Señor Skrillex and the Citrus Dichotomy

Four Courses Podcast - Episode 5

¡Hola! Up for some Mexican food? Sure you are! Well, you're in luck. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, the May episode of Four Courses is almost entirely Mexican-themed. Why not mix up a margarita, kick back, and go give Episode 5 a listen? It's live at fourcoursespodcast.com, and is also available for subscription on iTunes and Stitcher.

Topics include Tower Taco, the origins and variations of margaritas, the St. Louis festival for Cinco de Mayo down on Cherokee Street, the relatively recent trend of upscale Mexican food, and finally, a short discussion of the edibles we've got planted in our spring gardens.

Please enjoy, and mail fourcoursespodcast@gmail.com with any questions, comments, feedback, or suggestions!

Summer Movie Preview: June 2014

Vacation time is over, and I'll be sticking to home for a while. And speaking of sticking, it looks like it's going to be the usual sweltering, humid summer, so I'll be seeking out air-conditioned locales, many of which will contain technology capable of screening movies. Hey, what a great opportunity to see what cinematic treasures June has to offer! As always, let's sift them neatly into one of four handy categories: Must-See, Rental, TBD, or Pass.

June 1

X-Men: Days of Future Past: First, a correction. Obviously, this movie has already come out, and isn't weirdly being released on a Sunday. I just accidentally left it off of the May movie preview post, and will be doing penance not only by mentioning it now, but by going to see it on June 1. I don't even need the glowing reviews this film has already been getting; I was already excited to see it. The X-Men have always held the most allure for me in the superhero genre (and not just in in movies - I watched the show and played the video games religiously, too), so I'm giddy about this. (Must-See)

June 6

Obvious Child: A comedian goes through a breakup, loses her job, and gets pregnant from a one-night-stand, all in one day. It sounds like it has the potential to be incredibly annoying, but Jenny Slate, you guys. I love Jenny Slate. She's been killing it on shows like Parks & Rec and Bob's Burgers lately. And if I need any additional backup, the crowds at Sundance loved it. This one is definitely staying on my radar. (Rental)

Edge of Tomorrow: This is the most confusing of the movies being released this summer. I don't mean the plot is confusing; it's actually a pretty clever idea, in which Tom Cruise reawakens when he dies, and thus learns more each time about how to defeat an invading alien army. Emily Blunt takes on her first big action role as his...trainer? Co-death-walker? Long lost sister? Who knows? What's confusing is that the trailers walk such a tight line between looking fascinating and goofy. I feel like this movie is either going to be completely amazing or a total disaster, but I can't predict which. (TBD)

Trust Me: Movie previews is one of the reasons I keep up my subscription to Entertainment Weekly, despite its continual slide into becoming the next love child of Tiger Beat and US Weekly. This movie, directed by and starring Clark Gregg, would have slipped right by me if I didn't comb through the movie calendars they publish. And look how interesting it seems! Gregg plays a former child star who now struggles to hold onto clients as an agent for child actors. The movie costars Felicity Huffman and Allison Janney, and basically looks like it was tailor-made to my tastes. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it's received, and if it can live up to my expectations. (Rental)

June 13

How to Train Your Dragon 2: The trailers for the first one made it look like a pretty generic kids' movie, so I didn't realize how great it was until months later. So now I'm in a pickle. The trailers for this one make it look like a pretty generic kids' movie sequel. Am I being misled again? Or is this exactly what it appears to be: a straining attempt to recapture the magic of the original? I'll let some first-wave viewers let me know before I make any decisions. (TBD)

22 Jump Street: I am apparently the only person on Earth who didn't think that 21 Jump Street was a rollicking good time. So I think I'll leave the rest of you to enjoy this series, and I'll go start another Sims family or something. (Pass)

June 27

Transformers: Age of Extinction: I'm intensely curious who the audience for this series is now. It's not like the plot or even the special effects were ever that great, and with Megan Fox no longer around to bounce up and down in slow motion... Who are these Michael Bay enthusiasts lining up for tickets? (Pass)

