Godzilla 2014 Review

After a few pretty good monster movies in a row I was really hoping Godzilla would continue the trend.  Unfortunately, it has neither the novel horror viewpoint of Cloverfield or the satisfying adrenaline rush of Pacific Rim.  This movie is a bloated mess with nary a good moment.  I can accept some amount of stupidity, hey, I like the latest Fast and the Furious movies!  However, the entirety of Godzilla is an assault on my credulity and it does so for no discernible gain.

We open with what appears to be some minor tremors completely collapsing what must be the most fragile nuclear power plant ever created.  Bryan Cranston’s wife is for whatever reason approaching the nuclear reactor when this happens.  It is never really explained what her profession is or why they are going towards the reactor.  Furthermore, as the plant collapses they have to outrun some white cloud and reach the exit before Cranston has to close the door.  What is so dangerous about this white cloud that is seemingly stopped by a door?  I assume it is radiation or something, but who knows.  I think the script kept it nebulous to cover up how stupid this entire sequence is.  If this depiction of nuclear power plants were real, we should all be very afraid.

Fast forward 15 years.  Cranston is obsessed with the tremors that took down the power plant and he brings his son back to the site of the accident.  Here they find a government group observing some kind of larvae.  For what purpose is never clear even though we later find out that their working theory is that the creatures are evil parasites.  At least the normal plot of the military using such things to create superweapons gives a purpose to leaving the monster alive.  Here we have no reason to spend millions observing a larvae we think could be dangerous.

Anyways, it comes to life, Cranston dies and leaves us wondering what the point of his character was.  I guess it gets his son involved?  Anyways this monster eats radiation and thus attacks nuclear power plants and subs, etc.  Unfortunately, the radiation from these things is really not that high, thus our ability to stand somewhat near them.  How the monster even detects these sources from any great distance is never explained.  Furthermore, how does this sustain a 300 foot tall monster?  At least in Pacific Rim the monsters are actually alien weapons and we don’t have to worry about such questions, but the monsters in Godzilla are apparently ancient species that once roamed the land and you have to wonder how they survived.

Which brings up the monster’s EMP ability.  Why would ancient monsters have such an ability?  It would be entirely useless if no technology is around.  It doesn’t even function consistently in the movie.  Once the monster dies it seems that everything turns back on.

Anyways, we find out that a second monster still lives in Nevada and implausibly awakens.  It is implied that it was stored in Yucca Mountain with our radioactive waste (which they know it feeds on, come on guys).  Despite a huge desert and the fact that Yucca Mountain is north of Vegas, and thus not in the creature’s path toward San Francisco, it takes a detour to wreck The Strip.

Meanwhile the military comes up with a stupid plan to leave a nuke off the coast of San Francisco to lure they monsters and blow them up.  Not a terrible plan, except that they are only leaving it 20 miles off the coast.  It is pretty much guaranteed that the westerly wind off the coast will blow radioactive particles into SF shortening the lives of millions.

Now they ship this thing by train for some reason and Cranston’s son, Ford, manages to somehow be in the right place to hop aboard.  Of course it intersects with the monster.  Rather than staying internally consistent, the monster decides not to eat said radioactive device.  The military then decides that now is a good time to bring a chopper in to ship the bomb, *facepalm*.  Of course, they set the bomb to have a 90 minute timer at about the same time the monsters appear in SF in what must be the most botched timing ever.  The monsters then take the bomb onto the mainland, I am assuming to feed their young.

Way more than an hour and a half transpire before Ford and a team go in to recover the nuke and disarm or push it out to sea.  They tell him there will be no extraction.  Also we learn that not only is Ford a bomb disposal expert, but that he can parachute with expert ease into urban environments.

Now you might be wondering, where is the titular character?  Well he finally shows up and we get maybe a couple minutes of him dully battling the evil MUTAs.  Ken Watanbe’s character for reasons unknown thinks Godzilla is our savior and creepily seems to view him as a sacred religious figure.  It turns out he is our savior, but it is never even conjectured why, especially after we attack him.  He does get the coolest moment in the movie when he holds the jaws of a MUTA open and breathes down its neck.  This is the only reason to watch the movie IMO.

Simultaneously, Ford is pushing the nuke out to sea and what do you know, he gets extracted.  The nuke doesn’t look far enough out to sea to avoid the radiation problem I talked about earlier and all the dust from the monster battle is probably going to give everyone in the city some sort of lung disease.  Lest I forget, there was also a scene on the Golden Gate Bridge, which seems like the worst place possible to be in a crisis, especially if it is known a monster is coming by sea.

