mercoledì 22 agosto 2012

Explosions and badassery, he wrote

Fact: in the summer of 2010 the world saw what passed to the history textbook as one of the bigger mass cinematic erection humanity ever experienced, when millions of us (I'm talking about my half of the species) prepared ourselves to experience what was promised as one of the manliest, more testosteronic and man-gasm inducing movies ever made: The Expendables, starring EVERY FUCKING ONE (or almost everyone). Have I been too graphic? probably, I'll calm down.

btw this post is about the Expendables 2

The first Expendables was, kind of disappointingly, just ok. Maybe very ok? maybe, even though I was quite entertained and I left the theater thinking that those euros were well spent, that wasn't enough, that wasn't what I wanted to see or at least not entirely. I'm not saying it was a bad film, but

what did we want from it? well I can tell you what I wanted, with three examples:

- Demolition Man: one of my favorite action movies and somewhere in my top 20 favorite movies ever, no jokes. It has a surprisingly interesting setting and a nice story, more than we usually ask for, and both acting and directing are pretty good for the genre. It's the classic example of not-so-dumb action movie, it can be cheesy sometimes and won't be as good without the action vibe, but his let's call it naivite is almost a plus and surely a breath of fresh air when compared to other movie with the same themes (basically violence, freedom and so called uthopian futures). Could the Expandables have been like this? no, no one really believed it and I don't think anyone involved in the movie had that in mind, even though you can sense that they tried to flesh out (poorly) a story that dealt with some sort of issues, I guess that's what action movies writers do these days (I haven't seen action movies in a while, I have to admit).

- Commando: a perfect example of tight script if there ever was one, it always cracks me up that at the usual setting "I kidnapped your defenseless daughter to what you're told or she dies" (pretty common in one variant or the other) Schwarznegger's charachter responds with a "fuck you" and a trail of corpses. Fuck. Yeah. Would that have been a good Expandables movie? yes, kinda, it would've been fun to watch but a little odd since apart from some memorably hilarious scenes Commando is actually a pretty serious film, and now I'm almost getting to the point.

- the Crank series: a fantastic first movie and an even better sequel where you laugh, point you finger at the screen and yell something inintelligible even if you're the more polite gentleman of Britain, it's 90% well shot, well lit, super awesome action and/or as-explicit-as-it-gets sex and 10% memorable scenes where you get to feel how ludicrous the movie is, and how good does it feel to watch a movie that, for once, doesn't take itself seriously. I'm not saying every action movie has to be like this (though they should mostly be like this, I feel, and leave the serious vibe to directors that know how to handle it), but Expendables HAD TO.

The idea of getting all those guys back was awesome but also, somehow, funny, ludicrous if you want, it had to be exposed by themselves as something that its possible only if you do it for fun, as a throwback to a different age. I understand you have to somehow get to speed with the action movies that are being shot today, but at the same time having a very serious, story driven drama with action was a very bad way to use all those guys. It's not a coincidence if you almost only see Statham and Stallone, because in that kind of movie you need a protagonist, a sidekick, a villain and the rest (unless you're very skilled) can only have supporting roles. You need a somewhat silly movie to have all the freedom you need, and the first Expendables wasn't silly enough.

so, what about the Expendables 2? well, this one is COMPLETELY AWESOME AND IT GET'S EVERYTHING RIGHT! It's silly, over the top, action-PACKED (and I mean almost 75% of the movie, I think) and we're talking well-shot and creative action, not shaky camera and kind-of-already-seen action (like, sadly, in the first Expendables), it's everything we really wanted and more (trust me, it's really more than you could imagine if noone spoilers it). You finally get to feel all the characters thanks to some nice and personal scenes where everyone interacts in a way that shows the camaraderie and friendship that we were mostly told they shared in the first movie, and in an action packed movie where it could be hard to relate or even just care for the characters those little moments you get to spend with them are crucial to be invested in what happens later when they are in the middle of a bullet rain. True, you never have the feeling they're going to die (with a few exceptions, but we're still talking of a silly movie), but without getting to know them a little bit most of the film could get almost boring (well that's not entirely true since the action is really well written, but it's still nice). Is there anything left to say? well from a technical point of view, not that I'm an expert but is easy to tell, the movie is better than is predecessor, and really, I don't see how anyone could not like it. It would help if you loved the old Stallone, Schwarznegger & co. movies but it's not mandatory, just go see it.

mercoledì 1 agosto 2012

looks like this is another blog I'm not updating

Soooo instead of giving up I may switch it to an all-purpose blog (wasn't it already? well ok maybe)

I already feel better

I may talk about movies! why not, everyoen likes movies!

lunedì 12 marzo 2012

[recipe] the most american pasta you'll find in Italy

Fact: everything is better with bacon and you can't go wrong if you add a few eggs, ever thought about making a pasta with those things? well, good news is there is already one and it's delicious, and today I'm going to show you how to do it. Before that, as always, a little bit of history or at least a believable backstory for this particular recipe that may actually be just a legend, but ehy, This is the West, sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend (cit.).

