3 More Weird Foods For You To Try (That You Could Totally Make Yourself)

So, I just realized it’s been a while since I talked about food here. And that’s a shame because I REALLY do enjoy preparing, cooking, and trying new meals.

For this installment, I wanted to focus on delicacies that we common folk could prepare ourselves. So let’s dive into gastronomic adventure with…

A-Ping

You’ve heard of fried green tomatoes, but have you ever seen fried hairy spiders?
Source: The Telegraph

We Americans may balk at the idea of eating anything that resembles a bug (though many of us are totally cool with crabs and lobsters for some reason), but in Cambodia, fried tarantulas or A-Ping are the dish that saved the people.

During the reign of Pol Pot, many people were forced into hard labor and starved to death. These hairy buggers then quickly became a primary food source as they were plentiful, easy to harvest (just jam a stick into their nest and pull them out when they bite onto it), and super healthy; having more protein than a 6oz steak. Frying them with sugar, salt and garlic also give them the flavor of marinated fried chicken.

What’s more, they’re cheap. At only a few cents a spider, A-Ping is a major part of the Cambodian economy that almost anyone can grab at a street vendor and families often make a good business selling it.

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Don’t be fooled, friend; that ain’t fried chicken.
Source: The Telegraph

The wise reader will note that The Rocky Mountains are nowhere near the ocean and, therefore, cannot produce oysters. So, what are Rocky Mountain Oysters if not oysters? Well, their alternative name – Montana Tendergroin – may give it away.

That’s right; they’re fried bull testicles.

Like most non-traditional cuts of meat, Rocky Mountain Oysters came out of necessity. After castrating a bull to prevent unauthorized breeding that can lead to injured cattle, what are you supposed to do with his berries? Throwing them away would be wasteful, so why not eat them?

If you’ve ever had a chicken fried steak, these are very similar. Really, they’re no different from any other cut of beef. Once you get over where the meat came from, you may find you enjoy having balls in your mouth (enjoy that one, folks – I don’t get a chance to make raunchy jokes like this often).

Mamajuana

And now, a selection of liquor to complement our strange meal.
Source: Sunrise Villa

And to close out our buffet of the bizarre, let’s booze it up with some tree bark brew (that alliteration was more work than you think, by the way).

Mamajuana is a traditional tincture (that’s fancy-talk for herb-infused alcohol) from the Dominican Republic that contains rum, red wine, honey and a variety of herbs. What’s great is that you can steep this fine drink yourself and can buy the herbs pre-assembled so that they meet all FDA regulations. After that, it’s just a matter of choosing your favorite rum, red wine, and honey in your preferred amounts and let steep for a few days. Best of all, it’s common practice to reuse the herbs for months or even years. So you don’t need to keep buying a new starter kit when you’ve killed the batch. Hooray for exotic eating on a budget!

In addition to being touted as a powerful aphrodisiac, Mamajuana is also often used for fever, body aches, and fatigue. In fact, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and Dominican native Pedro Martinez attributes his teams 2004 World Series Championship victory to taking team building shots of the stuff. So, who knows? Maybe this little brew is just what you need to step up your game.

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Archive News: Future Uncertian

My apologies to everyone this week. I’m emotionally spent after being hit with a major crisis that could affect my livelihood.

Long story kept short, my roommate just received a major cut to her hours at work – a cut so bad that I can’t make up the deficit and we’re looking at the very real possibility of not being able to afford our rent anymore.

At this point, I’m trying to explore all possible avenues of getting out of this situation. Unless we find a way out, we’re both looking at being kicked back with our parents or possibly worse.

I really need to focus on this for a while and I’ll try to keep you all posted on the situation as things develop. I thank you for your patience and I’ll be back shortly.

Three Games That The Agent Is Playing Now: Chrono.gg Edition

Well, I’ve been keeping busy these last few day with Halloween preparations and new management at work (we actually have a meeting about it today, so I have to make this quick), so I’m just going to put out one of my short and simple lists today because I’m not a fan of not having anything for you all on Thursdays.

So, I’m going to talk about the games that I’ve been playing lately… but with a twist. The catch is that all of these games were obtained through Chrono.gg.

For those that have not yet heard, Chrono.gg is probably one of the most useful resources a PC gamer and Steam user has at their disposal. Every day at noon (Eastern Standard Time), they have a new flash sale with one game marked down at a ridiculously low price – often 50-90 percent off the original price.

