (ironic, considering the Philippines is unbearably hot). The problem with bulalo though is that the boiling process usually melts all the marrow goodness out and I never get to actually enjoy it as is. So without melting it in a stew, I still wanted to get the other flavors of the soup onto split marrow bones that I could then roast and enjoy by itself.

bulalo-overview

My solution was to roast the marrow bones with a sprinkling of very finely minced garlic and onion, so fine that most of it would melt into the marrow during the roasting process. I topped it with thin slices of onion that would crisp and caramelize in the heat and then after generously seasoning it with plenty of freshly ground black pepper I (sparingly) poured a scant bit of salty/funky fish sauce (a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine) instead of salt. Aside from the unfortunately fishy smell that came from the oven, I think it was an overwhelming success. I’ll just need to Febreze the room afterwards because if you’ve ever smelled fish sauce, you know what I’m talking about. Now imagine that smell heated to 375 degrees. Like Satan’s sweaty pits.

Bulalo Bone Focus.jpg

Often times, to counter the super richness of the bone marrow these dishes are accompanied by some citrus or a light salad with an acidic vinaigrette to cut the fattiness. I decided to pair it with my homemade ‘minute’ version of atchara, which is a dish made by pickling papaya, carrots, and peppers in a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. My ‘minute’ version is accomplished by blanching julienned carrots, red and green peppers, and celery in a similar pickling mixture that I season with garlic, ginger, peppers, and star anise. By blanching them I help them keep their bright color and crispness, and at the same time I am able to impart them with just enough acidity and bite to help pair nicely with the bone marrow.

Bulalo Atchara Focus.jpg

So in case you’ve been living underneath a culinary rock and haven’t yet heard of the gastronomic wonder that is rich, meaty, sinfully delicious bone marrow, I hope this has given you some courage to seek it out.

Day 216

Man: 184 Loneliness: 32

Day 215: The Man and the Edible Mentality; ‘Tremble’

Yesterday as I was looking up some information about the taba ng talangka and how it is harvested/made I found out that aside from the food, when you say talangka (crab) to Filipinos it could also be used to refer to someone who has a talangka mentality. That is to say, a way of referring to someone who is prone to jealousy and does not like to see others succeed or surpass them.

crab-mentality

If you’ve ever been to a live seafood market, check out the live crabs in their bucket and you might notice where this phrase came from. As individual crabs on the edge of the bucket try to grab and claw their way out of the bucket, the crabs further down and more in the center will actually grab onto the crab and in doing so, pull it back down. This is often why no lids or other means of securing the crabs are needed. They do it to themselves.

So having a talangka or ‘crab’ mentality is akin to the behavior of crabs in a bucket. As we see those around us succeed, rather than feeling either a sense of joy for their crab-frenzyaccomplishment or a sense of inspiration in a desire to emulate them, we are overcome with feelings of jealousy and bitterness towards their success and wish to see them fall; perhaps even going so far as attempting to facilitate that either by sabotaging their attempts or undermining their accomplishments. In the Philippines we call this feeling of envy and bitterness ‘inggit’. When someone experiences a sudden burst of success and prosperity, we don’t want to be them, we want them to go back to being like us. Now to be fair, I don’t want to paint my fellow Filipinos as particularly resentful or envious people. Nor do I want to claim that this is an exclusively or even particularly Filipino trait. I think we can all relate, at least at times, to this particularly destructive feeling of envy. It is I believe, natural and even common, to sometimes feel jealous of the success of others. On its own this does not make us bad or narrow-minded people. I believe it is when we succumb to this tendency and lack the ability to elevate ourselves above this mindset that we become like those crabs in the buckets and turn a momentary reaction into a permanent characteristic.

What’s interesting is that while ‘talangka’ mentality might be a common phrase in the Tall Poppy.jpgPhilippines, most cultures have their own way of expressing this though; further emphasizing that this is a universal and deeply human emotion that we get to wrestle with, analyze, and grow out of. It is part of our experience in growing and improving. In Britain and Australia you may have heard of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, which is strikingly similar. This comes back to a reference by the Greek historian Herodotus in his Histories series.

