Painting With Shotguns XVIII: The MMX Edition

Ahh, the first Painting With Shotguns of the new year. I can smell the acrid tang of gunpowder still hanging in the air.

Let’s not mince words. We’ll just get on with it, then.


Park City

In case you missed it, hey! Sundance is coming up, and so too is the Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

In fact, it’s next week. I leave at the end of the week, and am off to the wild snowy peaks of Utah (or, spoken like a Jawa, Ootini-tah!), which at present is actually warmer and sunnier than goddamn Pennsylvania. Still, I know I’ve got to do some walking about to do, especially since I’ll be hanging with the festival for a handful of days after the lab ends. I’ll be shuttling my icy ass from showing to showing, absorbing what will likely be an insane and abnormal number of films.

Some great films, too — Howl, Splice, Shock Doctrine, and like, a billion more. As I’m only there for a few days, I’ll only be able to catch a slicey-slice of what’s going to be there, but I’m just geeked about the experience.

Further, we’ll be training under some awesome screenwriters responsible for some great movies, and we’re also in great company with the other Lab attendees.

While I’m gone, I’ll be sure to toss some quickie updates up on the wall here, as I did with LA. Possible too I might write a few in advance and have the Scheduling Robot kick them into your eyes.

That said, any of you actually been to the festival?

Any advice?

Any survival guides I should be made aware of?

Since I’ll be frozen, any advice on dressing warmly? Not just the “dress in layers,” but what layers to include?

Anybody I should try to track down?

Anything at all?


Some Things Are Just Too Big

I hear some big thing happened with Doctor Who this week?

I’ll confess: I’ve really never watched it. Well, I watched a little of it on PBS when I was a kid, and I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Robots and some British dude in an afro and… a phone booth? Sounds fascinating now, but when I was young, I’d rather just swing a lightsaber around or pretend to be piloting an F-14 Tomcat into a dragon’s mouth.

To be honest, I still don’t actually understand the show or even what it’s about. Without really meaning to, I’ve kept the entire property in a very deep blind spot for all my life. Even though I wasn’t  a Star Trek fan (well, not until TNG, I guess), I still kept it peripherally on my radar. But Who, not so much.

Part of me thinks, “Well, a lot of people are very excited over this. I’d better check it out.”

But then I think, “Holy crap. I’m going to have to wade through decades of material. It’s already weird. What are my chances?”

And thus I put it aside, assuming it’s simply too big a beast to hunt.

It occurs to me that I find things like this overwhelming from a “pop culture time management” standpoint. Everything I’ve ever heard about The Wire tells me that it is the best show ever, and yet, I find myself unable to wade in. I feel like it’s too late. Like it went 60 hours and for me to properly get my teeth around it I’m going to lose a lot of my time doing so, and further, will probably just end up getting behind on other dumb-ass shows and books I shouldn’t be absorbing in the first place, and that’ll start some kind of desperate chain reaction where I’ll be atop a watertower with a suitcase nuke, a Christmas sweater, and no pants. It’s happened before.

It’ll affect how I approach a book series, too. Very recently, the George R.R. Martin A Song Of Ice And Fire series came up as a recommendation, and one more, I feel overwhelmed and threatened by it, like it’s a teetering dark monolith ready to crash down on my head. I’m dizzy just thinking about it. I feel like, were I to try to suddenly digest Dr. Who, The Wire, and A Song Of Ice And Fire I’d never see the sunlight again.

Which is ridiculous, of course.

Any advice on coping with this? Should I just bite the bullet and parcel it out? Is Dr. Who actually worth a shit, or is it just the same British bizarre-o-show that I barely remember from my youth when it aired on public television?

Bacon And Sugar

I’m pretty sure if I take bacon, and I cook it with equal parts in weight of sugar and a leeeeetle bit of water, and I let it crystallize, I’ll have a bacon I could comfortably make a toffee or nut bark with. Further, the leftover sugar would then be bacon-infused sugar. Not that I know what I’d do with that. I mean, besides shove it in my mouth and die from bacon-flavored diabetes.

The question is — cook the bacon first, or let it cook during the hour that the sugar crystallizes?

Or, just dip hot pieces of bacon in real maple syrup and eat those and call it a day?

And yes, that image is of ladies with bacon bikinis (bakinis?). Ahh, the Internet.

Food, Inc.

