Lunchtable TV Talk: The Brink

Standard

Eager to find out how The Brink, a satirical comedy focused on a geopolitical crisis that ignites in Pakistan, ends, I keep watching. It’s a relatively funny journey – not too taxing or challenging given the political story (which can bog down shows attempting to be “light”, as this one aims to be). What sets this show apart is its stellar ensemble cast. Just when I get pulled into the scenes with the incorrigible, frenetic Jack Black and his driver, played by the multitalented Aasif Mandvi, the shift focuses to the sex-obsessed, liberal but never-taking-his-eye-off-the-ball US Secretary of State, played to perfection by Tim Robbins. But the show also has somewhat smaller but still standout roles for Pablo Schreiber, Carla Gugino (who also turned in a good performance recently in Wayward Pines) and John Larroquette.

On an entirely unrelated note, Larroquette’s presence sent me off on a nostalgic mental parade of past television, including Larroquette on the 80s sitcom classic, Night Court, of which he was the best part. But Night Court also included Harry Anderson, a most non-descript guy who nevertheless carved out a niche for himself as a magic aficionado and as a night-court judge, as a frequent guest star in Cheers and in the 80s/90s sitcom Dave’s World, based on the life of comedy writer, Dave Barry. And my twisted obituary-laced brain immediately recalls that Dave’s World’s Meshach Taylor (also famous for his turn as Anthony the ex-con in Designing Women) is dead – too young. Going back to Night Court, once again, whatever happened to Markie Post, the female lead in the show? Back in the 1990s she was in a little-watched but nevertheless entertaining Hearts Afire with the late John Ritter. (Of course my brain would lead me here – always the grim reaper.) Hearts Afire ended up being about a married couple working on a hometown newspaper in the south, but it started off being thematically not too different from Alpha House and The Brink – without the farce, of course. Incidentally, Hearts Afire also starred Billy Bob Thornton. But people were not quite ready for Billy Bob yet.

In some ways, ensemble shows like The Brink, as topical and sharp as they are, end up making me more interested in making connections – playing some kind of six-degrees-of-Kevin Bacon connect-the-dots. Obviously. Nothing about the unfolding crisis and underhanded political rivalries playing out in high-stakes, behind-the-scenes conflicts should lead someone to forgotten two-season sitcoms like Hearts Afire. But for a TV-crazed lunatic like me, they do.

Clowning Around: The Coming Clown-Shortage Crisis

Standard

I am, being a bit afraid of clowns, freaked out because there was just a serious news report on Al Jazeera about the coming “clown crisis” in the clown industry because their numbers are declining. They interviewed all these professional clowns who were blaming media and movies who make clowns look weird and “scary” when they are (according to their “unbiased” self-assessment – ha) “actually fun, full of laughter and kids love us”. The reporter showed some statistical charts to show the dip in the number of registered clowns. Who the hell knew clowns were registered?? I suppose it is much like any other profession – but still struck me as funny.

From one of the world’s dumbest (but therefore silliest) movies, Real Men. Check out the shirt on John Ritter (RIP) and Jim Belushi‘s mullet!

“It’s a clown attack! Agents who’ve gone bad!” “Bad clowns?!”

The bonus box: Maple pecan cookies and five-inch floppy disks

Standard

Nothing makes a girl feel old like explaining to a youthful colleague what it was like to use floppy disks in “the old days”. It makes one feel even older than explaining the ubiquity of dial-up and AOL to people. It almost does not seem real to me either since my floppy-disk-using time was at the tail end of floppy use. That said, I still remember it well, right down to the last box of these disks that I owned. The brand was “Bonus” or something, so my brother sometimes asked jokingly, “What’s in the Bonus box?” We found it funny, but I can’t begin to understand why now.  (It’s possible he wanted to imitate the scene from the 80s film Real Men, which is so impossibly silly and stupid that I love it – and my god, look at John Ritter, who was SO young then (RIP), “Happy pie!”)

Now just seeing the words “five-inch floppy” together makes Viagra and other erectile dysfunction pharma commercials spring (yes, SPRING!) to mind. HA!

Then again, in most of the world, tv commercials for pharmaceutical, prescription drugs are not permitted. Only in America (probably) can you have drug ads in every commercial break prompting you to “ask your doctor” to prescribe all manner of toxic chemicals (and we have seen how much trouble the industry gets into as a result; for example, Johnson & Johnson recently got into hot water thanks to false marketing/making misleading claims and for paying doctors and nursing homes to recommend a specific drug that they knew had other adverse effects).

And in America – North America in general (including the Great White North, Canada, in this assessment of course), one great thing is maple syrup/flavor. In my recent baking escapades, I made not only the infamous brown sugar-maple cupcakes and frosting with candied maple bacon, but also tried a whole new recipe – maple pecan cookies. I did not hear any opinions on these one way or the other (and with 24 different options to choose from, I suppose everyone tried a lot of different things), but I assume these were okay – at least they looked the part.

maple pecan cookies

maple pecan cookies

MAPLE PECAN COOKIES

1 cup butter, room temperature
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 cups flour
1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans (or whatever amount you desire – I used less)

Maple icing
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons cream or milk (to achieve right consistency
pecan halves, to top the cookies

Preheat oven to 350F/175C.

Cream butter and add powdered and maple syrup. Add flour and pecans and mix well. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on ungreased/parchment-lined cookie sheets. Flatten cookie slightly and use your thumb to make an indentation in the top (for the frosting and pecan. Bake in preheated oven 13 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Cool completely on racks.

Mix icing ingredients together until you have achieved desired, spreadable consistency and flavor. Spread on cooled cookies and top each cookie with a pecan half.

maple pecan cookies

maple pecan cookies

Cleansed of the past – 2007 in soundtrack form

Standard

Continue reading