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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Nice Guys (2016)

I wasn't sure about pairing Russell Crowe with Ryan Gosling, but in this case it really worked.  Jackson (Crowe) is a private detective who you hire for muscle.  If you are pissed off at someone or you want them to stop harassing you, this is the guy that you hire.  He is gritty and competent.  Holland (Gosling) on the other hand, is more in line with the private detectives that Perry Mason would hire, but with one caveat.  He is a hopeless drunk since his wife died in a house fire.  Holland couldn't smell the gas leaking, his wife didn't call anyone but complained about it to her husband, and when the house exploded, she died.  And now he drinks.  All the time.  Even though he is raising their 13 year old daughter, who is seeing a lot that she shouldn't, and she is driving him everywhere.  Between them they are investigating the death of a porn star who some very bad guys are after.  So it is essentially a chase movie with some colorful characters set in Los Angeles in the late '70's.  Light action movie.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bagna Cauda

This is a sauce to put on vegetables and quite literally translates to 'hot bath'.  It has a lot of umami from the anchovies and is easy to assemble.  Use really good anchovies, the best you can find.  this comes from the Nancy Silverton book Mozza at Home.
    • 3/4 cup olive oil
    • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 12 anchovy fillets
    • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
Blend oil, butter, anchovies and garlic in processor until smooth. Transfer oil mixture to heavy medium saucepan. Cook over low heat 15 minutes, stirring, occasionally. (Sauce will separate.) Season with salt and pepper.
Pour sauce into fondue pot or other flameproof casserole. Set pot over alcohol burner or gas table burner to keep warm. Serve with vegetables and bread.

Monday, January 16, 2017

White Sister by Eva Merriam

Oh, when will she know
That even though
Her sins are white,
The master double-deals her left and right?
Same master deals us black and white ...
Take up your hand  — what do I find?
A pair, sister — we're two of a kind.
White sister, white sister, why can't you see
Into yourself when you look at me?
(You stare through me as though I'm a wall,
But you need me to catch you when you fall.)
White sister, white sister, blind as you pass,
Take a look at me in your looking glass!
Back stair, front stair, oh look either where,
Neither has yet our full womanly share;
I've been taken downstairs, but you've been taken, too.
Face up to your mirror: you know that it's true.
I've been kicked down to the ground — mud smeared in my face.
You've been shut away upstairs — set on a wobbly base,
How quickly you can fall from a pedestal base.
Feet firm upon the ground makes a lot safer place.
Don't spend all your mind on making up your face,
Pick yourself up clear and wipe off your tear-smeared face;
Set yourself straight and take your proper place.
White sister. White sister, still blindly you pass,
Gazing alone in your looking glass ...
White sister, white sister, you'll never see
Through to yourself while you look through me.
White sister, white sister, why can't you see
You're seeing yourself when you look at me?
On all woman's flesh is the master's mark,
And the heel doesn't care if it's light or dark.
White sister, white sister, why can't you see
Into yourself when you look at me?
White sister, white sister,
You'll never he free
Until you take
A good look at me.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Our Brand is Crisis (2016)

Sandra Bullock does a good job of playing the under reacting political strategist, the one who does what it takes to win, even though she has earned the reputation of "Calamity Jane" because campaigns have crumbled at her feet.  Billy Bob Thorton plays the other side of the political strategist, the guy who tries to out creep the opposition, get under their skin and use their revealed weakness in that situation against them.  He slept with Jane in a previous campaign, and he thinks that he is permanently able to pull her strings.  She is not so sure that he can't but she wants to believe that she can resist him.
They come head to head in a campaign in Bolivia, where he is backing the front runner and she is for the corporate candidate.  She does a good job heading her opponent off at the pass and standing up to her candidate, who is stubborn as well.  But in the end she is not happy with the outcome and she stays to work with the opposition.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

New England Clam Chowder

I have a little bit of PTSD about New Years Eve, because last year I had three procedures and my bed was in the ICU.  I was seriously sick, and while I am sure that it is almost always the case when this happens, I was jarred by the rapidity that my deterioration commenced.  So I am happy to say that a festive meal was this years alternative.  And I do love clam chowder.

  • 24 medium-size quahog clams, usually rated ‘‘top neck’’ or ‘‘cherrystone,’’ rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ pound slab bacon or salt pork, diced
  • 2 leeks, tops removed, halved and cleaned, then sliced into half moons
  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups cream
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley.
  1. Put the clams in a large, heavy Dutch oven, add about 4 cups water, then set over medium-high heat. Cover, and cook until clams have opened, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. (Clams that fail to open after 15 to 20 minutes should be discarded.) Strain clam broth through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or doubled-up paper towels, and set aside. Remove clams from shells, and set aside as well.
  2. Rinse out the pot, and return it to the stove. Add butter, and turn heat to medium-low. Add bacon or salt pork, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat has rendered and the pork has started to brown, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove pork from fat, and set aside.
  3. Add the leeks to the fat, and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and wine, and continue cooking until wine has evaporated and the potatoes have just started to soften, approximately 5 minutes. Add enough clam broth to just cover the potatoes, approximately 3 cups, reserving the rest for another use. Add the thyme and the bay leaf.
  4. Partly cover the pot, and simmer gently until potatoes are tender, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the clams into bits about the size of the bacon dice.
  6. When potatoes are tender, add cream and stir in chopped clams and reserved bacon. Add black pepper to taste. Let come to a simmer, and remove from heat. (Do not let chowder come to a full boil.) Fish out the thyme and the bay leaf, and discard.
  7. The chowder should be allowed to sit for a while to cure. Reheat it to a bare simmer before serving, then garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with oyster crackers.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Still Here by Lara Vapnyar