Speaking of food —

I won’t go too deeply into it, but please believe me when I tell you that you are mandated by yours truly to watch the documentary Food, Inc. It’s an even-handed look at corporate food and factory farming. It’s not anti-meat, and when it finds mass-produced products that don’t suck (Stonyfield yogurt, for instance), it gives them a place on the pedestal. But all told, it’ll ideally make you really rethink the shit you shovel into your facehole. It’s got solid contributions from Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan.

More Michael Pollan, right here —

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Michael Pollan
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

Oh, and Food, Inc is also on Netflix streaming.

Oh! And the other night was the Alton Brown Good Eats “Holy Crap, Alton Brown Lost A Lot Of Weight” episode (actually known as “Live and Let Diet“).  If you’re looking for a loose breakdown of his non-diet diet, you can get one right here (thanks to the wifey for finding). We’re going to try sardines on his recommendation. Wish us luck.


  • As far as Dr. Who goes, they pretty much rebooted the series in 2005. It’s made as a jumping on point. Anything you may have seen from the older episodes is kind of a lagniappe.

    There are a few in jokes, but really the new show stands on its own pretty well.

    Since it’s on a British schedule (13 episodes instead of 22), it won’t take long to get caught up.


  • As a Note, the Wire’s season stand very strongly on their own and as it’s HBO, they are also short seasons. While I’d totally endorse _eventually_ seeing all the seasons of The Wire, mainlining them could burn your brain out. Just look at doing season 1 and let the rest sort itself out.

    On the Who front, I’ll offer a slightly sour note. I never followed old Who, but I did hop on the new train as it came out, and while I’m _generally_ glad that I did, I can’t really call it an unqualified positive. There are a handful of really fantastic episodes, a swath of fairly stupid ones and most maddeningly, a fair number of “mostly dumb but with a few moments of brilliance” that exist almost entirely to suck away time. This gets muddled further by the fact that there’s usually a long plot thread floating around (esp in the new season 1) that scatters hints all over the season and which, I admit, is made cooler because of that sense of scope.

    In practice, I think there are some episodes to see, and rather more episodes to just read the summary of on Wikipedia, and you would probably get an interesting list of suggestions if you asked the internerds. The lists would all start with “Blink” but how they diverge from there is where it gets interesting.

    -Rob D.

    PS – My opinion is also, apparently, tainted because the sequence that I consider the most absolutely badass thing in the entire series is something that the purists consider out of character.

    • Rob:

      The Wire. Check. Got it. Considering now — may just head to Netflix and suck it up.

      Dr. Who. Check. Interesting. See, that’s part of the thing, nothing about Who has ever really geeked me, even when hearing about it — but, enough people dig it, but then enough people also dig lots of things I’m Just Not Into. I may give it a shot, but not sure where it’ll fall in the list of priorities.


      — c.

  • You will dig “Blink”, this much I promise, and I can think of 2 or 3 more eps that are almost as good. Everything else is up in the air.

    This is actually a great bar topic because the good parts really are good and interesting, but I’ve found the Doctor is something of a Rorschach test since I have really come to feel he’s very different things to different people (Not a shock, since he taps some very flexible archetypes) and what they respond to depends on that interpretation.

    -Rob D.

  • Combine that with the fact that you can use Dr. Who to tell almost any kind of story and it gets all the more interesting because it’s the kind of platform that _demands_ experimentation, which is sometimes brilliant – there’s a closed-room episode made absolutely terrifying with nothing but voices and good foley work – and sometimes just incredibly stupid. However it turns out, there is something compelling about there even _being_ such a platform.

    And yeah, I know it is odd that I have the least positive opinion about Dr. Who, but also may have the most -volume- of opinion. 🙂

    -Rob D.

  • Eccelston sold it well enough to draw me into the series, and he was better than many of the episodes he was in, but Tennant really became iconic in my mind.

    If i think about it a little, I feel like the thing they both sold me on was the idea that this new vision of the doctor was born out of _tragedy_, not some hippie-dippy ideal of sci-fi, and the show got more traction for me every time I -felt- that.

    -Rob D.

  • I will do you one favor, man. Watch Blink. The episode has no continuity to know about and centers on a one-off, very likeable character who knows nothing about time travel or any of that stuff. She’s in over her head, but still very confident, upbeat and clever. Also features a monster that is absolutely terrifying in a very original way. In other words, Doctor Who at its best.

    Here is the full episode.

