Shakespeare’s skull is missing; we’re on the case

In some of Earth’s most ancient cultures, it is said the soul can never fully be at rest if the body is un-whole. Poor Shakespeare is missing his skull, and his soul might thus be trapped in some kind of weird Valhalla purgatory where he is compelled to club fight the same thug over and over again until his skull is reunited with the rest of his bleached skeleton.

We, at The Arcturus Project, are here to help. Based upon our belligerent preliminary research, my Guests and I propose the following unhinged scenario and vicious plan:

1) We build a time machine and fly back to 1794 where we will intercept the grave robbers on site. Rather than liquidate them immediately, as my Guests desire, we will preserve the timeline by sedating them, giving them a fake skull, and returning the original skull to the grave with the thieves none the wiser.

 

Shakespeare.jpg

We’re on it, bro!

 

2) Should we fail in our attempt to fold space and time via a machine, we’ll have to buckle down and search in today’s realm. Naturally our first stop will be Derek Jacobi’s hallowed mansion. As the foremost headman of the Anti-Stratfordian Faction, surely he’ll know the secret whereabouts of the skull as his cult has undoubtedly kept it hidden for centuries to further cloud the memory of the author who they claim is surely a fraud. Should we fail in our brutal interrogation of Jacobi, taken in by his charm, gentlemanly behavior, and delightful ability to star & seriously act in even the most C-grade of hack garbage movies, we’ll have no choice to resort to more ridiculous methods.

 

jacobi.jpg

Derek Jacobi, in the Oscar nominated Underworld: Evolution

 

3) We’ll begin by exhuming Shakespeare’s entire skeleton, a process that might result in the complete destruction of Holy Trinity Church, but whatever, omelets need making. Then we use the DNA from the skeleton to clone Shakespeare. Once the clone reaches the age of 52, we summary put him to death, and harvest his skull. We then rebuild Holy Trinity Church, put the original skeleton back in the tomb, and add the Clone Shakespeare’s skull into the tomb as well.

 

4) As a caveat, we don’t know the rules of Valhalla. We’ve never been there. So it’s possible that because the skull is a clone skull, that this won’t work. And Shakespeare’s soul would still be trapped. So next what we’d have to do is use the most invasive of surveillance methods to catalog the location of every 17th century skull in the British Isles. We’ll be able to tell what skull is from this era by detecting the presence, at the molecular level, of frilly cravat material common in this age, such as that seen gracing the neck and skull of Her Majesty:

elizabeth.jpg

Then we’ll use DNA tracing (see first part of Plan 3) to analyze millions of skulls until we find the right one. Then we’ll but that skull back in the church and (hopefully) manage to put back all the millions of other skulls too.

 

X) In the event Plan 4 becomes logistically impossible, we’ll have to activate Plan X. My Guests & I fly to Stratford-upon-Avon, and descend upon the Hamlet’s Determination Ale House. We drink until we come up with a better plan to solve this most pressing of the planet’s problems.

 

I’m banking on Plan X. However, if you wish to personally assist us in this most noble of quests, specifically Plans 1-4, please kindly provide us a bit of seed money by posting check, cash, or money order to the following address:

 

The Arcturus Project – Shakespeare Reclamation Branch

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

 

Your cooperation, as always, is very truly appreciated.

 

mel hamlet

Mel’s got it.  Mel’s got it!

all hail the bunny

So let’s say it’s 1673, and you’re guzzling Reinheitsgebot beer at a pub in the Duchy of Westphalia. It’s a few days before Easter. Your buddy Carl leans over, wasted, and he’s like, “Hey, you know what, we should get some eggs and color them.” You don’t say a word, because beer is tasty, and you’re not sure if you just heard Carl correctly. And in any case, beer is tasty, so who cares. But then Carl continues, “but the eggs have to appear from somewhere, so a rabbit should bring them to the kids.”

You have no idea where Carl’s brain is, but seeing as how you can’t say nothing, you start with the simple, “Rabbits don’t lay eggs.”

“Right, right, but they can carry them, right?”

Your head hurts, “Rabbits can’t carry things, they don’t have opposable thumbs, and they hop around.”

