Saturday, May 8, 2021

Extremely Difficult Trivia About "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)

      About six months ago I did a post which had some incredibly detailed trivia questions about John Carpenter's version of "The Thing" (see my post on November 7, 2020).  Today I'd like to do the same with another horror classic, George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead," the original, 1968 version. Don't feel bad if you don't know most or even any of these, since they're very tough.  I doubt anyone could answer all of these unless they've seen the movie like 100 times, and/or have a eidetic (photographic) memory.  And it probably goes without saying, but there are obviously some spoilers in these questions.  The questions are mostly tied to the order in which they're revealed in the film, too.  The answers are at the end, in case you want to write down or remember your guesses.

1)   What time of day is it when Johnny and Barbra arrive at the cemetery?

2)   What day of the week is it when they arrive?

3)   What time of the year is it?  As in, what month, and what part of that month?

4)   How long a drive is it, one way, from Johnny and Barbra's house to the cemetery?

5)   How many of the undead do we see Ben "kill" (i.e. completely destroy)?

6)   The filmmakers seem to take care to not show brand names as much as possible.  But some snuck in.  For example, we see one in the drawer when Ben is searching for nails.  What is it?

7)   The audience briefly sees a calendar in the farmhouse.  What month and year does it show?

8)   At what business establishment did Ben get the truck he was driving?

The next batch of questions are based on information revealed during the radio and then television news broadcasts.

9)   Three city mayors are quoted as saying the National Guard may be called out soon to deal with the outbreak.  Which cities are these?

10)  Approximately what fraction of the U.S. is being affected by the outbreak?

11)  A police chief is quoted on the radio broadcast giving people safety advice.  Who is he, and where is he a police chief?

12)  According to the broadcast, the outbreak started two days before when a family of seven was found slaughtered.  Where was this?

13)  No zombies/ghouls have been noted west of the Mississippi River with one exception.  What is it?

14)  Where is the first place that a doctor reveals that the murderous attackers are consuming their victims?

15)  A sheriff then quickly confirms that the attackers are eating their victims.  Where is he from?

16)  What brand of radio are the people in the farmhouse listening to?

17)  What station number is it tuned to?

18)  What brand of television is the group watching at the farmhouse?

19)  What is the first thing we see a living dead person eat?

20)  Some scientists theorize that the outbreak occurs from the radiation brought back by a probe to Venus.  What is the name of this satellite?

21)  Which rescue station (flashed on the television screen) is closest to the farmhouse, and about how far away is it, in miles?

22)  Who are the only members of the group who are from the local area?

23)  What brand name is featured on a box carried by both Tom and then Harry?

24)  Reporter Bill Cardille (actor used his real name) works for what television station?

25)  What is the name of the sheriff leading the search and destroy mission?

26) How many undead does this sheriff say his team has already killed?

27)  What station owns the helicopter seen in the movie?

28)  What is the name of the posse member who shoots Ben?

29)  What make and model is the rifle that Ben uses in the movie?

30)  What is the make and model of the firearm that the posse member uses to kill Ben?

31)  What is the year, make, and model of car that Johnny drives?

32)  True or False:  There is no nudity in this movie.

33)  True or False:  No one refers to the undead as "zombies" in the film.

34)  During the scene in Washington, D.C., one of the doctors, and one of the reporters are named.  Who are they?

35)  Later another scientist is interviewed.  What is his or her name?

36)  There are four instances seen when a zombie uses a tool.  Describe all four.


1)   8:00 pm.

2)   Sunday.

3)  Barbra and Johnny talk about it being the first day of daylight savings, when they lose an hour, meaning it's in the spring.  Since the movie strongly appears to be set in the late 1960's, that would make it in late April.

4)  3 hours, according to Johnny.

5)   6 total.  3 with a crowbar during his first moments in the farmhouse.  Another one with the rifle after the Coopers, Tom, and Judy come up from the basement.  And finally the reanimated corpses of Harry and Helen Cooper, again with rifle bullets.

6)   A box for Lipton's orange pekoe & pekoe tea bags.

7)   December of 1966.

8)   Beekman's Diner, located down the road, according to Ben.

9)   Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Miami.  Also several unidentified governors of unnamed states.

10)  The eastern third of the U.S.

11)  Chief TK Dunbar of Camden, North Carolina.  Which is a real community.

12)  Near Gulfport, Louisiana.  Which is fictitious, although there is a Gulfport in nearby Mississippi.

13)  Southeast Texas, including the Houston and Galveston areas.

14)  Cumberland, Maryland.

15)  He's from Butler County, Pennsylvania.

16)  A Zenith.  According to radio enthusiasts online, a 1939 model 7S363, a very popular model.

17)  This one's not definite.  But the needle appears to be on 110, and simultaneously on 15 or so.  From what I've seen online, the 110 probably corresponds to AM station 1100, and the 15 to a shortwave radio station.  FM didn't get common until the 1960's, and the model is clearly from the late 1930's.  Given the apparent distance of the signal, it's probably AM 1100 or so.