During World War II, after Italy changed side or surrendered depending on how you tell the story, the american army started getting it back from the Nazis starting from the South and going North, region after region and city after city (with the help of the italian resistance, but that's another story). By the time they got to Rome they decided, one particular night, to have a little italian dinner party with all the big names in the army and someone thought "ehy, we are in Italy! they may not be very good soldiers but they can cook, right? let's find an italian cook and have him make us something italian!". Great idea, but they didn't take in account another quality we italians have: we are very good at coming up with good ideas at the last minute. So this random guy (not even sure he was a real cook, I like to think he just convinced the american he was one) gets the job and immediately has to solve a problem: being it wartime resources were scarce to say the least and sure there wasn't fresh local food available on short notice, so he looked instead into what sort of food the americans had with them and found basically two things, bacon and eggs. He may not have cooked a real traditional italian dish that night like the americans wanted, but that's how one of the most popular and beloved italian ways to cook pasta today was born: the Carbonara.


Like I said you won't need a lot more than pasta, bacon and eggs, just some parmesan and black pepper, but since we are in America some of those ingredients may need some preparation. Let's start with the parmesan:

I promised myself not to be a snob about food here in the US but a little piece of my soul died when I bought this

In italy you would be able to buy a piece of actual parmesan and grate it yourself with a specific tool (or a saw-like knife), here the best thing you can do is buy some shredded parmesan and then chop it more finely with a knife. It's kind of  a dull work to do, but it really needs to be done or the cheese won't melt properly and you'll end up with chunks of it instead of the creamy sauce you want. I'm not sure the pictures shows what I'm talking about, so if you want better recipes in the future you may consider buying me a good smartphone.Some people use "pecorino" cheese or a blend of it and parmesan, remember that this other cheese is super salty so add less salt to the boiling water if you're deciding to use it

Bacon I'm going to miss you so much I may just move to America for good after the PhD is over

Choose the thickest and less fatty bacon you can find, and consider cutting out some of the fat if you're not able to do so. If you find a big piece of bacon instead of the usual stripes it's your lucky day: chop it in little cubes and your carbonara will look even more italian.

What do you do with the whites? well if you're not into betting with your friends that you can chug weird stuff try this recipe for french meringues 

You know how to separate the yolk from the white of an egg, right? if not youtube will come to your help, as always. Now mix the yolks with a whip if you have it since with a fork it would be harder to get an homogeneous result, and that's critically important. How many yolks should you use? I usually go with two for each person, and adjust cheese and bacon accordingly.

don't mix too strongly but try to get an uniform liquid

Add the parmesan and the black pepper, remember to be generous with them, and you can move on to the next step.


Ok put the pot with the water over the fire (you can add the salt now but usually that's something you do when it starts boiling, it saves time) and start cooking the bacon

Are the pigs here in the US that big? I still don't understand why bacon is so different here than it is in Italy. You know, we have pigs too and technically our "pancetta" is bacon, but there is so much less fat I still can't believe it comes from the same animal and is the same cut of meat

I recommend a mid-low fire under the bacon so that it can cook evenly and brown up without burning. When it's ready you can, if you don't want to have an heart attack, drain some of the fat. Before I move on to the final stage I need to explain you some of the science behind this recipe (if you speak italian go to this blog, he would do a better job and that's where I refined my recipe anyway). I'll make it simple, you have three ingredients: the pasta, that cooks at 100 celsius, the bacon, that cooks at an even higher temperature, and the yolks that cook between 60 and 70 celsius but start to solidify after that temperature (and we want a creamy sauce!). How do we solve this conundrum? (also, is conundrum the appropriate word here?)

Before you throw the pasta in the bowl give a last little mix at the yolks

Simple, when the pasta is ready drain it and place it in the same bowl where the yolks are, add some cooking water that you saved (I should I've said that before? well you should have read the recipe before trying it) and mix it all: the heath of the pasta will cook the yolks without solidifying them and you'll have a deliciously creamy egg sauce. Don't mix the bacon now, since an oily pasta would not attach to the egg very well.

If your bowl is big enough, mine wasn't, you can add the bacon now and mix all the ingredients together for the final step of this recipe. I had to put the pasta back in the pot but at this point was "cold" enough so it didn't ruined the eggs. Now, after a final mix you should get this

Which is simply paradise for your taste buds, and doesn't hurt the eyes too! look at it up close

As a friend of mine called it, here's the breakfast pasta!

