Acclaimed Albums – Criminal Minded by Boogie Down Productions

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 319/1000
Title: Criminal Minded
Artist: Boogie Down Productions
Year: 1987

I have been a bit self-indulgent with my picks of albums since I shifted to the wider 1000 list. Either I have taken an inordinate amount of time to transfer my review backlog over or have mostly picked albums that I either knew beforehand (Person Pitch) or albums I was sure to like (Power, Corruption & Lies). Well, I did that with the 250 and that left me in a position where I had to blitz through a number of albums very much outside my comfort zone. So let’s be a bit more proactive and pick something that is not a sure thing, like Criminally Minded.

Looking at the cover, I admit I did roll my eyes a bit at the classic cliche of a hardcore rap duo brandishing weapons. Like, this is so overdone nowadays that the impact of this cover is lost – given that this was one of the first times a rap album actually went for this kind of overtly violent approach. Listening to the lyrics, most of the references made to weapons are from a point of defense rather than attack – something quite poignant given that Scott La Rock from this group would be dead from gunshot wounds several months after releasing this album.

Criminally Minded is a very early entry in the world of widely-released hardcore rap – meaning that pretty much everything I have listened to in this section of hip-hop can trace itself to this production. Like a lot of hip-hop this just is not for me. Tracks like ‘Dope Beat’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘9mm Goes Bang’ all have points of interest – including a very prominent AC/DC sample – but won’t be enough for me to return for another listen.

World Cooking – Qatar

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: Qatar
Progress: 105/193

Okay so it hasn’t been too long since I last cooked something from a Middle Eastern nation, however I found myself unable to source appropriate ingredients for another country and Qatar worked as a good back-up. I mean, it’s nice to cross off another one of those smaller nations to make it a smoother ride to the finish line eventually.

A fair bit of what have said for other nations in this area still stands. Qatar is a very small nation on the coast of the Arabian peninsula whose only land border is with the far larger Saudi Arabia – which acts as the main influence on their cuisine. It very much comes under the umbrella of Arab cuisine, even though it is a short boat away from Iran and any possible Persian influence on food.

Like with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which I am yet to find recipes for, there is a specific list of dishes that Qatar has among their recognised foods and so am having to carefully parcel them out. I really hope I don’t regret doing this dish too early, but in the end I needed a win this week.

Main: Machboos

Now, when I crossed off Kuwait, machboos is a dish I explicitly mentioned that I would not be cooking as I felt it would be better suited for Saudi Arabia. Well, here we are with me cooking it for Qatar as it is their national dish and I am sure I’ll be able to find something else to cook for Saudi Arabia when the time comes for me to cross it off.

The name machboos pretty much means ‘spiced rice’, so I think that my end product ticks that box pretty well. I mean, other than the sprinkling of parsley on top, I think that my own bowl doesn’t look to different to the one on Food52 whose recipe I used. Having a husband who doesn’t like chicken or meat on the bone made this interesting to dish up, but for me I just gnawed away on the tasty meat as it was in the picture.

One thing that I wish I had with this meal was some sort of acid or moisture to go with the rice. I was thinking some sort of yogurt sauce would have worked really well, or at least a squeeze of lemon so that the rice wouldn’t have felt as dry as it did. The earthiness of the spice mix probably did not help here. I mean, as a meal it was fine but I was hoping for a bit more than what I got.

It’s back to Africa with the next food country and I think I might have some really nice recipes to make – including a dessert, which is a rarity when it comes to my dives into African cooking. It’s one of those countries that I’ve been saving up for a while, but I think that I have done so many of the more difficult ones recently that I am due to go for something that requires a lot less research.

XL Popcorn – Avengers: Infinity War

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 902/1009Title: Avengers: Infinity War
Director: Anthony Russo and Joseph Russo
Year: 2018
Country: USA

So here we are with the first of many 2010s films that I am now able to see thanks to freezing the 1001 list… and because it was it was my husband’s film pick we ended up starting this street with an Avengers film. To be completely fair, his premise was that since we also have to see Avengers: Endgame, it just made sense to knock the first of the pair out as soon as possible – especially as the next film is over three hours long.

As someone who likes comics and grew up loving the X-Men, the Marvel Cinematic Universe should have been a good fit for me. However, I have never really found the appeal of getting invested in such a large film franchise. Like, I haven’t seen a Marvel film since Black Panther as that didn’t exactly convince me that I was missing much. Having sat through Infinity War this afternoon – nothing has changed on that account.

