Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life Lessons From Making Cheese

Here be one of them guest columnists I were talkin' about. This here scurvy dog is a sad excuse fer a man, but he makes a mean cheese, so pay 'im heed! (The Cap'n)

By Mark Hopkin

My second daughter, Grace (aka, Goose, Garcia, Gershwin, Peggy), and I have gained a fascination with rotten milk. This all started a little over a week ago when she was bored and decided to surf the net looking for yogurt and cheese recipes. Here would be a good place for me to mention that Grace isn't normal. Of course, none of my girls is normal, but she is even stranger than the others, except in some areas where they exceed her strangeness.

While other 18-year-old girls might use their downtime to stalk semi-friends on Facebook or read about Rihanna's latest tattoo, Grace dedicates herself to learning the subtleties of cultured dairy products. So last Monday we made yogurt. After heating the milk and adding some starter (just a couple of tablespoons of preexisting yogurt), we poured it in a Nalgene bottle and stuck it under a bucket with a lamp inside. I'm proud to say that was my own innovation. Tuesday morning was like Christmas. I ran into the kitchen with my eyes all aglow to look under the bucket, and amazingly enough, we had a Nalgene full of yogurt. After eating a few small bowls of it, I can safely say that Yoplait can rest easy for at least a while.

But it yogified, and that was enough to inspire Grace to move on to bigger and better things. So on Tuesday, she decided to tackle cheese, and not just any cheese -- feta cheese. That afternoon we went to the organic grocery store and purchased some rennet, which, if I'm not mistaken, is made from cow vomit. The first part of the cheese process is a lot like making yogurt, but with cow puke. Then after the initial curdling process, you strain it through a cheese cloth. Since we didn't have cheese cloth, we used a dish towel, which, through the magic of capillary action, wicked a big puddle of whey all over our coffee table, then a succession of pink and red bandannas. I thought this would have the same effect as washing white underwear with a red sock, but surprisingly, the finished cheese ball was pure white. Maybe we should try adding cheese to our laundry.

A word to the wise. Don't throw your collection of whey-soaked towels into the hamper and forget about them. For the next two days, our familial bliss was interrupted as we kept unjustly accusing each other of fouling the air, until we realized the source of the rancidity. Who knew that something cheese related could stink? Go figure.

Now we're soaking the feta in a jar with heavily salted whey (see photo), and after a week it should actually taste like feta cheese. And that's the sad part. After all this effort, stench, and anticipation we're going to end up with feta cheese. I won't be able to tell if we were successful or not, because to me, the only good feta is a dead feta. Do you think it's a coincidence that "fetid" and "feta" are so similar?

Then it occurred to me. That would be a great way to live life. If you only apply yourself to things that are inherently bad, no one can ever say you've failed. For instance, it doesn't matter whether you're the world's worst or best Scottish chef. Who can tell? Are you saying I write bad haiku? Prove it! And is one painting of dolphins really any better than all the others?

So weird daughter Grace, I want to offer you my eternal thanks. In a few days, when we bite into that fetid feta, it will be a symbol of my new pursuit of excellence in things no one likes. Now, if you'll excuse me, my Kenny G. Tribute band is having a rehearsal.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Aye on 'Ollywood

(Other End of the Line; Bruno; Princess Protection Program; Flash of Genius)

Alas, mateys, me hasn't had the time nor the booty to make it to the theaters fer a new movie this week. But I did indulge in some video entertainment through the magic of DVD. Sadly, me wench hath not let me steal a blue ray machine yet, but 'tis jus a matter o time.

