Monday, January 16, 2012

New Blog title, suggestions anyone? Is anyone still reading this thing?

Wow! It's been quite a while since I have been on this thing. I nearly forgot about my short lived blog, but then I downloaded Google's Chrome. After finally figuring out what my user name and password were I found that my blog was still here! So now I figure I might try to update this thing more often. After clearing the dust off the first thing that jumped out at me was the title I chose for my little spot on the web, "The life and times of Greg Smith." What was I thinking? Talk about depressing! Needless to say, this current title will not do. I need to think of something different, And something less depressing. But until then I will stick with what I have for lack of a better option, and try to come up with something else to write in the mean time.

Until then, tune in next time! Let's see how long I can keep updating this blog of mine!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Religulous? I don't know, all I know is Bill Maher is a pretentious ass.

I wanted to mention this in my previous post, but I felt like this topic needed its own post. Sara and I rented Bill Maher's new film "Religulous" while I was up visiting her. This film caused quite a stir in Utah, I don't know how much of a stir it caused elsewhere. It must be noted however, that anything involving a controversy surrounding the LDS church, whether it be the church's alleged covert support of Proposition 8 or the filming of "Religulous" in Salt Lake City, is ridiculously magnified and in some cases, sensationalized here in the local news media. I doubt other news agencies still are following Prop 8 or any other church related news as regularly as Utah's media does. Then again this could just be the media catering to its viewership, either way I feel that assuming everyone in Utah is Mormon, or cares about when the Prophet eats dinner, is rather ridiculous. Anyway, back to my previous thought.

As I mentioned Sara and I watched "Religulous," a few weeks ago. For those of you who don't know "Religulous" is a film by Bill Maher, a comedian mostly known for the HBO late night talk show "Politically Incorrect," where a panel discussion of whatever celebrity flavors of the week led by Maher discuss the political events of the past week. "Politically Incorrect," I feel, is a rather pretentious show where the celebrities and Maher try to show Americans how smart, witty, and how much better they are than pretty much everyone else. "Religulous" in a nut-shell focuses on Maher traveling around America and the world questioning religion, and the existence of God. As of late this has really been Maher's bread and butter, ever since his favorite whipping boy, George W. Bush entered the oval office eight years ago.

The film is pretty straight forward, Maher questions the three largest religions of the world, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Maher focuses most of his film on Christianity, thus not providing an equal amount of criticism to the other two religions. For me this leaves his film suspect. If Mr. Maher focuses most of his time on Christianity, why not just question the validity of Christian religions? This also leads to another question: Due to recent events in the uslim world, at the time of this movie's production, involving the depiction of the prophet Mohammed was Maher too afraid to ask the hard questions about Islam? This last question brings Maher's credibility as a journalist into question, I believe, because he is self censoring himself. If this is the case, he is not performing his duty as a journalist, which is to ask hard questions and follow the answers to wherever they lead, no matter what the consequences are. As for Maher questioning Judaism, there really isn't much to report, Maher talks to some Jews for Jesus and goes to Israel, but while in Israel his focus seems to be more on the historical antagonism between Jews and Muslims. I think he mentions some doctrinal beliefs concerning Judaism, mostly focusing on the Jews denial of Jesus being the messiah. This talk of Judaism's doctrinal beliefs transitions nicely into his Jews for Jesus chat. But being as there really was no memorable mention of Judaism in "Religulous" I will not go any further. The main point here is just that "Religulous" is skewed mainly towards Christianity.

Now I don't consider myself very religious, I don't know if I even believe in God, but I do know this: I don't like it when someone thinks they have all the answers and then tries to flaunt it in front of all our faces. On that note though, I must say I do agree with Maher on a few points. Maher mentions that no one should subscribe to a religion just to cover their own ass. I agree with this, subscribing to a certain religion just to make sure you are saved or go to heaven or whatever is just wrong, and defeats the purpose of having faith in God in the first place. I also agree with Maher on the point that the Bible shouldn't be taken so literally. Maher likes to point out the talking snake in the Garden of Eden as on of his major bones of contention with Christianity. He wonders why Christians can be rational with most things, but when it comes to the Bible they believe a snake actually talked to Eve. As with all documents, one must read them critically, even when it comes to reading the Bible. I like to think of the events in stories such as the creation story, and the fall of Adam and Eve as metaphors or allegorical in context, i.e. the snake is used to show how deceitful Satan can be. When it comes to the creation story I think the authors of the book of Genesis used the days of the week to demonstrate that God's time is different from man's time. It may have taken God millions of our years to create the Earth, but to God it was a day. Who knows? That is just what I think. One must think about the audience these books were written for thousands of years ago. This ancient audience was not as educated as we are now. The authors of the Bible had to figure out a way to describe complex ideas in such a way that the common man and woman could understand. Others may disagree with me, but this is what I think.