Even if there isn’t a game on sale that day that you’re interested in, it’s still worth logging in to check because you get daily coin rewards that you can use to get other games FOR FREE. These games are sold in limited quantities and new games get added every two weeks. So, there’s always a reason to show up every day.

So, today, I’m going to give this amazing service some free publicity by showcasing the games that I got through them that I haven’t been able to put down.

Loot Hound

Some of the most consistently enjoyable games I find on Chrono.gg are simple time wasters that are useful for just chilling out after getting home from work. Hence why I keep coming back to Loot Hound.

You play as an enthusiastic treasure hunter/dog lover in search of random bobbles and bric-a-brac. You have to train your three dogs – Marley (who specializes in digging through rocky terrain), Wifi (who’s small enough to fit into small hidey-holes) and Mr. Anderson (who can scare off stubborn wild animals in your way) – to be the best loot hounds they can be while dodging park security.

There’s not much in the way of strategy; the answer to any problem often boils down to use the right dog for the task and make sure they’re trained up properly to overcome obstacles. But, I can appreciate a game with a simple premise if it’s done right. And this game is just so bright and cheery with a light-hearted sense of humor (at one point, your dog will dig a steak out of the dirt and the game will call it “GROUND Beef”) that it’s quickly becoming my go-to title for unwinding at the end of the day.

Odallus: The Dark Call

Shifting away from bright and cheerful for just a second, let’s have some fun with old school, dark gothic fantasy.

Odallus: The Dark Call is a lot of things. It combines the level progression of Ghouls & Ghosts, the branching paths of Demon’s Crest and the overall visual aesthetic and many combat mechanics from classic Castlevania games. You’d think that would be a case of the game trying to do too much at once, but if you can ignore the clumsy writing and dialog, it plays extraordinarily well and handles exactly like you would expect a retro throwback game would.

By the way, I didn’t pick those three game comparisons at random; the developers REALLY want you to know that they were inspired by those games in particular. In addition to ripping the overworld map directly from Ghouls & Ghosts, they recycle a lot of art assets from various Castlevania games and modeled quite a few bosses from baddies in Demon’s Crest. What’s more, when I bought this from Chrono.gg, it came bundled with three DLC skin packs – the Vampire Hunter, the Royal Knight and the Red Gargoyle.

Creative bankruptcy aside, this is still a fun play and was a steal at only two dollars.

Plasma Puncher

Ending back on the cute and silly, I’ve heard of Endless Runners, but this may be the first case I’ve heard of an ‘Endless Beat ’em Up.’

Plasma Puncher puts you in the role of a lone white blood cell fighting off a seemingly endless army of viral infectors. It’s your duty to fisticuffs every one of them into oblivion and save the body you call home.

As you progress, you’ll have to upgrade your little badass antibody, learn how to use various power ups to maximum potential, and quickly acclimate to new enemies with every incoming wave that alters their strategy. It’s pick-up-and-play style of game that still provides a fair amount of challenge.

If you seek out any of these games today, this would be the one I’d recommend the most.

The Return of Homestar Runner: How It’s Changed and My Hopes For The Future

Digital denizens of the 90’s, I come bearing great news; Homestar Runner is back!

For those familiar with the name, Mike and Matt Chapman – more commonly known as ‘The Brothers Chaps’ – have been slowly rebuilding and reworking their earliest project for years in-between other business; most notably Matt’s writing, directing, and producing of the Nickelodeon children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba and voicing the character of  Alfonzo in the Disney XD series Star vs. The Forces of Evil. However, over the last few weeks, the amount of new content coming from their YouTube channel has sky rocketed.

For those unfamiliar, Homestar Runner is one of the most enduring artifacts from the days of the pre-YouTube internet when your options for getting visual media on the web were limited and less than ideal. The Chaps, like many early pre-YouTubers, found Flash animation to be a simple way to get seen.

But it didn’t start with animation, the original Homestar Runner started life as a children’s book. However, as time has gone on, the comedy has matured for older audiences and, occasionally, finds itself poking fun at its child-like origins. This turned out to be the right move for the series as the original website is still operating off of merchandise sales to this day.

