Saturday, February 28, 2015
On his way out of town to the funeral we get a glimpse into Hanks home life--he loves his daughter, and his wife has tired of his absent lifestyle but rather than deal with it she has slept with someone else and they are divorcing. At Hank's home it is clear that he and his father have old grudges that are not going away any time soon, and his brother's are caught in the middle. But they stayed near home and Hank headed for the hills. He is odd man out in the family in many ways, but the person he seems closest to in personality is his much loathed father.
The film unrolls in a predictable old-fashioned way where we learn why the son hates the father, and why the father can't apologize to the son (which he should of, but he doesn't). They film does not touch the very damaged relationship between Hank and his older brother, but that is the constraints of the medium. The film is long at 2.5 hours, but I didn't get restless for it to be over, and I found it well done.
Friday, February 27, 2015
The author had an influential position in the Venezuelan government prior to Hugo Chavez, and it is hard to imagine that what happened in his country didn't influence his world view. The book first describes what power is, and how it has coercive components are well as ways to incentivize compliance. He describes the rise of power, and what has happened in later later half of the 20th century into the 21st century to erode the power base of both companies and governments. He is not predicting the end of control in traditional establishments such church and state, but rather that they have less influence than in the past. The author attributes this to the emergence of social media and the ability of people who want change to connect with each other in a way that is unprecedented combined with the increasing globalization of the world economy. Dominance is no longer possible, and there are two things to take away from this. The first is that voting and staying engaged is very important, more so than at any other time in history, and acknowledging and accepting that no government will be the dominant force it might once have been. A quick and interesting read.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I would recommend trying several options amongst diners in order to sample the cuisine.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Now Maggie is no paragon of mental health either--she is pictured in the bathroom about to take a handful of pills when she gets the call that Milo needs her. They come by their dysphoria honestly. Their father committed suicide when they were 14 and their mother is the epitome of self-centeredness. Not up to the task of shepherding her children through adolescence, much less trauma. The movies is about the complicated path back to friendship that the twins manage to eventually negotiate. Nicely done, if sad.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
One of the things I would recommend doing in Oaxaca is to take a cooking class. I took one with Susana Trilling at Seasons of My Heart last time, and this time my spouse and I took one with Pilar Cabrera. Both of the classes were excellent and both of them take the class to the market to get to know the food you are going to cook and the people who grow it.
Pilar's class meets at her restaurant in el centro de Oaxaca called Las Ollas, and from there proceeds to the market, and then to her house for the food preparation and the meal.
We made a quesadilla appetizer filled with squash blossoms, thinly sliced red onions, fresh epazote, and fresh Oaxacan cheese (which is wild to find in the market because it is all rolled up in a ball that resembles a ball of yarn, and the cheese is unwound from the ball to cook with it). The end result was outstanding, but the truth is that we have squash blossoms a tiny fraction of the year and reproducing this at home is going to be an uncommon event. The best part was that while we bought the fresh masa from the market, we learned the consistency with which to make the masa in order to have the tortillas come out right and we cooked them. When we got home we found out two things--our local Mexican groceria has fresh masa, and we are not too bad at making it ourselves from masa harina. We bought both a ceramic and a metal comal (the surface on which you cook the tortillas) so we have the ability to make them the traditional way.
The Sopa de Lima was the second course. Limas are not widely available in Iowa (they are somewhere between a lime and an orange), but it may be possible to substitute. The soup is delicious and light. We also had cochinita pibil, a marinated pork dish that is cooked in banana leaves and also quite delicious. The entire experience was fun, enough hands on to learn something, and to top it off, there was a mescal tasting to round out the afternoon. Since we have been home we have used the skills that we learned in this class, which is a testament to the quality of the teacher.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Shredded pork or beef that is spiced
The garnacha base is made with fresh masa, which can be bought at a Latin grocery store or made with masa harina. If you make it, be sure to let it sit for a while so the corn flour can fully rehydrate and you can get the texture of the dough right. It should not crack when you knead it and if it does crack, you can add a bit more water. Rick Bayless' version starts with fresh masa, but he adds shortening or lard and a bit of sugar. The disks are flattened like tortillas, but left about twice as thick and instead of cooking them on a griddle or a comal, you fry them in oil until they are browned and crisp on the outside. They will still be a bit moist on the inside. Once they are done, you top them with the meat, a bit of salsa, and then queso freco sprinkled on top. Serve it with a freshly pickled cabbage as an appetizer. Phenomenal!