Another point Maher doesn't specifically mention in his film is the commodification of Christianity. The theme of commodifying Christianity provides more of a backdrop as he visits the "Holy Land" Theme park in Florida. The "Holy Land" is your basic run of the mill theme park just with making a buck off of Jesus added to the mix. Maher doesn't come out and condemn this in words, he uses a more powerful medium, imagery. Maher films a performance in the park focusing on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. People clap when a Roman soldier beats Jesus, I am not making that up, they do actually cheer and clap as this Roman guard decks Jesus in the stomach. They also cry as the actor portraying Jesus is led to his cross and so forth. There is even a moment where people rise to their feet and raise their hands in praise of Christ and God. I don't mean to denigrate these people's experience, but there just seems to be something wrong with going to a theme park and paying to see this type of thing. People should not have to pay to have a spiritual experience. I felt the same way when I worked at the Carmike in Great Falls with the release of " The Passion" in theaters. Our theater sold out for two months of special Sunday showings in a row, all the while Carmike was making a fat profit off of people's spiritual health. This is just wrong, and those who blatantly take advantage of people's spiritual needs like this are quite frankly some of the lowest scum on Earth.

So enough with what I did agree with Maher on, lets move on to the problems with his movie. As I mentioned before, Maher mainly focuses on Christianity, particularly protestant religions and evangelicals. He does bring up the Catholic church and its controversy surrounding priests and little boys. Maher makes all Christians out to look like they are ignorant and just plain stupid. For some reason he also characterizes all Christians as Southern, redneck, good ol' boys. Maybe this is due to the fact that our last President fit this archetype, who knows. He holds this generalization for Christians until he gets to Salt Lake, then all of a sudden everyone is blond and excruciatingly nice. He spends about five minutes focusing on the LDS church. He mainly talks about garments (referring to them as magic underwear), temples, and temple rituals. Maher also talks to two ex-LDS members, who I believe are the exception to the rule in their experiences with leaving the church. These men apparently were disowned by their families for denying some of the basic principles of Mormon doctrine. I don't think this happens to most people brought up in the Mormon faith who later decide not to subscribe to it (me being one of those). To say the least, when it comes to the LDS faith Maher doesn't say much, just provides the usual fare in the way of questions aimed at the validity of the LDS church (i.e. Joseph Smith's vision, temples, baptism for the dead, Garments, Kolob, etc...), and the two former members he interviews are somewhat suspect. This is not to say the experience of those former Mormons are not valid, or not true. I just don't think they are representative of most people who leave the church. I must say though, I don't see where the controversy is with his focus on the LDS church. Maher just brings up questions that almost everyone else brings up about the LDS church. Maybe the media in Utah just got its undies in a twist just for the fact that he questioned the LDS church.

Another problem I had with Maher's film focuses on Maher himself. The way he carries himself in these interviews is just ridiculous and disrespectful. He has this sly grin on his face that seems to say to the cameraman and audience "Are you getting this? I mean look at this guy make an ass of himself! To think, he actually believes in a talking snake! Harumpf, Harumpf, Harumpf." Regardless of what Maher believes he should at least have the courtesy to respect others' views as he interviews them. The sheer pretentiousness Maher portrays on screen is astounding. It's like he just walked into these peoples' homes and (forgive my language here) shit on their carpet and acted like it didn't stink. It is just disrespectful. These people are letting you into their lives and trying to explain themselves with good intentions while Maher just laughs (figuratively) in their faces.