I’ve naturally been going back through the back catalog of old episodes and almost all of them still hold up. In fact, some of the jokes actually got better and more relevant (remember when resident shopkeeper Bubs refused to violate net neutrality by “throttling down” download speeds… unlike Verizon?).

Still, there are problems with being a web series that has existed for so long that it may as well be the internet’s Stonehenge. Technology and how we use the ‘net has changed so much that many of the techniques the show uses are horribly obsolete. Even the cast recognized the danger in flash not being the universal animation standard anymore. It seems that they’ve finally caved and have gone fully to YouTube in light of the situation.

Part of me wishes they could continue with the format they have now because it means the loss of one of my favorite aspects of the original animations: easter eggs. Occasionally, you could click on things in the animation as it played and you could uncover hidden content. Some of these are preserved in ending stingers, but there’s something rewarding about finding a secret ending that makes the experience special and encourages viewership.

There’s also the issue with the flagship sub-series Strong Bad Emails (SBmails for short); namely that no one uses email as their primary communications medium on the web anymore. This wasn’t as big of an issue thanks to SB getting an official Twitter account, but it does feel uncanny to someone that grew up with the classic. Plus Strong Bad Tweets (SBeets?) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Still, I remain hopeful. I want to see this great piece of internet comedy history rise like the Phoenix again. Also, I’d like to see them do more joint works with other artists like when they made music videos for They Might Be Giants. Hell, I’d REALLY like to see them continue their series of episodic point-and-click adventure games with Telltale Games.

At any rate, here’s to the return of yet another of my fond memories from long ago.

First Impressions On The New DuckTales

Oh, hey; I can talk about something happy for a change!

At this point, you know that I have a bit of an axe to grind when it comes to Disney. However, don’t take that to mean that I hate EVERYTHING about them; I am a human capable of love after all and Disney was still a formative part of my child. And one of those parts I loved was DuckTales.

Looking back, it was a very simplistic show – very much your standard, 1990’s, baddie-of-the-week, action-adventure serial. It was light on plot and character development, but it was completely serviceable with high-energy action, decent humor,  and still holds up surprisingly well after over two decades.

But, you want to know what they changed in the 2017 reboot and if they stayed true to the original source material, right? Well, let’s rap about that (NOTE: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT).

The first thing I took note of was a heavier focus on an overarching plot for the series. The first two episodes (conveniently mashed up as an hour long premiere in the video above) starts with Donald Duck struggling to make a home for his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie as the life of a sailor isn’t conducive to being a family man. Donald is forced to drop the trio off at the mansion of their grand-uncle Scrooge McDuck while he heads off to a new job interview. As the plot continues, new elements are added such as Huey, Dewey, and Louie being disillusioned with Scrooge’s greatness, Scrooge struggling to patch up strained family relations, Donald having to choose between family and success after unintentionally being hired by Scrooge’s arch-rival Flintheart Glomgold, and – end-capping the second episode – the discovery that Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s long-lost mother might have joined Scrooge and Donald in their early adventuring days.

With heavier plot came a greater chance for character development. This was where things started getting risky as this meant a chance of people complaining that the characters weren’t true to the originals. However, I didn’t have those concerns while watching. For the most part, I felt they were the same lovable goofballs I grew up with.

Donald is still a neurotic ball of rage, panic, and feathers (playing up the foul-mouthed sailor cliche… heh, FOWL… ’cause he’s a duck), but now he has the humanizing element of being an adoptive father figure to his nephews. Now his anger and frustration are justified because he’s constantly agonizing over the well-being of those in his care.

Scrooge is still the money-grubbing miser that he always was, but now he’s learning to accept family back into his life now that he’s made his fortune, thus making him a warmer and lovable character. Now, he has a chance to share his glory days with the next generation and has new meaning in his life by teaching them how to be, in his own words, “tougher than the toughies and smarter than smarties.”

Of course, the two biggest changes in character and the ones everyone wants to discuss are Scrooge’s maidservant Mrs. Bentina Beakley and her granddaughter Webbigail “Webby” Vanderquack. It’s understandable why the internet would go nuts over these two as their previous incarnations were a bit troubled from a modern feminist perspective.

