Rusty’s American Shepherd’s Pie

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BETTER THE DAY AFTER COOKING.

 

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Yield: Serves 2 (plus leftovers)

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes for 5 (follow instructions on box) or homemade mashed potatoes . . . your call.
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter
  • Drizzle of Olive Oil
  • ¾ cup Onion, diced
  • 8 oz. (half a bag) frozen Mixed Vegetables—diced carrots, corn, peas, green beans
  • ½ can Diced Potatoes
  • ½ can Diced Tomatoes (with garlic, basil and oregano) PLUS all juice in can
  • 1/3 cup beef broth OR generous splash of Johnny’s French Dip Au Jus (liquid; preferred)
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt, pepper, other seasonings of choice
  • 4 good pinches Garlic Powder
  • 3 good pinches of Oregano
  • Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese for the top (optional)

 

LET’S COOK:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

  1. Make the mashed potatoes and set aside.
  2. Sauté vegetables. Melt butter in a large sauté pan on medium heat and add drizzle of olive oil.  Add the chopped onions and cook for about 4 minutes.  Add some salt and pepper.
  3. Add frozen vegetables and sauté mixture about 5-6 minutes without burning onions.  Add more salt and pepper.
  4. Add the ground beef to the pan with the onions and vegetables.  Mix it all together and cook until beef is no longer pink.  Add Worcestershire sauce, diced tomatoes and juices, diced potatoes, and broth/au jus.  Season with pinches of garlic powder, oregano, and more salt and pepper–ALL TO YOUR TASTE.  Bring the pan to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes to cook off some of the liquids.
  5. Layer the meat mixture evenly in a large baking dish, such as an 8” x 8” Pyrex pan or larger.
  6. Spread mashed potatoes over the beef and veggies in an even layer.
  7. Sprinkle grated sharp cheddar cheese over the top of the mashed potatoes before baking.
  8. Bake in oven for half an hour.

 

Rusty recommends Bass Ale, Harp, or a Sangiovese to accompany his pie.

 

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A Star Wars hotel, or, How to make a landcruiser reality

Screamscape is reporting a land-based version of a new Disney Cruise:

Star Wars Starship Hotel – Proposal / Development – (7/11/17) Like everyone, I heard the first rumors of a possible Star Wars themed hotel concept pitched for Walt Disney World and once the initial “Oooohh!” moment passed, I had to scoff at the idea. The cynic in me was pretty sure that nothing like that would ever happen, at least not like what was being shown in the survey’s Disney was quietly showing off to select guests.
Errrr…
Yeah… while I don’t think the project has been given the final green light to proceed, apparenly Disney really is developing a Star Wars themed hotel concept that would be built right at the Studios park next to the Star Wars Land itself. Don’t look for anything to happen until they get their new parking lot configuration up and running, but once they are ready to close down the current toll plaza entrance off World Drive in favor of the new park entrance off Osceola Parkway, work could begin on the new hotel concept.
So what this really supposed to be? Well, you can see some concept art used for a guest survey posted here, but in the end it may be more simple to explain the basic premise like this… imagine going on a cruise ship… that really goes nowhere at all. The concept is a something of a dream for some designers out there that has never really been built out as far as I know, but some refer to it as a LBC… aka: Land Based Cruise. The hotel would be themed as a giant Star Wars Universe themed starship… an interstellar cruise ship experience… and guests would book a stay for several days, much like they would at a normal WDW hotel, expect you can expect this one to cost much much more. The idea is that while guests would leave the hotel during the daytime to visit the Disney theme parks as normal, they would return to the starship in the evening hours which would offer extra dining, exclusive entertainment, and even special themed excursions and adventures themed to the Star Wars Universe. In short all these bonus adventures are only available to the guests of Star Wars hotel, and unlike the other Walt Disney World Resorts, other guests would not be permitted inside to visit.
I’m told that Disney pitched a similar idea several years back, before Disney bought Star Wars, that involved building a similar themed hotel experience that would have been based on the myths and ghoulish legends of the Haunted Mansion, allowing guests to experience something akin to spending the night inside the Haunted Mansion with lots of themed spooky fun events to take place throughout the evening hours.
The Star Wars idea is an interesting one, and it would finally give Disney something they’ve been after… an upscale park experience that guests will pay top dollar to experience much like SeaWorld’s Discovery Cove. Except this isn’t just an upscale park experience, this bundles in a whole new resort category into the mix as well. It should be interesting to see if Disney goes through with it or not, and if guests are willing to drop around $1000 per person for a 2-3 day experience.

