Monday, June 30, 2014

Shrimp Scampi

Mrs. BA and I were just saying earlier this month that we would like to introduce shrimp in the Brave Astronaut menu cycle. From the Pioneer Woman.

Shrimp Scampi
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 10 Minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Servings: 6

Ingredients
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter 
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
  • 1/2 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced 
  • 4 cloves Garlic Cloves, Minced Or Pressed 
  • 1 pound Large Shrimp, Peeled And Deveined 
  • 1/2 cup White Wine 
  • 2 whole Lemons 
  • 4 dashes Hot Sauce (I Used Tabasco; More To Taste) 
  • Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste 
  • 8 ounces, weight Angel Hair Pasta 
  • Chopped Fresh Basil To Taste 
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste 
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese 

Preparation
Boil water for pasta; have it ready.

Heat olive oil and melt butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for two or three minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add shrimp, then stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Squeeze in lemon juice. Add wine, butter, salt and pepper, and hot sauce. Stir and reduce heat to low.

Throw angel hair pasta into the boiling water. Cook until just done/al dente. Drain, reserving a cup or two of the pasta water.

Remove skillet from heat. Add pasta and toss, adding a splash of pasta water if it needs to be thinned. Taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper if needed.

Top with grated Parmesan and minced parsley and serve immediately.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Birthday to Brave Astronaut's Dad!

Next week the Brave Astronaut clan will travel to New York to celebrate my father's 85th birthday.  He turns that milestone on July 4th - but as I have long said, it didn't mean anything to him, as he was born in France.  But once he moved here, when he was 7, he was given a really cool birthday for the rest of his life.

There is to be a big blowout party and perhaps there will be some sightseeing in the city this year.  And the opportunity to use some of these quintessential New York terms (from BuzzFeed).
  1. Hot Garbage: 1. a distinctive scent exclusive to NYC, particularly in the months of July and August. 2. an odor that can be compared only to the recesses of hell or a heaping bowlful of sewage 
  2. Deli/Bodega/Corner Store: 1. terms used interchangeably for the store at which you can buy pretty much everything you need ever. 2. place you will usually find an adorable cat who is also sassy and cool 
  3. Plain Slice: 1. a piece of cheese pizza. 2. a form of miracle sustenance that works both as a respectable lunch and dinner as well as satisfying drunk food FOR A DOLLAR omg 
  4. Brick: 1. really fucking cold. 2. November through March 
  5. …But It’s the Law! 1. used most often in cabs that refuse to take you from one borough to another. 2. what you will be yelling in a drunken haze, just outside the Williamsburg Bridge, with a slab of pizza dangling out of your mouth at 4 a.m. when the cabbie doesn’t give a shit 
  6. Train: 1. general term for the NYC subway. 2. form of transportation in which an empty car during rush hour is a clue you are about to encounter the most horrifying stench and/or sight of all your years 
  7. Waterbug: 1. a giant, terrifying cockroach; palmetto bug. 2. proof that the devil is real and it walks (sometimes flies) among us
  8. Hero: 1. a sandwich commonly/erroneously referred to as a “sub” in other parts of the country. 2. that dude who sees you racing through the turnstile and holds the train doors open for you even though everyone else on the train is all like, “WTF, shithead, we have somewhere to be” and you’re like, “Wutevs, so do I, assholes” 
  9. Nutcracker: 1. a delightful homemade alcoholic beverage typically sold on trains or in parks out of a suspicious cooler or backpack. 2. responsible for your blackout and having your every possession stolen after you pass out on the train ride home 
  10. Bridge-and-Tunnel Crowd: 1. fake-ID-toting youngsters from Long Island and New Jersey drowned in hair gel, teetering on 5-inch heels, clubbing and doing J├Ągerbombs yolo-style. 2. the worst humans ever (but actually sort of fun to party with if you’re super wasted) 
  11. Houston Street: 1. a pretty cool street on which to hang downtown. 2. the pronunciation of which is the No. 1 way to spot a tourist or newcomer to the city 
  12. Schmear: 1. a coating of cream cheese (i.e., on a bagel). 2. what you’d be wise to ask for at Russ & Daughters, Hot Bialys, etc. 
  13. The City: 1. used by outer-borough folk to describe the borough of Manhattan. 2. impossible to travel to from an outer borough on the weekends (aka when every train you need is down and/or running on another train’s line and/or running as a “shuttle” for approximately five stops) 
  14. Magnolia Bakery: 1. place with nice enough but overrated cupcakes made famous by Sex and the City. 2. where you will find every last tourist pretending to enjoy the best dessert of their entire life before their next stop at Times Square
  15. Times Square: 1. literally hell. 2. where otherwise normal-functioning humans curiously forget that legs can be utilized for movement purposes

Monday, June 23, 2014

Salted Caramel Cookie Butter Bark

What is the Cookie Butter that you speak of?  I must have some, NOW!  Here's a whole host of recipes from BuzzFeed and one in particular from Wine and Glue.

Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Bark

Ingredients
  • 3 cups of chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate), divided 
  • 1 cup of Cookie Butter 
  • 1 cup of powdered sugar 
  • 2 TBSPs butter, softened 
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt 
Preparation
  1. Line a pan with wax paper. 
  2. Melt 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate and spread it thinly and evenly over the wax paper. Stick it in the freezer for a half hour. 
  3. While that’s in the freezer, combine the cookie butter, powdered sugar, and butter. 
  4. Pull the chocolate out of the freezer, spread the cookie butter mixture over the frozen chocolate. (I used my fingers, so much easier!!) 
  5. At this point you could throw it in the freezer again, but I didn’t. Melt the remaining chocolate and spread it evenly over the cookie butter mixture carefully so as to make a smooth layer without mixing in the cookie butter mixture. 
  6. Top with the salt, you may not need the full 1 tsp. 
  7. Stick the whole thing in the freezer again. I let mine freeze overnight and it broke up really nicely.

Friday, June 20, 2014

67 Movies Men Will Always Watch

As most of you know, dear readers, Friday is Pizza / Movie night at the Launchpad.  Here's a list I found on BuzzFeed.  My comments in italics.
  1. Die Hard – “Come out to the coast, we’ll get together, have a few laughs…” I just had this conversation with the lunch bunch the other day - does this qualify as a Christmas movie?  Is it ok to watch it any other time it's on - as I will.
  2. Rudy – “No one, and I mean no one, comes into our house and pushes us around.” A movie I haven't actually seen all the way through.
  3. Tombstone – “I’m your huckleberry” Also, not fully seen. 
  4. Slap Shot – “Oh this young man has had a very trying rookie season, with the litigation, the notoriety, his subsequent deportation to Canada and that country’s refusal to accept him, well, I guess that’s more than most 21-year-olds can handle… Ogie Ogilthorpe!” One of my mother's favorite movies and one I own on DVD.
  5. Terminator – “Come with me if you want to live.” Ah-nald at his early best.
  6. Gladiator – “Win the crowd and win your freedom.” This movie never interested me
  7. First Blood – “Strictly speaking, he slipped up. You’re lucky to be breathing.” For the Stallone genre - I'll stick with Rocky.
  8. Major League – “JUST a bit outside.” "That ball wouldn't have been out of most parks . . . Yeah, name one . . . Yellowstone."  It may be a few more years before LBA can watch this movie.
  9. Blazing Saddles – “That’s HEDLEY!” This movie is always best watched on "real TV" - edited for television takes too much away.
  10. Happy Gilmore – “You’re gonna die, clown!” I've seen this only a few times and in bits and pieces.
  11. Animal House – “Was is over when the Germans bombed Pearl Habor?” Mrs. BA reminds people she saw this movie at a young age . . . with her mother.
  12. Commando – “You’re a funny guy Sully, I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.” More Ah-nold.
  13. Field of Dreams – “This is my corn. You people are guests in my corn.” Always
  14. Road House – “I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.” At the bottom of my list of Swayze movies.
  15. Better Off Dead – “Two dollars!” Considering I will watch Demi Moore read from the phone book, this is watched often.
  16. Step Brothers – “Your voice is like a combination of Fergie and Jesus.” Not the strongest of the Will Ferrell movies
  17. Predator – “I ain’t got time to bleed.” Nah
  18. Revenge of the Nerds – “What the fuck’s a frush?” Early and Awesome Anthony Edwards!
  19. Big Trouble in Little China – “A six demon bag. Sensational. What’s in it, Egg?” One member of the lunch bunch mentioned this movie specifically as one he will always stop and watch.
  20. Fight Club – “His name was Robert Paulson.” Never seen it.
  21. Enter the Dragon – “My style? You can call it the art of fighting without fighting.” Ditto.
  22. Bull Durham - “This son of a bitch is throwing a two-hit shutout. He’s shaking me off. You believe that shit? Charlie, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.” It's a baseball movie that moves into a romantic movie - but always worth watching.  And LBA has many years before this one is shown to him.
  23. King Pin – “If he strikes, he’s the 1979 Odor-Eaters Champion.” You have to love (and watch) any and all bowling movies.
  24. Stripes – “Any of you guys call me Francis, and I’ll kill you.” Again, one I own but will watch when it's on - but on "real TV"
  25. Billy Madison – “Knibb High football rules!” No.
  26. Back to School – “Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until someone passes out and then bring one every ten minutes.” What other movie features a Kurt Vonnegut cameo? Classic!
  27. Midnight Run – “Is this moron number one? Put moron number two on the phone.” One of my and Mrs. BA's favorites.  It's currently on the DVR list
  28. Full Metal Jacket - “If I’m gonna get my balls blow off for a word, my word is ‘poontang’.” saw it in the theater and only bits and pieces since then.
  29. High Plains Drifter – “You’re going to look pretty silly with that knife sticking out of your ass.” Classic Eastwood, but never really on my radar.
  30. Rollerball (1975) – “The game was created to demonstrate the futility of the individual effort.” Another "sports" movie - but not one I'm focused on.
  31. This is Spinal Tap - “It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.” The whole Christopher Guest genre is owned by me and we will watch any and all of them when they're on.
  32. True Romance – “I don’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out. All I got is fuckin’ Floyd.” Never seen it.
  33. Kalifornia – “Early don’t eat breakfast. He thinks it’s a conspiracy put together by the cereal people.” Ditto
  34. Dodgeball – “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” Like many others on the list, I'll watch, but I want it unedited.
  35. Snatch – “In the quiet words of the Virgin Mary…come again?” No
  36. Tommy Boy – “Oh, that’s gonna leave a mark!” No
  37. Dogma – “No wonder he saw Jesus. Homey’s rockin’ the ganj.” No
  38. Fletch – “You using the whole fist, Doc?” I'll have a steak sandwich, and a steak sandwich."
  39. Pulp Fiction – “You’re going to give her an injection of adrenaline directly to her heart. But she’s got, uh, breastplate…” Another one I have never seen all the way through.
  40. Caddy Shack – “I’d keep playing. I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for awhile.” "You'll get nothing and like it!"  Always watchable.
  41. Old School – “We’re going streaking!” seen it once and that was enough
  42. Rocky III – “My prediction? Pain!” 
  43. Rocky IV – “He is not human, he is a piece of iron.” My earlier comments about Stallone do not necessarily transfer to the sequels.
  44. Godfather I – “Luca Brasi held a gun to his head, and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.”
  45. Godfather II – “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.” I can finally say that I have seen the Godfather all the way through now.
  46. Youngblood – “You can learn to punch in the barn, but you gotta learn to survive on the ice.” More hockey movies and always worth a look.
  47. Clerks – “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” Another I haven't seen fully.
  48. Star Wars – “You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.”
  49. The Empire Strikes Back – “The force is with you, young Skywalker, but you are not a Jedi yet.” 
  50. Return of the Jedi – “Your thoughts betray you, Father. I feel the good in you, the conflict.” Favorites of the entire Brave Astronaut clan and the only recognized movies in the canon.
  51. The Matrix – “There is no spoon.” I've seen it - it's not a "stop and watch" movie for me.
  52. Zoolander – “Mugatu is so hot right now he could take a crap, wrap it in tinfoil, put a couple of fish hooks on it and sell it to Queen Elizabeth as earrings.” Bits and pieces but not the whole thing.
  53. Mad Max – “The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It’d take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you could hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go.” Seen it once, it doesn't come on with any regularity.
  54. Scarface – “Every day above ground is a good day.” Awesome Pacino. 
  55. Goodfellas – “…but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? Awesome Pesci 
  56. Raiders of the Lost Ark – “You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together, I’ve got nothing better to do.” Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?
  57. The Big Lebowski – “That rug really tied the room together.”
  58. Coming to America - “Give a hand to my band, Sexual Chocolate.” The "surprise" at the end is lost once you've seen it all the way through. But John Amos is great in this, too
  59. Office Space - “The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.” For a cubicle dweller, I should think more of this movie, but I don't.
  60. Monty Python and The Holy Grail - “What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?” "African or European? . . . I don't kn- ahhhhhh!"
  61. Shawshank Redemption - “If I hear so much as a mouse fart in here the rest of the night I swear by God and sonny Jesus you will all visit the infirmary.” Also mentioned by the lunch bunch - I will always watch this one, too.
  62. Pineapple Express - “You just got killed by a Daewoo Lanos, motherfucker!” Haven't seen this.
  63. Vacation - “We watch his program… We buy his toys, we go to his movies… he owes us. Doesn’t he owe us, huh? He owes the Griswolds, right? Fucking-A right he owes us!” "Park's closed folks - moose out front should have told you."
  64. The Princess Bride - “Inconceivable!” Another one that is popular with LBA and SoBA
  65. Wayne’s World - “Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he put on a dress and played a girl bunny?” I've seen it once, that was good.
  66. Trading Places - “Nenge? Nenge Mboko? It is me, Lionel Joseph!” "Feeling Good Billy Ray!"
  67. The Blues Brothers - “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.” It's such irreverent good fun!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

