Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ukranian Schtick

Last week was a school whipping, this week a root canal, so my life has been boring for two weeks. Feeling numb from the pain killers about all I could muster was pressing the play button on my DVD remote. This one made me laugh out loud. (Apologies to my neighbor, Blair, if I woke her up with my uncontrolled laughter, since I started watching this one at 2am :)

Everything Is Illuminated

I was curious to see Elijah Wood (center) in something other than Lord of The Rings. But really, Elijah, while top bill, is not the center of attention, Ukranian-born, Eugene Hutz (left) owns this film.

I didn't realize Hutz was in this film until the end credits, then I had to go back and look at the last scene to convince myself it was him. Hutz is a musician and singer by trade, lead vocals and lyrics for his gypsy-punk band, Gogol Bordello. I have one of their CD's but failed to recognize him without his trademark wild hair and handlebar mustache. For a film debut, I would say he was strong and will start popping up more frequently.

The film is a comedy with some serious content. Wood plays a young Jewish man, Jonathan, who is actively seeking to uncover the details of his grandfather's life (now deceased). He has a picture of his grandfather with the woman who saved him from the Nazi's while he was in Ukraine. Without hestitation he boards a plane to Ukraine and begins his investigation.

Alex Perchov (Hutz) is his guide and interpreter once he arrives. Alex speaks English but with an obvious Russian accent and a not-so clear understanding of word choice. The comedy starts with Alex, in Norm Crosby form, using almost-correct English which winds up being hysterical.

They are accompanied by Alex's grandfather (right). The grandfather is a hoot; he pretends to be blind but isnt and he has a constant companion, Sammmy Davis Jr. Jr., his "seeing-eye" dog, who has a personality that one could only call comically deranged.

The stories and histories of the characters intertwine and in the end what is clearly illuminated is a testimony to human kindness in the face of unbearable adveristy.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Desperate Dignity

Thanks, I'm still alive. I cancelled my plans for Friday night and stayed in to catch up on 'me time', I needed it. I had a yummy dinner of apples, Manchego cheese and one too many glasses of Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel (which is quite tasty by the way) Then I watched ...

Paradise Now

The story line is seemingly somber - two young Palestinian men are recruited into a suicide mission against Tel Aviv. Under no circumstance should you let this stop you from seeing the movie, it is thought-provoking, masterfully produced, directed, framed and acted without a hint of violence.

I postponed seeing this film on purpose. I am an American with Palestinian friends and Israeli family. I don't think I could have picked a more difficult film to watch. While I have definite opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, these are opinions I will forever keep to myself.

Difusing The Myth
I heard and read comments about Paradise Now attempting to justify terrorist techniques. This is not the case. In fact, if anything, this film sends a very strong anti-terrorist message. While the film is obviously pro-Palestinian, its also quite obviously against the suicide-bombing technique and paints a vivid, scorching portrait of its uselessness and of the pain it causes for those left behind. I believe what it attempts to illuminate is the desperation of the Palestinian people. As we all know, when people feel their choices and freedoms are removed, they will resort to irrational tactics. That's life.

The Acting
Said (played by Kais Nashef, left) and Khaled (played by Ali Suliman, right) are simply award-winning as the two friends that sign up for the mission. They are men of few words but of strong expression just the same. In almost minimalist fashion they convey situational tone and emotion with their eyes and simple but powerful gestures.

Also brilliant was Hiam Abbass, as Said's mother, who, without saying a word, painfully accepts her son's decision. Even though he has, as custom dictates, not told her a word, a mother knows.

The Psychology
Forceful, disturbing and very moving throughout the story. The benign acceptance of the two to their mission when recruited, the silent acceptance of the Said's mother to her son's decision, the strain of the friendship as one has reservations, the strength of the friendship as one protects the other. Suah, the pivotal character, moderate voice of reason and love interest of Said pulls the characters into a humanistic evaluation of their actions and brings a higher-level perspective to a bleak situation and a desperate search for dignity and redemption.

The Cinematography
Let's face it, you are probably not going to the West Bank anytime soon. This is a good way to see the area without the risk. I totally enjoyed the contrast between the shiny, modern, seaside Tel Aviv, which frankly was made to look like South Beach, against the faded-rose, disheveled West Bank. You could see the beauty of both, particularly the rough and gritty West Bank. Who ever was controlling the camera knew exactly how to sweep and paint to convery the contrast to an unfamiliar audience.

The Conclusion

*** spoilers ***

In the final scene, Said tricks Khaled into getting into a car and heading back to the West bank without completing the mission. Said then appears on Tel Aviv bus, crowded with Israeli police and citizens. The camera slow-zooms on his dark, expressionless eyes. Slowly, then the movie ends.

