TV stuff: Marc Maron – Too Real (Netflix)

Rating: Worth your time. Watch it or listen to it while you’re doing something else and you’ll still get a lot out of it.

I think I liked this special more than any of Marc’s other specials. It felt, as the title suggests, pretty real. I’m sure he wrote this whole hour plus up and performed it based on what he wrote, but it felt like him just getting up there and saying things off the cuff, but in a good way.

He recorded this special right here at the Pantages in Minneapolis, but I didn’t get a chance to go see it. He kind of nailed the reason why I didn’t go- he joked about it in the midst of his set. I’m in my late 30s. I hate dealing with parking, and I figured I’d get as much or more enjoyment watching it at home on Netflix than paying $35 and sitting WAYYYY up in the rafters of the Pantages. (That’s what I did when I saw him the first time, here in Minneapolis.)

Was his shirt weird? I kept getting distracted by his shirt.

The bit about the Stones was pretty great. And I totally agree with his assessment of Dave Matthews fans. You’ve got an uphill battle on your hands, friends. (I also made a Dave Matthews joke later in the day. Sorry man, didn’t mean to steal your joke when I was at Midtown Global Market getting burritos.)

Talking about a standup special is more difficult than talking about a piece of scripted TV, I think.

Marc’s one of my favorite comedians and personalities. I listen to his podcast a bit, so I feel like I’ve heard some of these jokes in different forms as he tries them out on his show, it seems.

Anyway. Great special. Go watch it. It’s worth your time.

Advertisements

Pokémon Go, Police, & Black Lives Matter

I don’t follow the news much other than what pops up on my Facebook feed, what I see on the Daily Show with Trevor Noah, or what happens to be on NPR on the occasion that I’m not listening to Spotify in the car.

But lots of things are happening lately – Alton Sterling, a black man, was murdered by the police. He was selling CDs in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was caught on video. The next day, Philando Castile, also a black man, was murdered right here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was stopped for having a tail light out. He told the officers that he had a conceal and carry permit and that he was going to get his wallet out of the glove compartment (I probably don’t have all the specifics right). Right after that, his wife or girlfriend started to use Facebook Live to stream what was happening to him. He was dying in the front seat from a shot while his daughter was in the back seat. A white police officer shot a man and we had the ability to broadcast it live thanks to social media.

The day after that (I think. It might’ve been two days later), a man shot many Dallas police officers at a peaceful protest. He was a sniper on a rooftop and was picking off police officers. They had no line of sight, so they sent a bomb-defusing robot up and attached an explosive to it. They killed the sniper rather than detain him for due processing. They were protecting lives but also they could’ve used a flash bang of some sort. I admittedly don’t have all of the information about police procedure, but it seems like some steps were skipped.

In the wake of so much racial tension throughout the U.S. people on the internet are posting things like #blacklivesmatter which often get the retort of #bluelivesmatter. The problem there is that this puts it as an us vs. them thing. Is it black versus blue? Blue isn’t even a race? Or is the point that these officers’ lives are at stake so to say “black lives matter” is making light of the risks they take? I know that there are non-racist folks who say “blue lives matter”, but I also know that the slope from “blue lives matter” to “the black man deserved it” is pretty fucking slippery

We can’t live our lives in a complete state of anxiety. It’s unsustainable. You can’t completely focus on how negative things are, even if you want to. At least, I can’t. Anxiety and stress take a toll on us and we have to do things that relieve that tension. You need to go for walks and play games, for example.

Shortly on the heels of the police killings and the killings by the police comes a new app for smart phones. A company that made a GPS locator game called Ingress teamed up with the Pokemon Company to make a GPS-based phone app- Pokemon Go – that allows you to wander in the great (real) wide world and play the newest iteration of the 20-something year old game on your phone, in real time, with “enhanced reality” and collect digital creatures.