Periander had sent a herald to Thrasybulus and inquired in what way he would best and most safely govern his city. Thrasybulus led the man who had come from Periander outside the town, and entered into a sown field. As he walked through the wheat, continually asking why the messenger had come to him from Cypselus, he kept cutting off all the tallest ears of wheat which he could see, and throwing them away, until he had destroyed the best and richest part of the crop. Then, after passing through the place and speaking no word of counsel, he sent the herald away. When the herald returned to Cypselus, Periander desired to hear what counsel he brought, but the man said that Thrasybulus had given him none. The herald added that it was a strange man to whom he had been sent, a madman and a destroyer of his own possessions, telling Periander what he had seen Thrasybulus do. Periander, however, understood what had been done, and perceived that Thrasybulus had counselled him to slay those of his townsmen who were outstanding in influence or ability; with that he began to deal with his citizens in an evil manner.

-Herodotus, The HistoriesBook 5

References to ‘tall poppies’ can be found in recorded debates in Australian government over things like controversial knightings or taxpayer costs and in Britain it is even said that Margaret Thatcher is quoted to have used the phrase when discussing her governing philosophy.

So, while maybe not as extreme as resorting to trying to kill everyone with influence or power greater than yours, I do think we can agree that there is something comfortable, australia-poppyfamiliar, and sometimes regretfully habitual about feeling jealous of others. It is sometimes subtle, sneaking into our subconscious mind and influencing our thoughts. Maybe we find ourselves questioning just how someone got their position in a company or how they are able to afford themselves such seemingly nice and expensive things. Bitterness and vitriol leads us to sometimes accusing those around of us of certain unscrupulous things because we find that temptingly easier than rationalizing the benefit but also effort of genuine hard work. If we do find ourselves resorting to this kind of unproductive and toxic thinking, how do we elevate ourselves out of this ‘bucket’?

We have to realize that success and prosperity is not a ‘zero-sum game’. In game theory, this refers to any sort of game where the win of one person has to mean the loss of another to keep balance. I think one of the reasons why we have this ‘crab mentality’ or ‘tall poppy syndrome’ is because we fear that the success one of our peers achieves and Image result for crabs gifexperiences could in some way mean that there is less chance or room for our own. You may fear that there is only so much success and positive attention to go around and that its limited resource means you have to bring someone down before you can bring yourself up. This is often characterized in communities where upwards mobility is seemingly limited. For example in poor communities where it is difficult to ever leave the environment. I believe this could explain why a lot of Filipinos seem to either relate to, or fear they are the victims of, this ‘talangka’ mentality. When you grow up thinking that there are only so many opportunities out there in the world, you become cynical and jealous and wary of others’ success. From this, we have to realize that there is always room for everyone to succeed. In fact, it is often best to encourage and support the success of others because it keeps us focused on the goals rather than the misses. Not to mention that when I find myself in positions of advantage, I like to reach out to those who have helped and hopefully give them a leg up as well. It isn’t about being the only crab out of the bucket or the only poppy to grow tall. It’s about seeing how many we can work together to see succeed. Unless you’re a crab catcher. Then you make sure all those suckers stay down.

Ultimately, I think it is just important for us to realize that the world is bigger than just our bucket, and that just because one poppy may be taller than ours, the sun will reach both just as much. With the current political climate, I absolutely believe that there are certain peoples of power out there who would totally want us to believe that this is not the case. Right now so many of us are succumbing to the easy and insecure belief that there are people out there trying to ‘get us’ and that their attempts at trying to secure success and livable conditions for themselves somehow impedes on our own. Loud and frighteningly powerful voices are trying to convince us that the world has become an ‘us or them’ environment. I refuse to believe this. It will take the most noble, selfless, and generous aspects of our spirit and dignity to rise above this rhetoric and not tremble and realize that the best thing we can do for our own mutual success is to work towards, or at the very least do nothing to obstruct, the attempts of others to succeed. Don’t be afraid if you happen to catch others leaving the bucket faster than you. You’ll get there also. And maybe even with the helpful claw from the other side.