So, was Said's Paradise blowing himself up along with 30 or 40 Israelis? Or was his motivation to send Khaled back to Palestine to protect him from being perceived as an Israeli collaborator, since Said's had all along known that his Paradise was escaping the West Bank to a place where he had freedom and choices, a place like Tel Aviv?

Which would be your Paradise Now?

Sunday, March 19, 2006


I'll be back sometime in early April, busy time.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

More Februaryation

Continuing with the Februaryation pic and recipe pattern ...

Slightly more complicated but still relatively quick and definitely good. We loved this salad, which could easily be a meal.

Autumn Salad with Curried Walnuts and Maple Cider Vinaigrette

10 oz Baby Spinach
1 Bartlett Pear, cored & thinly sliced
1 Small Red Onion, thinly sliced
4 oz Gorgonzola, crumbled

Curried Walnuts
6 oz Walnut Halves
2 T Butter
3 T Sugar
1/4 t Ground Ginger
1/8 t Curry
1/8 t Kosher Salt
1/8 t Red Pepper

Maple Cider Vinaigrette
1/3 C Cider Vinegar
3 T Maple Syrup
1 T Dijon Mustard
1/4 t Salt
1/4 t Pepper
2/3 C Olive Oil

1. Wisk together all of the ingredients for the Vinaigrette. Refrigerate
2. Melt butter over low heat. Add walnuts and toss. Add remaining Curried Walnit ingredients and stir to coat. Spread walnuts in a single layer on a foil lined pan. Bake at 300 for 10 minutes.
3. Add salad ingredients and Curried Walnuts to large bowl and toss with Maple Cider Vinaigrette.

A couple people asked me where I find the time to type in all of these recipies. Secret out - I don't. I have software called Living Cookbook which allows to capture them from web pages (where I get most) drop them into software, edit the ingredients (which I always do) then publish in HTML.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I am really sucking at downloading pics from my camera, these are from 2-3 weeks ago.

Every month or so we try to get a portion of our group together to have a sitdown dinner. Its a pot luck thing with a theme, this time around the theme was Seafood. Everyone at these gatherings has such amazing talent in the kitchen that I prefer these in-house events to going out.

The Crew

Looking for a quick and good app to wow the guests at your next dinner thing? We loved these.

Date & Goat Cheese Appetizer

  • 20 dates, pitted
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 pinch hot red pepper
  • 1 pinch white pepper

    Mix the goat cheese, garlic and peppers together. Stuff the dates with goat cheese mixture. Broil until cheese bubbles and the dates get crispy (4-5 minutes)
  • Sunday, March 12, 2006


    I nearly had a panic attack when I followed the email link from my friend in DC to the column that featured my rant about that idiot Phelps. Figures, the one time I let loose with gutter-level language and its spattered all over the Wahsington Post. Too much publicity for me!

    4 Years Ago Guy has been MIA for a week or so; Anatomy practicals and family obligations. Late night IM's are about all we could muster this past week.

    Home Depot guy was over last week for our once every two weeks movie night. We're both Netflix subscribers so between us its 6 new movies a week. Before we could get to movie night HD Guy had some venting to do; he was upset at the post introducing him. No, its not what you think. He doesn't like his name, HD Guy. Snippet of the conversation.

    HDG: Why do I get a stupid name like HD Guy?

    Me: Would you rather I use your real name?

    HDG: Yes, and pictures too, I like publicity. In fact, I feel a photo shoot coming on, get your camera!, he said, attempting an authoritarian tone.

    At this point HD Guy started a strip tease. Off came the t-shirt, which he wrapped around his head like a turban. The flip-flops made their trajectory from his feet to the other side of the living room. The strip tease morphed into one of those dances you see in every Bollywood movie, which sent me into a laughing fit I couldn't stop. I had to physically stop him before the pants dropped. Thats all I need, my neighbor, Gladys Kravitz, with his prune-like eyes pressed against his binoculars watching HD Guy do a strip tease in my living room with a t-shirt wrapped around his head. Never give Gladys a reason to talk to you, its a conversation with no end.

    I made my way to kitchen, the Bollywood stripper with the T-shirt turban followed. I whipped up a couple

    Shanghai Cosmos
  • 1 part Vodka
  • 1 part Sake
  • 1/4 part Cran
  • splash of pineapple
  • twist of lime

  • HD Guy objected to the color, it was pink. Somehow drinking a pink drink interfered with his macho self-image. Okie dokie, I made him another with white cranberry juice, which was biege, machismo restored.