I've posted about banana bread before, as well as several other varieties of cakes using bananas.  This one combines bananas with chocolate.  What could be bad about this?  From Smitten Kitchen.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Ingredients
  • 3 medium-to-large very ripe bananas 
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) butter, melted 
  • 3/4 cup (145 grams) brown sugar (I use dark here; either light or dark work)
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional; I skip it) 
  • 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder 
  • 1 cup (about 6 ounces or 170 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips 

Preparation
Heat your oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan, or spray it with a nonstick baking spray.

Mash bananas in the bottom of a large bowl. (You’ll have a little over 1 cup mashed banana total.) Whisk in melted butter, then brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Place baking soda, salt, cinnamon (if using), flour and cocoa powder in a sifter or fine-mesh strainer and sift over wet ingredients. (My cocoa is almost always lumpy, so this is essential for me.) Stir dry and wet ingredients with a spoon until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks or chips.

Pour into prepared pan and bake 55 to 65 minutes, until a tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out batter-free. (A melted chocolate chip smear is expected, however.) Cool in pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it out onto a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The banana bread will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature. I keep mine wrapped in foil. It goes without saying that it has never actually lasted that long.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Popcorn at the Movies

As my faithful readers know, Fridays are Pizza / Movie nights at the Launchpad.  Nine times out of ten, after gorging on pizza, both LBA and SoBA follow up with a request for popcorn.  They are, evidently, according to Smithsonian Magazine - doing what has become natural.  From kottke.