Me recently rented The Other End o' the Line about a girl what's a phone service person in India (played by a Bollywood actress), pretendin' to be a San Francisco wench named Debbie, but really her name's Priya, which, me thinks, is what all Indians is named. You'd think with a billion people, 'twould behelpful to have more than one name. She gets a powerful hankerin' for one of the credit card customers she's helpin' (the young guy what was Eva Longoria's boy toy in the first season of Desperate Housewives, but don't ask me how me knows that. Have you noticed the slew of actresses named Eva lately?). Let me issue a warnin' to ya. Don't fall fer them phone customer service girls. They's trouble. I met up with one in the Sargasso Sea once, and it were an awkward situation. But Priya are different. She decides to meet up with her fellow when he's on a business trip to San Francisco, so she cashes in her life savings and heads to San Fran in search of the one man in the whole city what might be interested in her gender. The usual hijinks ensues involving misunderstandings, deception, hurt feelings, and all that rot. But through it all, our boy toy is smart enough to know that Priya is prettier than any stinkin' American girl, and she's gentle and sincere when she's not deceivin' him. The Cap'n has recently gained an appreciation fer Indian women. Me wishes me own wee daughters was Indian, so they'd be prettier, but 'twas not to be. In spite of some really bad actin' by Priya's mom and dad (Priya and Priya), the Cap'n could just watch this movie all day long. Me finds meself calling airlines and credit card companies a lot lately, just in case something comes of it (a note to me wench, this is jest a joke). Cutlass up fer this'n.

Me had a special request to do a review of Bruno. This is the new alternative lifestyle Austrian version of Borat, which is the foul, mean-spirited version of Candid Camera. The Cap'n refuses to watch Bruno for varied reasons. First, it's rated Arrrrr, and bein' a family pirate, I don' watch Arrrr-rated movies. Me also objects to the whole premise of these movies. Anybody can be funny if they humiliate innocent bystanders. Believe me, me knows. Me crew used to do it fer fun, and it were a hoot, but then we decided it were too mean. Oh, sure, we kill and maim, but now we leave our victims with their dignity. So me won't watch Bruno and I's ashamed of ye if ye watches it. Parrot talons down fer the whole idea o' Bruno

I's not proud of it, but me watched the Disney movie Princess Protection Program starring the two new Disney creations Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez. Tis a cute yarn about a princess whose tiny country is taken over by a mean general and has to go live with a Louisiana bait salesgirl to get out o' harm's way. This whole plot is ridiculous, because everyone knows the first place we evildoers look fer victims is bait shops. But if ye can get past that wee gaffe, it be worth rentin'. At first the bait girl is mean because she thinks the princess be a spoiled brat. But then they realize they's cut from the same hunk o' sailcloth, and selfless acts o' nobleness ensue. These is two young actresses what's got a future. Mark me word, Selena Gomez be a fine little actress what could go beyond Disney comedies. An embarrassed eye patch up fer PPP.

Me final movie be a rental called Flash o' Genius starring Lorelei Gilmore and Greg Kinnear. Me figured with Lorelei Gilmore, it have to be funny and clever. And Greg Kinnear was clever and charming in the remake of Sabrina. (Where the 70-year-old Harrison Ford falls fer the 21-year-old Sabrina. I love Indy as much as the next guy, but me lost a lot o' respect fer Harrison when he quit his long-time wench fer that skinny Flockhart lass, and what be with the earring? Pirates is the only old guys what can wear an earring, 'Arry!) So me told me crew that 'twas a light-'earted comedy. Then the movie opened wi' Greg sittin' on a bus all crazy like, and police comin' ta escort him ta safety, because, apparently, he done went round the bend. Then the next scene say "Three years earlier." So right there, I already knows it has a depressin' ending. Some comedy, me family says, and the first of me wee wenches checks out and goes to bed. The story is about a guy what invents the intermittent windshield wiper, but gets done wrong by the big three automakers when they steals his invention (as if that's wrong). Call me crazy, but these isn't times to be villifyin' the auto industry. Talk about kickin' a guy when he's down (the best time to kick a guy, by the way). Me learned a lesson durin' this experience. Never start a depressin' movie at 1 AM. We gave 'er 40 minutes to see if somethin' funny or triumphant might 'appen, but we finally gave up and went to bed. Peg leg down fer the first 40 minutes.

Eat plenty o' veggies and citrus, er ye'll be sorry!

Guest Columnists

Me can't be everywhere at once, and a pirate can only watch so many movies. So to keep the fresh content comin', I may force one of me prisoners to write sumpin from time to time. Twill most likely be rot, but at least twill be new. And they tells me that's all what matters on this modern Internet. Jes' keep it comin', even if 'tis garbage. Well, I aims to please (actually, I aims fer the head, and I ain't talking about the terlet, although I aims fer that one, too), so me and me guest writers will do our best to accommodate yer low standards.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Aye on 'Ollywood

Ahoy, me mateys. And a right apology fer me extended absence. Me had a powerful case o' the scurvy and lost all me teeth. A prideful an' 'andsome man like meself cares not to be seen in such a state, so I had to take a bit o' time to acquire some new teeth. But alas, I were stuck in the horse latitudes, and it took some time to find a horse with small enough teeth to fit me.