This comes with lots of cool benefits- it gets “gamers” out into the open. I work on a college campus and I’ve seen so many people out on their phones wandering around looking for Pokemon that they haven’t captured yet. They’re talking to each other and traveling in packs. I played the game for the past 3 or 4 days and went Pokemon collecting with a fellow dude friend from my roller derby team. (Masculine cisgendered white nerd dudes often have trouble getting together to just bullshit and talk about things. This happens with my friends from back home, too. If we don’t have Gears of War 3 to play, it’s not like we’ll skype with one another. I’m a social being, like we all are, and we need this interaction. Sometimes this needs a little help and and structure like playing a game.) Would we have hung out if not for this app? Maybe, but probably not in the same way. We wandered around Lake Nakomis with my dog and played this game. We talked to random people we spotted playing the game. Black, white, female, male, old and young people. We’d overhear them saying that a Pokemon was nearby and we’d say we caught it already. Or we’d overhear them talking about a Pokestop that had given them superballs. It’s an app that created a social movement, which is awesome.

What’s not as awesome for me is that there’s no end in sight. The game just goes on and on. There are 150 (I think) Pokemon that you can catch, and some are not likely to be seen in normal places. This is a game that wants to keep you playing indefinitely. Keep overtaking gyms and losing them. Keep collecting Pokemon and wandering. I’m really glad at the extra exercise but thinking about playing this game indefinitely fills me with existential dread. “WHAT’S THE POINT?” The cost here is attention and energy. If we’re doing this what else AREN’T we doing? That’s a tough thing to think about all the time, but it keeps me up at night. I’m a guy who gets distracted by new things. I want to try this stuff out, but I wish there was a point to it all. I wish I could reasonably achieve the goal that was put to me and move on to the next thing. I want bite- and meal-sized interactions with games. I don’t want a career in the form of a game.

The other not-so-awesome point with Pokemon Go, is how the heck is this super in-depth game free? I’m not sure what the revenue stream is, but the app asks you to authenticate through your Google account. If you’re like me, you just authorized it to use your main Google account so that you don’t have to go fishing around for the passwords of your other 10 or 15 accounts. The downer is that the app, right now, has full access to your Google account. I know that they’ve apologized for this, and they’re working on fixing it. That means it can read all of your emails, see all of your documents in Drive, and know who all of your contacts are. Not to mention whatever it wants on your device. Browsing history, searches, what iOS your phone is rocking- all of that. (For now.) I saw a statistic that says Google complied with 78% of requests for information. It all makes me a little uneasy.

What about non-information and Pokemon Go? What about our desires and motivation? There’s a lot of good will and energy to do altruistic things. People want to make a difference. People want to get healthy and interact. People want to express themselves and be heard. But I think these impulses and altruistic desires that previously lead to jobs or more creative outlets (playing a sport, writing for a magazine, joining a nonprofit) are easily swallowed up by things that are dead ends. I’m guilty of this myself. I’ll probably write this and post it on my Tumblr or WordPress instead of shopping around for a place to publish this. Sure, it’ll feel really good if I get some follows and likes and comments on social media. But if I don’t focus my energy spending time getting outside of where it’s easiest to publish, that’s where it’ll die.

So back to Pokemon Go-  it harnesses the energy of people to wander around and collect creatures. They’re interacting, which is great, and as a result new friendships might spawn from that, but what else? Is this the case of the easiest way to do a thing preying on our good intentions?

And here’s an argument that I’m not the biggest fan of, but it needs to be said: are we getting distracted from bigger issues to keep us complacent? Playing these types of games keeps us happy, but are they just feeder pellets? Is it some kind of treat to keep us distracted from the police beating the hell out of and eradicating people of color? I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any means. I don’t think the creators of Pokemon Go are collaborating with the police to keep us numb to the interactions. I do think that this could be a perfect storm of sorts. We’ll literally be out in the world but unable to see what’s going on around us because of an unreality.

I don’t know what the answer is.

I had to stop playing that game. I want to be less reliant on my phone, not more. But I do find myself wanting to play a finite GPS type game that will encourage me go to places I’ve never seen before and earn badges… wait, isn’t that what Foursquare did like 8 years ago?

Blue Apron Sweet Chili Chicken as told by a guy who still doesn’t know how to cook.

Sweet Chili Chicken with Tinkerbell Peppers, Green Beans & Coconut Rice 
(The second Blue Apron meal I’ve ever cooked.)

