The 'Shroom:Issue 162/Critic Corner
Welcome to September, the month you thought was in the distant future but instead it's suddenly here right now, mostly gone with October peering through the window! While I personally have been incredibly busy not only moving myself into a new apartment while working full time, but I've been helping my brothers move out as well, all while one of them welcomed a new kid into the world! 🐣🍼 Uncle Anton is already spoiling the crap out of them, don't worry. Through all the chaos going on, we still bring you some wonderful reviews to help you get back, centered, and focused on what really matters--judging the world around you!
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as August's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!
To help welcome our penultimate season of the year, The 'Shroom is hosting our 2nd 'Shroomfest! What is that, you say? Well, click the link I so helpfully provided, silly! In that it will explain what it's all about, but basically it's a fun interactive debate similar to Splatfests where two hosts will lead two different sides and tussle for your vote. You can participate by joining debates and voicing your opinions, showing creative moral support, or by simply voting! This month's theme will be Chickens vs Pigs! Now, I work all day every day with hundreds of dead chickens, so this debate is very personal to me. Be sure to check it out!
And now for my regular announcements: We've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!
As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to Ninja Squid, our Stats Manager on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
|Critic Corner SECTION OF THE MONTH
|Anton's Half-Baked Reviews
|Flip or Flop
Welcome back to 'Shroom FM! If you're a fan of a) long albums, b) short albums, c) great albums, d) terrible albums or e) absolutely dire cover songs, I have some very good news for you.
|A. G. COOK - 7G
|This album is three whole hours long, made up of seven segments, each with a mostly clear focus (i.e. Guitar is mostly guitar music), despite some places that left me wondering why a particular song fit where it did. It's all largely experimental so there are some missteps you can forgive, and very eclectic in terms of instruments and genre so it's natural you'll enjoy certain parts and not others. The segments I enjoyed most were Supersaw (#3) with its huge and discordant synths, and Drums (#1) with its frantic, concise... uh, drums. Otherwise, Piano (#4) starts off great but starts getting a bit less interesting towards the end, and Extreme Vocals (#7) has a few duds but also some cool moments, no clue what makes the vocals 'extreme' though. I didn't really enjoy Nord (#5), which has nice synths but sadly weaker songwriting, or Guitar (#2) which just felt a bit boring. My least favourite part was Spoken Word (#6), where the songwriting is at its most bland and there's barely any actual elements of spoken word, so the whole thing feels aimless. It has its ups and downs, but it's unlikely anyone'll enjoy everything from this, and it's cool that Cook has managed to make an album comprised of seven distinct segments while keeping them so consistent or dropping his style. Tackling the whole three hours at once is pretty draining, though.
|Show Me What, Silver, A-Z, Car Keys
|BIFFY CLYRO - A CELEBRATION OF ENDINGS
|For a band who are so huge (over here), I'd never knowingly heard a song by Biffy Clyro up until last month. It came up on a slightly rock-oriented radio station, it was a fairly generic song. Nothing much to like, not outright painful enough to turn the station over. I'd never looked into them partly because they didn't sound like my sort of thing, but mostly because their name is stupid. But then they started getting harder to avoid, and I noticed a few of my friends who like the band talking about a new album, so, in the interest of checking out new stuff, I thought I'd give it a go. For the record, their general consensus on it was despite some tunes, it's pretty average. If I'm honest, I don't even think there's that many good tunes here. It's all just so... average. The best thing on here is the first track, and I can't figure out if that's because it isn't too bad or because I grew gradually more and more tired over the runtime. I mean, they can definitely play their instruments and I guess there's some nice guitar moments here and there, but there's nicer ones elsewhere. The vocals have some power behind them, but for the most part are a bit grating. There's some places where it veers closer to pop than I was expecting, like Instant History which sounds practically identical to a number of Eurovision entries I've heard over the past few years. So yeah, overall this is a dull album, nothing overtly terrible but hardly anything good. If you do want something overtly terrible, the boys have you covered. If I had to listen to that, you do too.
|North of No South, End of
|CHELMICO - MAZE
|maze - the fourth album from Japanese hip hop duo chelmico - is a fun and unpredictable album that has a wide variety of different styles and elements. From Easy Breezy with its loud, distorted guitar hook, to jiki which is more minimal and relaxed. Then there's the title track which is practically chillwave, いるよ sounds like the Harlem Shake, and Premium・夏mansion sounds like it could come from a Kirby game. Every song here feels really unique, and the band's style really shines through. The duo's flow here is excellent, there's a lot of interesting song structures throughout, and the production is generally very good. Not everything works, though - ごはんだよ sounds far too crowded with so many instruments blaring out, the aforementioned title track is far too short and never really goes anywhere, and the last couple of tracks are a bit lacklustre. It's a bit unbalanced, but the stuff that doesn't work as well doesn't distract much from the vibe, and as a full project, if you like one track you'll probably be able to tolerate some of the less successful cuts here. All in all, there's a lot of really fresh and slick stuff here, and it's a lot of fun throughout.
|jiki, Disco (Bad dance doesn’t matter), Easy Breezy
|DISCLOSURE - ENERGY
|Disclosure have been releasing some quite interesting stuff lately - such as Moonlight in 2018 and Ecstasy earlier this year - but I'm disappointed to say that I think Energy's, all in all, pretty average. During the first half of the album there's a lot of fun, well-executed dance tracks, the worst crime the album commits here is 'Who Knew?' feeling a bit rushed. The production's tight and the guest vocalists all feel perfectly suited. But then you get 'Fractal' (which is an interlude, apparently - which doesn't matter, seeing as it's two minutes long) which just sounds like the background track to a Spotify ad. And then everything from there on is just generally disjointed or lifeless. Take 'ENERGY', the title track, which is entirely built around an underwhelming sample and a drop that doesn't happen. If anything, the better tracks here are 'Birthday' and 'Reverie', and they're still a bit generic, and the guest performances have a bit less presence. There's some pretty cool synth work on these tracks, I'll give them that. Despite a fairly strong start, and a bunch of solid dance tracks, it's a bit of a let down.
|Watch Your Step, Lavender, Douha (Mali Mali)
|GLASS ANIMALS - DREAMLAND
|Uuuughhhh... it's bad. It's baaaad. If I have to say something positive, there's times where it's more bland or nondescript than bad. That's one of the best things I can say about it. In fairness, I've never liked Glass Animals. I thought the songwriting on their last album (minus Life Itself which is a good tune) was uninteresting but the lyrics were just plain dumb. But I'd take them in a heartbeat over whatever the band are trying to achieve here. The main themes on the album are nostalgia and growing up, and the singer draws from his personal experience (literally with the interludes, which are all taken from home videos). The problem is that the lyrics, beyond often being too childish or twee, are just plain unimaginative. Like check this out. He's just listing things! That's just a list! And that's even not the only song on the album that does this, sometimes the lists are a bit longer and focus more on vibes than specific objects but it's the same, disconnected ideas. The album does try to tackle some more serious subjects, such as a friend planning a school shooting, or another friend's mother being in an abusive relationship, but mishandles this at every step and just blends the singer's response into the rest of the album's immaturity. The response to the former is to compare the guy to Space Ghost (???) and then just say "fuck that shit", and the latter his narrative voice doesn't make sense as a child watching this unfold, he sounds more like some kind of rival lover. There's other problems too, such as the singer being out of place on his own band's track on Tokyo Drifting, and generally the vocals being dreadful, but all in all in this is a nightmare. Ha ha. Get it???
|It’s All So Incredibly Loud
|KELLY LEE OWENS - INNER SONG
|Firstly, I think the title of this album betrays it a bit. Inner Song? Sounds like an album full of dull ballads, or a late-00s country-pop album from a Disney show - definitely not a slick blend of pop and tech house, slightly inspired by ambient music. There's so many lush elements to this - the synths are absolutely gorgeous, Owens' vocal performance is beautiful, and she adapts well wherever the styles and genres shift around on the record. There's a general mix here of slower, more ambient tracks and bouncier songs with more tech elements, but I think both slot well together on the record. It's also great how the tech and ambient elements here don't feel superficial or shoehorned in, or distract from any of the pop elements - everything feels blended perfectly, and vital to the atmosphere. The weakest moment here is by far 'Corner of My Sky', it's probably the most outwardly experimental track on the album but sadly it doesn't really work. It's a bit too long and nothing really happens. But overall this really impressed me on my first listen and it's one of the best things I've heard so far this year.