Through it all, though, I was blessed to watch an occasional bit of filmed entertainment. So let's get right to the good stuff.

Fer the seven lubbers who hae not yet witnessed the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the ‘Alf Blood Prince, mayhaps I can give you a wee look at what ye can look forward to. In this one, our beloved young wizards is in their sixth year at ‘Ogwarts. Bad things are afoot as mean death eaters is flying around with a scary trail of black smoke. They’s going around wreaking havoc in the muggle world and not respecting the boundaries between wizards and them’s of us what’s not magical.

I was personally offended at the idea of someone using magic to pillage when there’s some of us who have to work so hard to do it. Thank goodness it’s only fiction. Back at ‘Ogwarts, things are all in a bad way. Draco’s dad is in prison, and Snape has made an oath to help him complete some ominous mission. So we see that Snape’s the treacherous traitor we always thought he was, bless his black heart. There’s love aboundin’ amongst the young wizards, with broken hearts, misunderstandings, and all that rot. Someone needs to tell them house elves what cooks the food at ‘Ogwarts to put some saltpeter in the food. It works wonders on me ship, The Twisted Sister.

To make matters worse, Dumbledore has a black, withered hand. He keeps giving Harry a swirley in some bowl full of memories, so Harry can see back to the early years of Tom Riddle, who, of course, is Voldemort. Tom was a pasty-faced little crap who would have lasted about five minutes on a pirate ship, but through their molly-coddling, they let him turn into the most feared wizard of all time.

Me don’t wants to give away the ‘ole story, so I’ll just say that if Dumbledore has a black, withered hand, you know things is really gettin’ ominous.

In spite of all the rampant ominositude, there’s lots of comedy, British accents, and all the other things I love in a movie. This installment of Harry Potter holds its own and ranks right up there with the best of the series. Me gives the ‘Alf Blood Prince an eye patch and a peg leg up.

On The Twisted Sister, I’s always thinkin’ o’ ways to make for an ‘appier crew, so we got cable TV and stole a big screen TV from Best Buy (or in our case, Best Plunder) to keep the men amused. It’s got its good and bad, though. We’re well entertained, but our ship can only go about 40 feet out to sea before we run out o’ cable. But through the magic of cable video on demand, me were able to watch a low budget movie called Forever Strong.

Tis a true tale about the Highland High School rugby team in Salt Lake City. Turns out, these guys almost never lose and have won 16 national championships in the last 23 years. Course, it helps that there’s only about three schools in America what has rugby teams. So some young Arizona rugby stud who’s drinkin’, womanizin’, and well on his way to a fulfilling life of piracy gets sent to a youth prison in Salt Lake where the caring warden, played by lovable hobbit Sam Gamgee (Rudy Rudikoff), sends him to play for Highland. What happens next is impossible to predict. He hates it. He hates the coach, who preaches chastity, temperance, and honor (the vile villain!). But in time, the coach sucks the very life out of him and he starts to believe this misguided drivel.

And just like that, a promising young scoundrel is turned into an honorable milquetoast what cares more for the team than for his own selfish goals. This ol’ salt hates to see movies that glorify the corruption of today’s youth, but in spite of me own prejudices to the contrary, I kind of enjoyed this movie. Tis worth a rental, and I give it a parrot’s beak up.

Me final review is for the Nicholas Cage movie Knowing. Before I gives me review, I should warn ya that I have nay seen it. I ‘twas going to rent it, but then I heard a bunch of me crew tell me that it blew chunks off the side o’ the scuppers. It could barely be called a movie, because it moved about as fast as a ship in the doldrums. Ol’ Nick (Cage, not Satan) can see the future because of numbers. Now right there, you know there’s trouble. Who wants to watch a bunch of numbers? The ending is either interesting or as lame as me severed leg, depending on who ye ask, but the journey to said ending is just too painful. Me hook is pointin’ down fer this dog. I’s glad I never saw it.

Happy sailin’, ye miscreants.