I think that having a Marvel film on the 1001 list makes complete sense because it is such a cultural phenomenon of the last decade or so. Like if you are going to compile a list of films to understand where we are today, you need to include it. Since Infinity War and Endgame were shot together, it makes sense that there are the inclusions – plus they include all the characters that have helped to build this mega franchise full of memeable moments.

However, this also leads to the issue I really had with Infinity War and I suspect will be exactly the same with Endgame – too many cooks. Well, too many characters and tones anyway. With such a large ensemble to make sure all get airtime (even though the likes of Hawkeye and Antman were elsewhere) everything just becomes a bit disjointed as everyone has to get their bit of airtime. It also makes for this incredible clash of tones that each character has from their own films. Take Thor when he meets with the Guardians of the Galaxy – I just cringed and if it wasn’t for this blog I would have probably stopped the film.

I was wondering if my disconnect with this film may be partially due to jumping into the franchise partway through and not quite getting where all the chess pieces sit. Then again, I got so much of it via cultural osmosis and knowing the relevant comic stories (like the civil war) that it didn’t matter. I just think there is something about these films that just doesn’t work – like I didn’t even find the jokes that funny. Probably also doesn’t help that I know that everything in this film just gets reversed in the next one with some notable exceptions. Still though, it’s nice to do something a bit different for the 1001 list.

Acclaimed Albums – Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 318/1000
Title: Power, Corruption & Lies
Artist: New Order
Year: 1983

From the beginning bassline of ‘Age of Consent’ I had a thought in my head – this music sounds quite a bit like Monaco’s great song ‘What Do You Want From Me?’. By the time I finished up my first listen of the album, including a bonus track of ‘Blue Monday’ because… well why do you need a reason, I decided to look it up. Well, of course there’s a similar sound – Peter Hook, the bassist in New Order, founded Monaco. So I guess I am a little bit chuffed at hearing that – although it’s not like he was exactly hiding it.

Thanks to opening up the list, I have been listening to a lot of eighties music – to the point where I really get why this is a decade where a lot of pop music continues to borrow from. Especially the sounds of the early 1980s. If I had been a teen in the early 1980s, I would have so been a fan of New Order and other pop bands of the time. This music is brilliant and I cannot believe it has taken until I turned 31 before I actually listened to one of their albums all the way through.

I called it when I did my post for Closerthat I would be super interested to see what New Order did when they had to start off with a new brand following the death of Ian Curtis and the end of Joy Division. Power, Corruption & Lies still keeps some of the darker elements of their Joy Division roots, but also there’s a brilliant pop record here. You can hear it as ‘5 8 6’ breaks into it’s synthesiser mid-section – that foreshadows ‘Blue Monday’ to a heavy extent.

This is pop via the worlds of post-punk, new wave and Kraftwerk. It’s an extraordinary album that makes you want to dance no matter what you are doing. Like I can hear how this would eventually be the next step between Kraftwerk’s music and will eventually lead to LCD Soundsystem. Man, I wish I was young in the 1980s to have grown up with music like this.

Graphic Content – Scalped

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
97/501Title: Scalped
Jason Aaron, R. M. Guéra
Year: 2007-2012
Country: USA

All the time I was ready Scalped I was wondering how it was that FX had not optioned this comic book as a TV series. It would have made for an excellent counterpoint to Justified with it’s bleak setting, but from the very different setting of a Native American reservation instead of the Appalachians. Then I saw that another channel, one I had never heard of, did just that but dropped it after seeing the pilot. What a shame.

Scalped is one of those comics that I know I want to get back to. Reading 20 issues in very quick succession is a bit much. This isn’t a comic that is easy to digest in long sittings. The setting is bleak, being set in a reservation that has major issues with drugs and alcoholism where the chief is opening up a casino and running a corrupt police force. Like, there is very little hope to cling to – which is the point of the series to be fair.

We start out with the return of Dash Bad Horse who, unbeknownst to everyone on the reservation, is an undercover FBI agent who has been strong-armed into finding those who shot down two FBI agents some 15 years earlier. Many of the comics fall into a ‘crime of the batch’ style storytelling with some character development happening in the background.

What makes this different to a number of comics I have read so far is that Native American element and how much Dash struggles with his own sense of identity. This is a man who is 100% Ogala Lakota, but has chosen most of his life to reject his heritage and is now in a position where he is having to face what that means to him through the murder of his mother, the rekindling of an old flame and just general osmosis.