That was the entire movie.  Tons of plot elements that served no logical purpose except to extend the movie and only a few short minutes of Godzilla and monsters battling.  Like all monster movies it drastically underestimates the power of modern armaments, but if you are going to do so it is much more fun to build giant robots to combat the giant monsters.  Depending on the mercies of the inscrutable Godzilla turns out a steaming pile of drek.  I really cannot understand the good critical and monetary success of this film.  It gave us neither epic popcorn fare or a compelling narrative or emotional arc which leaves us with something utterly vacuous.


The Fitness Industry is Evil and Manipulative

I recently started my first membership at a commercial gym.  As part of the enrollment package I got four free personal trainer consultations.  I figured what the hell and they set me up with someone.

First off is a discussion of my training history.  He goes on about he was 135 lbs and is now 175 lbs of lean muscle.  Which is either a lie or indicative of steroids.  He poo poos my habit of working out fasted despite ample evidence that it is not detrimental for performance and has demonstrated health benefits and maybe even better improving for building muscle/fitness.  Furthermore he goes on about eating every two and a half to three hours.  This has been thoroughly debunked as unimportant and in fact may retard progression as there is a refractory period between periods of heightened muscle protein synthesis from eating.  Thus the recommendation is to get 20-30g of protein no more than every four hours.

With this demonstration of his broscience credentials we moved on to testing my fitness levels.  Now the day before I had done upper body exercises and related this information to him.  Unfortunately, he is of the common personal training philosophy that you should go to failure always.  This is of course a terrible idea as it is extremely taxing on your Central Nervous System.  Needless to say, I was very sore after hitting upper body two days in a row.  He was also fairly negligent of lower body strength.

All of this confirmed my suspicions that personal trainers are a waste of money.  Most aren’t particularly knowledgeable about the subject, their only credential usually not being a fat slob.  Even if they were, there really isn’t much about the subject of training that we know for sure.  I have summarized a lot of it on this blog.  The results they always get are mostly from training newbs who would get stronger just looking at a dumbbell.  I could never be a personal trainer because I would just give my clients a two page pamphlet and let them go at it.  The only advantage of a personal trainer is that you now have someone to yell at you for slacking.  If you need that motivation then feel free to fork over the cash for a personal trainer.

Despite this paucity of real information, the fitness industry acts like there are secrets to building muscle and looking good that only their priesthood can reveal and sell you.  They back this message up with impossibly lean and hairless fitness models for you to aspire to be.  However said fitness models are all on drugs.  The vast majority of supplements do nothing and the two that do something (whey protein and creatine) probably provide only marginal improvements over the long-term (hard to say as I haven’t seen a study on it) above eating a well balanced diet with a solid grounding of protein.

Nor is there some secret routine that will get you ripped.  Look around at the gym at all the fit but not huge guys.  Do you think it is because they are doing it wrong?  Well, OK, there are many dunderheads at the gym, but you just wont get that big as a natural lifter.  The bottomline is that your body doesn’t like to carry around muscle.  From a survival standpoint it wants the least amount of muscle it needs to survive and would much prefer to store energy as fat.  We train to convince our bodies it needs muscle, but it is fighting us all the way.  There is no secret exercise selection that will overcome this fact and make us HUGE.  In fact, the accumulating evidence suggests that the form of stimulus is really not that important.  Varying the number of sets/repetitions all seems to end up with similar results if it ends up being taxing.  You just need to provide a stimulus and your body is ready to adapt.

Yet the fitness industry is huge and growing and always trying to sell the next magic bullet for health.  It preys on our vanity and ignorance.  Unfortunately, this seems to be the source of a lot of economic activity today.  I see caffeinated water being advertised as zero calories and other junk, as if coffee isn’t exactly the same and carries other useful health benefits (-10% all cause mortality).  Or energy drinks which put a bunch of crap into what is for all intents a caffeine supplement.  Just walk around your supermarket and really analyze the healthspeak they employ now and you will see it is all empty and often tautological.  I saw a ramen noodle commercial claiming it was a healthful meal for your family despite mostly being refined carbs (probably the one true nutritional evil).  A better educated populace would recognize the vacuousness of all these claims and hopefully not be suckered into them.

Czech Halusky and Fried Porkchops

When we visited the Republic of Czech on our romp through Europe we made a stop in Prague.  If you are ever in Prague get to the city’s main square and find a halusky vendor.  You will not be disappointed; we sure weren’t, going back for a second helping.  Halusky, like many Eastern European dishes, differs based on which country/region you are in.  Some people on the internet serve it with egg noodles despite the name meaning potato dumplings. The constant among all versions is always cabbage/onions/cheese.

Here is my attempt at this simple dish, but you have a lot of leeway in your cheese selection and which dumplings you prefer.  I wanted to lighten the dish up with some pillowy potato gnocchi and try to get the gnocchi technique down.  After much research I learned that eggs make a thicker texture and obviously you want the least amount of flour possible.  With that knowledge I settled on Paula Wolfert’s recipe.  It turned out OK.  I don’t have a ricer so chose to use a masher, but this squishes a lot of air out and works the potatoes too much.  I will try again with a box grater in the future.


