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Friday, December 28, 2007


The not-so magical turducken adventure

I found myself with a daunting task this holiday season: whipping together Christmas dinner for my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. I didn't want to cook but neither did any of them. With absolutely no holiday meal preparation experience under my belt, I was the worst person for the job. I'm still not sure why I was nominated or why any of them trusted me with the task. Despite what the ghost chef in Ratatouille claims, anyone can't cook. For instance, I routinely screw up cereal.

As always with challenges like this, I immediately decided to make things more difficult for myself. Instead of ordering a nice, simple turkey with a nice, simple popper, I put in an order for a turducken. Cooking just one bird wasn't enough. Only a chicken stuffed inside duck stuff inside a turkey would do.

And so last Sunday off I went in the pouring rain to pick up this mutant concoction from the Beaverton New Seasons. Behind the counter in the meat department was a guy who, according to a tag on his shirt, was named Turtle. Turtle couldn't find my order but was kindly enough to track down a 13 pound turducken roast from the freezer. It didn't look anything like I was expecting. Instead of an overstuffed turkey, this thing looked like a meat bomb set to go off at any second. I nervously took the turducken back to my car and prayed that it wouldn't go off on the drive home.

I consider it an accomplishment worthy of putting on a resume that I was able to get this beast over to my parent's house on Christmas morning. According to the overly-complicated recipe I looked up at the last minute, I'd need eight hours to cook the turducken and a roasting pan. Do my parents own a pan large enough for the Frankenstein monster of holiday main courses? Had I thought to pick one up? Of course not.

Four closed grocery stores and one open neighborhood market later, I returned with a $2.00 roasting pan almost identical to the normal turkey pan my parent's already had. Undaunted, I shoved a cookie sheet in the bottom of the pan to further prevent the turducken from wallowing in its own juices (supposedly a serious no-no). I tossed on an old chefs hat and finally threw the turducken in the oven over an hour behind schedule.

What to do next? The recipe had nothing to say about basting this mutant bird. A colleague I talked to on Christmas Eve claimed that basting anything, be it a turkey, a turducken or a goose, is a complete waste of time and will only turn it into something akin to the dried-out husk Chevy Chase contends with in Christmas Vacation. When the turducken reached the four hour mark, I panicked after noticing there were no juices at the bottom of the pan. I ended up basting it with a container of chicken broth.

Dinner was scheduled for six but the turducken was still twenty degrees away from being ready according to everything I read online. 165 Fahrenheit was the magic number it needed to hit before it would be deemed suitable for human consumption according to the USDA. Six quickly became seven and the turducken was still ten degrees short. My sister and her boyfriend decided to undermine my authority and pitch in with the side dishes. Had they no respect for my chefs hat? It was doing little to protect my honor. Faith in my ability to run a kitchen had reached an all time low.

I broke out a meat thermometer again. The ends of the turducken were five degrees higher than were they needed to be while the center was five degrees below. I decided to take a vote. None of us knew what to do. Everyone was all in favor of just eating the damn thing. The recipe claimed it needed to sit under tinfoil for an hour to "firm up." Instead, I left it front of a televised Blazer game for thirty minutes figuring that Brandon Roy's awesome dunking skills might somehow inspire the turducken to be more tasty.

The results were mixed. The exterior, turkey portion of the bird turned out dry while its duck and chicken center were juicy. In hindsight, I should have pulled el meat bomb out of the oven 30 minutes earlier.

The mysteries surrounding turduckens continue to elude me. Is it even possible to properly cook something like this- a weird feast o' meat melded together out of portions of three different animals? I've come to the conclusion that turduckens just weren't meant to be.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Christmas 1984



Monday, December 24, 2007


How I'll be spending a good portion of next December

This thing would look great in my living room.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a happy Boxing Day!



Sunday, December 23, 2007


Xmas-related links

So here I sit, wedged somewhere between a roaring fire, a Christmas tree and a puppy that's trying to chew a bone, chase down the family cat and sneak a sip of my eggnog simultaneously. She's quite the multitasker.

Anyway, here's a collection of links that are currently helping me celebrate the 2007th (or so) birthday of Mr. Christ.

  • The Mercury's cover story ranking the laps of various mall Santas around Portland? Way funnier than Willamette Week's current cover on a bizarre mother/daughter double-suicide. Sheesh, what's next? A big-budget film adaptation of Sweeny Todd released in theaters four days before Christmas? Oh, wait...

  • What does Santacon look like in New York City? "P. Dgy" has a full report over at podger.net.

  • Another Christmas, another batch of photos of terrified kids sitting on Santa's lap brought to us by the good folks at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Their collection currently stands at 212 shots. That's a lot of childhood trauma.

