Southern Man

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Recipe For Men - Southern Man's Banana Bread

OK, men, before you panic at the thought of converting ounces to cups or teaspoons to tablespoons, read this post from way back in August '06 when Southern Man was just learning to "cook."

This is an easy recipe - darn near impossible to screw it up - and produces a dark, heavy, sweet banana bread. It's so good that Southern Man routinely overbuys on bananas just to have an excuse to make it. There's a batch in the oven this very minute! So are you ready?

Tools required (all available at any grocery store or Wal-Mart):
  • Measuring cup, wth capacity at least 2 cups. You'll measure some stuff with it.
  • A teaspoon. That's the little one, not the big one. You'll measure some other stuff with it.
  • A tablespoon. That's the big one, not the little one. You'll mix stuff up with it. Electric mixers are for women and wimps.
  • A fork. You'll mash bananas with it. Do not use a hammer to mash the bananas.
  • A large mixing bowl. You'll mix everything together in it.
  • A bowl. You'll melt the butter in it.
  • A dinner plate. You'll mash the bananas on it.
  • A 9-inch loaf pan. Everything eventually goes in here.
  • A can of cooking spray. You'll spray a bit of it into the pan.
  • An oven mitt, or hot pad holder, or t-shirt. You'll handle a hot pan with it.
  • A serrated knife (that is, a knife with a ragged edge). You'll chop the nuts and cut the bread with it.
  • Plastic wrap. You'll wrap any leftover bread in it.
  • A working gas or electric oven. You'll bake the bread in it.
  • A working microwave (optional). You'll melt the butter in it. Do not use your propane torch to melt the butter.

Ingredients required (also available at the grocery store or Wal-Mart) and amounts:

  • one stick of real butter.
  • 1 cup of sugar (Southern Man uses half white, half brown).
  • 2 eggs.
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt.
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (but not baking powder; they are subtly different)
  • 2 cups flour (for darker bread, Southern Man uses unbleached flour).
  • three large, very ripe bananas. Black skin is fine. Ants and fruit flies, not so good.
  • handful of chopped nuts if desired.


  1. Turn the oven on and set the temperature to 325 degrees. Of course, Farenheit. Celcius is for people who can afford to hire other people to cook for them.
  2. Unwrap the stick of butter and put it in the bowl. Put the bowl in the microwave and heat on medium for about a minute. The goal is to have really soft butter but not butter flambé.
  3. Measure the sugar, salt, and soda into the mixing bowl. Add the butter. Mix it all up with the big spoon.
  4. Add the eggs and mix it up some more. If you've never cracked an egg, crack them into the bowl that the butter was in and pick the shell pieces out, then dump them (the eggs, that is, not the shell pieces) into the mixing bowl.
  5. Add the flour, a little at a time, and mix it up as you go.
  6. Peel the bananas, discard the skin and any really icky stuff, and put the bananas on the plate.
  7. Mash the bananas with the fork.
  8. Use the fork to scrape the bananas into the bowl and use the big spoon to mix it up.
  9. Chop up the nuts, add them to the bowl and mix it up one more time.
  10. Spray some cooking spray into the loaf pan. Not too much, just a thin coat.
  11. Dump the yellow goop from the mixing bowl into the pan and smooth it out.
  12. Put the pan in the middle of the top rack of the oven.
  13. Take it out after 1 hour and 15 minutes. If you have a timer and want to use it, go ahead. But real men don't use oven timers.
  14. Turn the oven off.
  15. The bread needs to sit for ten minutes, so if you haven't already done so clean up your work area while the bread is cooling.
Now you can pop the bread out of the pan and have a piece or three while it's still piping hot. Then wrap it up in plastic wrap and enjoy a few slices at a time. Southern Man likes his leftover banana-nut bread warmed up in the microwave with plenty of butter. Bon Appétit!