18)  A Motorola.  Again, tech enthusiasts claim more specifically that it's a 1952 Motorola 17T5E

19)  A butterfly or moth, taken off a tree by a female zombie, played by the woman who did most of the makeup effects and played Helen Cooper, Marilyn Eastman.

20)  Explorer.  (Kind of a generic name, isn't it?)

21)  Willard, which is fictional.  However, most of the other rescue stations are real towns in Western Pennsylvania, and one in Ohio.   It's about 17 miles away from the farmhouse.

22)  Tom and Judy are the only locals.  

23)  Ball's Mason Jars, used to make the Molotov cocktails.

24)  WIIC TV 11, out of Pittsburgh.  Which is also the real station Cardille worked for.

25)  Sheriff Conan McClellan.  Although someone calls him "Gus" at one point, so I guess that's a nickname.

26)  19.  Although this total is quickly added to right after this statement.

27)  KQV.  Once again, this was a real radio station, out of Pittsburgh, and their actual helicopter.

28)  Vince.  Played by Vince Survinski, who was also the movie's production manager.

29)  Gun enthusiasts confirm it's a Winchester Model 1894.  Which normally shoots 30-30 rounds.  One online source says the box of ammo that's briefly seen is for Remington, Kleanbore 32 rounds, so maybe that's what Ben actually used.

30)  It's an Ithaca Model 37 shotgun.  Which surprised me, since it didn't appear to be firing a shotgun shell.  Some shotguns can fire solid slugs, so presumably that's what he used.

31)  It's a 1967 Pontiac LeMans.  Owned by Russ Streiner's ("Johnny") real life mother.

32)  False.  A nude female zombie is briefly shown--you can see her from behind, and topless.  You also see several male zombie that are topless, if that counts.

33)  True.  The undead are referred to as "those things," "monsters," and mostly, "ghouls."  I may be misremembering, but I don't think they were called "zombies" in a Romero "Dead" film until 2005's "Land of the Dead," the 4th entry.

34)  Reporter Don Quinn, and Dr. Keller.

35)  He's Dr. Grimes, from NASA.

36)  The first zombie seen (Bill Hinzman), uses a rock to break the car window while Barbra is trying to escape.  Then an unidentified zombie picks up a chair or table leg (possibly the torch Ben used earlier, now not on fire) and uses it as a club to break into the farmhouse near the end.  Another zombie throws a rock or brick to break a window in the farmhouse right after this.  Finally, zombie Karen Cooper uses a larger trowel to kill her mother, Helen.

     Hope this was a fun trip down memory lane for everyone.  And yes, I realize that this quiz is really for obsessive fans.  If you're interested in yet more information on "Night of the Living Dead," including photographs and movie stills, you can look at my Evans City Cemetery tour post on October 28, 2013.  



Saturday, May 1, 2021

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Cleveland Sauerkraut, Including a Version of Kimchi

      About a month ago, while striding through the refrigerated section at Shop-Rite, I saw something new--Cleveland Krauts.  One in particular caught my eye, as it billed itself as a Cleveland-style of kimchi.  Kimchi, of course, is the traditional Korean fermented cabbage dish (see one of my very earliest blog posts, July 23, 2012 for more information).  Anyway, I was intrigued, and picked up the kimchi approximation, and the caraway seed flavored one.

     Sauerkraut is one of the older, and one of the more ubiquitous dishes in the world.  Which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.  In the long centuries and millennia of no refrigeration, a food that could keep for months at a time was incredibly valuable.  Especially one that was nutritious.  It's thought that the Chinese first made it, perhaps as long as 2500 years ago.  They then introduced it to Europe, who took to it in earnest.  Now pretty much every European nation has a type of it, sometimes using their own ingredients, and often with a distinctive name.  But, in general, sauerkraut is made by fermenting cabbage, and occasionally adding carrots, caraway seeds, peppers, and beets, and sometimes even sweeter fruit like apples and cranberries.  How it's consumed varies too--it can be eaten hot or cold, as a side dish, or in soups and stews, or stuffed into pierogis, or as a condiment, such as on hot dogs or sausages.  Nutritionally it's a good source of beneficial gut bacteria, and has a decent amount of Vitamin C.  Famous explorer Captain James Cook utilized sauerkraut on his long ocean voyages, since it kept for months, and prevented his crews from contracting scurvy.  There are a couple of downsides to eating it, though--it is high in sodium, and it can cause flatuence.