Maher's editing techniques also cause a problem for me with his film. In one interview he talks to a biologist who is a Christian. Maher confronts him on the validity of the bible, his focus being the bible was not written by eye witnesses as events happened, but sometimes decades or even centuries after the events happened. The interviewee tries to explain why he believes the Bible is one of the most true documents ever written, but is systematically cut off and interrupted by Maher. This interview is so chopped and staggered that the interviewee comes off looking like an imbecile, all the while Maher comes out looking like some sort of genius bringing enlightenment to the masses, and making a highly educated man look stupid. I understand that not all material can be used from an interview, and editing is necessary. But to edit a piece so much as to take the interviewee's various responses and arguments to a question out of context so as to make them look stupid is abhorrent. I thought this interview spoke volumes about Maher's intentions. Maher doesn't want to look stupid, and will go to any lengths to achieve this. He cares more about his "celebrity" status than actually providing some sort of insight into the problems with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Maher would rather just point a finger and yell out "You all are idiots," rather than actually provide his audience with someone's unfiltered opinion regarding their beliefs.

Well I think I have run out of things to say about this film. This film was most likely produced a some sort of sensationalist piece. For the most part this film has no substance, and does not provide and eye opening revalations (at least I didn't think so). Maher tries to point out that religion will end the world with its fanaticism, but really Bill, that's not much of a revalation. We have been hearing that from other sources more skilled in their approaches than you. Instead "Religulous" falls flat, and ends up sounding like a real bad fart joke. I imagine this would appeal to Maher's left wing friends, but it did not appeal to me (and I consider myself left of center). I found it disrespectful on most accounts, but I didn't find it controversial. "Religulous" just recycles the same questions and ideas others have come up with before. And that is the biggest tragedy with this film. A good documentary should not only answer your questions, it should also tell you something you didn't know before, or give leave you with some questions you need to answer yourself. "Religulous" did not do this. Instead this film just goes on an hour and a half tirade about religion, ending with a montage of images insinuating that organized religion will be the death of us all.

I'm sure there are other points I have missed while discussing "Religulous," but I really don't have time to address all of them. All I know is that this film rubbed me the wrong way, and instead of being a discusssion about religion, it ended up being an O'Reillyesque tirade focused on how stupid religious people are. I was not impressed, and you would think for a man who thinks he has a better idea of how to express himself than men like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh, Maher would back it up with calm debate. Maher uses some of the same dirty tricks that these other "shining" examples of journalism frequently use when "interviewing" those with opposing view points.

Well that does it for me today. Tune in next time.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Montucky Adventure

These past two weeks have really blown by. I returned from my sojourn north to Montana yesterday around 7:30pm. The road conditions were excellent, I managed to maintain a speed of about 80 mph the whole way. My only regret about the trip is that I could not stay longer. I just love it up there so much.

I started off my two weeks by visiting Sara and her parents in Sheridan. We all had a great time. For the most part the weather was wet, for some reason nature didn't know if it wanted it to rain or snow. One day it would rain, the next day it would snow, and some days it was a mix of both. The first full day I was there Sara's dad inspected a produce truck that ran off the road by Red Rocks Montana. Her father is the Madison County Sanitarian, so he was called out to condemn the load the truck was hauling. Needless to say we got some extra produce for the week. Throughout the course of my stay in Sheridan Sara and I did some projects around her folks' house and a house they watch. We deep cleaned this old rich dude's house they watch about ten months out of the year. For a house that is hardly used this place was a dump when it came to clean carpets and cabinets. Some how grease managed to be in just about every cabinet we cleaned. I think it took us longer to clean this guy's house than it took us to do the other jobs around Sara's house. At Sara's house we set up some stuff for her mother's garden, and cleaned a little nook in her garage for our stuff this summer. I also helped Sara's dad clean out their hay shed and wood yard to make room for the stuff we moved from the garage. Helping Sara's dad included moving four-wheelers around, dumping old hay in their backyard for deer to eat, moving hay bales to a shed for a pregnant cat to use as a den, and making a trip to the dump. It was all actually quite fun, I had a great time helping her folks out with some jobs they needed to get done.