Lazy Sunday

Southern Man will confess that having all three children for the weekend, while a wonderful blessing, can get a bit tiresome - particularly when two of the three bring overnight guests. Teenage son had a friend spend the entire weekend with him and teenage daughter had a girlfriend with her from mid-Saturday on, so casa Southern Man was pretty active, at least in the evenings. And there was an awful lot of running them around to pancake breakfasts and play rehersals and to their friend's houses to pick them up or run them by for essentials (that would be CDs and XBox games for the most part) or just leave them for brief teen gatherings and pick them up again. But we also got in some time at the local amusement park (see the previous post) and although it was pretty crowded everyone had a good time. And Southern Man was just tickled to death to see four teens in his tiny little study gathered around the 'net PC messing around with their MySpace accounts and such. Teen daughter even recovered a long-lost password and updated her Xanga for the first time since last summer. It'll be interesting to see if she wants to keep it up this time.

So it is always with decidedly mixed emotions that Southern Man dropped them off at church this morning. He'll miss them terribly (as he always does) but they do make quite a mess. So after services and a nice lunch out with his gf and her oldest daughter Southern Man headed back to his casa and his bed for a lovely afternoon nap. And then gf dropped by later in the afternoon and we just relaxed for a few hours talking and arguing theology and messing around on the computers. Turns out gf is something of a gamer herself and she was perfectly happy to play Spades online on one PC while Southern Man messed around on one of the others. And now Southern Man is looking forward to a quiet and relaxed evening which will be spent as roughtly one-third cleaning, one-third grading (lots and lots and lots of grading) and one-third just generally messing around. There are, for example, some nice overripe bananas in the kitchen just begging to be made into banana-nut bread. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday evening alone.

Southern Man is slowly but surely coming to terms with the unpleasant realities of divorce. It used to just kill him when he knew his ex was on a date (the first few times he just laid in his bed and bawled); now word is she's fairly steady with what appears to be a fine guy and Southern Man just hopes that she finds the happiness with him (or, if not, with someone) that she could never seem to find from Southern Man. Of course it hurts - a lot - to watch the one you still love in so many ways seek what she needs from someone else, and Southern Man dies a litte inside every time he looks at his darling seven-year-old and realizes that in all likelihood some other man will be her stepfather, but those are just some of those unpleasant realities. But Southern Man is slowly but surely overcoming his pain and is looking forward to a brighter tomorrow. Lord, I know you have a plan for me, to prosper me and give me hope and a future. And I know, Lord, that you have plans for her, and for our children, and for my gf and her ex and their children. Continue to heal us of our hurts, O Lord. Grant us the capacity to forgive, both ourselves for the hurts we have inflicted and those who have inflicted hurts on us. And let us not be bitter, Lord, but bestow on us the wisdom and understanding to rejoice when we see the power of Your mighty hand at work in all our lives. Amen.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Swirly Saturday

Being a frequent provider of entertainment for his three children, Southern Man has procured season passes to the local amusement park, meaning we can drop by at a whim and not pay a dime for parking or admission. Several such outings have been made already. The older kids (if present) generally head out to do their own thing and Southern Man plays escort to his precious seven-year-old daughter.

This is a good thing in many ways. It's a most low-pressure kind of afternoon. Little decision-making is required of Southern Man at the park - all he really needs to do is follow his little darling and lay out her pre-designated spending money as directed on whatever junk catches her eye and enjoy whatever she elects to do. Sometimes she selects nice friendly attractions like the outdoor ampitheatre (where you sit outside in the shade and rest your feet and sip from your water bottle and listen to the music) or the magic show (where you sit inside in air-conditioned comfort and eat popcorn and are entertained for an hour) or the log plume or the renegade rapids (where you sit in a log or a raft for a relatively gentle ride that serves mainly to get you nice and wet on those hot Southern afternoons) or the swings or the carousel (which are even more gentle and serve mainly to dry you off again). That's sometimes. Unfortunately, what she often elects to do are what she terms the "swirly" rides.

The swirly rides go round and round and round and round and round until Southern Man has had quite enough and then they go round and round and round and round and round some more and then they finally slow down and then they finally stop, at which time Southern Man manfully disguises the fact that what he really wants to do is lurch to the nearest handrail and hurl whatever amusement-park food might remain in his system onto the crowd below but instead exits with his daughter with as much grace and decorum as he can manage and staggers down the exit ramp without making it too obvious that those handrails are there just for him.

At which time she invariably says "Wow, dad, that was great! Let's ride it again!"

And then we ride it again.

