Monday, December 29, 2014

Music Video Monday: Morison

Every now and then my husband will share random YouTube videos with me on Facebook. They're usually stuff he thinks (and he's almost always right) I'll find amusing: Weird old training videos, short Minecraft animations, funny animals.

And sometimes he finds grainy vintage footage of an eastern European glam metal band.     

That's Divlje Jagode. Their name apparently means "wild strawberries" in Bosnian. Beyond that, I have absolutely no idea what they're saying, but I like it. They also apparently released a new album this year (pretty great for a band that's been around since 1977!) which I shall also have to check out. Husband has served me well. I shall reward him with strawberries (the literal kind, not the big-haired Bosnian rocker kind). 

Friday, December 26, 2014

I'm Reading The Worst Book Of The 1980's (So You Won't Have To)

For a brief, not-so-shining moment in the 80's and early 90's, a bizarre moral panic swept the country. People began fearfully whispering rumors about a mysterious Satanic cult that abducted and abused children in bizarre rituals. There wasn't and still isn't a shred of evidence that this cult ever existed, but that didn't stop people from airing ridiculous television specials about the dangers of Satanism and sinking millions of dollars on a circus of a trial that resulted in no convictions.

We have this book to thank for kicking off that particular shitstorm:

Michelle Remembers is the "true story"of a woman's journey to recover through therapy her memories of the horrendous abuse she suffered at the hands of a coven of Satanists. The book is pretty much just 300 pages of lies and was eventually quite thoroughly debunked, but the damage had already been done and there are still people (though thankfully not nearly so many) who believe in Satanic ritual abuse today.

I'm currently trying to read this book. I enjoy studying the mythology of the Satanic Panic, and I'd heard enough about the crazy shit Michelle claims happened to her that I thought it'd at least be a good guilty pleasure read. It's not. It's a cold, dreary, lifeless thing, and the batshit insane parts just aren't worth wading through the sea of boring crap to get to them.

But because I think it's important to examine the causes and psychology of the Satanic Panic (and because misery loves company) I'm going to motor through the whole damned thing and deconstruct it for your enjoyment.

I'd like to get a few things out of the way before I begin. This book begins with a couple of opening statements, a publisher's note, and a prologue. They aren't very long, and I don't have enough observations about them to make a full post, so here they are:


First off, we have a quote from Pope Paul VI about evil and how it's "a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting." I'm confused. Four years of Catechism class at Catholic high school taught me that evil is just an absence of good, not some sort of malevolent living thing. This sounds like an excerpt from a bad Christian fantasy novel.

Then we have another statement from the delightfully named Remi De Roo, Bishop of Victoria, who seems guardedly skeptical of the claims this book makes and tactfully points out that he does "not question that for Michelle this experience was real." I think I like Remi De Roo. I can practically hear him saying "I think this woman is cray-cray, but I'm far too polite to come out and say it" in his head.

Publisher's Note:

The publishers admit that they feel that this project is "unusual" and they are absolutely right. They also point out that Dr. Pazder, one of the co-writers of this book, has a lengthy and impressive list of credentials. It is so very lengthy and impressive, in fact, that I find myself staring at it and being fascinated that he made it to such an exalted position before so utterly shredding his own reputation with one ridiculous book of lies. Also the publishers claim that they thoroughly investigated Michelle's story. I don't believe them.


This part details Pazder and Michelle's journey through the Vatican trying to get an audience with someone who believes their story and is mostly pointless, though I'm amused that Pazder goes out of his way to describe himself as "Tall, blue-eyed, and tanned even in February." This isn't your OK Cupid profile, Pazder.

And we haven't even properly gotten to the story yet. Doesn't this book sound like fun?

One-stop link shop for all existing Michelle Remembers decons:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 & 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapters 8 & 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapters 16 & 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapters 20 & 21
Chapter 22
Chapters 23 & 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapters 28 & 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I'm Up To My Elbows In Wrapping Paper And Panettone Dough And You Expect Me To Come Up With A Creative Title For My Holiday Post? Come ON!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Here's hoping your holiday season is as awesome as Twisted Sister has promised us it would be:

And not the terrifying disaster foretold by Spinal Tap:

Though in all honesty, elves dressed in leather and angels in chains sounds like the makings of a very merry Christmas indeed.

