for a few daleks more

A week from tonight, on Thursday the 28th, Turner Classic Movies will broadcast “Dr. Who and the Daleks.”

As you know, I’m a big fan of the TV show “Doctor Who.” I was first introduced to the classic version of the show in the early 1980s, when I was in college and Oklahoma Public Television ran Tom Baker or Peter Davison episodes every night.

I’m a big enough fan to know a couple of things:

  • “Doctor” is always spelled out in the title of the TV show
  • The primary character of the TV show “Doctor Who” is not called “Doctor Who.” That’s a rookie mistake. The character is “The Doctor”; the show is “Doctor Who.”

I have gone on at length in other blog posts explaining what “Doctor Who” is for those unfamiliar. I will, however, explain that the original version of the show (which ran from 1963 to 1989), a mid-90s TV movie, and the current version of the show (which started in 2005) are all part of the same continuity – one long storyline, if you will. The new version isn’t a remake or reboot of the original; it’s a continuation.

Anyway, “Dr. Who and the Daleks” is not an episode of the TV show. It’s one of two movies from the 1960s which attempted to launch a theatrical movie franchise. Both movies were adapted from stories that had already been done on the British TV show, but they made changes to the show’s basic premise and so the two movies are NOT considered part of that continuity I just spoke of. In the movies, “Dr. Who” is not an alien, he’s a human who just happens to be a brilliant inventor, the creator of a time machine (the TARDIS).

The Daleks, by the way, are the Doctor’s most-famous adversaries. They are like evil versions of R2D2 – not robots, actually, but cyborgs: living brains, bent on galactic dominance, in robotic, salt-shaker-shaped bodies.

The movies don’t hold up to the TV show, but fans may want to see them just out of curiosity. Peter Cushing stars as “Dr. Who.” The second movie, “Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.”, features a very young Bernard Cribbins, who would turn up decades later as one of the most-beloved guest characters on the new version of “Doctor Who,” Donna Noble’s grandfather Wilf. I have seen “Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.,” but I have never seen “Dr. Who and the Daleks,” so I have set to tape it next week on TCM. I don’t expect it to be very good, based on what I’ve read, but it could be fun just as a novelty.

goodbye, goodbye

I flipped over to IFC to watch “Comedy Bang! Bang!”, one of my favorites, and the movie “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” was ending. There’s a song, played at the end of the movie and during the credits, called “Goodbye, Goodbye,” by Oingo Boingo.

The catchy chorus made be flash back to 1993. On what would be the very last night of “Late Night with David Letterman,” NBC aired a promo for the show which featured that chorus – “Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye” – over slow-motion footage of Dave standing up from behind his talk show desk and walking away. I don’t think it was anything staged; I think they just got a clip from some previous episode, slowed it down, and added the music. It was minimalist – but strangely appropriate. I was surprised the network was doing promos at all, because of the awkward and highly-publicized situation that led to Letterman’s exit, and the fact that he was already preparing to set up shop elsewhere.

CBS, of course, is still on good terms with Letterman, and they know that his last shows – which have been great – are a ratings windfall. So they’ve been promoting them heavily. I saw one promo last night, referencing the very last show this coming Wednesday, which included just a little snippet of “Viva La Vida” – the Coldplay song with the lyrics about “when I ruled the world.” They didn’t actually have the lyrics in the promo – just the catchy string intro. But it still evoked a sort of nostalgia. One of those SNL decade-by-decade documentaries ended with that same song, used to that same effect.

Dave is scheduled to have Tom Hanks on Monday, and Bill Murray (who was the first guest on both “Late Night” and “Late Show”) on Tuesday. Like Johnny Carson, he has no announced guests for his final night, so we’ll see what happens then. The rumor is that there’s going to be some sort of all-star Top Ten list, with ten huge stars delivering the entries, but I don’t know which night that might happen. Surely Regis will show up at some point. Dave has pooh-poohed the idea of Leno making an appearance. Dave, in at least one interview, said Leno invited Dave to appear on one of his last shows, but Letterman declined, saying the focus should be on Leno. Dave then said Leno had been invited, but may feel the same way about stealing focus from Letterman. Still, I wouldn’t rule it out entirely. They were able to keep that Super Bowl promo a total secret a few years back, so perhaps they have some similar surprise here. (Maybe Wednesday’s show will end with them waking up in bed together, “Newhart” style.)

