Painting With Shotguns #53

The One-Two Halo Hell-Punch

Once upon a time, I was pretty good at this game called Halo.

No, really. I mean, I wasn’t going to win any awards or anything (do they give out awards for that?), but I could go through the single-player on legendary (er, with help), and I when hopping onto Xbox Live I was able to hold my own against the multiplayer leagues of racist 13-year-old whippersnappers (translation of “whippersnapper” = “dickless wonder”).

I wasn’t King Shit, but I wasn’t a squalling baby with poop in his hair, either.

I have since become said squalling baby.

I mean, hot damn. I got Halo: Reach and finally popped it in last night, and the single player on Heroic was so hard, I had to change my diaper and switch to Normal difficulty. And even then — damn, some of those Covenant move fast. And I can’t seem to move fast enough with them. I want to blame the controls — they feel a little herkier and jerkier than what I get with Modern Warfare — but then I popped onto multiplayer and got, as you might say, face-raped. I played two rounds of Rumble Pit, and failed miserably both times. I’d appear, and a sniper bullet would peel my scalp. I’d run somewhere, and some dude would be jumping all around me like a monkey whose ass is stuffed with habanero peppers, and then — death.

lolspartanz : The New Meme

Death, death, death.

So, I want to say — hey, this game is harder. Hey, these controls have gotten wonky. Hey, someone is breeding these 13-year-old dickless wonders in a lab to be perfect video game killing machines.

But I think — I think — it’s maybe just me.

I think maybe I’m getting older.

I think I’ve lost the stuff. The magic. The deathmatch glory.

Oh, And Speaking Of Halo: Reach…

Banana Peel

This isn’t a formal review or anything (nor is it any kind of fascinating cultural critique), but the game is definitely good times. Prettier than earlier Halo iterations. I also like that from the get-go you are encouraged to customize Noble Six as you see fit (and you can be a female Spartan). It’s definitely Modern Warfare by way of Halo — you can buy upgrades (“level up”), which feels very CoD. You also run around with an AI squad, which also feels pretty darn CoD. They’re pretty smart, your AI team, which is great and all, but I gotta say –

I really dug the “lone wolf” approach of the earlier Halo games. One lone bad mofo Spartan — the last of your breed — running around Die Hard-style, a persistent thorn in the side (or sticky grenade up the ass) of the Covenant war-machine. With an AI crew, you can sometimes just rest on your laurels: “I’ll just hang out here behind this wobbly bit of space junk, let my undying computer friend whittle ‘em down while I read Field and Stream, or do a little scrapbooking.”

A Septic Tide Of Existential Dread

Spongebob Squareterror

Man alive, there’s a man alive here.

Damn, damn yesterday I went through a fifteen-minute… well, I wouldn’t call it a panic attack, because I’ve had those? This wasn’t a physiological reaction so much as it was a spiritual, emotional, existential one, but suddenly my chitinous armor, my ink-smeared carapace, was wrenched away and I felt horribly exposed as a terrible writerly fraud. I thought, Gott Im Himmel, I am super-fucked. I’m not good at this. I have no future. I have no options. I’m on the downward slide, the final leg of the race, my hopes and dreams of being a real boy, Pinocchio a real writer were like an infant chimp dashed against the rocks by a tribe of dominant fang-face chimps hooting and screaming –

There I sat, in the living room, dinner cooking away, and it felt like the universe was a pyramid and it had turned upside-down and its apex was now its nadir and was pressing down on the top of my head.

It felt like — my whole writing career was a sucking chest wound.

It was troubling. It rattled me, boy. Whoo.

It’s rare, because normally I’m pretty bulletproof about that one aspect of my life. Doubt doesn’t usually enter into the equation. But last week’s loss of the TV pilot coupled with the still-no-news-on-the-novel front is, I think, startling my once stalwart confidence. Once, my confidence was a hulking bear, and now it’s a knock-kneed fawn who spooks with every cracking branch or orbiting moth.

I weathered the weird internal mind-storm and my nerve is back, and once more the bucket is on my head and I’m again trying to knock down a wall with it, but I still feel a little raw. Like the day or two after you had food poisoning — the feel lingers, that sensation of sourness and being run ragged.

I believe I really need some good news.

Food-Flavored Requests


Need your help if you’re willing to offer it.

a) Got a grill (finally). Weber Genesis on a crazy end-of-summer sale. Side-burner, too.

