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Archive for November 26th, 2012

As a result of a general defect of nature, we are either more confident or more fearful of unusual and unknown things.  –  Julius Caesar

Some of you may have noticed that my tastes often run to the unusual and obscure; as you’ve read my previous “favorites” columns I’m sure I’ve mentioned a few things you’ve never even heard of before.  So today I thought it would be fun to do a column sharing some of those obscure things, and perhaps introducing you to some stuff you might not otherwise have ever discovered.  It’s a big internet, so I expect each of these things will be known to some of you, and each of you will probably be familiar with some of them; if, however, any of you are familiar with all of these, please speak up because I’d like to recognize a fellow explorer of the roads less travelled.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if some of these things are much better known in some areas than others, so if you know of such a situation please speak up.

My Favorite Movies You May Never Have Heard Of

This list has to start with Witch’s Sister (1979), which some of you may remember from the list of my favorite movies (but probably nowhere else); however, it’s obvious that somebody besides me remembers it because I discovered it’s available on YouTube, though broken into 8 parts:

I doubt very many of you were familiar with The Night Walker (1964) before I mentioned it as one of my favorite horror movies, despite the number of big names involved with it; likewise, a mention of the darkly satirical Lord Love a Duck (1966) rarely elicits any recognition even though it starred Roddy McDowell, Tuesday Weld and Ruth Gordon.  And how many of you had heard of The Monolith Monsters (1957) before I mentioned it last month?

My Favorite Actor You May Never Have Heard Of

I’m willing to bet you don’t recognize this face, and you probably don’t know his name, either.  But you certainly know Paul Frees’ voice, or more accurately voices; he was probably the second most talented voice actor in history after the demigod Mel Blanc, yet his name is much less well-known to the general public than that of the far less talented Daws Butler.  He was the narrator for many 1950s science fiction movies (including the aforementioned Night Walker and Monolith Monsters), played a radio announcer in countless other movies and TV shows, and was the never-seen John Beresford Tipton in the long-running TV show The Millionaire, but you probably know him best as the voice of Boris Badenov, Captain Peter Peachfuzz, Inspector Fenwick, Wally Walrus, Professor Ludwig von Drake,  Frosty the Snowman, the Burgermeister Meisterburger, innumerable extras and villains for Hanna-Barbera, and the original Pillsbury Dough Boy.

My Favorite TV Shows You May Never Have Heard Of

My American readers are probably less familiar with the oeuvre of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson than my British readers, so a quick introduction is in order:  the Andersons produced a number of adventure shows in the 1960s whose actors were all marionettes, the most famous being Thunderbirds.  With each successive show, their technology improved; the puppets became more lifelike and the directorial techniques increasingly better at hiding their deficiencies (most notably their inability to walk in a realistic manner).  Their very last puppet show before moving on to the live-action UFO was the little-remembered The Secret Service  from 1969, in which comedian Stanley Unwin not only provides the voice of a character named after him, but doubles for the puppet in long shots!  The show only ran for 13 episodes, which is a pity because it achieved the same mixture of science fiction, spy action and whimsical humor as the Mrs. Peel episodes of The Avengers.

Another favorite with which you’re probably unfamiliar is Thriller, an anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff which started out with stories of crime and mystery but eventually moved wholly into gothic horror.  Though not as good as The Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, it still deserves to be better-known than it is.

My Favorite Musicians You May Never Have Heard Of

In last month’s Halloween favorites column I mentioned a song by a band named Renaissance; though my British readers may well remember them, most of my American readers were probably wondering who the hell they were.  Renaissance was a progressive rock band of the late 1970s which, despite its popularity in Britain, never had a single hit on this side of the pond (probably because Americans were too busy rotting their brains with disco at the time).  The song I mentioned last month, “Jekyll and Hyde”, is fairly typical for them in its length, complexity and willingness to tackle subject matter more interesting and challenging than love, sex, drugs, partying or teen angst; my very favorite song of theirs, “Mother Russia”, is a tribute to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn with lyrics based on his novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

My Favorite Candy You May Never Have Heard Of

Though I discussed my favorite Halloween candy last month, those were obviously the conventional sorts of things with which any child would be familiar.  But there is one sort of candy I like very much, yet don’t see very often; they’re called Violets and most people who know them at all tend to fall into two camps:  they either love them or hate them.  Obviously I’m in the former group, but my old friend Charlie declares that they “taste like soap”; I presume that’s because he thinks of flowers as something to smell rather than eat, but he’s not alone in the opinion.  I was very glad to discover they’re available online, because that means I’ll always be able to get them without having to find one of the rare stores that still carries them.

My Favorite Food You May Never Have Heard Of

Obviously, this is a much larger category than candy, and it’s likely that I cook a number of things with which many of you might be unfamiliar.  But there’s one dish I make often, yet have never heard anyone outside my family mention nor seen it on a restaurant menu; it’s the Hungarian version of a broad class of dishes in which chicken is cooked in some liquid in a skillet, and is thus related to coq au vin and chicken cacciatore.  This one is called chicken paprikash, and it’s very easy but delicious:

1)  Cook about 1 kilogram (2 to 2.5#) of chicken parts (leg quarters work best) in about 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of oil in a large skillet for 15 minutes, turning pieces to brown evenly.  Sprinkle pieces with salt and pepper, then remove them from the skillet and set them aside.

2)  Add 1 large onion, chopped up to the hot oil along with 1 heaping tablespoon (about 20 ml) paprika, and cook until the onion is tender.  Return the chicken to the skillet, turn the pieces to coat them with the paprika mixture, then add ¾ cup (180 ml) of chicken broth and ¼ cup (60 ml) of dry white wine (or just 240 ml of broth) and bring to boiling.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, turning the pieces over every 15 minutes, until the chicken is done.  Remove it from the skillet again and keep it warm.

3)  Stir together 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) flour, and add the mixture to the skillet; cook over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, then 1 minute more.  Serve sauce and chicken over hot cooked noodles, Hungarian dumplings or even rice.

Hungarian paprika is much hotter than the typical Spanish variety, so if you like your food spicy you may want to go out of your way to get some (though it’s still a treat either way).  Obviously, the best time to cook the noodles is while the chicken is simmering.

My Favorite Game You May Never Have Heard Of

I love board games, and have since I was old enough to play them; one of these days I’m going to do a column on my favorite games in general, and Switchboard  is one of them.  I’ll be very surprised if any of you who isn’t a die-hard game geek has ever played or even seen it, but it’s been one of my favorites ever since I bought it at a TG&Y store with birthday money when I was about 10.  Like all the best board games it is simple to learn, yet allows for strategic thinking; it starts out as a straightforward two-dice race game, but because the board is composed of moveable tiles the players can work to shorten their own paths to the finish while also trying to cut one another off.

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