     Cleveland Kitchen started out as Cleveland Kraut, back in 2013.  In, obviously, Cleveland, Ohio, in the U.S.A.  The founders were brothers Drew and Mac Anderson, and their friend Luke Visnic.  Their other brother Luke was also involved in some capacity as well.  Like many or even most of the companies whose wares I report on, Cleveland Kitchen is very focused on being healthy and environmentally responsible.  The company eschews GMOs and gluten, and their stuff is appropriate for vegans, and for those who follow the Keto, paleo, and Whole 30 diet regimens.  (The latter one was new to me.  Basically adherents cut out alcohol, grains, dairy, added sugars, potato chips/crisps, French fries, and most legumes.  And you omit these over 30 days, hence the name.)  The company website proclaims that their manufacturing process is energy efficient, and they use recyclables and renewables as much as possible.  Also, Cleveland Kitchen uses locally grown ingredients.  (I realize I'm immature, but it's gotten to the point that I almost like it when companies don't express a care for ecology, or imagined health benefits and such.  A sick part of me wants just once to read that a business only cares about making money, and nothing else.)  Alternate sauerkraut flavors include beet red, whiskey dill, curry, roasted garlic, and....kimchi.  That's right--the notation on the bag I bought was a bit misleading.  It said that this one (named Gnar Gnar for unexplained reasons) was their take on kimchi.  But in the past couple of months Cleveland Kitchen introduced a kind called kimchi.  So I guess there are two versions of this traditional Korean dish, with the newer one being "kimchi-ier," I guess.  While we're on kimchi, the Cleveland Kitchen guys did try to make their version(s) of it authentic--they got their friend Heejung Gumbs, a Korean-American chef at the Korea House Restaurant (also in Cleveland), to help them craft their kimchi-style sauerkrauts.

Cleveland Kitchen, Classic Caraway kraut:  Looks like regular sauerkraut, as it's yellow shredded cabbage with seeds.  Its texture was more crunchy than the soft sauerkraut I'm used to.  Very vinegary.  Tried plain it was just okay.  However, it was good on a (meatless) hamburger and bun.  Those flavors mixed together nicely.

Cleveland Kitchen, Gnar Gnar, kimchi-style kraut:  Was similar in appearance to the other one, only with visible green pepper chunks, and no caraway seeds, obviously.  Same type of texture.  Very spicy, as one would expect.  Decent approximation of kimchi, I suppose.  Better than the caraway kind.  Once again, I had this plain, and then on a vegetarian burger.  Plain it was alright, but it was quite tasty on the burger.  The spice was a little overpowering plain, but mixed with the bun and burger it was toned down, in a pleasant way.

     I should mention that I'm not a big fan of sauerkraut in general.  Throughout my life, I've neither loved it, nor loathed it.  I'd eat it when offered, but I wasn't nuts for it or anything.  So, if you are really into sauerkraut, you might like the Cleveland Kitchen offerings.  For example, a friend of mine from Iowa (hi Laura/Blaster), said that when growing up her siblings loved sauerkraut so much that they would sneak it from the fermenting containers in the basement as a treat, instead of scarfing down cookies or candy, like kids in my neck of the woods.  But since I can take sauerkraut or leave it, I don't plan to buy this one again.  And their version of kimchi wasn't terrible or anything, but not quite as good as the more authentic ones I've had.  (Alas, I can't recall the brand names from the store-bought kimchi I've had over the years.)


Saturday, April 24, 2021

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Alternative (Milk-less) Yogurts

      I've done previous posts about non-dairy "milks" (see my posts on June 16, 2018 and April 25, 2020), and non-dairy "cheeses" (check the November 28, 2020 one), so I thought I'd tackle non-dairy yogurts.  I guess after today's post, the only item in the genre left would be non-dairy "ice creams," if such a thing exists.  And all of these despite the fact that I'm still not lactose intolerant, nor did I abruptly become vegan.  Anyway, I tried the strawberry flavor almond milk yogurt from Silk, the mixed berry flavor oat yogurt from Silk's Oat Yeah, and the salted caramel cluster coconut milk yogurt from So Delicious.

     I thought I was being diverse with the companies I chose, only to find out that was a crock, since ultimately all of these are now owned by one giant business.  With that informational tidbit, Silk was started as a brand of WhiteWave Foods, which was founded by Steve Demos, in Boulder, Colorado back in 1977.  WhiteWave started using soy and tofu as the non-diary bases, but over the decades it branched out to include almonds, oats, coconut, and cashews as the main sources.  In addition to non-dairy yogurts, Silk also makes non-dairy milks and creamers.  They are proudly vegan-appropriate, and free of all lactose and casein, and the calcium comes from limestone, not animal sources.  Some of their wares do contain nuts, obviously, and the oat ones, among others, clearly contain gluten.  WhiteWave was owned by Deans Foods between 2002-13, but in 2017 they were bought out by Danone.  More on that firm in a bit.

     So Delicious was begun in Eugene, Oregon in 1987 by Mark Brawerman.  Like Silk, all of their products are dairy-free.  They also use coconut, soy, cashews, and almonds to replicate milk.  As such, once again, some of their products contain gluten, and nuts.  Also, somewhat surprisingly, some ingredients have GMOs.  Alternate So Delicious products include beverages, frozen desserts, melting shredded "cheeses," and creamers.  In 2014 So Delicious was acquired by WhiteWave.  And, as you know, three years later WhiteWave was then acquired by Danone.