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Adele (Winslet) is a fragile woman with phobic traits who lives almost entirely within the four walls of her house. She ventures out with her son Henry to shop when it is absolutely necessary and it is only with great effort and anxiety that she manages that. We find out that she has had numerous miscarriages and the sadness of that endless loss broke up her marriage, but she strikes me as someone who was anxious even before that. It is on one of her grocery trips that she and Henry are more or less abducted by Frank, an escaped prisoner convicted of murdering his wife. His plan is to hole up with them until he can catch a train out of town. Unfortunately for him it is Labor Day weekend and so he is stuck there for days rather than hours, and over that time Adele becomes quite fond of him. He cooks, he cleans, he fixes things. He teaches Henry to play baseball and make pie. He is tightly wound and violence simmers beneath his surface, but he has something in him that makes Adele brave, braver than she has been in years. All does not go well in the short run, but the long run is another story altogether.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 onion, minced (about 1 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups stock
- 1 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme plus thyme leaves for garnish
- 1 tablespoon butter
Heat oil in a large heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place chicken in Dutch oven and cook until brown on both sides, 12-15 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Place leeks and onion in same pot and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, wine, Dijon mustard, and minced thyme and bring to a simmer. Return chicken to pot. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.
Transfer chicken to plates. Bring liquid in pot to a boil; cook until sauce is thickened and glossy, about 15 minutes. Whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with thyme leaves.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The reason to watch this film, which is well under an hour in length, is not so much for the story line but for the lush scenery that is the hallmark of Japanese animation. The people's faces are so undetailed as to be anonymous but the landscape and the rain are just spectacular, the best I have ever seen.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The main character, somewhat annoyingly referred to as "the wife", is a wickedly funny and poignantly vulnerable woman. It is annoying because she is so not the wife, other than that she was married. That is almost the last thing that she is. Which is a good thing. It may be ironic, now that I think about it, because she falls so far outside the prim and proper boundaries of wifehood. I love that because there is almost nothing about me that fits well into the mold that word conveys, and she is entirely out there about it.
The story opens with a chronicle of her early adult years, including marriage and the birth of her daughter, giving the reader a rare window into the character’s insecurity and hesitance. It’s a simple premise, elegantly conveyed with spartan prose; life is full of twists, bumps, disappointments and personal tragedies, often with only a modest helping of joy on the side. It’s that chronic rift between what we want, or thought we would have, what we ended up with, and how we made peace with that, or we didn’t. A quick and restless book that lands well.
Monday, February 16, 2015
My youngest son is taking a film class that is entirely made up of films that are odd adaptations of novels, and this certainly fits the bill. It is a film about the making of a film based on a novel about the writing of a novel. There are frequent breakings of the fourth wall, and even a fifth one. The movie is within itself so often that it is hard to see how many mirrors we are reflecting off of, and Steve Coogan is the perfect actor to pull the whole thing off brilliantly. Download the first 10 or so chapters of the book off of any number of websites that offer both the text and the audio version free of charge and then watch this movie. It is an adventure in slow motion.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
- 2 ½ lbs bok choy
- 2 ½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 ½ tablespoons minced scallions, white part only
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon hot chili paste or dried chili flakes
Wash and trim the bok choy. Cut the leaves along the length in half
and then into 2 inch sections. Cut the stems into 2 inch pieces. Toss
the fresh ginger and scallions with the bok choy in a bowl. Arrange bok
choy mixture on a heat proof plate or parchment or wax paper covered
steam basket (see note below)
Place the bok choy in the steamer and steam 5 to 6 minutes, or until the
bok choy is tender. Arrange the steamed bok choy on a serving platter,
spoon the dressing on top, and serve.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
If there is any pleasure for a man in remembering former
good deeds, when he thinks himself to be dutiful,
nor to have violated a sacred trust, nor in any contract
of the gods abused divine power to deceive men,
much joy remains for you, Catullus, in this long life,
furnished from this thankless love.
For whatever man can either say or do well
for anyone, this has been said and done by you:
having been entrusted to an ungrateful heart, all that perished.