I also managed to help Sara's mom out with a bird problem (or at least attempted to). In Sara's front yard there are a bunch of bird feeders, as a result all sorts of song-birds and woodpeckers show up to chow down. These birds are fine, in fact these are the exact types of birds Sara's mom wants in the front yard. But all this free food also attracts birds of less than savory character, namely Starlings and Red-Winged Black Birds. Starlings are these little white speckled, yellow beaked, black birds that are basically bullies to the other birds. I think Sara's mom mentioned they eat song birds' eggs too. The Red-Winged Black Birds also bully the other birds. To curb this bully problem in the Hamler's front yard Sara's dad uses a pellet gun to shoot the main offenders, so I took it upon myself to have a go at it as well, you know to pull my weight in protecting the helpless song birds. I think I managed to maim one Starling, and kill one Red-Winged Black Bird. I kept my eyes glued to the front window just waiting for something to show up. Sara thinks I have acquired some sort of blood lust, but I just take my duties seriously.

At the end of my first week visiting Montana we had to make a trip to Bozeman (or Bozo as I like to call it). I have never been to Bozeman so I was pretty excited about it. Other than picking Sara's sister and roommate up at the airport, our main goal was to visit the Museum of the Rockies, located on the Montana State University Campus. The museum itself was pretty cool. There were tons of fossil displays, and a few complete dinosaur skeletons. My cousin Mikal probably would have thought she had died and gone to heaven if she saw all those dinosaur fossils. There was also an interesting display on Montana's Native American populations and each tribe's take on creation. One tribe, I think it was the Crow, believed women were formed from blowing on a man's rib, just like another creation story most of you all know. I found this display quite interesting, it also gave me a little perspective on how similar all human cultures can be.

Another display that caught my interest centered around Edward S. Curtis an ethnographer, that is a person who studies different human societies, and his photographs of America's Native Americans. Curtis believed, like many white Americans at the time, that Native Americans were a "vanishing race," so he took it upon himself to document the different Native American cultures with photography. His photos range from portraits and Native American ceremonial dances to the inside of a tipi. I felt that his photos are very selective and really don't give the viewer a whole picture of a culture, just a romantic take on Native American culture. I found it interesting that Curtis had a clear idea of photos he needed to take, to insure he got the shots he needed for his work, Curtis brought a trunk of props which included Native American artifacts he either borrowed or bought to use in photos, and even wigs to cover the Americanized hairstyles of the Native Americans he was going to photograph. I thought this was a travesty upon further thought. By not documenting how American culture infiltrated Native American culture (i.e. hairstyles, clothing, tools, etc...) Curtis's photography project provides an incomplete and in some cases a totally inaccurate story. This is not to say that Curtis's photos are not beautiful, by all means his photos are among the best I have seen artistically. But the story behind them is suspect.

Overall I enjoyed the Museum of the Rockies. I did not enjoy Bozeman as a city though. Bozeman just seemed like a huge ghetto to me. MSU was too spread out for me personally, and quite frankly it didn't feel like part of the community of Bozeman, unlike the University of Montana in Missoula (where I went to school). This is not to say that UM is better than MSU, I just felt as if MSU were a hulking fortress set apart from Bozeman whereas UM is an intimate part of the community in Missoula. When you cross the street from the neighborhoods bordering the University of Montana you really don't feel much of a change. Sure you are on the University's campus, but it still feels like part of the neighborhood. Crossing the street from a neighborhood in Bozeman to the campus of MSU on the other hand almost felt, at the risk of being dramatic, like crossing the iron curtain into Eastern Europe. MSU's campus felt like a concrete jungle, the campus had no personality and did not feel like part of the neighborhood, the campus felt too cold, colorless, and uninviting. The words "Take heed all who enter here," should be pasted above MSU's school placards. No one should ever feel like this when visiting a college campus, ever.

After picking Sara's sister up from the airport in Bozeman, I accompanied Sara back to Missoula for a few days. Being back in Zoo Town (again another moniker I like to use) was very relaxing. I managed to see my best friend Tucker, and we went out to one of our favorite spots for some drinks and dessert. We caught up a bit and reminisced on old times, after which he showed me his new place, we then proceeded to rock out some Rock Band 2 and ran through a set of Pearl Jam's classic album "Ten" and ending with Jethro Tull's "Aqua Lung." It was awesome. I really enjoyed seeing Tucker and catching up with him a bit.

