Hey there Somethings!
This week, I’m going to dive into something I enjoy doing, and haven’t done enough of lately… baking.
Years ago, on a whim, I applied to work at Carlos’ Bakery (of “Cake Boss” fame) in Hoboken, NJ. I got as far as having an interview with Joey. It was… surreal. The line to buy stuff was out the door, and I had been instructed to bypass the line and let them know I was there for an interview at the counter.
When I did, they ushered me to the ‘consultation table’ (If you’ve seen the show, you know what I’m talking about) right at the front of the store.. and immediately, cameras came out from those waiting in line thinking Buddy was coming out….the disappointment was noticeable when he didn’t.
I was brought back through the main bakery, up the narrowest flight of stairs I’ve ever been up, and into one of the upstairs offices where I met with Joey. I showed him pictures of some of the things I had backed and decorated and.. either genuinely, or to be polite.. said he was impressed. The job offer was… less than stellar however since I had neither a diploma from a culinary school, or a certificate of completion for a culinary course. I turned the offer down, but it lit a fire to keep doing what I was doing.
That said, here are my favorite desserts I’ve made….
Simple to make, look great on a table, and addictive to eat. Hollow out some good-sized strawberries, decoratively pipe in some cheesecake filling (I make it from cream cheese and vanilla extract) and serve. I’ve also done chocolate dipped versions as well.
Yellow cake cupcakes hollowed out and drizzled with coffee, filled with mascarpone cheese, topped with vanilla icing and shaved chocolate. Not quite as moist as the traditional version, but all the flavor profiles are there, looks great, and there is no mistaking what you’re tasting.
Basic B*tch Cupcakes
Take a Latte Oreo, put it in the bottom of a cupcake paper, fold in pumpkin compote to a spice cake mix (replacing half the liquid with the compote), spoon the mix over the Oreo and bake. Top with vanilla icing.
Crumble up some graham cracker and place on an eggroll wrapper. Add some chocolate chips and marshmallows, wrap the wrapper like a traditional eggroll and deep fry. The hard part is letting them cool off just enough that when you bite into it marshmallow lava doesn’t destroy your mouth.
The Fat Elvis
My most favorite. Chocolate cupcake filled with banana cream pudding, topped with peanut butter icing and crumbled bacon. I honestly don’t think anything else needs be said about it!
Since the most recent episode is the Somethings revisiting EverRealm, I was thinking about some of the other reality shows (some gameshow types, some not) that I’ve enjoyed. When the big trend on television followed the Survivor trend of ‘put people in places and just record them’ – there was a lot out there, and because of that, some just didn’t make the cut longer than a season or two… others though, went on forever.
With an honorable mention to The Quest for being the inspiration for this, here are some of the reality shows I found myself glued to.
– The Real World – The grand-daddy of them all, MTV changed the game when they took a handful of twenty-somethings and threw them together in a loft in New York and told them to live with their differences. I know I’m not alone when I say that the Real World exposed me to people, cultures, sexualities, and types of people that I had never met before. As time went on, the show seemed to lose itself to a more party-oriented ‘who will hook-up’ type show, but the first half-dozen seasons or so is some of the most beautifully not-crafted television I have ever seen.
– The Joe Schmo Show – This one is almost a gimme, and was one of the big reasons we were so excited to interview Ralph Garman a few years back. The twist on the reality gimmick, one (or two) players, the rest are scripted actors. Can they run an on-the-fly narrative around these people while the craziness keeps amping up? Season One was one of the most must-see pieces of television around my house and over the years it may be one of the only DVD Boxsets I’ve cracked open to revisit.
– Whodunnit – This one is the silliest on the list, but I would most certainly watch another season if it existed. Framed as a Clue-esque murder mystery, each week another competitor was “murdered” off the show, and added to the narrative. At its best, it was a puzzle to unravel with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, it wasn’t a great show by any stretch, but the premise was so out there, I was hooked to see how it finally ended.