Last week she conned me onto some horrific rotational contraption called the Terrible Twister - in which you stand with your back to the wall and then which spins round and round and round and round and round, faster and faster and faster and faster and faster until you are fairly glued to that wall and then the floor drops out from under your feet and the damn thing still spins round and round and round and round and round until you would pay any price to just please make it stop - and rode it eighteen times in a row. Southern Man bailed out early and took refuge on the upper deck and had a hard time keeping his lunch down just watching her. Even the ride attendant was ashen after a while. The girl must have a cast-titanium tummy. The only reason she stopped at all is that we ran out of time and had to leave to pick up one of her siblings.

And Southern Man is looking forward to many, many more Swirly Saturdays with his precious daughter!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Triple Concert Review - El Paso Hot Button, Minutes Too Few, and Umbrellas

Southern Man had scarcely finished off the previous post and was heading out to his car with an armload of partially-graded exams when the unmistakable strains of live music wafted from the campus mall, so he headed that way to find a free, open-air concert featuring the above-mentioned acts. Southern Man was fairly late to the show and missed the first two bands (turns out there were five all together), but here is Southern Man's review of at least a portion of this unexpected musical feast provided by bands he's never heard of.

Some truly fine hard-driving indie rock was jamming from the stage as Southern Man approached and he was flat-out astonished to see that El Paso Hot Button consists of one man - Mickey Reece, who operates from just a few miles south of casa Southern Man - who handles vocals, a mean guitar, and a foot-operated drum kit. Reece calls EPHB a rock project that started as a joke and is now a serious joke, with one split CD and one full-length CD out (both on the Little Mafia label). A couple of his songs deserve serious airplay and all readers are encouraged to check out the Sssnakes LP in particular. Southern Man wasted no time ripping Beat On The Drums from that CD for his workout tunelist and given that EPHB is a frequent performer in the metro area is looking forward to catching Reece's act again soon.

Next up was Minutes Too Far, who lists as their influences some of teenage son's favorite bands (All-American Rejects, Jimmy Eat World, and Switchfoot) but won Southern Man's heart with a terrific cover of Tom Petty's Runaway about midway through their set. Their own music, such as Something You Really Ought To Know (which is also now one of Southern Man's workout MP3s), is well worth hearing and they deserve more airplay than they get. Lead singer Danny Black has more than a passing resemblence to Charlie of DriveSHAFT (in fact their entire performance was somewhat DriveSHAFT-esque) and their sound is not unlike that of The Ataris. Southern Man mentioned the latter to Stephen Burditt (bass) and Kris Monier (drums) after their set; Steve's response was "Yeah, we get a lot of that!" Thankfully, both took it as a compliment, which was as Southern Man intended. Both were also kind enough to not only autograph Southern Man's newly-purchased CDs but go to quite a bit of trouble to find a Sharpie so they could do so. Minutes Too Far really, really wants to get on the 2007 Warped Tour (which Southern Man will no doubt suffer through at least once, as it features son's all-time favorite band Hawthorne Heights and his other favorite band Underoath) so go to and vote for them! They're playing Saturday night right here in town so Southern Man may soon get a repeat listen to this fine band. Check out their sound at their label's website,

Last up was the event headliner group Umbrellas, an indie / emo band who's music has been featured on the television shows Grey's Anatomy, Jericho, and Alias, and are well known enough to have a Wikipedia page. Southern Man had the opportunity to hang out at the merchandise table before their set and chat for a bit with Geordan Taylor (bass) and Sammy Sherron (drums). Geordan and Sammy aren't actually proper Umbrellas but have joined frontman / songwriter Scott Windsor for the summer and fall tours - but since they were also kind enough to sign Southern Man's CDs they'll always be Umbrellas to him. The band's musical style varies somewhat but never wanders too far from ethereal, dreamy soundscapes - just the sort of music you would expect on the aforementioned TV shows. Although Southern Man didn't know a single song they did, the entire set was just terrific and he's looking forward to spending some time with their two CDs and becoming more familiar with their music. They are on The Militia Group label and Southern Man recommends that you give them a listen.