After a brief stay in Missoula, Sara and I went to Great Falls to meet up with my brother, and then picked a chair up for my sister from our parents' storage unit. G-Funk (I'm not even done with all the names I have for Montana cities and towns) has changed a lot since I have last been there, which is about two years I believe. I saw that a court house was being finished on Central Avenue and the mall was even undergoing some changes. I showed Sara where I used to live, and where I graduated from high school. It was fun seeing the ol' G-Funk, but I kind of miss it for the surrounding area, namely the Belt Mountains, Wolf Creek, and the rolling plains, but I am still glad I don't live there anymore.

After popping into Great Falls for a bit Sara and I headed down to Helena ( or Hell town, I promise that's the last one for now) to see my good friends and former roommates and Residence Life colleagues Ian and Bree. We stayed the night at their house and had dinner with them. We also met the new addition to their family, Freya, their new puppy. We had a great time catching up with Ian and Bree, learning all about their new jobs and what they have been up to since I last saw them. We also discussed the late Battlestar Galactica and how we felt about its ending. We were all satisfied with the ending, but mixed in our thoughts about the whole Starbuck, Caprica 6, and Gaius Baltar appearing in people's heads thing. Sara, Ian, and I also took a little walk around downtown Helena the next morning. We found a lot of cool shops, some of which Ian had never been in being a Helena native. It was great to see Ian, Bree, and Freya after not seeing them for more than six months. You really start to appreciate the friends you have after you haven't seen them for a long time. I realized how much I truly miss them all and the times we had when we were in college.

After visiting Helena we made a final stop back at Sheridan for Easter. We had an Easter dinner with some close friends of Sara's family. Dinner was excellent. We had roasted ham and a roast leg of lamb. Both were excellent. A good time was had by all that night. The next day Sara and I had breakfast with her folks and Sara's dad let me shoot a 17mm varmit gun. I totally murdered the pop can he set up for me to shoot. It took me a while to get my rythm down, being that I don't shoot guns on a daily basis, but I managed to hit the can with every shot I took. Montana definitely has its perks, that's for sure. Sometimes I wonder why I even left. I guess it sometimes takes not being somewhere for a while to really appreciate it.

Overall I had an roaring good time with Sara and everyone else. I can't wait until I get to go back up for the summer to work, hopefully as a Tour Guide in Virginia City (hopefully I hear something soon, keep your fingers crossed for me). Montana is truly one of those great places in the world unlike any other. Hopefully the next road trip I take up there will be my last when it comes to visiting my fiance. I know this blog post was pretty long, but thanks for sticking with it if you got this far. Tune in next time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I'm still alive, and the conclusion of "For Science!"

Hello everybody! I'm still alive if you were wondering. I am currently up in God's country, i.e. The Great State of Montana, visiting my fiance, Sara. We've been having a great time so far. We got some work done for Sara's mom, Betty, and went to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. I'll have more on that when I get back to Tooele. But for right now I just wanted to let everyone know I made it up here safe and sound, and I am having a great time. I would also like to take this time to complete my "For Science!" segment.

Now that I have had a week to think about the remaining two chip flavors, "Crispy Duck & Hoison" and "Fish and Chips," I must say my taste testing experience peaked early. I should have just stopped at "Bhaji Onion."I did however share this last painful experience with my fiance and her folks. As soon as I arrived in Sheridan we popped open both bags of chips and let the taste love begin. Upon opening the "Crispy Duck & Hoison" a putrid aroma of rancid duck and old cooking grease wafted into the air. After taking in the aroma for a bit I decided to try a handful. Not surprisingly the chips tasted like they smelled: Donald Duck napalmed by an F-4 Phantom and then buried in an Irish peat bog for two millenia, and then dug up, microwaved, and then chopped up and packaged and renamed as "Crispy Duck & Hoisin" chips for Walker's. Yummy! I was dismayed at how these chips tasted. I love duck, Duck L'Orange is one of my favorite dishes of all time. But these chips just give Duck as a food a bad name. Maybe I am being too harsh, but "Crispy Duck & Hoisin" does not translate well into the chip world. My preconceptions/hopes of tasting London's Chinatown were dashed. Instead of tasting Chinatown's finest cuisine, I ended up tasting Chinatown's putrid sewer system. Definitely one spud out of five for this one.