– Scream Queens – Obviously, as a lover of horror movies, I’d love to see more reality shows that focused on doing creepy things. Sadly, it’s hard to make reality as scary as movies. Giggling twenty-somethings walking with GoPros strapped to their heads just isn’t scary… but Scream Queens was as close as its come. Part acting, part horror – it was a season long screentest to try and find a new Final Girl for an upcoming horror movie. It was a great premise, if only it dipped even deeper into its scary roots.
– Solitary – If there is one show on this list you probably aren’t aware of.. it’s this one, and it is such a shame. Framed around a Portal-like narrative where a computer has people in test pods and is running experiments on them, Solitary was an adventure in ‘being alone’. Whether the competitors had to build giant contraptions in their test chambers, or try and sleep with blaring lights and sound as punishment, their computer overlord, Val made this three season Fox show a brilliant experiment in minimalism.
Hey guys, Podcast Rob here.
We’re closing in on completing our 8th year of podcasting next month.
What started as a fun/silly almost vanity project between two friends who hadn’t seen each other in years, has turned into this… thing… that has grown well beyond the confines of anything we could have imagined when we started this show.
Over 250 episodes, tens of thousands of downloads, over 4000 followers on Twitter… we never *ever* would have dreamed those numbers would be in reference to our podcast… and yet.. here we are.
We’ve had the opportunity to speak to some absolutely amazing people… from Ralph Garman to B. Dave Walters.. from Jessica RAGZY Ewud to Tim Stevens.. from Mark B Donica, Katie Cullen, Emma Fyffe, Alexis Torres and Megan Salinas to Meredith Placko.. CS Swampfox to The Library Bards… and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of other amazing shows we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with.. Ice and the Face, Pre Rec Live, No One Likes the Tuna, S Anthony Thomas, Gutting the Sacred Cow, Kung Fu Drive In… just to name a few.
Our upcoming episode on June 15th is a continuation of a labor of love interview we did back in 2016 when we spoke to contestants and cast of “The Quest”. It was during this most recent interview, with these amazing people…Jasmine, Jim, Patrick…, that it really hit me how much *we* have gotten from this show. Even though we hadn’t heard their voices in damn near 5 years.. it felt as if we had just spoken yesterday. Hearing their thoughts, their laughs… these people weren’t just interview subjects, they had become dear friends. As much as our listeners (hopefully) enjoy our episodes, whether we deep dive into mysteries, or go off on tangents, we get even more enjoyment out of it… for not only are we getting to do it, we get to see and hear your reactions and responses to it… and that makes it all worth while.
Who knows where or when this journey will end, but I know without my co-host James, and you listeners, it never would have even started.
Thank you James, thank you guests.. both past and future.. thank you Twitter and Twitch followers, and thank you listeners.
You’re all absolute rockstars.
A Little Bit of Something About Old Gaming Trends…
Over the years, there have been a lot of gaming styles that have come and gone. For a while it was a nonstop litany of Grand Theft Auto clones, and then it was the EA formula of ‘climb tallest spot to unlock area’ games, and crafting games, and MOBA style online games. Lately, as you may be aware, there are a glut of Dead By Daylight ‘4 v 1’ type games. Trends guide an industry, but sadly, that always means that something gets left in the dust – and what it leaves behind isn’t always as good as it once was.
Here are a few gaming trends that have died down that I really miss.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I live for puzzles. I spent many a night hunched over my Nintendo, trying to solve a level of Adventures of Lolo or Kickle Cubicle. There are games out there now that embody the classics of puzzlers of years gone by, but they range from the ‘one concept over and over’ like the many Lighton series of games or the variations of Sudoku – to the infuriatingly hard like the games created by puzzle genius Zactronic.
With exceptions out there like Filament and The Pedestrian, there aren’t many well thought puzzle games that grind your brain into the best kind of dust.
Back in the day, we had two kinds of music, country and/or western, rock and/or roll, hip and/or hop. Well in games it was action and/or adventure. Action games were all about running, gunning, shooting, blasting, moving. Adventure games, like the Sierra ‘Quest’ games, 7th Guest, Maniac Mansion, and the best selling game of all time (until 2002), Myst.
Sadly, adventure games, with the ease they can be created with simple engines, a glut of ‘escape room’ flash games and impossible to figure out ‘moon logic’ style games (even amongst the best) have made it really hard to find the gems amongst the trash. The best of recent years is the Sam and Max series by Tell Tale and Life is Strange.