I picked this one because it was on the New York Times 100 Notable books for 2016, and while I am not always in agreement about what is left off that list, what is on it is almost always quite good.  This is one that is set in NewYork City, which can be a bit dicey, because the Times does have a bit of a bias when it comes to books about its city, but this one is very good, conveying the immigrant experience in a city that continues to be a mishmash melting pot of people from all sorts of backgrounds.  The four immigrants in this tale are all from Russia, so there is a particular kind of story being told, through the lens of one culture, and one that is very relevant right now, given the talk that the American elections were interfered with by the Russians.  So it has a particular kind of resonance, as well as being entirely ordinary, in that all immigrant stories have a common underlying theme. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Miles Ahead (2016)

It is very clear, even before watching this movie, that Miles Davis was a complicated guy.  You have only to listen to his music to figure that out.  Talented, mercurial, and complicated.  We watched this in the early evening on New Years Day because we knew that it would take stamina, attention, and some amount of stomaching the bad in order to watch it.  All of that was very true, and completely worth it.  Davis is a somewhat rare figure in jazz in that he was widely known and admired in his lifetime.  He was considered a musician who could make the name of other jazz musicians, so he could never exactly tell who his friends were.  In addition, he grew famous in a segregated America, and so while he was revered by music lovers, he suffered terrible prejudice at the hands of the police and others.  It is painful to watch and remember that was the norm in the American South not all that long ago. And maybe coming back, given the racist rhetoric of our incoming president.  Davis was also addicted to drugs, and that certainly doesn't set him apart from other musicians, but it did complicate things for him.  He was paranoid and unpredictable as a result, which led to problems in his first marriage as well as problems in his musical expression.  I would recommend this movie, but also say that it should not be taken lightly, and no young kids.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Eve Drewelowe (1899-1988)

Eve Drewelowe is an artist who I had never heard of, but saw this painting in the Boulder Museum of Modern Art and really loved it.  So, as is so often the case, the artist has an Iowa connection but I learned about her not at home, but on the road.  She got her undergraduate degree and her MFA at the University of Iowa in the early 20th century.   If you like what you see here, then there is a gallery of images of her work on the University of Iowa web site that are well worth looking at.
I love this bold painting with both vibrant colors and dramatic textures.  It reminds me a bit of Georgia O'Keefe's work (no, I do not know what I am talking about, not in the least, this is just a personal and very unsophisticated opinion).  They were contemporaries at a time when there weren't a lot of prominent female artists in the United States at the time. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year Wishes

Happy Birthday to my wonderful spouse!  Here we are pictured, many years ago, on one of the many great adventures that we have had together over the years.  I love to travel and he is an exceptionally good companion. We have been on six continents together, and been to the top and the bottom on the world.  It hasn't been a great travel year for us, but I have my fingers crossed that we might be able to squeeze a bit more in as we move forward.
This past year has been one that I would characterize as harrowing rather than enjoyable, starting off with me in the hospital. I have been a bit more stable as the year progressed, but I haven't even finished chemotherapy yet, so the road ahead is still long and treacherous for me.  Since when your wife is unwell your life is quite poor, wish him well today and going forward.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Meddler (2016)

This is an interesting movie in that on one level it is very light and fluffy and one the other it is a somewhat profound statement on grief and moving on.  Marnie (played by Susan Sarandon) has lost her husband and has moved to Southern California to be near her daughter Lori, who is a script writer in Hollywood.  Marnie is grieving a husband of many years whom she was happy with and who left her well off in his death.  Lori is mourning a loss of a relationship with a man who treats her badly and she keeps coming back for more. 
Marnie is very annoying.  She calls Lori constantly.  She doesn't know what to do with herself and she doesn't know how to help Lori.  But she tries.  She immerses herself in things in an effort to find her bliss.  She gives freely of herself, and even though it is weird at times, she is rewarded for it and she moves forward.  She goes to Lori's therapist to try to spy on Lori, but when the therapist suggests what her motivation might be, Marnie takes it to heart.  She thinks about things and makes adjustments.  Lori on the the other hand, is completely stuck and she is completely unmotivated to get better.  She wallows in her misery about the loss of her father and her boyfriend.  It is painful to watch.  And it is not solely depression.  There is a component of denial involved.  Lori is a cautionary tale and Marnie is a beacon of hope.