Oprah is on tonight, by the way.

making god smile

I used to have a CD called Making God Smile: An Artists’ Tribute to the Songs of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, which I adored – maybe a little too much. I loved it so much I wanted to share it, loaned it to an out-of-town friend, and never got it back. To make matters worse, I had (for some reason) only ripped a few favorite tracks to my computer, not the whole thing. And I don’t think those few tracks survived from that computer to the one I own now.

Well, when I was using an Amazon gift card for my birthday the other night, I looked for items on my wish list, and it was only $6.95, so I figured this was as good a time as any to replace it. My new copy arrived today.

This is a hard CD to explain, but I just love it. As the title indicates, it’s a tribute album, with various covers of Brian Wilson songs. Most of those tributes are by people who (if I’ve heard of them at all) are known as Christian artists – including two of my all-time favorites, Terry Scott Taylor and Randy Stonehill. Terry’s work in Daniel Amos and The Swirling Eddies has always been heavily influenced by both Brian Williams and The Beatles, so it’s no surprise that he’d be a part of this. The album also includes Phil Keaggy and Sixpence None The Richer.

But this isn’t a Christian album per se. There is some spirituality to it, to the extent that some of Brian’s songwriting tends towards that, but not the over, ham-handed spirituality found in most quote-Christian-unquote music. And there are plenty of other cuts that are just fun Beach Boys stuff.

The covers are fun – some hew close to the originals, others veer off. Kevin Max, formerly of DC Talk, and Jimmy Abegg, who played in Vector and for Rich Mullins, and now is a member of Steve Taylor & The Perfect Foil, the band I saw last November and won’t shut up about, offer a delightfully-weird, slowed-down version of “Help Me Rhonda,” giving it an almost morbid quality.

I think my favorite cut, though, is the very first one. Tom Prasada-Rao and Amilia K. Spicer’s duet on “Your Imagination” is just beautiful, bright and melodic, with wonderful harmony. I bet it made Brian Wilson smile. Which leads me to the question you always have with a collection like this – what did the honoree think of it? Had Brian heard of any of these people before? (I’m sure he’s heard of Sixpence, and perhaps he even remembered Phil Keaggy from his days in Glass Harp.) Did he enjoy what they did with his music? I would love to know.

Obviously, he’s not opposed to tributes to his work, such as that all-star BBC video from last year.

All of this, of course, is getting me primed for the Brian Wilson biopic coming out this summer:

wow, I could have had (something other than) a v-8

When I hear “Mott’s,” I think apple juice.

motts_products_vegetable_juice_spicyBut Mott’s has introduced a vegetable juice (re-introduced? It seems to have been introduced, then went away for a while according to some web sites, and now is back in a different-shaped bottle).

Most store brand vegetable juices try to copy V-8 as closely as possible, but the Mott product is deliberately different from V-8. It’s not as thick and the vegetable blend is different – zestier, with flavors like green pepper, garlic and dill that you might associate with salsa or salads. Like V-8, it comes in regular, spicy-hot and low sodium versions. (The regular versions contain almost as much sodium as V-8, which is to say a lot.)  I’m trying the spicy version, after seeing it at the store. The spicy is what I would usually get if buying V-8. I like it. I really like the flavor of it better than V-8.

The Mott’s product, probably because of the different vegetables, is not as much of a vitamin powerhouse as V-8, but it does have 100 percent of your daily requirement of Vitamin C and 25 percent of Vitamin A, plus some iron and potassium. But if you don’t like V-8, you might like this, and it would be better for you than something sugary. It tastes a little closer to bloody mary mix (which I sometimes buy and just drink by itself, sans booze), so those of you who make bloody marys might want to try it as well.

whirlwind

It has been a heck of a week so far, and it’s only Wednesday.