They Came Together: I like David Wain, but he's not infallible. I was distinctly meh about Wanderlust, so no matter how much I love a cast, they can't always elevate weak material. That said, They Came Together promises to do for romantic comedies what Wet Hot American Summer did for summer camp movies, and if it can follow through on that promise, it'll be my favorite movie ever. With stars like Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Cobie Smulders, and Christopher Meloni, it seems like all signs point to awesome. I'm cautiously optimistic that this will lean more towards Role Models than A.C.O.D. (Rental)

Snowpiercer: Mentions of this South Korean movie have already been popping up a lot on the film podcasts I listen to. It's gotten awards and nominations at various festivals. But until I looked it up to write this entry, I had no idea what Snowpiercer was about. Now I'm intrigued. It stars Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, and Tilda Swinton, among others. The plot revolves around the passengers on a train that circles the globe. A catastrophe has wiped out most of humanity, and a new society begins to form on board the train, with all the problems and complications that entails. I'm not sure I'll rush out to the theaters to see it, but assuming it's not too gory, this seems like a good Netflix movie. (Rental)

Fuck, Marry, Kill

No, you haven't stumbled onto that game where you decide which celebrities you can't stand and which ones you'd like to bone! This time, Fuck/Marry/Kill is the status of four television shows that recently wrapped up their seasons (and in one case, their series). We'll soon be entering the Summer TV Dead Zone (also known as let's-catch-up-with-things-on-Netflix), but before we move on, let's spare a word for the recently-departed:


"Fuck" can mean a lot of things. In the case of this latest season of RuPaul's Drag Race it stands for "Fuck, yeah!" The best reality show on television continued its streak with a pretty compelling season, capped off with a much-deserved win. (Spoilers ahead!) Too often, the prize goes to a fishy queen who looks pretty but lacks much of a personality (that would be Tyra Sanchez' ears ringing right about now). So while I was sad that BenDelaCreme couldn't go further in the competition, I was overjoyed to watch Bianca Del Rio, a whip-smart, experienced queen snag the title. Condragulations, girl. And condragulations to RuPaul, whose show is clearly in the midst of a Golden Age.

"Fuck" can also mean "Fuck off," which is unfortunately the point I'm at with Once Upon a Time. I was never under any illusion that it was a terrific show. Even when I started getting sucked in, I could tell it was a Guilty Pleasure. Though the effects were often laughable, and the acting hammier than a pork festival, there was genuine pleasure to be found in the melodrama of the fairy tale twists they kept throwing at the audience. Then came Season 3, which was so...goddamn...boring. All of the problems I willingly overlooked when the show was entertaining got amplified a thousand times when there was nothing else the show could offer. The show is now teasing that Elsa from Frozen will be appearing next season, but it's too late. As far as I go, it's time for this story to say "The End".


As I mentioned in my Best of 2013 post, there was no way I was going to stop loving Season 4 of Bob's Burgers, and I was right. It started out on a weak episode, but quickly righted itself to easily become the best show of the season. The characterizations are note-perfect, the side characters are amazing, the plots are zany, but grounded, and the jokes are hilarious. News that they'll be releasing an album of the incredible music this show puts out week after week was simply the icing on what has become the tastiest cake I've had in a long time.


I hate you all. I'm sorry, that was rash. I just mean I'm bummed that more people didn't watch Trophy Wife, which was a marvelous little show. That means its inaugural season is also its last. I'll grant you that it has an awful title, and the marketing material didn't explain the premise well (young woman marries older man and deals with his two ex-wives and three kids and it's waaaaaaaacky!!!!!), but once I sat down to give it chance, I started to realize that it was actually kind of genius.