Southern Man was able to chat with Windsor for just a moment and when asked what he felt was his greatest musical influence, he immediately replied "Coldplay." Well, Southern Man knows that gf's oldest daughter is quite the Coldplay fan, so on a whim Southern Man sent her a text asking if she'd ever heard of Umbrellas. Turns out it's her "third-favorite band" and Southern Man ended up not only bagging her a concert t-shirt but holding his cell phone up during their performance of Ships, which turned out to be her favorite song from the band.

It should be quite the Summer of Music so stay tuned to Southern Man for more concert news and reviews!

Scripting and Style Sheets and Code, Oh My!

Long-time readers (all three of you) may (or may not) notice a few layout changes on the 'ole blog, 'cause Southern Man gave a midterm tonight and spent the last hour or so at the classroom PC twiddling with the blog template, with the following effects:
  • Rotating browser title and blog title for your temporary amusement
  • Post titles have permalinks for your more permanent amusement
  • comment / comments is plural or singular as appropriate
  • Icons added to list of blogs on the right-side column
  • And a host of even more subtle effects and improvements
Note that if you want these cool effects for your own blog, it's summer break (which means Southern Man works a modest thirty-hour week instead of sixty-plus) and his coding and scripting services can be had, for a price.

Not to mention that Southern Man is now the proud owner of the Internet domain, which at the moment does nothing more than put you right back here (and paste a banner across the bottom as their price for their "free" redirecting service) but will in the near future be home to some longer articles and essays that he's been itchin' to write. So stay tuned to Southern Man! It'll be a great summer for blogging!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Green

Now, don't get me wrong - Southern Man is no tree-hugger. Tree-planter, yes. However, in his quest to be a more responsible citizen of Planet Earth it occurred to him while shopping for a replacement for his fourteen-year-old gas mower that (a) his rental lawn is about the size of a postcard, (b) he needs more exercise, and (c) old-style reel mowers - just like Dad used to use - were only eighty bucks or so. So Southern Man found himself back home with one of the beasts and eager to try it out.

Reel mowers don't use gas or oil and are pollution free (at least to operate), have a minimum of moving parts and require little maintainence and will probably last longer than Southern Man will, and promise to provide a good workout once a week. But then there are a few issues.

First, the design is such that you can't cut closer than four inches or so to edging or fences, so you must go back around with the edger when done mowing the lawn itself. Second, it does a fine job if you have a nice clean level lawn, but real-yard hazards such as twigs and rough terrain really slow it down. Finally, coarse grass and tall weeds and dandelions just laugh at it and you end up going over the same patch a dozen times before giving up and moving on. There were some places where it wouldn't cut the grass at all. Not to mention that bagging and mulching are out of the question.

So after a few hours of frustration Southern Man jumped back into the SUV and picked up a good used old-fashioned pollution-spewing gas mower for $40, which knocks the job out in about fifteen minutes. Two mows at the local rate of $20 a pop and it'll have already paid for itself. Expect the reel mower to sit unused until Southern Man gets sick of looking at it, then it'll get dumped at a garage sale or something. Or Southern Man might offer teenage son a quick twenty to mow the lawn and let him give it a try. That would be worthwhile just to watch. Hey, teenage son - want to mow my lawn?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Movie Review - Grindhouse

The double-feature Grindhouse is not so much a movie as it is an event; it's not as much about reproducing the look and feel of the exploitation movies of the past as it is to recall the experience of viewing them. Like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the audience is just as important as what's happening on the screen; this is a movie designed to be seen with friends late at night in a crowded theater. Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino accomplish this with not only the B-movie double feature - first, a wonderously overblown zombie thriller in Planet Terror, then a chicks-in-peril car chase in Death Proof - but with the manner in which they are presented. The films are interspliced with 70s-era screencaps and ads (including a couple of barely-remembered "restricted movie" warnings), faux preview trailers (a couple for movies that should actually be made) and are treated to show as though they were old strips on their last legs: washed-out color, jerky pictures and dropped sound (complete with the chattering of the projector sprockets), burn-thrus, bad splices, and missing reels. And the movies are not just accidentally cheesy, but are deliberately cheesy. Just add an armload of sodas and a bucket of popcorn and it's just like you're back in high school sneaking a carload of friends into the late show at the local drive-in. Heck, Southern Man has got last night's leftover movie popcorn at his side right now just to stay with that old drive-in feeling.