Last night, of course, was the annual Nashville Symphony concert at Calsonic Arena in Shelbyville, for which I’m a co-chair. Of course, I probably shouldn’t take credit for that this year; I’ve been spending my days in Lewisburg for the past month, and that meant that Dawn Holley had to do most of the heavy lifting. This was, without going into it, a really difficult year for the concert. We didn’t think it was going to happen at all, and then when we found out we had gotten a reprieve, we were already late hitting the ground. But I have spent more than 20 years now working to promote this concert, and as frustrated as Dawn and I became with the process this year, all was forgiven the moment that Vinay Parameswaran picked up his baton Tuesday night. I love this event. Check out the photos here.

This morning, I went in to the Times-Gazette – remember the Times-Gazette? – in my role as certified master tour guide. Most of the tours I give are for small collections of scouts. But this morning, we had two large groups of kindergarten students from Cascade. We gave the tour to the first group (two classrooms, or about three dozen kids), then they traded places with another group which had been down at the fire station.

We’d been worried about how things would go with two such large groups, but it all worked out fine. I did my normal routine as tour guide, but I can’t take credit for a couple of special additions to the program. With each group, we took a group photo before they started the tour, and then a few photos during the course of the tour. Our paginators put together a mock front page of the newspaper featuring each group, and we printed out copies on our color copier, so each child got to take home a mock front page featuring his or her tour group. (The teachers held on to the front pages until, I suspect, the end of the day.) 

Our first group had finished its tour and was waiting in our front lobby for the other group to return on the school bus from the fire station and switch places. Our publisher, on the spur of the moment, brought out an end roll of newsprint and unrolled it on the floor from one end of the room to the other. We scrounged for every Sharpie or highlighter in the building and just let the kids draw on the giant strip of newsprint. It was so popular that we let the second group do the same thing, even though we didn’t need to kill the same amount of time.

roll of paper

Just as soon as the tour was over, I was out the door and on the way from my permanent employer to my temporary employer, the Marshall County Tribune, where I’ve been spending my days lo this past month. In Marshall County, I had to put together a Lewisburg election results story and then cover a meeting at Henry Horton State Park involving our U.S. congressman. In between, of course, there was other routine stuff – formatting school lunch menus, typing up marriage license listings and real estate transfers, that sort of thing.

I rushed back from Lewisburg to Shelbyville in time for normal Wednesday night dinner at First United Methodist. My lunch had consisted of a bag of potato chips, so I eagerly tore into Andy Borders’ meal of ham, pinto beans, turnip greens and hoe cakes.

So it’s been a hectic 24 hours, and the rest of the week will be busy too. Tomorrow night, even though I am not a cancer survivor, I will attend the annual Relay For Life Cancer Survivor Dinner here in Shelbyville. I, in my role as a Relay organizing committee member, will give a brief “Why I Relay” testimony among several other speakers. Relay is less than a month away, and you can give towards my participation by clicking here.

On Friday night, my father and Ms. Rachel will take me out to dinner to celebrate the relentless passage of time. (I will turn 53 on Friday.)

the elusive sicilian

UPDATE: I found the coupons after all! They’re round, and like Frisbees they flopped out a little farther than I had looked for them. Apologies, Screamin’ Sicilian; you did a great job after all.

A week or two ago, I posted this photo to Facebook:

WP_20150423_003

I explained that I had an online coupon, loaded to my Kroger Plus card, for something called Screamin’ Sicilian pizza, a brand with which I was not familiar. The pizza box includes a punch-out moustache on the back.

The pizza was wonderful – outstanding for a frozen supermarket pizza, with really good flavor. It is priced as a premium product, not surprisingly, and so I tried to go to the company’s website and sign up for its e-mail list, which supposedly gets you a dollar-off coupon. I tried from two different computers, a Mac at work and a PC at home, and the signup process wouldn’t complete – the site took me to a page with an error message and some HTML code. I posted about this on Facebook, and the company – which does a commendable job of following social media – responded and asked me to send them my mailing address.

I did, and sure enough, today in my mailbox I got a hand-addressed envelope from Screamin’ Sicilian Pizza. The letter apologized for my trouble and invited me to use one of the enclosed coupons and give the rest to my friends.

The only trouble?

There were no coupons in the envelope. I looked in the envelope to see if I’d missed them, I looked on the floor to see if they’d fallen out without me noticing. There was nothing.