Okay, I came into this meal armed with a little more information from last time, namely: It takes me a long time to chop things up, and I need to plan ahead for what I’m going to do with all of the things I chop up. (Answer: use that big ol’ pot again and dump everything into it.)

But there’s an added wrinkle with this one, and it’s something that’s disturbed me all 37 years of my life: RAW CHICKEN. (More on that later.)

Okay here we go.

Step 1:


I’m not going to say I went in cocky with this step, but I feel like I knew a little bit more about how to chop up these veggies. I still just have the one huge chopping knife (one of my friends told me it was actually a big bread knife, I guess?) and I also have a couple of sharp steak knives.

So I was feeling pretty good about chopping the peppers and onions. But how does one “peel and mince” garlic and ginger? I had no idea. But, thanks to some insider information last time  from a friend who also has Blue Apron – she said you can recycle the packaging by going to the Blue Apron website and printing out a form. With that intel, I deduced that maybe the www.blueapron.com/recipes/909 page that references this recipe would help me out with some extra stuff. And it did… only partially. They’ve got a video there that explains how to peel and mince ginger, but not garlic.

Here’s my chopping station. I grabbed another plastic cutting board so I had a little more surface area. I put that big pot in the sink and dumped my chopped items in that.

I kind of just chopped the whole garlic thing in half, which was surprisingly difficult. The recipe calls for 3 cloves of garlic. It was only thanks to the ingredients picture that I learned cloves are what come in the whole (bloom? blossom?) thingy of garlic. Otherwise I’d think “clove” was the unit of garlic (a whole clump?) that I received. Anyway, chopping the garlic in half was not the way to go. I wound up picking the cloves out and peeling the top part off. It was work for tiny fingers, not big meat hooks like I have.

I dumped all of the chopped veggies with the exception of the ginger into my big ol’ pot because I don’t have little fancy glass dishes, like I talked about last time. 

(I learned that Blue Apron sells these things to you on their website. They must’ve heard clueless non-cookers like me complain about it and saw an imminent cash grab.)

Stay with me on step 1, here. It’s the longest part. Coming up next: RAW CHICKEN.

Oh god, do I hate raw chicken. I hate it so much. Maybe it’s because of some conversations I had with my dad as a kid? However it came to be, I hear the word “salmonella” and the first things I think of are raw chicken and turtles (thanks, microbiology class at Santa Fe Community College [Seriously, if you rescue a turtle from the side of the road, you should sure as hell wash your goddamn hands or you could wind up in an observation room with a bunch of doctors scratching their heads until Dr. House comes in and figures it all out.]).

So, this part of Step 1 told me I have to pat this raw chicken dry with paper towels and chop it into bite-sized portions. What they don’t tell you is that you have to get the damn thing out of the packaging which I tugged at for a bit, to no avail. I eventually had to use my own knife to chop it open and slide out these slimy pieces of chicken onto my plastic cutting board.

I patted them dry with a metric fuckton of paper towels. Then I had to hold the chicken on the cutting board with one hand and saw at it with my huge bread knife thingy until I’ve got it chopped into pieces and then I put it into a cereal bowl. (I was making gross-out noises the whole time.)

At this point, I washed my hands like 10 times, and used 5 of those Lysol wipes on my counter. I’m not a super clean person, but as I said I just don’t want to be the basis for a bad TV medical drama.

Whew, that was the bulk of it. On to step 2!

Step 2:




The coconut rice was straight forward. I trudged onward and mixed the stuff and put it in a pot, this was before I started in with the gross raw chicken. It said cook the rice for 14 minutes, which I did, but it was really crunchy and all the water had gone. I put more water in and cooked it on a higher heat for like 5 minutes and it turned out okay at the end.

Step 3:


I have those black measuring spoon things, so I figured out how much 2 teaspoons of olive oil was that way. It says to cook the olive oil until hot. How do I know when it’s hot? Steam? I just left it in there for like a minute or so and figured that was good. It says to cook the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes- I cooked it for like 10 minutes and kept breaking the bite sized chunks open to make sure they weren’t pink on the inside. (Again with the salmonella nightmares. I don’t care if the chicken was overcooked or a little dry.) They were decently brown so I figured I was okay.

(Sidenote: I somehow don’t have pepper in the apartment. I just have salt. So every place it’s been saying to put salt and pepper on, I’m just salting.)