    Shanghai Cosmos seemed to calm him down a bit. At least enough to get to the movies. HD Guy brought over Mambo Italiano. It was a cute movie but you already know the story: gay Italian cop falls for gay Italian travel agent. Yeah, we've heard that one a million times. It had a My Big Fat Greek Wedding feel-good feeling, just swap out straight with gay and Greek with Italian.

    HD Guy will have to watch that one at home since he fell asleep about 15 minutes into it. I guess all that dancing really wiped him out, poor guy. I should have taken a picture since he fell asleep with the t-shirt turban still wrapped around his head. It would make good faux-blackmail fodder ;)

    Friday, March 10, 2006

    Mom Update

    She's headed to Raleigh soon for a 6 week check-up.

    She's been really well-behaved, not that she didn't try to misbehave, but the contraption around her neck kept her from overdoing.

    Only one scare. She had waking nightmares one day and it freaked her out. Reason - willful and stubborn, she decided it was time to stop her pain meds, so she did. As you may know, if you'd had major surgery with narcotic pain meds following, you can't just stop taking them cold, gradually is the way.

    Dr. Dad is on the case now :)

    Wednesday, March 08, 2006

    Formula 44

    They provide reliable, effective escapism: the villan, the girl, the techno wizardry, the fight, the conquest. A rugged, sophisticated, mysterious and lethal leading man anchors the phenomenon. These are the forces and formula behind the 44 year success of 007.

    As of today I have seen every Bond film except On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I watched Dr. No last night for the first time, what a hoot. This was the first of the Bond films, released in 1962.

    Its interesting that Ian Flemming, the writer for the series of 007 books, had difficulty having his books turned into movies; almost everyone in Hollywood turned him down. I wonder, in retrospect, how many of those who turned Flemming down have removed their collective feet from their collective mouths, considering.

    Flemming's first 007 book, Casino Royale, written in the 1950's, is just now being turned into a Bond episode. Casino Royale will be the platform from which they will launch the new Bond, Daniel Craig.

    Dr. No is worth watching on many levels. It's exceptional in that its a crazy time capsule: 60's music, furniture, slang, clothing and let's not forget the 60's dancing.

    Ursula Andress makes her debut in Dr. No as Honey Ryder. The director called her to Jamaica to star in the role because he saw her picture on a colleague's desk. The colleague was John Derek, Ursula's husband for many years. She never auditioned nor met any of the cast until days before filming.

    Her voice on the film is not her own. They had to dub her over since her Swiss-German accent was far too thick to be understood by a 1960's audience. Frankly, even now, I have a hard time understanding her.

    I wonder if she thought she would be making movie history as she emerged from the ocean in her now-famous white bikini? I wonder if she knew she was setting the standard for the next 44 years of Bond girls. I think even now, at 70, she probably smiles herself to sleep.

    'I wasn't just any Bond Girl, I was THE Bond Girl.'

    That she was ... and still is.

    The producer wanted Roger Moore for the 007 role but he was not available. The producer's wife saw Sean Connery in one of his lesser known movies and decided that he had all the Bond characteristics. What a lucky break for the then 30 year old Connery, it propelled his career into the big league.

    I liked most of the Bonds but Connery had that rough around the edges quality that, at least for me, brands him as the best Bond. I haven't seen another actor portray the character as well as he did.

    Of course, the most important reason to watch Dr. No is so that you too can witness the first time one of the most memorable lines in film was spoken.

    Bond, James Bond

    The Last To Know

    A friend calls to ask me why I haven't told him I keep a blog. Crap, did I leave someone off the distribution list? Probably. He's faux-mad when he tells me he has to find out about it via Best Gay Blogs.


    Click, over to Best Gay Blogs and sure enough, there I am. That would explain the quadruple traffic today, lol.

    Not sure who runs the site but thanks for the S.O. :)

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006


    For those of you offended by language, exit now, I'm about to unload a ton of foul language. If you want to know why, read this.

    Idiot Of The Year Article

    Oh, allow me to retort.

    Dear Mr.Phelps,

    You have so got to be kidding me with this heaping pile of shit.

    I'll be the first to admit that I don't keep up with current events, but I think I would have heard something about our military going on record as pro-gay. Seriously, where are the recruiting stations on Cedar Springs, did I miss those? C'mon, I'm dying of curiosity. Please tell me who's ass you're pulling this idea out of because it can't be your own ass, your head is too far up your own ass for an idea to co-exist, even a baseless, stupid fuck idea like this one.

