Friday, February 29, 2008

FEE Exclusive: 2008 Impreza AB Edition

This has been a sneak peek of Ms. Andrea Blaser's new 2008 Impreza 2.5i Wagon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oh Yeah...

I'm working as a blogger/content provider for The Truth About Cars... and yeah, I got the job from my daddy. You can check out my posts in the "News" section every day of the week, and I'll be trying to get editorials published on a regular basis. My first editorial appears here, and is part of TTAC's ongoing "Deathwatch" series covering the decline of the American auto industry. My piece discusses two-mode hybrid technology, and it's role in the profound unprofitability of General Motors. I hope to make energy-efficiency and globalization the focus of my editorials, but I'll be writing about all kinds of car-related nonsense for the foreseeable future. Just remember next time you are getting ready to head off to your office or place of employment... somewhere in Portland, Ted Niedermeyer is getting paid to hang out in his pajamas. New Media in the hizzy!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Word To Your Daddy

It's possible that a few of you may have wondered why "The Truth About Cars" link shows up in my blogroll. It's not just because I like to read about cars from time to time (although I do), and it's not just because TTAC is basically the best place to get car reviews and editorials on the web (although it is). No, the real reason is because my dad writes there...

Anyway, I was just over there reading the latest wheezings from the saurian Brock Yates, when I noticed that my old man actually has his own category over there which includes his epic 27-part "auto-biography" series along with various other automobile-related musings. Anyway, check it out... the guy can write, and if you are at all interested in the auto industry, new cars, old cars or epic debates about the relative merits of Fox-body Fords TTAC is the place for you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

One for the "it's funny to me" file...

Being new to Portland (not to mention incurably immature) and all, I got all giggly when my pronunciation of "Couch Street" was corrected by a housemate. Apparently it's the oldest Portland joke in the book, but the street is pronounced like the female genitalia, not the furniture item. As if that weren't hilarious enough, the damn street was named after John H Couch, better known as Captain Couch.

OK, for those of you who aren't rolling in the aisles that's pronounced "Captain Cooch."

Got it now? Good. Now check out and don't say I never did anything for you.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Happy Year of the Rat!

It's Chinese New Years today, and since the awesome local asian grocery is closed and I can't get the ingredients to whip up some Chinese food, I thought I'd post a recipe I've been working on.

For the sake of clarity, I'll call it Kung Pao Chicken, but its inspiration lies in "chicken in chili sauce," a bastardization of the Sichuan "Gong Bao Ji Ding" dish which is pretty ubiquitous in small Beijing restaurants. It's sweeter than anything that comes close to authentic Sichuan, but unless you're begging for a tastebud beatdown that will leave your eyes and nose flowing free that's no bad thing. I've tried to get the recipe as close to as I remember the dish in Beijing, but I tend to add more veggies than it usually came with.

Please note that all ingredient amounts are very approximate. There are lots of dash's of this and "to taste's" of that. Sorry, that's just how I roll.

Niedermeyer's Famous Kung Pao Chicken

Chop as much chicken as you want to make into small chunks. I don't have a huge wok or a gas range, so I typically do 2/3 breasts and I've found that small chunks work better than thin strips in this recipe. Most recipes tell you to marinate the chicken in a cornstarch/water mixture, but I never do with this recipe. Since this is the "prep" stage, chop up any of the following that you have around:
*Green Onions- chopped fine- minimum two, maximum ten. Look for the giant ones at your local asian market and use them in big chunks.
*Fresh Ginger- chopped fine- just a tiny chunk at most (the size of a bottle cap). Don't let it overpower the dish, and don't bother with the powder stuff.
*Garlic- chopped fine- a clove or two (one teaspoon?)
*Yellow/Red Onion- quartered- you can throw in a whole one or leave it out.
*Bell Pepper- chunked any size you like- best with one red, one yellow if you feel like getting extravagant.
*Bamboo shoots- chopped and rinsed well
*You can add any other veggies you want, but then you're on your own. Punk.

Here's what else you need.
*Dried Chinese Red Peppers
*Sichuan Peppercorns - These can be hard to find, because their importation was banned until '05, but you can find them at good asian markets. Mine came in an unmarked bag, and I had to dig around to find them. They are totally necessary for this dish though and if you like to cook they are a fun flavor to play with.
*Chili Bean Sauce. I use this brand.
*Hoisin Sauce.
*Chinese 5-Spice. Just a tiny bit, and even that isn't 100% necesssary.
*Oil. I use canola, but peanut is a little more authentic I think.
*Chinese cooking wine.

First, find your wok and wok this way (wok-a wok-a). Ok, sorry... that was wiggity-wok. Damn!

Throw a few teaspoons of oil in there. Enough to cook the chicken quickly, but not deep-fry it. Turn your heat up and throw in 2-12 dried peppers and 1-3 teaspoon of peppercorns and let them fry until they sizzle, then take them out and set them aside.
Make sure the oil is really hot, then throw the chicken in. Cook it hot, cook it fast.
When the chicken is done, get rid of excess oil in the wok. You want about a tablespoon left.
Throw in garlic, ginger, onion, green onion (leave some for garnish!) a teaspoon or so of chili bean sauce, and a dash of cooking wine and stir fry with the chicken.
Add a bunch more Chili Bean sauce, the fried dried chilis and about a teaspoon of Hoisin. Throw in enough sugar to just take the salty edge off the the Chili Bean flavor. This obviously depends on how much Chili Bean sauce you use, but a tablespoon or two should do it. I also throw in a tiny bit of ground peppercorn here, with a dash of 5-spice, but be careful as they can easily overpower.
Throw in the rest of your veggies and stir fry until done.