     Danone is by far the oldest of these companies, starting way back in 1919, in Barcelona, Spain.  Founder Isaac Carasso was a doctor by training, and he wanted to improve the health of Spain's children especially, since they often had intestinal disorders.  (And let's be real, he also wanted to make money, as he was running a business.)  So he started making and marketing yogurt to pharmacies.  He named his company Danone, which means "Little David," after his son.  Danone moved its headquarters around several times--going to Paris, France for a while, then New York, in the U.S., and then back to Paris.  They changed their brand name to "Dannon" in the U.S., thinking this new title sounded more American.  Danone also owned cheese manufacturing brands, and even Kronenbourg beer for a time, but not anymore.  But the company also bought out many other yogurt brands/companies, aside from the two I already mentioned.  Danone is HUGE--it currently employs over 100,000 people, operates plants in over 55 countries, and exports to over 120 countries.  So, when it comes to buying yogurt, it's rather challenging to find brands that aren't owned by them.  And even if they're not now, chances are they'll be bought up eventually.

1) Silk's Oat Yeah oat milk yogurt, mixed berry flavor:  Purple color, no discernable odor.  Weird.  Light and airy, with some berry overtones.  Tart, but not in a good way.  Off putting somehow.  Doesn't resemble actual (dairy) yogurt.  I like oats in general, and in milk form they're good, but this wasn't pleasant.

2) So Delicious, coconut milk yogurt, salted caramel cluster:  This one came in two compartments--the yogurt side, and the pretzel/chocolate piece side.  No particular smell.  The yogurt was white in hue.  It had almost no flavor at all, and it had the odd light and airy texture that the Oat Yeah one had.  (It might have been plain yogurt.)  When I mixed in the pretzel and chocolate chunks, the result was pretty good, as they gave the concoction some much needed taste, and texture.  So plain the yogurt was like light beer, impossibly bland and flavorless, but with the snack and candy put in it, it was alright.  Although I found it kind of a strange pairing, since yogurt is usually considered healthy, and adding in a sugary candy and salty snack seems to offset this idea.

3) Silk almond milk yogurt, strawberry flavor:  Brownish-pink color, and again, no real odor.  The chunks of strawberry were evident, and gave it a lumpy texture.  This one impressed me, as it tasted a lot like regular yogurt.  The strawberries were nice, too.  I don't know if I could tell the difference in a blind taste test.  Maybe it's a tad more sour, but just a smidgen.  Easily my favorite of the bunch.

     I know I only gave each yogurt alternative one container each, but on the other hand, I intentionally chose flavors I usually enjoy.  Based on this admittedly miniscule sample size, I don't think oats make a decent yogurt alternative, and coconut milk yogurt needs a lot of help in the way of mixed-in ingredients.  But almond milk yogurt was quite good.  In the unlikely event I develop a dairy allergy, or decide to go vegan, I think I'll go with the almond milk for my yogurt approximation.  And as always, if/when I try other flavors of any or all of these, I'll add my additional ratings. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Another Swedish Cookie/Biscuit

      It's been a while since I discussed a biscuit/cookie, so here we are.  The one I'll cover today is Annas Swedish Thins, which are ginger-flavored.  And no, I didn't forget the apostrophe at the end of "Annas"--for some reason the company doesn't use one.  Which kind of bugs me.  But let's move on.

     The roots of the Annas company go back to 1929, in a neighborhood of Stockholm, Sweden.  Anna and Emma Karlsson had a home bakery, and started making biscuits and other baked goods.  Their Swedish Thins became hugely popular, and the business took off.  In 1963 Annas was sold to the Mattsson family, and in 2008 it was bought up by Lotus Bakeries, out of Belgium.  I've encountered Lotus before, as they also make Biscoff cookies--see my post on November 2, 2019 for more information.  The Swedish Thins are also known as pepparkaka, which means "gingerbread," or alternately, "spicy biscuits" in Swedish.  Evidently the spice in them used to be literally pepper, but in modern times the biscuits get their bite from ginger and cinnamon.  Annas can be found in about 35 countries around the globe, including Turkey, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the U.K., Israel, Japan, the Scandinavian countries, and various places in Southeast Asia.  Alternate flavors of their Thins include an orange and almond variety.  Some sources claim the company also makes a cappuccino one--maybe it's seasonal, or new.  For those that care about such things, Annas was selected as an appointed purveyor to the Royal Court of Sweden in 2002, which reportedly is an honor held by only about 130 Swedish firms.  The Frequently Asked Questions section on the Annas website states that their products do not contain milk, eggs, soy, soy lethicin, or trans fats.  But they may contain almonds.  (Especially the Almond Thins, clearly!)

     The history of ginger thins themselves is not conclusively known.  Presumably way more than one chef decided to put some ginger in their biscuit dough at various times in history, so there probably wasn't one true inventor.  With that admitted, there is evidence that they were being made in Germany as of the 1300's.  In Sweden, there's a reference to nuns in Vadstena eating them as of 1444.  The Swedish-Norwegian King Hans (reigned 1497-1501) was assigned ginger thins by his physician to curb his alleged bad temper.  (Note--modern scientific research has not proven that ginger cookies can actually do this, alas.)  By the 1500's or so pepperkaka were beginning to be sold commercially in Sweden.      