I know it was an honest mistake, but I swear it reminded me of some dialogue from an old Marx Brothers movie. Groucho is dictating a letter to someone, probably Zeppo, to one of his creditors. The letter ends with “enclosed, please find 20 dollars.”

“Do you want me to send them 20 dollars?” Zeppo asks.

“You do, and you’re fired,” Groucho shoots back.

singin’ in the grain

For some years now, Betty Crocker has sold its “Suddenly Salad” line of pasta salad kits. The kit contains dry pasta, maybe with a few tiny little veggies, plus an envelope of dressing mix. You boil the pasta, mix the dressing mix with mayo (or some other ingredient, depending on the specific flavor) and you have a pasta salad. You’re encouraged to add other ingredients, of course.

harvest-grains.jpgWell, they’ve now expanded the line to include three grain-based salads. I’m trying the “Harvest Grain” flavor tonight. It has brown, white and red rice, plus quinoa, all in a boil-in bag. There’s a separate package of cranberries and almond slivers to stir into the finished salad, and there’s a dressing mix that you combine with oil and water. (The tanginess which would normally be provided by vinegar or citrus is in the dry mix.)

It’s not bad. It makes me want to go and get some quinoa by itself, though, and make it with a nice chicken stock.

There are also southwest and Tuscan flavors. I have a box of the southwest flavor in my cupboard and will try it out later in the week.

Other Space

I didn’t binge-watch “Other Space” all in one sitting, but it only took me a few days to get through the eight-episode season of this quirky science-fiction comedy. I thought it was terrific, and I’m hoping against hope for another season. I don’t know if that’s likely, since creator Paul Feig (who originally pitched this show to NBC, years ago) is now better known for movies like “Bridesmaids.”

This isn’t for everyone. It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of “Red Dwarf” or even “Futurama” — a playful comedy which has some fun with science fiction tropes.

The thing that caught my eye in advance was the participation of not one but two veterans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Joel Hodgson plays a live-action role, while Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Clayton Forrester and one of the voices of Crow T. Robot) is the voice of another robot, named ART. The show also, strangely enough, has actors from two different AT&T advertising campaigns. Karan Soni plays the closest thing the show has to a central character, and he played one of those two technicians who appeared in several different ads about AT&T upgrading its network. (“Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”)

Milana Vayntrub, meanwhile, is nearly ubiquitous (unless you watch everything by DVR and skip through the commercials) as Lily, the perky AT&T wireless salesperson.

Anyway, the show is set in an future where space travel has become sort of routine. There’s a space agency called the Universal Mapping Project, or UMP, but most of Earth has lost interest. There are still those with the itch to explore, however, including the cheery, eternally optimistic Stewart Lipinksi (Soni) and his hard-driven, ultra-competitive sister Karen (Bess Rous). Stewart, somewhat improbably, gets command of his own ship, with his furious sister as one of his crew members. But Stewart, Karen and their largely-incompetent, misfit crew have just begun their journey when they get bumped into an unknown alternate universe. They must find a way to stay alive — and keep from killing one another — until they can figure out how to get back home.

The whole ensemble cast is excellent, including the names already mentioned plus Neil Casey, Eugene Cordero and Conor Leslie. Hodgson seems to be having a ball as the ship’s somewhat-addled engineer.

It really is fun, if you’re any sort of science fiction geek, and I really do hope they get to make another season.

Here’s the first episode. You can watch others at the Yahoo! Screen web site or by installing the Yahoo! Screen channel on Roku and similar devices. (“Community” is also available there.)

bread head

My friend Sue Thelen was baking bread today, with a sourdough starter I gave her, and posted about it on Facebook. Something in her post reminded me of something I heard once – there are cooks, and there are bakers. Cooks tend to change and adapt recipes to suit their taste, their imagination, and whatever happens to be in the cupboard. Bakers, however, have to follow a recipe a little more closely. In many baked goods, for scientific reasons, a slight difference in, say, the ratio of flour to water can make a big difference. Bakers care whether they use bread flour, all-purpose flour or cake flour, and they know the difference.

I tend to be a cook, and I’m not the type to bake desserts or pastries, but I do love to bake bread, and I can generally stick to a recipe well enough for bread to turn out. I’m still amazed that I’ve been able to keep my home-grown sourdough starter alive for so long now.