Monday, December 22, 2014

All I Want For Christmas Is Music, Part IV

I'm currently a few days into a visit with my in-laws. Unfortunately my in-laws live in a different time zone. Due to my still being a bit jet-lagged, the loose theme of this list is "stuff that's loud and/or upbeat and/or epic and can keep me from passing out at my keyboard."

1.  Amaranthe, "Drop Dead Cynical" "The Nexus"

Amaranthe has some tremendous music videos. Love the sci-fi/horror vibe of "The Nexus."

2.  Blind Guardian, "Nightfall in Middle-Earth (full album)"

The Silmarillion + heavy metal? YES, PLEASE.

3.  Roxin' Palace, "Roxin Palace," "Viper's Advice"

Another band I found out about on Twitter. Twitter isn't my favorite thing in the world, but my goodness can you ever find a lot of great bands there.

4.  Reckless Love, "Hot"

I bet I could convince my electronica-loving husband that this is just harmless dance music. Then, once this gateway rock song was planted, I would introduce progressively heavier tracks into his music library until he is converted to the One True Genre! Muuahahaha!

And now I'd better take a nap. Because apparently when my sleep schedule is disrupted enough, I become unhinged and morph into a heavy metal-themed supervillain.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Music Video Monday: All I Want For Christmas Is Music, Part III

More songs that I'd really like to have on my iPod:

1.  Badlands, "Dreams In The Dark"

iTunes, y u no have this song available for purchase? :( Also, this song needs to be on Rock Band, like right now, because Rock Band is one of the few video games I can competently play with my husband and sister-in-law and I sound AWESOME singing Dreams In The Dark. Or at least I think I do, while I'm in the shower. I could be wrong.

2.  Cats N Boots, "Shotgun Sally"

Also not on iTunes. Oh well. I'll find a way.

3.  Damn Yankees, "Runaway"

4.  The Pretty Reckless, "Follow Me Down"

Hell yeah.

5.  Rhino Bucket, "Beat To Death Like A Dog"

One of those sort-of-sounds-like-AC/DC-but-isn't bands. The song is pretty fun, though I do find it a little alarming that the lyrics just assume that gratuitous blunt-force trauma is the default cause of death for dogs.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cooking With Lady Evil: Candied Chestnuts

Ah, good old chestnuts.

They're the most recognizable of retro holiday foodstuffs. Even people who have never actually tasted them couldn't imagine roasting anything else over an open fire in December. Williams-Sonoma makes chestnut-scented candles and Starbucks apparently introduced a chestnut praline latte this year. We associate chestnuts with comfort, coziness and Christmas cheer.

Ironically, they've also been responsible for more frustration, burned fingers and steady streams of mumbled cuss words in my kitchen than any other "exotic" ingredient I've tried to work with. Chestnuts are deceptively hard to cook. They take a lot of time, effort and patience, and a lot of the instructions for handling them that I found around the internet simply didn't work for me. Since chestnuts are often expensive and it can be heartbreaking to ruin them, I've put together the recipe for candied chestnuts that--after much tweaking--finally worked out almost perfectly for me this year.

I've also peppered it heavily with warnings about the pitfalls of cooking chestnuts, because there are many.

1.  Get yourself a pound of chestnuts.

Odds are that you'll accomplish this step by going to your local grocery store, loading up a bag from the obligatory barrel o' chestnuts that every grocery store has this time of year, and paying for said bag at the counter. If this is the route you're taking, congratulations. There is nothing more you need to know about this step.

If you plan on buying a paper bag full of freshly-picked chestnuts from a local farmers' market, however, keep in mind that when they come off the tree, chestnuts look like this:

...and that odds are your hand-picked chestnuts haven't been completely separated from every last fragment of that prickly mutant-cactus-looking protective shell. Don't stick your hand in the bag too enthusiastically, is what I'm saying.

2.  Shell the chestnuts.

This is the hardest step in the entire recipe, because chestnut shells are the most evil shells in all of nut-dom. There is no way to remove them from the meat beneath without first roasting the nuts and then quickly and painfully shelling said nuts while they're still hotter than the surface of Mercury, because if you wait until they've cooled, the shells will start to adhere to the nuts again. And even then, it's often almost impossible to keep the damn nuts intact while you're shelling them.

I've tried several different techniques to make this process easier and less frustrating, and I've found that the easiest way to do it is to cut through each chestnut's shell--but not into the meat any more than you have to--with a sharp knife until your incision reaches around about 85% of the nut's circumference. Your end result should look something like this once they come out of the oven:

This method still isn't perfect; it takes a long time even with a very sharp knife, and gave me hand cramps. But I only broke one chestnut in half while shelling it this time around, so I'll take it.