    Fine, you hate gays, whatever. Anyone with the sense to dress themselves in the morning is going to see you for what you are, rendering you yet another hot-air blowing, religious zealot with no credibility. Please, my 7 year old neice could see through your transparent shield of G-d, which you use to deflect your own ignorance and fear. In the future, I would appreciate it if you didn't drag my G-d into your putrid agenda, thanks. Stupid motherfucker.

    But that isn't what pisses me off, your brand of dysfunction will self-implode like the others before you. Here's what really does it, you decided to disrespect the soldiers (oh, and their families too) who died in this clusterfuck of a war. I was not a proponent of this war, nonetheless I will absolutely show some common human respect for those that fought and died in it.

    Hello, these people died doing what they thought was best to protect your inbred, hate-wielding ass and now you're going to shit all over them? Nice. I feel sorry for you and your inane 'congregation'. I feel sorry for Topeka, Kansas for having their name dragged through the mud on your behalf. I feel sorry for the US for having to tolerate yet another Jim Jones wannabe cult-leader, collecting the weak and feeble into yet another frenzied, psychotic nightmare.

    I'm embarassed to call you an American.

    Actually, I'm embarassed to call you human.

    Hugz and kissies from Texas

    PS: I hear Wal Mart is having a special on heat-resistant undies, better stock up buddy, you're going to need them.

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Boy Bullets, Entradas

    Home Depot Guy

    Maybe someone can answer this one. Why is it when you look and feel your worst that people choose that exact moment to ask you out? Such is the case for HD Guy. Picture it, I'm 15 pounds over the weight I like, I'm dressed in my fat boy 501's, an old-man $2 hanes T, workboots and frankly I didnt bother showering/shaving since I was going to Home Depot. Nice, right? :)

    HD Guy approaches me in the lighting ailse with a 'Hey, I havent seen you at the Round Up in a while'. OK, I don't remember HD Guy and its been a good 2 years since I stepped into the Round Up. I faked kinda remembering him but he saw through it and re-introduced himself.

    There are some bonuses to HD Guy. He is interesting culturally; he's half Indian (from India) and half Italian. I'm sure most people would label him as latino but his look is more Indian. He was born in Rome and grew up on the east coast. He came to Dallas in the late 90's to go to college, he decided to stay. He has an Italian last name and a slight Italian accent which doesn't at all go with the Indian look. Cool, huh?

    He is also a student (MBA) so he understands the busy and irregular schedule that I keep. He understand calling me at the last minute will 99% of time get an 'I'm busy" response. He understands I do not have 30 minutes a day to chat idly on the phone. Scheduling in advance is systemic with him.

    He lives 2 miles away. Wait, that could be bad too :)

    There are some disadvantages too. There is a 14 year gap in our ages. While this doesn't dictate a problem, the potential is there and its a greater potential than there would be with someone closer in age.

    He struggles with things that have become implicit knowledge for me: like the fact that most people in your life are simply cameo appearances and not life-long friends. The other struggle is getting older - he fears it, I already know it isn't to be feared and theres only one way out of getting older and that option isnt so nice.

    4 Years Ago Guy

    If you guessed that there is some history with 4YA Guy, you would be correct.

    Generally I don't date the same person twice. Usually that is because there is this huge lapse in contact then they resurface as if nothing has happened and expect to pick up where they left off. Hmmm, let me think about that, no. 4YA Guy was different though, there was never a big gap in communication, just a small transition from dating to friendship, one that suited us both well.

    I like 4YA Guy, he has a laid back and easy-to-be-with personality. He is smart in the academic sense and more importantly in the life experience sense, making him seem more my age than his age (again, he is younger, but only by 9 years :)

    The issue I had with 4YA Guy the first time around was that he was a little on the passive aggressive side. That seems to be gone now. Maybe just age and experience have cleared that up, maybe the slapping on another 20 pounds of muscle gave him a confidence boost. Who knows?

    4YA Guy also goes to school on top of working full time so there is the bonus of his understanding my schedule. Interestingly, his school material overlaps with mine, we are both going into life sciences and away from business.

    Anyway, those are the entradas thus far. I like them both but if I had to choose, I would probably go with 4YA Guy.

    Saturday, March 04, 2006


    Tomorrow is the big night for awards. Usually I don't watch the Academy Awards, I can't sit still for that long. But I'm going to try to watch the whole thing tomorow since I'm on break and this has been a huge year for film.