Day 215

Man: 183 Loneliness: 32

Day 214: The Man and the Daily Catch Daily Prompt; ‘Lovingly’

Today’s dish is a wonderful introduction to the rich, fatty, super umami, and uniquely Filipino ingredient known as taba ng talangka.

This bright orange, slightly granular paste is made from tiny freshwater crabs that grow along the rivers in the Philippines. It used to be a major product of the Pampanga region but after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and the resulting dredging of the Pampanga region, it is now more commonly harvested in Bicol. Regardless of where you get it though, the process of harvest is pretty much the same. These tiny crabs, no bigger than two inches across, are harvested, painstakingly peeled open and then the tiny amounts of crab roe inside (even though taba in Tagalog translates to ‘fat’ and talangka are the crabs, this is not crab fat but crab roe) are harvested and then sauteed into a paste with plenty of garlic for flavor.

Alone, the flavor is incredibly deep, rich, and complex. It possesses the kind of rich sea umami of say, Japanese uni but with not as much of the saltiness. Super fatty and best enjoyed in small doses a) because of how rich the taste is and b) because too much of this and you’ll have a cholesterol-laden one way ticket to the emergency room. The texture is slightly grainy, but when cooked into dishes it smooths out and almost disintegrates, leaving a slight aroma but deep orange color and permeating flavor. In the Philippines it is traditionally served as is, spooned over warm white rice and mixed together to melt and combine. I’ve also seen it prepared as a pasta sauce but most recipes call for a whole jar just for one serving!

My goal was to find a way to introduce this wonderful ingredient and taste in a way that would not be too foreign and too off-putting. I wanted it to simultaneously be the signature flavor star but not the main focus. The idea of mixing it with rice made me think of fried rice, which is a common item in the Philippines as well as any Asian country, and so playing on the Filipinos’ love of fried rice, I made my own version of seafood fried rice with the taba ng talangka mixed in!

Taba 1.jpg

Ta-da! This is the final result. First, in a very hot wok I saute garlic, onions, ginger, green onion, and labuyo (a tiny but super spicy and tasty Filipino chili pepper) until fragrant. I then add squid, scallops, lump crab meat, and shrimp. Next come the bean sprouts. Finally I add the rice, oyster sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, and a generous heaping portion of the taba and mix and fry. The taba melts and colors each grain of rice that wonderful orange color and flavors the entire dish while still letting the seafood come through. Once it’s all cooked and the rice is loose and every grain is separated, I lovingly sprinkle some green onion on top.

traba-2

This is at once an homage to Asian-style fried rice, Spanish-style seafood paella, and yet also a distinctly Filipino dish in taste. I used a quart of day-old rice because older, dry rice is much better for fried rice and now I have some great leftovers to look forward to having for lunch.

If you are an adventurous foodie or a big seafood lover, I highly recommend visiting your local Asian grocery store and if you’re lucky, you might find this in the Filipino aisle. If you’re not, you’ll have to hope I open up a restaurant near you. Hahah. Either way, I definitely think that this could be one of the best unknown ingredients for the enterprising chef and is definitely a flavor worth exploring.

Bon apetit.

Day 214

Man: 182 Loneliness: 32

Day 212: The Man and the Final Chapter; ‘Recognize’

WARNING: If you have not yet seen Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and are PLANNING TO, please be aware that possible [SPOILER ALERTS] may be ahead! You are forewarned!

resident-evil

So last night I went to see Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. The last installment in the Resident Evil series starring the beautiful, talented, and totally killer Milla Jovovich.

