Evil

So I’ve just finished binge watching the CBS horror, Evil. It was a fun watch that I never would’ve found had they not put up all 10 episodes for free on their website. The trailer they released seemed a bit corny and I’ve long since given up on most network television. I know, I know, they occasionally come out with a Hannibal or a Marvel’s Agents of Shield, but, for the most part, it’s all Two and a Half Men and The Bachelor. But I’m always looking for something new to watch and there are few shows that I won’t at least try. I hadn’t heard much about this show, so when they put the first 10 up for free, it wreaked of desperation, but the ploy worked. The show was a very pleasant surprise and now I’m hooked, so, bravo to whoever made that marketing decision.

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, the best description I can offer is that it’s a Catholic X-files that balances a big-bad of the week style with a longer story arc, and does so quite satisfyingly. The first protagonist we meet is Dr. Kristin Bouchard (Katja Herbers – Manhattan, West World), a forensic psychologist working for the courts to assess the mental statuses of the accused. While interviewing a serial killer, she meets David Acosta (Mike Colter – Luke Cage, The Defenders, Jessica Jones), a former war journalist, now a priest in training. He works for the Catholic church, investigating extraordinary occurrences, such as miracles and possessions, for the presence of the infernal or divine. Aiding in these investigations is Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi – The Daily Show, The Brink), a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic and tech nerd.

I was a bit shocked at how much I liked this show, at how much I look forward to the next episode, now that I’m following it on the weekly. I find the characters likable, fleshed out and the cast already very comfortable in their roles. The horror elements are amazing! I mean, they’re no Channel Zero, but for network, I’m pretty fucking impressed. The writing itself is spot on. The elements of mystery draw me in and I actually care about what happens to the characters.

I gotta give a special shout out to Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest), who plays the vile, Leland Townsend. He played a bad guy on Lost, but, holy fuck, is he evil on this show! Slimy, hateful and all around misanthropic; Mr. Emerson, if you are reading this, I have no idea what you are like in real life, but your fantastic acting makes me want to punch you right in the face. Bravo! And to the FX crew, I found the demon, George, genuinely unsettling and felt anxious whenever he was on screen. Noice!

What I find most interesting about this show is (or what I am assuming is) its intended audience. I was raised VERY Catholic and I’m not sure this show would have the same impact on someone without religion. There’s no ambiguity on this show. There’s no X-Files style of “was that really an alien, or was it swamp gas and we may never know”. Here there is evil with a capitol E. The supernatural exists, the devil is real and those who are too dismissive of God will open the door to demons who will drag us all to Hell. There is a holy war going on and it will determine the fate of the human race. That’s not to say there isn’t a role for the skeptic in this world. A scientific mind and critical eye are valued here a utilized liberally throughout the show. The characters are not blind followers, but intelligent individuals whose lives drive them to constantly reevaluate their beliefs. It’s a show that allows for a world in which faith and a belief in God do not negate intelligence and a reasonable mind. That being said, when it comes down to a choice between faith and reason on this show, faith wins every time.

I don’t believe I’m alone in my appreciation for this show; it’s already been greenlit for a season 2. I’ve just started the Netflix series, Messiah, which I also hope to write about, and I’m wondering if we’re seeing a trend towards using faith and religion as a major plot device. And not the black and white battle of one faith verses another, but the constant battle we personally wage to stay true to ourselves and what we believe in. It’s not always violent and never clear cut, but it’s oh so relatable to so many people. The temptation could be as subtle as a backyard BBQ on a day of fasting to flirting with a married coworker, but to those who temptation has deep, cultural connotations, this could be as dangerous as any bette noir. I’m not sure where such stories will take us, but, for the moment, I am loving this fresh direction. 

