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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Terminator Genisys (2015)

There are a number of movies that have spawned a seemingly endless number of action adventure sequels, and my family of boys is drawn to these movies, even though they are not particularly good.  Well, I guess it depends on how you define good.  If it is premised on a movie being predictable, then in some ways these movies are very good.  The story is consistent and the content is populated with the same sorts of heroic deeds to perform and an overarching evil that needs to be defeated.  I worried that having not seen any of the previous Terminator movies in the series that I would be handicapped in following the plot line in this movie, but that fear turned out to not be valid.  It is a straightforward movie that is not particularly good so much as consistent.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

35 Years and Counting

Today marks 35 years in my relationship with my spouse.  We are pictured here near the beginning of that time, and in some ways it seems just like yesterday and in other ways it seems a lifetime away.  we were so much older then, we are younger than that now.  Meaning we had no idea what we were getting into, but we thought we did, and so onward we plunged into the future together.

The good news is that I wouldn't have it any other way.  Despite the fact that we are undergoing yet another cancer experience in our family of origin, and no one would wish that on anyone, I inherently accept that there will be hard times with the good ones, that all is not perfect and that life is not fair.  Now that the cancer battler is me, I guess I have to believe this, but the saying that is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, and goes something like this has always resonated with me:
"What lies in front of you and what lies behind you pales in comparison to what lies within you."
I only hope that I can live up to it.  Much love my dear, and may we cherish the years together.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bosch's Creation of the World

Hieronymus Bosch, a  painter from the Netherlands who is best known for his paintings of fantastical figures and detailed landscapes, did a triptych that is quite famous, known as 'The Garden of Earthly Delights", painted somewhere between 1490 and 1510.  This is that very triptych, but it is closed--open the two panels and the famous painting beneath is revealed.  I like this view, though, thought to represent the earth on the third day of creation, after the creation of light and dark and plant life, but before animals and man was added to the mix.  It was traditional at the time to depict creation as occurring in a sphere that was held by God, but I like the look of earth through Bosch's eyes, knowing what lies underneath is so much more colorful and fantasy laden.  Too bad that when you see it in the Prado in Madrid, you see only the open panel.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Cat Returns (2002)

My youngest son is minoring in film, and while his loves are narrow, the things that he is willing to experience in depth when it comes to movies is not.  This week it is movies from Japan and this is the first one we watched.

I am a fan of the animation style that this movie exemplifies, even if I thought the story was a bit underwhelming.  A girl helps a cat, and then discovers that he is a cat prince in a cat world that she is transported to in order to thank her for saving him.  It is well worth watching just to see the world that is created but it is not one of my favorite Japanese animated movies.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Chicken Mafe

The reset of the chicken that my father bought that we ended up cooking was used for this African dish.

  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken, skin removed
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
  • ½ pound green cabbage, cut into 2-inch wedges
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 12 ounces waxy potatoes, like Yukon Gold
  • Scotch Bonnet chile slices, to taste (optional)
  • White rice, cooked, for serving
  1. Finely mince 6 cloves garlic and the ginger with a pinch of salt, plenty of black pepper and crushed red-pepper flakes to taste. Season chicken all over with salt, and rub with the garlic mixture. Marinate for three hours or overnight, refrigerated.
  2. Finely chop the remaining 6 cloves of garlic. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the onion, chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the onion is starting to become translucent. Stir in the fish sauce, then the tomato paste, and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, until the paste and onions have combined and are a shade darker. Stir in 6 cups water, scraping up any browned bits.
  3. Add the chicken, bring to a boil and turn heat down to a moderate simmer. In a mixing bowl, stir a cup of the cooking liquid into the peanut butter, a splash at a time, to loosen it. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and carrots, and simmer 10 minutes. Peel and cut the sweet potato and waxy potatoes into 11/2-inch chunks, add them and simmer 30 minutes, until the vegetables and chicken are tender and the sauce is like a very thick gravy. (The oil will be separating in the sauce.) If the chicken and vegetables are tender but the sauce is still a little loose, remove them, and let the sauce cook down. Add the chile if using. Taste, adjust seasoning with salt and serve over white rice.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

River (2015)

This six episode series that is streaming on Netflix and comes to us from the crime drama genre of BBC productions is really different.  I am not sure if you would like it if you are not enamored with police procedurals but it is like none that I have seen before.

Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, who would have been a good Wallender, plays River, who is grieving the loss of his partner and only friend, Stevie.  He sees her and talks to her constantly, and relatively quickly we discover that she is not the only visual and auditory hallucination he has.  People haunt him, and they have since he was a child.  It is unclear if it is his conscience that is giving life to these hallucinations, or something else, but he is an excellent cop with a case clearance rate that offsets his peculiarities.  His new partner is not quite as sanguine about his issues with seeing what what no one else sees, but he tolerates him, and they are a likable team.  Very unusual and surprisingly good.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Coq au Riesling

My father bought a bag of thighs and drumsticks, largely because he could not help himself.  He cannot resist a sale, and so even though he had no need for them, he got them.  I finally had an idea of what to do with them, and took them off his hands after reading this recipe in last week's NY Times.  I am sure it reheats well the next day, as noted below, but we did not have much left over to try that with.

  • 8 ounces sliced bacon, sliced crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 10 chicken thighs, with skin and bone
  • 8 ounces button mushrooms, halved
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • 1 bottle dry or off-dry riesling wine 
  1. Place large flameproof casserole or other heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Add bacon, and cook until most of the fat has been rendered. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mixture to plate, leaving behind as much liquid fat as possible.
  2. Place pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches (do not overcrowd pan), brown chicken pieces on both sides, transferring them to a plate after they are browned.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add mushrooms, garlic, 3 tablespoons of parsley and 2 tablespoons of tarragon. Sauté until mushrooms are coated in fat, about 1 minute. Return chicken pieces, onions and bacon to pan. Add wine, and raise heat to bring to a boil. Partially cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 1 hour.
  4. To serve immediately, sprinkle with remaining parsley and tarragon. For best results, cool, and refrigerate overnight. The next day remove any chilled fat on surface with paper towels. Reheat gently, sprinkle with parsley and tarragon, and serve.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Furious 7 (2015)

Let me start off by saying that this is not a great movie, and if you did not like even one of the previous six movies (even the Tokyo Drift one), then you might be disappointed in this installment.  I hesitate to say that this is the last, because while Paul Walker died during the filming of this movie, they finished this one out with what they had plus some CGI, and there is no telling what they will do in the future.  there are plenty of action heroes in this film to mount a sequel.

The Furious team is reunited under the ever stoic Vim Diesel, and they are joined by FBI agent Dwayne Johnson, who has a relatively minor but memorable role in this film.  The opposition is valiantly played by Jason Statham, so it really is an action movie all star cast, and it does not fail to have endless chases scenes, frequent gun battles and the occasional hand to hand combat.  It was exactly as I expected it to be.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Fettuchini Alfredo

I have been having trouble with my appetite and keeping weight on, which is not a typical problem for me.  So when I saw this recipe in Sam Sifton's column on what to cook in the upcoming week, I decided to try it.  Well, it is very rich and quite delicious.

  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 pound fresh fettuccine
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Bring  salted water to a boil.
  2. While the water heats, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; saute until fragrant and sizzling, about 2 minutes. Whisk the cream with the egg yolk in a bowl until blended; pour into the garlic butter. Reduce heat to medium-low; stir until hot but not boiling. Keep warm over low heat.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta, partially covered, until al dente. (The pasta will float when it's done.) Drain in a colander, shaking out excess water, but reserve a little cooking water. Pour hot pasta into the cream mixture and toss to coat (still over low heat). Add the cheese and keep tossing gently until cream is mostly absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. If sauce is absorbed too much, toss with a little pasta water. Serve in warm bowls.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Love and Mercy (2015)

This is a complicated movie about a complicated man.  The subject is Brian Wilson, who along with two of his brothers, a cousin, and a friend were the 1960's LA garage band phenomena of The Beach Boys.  Wilson was credited with the creative piece of the band, and the movie follows him at two periods in his life, when he was part of the Beach Boys and then later when he was being controlled by a psychologist and was quite dependent.

The movie does something that is risky--it has two actors playing the character at two different points in time.  Paul Dano is the young Wilson and John Cusack is the elder Wilson.  The movie pulls this off quite well, and while it is very hard to watch, it is not because of the acting.  Wilson had a very abusive father, both physically and verbally, and even though the band fired him as their manager, Wilson remained quite dependent on his father's approval, which he was never going to get.  He developed crippling anxiety and at some point slipped into psychosis, the reason not being all that clear, but options include drugs, personality, primary psychotic illness or a combination of them.  In any case, the story is well told, and the mid 1960's sequences are a glimpse of the music scene of the time.