Look let’s be absolutely honest. First of all, if you haven’t seen the others, you probably have no reason to be watching this particular one either. And if you have, as I have, been an avid fan and watcher of these particularly terrible-yet-oh-so-good zombie horror/action B-movies, you’re going to watch this regardless.

Wait a minute…so…who’s actually gonna benefit from this review?! Ahahah. Oh well.

code-veronicaMy history with the Resident Evil series goes back further than 2002, when the first Resident Evil film hit theatres. In case you didn’t know, Resident Evil was, and still is, a video game series way before it was a zombie movie franchise. I remember buying my PS2 and it came with a copy of Resident Evil: Code Veronica. The RE series always had an incredible sense of environment and pace to create a permanent sense of dread. I was very young then, and the first time you wake up and escape from your cell and you start to climb up the long, dark, empty stairway, it was too much for me to even finish. That’s right. I didn’t get further than ten minutes into my very first Resident Evil game.

Since then the franchise has gone through a lot of different growths and changes, and I’vebiohazard changed as well as a person and a gamer. Still we were always in a very elongated and faint but ever-present orbit around each other. Every couple years I’d find myself going back to the latest Resident Evil game, testing the waters once more. There were some good, some bad, and some terribly, terribly bad. Horrible controls, bad voice-acting, glitchy animations. But still, I loved it. And the most recent one, Resident Evil: Biohazard with its VR mode, is an absolute NIGHTMARE. A wonderful return to the very essence and nature of Resident Evil. Survive. Scream. Repeat. It’s a great thrill ride and the true stuff of nightmares. Is it any wonder why I love this series so much?

The movies have been much more consistent. Consistently what is certainly up to interpretation, but consistent nonetheless. Fast-paced action, rock star soundtrack, so so so many zombies. And a lot of Milla Jovovich side-boob. But they were always fun, always exciting, and a great distraction. The story, though threadbare, was always at least just enough to keep the suspension of disbelief going. The movies were pretty well done too, with excellent CGI, effects, and a palpable sense of dread when necessary.

So I have to be honest with you. As a final send-off of what has been a big part of my life…Resident Evil: The Final Chapter…kind of…disappointed.

Let’s talk about cast. Now if there’s one thing you can rely on in a Resident Evil movie, it’s that the cast is always disposable. You will go through characters faster than a teenage boy through tissues. That’s fine. In the zombie apocalypse, we don’t all get to retire at the dinner table on a Sunday evening. Some of you are going to get eaten. But at least, the movie gives you enough time to give a damn. To care. In the first film, we follow a team of elite operatives who are sent to actually try and contain the situation and save the world from the outbreak. They are the best of the best, a highly trained team who works together. So when one falls, you feel the pain of loss. You see them grow weaker and either lose morale or lose themselves to anger. In the second, we felt for US agents trying their best to help a city on the brink of collapse. In the third, survivors who have found each other at the end of the world and are trying just to survive and cling to hope. And so on and so forth. But in this film…honestly I can’t even tell you a single person’s name. And that’s a real shame. Because a nameless body among hundreds lost to the horde really doesn’t mean much to anyone, does it? But one strong, well-developed, recognizable and relatable character lost…even if it’s just one, you feel that. Only one other regular from the series made it back to this one, though we get no explanation as to why or how the others are missing. So we don’t even get to mourn the fallen. Instead we’re just immediately introduced to even more people (why introduce new people in the LAST installment of something) who die almost as quickly and as unremarkably as they are introduced. I wish I could have cared about them more. But maybe they were going more for the body count.

Story wise…for a zombie movie so clearly ready to kill off its stars…I was surprised by howmila-shooting ‘Disney’ the ending was. It seems the Sunday dinner table was in fact set with an extra table for someone from the series. I also couldn’t quite get the thinking behind the villainous Umbrella Corporations’s reasoning. It seemed like at the brink of extinction, everyone would find it in their best interest to continue on in a certain way. In the beginning of the series Umbrella Corp was just another pharmaceutical company that got way too big for its britches, took on more than it could, and tried desperately to cover it up. But by the end they were both the saviors and the plague. They couldn’t quite make up their minds about how to portray the company. This leads to plot holes and some very questionable decisions.