It's more common to use long pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine, but since I don't trust the american long pasta enough (it tends to be sticky and cook unevenly) I decided for this particular shape, "rotini", that's close enough to "fusilli". You can try long pasta, especially if you know a brand that makes a good one, but if you're opting for a short kind use this or a similar one.


There's one other thing that's italian but also american (and certainly inspired by americans), and what's more appropriate than that if you're enoying a truly italo-american pasta? yes, I'm talking about those films

I started the post with a quote from a western and I'm ending it with this movie advice, I just realized I should have used spaghetti after all 

Which, and I think everyone agrees with me, are awesome enough to go with a terrific dinner like the one you just cooked. 

you liked this recipe? you'll find  more here

mercoledì 29 febbraio 2012

[recipe] The stuff dreams (and Lasagne) are made of

Fact: ragú, also "italian meatsauce", also "bolognese sauce" (see below), also "God's favourite meal" is the most widespread and beloved italian food after pizza, and you can find it in every italian region and in an incredible number of different recipes as the main ingredient. Actually, this is not entirely true since there is not just one ragú but tens and tens of different kinds of meatsauce that vary in type of meat used, tomato-meat ratio, spices and so on (for example in Parma they don't use the tomato and in Sicily the ragu is somehow similar to the "meatballs sauce" that's considered italian, and it's not, in America, and that's probably where it came from). Nonetheless, they're all called the same and there's somehow an agreement between us to consider them one single thing that accepts huge variations. But enough with the Anthropology lesson and let's get to work.


if you can get fresh rosemary and sage do that, it would be better

First things first: the ragú I'm going to show you how to cook comes essentially from the far Nort-East of Italy, a region called Friuli, and more specifically from my father, so it will be different from what is considered the "classic" ragú that traditionally comes from Bologna (and that's what "bolognese sauce" is loosely based on). Still, it would be orders of magnitude better than every "spaghetti bolognese" you will find here in the US and I can assure you friends from all Italy liked it, but bear in mind that what I'm going to teach you is a bit of my household's cousine, not an italian recipe set in stone. I'm also going to use ingredients easy to find here so don't worry about spending too much money or having to go crazy to find them. The only thing it would be hard for you to find is, probably, the time: this recipe needs 3/4 hours to be completed. Don't be scared, for most of the time it will cook by itself, but since it will need the occasional stirring you'll have to be around for the whole time. It is, in fact, something italian moms (or dads) do on Sunday morning that will be then frozed or put in vacuum jars and last for weeks, so apron up! and prepare yourself to become a real italian mom.

the ingredients:

- ground beef and ground pork, half and half
- tomato sauce and whole peeled tomatoes, 1/3 and 2/3
- red wine
- finely chopped garlic, celery, red onion and carrot
- rosemary and sage
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt (and sugar, see below)

Notice that I haven't specified the quantities, that's because the only thing that matters is the meat-to-tomato ratio which for this recipe is 50-50 (like I said before this varies in other kinds of ragú), so basically it all depends on how much ragú you want to make. This time I used 2.4 lbs of meat and that resulted in seven servings of ragú, from past experiences I can tell you that it would also be good for one big tray of Lasagne and two/three spare servings. Remember that the weight written on tomato cans includes the water, which will evaporate, so divide it by half when you do the math. My advice is to do use at least 1.5 lbs of meat, since it's a lot of work and if you froze it or put it under vacuum it would last for months and you'll always have a ready to use sauce for a delicious quick pasta (and we all know that's the best fast food there is).

The only thing you need to do before start cooking apart from finely chopping the vegetables (you can leave some bigger chunks of carrot if you want, I don't) is mixing the beef and the pork using your hands, it's important that you do a good job here so don't halfass it

getting dirty in the kitchen: that's the italian way

I like to add the garlic now and mix it to the meat, but you can also put it in later with the other spices. About garlic: there's a legend around that garlic makes your breath stinks, it's (almost) a lie and there's a simple way to avoid that. Instead of just chopping the entire garlic peel it and then open it with a knife

you scoundrel! it's your fault if people despise the delicious garlic!

See that little green bastard inside? that's what's causing your bad breath. I think the reason is that we are unable to properly digest it, so when it goes in our stomach bad things happen and the result is that the gasses that come out (remember: bad breath is mostly caused by digestion gasses, not just by what stays between our teeth or on our tongue) are especially dreadful. lose that little green devil before chopping the garlic and the problem will be solved. That applies to every time you use garlic everywhere, of course.


btw the correct amount of vegetables to sautee is "enough to cover the bottom"

Sautee the celery, the carrot and the red onion on a high flame and don't be scared of using a good amount of olive oil, stir from time to time and remember that it would be ready when the onions turn to a light gold color (brown would be late, black too late), when that happens add the meat

time to get this homo looking meat to lose the pink!