Therefore, why do you now suffer more?
Why not be obstinate in your mind and bring yourself back from thence
and cease to be unhappy in front of the unwilling gods.
It is difficult to set aside a longstanding love.
it is difficult, but let us do it at any hazard.
This is the only safety, and you must overcome this,
whether it is not possible or it is possible.
O gods, if it is your will to have pity,
or if you have ever brought your help to any already
at the extreme, in death itself, look upon my unhappiness and,
if I have lived life in a pure manner,
remove this plague and ruin from me,
which stealing upon me inmost as a lethargy in my limbs
expelled the happiness from all my heart.
I no longer ask for that, that she chooses me in return,
or, because it is not possible, she chooses to be chaste:
I wish that I myself be healthy and put aside this horrible disease.
O gods, give this back to me for my piety.
Friday, February 13, 2015
I do like the move that Allen has made to Europe, with a mixture of American and European actors. This movie is set in his favored time period, the first half of the 20th century, and most of the action takes place in the south of France. It is 1928, and the magician Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) is enjoying widespread acclaim in the guise his stage persona, the Chinese conjurer Wei Ling Soo. He has the added protection of an elaborate costume to protect him from being widely recognized in public, which works both for and against him. He is a man with many talents, but he is an insufferable and arrogant man who is so absorbed with his righteousness that he is oblivious to the discontent that he sows around him. Stanley despises claims by phony spiritualists that they can perform real magic and he gleefully unmasks them. He knows every trick in the book, except one. He inadvertently trusts the wrong man. At the behest of his friend, Stanley he travels to the Côte d'Azur to expose a young medium named Sophie (Emma Stone). However, Stanley gets conned, at least for a while. He is surprised, shaken, and amazingly gracious when confronted with evidence that Sophie's gifts may be real. The movie has a good supporting cast in Hamish Linklater and Marcia Gay Linklater, both of whom were in The Newsroom together. It rolls to a gentle and witty ending and is quite enjoyable.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups masa harina (9 ounces by weight)
- 1 ½ cups water or a bit more if the air is very dry
- 12 ounces chihuahua or mozzarella cheese, grated
- Vegetable oil, as needed
- Curtido, for serving (see below for recipe)
- In a large bowl, mix the salt well into the masa harina. With your hands, knead the water into the masa harina in a few additions; work in all the water evenly. The dough will feel like stiff mashed potatoes and should hold together without cracking. Lay a 12-inch square of a plastic grocery bag on a smooth work surface.
- Divide the cheese into 9 roughly equal piles. Roll a 2-ounce ball of dough in your hands, about the size of a golf ball, and pat it out in your hand to form a disc a little larger than your palm. (If the dough is very sticky, lightly moisten or oil your hands.) Pat a pile of cheese onto the masa, leaving just a little space around the edges (cup your hand slightly if it helps). Carefully close your hand to bring the edges of the disc closer, and use your other hand to pat and pinch it together to enclose the cheese in a rough ball. Patch any holes with a little more masa, but don’t worry too much — cheese that leaks out will brown deliciously in the pan. Pat out the pupusa on the plastic square, forming a disc about 4 inches wide. I used my tortilla press for this part--but don;t push all the way down--the pupusa should be about 1/4" thick. Repeat, forming a second pupusa. You can make them smaller if you want to have appetizer sized pupusas.
- Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over low heat, and very lightly grease it with oil. Place the pupusas in the pan, and cook until richly browned in spots, about 4 minutes. Don't worry if the cheese starts to bubble out. Flip the pupusas, and cook another 4 minutes, until they’re browned and cooked through. Serve finished ones immediately with curtido.
- 1 pound cabbage, finely shredded (green or red or both)
- 2 ½ cups water
- ½ of a medium onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- ½ to 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
- Black pepper, to taste
- Ground cumin, to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a large, clean bowl. Use your hands to squeeze the vegetables in the brine, then fully submerge them under it. Put something heavy (and clean) on top if needed. Let sit at room temperature for at least 3 days, or longer to your taste; the flavor will deepen and mellow over time. When it’s to your liking, transfer to clean jars, making sure brine covers the vegetables, and store in the refrigerator. Can keep for weeks.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Jam, short for Jamaica, is depressed. She had a short but intense relationship with Reeve, and when he dies, she is inconsolable. Her parents and her doctor are concerned enough that they decide she needs to go to a boarding school that specializes in supporting and educating traumatized teens. Once there she gets picked for an English class where they study Sylvia Plath the entire semester--which sounds like it could induce depression, but it does not. The students get a journal that the teacher supplies and that journal takes each one of them to the time and place where their trauma occurred. It is like a kind of virtual reality and they relive the time and place until they are able to let go of the trauma. A kind of in vivo exposure therapy that they under go individually but with the advantage that they support each other as a group. It is a wonderful story that is well told.