You can see concept art for the possible hotel here; but I’d be much more interested in a Haunted Mansion hotel.  It’s more authentic, more Disneyesque, and more adult-oriented.  It would be a perfect place to stimulate the imagination . . .

haunted-hotel.jpg

Welcome the Bastard President

bastard1

 

This whining, petulant man-child has been called many things, by celebrities, politicians and pundits alike:

Lord Voldemort — Rosie O’Donnell
Golden Wrecking Ball — Sarah Palin
Short-Fingered Vulgarian — Graydon Carter
Tiny Hands Trump, Babyfingers Trump and Pixie Fingers Trump — Michael R. Burch
The Most Fabulous Whiner — Chris Cuomo
Fuckface von Clownstick, Man-Baby, Comedy Entrapment and Unrepentant Narcissistic Asshole — Jon Stewart
The White Kanye ― Bill Maher
Trump of Doom — Michael R. Burch
Agent Orange         (A fuller list is here.)

They’re funny.  Satiric.  Rude.

But . . . not one just nails it perfectly.

In truth, this child is a bastard.

When he throws Twitter tantrums, remember, he’s a bastard.

When he mocks the disabled, remember, he’s a bastard.

When he slanders those who disagree with him, remember, he’s a bastard.

When he condemns the press for reporting on him, remember, he’s a bastard.

When he uses donor money to buy up mass quantities of his own book, which delivers cash back to his own pocket and violates FEC rules; when he refuses to rent apartments to blacks; when he is accused of sexual assault during the 1970s; when his business dealings are tied to the Mafia; when he is fined for breaking the rules in his casinos; when he refuses to pay his contractors and workers; when he declares bankruptcy, repeatedly, in an effort to avoid paying his bills; when he is sued and fined for antitrust violations while trying to get rid of casino competitors; when he wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, but but is found guilty of bringing in Polish workers to build Trump Tower; when he (allegedly) rapes his wife in anger…

He is a bastard.

This president was not born of American man and woman.  He was seeded by the semen of the Great American Bullshitter, and birthed from the womb of Mother Russia.  His silken diapers are filled with pyrite turds, and his mother’s milk is our hard-earned money.

He is a bully.  He is a crook.  He is a cheat.  He is a liar.  He is a traitor.

He is illegitimate.

He is the Bastard President.

trump_putin_getty

 

Factual sources: The Atlantic and Huffington Post.

Disney World . . . Today, It’s Just for Kids, Their Parents, and the Rich

America is a country that has grown up with Disney.  In many ways, it can be argued, Disney’s deep-rooted and generational influence can be considered the spark of America’s cultural imagination.

In the ’70s, Disney and Co.–movies, tv shows, theme parks–were regarded as kid stuff.  Teenagers had no desire to watch any Disney movie, and far less desire to be seen by their peers enjoying anything by Disney.  Then the ’80s happened.  Disney rebounded, largely under the influence of head Mousketeer Michael Eisner, and then he did something interesting: he opened the doors for Disney to entertain adults as well as their kids.  Touchstone Films gave us Disney movies for grown ups, such as Pretty Woman, Adventures in Babysitting (What a Chicago blues-based soundtrack!), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Throw Momma From the Train.  Hotels and more theme parks sprang up, with bars and attractions catering to adults.  And finally there was Pleasure Island.

pleasureislandmap
This official map is circa 1994-1995.

In the late ’80s, downtown Orlando offered Church Street Station, an assortment of (loosely) Western-themed bars and restaurants that drew the after dark crowds away from Disney World for entertainment without the kids.  Disney recognized the need to keep customers on property after the sun went down, so Pleasure Island was created–a man-made island of bars, restaurants and nightclubs designed to deliver a Disney experience to the adults-only crowd.

Disney is a publicly-traded company, and as such has no moral or ethical mandate to its customers, to Disney fans, to children…  Really, its only goal is to constantly grow in order to satisfy its shareholders with revenue and profit.  Under this revenue-based policy, Pleasure Island was closed.  Gone is the mandate or the wish to cater to adults with nighttime, grown-ups-only entertainment.  Current Disney administration is focusing only on children and families, and how to exploit their cash cows at maximum financial benefit to the company.