The music was great, and the zombies were varied and provided action, horror, and some great opportunities for creative violence. The sequences were scored well, choreographed with skill, but honestly…whoever their cinematographer is should be SHOT. This is one of the few times I actually find myself angry about cinematography. The action sequences were made with so many consecutive jump cuts that I almost got nauseous. I had plans to watch the movie in IMAX 3D and now I’m glad I didn’t because I don’t know how I would have handled it. I craved the few and rare moments of crappy dialogue just because it provided a needed respite from the frantic frenetic camera jumps of the action sequences. It’s a shame too, because often times camera shifts are used by directors to avoid having to justify the action or to cover up poor choreography or lack of actual skill.

I love the Resident Evil series, I honestly do. And I will still watch the first five films, with the first and second being my absolute favorite. They will always be one of my favorite guilty pleasures. As a ‘goodbye’ for the series, I wish there was more chance for ‘goodbye’. I would have liked to see some characters return. There were still some left alive in the previous movie. And the setting was in fact Raccoon City again, where the whole series started. But since they ended the film with a nuclear bomb, there were no reminders, no familiar landmarks to recognize, no tearful flashbacks. Just (literally, this is what they called it in the film) the ‘Pit’. And that’s kinda where I feel they left all our memories.

Day 212

Man: 180 Loneliness: 32

Day 211: The Man and the ‘Leg’endary Legs; ‘Overwhelming’

The poultry farm I went to for the duck legs and breasts (which will be showing up later on in the future with another special recipe) also happened to have some particularly large and potentially promisingly juicy turkey legs that I had to play around with as well.

No Filipino twists on this one, just a kid looking at a giant meat lollipop and remembering the fun times at Renaissance Faires and State Fairs trying to manage a giant turkey leg. As much as I loved them, they were always too cumbersome, too unwieldly, too messy to really dig into and enjoy when I was outside, with no napkins, and nowhere near a functioning sink. So I was really excited to be able to treat myself to these bad boys. Hahah.

Turkey Leg Focus.jpg

I decided to make my own marinade with some vegetable oil. Sriracha (for some real KICK to these legs, get it? I crack myself up), soy sauce, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper, honey, parsley, basil, oregano, and ground ginger. I let them marinade for 24 hours basically tossing and turning whenever I remembered to and just slightly ‘massaging’ the bag to make sure the marinade had a chance to really penetrate the drumsticks. Before I put them in the bag I also took a knife and made a few cuts into the meat to let the marinade in.

Turkey Salad Focus.jpg

I am not exaggerating when I say that once they were in the oven and really started cooking the incredible aroma of the succulent roasting meat combined with that marinade created an aroma that was just overwhelming and made me start drooling. I was so happy with this experiment from the smell alone I was jumping and dancing for joy in the house. (Sorry not sorry for the image Elaine! Hahah.) It was sweet and spicy and had a wonderful combination of caramelized edges with wonderfully roasted and charred bits. The meat was tender, juicy, and the marinade was able to get deep into the leg. I made a simple salad to accompany and was absolutely loving every bit of it.

Turkey Overall.jpg

Well I am full, satisfied, and chock full of turkey and salad. Hahah. Very happy with how this turned out and am excited to be cooking even more over the weekend. Now I’m off to watch Resident Evil. Can’t believe it’s the last of the series. I’ve loved every single one despite how terrible they honestly are.

Day 211

Man: 179 Loneliness: 32

Day 210: The Man and the Blast From the Past, Gift from the Rift; ‘Clean’

So it’s the middle of the night and I’m trying to go to sleep…

And I get a text message, which immediately startles me because, if any of you play the Michael Scott.gifMetal Gear series, my text alert is the *BWOMP* sound the game makes when you’ve been discovered by an enemy.