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Mitch (played by Earl Lynn Nelson) goes to visit Colin (Paul Eenhorn), who has recently been divorced. Mitch and Colin were married to sisters, but neither of them is any more. Mitch is happy about it but Colin is not, so Mitch arranges a trip to Iceland for them to relax, enjoy the good life, and forget their current problems. It turns out that Mitch has some issues of his own, and the two of them are cheering each other up.
Mitch is unabashedly crude, talking almost incessantly about sex, asking inappropriate questions, and telling people what he thinks of them, even when they clearly do not want to know. This may or may not have something to do with his marijuana smoking, hard to say. Colin is alternatingly bemused and irritated by Mitch's behavior, and is a much needed counter balance to him in social situations. The two of them have a number of small adventures, enjoying Iceland's profound natural beauty, and working on getting up the energy to move forward with their lives. Very pleasant movie.
Monday, February 9, 2015
It has been 34 years, three cities, four children, ten dogs, two cats, and a number of fish and I am still enjoying the ride. Our offspring are all in the adult age range and while not completely independent, they are acting their age.
So the back end of a long term relationship that includes children looks very much like the front end in that it is just the two of you. What you lack in vigor and youth you hopefully make up for with the comfort and joy that comes with knowing someone up close and personal for many many years. That and the fact that you bred together. So all those of you in long term relationships--cherish them. This is the person who knows you best. For those of you not, figure out why that isn't working for you and if it suits you, get that element of peace in your life. Remember what the research shows: a good long term relationship is worth $100,000/year in income. For those of us not in the rarefied air of the .01%, that is a good compensation for the work of keeping a relationship together.
Sunday, February 8, 2015
February 12th 1963I am born on a Tuesday at the University Hospital
a country caught
between Black and White.
I am born not long from the time
or far from the place
my great, great grandparents
worked the deep rich land
dawn till dusk
drank cool water from scooped out gourds
looked up and followed
the sky’s mirrored constellation
I am born as the south explodes,
too many people too many years
enslaved then emancipated
but not free, the people
who look like me
and getting killed
so that today?
February Twelfth Nineteen Sixty-three
and every day from this moment on,
brown children, like me, can grow up
free. Can grow up
learning and voting and walking and riding
wherever we want.
I am born in Ohio but
the stories of South Carolina already run
through my veins.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
I knew none of this back story when I saw the film, and both my spouse and I enjoyed it. Aidan Bloom (ably played by Mr. Braff) is an unsuccessful actor who is well into his 30's and dependent on his wife Sarah (Kate Hudson) to support the family. He consoles himself with the thought that she loves her job but in fact she does not. The crisis comes when his father, who has been paying his two children's school fees, is diagnosed with metastatic cancer and decides that he wants to spend all his money on an improbable and not medically recommended cure. So two things happen. Aidan has to home school his two children and deal with his issues with his father, which also entails dealing with his brother and his issues with family. It is all very emotionally complicated. The good news is that while Aidan does not entirely enter the world of grown ups, he does move forward, it seems like his kids will be okay, and the movie never looses site of the fact that it is at heart a comedy. Highly recommended.
Friday, February 6, 2015
- 3 c. cooked pinto beans
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 d carrots diced
- 1 red pepper diced
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 3 tablespoons or more ground chili
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste dissolved in 1 cup water
- 2 cups diced winter squash (about 3/4 pound)
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- Grated cheddar or Monterey Jack, or crumbled queso fresco for garnish if so desired
- Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy nonstick skillet and add the onion, carrot and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, stir together until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add the ground chili and cumin. Cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture begins to stick to the pan. Add the tomatoes and oregano, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down and the mixture is beginning to stick to the pan, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste dissolved in water and bring back to a simmer. Season with salt to taste and simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick and fragrant.
