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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Laggies (2014)

This is a movie about the phenomenon of floating, drifting, being directionless in life.  It is an incredibly gentle spin on the topic of not knowing what you want to do and where you want to go in life. 


Keira Knightley is the lead in this romantic comedy, and she pull sit off beautifully.  She meets Chloe Grace Moritz' character outside a convenience store, and agrees to buy them alcohol even though they are clearly underage.  They are  understandably grateful, so when Knightley shows up on Moritz' doorstep asking for a place to stay for a week, she doesn't so much think it is weird that a 20+ year old would want to stay with a teenager, but rather how she is going to pull it off. Moritz' father is more suspicious, but Knightley is so disarming and genuine that he comes to believe her, and then to be grateful to her.  The experience of living for a brief period of time outside her usual routine opens Knightley eyes to her situation and what she needs to do to change it.  This is a light and charming movie.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Reflections of the Founding Fathers

The founding fathers might not be surprised by the state of affairs in their beloved country today.  In fact, they specifically warned us about the threat from a two party system.  What we need to do is take heed, change our representatives to ones who are more focused on the people than themselves, and try to get a functional system back in place.

John Adams:
There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
George Washington agreed in his farewell presidential speech:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sangria Verde

This sangria goes great with a Portuguese meal, or on a hot summer day.  It is very refreshing and good vino verde is very affordable.

1/4 cup organic blonde cane sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
3/4 cup cubed green melon
1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1/2 cup halved green table grapes
1 lime, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime
2 sprigs mint, plus some pretty leaves for garnish
2 sprigs basil, plus some pretty leaves for garnish
1 (750mL) bottle Vinho Verde, chilled
1/2 cup white rum
ice
sparkling water
In a small, heat-proof jar or bowl, stir together the sugar and boiling water to dissolve the sugar.

In a large vessel, such as a 2-quart mason jar, pitcher, or punch bowl, combine the cucumber, melon, grapes, lime slices, lime juice, mint, and basil. Pour in the Vinho Verde, rum, and simple syrup. Stir gently to combine, then cover and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.

To serve, fill tall glasses with ice. Pour in sangrìa and spoon in some of the fruity bits. Top off each glass with a spritz of fizzy water and some pretty mint and basil leaves to garnish, and serve.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami

This is a great book, and one that I would not have read if it hadn’t appeared on the New York Times Best Books of 2014.  The author and the main character are both Moroccan, but the story takes place in the New World at the dawn of the 16th century.

Mustafa gives up his freedom for the sake of his family after his father’s death, and sells himself into slavery.  The first quarter of the book is about the experience of slavery.  Then Mustafa’s master sells him to a man who is going on an exploratory voyage to the New World to seek their fortune.  The trip begins with several hundred sailors but after one thing and another, the crew is gradually winnowed down to a few remaining members, of which Mustafa is one and his current owner is another.  At that point he is not exactly a free man, but his skills have earned him a certain amount of status.  He is good with language, he liaisons well with the Native Americans, and he is clearly a survivor.  It is a book that offers a glimpse of the invasion and occupation of the New World from the view of an outsider just trying to make a life for himself.  Well written and thought provoking.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mr. Turner (2014)

This is a biopic movie about one of the greatest landscape painters in British history.  The story of his life is not one of sweetness and light.  One reviewer noted that the word most associated with the movie is "austere", which translates to grim and very hard to love.  I think that captures the down side of the movie.  It is over two hours in length and however much you love Turner as a painter, you will not exit the film loving him as a person.


Turner the painter is best known for making otherwise unremarkable landscape paintings, many of the seaside, captivating by his use of light.  When he is not talking about light and the paint that he uses to achieve light in his paintings he is insufferably autistic.  His behavior is socially inept, insensitive and inappropriate. He seems not to be in control of his impulses. The combination of his awe-inspiring talent and the acclaim it brought him does not make him socially popular.  His sexual appetite is normal but his means of accomplishing relationships is odd. He mounts his housekeeper without a word and from behind, then moves about his other business.   Her interactions with him indicates that this is not an uncommon occurrence, and is in fact one aspect of their complicated relationship.


