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Monthly Archives: November 2012

The tenth issue (!) of the Farmer General is out! You can read my short review/synopsis/essay of the food/art classic Big Night here and the whole (fabulous) November issue here.

P.S. Do you like FG on Facebook? You should.

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So, it’s halftime for Liz & Dick. What have we learned so far?

1) A turban is the most versatile fashion accessory OF ALL TIME.

2) The best way to charm a woman is to berate her publicly in a restaurant and/or ruin a dinner party. You’ll steal her heart forever!

3) A romance is most effectively summarized using a 30-second montage where the couple enters trailers on a movie set in order to do the nasty.

4) Every scene must include a nightgown and a liquor bottle,

What are you planning on doing tonight? Catching up on laundry? Watching The Walking Dead (even though the mayor character is getting really, really annoying)? Browsing Etsy for a million hours?

I’ve got a way better idea: join me in live-tweeting/blogging the premier (can you call it that if it’s on TV?) of Liz & Dick! I’ll be bringing the sarcasm via Twitter at @attemptedblog and right here at The Lower Crust. Also — be sure to follow my pal Jen Boudinot (@LMNReviews), the queen of all Lifetime Movie reviewers. It’s gonna be GREAT.

The Dunkin’ Donuts empire. The assumption of white clam chowder. The word “Hamburg.” As a former New York Stater now living in Massachusetts, there are some things I have just had to accept. Chief among them? Massachusetts pizza.

Growing up, I took good pizza, in all its thin crust and bubbly cheese glory, for granted. Bad pizza came from Pizza Hut, convenience stores, and mall cafeterias. Everywhere else the pizza was, reliably, pretty solid. Case in point: one of my favorite pizza joints was in a strip mall next to (my mother’s) weight watchers class.

In Massachusetts, you can make no such assumption. Most New Englanders, it seems, are content to create a doughy, pizza-inspired product, skipping that mysterious element that converts modest ingredients into capital-P Pizza.

Characteristics of the dreaded Massachusetts Bread and Cheese Pizza (MBCP) include a thick and slightly soggy crust, a generous helping of lumpy marinara sauce, and a topping of melted (not bubbly/burned) cheese. Adding insult to injury, many pizza joints serving MBCP don’t even offer slices. A pizza joint without slices? What’s up with that?

After MBCP, the most common type of pizza to encounter is the novelty slice. Think: endless varieties of unlikely toppings and “themed” slices. Taco Pizza. Cheeseburger Pizza. Turkey Club Pizza. As you may have guessed, novelty pizza establishments are typically found adjacent to bars in college towns. And they’re not all bad — Antonio’s in Amherst, MA, makes a pretty nifty Salad Pizza, which trades both sauce and cheese for a deft combination of fresh spinach, tomato, artichokes, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, and a balsamic vinegar and oil infusion. It’s pretty tasty, but a far cry from the slices of my youth.

Traditionalists on a quest for an old school slice will find the task hard but not impossible.

Some general advice:
1) Under no circumstances rely on Yelp reviews. They are written by people who have no problem marrying the phrase “New York Style” with “3 inch crust.”
2) Be suspicious if the pizza joint in question serves coffee or has an extensive sandwich menu. Delis are not pizza joints.
3) Ask yourself: do I want traditional greasy slices or a something fancier? Many trendy restaurants can provide a high-end, if not traditional, interpretation of pizza. Baba Louie’s is at the top of the list for quality wood-fired Massachusetts pizza with fancy ingredients. If you do go the chichi route, watch out for “fake gourmet pizza,” which is usually just flatbread with a handful of arugula on top.

Real deal gourmet pie from Baba Louie’s. Famazing.

4) Look around. Are there old, possibly broken, arcade games? Fluorescent lighting? Vinyl booths from the 70s? These are all good signs, as the best, most classic, slices come from what I would term “Dirty Pizza Caves.” Get past the ambiance (or lack thereof) and you’re usually rewarded with thin and crisp slices (with no need for novelty toppings).

An example of a “dirty pizza cave.” Note the faded sign made with a stencil. There’s probably an old cigarette machine inside.

Follow this advice and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect Bay State slice. And, god willing, there might even be a table-top Pacman game in your future.

I know, I know — I’ve been neglecting you, little blog. It’s been a busy autumn, spent learning how to make mixed drinks, growing mushrooms in my downstairs closet, listening to the Beach Boys, and hiking.

You’re shocked — weird hobbies are nothing new, but the Beach Boys? Hiking?

Re: The Beach Boys, I must admit that a large portion of my impression of them was informed by this:

As a result, I avoided their albums for years. Now I know better (credit to Mr. Max), so I’ve had to catch up on 30+ years of awesome music. Right now I’m into the really underrated late-period original stuff (Holland and Carl and the Passions).

Hiking’s a bit of a shocker, too. You say, “But hiking is exercise. And you hate exercise. Proudly.”

It’s well-established that I hate jogging, gyms, and any kind of organized sport. But hiking is different — less about sweating and more about communing with wild, raw nature. Cold weather hiking is also part of our attempt to feel less like naked mole rats that do nothing but move between heated environments all winter. So far, it’s working.

