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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Carrie Pilby (2016)

This is a movie that, in the absence of having cable, i would never have come across.  So thank you once again Netflix for having an assortment of these sorts of movies.
Carrie Pilby is the smartest person in the room at all times but she’s too miserable to enjoy it. She is super smart, skipped three grades, went to Harvard as a child, but she never really recovered from her mother dying and her father ceasing to cope.  She has trouble dating and making friends but she’s never at a loss for words. And while she has incisive analysis on the ready, regardless of the situation, she has a harder time understanding herself.
She’s clearly lonely, despite the bravado she exudes to hide it, and a little bit broken from an affair she had with a college professor when she was sixteen. So her therapist makes a to-do list for Carrie to help her emerge from her alienation and find joy in the world: Make a friend. Go on a date. Do something you enjoyed as a child.  What ensues is a very enjoyable exploration of what being smart and different but not asocial looks like.  Highly recommended.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cassini's Photographs of Saturn

In the era of science doubters, or those who take what they like and leave the rest, it seems like a good time to celebrate some science. I'll call it Science Monday. Taken with Artist Wednesday, with will be a nice balance.

Here are some images taken from the spacecraft Cassini "moments" before it crashed into Saturn on Friday (which is space time means is was more than 300,000 miles away.

Before Cassini, we had only brief glimpses of the discoveries awaiting us at Saturn. Pioneer 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 conducted flybys decades ago, taking pictures, measurements and observations as they zoomed past. These missions shed new light on Saturn’s complicated ring system, discovered new moons and made the first measurements of Saturn’s magnetosphere. But these quick encounters didn’t allow time for more extensive scientific research.

Cassini changed all that. It began the first in-depth, up-close study of Saturn and its system of rings and moons in 2004. It became the first spacecraft to orbit Saturn, beginning a mission that yielded troves of new insights over more than a decade. The Saturnian system proved to be rich ground for exploration and discoveries, and Cassini's science findings changed the course of future planetary exploration.

 These images are startlingly beautiful, making the planet palpable and ethereal at the same time.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Indian Stir Fired Cabbage

Indian cabbage is somewhere between raw and cooked.  It still has the chewiness that raw cabbage has, but the advantages of cooking as well.  This can be served hot, room temperature, or cold.  Versatility plus!

  • 1 1/2 pounds green cabbage shredded
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 18 cup chopped green chilis
  •   salt to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  1. Put the oil in a wide, preferably nonstick or cast-iron pan, and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cumin, fennel, and sesame seeds. As soon as the sesame seeds begin to pop, put in the chilies and cabbage.   Stir and fry for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned a bit.
  2. Add the lemon juice and garam masala. Stir to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Anger and Trauma

I am someone who is more prone to sadness when trauma strikes rather than anger.  Both when my youngest son faced a life threatening illness and when I myself have been here of late, I am more likely to resort to tears than rage.  So in general I have a hard time relating to those who react with anger to stressful and overwhelming life events.
However, since the November election, I have been very angry.  And realistically, that was a pretty long time ago, but I still find myself uncontrollably angry at quite a large number of people who wither voted to put us in this situation, or simply did not care, or were somehow convinced that this wouldn't be so bad.  Or that somehow if you weren't progressive enough we all deserved a government that actively makes it not just possible but probable that the very rich will get richer and the rest of us are fated to do more poorly with each successive generation.
One of my sons asked me recently how this helped.  It doesn't help at all.  I am not advocating it.  I cannot get over it however.  I am still incredibly angry.  I have no desire to talk with anyone who votes Republican.  Not at all.  I have nothing in common with them.  There is nothing to compromise with them on.  Being a Democrat is the only compromise I am willing to make.  I hope for a candidate who has the charisma of Barack Obama and the politics of a progressive who can form coalitions with more moderate candidates and make positive change.  And hope I live long enough to let go of some of my deep seated resentment of those who continue on a path of what is essentially overvaluing what once was the status quo.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Walk Hard (2007)

This is a really very well done rock mockumentary.  My youngest son is taking a college improv class and the improv artist that he has been assigned to present is Christopher Guest, who did the classic rock mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap.  But the fact is that you have to be into the genre to fully enjoy this, otherwise it comes off as dumb.

