Sunday, July 29, 2018

Mission: All Too Possible

"Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to produce an action film that commits the cardinal sin of action films– namely, to produce an action film that is boring."

And indeed, "Mission: Impossible– Fallout" is very boring. The generally quite positive reviews and an 8.5 from IMDb had got me thinking I should make this my must-see summer blockbuster. Bad decision. The movie is an hour too long, the dialogue is very bad (although unfortunately not often madly bad, just sadly bad), the acting is worse, and the action scenes are ho-hum, with the exception of the preposterous finale, which shows some energy and humor, though too little too late.

Now you're saying to yourself... What were you thinking, Bill, it's a fucking Tom Cruise movie! But you see, I actually like Tom Cruise. Did like, anyhows.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Expendable Man

The themes of this 1963 noir by Dorothy B. Hughes could have been torn right from today's headlines. Gripping and very well written, it is a fine example of genre literature that transcends its genre.

If you have not read anything about the book or its plot, please don't. The Expendable Man would still be well worth reading even if you were already in on the crucial revelation dropped in the very clever first third or so, but the experience of the epiphany will reward your forbearance.

The bad-luck protagonist, Hugh Densmore, a young doctor, is at once naive and worldly for reasons revealed in time. Set in and around Phoenix, the narrative turns up the heat in every way. Judging by this effort, Hughes was rather better at description than dialogue, but even the sometimes stilted interrogations and confrontations pull you right along. Highly recommended.


I'm growing two heirloom varieties. It's a beautiful plant with beautiful flowers and fruit. I expect to harvest about one pod per week. That makes for a pretty small batch of gumbo.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Carson Pass, 2018

I arrived at the peak of a fantastic wildflower season in this Sierra wildflower Mecca. The 15-mile "big loop" hike, with its 4000 feet or so of climbing, was more day hike than I am comfortable with, but I really can't complain. It is one of the best places on earth.

As usual, I camped at Woods Lake National Forest Campground, where site #7 featured a private view of beautiful Round Top, a giant sawtooth mushroom (Neolentinus ponderosus) of mindboggling size, and, in the site next door, a rubber boa quietly shedding its skin. Awesome. You can camp there and enjoy dinner at the historic Kirkwood Inn, just a short drive down the hill, where the food is mediocre but the pint of Deschutes Black Butte porter tastes as good as any beer you have ever quaffed. Thanks to longtime campground hosts Larry and Mary, who are retiring after this summer and will be missed.

Damn you, NYRB!

I fell for the 50% off offer... they all showed up today, wrapped in plain paper as they should be.

I've never read Lucky Jim... required reading for any academic... nor War of the Worlds (illustrations by Edward Gorey!)... nor Elizabeth David's classic on Mediterranean food, one of my passions... the rest are modestly informed crap shoots...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Further musings on the Filet-o-Fish

The bun is steamed, which probably accounts for its family resemblance to the steamed bun of dim sum. The history is of interest: The FOF has Catholic roots, and won a place on the McDonald's menu against a competing vegetarian sandwich that featured a slice of pineapple in place of the fish (the Hula Burger!).

I've always found it somewhat anomalous that such an exquisitely symmetrical sandwich should have only a half-slice of American cheese, rather than a full square to nest right below the fried filet. But as the purpose of the cheese is more adhesive than gustatory, a half-slice is probably sufficient. 

From Wikipedia:
The sandwich was invented in 1962 by Lou Groen, a McDonald's franchise owner in Cincinnati; his store was in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood, which led to falling hamburger sales on Fridays resulting from the Roman Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays...
The sandwich was the first non-hamburger menu item brought in by new McDonald's company owner Ray Kroc. Kroc made a deal with Groen: they would sell two non-meat sandwiches on a Friday, Kroc's own Hula Burger (grilled pineapple with cheese on a cold bun) and the Filet-O-Fish, and whichever sold the most would be added to the permanent menu. The Filet-O-Fish "won hands down" and was added to menus throughout 1963 until reaching nationwide status in 1965. 

Quite possibly the most perfect Filet-O-Fish bun ever made

In Martell, CA. They should be proud. Zoom in to see the polished uniformity of the surface. Also, the placement of the square of fish in the exquisitely circular bun is worthy of Archimedes. As for the eating, the experience was little better or worse than a FOF anywhere else in the world, from Tokyo to Tempe. Which is to say, dang tasty.

Friday, July 6, 2018


Tim Taylor has a nice summary of a recent Bank for International Settlements report on cryptocurrencies. Not only are they unstable and completely ill-suited as a form of money...
On the issue of energy use, as the "miners" who update the system while solving computational problems burn energy to do so: "Individual facilities operated by miners can host computing power equivalent to that of millions of personal computers. At the time of writing, the total electricity use of bitcoin mining equalled that of mid-sized economies such as Switzerland, and other cryptocurrencies also use ample electricity. Put in the simplest terms, the quest for decentralised trust has quickly become an environmental disaster."