Why Do We Eat Popcorn at the Movies?
The movie theater's most popular concession wasn't always associated with the movies - in fact, it used to be explicitly banned
By Natasha Geiling
smithsonian.com
October 3, 2013
Movie theater popcorn is a concession stand staple whose scent has spawned marketing ploys and copycat recipes, but movie theaters haven’t always been saturated with the tempting smell of salt and butter. The history of popcorn is vast, and it intersects with movies in the relatively recent past–a symbiosis of taste and place created to save the fledgling movie theater industry from near collapse during the Great Depression . . .

After popcorn made its way to the eastern part of North America, it spread rapidly. Eaters found the act of popping corn wildly entertaining, and by 1848, popcorn, the snack food, was prevalent enough to be included in the Dictionary of Americanisms. Popcorn had literally exploded onto the scene and was available everywhere–especially at entertainment sites like circuses and fairs. In fact, there was really only one entertainment site where the snack was absent: the theaters.

One reason for popcorn’s increasing popularity was its mobility: in 1885, the first steam-powered popcorn maker hit the streets, invented by Charles Cretor. The mobile nature of the machine made it the perfect production machine for serving patrons attending outdoor sporting events, or circuses and fairs. Not only was popcorn mobile, but it could be mass-produced without a kitchen, an advantage that another crunchy snack–the potato chip–lacked (the earliest potato chips were made in small batches in kitchens, not ideal for mass snack appeal). Another reason for its dominance over other snacks was its appealing aroma when popped, something that street vendors used to their advantage when selling popcorn. Still, movie theaters wouldn’t allow the popular street snack into their auditoriums.

“Movie theaters wanted nothing to do with popcorn,” says Andrew Smith, author of Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn, “because they were trying to duplicate what was done in real theaters. They had beautiful carpets and rugs and didn’t want popcorn being ground into it.” Movie theaters were trying to appeal to a highbrow clientele, and didn’t want to deal with the distracting trash of concessions–or the distracting noise that snacking during a film would create.

When films added sound in 1927, the movie theater industry opened itself up to a much wider clientele, since literacy was no longer required to attend films (the titles used early silent films restricted their audience). By 1930, attendance to movie theaters had reached 90 million per week. Such a huge patronage created larger possibilities for profits–especially since the sound pictures now muffled snacks–but movie theater owners were still hesitant to bring snacks inside of their theaters.

The Great Depression presented an excellent opportunity for both movies and popcorn. Looking for a cheap diversion, audiences flocked to the movies. And at 5 to 10 cents a bag, popcorn was a luxury that most people were able to afford. Popcorn kernels themselves were a cheap investment for purveyors, and a $10 bag could last for years. If those inside the theaters couldn’t see the financial lure of popcorn, enterprising street vendors didn’t miss a beat: they bought their own popping machines and sold popcorn outside the theaters to moviegoers before they entered the theater. As Smith explains, early movie theaters literally had signs hung outside their coatrooms, requesting that patrons check their popcorn with their coats. Popcorn, it seems, was the original clandestine movie snack. . . .

Popcorn wasn’t widely eaten in homes, mostly due to how difficult it was to make: consumers needed a popper, oil, butter, salt and other ingredients to replicate their favorite movie theater snack at home. To ease this burden, one commercial product, EZ Pop, marketed itself as an all inclusive popcorn maker–simply move the container over a heat source, and the popcorn pops, completely flavored. After EZ Pop came Jiffy Pop, a famous at-home popcorn product that used the same “all-in-one” philosophy. By making popcorn an easy-to-make snack, commercial popcorn products were able to gain a foothold in the home. In the 1970s, microwave ovens become increasingly common in homes, creating another boom for popcorn: now, families can enjoy popcorn in minutes simply by pressing a button.

As popcorn re-entered the home, traditional associations of popcorn and movies, or popcorn and entertainment, persisted. Nordmende, a German electronics company, even used popcorn to advertise its microwave, purporting it to be a “sponsor of the midweek movie.”. . .

Popcorn is just as economically important to the modern movie theater as it was to movie theaters of old. Patrons often complain about the high prices of movie concessions, but there’s an economic basis for this: popcorn, cheap to make and easy to mark-up, is the primary profit maker for movie theaters. Movie theaters make an estimated 85 percent profit off of concession sales, and those sales constitute 46 percent of movie theater’s overall profits. . . ."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Meatball Sliders

Both LBA and SoBA are big fans of the Meatball Sub (unfortunately some times if comes from Subway - but I'm working on that).  They also love their Nana's meatballs - who will hopefully be back on her feet soon, making meatballs for all - she recently had her knee replaced but is definitely on the mend.

Here's a recipe that I spotted a while back on making Meatball Sliders at home - I could easily do this.  From Flavor Mosaic.