  • Here's a rundown on 30 years worth of LucasFilm Christmas cards. I like 1986's myself. It's got Ewoks.

  • This string of weird vandalism? Only in Eugene...

  • I only made it two minutes into the strange Batman Christmas radio serial over on this blog.

  • Yet another reason why wild boars don't typically celebrate the holidays.

  • So I guess this means Santa is now "the reason for the season."

  • Nearly twenty years later I'm still waiting for someone to make a full-length version of this:

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    Photos from the Grotto

    That goat is probably the closest I'll ever get to meeting a real, live unicorn. The little bastard put on his best "I'm ever so hungry" face, effectively conning me out of the ice cream cone full of Goat Chow I bought for a dollar. Then he turned right around and pulled the same move on my sister. Ten seconds later, my mother fell for the same con.

    Also: as you may have noticed Saint Nicholas wears Nikes.

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    Saturday, December 22, 2007


    Photos from Zoolights

    More can be found in this here Flickr gallery. Not included here or there, photos of the zoo's pregnant elephant, the steaming pile of elephant poo visible during the train ride, Rudolph or anything conveying how incredibly cold it gets up there after dark in December. Cold or no cold, it's my new favorite local Christmas lights-related festival.

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    Thursday, December 20, 2007


    Revolution #...


    (random photos from last night's Blazers game)


    Tuesday, December 18, 2007


    What I've been doing instead of blogging


    Wednesday, December 12, 2007



    After careful calculation that's how much I've decided I'd pay to see a newly reunited Led Zeppelin in concert. They played that big reunion show in the UK last night and there's still rumors floating around of a 2008 world tour.

    Click on the link and you'll also find some pretty terrifying photos of what Elvis' family looks like nowadays.


    Tuesday, December 11, 2007


    Missed it again this year

    Some December I may actually be downtown on the same annual Saturday hundreds of Santas take to the streets to get drunk, harass shoppers and get arrested. This December was not that December. Oh, well. I can still watch the highlights on the internet.

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    Random cell phone photos # 27

    Nearly a week between blog posts? Yeah, it happens. Things have been both boring and busy 'round these parts. Here are some cell phone photos from my recent travels:

    A display in the Side Street Gallery down the street from Holman's Bar off Burnside.

    I've seen a lot of cars driving around town with menorahs on their roofs this holiday season. A caravan was rolling down NW 21st on Saturday night with the occupants honking their horns and shouting out the windows. Hey, it beats staying home to play with a dreidel.

    And here's a photo of the clock tower at Beaverton Town Square. I think. If you're in the market for buildings for a Dickens-esque Christmas display, I recommend a shop called The Mole Hole located next door to the square's Trader Joe's. They've probably got the largest selection of tiny plastic street lights in the Portland metro area. There's also a large village display up for grabs complete with a miniature ski lift.

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    Wednesday, December 05, 2007


    Return of the Once Funny Internet Meme

    When I first saw the Chuck Norris facts, they were already great jokes. I was amazed how funny they were. I took it upon myself to spread them. I thought that they could be the funniest jokes ever. I was wrong.

    They're more machine now than funny; twisted and evil.

    Thanks, Huckabee! Thanks, Norris!



    Xtreme Christmas light hanging

    Every year, for one reason or another, I get suckered into hanging Christmas lights around the outside of my parents' house. This is not an activity I enjoy, primarily because with each passing holiday season they add more and more stuff to their display. They're currently sitting on a cache of 24 strings of multi-colored lights, 9 illuminated reindeer, 1 three-foot tall stack of glowing presents, 2 strings of plastic candy cane lights, another string of snowflake lights and 1 three-foot tall Santa Claus. It's not quite as extravagant a display as the one Chevy Chase used to torture his neighbors in Christmas Vacation but it's getting there.

    I set aside Sunday afternoon for the project...the same Sunday a massive windstorm was scheduled to begin a two day rampage through the northern half of the Willamette Valley. Undaunted, I proceeded with the plan. Why? Well, why do squirrels dart into traffic? Why do senior citizens blow their social security checks at casinos? Why do base jumpers... do whatever it is base jumpers do? For the thrill of adventure and/or an adrenaline rush. As moronic as playing with live electrical wires in near-hurricane conditions might seem, it's only 1/100th as reckless as this.

    The fact that my Mom and Dad didn't talk me out of this is either a testament to their open-mindedness and confidence in my safety skills or a prime example of their foolhardy commitment to getting holiday chores accomplished on schedule. I began the tedious task of testing each cord in the safety of their living room before covering myself head-to-toe in Columbia Sportswear gear. I finally began the exterior work around 2 PM in the early hours of the storm. The wind was barely blowing but the rain was coming down steady. Hanging the roof lights was immediately ruled out, if only because neither one of my parents were stupid enough to head out into the elements to hold the bottom of a ladder.

