Recommendations, 1/24

We’re into Matthew McConaughey, being stuck between a rock and a hard place, and old timey adverbs.

Jonathan

gentlemen

With tens of followers on Twitter, I am one of those social elites (a digerati dandy, if you will) who wield a certain amount of influence among the webizens of the blogosphere. So I am using my Klout, all 47 of it, to encourage you to join me in the adverbial fun-zone that is the word “mayhap.” This archaic mish-mosh of “it may hap” that has morphed into a portmanteau of maybe and perhaps, is a perfectly reasonable, yet bad-ass, way to express uncertainty about the future and/or noncommittal indifference to the future. And aren’t uncertainty, non-committalness, and indifference the buzzwords that fit our era? Uncertain times call for uncertain adverbs.

Example:

A: First we will dine on essence of lemon zest and Froot Loop infused sea foam. Then we shall, mayhap, retire to my studio apartment for a digestive of Diet Coke and superiority.

B: Be quiet. You had me at “mayhap.”

Of late some thinly-mustached millennials have added a hipster “-s” inflection to mayhap.

Youth: Mayhaps I’ll torrent this fucking Haim music tonight. Because free.

Normal: “Did great-grandpa storm the beach at Normandy just so you could steal music?”

Youth: Mayhaps. What is this Normandy whereof you speak? Is that a level in BattleWar 5, mayhaps?

The time may come when you too shall be called upon to don the cape of awesome privilege and be an arbiter of cool as I am. At that time, you shall, perchance, be called upon to utter the pinnacle of reclaimed olde tymey adverbiage. Mayhap you will rise to the challenge. But probably you won’t.

Kevin

banner saga

The rebooted Battlestar Galactica series was about a fleet of surviving humans on the run from the Cylons. The motive of their attackers was unknown, the certainty of where they were headed even less so. In the first episode, “33,” in which the Cylons appeared every 33 minutes on the dot to attack the fleet, best encapsulated the sense of immediacy and dread that made Battlestar‘s space opera journey so memorable.

The Banner Saga, a new strategy game on PC/Mac, captures a similar sense of urgency. Its setting is not in space, but in a beautifully hand-drawn world based on Nordic mythology. The visuals were based on Eyvind Earle’s art for Sleeping Beauty, though the tone is not nearly as light-hearted. Both man and varl (a race of ram-horned giants) are being driven from their homes by a mysterious force called the dredge, and you’re in charge of leading a caravan of survivors to safety (though it will turn out that nowhere is safe, really).

The game is broken up into two distinct segments. One is the combat, which will feel familiar to anyone who’s played a turn-based strategy game like Final Fantasy Tactics. There’s actually not a lot of depth to the fighting, and it’s a little math-y, but it’s satisfying in its consistency. The difficulty too felt fair. More importantly, losing battles affects the outcome of the game’s more interesting component: the decision making.

As your caravan travels through snowy landscapes, you are confronted with a number of scenarios that force difficult leadership decisions with unclear consequences. In fact, it’s seemingly the point. Sometimes allowing a band of travelers to join your caravan will result in being looted by thieves. Other times, intimidation will avoid needless confrontation more effectively than compassion. Once I had one of my characters chase after a loose cart, hoping my boldness would be rewarded with extra supplies. That guy ended up dying permanently. (For the record, please never let me lead a caravan of survivors in real life.)

Like The Walking Dead, The Banner Saga doesn’t often give you “best” choices. And when you really think about it, what’s the fun in making an easy decision?

Nick

lentils

I don’t know why recipe writers think they can get away with straight-up lying all the time, but it’s an epidemic and it must be stopped. I mean, every lentil recipe I’ve ever seen says something like, “simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.” Bullshit. I’ve never gotten tender lentils in less than an hour. It’s such a cheap lie, too, because once you’re in the middle of cooking you can’t quit when the lentils are still hard and chalky after half an hour. And you can just hear the writer cackling behind a laptop screen because you fell for it.

So this week, I recommend a deceitful recipe for lentil soup. It’s the same one I quoted earlier, in fact. Because even though its cooking time is utterly delusional, the dish is so good I don’t even care. I’ve cooked a lot of lentil soups in my life, and while most of them are hearty and tasty, they’re also burdened by a sense of duty. Lentils are cheap and healthy so I guess I’ll make some. Sigh. But this recipe isn’t like that.

I know I’m veering into “one weird trick” territory here, but the key to this soup is one little thing: chickpea puree. After you’ve got your legumes and vegetables simmering away, you drop a can of drained chickpeas into a blender with some olive oil and lemon juice, whip it up, and stir it into the soup. Yes, you’re basically adding hummus to soup, and yes, that’s as good as it sounds. The resulting soup is luxuriously creamy while remaining rich and satisfying, and the layers of flavor are pretty spectacular. Not only does this soup make me excited to eat lentils; I don’t even mind waiting for them.

Gabriella

true detective

It’s been difficult for me to get invested in a new television drama since Breaking Bad ended, but I’ve found HBO’s True Detective especially compelling. Set in Southern Louisiana, the series follows two detectives tasked with investigating a ritualistic murder back in 1995. It hooked me immediately with a mysterious, quasi-supernatural killing and eerie-sexy title sequence, but the main characters’ complex personal lives kept me entranced.

Matthew McConaughey is exceptional as Detective Rust Cohle. (Of course, we’re solidly in the Golden Age of McConaughey, so who could expect anything less?) He plays a tortured and solitary homicide detective who’s fighting a losing battle with alcoholism and insomnia — but is excellent at his job. He’s partnered with Detective Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson), a seemingly all-American family man who we quickly learn has his own demons to contend with.

The plot jumps from when the murder first took place, to nearly two decades later, where Cohle and Hart are separately being interviewed about their past work together. They’re now estranged from each other, and they’ve both unraveled as they’ve aged — and I, for one, can’ t wait to find out how it all came to be.

(P.S. Pick up a copy of Stephen Dobyn’s The Burn Palace to satiate your desire for more tormented detectives solving Satanic murders in sleepy towns in between episodes.)

Hallie

As a serious ping pong-er — ping pong player? pingpongist? — I am appalled by America’s foremost variation on the sport. Beer pong is the worst thing invented by drunk assholes since the DUI. And should be equally punishable by law, if you ask me.

But if beer pong is the worst variation on ping pong, Cat Pong is the best. The cat has free run of the table on either side of the net, to do whatever it pleases. Your job is to not let the ball hit the cat (whether it’s just dozing, preening itself, or actively swiping for the ball) while also scoring on your opponent per the usual Ping Pong rules. Although you must allow for frequent pauses in play to both go “awwwwww!”

The cat scores a point when it touches the ball, whether or not it was on purpose. You announce scores like ‘you-the cat-your opponent’. It adds a whole other dimension of competition (and cuteness) to the game that’s extremely engaging (and cute). Well, engaging for the humans at least. I’ve never played a game where the cat stayed on the table for the entire time. But we were tied 7-7-7 for a while.