Month: February 2012

Walking is Hard

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When I was a child it was important to my parents that my brother and I never took ourselves – or life in general – too seriously.
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My folks were supportive when we needed it, and yet managed to be sure that a large ego was never too highly developed. They were successful with me, at least. The same is debatable in regards to my brother. My father was a bit sharper on this lesson than my mother. Never missing an opportunity to accentuate this policy to my brother and me, our training with him began early. My mother was more…stern. Not in a bad way; being married to my father meant that she was technically raising three children, not merely the two that popped out of her womb. Dad would prefer to refer to his antics as being more fun than strict. I have still yet to truly decipher his exact definition of “fun”.
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For example, here’s a picture of my dad when we came across a fountain on the day of my brother’s college graduation ceremony.
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Okay, okay. My folks saw this post and were none too pleased I posted the above unedited pic of my Dad, causing me to have to photoshop it. They’re going to be staying with me soon and I don’t want them to touch all my stuff while I’m not looking out of revenge.
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Instead, here’s a picture of my mother and brother reacting to what their lives had become.
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I, of course, was taking the pictures.
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This isn’t the point. The point is how my parents went about their life lessons. My mother taught us the hard way “This occurred because this happened,” or, more frequently “You’re in pain now because you didn’t do this.” She explained and then consoled, rather than just trying to make a kid feel better. My father hurts when my brother and I hurt, and wants to make it better. My mother sympathizes with us, but she’s more direct on making sure we know what to do to get out of a pickle, that we’re proactive about it.
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Neither of my parents were too shy about allowing us to watch movies; they were confident they could train us on right and wrong, fake violence and unnecessary real anger. Danger and safety, that sort of thing. That being said, I do distinctly remember a time when my mother was quite angry at my dad for allowing me to watch Predator at the age of seven. That wasreal anger, though I distinctly understood that the movie was fake. And awesome. I was fine. And I got ice cream for breakfast!
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Photo Credit Collider
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The NeverEnding Story movie hit theaters in 1984. The first time I remember seeing it was on a grainy VHS when I was four. My brother was seven at the time. I liked the snail racer seen in the very beginning. I still do. We were our parents’ children. We were out-going and fun and emotional and strong. But we were still kids. I cried a lot as a kid.
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The NeverEnding Storyenthralled Matt and me. We didn’t care much for the princess or her weirdo illness, but we loved the Rock Biter and the Night Hob who flew around on a bat. Falcor was the big, flying white dog we’d never have. And we loved Atreyu, believed in him, and felt for him. Atreyu has it rough in the film. His life is dependent on the actions of a bullied runt named Bastian, the fate of not just a princess, but his entire world is left balancing on his prepubescent shoulders. And if that isn’t bad enough, his horse, R-Tex, dies.
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I remember this scene very well, even the music. There’s Atreyu in the Swamp of Sadness. You’re not supposed to allow the sadness to seep into you. It will kill you. But eventually R-Tex just can’t take it any more. And he begins to sink. My brother and I were inches from the screen, big fat tears pouring down our faces.
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Photo Credit Smother Goose
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“Don’t give up R-Tex!”
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It was apparently all too real for my father, who decided to step in and teach us a lesson about taking things – even as a four year old – too seriously.
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“Kids…do you know why Atreyu is crying?” My dad asked, sitting next to my mom on the couch.
“Buh-be-Cause his horse died?” I asked feeble through snot and tears.
“No, stupid! Because now he’s all alone!” Barked my brother through his own hiccups of sadness.
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“…No…” said my father. “Atreyu is crying because now he has to walk.”
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It took a moment – but just a moment – for my brother and I to burst out laughing. Even at 4 I understood Dad was full of shit.
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And that’s how my parents shaped my brother and I into the ‘people’ we are today.
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All You Need is Pop: JK Rowling, Stefon, a ‘Seinfeld’ Suicide & More

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Tomorrow I’ll be attempting Fish & Chips over Sherlock.

Today, it’s Pop Day.