Annas Swedish Thins, ginger flavored:  These were a brown color, and roundish in shape, with scalloped edges.  About 6 cm. (about 2.25 inches) in diameter, and very thin, as advertised.  Unfortunately, they were reminiscent of quite a few European cookies/biscuits that I've had over the years, as their taste was bland.  So, as often happens, they weren't bad, but they weren't very good, either.  I really enjoy ginger in general, so I would have liked to taste a nice spicy bite, but these were just kind of dull.  Perhaps it's my "Ugly American" palate again--I seem to prefer my sweets to be very sweet, my sours to be very sour, etc., for flavors to be significant and strong, and not subtle.  Usually, anyway.  

    These cookies are associated with Christmas in Sweden.  Additionally, there's a light-hearted superstition about them.  Supposedly, you should hold one of the biscuits in your hand, and then press on it.  If the cookie breaks into 3 pieces, you are rewarded with a wish.  Sadly, I didn't read about this supernatural power until the box of Annas was finished.  So I guess we'll have to wait at least until my next shopping trip for world peace, Salma Hayek's divorce and then quick remarriage to me, and the Philadelphia Eagles starting their run of 50 straight Super Bowl victories.  And, maybe I'll use one of my wishes to force Annas to start using apostrophes in their name.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Alcoholic Teas, and an Aside About Beaver Butts

      It's occurred to me that regular readers might be a little frustrated with the ratings I give to the foods and drinks I often cover on this blog, in that my average opinion is, well, average.  Many (most?) of the things I try are neither spectacular nor horrific--they're just okay.  Which might get tedious to learn about, I guess.  Not that this will probably stop, though, since I try to be honest about my ratings.  Anyway, I bring this up because today's topic is an exception to this, "it's alright, kind of mediocre" typical assessment.  I tried three cans from the Owl's Brew Boozy Tea series--their white tea/raspberry/watermelon flavor, the Matcha/pineapple/chamomile one, and the Darjeeling tea/hibiscus flower kind.

     First off, on the cans it says their drinks are canned for Double Brew LLC, out of New York, New York.   I couldn't find out much of anything about Double Brew.  So I'm not sure if Owl's Brew is the brand for the overall Double Brew company, or if it's a producer or distributer, or what.  Therefore, I'll just go with discussing it as Owl's Brew, since that's where the information is.  Owl's Brew was started in 2013 by Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield.  The company still seems pretty small, claiming it employs only 12 people.  However, their products are available all across the East Coast of the U.S., along with Arizona and California, so they're not a tiny niche outfit, either.  Aside from the kinds I got, they also make a jasmine/blueberry/lemon variant, and an English breakfast/lemon & lime flavor.  Additionally, Owl's Brew make drink mixes, such as a couple of margaritas, a pina colada, etc.  As with many of the companies I report on, Owl's Brew is super focused on avoiding artificial ingredients of any kind.  Their website included a criticism of the FDA, since they allege that this organization allows ingredients to be billed as "natural flavors" even when they're made from chemicals.  Not shockingly, Ripps and Littlefield are concerned with the relative lack of opportunities for women in the world of business.  Given what I've already mentioned, it's also not surprising that Owl's Brew products are gluten-free, vegan-appropriate, and made using organic teas.  Although the tea leaves used are kosher, the resulting drinks aren't kosher overall, if you follow these rules.  Evidently their drinks have amassed a decent following, as they've won various culinary awards, such as SIPs, Sofis, and BevNets.  Moving on, the founders admit to being "kind of obsessed with hibiscus" (see my post on June 9, 2017 for more information about this flower).  Finally my discussion about the personal anatomy of beavers is in the final paragraph, if you're either intrigued, or put off and repulsed.

1) Owl's Brew Boozy Tea, Darjeeling tea/hibiscus flower flavor:  Like the others, this came in a 12 ounce/355 mL can.  Color was pinkish-red, and I couldn't detect any odor.  No apparent carbonation.  It was awful--cloyingly sweet.  Just terrible.  A bad aftertaste, too, to go along with the bad fore and during tastes.  Didn't taste like the hibiscus flowers I ate previously.  Drain pour, dumped most of it, as I couldn't go on punishing my taste buds.

2) Owl's Brew Boozy Tea, white tea/raspberry/watermelon flavor:  Same size can, and lack of smell.  Little to no (?) carbonation.  Light yellow hue.  Again, awful.  The tea part tasted bad.  Overly fruity, in a negative way.  Usually I like raspberry flavors, but not like this.  Another drain pour.

3) Owl's Brew Boozy Tea, Matcha/pineapple/chamomile flavor:  Same relative lack of odor, and only slight carbonation.  Very pale yellow color.  Maybe slightly better than the others, but still pretty disgusting.  Once again, I typically like pineapple, and things flavored with it, but not this.  Yet another drain pour.

     I stand by my opinions about these Boozy Teas, since they were my honest reactions.  But I do feel a little bad about saying this, since the owners seem to mean well, and I certainly support women having a fairer shot in business, along with supporting civil rights for traditionally oppressed minorities across the board.  And it's true that I'm not a big tea fan in general, so I'm clearly not the target audience.  On the other hand, the iced teas I do enjoy are usually fruit flavored, so there's that.  I should also mention that all of these teas had a 4.8% alcohol content, or about the same as a typical beer. 