Who the hell is texting me at this ungodly hour…

It’s Bird. I haven’t spoken to her since the holidays to wish her a merry Christmas and happy New Year. I’ve for the most part gotten over my crush and besides all indications are that she’s still going strong with her boyfriend so I’ve made my peace and moved on.

It’s a picture of an online pre-order receipt for Mass Effect: Andromeda. The latest game in a series that we are both fans of and liked to talk about. ‘Okay,’ I thought. ‘She got the game. Good for her.’ Underneath it though was the caption ‘my ex bought Andromeda for me L M A O’.

Huh.

It was a weird sentiment, at such a random time, but maybe it was the half-awake half-asleep mind or that calm and peace of the night, but it immediately brought up a whole slew of emotions and thoughts that were just too much to process. So I decided to wait until now to go through them.


First, this was not the first time that any one of her past exes has been brought up in conversation. I couldn’t really pinpoint when, or where, or why, or how, but somehow or other in sporadic bursts in our conversations she would find it appropriate to bring up exes. This one who’s still obsessed with her and trying to get back together, this one who was a jerk and a mistake, this one who was ‘really just for the sex and loneliness’, or this one who ‘still felt bad about the breakup’ and is giving her gifts therefore for some reason? Iono. As I like to say, ‘whatevs to the evs’. But maybe it’s not so ‘whatevs’? Am I wrong or is there something strange about constantly bringing up ex talk? For comparison, about as much as she knows about me is that I was dating a girl who I used to date back in college and then a couple months later we broke up. That’s it. The entirety of my romantic past in summation based on her knowledge.

Carol Brown.gifSo I’m trying to process why this seems to keep coming up. And I’m trying to come up with positive, flattering reasons why. I’m drawing blanks. Because here’s what I’ve come up with. For the most part, I find people who consistently bring up their exes often times do it because they draw a certain sense of self-worth by quantifying how desirable they are. ‘Look at me, I must be good, because look at this list of people who have thought so too.’ And I would like to think Bird is above that, because I think that’s a very sorry and sad way to view yourself; only in terms of how others have, and specifically how others have in terms of lovability or at the very least, likability. You shouldn’t be after trying to get as many people as possible to want you. I’ve always felt that the goal was to find the one. There are lessons and values and wonderful stories created from my past relationships, I certainly can’t deny that. And when appropriate I do enjoy sharing them. The funny, the folly, or the downright fails. But I don’t call on this history as a means of validation. I think I might have in the past though, to be honest. Or at the very least, I think I and most other people can relate, after breakups it is hard not to diminish your sense of self-worth because you are suddenly unwanted. There have been relationships in the past whose ultimate demise have caused me to question myself, my sense of self. I can understand that. But with time you get over that, and you have to realize that the actions of others, their wants and desire, have very little, if anything at all, to do with you, your values, or your worth. And in as much freedom and strength as there is in realizing that someone not wanting you means little, there is the same in realizing that people wanting you means little as well.

Second, I was wondering why she wanted me to know about this at all anyways. If it was about the game and sharing some excitement, then I would have understood completely. How exciting and how great to have that pre-order and already have the peace of mind and anticipation of knowing that on the day the game comes out there is already a copy with your name on it in the mail. Often times pre-orders also come with some extra goodies, either physical goodies like special collector’s edition cases or other paraphernalia or digital goodies like extra content or special items to help you gain an early advantage in the beginning of the game. Personally I am against the concept of pre-orders because it creates too much hype and rewards developers and game companies even before the product is release, which gives them less accountability to make a quality game. But that’s gaming politics and something for some other topic way off in the future if ever. But fine let’s jump up and down and say yay and oh my god that’s so cool.