  • Chuck, I am in precisely the same boat you’re in with Dr. Who, including the background. Stop it. My life. Stop stealing the glamor. You’re going to have to make due with being a respected and successful individual that has a future- stop trying to take what I’ve squandered away from me. Darling when I hold you, don’t you know I feel the same? (oooh oooh ooh ohohoooooh)

    The effed up thing is that I want to want to watch it. Everything I know about says I should be into it, but… it’s like trying to force a square peg into a Republican. Sure, it’s good for a few laughs but you’re probably going to get into trouble. By the time I decided I did want to give it try, the amount of backlog I’d need to watch to be caught up with current started piling up. I mean, crap I am only halfway through Season 2 of NCIS, do I really have time for Dr. Who also?

    I am keeping a close eye on this thread.

    Also, enjoy the hell out of Utah. I hate the place (I have never been in that state without getting pulled over or being harassed by a cop and I went skiing there every year from New Mexico) but outside of the salt flats, the state is gorgeous. Once you get used to the smell, the flats are absolutely astounding – if you’ve never seen a flat, I highly recommend going to SLC and taking the Interstate (80 I think?) west out of town towards Nevada and just driving for half an hour – what nature can do with terrain will astound you. No sarcastic smarm there, it is just astonishing.

    Unless you’re near the higher passes, a fleece jacket should be enough to keep you warm, but do yourself a favor and take wind protection – cover your nose, chin, and mouth. A scarf will work but a balaclava is a really, really good idea. Drink -lots- of water and take sunglasses if there is snow out. Unlike places with high tree cover, snow glare can dehydrate you and it usually blinds me (my eyes are very photosensitive though).

    • Rick:

      I AM YOU.

      Okay, no.

      Utah: I won’t have the power of my own to go anywhere but Sundance, UT and Park City, UT. Further, those are “up there” in terms of height. (They’re both ski areas.) Sunglasses, I’m good — my glasses have those magic wizard lenses that turn dark when exposed to UV rays or naked grandmothers.

      — c.

  • Cool. Standard cold weather gear will take care of you then. Some type of flannel shirt or over shirt with a jacket over it (I am partial to North Face, but then again, I am an elitist bastard). Jeans with thermal underneath, heavy socks and some decent boots. You can buy gloves (my wife got me a pair here) that have a detachable piece – they basically go from being wool mittens to wool fingerless gloves; you know, for the biker that has a caring mother that wants him to keep warm. I still stand by a balaclava over a scarf, just because a good gortex one is warm as hell and you look like some kind of tripped out cyber-ninja with it on.

    Take chapstick. You’ll thank me. Carmex for the win.

    Beyond that, if you’re driving don’t hit the brakes on ice and you’re golden! Have a hell of a lot of fun, and try to get a little skiing in if you can. Utah has some of the coolest slopes, in my opinion.

  • Eccleston is adorably smug, Tennant is charming and sweet, and this new guy shows promise but I’m a little iffy after watching the trailer.

    I wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by it. I started watching in 2005 and the new series tries to keep itself very easy to understand. It does draw upon some older episodes at time but usually they sum up things at time so you can understand.

    Even with villains such as the Daleks or the Cybermen they either reboot their stories so they’re easier to understand or they keep things simple.

    One thing you might not enjoy so much is how they frequently use “Time changed” in their stories to explain why things have occured like say, how the Daleks are destroyed and brought back three times during the series. 😛

    So in short, start watching the series or I will kidnap the Taco Terrier!

    • Your threatened abduction of Taishan The Immovable Heavenly Mountain is laughable, for she is both immovable and disinterested in your nonsense. Plus, she’ll bite your face and hang from your jowls.

      Re: Doc Who. I’ll consider it.

      I’m willing to take a poll — what should I start with? Doctor Who, or The Wire? Obviously a wide margin between the two properties.

      — c.

  • Just saw Food, Inc. this week – definitely agree with your assessment. I was glad to see Stoneyfield there and even the evil W got fair coverage. It also again made me long to travel to Virginia and buy everything Polyface Farms sells and give Joel Salatin a hug; all of which I know he would disapprove of, but I still kind of want to anyways.

    So question for you – where do you go to get meat locally? (we’re sort of local to each other, no?)
    I am a big None Such Farms (Buckingham) supporter since I can see them chopping the meat off the carcass in the back and the cows grow up across the street. But it has always bothered me that they feed their animals corn, and after Food, Inc., my desire to find better meat is renewed. Any suggestions?

    • Liz:

      Sadly, grass-fed beef is haaaaard to find around these parts outside of restaurant menus. I’ll poke around, see if I can’t find anything!

      — c.