I know “recipes” and “grill” don’t always go together — but I will beseech you for any recipes or tips or tricks you have on grilling. It’s been a while, and our last grill was nothing outta-this-world, so: techniques for cooking? Cleaning? Recipes for spice rubs and marinades? It’s late in the summer, but I plan on grilling my ass off until Old Man Winter freezes my balls to my thighs. (Too much?)

b) I’m pondering Classic Recipes Everyone Should Know. The kitchen classics — pizza, spaghetti sauce, roasted chicken, beef stew, scrambled eggs, chili, whatever. I’m thinking that it’d be kind of interesting to start cementing “my version” of those recipes, and I believe I’ll start with beef stew. Beef stew is awesome — versatile and goes a long way. What that means, though, is I could use your stew recipes. To start.

You make stew? I’d love to hear how you do it.

Play The Links

Once again, I gotcher links right here.

Think you’ve got a handle on soda-pop diversity? So many options? This uber-chart will show you how few players really play the field in the sody-pop game.

America Is A Joke” — long, but compelling article about Jon Stewart.

Oooooh. Chocolate recipes over at Dying For Chocolate.


Listen, just click here — just click “The Ugly Dancer.” Have fun. Waste time. Crank your speakers.


John “Secret Tom Green” Hornor once again blows our minds with Synaptic Misfires.

John McFetridge talks up whether or not writers “see” a book as a film as they write it, or whether they instead put forth the voice of the book (my response: can’t it be both?). At Do Some Damage.

Finally, Rick writes up a post I forgot to link, a great post called “Marriage And Shit.”


  • The first Halo screen shot made me laugh so freaking hard, but I think it’s exhaustion.

    I’m sorry you got The Feeling yesterday. I am glad it’s starting to subside.

  • I can’t help to much on food question B – only been cooking regularly for myself for the last 2-3 years so I still have plenty of confused phone calls to the Culinary Goddess (or Mom for short) along the lines of “How did you do this again?”. Ask again in another 2-3 years and I’ll let you know.

    But for A, I might be able to help with an idea. See, you’re going to want to get yourself some super jumbo mutant shrimp and marinate them in a mixture of sesame oil, sesame seeds and orange juice (no, I can’t tell you how much. I only measure when I bake). Skewer those babies, give them a light char (and take care not to overcook them) and serve them up with grilled zucchini, summer squash, and some tomato salad. Perhaps one of the best summer meals I’ve ever had.

  • Can’t help you with the rest (I’m a woman and I don’t grill!) but as far as Halo is concerned, it’s just practice. You can’t just pick up a FPS and pwn. Takes some finesse. Just practice some and you’ll be right as rain!

  • You could be sucking at Reach because it’s the current shiny new thing on XBLA. Meaning all the top cool kids are jumping on top of it now, while the normal people either haven’t gotten it yet, or are still going through the single player campaign to build up some experience with the game before heading online.

    Wait it out for a month or so, and you’ll see the game has a completely different crowd by then. That’s one thing I dislike about the matchmaking system, you can’t choose what kind of game you want to join, so you’re completely left to the game to choose for you. And the game rarely chooses the right people to play with. Especially when you’re still green or a bit rusty.

    Can’t comment on the game or single player too much though. Haven’t even played the game yet. I’m not a big fan of Halo, but I did love ODST’s campaign. Chances are I’ll never play it as my 360 red ringed ages ago and I need my money for other things. Things like moving to England and such.

    • @Remy:

      Did your Xbox fall outside warranty? They cover that RROD for a long time.

      Oh, and REACH has more matchmaking options — you can choose games for fun, competition, without profanity, etc. — lots of metrics, though I don’t know how well they’ll be followed.

      — c.

  • It depends on how you buy them. I usually buy them already peeled and deveined since cleaning shrimp is a major pain in the ass. But if you get them fresh (and they really do taste better, I’m just lazy) then yeah. A little scrape of a pairing knife should be enough to remove it.

  • Back in the day, I was really good at Counter-Strike on the PC. I was snap-shooting fools in the head like Christian Bale in Equilibrium. Entirely new schools of gun-kata bloomed and died in a single Counter-Strike session with keyboard and mouse in my hands.

    Then I went on a long, long FPS hiatus and got older.

    A year ago, I returned to the FPS via Team Fortress 2. Where were my exquisite head shots? Why couldn’t I bend bullets around corners like Wesley anymore? I was a sad, lonely man staring at keyboard and mouse like they were the ones who had failed me.

    The key to regaining my self-respect was to change how I played the game. In TF2, there are support classes that require brains more than reflexes: medic, engineer, and, most importantly, spy. I don’t play the “Haloes”, so I’m unaware of what your support options are. Seek them out and learn to love them. Find your self-worth in your *point* total, not your *kill* total (assuming the Haloes gives you points as well as kills).