Andromeda.jpegBut if it was about the game, why would I need to know the part about her ex buying it for her? It’s that extra superfluous piece of information that just gets me confused about the underlying message here. Am I supposed to be…jealous? Impressed? How do I respond? It’s such a strange thing. Why would people feel the need to add all these extra bits of information except for to use the main thing as an excuse to detract focus. And if it was a play for jealousy…I mean…am I supposed to be jealous of the game, or of the act? And isn’t there someone else more relevant to play this on? Like I don’t know, her actual boyfriend? Look I get this makes me sound supremely self-centered. And again, I could be, and hope to be, wrong. These are the semi-lucid musings of a half-awake man. But I definitely think there is something there at least to learn or come away with. Don’t use the actions of others as a tool to incite jealousy. It doesn’t motivate or inspire others to act. It either repels them if they can see through the action or demotivates them. Jealousy is a petty way of getting what you want. If you want me to celebrate with you, I’ll celebrate. But don’t also try to make me jealous. Because then I can see no benefit in sharing this with you.

Third, after my vision began to clear and I wiped the sleep from my eyes and saw that message, the first thing I responded with was ‘wait, are you going to take it?’ I kind of thought and hoped the answer to that should be clear.

‘Eh he wants to give me a gift then fine lol he still feels guilty about our breakup 3 years ago so whatever’

Hand on Head.gifHuh. Guess the answer wasn’t as clear as I thought. Again, way more information than I need, and I guess I mean good for you for being so monumental in his life for the past three years but…like, so what? Anyways, isn’t it strange to be accepting gifts from an ex? Let’s start with just that very general blanket statement. Call me crazy, but I am more in the habit of cutting off contact with exes, so forget accepting gifts from them. It seems like a potentially messy and complicated situation. Now we add on the fact that a) we are to assume she is still in a relationship and b) we are to trust she is accurate and true in saying that her ex for whatever reason ‘still feels bad’ (implying motive? incentive? I don’t know) and it just seems way too much of a hot mess to even want to step into. Maybe in a perfect world with perfect people we can maintain somewhat healthy relationships with exes. But it doesn’t seem this relationship is healthy or even ended in a way that could have facilitated anything healthy. In my opinion the best thing to do after a relationship ends is first of all to make sure everyone involved understand and is clear about the ending of the relationship and then make about as sharp and clean a break as possible, which means no contact. As the break-upper, the broken up, and the potential future partner of either party, it seems best and most conducive to do it this way. Am I being too old-fashioned? Is this such an old and sentimental value it is no longer realistic? Again my god what world of dating am I entering into at the end of my year? It seems against all better judgement to accept anything from an ex. I know from personal experience both as the giver and the receiver, it is almost impossible for these gifts to be given without some ulterior motive or underlying emotion still lingering.

Ultimately, before going back to bed, all I could respond with was ‘mazel tov’.


Okay, let’s be reasonable. I was groggy and therefore possibly grumpy, and maybe a bit overly judgmental. The truth of the matter is this has very little to do with Bird, and more to do with how this seemingly innocent and inane conversation has surprisingly given me so much to think about and wanted to flesh it out in a more cohesive manner when I have full possession of all faculties. It did help me to further ‘humanize’ Bird though. I got to see some shortcomings, get a better feel for her outside of the crush I had. I can’t say that was such a bad thing either. And in the morning when I woke up, I felt neither more nor less for her. She was human, capable of making mistakes and free to do as she pleases. It was her life to live anyways, not mine. Through it all at least I got some wonderful food for thought to sustain me and feed my mind throughout the day. Interactions with exes can be tricky. I think it best to avoid them. Maybe there are more mature, more complex, more capable people out there who can handle them and choose to do so, but I’m fine as is.

Day 210

Man: 178 Loneliness: 32

Day 209: The Man and the Mystery Blogger Award; ‘Resist’

This is an overdue response to rugby843‘s award nomination. She’s a wonderfully talented and humorous writer, and I particularly recommend her picture prompt challenge responses. (Still hungry after those automats. Hahah.) Moreover though, she is a thoroughly engaging and interactive writer and member of the community, whose comments and reactions are always welcome and appreciated.