3.  Roast the chestnuts in a 350 degree oven for ten to fifteen minutes.

Easiest step on the list. If you remember (I didn't) you can sprinkle them with a little water before they go in to make them easier to peel.

4.  Remove chestnuts from the oven and peel off their shells.

Good news: Because of the way you've cut them, the shells should come off easily--like cracking open a giant pistachio.

Bad news: You've got to do it quick--like, right out of the oven quick--or they'll start sticking again when they cool down. Handling burning-hot chestnuts is, as you may have guessed, unpleasant. It helps somewhat to wear two pairs of disposable food handling gloves while you're doing it, although that does make it a bit harder to handle the nuts. Nor will it protect you from poky, jagged shell edges.

Also, as if all that packaging weren't already enough, the chestnut meat is covered by a papery brown membrane, which also needs to be removed. Sometimes if you're lucky, it comes off with the shell and you don't have to worry about it. More often, it only partially comes off or doesn't come off at all, and if you don't remove it fast enough (i.e. right when the nuts come out of the oven) it cements itself to the nut and will not budge for any consideration. I hate this stupid membrane. It seems to serve no purpose other than to taunt me and stand in the way of my enjoyment of sweet chestnut flesh.

Fortunately you don't need to worry too much about the membrane for this recipe, because in the next step we...

5.  Put chestnuts in a saucepan with enough water to cover them and boil for ten minutes

Once you're done with this step, pour the chestnuts into a colander. Once the water is drained away, pick any remaining membrane fragments off the chestnuts with your fingers or rub it off with a dish towel. It should be waterlogged and peel off easily. Take that, impenetrable fun-ruining membrane!

6.  In a separate pan mix together 2 cups water, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract.

Bring this mixture to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Also, watch it carefully. From personal experience, I have learned that boiling-over sugar syrup + hot stove = loud smoke alarm and husband giving you grief for not being more careful.

7.  Add chestnuts and boil them in syrup mixture for 10 minutes.

8.  Pour chestnuts and syrup into a container with a lid and cover loosely. Let sit for 12-18 hours.

Be sure to wait a few minutes for the syrup to cool down, though. Sugar can get HOT.

9.  Repeat the boiling-covering-and-letting-sit process 3-4 times.

Hmm, I forgot to mention up front that this was a multi-day process. Over the next 3 to 4 days you're basically supposed to boil the chestnuts in the syrup for 10 minutes, then pour them back into their container and let them sit for 12 hours, then repeat the process until the syrup is mostly absorbed. (It'll never be fully absorbed for this recipe. I always make a little extra because the nice thick vanilla-chestnut syrup is good on pancakes.)

10.  Enjoy!

I like to crumble my candied chestnuts up and eat them over vanilla ice cream, or bake them into bread. If you get enough whole ones to put into paper candy cups, they also make great additions to a Christmas baked goods gift box.


Monday, December 8, 2014

Music Video Monday: All I Want For Christmas Is Music, Part II

Here is part II of my musical wishlist for Christmas 2014. Since last week's list had a theme, these are loosely tied together by themes of violence, death and insanity. Hey, I never said the themes had to be Christmas-appropriate.

1.  Avatar, "Vultures Fly"

This song has a great Rob Zombie-ish feel to it. Plus I love that Avatar's vocalist looks like the result of Blackie Lawless, Marilyn Manson, Captain Hook and the Joker all having a transporter accident together.

2.  Suicidal Tendencies, "Institutionalized" and Body Count, "Institutionalized 2014"

One clever, funny-in-a-dark-way song from 1983, and a cover that updates it to deal with all the crazy-making little frustrations and indignities of life in the 21st century. These two might be worth their own separate Music Video Monday post at some point.

3.  Requiem, "Sticks And Stones And Her Lovely Bones"

Delightfully weird and haunting.

4.  KING 810, "Fat Around The Heart"

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this band hails from my home state, specifically from Flint. Which is perfect for the purpose of the music video, since Flint's crumbling cityscapes and unfortunate reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in America makes for some of the most supremely creepy imagery I've ever seen which still manages to be breathtakingly beautiful.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

On This Day In 1984...

...the Bhopal disaster happened.