The balance of quirk on this show was perfect. As the titular (hee) wife, Malin Akerman was perfectly good, but it was the other women who really shined. Marcia Gay Harden nailed her role as an icy perfectionist, while Michaela Watkins' lazy earth-mother was responsible for most of the belly laughs I found bursting out of me every week. Even the kids, usually the weakest part of any sitcom for me, stepped up to the plate. If you have Hulu Plus, I'd encourage you to go watch the season. If only to join me in drowning our sorrows over the fact that such a funny, warm show got axed.

RuPaul's Drag Race - Season 6: A-
Once Upon a Time - Season 1: B
Once Upon a Time - Season 2: B-
Once Upon a Time - Season 3: C-
Bob's Burgers - Season 4: A+
Trophy Wife - Season 1: A-


It didn't surprise me that The Lego Movie was entertaining. That company's track record has been nothing short of stellar lately. What is surprising is how many rights Lego has access to. Shockingly little internet ink has been spilled over the fact that a single toy company has permission to put out products that involve, among other names: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the entire Marvel universe. That's not even a cash cow - it's a cash minotaur.

I had watched a friend play one of the many Lego-themed video games, and while I thought it looked pretty fun, it also seemed a little outside my realm, age-wise. Yes, yes. I know playing Cake Mania all the time isn't the height of mature gaming. But still, the Lego games struck me as only appealing to kids. When a sale on Steam dropped the price to five bucks, though, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to give one of these games a whirl. I think all of these games have identical gameplay, so it just came down to a matter of which characters I wanted to play around with. I selected LEGO Marvel Super Heroes from the list, and dove in.

From a story standpoint, it's a really well-written game, despite its simplicity. The bad guys have stolen "cosmic bricks" in order to build a super-weapon. There's also the small matter of Galactus coming to swallow the world. Little in-jokes pop up frequently, both in dialogue and in animation. The whole thing is breezy and clever. As to the gameplay, on each level, you control a few Marvel characters and work your way to a boss fight by taking out minions and solving little puzzles that only certain superpowers can resolve. Need to get past a camera? Use Black Widow to slip by unnoticed. A switch you need to activate is hiding behind a fire? Have Iceman put it out. Once you've completed a level on the Story Mode, you can come back in Free Play with different characters in order to complete side-missions. Stan Lee is trapped in some form of disaster on each level, and figuring out which character to bring to save him is lots of fun.

There is a problem with this game, though, and it's a big one. The controls are not intuitive, and they're not explained well. Why is easier for me to execute complicated spins, deflections, and acrobatics in Assassin's Creed than to get a blocky version of Mister Fantastic to jump across a gap? How do I access side characters necessary to completing side missions, and why does it require a Google search to figure out the answer to that question? I'm told that playing the game by hooking up a console controller to the PC makes gameplay a lot more fluid, and while that's nice to know, it shouldn't be necessary.

Overall, though, I'd give this game a nice, square thumbs up. It's definitely a great game for kids, and a pleasant way to spend a lazy afternoon for us adults as well. Later this year, I hope to be immersed in games that explore our rights to privacy, games in which I'll execute corrupt government officials, and games that hand over the reigns to entire civilizations. For now, though, it's nice to just watch a cubical Spider-Man quip his way through the Oscorp building.

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: B


I haven't had much patience with depressive culture lately. It's my failing, but I have to be in the mood to enjoy downers, and I simply haven't been in that mood for a while. So it says a lot that I responded to Andrew Sean Greer's 2001 novel The Path of Minor Planets the way I did. This is emphatically not a cheerful book. On the surface, it concerns a group of astronomers who gather on an exotic isle to witness the comet that one of them has discovered. A tragic accident in which a local boy falls to his death spins the narrative off into the characters' inner lives, and how they relate to one another. We check in with them at regular intervals, seeing how they've changed in the time since the comet last entered their lives.

Legends say that comets are harbingers of bad news and disaster, but all of the tragedies that befall the people in this book are decidedly man-made. Greer's writing is fluid and beautiful; the inner turmoil that the characters experience is aptly described, and their inability to connect on the levels they wish they could is often heartbreaking.