    Word of warning: your conniving mind is probably pointing you towards a doomed idea: the sniper. “Not a front-line grunt,” you’re thinking. “He’s a support class,” you muse. Snipers are a support class, but they’re a twitchy support class. They require the same twitch fibers that the racist, face-raping, prepubescents possess, but they’re just a bit more cowardly. Sniping is not your friend. Be a true (athletic) supporter.

  • It died right after the warranty period ended, like a week after or so. So I can’t get a free fix for it. Shame too, as I’d actually pick this title up if it still worked. That and Portal 2. And Dishwasher Dead Samurai 2. In a sense it’s good it’s broken, otherwise I’d never go through with my moving plans.

    Now I just play on my NES instead.

    I wonder how those matchmaking options in Reach would get used. Something tells me people will just end up using them to “cheat” ranked free-for-all achievements. They did that with the language settings in Halo 3 as well. Have everyone set up some obscure settings most people wouldn’t want to be group with, start searching around the same time… and before you know it you’re playing ranked free-for-all with friends. I didn’t do this as I’m not an achievement whore, but there’s plenty of people like that out there.

  • I should be on there getting my ass whipped tonight.

    I think we get used to those Call of Duty controls and then Halo is way harder to play. At least that’s what I decided after my last foray into multiplayer around the time ODST came out. I used to hold my own. Not anymore.

    Yesterday must have been International Existential Crisis Day. I had a bleak morning myself.

  • I’ve heard Halo: Reach is really good. While I agree that the lone wolf last-badass-standing premise of the original Halo has the mentioned Die Hard appeal, more and more it felt like Master Chief wasn’t really going anywhere as a character. He seemed to have all of the emotional range of a well-armored cinder block. I hear Halo: Legends has some fun with the expectations and tropes of the universe, and from the hype it seems to that Halo: Reach was taking some notes. I like the fact that we get some diverse characters. Maybe that’s just me.

    The Feeling is never good. I’m glad you came through on the other side all right. My better half has been dealing with The Feeling the last couple days when it comes to WoW and I just might have to blog about it.

  • The key to a good stew is flouring up your meat and browning it first so you have some roux going into it. Sea salt and pepper in with the flour for extra bonus points.

    I’m sorry you had a crisis of conscience. But will it be OK? Hmm, let’s go see:

    You’re hot stuff, Wendig. Don’t believe me? Volunteer for a zine and read some slush for a while. Srsly. Don’t let the fear gremlins bring you down. Remember that they’re just a part of the landscape.

    It’ll work itself out.

  • Weber Genesis. Excellent. (That’s what I have.) I live in South Florida, so I grill like 3-4 times a week. 52 weeks a year, bitches! Yeah, sometimes in January, I just pop out on the patio and grill a big juicy hamburger. (Now, if I can just get through another hurricane season unscathed.)

    I digress. Not to toot my own horn, but I am a fucking grill king. What do you want to know?

    Let’s start with some basics. Get yourself an industrial size grill brush. Do not waste time with some pantywaist retail-grade brush. Something like this: . They last forever and do a much better job.

    Get your gill red hot before you do anything. Pump up a couple of burners to high, close the lid, and let that temp needle get 2/3 across. Pop open the lid and scrub the shit out of your grates. The ashes will flake off like post-apocalyptic rain.

    Hamburger tricks: Don’t season the meat and then form the patty. Make your patty and then season the outside liberally with salt and pepper; it makes a nice crust. Or, my preference, Penzey’s 4S salt ( ). Make a nice dimple in the middle of one side of your patty; it will keep it from bulging as it cooks. Get a paper towel moist with oil and rub that hot grate down before you put your patty on; keeps it from sticking and breaking apart.

    As with all meat cooking, let your shit rest before you cut into it. Tent with foil if you want to actively work the carryover cooking.

    Last, I give you an awesome steak marinade from Cook’s Illustrated that simply cannot be beat. Someone reposted it here: . Go. Try it now. Now! You’re a freelancer, right?
    You can have a flank steak for breakfast.

    Ummm, Sorry I vomited my passion for grilling all over your comments section. Enjoy.

    • @Justin:

      A brush like that good for the porcelain coated grates? (I think they get a better sear and hold heat better than the stainless steel grates, so I got those. Plus, y’know, cheaper.)

      — c.

  • I’m pretty sure that’s a big no, Chuck, but I would check your instruction manual for care. I don’t have that fancy porcelain stuff.