    Committed to at least some level of safety, I dried off each cord's outlets and immediately insulated them with electrical tape. The always busy public park across the street from the house was vacant. The only souls dumb enough to be out there with me were a few jogging zealots, the occasional Tri-Met rider and a lone squirrel. All of them offered some expression of condolence as they passed by, even the rodent.

    The storm and the wind picked up about 4:30 and I still hadn't set up so much as a single reindeer. At this point, even the most audacious member of Jackass would have told me to head for cover. Still, I pressed on. There were four strings of lights left to go and I'd be dammed if I didn't use every last one of them. For better or worse, this had become a challenge I wasn't going to walk away from, be on foot or on a stretcher.

    Stuck in a temporary mindset somewhere between that of the Grinch heading back into HooVille on Christmas morning and Martin Sheen in the last five minutes of Apocalypse Now, I grabbed the lights, the candy canes, a three-headed extension cord and a reindeer before heading to a bush where the property line meets the curb. My parents' house sits on a sunken lot mostly hidden from the street, making my mission even more ridiculous and pointless. These were the raw materials that would matter, the stuff that would actually be seen by foot and auto traffic.

    My intentions, at first, were good. I set up the reindeer, a doe gingerly eating grass, under a tall fir tree and attempted to build a peace symbol in the bushes out of a string of white lights. When I plugged in the extension cord, my earnest attempt to construct a message of peace and goodwill towards men became a disaster. The lights on the head of the doe were burnt-out and the string in the bushes looked more like an anarchy symbol. I did my best to salvage the display and rearrange the lights on the doe. Unfortunately, my parents now have a plastic, glowing reindeer in their yard that looks like its butt has been blasted off by a desperate big game hunter.

    With the wind howling into my hood, my face soaking wet and my artistic vision compromised, I draped another line around an Oregonian box and tossed the candy canes in the bushes. In my near delirium, I considered taking down all the lights I'd spent hours arranging and tossing them around the front bushes and the fir tree along with all nine reindeer, effectively turning my parents house into an anti-Peacock Lane. Sure, the residents of an Eastside neighborhood would have dug a display like that, possibly considering it some sort of commentary on the commercialization of Christmas. Unfortunately, my parents live in the much less cool and decidedly pro-commercialization Vermont Hills area.

    I dragged my mother out into the rain a few minutes later. She gave her approval to the butt-less deer and the light-drenched newspaper box before nagging me to bring the candy canes back inside. Three days later, the remaining eight reindeer, the candy canes and the roof lights are sitting in my old bedroom, waiting for someone to put them up. As far as I'm concerned, my sister can deal with them. I've helped spread enough holiday cheer for one year.

    Despite my dumbassery, the Reckless Award of the Weekend goes to a certain cat that made the mistake of trying to sharpen her claws on one of the deer. Not only did she get one claw caught in its tinsel coat, she backed into a cat door and somehow got stuck in that too. After being rescued, what did this fearless feline do? She ran back into the room to launch a second attempt.

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    Monday, December 03, 2007



    Have a look at what God just did to a wall in my bedroom.


    The windstorm that has been going nonstop in Portland since last night has taken its toll on my little rental house. After I discovered this mess earlier tonight, I called my kindly but indifferent landlord. He did what he always does when I bug him with something like this. He told me to relax and not to worry about it. Naturally, I'm concerned that the water damage may hurt the structural integrity of the wall and lead to mold growth that could negatively impact my health down the road and/or hurt my Buck Williams poster.

    Do I sound like I know what I'm talking about? If so, I don't. If there are any carpenters or housing inspectors out there reading this, I could use some advice. No amount of complaining is going to convince my landlord to fix the problem. He claims he's tried on several occasions over the years but to no avail.

    I currently have a space heater blasting the wall to keep it dry, which may be an even stupider idea than doing nothing at all. I can't find any helpful solutions on Google that don't involve tearing the wall apart and rebuilding it. Anyone out there have any ideas that don't involve a lawsuit? My month-to-month lease on a house I'm otherwise happy with has created yet another impossible-for-me-to-deal-with conundrum



    Another mystery solved

    Where do the street kids that hang around Pioneer Courthouse Square go on nights like this? When the wind is roaring and the rain won't let up?

    Well, at least some of them retreat to the side corridors of Pioneer Place to lounge around on benches and shout obscenities at each other.

    Just an FYI.



    Tegan and Sara's...