Ok, so I’m sure you’ve caught on that this list is a lot of old genres, and maybe – if you are an old game nerd like me, you’ll go ‘Hatton, there are text adventures coming out every year’ — and the rest of you are utterly confused… but it’s true. Every year, a group of ever-shrinking fans of the old school ‘GO WEST’ ‘OPEN MAILBOX’ ‘READ FLYER’ fans are hiding in their dark basements, fearful of being eaten by a Grue.
There’s a reason though, that the advent of graphics and the much more reflex oriented gaming styles took over and text adventures are more often than not an easter egg or a sly wink in a much bigger game production. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there – and I highly recommend ‘Stories Untold’ for blending that nostalgia and modern gaming sensibilities gorgeously. I just wish there were more like it out there.
So, oldschool computer nerds – what genre’s do you miss? You know how to tell us. Want to nerd out about Castle of Dr. Brain? Drop a message to @STSTCAST or @REVVOICE on twitter, and we’ll see you next week.
My issue with Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder is what you might call ‘polarizing’. You either seem to love or hate his films.
For myself, when he’s held to fairly strict limitations (IE 300, Watchmen), his films can be amazing to watch. WHen left to his own devices and creativity, his films can be an absolute convoluted shit show.
The only exception to this may be his first movie, “Dawn of the Dead”. It was brilliantly done, and really put Snyder on the map as having not only an eye for cinematography, but… dare I say ‘reverence’… for the original material? Romero’s original is beloved among fans, and it was a dicey proposition to take on a remake of that property, but is usually regarded as his best work.
300 and Watchmen (and yes, I can forgive the creative change to the squid), were visually stunning to the point that, to me, it felt as if the pages of those graphic novels came to life. The way the scenes were shot, the feel of it, the faithfulness to the original material (again, squid notwithstanding) made them, for me, highlights of what Snyder was capable of.
Then… you get absolute messes like Sucker Punch, Man of Steel, Batman Vs Superman… all which COULD have been amazing (in my opinion, some do actually like them), except for the fact that Zack Snyder remembered he’s “Zack Snyder” and had to Zack Snyder all over them. If you’ve seen any of those movies, my statement needs no explanation.
Which, brings me to Army of the Dead.
The pre-title bit was actually amazingly intriguing, and set my expectations for a fairly specific story which… Zack being Zack… completely went sideways and off the rails, and not in a good way. By the time the opening credits were completed, it felt like the entire concept of the movie had changed, and yet.. .I was still curious to sit through 2 and a half hours of Zack being Zack to see where it went from there. Sadly, the rest of the movie seemed to not give a shit about not only the pre-title stuff, but even the stuff that happened during the opening credits. Was the CGI cool? Sure, but Snyder movies are always visually stunning, even when the stories are shit. Was the acting good? Hard to say, and, in a zombie movie, is that really THAT important when zombie tigers and over-the-top gore are your primary drivers?
I’m sure people get in to the film business because they have stories they want to tell, but in my opinion, Zack Snyder should stick to telling other people’s stories in a different medium.
That said – Saw gets a pretty bad wrap. I’m sure you’ve heard the term ‘murder porn’ and I use the term myself, just because it is a great definer for the genre. Saw, Hostel, Final Destination.. movies where there is less focus on the murderer (Jason, Freddie, etc) and more on the vehicle of demise.
At its heart though, Saw has a grander story to tell – that if they knew it was going to be such a success beyond its first and second installments, I’d like to believe they would have secured that vision tightly. Since, though, there was a period of time in the late 00’s where a new Saw film was as regular as the sun rising – some corners were cut and opportunities missed. I do understand that there are some holes in the following logic because of actions that occur throughout the series, but it is my headcannon for Saw, and I think it elevates it beyond the ‘Cool Death Simulator’ we see it is.
John Kramer was a man with a string of bad luck. Doctors who didn’t care about him. Insurance that wouldn’t back him. A wife that was trying to change the world, who because of of her work, lost a child. The world spit on John and cast him aside at every turn, and he was going to find a way to get revenge. Each of the initial murders was, albeit impossibly difficult and with some amount of pain and disfigurement, escapable. We even learn that more than one person has not only escaped, but followed Jigsaw’s ethos and joined in his cause.