Meatball Biscuit Sliders
Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 25 mins
Total time 40 mins

Ingredients
  • 1 package Pillsbury refrigerated Grands biscuits 
  • 1 pound lean ground beef 
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage 
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning 
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional or adjust to taste) 
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (I like lots of pepper) 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs 
  • 1 cup of your favorite marinara sauce 
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Prepare biscuits according to package directions. Set aside. 
  3. Place the ground beef and Italian sausage into a mixing bowl, and season with onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, black pepper and Worcestershire sauce; mix well. Add 2 eggs, Parmesan cheese, and seasoned bread crumbs. Mix until evenly blended. Then form into 1-1/2 inch meatballs, and place onto a baking sheet. 
  4. Bake in the preheated oven at 400 degrees until no longer pink in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. 
  5. Place one meatball on top of the bottom half of one biscuit. Spoon about one or two teaspoons of marinara sauce on top of each meatball. Sprinkle with a little shredded mozzarella cheese. Return the meatballs with the bottom half of the biscuits to the oven for about 5 minutes to melt the cheese. Top with the other half of the biscuit and serve.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Who You Gonna Call?

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Ghostbusters, counted by BuzzFeed (and the Brave Astronaut, and LBA, and SoBA, and maybe even Mrs. BA) as the greatest movie ever.  "From Bill Murray’s flawless strut to the cameo by Random ConEd Guy, it’s the best movie in the history of everything."

1.  It’s the ultimate buddy movie. Ghostbusters works, not because of its paranormal laser light show, but because of the personal interactions behind them. And most of those exchanges take the form of a giant Slor friendship.

It’s not as if Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) just invented some neon vacuum cleaners for the hell of it. They lost their jobs, so they went into business together. They didn’t have the capital to pull it off, so Ray generously agreed to a third mortgage. When business boomed, they called upon Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), who became an integral part of the team. When Pete’s client and crush, Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) turned into a literal dog, they risked their lives to save her, the city and the world in one fell swoop.

The Ghostbusters actually like each other. I mean, check out Ray’s face after Peter rewards Egon with a candy bar. Even when they’re arguing, they sound like (Marx) brothers, rather than the Four Stooges.

2. Ecto-1 is the most gorgeous scrapheap imaginable. You can have your DeLorean. Give me the Ectomobile any day.

3. Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman is perfection. Saying that Bill Freakin’ Murray is good in a movie doesn’t really mean anything; that’s often a given, even if the movie itself isn’t a winner. But his Peter Venkman is everything we like about Murray: fearless, hilarious, impulsive, incorrigible, irreverent and charming as hell.

Murray’s Ghostbusters performance isn’t just amusing; it’s a comedy tutorial. That’s how you deliver a joke. That’s how you eye-roll. That’s how you deadpan. That’s how you support other characters in a scene. That’s how you commit to a moment, a premise and an entire movie.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association agreed to an extent, rewarding Murray with a Golden Globe nomination for his performance.

Sure, there are other ways to do comedy, but there’s a reason subsequent actors and comedians consider Murray a major inspiration. If you don’t enjoy him in Ghostbusters, I’m not convinced joy is an experience for you.

4. If normal movie quotability were the size of a Twinkie, this one would be a Twinkie 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds. Before Mean Girls, Anchorman  or Wayne’s World, Ghostbusters was the go-to for one-liner gold, and it might have the best staying power of the bunch.

One of the reasons the script is so tight: every line pushes the plot forward, makes the audience laugh, or achieves both agendas. There are no wasted words, and most of those words are hilarious.
Say them with me now:
  • “I collect spores, molds and fungus.”
  • “He slimed me.”
  • “Nice shootin’, Tex!”
  • “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!”
  • “There is no Dana, only Zuul.”
  • “Yes, it’s true; this man has no dick.”
  • “Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”
  • “When someone asks you if you’re a god, you say, ‘Yes!’”
And that’s just the tip of the giant Twinkie. Rule of thumb: Is it a line from Ghostbusters? It’s probably quotable.

5. Ivan Reitman gets everything right, man. Ivan Reitman’s directorial crowning achievement is beautifully shot, New York Public Library scaffolding notwithstanding. Characters, relationships and conflict ring true. Every scene serves a purpose, and nothing feels like filler. Reitman culled career-making performances from a cast teeming with talent.

For a movie about some guys who conveniently invent ways to contain ghosts on the first try, Ghostbusters has a natural progression that feels earned. Referring to this on the DVD commentary track as the “domino theory of reality,” Reitman adds, “As long as you took the [audience] step by step through a series of credible choices, you could start to believe this sort of stuff could happen.”

He also found the perfect balance of funny and scary, especially for a film that wound up with a PG rating. Any movie can have a high jokes-per-minute ratio, but Ghostbusters delivers on quantity and quality; you won’t find a movie that’s funnier from start to finish, regardless of MPAA rating.

6. It set the modern comedy standard for box office success. With a budget of about $31 million, Ghostbusters scared up almost $239 million at the domestic box office, making it the highest-grossing movie comedy of all time. It held that title for seven years, until Home Alone surpassed it in 1991.

However, when adjusted for inflation, Ghostbusters made the modern equivalent of more than $563 million. That not only beats Home Alone, but also reclaims the title as the top domestic, live-action comedy — and, other than Shrek 2, the top domestic movie comedy, period.

7. This is why it was nominated for Best Musical Or Comedy at the Golden Globes. Or maybe it was for the comedy part. Either way, Romancing the Stone had no business winning that year.