*JK Rowling has yet to put down her pen. It’s not all teenagers and inappropriate wand use this time around, however, as the Novelist will be writing specifically for adults. Most of the fans of Harry Potter that I know are well older than 18 years of age, so I’m very excited to read what mature further adventures. [PublishersWeekly]

* It’s no secret that one of my favorite SNL characters of all time is Stefon. A few Splitsider geniuses have illustrated his clubs as per his descriptions. And I want more. [BuzzFeed]

* Speaking of SNL, for the first time since I can remember the musical guest will actually be way cooler than the celebrity host: Jack White will be playing while Lindsey Lohan is “acting”. Not exactly sure why Lorne Micheals would have her on; between her million arrests and Playboy cover she hasn’t been able to get any actual movie work in a long, long time. [TheHollywoodReporter]

* Hey! You know who’s cooler than you? Stephen Hawking. I mean that goes without saying to begin with, but when was the last time you had to members of the opposite sex gyrating good times all over your person? [RadarOnline]

* Remember when George on Seinfeld wanted to be called T-Bone? Remember how he worked for Mr. Kruger at the time? Actor Daniel von Bargen, who played Kruger on the incredibly successful sitcom, attempted suicide earlier this week by shooting himself in the head. According to the 911 dispatch call, Bargen attempted suicide after becoming distraught over possibility of having toes amputated due to diabetes complications. He has survived the shooting, however, is in critical condition. [NYDailyNews]

* Last year I had friends over for an Oscar watch party and I made Oscar themed cupcakes. There was a funfetti style for The Social Network, a cupcake cut apart into pieces and layers and put back together with icing for Inception, a dark chocolate cake and ultra pure white icing for Black Swan, the list goes on. This year I’m having friends over, but I couldn’t care less about any of the movies up for awards. No film really blew my skirt up this year and any of the ones that came close weren’t even nominated. The Academy really screwed up this year, but sports fans have their Super Bowl and ladies have their Oscars. So one dedicated fan decided to make 2012 Oscar Nominee inspired hotdogs. And I’m so starving from being on freakin’ Weight Watchers points that I’d eat them all. Right now. [BuzzFeed]

* Speaking of crap that you can eat, YumSugar has a Girl Scout cookie quiz. Think you know ’em? Take the test and find out. Me, I can’t. Even answering questions about cookies will add fat to my ass. [YumSugar]

* And, finally, I can sing every word of the soundtrack and I can recite every word of the script. I make constant references to this movie, primarily in terms of David Bowie’s package (you should now know what I’m talking about if you read this blog regularly), and I even know which voice actors did which character in this and everything else Jim Henson. So let’s watch Jennifer Connelly’s audition for the lead character of Sarah, shall we? [DangerousMinds]

Hot Wings at Home – The best thing since sliced bread!

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I’m a glutton for punishment. Okay, maybe I’m just a glutton, but after hours of hardcore Ultimate frisbee in the morning (I have 2 – TWO bruises!) I really only wanted to eat what I was craving. When I want something bad I want to make it at home. More punishment. This way, though, I get to be part of the process, I get to save money (sometimes), and the tweaking – oh, the tweaking! I love it. Sometimes I need to have a dinner that screams immaturity and irresponsibility. In this instance I’m talkin’ ’bout hot wings. A whole dinner of hot wings. Screw salad, screw even cole slaw. I mean a whole dinner of wings and wet naps and beer.

Making chicken wings at home is seriously cheap and makes for wicked deliciousness.

1.5 – 2 lbs Chicken Wings, about about 14 wings (which when cut up equals 14 drumettes and 14 wind segments)

1 cup Franks Hot Sauce

2 TBSP melted butter

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp white pepper

3 TBSP flour

First step: cut up yo’ wings into three segments, the drumette, the middle wing part (the less favorable non-drumette), and that end pointy bit that has no meat and it just a waste all around.

Find the joint in each area, line your knife edge in the joint, and slip through. It’s not hard. Chuck the lame little pointy ends, the farthest left in the above picture. Then rinse the remaining pieces, dry them really well, and set them aside in a bowl.

Pour about 3 inches of oil in a stock pot or deep dutch oven and heat to about 325 degrees. I used a pasta pot. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cayenne, peppers, and salt. Then toss the dried wings in the mixture. Once your oil is up to heat, gently -gently -drop the flour coated wing pieces into the oil and let fry for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. If you’re oil doesn’t look like the below picture when the wings are dropped in then it’s not hot enough.

And after 12 minutes they’re all beautifully golden brown like this…

Now, I’m not going to lie: These are awesome just as they are and you’re going to want to eat them, but don’t do it. Don’t give in. I mean, I guess if you have kids that can’t handle the extra spice or you don’t want sauce finger prints everywhere – and I do mean everywhere – then serve them like this. But if you sauce them, it’ll be like Dorthy stepping out of Kansas into Oz. I mean freaking amazing. So don’t be a coward: Stay strong, wait 4-5 minutes to allow them to cool, and sauce ’em.

In a big bowl mix together your Frank’s, the melted butter and any other flavors you’re craving. Extra cayenne? Sure. Chili paste? Go for it. Then throw in your slightly cooled chicken and toss away, either literally toss if you have the kitchen skills or toss with your hands – but then immediately wash them. And definitely don’t touch your eyes or lick your finger tips for the duration of this recipe. Then open a beer and eat away. I recommend in front of the TV. Notice I didn’t say “sports”. I don’t care for sports.

I’m hardcore: I have my wings with a beer in front of Antiques Roadshow. Ahhh, yeah.

Okay, so I have to be honest with you: These are not health food. Are they good for your soul? Fo’ shizzle. Are they good for your heart? Absolutely not. Enough of these will be the direct reason you go into cardiac arrest while on the treadmill one day. So, in an effort to just be plain bad rather than ridiculously bad, I also made a grilled wing that honestly was just as tasty as the above Buffalo wings.

Alternative sticky, spicy Asian grilled hot wing:

1 cup La Choy Orange Ginger sauce

1/2 TBSP srirachi

1 tsp black pepper

1 cup Spicy citrus sauce, cooled (from my chicken tender recipe)

Combine the La Choy sauce, srirachi, and black pepper. Toss the rinsed and dried chicken, and let soak in the coating for about 20 minutes. Heat your grill to medium – high. Once you grill is ready to go and the chicken has marinated a bit, grill with the lid closed for 12-15 minutes or until an internal temperature of 160 has been reached, turning once half way through. Let cool about five minutes once you remove them from the grill. Once they’ve cooled a bit coat them in the spicy citrus sauce. These are messy, but very delicious, and a welcomed healthier twist on traditional fried Buffalo wings.

Pork Chops in Marinara Sauce

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I like creating something new in my kitchen, but sometimes I figure out a tasty recipe that’s a cinch to make and I just get stuck in a habit of making it regularly. In other words, new excitement has been leading to regularity. I decided to make an old family favorite to reignite the spark in my kitchen.

I’m not a big pork fan. I love a good banh mi, and ribs here or there, but that’s where my interest stops. Growing up, however, we had pork most Sunday’s at family dinner. My grandmother would make her usual marinara sauce (something I can make with my eyes closed and both hands tied behind my back), but she would a sometimes add fatty, bone-in pork chops and let them simmer low and slow for a few hours, cooking in the sauce while the sauce absorbs the delicious porkiness to make the usual Sunday meal a little more special.

I figured I’d give this a shot. Besides, cooking sauce on the weekend is great, because you have it for pasta and pizza for the rest of the week.