Serve with rice. Gong Hay Fat Choy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Because I just can't get enough awkward...

Via Hit 'n Run: Harry Schearer (a.k.a. Principal Skinner) has some fun with raw footage of Clinton and Romney, by creating the first ever silent debate. How can something so right be so damn uncomfortable?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Mmm... Brains

If there are two things I love in life, they are cover music and zombies. Which is why I flipped when I popped in a Home Movies DVD and this popped up in the preview reel. This bizarre little video is the preview to the soundtrack to the video game Stubbs The Zombie: Rebel Without A Pulse, and the prospect of a video game in which you ARE a zombie and a soundtrack featuring Indie Rock covers of classic rock tunes had me instantly intrigued. I quickly acquired both the game and the song (legally... of course) and they both pretty much rule.

The game itself is fun for the simple reason that you get to fulfill all your zombie fantasies, by shuffling around eating people's brains. The game takes place in Punchbowl, a 1950s "City of the Future" inhabited by all kinds of quirky convenience robots, and the whole thing is carried off with heavy doses of sly humor, pop-culture references and general hilarity. The real downside to the game is pretty predictable, in that basically all you do is shuffle around and messily devour brains. Sure, the story and it's awesome cut scenes keep you interested, as do the variety of enemies (cops, scientists, backwoods militiamen who think the zombie apocalypse is a communist plot) and different weapons (throwing your exploding guts, ripping off your hand and steering it around to possess enemies and farting), but the gameplay itself gets undeniably stale after a while. Even the weird minigames, like the Thriller-inspired dance-off against the Chief of Police don't do enough to provide gameplay variety.

The dance-off does provide a showcase for the awesome soundtrack to this quirky game. Because the movie is set in the 50's, the songs are all covers of bubblegum music from the era covered by indie rockers of today. As I mentioned before, I love cover music and this is no exception. The most annoying songs on oldies radio are redone by bands like Death Cab, Cake, and the Raveonettes among others, transforming chestnuts like "Mr Sandman" from unbearable kitsch to semi-ironic entertainment. Like the game, the album's genre creates predictable highs and lows. The Raveonettes take on "My Boyfriend's Back," Ben Kweller's "Lollipop" and the Flaming Lip's trippy "If I Only Had A Brain" are creatively done, and unique enough to make them sound fresh, whereas Cake's "Strangers in the Night" and Death Cab's "Earth Angel" fall into the overly faithful, phoned-in category. Still, even these low notes score high on the novelty scale, as do the covers of Buddy Holly's "Everyday" and already weird "Lonesome Town," creating a remarkably solid album experience which never forces you to remind yourself that this is the soundtrack to a video game. On the downside, most of these songs are so damnably catchy, you may just find yourself singing "Ooh-lolly, lolly-lolly" as you chew your way through the zombie apocalypse.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Under Armour: The Sportswear of Fascists

Well, the superbowl is over, and I'm still basking in schadenfreude at the Patriots unexpected loss to the Giants. I got a chuckle or two out of a few of the ads too, but one in particular was just plain scary. The athletic gear company Under Armour ran a 60 second spot (which apparently was expensive enough to cause the company's stock to plummet by nearly 50%) featuring it's new "Prototype" shoe and it's new marketing slogan "The Future Is Ours." The ad starts typically for the genre: athletes training in CGI environments, but it rapidly builds to a weird, highly fascistic political rally of sorts, complete with banners bearing the Under Armour logo and words like "power." Now, I realize that the whole calling things fascist meme has gotten a bit out of control lately, so just take a look. Just don't blame me when you have nightmares about Under Armour henchmen hauling you off to a concentration camp because you can only do three pushups.
The Future is Ours - Under Armour

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day Somehow Weirder Than I Imagined

I don't know about anyone else, but I had basically forgotten all about Groundhogs Day since, oh, I graduated kindergarten. When I did pay attention, it never occurred to me how improbable it is that this bizarre myth is really replayed every year in Punxsutawney, (yeah, I had to copy/pasted that) Pennsylvania. Of course, the residents of Punxsutawney and the membership Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (yup, want you to believe that this rodent character really does have some kind of weird power... and judging by all the insanity which surrounds him, he probably does.

Take for example, the crazy press release from this year's crazy celebration:

Here Ye! Here Ye! Here Ye!

On Gobbler's Knob on this fabulous Groundhog Day, February 2nd, 2008
Punxsutawney Phil, the Seer of Seers, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators,
Rose to the call of President Bill Cooper and greeted his handlers, Ben Hughes and John Griffiths.

After casting a weathered eye toward thousands of his faithful followers,
Phil consulted with President Cooper and directed him to the appropriate scroll, which proclaimed:

"As I look around me, a bright sky I see, and a shadow beside me.
Six more weeks of winter it will be!"

So, they admit it: Phil doesn't actually look at his shadow at all! This "seer of seers" just "consults" with some top hat wearing loon, and "directs him to the appropriate scroll" which proclaims the putative weather forecast? And does this all have to happen on "Gobblers Knob?" I don't know, I like to think of myself as a tolerant person and everything, but why the hell does this crap end up in our nations schools? Because teachers are lazy and offers a "lesson plan for teachers," that's why. Songs about groundhogs sung to the tune of christmas carols and games which are exactly like normal games only played with "a stuffed groundhog, or a picture of a groundhog taped to a stick" do not a curriculum make.

I'm taking a stand here people: it's crap like groundhogs day that makes kids end up like this: