I was chatting with one of my Russian friends the other day — because, like Victoria Nuland, some of my best friends are Russian. During our conversation he referred me to this Buzzfeed video of Americans trying bizarre Russian foods. I, in turn, introduced him to the concept of a Jell-O salad. I feel we achieved some important progress in diplomatic relations.
I was pretty impressed with Buzzfeed presenting this in a somewhat neutral format, since it seems their mission in life is to hate Russia all day, every day. In the same spirit of mutual cultural understanding, I have compiled a list of American foods at which I feel Russians might look askance.
Russia: I present to you, as a peace offering, bizarre American foods…
Kraft Singles and Velveeta
I don’t know what kind of cheese Putler allows in your gulag, but up until I was about 20, I thought cheese was orange and came in two forms: pre-sliced and individually wrapped in plastic or in a large brick shape that had the consistency of something between a sponge cake and oobleck. See Figs. A-B
I can’t believe it’s not food!
I’m not sure what either of these things is actually made of, but I’m pretty certain it is not in fact cheese in the traditional sense of the word. In fact, the label says it is “cheese product,” indicating its non-cheese status to the consumer.
Note: The same “cheese product” composition has been placed in an aerosol can and marketed to the public as “Cheez-Whiz.”
Chances are if someone was a child at some point in the 1990s in America, his or her parents lovingly purchased Lunchables. Lunchables came in a little box instead of a brown paper bag and we assembled them ourselves, so we felt cool bringing them to school because we had no idea that they were actually made of Soylent Green.
Now, the main problem with Lunchables was a question of ratios. You got a tiny little package of mustard that you couldn’t open, a few stale Ritz crackers, a slightly larger ration of cheese product slices, and an enormous stack of meat of questionable origin. Hungry children were left without enough provisions to actually make neat little cracker-cheese-meat piles. Pair that with an impossible to open Capri Sun, and it was all very Dickensian.
Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole
People, this is not food.
I am from the Midwest, and most recipes that hail from that region start with a quart of mayonnaise. However, I must say my people really outdid themselves when they invented the sweet potato/yam and marshmallow casserole. This unholy mess usually makes an appearance at picnics and holiday gatherings. It is to be avoided at all costs. Elderly women will encourage you to eat this. They will tell you it’s delicious. Do not trust them. They lie.
Tuna and Potato Chip Casserole
If you’re from the Midwest, you will know that this is what you bring to someone’s house when someone in their family passes away. Americans actually consider this to be a gesture of goodwill and neighborliness. Should you ever have the misfortune to experience the death of a loved one and also be gifted with one of these, politely accept and feed it to your least-liked but still alive relative. The casserole in question is a mixture of a can of some type of creamed soup, potato chips, cheese product, and probably sour cream. In addition to a funerary offering, it can also be used to caulk pipes and repair leaky tires.
Note: Americans also use potato chips and cereal as a coating for chicken or pork. Bring some to your next NATO potluck!
Shake N Bake
If you grew up in a household where your parents both worked and didn’t have time to make potato-chip or cereal-encrusted chicken, they could always rely on Shake N Bake. Shake N Bake was basically salt added to bread crumbs, to which was added more salt. Busy parents could use this to coat any pound of theretofore frozen processed protein products. Also it came in BBQ flavor. ‘Muricka!
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Do not be fooled by the name. As the Rocky Mountains are landlocked and do not sustain any bodies of water that could sustain shellfish, these are not oysters.
Gentle readers, they are bull testicles. Given Americans’ penchant for deep-frying anything they can get their hands on, they are generally served breaded and dipped.
I am not casting aspersions on Rocky Mountain Oysters, since I’ve never tried them. I’m just saying they’re fried bull testicles.
This is a Jell-O salad.
It is a combination of a package of Jell-O, fruit, colored marshmallows, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and, in more severe cases, meat and vegetables. It should only be used as a Bat signal to summon all the 1950s housewives in Gotham City. If not needed for that purpose, take it far away from your house, bury it, and sprinkle the ground with holy water.
Dear Russians: I hope this has been a helpful field guide through the weird and wonderful world of bizarre American foods. Contact Buzzfeed to share your own videos and don’t forget to mention that you live in a Stalinist dictatorship devoid of Velveeta! The horror!