Of course, great power, great responsibility – and not all of Jigsaw’s converts are fighting for the forces of (exceptionally deadly) light. Detective Hoffman becomes the anti-version of Jigsaw’s vision, killing out of sociopathy versus method. Amanda, Jigsaw’s most dedicated apostle, and his ex-wife who was both estranged but also sympathetic to John’s fight – are left to stop him.
At its heart, when John Kramer is doing the killing – there should be a method – a vehicle – an answer – and a punishment that fits the crime. When Hoffman acts as Jigsaw, that should be a perverted and near always unwinnable challenge. Yes, this is all concerning the methodology of two murderers.. but, if you remove the bodycount of exploded limbs, John Kramer made the people that survive rethink their lives and reconsider what living is. He is obviously not a hero, but in terms of roleplaying games, John should always be Lawful Evil and Hoffman should always be Neutral Evil — but both will always think they are doing good.
What do you think of the Saw franchise? Do you think there is a moral component beneath the reverse bear traps and the pits full of hypodermic needles? Let us know!
Hey Somethings! This week I’m listing off some of my favorite Netflix shows that are probably under most people’s radar. A while ago, I went on a dive through some Netflix series and stumbled across a number of shows from Australia and here are three of my favorites.
Secret City – How far will a reporter go to uncover corrupt workings in Australia’s government? As more and more comes to light, reporter Harriet Dunkley (played by Anna Torv) must navigate through the possible fallout from a heating-up conflict between China, The US, and Australia fueled by rash actions from Minister of Defence Malcom Paxton (Daniel Wyllie) and Attorney General Catriona Bailey (Jackie Weaver) before the alliance, and her career go up in smoke.
The Code – A tragic accident is hushed up and overlooked until internet journalist Ned Banks (Dan Spielman) and his hacker brother Jesse (Ashley Zukerman) dig into the cause of not only the accident, but the cover up.
Feeling similar in tone to Secret City, The Code was more of a cyber-drama, and the inclusion of Lucy Lawless as Lindara school teacher Alex Wisham brought name recognition to a cast I was otherwise unfamiliar with. Like Secret City, this show has 2 seasons, 6 episodes per season.
Pine Gap – Pine Gap is a shared surveillance facility just outside of Alice Springs Australia, jointly run by The US and Australian governments. While handling a rogue missile attack in proximity to America’s President, the crew at Pine Gap discover malware on their system. The question of “Who put it there” gets muddy when everyone has something to hide.
This is the show that started me down the Aussie TV rabbit hole. While mostly given ‘meh’ reviews in Australia, I greatly enjoyed this show. It’s one of those shows where virtually no one is a bad guy, but no one’s a good guy and everyone can either get along well or rub each other the wrong way at any moment… but to me, none of it felt forced. Only 1 season, Pine Gap is 6 episodes long.
A few months back, I did a list of some of the games that have kept me sane while we while away the hours in our bubbles. A lot of them were the big hitters like God of War and Dead by Daylight, but recently I’ve started to deep dive into my Steam backlog to look at a lot of the games that I didn’t give enough of a chance or, more often, missed completely.
Some were bought through a Bundle pack, others were Early Access (a practice I now avoid, but that’s a rant for another day..)
So here’s a short list of some of the little Indies that I’ve checked out, a few I played to completion, and my thoughts as to whether they’re worth your time.
PORTAL RELOADED – Let me start with a cheat. This only recently came out, but I would be doing you a disservice to not mention it. Portal is two of my favorite games of all time, so a well done fan mod that adds a 3rd Portal made me wary. I’ve been hurt before. Fact is, it’s fantastic. The third portal opens a window to the future and the puzzles make you think in an entirely new way about lay out solutions. Highly recommended.
QUBE – On that note, let’s go with the ‘inspired by Portal’ game, QUBE. You wake up in a big white room and have big white gloves that give you powers over the space. The puzzles never twist your brain too hard and the ending is lacking – but you could do a lot worse than losing a few hours to this one.