Now the tricky part: you have to use brute force and a wooden spoon to mix the whole thing for a few minutes until the meat goes from pink to a greyish brown and starts to break down in little chunks. Be careful not to get boiling oil on your hands (but if that happens remember that you're a tough italian mom, the pain can't stop you). What you want to get is this

aaand that's better


Now it starts to get really easy, just open the bottle of wine and drown it. What kind of wine should you use? I say you shouldn't use a wine you wouldn't drink but it's a waste to use a wine you would want to.

Don't use a very strong scented wine since something of it will actually remain and  not evaporate. I chose a Merlot for that reason (also, kangaroos are cute)

The whole reason behind the wine is that the buthanol contained in it (a specific kind of alcohol) boils at around 140 celsius, which is the temperature that triggers the Maillard reaction. The reasons why you would want to do that are pretty much self evident if you ever had a good burger, since it's basically what happens when you get that delicious brown on the exterior of the meat. Anyway, let's proceed.

how much is 140 Celsius in Fahrenheit? simple, is "start using the metric system already you barbarians" degrees

The wine has to be just enough to cover the meat entirely but having it just below the surface, in this case I needed a whole bottle but you can usually save some. Now you'll have 15/20 minutes of time till the wine evaporates, and it needs just one or two stirrings (so you can have that glass of wine and maybe turn on the tv and relax a little bit).


Now it's time for tomato and spices, so when the meat is dry again add the tomato first

see how the meat on the right is brown? that's the wine that worked his magic

mix and then add the spices, a couple pinches of salt and, but be careful, a little bit of sugar (a teaspoon would be enough) that would help contrast the acidity of the tomato

be generous with sage and rosemary, they will add a very important note to the ragú

Now you just have to mix the whole thing a little bit and then your work is almost done, because when you have this

I know it doesn't look good, but give him some time

The ragú will basically cook itself, you just have to cover the pot and turn down the flame close to the minimum. I'm going to repeat it because is incredibly important: turn down the flame to a very very low setting

this is not an accident, you have to leave a little opening instead of cover the thing entirely (remember that a lot of water has to evaporate now)


So now you have to wait and occasionally stir the ragú. For how long you will have to do that? let's say that the ragú I made yesterday cooked for three hours, and even lesser amounts would need at least two. So sit down on your sofa, relax, drink a beer and see a movie or two. Here are three of my all time favourites to help you choose:

I'm completely serious

Remember to stir the ragú from time to time (every 20/30 minutes or so), towards the end you can even add a little bit of olive oil, especially if you have a good one (the Bertolli you see in the first picture is a good compromise between taste and price here in the US) and let it cook on it for the last 20 minutes. After your long wait you'll finally get this

My mouth is watering right now, and trust me you will have to fight the impulse of just eating it by itself

which is unbelievably delicious, and I really can't be more precise about his taste. The only thing left do to is to store it, and I personally prefer to put it under vacuum instead of froze it so it will be quicker to use in the future. I think every grocery store sells those kinds of jars

Close them carefully and then boil the jars for 20/30 minutes, all the air will come out and the ragú will be like fresh and ready to use for months. Of course you can always use it right now (in case let it rest for at least half an hour), for a pasta or for a tray of lasagne (I'll give you the full recipe another time) or basically for anything you want since it's really the most versatile sauce there is and will make everything better. Everything.

Ok I hope you read the whole thing and want to try it sometimes, I know it's very long and kind of a half recipe, since you'll always have to use the ragú with something else, but I hope you know how to cook pasta. If you don't, or even if you think you do but really don't, see this video (ok see the video anyway IT'S IMPORTANT, remember you don't really need butter oil and cheese at the end). Next recipes will be easier and quicker, but this was so important that I wanted to start with it.

you liked this recipe? you'll find  more here

martedì 28 febbraio 2012

A little bit of Italy in your kitchens

For some reasons it would be too long to explain I've decided to write down in this blog something that you, my friends the americans, may find interesting: italian recipes. I'm not talking about "italoamerican" recipes, things you think are italian but in fact you can't find in Italy, like Alfredo's sauce or meatball sauce, or that thing you think is a Lasagna (and has mozzarella in it, I guess, anyway WRONG). What I'm about to share, and keep in mind that I love american food, are some "italian italian" recipes, or if you prefer "how we cook stuff back there". Of course italian cousine is regional before national, so most of them will be from the northern Italy (where I'm from) but I've learned a lot from friends, so don't worry there will be something from south and center italy too. I may even have friends give me some recipes and then try them out and translate, so feel free to send me requests if you want.