Step 4:


I dumped all the veggies in like it says. I set a timer for 2 minutes because I don’t really know how “soft and fragrant” should be measured. Just give me the minutes I need to set on my timer.

Step 5 and 6:



Easy peasy. Just do exactly what it says. They say to cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until “liquid is slightly reduced in volume”. That’s fine. 2 minutes.

Okay, so here’s my meal:

I didn’t have a big fancy looking bowl to put the stuff in. I think it looks okay on a plate, though.
Compare to their meal:

I don’t know, food photographers- I think my blue plate looks better than your lame brown bowl.
What’s great about this: Blue Apron gives you these ingredients that I would never in a million years buy for myself and they give you a good amount of confidence in working with them. I hate cutting raw chicken, but at least I know how to fry it up with a little olive oil. I also now know what people do with garlic cloves and ginger.

What’s not so great about this: Still, the biggest downside appears to be packaging. A friend of mine said that it’s cool that Blue Apron saves you the trouble of wandering around the aisles with this recipe trying to find ingredients you’d never buy. That’s super stressful. I agree, but I think now that I’m armed with this recipe card I can find this stuff with reasonable ease. Maybe not ponzu sauce. What aisle is that on?

How it tasted: It was tastier than the gnocchi I made last time. The ponzu and chili sauce were great and the peppers and scallions added a lot of flavor. It was good. It made my house smell good according to my friend who came over right after.

Blue Apron Gnocchi as told by a guy who doesn’t know how to cook.

Blue Apron- Brown Butter Gnocchi with Summer Squash, Almonds, & Soft-Boiled Eggs.

I’m not a guy who cooks much at all. I’m not a guy who owns much in the way of cooking implements, either. I’ve got one big sharp knife I use for everything- it slices my bagels, it cuts up whatever vegetables I actually wind up cutting (I mostly buy frozen stuff). I’ve got a couple of medium sized pots, one big pot, a couple of frying pans, a colander (I had to look up how to spell that. Strainer? Drainer?)

So I signed up for Blue Apron. I don’t like eating out all the time and the limited number of things I cook needs to be expanded. But I’ve never cooked seriously before, and I have no idea where to start. This seemed like a reasonable thing to do.

Anyway, the box came today, Saturday. The thing is huge. It’s heavier than you’d think. There’s enough stuff for three meals inside, but even considering that I didn’t expect it to be so heavy. I opened it up, and the first thing I said (my friend was there for moral support and audience) was: “Wow, that’s a lot of packaging.” 

Huge box. Bike in there for scale.
I should’ve taken a pic of the box with all the stuff in there. A bunch of things are now randomly floating around in my fridge in these very specifically made cardboard containers. 

Why is the thing so heavy? There are little cardboard holders for just two eggs. Little paper sacks that contain “knick knacks” for each meal. In the paper sacks are tiny plastic bags with stuff like the exact right amount of parmesan cheese for the Gnocchi and a little plastic ramekin with the exact right amount of butter that you’re supposed to brown. It comes with two huge reusable ice packs. (I play roller derby so these are actually going to come in handy.) On the packaging it says it’s made from recycled and recyclable material, but how many people are actually going to recycle this stuff? 

Okay, so I started cooking it. Here I go, following the directions:

Step 1 and 2-


As a guy who really doesn’t chop things, ever, I couldn’t do step 1 and 2 at the same time and be okay on time. If I were to do this again, I’d chop the things ahead of time because I’m slow at it. Also, what does “medium dice” mean? I cut the squash up, but they weren’t perfect cubes or anything. It didn’t seem to matter at the end.  Roughly chopping almonds was both harder and easier than I imagined. Little pieces got everywhere on my tiny plastic cutting board, but my big dumb knife was able to actually chop through the things.

Here are my chopped items. Well, some of them. I didn’t have a little bowl for the almonds so I threw them into a plastic container I had from Chinese food takeout. 

Actually, after cutting the squash – the first thing I chopped up- I realized I didn’t have anything to put chopped stuff in. You go over to someone’s house and they have all of these little glass bowls and things in their cupboards, right? I’d always think, “What the hell are all these little dishes for? Why would you need something other than just plates and bowls?” Turns out little glass bowls are good for putting chopped up things in.