Next we move on to the most stereotypical and unoriginal of all the chip flavors, "Fish and Chips" chips. So what do you think of when you hear "Fish and Chips?" Personally I think of Picadilly Circus, riding the tube, Canary Wharf, Nelson's Column and the Lions of Trafalgar Square and the smell of the street vendors hot dog and almond stands as you cross Westminster Bridge. These are just a few things I think of when I associate with England along with "Fish and Chips." I know, these are typical touristy images, but whatever these are some of my favorite places in London, and I don't care if they are touristy. I will give Walker's this though, "Fish and Chips" chips do smell like the real thing. My expectations were pretty high, I mean they nailed the smell of fish and chips, how cool is that. The taste test on the other hand was a miserable failure on par with the Hindenburg disaster of 1937. My expectations, like the famous Zepplin went up in flames once the first chip hit my tongue. Tartar sauce, fish, fries, and vinegar should not be on a chip. For one these chips were way too salty, it was like they imported all the salt from the Great Salt Lake and dumped it all on these chips. The salt almost makes these chips inedible from the start. Secondly, the fish taste is just as unpleasant as the salty taste. Again how much fish oil can one use on a chip before they can say there is enough? It shouldn't be that much right? I think the manufacturers were still adding fish oil to these chips right up until the bags were sealed. The fish taste overpowers these chips to an infinite degree, there are not enough words in any language to describe how disgusting fish chips taste. With the combination of salt and fish you really can't taste much else with these chips. The salt and fish overpower the subtle hints of vinegar and tartar sauce, which is a shame really. Fish and chips are delicious when you physically have the fish and chips in your hot little hands. This begs the question "How can the British screw up their bread and butter?" If anything is distinctly British, outside of the stiff upper-lip, and being polite, it is fish and chips. WTF ENGLAND! You took all that was good about fish and chips and bastardized it with a bag of chips claiming to taste like fish and chips. It pretty much took my taste buds a whole week to recover from that last travesty. It saddens me really, because I had such high hopes for these chips. If you have a death wish, or wish something ill upon someone who as done you ill I would recommend these chips for consumption. Other than that these chips are definitely relegated to the trash bin, or white elephant gift parties. That is really all they are good for, a good laugh. I give these chips no spuds out of five.

That does it for this installment of "For Science!" Sorry I don't have any pictures up for you. The bags were thrown out before I could get a chance to post them. But if you really want to see what all the bags look like you can see them here. Tune in next time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

For Science! (God Help Me)

Okay, I'm back and ready to tackle some more chip flavors. Last time we started the day off with a hearty "Builder's Breakfast" that tasted more like the actual builder than a breakfast (it totally destroyed my stomach too). After eating breakfast we took a sojourn into little India and partied it up Bollywood style with the best flavor so far, "Onion Bhaji" chips. So in the words of Sir Elton John, "I'm still standin'" so lets get this show on the road.

On today's menu we have "Chili & Chocolate," brought to us today by Catherine from High Wycombe, and "Cajun Squirrel," brought to us by Martyn from Hednesford. Now to say I was not scared about trying either of these flavors would be a bold-faced lie. I fear for the well being of my stomach, and taste-buds. Seriously, I don't know where to start here, so I guess I will start with the one that sounds the nastiest, "Chili & Chocolate." Here goes nothing.

With my initial inspection of "Chili & Chocolate" chips I noticed a chili pepper sunbathing on a towel/blanket of chocolate, a poorly drawn sunbathing chili pepper at that as well. I guess they figure a personified vegetable would trick you into trying this flavor out. It is as if the big doe eyes of this chili pepper are saying "I'm not going to hurt you, trust me, I'm delicious!" Well I am not falling for that trick, I am sure these will hurt me in a few hours. I can only take solace in the fact that this will be the only time I will try a chip flavor like this.Thank God! After opening the bag I took the obligatory sniff. Oddly enough I didn't smell chocolate, or chili. Instead, I smelled potatos. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark when your "Chili & Chocolate" chips smell like neither chocolate nor chili. What the eff? So after smelling these chips I decided to take the plunge and eat a few. There really was no initial taste. That is when I knew I was in trouble. My taste buds were surrounded again by after taste. I was scared. The first taste to hit was the chocolate. The chocolate just permeated my mouth and the back of my nasal passages. You know it is bad when you can taste and smell your food at the same time. Surprisingly there was little heat factor from the chili flavor. The chili flavoring hits you shortly after the chocolate deals its one-two punch to your tongue and nose, diverting your attention away from the nuclear blast that is surely to come from the chili flavor. As I mentioned there was no heat associated with the chili flavor initially. After I had a few more chips the heat was proverbially turned up. Again my tongue and nasal passages were pummeled with fire and brimstone in the form of chocolate and chili.