Carl’s getting frustrated, he pulls on his stein, he needs you to understand the genius that’s at work here, “Okay, okay, but it’s all for fun, so if I say the rabbit can carry eggs, then he’s carrying the freaking eggs.”

“Okay.”

“But the eggs are colored, see,” Carl drinks again, “so that way they’re neat and colorful and you can find them easier.”

You’re barely listening at this point. You motion to the barkeep that you’d like another. But remember, Carl’s your buddy, so you have to play along to some degree. “What was that, about kids?”

“Well, kids get to find the hidden colored eggs.”

“So the rabbit hides eggs?”

“Right.”

“So that kids can then find them?”

“Exactly!”

“Why?”

“Doesn’t matter, because the rabbit wants to, he’s a hopping happy rabbit, or whatever, doesn’t matter. And all the kids search for the eggs, and they’re happy. Because kids like wonderful bright colors, and they like to run around, and play, and find things,” Carl starts chuckling uncontrollably.

Your next beer arrives, you desperately want to drink it, but you take a moment to furrow your brow in frustration. “Okay, okay Carl, so, uh, why would we do this?”

“Because it’s Easter!” Carl shouts as he raps his fist on the bar.

“WHAT do a rabbit, colored eggs, kids have to do with that Jesus guy rising from the dead?”

“Who cares! Everybody will love this.”

“Okay friend, okay.” And because it’s 1673, you put that next beer back in about 30 seconds, and you’re off. As you depart, Carl’s already shouting his idea to somebody else at the bar, who like you, couldn’t care less. And you’re quite certain Carl should have stopped at five beers.

But then it’s 1698, and eggs, bunnies, and color are everywhere. Kids are playing, everybody’s hiding eggs in bushes and under cobblestones, and it’s become an Easter tradition, full of spring joy and life.

Meanwhile, Carl’s made millions off his egg decorating business. And you’re still a day laborer at the local mill. But at least, every time you’re at the pub, Carl offers to buy all your beers.

bunny.jpg

Oh the joy of irrational youth, where my parents could dismiss us from the room and tell us to come back in ten minutes.  And then we’d get back, and Dad would defiantly state the Easter bunny had just stopped by, and hid a whole bunch of eggs in the backyard that we had to find.  We’d just missed him, honest.  Go get the eggs now.  And so we did.

Jacques assists my brain decompression, his way

I’ve been horrendously busy lately with no sign of it letting up. So I’ve had to take a step back in planning what I’m going to cook. For quite a good long while, I’ve been on this kick to try ever harder recipes or techniques. I guess just to prove that I could do it. Or also that hanging out in the kitchen for hours with the dogs, cooking, drinking beer, and/or listening to music is my way to decompress from stupid reality.

I don’t have time for that now, but a man’s still got to eat. So lately I’ve transitioned back to some of the early cookbooks I bought, in particular Jacques Pépin’s The Short-Cut Cook and Fast Food My Way. You go buy your stuff, spend less than 30 minutes, and you’re done. This has certainly helped my schedule, but it’s also been a delightful return to basics. Something other than a massive list of ingredients with perhaps needless complexity.

It’s been kind of a return to roots, in the sense that if you’re only involved with a half-dozen items and a half-hour, you’d better get it right. You can’t hide anything if you screw it up. In many ways, this simplicity is better. In this hour long interview with Anthony Bourdain (you should watch the whole thing), go to the ten minute mark to hear Jacques lay this philosophy out, “…take away, take away…”

It’s also given me a chance to mess with things that have been on my mind for years, but just never got around to doing. In this week’s case, it was playing around with chicken livers and sardines, both from Short Cut Cook:

Chicken livers persillade

Most folks hate these things because they’ve got a weird texture and look terrible when you break them out of the package. So I think I was well north of 20 years age when I first had them in Asia. Since then, I’ve never turned them away and tried them all over the place. But I haven’t ever worked with them in the kitchen. So Jacques steps in, and essentially offers you the opportunity to serve them with some toast and call it a day. Overall kitchen time is less than ten minutes.

Things did not go well at first. As I was trying to get the liver tub open and I ended up spilling liver blood/juice/whatever over a good portion of my counter and floor. My youngest was more than happy to help me clean up, so I had to scramble to contain her happy doggy tongue with one hand while I wiped it all off the floor with the other. Then you’ve got to clean the livers by trimming off all the connecting veins and all those lovely weird black parts that you’d rather pretend don’t actually exist. I’m not sure if this is typical, but I ended up discarding about half the biomass in trimming them down to the cook ready parts. After that, I was a bit demoralized, and wondering what I’d gotten myself into.