what's coming soon (if there's a link follow it and you'll find the recipe)

- ragú (italian meatsauce)
- pasta alla carbonara
- lasagne
- canederli
- saffron risotto (or risotto "alla milanese")
- trick for roasted potatoes

sabato 18 febbraio 2012

the Best Burger in the World

Fact: the hamburger is the most valuable contribution America made in all her history to world gastronomy, and if you want to make fun of this country for that well, sir, you're an idiot: it is a brilliant combo and one of the best food ever to be invented (and remember, I was born and raised in Italy).

remember that episode? that's how I feel every time I have a not-so-great burger, my grandpa's shoes

There's one problem though, since no one has the perfect recipe, and even a simple food like the hamburger can be made in hundreds of different ways, it's easy to find very crappy burgers and, sadly, kind of rare to find the very good ones. What kind of meat? what kind of bread? pickles or tomatoes? both? mayo, ketchup or none of them? red onions or white onions? and you can always add other ingredients to the basic mix, like bacon, cheese or peanut butter (I wish I were joking). I'm not going to write down how I think a burger is supposed to be though, instead I'll collect in this post all the places in the planet where I had a notable burger (linking more exhaustive reviews I'll do when I have the time), suggestions are more than welcome.


The Pearl, San Francisco, California
Nationwide Freezer Meats, Sacramento, California
Burgers & Brew, Sacramento, California
Father's Office, Santa Monica, California


The Brown Bear, London


the little burger stall in front of the leaning tower, Pisa, Toscana
Margy Burger, Milano, Lombardia

the current #1 BURGER IN THE FREAKING WORLD is: The Brown Bear, London, UK

mercoledì 15 febbraio 2012

5 reasons why we need Community back

Fact: in every sit-com the seasons from second to fourth, maybe fifth, are the really fun ones, therefore stopping a very amusing tv series in the middle of the third season is a crime against Comedy and should be punishable by law. Nbc's Community is one of the best tv series on the air (or kind of) right now and probably one of the best ever, so here are some reasons why I think it should be back on schedule as soon as possible.

#1: Alison Brie

Isn't she adorable? I haven't even picked one of the cute photos

Wait this post should be about the show not about this amazing actress that...see? I'm doing it again, focus Marco, focus! ok now for some more specific reasons...

#2: Alison Brie The show is just plain brilliant

See? I'm not obsessed with Alison Brie, here's Danny Pudi for example. Man I love that guy

Community, more than anything else, is a smart show. I could easily point out the big differences with some of the other shows: no laugh tracks, actual character development, incredibly talented actors, the fact that the inexplicably overused - and incredibly annoying- joke about using the voice-command on the phone and calling the wrong person has not been used on the show (there is a reference on it at some point when Chevy Chase is just about to do it but gets stopped by Gillian Jacobs) et cetera et cetera... you probably already know all that, what I want to point out is how this show approaches what it decides to show (again, the key word here is " smart"). I'll try to make it short, what I like about this show, apart from the extreme attention to details, is that it manages to keep a strong identity even when it makes a massive dose of references. I guess that's the major point Community's critics raised: "it's so meta!" but look at how it plays meta, how it keeps being Community even when it becomes a mafia movie, a western or a Star Wars remake.

About Star Wars, remember the Family Guy special episode? That was horrible. I love Seth MacFarlane (who doesn't?) and I had some of my best laughs seeing his shows but try to remember the Star Wars special: it was basically the same plot of Star Wars with the Family Guy characters starring as the original movie characters. Peter, Lois, Brian and the others weren't actually in the film but to lend their appearances, and if there were some laughs they came (or should've come) from the gap between the real film and MacFarlane's version (plus a few jokes), same way you'd laugh at little kids playing Amleth. My point is, take instead the Community's second season finale which is basically a Star Wars episode: you still have the same basic characters (the good roguish adventurer, the strong princess, the chosen leader, the dark overlord) and the same themes (a dark force seizes power, a rebellion, love and hope and the eventual defeat of the bad guys) of the original movie but you still have all the characters from the tv show, and the main story goes on and takes important steps. Instead of just using Star Wars to do another episode and maybe get some old fans of the movie to see it the guys at Community just wanted to pay homage to an amazing film and they found a way to do it their way, without stealing anything from it. Now, that's how you play meta.