It makes for an interesting read that is permeated with other characters who bring the more traditional side in through folk stories and ritual that have had to adapt to being surrounded by the white man. Like I said, I read too much of it in too little time so am now a little bit burned out – but I am interested to see how everything progresses.

List Change(ish) – Freezing the 1001 Movie List

A quick post from me today. I’ve got to the point where I am writing posts that are going up seven months in the future and I am at the point in the 1001 films list where the 2010s make up nearly 20% of the remaining films.

Now, historically I have been trying to avoid films from the 2000s and 2010s because those were the most likely to be removed from the list and, honestly, it is a bit of a pain to go through 6 months of posts and alter the counts on film posts.

So, given how close I am to the end and just how much more difficult it is getting to skirt around the recent films, I am going to be freezing the 1001 list and will finish it based on the 2020 edition. I mean, it makes sense given how strange a year it has been – the 2021 update is liable to be a weird one anyway.

A weird side-effect is that I now really need to catch up on 2010s movies to bring them in line with the other decades. Guess that means I’ll finally see an Avengers movie.

XL Popcorn – The Big Heat

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 901/1009Title: The Big Heat
Director: Fritz Lang
Year: 1953
Country: USA

When a film noir shoots on all cylinders, doesn’t overcomplicate the plot and finds a way to not rely so much on cliché… well you get The Big Heat. A lot of the noirs that I have done in recent years have been fine, but none that come to mind managed to hit the heights that I was hoping for. Then again, that might just be the magic of Fritz Lang.

The man who brought the wonders of and Metropolis may have also brought me one of the best film noirs that I have ever seen. It starts like any normal noir, someone has died in mysterious circumstances and a grizzled homicide detective is out to solve the mystery of this… and the rest of the crimes that follow.

What makes The Big Heat interesting is just how much it is able to subvert the classic noir tropes. For example, the whole film sees us watching both sides of the law plotting against one another – which is something that I know does happen in other noirs, but this film managed to do it in such a fashion that it felt like a true battle of one-upmanship. You also have a ‘hero’ who almost does the unthinkable.

The other thing that is very interesting about The Big Heat is the flashes of violence. Given this is the 1950s and we are still in the Code era, everything is pretty much done off screen with the exception of an attempted murder and a woman being burned with a cigarette (although that was still pretty concealed under his hand). Two of the biggest flashes also coincide with two of the more shocking moments – one of which I saw coming, but it was still pretty shocking.

At not even 90 minutes long, this film manages to rattle through the plot with some brilliant performances all around. Like, this is one of those films where I would be interested to see it again, just to see how much I would enjoy it knowing everything that’s going to happen. I think it wouldn’t make a difference, but one day I’ll see.

🎻♫♪ – Violin Concerto no. 5, “Turkish” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
106/501Title: Violin Concerto no. 5, “Turkish”
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Nationality: Austrian

Sometimes it’s good to flex about the music you listen to. Today was one of those days with a lot of meetings where I ended up being ask to speak – so why not have Mozart playing in the background? Like this wasn’t meant in the beginning to be a flex, but I have to say that there is an interesting amount of confidence you get from classical music when having to explain some technical concepts.

Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5 is one of the earliest of Mozart’s pieces that I will end up listening to as part of this classical music challenge – although the date of this piece appears to have been somewhat inconsistent. Given how this is only the second piece I have listened to – other than Requiem many many years ago – there isn’t a lot I can make as a point of comparison. Especially as the Requiem is meant to be maudlin, compared to this concerto which was so jovial.

Looking back on my post about Requiem, it really does amaze me that there are some classical pieces where I would write massive posts about – compared to now where I mostly struggle to get to three whole paragraphs. Granted this has always been a topic where I wrote fairly little on, but I do look forward to getting one of the more well known operas or – just imagine – actually seeing a piece first hand rather than it being over Spotify.

Acclaimed Albums – Crazy Rhythms by The Feelies

List item: Listen to the 1000 Most Acclaimed Albums
Progress: 317/1000
Title: Crazy Rhythms
Artist: The Feelies
Year: 1980

It really sucks to say this, but one look at the album cover of Crazy Rhythms and you kinda get how this was an album that didn’t have commercial appeal in 1980. This was a time where being remotely geeky was not really a recipe for success in the USA in a post-punk world. If this came out more recently, then they would have had a much better shot as you get more bands where geekiness is a draw rather than a flaw.