This book strikes me as having a very old-fashioned tone, which I don't necessarily intend as a compliment or as a criticism. I just mean that everything, from the cover design to the language to all the plot points (except one), reads like a book published in the '50s or '60s. It didn't capture the contemporary tone in the way a book like The Interestings did, but in a way, that's to the book's credit. It gave me a surreal feeling, perfect for a novel that wants the reader to loosen our ties to everyday concerns and regard the big picture.

From the comet's point of view, all of our problems are trivialities. But to our limited minds, we're always striving for a happy ending. Perhaps those happy endings are in short supply for this set of characters, but it's a bit freeing to realize that even if things don't work out for now, everything will work out in the end. We're all part of the intricate web of humanity, and if we never get the love we want, the career we've worked so hard for, or even a life beyond a childhood game of catch on a starry night, we're all part of the grand story. That very participation is something to cherish, and even if the novel doesn't put you in the thoughtful, pensive mood that it did for me, if nothing else, the next time you walk outside on a clear night, you'll feel compelled to look up and consider everything that's out there, watching.

The Path of Minor Planets: B

Rec Center

Towards the end of last year, I declared that Season 6 of Parks and Recreation was and would continue to be on my top 5 list of the best TV I'm currently watching. At the same time, I admitted that this is a show on a clear downslide. Its beginning drew a lot of apt comparisons to The Office, so let's make one more: Parks & Rec is still a good show, but it's time to wrap it up gracefully before it overstays its welcome and becomes insufferable like its big brother. I'm pretty sure the producers know this, and it's likely that next season will be the last. I don't want to give the impression that I dislike the show now, or even find it disappointing; like I said, it's still good, and I still enjoy watching it. It's just that it doesn't seem to have much more to say about any of these characters.

To that end, a lot of Season 6 is about big changes. Leslie's recall vote is only a drop in the bucket. A lot more focus is directed towards the merger of Pawnee and their snobby Eagleton neighbors. Ann and Chris decide to leave Pawnee. Tom starts a restaurant. And...stop reading now if you don't want to be spoiled...Leslie becomes pregnant with triplets as she considers taking a job with the federal parks department, which would mean leaving the town she's spent guiding for so long. All of these storylines are handled well, though I defy you to name an example of a TV show that got better with the addition of babies.

This show has mined a lot of humor in skewering American politics, and though there's still a fair amount of that, Season 6 is much more about interpersonal relationships than workplace situations. Never before would they have devoted so much time to what Leslie thinks of Donna's tweeting practices, or whether April thinks Tom has what it takes to run a successful business. Strong writing saves it from being too twee, but there's no question that it's a different show than the one that I initially fell in love with in Season 2. This season was also big on secondary and tertiary characters. In some cases, it was done masterfully (any scene with Jean-Ralphio and/or Mona Lisa Saperstein was gold), and in some, they went to the well way too often (Billy Eichner's Craig is something of a one-note character, and they struck it over and over and over and over and over and over).

That said, there were some stellar episodes: "Doppelgängers", "The Cones of Dunshire", and "Anniversaries" all showed Parks & Rec firing on all cylinders. The show took its biggest turn in the season finale, "Moving Up". (Seriously, stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled.) All of those big changes I mention above are nothing in comparison to the final scene, in which time jumps ahead three years. Leslie has taken the position with the federal government, though she and Ben have convinced them to relocate the office to Pawnee. Her triplets skipped infancy entirely, and are now toddlers. Michael Schur has stated that next season will pick up right where we left off, so good-bye, 2014! It's officially the future. That opens up all sorts of fun possibilities, and I'm looking forward to seeing where they take it.