Where the original Mrs. Beakley had almost no character other than being a doting nanny and mother figure to the child cast, this new incarnation is much more strict and professional – characterized as being very hard-nosed about how things are run around the McDuck mansion. She’s also not afraid to call Scrooge out on his B.S. when she smells it which has the effect of making her the Alfred Pennyworth to Scrooge’s Bruce Wayne. Her visual design reflects this by replacing her round rimless spectacles and frilly blouse with square horn-rimmed glasses and a broadly shouldered blazer to harden her appearance while keeping her bun hair-do, frilled apron, and giving her a classy brooch to remind us that under her sternness, she’s still a loving soft-hearted gentlewoman.

And she needs to be loving because she’s looking after the new Webby.

The original Webby was an example of one of the WORST kinds of female characters in fiction, the one that insists on being involved in everything with the boys for no discernable reason despite having no useful skills and calling sexism when someone tries to explain how dangerous that is for them and the rest of the team. Here though, she keeps this ‘up-for-anything’ personality while mitigating the problems previously attached to it.

For starters, there’s a reason why she wants to be with others on an adventure; she’s been horribly sheltered. Mrs. Beakley, fearing for her granddaughter’s safety sharing a home with a famous thrill-seeker, taught her every survival technique she knows but insisted that she be in a position where she’ll never actually need to use them by keeping her in the house. She’s bouncing off the walls with her growing social awkwardness. So when she finally meets Huey, Dewey, and Louie, she clings to them as the first living creatures she’s interacted with outside of the mansion.

Oh, and those survival techniques. Yeah, that means she actively contributes to the team instead of standing off to the side until she inevitably becomes a liability. It also makes my previous Mrs. Beakley/Alfred comparison stronger by suggesting that she’s a total badass.

And, of course, I’d be foolish if I didn’t mention the reworking of the original theme which is just as legendarily catchy as the before but doesn’t wear out its welcome nearly as quickly.

So, basically, this is just a REALLY wordy way of saying that I’m looking forward to seeing what else Disney comes up with. It seems they’re still making good use of those pages from the Cartoon Network school of plot and character development in animation that they borrowed when making Gravity Falls. The only difference is that they had the guts to apply it to one of their longest running franchises.

Now then, which of us is gonna start petitioning for a Darkwing Duck reboot?

The Agent on Charlottesville and The Rise of White Nationalism (Or “Why Hate Speech Is NOT Free Speech)

There are no jokes here. There is no laughter to be had. THIS. IS. DISGUSTING.
Source: WDKX.com

Well, this is definitely the most depressing and tragic thing I’ve ever had to talk about.

I’ve spent literally every day since August 11th, either on social media or in one-to-one talks, discussing the horrible events that occurred in Charlottesville and the aftermath in its wake. And I’ve been coming across the same exhausting argument every time since then – “I hate what the white nationalists have done and what they represent, but we can’t do anything because they’re exercising their freedom of speech.”

So then, field operatives, let’s discuss Incitement and Imminent Lawless Action and how those legal concepts apply to these bone-chilling events.

Incitement is defined in criminal law as any act meant, “to instigate, persuade, or move another to commit a crime.” This works in tandem with Imminent Lawless Action, the standard by which we use to judge whether a person’s speech falls under the protection of the First Amendment or if it’s an act of Incitement.

Imminent Lawless Action is judged based on two legal standards that the speech must pass if it is to be protected. The speech (and speaker, by extension) in question will lose its First Amendment rights if, “such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

So, let’s apply those standards to the nationalists, shall we?

Is their advocacy directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action? Well, when you fly the colors, wear the uniforms, chant the slogans, and preach the rhetoric of groups of people that are well-known and documented for violence against people based on race and religion, it’s kind of hard argue that aren’t with them. A lot of people have started claiming that they joined up as a joke or to troll people, but this isn’t the internet; doing stuff like that in real life isn’t as easy to write off as a joke. You MAY have started it as a joke and let it get way too far out of hand, but you still chanted slogans in public that promoted violence and murder and you need to take responsibility for that.

Was/is it likely to incite or produce lawless action? Well, I’d say running over a group of peaceful counter-protesters counts as pretty bloody likely to incite violence, don’t you?

Now, I’m not going to jump on this ‘Punch the Nazis’ meme that the internet is ballyhooing around because that’s just a stupid idea; It puts a lot of innocent people in harm’s way, makes white nationalists look right, and makes genuinely good people just as guilty as the forces they fight. That said, I do believe that the white nationalists and hate groups that took part in the protests should be held responsible; they should be charged with Incitement, punished to the fullest legal extent, and be sent a clear open letter to the world: responding to political discourse with a call for blood is not allowed in this country and those who do are not welcome here.