The Hustle

twenties“twenties” by TheTruthAbout is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

People who know me know how much time I spend husltin’ for those Benjamins. Though at this point, I’m thankful for every Hamilton and Lincoln I get, as well. Being an artist is full-time work, with no guarantee that you’ll ever be paid for anything you do. And while I’m working on being the next Andy Warhole, (hell, I’d be happy to be Bob freakin’ Ross), those dreams don’t keep me in the champagne and caviar lifestyle to which I am accustomed. Welcome to the gig economy. And while most of these gigs can be a pain in the ass, you occasionally come across some of the best jobs in the world. Last week, I got paid to drink whiskey.

Taste tests aren’t that unusual; for the past five years, I’ve been making spare change going to the Oregon State University Food Innovation Center . I was lucky enough to have a friend clue me in about getting on their mailing list, so I’d get emails every month or so about different tastings they would put on. There is an application process. Most importantly, one has to be available for the days and times that they scheduled for the tasting, but there are several other questions. These are usually about food allergies or dietary restrictions, what foods or beverages are commonly eaten, and any other questions they deem pertinent to putting together the focus group. The tests can range from about 15 minutes to an hour and, once it is finished, the participants get paid in cold, hard cash immediately after.

Tasting at Stickmen Brewery, Lake Oswego Oregon“Tasting at Stickmen Brewery, Lake Oswego Oregon” by PDX Beer Geek is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I’ve done taste tests for beer, hamburgers and breakfast cereal. I did a particularly daring one with sushi. Then, I came across this most recent one for tasting whiskey. At first, I thought, I must be dreaming, but it turned out to be the real deal. The application process was extensive. What types of whiskey do you drink? How much and how often? The online survey took me about 20 minutes to fill out. I got a call back about a week later from someone, regarding the study, with even more questions to answer, but after that, I was in. I was scheduled with one of several focus groups. There were to be three days of tasting, each group lasting about 75 minutes.

_DSF8787“_DSF8787” by Chipps Chippendale is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Before anyone gets too envious about my whiskey tasting adventures, they were far from a drunken bacchanal. There were rigid and methodical steps to the process. We were each sat at a station with a computer terminal and given strict instructions not to talk to anyone. When we were ready, a small sample of whiskey was brought to us, with a numbered identification label. The computer prompted us to rate the color and aroma of each sample before, ultimately, tasting it. Therein followed a series of questions. How much would you pay for this whiskey? How often would you drink it? At which of the following events would you drink this at? Honestly, I could barely finish on time for each of the days. Then, at the end, we were given a breathalyzer test before we were allowed to leave.

Which was ridiculous, in my opinion. When I say the samples were small, we had been informed beforehand that the five samples we were to rate each day would amount to a total of 1.25 oz. of whiskey. That’s a little over a single shot. The samples themselves ran the gamut from some heavenly nectars I’m sure I couldn’t afford to swill so foul that I could barely drink it. That being said, I still got paid to drink and that ain’t too bad. Such are the opportunities afforded by a gig economy. Last week, I got $30 to use a new shampoo and give feedback about it. This week, I’m being paid $20 to take part in an online, political forum. If anyone is interested, both of these opportunities were found on a website called Swagbucks. If you decide to sign up, let them know I sent you. They have a referral program which rewards me for signing up new members. Trust me, I need the money. My supply of champagne is running low.

DSC_0347“DSC_0347” by bovinum is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Thirsty Carnivore

If anyone has been reading this blog, I apologize to you for being negligent in keeping up with it. The holidays really take it out of me and I’m just recently feeling up to getting back to work. In addition, the urge to create art has taken hold of me and I am deep in the process of completing multiple pieces. If you don’t believe me (and there’s no reason why you should, I could easily be lying to you), just check my gallery. I’ve added a few new pieces to it. I am working towards resuming my outreach to the public and further building this blog, my Instagram, etc. That being said, I haven’t yet finished a blog post to my own satisfaction. I don’t wish to leave anyone high and dry, however, so I’m going to put one of my older writings up and hope it entertains you. The Thirsty Carnivore is one of the blog posts I wrote as a freelancer, for a bar-focused blog. Enjoy!