Lisa Marie White is an American who actually made Jell-O salad once. Like many Millenials, her interests include: disliking Baby Boomers, wasting time on social media, and trying out and then abandoning fitness and diet trends. To tell her she is a Kremlin troll, Tweet at her: @lisa_white
Rule number one of ‘Fight Club’ in China: The police always win | USA
The first rule of Fight Club in China is that the police always beat the criminals. The second rule is that buildings are not demolished. And the third is that if the ending is considered unsuitable, change it.
David Fincher’s 1999 cult film, which was shown just once in Chinese theaters during an edition of the Shanghai Film Festival, is now available on tech giant Tencent’s streaming services in China. But with a different outcome. Warning this article contains spoilers.
In the original, the narrator, played by Edward Norton, has just “killed” his imaginary alter ego, Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, and watches the explosion of several nearby buildings with his girlfriend Maria, played by Helena Bonham-Carter. The anarchist revolution advocated by Durden is underway.
In Tencent’s version, on the other hand, there are no explosions and no scenes of Tyler and Maria holding hands as they watch the destruction. Instead, the screen turns black and writing appears, explaining that the police “arrested all the criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding.” According to this alternative ending, Durden is sent to a psychiatric hospital, from which he is released in 2012. Screenshots of the new ending went viral last weekend in China, with comments mocking the changes. Although the film was shown just briefly in movie theaters, many fans have been able to watch pirated versions of the original over the past two decades, and considered the ending one of the film’s fortes.
“When a director comes to present his film in China, people will ask: director, why is your film so avant-garde that it completely dispenses with audiovisual language, ending it instead with just a poster and a story about respecting the law? Is it a satire on censorship in your country? And the director will answer: What? I filmed that?” wrote one user of Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. “Probably everyone in Ocean’s Eleven would also get arrested. And the whole Godfather family, too,” scoffed another. “But the ending was great! A bunch of foreigners in a terrible situation setting off terrorist bombs – a perfect scene to encourage [Chinese] nationalism,” joked another.
It is unclear whether it was Tencent or the film’s original producers who made the changes. On the Chinese movie review platform Douban, the original film is rated nine out of 10 and has 744,000 comments.
China currently has a flourishing movie market, one in which just over 30 foreign films are released on the big screen each year. In fact, it overtook the US market for the first time in 2020, due in part to a quicker recovery from the pandemic. And, according to research portal researchandmarkets.com, it is expected to gross $16.5 billion by 2026, annual growth of 30.1%, with respect to the $3.4 billion in 2020.
Within this market, Fight Club is not the only Hollywood movie to be changed. In 2019, scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody that alluded to Freddie Mercury’s homosexuality were carefully cut out in the Chinese version. While same-sex relationships are not illegal in the world’s second-largest economy, it is considered a sensitive issue and scenes portraying it are often, but not always, removed. Theoretically, they have been banned on television and also on streaming platforms since 2017.
Lord of War (2005) endured a similar fate to that of Fight Club. In its original version, the main character, an arms dealer played by Nicholas Cage, manages to escape prison and resume business. The film alludes to the fact that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – are the planet’s main arms dealers. But the version for the Chinese market, which is half an hour shorter than the international version, removes the original ending and replaces it with a text stating that the Cage “confessed to all the crimes of which he was officially accused during the trial, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.”
High Court orders man to repay €30,000 awarded over fall on slippery tiles
The High Court has ordered a man who fell on slippery tiles on the porch of his rented council home to pay back €30,000 he received in part compensation.
Mr Justice John Jordan also ordered solicitors who acted for Thomas Keegan (53) to repay €20,000 received in part payment of fees.
The judge made the order in relation to monies paid by Sligo County Council as a condition of being allowed to appeal a €105,000 award made by the High Court in 2017 to Mr Keegan over the accident at his home at McNeill Drive, Cranmore, Co Sligo.
Mr Keegan, who previously worked as a paver, had claimed the slippiness of the terracotta tiling originally installed in the porch, as well as the angle of the porch to face the prevailing wind and rain in Sligo, created a particular hazard.
In 2017, the court found the council was liable and there was no contributory negligence on Mr Keegan’s part.
However, the council was permitted to appeal on the basis of paying €50,000, including the monies to Mr Keegan’s solicitors on his behalf.