Just to clarify how much I like this show know this: I'm not an actor and even if I think it's one of the most fun jobs you can have I never really thought about becoming one (even though Orson Welles said once that italians are so naturally good at acting that in Italy you can just have random people do something on camera and call yourself a director), but if some crazy Hollywood guy ever shows up at my door and says "kid, pick a role and I'll give it to you", well, working in Community would be my second choice. Hey I know it's not impressive as if it were the first choice but that would be playing Dream in a Sandman movie directed by Neil Gaiman (a role I actually played once by the way, long story) so I guess your silver medal should still be pretty nice, Community. Also I'm a Phd student so I'm supposed to be kind of smart, my endorsement is worth at least a few dozens american teenagers (take this Glee!)

#3 I really think I should just write Alison Brie, post some photos and call it a day the World needs to laugh

plus look at all the fan art this show has spawned! we need  inspiration too! (oh yes that's Alison Brie again, but it's just because that's the first fan art pic I found using google I swear)

So we don't have Community but there are other shows, right? ok 30rock, which took Community's slot, may not be funny enough but hey, what about the classics? How I met your mother is still on the air right? what about The Big Bang Theory? yeah, what about them...

I'm deeply sorry because I used to love those shows and still like them, but if you remember the fact of the day at the beginning of this post you already know what's the problem with them: they are done or almost done and I love my shows like my steaks: medium rare (AHR AHR AHR sorry bad joke, it won't happen again). The problem with How I met your mother is that even though they still haven't actually jumped the shark the characters became older, so if in the first few seasons they were able to show the world of the people in the late twenties/early thirties with all his rules and stereotypes and go on for years still having new funny-but-also-deep material to use, now they're left with a desperate (borderline depressed) single man, a couple that's about to have a kid, a girl in complete personal crisis and an ex womanizer that suddenly realized what he really wanted all along. You can still work something out with this, and it may even become better, but the show has to become darker maybe sacrificing a little bit of the comedy. Instead, it went kinda duller (it still has his good moments though). The Big Bang Theory, on the other hand, started already with fewer things to say and now it's basically just a container for jokes (most of which involve Sheldon being Sheldon), I'm not even sure they care for the story or the characters anymore, and even the ones that got introduced later on in the show (Bernadette and Amy) ran pretty early out of novelty.

Also, It's always sunny in Philadelphia won't be on air for months I guess.

That was a sad sad paragraph and I already regret writing it so let's go back to Community

#4 Alison Brie sings and dances too! look at the video! the actors just seem to have fun doing their job, and that makes for amazing interactions between the characters

Hey it's not that I just wanted to post something with Alison Brie in it! ok maybe, but I laugh every time I see this video (and hope they'll put it in one of the episodes at some point)

Look at this freaking video shoot between takes with, I think, Joel McHale's phone, just look at it. Now I don't know if the cast of Community is so close in real life as it seems from interviews, twitter, little videos like this and the way they seem to be a real "family" on the show (I had that kind of family when I was a undergrad student myself), but I think they are and that helps the show a lot. I'm not just talking about the simple fact that if you work with people you like you'll do a better job, but also how that helps them come up with some of the little stuff we see in the shows (that happen very often in tv series), and things like Abed's and Troy's handshake, to make an example, is something you can only invent with a friend. Plus, of course, playing a group of friends is easier if you actually are a group of friends.

#5 Alison Brie (ok, I give up)

good morning miss Brie, thank you for giving the sun a reason to shine

update: Parks & Recreation is very goodl, plus Community will be back March the 15th ergo I really should erase everything (except the pictures of Ms Brie)

P.S. I'm probably breaking some copyright law here, if so please don't sue me mr angry photographer and guy/girl from deviantart (I think), tell me what I have to take off the site and I will replace it with pictures of my roommate's cat with funny captions. Otherwise I can add your credits at the end of this post, I can even write a few lines about how much I admire your work and maybe give you a couple original italian recipes to impress your friends with, what do you think? no I don't have money, come on be reasonable I'm just trying to write stuff for fun.

A dinner in america

Fact: the average time an american citizen uses to cook dinner is 5'12" (again, I'm making these facts up), a time the average italian needs just to simply decide what to eat.