    Another tip: By backup LP tank. They’re pretty cheap and come in super handy when you run out of LP halfway through a 2-inch porterhouse. Don’t know what options are near you, but Home Depot and such often have tank exchange programs. You bring your empty and they swap it for a filled one. No waiting around while they fill it, keeping your fingers crossed that the moron at the switch decides to light up.

    • @Justin —

      Diggit. Yeah, I need brushes that don’t damage the porcelain. I dunno that I’ll grill enough to need a second tank, but I do like that the Weber has that grill scale so I can see how close I’m getting to the end of the supply.

      — c.

  • On yesterday’s post: Didn’t get a chance to chime, but all I was worth was the fun quote from As Good As It Gets “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.” Not true, as I lack those qualities and am male, but funny.

    On Career Ennui: Not to rub salt but, good. It shows you still care so deeply for what you are EXCELLENT at that you can be wounded. I’m not one for cursing, but in this instance, it’s perfect. You’re own heart has shown that you are not becoming one of those cocky asshole writers. That’s a good thing. The fact that you shared it here is even further evidence that you are STILL in the trenches, STILL kicking ass and STILL worthy of listening to. It is already making you a better writer.

    On Grilling: Time and ziplock bags are your friend. Take meat, your creative use of spice and liquid, pour into bag, massage, and put it in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours, turning once an hour. Also, as your pouring into the bag, have a small tupperware dish nearby to mix an additional amount of the same stuff and use it as a glaze with a basting brush while on the grill. Simple, creative, works every time.


  • So far my problem with Reach, is that it feels like I am mired in frozen molasses. I enjoyed the story for ODST, so I have hopes that its mainly the Multiplayer controls that are messing with me. Few games on the console have the speed and grit that makes me enjoy Mw1 and Mw2.

    I do feel your pain though, I used to be “Cybernetic Headshot Machine” about 10 years ago with Halo 1. Nowadays I join clans of people that Centrum, and drink wine to help control cholesterol.

    //cool story
    Playing Multiplayer yesterday on a map my nephews made in Forge. Wandering around I get to some slat windows in a bunker, I noticed a slight offset to the windows as far as rendering terrain and items on the other side of the wall, like there was a visible lag effect. While I’m sitting there looking at this, my oldest nephew stabs me in the back of the head. I didn’t mind the death, but my OCD kicked in and I started exploring other sections for lag effects and the like. I ended up dying a good 12 times while just exploring the map.
    The amount of shit talk I got from Wyatt and Ian (the nephews), was hysterical, and it made me realize I would have never looked for, or explored, stuff liek that when I was there age
    //cool story bro

    • @Bart:


      And wine controls cholesterol? I hope you’re fucking with me, because if that works, hot damn there’s a lot more wine in my future.

      Also: if anybody so requires it, my gamertag is WEAVER42.

      We could, y’know, form a Team Terribleminds. A sad, pathetic team with maximum getting-curb-stomped.

      — c.

  • Reach’s single player is pretty cool, and if you want the lone wolf feel you can just venture pretty far forward. You’re usually given point, and they don’t move super fast behind you. Though, they do catch up eventually.

    I’m finding with reach a lot of it is adjustment. Even grunts take more ammo to kill this time around then they did in ODST. Thicker armor I think is the reason, as well as wanting to just make it all feel desperate and dangerous. But it is definitely noticeable when you put a 5 round burst into a grunt and he gets right back up.

    I also had the face-rape problem in the beta for it. Dialing up my sensitivity on the look stick really helped. Made it feel a bit more like mouse and keyboard for speed (I currently play all the way up at 10). There is also just something satisfying about running past someone, turning, and lining up a head shot while they’re only halfway through their own 180.

  • Dealing with the ravening hordes of screaming, spastic monkeys with no social skills has never been high on my list. I get enough of that in real life. That’s why I play with bots.

    Who still hand my ass to me.

    Oh, man. The Feeling. The Fear. The soul crushing weight of Kirkegaardian Dread.

    Fun times.

    Glad (hope?) that feeling’s passed. I get it every couple of weeks. Thank god for scotch.

    We need a #needahug hashtag.

  • Huh. Several people I know had that kind of “What am I doing, am I a fraud?” feeling this week. Something must be in air. I should be careful. It’s coming for me next. I can smell it.

    ANYWAY. Grilling and stew:

    1. I almost never to grill, as I don’t own one, although I would like to. My main thought it to look into Alton Brown on the subject. Not just because he’s my God of cookery, but because he’s a notorious grill fanatic. I think some of his notable works include roast leg of lamb in a grill, skirt steak (the best steak you will ever have. Ever.). His grilling ep includes a segment on the care of ones grill as well.