Failed to prove
The Court of Appeal (CoA) ordered a retrial and, earlier this month, Mr Justice Jordan found that the plaintiff had failed to prove the council was “in any way responsible” for the accident. He also found it “artificial” for Mr Keegan to suggest he was a visitor to his home, which he rented and occupied.
The case came back before Mr Justice Jordan on Friday for the matter of costs in relation to the second High Court hearing.
Peter Bland SC, for the council, argued his client was entitled to those costs but he had no objection to a stay in the event of another appeal to the CoA. He sought the repayment of the €30,000 for Mr Keegan and the €20,000 for his solicitors given the outcome had been overturned.
John Finlay SC, for Mr Keegan, said he could not oppose the costs order or an order for the return of the monies.
Mr Justice Jordan granted the council its costs for the retrial with the exception of one day’s costs related to the evidence of an expert introduced by the council “who made a difference” to the case.
It was unfortunate the council did not engage this expert at an initial stage in the case and Mr Keegan might have been spared all of this time and expense that followed, he said.
He also ordered the return of the monies paid out but noted that if the council had difficulties with that money being paid as a condition of it being allowed to appeal, it could have appealed that matter itself but it did not.
The court heard the accident occurred on November 18th, 2013, when Mr Keegan was returning home sometime after 5pm after visiting a number of pubs in which he had consumed five pints of Guinness.
He suffered a significant injury to his left ankle, with X-rays revealing a fracture to his left distal tibia and fibula.
The council did not argue the consumption of this level of drink was an act of contributory negligence but argued it as a factor in regard to Mr Keegan’s duty to take reasonable care for his own safety and in his conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.
Having heard expert evidence, Mr Justice Jordan was satisfied the unglazed tiles did not pose a danger.
Two fans sue Universal for $5 million for cutting Ana de Armas out of ‘Yesterday’ | USA
There are risks to being an actor. A common one is what’s known in the industry as “winding up on the cutting room floor.” You get hired for a project, and based on the script you’ve read and the time that you spend on the set, you assume that you are one of the characters; that is, until the day the movie is released and you realize that your scenes have been cut out entirely.
In the case of the Cuban-Spanish actress Ana de Armas, who featured in the latest James Bond movie No Time to Die and is on an unstoppable path towards Hollywood stardom, it went further than that: she actually appeared in movie trailers advertising Yesterday, a 2019 film by the British director Danny Boyle in which actor Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a struggling singer-songwriter who wakes up after an accident into a world where nobody has heard of the Beatles or knows any of their songs, except himself.
Almost three years after Yesterday’s release, two fans of de Armas are suing Universal Pictures for cutting her scenes out of the final version, claiming the studio engaged in “false, deceptive and misleading advertising.”
Conor Woulfe, a 38-year-old resident of Maryland, and Peter Michael Rosza, 44, from California, rented Yesterday on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 (€3,52). In their federal class action lawsuit, they claimed that they only rented it because they thought De Armas would be in the movie after watching the trailer. In the promotional material, she is depicted as Roxane, a character who becomes a love interest for Malik – that is, until the movie creators realized that this would draw attention away from the main love story between the songwriter and a character played by Lily James.
It is unclear whether the plaintiffs are as interested in De Armas as they may be in the $5 million (€4.5 million) they could take home if a court rules in their favor. The lawsuit states that the case is being brought “individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.” It also claims that “by paying to view the falsely advertised movie,” the plaintiffs “suffered injury-in-fact and lost money.”
Regardless of the case’s chances, the story illustrates a US penchant for resolving disputes in court with astronomical figures in the balance, as a first step in the conversation.
The entertainment news website Variety, which first reported on the case, noted the resemblance with a 2011 case brought in Michigan by a movie viewer who was disappointed with Drive, by Nicolas Winding Refn, which she expected to be a “high-speed action driving film” but turned out to be a tortured drama about a solitary driver who finally finds the right girl.
Cutting actors out of final versions is nothing unusual. Terrence Malick, the director of Badlands and The Tree of Life, has a habit of hiring more stars than he will later need on the screen. Adrien Brody, for example, showed up for the premiere of the 1998 The Thin Red Line, convinced that he would be one of the main attractions – in the end, he only showed up in a few scenes. But the prize probably goes to To The Wonder, also by Malick: Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper and Michael Shannon all wound up on the cutting room floor.
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