Last Sunday while shopping for groceries I had a sudden realization, an epiphany I'd say: for one night I really didn't want to cook. Don't get me wrong, I'm what the americans call a total foodie and usually cook for so much time one of my exes once told me I would've been way more productive if I just ordered a few more pizzas every month instead of spending an hour and a half every time I had to sit down and eat. But I digress, let's go back to the story. Usually when I feel lazy I go eat a burger or order a pizza, but being in a grocery store inspired me and made me decide to have one of those authentic american experiences I came here in this wonderful country to have (well that and a couple things I have to do for my Phd). Since I usually nail these kinds of things, here's how to do it if you want to do the same.

step #1: pick two or more easy-to-cook foods at random

Safeway branded foods are actually not that bad, but they tend to look healthier than others so feel free to chose a different brand for a more genuine experience

It is extremely important that the combination of foods you decide to eat makes no sense at all, so for instance I couldn't choose french fries with the chicken wings, too good a match, or to make another example frozen vegetables would not have been a good choice with something like cordon bleu or any kind of beef or pork. The feeling you must have from what you're eating is of absolute freedom, if in America the elderly can go around wearing baseball hats with no one judging them well then I want to feel free to eat pea soup while drinking milkshake (don't laugh, it happened to me to have that combo offered and I was less embarrassed when they offered me cocaine in a strip club - long story I can't tell, anyway I didn't accepted it). As you can see in the picture I picked Honey BBQ glazed chicken wings and Mac&cheese, which I'm still fascinated to how they became a side dish here in the US (but more on that later).

step#2: maccaroni and cheese doesn't contain actual maccaroni

You can't see it in the picture but at this point I was waving my arms and saying "Oh come on, man!" (impressive how I took a non blurry photo)

This will be a pointless complaint on my side but one I have to make: why it is borderline impossible to find "fusilli" here in the US (a particular shape of pasta, I found something vaguely similar sometimes under the name of "torcini") and then when I buy MACCARONI I find small versions of them in the box? I thought you were just misspelling the maccheroni shape of pasta and instead you where hiding them from me, you punks. Anyway, I guess maccheroni can stand for generic "pasta", but you're messed up, americans, you're messed up. Ah and sometimes you simply get some names wrong, like "mustaccioli" for example: those are "penne" my dear friends. Enough with the rant now, so after complaining a little with my imaginary friend (my roommate was in Amsterdam for vacation) I just cooked half the pasta (the rest is in store for the first time I want to do a minestrone) and then added the magic mix, some butter and milk: the result is some kind of really reallly cheesy pasta, and my guess would be cheddar. Not bad for a 5 minutes work, even though the consistence of that cheese reminds a lot of candle wax.

step#3: you better grease it up

I know I know, six wings all for you? but I swear they were soooo little (and soooo tasty)

Those delicious little babies are chicken wings, weirdly little considering how big farm animals usually are here in the US (well judging from the ridiculous amount of fat on bacon strips anyway) and covered in BBQ sauce and honey, yes my italian friends, honey: it's a WONDERFUL idea and I really don't understand why we don't use it when we barbecue, but then again a friend of mine used to compare me to a bear because of my lust for honey (and honey is on my "do not buy" list with oreos and chocolate, foods it's useless for me to buy because they last approximately the time it takes for me to get back home with the groceries from the store) so maybe it's just me. A word of advice: don't just put the wings on that cooking paper that's supposed to be especially designed to put things in the oven, they will stick to it and you will lose a significant amount of chicken skin (true story). Use some butter, I've heard there's also some kind of crazy spray that's not butter but works like it if for some reasons I won't question you want to die of cancer, grease it up and the wings will probably taste even better. And trust me, even without butter they tasted delicious, and they were ready in ca 16' (but I basically didn't have to do any work).

step#4: eat, pray (not to have a stroke), love

Look at it,  just look at it for God's sake! it doesn't make sense (pasta and meat lol) but I promise you won't mind

That's the result, almost no effort and very little time for a dinner that will make you feel 100% american, it costs significantly more than cooking raw ingredients and it doesn't tastes nearly as good but hey, do we want the terrorists to win? I don't.

lunedì 13 febbraio 2012

In case you weren't already dying

Fact: depression is the the most common self diagnosed illness, or maybe a close second after the common cold (I don't know, I'm making those facts up). Anyway, it's really easy for a sad person, and we all are at some point, to convince himself that he need some kind of help, and who does the doctor thinks he is to say he doesn't really need pills, a doctor? If he wants his share of legal drugs he shall receive it, it's not communist Russia around here.

This scenario may be rarer than I think, but do you want to see something that will help me being right?