Well, with the news that Grindhouse wasn't doing so well at the box office and that the distributors were thinking of splitting the three-and-a-half-hour double feature into two separate films (which is apparently the way the rest of the world will get it anyway), Southern Man decided that he'd better go sooner rather than later - thus, after work last night he swung by the local megaplex for a late-night showing. Armed with a couple of water bottles and the aforementioned large popcorn with extra butter, he took his place in the theatre, looked around, and noticed that he was...alone.

Now, this particular megaplex has thirty-odd theatres of varying sizes, from cozy to huge. This was one of the larger ones. And, other than Southern Man, it was completely empty.

Well, so much for the "see this one with a large crowd" part of the experience; it appeared that Southern Man would instead be treated to his own private screening. Maybe. For a while it looked like it wasn't going to show at all but finally, fifteen minutes later than the scheduled time (and after a dozen repeats of the same ninety-second set of entertainment slides), Grindhouse finally began.

Southern Man doesn't go to many R-rated movies and saw only a few during his high-school days so the experience was a bit of a shock. First off, he hadn't seen any of the real previews. Southern Man is a long-time Steven King fan and the upcoming Room 1408 looks like a winner. He isn't quite as excited about the Halloween remake or yet another entry in the Die Hard franchise. The trailer for the fake movie Machete was just as fun as could be, and that's a B movie he would see if it is actually made, if only to see the motorcycle-mounted rotary minigun in action. Then we got right into the Rodriguez film.

If you like zombie movies, you'll love Planet Terror. The horror starts early - the doctor and his wife (played by Josh Brolin and Marley Shelton, who briefly plays the same role in Death Proof) are particularly creepy - and before long both human and zombie flesh fly all over the screen. How Planet Terror earned an R rating, Southern Man will never know - it's about as close to NC-17 as anything he's seen. And not for sexual content - heck, there was more boobage in the Machete trailer than in all of the rest of Grindhouse, and the two potential sex scenes in the actual features are lost to tongue-in-cheek "Missing Reel" placards - but for nonstop graphic, bloody, gory violence. This is not a movie for children, or even young adults. It may not be suitable for humans in general. Victims are torn limb from limb, zombie brains spill to the floor and spout legs, established characters are gruesomely dispached with heartless regularity, and in nearly every outdoor scene vehicles explode for no apparent reason. And of course about two-thirds of the way in, the lovely Rose McGowan (as the stripper Cherry) gets her first machine-gun replacement for the leg lost to an earlier zombie attack. And it's that maximum-firepower leg - at one point she even appears to do a rocket jump with it - that sets the tone for Planet Terror: a ridiculously absurb package of terror and sex and violence and explosions and gunfire and revving motors and just plain excessive zombie-bashing. The result is about as much fun as one can have at the movies. Oh, and you get to see an uncredited Bruce Willis as one of the shambling undead, too.

Another handful of period ads and trailers - Werewolf Women of the SS, Thanksgiving, and Don't - didn't produce anything that looked nearly as interesting as Machete unless you like leather-clad Nazis, slasher movies with lots and lots and lots of beheadings, or just plain craziness.

Now, Southern Man has of course heard of Tarantino (and had already seen him, as he had a cameo in a few scenes of Planet Terror) but hasn't seen much of his work so he didn't know quite what to expect in Death Proof (nor did he catch many of the references to other Tarantino films that are no doubt scattered throughout the film). Well, apparently Tarantino movies feature long, long scenes in cars and bars and such in which women talk, and talk, and talk. Southern Man was fearful that the Grindhouse folks had played some kind of bait-and-switch on him for a good long while there. Then about half an hour in the Kurt Russell character went from sweetly eccentric to downright evil with no warning at all and not two minutes later the body count went from zero to five, just like that. With the first batch of girls dispatched and no further sign of the murderous Kurt, we then got a fresh set of slightly more interesting chicks and had to endure their twenty minutes of slightly more interesting girl talk before, again without warning, Kurt shows up again for a heart-pounding muscle-car duel with simply amazing driving and stunt work that plays more than a little homage to the great car movies of the past. In fact, Southern Man just went to and put Vanishing Point on his wish list. Another observation about Tarantino is that he apparently puts a good deal of thought into his soundtracks, and the musical selections for Death Proof are perfect for that film.