John C. Reilly plays Dewey Cox like he has been rehearsing for the role his whole life.  In childhood he has a tragic accident where he kills his brother, and his father never forgives him.  He leaves home as a very young man to make his way as a rock and roll star, and he is largely successful in the money and fame sense of the word.  He cheats on his wife, becomes multiply addicted to drugs, goes through musical phases that come and go in popularity, and somehow in the end doesn't end up dead or broke.  The movie really doesn't delve into the seamy side of the music business, preferring to skim along the surface of the lifestyle. Diversionary fun with surprisingly good music.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Red Fin Crudo + Kitchen, Providence, RI

Wow, this was an unexpectedly great find around the corner from our hotel in Providence.  It was mid afternoon, we were going to a wedding that started at five, but just how long the whole thing was going to take was a bit up in the air, and the event itself was taking place at a library, so clearly it was going to be catered in, so not going to be a cut above wedding food as it was (which was an erroneous assumption as it turned out, but that was where we were going with a snack just a couple hours before we were scheduled to eat again).
This place is well worth searching out, if only for the octopus dish.  The plates are small and designed to be shared.  The portions are reasonable compared to the prices, and give you a chance to try a number of things.  The braised octopus is out of this world.  It is cooked at a low temperature for 6 hours, and then skinned, and then sauteed at high heat when it is ordered.  Tender, flavorful, and memorable.  Everything else was good as well.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sachihongo Mask, Zambia

This mask demonstrates more of the incredibel wood carving skills found on the African continent and the role that masks play in greater society there. It comes from a region in Zambia that borders both Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The mask bears traces of influence from its northern and western neighbors: the Luba, for its scale and circular shape, and the Chokwe, for its intense focus on the area of the eyes and the teeth. There, multiple rows of incised lines above and below the ocular apertures define the cheeks, eyelids, eyebrows, and wrinkles of the forehead.
Known as Sachihongo, this mask represents a cultural archetype, a hero hunter revered as an ancestor. It was part of a masquerade called makishi performed in conjunction with the initiation of young boys and their entrance into adulthood. Its performative appearance constituted the climax of the rituals, as it marked the return home of the new initiates after a period of seclusion. The mask's dynamism epitomized this moment of transformation, central to Mbunda society. What remains here is the wooden core of a larger masquerade ensemble: its appearance, fully costumed in knit raffia, holding a bow and flywhisk and moving to a rapid tempo, conveyed the vitality and supernatural powers of the ancestral hunter. The circumference of the mask still bears the holes that would have held a beard of fiber and a crown of feathers.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

The story of James Baldwin, yet another prominent, vocal African American who was a prominent and eloquent spokesman for what it was like to be black in America in the 1960's told against the history in which he lived.  He lived outside the United States with some frequency throughout his life because of his treatment as a second class citizen in his own country.  I really like how he framed what he spoke about, especially the lack of narrative about the role of the African American slave work force in the building of our new country, that black Americans are not given their due respect for what they contributed to the new country, albeit against their will.  Somehow that lack of freedom has been used to diminish their contributions in a way that belittles them further.  What we cannot admit about our history comes back to bite us, literally centuries later.
I would potentially have missed this documentary, which largely tells the story of his life in his own words, and in the words of his contemporaries, if not for the fact that it was nominated for Best Documentary in 2016.  Of the three nominees that dealt with race, this is my second favorite one, following 13th.  The winner (OJ:Made in America) comes in third, which is not to say that I did not like it.  These are three powerful commentaries on the current state of race in our country.
The bottom line is that there is an awful lot of room for massive improvement, and the footage from Charlottesville this year is almost identical to the marches of whites against civil rights in the 1960's.  No, we have not made very much progress at all.  This movie will seem like it happened yesterday and not 50 years ago.

Monday, September 11, 2017

History Shifted

Sixteen years ago two things happened.  There was an attack on American soil that shifted our thoughts about ourselves and our country once again.  It happens every half century or so, and this is the one of my generation, the post World War generation which had up until then really not had that personal an attack on our country, right in our very own yard.
The second was that my youngest son finished chemotherapy.  The lessons I learned stemming from that day are deep and wide.  The short story is that there really isn't much joy in the end of chemotherapy because it is the beginning of the waiting and worrying about recurrence part of recovering from illness.  With many cancers, my son's and mine included, you really only get one chance at cure.  So while there are numerous instances where chemotherapy just doesn't work from the get go, the waiting and the months and years to come are something to learn to cope with.  It is hard and important, because if you live like you are going to recur, then you are not fully enjoying the time that you have.  That is just plain wasteful.  Not to mention that it does no one any good.  However, it is hard to accomplish. So every year, on this important anniversary, I reflect on doing what is hard and why it is important to try to do it right.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

It has been a difficult time for Americans internationally.  We have a long history of being a country of immigrants who once settle in their new land want little to do with the outside world.
This is the story of Tom McNulty, which begins in the Irish famine of the 1840s. His family has died. He has stowed away on a ship crossing the ocean.
For a living he becomes a teenage saloon entertainer, dressed as a woman to dance with gold rush prospectors. Another skinny boy got up for the dancing was John Cole, fleeing famine in Massachusetts. They are friends by day and lovers by night.
What Tom has observed among the Sioux is that men can choose to dress as squaws at home but, in battle, still be warriors. This thought becomes his guide. He feels at home in a dress but, as a soldier, follows orders even when they are treacherous, learning that there are good men and bad on any side. He survives even when captive in Andersonville.
America, seen through the lens of the Indian Wars and the Civil War, does not come off well, but at the same time the story is as real and believable as it is gritty and shameful.