Saturday, April 25, 2009

Punisher: War Zone

7/10 acorns
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish that I could see someone lobotomized with a chair leg”? I have. That’s why I liked Punisher: War Zone. This most recent attempt to capture the comic book phenomenon is probably the best. However, based on the first two attempts, it didn’t take much.

Ray Stevenson puts in an excellent performance as Frank Castle, the special-ops agent gone vigilante against organized crime. While some might criticize his efforts as one-dimensional or melodramatic, that is exactly what this genre calls for. Fans of Stevenson’s roll in Rome will not be disappointed. While Thomas Jane and Dolph Lundgren were good choices for the Punisher in 2004 and 1989 respectively, Lexi Alexander’s direction has set Stevenson atop.

Even though there are some recognizable talents in Punisher: War Zone, it is clear that Lions Gate Films did not break the bank in production. The soundtrack, locations, and special effects are all modest, but the film delivers the kind of poetic cinematography that the hero movies demand. This is exactly the type of movie that comic book-starved renters will flock to, and I anticipate that, unlike its predecessors, this movie will spawn sequels.

After viewing Punisher: War Zone, the satiated action/comic book lover will reiterate the film’s final line, “Oh God, now I’ve got brains splattered all over me.”

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Brewing: Tech. Upgrade Helps Brewery

Great news for fans of the Noble Defender Brewery, thanks to a generous Christmas gift, Noble Defender adds a top-notch wort chiller to the brewery's resources. "It has really increased our brewing effienciency," explained Mike Towle, "Now I can perform a complete brew-day in 5 1/2 hours and as our familiarity with the equipment increases, we should be able to improve on that time." One employee noted that the brewing on Saturday seemed "more relaxed, with smoother transitions from phase to phase."

Pictured here is the latest batch, an English-style porter:

As the pictures show, the wort-chiller is a coil of copper tubing with an inlet and an outlet. The whole unit is immersed in the hot wort, this sanitizes the tubing. The cold, incoming water swirls around the top of the pot (where the hottest liquid is) first. The chilled wort at the top falls to the bottom as the hottest wort rises. The heat of the pot is transferred to the water which finally goes down the drain. Five gallons of wort can be chilled in about twenty minutes instead of three or more hours in an ice bath. Other benefits of cooling the wort quickly are better clarity and safer sanitization from unwanted yeast and bacteria.

The lastest batch will be ready to sample in four weeks.

Homesteader 3

Homesteader 3:

“Good morning, Brandon.”


“Good morning, Linda.”

“I thought I would see you last night but I see you decided to stay in.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t feeling so hot.”

“Drinking this stuff wont help. Why can’t you just take an orange like everyone else? I guess you think that this makes you eccentric. Well, everyone has noticed and we are all very impressed.”

“Nobody asked you to come over this morning.”

“No. Your right. I think some of your self-hating impulses are polluting me.”

Silently Brandon agreed. Linda was being reasonable and he was being miserable. As he sat up from the chaise lounge he knocked over a bottle and a glass. Some unidentifiable crumbs tumbled off his undershirt. Linda went to the kitchen.

“Murray said he wants to play racquet ball again,” Linda sang as the water ran.

“That’s only because I don’t give a damn and I’m the only person he might beat.”

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

Brandon smirked to himself and jogged into the kitchen.
“Hey, I’ve got something to show you.” He said, grabbing her about the waist.


“You have to come down to the basement to see it.”

Holding her hand, Brandon lead her down the hallway. They reached the bottom of the basement steps before he turned on the light. Linda was visibly disturbed by what lay before her. The dank basement was filled with folding tables. Each table was strewn with wood and tools, old tools. Like people used to use. She didn’t know what they were called but there were clamps and vices and handsaws and bits and various cold, vicious objects with malicious-looking angles. Linda simultaneously imagined the bloody accidents of careless ancient craftsmen and the cruel experiments which might be occupying Brandon’s time. She covered her stomach and nervously asked, “What’s all this?”