GRIS – I have a fairly deep opinion of the good and bad ways to use vehicles like games as art. In short, they’re mostly not my thing… but on occasion, there is a game that is so gorgeously rendered that it is impossible to not fall into it. Gris is that. Every moment feels hand drawn and, where you will have very few real challenges in it, it hasn’t been since Transistor that I took so many screenshots just to revisit the world.
NANOTALE – I have a weird love of typing games. It probably is because I honestly have some fast words per minute and do enjoy stretching those muscles sometimes. I assume this is how sports people feel about holding balls.. maybe.. anyway.. Nanotale is the spiritual sequel to Epistory, another typing game by the same publisher, where you use words to adjust magic, discover nature, defeat baddies, and it is all done with a beautifully built world.
These are just a few of the games I’ve attacked the last few weeks, and I’m sure sometime in the future I’ll revisit this list, as there were some real bombs amongst these gems.
That said, I’m always looking for suggestions on little indie titles I may have missed, so don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know what you’re playing!
So, this is an interesting topic, but one I enjoy talking about.
Years ago, when AOL Instant Messenger was a thing, a friend of mine and I were watching the Winter Olympics on TV and chatting about it through IMs. We were watching curling, and had no idea what was going on, how it was scored, or anything. So we did some sleuthing…. and, while we were sleuthing, my friend stumbled across some interesting information…
Friend : “Hey, did you know there’s a curling place like… 20 minutes from both of us?”
Me : “No shit?”
Friend : “Yeah, it’s $50 for three two-hour lessons, and if you join their club.. like.. their Curling Elk’s Lodge… they take that $50 off the yearly membership”
Me : “$50? I’ve spent more than that on far dumber stuff…. ”
And a plan was born.
We arrived at the building in Central NJ (Yes, Central New Jersey exists. No, I will not argue this point. No, you are wrong if you suggest otherwise) and are immediately greeted by an interesting cast of characters. Short, tall, skinny, not…skinny, business cut look and ‘lived in the woods and lived off roadkill’ look… one thing was for sure, there’s no such thing as a ‘standard look’ for a curler.
They were amazingly friendly, and when we told them we had found them online and wanted to take the lessons, they said absolutely, but, we have one question “Why curling?”
Friend : “Well, we were watching it on the Olympics and were curious about the rules, scoring, play style and such and saw that you had lessons… so we figured.. .why not?”
Me : “There’s two ways I’m getting to the Olympics. Curling, or buying a ticket”
Luckily for us, both of those answers were acceptable.
They ran us through the rules for scoring and the rules for playing.
They impressed upon us 2 VERY important rules to start.
Rule 1 – Never step onto the ice with your “slider” foot first (as opposed to your “gripper” foot which has the traction)
Rule 2 – Always take your keys and phone out of your pockets before playing.. because you will forget Rule 1.
For scoring, the large ‘targets’ on each end of the ice (called “The Sheet”) is called “The House”, the center of which is “The Button”. Each team throws (slides) a total of 8 rocks. The team with the rock(s) closest to The Button gets 1 point for each rock that is closer to The Button than the opponent’s closest rock…. cool, so like, shuffleboard mixed with bocci. Got it. The thrower pushes off from The Hack and slides forward, releasing the rock before the Hog Line (think, Blue Line in hockey). The sweepers can control the speed of the rock, as it reduces the friction in front of it. What we didn’t know, was the bottom of the rocks aren’t smooth… they’re concave. Only a very thin lip actually contacts the ice. The ice isn’t smooth either. Before each match, they lightly spray deionized water on the ice to give it a dimpled texture. This texture, along with the bottom rim of the rock, and the slow rotation given to the rock upon release, is what ‘curls’ the rock… the speed of that curl and the distance it travels down the sheet, is aided by the sweepers, and those sweepers are guided by the thrower.
Now, each team has 4 members… 3 players and The Skip (team captain or “skipper”). It’s The Skip that will stand at the far end of the ice and let the thrower know where he wants to shoot for. Skip determines placement, one thrower throws, the other two sweep. When it’s the Skip’s turn to throw, the 3rd thrower will take the Skip’s place at the far end of the sheet for aiming help, but the Skip still tells him where to stand.
