Monday, July 26, 2010

Roasted Chicken and Penne in Vodka Sauce

This week at Safeway there was a big sale on Select-brand pasta sauces. So I grabbed a jar of their vodka sauce and added it to this week's Roasted Chicken Challenge. I started with some onions and garlic and tossed in the chicken. Then, I poured in a glop of vodka sauce, mixed a cup of water, and reduced. Next, a tablespoon of vinegar and some red pepper, and then I added the penne. Last step: some salt, pepper, and arugula.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quick n' Dirty Kung Pao Chicken

I threw this together as a part of my week-long Chicken Experiment (inspired by this blog): roast a chicken on Sunday, and then make cheap, experimental meals throughout the week.

I never made kung pao chicken before, so I started with a roux, some oil and butter, and onions and garlic. I added a tablespoon of peanut butter, about a teaspoon of sugar, and a few pinches of kosher salt. Then I splashed in some soy sauce, added a cup of water, reduced, then tossed in the chicken and vegetables. It came out pretty well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Defining "victim" in the Arizona Victim's Bill of Rights

Article 2.1 of the Arizona Constitution, better known as the Victim's Bill of Rights (VBR), has a strange quirk. Take a look at its definition of "victim":

"Victim" means a person against whom the criminal offense has been committed or, if the person is killed or incapacitated, the person's spouse, parent, child or other lawful representative, except if the person is in custody for an offense or is the accused.

(emphasis added)

A plain reading suggests that people "in custody for an offense" are not victims, and thus have no rights under the VBR. Which would mean they have no right to criminal restitution, no right to be present at hearings, and, of course, no right to refuse interview requests from criminal defendants. It was generally accepted that Stapleford v. Houghton, a case involving a prisoner-on-prisoner assault, seemed to support this general interpretation.

Until now.

State v. Ergonis, a part of the high-profile Kumari Fulbright case from a few years back, just came back from the Court of Appeals. The Court sharply circumscribes the reach of the VBR's exclusionary clause with respect to people in custody, to include only cases in which the victim is also the accused and when the crime occurred while the victim is in custody.

The Court seems to ridicule Ergonis's position -- that the VBR excludes anyone in custody, regardless of whether the offense happened while the victim was in custody or not -- but frankly, its own reasoning doesn't appear to be that strong either, except that to rule otherwise would bring down the perceived status quo.

Will we now see a resurgence in interest in the VBR on the part of in-custody defendants? Perhaps victims currently held in other states, or in federal custody, will demand to be transferred to Arizona court? How will Arizona courts handle these requests?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2

The American people are isolated from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in a manner unprecedented in the history of warfare. Technology makes it possible for us to wage war in two theaters simultaneously, and yet still commit fewer troops then the number used in the first Gulf War. Instead, we rely on unmanned Predator drones and chopper crews to do the dirty work. And because so few of us have any real connection to the wars, we rarely see moments of horror such as this video released today by WikiLeaks (WARNING: extremely violent and NSFW):

What is so horrible about this video? Certainly, the fact that innocent people are being slaughtered, to the seeming amusement of the helicopter crew, is difficult to stomach. The element of technology makes it especially hard to watch; it is shocking to see how one person can cause such rapid destruction. But this video shows only the type of violence that happens in Iraq and Afghanistan every day. The U.S. military has done an admirable job of shielding the public from the reality of constant warfare, but now WikiLeaks has shown us a glimpse of the truth. If this video achieves nothing else, it will help the American public understand the human cost of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Videos like this one will reach a greater percentage of the public, and perhaps ultimately shift public perception on those wars.

In light of this news, it would seem in poor taste to play games like Modern Warfare 2, which allows the player to operate the very same 30mm Apache machine gun turret used in the above video:

And perhaps in the context of MW2, the Chopper Gunner (and similar killstreak rewards, such as the AC-130, Predator Missile, and Tactical Nuke) are in poor taste. However, I think that these gameplay elements might be used to create an educational game in which players are encouraged to engage in a dialogue about the use of these weapons in modern warfare, as a means to better understand the frightening (and often secret) means by which the United States perpetuates its hegemony over the world. Perhaps if people were encouraged to play a game in which they were viscerally exposed to the horrors of a Predator missile barrage, they might become more opposed to the war effort.

I plan to write more about this in the coming days, but I thought that the release of this video would be a good occasion to start a conversation about how video games like Modern Warfare 2 might be used positively, to expose people to the horrors and true human toll of modern warfare.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Villains of the 1980's: William Atherton

Today I'm rolling out a new series of columns here at Cirroc, in which I pay tribute the actors who brought us the most memorable villains of the 1980's. Every era has a handful of actors who find themselves typecast as the heavy, but for my money, the 1980's had the best array of jerks, archenemies, demented authority figures, and masters of the slow burn.

I begin with one of the biggest standouts: William Atherton.

Atherton had a string of hits in the mid-1980's, and for a while he was the go-to guy for the insufferable yuppie villain. The kind of guy who slowly gets under your skin with his unctuousness and his cheap, government-salary suits. This guy was literally born with his chin upturned at a 45-degree angle. He was the perfect villain for the Reagan era. In three of his big blockbuster roles, he plays different manifestations of the liberal bogeyman: in Die Hard, a reporter (and member of the liberal media) who endangers the safety of blue collar police officer Bruce Willis; in Ghostbusters, a nosy EPA agent whose strict observance of regulations destroys a small business (and hastens Armageddon); and in Real Genius, a corrupt academic who sleeps with his students and defrauds the government. I think Atherton was probably a dick in real life, too, because he hasn't had much work since the 1980's. Even the Die Hard series left him behind after part 2.

Dick or no, I salute Atherton and his worthy contribution to 1980's pop culture. Put on Ghostbusters the movie (or the new video game, which features his voice acting), and pay tribute to this classic commie pinko villain.

Next week: Michael Ironside

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pseudo-Pulled-Pork BBQ Sandwiches!

Pseudo-Pulled-Pork BBQ Sandwiches, starring Spaghetti Squash

File this under my growing list of "interesting things to make with squash." Spaghetti squash has a stringy consistency and sweet, subtle flavor that makes it a nice substitute for pork for all you vegans and followers of Abrahamic faiths.

Here's what you need to do:

* Get yourself a normal sized spaghetti squash, pretty easy to find these
days at your local supermarket.
* You'll need an onion, either an entire yellow onion or half of one,
depending on the size, chopped.
* A couple of cloves of garlic.
* Salt and pepper, to taste.
* Some potato buns, or the bread of your choice.
* Dill pickles!
* And then, the barbeque sauce of your choice. I used Hot n' Spicy Bill Johnson's Big Apple Bar-B-Que Sauce, a long-time local favorite, but you can feel free to substitute or make your own.

First, the squash.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and slice the spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. De-seed, pull out the guts, and cover each half in oil. Cover a baking pan in oil as well. Put the two halves in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, flipping once. Pull out of the oven and peel off the skin. The water in the squash should have dried up, leaving the squash loose and stringy and easy to peel apart. Peel off the squashy spaghetti strands and put them on a plate. (Roast the seeds as a snack, if you feel so inclined.)

Now, heat up a saute pan to medium and pour a tablespoon of oil. Toss the diced onions in a saute pan and cook until transparent, about 2-3 minutes. Toss in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Now mix in the spaghetti squash and turn the heat down to about 3. Pour in about 3-4 tablespoons of barbeque sauce. Cover and simmer, mixing occasionally, adding salt and pepper, for about 20 minutes.

Then just pile the squash on your buns and eat! Put some dill pickle slices on top. Serves 6-8.