So the next part is supposed to be ‘three things about me’. And I’m increasingly finding it hard to find new things to say, considering most of it is either out, on a planned post, or part of some grander scheme past my year reveal. Ahahah. But you know I just can’t resist a chance to talk about myself, narcissist that I am.

  1. I hate eggplant. It has a terribly unappealing texture and taste. Grilled eggplant, eggplant parm, I don’t do ANY of them.
  2. Whether in school or at work, whenever I get in trouble 99% of the time it is because I have problems with authority. The other 1% is because I’m always late. Because you can’t tell me when to come in, boss!
  3. In first grade for a laugh I stuck a marble up my nose. It got stuck. I sneezed it out in seventh grade.

Now there are some questions to answer!

What is a dream you would most like to achieve?

The most unrealistic and far-off dream I have right now is to open up my own restaurant and be the man in the kitchen or behind the bar, depending on my mood. I’d love to be able to make a successful living as a restaurateur.

Have you ever been in love? What did it feel like? When was your first kiss? If not, what’s your favorite dessert?

Definitely been in love. You can read all about it…you know…all over here…*waves arms around blog*. My first attempted kiss was on a grassy hill waiting for the bus with my then-girlfriend in seventh grade. I was so nervous I closed my eyes too and ended up kissing her nose instead. My first actual kiss was in high school, sophomore year, after we both looked up a couple WikiHows and saw some videos. Maybe it was youthful energy and curiosity, maybe it was stupidity or optimistic memory, but I still kinda think that maybe my high school girlfriend was the best kisser yet. So, you know, good on you Rebcop.

Oh and my favorite dessert would be to order another entree.

What do you do when no one is around?

Well god…this definitely comes to mind. But other than that…I do talk to myself. I’ve had to do a lot of that in an empty house. I curse at myself a lot, which I guess might mean something. I also like to do accents. But they’re all caricatures bordering on offensive. I don’t care, no one is around remember? French, Spanish, southern, Russian, I just like to make funny voices.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

Ask me this at midnight, when I’m trying to go to sleep, and my mind decided to dig up every embarrassing moment ever and I’m just cringing in my bed. All the stupid things I’ve ever done thinking it would impress a girl. Trying to get their attention. I’m usually a pretty laid-back guy but if I’m trying to get with a girl…I do dumb stuff.

What is your favorite book a teacher recommended?

I have two, both recommended by my elementary school librarian, a profession that is increasingly endangered and very often misunderstood in how important they are. She was a resource of information, wisdom, and insight. Outside of any academic responsibilities, with no tests to have to prep me for, she was honestly interested in just engaging me and opening me up to worlds between pages. When she saw I was breezing through the books we normally read and was getting restless, she turned me on to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series and the absolutely incredible timeless book The Phantom Tollbooth. Well worth a read again and again at any age.

Extra question time!

If you could be anyone in the world, but yourself, living or dead, who would it be?

Easy. Anthony Bourdain. I have said time and time again I would want to come back and live Anthony Bourdain’s life. He has brought himself to the brink of death and destruction and managed to bring himself back to land and secure book deals, television shows, a beautiful wife, happy family, and a ticket anywhere around the world to any restaurant table around the world. That man is living the life I want to live. I want to be reckless, wild, violent, high, drunk, and then become one of the most respected figures in travel, food, and culture. And THEN also open up a food market in New York city which, BTW Anthony, I’M STILL WAITING FOR IT TO OPEN.


I am honored to have received this nomination, and though I would like to fulfill its last obligation, I am unfortunately at a loss here. I am nominated by one whom I would nominate, and most of the others are either award-free blogs or have already been nominated of the same. I would like to express my utmost gratitude and appreciation and I hope you’ll forgive me for not having any nominations. If however you are reading this and would like to become involved, please let me know and I would love to read your blog more and be able to honestly and fully nominate you.

Day 209

Man: 177 Loneliness: 32