     On the official Owl's Nest website, it mentioned that some so-called natural flavors "can come from the butts of beavers."  This caught my attention, so I checked into it a little.  And this is mostly accurate, but there are some issues.  A substance called castoreum has been used in drinks, candies, cakes, ice creams, etc., and it does come from a personal region of a beaver.  But, at the same time, there are several common misconceptions about castoreum.  First off, beavers don't have the same type of plumbing as most mammals, in that they don't have a separate external anus, urethra, and sexual organs.  Instead, their setup is like that of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and a few other mammals, such as the echidna, platypus, tenrecs, and some moles--they have one hole that serves for all of these things, called a cloaca.  So, in essence, they pee and poop out of the same place, and when they get busy the males' genitals emerge out of this same hole, and enter the female's same aperture.  Also, the castoreum does not come from the anal glands, but from a sac that's next to them.  Furthermore, castoreum is sometimes characterized as being used to mimic vanilla and raspberry in cheap, crappy foods.  The opposite is true--castoreum use has dwindled sharply since the 1980's, and now it's rarely used in consumables.  Part of the reason is because it's so expensive to buy and use, since harvesting it is way more labor intensive than buying inexpensive artificial flavors.  Another writer adamantly stated that castoreum does not produce the flavor of vanilla or raspberry in and of itself, but it instead enhances these flavors derived from other sources.  If you want more information on this, I recommend Nadia Berenstein's article in "Vice," and Eric Troy's piece in "Culinary Lore," both of which were online.  The former article had a great line at the end--"Maybe we should all be eating more beaver butts."  In closing, I clearly don't have the same disdain for artificial flavors, etc., that the Owl's Brew ladies do.  For one thing, defining "natural" is kind of difficult, since even the harshest, most complicated to produce chemicals are derived from natural sources at heart, since that's all there is on Earth.  I don't care if something in my consumables is natural or artificial--I only care about its safety, taste, shelf life, and so on.  Lastly, it kind of cracked me up that Owl's Brew is against all non-natural flavors, but is also against the "beaver butt" castoreum.  Isn't something taken directly from an animal the most natural thing of all?  (I'm having some fun here, obviously, but hopefully you get my point.)  There's a bourbon, Eau De Musc, from Tamworth Distilling, that intentionally uses castoreum as an additive.  I'd love to try some, even though I'm not really a bourbon guy. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Honeysuckle

      This one's a bit unusual, as I didn't ever attain the substance in question from my local supermarket or liquor store, or, indeed, any business at all.  When I was a kid, we had honeysuckle growing on some other foliage, and on our fence, at the rear of our property.  So technically the flowers were probably considered to be on our neighbors' property, but I don't think they cared.  Or if they did, I'm confident that the statute of limitations on stealing nectar has probably passed.

     The over 180 species of what's commonly referred to as "honeysuckle" are native to Asia, Europe, and North America.  However, as of now they can also be found in South America, Africa, and Australia.  In some cases, to an excessive degree, as honeysuckle is considered to be an invasive species.  Meaning it often thrives a little too well in new locations, and out competes native plants, causing them to die from lack of resources.  The reason honeysuckle made it to these new homes is because it has some positive attributes--people usually find its odor to be nice, and it's also good at fighting soil erosion.  Additionally, many animals like to eat it, including such creatures as deer, which makes it easier for hunters to bag them.

    As far as being safe for humans to consume, honeysuckle is hit and miss.  The flowers, leaves, nectar, and berries of some species are edible, and often enjoyed by people.  Some folks eat the leaves in salads, and use the flowers and nectar for jellies, jams, or to make flavored teas.  Honeysuckle is even used as a flavoring agent for wines, and liquors.  Important safety tip, though--whether or not the honeysuckle plant is safe to eat, and which parts of it are so, depends on the species.  And occasionally it's a serious distinction, since some honeysuckle variants are quite poisonous.  So as with, say, mushrooms, make sure you've positively identified the species before you partake.  But it goes further.  In the traditional medicines of both Native Americans and the Chinese, honeysuckle is said to have significant healing and treatment qualities.  It's alleged to help versus sore throats, coughs, headaches, fever, and skin infections.  Or it's used to treat bruises, encourage hair growth, or serve as a contraceptive.  I'll include my usual caveat--none of these have been proven scientifically.  So I'd go with widely available and proven treatments like aspirin, Minoxidil, condoms, etc.. instead.

     It's been around 30 years since I had it, but I did check on some images and descriptions of the various honeysuckle species online.  It appears that I sampled from Lonicera japonica, which as the name suggests, is native to Japan, and some neighboring Far Eastern countries.  This species was introduced to the U.S. in the early 1900's.  It's considered invasive, and annoying, in many parts of America.  I'm not 100% sure of this, but the honeysuckle I ate from had yellow and white, distinctive flowers, which Lonicera japonica has.  Alas, I just checked to see if the honeysuckle on our fence was still there, and it's gone, so I can't check the leaves now, or the flowers and berries when they would appear later in the spring or summer.