8. It’s legit scary. Of course you’re not so scared in 2014, especially now that you’ve seen the movie about 3,000 times. And, even on a first viewing, while Venkman was terrified about his first encounter with Slimer, your screams might have been of the laughter variety.

But admit it: The first time you saw the shimmering librarian turn into a skeletal poltergeist, you jumped out of your seat.

When Dana opened her fridge to reveal a dog that was not cute, the noise you made upon seeing it wasn’t “aww,” unless it was followed by an expletive.

And, later, when claws tore through Dana’s chair to drag her into her haunted kitchen, you freaked the eff out, because you are a goddamned human being.

9. It’s romantic. Ghostbusters might not be Casablanca, but there’s real chemistry between Dana and Peter in one of the world’s most romantic cities.

As is the case with more traditional rom-coms, early encounters don’t go so well, as Pete’s attempts to swoop in for the quick kill prompt an unimpressed Dana to liken him to a “game show host.” When they reunite at Lincoln Center, he offers actual research with a more organic charm; her stance softens accordingly.

When Dana-as-Zuul attempts to seduce Peter, he’s tempted. And while he fires off joke after joke as “Ol’ Zuuly” straddles and kisses him, his concern eventually overrules his libido. When he implores a levitating Dana to “Please come down,” there’s a sadness to it, and for the first time, the audience might believe Pete sees Dana as more than a conquest.

Also, he still fights for her when she’s a demonic dog. Beat that, Bogey.

10. It’s also a love letter to New York City. Yes, part of the movie was filmed in Los Angeles, but the on-screen sensibility is quintessentially NYC.

In the decade before Ghostbusters, movies often depicted The Big Apple through hyperbole. If it wasn’t a pit of violence (Death Wish, Taxi Driver, The Warriors, Escape from New York, and sadly more), it was a millionaire’s playground (Arthur).

For a movie full of animated ghosts, Ghostbusters is closer to the real New York, home to colorful characters who walk the streets, cheer our heroes and perhaps ignore a terror-dog attack while eating a fancy dinner. (It’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we’re in the middle of something, naw’fense.) New Yorkers also can relate to the mouth of Peter, the heart of Ray, the brain of Egon, the brutal honesty of Winston, and the spine of Dana. As Reitman says on the DVD commentary track, the movie “really captures the spirit and feel of the city.”

To put it another way, nobody steps on a church in our town.

11. Ray Stantz’s enthusiasm for the Ghostbusters is matched only by the man who plays him. Though many deserve credit for their contributions to the greatest movie of all time, perhaps none is worthier than Dan Aykroyd.

It goes beyond playing the goofy yet lovable optimist Ray Stantz. Although there’d been other movies and TV shows that explored the concept of ghost-hunters, Aykroyd invented the ones we know best and love the most. His 40-page treatment piqued the interest of Ramis and Reitman, who both joined him in Martha’s Vineyard in May 1983 to transform it into the movie it became.

Each added something crucial to the project, but it’s Aykroyd who remains the heart of the Ghostbusters, on and off the screen. Even moviegoers who don’t want to see another Ghostbusters sequel have to admire his limitless passion for the project. After all, it’s his baby.

12. Best. Villains. Ever. Long before superhero movies tried to shoehorn every villain into a storyline, Ghostbusters proved antagonism could come from anywhere, whether the source be a pretentious Columbia dean, a snooty hotel manager, a boozy green party animal, a nasal-spray aficionado, an interdimensional deity taking the form of a Serbian supermodel, or a church-stomping marshmallow man.

But perhaps the most ruthless, indefatigable villain is Dickless himself, EPA rep Walter Peck, inhabited with a nefarious glee by William Atherton. Forget for a moment that Peck is completely justified in his initial concern over the environmental effects of the city’s new nuclear enterprise. He’s slanderous, tactless and every bit as intimidating as Peter Venkman. As Ghostbusters associate producer Joe Medjuk notes on the DVD commentary track, Pete “could walk all over so many people if they weren’t tough.”

Haters gonna hate, but, as Pete would say, “the kids love us.”

13. Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters music video is full of neon, cameos and mirth. Remember when everyone’s homes were accented in neon? It was the ’80s, after all. Hell, even RPJ’s mic is all aglow, looking like a Pictionary ice cream cone.

The video also includes retroactively fascinating cameos by, among others, Chevy Chase (who had to have felt left out); John Candy (who turned down Rick Moranis’ part); Jeffrey Tambor (long before The Larry Sanders Show and Arrested Development); Sen. Al Franken (who may or may not be doing a Mick Jagger impression); Carly Simon (sure!); and, at the 34-second mark, three children who, in the movie’s climactic scene, convince Peter Venkman to follow his heart. Just kidding! We have no idea who they are.



14. Elmer Bernstein’s main title theme is even better than Ray Parker Jr.’s song. As great as the Ray Parker Jr. song is, it’s like the “Monster Mash” in that you’re kind of a weirdo if you’re playing it on a date that isn’t Oct. 31. If you want the sound of Ghostbusters on a day when no one is in costume, the best and most familiar song from Elmer Bernstein’s score should do the trick. It exudes the film’s whimsy and sophistication. Plus, y’know, the notes sound good and stuff. Do yourself a favor: Buy this track, slap it on your mp3 player of choice and play it while strolling around New York City. If this doesn’t make you feel like you’re in the movie, well, you’re more realistic than I am, but I’m not going to apologize.