All my bowls were in the dishwasher, and besides I didn’t have any regular bowls big enough to hold all the chopped up squash, so I had to throw it into my big pot. It’s like a big chili cooking pot. I rested it on the dish dryer because I have no counter space.

Meanwhile, my two eggs were cooking. I got them out at the appropriate time, used that colander I mentioned before to hold the eggs while I ran cold water over them, and then carried on with cooking the rest of the meal while the eggs just sat there. I eventually moved them out of the colander when I needed to use it for the gnocchi. (More on the eggs later.)

Anyway, the rest of step one and two was pretty easy. On to step 3. 

Step 3 –


Browning butter. I don’t think I have ever purposefully done this in my life. I think I did it right this time? I was iffy on the whole thing. They said be careful not to burn the butter, so I definitely didn’t do that, but I think when I was eating it, it tasted way too slick and buttery.

Step 4-


This was straight-forward. Add squash and almonds. Squeeze the lemons in. Okay, that’s easy enough. Stir for a couple of minutes, sure. I got that. I like that Blue Apron gives you the time and some other cues like “until the almonds are fragrant”. That cue is great, but how do I know what a fragrant almond is? I just relied on the time.

Step 5 –


The gnocchi(s) weren’t (wasn’t?) floating at the end of 3 minutes, so I left them in there until they started floating. Thanks for telling me about the floating thing, Blue Apron. I’ve never boiled gnocchi before so I had no idea what I was doing. When I got around to eating the meal they seemed doughy, but not awful I guess.

Step 6-


So the combining of things was actually pretty easy with the exception of (and here we have to go back to step 1) peeling soft boiled eggs. Guess what, it’s not easy. I mean, you can get the shell off if you want to, but I found that big chunks of the egg whites were coming off with it. My egg came out all misshapen.

Here’s the end result of my meal:

I’m surprised a stray dog hair didn’t wind up on my dish. They’re everywhere. Thanks, Zobie.

It doesn’t look so bad, but go ahead and compare it to their pic:

Professional food photographers earn their living.

The whole thing tasted okay. The gnocchi was kinda doughy, but I guess that’s how it’s supposed to be. And it was pretty damn buttery. I’m a guy who likes to eat buttery food and I feel like this was a little over the top for me. I think maybe I should’ve added some oregano, also. It needed some type of extra seasoning. 

What’s good about it: I think the convenience lies in the fact that all the stuff is portioned out for you and you don’t have to make a decision as to what to cook that week. Also the easy to follow steps are written so that a person like me who’s never cooked that much at all before can follow it.

What they don’t tell you: you might need more than one knife. You’ll need a big cutting board and things to hold the chopped up food in. Also, you’ll have a bunch of random things in your fridge. There’s a ton of random packets with names of the other meals in there. I had to also put some left overs in the fridge and find ways to do things that I never do, like store small amounts of chopped parsley. And don’t forget: a HUGE box. Seriously, if people freak out about k-cups, this is going to quickly get out of hand. 

This meal was okay. I’ll see if the other ones are any good.

April – Lots of Music in MPLS

April 4th- 

Tonight! Iggy Pop’s playing at the Northrop on the U of M campus in Minneapolis. This new record he partnered with Josh Homme from Queens of the Stonage and made an album that feels kind of like what you would think that combination would sound like.  I haven’t listened to a ton of Iggy’s stuff, but I’m looking forward to this show. I was kind of surprised at how much crooning Iggy does on this album. I’m not the biggest fan of the single from it – Gardenia. I think it’s one of the weaker songs on the album. For my money, Paraguay or Vulture are better singles. Oh, and I actually won tickets by being a tenth caller into The Current – the mostly alt-radio station here in the Twin Cities. First time for everything!

April 21st –

Buckethead is playing at The Cabooze in Minneapolis. Buckethead is a ridiculously talented and prolific guitarist who wears a bucket on his head (often times it’s a KFC bucket) and a weird porcelain mask that makes him look like some kind of demented demon doll. His stuff is similar to Joe Satriani or Steve Vai- very technical and fast, with no lyrics. I first encountered him when I had the VHS of Primus’ Rhinoplasty album. Buckethead  made an appearance on that to… spin? (is that the right verb?) nunchucks while a DJ was scratching records and then coming back on stage to do a crazy guitar solo.