In short: while Rodriguez set out to make a deliberately over-the-top horror film (which is just the way to honor the great zombie movies of the past) Tarantino apparently made a sincere effort to reproduce an authentic grindhouse movie.

And after all that, Southern Man heads out the door at mumble-mumble AM to find that his is the only vehicle in the mall parking lot. Given what he'd just seen, it was a long and somewhat scary walk - the perfect end to an evening of scary movies.

So, if you want to relive the glory days of the exploitation films of yesteryear, aren't offended by unrelenting violence and gore (Planet Terror) or endless profanity (Death Proof), realize that this is adults-only fare, and can find a showing where there's actually a crowd, see Grindhouse while you can. And don't forget the popcorn.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Concert Review - Rod Stewart

First Southern Man will brag on our concert seat location:

Yeah, baby: floor seats, section twelve, third row. Close enought that gf abandoned Southern Man a number of times to rush the stage and attempt to lay hands upon Rockin' Rod Stewart. She was absolutely delighted, so I'll never tell her what I paid the ticket pirate broker for the damn things. Don't worry, honey, it was worth it :)

Now, Southern Man was never much of a Rod Stewart fan but (like just about everyone) knows most of his hits. And the Rodster put on a terrific and energetic show, performing a great selection of his big hits, a handful of covers (including a fine if somewhat off-key rendition of CCR's Have You Ever Seen The Rain), and a few of his new tunes. There was plenty of video to go along with the tunes - and, naturally, the video for You're In My Heart featured footage of, not babes, but Rod's favorite football teams (that's "soccer" to my US readers). The RodFather's Celtic pride was apparent; the stage curtain was the Royal Stewart Tartan and Scottish / Celtic iconography were apparent throughout the show. We even had a local Scottish pipe-and-drum corps for entertainment before the main event. Nothing like a little bagpipe music to set the crowd for a rock concert.

Speaking of the crowd, Southern Man will observe that the rock-concert floor is a pale shadow of what it was back in the glory days. The dominant demographic was forty-to-fifty-something - who remained mostly seated - and even the mosh pit just in front of us was filled with folding chairs. On the other hand, Southern Man never dreamed that the groups he listened to as a younger man would still be touring three decades later, either. He saw a bunch of them on the way up; why not catch them on the way down as well? Several are playing the local amusement park this summer...

But all in all, a terrific concert. Southern Man and his gf had a great time and we're looking forward to many more shows in the future.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Movie Review - Meet The Robinsons

Southern Man will admit that he's wanted to see this one since the first preview - any movie in which caffiene patches are worn has got to be worth something. And Meet The Robinsons was certainly worth the price of a couple of matinee tickets in spite of the lackluster reviews at Rotten Tomatoes and elsewhere.

This movie is best described as Back To The Future meets the Marx Brothers, with colorful and eye-popping visuals, absurb situations, and surprising emotional depth. The young orphan and inventor Lewis, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jimmy Neutron in both appearance and intelligence, longs more than anything to find his missing family. After his latest invention, a memory scanner, failed at the science fair, he's swept into a retro-cool future in a flying time machine by the mysterious Wilbur Robinson, where smiling people travel through the air in soap bubbles and new buildings spring from the ground from boxed kits - all courtesy of the fabulous inventions of Will's dad, the mysterious Mr. Robinson, and his fantastically wacky family. Once the film got going, the gags flew thick and fast - the only thing that didn't happen, as far as I can tell, is that Will Robinson's robot never said "Danger!" How the writers avoided that particular temptation remains a mystery. Without betraying any of the genealogical twists and turns, Southern Man will reveal that Lewis does in fact find his family after all in a most happy ending. And, much to everyone's surprise, tucked among the previews was a 1938 animated short (with perfect color and no visible artifacts of age - surely a product of digital restoration) featuring none other than Mickey, Donald, and Pluto that was most charming. And the new Disney logo features Steamboat Willy at the helm of his - well, steamboat. Southern Man wonders if they're worried about expiring copyrights.

If you've got young-uns you (and they) won't be disappointed in this one, so take 'em to the movies, relax and enjoy the ride.