    Me, one thing I can tell you I love to do is grill corn. Just toss it on there with the husks still on it, let it roast until is delicious in a way your brain hasn’t even formed coherent memes for yet.

    b. Leaving Gumbo aside, as that is my go-to stew, I like Anthony Bourdain’s recipie for Boeuf Bourguignon. It’s surprisingly simple (and in my opinion, any decent red will do, although I would use a pinot noir specifically for various reasons). And on a cold night? This’ll warm your shit up.

    I will say that if you’re gonna leave it overnight in the fridge to remember to skim the fat off. The leftovers become notably less appetizing with the fat cap floating on top. Take that away, though? Ooooh. Oh sir you will eat for a week.

  • Wait, that should have said “crisis of confidence.” Stupid fingers.

    I, uh, had no idea you weren’t supposed to clean the porcelain grates with a wire brush. I’ve been doing it for about ten years now, with no apparent problems. O_o

  • Chuck, to me, you are the good news. When things get rough, I think of Chuck, kicking ass and writing like a monster, making things sharp so they’ll cut. I think, “Be like Chuck.”

    You’re not going to do fine. You’re doing fine now. You’re going to do even better. The terrain isn’t all upward from here, but your path is one of net elevation. You are climbing.

    And I say this as a guy who knows crises of confidence. Believe you me.

    • @Will:

      You are an awesome human. Much thanks, brother. Net elevation. I shall remember that. I’m like climate change. Occasional downward drops, but an overall trend toward hotter and hotter. Yes. Good.

      *takes shotgun out of mouth*

      — c.

  • In other news, my disinterest in mingling with foul-mouthed Xbox Live neoplebs in the circus of the multiplayer has kept me away from the last two Halo games. I really want to play their campaigns, though, maybe through co-op, and so I’m planning out pennies so I can get ODST and REACH ere long. Maybe I’ll see you in outer space.

    • Excellent. That is my hope — that enough non-mouthbreather assgoblins buy the game and hook up with me online (er, in a Halo-flavored non-sexual way) so that I can have fun online instead of suffering some kind of XBL version of PTSD.

      — c.

  • I have a pretty good beef stew recipe but it is what I consider a “cheater” recipe since I use a crockpot; although I suppose you could put it in a deep casserole dish, cover and cook at 250 degrees in the oven for several hours….

    Anyway, take 1 1/2 lbs of stew beef, cubed. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, flour, paprika and if you have it, Penzey’s Old World Seasoning. Brown the meat using a little saved bacon fat or olive oil. Lift out the meat when browned and put it on a plate.

    Take 2 or 3 medium sized white onions and cut in slices and brown in the fat left in the pan from when you browned the meat. Pour onions on top of the meat on the plate.

    Peel carrots and potatoes to taste and cut into large chunks. You can also add turnips here if you like. Salt and pepper, toss and place in the bottom of a crockpot. Put the stew meat and onions on top of the vegetables in the pot. Throw in a couple of garlic cloves, minced if you so desire.

    Add one 28 oz can tomatoes with juice to pot, along with 1 cup beef broth or consomme. (I prefer to use Minor’s beef base since it blows boullion cubes out of the water in regards to taste. If you are using beef base, do 1 tsp base to 1 cup water.) You can also use beer or wine for your liquid if you prefer – the trick is to have the liquid come 1/2 – 2/3 up to the top of the food and to not stir – the ingredients need to be in the order listed – root vegetables, meat, onions. Sometimes I will also add a little Maggi browing sauce to give the stew more umami.

    Turn crockpot to high and leave to cook all day. About a half hour before you want to serve the stew, check to make sure it is thick enough. If not, you can either remove it to a pot on the stove and boil it down, or simply add 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with water to the boiling stew, stirring until combined. Continue to let it cook until the stew is thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Note: If you don’t have onions you can really cheat and use a packet of Lipton Onion Soup Mix. (This makes me feel like a 1950s housewife, so I try to avoid it on principle, but it does turn out a tasty stew.)

    Serve with biscuits.

  • Yeah I am a dork. :P I admit it!

    The problem with Reach Multiplayer is that since the system has stayed mainly the same throughout 4 console iterations the game itself is almost biased towards those who have played since the beginning without stop. If you played Halo, Halo 2, Halo 3, and ODST you will find your skills just continue to improve especially since most of the weapons tend to stay the same.

    I want Reach. I hate not having money. :/

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