The Thirsty Carnivore

Vegans be damned! I want meat! I’m such a carnivore that I consider fish to be a vegetable. Which is why it makes me happy when bartenders incorporate meat into their drinks. I can get drunk and get my meat on at the same time. This practice isn’t anything new. The first time I heard about this was when I was leafing through a cook- book from the 1950’s. It was the kind of time capsule throwback that presupposed that only women would be reading it, because what would a man be doing in the kitchen? Ah, those were the days. But I digress. This was the first cookbook I had seen that had an entire chapter dedicated to cocktails. I was looking over all of their concoctions when I came across the Bull Shot.

Rumored to be thought up by some mad chemists from Detroit’s Caucus Club sometime around 1952, the Bull Shot is basically one part vodka to two parts beef broth, with some Worchester and Tabasco thrown in to give it some panache. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and you’ve got a drink straight out of “Mad Men”. With the new found popularity of bone broth, I’m seeing this drink, and others like it, pop up in bars every- where. Right here in Portland, the bar, Three Degrees, has a creation called TD’s Bloody Mary, beef consommé being a main ingredient.

Now that I’ve become more ambitious and experimental in my drinking, I have discovered a myriad of distillers, bartenders and aficionados that have attempted to magically combine the realms of meat and booze. These can be placed into three categories.

The first, and most common, is the garnish. If you happen to be a fan of the bloody mary, you have no doubt noticed an increase in the garnishing flair applied to those drinks. It’s like they’re putting a goddamn flower arrangement on the freakin’ thing, so that you have to eat the equivalent of an entire salad to even take a sip. To have the occasional bacon strip or strip added to this mix is not unusual, but now the kid gloves are off, and I won’t be surprise when I get a rack of ribs on top of my glass. For a refreshing change, I’ll go to Hamlet, that capitalizes on its swine based theme with the Meat vs. Melon. In dramatic counterpoint to the heat of a good bloody, the Meat vs.
Melon combines chilled gin and melon juice, elegantly garnished with a strip of air dried prosciutto.

In the second category, I present to you the infusion. In Portland, where bacon is so revered that I’m surprised we haven’t founded a religion based on it, there’s no shortage of alcoholic bacon creations. Bacon infusion is so common place now, however, that it is almost main stream. The Betty Crocker website has a recipe for it (http:// www.bettycrocker.com/how-to/tipslibrary/ingredients/how-to-make-bacon-infused-vodka) for fucks sake! Take, for instance, Alaska Distillery and their Smoked Salmon Vodka. There are a number of establishments that are utilizing a practice called fat washing. To fat-wash an alcohol, a fat or an oil, such as truffle oil, is poured into a container of booze and allowed to sit for a while at room temperature. The container is then placed in a freezer and the fat content allowed to solidify. Once that happens, the solid layer is re- moved, but the alcohol will have absorbed some of its flavors. There is a recipe for a Duck Fat Sazerac that I’ll be making as soon as I get my hands on some duck fat.

Third is the most unholy of alchemy, making alcohol from meat itself. This isn’t usually done, because the process of fermentation needs sugar to work, not protein. If we’re not too caught up on using actual meat, there are several forms of alcohol that are made from the fermentation of animal products. It’s been conjectured that mead is the earliest alcoholic beverage, made from the fermentation of honey, and there are a number of cultures that have beverages made from fermented milk, such as the drink, Kumis. If we actually want to delve into booze from fermented meat, we can, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. You may wish to stop reading here if you have a weak stomach, or are planning on eating anytime soon.

A winemaker out of Minnesota, Ray Reigstad, has made Army Worm Wine. Also known as Tent Caterpillars, that are native to North America, and can infest and damage certain crops. So when several of them descended on Reigstad’s property, he figured he’d do something useful with them. Having made wine in his basement for over a decade, he had a process in mind. Collecting seven pounds of worms in a bucket, he first poured boiling water over them to kill them. Then he added sugar and yeast, along with a few other ingredients and let it sit. After 4 months, he had a crisp, white wine that has been likened to a pinot grigio.