Lonicera japonica honeysuckle nectar:  I think it was my mother who taught me and my siblings how to consume honeysuckle nectar.  First you carefully pull a flower off the plant.  Then you pinch off the green tip of the base of the flower, and gently pull.  This causes the inner tendrils to emerge, including a longer, main one.  A drop of nectar should be on that main tendril, and you then touch that to your tongue before it drips off, or seeps down into the flower.  I recall liking it--it had a nice sweet taste.  Something like honey, only less sticky and goop-y.  It was a cool little treat, a pleasant break after a day of running around, playing tag, getting into rock fights, playing with Lawn Darts, and such.  I do recommend it, and I'm inspired to try it again, assuming I can locate any in the area.  I'd be interested in trying things flavored with honeysuckle, too--the jams, jellies, wines, and liquors, and maybe even the leaves in a salad.  But thinking about collecting the honeysuckle nectar is exhausting--talk about labor intensive, since each flower has only a tiny drop!


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Hollywood Stars' Early Roles in Horror Films Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

      On Halloween, 2020, I did a post about famous actors and actresses who appeared in often grotty horror flicks early in their careers.  I'm guessing for some of these folks it would be less shameful to have been caught being in a porn movie.  Anyway, recently my blog has been getting a marked increase in views for some posts, at least according to my blog's counter.  One of these was that Halloween post, so I'll give the readers more of what they apparently want.  (Or, it's possible, give the Russian bots more of what they want.  Oh well.)  On a practical note, there are a few minor spoilers sprinkled throughout these entries.

1) Mariska Hargitay:  Hargitay is the daughter of bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield and body builder/actor Mickey Hargitay.  Although she's been in some movies, she's best known for her work on television, especially "Law & Order," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and several other "Law & Order" variants.  Incredibly, she's played the same character from 1999-2021.  For which she's earned 8 Emmy nominations, and won 1.  But, her first role was something a bit less respectable.  It was in 1984's "Ghoulies," yet another 1980's tiny monster movie.  The one whose poster has a Ghoulie literally peeking out of a toilet.  (It's currently on HBO MAX, if anyone's curious.)

2) Jason Alexander:  He's another performer best known for his work on the small screen.  In Jason's case, playing George on "Seinfeld" (1989-98), as well as playing himself on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (2001-09).  He has appeared in some movies, such as "The Mosquito Coast" (1986), "Jacob's Ladder" (1990, and see my post on April 4, 2020 for more detail about this movie), and "The Last Supper" (1995).  And he even played a would-be rapist in 1990's "Pretty Woman."  However, his first role was in a grindhouse slasher movie, 1981's "The Burning."  Which featured people being burned (obviously), campers in peril, gratuitous nudity, and excellent kills by special effects maestro Tom Savini.  Jason plays the comic relief, and actually acquits himself pretty well, considering the genre.

3) Holly Hunter:  Hunter has had a very distinguished career.  Among her honors are Oscar nominations for "Broadcast News" (1987), "The Firm" (1993), and "Thirteen" (2003), as well as an Academy win for 1993's "The Piano."  Other successes include "Raising Arizona" (1987), "O Brother, Where Art Thou" (2000), and "Jackie" (2012).  But, she also appeared in "The Burning" (1981) for her first role.  Unlike Jason Alexander, she didn't have a notable part--she's named, but only has a line or two of dialogue, and is mostly in the background.  Adding some negative trivia, "The Burning" was the initial feature for eventual convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein, and his brother Bob--Harvey produced and helped with the story, Bob co-wrote the screenplay.

4) Hayden Christensen:  Christensen is famous (or infamous, to many viewers) for playing  teenaged Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode 2--The Clone Wars" (2002) and "Star Wars: Episode 3--Revenge of the Sith" (2005).  Some of his other movie roles include "Free Fall" (1999), "The Virgin Suicides" (1999), "Factory Girl" (2006), "American Hero" (2014), and "The Last Man" (2019).  His third role, though, was in a John Carpenter movie, 1994's "In the Mouth of Madness."  Arguably the horror master's last good movie, about crazed authors and readers, dimensional and time shifts, and Lovecraftian-type monsters.  Christensen plays a small role as a paper boy.

5) Paul Rudd:  Rudd has been active for a long time, both on television and in movies.  Some of his more notable roles were in "Clueless" (1995), "Wet Hot American Summer" (2001), television's "Friends" (2002-04), "Anchorman" (2004), several Judd Apatow movies, and a bunch of Marvel movies as Ant-Man.  Early on, though, his 10th role overall, he was part of one of the most enduring slasher movie series--"Halloween."  Alas, he was in 1996's "Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers."  In a major role, too, as the grown up Tommy Doyle.  "Halloween" fans generally place #6 low on the list as far as popularity, perhaps only over "Halloween: Resurrection" (2002), or Rob Zombie's remakes.  "The Curse of Michael Myers" features a really stupid explanation for Michael's nature, and one of the worst anti-climatic endings ever.