|Melt!, Re-Wild, On
Young Jesus - Welcome to Conceptual Beach
Graphic Novel Review
|Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture
|Stephen H. Segal
Greetings, readers! I’m back again with another book review, and this month, our featured book is Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture!
I stumbled upon this book while I was on a walk through my neighborhood- a big goal of mine recently is to reach all of my local Lending Libraries, and this was a library that I had seen while riding in the car. If you want more information about lending libraries, whether that’s to start your own, or to see if there are any around your house, go to www.littlefreelibrary.com!
Anyways, onto our featured reading for the month. ‘’Geek Wisdom’’ bills itself as a sort of “Bible for Geeks.” Using famous movie, book, and video game quotes, the author connects them to life lessons we should all know, effectively turning a quote like “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means” into a relatable parable that you can apply to your daily life. Each entry is a short page, with the quote, the parable/reflection, and usually a fun fact about the piece of media it came from. This makes for easy guidance for "daily devotions," and if you are someone who doesn't like to sit down and read half a 500 page book in one sitting, check this one out. The short entries are perfect for pick up and put down reading, and you can read one entry at a time, or you can read a whole section if you like. There are no cliffhangers, you can read two pages and put down the book for two weeks and come back and not need to re-read those two pages to understand what's going on. Segal draws from a huge assortment of media sources to make the book accessible to many different types of nerds- book nerds, video game nerds, movie and TV nerds, you get the picture. From Lord of the Rings to Back to the Future to The Legend of Zelda, at least one out of the massive variety of media sources chosen will be familiar to you.
The physical book itself is also quite charming. Its small size makes it perfect to carry around with you. I tossed it into my work bag to read on my lunch breaks and it was lighter than my planner, and took up less space, too. The black dust jacket is covered in illustrations of various nerdy and geeky objects and characters- can't lie, I smiled when I saw Optimus Prime's silhouette right on the front.
If you're someone who enjoys references, or maybe you'd just like some nerdy humor sprinkled into your daily reflection, or if you maybe aren't a fan of reading, I would definitely recommend that you pick this book up. It's easy to read, easy to learn from, and easy to point finger guns and go "eyyyyyyy" at when your favorite movie is mentioned. Plus, you might find a new piece of media to check out!
That's it for me this month, readers! Tune in next time for a fresh Graphic Novel Review!
France - Paris - Food
Because I don’t want to flood this entire review with a billion headers of each individual thing, I’ve compressed them into what I got from each bakery I went to that was interesting or notable.
Uses choux pastry dough, which is just really simple dough made from water, flour, butter, and eggs, with steam used as the raising agent instead of yeast or whatever. It’s used in lots of things that you’re probably unaware of, like eclairs, cream puffs/profiteroles, I guess whatever you want to use it for really. The chouquette is just kind of a bread orb that fits in your hand, generously sprinkled with giant chunks of sugar. The flavor is nice and sweet, kinda hollow with a cheese flavored filling? Not really anything that’s satisfying in terms of lasting impact and flavor, but would probably be ok with a mug of hot chocolate. I need my pastries to act as a depression meal, though, and this is just simply too light and airy.
Brioche à l'Orange
If you thought bread was too boring, try adding fractured cough drops into the mix because that’s apparently what this is. Soft and somewhat dense dough, with hard orange pieces. I couldn’t tell if they were candied, dried, or just stale, but whatever it was it just really wasn’t a pleasant experience biting into standard fluffy smooth bread and having your teeth come into contact with mildly sweet rocks. Perhaps if it was made with just orange zest and juice, like other recipes seem capable of doing, it would impart a delicate citrusy sweet tang to an otherwise rich and buttery bread, but whatever Legay Choc did was just simply jarring. I’m sure it’s more a problem on my end with my own preconceptions, tastes, and expectations, as I’m sure Legay Choc has wonderful products; I just simply chose two that weren’t for me.