    I looked at the '06 nominees and here are my crystal ball guesses. Let's see how close I am :)

    Brokeback Mountain

    Actor, Lead:
    Joaquin Phoenix, Walk The Line

    Actress, Lead:
    Felicity Huffman, Transamerica

    Actor, Supporting:
    Matt Dillon, Crash

    Actress, Supporting:
    Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

    Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

    Screenplay, Direct:
    Paul Haggins & Robert Moresco, Crash

    Screenplay, Previously Published:
    Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain

    Dion Beebe, Memoirs Of A Geisha

    Michael McCusker, Walk The Line

    Art Direction:
    Craig & McMillan, Harry Potter & The Goblet Of Fire

    Costume Design:
    Colleen Atwood, Memoirs Of A Geisha

    Original Score:
    Gustavo Santaollala, Brokeback Mountain

    IMHO, the toughest pick will be lead actor; Hoffman, Phoenix and Ledger were all memorable. I think they will pick Phoenix since he had the gestures, mannerisms, talking voice and singing voice of Johnny Cash nailed. Plus he learned how to play guitar. (first the right way, then the way Johnny Cash played)

    Its not a stretch to say that Brokeback and Walk The Line will walk away with the majority of gold this year.

    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    From Within


    Finally, after 4 weeks of rescheduling, I went to see Transamerica. This film is HUGE, subtle on many levels but still huge.

    Felicity Huffman has sure been thrust into the spotlight recently. IMHO, it is well-deserved, she is an awesome actress.

    Huffman plays Stanley/Bree, a pre-op male to female transexual living in Los Angeles. As the movie opens, Bree is a week away from the gender reassignment procedure. Everything is going smoothly until the phone call from New York City. The caller claims to be her son and he is in some trouble. Bree knows she doesn't have a son, that would be impossible, wouldn't it? The phone call casts some scenario buliding on Bree's part, stealing back to her college days of being Stanley and that one haphazard incident with that girl he kinda dated. Could it be?

    On the advice of her psychiatrist, Bree takes off to the east coast to meet the alleged son. Bree fakes a non-mother role in the son's life since she is having some difficulty accepting the possible reality and more importantly, the omnipresent reminder of her Stanley days which she desperately seeks to purge.

    Bree and the son leave New York City by car; Bree with one agenda - to take the son back to his step-father, the son with another - to go back with Bree to Los Angeles to become a porn star. The road trip is filled with hysterical, awkward and powerful moments. My favorites are the son confronting his abusive step-father and the houseful of trannies they visit in Dallas.

    Here is what I liked about the film.

    The Writing - This could have easily become a 2-hour reality show on gender transformation or a shock-n-awe film. Thankfully the writers showed some talent in avoiding those methods of delivery. Instead, the transexual component of the film is minimized to the point of banality. Bree's pre-op routine of hormones, psychiatrist, dressing the female and talking the female is treated much like anyone else's dull, involuntary morning ritual of shower, shave, dress and go. In my mind I assumed that this is what it must be like for someone, like Bree, to go through these measures - these are just things that must be done, no analysis required.

    The Acting - How tricky could it be for a woman to play a man who is planning on becoming a woman. While some parts of your character have to be distinctly feminine, others have to be subtly masculine and all of the those have to be delivered in a way that is perceived as natural by a very critical audience. Huffman pulls this off making it seem effortless, which I'm sure it wasn't.

    Kevin Zegers(the son) delivers. While not an award winning performance, he does a great job in the troubled youth role. The confrontation scene with his step-father is one of the best in the movie; powerfully executed with timing and reaction that was believable.

    The Rest - How to portray the message without preaching or resorting to cheap, tacky, overdone television methods? Ask Huffman's husband, William Macy, since he was the executive producer.

    Every character outside of the immediate family has a strict non-reactive response to the transexual aspect of the story line. I thought this was brilliant since it keeps the focus on the main characters and pivots off the non-reactive peripheral characters to subtly send a message of acceptance.

    Along the same line, the locations Bree and her son stop along the way during their cross-country trip are not those you would expect to find a trannie and her son. Rural Kentucky, rural Arkansas, the desert of New Mexico. Interesting in that they have taken a perceived urban situation and cast it into middle America with a live and let live response.

    Bree is not given special treatment. She is not made out to be superhuman nor frail. She can have a slightly neurotic side, while other times she is pragmatic. She's made some good calls and some bad. Some people are attracted to her, while others are repulsed by her. That's equality for you.

    The Message - There are some obvious plays on the word trans throughout the film; trans as in transexual, trans as in trans continent road trip and more importantly trans as in transformation.

    Cleverly delivered, the message I received was one of acceptance. While the characters all go through various levels of accepting and rejecting others, the real struggle was acceptance of self.

    What is accepted from within, can be shared with others.