15. The flowers are still standing!

16. Among comedy icons, Harold Ramis was a god. Harold Ramis never seemed to mind playing the straight man. As long as a bit was getting laughs, he was happy. But damn it if I didn’t laugh every time Egon Spengler opened his mouth in Ghostbusters.

Co-writing and co-starring in the film would have been career highlights unto themselves. While Ramis had more than a respectable career in front of the lens, his behind-the-scenes comedy credits might be the most impressive of his generation. As a writer and/or director, Ramis made major contributions to Animal House, Stripes, Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day and Analyze This, among others.

When he died in February, the mourning wasn’t limited to his work. Testimonials from friends, family, celebrities and fans recalled a man who was even more affable and gracious than he was talented.

The loss still stings. But celebrating Ramis’ phenomenal work is one way to keep his memory and legacy alive.

17. Slimer becomes so much cooler when you realize he’s a tribute to John Belushi. Before John Belushi died in 1982, Aykroyd envisioned his fellow Blues Brother in the role of Peter Venkman. As a tribute, Aykroyd developed a character inspired by his close friend.

“Danny Aykroyd used to always refer to Slimer as the ghost of John Belushi,” Reitman says on the DVD commentary track. “He’s just a party guy looking to have a good time.” Yes, this character was destructive and a nuisance at times, but audiences loved him.

The Class 5 Full-Roaming Vapor wouldn’t receive the moniker of “Slimer” until a cartoon spinoff — to be addressed later in this article — made him an ally, eventually awarding him top billing. For that stretch in the cultural zeitgeist, it was all Ecto Cooler everything.

18. Some of the special effects are actually pretty great. The intentional comedy in Ghostbusters transcends 30 years, but, if we’re being honest, some of the computer-generated visuals earn laughs for the wrong reasons. The proton packs’ streams might as well be crayon on celluloid. When fragments of Dana’s rooftop plummet more than 20 stories, they bounce like balloons, because gravity is an optional thing. Let’s just say Industrial Light & Magic greatly benefited from the digital revolution.

Thankfully, Ghostbusters has a more than a few saving graces in the special-effects department; most of them just happen to be analog. Puppetry, especially the examples showcased in the behind-the-scenes video above, is a vast improvement over early-’80s CGI. In addition, simple magic tricks are perfectly executed to levitate Dana, haphazardly redistribute the library’s card catalog, and make books float between shelves.

Also, when that rooftop explodes, even if that doesn’t look real, it looks incredible.

19. Dana Barrett is the Gatekeeper of badassery. Sigourney Weaver’s Dana Barrett is an independent spirit, an accomplished cellist, and the perfect foil for Peter, as she’s the only one capable of keeping him in line — no small feat.

Despite asking for the Ghostbusters’ help, there’s nothing meek about Dana. She seems perfectly content with her life other than the whole haunted fridge thing. We might be hoping for Pete to win her over, but mostly we’re rooting for her to be OK, regardless of romantic outcome. Thanks to Weaver and the script, she’s believable, likable, smart and three-dimensional.

She also happens to rock the hell out of a red dress. Zuul’s summer collection was so fashion-forward in 1984.

On the DVD commentary track, Reitman’s myriad raves about Weaver’s performance include the way she helped elevate Murray’s acting in the process.

20. It's eminently rewatchable. Oh, you said you had afternoon errands or intentions to go to bed at a reasonable hour? You made a mistake flipping through the channels, because you just heard Dean Yeager inform Ray and Pete that the Board of Regents terminated their grant. It appears that you, like our heroes, must abandon whatever plans had been in play.

21. Nerds rule! Any movie can have the fittest alphas saving the world from certain destruction, but give me the Ghostbusters over the cast of The Expendables any day of the week, i.e. Ghostbusters before bros, buster.

There aren’t enough steroids in the world that would save Jersey Shore fist-pumpers without the help of the guys they probably beat up in middle school.

Back off, man — they’re scientists.

22. Ernie Hudson makes the most of his 2 minutes’ worth of lines. I never would have guessed that if you spliced together all of Winston Zeddemore’s lines in the first Ghostbusters movie, they’d amount to just under 2 minutes. (He obviously has more screen time than that, but in terms of the script, that’s it.)

Considering the star power of Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis at the time, I shouldn’t be too surprised. But why does it still shock me? Because Ernie Hudson delivers the hell out of every last one of his lines, giving them resonance.

As long as there’s a steady paycheck in it for Winston, he’ll believe anything you say (even if it’s not worth the $11,500 per year). He’s, of course, seen shit that’ll make you turn white.

But in a movie full of highlights, the Judgment Day conversation Winston has with Ray is one of the film’s finest moments. Almost none of the scene is played for laughs, and if Hudson were any less of an actor, it would fall flat. Instead, it’s mesmerizing, thanks to Hudson’s heavy lifting.

23. Rick Moranis’ comedy chops? Yes, have some. When it comes to Rick Moranis as Louis Tully and The Keymaster, the answer is, “Yes, have some.”