Responsibility to the responsible; kindness to the kind; tolerance for the tolerant. Those are my politics and I’ll stand by them to the end of time.

Thoughts On The Line Between Cultural Exchange and Cultural Appropriation

It’s time for white, middle-America’s favorite game – IS! IT! RACIST!
Source: Bored Panda

So, a certain story has floated past my news feed multiple times for a while now. It made me ask some powerful questions and I want to share those questions with you.

I’ll save you the time spent reading and sum up the source for you; a mom in Utah gave her little girl a traditional Japanese tea party complete with traditional garb and makeup, photos found their way to Tumblr, people cried racism (because that’s pretty much all Tumblr lives for anymore), and one user from Japan named ‘cheshireinthemiddle’ finally shut the whole argument by basically saying there was nothing wrong with what the girl did and the only racists there were the ones that were denying what they saw as healthy cultural exchange.

So this got me to thinking – Where do we draw the line? When does legitimate cultural exchange and appreciation descend into racist caricature? Is there even such a thing as cultural appropriation?

Well, this wouldn’t be a hot topic of debate if it weren’t loaded with unclear details that everyone interprets differently. That said, I CAN offer my own take on the matter and provide a different way of looking at the issue.

To me, the things that separate cultural exchange and flat-out racism are intent and context. Checked in the dictionary, racism is defined as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” By that definition, a racist act is any act that insists on the superiority of one race over another by highlighting a segment of another’s heritage or culture as a negative.

Now, let’s go back to our primary story that sparked this discussion. Did the girl make or intend to make any sort of negative statement of Japan as a racial group? No, what she did was demonstrate an interest in another person’s culture and a desire to learn more about it through first-hand experience. It’s literally no different than when white guys were wearing do-rags and gold chains out of an affection for black rap culture.

I feel the issue, in this case, has to do with a cultural barrier that prevents context from flowing freely and clearly between the two parties. A similar issue occurred between Japan and America in the opposite direction back in my day because we mistook the Ganguro fashion scene for racist depictions of black people (not helped by the fact that ‘ganguro’ translated to ‘black face’ in English) instead of a powerful message that challenged and contradicted the feminine beauty standard that Japan held for years. And it’s still an issue today; This is why in Pokèmon, Jinx is recolored for western audiences from black to purple (it didn’t stop them from having Jesse and James dress up as Ganguro Girls in the anime, though).

Honestly, I love learning about other cultures. I’ve often felt cut off from the rest of the world my entire life and sharing in the traditions and habits of other people gives me a chance to expand my understanding of the world. It fact, allow me to give you a first-hand example from a primary source.

When I was in college, I worked closely with a campus’ LGBTQ rights group who, in-turn, cooperated with the campus’ diversity office. As such, I ended up working with a varied spectrum of people with a plethora of different views and insights that I cherish to this very day.

But the most fun I had with them was the semester’s end soul food dinner that we all shared. Almost every culture can relate to bonding over a family meal, after all. I also got to experience culturally influenced dance performances from the students that were legitimately tear-jerking. As for the food itself, it often consisted of things like oxtails, pork jowls, and chitterlings – what foodies like to refer to as offal or  ‘variety meats’ that were often used as a means to ensure that nothing from a meat animal was wasted. As someone with a Scotish-Irish background whose heritage produced haggis (the pluck of a sheep broiled in its own stomach) and black pudding (seasoned pork blood sausage), I can relate.

And that’s why I feel cultural exchange and showing interest in other people heritage is so important. It’s a chance to expand our understanding of the world and the people in it as well as learn that we aren’t as dissimilar as we like to think; We may have different ways of doing things, but we’re all basically after the same thing – a happy, comfortable life where we can celebrate who we are.

So, the next time you find yourself confronted with a cultural sensitivity issue, remember this rule of thumb: if you’re doing it because you’ve experienced or want to experience the culture and share how amazing it is with others, it’s cultural exchange; if you’re doing it because you’re chasing a fashion trend at best or you just want to poke fun at how silly it looks to you at worst, you’re probably just racist.