  • I was going to suggest you watch the episode “Blink” as well, then saw Rob beat me to it. It was the first episode I watched — ever — and was immediately hooked. Even more so when I saw one of my favorite tv writers wrote it (Steven Moffat).

    Which then makes me want to recommend you watch the British series “Coupling” if you haven’t watched it already. SO funny!

    But yeah, totally hear ya on the “too late” thing. I feel that way about a lot of things that are recommended to me. Especially The Wire. It must be stinkin’ brilliant. But I’m just really not wanting to invest the time. *shrug*

    Great links in this post. Will definitely check out the Food, Inc. (loved reading Fast Food Nation when it came out). And also the Alton Brown non-diet.

    Good luck with the sardines, man. Bleayah.

    • The sardines were not terrible. I combined the Good Eats recipe with another recipe — mashed the fish with mayo, avocado, salt, parsley, put on sourdough toast, popped in oven for 15 minutes at 350, squirt of lemon juice. Not bad. Fishy, though. Definitely very fishy; same as canned tuna. And not just “briny” seafood — scallops fall under that, maybe, but actively oily-fishy. The taste is good. The aftertaste, less so.

      Don’t know that I’ll be big on them in the future.

      — c.

  • Oh, and FYI: you can watch the entire “Blink” episode on youtube in five easy installments.

    Do it! Do it! You know you want to…

    • I am unaware of anything called “Sprouts.” Hmm. We do have Fresh Market around — I’ll have to poke the butcher there. Er, in a non-sexual way.

  • Count my vote for you to check out DR Who. You can start with the new stuff and work on over. Stephen Moffatt episodes are the most awesomeness around. lol. And both actors who’ve played the Dr so far are excellent actors.

    Torchwood is also well worth it as long as you put up with the agony of first half of first season. They had some major growing pains but for John Barrowman as Captain Jack Hardness – well worth it! (You’ll want to start Torchwood AFTER Captain Jack gets introduced in Dr Who season 2 or 3.

    (Hubby hated the old series but has totally loved the new one! So maybe that will help.)

  • You already know that I’m not a big fan of sci-fi stuff. However, I really enjoyed David Tennant as Dr. Who. Don’t know/think I’ll like the next one. I highly recommend seeing the repeats of David Tennant though.

  • January 7, 2010 at 1:47 PM // Reply

    I felt the same way about Dr. Who when it restarted a few years back – I had seen a couple of the old episodes on PBS when I was a kid, and they added up to a giant “WTF?” I resisted watching the new stuff for the same reason; it felt too late. I didn’t want to wrestle with monumental continuity.

    Then a friend convinced me to watch an episode from the second season called “The Girl In the Fireplace.” It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s head-trippingly bizarre – in short, it’s very Dr. Who. I mean, c’mon – clockwork robots in 18th century clothes! Madame du Pompadour! A horse wandering a space station! A camera made with a human eyeball! David Tennant wearing a tie on his head and singing old torch songs! What’s not to love?

    After that, and another episode that featured inexplicably Scottish Shaolin monks trying to infect Queen Victoria with an alien strain of lycanthropy derived from a creature made of moonlight (and one very badass CGI werewolf), I was pretty much hooked. I will confirm what other folks are saying about “Blink” as well – hell, the episode was nominated for a Hugo, which should say a lot for its quality.

    As for the Wire, well, yeah. It’s pretty much the best television show I’ve ever seen. It sneaks up on you, building up a piece at a time until you realize that it’s a rolling epic and it’s going places you can’t help but want to follow. It’s not a flashy, jump-out-at-you kind of brilliance; it’s a quiet sense of realism that makes it really sing.

    But I’d argue with Rob about the seasons standing alone. You could watch them out of sequence, but there would be a lot of surprises ruined, and relationships that don’t make so much sense unless you’ve seen how they develop. I’d strongly urge you not to watch them out of order – even if it’s a little bit intimidating to think about, it’s well worth the investment.

  • Oh, god, yes, he’s totally right. I didn’t mean to suggest they should be seen out of order: there is absolutely a buildup over time. I just meant that when you get to the end of a season, it’s usually a decent opportunity to stop and take a breath.

    -Rob D.

  • Although, yeah, Blink might be actually fantastic science fiction on its own merits. There’s usually a couple of gems in each season, the rest of the episodes being merely great fun.

  • As the lone voice of fantasy, go for a Song of Ice and Fire and take it slow. There are another two books left in the series, so you can move through it at a relaxed pace and _still_ have to wait desperately for the next books. It is some of the richest mood, most compelling characterization and most brutally realistic storytelling I have ever seen.

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