A natural scene-stealer who always fully commits to his roles, Moranis wrote most, if not all, of his complicated, tax-oriented monologue for the party at Louis’ apartment. Locking oneself out of an apartment shouldn’t be that funny, let alone twice, yet we laugh both times at the way Moranis pulls off the most basic physical comedy. And while we see an entirely new side of Louis through The Keymaster, both versions love to tell long, detailed stories.



24. A behind-the-scenes photo reveals a more approachable Mr. Stay Puft. Doesn’t look so tough now, does he?

In fairness to characters in the movie, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man probably looked like an adorable Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float until he proved to pose threats to both Midtown architecture and the continued existence of humanity.

25. Janine Melnitz is our spirit animal when it comes to work. When nothing’s going on, we’re given busywork, because they’re paying us for this stuff. But when things actually get busy, good luck asking for a break. In her breakout role, Annie Potts reminds us we’ve quit better jobs than this.

But, deep down, we still care about the success of the company and our coworkers — at least one of them.

26. Let’s face it: Random Con Ed Guy and Hero Cop Who Calls Peck a “Pencil Neck” make the whole movie. As a 5-year-old, I’d never had feelings one way or the other about a power company, but when Random ConEd Guy was wary about shutting down the Ghostbusters’ power grid, I felt like turning on all the lights and electrical appliances as a show of support. When he said, “Oh, shit,” he spoke for us all.

And then there’s Hero Cop, who won’t be bossed around by anyone. Yes, he’s got a job to do, and sure, his delivery is a bit stilted (Reitman suspected the actor might have been a cop in real life), but he’ll be damned if he takes orders from some “pencil neck.”

27. Hold up, is that … Ron Jeremy? Most people know Ghostbusters has its share of celebrity cameos (Larry King, Joe Franklin and Casey Kasem, among others). And everyone cheers when a pre-Family Matters Reginald VelJohnson frees the Ghostbusters from jail. But if you blink, you might miss it when adult-film star Ron Jeremy expresses his concern over paranormal activity and/or the availability of a fluffer.

Clearly, he’s wearing jeans, but the length and placement of that police barrier beg a few questions.

28. Deleted scenes were best left deleted. That’s a compliment. I know movie fans get excited over deleted scenes, but there’s usually a reason they wind up on the cutting room floor (or, these days, in a computer’s recycling bin). After all, if they’re that good, they’d be in the movie. Thankfully, with Ghostbusters, Reitman and his editors knew what they were doing.

29. It spawned a solid cartoon spinoff, “The Real Ghostbusters.” OK, let’s address the gorilla in the room: There was that other cartoon called Ghostbusters, and it was an abomination. That version’s ghost wranglers included a wacky gorilla named Tracy, and, well, we’re all better off pretending it never happened.

And while the guys in The Real Ghostbusters looked and sounded nothing like their movie counterparts, the characters were a close enough approximation to allow for fun storytelling among the Saturday-morning and after-school set.

30. The Venkman strut is the only strut that matters. Don’t pretend you don’t do this when you’re at Lincoln Center/walking anywhere.

Friday, June 6, 2014

D-Day + 70Y


On this day seventy years ago, the greatest military invasion took place - as Allied Forces landed in Normandy, France to begin the liberation of Europe from Germany in World War II.  The day before, on June 5, General Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the go-ahead for Operation Overlord, putting 6,000 ships and more than 176,000 troops into the English Channel for the crossing to designated landing areas on the French coast.  More than 12,000 aircraft were used to ferry parachute troops into France and provide air cover.  As the sun rose over the beaches the land invasions began and by the end of the day - 18,000 parachutists were on the ground and more than 155,000 soldiers had taken Normandy's beaches.

Part of my job responsibilities is to respond to reference requests for military service records.  Unfortunately, the requests for World War II records is dwindling, at least from the "I served in World War II" perspective.  We do get a lot of "my father / grandfather / uncle," etc., served "but he didn't like to talk about it" requests.  One really only has to take a look at the opening of this movie to understand why.

Congratulations (and a huge Thank You) to all of those brave men who fought on this day and those who gave the "last full measure" seventy years ago.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Elephant Ears

These are one of those pastry / cookies / treats that I will never turn down.  When they are done right - they are awesome. From Chocolate and Zucchini.

Palmiers (Elephant Ears)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

The yield depends on the amount of scraps used. 

Ingredients

Instructions
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. 
  • Stack the scraps of puff pastry on top of one another, arranging them to form as neat a block as you can. Pat the top and sides to even them out. 
  • Sprinkle sugar on a clean work surface, and place the block of pastry on top.
  • Sprinkle with more sugar and roll out the pastry as thinly as you're comfortable working with. Add a little more sugar as needed underneath and on top of the pastry if it starts to stick to the counter or rolling pin. 
  • Roll the pastry in from both sides until they meet in the center. 
  • Use a sharp knife to cut slices, about 1 cm (1/3 inch) thick, and place them sideways on the prepared baking sheet, giving them a little room to expand. 
  • Insert in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Let cool on a rack before serving.
Notes: No exact quantities are given because the recipe is meant to be adapted to the amount of scraps you have to use up. The amount of sugar is also eyeballed; use the minimum amount needed to roll out the dough.