“Oh just a hobby, but I have done something which I find quit remarkable.”
Brandon's eyes glimmered as he excitedly strode to one of the tables where there lay some strips of wood and jars and buckets and brushes and carving tools. He turned the handle on a vice holding a piece of wood about four feet long.
“It’s a bow.”

“A what?”

“A bow, like people used to use to hunt animals to eat.”

“How does it work?” Linda asked touching it with her fingertips.

“You glue a bunch of narrow strips of wood together and shape it to the shape you want and it is much stronger than a regular piece of wood. Then you attach the string.” Then, holding one end of the bow against the floor, Brandon hooked the end of a slim, braided, steel cable around the top of the wood. “I couldn’t use natural glue or sinew but the principles are the same.” He then strung an arrow from the below the table.

“Watch the bag on the wall, and stand behind me,” Brandon continued. The bag was about thirty feet away, next to a pile of old cookware. Linda folded her arms and complied. Brandon drew the bow, exhaled slowly, and loosed the arrow. A hissing noise. A mind splitting crack exploded in the basement. The bag burst off the wall and splinters and chunks of sheetrock flew across the room. Linda screamed and ducked. Brandon grinned at the wall obscenely. Uncovering her ears, Linda stood, and marched up the steps.

“Did you see that!?” Brandon cried.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


We regret to report that the latest experiment from Noble Defender Brewery has gone sadly awry. Pictured here is Old Man Towle wasting his 2.5 gallon batch of "Blueberry Pancake Ale". "It seemed like a good idea at the time," explained Towle, "I didn't think the blueberry seeds would be so problematic, I'm sorry for the sadness I've caused." Beigeberry, a Noble Defender enthusiast, reacted by saying, "Blueberry Pancake? It tastes more like Puke-berry Urinal-cake."
Noble Defender has destroyed the complete batch but vows that the Blueberry Pancake Ale is not lost to this world. Towle promises to continue the experiment "until the batches start creating giant, mutant, megalomaniac yeast cells that say awkward things in other-wise laid-back social situations or the next season of The Biggest Loser starts." On a postitive note, the brewery's recent holiday pack, amber ale and Scotch ale, met with rave reviews.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Literature: Homesteader 2

Brandon’s car zipped along through the transparent tubes and swerved fearlessly from one tube to the next, whisking by opposing cars with only inches to spare. The minute volume of the commotion was what he found so unnerving. He remembered sentimentally the riding of the freeways with his father. His father had told him something about “the freedom of the open road” before the last of the freeways in Los Angeles was shut down for good. For good. Brandon decided to close the blinds.

“Will you be resting this evening Senior Calabasa?” his auto-chauff asked. “I could activate the noise cancellation.”

“No thank you Mrs. Buttersworth. In fact, I would like some music please.”

“Of course, Senior Calabasa.”

Brandon insisted on having his Auto-chauff, Mrs. Buttersworth, refer to him as “Mr. Pumpkin” as a constant reminder of the artificiality of their exchanges. In fact, he had named his auto-vac, auto-chef, and auto-groom Vigilante Justice, Goat Molester, and Mr. Ection respectively. In keeping himself to himself so much, he worried about building too strong a relationship with any of his auto-nomes.

He jostled lightly and closed his eyes as the outstanding sound system placed him in the center row of the Milan Opera House. He could almost feel the tenor’s vibrato reverberating off of the mahogany handrails. Puccini’s La Boheme. His favorite. He imagined himself in an ancient tuxedo, accompanied by a buxom woman with smiling, imperfect teeth. She glances at him lovingly and squeezes his arm excitedly as Act 1 draws to a close.

“We have arrived in your car port Senior Calabasa.”

“Thank you Mrs. Buttersworth,” replied Brandon. “Tomorrow I will have you replaced with a microwave full of dirty diapers.”

“Ho Hoo. Good one, you scoundrel.”

As Brandon strode through the breezeway and into the parlor, the lights warmed gently, and the fake fireplace began to crackle. Brandon loosened his tie and glanced at the TV wall.