Parks and Recreation - Season 6: B

Polish Hospitality and the Schrödinger Brunch

Four Courses Podcast - Episode 4

Hello! There's a lot of news to report in the world of Four Courses! We have a shiny new logo, and have become available to download from and subscribe to on iTunes. And now that you've got a new way to find us, how about a new episode to go with it? Episode 4 is now live at fourcoursespodcast.com (and on iTunes, of course), so go give it a listen!

Topics include the Goody Cafe, the Civil Life brewery, the wide variations of St. Louis' lenten fish frys, the uptick of dim sum's popularity, and finally, Kyle takes us out with his...strong feelings about flair bartending.

I hope you enjoy it, and please feel free to email fourcoursespodcast@gmail.com with any questions or comments you have about the show.

Summer Movie Preview: May 2014

I'm still wearing multiple layers when I go outside and I've been on the verge of turning the heat back on in my apartment, but never mind that! According to Entertainment Weekly, since it's May, it must be summer. Time is tight these days, so I'm not going to mention every movie that's coming out this month, but should at least touch on the ones that I have a strong interest in (or are strongly repelled by). As always, let's sift them neatly into one of four handy categories: Must-See, Rental, TBD, or Pass.

May 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Fool me once... Given how much I disliked the first one, I wasn't particularly interested in this follow-up, even before the advance reviews started rolling in. Guess what they say? That Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone have great chemistry, but aside from that, this is an overstuffed mess with too many villains. Hmm, that sounds familiar. It's time to squash this franchise with a tissue and flush it down the toilet. (Pass)

Walk of Shame: The plot synopsis for this movie dances on the edge of intriguing and appalling. Handled correctly, the story of a reporter spending the day trying to reach an important job interview after a one-night stand leaves her stranded and penniless could be hilarious. Handled incorrectly, it could be an annoying mess. This where casting becomes important. If this movie starred Katherine Heigl and Alex Pettyfer, I'd be running top speed in the other direction. But it doesn't. Elizabeth Banks! James Marsden! Gillian Jacobs! Lawrence Gilliard Jr.! These are all people I love, and I'm hoping that in their hands, this can be a great way to spend date night. (Rental)

May 9

Neighbors: Seth Rogen and his wife (Rose Byrne) are new parents, and go to war with a raucous fraternity house that moves in next door. So naturally, this one will include a metric ton of juvenile humor. That said, will it be the kind of juvenile humor that winds up being charming, or will it be insufferable? It's impossible to tell right now, so I'll keep my ears open. If word-of-mouth is decent enough, I'll toss it on the Netflix queue. (TBD)

God's Pocket: This is one of those films that I might not have been interested in, were it not for the people involved. The story of a man trying to bury the body and circumstances of his awful stepson's convenient death sounds like a chore. But when the man is Philip Seymour Hoffman, his wife is Christina Hendricks, and the movie's director is John Slattery, who has helmed some of the more interesting episodes of Mad Men, I sit up and take notice. I'll read some reviews and make a decision from there. (TBD)

Chef: Jon Favreau has turned out to have a pretty interesting career. Whether he's participating as an actor, director, or host, his projects are always intriguing, even if I don't wind up liking them. That, combined with a storyline that revolves around food, means that I've been sniffing around this film for a while now. Favreau both directs and stars as a chef bored with his overly-structured career. Aided by his son and an ex (Sofia Vergara), he rediscovers his passion by starting a food truck. I don't need to see this in the theater or anything, but it's pretty clear that it'll be showing up on my queue at some point. (Rental)

May 16

Million Dollar Arm: A sports agent goes to India to sign baseball talent. I think I'll just paste a little picture of Jon Hamm up in the corner of the screen while I watch an interesting movie, rather than sign up for this snoozefest. (Pass)

Godzilla: When I first heard this was being made, I rolled my eyes. The last version was terrible. I had no interest in the King Kong remake, and didn't see why this one of Godzilla would be much different. Besides, Pacific Rim wasn't that long ago, and that should hold me for a while as far as city-wrecking monsters, right? Then I saw the trailer. Holy shit, you guys. This actually looks pretty fucking cool. Having a cast that includes Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Olsen certainly helps, and if the trailer is to be believed, the movie has an actual sense of dread, instead of being a goofy romp. It's official; I've come around from disillusioned to excited. (Must-See)