Crazy Rhythms is such an interesting album to come out of 1980. Like I said, we are in a post-punk world where the music is really starting to thump, then you have this album which takes a lot of the melodic cues from post-punk and combines it with something a bit more poppy. This is alternative rock pure and simple. This is the music that R.E.M. would go on to have major success with within a few years of this album’s release. This is a group that actually showed that you could be the boy next door, wear glasses and still rock out… and not in a Buddy Holly kind of way.

The singer, at times, has an almost Ian Curtis sound to him, but to a warmer jangle pop background. There is an optimistic urgency to nearly all their tracks, although I am overly keen on their cover of the Beatles monkey song in the latter half of the album. Compared to the music going on around it, especially in the year before, Crazy Rhythms is so different. This is the sort of album where, if you have listened to enough music from 1979, you get that this was quietly revolutionary – even if it was a revolution that sanded down some of punk’s edges to help form a different genre. 

World Cooking – France

List Item: Cook something from every countryCountry: France
Progress: 104/193

When I write my little introductory passages about most countries, I end up talking about them as being one in a group of countries within a overarching cuisine. With France, it is a juggernaut of their very own – much like China. There are so many different food traditions within France that it really is difficult to talk about all of them here in any sort of detail – like there’s Provencal, Corsican and Brittany alone are distinct enough that I am SO tempted to one day expand this into a regional cooking challenge… but that though is quickly conquered.

Being from the UK, you are never too far from elements of French cuisine. I mean, the moment I step into my local supermarket, there are baguettes and croissants on view. You have French cheeses like brie and camembert next to French style garlic sausage and pre-made quiches. The history between the UK and France is so intertwined with food, words and traditions being passed from between them for well over 1000 years. Hell, we count the current royal line as going back to when the French Normans took the throne in 1066.

Deciding what to make for France was hard. Like really hard. I quickly eliminated the idea of making French bread because I made bread for Chile not too long ago and this weekend comes after a week where I was regularly going 10-11 hour days. I still wanted to do a main and a dessert though – preferably from different regions of the country. Many dishes were considered like cassoulet, salade niçoise, dauphinois potatoes and flammekueche – but I ended up going with something from Burgundy and another from the Central region.

Main: Beef Bourguignon

Before watching Meryl Streep take on the role of Julia Child in Julie & Julia, I read Child’s autobiography My Life in France and fell for her hard. You could just hear her talking through the book and it felt like you made a new friend, if only for the time you were making your way through her life. As such, I knew that I wanted to make one recipe of her’s – especially one where I saw it being referenced in the Nora Ephron movie. This is how, thanks also to Cafe Delites, I ended up making her take on beef bourguignon.

I actually bought a dutch oven in order to make this. It has been a long time coming, but I finally got around to buying one. However, given that this recipe is for 6-8 servings and therefore calls for 1.5 kilograms of beef, I quickly realized that I probably should have pared down the recipe. I managed to get there in the end – and now I have two more dinners sorted for the next few days.

The delight of this recipe is two-fold. Firstly there are the garlic-butter mushrooms you add at the end. However, that is nothing compared to the beautifully rich sauce which I can only imagine will be even better tomorrow when I reheat it and the flavours have had even more opportunity to get to know each other. I am sure that with better beef, better wine and streaky bacon rather than back bacon – there are a number of ways where this could be made even better.

Dessert: Tarte Tatin

Okay, so this didn’t end up exactly as I had hoped. Maybe I should have gone for a different recipe other than the Tasty one. However, I think the bigger problem was my utensils. Other than a general frying pan, I am not sure I had a suitable vessel to caramelize the apples. I went for a big saucepan, like in the recipe, but that got overstuffed very quickly. Instead of the apples being covered in the caramel I created, they started to steam and soften – not ideal.

Still though, I wasn’t going to buy another 1.5 kilos of apples and I definitely wasn’t going to peel, core and quarter another bushel of apples. So I continued on with the recipe and still managed to make something really tasty and, when warm, was delicious with some vanilla ice cream. However, this is by no means a great example of the dessert – then again I have has some other disasters and this was at least a delicious eat. Just not a great example of a tarte tatin. Oh well, I tried and that’s the point of this challenge.

Well, next time I make something for this challenge it should be with something Asian. I have some idea, but I am also still not able to find curry leaves – so may have to skip over those recipes until things open up enough for me to go out to try and find some. Guess we’ll see where I end up by the time I make my next post.