With all the above being said these chips aren't half bad. They weren't better than "Onion Bhaji" but they were definitely better than "Builder's Breakfast." For what it is worth they actually tasted good, well at least I didn't mind the taste. But then again that could be due to the fact that my taste buds may have been burned off and I can't discern the true flavor of the chips. Either way "Chili & Chocolate" was a pleasant surprise. Granted one must try more than one chip to get the whole spectrum of the flavor. I honestly thought trying "Chili & Chocolate" would be synonomous with Dante's descent into hell, but I was pleasantly surprised that this was not so. I wouldn't go so far as to say my experience was like Dante's journey to Paradise either. It may have been closer to purgatory. The chips weren't good, but they weren't bad either. They were just chips with an odd flavor combination that didn't do much for me. Overall I give "Chili & Chocolate" two and a half spuds out of five.

Next up we have "Cajun Squirrel" chips. This is obviously some sort of underhanded joke meant to poke fun at Americans. For some reason the Brits like to make fun of Americans. Maybe they are just jealous, or they could still be a bit bitter over the Revolution, or 1812, or who knows what. All I know is that we (Americans) really don't make fun of the Brits too much. Maybe it's because we don't care enough to. Anyway, the name "Cajun Squirrel" probably is some joke referencing how Americans are all a bunch of cowboy rednecks, and wife beaters. The back of the bag reads: " Martyn's taste for the exotic led him to come up with this mild cajun flavor. Thankfully, no squirrels were harmed in the making of this crisp (chip)!" Well that's a relief! I really thought they ground squirrels up into a powder and sprinkled them on my chips. Well ok, I didn't really but I guess there might be someone out there who did/does think that. Upon opening the bag and again sniffing the chips I was afraid. Very afraid. The bag smelled like stale gravy (is that even possible) and roast. I've never really had the urge to make meat products into chips but the British sure do. "Cajun Squirrel" is just one in a long line of meat themed, British potato chip snacks. I've tried a few before "Cajun Squirrel" like "Turkey and Stuffing," "Roast Chicken," "Beef Teriaki," and "Prawn Coctail." All winning chip flavors huh? I wasn't too impressed with other meat flavored chips I have tried while traveling in England, and my expectations are not too high for "Cajun Squirrel."

Upon eating a handful of "Cajun Squirrel" I did not taste stale gravy or roast. Instead they tasted more like stale American barbeque chips. The taste wasn't overwhelming at all. When I hear cajun I think spicy, and frankly "Chili & Chocolate" were spicier than these "cajun" chips. They did have a smokey flavor though. I could also taste hints of pepper, and paprika. The meat flavor was disappointing. For a meat flavored chip, the spices sure overpower the meat taste. In fact the meat taste is more of an after thought. The "squirrel" part of this chip tastes more like that nasty meat product that they give you in your school lunches in elementary and high school, or at the cafeteria in college. The meat tastes like it has been on the steam table for way too long and is now the consistency of the rubber on the bottom of your shoe. If they stayed away from the meat aspect of this chip, the chips would be more enjoyable. The sheer fact that the meat taste just hangs around your mouth as an after thought to the whole taste experience really put me off. Maybe I don't get it because I am an American, but I still can't wrap my mind around the concept of making my potato chips taste like meat. Maybe it is a cultural thing, I don't know, but what I do know is that my expectations were low, and they were met. So I can't really fault the chip producer for that. I will give them this though, "Cajun Squirrel" was better than "Chili & Chocolate." And for that I give "Cajun Squirrel" three spuds out of five. And that is saying something for a meat product chip.

Well that about does it for this installment of "For Science." Hopefully I will survive the night. Tomorrow will bring the third and final segement of "For Science." But if you will excuse me now. There is a w00t-off going on. Tune in next time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

For Science! A little delay...