May 23

Blended: Adam Sander stars as... Never mind, we can stop there. (Pass)

May 30

A Million Ways to Die in the West: I enjoy the premise of this one, which involves people trying to live a simple, peaceful existence on the prairie, but keep getting interrupted by the myriad deathtraps that litter the landscape. Unfortunately, just liking the premise isn't enough to pull me in, and there are just too many things working against it. I don't know if I can accept Seth MacFarlane as a leading man (thanks for Cosmos, though). The preview article makes special mention of the avalanche of toilet humor this movie contains, which, no. And with a title like that, I'm guessing it'll be too gory for me, anyway. This is one of those movies I'll experience entirely through other people's reaction to it. See you in the reviews' comment sections! (Pass)

Maleficent: Twists on existing stories have gotten a bit overdone lately, but I have to admit that once I saw the trailer for this, it didn't take me long to jump on board. Angelina Jolie stars as the titular evil queen from Sleeping Beauty, who like Elphaba before her, has a lot more facets to her character than wickedness. I didn't get a good sense of the script or even the storyline, but the effects look spectacular, and if there's one role Jolie can obviously hit out of the park, it's an ice queen. (Must-See, possibly as a Rental)

Wonder Women

There's an inherent danger in entertainment consumption when one of your friends is the creator. It can strike from either side. As the creator, you hope everyone likes it, but you worry that it will be met with a shrug or that compliments are insincere (even if the work up for discussion is, say, a fledgling food podcast). As the consumer, you worry that you won't entirely enjoy whatever work your friend has poured so much of themselves into, and don't know how you'll handle the inevitable "So, what did you think?" conversation. Fortunately, I can breathe a big sigh of relief, because I just finished Jeffrey Ricker's 2014 novel The Unwanted, and can say with complete honesty that I enjoyed it immensely.

One of the hardest things to write is believable gay characters. Their sexual orientation either completely defines their personality, the author inserts them into the story only to turn around and ignore them, or they come off as one-dimensional accessories to other characters. Madeline Miller has come closest to getting it right recently, but it always helps to have an author who truly understands what's going on in an adolescent gay kid's mind. In The Unwanted, that adolescent gay kid is Jamie Thomas, who has to deal with not only the usual teenaged pressures, but the pressures of being the only out student at his high school. He's tormented by a bully named Billy Stratton (who has his own issues), and his complicated situation does not improve when the mother he thinks has long since died reappears to tell him that she's an Amazon warrior and that she needs his help to save her tribe.

Melding a story about fighting mythological forces, a story about family bonds and reconciliation, and a story of young gay romance is akin to trying to graft wheels onto a dolphin, and yet somehow, Ricker manages to weave them together seamlessly. Jamie must navigate the dangers of both the American high school caste system and of angry gods hurling lightning bolts in his direction, and for that to read as completely natural and realistic is quite the feat.

You don't have to wait long for the action to get going, either. Perhaps I've been reading too many introspective books lately, but I liked that we didn't have to sit around watching Jamie (or any other character) agonize over their choices for page after page. These people find themselves in an extraordinary situation, but they all tackle it head-on, which I appreciated. In many ways, Jamie undergoes the usual Hero's Journey we've seen in countless stories before, but nothing in this book ever sinks into triteness; the ancient and modern components complement each other very well.

There is certainly no dearth out there of young adult novels that incorporate supernatural elements. Vampires and werewolves and witches abound. But what is unusual is a young adult novel that features a gay protagonist who must contend with war, parental resentment, and romance. The fact that he does it all without once ever becoming an insufferable snot is the most extraordinary thing of all.

The Unwanted: A
Copyright © Slice of Lime