Yet all you have to do is roast some baguette slices for ten minutes and sauté the livers. The livers themselves take one minute per side, really high heat, and that’s it. Take your liver, take your bread, eat, and it’s well worth it. It’s probably not for everybody, but it worked for me all right.

 

chicken livers

finished product, they were liver-rific!

did ya get it?  I did a thing there?

[cricket, cricket, cricket]

 

Sardines in tomato sauce

I don’t know whether this is accurate or not, but I always had the impression that folks tend to turn away sardines or anchovies because they don’t like the little small fishy, and the overall oiliness, fish odor & taste is too much for people. So you don’t really see these two dudes make much of an appearance in typical American cuisine (whatever that is). I’ve always loved them though. So when I came upon Jacques’ instruction to buy a whole freaking 16 ounces of sardines, I was sold. So because I’m a lunatic, I went and bought four tins, just to be safe. All he has you do is throw them on some greens with vinegar, parsley, salt & pepper, and some fresh tomato. So if you don’t care for sardines, this is repulsive because you’re eating them right out of the box as is. But for me this was a win. I took five minutes to make.

I love Jacques’ mentality on food. I guess he’s technically considered a celebrity chef, but in my mind he’s one of the originals alongside Julia Child who is not really a celebrity chef. I mean, sure, Jacques has made a boatload of gold throughout the years, but he’s always carried himself with the same humble simplicity that Child also had. There’s a reason those two were friends. It’s always a breath of fresh air from the current modern machine manufactured chef crowd. Jacques still cooks for public television, folks.

So thanks Jacques, for helping me get through this crazy busy time of my life. While also still eating well. And learning something new every day.

pepin and child.jpg

yep

i thought i’d met a sorcerer

I made a daring escape from the cubicle yesterday because it was just gorgeous outside.  So I walked around for a while.  Everybody was out, which was nice to see.  As I’m headed back toward the building, this guy emerges from a side door.  He looked like Santa Klaus, that is, if Santa Klaus wore a business suit and overall looked like a sorcerer.

He takes two steps out, throws some crackers on the ground, and starts mumbling a few phrases to himself.  Then after about five seconds he turns around and walks inside.  So I’m like, oh, he’s feeding & talking to the birds or something.  But I look around, and I see no bird or animal or anything in sight.

So I make it a point to walk over, stand over the crackers, and look in every direction for anything that would eat said crackers and I don’t see anything.  Hmm.  So maybe the sorcerer was doing some kind of incantation and the crackers are going to turn into a bird?  Or maybe he just left them there for a bird to get later?  Or maybe he’s a crazy man who throws crackers on the ground and mumbles to himself?  I for one have done far crazier things than that.  But I went back inside because I didn’t have an answer.

I left later that day, via that side door, to check on cracker status.  Sure enough, there was a squirrel right where the crackers were.  And the crackers were gone.  When I opened the door he ran off.  So I guess Santa was feeding the squirrels.  Or, or, just maybe, the crackers turned into a squirrel after all.

what’s this Irish thing anyways?

Just about a whole bunch of people are wearing green in the office today. I’m not exactly sure why, I don’t get it. Genetics-wise, I’m about 50% Irish, and I still don’t get it.

I mean in the old days you would get pinched if you weren’t wearing green. So you had to wear green. But those were the good old days. Nowadays pinching somebody on Saint Patrick’s Day would speedily result in a sexual assault conviction and/or lawsuit.

Quite randomly, I’ve been on a bit of an Irish haul lately. This last weekend I binge watched (in between working both days) Peaky Blinders. Without ruining the plot, the 1919-1922 pivotal years of Irish history are intrinsically tied to what’s going on throughout the events of this otherwise English gangster saga. This series is pretty good, I thought the first season was just awesome. Unfortunately the second season degenerates into a mix of Godfather, Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire. It’s decent, watchable stuff, but it’s all been done before. They even take certain themes shot-for-shot from these other series. But at least you get Cillian Murphy and Sam Neill, who are so entertaining you could get them on screen watching third tier soccer in a bar and it’d be entertaining.