Father Dominic Garramone, an actual Benedictine monk, used to have a show on public TV called “Breaking Bread with Father Dominic.” Yes, baking can be picky, but you can’t stress over it too much; Father Dominic used to say, repeatedly, “It’s bread; it’ll forgive you.” I’ve found that to be true. Even if a loaf of bread is a little denser than expected or a little softer than expected, it’s still usually good.

After I told Sue that earlier today, however, I had a less-than-forgiving moment tonight. I had reserved half of the bread dough from this past weekend, frozen it, and then thawed it overnight last night. I let it rise today and put it in the oven tonight. So far, so good; I now know I can safely freeze bread dough.

The trouble is that the rickety oven in my apartment does strange things sometimes, and I had the thermostat turned up a little too high tonight, causing the broiler to turn on, burning the top of the loaf before the center had even started really baking. I had to throw it out.

Sue’s loaves today turned out well, and since that was my starter I can at least take some solace.

I was happy that our conversation made me think of Father Dominic, by the way; I had no idea that he had a website, and a blog. There are some short videos, “Breadhead Minutes,” which apparently still run on some public TV stations (I haven’t seen them locally, but I may have just missed them).

Interestingly enough, my tech column in today’s Times-Gazette referenced Leo Laporte’s TWiT Network and the new relaunch of “The Screen Savers,” both of which feature another Catholic father who dabbles in television on the side – the likable and knowledgeable Father Robert Ballacer, a Jesuit priest. If the Wittenburg Door were still active, I’d be pitching interviews with both of them.

just loafing

Today, of course, was my second Saturday in a row to spend eight hours working a Relay For Life fundraiser – in this case, the Times-Gazette’s second annual Community Yard Sale, which was a huge success.

It was early in the day – not long after the official start time – when, wandering around, I found this:

loaf-pan

It’s a cast iron bread pan, from the fine folks of Lodge Manufacturing in South Pittsburg, Tenn. I love cast iron cookware and have several pieces of Lodge product in my kitchen, which I use constantly. I got to tour the plant once for a newspaper story, and I love their factory outlet store. (They have a store in South Pittsburg and two stores up in the tourist mecca of Sevier County, but the South Pittsburg store is best because it’s the only one with factory seconds.)

The pan had obviously never been used, although the little Lodge tag was kind of stuck together, as if it had gotten wet. Because Lodge now factory-seasons its products, the pan has the black coating which you used to have to build up through repeated use. The pan itself was in perfect shape.

It was only $7, and I snatched it up immediately. I immediately started thinking about using it.

I’ve been baking a lot of bread lately since creating my own sourdough starter. The recipe I’ve been using most often makes two loaves, so I’ve generally been throwing one loaf into the freezer and thawing it once I’ve finished the other loaf. But now, I have a dilemma. This cast iron pan obviously has different thermal properties than the matched set of non-stick loaf pans I’ve been using. I don’t want to bake one loaf in the cast iron pan and another one next to it in a much lighter-weight pan.

After checking online, I think what I’m going to do is freeze half of the raw bread dough. The sources I’ve found online say it’s best to do this after the first rise and before the second rise.

Even though I was exhausted, I ran by the grocery store on my way home from the yard sale because I was running low on bread flour. Now, I’ve got a batch of dough mixed up that will rise overnight. Tomorrow morning, I will knead it and then divide it into two portions, one of which will be frozen immediately for later use. The other portion will rise all day in the cast iron pan and then be baked that night.

I’ve been very pleased with my sourdough starter, and I’ve even shared it with a friend. (Let me know if you want some.) I have no green thumb, and have trouble keeping plants alive, but apparently I’m better with yeast.

I also know how to take care of cast iron. I never immerse mine in soapy water. I occasionally use a soapy sponge or rag from the sink to wipe it out, but because of the non-stick properties of properly-cared-for cast iron soaking is not required. I usually just rinse it out while it’s still warm, using a brush or one of those little flat nylon pot-scrapers to dislodge any stubborn particles, then give the piece a quick hit of cooking spray and wipe it down inside and out with a paper towel.