Each match is 8 to 10 “Ends” (think innings in baseball) and each End is over when each team has thrown all 8 rocks. The team that throws first is the team in the lead. The last rock (from the team behind) is called “The Hammer”…and advantageous rock to have as you can completely change the scoring for that End, but.. you only get that advantage by being behind so… it comes at a cost.
A tournament is called a Bonspiel, and, as is customary in curling, there is an overt amount of good sportsmanship. Good shots can be quietly hi-fived, bad shots are never mocked, and… at least in the rink we were at.. at the end of every match, the winners by the losers a round, and the losers reciprocate by buying the winners a round.
It was AMAZINGLY fun to play, and MUCH more of a workout than we had imagined. Our first lesson was all about balance. Second lesson the following week was form, and third lesson the week after was a mini-match of 4 ends. We had a blast. We forgot Rule 1 a handful of times and paid for it. We were sore for days, but man… it was fun.
We didn’t become members as the ‘local Bonspiel’ was in Canada, and we just couldn’t commit to taking the time to go there when needed to play, but, would I do the lessons again? In a heartbeat.
Before the post, let me please direct you to our [The Wheel] Vs: Robots episode, where you can help choose the fate of one team of robots as they try and crush the other. There is a poll, there is another segment in a future episode coming about it – it’s a good time and you should get in on it.
Now, to other things.
One of my go to ‘Hey, what am I putting on’ shows when I have no effort built within me to find something new to binge on or I’m not seeing anything screams out for me, is Mythbusters. I love Mythbusters. I did when it was on television and now, with it gone, I still keep track of what Adam Savage is doing on Youtube. They have molded me in ways I can’t even fathom, at the very least, in recognizing that engineering nerds (a subset I definitely put the Mythbusters in) are my kinds of people. So, while I was watching some random thing blow up – I decided to list a couple of my favorite Mythbusters episodes so you can see – if you missed this show somehow, you can jump to the good stuff to see if its your cup of explosion.
In no particular order:
I’m putting this one here because it tends to be everyone else’s favorite. I mean, it’s a great episode and it is one of the best they put together. Season 2, Episode 8 – challenging the question of how the Anglin brothers got away from (sean connery voice)Thehhh Rrock!(/sean) using raincoats shaped into a boat. Did they survive? The Anglin Brothers I mean… not the Mythbusters… the Mythbusters obviously survived.
Does a golfball fly because it has those weird pockmarks? It’s so weird, it turns out to be really enjoyable and ranks as one of my favorite stories that has an ending I didn’t expect. Taking the golfball, they attempt that same method on a car and the results are not only interesting, but hysterical looking.
THE DUCT TAPE EPISODES
A bit of a cheat here, but there are like 5 duct tape episodes, and each of them is better than the last. It seemed like every season after the first duct tape show, they thought ‘wait, can we go bigger’ — and they do. From surviving on an island to crossing a damn canyon, the old nerd adage that duct tape holds the world together is shockingly accurate.
Another episode that usually hits the ‘best of’ lists’ – Lead balloon is a great one for a lot of reasons. The biggest being that the deeper they get into the science of what’s going on, the harder they try. You can see the palpable excitement in the team as they solve this puzzle in front of your eyes. Is it possible to fly an actual lead balloon? How big does it need to be? How the hell do you make a lead balloon anyway? Some episodes are great because of the big bang, some because of the weird results – this one, and my final one, are classics because the methodology is so on display and shows how experimentation gets you to unexpectedly fantastic results.
THE SEE-SAW SAGA
By far, my favorite episode of the Mythbusters, and given it is one of the later season episodes, I wish they had gone back to this style of episode more. Both teams (Jamie & Adam / Tory & Kari & Grant) get together and do two parts of one huge myth, culminating in what can only be described as a Rube-Goldberg-esque puzzle of scale and impossibility. Did you enjoy the Mythbusters? What’s your go to comfort food for your brain? Sound off in all of the usual places and let us know!
Every week, the Somethings will be giving you a little something extra, so please check back every week for reviews, lists, cool finds, and more!