3 TBSP olive oil

5 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large shallot, thinly sliced or 1/2 cup diced onion

1 very ripe peach, diced into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup wine, your favorite

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 28oz can whole or diced peeled tomatoes

1 cup cherry tomatoes

8 large button mushrooms cut into 1/4’s or 1/8’s depending on your own bite preference

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 TBSP fresh chopped basil

1 TBSP parsley

1 TBSP kosher salt

1/2 TBSP black pepper

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp sage

1 TBSP tomato paste

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2.5-3 lbs center cut, bone-in loin chops

Juice of 1 lemon

Like most Italian recipes, this one starts with a shit ton of garlic. If you can’t get a shit ton, a butt ton will do. Or five large cloves. Which ever works. In 2 TBSP of the olive oil over medium heat, warm the minced garlic cloves, the shallot or onion, which ever you decide to use, and the peach. You want to sweat the garlic and onions a little, but don’t allow them to brown. After about 5 minutes add the wine (because of the pork I used a white wine I like, but anything that’s good will work), and stir. Add the tomatoes, both canned and cherry, mushrooms, chicken stock, and the spices. Sprinkle in the salt, stir, and incorporate the tomato paste. Once the paste is dissolved into the rest of the mixture, toss in the parm and mix well. Congratulations: you got yourself some marinara.  Also, just as a side note, you can make this as thin (for pizza) or as chunky (for anything else) as you want. Add green bell peppers or chunks of fresh tomato to cook down and swap the crushed canned tomatoes for a second can of whole. If you want a smoother sauce omit the mushrooms and do a second can of crushed.

I like making entrees over baking because baking is exact. Dinner is whatever the hell you want it to be.

Bring the stock pot of tomato magic up to a bubbling simmer. Then turn the heat to low, so the sauce is still very hot, but barely bubbling, and add the pork chops. Cook these on low for about 2-2 1/2 hours. You can sear them before hand, but I chose not to, simply because I was too lazy to dirty another pan. The slower you cook the chops the more juice they will retain.

After about two hours, or when the chops reach an internal temperature of 160-165 remove them from the pot. Add the lemon juice to the tomato sauce. Stir and taste; add any additional salt or pepper. And viola!

I served mine with penne & salad. Classic Italian dinner.

Bitch Slapping Bland Primavera to the Curb

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I’m hosting a few friends for dinner to watch the Oscars this year. While I except the award show to be filled with mediocrity, my dinner will not. I wanted something bright, filling, delicious, and cheap. Feeding a lot of people adds up fast, so I like to keep costs down where possible.

Normally, I would not choose Pasta Primavera as an exciting meal, per se. More of a pathetic meal would sound more apt to its usual description. America’s Test Kitchen, however, inspired me, as the always do, to look at the usual in a different light. Cook the pasta like risotto and -BAM – awesomeness in every bite. Use the pasta’s own starch as a thickening agent – BOOM – creaminess without the heaviness.

It’s like Alfredo and Primavera had a baby. A delicious, delicious baby.

Now, most of this is directly from America’s Test Kitchen, so I don’t really deserve any credit. I made tweaks here and there to make it even more delicious, but I couldn’t have done it without ATK. I love this recipe because you can really plan ahead and do many of the steps far in advance to make serving a group of people even easier.

3 Leeks

1 bunch Asparagus

1 cup frozen peas

4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed in a garlic press

1/2 TBSP red pepper flakes

1 TBSP ginger

4 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cup water

1 TBSP mint

2 TBSP chives

1/2 TBSP rosemary

zest of 1 lemon

5 TBSP olive oil

1 box pasta, penne, cavatelli, or campanelle recommended. This won’t really work with spaghetti or a strand style pasta.

1 cup white wine. I used a pinot grigio and it was fantastic.

Juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

3 TBSP heavy cream (optional)

Salt & pepper to taste

Leeks! Leeks are the sandiest thing ever next to a beach. Chop off the top two inches of outer leek area and cut off the bottom inch. Then roughly chop the top half, the darkest green area, and rinse 3 cups of it in a bowl and set aside. Then cut the remaining light green parts into 1/2 inch pieces, throw in a separate bowl, and rinse. So much easier to rinse once the leeks are in chunks.

Saute the light colored leeks over medium heat in 2 TBSP of oil for about five minutes or until the leeks brown a little, stirring periodically.