I went to Disney World with my lovely wife for the first time, after a nine-year absence, in August 2016.  And I saw that a lot of things have changed, and not all for the better.  The property is in a state of flux, with new attractions being built and other attractions getting changed.  But the overall impression I came away with is one of incessant and increasing corporate greed.  The end result is a less satisfying, yet more expensive, vacation experience–one that caters only to an amorphous, generalized, upper-middle class family demographic.

evil-mickey-mouse

Disney World has become a children’s Meet and Greet park.  Disney World is all about real estate.  Corporate looks at their property as parcels of real estate with shops, attractions, restaurants, and empty space.  I’m positive that corporate also has a financial goal per each square foot of property.  However they decide what the non-paying attractions or closed attractions are worth, they’ve found a way to get guests to visit areas that have nothing in them of any real value: they create a meet and greet zone so parents can get photos of their kids with various rubberheads . . . costumed characters.  Parents love the photo ops; kids love meeting their favorite Disney characters.  But these zones really don’t add to the Disney experience for grown-ups without children, and their prevalence through all four parks shows that Disney has embarked on a no-cost or low-cost philosophy for creating experiences.  Consider that the Magic Kingdom alone has 21 meet and greet zones.  21.  Doesn’t that mean that there are areas where a ride or attraction could go that would end up bringing in more paying customers in the long-term?  Or is Disney more interested in investing less and catering to a certain demographic?

Result: Bad show for grown-ups, and zero interest from me.

2o2er38
Forbidden Disney.

Good Food/Bad Food: Theme park food is notoriously bad, but Disney, in certain park restaurants, can deliver some incredible meals.  The San Angel Inn inside the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT deserves the accolades it’s received over the years, including an unexpected endorsement from Jimmy Buffett, who said he loves the restaurant.  We had a great lunch one day at the Liberty Tree Tavern, too; so good that we decided we needed to go back on our next trip.

Not anymore.  In fall 2016, Disney changed the Liberty Tree menu from individual meals to family-style meals.  Why?  Why would they tamper with a winning formula?  Because it costs them less to make a large portion for one table, and then charge the customer more for the family-style experience.

We know, Disney, that you’re in the business to make money.  We get it.  There have been many, many times I’ve just handed Mickey my wallet at the Magic Kingdom turnstiles and told him, “Do me.”

But when you take away from a good experience, and then slap us with a higher bill at the end, that’s really just a slap in the face.  And its a bad experience that we’ll remember.

There is currently no reason to go to Hollywood Studios or the Animal Kingdom.  Large portions of Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are closed in order for construction of new lands and attractions, including Star Wars land and whatever they’re going to call the land of Avatar.  (Personally, I’m not too sure about Disney’s decision to bank on Avatar and its forthcoming sequels, but I’ll give the place a chance.)  If Disney were to offer discounted tickets because so many things in these parks are closed, I’d take advantage of it.  But ticket prices are the same no matter how many attractions are closed.  My advice: save your money and hit up Universal instead.  Harry Potter land will blow Avatar land away, and Citywalk, with its nightclubs and entertainment, deserves to pull in the adults that Disney now refuses to acknowledge.

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You can find me in Margaritaville, at Universal Citywalk, just an UBER drive away from WDW.

Disney Springs lacks a real Disney experience.

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Disney Springs is the Orlando tourist’s version of Rodeo Drive: upscale shopping, imports, trendy retailers, and $$$$-$$$$$ restaurants, all designed to separate you from your money under the illusory umbrella of a Disney experience.  The stage entertainment is as good, if not better, than outdoor stage shows in the theme parks; but there’s not much Disney about Disney Springs.  Instead, it’s the very clean, modern feel of an outdoors “town center” shopping experience, and very little in the way of a signature Disney experience.

disney-springs
Map from Christmas season 2016

 

The West Side is largely unchanged, in terms of layout and landmarks, on the far left in the above map.  Also largely the same is The Marketplace, which is what is left of the original Lake Buena Vista Marketplace, over on the far right.  In the center are the new areas that define Disney Springs; so new that in the smaller map above, the Town Center is given no details.  The Landing is the refurbished area that was once the late, great Pleasure Island, and the new area below that, Town Center, was the Pleasure Island parking lot.  Two giant and ugly behemoths dominate the landscape when you drive by, the Orange and Lime parking garages.  For a company that prides itself on aesthetics and pleasing the guest’s eye, the parking garages simply block the line of sight.  The dynamism of the West Side’s skyline could have continued down the line with Town Center’s skyline, but Town Center is completely hidden by these gargantuan, grey boxes, and any excitement the skyline could have generated to those driving by is completely negated.