Sam Neill.jpg

“As a villain, I’m so fucking awesome.”

Cillian Murphy is also in another Irish themed saga of this era called The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Depending on who you ask, this movie made Murphy’s name. As you can tell from its high-minded title, it’s not a lightweight journey. People love this movie, they shout it to the horizons. I however, didn’t quite care for it. It was preachy and predictable. It devalued an incredibly complex civil war into the usual, brother fights brother tale, where one dude is the romantic and the other guy plays it straight. Likely Peaky Blinders, it’s imminently watchable stuff, but it’s all been done before. I know I’m definitely selling this flick short, but as emotional as you’re supposed to be, by the end, I didn’t feel, like, things. I didn’t care what happened to either of these guys. Maybe that says something about me? Anyways, I wonder how many folks wearing green today have even heard of the Irish Civil War though?

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Hmm, based on how they’re dressed, I wonder which one is going to end up Anti-Treaty and the other Pro-Treaty?

I’m currently reading my Granddad’s copy of A Bridge Too Far, which by some miracle I’ve never read before. The lead element of the Allied ground advance for Market Garden was the Irish Guards. Which despite their name, were recruited only from Northern Ireland. While most of the rest of Ireland essentially sat out World War II, despite the many individuals who volunteered for British units, or the limited clandestine help the Irish government provided. Which, I kind of get, given what the Irish people would have thought about the English. But to which I’ve always found troubling, because it’s like, “Hey, uh, you do know, what Hitler would have done to Ireland, had he won? Right?”

But then you also have to step back and consider that Saint Patrick’s Day isn’t typically about Ireland or the Irish, but rather the Irish diaspora. So unless folks happen to hail from Puerto Rico, or Lebanon, or the Philippines, then I’m not quite sure any similar national concept applies. Except that, by raw numbers, there are probably more German descendants in America, than Irish. But there’s no rough Duestch equivalent to Saint Patrick’s Day, that’s so widespread, so known. The recent Oktoberfest craze is too new, is not just one day, and is in case nowhere near as big.

So what’s this Irish thing anyways? Perhaps it’s simply not enough for some, to just check the American block and call it a day? That they need / want a deeper connection that predates 1607?

Or is to wear green and play crazy, wacky dress up, like Halloween?

Or is to find an excuse to go drink with friends on a weeknight?

Or how about to celebrate and enjoy a non-standard event that still binds people together across all walks of life in an increasingly separated, smartphone divided world?

How about all of the above.

None of these are bad ideas. If they bring people together, and don’t result in people getting too many beer steins cracked over their heads.

So leaving aside the deeper thoughts, I guess I’ll simply say, drink up, have fun. Enjoy Saint Patrick’s Day, folks.  Cheers.

Obama nominates amorphous lifeform to Court

Let’s face it, nobody knows who this guy is.  It’s like Obama rolled around in a nondescript black van from Peter’s Opulent Tea & Unlimited Shoppe (POTUS), and just grabbed some dude off the street at 3am as he was walking back wasted from the bar.

And the guy’s in the back of the van screaming, pinned to the floor by a half-dozen Secret Service agents.  Then Obama, smoking, leans down and whispers.  And the guy, drunk as he is, knows it’s the Prez, so he quiets down.  Obama: “Howdy.  How’d you like to be my Supreme Court pick, buddy?”  [pulls on cig]

Okay, I guess, if you happen to be a part of the ruling legal / political / media establishment of DC, you knew who Merrick Garland was before this morning.  But the rest of us don’t.  Is this dude qualified?  I have no idea.  Neither do you.  Perhaps the ruling legal / political / media establishment does?  I have no idea.

But it’s like Obama picked the most faceless wonder you could imagine.  Why did he do that?  Who knows, clearly there must have been some political calculation, I guess.  But I’ll tell you what, both sides are going to paint these next few months like Garland’s holding the keys to a vault that possesses the souls of 16K cute kitties and puppies.  It’s going to be absurd.  It’s going to be sad.

garland

Garland: “I uh, promise, to uh, be a good judge.  Yeah, yeah, the best judge.  On that Supreme of all Courts.”  [Obama pulls on cig]

Milwaukee – for just a few hours

I’ve pretty much gotten to the stage where I’m beyond planning anything for travel not dictated by those who employ me.  This is just about the exact opposite from a decade ago where I had a tour book, ledger, and a timeline.