While the leeks are sauteing, snap off the ends of the asparagus. Take a stalk of asparagus and start bending from the end; it will snap naturally at the freshest point. You want to eat from the natural break to the tip. Chop the ends that you would normally discard into 1/2 inch pieces and dump into the bowl of darker leek slices. Cut the edible pieces of asparagus into 1 inch bites.

Once the leeks have cooked a bit, let go of some of their moisture, and browned a little, add the i inch asparagus pieces and crushed garlic, and stir. Continue to cook until asparagus is just tender, 2-3 minutes. Add the frozen peas and saute for an additional minute until the peas are just warmed, 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat and set the cooked veggies aside.

In a deep stock pot or sauce pan, heat up the veggie stock, water, dark leeks, asparagus, red pepper, and ginger. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.

While you’re doctoring the stock, chop up the chives, mint, and rosemary, and combine with the zest of a lemon in a bowl. Set aside. Once the stock has simmered for 10 minutes, strain into a bowl. Discard the strained vegetable remnants. This step and the vegetable cooking step can be completed a couple of hours in advance if necessary. You want there to be 5 cups of rich, doctored and strained stock left. If you’re going to immediately cook the pasta, place the strained stock back into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Keep the stock warm, as it will be added to the pasta in a few minutes. 

Once you’re ready to cook the pasta, heat 2 TBSP oil in a pasta pot over medium heat. Toss in your pasta of choice and brown a bit. This is similar to cooking a risotto, which gives each bite tons of flavor. This only takes about 5 minutes, but you want to stir the pasta regularly to get each piece to brown a little. once the pasta is showing signs of golden deliciousness, add the cup of white wine to the pot and stir until the pasta has completely absorbed it, about 1-2 minutes. At this point the pasta is still raw, but tastes like magic, richly buttered bread. It’s amazing.

When the wine has been absorbed, add the stock and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for an additional 8- 10 minutes or until the pasta is done stirring every . I used Simply Smart pasta, which takes closer to 12 minutes to reach the correct texture.

At that point, turn off the heat and add the juice of one lemon. Stir. Add the 3 TBSP of heavy cream, 1/2 of the herb mixture, and grated parm, and stir well. Once the sauce has reached your desire consistency, dump in the cooked veggie mixture. I like my sauce a little thicker so I put the pot back over heat to stir for an additional 4 minutes, just until it was rich and creamy. Add the cherry tomatoes and – you guessed it – stir. You want the heat of the sauce & pasta to just warm and wilt the tomatoes. Plate each serving and sprinkle on a little of the remaining herb mixture. It’s a beautiful thing.

I topped mine with shaved parm and had a side of steamed broccolini with lemon juice as a side, because one can never have enough veggies. It. Was. INCREDIBLE. It can serve 6 reasonable people or 4 hungry ones.

Thank Pop it’s Friday: Star Wars guitar, Dr. Who, A Dad Shoots the Internet + More!

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Let’s do this. And then let’s get some sushi.

*Shamrock shakes are back at McDonald’s and are now available at every location. Run out and get one, and get fat…ter. According to USA Today

“The Shamrock Shake weighs in at 540 calories and 16 grams of fat for a small, or 840 calories and 24 grams of fat for a large…”

Awesome. [USA Today]

* A daughter wasn’t supposed to use Facebook and she certainly wasn’t supposed to talk shit about her father while using the social networking site. What’s a parent to do? Well, according to her father, Tommy Jordan, the answer is to murder the laptop. But before you go believing he’s an abusive mad man, Jordan makes an 8 minute video case to his daughter explaining the actions – and where she went wrong. There’s a difference between freedom of speech and a punk, spoiled brat. I’m all for tough love. Unless the daughter worked a part time after school job to purchase that laptop herself, I certainly don’t feel this is any form of abuse. She broke the rules, and I know that if my parents merely took my laptop away and hid it, that I would find it. Nice. [MSNBC]

