Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Fluffness of the Fluff

After Jack's funeral the other week, we went to the traditional repast/luncheon.  It was a potluck style affair where (I believe) food was brought by various funeral attendees and church members.  I really like the idea of a potluck, but unless there is some sort of organization and assignment of types of dishes it always ends up being very light on actually entree type foods and very heavy on pasta salads and desserts.  I understand, they are easy to make and delicious...but a well balanced meal this does not create.  It also leads to some mystery dishes...what is up with that dish of strange looking peas?  Oh, it is some kind of tuna surprise, who would have guessed peas would taste like tuna - thanks to Kelly for trying this so that I didn't have to.  But then again I brought nothing (I didn't know about it) and I was eating free food, so it hard to complain too much.

mmmm fluff
(Photo courtesy of mjecker)
This disproportionality of desserts leads to the dilemma of choosing which fluff to take...because you know there are going to be several.  I wouldn't say that I am an expert on fluff...but I am definitely a connoisseur and this luncheon offered a wide variety.  I decided not to choose one, I would martyr myself by taking a serving of each fluff and declaring a winner of the informal Jack's Fluff Challenge - so that all other diners would be able to make an informed fluff decision.  This is the sacrifice that I make for you, readers and diners.  I counted seven varieties and the ingredients and textures varied widely.

The first contender was the fruit salad fluff - this is the fluff that has a lot of apples, grapes, strawberries, nuts, etc... This is probably the most healthy of all the fluffs due to the high fruit content, but that same content also throws off the texture.  It is way too chunky to be a proper was dismissed (although tasty).

Second came a couple of red fluffs...I was hoping the darker one was raspberry but both were strawberry.  Both were OK, but nothing special.  One was not mixed well enough, the ingredients weren't well distributed throughout.  The second's texture was good but the flavor was blah...I am not sure what happened here, but it just didn't have much taste...even slickery jello blobs could not make up for a lack of flavor.

Next came a yellow fluff with caramel sauce.  I wasn't sure exactly what this was, but it ended up having chunks of mini-Snickers and other candy bars in it.  A very good fluff overall...but the fluff didn't really have much taste besides the candy bars (I think a banana cream pudding mix, could have really pumped this one up to another level).

Finally, came the green fluffs.  Pistachio is the Cadillac of fluffs...but every once in a while someone sneaks a lime flavored fluff in there and it is just confusing and not right.  The lime fluff was out - it might have been good in it's own right but when disguising yourself as pistachio my expectations made you taste horrible.  The finally two fluffs...both Pistachio, both with pineapple, one had nuts and mini marshmallows, the other didn't...but the main difference was the consistency.  One was super light and fluffy...the other was more thick and runny, almost looking like straight pistachio pudding instead of fluff.

I figured the light and fluffy one would win hands down because the other just looked like a mess.  It was good, but the runny pistachio fluffy was excellent.  Maybe it wasn't cut with as much marshmallow fluff or cool whip...maybe it was mixed too much and all the whipped in air escaped concentrating the flavor.  I don't know why, but the flavor of the was just so much deeper and with the perfect balance of pineapple.  If it was a little lighter with this taste it would be darn near perfect.

Pistachio Fluff - the most delectable of fluffs.
(Photo courtesy of Secrets of a Southern Kitchen - recipe also available)

Green Pistachio Fluff Wins!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Loss of a Good Man

Last week, my step-grandfather passed away.  Jack Hennessey, was a great person to have known for the past 18 years.  It is strange to think that I have known him longer than my biological grandfather who died when I was 13.  Unfortunately, even though I have known him longer, I did not get to know him as well.  College, career, in the way and I only was able to see him a few times a year, usually during holidays when it was a busy time for everyone.  It might not have as deep of a relationship as was possible, but I couldn't help but like, respect, and admire Jack.

Jack served in both the Army and Navy when he was young, and then moved to the small town of Manilla, IA to practice medicine in the mid-1940s.  Jack was known as "Doc" to everyone in town.  He was one of the main doctors in town for almost 50 years...and not just a doctor, but a country doctor that would make house calls and such.  He also had his own practice, worked at the local hospital, volunteered for school sports and community events.  Doc delivered over 2000 babies in his practicing years...almost anyone you meet from the Manilla area seems to know and/or was delivered by Doc.  I've had this conversation several times with several different people:
Me: "I headed to my grandparents house in Manilla for the holidays."    
Random Person: "Hey, I'm from that area...who's your grandparents?"   
Me: "Jack & Lu Hennessey." 
Random Person: <look of deep thought, then smiling> "You mean Doc?  I was delivered by him."

Jack pursued everything he like with zest and pride.  His children and grandchildren, Music, reading, Catholicism, Ireland, and the University of Iowa (his Alma Mater) were just a few of the things he enjoyed and you could tell from anywhere in the house that these were some of his passions.  Photographs, records, books, Irish and Hawkeye mementos abounded.