In the early hours of December 3, 1984, a tank at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh began to leak. The leak produced a massive cloud of methyl isocyanate gas, which caused widespread death and injury in the densely populated shanty towns around the plant.

There seem to be two accounts explaining how the leak began. The "official" one can be found on a website maintained by Union Carbide. The "Disgruntled Employee Sabotage theory" holds that some anonymous plant operator with an ax to grind deliberately attached a hose to the tank and pumped lots of water into it (MIC is very reactive with water) in order to ruin its contents, The other theory, the "Corporate Negligence" one, argues that the leak happened due to a catastrophic mix of lax safety practices, failure to maintain the facility properly and to replace worn-out equipment, and poor communication between the foreign managers and the native workers who ran the plant.

Honestly, I'm more inclined to believe the second one. The argument for sabotage by a disgruntled employee actually does seem fairly plausible, given that the plant's work environment didn't seem to be a particularly happy one, but I'm not sure how much I'm willing to trust it. It has a distinct whiff of corporate ass-covering about it.

However the leak started, though, the reality of its immediate aftermath is indisputable: mass deaths of people, animals and plants; human survivors overloading the local health care system, which was completely unprepared to deal with MIC inhalation at all, let alone thousands of cases of it; and an eventual mass evacuation from the area. 2,259 people died in the initial disaster, and some accounts estimate that up to 16,000 in total eventually died from gas inhalation or related diseases.

Now, let's move on to the really interesting (and horrifying) part of the story.

The Bhopal tragedy happened 30 years ago. As terrible as they are, the outrage associated with such tragedies tends to fade with time. You would think that Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster, would not be popular in India, certainly, but also wouldn't be getting angry calls for his extradition to this day.

And yet stuff like this keeps happening:

You may have noticed that the woman in the middle of that last picture, which appears to have been taken no later than 2007, is holding a sign equating Osama bin Laden to Anderson. Why is the anger and bitterness still so fresh, after all these years?

Probably because people are still being poisoned.

Fifteen years before the disaster, the people at that plant were burying literal tons of their nasty chemical byproducts in the ground around the plant or dumping it in "evaporation pools" that overflowed with every heavy rain, contaminating the soil and groundwater for miles around and causing painful birth defects and horrifically high child mortality rates.

And Dow Chemical (which now owns Union Carbide) doesn't seem to be doing a damn thing about it. Except for spying on activists who have advocated for the victims of the Bhopal disaster, which seems like a rather special level of sliminess and makes me glad that corporate personhood is just an annoying set of legal loopholes instead of a literal thing. I would not want someone as careless, callous and underhanded as that as a neighbor.

Unfortunately for the people of Bhopal, though, they had no choice in the matter.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Music Video Monday: All I Want For Christmas Is Music, Part I

Every time Christmas rolls around, there are a few certainties I can count on. I know, for instance, that my brother will be well-nigh impossible to shop for, that I'll go hog-wild in the kitchen and bake more cookies than I can possibly eat in ten lifetimes, and most importantly, that at least one person will get me an iTunes gift card for a gift. These things are like the weather: they're part of the world's natural rhythms, and they just happen whether you're prepared for them or not.

Since I'm pretty much fated to receive an excuse to purchase 25 or more songs (poor me) and I've also heard some rumors that one relative may be thinking about gifting me with a replacement for my rapidly failing 7-year-old iPod, I thought I'd share some items from my musical wishlist.

Since Finland recently became the 20th nation to pass marriage equality legislation and that seems like an achievement well worth celebrating, I'm showcasing Finnish bands in this post.

1.  Santa Cruz, "We Are The Ones To Fall" "Wasted & Wounded" and "Aiming High"

I'm quite excited about this band, for several reasons:

1. They're very pretty men.
2. They have that fast, sleazy hard rock sound that I love.
3. They're very pretty men, especially that gorgeous lead singer.
4. If their music videos are anything to go by, their showmanship is awesome.
5. Did I mention that they're very pretty men?

2.  Reckless Love, "Beautiful Bomb"

More pretty men. Come on, how could I not buy this song?  

3.  Loudguns, "Loud 'n' Proud"

A relatively new band, formed in 2009. I found them (or rather, they found me*) on Twitter.

4.  Lordi, "Would You Love A Monsterman?" "Devil Is A Loser" "Pet The Destroyer" and "It Snows In Hell"

Why yes, Mr Lordi, I would love a monsterman.

*For non-users of Twitter: Don't worry, that's not as creepy and stalkerish as it sounds.