We also see Turner interacting with his colleagues, many of them landscape painters nearly as famous, at a gallery show, where he walks around inspecting the layout of the gallery, telling a painter friend that a woman's leg in a panorama could use a bit of highlight, and then startling everyone by painting a single daub of red in the middle of an intricately finished landscape painting—an act that another painter interprets as a declaration of war on whatever clichés the show embodies.  Turner is undervalued by his colleagues at the time, and it worries him not at all.  he does make one human connection with a woman who nurses him to his death, but the film brings up as many questions as it answers.  Perhaps that is the point.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Portuguese Shrimp in Green Sauce


  • 13 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup parsley without any thick stems
  • 2 lbs shrimp
  • 4 small whole dried chilies
  • 13 cup vino verde
  • salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Combine garlic and oil in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the scallions and parsley and pulse until the mixture is minced. Toss with the shrimp, salt, pepper and chiles.
  3. Put the shrimp in a large enough roasting pan that will hold them comfortably. Add the liquid and place the pan in the oven. Roast, stirring once, until the mixture is bubbly and hot and the shrimp are pink, 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Serve immediately with rice or with a crusty bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

This is the author of the Cloud Atlas, so brace yourself.  If you loved that book, you are in for a treat here, because few authors write with the vision and scope of David Mitchell.  If non-linear books with a futuristic focus and a touch of magic are not your cup of tea, this is not the book for you.

The story begins normally, with Holly Sykes, a love-struck teenager gushing over her first boyfriend in 1984 England. After a vicious fight with her mother, Holly runs away from home and reveals that she has a history of hearing voices and seeing what may be ghosts.  That is the reader's first hint that things are going to get weird, unless of course you have looked forward and seen that the book projects well into the future.

When Holly hears that her younger brother has disappeared, she announces her intention to return home. Suddenly, the action, era, and writing style shift abruptly to 1990s Cambridge. Hugo Lamb, our new narrator, is a university sophomore, who sweet-talks his way into bars, scams, and young women’s beds. Mitchell can impersonate just about any voice, but his mimicry of Hugo and his heady, horny Oxbridge classmates is exquisite.

The book bobs and weaves around the future, acknowledging climate change, income disparity, and a host of other controversial truths, but in it's closing vignette on the coast of Ireland it's aching and lightly brushed with the supernatural.  It is also almost enough to make one forget the metaphysical gibberish. It is a humble bow for a novel that otherwise displays just about every human quality except for humility. The Bone Clocks is altogether too much, but there is so much here that is so good, even transportingly great.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Imitation Game (2014)

The complicated life that Alan Turing led.  If this film is to be believed he was socially autistic and brilliant.  He is depicted as someone who accurately assessed his own strengths and those of others.  When he found someone smarter than him, he pursued the relationship relentlessly because he recognized just how rare that was.  In his quest to break the Enigma code, he was an unlikely hero, he enlisted the aid of another outsider, and he used the skills of those who were more valued by the military than by him to accomplish what was thought to be impossible.  He sadly lived outside the time where he would shine.  He was brought down by his sexuality, something that a child born today would not face.  What a difference a generation makes.

The ever talented Benedict Cumberbatch does a brilliant job of depicting this brilliant man who is just now getting his place in the sun as someone who brought computers one step closer to where they are today.  A very enjoyable, if sometimes painful, film.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Euclid Hall, Denver, CO

This restaurant sells excellent gastropub food that is not to be missed if you are in Burlington and are free for lunch or dinner.  My only warning is to try to get reservations in advance of your visit, because it fills up fast.  The other option is to go later in the evening for an evening snack.  We walked by the pub at about 10 o'clock one night and there was an active scene outdoors.


Here is what we had.  We started with the roasted cauliflower salad.  I am a big fan of cauliflower, and I love to roast it so I was hoping to have something that I could make at home.  It was served on a be of poblano and jalapeno marmalade that was fantastic and would probably require making it to replicate, but well worth it, with a bit of soft mild goat cheese chunks.  We had the poutine with duck meat, which was very good, and we were able to do a 1/2 order, which the server told us about but is not on the menu.  We did not try the beef marrow but have heard tell it is a special dish.  They make their own sausage and we did a sampler of that and it was fantastic.  While we were there, a number of sandwiches on the menu went by our table and looked quite delicious.  This is a restaurant well worth seeking out.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Portuguese Tomato Rice

 This is a delicious accompaniment to a Portuguese meal.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh tomatoes cored and cut into large one inch chunks (save any juice from cutting)
  • 1½ cups broth
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt bacon fat in the oil over medium high.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes with their juice, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add stock, bring to a boil and add rice, salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and after it comes to a boil, lower to a gentle simmer and cook 20 minutes covered.
  6. Remove from heat and fluff with fork before serving.