I wish I could say this was part of some kind of mystical theoretical journey where I’ve cast off the toolbox shackles of a younger age, but truly it’s just because I don’t have enough energy to care.  It’s the mentality of, eh, it’s just for fun, whatever.  Show up, and see what happens.  I like this, it takes less effort.

For those of you unfortunate enough to be a regular reader of this degenerate blog, I now end up traveling to Chicago regularly now.  But I usually fly into Milwaukee for this is cheaper to the bottom line.

A hint perhaps, for those of you looking to head to Chicago.  If you fly into Milwaukee both in terms of flight cost and rental car, you’ll save at least $100.  And your trade is about $8 in interstate tolls and an extra hour’s drive.  You decide if this is worth the tradeoff.

Anyways, I usually have zero time, and so turn south from Mitchell Airport bound for Chicago.  This last week though I had a few hours since I got there very early in the morning.  So instead I turned north and decided to spend a few hours in Milwaukee.

With zero upfront planning I ended up in downtown, parked, and just walked around for a few hours.  This was a good idea.  However, it didn’t help that I felt terrible that entire day, but there was nothing I could do about that.  So I decided to carry on.

First I walked around like a lunatic until I could find breakfast, I ended up at a local Greek diner:

Mykonos Gyro & Cafe

1014 North Van Buren Street

 

This was a wise, fortunate, rendezvous.  They do two things I’ve never seen before, they put gyro meat in an omelet, and you get tzatziki in a squeeze bottle.  Both of these are wise decisions.  But be warned, for about $8 you’ll get enough food that you feel compelled to walk it off for hours.  So in other words, this was a huge win.

Then it was few blocks east down to the Lake.

 

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan from the bluffs of Juneau Park.  As is typical for Eastern or Mid-Western cities, those damn highways are in the way of water views.  If you didn’t know, this was a deliberate decision of city designers in the early car era.  Highways, or parkways, were put along the water to give casual driver’s a good view.  This is the lunacy of getting fully dressed up and going on a drive in the 1930’s, because that was considered recreation.  My Granddad used to chuckle about that, you would go on a drive for fun.  So back then, having the road along the water was an advantage, now they just kill our view.

 

Soloman Juneau

Soloman Juneau.  First mayor of Milwaukee, and it seems an all around decent guy.  An explorer, trader, and trailblazer of the American West who seems to possess a rarity in that he has little or no blood on his hands.

 

Bad Day

At the base of Juneau’s statue.  At first I was like, “is this some type of weird local offering to Juneau’s ghost?”  But in reality, I came to the conclusion that this was somebody’s really, really bad day.

 

Then it was  a short walk to the East Side of downtown, separated from the West Side by the Milwaukee River.

Milwaukee Federal Building

Milwaukee Federal Courthouse.  Once a regular federal office building, is now a place where dreams are destroyed.  A classic piece of late 19th, early 20th century city building architecture.  I hate new office building designs, all glass, all stale awfulness.  At least back then they built things they looked like they actually cared.

 

The Pfister

The Pfister, one of the oldest hotels in Milwaukee.  A broader American hotel icon, and recent setting in Space Cop.  An interesting note is the property on the right-side street corner is for sale.  Their pitch in the window is it hasn’t been available for purchase since, “The Dow was at 500 points.”  I don’t know what year that was, but that’s a pretty awesome sales pitch.

 

Milwaukee River

Milwaukee River.  It wasn’t as cold as it looks, but it usually is, apparently.

 

Milwaukee Public Market

Milwaukee Public Market, in the historic Third Ward.  An awesome place.

 

At this point, that I felt horrible, and that stole the rest of the journey out of me.  So I briefly had lunch at this place, another win:

The Wicked Hop

345 North Broadway

 

And then I had to basically get out of there, drive south, and find a way to get to bed early.  It helped because I felt better in the morning for work.  But it’s only left me wanting to go back to Milwaukee again soon, and get more in depth, to a city that has a lot of offer, but who’s surface I’ve just barely scratched.