La Baguette Magique
Was briefly disappointed that the one I got wasn’t edible, but it makes for a nice souvenir. Made my dad proud.
Pret a Manger
I visited this one inside of the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet building, not knowing that it was even a Pret a Manger until I started fully writing these reviews out because it literally did not matter and I just simply couldn’t even tell due to how busy it was. Realizing that they hosted an everyday British fast casual sandwich shop inside of their recklessly extravagant food hall kinda cheapens the whole thing, like having a shopping mall anchored with a Sears. Whatever, though, because I waddled up to the counter and got something that I thought looked neat, and it turned out to be a canelé. A canelé is a little pastry flavored with rum and vanilla, sweet caramelized exterior, and doughy custardy interior. The whole thing looked like a Like Like, and sounds a lot better than it really was. Sweet, firm rubbery outside, kinda like mashed dense cake inside, but ultimately tasted kinda fake and dull. Given that this was the product of an international chain with a history of blatant deception and frozen products masqueraded as fresh I’m sure that this canelé was sitting in a plastic container until it needed to be thawed for display. I would certainly like to try a fresh one as the whole idea of rum and vanilla piques my interest, so at least there was some value in discovery.
AokiI talked about this shop a couple months ago, situated inside the Galeries Lafayette Gourmet building. This trip was not too long after my even older review of macarons, so I was primed and ready to try some more once I came across some that posed a shot at being phenomenal and genuine. Uniju :D (talk) confirmed to me that “ it's definitely different enough from other teas that like earl grey flavoured sweets would be a meaningful thing.” According to a quick search engine research it’s because it has bergamot oil which lends it a gentle citrus flavor and makes it more mild than regular black tea. Neat, that sounds good, and about sums up how this macaron tasted. A notable aspect of this one was it had perfect macaron form, likely an expectation from a basically-celebrity chef at an incredibly luxurious and opulent gourmet shopping world icon; I’m just glad it costs less than €6 total.
I stopped by Paul a few times throughout Paris and even at the airport. Paul is an international café and bakery chain headquartered in northern France, specializing in French products like macarons, beignets, sandwiches, pastries, all that you can find at any typical boulangerie in Paris streets. They seem to pride themselves on fresh ingredients, and there’s just simply not enough information or rousing of suspicion for me to question that. They seem authentic enough to me.Mixte sandwich
€5.70 for pretty much half a baguette, a few somewhat thick slices of ham, and some emmental cheese. Really not impressed with the simplicity of it, but I can’t ignore that this exact kind of sandwich floods every single bakery in France, and is enough of a staple to make it a significant portion of Disney’s replica display. It could’ve used some mustard or something, maybe a couple big lettuce leaves, just something that made it not so dry and dull. It certainly did fill my belly, though, so I guess I can’t complain much.
I really love pretzels, so when I got this it was a no-brainer to get. Neither here nor there in terms of quality, it sure was a pretzel. Tasted fresh enough, firm exterior, soft doughy interior. Just wish it had a little bit more salt on it.
A simple beignet, basically a donut, filled with chocolate. I got it because it’s my favorite thing to get at Disney’s Les Halles. This one did not have a pleasant powdered sugar topping, but it still was chewy and fresh tasting. Satisfying amount of chocolate filling.
Fairly large, easily three times the size of your average run-of-the-mill macaron, and the price did reflect that. I’m not sure why I get raspberry filled things because I only really like that flavoring in tea, but nevertheless I got it. As I could’ve predicted, the flavor was almost too sweet and tart, and had I not had the savory pretzel and beignet to scarf down with it I would’ve been left feeling like I needed to guzzle a gallon of water or my throat would cave in. Pretty respectable macaron other than that, though. They had a couple other flavors, like pistachio and chocolate, so maybe those would’ve been a more appropriate selection for myself.