6) Jennifer Connelly:  Here we have a nice anomaly--a noted child actor who had continued success as an adult thespian, and  who didn't succumb to a drug addiction, see her parents steal all her earnings, or commit armed robberies.  Jennifer went from being in 1986's "Labyrinth" to roles in films like "The Rocketeer" (1991), "Mulholland Falls" (1996), "Dark City" (1998), "Requiem for a Dream" (2000), "Pollock" (2000), "Blood Diamond" (2006), and the upcoming "Top Gun" sequel (2021?).  She also received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her part in "A Beautiful Mind" (2001).  But, her third role was the lead in the 1984 Italian horror movie "Phenomena" (see my post on December 5, 2020 for more information).  A film which has several impalements, a disfigured child killer, a pit full of corpses and maggots, and a razor-wielding chimpanzee.  So...not something you'll find on Lifetime, or the Disney Channel.

7) Demi Moore:  Moore's career has faded a bit in the 21st century, but she was huge in the late 1980's and 1990's.  She was part of the "Brat Pack," with roles in films like "St. Elmo's Fire" (1985), and "About Last Night" (1986).  Then "Ghost" (1990) made her a star, and movies like "A Few Good Men" (1992), "Indecent Proposal" (1993), "Disclosure" (1994), "G.I. Jane" (1997), and "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003) kept her in the public eye, for better or worse.  Everyone starts somewhere, though, and Moore's was particularly embarrassing.  Her 2nd role was in 1982's "Parasite," helmed by independent horror movie maven Charles Band.  "Parasite" is set in the far off, post-apocalyptic future of....1992.  And Band's company put out the infamous "Puppet Master," "Demonic Toys," and "Gingerdead Man" series, among countless others.  (Seriously, look at his IMDB page--he's amazingly prolific.)  As recently as a 2019 appearance with James Corden, Moore cited "Parasite" as the worst movie she has ever been in.

8) Michael Rooker:  Rooker's been a busy and respected actor for a long time.  He's had roles in such projects as "Mississippi Burning" (1988), "Sea of Love" (1989), "Music Box" (1989), "JFK" (1990), "Tombstone" (1993), "Mallrats" (1995) and on television's "The Walking Dead" (2010-13).  Younger viewers, though, probably know him best as the sleazy but ultimately decent Yondu Udonta, from the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies (2014 and 2017).  His second ever part was quite different, however--playing the titular role in "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer," which was finished in 1986, but didn't get a real release until 1990.  "Henry" is a great and scary film, but it's extremely difficult to watch.  It's flat and almost documentary-like feel, and its refusal to condemn its killers, or have a "good" moralistic ending, make for uncomfortable, terrifying viewing.  It's as if you're watching a proverbial snuff film.  Probably a poor choice for a fun Halloween viewing party, unless your friends are particularly warped.

9) Charlize Theron:  Despite her gorgeous looks, Theron's shown she has true acting chops.  Even if she was allegedly discovered while screaming at a teller at a bank.  She's been Oscar nominated for roles in "North Country" (2005) and "Bombshell" (2019), and she won the Best Actress Academy Award for 2003's "Monster."  Other highlights includes such films as "2 Days in the Valley" (1996), "That Thing You Do!" (1996), "The Devil's Advocate" (1997), "The Cider House Rules" (1999), "The Italian Job" (2003), "Mad Max: Fury Road" (2015), and "Atomic Blonde" (2017).  I also just learned that Theron's been a busy producer, having done this on 21 television programs or movies.  But here we go--her first role was in 1995's "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest."  The "Children of the Corn" series, inexplicably, has had 11 entries, one as recently as last October!  Part III was the first to be direct-to-video (i.e., not released theatrically), and Charlize had a small, and mute role.

10) George Clooney.  Kind of like Charlize Theron, Clooney has demonstrated that he's more than just photogenic.  I've covered several Oscar winners/nominees in this article, but George is the most prolific.  He's shared an Academy Award nomination for writing on two occasions, for "Good Night and Good Luck" (2005), and "The Ides of March" (2011), and was also nominated as Best Director for "Good Night and Good Luck.".  He's been nominated as an actor for "Michael Clayton" (2007) "Up in the Air" (2009), and "The Descendants" (2011), while winning Best Supporting Actor for "Syriana" (2005).  Finally, he shared a win for Best Picture for "Argo," as he was one of the producers.  His other notable films include "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996), "Three Kings" (1999), "O Brother, Where Art Thou" (2000), and the "Oceans" series.  But his third role ever was a doozy.  It was a bit part in the sequel to a cheesy "Jaws" ripoff--1976's "Grizzly," about a killer bear, of course.  Clooney traveled to Hungary for this picture, and it was filmed in 1983.  Kind of.  The original producer left early on, and was reportedly thrown in jail.  And the rest of the shoot went poorly, too--supposedly the Hungarian government confiscated equipment when they weren't paid properly.  This doomed movie wasn't properly finished, until very recently.  Another producer finally stitched together a (barely) complete movie, and it was released in 2020.  It's gone by several titles--"Grizzly II: The Revenge," "Grizzly II: The Concert," and "Grizzly II: The Predator."  The reviews have been....unkind.  Only 8% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 3.6 on IMDB.  But there's more--a young Laura Dern and Charlie Sheen also have roles in this turkey.