Even with all of this newfound activity, I’ve found time to watch plenty of TV. Recently, a bunch of new channels — mostly Discovery Channel spinoffs — appeared on our digital cable package. Here’s a quick guide to what we’re watching.

Destination America

“Destination America is the first network to celebrate the people, places, and stories of the United States, emblazoned with the grit and tenacity, honesty and work ethic, humor and adventurousness that characterize our nation.” Or so says the description on their website. If you went by this and the logo, you’d probably think Destination America was the channel of classic westerns, apple pies, and RV travel.

Wrong. Their logo should really look like this:

The subheading could read, The tinfoil hat network. Area 51 documentary? Check. Waco documentary? Check. Taking its cue from Doomsday Preppers, this channel is founded on paranoia, conspiracy, and poorly-produced re-enactments. It’s good stuff.

We also occasionally tune in to Hillbilly Blood. According to the ads, a Hillbilly is “50% hippy, 50% redneck.” We decided that Mr. Max is probably 80% hippie, 20% redneck, so we’re not sure what we should call him. He does enjoy this show, though.

+1 for beardspiration
+1 for general paranoia
+1 for the fact that it taught me how to make a chicken coop

The only bad thing about DA is that cringe-tastic show A Haunting, which re-enacts supposed ghost encounters.

I’m sorry, but WTH is up with the fecundity of ghost-related shows on digital cable?? They’re objectively excruciating — and I say this as someone who admits to watching Dancing with the Stars.

The Science Channel

“SCIENCE is the home for the thought provocateur, the individual who is unafraid to ask the killer questions of ‘how’ and ‘why not.'”

Remember the Sci-Fi Channel of the mid-nineties? It wasn’t how SyFy is now (that is, Lifetime: For Men). Golden age Sci-Fi Channel was real-deal geeky. The schedule was composed of classic nerdery (The Incredible Hulk! In Search Of…! The Outer Limits!) and any kind of crazy unfiltered public access stuff they could get on the cheap. They even aired Harlan Ellison’s curmudgeonly rantings as a “feature.”

(This is actually from one of his segments. You’re welcome.)

The Science Channel is pretty much a (vintage) Sci-Fi Channel reboot. It’s got all kinds of campy Canadian-import stuff, but my personal favorite show is Dark Matters. It’s narrated by the Fringe guy and each episode showcases three historical tales of scientific experimentation gone wrong (think: Stanford Prison Experiment, lobotomies, mind control, and so on). It’s informative/interesting/creepy but also totally budget. Especially fun are the re-enactments, which are made using some kind of digital video that reminds me of cut scenes from old Sierra Games. Proof:


 
If that wasn’t enough, Science also recently aired a pilot reviving my fave Sci-Fi Channel nutter: Professor Franklin Ruehl.


 
(This actually kind of blew my mind, because I haven’t thought about this guy in a billion years. My mother and I used to watch Mysteries from Beyond the Other Dominion purely for shits and giggles. I think I was nine at the time.)

H2 (History Channel 2)


Lots of good, paranoid stuff à la Destination America. Also a lot of well-made WWII documentaries (I usually get sucked into these and then get depressed). But, dear god, the Ancient Aliens shows have GOT to go. Who watches this stuff? I’m guessing it’s the same demographic that enjoys the ghost-chasers shows.

Survivorman

Mr. Max discovered this show and, having missed the opening, I assumed that we were watching the adventures of a middle-aged accountant lost in the wilderness.

Or an IT manager, or something.

I was wrong. He may not be ripped or full of tattoos, but Les Stroud is a real-deal badass outdoorsman. In each episode of survivorman, he’s armed with a camera and abandoned in some random harsh environment where he has to survive for seven days with a limited amount of supplies. I occasionally have to flip channels due to the squick factor (example: the horror that is eating a turtle, then contracting a turtle parasite), but generally, it’s pretty fascinating.

The Walking Dead


This show is kind of dumb. I know. Mr. Max really dislikes the wife and son (“skeletor and Haley Joel Osment”) and it’s awfully bloody, which is usually not my thing. Regardless, it’s nice to have something to do on Sunday nights. I became kind of fatigued with the whole “sitting on a porch/let’s look for the missing girl” plot at the end of last season, but so far things have been better.

Survivors


This show is about a flu pandemic and its resultant effects on society and humanity. Seriously smart, fascinating, and much scarier than The Walking Dead (even without the zombies). Netflix it and find out.

Twin Peaks

Kyle McLaughlin used to confuse me. I’d never seen Twin Peaks, so I only thought of him as the oily dude from Showgirls. After watching the series, I get it; he’s Dale Cooper, and he’s one of the best TV characters of all time. Now I’m retroactively offended that they made him some old rich dude with ED on Sex and the City.

Dale! Don’t let them do that to you.

Seriously, I came late to the party big-time but I love this show. Also, I’m pretty sure it invented slash fiction.

 

Okay, according to its mudflap, this truck is “Gorilla built.” Maybe they mean “Gorilla tough?” Because I don’t know if I’d trust riding around in something constructed by primates.

Also, love the unnecessary quotes: “Get more for your money.” I guess that means they’re cheap and you really don’t get very much at all for your money? Maybe that’s why they fired the engineers and replaced them with gorillas.