    ..."Back in Your Head" is my nominee for the catchiest song of 2007. It's been getting heavy radio airplay here in Portland and I can think of no better chorus for an earworm than "I just want back into your head." If you haven't heard The Con, I recommend a listen. Nearly every song on the album qualifies as some of the best pop music recorded in what seems like forever.

    The duo are playing a show at the Crystal Ballroom tomorrow night but I was too lazy to buy a ticket before it sold out. They're currently selling for upwards of $50 on Craigslist. Oh well, I'd probably feel completely out of place. While the show will probably attract the venue's typical crowd of hipsters and budding yuppies, Tegan and Sara's music seems tailor-made for moody 19 year-old Starbucks cashiers who have just dropped out of community college for the express purpose of pissing off their mothers.



    In defense of a complete waste of time

    First South Park made fun of the phenomenon. Then last week Slate ran an article written by Sleater Kinney's Carrie Brownstein condemning it. The big question behind the minor controversy: why waste dozens of hours mastering video games like Guitar Hero III or Rock Band when you could spend that time learning an actual instrument or putting together a real band?

    The answers are obvious but still I feel the need to point them out here on the internet. Without further ado, here's my defense of games that enable players to pretend they're rock gods.

    1. Learning how to play a real instrument sucks

    I started taking guitar lessons in high school. I threw away hundreds of dollars of my parents' money and hundreds of hours trying to pull off bar chords and a decent cover of "She's So Heavy." I still practice every now and then. Despite all the effort, I can't even play "Blowing in the Wind," AKA "One of the Easiest Songs to Play on a Guitar in the History of Guitars." Why? One reason: part of the pinky finger on my left hand was chopped off in a freak accident when I was a kid, rendering it clumsy and worthless when it comes to chord changes. Another reason: I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever.

    But after a recent night of barhopping, I returned to a friend's apartment and pulled off a pretty decent cover of "War Pigs" on Guitar Hero 2 without ever having held one of the game's plastic guitars. I'd rate the sense of self-satisfaction that resulted afterwards on the same level of spending an hour fumbling through the opening chords of "Wish You Were Here" on the acoustic guitar currently gathering dust behind my couch.

    Need I keep going? Ok...

    2. Watching your friends play real instruments sucks

    At one point or another, we've all found ourselves trapped in a dorm room or a friend's house as they attempt to impress everyone with their guitar skills. They get three bars into a Weezer song or, worse yet, "Stairway to Heaven" before choking and muttering, "No, wait, I got it this time guys." This sort of thing can drag on for hours if you let it. I once spent thirty minutes watching a neighbor botch the dungeon theme from Super Mario Brothers. All things considered, I would have rather watched him blast his way through a video game version of Boston's "More Than a Feeling."

    3. Being in a real rock band sucks

    Only a select few ever make it to the point of destroying themselves with booze, groupies, STDS and giant stacks of money. The rest might be lucky enough to go on a club tour across the states in a tiny van with their annoying-as-hell bandmates. As much fun as it might be to bet your future on the off-chance your band is going to make it, going on an imaginary world tour in Rock Band while working your way up the chain of command at Kinkos just makes more sense. Still not convinced? Track down a copy of DiG! and pay extra close attention to all the scenes featuring The Brian Jonestown Massacre.

    4. Video games are all about wasting time

    Is there a difference between throwing away a good portion of
    your life learning how to suicide bomb opponents in Halo 3 and dinking around with a plastic guitar? Or between playing Guitar Hero 3 and watching TV or movies or blogging or following professional sports or, really, any pursuit of leisure? Nope. They're all ways of blowing off steam and relaxing. One person's hobby is another's unhealthy obsession. Frankly, I have more respect for someone who has mastered every song on Guitar Hero 3 than someone who has watched every single season game featuring their local MLB team. At least the video game obsessive could use their "skills" to win stuff.



    Who will stop the rain?

    Today's officially the second rainiest day on record in Seattle, northbound I-5 is flooding, a good portion of the coast is shut down and Highway 26 is littered with fallen trees. The Klootchy Creek Giant is dead, rivers are flooding everywhere and high water is trapping cars on swamped roads here in Portland. My front yard now has a shallow lake, the ancient drainage system in my basement has created another relatively harmless creek and my copy of the latest issue of Rolling Stone is soaking wet because a postal carrier failed to close the door of my mailbox this afternoon. And it's still %$%@!#! raining outside.

    On behalf of the entire Pacific Northwest, I'd just like to say that you suck poopy dog butts, Winter Wind Storm '07.



    RIP: World’s Tallest Sitka Spruce

    A victim of the weekend's storms. Goodnight, sweet 750 year old wooden prince. Why do the good always die young? Or at least young for ancient trees?

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