- Add the beans. Add the winter squash and bring to a simmer. Simmer, stirring often, for 25 to 30 minutes. It is important to stir often so that the chili doesn’t settle and stick to the bottom of the pot. It should be thick; if you desire you can thin out with water. Taste and adjust salt.
- Shortly before serving stir in the cilantro and simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls. If you wish, top with grated cheddar, Monterey jack, or crumbled queso fresco.
Thursday, February 5, 2015
So why am I writing about this book? Because it is a beautiful book to look through. The pictures are spectacular. There are pictures from markets, pictures of food and the raw ingredients that go into the food, and pictures of the people. It is a gorgeous collection of pictures and recipes that would look fantastic on any coffee table.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
So perhaps the movie can be excused for it's inaccuracies. The thing that Hercules is best known for is the 12 labors that he was more or less sentenced to complete after he murdered his family. He was a man of enormous strength and a very bad temper, which is a volatile combination--Dwayne Johnson's Hercules is a fierce warrior, but he is also portrayed as having a gentler side. This gentleness and love is consistent with the mythological Hercules relationship with his third wife Deianera, but not how is is largely thought of.
Hercules travels with his nephew Iolaus and a band of warriors that includes the Amazonian Atalantis and Amphiaraus the Oracle. Most of them are simpatico with Hercules in many ways, and the main story is about a battle that they come to regret and then endeavor to fix. Not a deep movie, but my son who is a Classics major and an action movie fan enjoyed. Lots of violence so not for child consumption.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 1 serrano pepper, sliced or chopped
- ½ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice, more as needed
- 2 teaspoons achiote (annatto) powder, available in Latino and Indian markets
- Pinch of cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- ¼ teaspoon chipotle chile
- ½ teaspoon cumin seed
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- 6 allspice berries
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste
- 1 ¾ pound grouper or sea bass fillet, skin on
- 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
- Banana leaves, available in Latino and Asian markets, or use parchment or foil
- Make the pickled onions: Put onion in a bowl and season generously with salt and pepper. Add serrano, 3 tablespoons orange juice and 2 tablespoons lime juice, then mix well. Set aside for at least 15 minutes. Combine and reserve remaining citrus juice for marinade.
- Make the marinade: Put achiote, cinnamon, oregano and chipotle in a small stainless steel or glass bowl. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, lightly toast cumin, cloves and allspice until fragrant, 1 minute or less. Grind toasted spices to a powder in a spice mill or mortar, then add to other spices. Add garlic, 1 large pinch salt and remaining citrus juice and stir to make a paste. If very thick, add more lime juice. (Note: achiote may stain surfaces or clothing.)
- Season fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, score skin at thickest parts, if desired. Paint fish on both sides with marinade. Squeeze a little lime juice over fish. Chill for 45 minutes (or up to 2 hours).
- Bring fish to room temperature and heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut banana leaves crosswise into footlong lengths and soften by passing them briefly over a stovetop burner. Rinse leaves and pat dry. Lay a double thickness of leaves on a baking sheet and lay fish on it, skin-side down. Top fish with a large handful of pickled onions. Arrange tomato wedges over onions. Sprinkle with salt and a little more lime juice. Lay more leaves on top, then wrap like a package, tying with string or strips of leaf. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove and let package rest, unopened, for 15 minutes. Serve with remaining pickled onions.
Monday, February 2, 2015
Sunday, February 1, 2015
John Lithgow and Alfred Molina are two men who have lived together as a couple for 39 years before one day they stand up in front of their friends and tie the knot. And unfortunately that is when it all starts to unravel. Molina is a music teacher at a Catholic school and while they were entirely comfortable with him living with another man for the majority of his life, but they were most certainly not okay with him being married to another man, and they fired him, effective immediately. The loss of his income sent them into a quick tail spin, where they sell their apartment and are elderly and homeless.
What happens next is what is hard to figure out. Instead of leaving New York City and finding an affordable living situation they split up, one going to live with his nephew and his family and the other living with two young gay cops. So within no time the family is at each others throats and the other is getting no sleep, and not much in the way of work to turn the situation around. The vast majority of the movie is in this in between situation. Then something very good happens followed by something very bad. The end.