I hope I'm not breaking any law here (and if I am I hope they discover me after I go back to Italy in a few months, take that FBI!), anyway the point I'm trying to make is that those kind of commercials, I've chosen the first one I found on youtube, will actually lead people to depression drugs even if they aren't clinically depressed. I'm a firm believer in the existence of a very serious medical condition called depression, and I strongly agree with all those good doctors that will give you drugs to cure it (or better to cure the symptoms, but hey the symptoms of depression are...well, depression, so if you cure them you're basically good to go), but sadly the word depression can mean just being very sad for perfectly clear reasons. And that, kids, is why God invented alcohol and women (I'm kidding, don't believe in that "God" crap)

I'm boring even myself, you want to know why I actually wanted to write this post? (I mean, before I decided I had to add some stuff about ethics to impress the ladies) I find those ads incredibly hilarious, somehow I think the guy who wrote them is a frustrated comedian who couldn't make it to Hollywood and now he's taking some revenge on medical companies instead, let's take a look at another possible copyright infringement on my part:

Ok so it starts with a very reasonable "Hey you're still depressed after antidepressant?" argument, and then suggests to you that you may add another thing to the drug mix which is not an antidepressant, I don't know how a pill that cures depression isn't an antidepressant but then again I'm not a doctor so I guess it somehow makes sense. Now, unless you avoided taking medicines for your whole life (I did it until I was 22, not because I didn't wanted to, I was just incredibly healthy all the time) you know that for legal reasons medical companies have to list all the things that can go wrong with those medications, and sadly even a single antibiotic can kill you (well there's probably a 0,0000001% chance but they have to tell you about it). Now go back to the videos and listen carefully at the things the voice in the background says while happy people are decorating a patio, reading a newspaper or offering food to each other, smiling like there is nothing going wrong in the world

Call your doctor if your depression worsens or you have unusual changes in mood, behaviour or thoughts of suicide, antidepressants can increase this in children, teens and young adults 

elderly dementia patients taking abilify have and increased risk of death or stroke

call your doctor if you have high fever, stiff muscles and confusion on abilify as these may be signs of a life threatening reaction, or uncontrollable muscle movements, as these can become permanent

Let's not focus here on the fact that you should take antidepressants only if you are somewhere between 40 and 60, if you're depressed you probably want to kill yourself so it's just kind from those pharmaceutical guys to give you a hand, I really like the fact that they chose to show a montage of very happy people doing happy stuff while some dude says how you're going to die horribly if you buy their product. I don't know if this works (it probably does as people don't usually have a very good attention span), but I somehow find it funny. And unethical, terribly terribly unethical, my dear ladies.

martedì 7 febbraio 2012

Now that's style

Fact: one of the moments in life when being a girl is actually easier than being a guy is when you have to cut your hair, I know you always thought the opposite but let me walk through it. While a girl can choose between hundreds and hundreds (I'm exaggerating) saloons, hairstylist's weirdly modern-looking places, makeup artists or whatever the kids are calling the place where you cut your hair these days and always find someone that can do it exactly the way she - or rather her favorite celebrity - wants, a man usually needs years of patient search to find the only place in town that still remembers how to do it the old fashioned way (usually you recognize those places because they'd also do your beard with a hand held razor). While this is still true in less developed country like Italy, where I still know just a couple decent places that took me a lot of time to find, in America internet users seem to exchange useful information too and not only picture of cats (which I won't deny are a priority, but still) and that's how I've heard of Barber Blues.

I'll sum up the whole place with an image:

No you're not imagining it
Yes, that place has a freaking flipper that waiting customers can use to kill time, that of course if you don't prefer to chat with your new friends whilst drinking a beer

ok the beer was brought there by a customer, but it was offered to anyone who wanted to help himself

but the best feature, to me, is that both the guy in the first picture and the owner of the shop in the one below look like cuban gangster. Yes, that's something you want from a barber shop, trust me on this one

though they're probably mexican since we're in California. Wait, am I being racist? well technically I'm latino too (I guess) so who cares
And if that's not enough, and believe me it is, the guy did a really good job with my hair, and for 14 bucks! which to me is how is supposed to be, since one of the perks of being a man is that we can brag with girls about spending way less money to look good (even though I have to admit they'll always look better, something to do with having boobs I guess)

venerdì 6 gennaio 2012

The runway lies ahead like a great false dawn

At some point I had to start, I guess, so what a better moment than the beginning of the new year? (please note I'm already a week late). Long story short: I came in this beautiful country (United States, more precisely California, more precisely West Sacramento more precisely well aren't we getting a little too much personal?) three months ago and will be around for another nine at least. Gosh the time passes so quick.

Anyway (or anyways, I'm still trying to figure out the difference), I'm italian, meaning born and raised in Italy (apparently in the US if your grandfather did as much as opening a pizza shop in NY you can call yourself italian), and among other things I need to practice my written english. And to tell my amazing adventures to my italian friends, of course (my family doesn't speak english, luckyly), that are now reading this and probably waiting for some amazing stories in the next few days. Lots of creative writing I'll have to do, I guess that's good exercise too.

Btw, I don't intend on checking grammar or anything else on this first post (I thank the google for the automatic spelling check though), it's basically just a stream of consciousness and I need it mostly to check the layout. See you soon folks! (and don't worry, the tumblr will be working soon too! I know you like it)