€2.15 for basically a breadstick with some chocolate chips in it. Meh.
Some bakery outside my hotel
Pain au chocolat
Basically just some kinda pastry bread with chocolate pieces in it. The bread itself feels like a croissant that just kinda got turned into a ball, being somewhat buttery and flaky. If you know me, shoving some chocolate chips into something is an almost surefire way to improve it, and while this remains the case here, I just never felt it in a way that was..enough? Maybe I’m just a spoiled American with how stuffed everything is with chocolate that I’m just simply not impressed.
This isn’t your average Pillsbury’s premade dough tube, which is undoubtedly delicious, flaky, and fluffy. It tastes fresh, is surprisingly filling with only just one rather than having to consume the entire tube, and doesn’t leave me feeling ill due to not having a week’s serving work of butter in each bite. It’s worth trying at least one when you visit Paris just to know what your freezer section croissants should aspire to be.
Here’s a few things I bought at various supermarkets and shops and actually tried them out while going about regular vacation business.
Marguerite milkas most milk is UHT and thus not refrigerated, and that just wasn’t something I was willing to deal with at the time as my milk knowledge had not been refined through doing four months of research intensive reviews yet. Plus, I wanted cold milk, it’s the most refreshing and it was like 110°F outside. Eventually I found exactly one brand of cold fresh milk in one of the coolers, Marguerite, a fresh milk distributed by a dairy farm coop, not much unlike Organic Valley which I reviewed a few months back. The one I grabbed was the only one available, Lait Frais Entier, Whole fresh milk, 3.5% milkfat. A 1-liter bottle was a mere 1.75€, pretty much on par with the equivalent American quart pricing. From what I understand from the label and convening with Glowsquid (talk) on language peculiarities, they’ve replaced the standard pasteurization process and instead used microfiltering which helps preserve a ‘raw milk’ flavor, which differs from ultrafiltering in that the pores of the membrane the milk is passed through are larger. It tastes very clean, like Fair Life (an ultrafiltered brand), likely due to a similar filtration process, but has a noticeably milkier flavor like goat milk, or, well, raw milk, and is richer and creamier. I can also attest that it being chilly definitely made it more refreshing. You don’t know what you’re missing out on, France.
In case you’re interested in seeing what Paris has to offer in regards to milk, this thread here has a lot of opinionated people who apparently know what they’re talking about. The bottles tend to be color coded, just as they are in America, with red being whole, blue for 2% or skim, and green for non-fat and lower percentages. This one here is another good article, which is concise enough in case you don’t want to get lost down the fat content of milk Wikipedia page rabbit hole.
BaguetteBaguettes are synonymous with France, and a significant and required part of their culture as well as the entire preconceived notion of their cuisine. As such, it was something I absolutely had to try. a legal mandate to make every ‘baguette de tradition’ identical. Only wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast, cannot ever be frozen, cannot have preservatives or additives. Maybe it’s that I’m just not a baker, but I don’t see much wiggle room aside from quality and proportion of ingredients, which I guess can actually make for significant changes. I guess it’s just something you have to eat all the time every day to be able to discern the minute differences, which the French do indeed do. Like, if in this list of best baguettes in Paris the only differences between the winners and losers are the brand and organic nature of the flour, then why not, uhhhh, just copy them? Even though there’s reports and anxiety about the destruction of tradition in the face of mechanization and modernity, threatening the very traditional fabric that the French so desperately cling to in pretty much every aspect of their existence, there are baguette vending machines. Unfortunately I was unable to find any, to my great disappointment. If you want to read a lot more about baguettes, just click more of my links.
Because I didn’t particularly care about sampling a baguette from every bakery I walked past, I only got them from two places: Franprix, and Marché Bastille. The baguette from Franprix, nice and soft interior, firm and glossy exterior. Easy to eat on the go. Tastes natural and not mass produced. According to the label: certified organic, french flour, ‘cultivated with focus on the preservation of the environment’, use stone mills to crush the grains. It’s made from wheat, despite the fact that the word ‘blé’ is there; it suspiciously means both ‘corn’ and ‘wheat’ despite the speakers of the language being wildly particular about the use of one over the other. As Glowsquid (talk) jests, “mais ouais, les caprices et l'hypocrisie de la langue.”