* So, a few months ago, somebody posted on a Civil War era photo on eBay. The seller pointed out how much the gentleman in said photo resembled Nicholas Cage…and then speculated on the possibility that Cage was, in fact, a vampire. Because apparently vampires can either have sparkly skin or a massively receding hairline. Anyway, in an attempt to stay relevant, Cage brought up this photo while on The Late Show with David Letterman last night. And, no, starring in the next skull-on-fire movie thing isn’t keeping him relevant. [Blastr]

* Every Best Of… List always lacks something, and this tournament for the Best Sitcom Episode Ever is no different. Splitsider is giving fans the opportunity to vote for their favorite of all time, but be prepared to be disappointed. Also, be prepared to totally want to go watch some 80’s and 90’s tv after reading through their list – ooooh, Marge vs The Monorail – Classic! [Splitsider]

* Amy and Rory are leaving us. It’s not up for discussions; it simply has to be accepted. But I am not up for Moffat to tease us with the possibility of a new sidekick. I really liked Rory and Amy, just as I really liked Rose Tyler. If he continues to go through companions like popcorn, we’re going to have to change the The Doctor’s name to the Space Whore. In regards to the Doctor’s 50th anniversary Moffat states “There will be shocks, surprises and heartbreak—the Doctor is about to say goodbye to his very best friends, Amy and Rory…And then he’s about to say hello to someone very different.” Oh, Moffat. This I don’t need. [Blastr]

* I don’t need any more of a complex. I am a chubby-lady-geek. I wear that badge with pride and a crap ton of girly insecurity. It’s what I do, it’s my thing. So, the dude who totally photoshopped classic works of art to have the women featured appear thinner as today’s standards? Oh, he is just begging for me to key his car. Which I imagine is a Douche Mobile. [The Gloss]

* I don’t want an XBox 360. I don’t. I mean, a PS3 makes much more sense…So stop trying to woo me, Lucas Arts! A c3po/Artoo special edition Kinect?! EVIL! [MTV Geek]

* Speaking of Star Wars, a dude made a custom Millennium Falcon guitar. It totally shreds and dodges asteroids. But the coolest thing about it? The little bit are R2-D2 detailin’. Bad Ass to the max! [GeekIsAwesome]

* And, finally, this happened:

Photo credit Blastr

Thank you, and good night!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ChicGeekDaily !

The Pop is the Word: Masterpeice PBS, Spider-Man, & the Avengers in the House.

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It’s trailer madness Wednesday! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

*Time has the new trailer for Masterpiece: Great Expectations. Between Downton Abbey to NOVA and Ming Tsai, PBS has never been so popular and magical, nor has it ever received such rave reviews. In this particular adaptation in honor of Dickens’ 200th birthday Gillian Anderson will be taking on the role of Miss Havisham. [Time]

* The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore is an animated short that is up for an Academy Award. Like so many of Oscar worthy shorts, this is both beautifully done and heartwarming. Watch it below.

*Speaking of the Academy Awards, here’s a cynical, cranky chef making their Oscar picks. Wait…I don’t remember making this list. Oh! It’s Anthony Bourdain. I get it. We so similar in our cranky personalities that I got confused there for a minute. As usual, his responses to the questions are witty, comical, and make for a very enjoyable read. [NYT]

*The Amazing Spider-Man trailer is out. It’s all very teenage angsty, but Emma Stone was so good in SNL, maybe she’ll be awesome as Gwen Stacy in this, too. [MoviesWithButter]

* In light of MIA behaving like a child, BBC News has posted an article on the history of the middle finger. I love things like this. There’s nothing I enjoy more than studying the rude and crude of history. I’m not kidding. [BBCNews]

* And, finally, The Avengers trailer hit on Sunday night during the Super Fun Time Sports Dish thing there. Captain America looked downright plastic in it, and Scarlet Johannson looked pretty blase compared to the rest of the crew. Also, this is the third person to play the hulk since – what? – 2002 or whatever, so I’m not even sure which actor is portraying him this time. But, hey, I’m sure plenty of people will see it. And then want their money back. The extended addition trailer is below.