Potato dumpling of choice made from approx. 1 lb of baked and peeled potatoes (approx. 2 lb at the store)
8 oz. of goat or sheep cheese (I used a delicious honey chevre log from Trader Joe’s)
1 onion sliced
1/2 lb of bacon lardons
as much green cabbage as you like (at least 8 oz.), slivered

Render your bacon fat at medium low heat in a few tbsp of water and then crisp them to desired texture before removing pieces with slotted spoon.  Add onions to bacon fat and brown for 10 minutes at medium heat before adding cabbage and cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add dumplings and then break up cheese before adding to pot and stirring to melt over all contents.  Finally stir in crisped bacon.

Fried Porkchop

Not much to say here, follow this recipe up until the searing step.  Now use the two step battering procedure from here.  You may wish to skip the salt in the batter since you dry brined the pork chops already.  Fry each side in a skillet with enough oil to cover about half of the chop for about a minute or until brown and crisp.

Up to this point the entire meal is thematically Eastern European.  But I had some left over fish sauce vinaigrette and drizzled it over the fried pork chops.  Either way these chops were magnificent, moist on the inside with a thin, crispy outside.  The halusky flavors were spot on IMO, but I put too much mediocre potato gnocchi.  The amount of dumpling above is modified to what I would used next time.

No Fail Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Chestnut Filling and Coconut Chestnut Whipped Cream

It is my wife’s birthday today so yesterday we made a cake for her.  She adores the chestnut filling often served inside chiffon cakes at Asian bakeries.  I also really needed to finally get a chiffon cake that rose and baked properly.  My first attempt was in a dark nonstick which did some nasty things to the bottom of the cake.  It was at that point I vowed to only use light colored aluminum for baking.  I think I tried a second time and it was fine but didn’t rise properly, but somehow I forget the details.

Needless to say, I had to succeed.  Now usually chestnut filling is served in a chocolate chiffon cake, but it is very lightly flavored.  I was having none of that.  An interesting internet search turned up people that seem to do nothing but bake chocolate chiffon cake.  The Spago recipe seemed to be the favorite.  However, a comment I found led me off to Heavenly Cakes.  Of course, there is no chocolate chiffon cake in that cookbook.  Instead it turns out that Beranbaum’s German Chocolate Cake is based on a chiffon cake recipe that she adapted to not need a tube pan.  Looking over the ingredients I come to realized that it is exactly the Spago recipe with one crucial difference: rather than beating and folding egg whites in, she dumps in unbeaten egg whites as the final step and beats the entire batter.  No more worrying about beating peaks that are too soft or too hard or that stressful folding of whites into batter.

Amazingly it worked and we produced a nicely textured cake with a strong chocolate flavor and a nice rise.  However, I don’t think chiffon cake is every going to be my favorite despite capturing the hearts of Asia.

Chocolate Cake

Chestnut Filling and Cream

For cream:

1 14 oz can of coconut cream (I love the Trader Joe’s can),

60 g powdered sugar,

1 Tbsp of rum,

80 g of ground chestnut


Chill or freeze coconut cream first to thicken it.  Coconut cream doesn’t hold a whip as well as heavy cream so be quick and make sure to let the frosted cake set in the fridge for a few hours before serving.  Combine all ingredients and whisk with electric mixer.


For filling: This really depends on how much filling you would like.  For each 100g of ground roasted chestnut (use your food processor) melt a Tbsp of butter and 20g of sugar in a saucepan.  Add chestnut and mix thoroughly.  For each 100g of chestnut add a 1/4 c of your cream and mix.


Chocolate Coconut Sorbet Recipe

Here is a recipe for dairy free, maybe vegan depending on your chocolate, chocolate coconut sorbet that I cobbled together.

1 13.5 oz can of coconut cream

1 13.5 oz can of quality coconut milk (many are watered down or have additives)

2 oz bittersweet chocolate

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 c sugar (150 g)

2 Tbsp of corn syrup

3 Tbsp of corn starch

Optional: Toasted coconut flakes (around 3/4 c)


Make corn starch slurry with a bit of cold coconut milk.  Combine everything else but coconut flakes and bittersweet chocolate in a saucepan and bring to a boil and then boil vigorously for 4 minutes making sure to dissolve cocoa powder.  Add corn starch slurry and boil for another minute.  Take off heat and add chocolate and mix until melted into base.  Let cool a bit and blend with immersion blender.  Put in freezer until on the verge of freezing.  Churn according to ice cream machine, but halfway through pull out blender and blend again.

Coconut flakes can either be added right before end of churn or sprinkled on top.  Latter adds a nice crunch.