“Mr. Ection,” Brandon called softly.

“Yes, Sir?”

“I want to view my soc-credits.”

The screen instantly flashed a chart that showed his soc-credit reserve by month. The bright blue screen reflected off his face as he poured himself a bourbon from the parlor bar. 9,008,285 soc-credits. Not nearly enough. If he bought a two-month vacation at the cabin he would almost be back where he started. Two months isn’t even close to enough time for what I have in mind, he thought. He took a sip a flopped back into the billowing sofa. His drink hand extended a accusatory finger and poked his soft belly.

“Show me news,” he mumbled.

“And that’s it from here Marlene, A gala event to mark a monumental moment in our city’s history.”

“Thanks, Gill. When we come back we’ll tell you who’s hot in crown-top and who will be joining the injured-reserve. Stay Tuned.”

The screen showed a lagoon-like pool surrounded with soft, white, plastic pebbles. Purple light streaks through the misty air. A naked man playfully chases a laughing woman. The perspective swoops away and they disappear into the fog. Splashes. In front of the misty pool reclines another couple. The woman contentedly pops a yellow into her mouth.

“An oasis of pleasure. The time of your life. You deserve it…”

Brandon clicked off the TV and pulled the vacation magazine out of his briefcase. Leaning back on the bolsters he wondered if he could hit the ceiling with his glass without standing up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Literature: Homesteader 1

Out. That’s what Brandon Mercer wanted. He gazed longingly at the photo in the back of the vacation magazine as he sat in the glass-domed coffee shop on the fifth floor. He sighed pitifully and glanced to the TV screen. They were showing a sport, crowntop, that he didn’t understand. It was kind of a mix between king-of-the-mountain, football, and capture-the-flag. Three of the grey team were unceremoniously knocking two of the greens down to the lower level. For a while he had been keeping track of the standings if for nothing else than a chance to relate to his contemporaries. It had worked, sort of, but he had lost interest.
He had never found that thing that he was looking for among the shining towers of the corporate village or the sprawling bubble-shaped houses packed with convenience. He himself had a Spanish-style villa with a personal theater and a restaurant quality kitchen, not that he could find any decent ingredients any more. The safety of ultra-pasteurization had washed away the subtleties of his favorite flavors. He usually ordered out.
The magazine was open to the last page, where only the least-expensive, poorly designed, cramped ads would be found. Truly rustic retreats had fallen out of vogue long ago, competing with fantasy camps, ultra-sports, med-spas, and the like. In one corner was the image that intrigued him. A dilapidated cabin sat a-top a gently sloping hill bending towards a steel-grey river. Behind and above the cabin stood towering pines and small, knotted birches. What would it be like? Could he pay the caretaker to turn off the surveillance devices or even remove them? The expense, he thought, would only prolong his captivity in the Grant Corporation.
Oh no. Murray. Murray stood with his tray only twenty feet away. It was obvious to Brandon that Murray had seen him and wanted Brandon to notice that Murray clearly hadn’t seen him, and now Murray looked for a reason not to join him. Murray looked past Brandon and then saw a seat near the screen which he moved towards eagerly. Thank God. Everyone in Brandon’s department congenially avoided him now. He was roundly regarded as a harmless dullard. Everyone had attempted friendliness with Brandon but his disinterest was eventually reciprocated.
Through the dome and the rain he could almost see the tube to the valley that he would travel after work. Just as he always had.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Living: Brew Review

Urban Groundhog's Hefeweizen! 6/10 acorns.

We regretfully have to give this first attempt at all-grain brewing a barely passing score of six out of ten acorns. While the drink had a pleasant appearance, aroma, and fruity, wheat notes, it was lacking in several areas. The flavor was weak and didn't give any of the protein-rich mouth-feel usually accompanying the style. This was apparently due to the over sparging which yielded much more wort than was expected. The flavors were mild to the point of being watery and the after-taste had an unpleasant cidery-ness. It was drinkable but barely.