Well I know you all were expecting another thrilling installment in masochism today, but I must inform you that this will not be so, at least for today. Remember how I mentioned something about "Builder's Breakfast" had the potential to blow my ass off. Well that potential was realized. My sarcasm turned into a cold, hard fact today. My ass has been blown off, literally, and I will speak no more of it and leave the grizzly details to your own imaginations. But fear not, there will be another addition to "For Science" tomorrow, I promise. I just have to give my stomach time to recover. Who knew that taste testing chips would be so dangerous? Certainly not me, or my stomach for that matter. Tune in next time, I promise I will have a new review posted for some mystery chip flavors.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For Science!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am going to try some rather exotic chip flavors from England (sounds like an oxymoron, I know). Today's picks are "Builder's Breakfast," and "Onion Bhaji," chips. Now I don't know how many of you know this but the Frito-Lays Potato Chip company is known as Walkers Potato Chips by our cousins across the pond. Any how, let's just say the chip flavors are interesting to say the least. I hope you enjoy reading about my experience/pain as much as I did. So without further adieu let's get snacking!

So first up we have "Builder's Breakfast," I was immediately drawn to this flavor due to the smiley face breakfast picture on the front of the package. Here is how the flavor of the chips are described: " Combining the mouth-watering flavours (sic) of bacon, buttered toast, eggs and tomato sauce, there's mortar to Emma's crisps (that's what brits call chips) than meets the eye!" MMMM....sounds delicious huh? I guess a woman named Emma came up with the idea for this flavor of chips. Who knows? The fact that this woman is from a place called Belper (honestly I couldn't make up these town names if I tried) surely adds to the fact that these chips are going to blow my ass off. When I opened the bag I took a good whiff. These chips didn't smell like bacon, not even buttered toast. In fact they smelled more like ketchup and builder's sweat. So far I am beginning to think this was a bad idea. After trying a handful of chips I was surprised. Right off the bat you taste baked beans with hints of tomato sauce and a bit of smokiness. The initial taste was actually quite pleasant. I enjoyed this chip flavor, but then the after taste hit. To be honest, my breathe smelled and tasted like World War Three. The bacon and toast flavors pulled a submarine move and stuck to my tongue the way an oil slick sticks to an otter. I don't like to taste my food twice (most of the time), this aftertaste, in a word, was toxic. Enough said. Overall, I really don't know what a real "Builder's Breakfast" would taste like, but I'm pretty sure this is not it. Who ever subsists off of ketchup and baked beans, the two primary flavors of this chip, must look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings, and smell like a baby diaper filled with a diarrhea dump. If I had to rate this chip I would give it two spuds out of five, definitely not a keeper, or a good snack choice for that matter.

Next up on the list is the "Onion Bhaji" chips. A woman from Durham, England named Carole came up with this one. The flavor is described on the back of the package as follows: " Carole is confident that her mildly spicy, curry-house accompaniment can bhaji its way into the lead and tikka all of the nation's boxes!" Very descriptive, what exactly is "bhaji" to begin with, and curry isn't even a real spice, just a term invented by the british to describe any sort of Asian food that is spicy. So I am assuming I will get a taste of little India with these chips. As I opened the bag, I again took in the aroma of the chips. I smelled something like chicken broth and onion powder. This aroma is very similar to the Top Ramen spice, in fact it is exactly like Top Ramen spice. Expecting to taste Top Ramen in chip form I munched on a handful of "Onion Bhaji" flavored chips. To my surprise they were actually quite good. The onion flavors were there but they didn't over power the spiciness of the chip. I could taste the onion, some cumin, black pepper, and even some garlic. There was even a hint of citrus in the chips. I was pleasantly surprised, no Top Ramen here, just a Bollywood party in my mouth, and everyone is invited. Words really can't describe what my taste experience was like with "Onion Bhaji" chips, but if I had to distill my experience into video it would probably be something like this:

Needless to say, so far this is the best chip flavor. With no toxic aftertaste, just the right ratio of onion to spice, Walkers somehow managed to distill little India onto a chip, and I love it. I wouldn't go so far as to say Ghandi would be proud, but maybe Nehru would. The world will never know. But I give this flavor four spuds out of five.

Well that does it for the first segment of "For Science!" Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I would tell you, but that would just spoil all the fun. Until then, tune in next time. See you all tomorrow!