The vendor I went to at Marché Bastille, Monsieur Bruno Plaisance, had all kinds of bread, but I had no idea what any of them were and didn’t want to risk it when this was a place where absolutely no English was spoken and nothing was labeled. Their baguette had noticeably fresher dough, but a much stiffer crust. I mean, it was good, but what else can I say?
It’s just bread.
It’s just water. I’m including this as a section because it’s remarkable enough to make note. Evian is like 60 cents for 1.5 liters, easily a quarter of the price you can get it here. That’s right, the brand of water in America that’s synonymous with being overpriced is dirt cheap in Paris. I guess that’s what happens when your water source is nearby, but even with that, comparably closer water sources in places I’ve lived in America don’t drive the price down that much. Water is just simply impressively cheap in Paris, and essentially becomes a lifeline dipping into a Franprix to grab a nice chilly bottle every couple hours. There’s an incredible amount of grifters on the streets near sight-seeing landmarks and tourist hotspots selling bottles of water sitting in buckets of ice for €1-2 each, when you can easily walk a minute to a nearby Franprix or another grocery store and get a case for the same price, without the superstitious health concerns or worrying about interacting with people.
Lays Saveur Moutarde Pickles
Orangina RougeWay back in Issue 141, when I was really starting to take this section a bit more seriously, I tried Orangina, a lightly carbonated orange soda with pulp that basically tasted like orange juice with some fizz. Orangina Rouge is blood orange flavored, which is a variant of oranges that supposedly have a stronger tart and sweet flavor. This drink tastes more like grapefruit, which I’m not complaining about because grapefruit is pretty good, but it’s definitely not orange. Not nearly as much pulp as I remember the brand having, but it is visually noticeable if you let it settle.
The ad for it keeps up with their standard of bizarre, as you can see in this one featuring a typical drive through Parisian suburb Saint-Denis. The throwback to Issue 141 also reminded me to check up on food review icon SNAKIN WORLD, to see that he has rebranded to SNACKIN WORLD. Me on my break trying to make a candy bar seem like a full meal while ignoring the multiple people trying to talk to me as if I’m still on the clock.
LimonadeLimonade is different from lemonade primarily in that it is carbonated. It’s basically Sprite, but not necessarily with all the corn syrup and additives, and just simply sparkling lemonade or soda water with lemon juice. So, yeah, Sprite that won’t make your teeth sticky.
You can definitely find this at Whole Foods and The Fresh Market and other upscale grocery stores, perhaps even if you have an Italian specialty market nearby, but it’s ubiquitous in western Europe. Expect what you’d find in America to either suffer from massive import rates, or massive snob and pomp rates, so if you desperately need your fix just spend 50 cents on a 2L bottle of Sprite and let it go slightly flat. If you’re lucky enough to live near an area gentrified enough to host a Trader Joe’s, they have a French Market Sparkling Lemonade that only costs $2.99 for a 1L bottle that they forced into being labeled as 33.8oz. It tastes like what you’d get in France, if just a bit harsher with the carbonation, but it works. Here’s a good article that list all of the different things different countries refer to as lemonade because for some reason that’s a thing that happened across languages, just when you thought “le ver vert va vers le verre vert” and “quatre-vingt-dix-neuf” were enough.
Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Also, tell me what to review next! You can tell me to do can also be movies, shows, physical actions, trying new foods, music, literally anything and I’ll cover it eventually if it’s not too ridiculous. Just send me a message here on my talk page or PM it to me on the forum. Don't like what I have to say? That's fine, and probably bound to happen because I've been told about how much people like Super Mario 64 and how they feel about any criticism of it! We at Critic Corner will welcome your alternate review of it as a new section for the next issue!
|The 'Shroom: Issue 162
|Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • 'Shroomfest
|Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner • Strategy Wing