April 22nd and 23rd- 

 

Bob Mould is playing at First Ave for two nights, on the 22nd and 23rd. He just released a new album, Patch the Sky. He’s been putting out records like clock work- one every two years since 2012. I’m new to the Twin Cities, but I know Mould is a favorite of the Minneapolis scene. He and The Replacements were battling it out in the ’80s for midwesterners’ hearts when Bob was in Hüsker Dü. I started listening to him in the 1990s when I was in high school. My brother’s friend would routinely let us borrow weird CDs I’d never heard of. One day he brought over this band called Sugar– Bob Mould’s band at the time. It was so good. If you listen to Sugar and Hüsker Dü, you can hear where a lot of 90s bands – Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana, The Foo Fighters – got their inspiration from. They’re poppy songs with really great distorted heavy guitars thrown in.

I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing out on this month, but those are the ones that bubbled up to the top of my list.

Minnesota Roller Derby Bouts, April 2-9th.

Some upcoming Minnesota Roller Derby Bouts! (In chronological order.)

Or, watch the whole damn bout:

As much as I’m a fan of Denver, The Minnesota RollerGirls are by far my favorite WFTDA team. I’m a transplant to the Twin Cities as of last year, but quickly this league has shown itself to be full of really welcoming people not to mention amazing athletes. MNRG hosted the WFTDA championships at the Roy Wilkins auditorium here in St. Paul, and it was a blast. I think that place seats close to 2 thousand people  just under 5 thousand people (thanks to Birdie from MNRG for the correction), and it was packed. MNRG played a really close game (it seemed like all of the games at champs this year were very close) against Texas Rollergirls. Losing by only 12 points, MNRG fought hard but Texas eventually took the win – 185 to 173. Read the recap here. Or, you can watch the whole game below. (Edit: It was a complete coincidence that both of the most memorable bouts I posted were of these two teams playing Texas.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKqCaz8i2ZU

My team, Minnesota Men’s Roller Derby, just scrimmaged the MNRG All-stars last night. (Photos and some short videos here.) Let me tell you, Denver has their work cut out for them.

The Terrors- Minnesota Men’s Roller Derby’s All Star team, is traveling to Sioux City to take on the Kornstalkers. We (The Terrors, that is) have  just come off of our first win of the travel season versus Fargo’s Rock City Riot last month. The Terrors managed to make it to the MRDA championships last year, and we’re running strong again this year. The Terrors took a win and a loss at champs- the win against San Diego (180- 151) , and the loss to Bridgetown Massacre from Portland (314 to 33). You can watch the games below.

 

I’ve never played against the Kornstalkers, but from what I understand they’ve got some big dudes who deliver big hits on their team. From what I can tell on their Facebook page, this’ll be the first game for these guys this year so I’m sure they’ll be well rested and ready for a hard-fought game.

  • April 9th in Sioux Falls, SD: 

Sioux Falls Roller Dollz (Sioux Falls, SD) vs Mankato Area Derby Girls (Mankato, MN)

I don’t know much about Sioux Falls’ team. I’ve seen the MAD Girls play once. They were part of our double-header we did in Fargo. Merci Mae is a regular guest skater at our bouts, and I can attest to her skill as a blocker and a jammer. Sioux Falls is going to have to work to contain her, for sure.

Some commentary about roller derby bouts in general: 

Since roller derby is a grass roots league-run thing, it’s difficult to know what’s going on if you’re an average fan wanting to watch some bouts. You’ve got to subscribe to teams’ Facebook pages. You need to talk to people, figure out who’s who in the scene. It’d be much better if each league made a practice of publishing their away games on a page that the public can see, but often bout contracts get changed at the last minute, or teams drop out.

Moral of the story is: if you’re into roller derby and want to catch a game on an upcoming weekend, do some googling and asking around to find out when the next one is.

If there’s one that I’ve missed that’s coming up, please shoot me an email:

the-slamurai-jack@ gmail dot com