Jack was paralyzed at the waist in 1998 after surgical complications, but that didn't stop Jack from being Jack. He harbored no anger or bitterness and continued to live the best and fullest life that he could.  Jack was the type person that makes a great role model for all others.  Live life to the fullest, be happy, do good, and have no regrets.

Unfortunately, Jack's health had been declining the last few years.  He had been in and out of the hospital a few times over the past year and went in for the last time a couple weeks ago.  It is sad, but with his failing health he was ready.  There was enough warning of the end that most of his children were able to fly in and say goodbye.  Jack was 93.

I know it will be a hard time for my grandmother and I feel sad for her...but I also know that she is the kind of strong person that can handle this grief and continue to live a happy life.  Grams, if you need anything...your entire family is here to help.

Jack, you will be missed.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Haven't Gone Blu

I had a friend tell me a few months ago that "You just have to get a Blu-ray player!"  Said person was shocked when I told him that A) I don't see the point, and B) Have no plans to get one unless it happens to be built into another product that I buy like a PS3 or a new computer.  "But they're awesome..."

Not really.

"You just like watching movies in the theater instead."  This is true, but that is irrelevant and besides my point.  First let me point out the fact that this person didn't get a DVD player until 2006 or 2007.  I'm not saying that is a good or a bad thing, but I find it hard to believe that someone who all of a sudden thinks himself as a home theater after being anything but for the past 30+ years.

My main problem with Blu-ray is that they are marketing same features that they used to market DVD back in 1997.  Nowadays, Blu-ray editions come with all the cool features...extended editions, uncensored versions, delete scenes, making of documentaries, director commentaries, behind the scenes info, special web links, etc... which is all fine but none of which is requires Blu-ray over DVD.  In fact, when it first debuted DVD had all these features...but now the entertainment industry wants you to buy all the movies you already own on DVD in the newer Blu-ray, DVDs are coming with less and are lucky to get the theatrical trailer.  Heck, remember when DVD used to promote the fact that you could switch angles and stuff due to the dynamic branching technology?  When was the last time a DVD actually came with this option?  I haven't seen one in years and years...not because they can't do it, they just don't want to promote DVDs.  I don't really feel like supporting a product because of all these bonus features that the studios won't even support in a couple all this stuff is just extras anyways.  They are nice to have, but not necessary.  I might watch the extras once but probably never again.  I don't watch most of the stuff on my DVDs, so why would I think that I would actually watch it on Blu-ray?  For me, it was just sad to see an industry drop support for something that my promoted so hard just a short while ago (I know they didn't drop all support, they are obviously still making DVDs) just hammered it home that it really is all about money and forcing new formats on customers just to make them buy the same movie again.

But it isn't just that...I don't feel that the upgrade is worth it.  I guess that DVD resolution and graphics seem good enough for me at the moment.  I don't really need a film that was made 25+ years ago to be in 1080p.  It doesn't add that much to 99% of films.  There are some films that better, crisper graphics might add a little bit to the experience...but I think it is unnecessary for most.  Even more than that...I think a lot of movies that weren't originally shot in HD but have been cleaned up for the higher resolution look creepy.  Not just really old movies either.  I saw someone watching an HD version of Pineapple Express a few months ago and it just looked wrong.  For a film like that, I expect the kind of hazy, not totally clear background that the movie had in the theater.  Watching it this time everything was way too crisp.  It left me with a very different experience...and not for the better.  Better graphics just for the sake of (supposedly) better graphics doesn't interest me that much.  If it adds up to a richer, fuller experience I am all for it...but so far, I just don't see that with many movies.  Maybe if some more talented filmmakers were using deep focus techniques for good use more often, I could see more benefit of the highest definition...but usually graphics are just used in place of a story (*cough* Transformers *cough*).

DVD had better graphics than previous formats (although I still think some of my laserdiscs had a lot better graphics than some early release DVDs)...but the jump in the graphics between VHS was much, much larger than the graphics jump from DVD to Blu-ray.  Although better graphics were a top selling point, the convenience factors were a bigger one for me...sturdy, easily portable and easy, quick navigation while watching were bigger factors for me than just graphics.  Maybe not initially as I was young and dumb, but these are the factors that I quickly came to appreciate...Blu-ray does not have any upgraded convenience features.  In fact it is even more inconvenient due to lack of Blu-ray players.  For example, they don't make a Blu-ray car player yet and your friend down the street might not have a Blu-ray player so you can't share as easy.  So really all I see as a benefit is the upgraded graphics...hey Hollywood, how about better stories?

Right now for me the benefits do not outweigh the cost...especially when the end of physical formats is probably not too many years away and everything will soon be streamed on demand.  It seems more effort than it is worth.  Do I need to buy a bunch of movies that I have already bought on VHS, laserdisc, and DVD again just to have slightly better definition?  No I don't think so.  However, if I do end up getting a Blu-ray for some reason, I would probably buy newer movies in Blu-ray...but would probably save a little money on older releases and just get the DVD version (you can only make Evil Dead look so good).