So, rejoice paleo people! Our love of flesh doesn’t need to stop when we belly up to the bar. You can eat your protein and drink it, too. Next time you’re out drinking, ask your bartender what they do with their meat. Er, maybe not. That got me kicked out the last time I asked.

 

I Love Comic Books!

I love comic books. There’s no better way to put it. They have been a major part of my life for most of my existence. As a child, I grew up with my uncle reading comics to me. Spiderman, Iron Man, Conan the Barbarian, the X-Men; we were Marvel fans all the way, True Believers! The first comic I ever bought myself was Ghost Rider. I guess a motorcycle riding demonic spirit of vengeance appealed to my prepubescent self. Comic books expanded my vocabulary, enhanced my love of reading, taught me some elements of storytelling and inspired me with their colorful and dramatic images. They made me the man I am today.

In high school, I discovered independent comics, titles put out by companies who were not one of the big two, DC and Marvel. Eastman and Laird were local celebrities when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first came out. I still have some of their first and second printings of the early TMNT and I think they even did a signing at the comic shop in Portsmouth, NH that I used to go to. I would read and reread issues of Dave Sims’s Cerebus the Aardvark, both because of the intricacies of some of the art and to catch the humor as they lampooned the world of comics, as well as several other favorite targets, such as politics and religion. Teenage me loved the sex and violence that characterized Howard Chakin’s American Flagg. There was one time, during a final exam, I finished the test early and was required to sit quietly at my desk, while other students still worked, taking full advantage of their allotted time. Fortunately, anticipating this very situation, I had brought comics with me. One of these comics happened to be the finale of Matt Wagner’s first Mage series. I got so caught up in it, I forgot where I was and, at the end, almost jumped out of my seat and cheered for the hero’s inevitable victory. Like any art form, be it music or movies, comics have a way of creating an emotional response that can just sweep one along.

College interrupted my love affair with comics as certain other interests took their place. Not to mention that I wasn’t exactly rolling in money. It was reignited when I transferred out to a California school, where I didn’t know many people. Having more freetime, without overwhelming social obligations, I indulged in one of my favorite pastimes, wandering through libraries. It turned out that my university’s library had a graphic novels section, I happened upon it when I had a 2 hour break between classes. Browsing the stacks, I found a copy of Alan Moore’s The Watchmen and sat down to read it. I could not put it down. I skipped my class and burned through it in 3 hours and got up unsteadily when I was done. That book rocked my frickin’ world. Taking an almost equal role during that time period is Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.

Somewhere in that time period I also discovered underground comix. I could say a few words here and there about the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Cherry Poptart and Fritz the Cat, but the two main influences to come out of this genre are Robert Crumb and Rick Griffin.

I still read comics. The titles I currently follow are (in no particular order) Ms. Marvel, Lazarus, East of West, Walking Dead, Wildstorm, Saga, The Injection, Scarlet to name a few. At the height of my comic addiction, I was probably buying 40-50 titles a month. I own complete, or nearly complete, sets of The Boys, Preacher (Love Garth Ennis), an entire box of Batmans, a bunch of special events, like Blackest Night, Flash Point, Infinite Crisis, etc. To appease my wife, who would often look in horror at my exponentially growing collection, I eliminated roughly a third of my comics, meaning I currently only have 2,000 to 2,500 comics left. Don’t worry; I’m already building it back up again. Don’t let my wife know.

I’ve made this too long already. I wanted to talk specifically about comic artists that I love, that have influenced my work, but I think I’ll move that to another post. Given the internet’s love of top 10 lists, I’m going to make a list of MY top 10 favorite comic book artists for next week’s blog post.