Shopping.  Dining.  Lights and colors.  Disney Springs looks great, and the times we went, it was always packed.  The stores were not; but there were a lot of people looking around.  So what’s missing?

Dancing.  Laughter.  Music.  Comedy.

Nightclubs.

The all-adult experience is missing.

And so is a true Disney experience.

The magic just isn’t there.

Disney Originals are best.  Every person who goes to any Disney park has their very own, favorite ride.  Today, regarding the parks, we are in a Disney era where the commercially-viable idea is king; where Disney properties are not only milked for every penny of profit, but squeezed–squeezed until all the creative lifeblood is drained from them.  Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is going to receive a thorough overlay, changing the attraction from an original, spooky idea to a concept based on a currently hot property, but one that may not last the test of time.  Norway is displaced to make room for Frozen.

It’s arguable, of course, but I believe that time has shown us that Disney’s best attractions are not those based on movies or shows.  They’re the original ideas that germinated under Walt, or sprang up shortly thereafter.  Here’s Wikipedia’s list of current Magic Kingdom attractions:

The attractions in red are the ones I see as Disney’s singular original park attractions.  By that I mean, they’re not based on any movies or shows, but instead sprang from the wishes of Walt Disney himself or from the minds of his Imagineers as original concepts.  And they are the best.  And they are the favorite attractions of most guests.

If this is the case, why doesn’t Disney get their Imagineers to come up with original attraction ideas any more?

Because they are afraid to take risks with original ideas, and instead want to invest in what they consider sure things, even though they may only be for the short term.

Considering how WDW basically destroyed Pleasure Island and, especially, the Adventurers Club–perhaps the most original attraction since Big Thunder Mountain in the 1970s–with slow deliberation (because their nightclubs only pulled in revenue for less than half a day’s operating hours), for them to create such an incredible venue as Trader Sam’s–on both coasts–makes me wonder . . . How?  Was it the promise of alcohol revenue?  Were the special effects easy to create and inexpensive to maintain?

I have no idea.  But Disney World needs more originality, and to take more chances.  If Trader Sam’s shows them anything, it’s that they have adults wishing to spend their money on Disney’s singular brand of entertainment.

Why not give grown-ups some original venues in the parks, too?  And some cool nightclubs in Disney Springs?

Oh, and . . .

adventurers-club1

BRING IT BACK.

What I Missed in the ’70s

A few years ago, I realized that I had missed a lot in the 1970s.  I’m sure the jaded among you will say It was the drugs; but, I have to admit, I didn’t do drugs then, and the only drugs I do now are prescription.  (And I do enjoy wine, preferably red.)  Seriously, there are too many of my prescriptions for my tastes, but I do enjoy living, breathing, and this thing we term as reality.

[My real drug is books.  Novels.  Fiction.  I am an admitted biblioholic, and more power to my addiction.]

So, yes, I missed a lot during the seventies.  I eschewed rock and roll for books and movies.  Somehow, I was late to the party: when Escape From the Planet of the Apes came out, one of my best friends had to tell me about Planet of the Apes, and a sequel I had somehow never heard of, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and then I was hooked.  I always seem to be a few years late.

Somehow, during my senior year of high school, I missed seeing Three Days of the Condor during its first run in the theaters, or, as we say in the South, theeAYters.  41+ years later, I have no idea how or why I missed it.  Can’t remember.  A mystery to me.  But I realized this deficiency a couple of years ago, and read the novel upon which the film was based, Six Days of the Condor, by James Grady, which I got from the local library, a resource I urge you to use immediately.

Six Days of the Condor.  Great novel.  Emotional, hard-hitting, thrilling, commercial fiction.

Three Days of the Condor hasn’t come on TV for a few years, that I know of, so tonight I decided to see if it was On Demand through Comcast.

It was.

Good.  Really good.  The only drawback is one of the film’s quintessential charms: the ending.  It kind of leaves you hanging.  But that’s okay; with the movie’s storyline, it works.

So it only took me 40+ years to see it.  Next up: The Midnight Man, The Black Windmill, Duffy, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Cannibal Girls, Get Carter, Zardoz (for the xth time, but it’s wonderful) and Klute.  There are so many more, but these are the ones on my current list.

Movie party, anyone?