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

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Violet Box

Revenge is a dish best served cold. In this brilliant but gruesome, and very taboo-ridden Korean thriller, it is also a dish best served in a beautiful violet box.

DO NOT open the violet box.


Dae-su has a few too many on his daughter's birthday and finds himself in a bit of situation. He has been abducted and confined to a shabby but livable room. He will remain a prisoner in this room for 15 years. One day he is released with new clothes, money and a cell phone. He is not told why he was abducted nor why, at this particular moment, he is being released.

He is lead down a twisted, eloquently-crafted path by a shadowy figure who architects his every thought. He eventually finds the man who stole 15 years of his life, he even finds out why, but when he opens the beautiful violet box, his world turns negative image and nothing will be the same.

Production, direction, acting, filming, music, location, plot -- everything is top-notch.

This is Hitchcock suspense meets Fellini genuis, but I will re-emphasize the words taboo-ridden. And that is only reason I can't give it a 10, it creeped me out.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Killer Peppers

So there's the title of the article I read last night, it was published in March of this year. In case you aren't a secret science geek, allow me to summarize. Capsaicin, the component of red chili peppers that makes them hot, has been shown to kill prostate cancer cells.

Pretty cool, huh?

This isn't coming from some vitamin pimp or some late-night infomercial whackjob trying to sell a miracle cure. No, it's coming from the American Association for Cancer Research. You know, serious people with PHD's, performing scientific experiments and wearing those very stylish white lab coats.

I knew my Tobasco addiction was good for something.

Article Abstract

Monday, June 26, 2006



Loved it!

Caustic, fast, slightly sick and painfully witty. If you're a fan of very dark comedy, the likes of Pulp Fiction and True Romance, you will love 11:14.

The line up is great: Hillary Swank, Barbara Hershey, Patrick Swayze & Henry Thomas

Filmed in the temporal style of Crash, several disconnected story lines rapidly merge to show how all events are connected. Like Crash, there is an underlying theme but instead of prejudice and racism in Los Angeles, 11:14 is about deception and greed.

This film teaches us that a true friend is someone who drives around town looking for your penis when you lose it in a high-speed traffic accident.

So wrong, so very funny.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Secret Soccer Geek

I've played soccer before, I liked it. I even like watching the games in person but as a rule I don't care for watching soccer or any sport on TV, too boring.

Last week I found myself being sucked into the World Cup. It started innocently enough, just sitting there in the Pub on campus waiting for my Veggie Wrap, vacantly staring at the big screen, trying to figure just who was playing.

The three kids at the table next to me took breaks from inhaling their chili cheese fries and pepperoni pizzas to scream and yell. The Argentinian kid screaming for Argentina, the Serb kid screaming for Serbia-Montenegro. The Indian kid smiling and pushing the pepperoni pizza to the far end of the table in disgust. The Argentinian was the chatty one.

Dude, who are you for?

From that distance I could only make out Argentina's colors and he was obviously some flavor of latin.

Argentina, of course.

Then some weird, post-teen, male-bonding, hand-bump-shake-slide thing occurred between us. I suppose that indoctrinated me into the secret soccer fan club because later the Argentinian felt comfortable enough to ask me questions.

So, you're old enough to buy beer, right?

You know, I've been at this university for 2 years and I'm really surprised this hasn't come up before now, considering more than half the campus is under 21 and they are surrounded by dry areas.

You just eat your pizza and go back to screaming for Argentina, LOL

Dude, c'mon, I'll be 21 next week and ... I'M A JUNIOR!, he said pulling out his ID as if the week gap and his lofty status as college junior gave him leverage in executing the beer-scoring scheme.

Pizza. Soccer. Focus! LOL

I'll admit it was fun to watch and occasionally I wondered just how those soccer players were able to move the way the did. I would be in the hospital getting my hip replaced if tried some of those moves.

After my wrap and the game were over, the almost 21 year old table reminded me to be at the Pub Monday morning for Italy vs. Australia.

I can't make it but I think I'll be for Italy anyway :)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Down, Town

Downtown Dallas, ugh.

Since I first visited my family here in 1972, I have been hearing about the great downtown Dallas revival. 34 years later I am still hearing about it. Don't get me wrong, there's alot of thrash going on; American Airlines Center, Victory, new Opera House and more new 5-star hotels with crowning million dollar condos than you can possibly imagine.

But, live there, why? There are two good restaurants (Dakota and Fuse) that aren't $100 person, no interesting night clubs, the roads are constantly under repair, no parking, no services open past an 8-year old's bedtime, it's real estate values are some of the most unstable in the area. And, to be quite honest, I really don't like being hit up for money on every corner by some crackhead who smells like stale cheese and Thunderbird.

I have one lone friend living in downtown. I tried to talk him out of buying the loft, the $400K loft. Bad idea - lofts don't work in Texas, air conditioning 16 foot ceilings is crazy, particularly now that Texas Utilities has doubled our rates. Living dowtown means you will drive to Oak Lawn or Uptown everytime you need something, want to do something interesting or see someone, because noone is coming to see you.

My friend still pushes downtown as the next big thing. This past round of propoganda slathering he held up this place and the seed of all change.

Jim, downtown has a grocery store now and its even got a first rate cafe attached to it! I never need to leave the area now!

Naturally I investigated.

Urban Market
1500 Jackson St (near Ervay)
Dallas, TX 75201

Urban Market is half grocery, half cafe.

The grocery half is small but it has most food items. The disappointing but expected part is that the variety and quantities are limited. If you're a vegetarian, don't bother, their produce was mediocre and seafood selections were minimal. They do great party food and, to my raging delight, their wine selection kicks ass; solid wineries and competitively priced. I will drive downtown to this place to wine buy in the future.

The cafe half is casual counter service; sandwiches, soups and salads. Whoa, get back, the cafe is great! I tried, in a cheating vegetarian mood, Spicy Chicken Sandwich; fluffy egg bun with sesame seeds, toasted, lime-marinated grilled chicken breasts sliced unbelievably thin, tomato, lettuce and just a wisp of jalapeño mayo. Yum! The twice-fried, batter-dipped spicy fries had permission to clog up my arteries, completely! $6 of great lunch-time pigging.

Although I liked Urban as a cafe, if I lived downtown I would still exit it to go to Central Market and Krogers to do my weekly shopping, they just don't have enough variety and they carry no non-grocery supplies.

The real irony here is that my friend continues to advertise downtown yet he has his loft on the market. Its been on the market for 8 months, asking price lower than what he paid.

Revival, indeed.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Road Less Travelled

Its all good.
Live your life for today, you aren't guaranteed tomorrow.
Think positively.

Blah, blah, blah.

I love people and their life philosophies. From what I've seen in life about half of us run around with these, not truly believing in them but still clutching them like snuggly, transparent security blankets.

Then there are the others of us who have a more realisitic mantra.

We dont know what the hell we're doing but we're doing the best we can.

What more can you ask of someone?

This film, which frankly I found to one of the best sleepers of 2005, seems to align itself with the latter, espousing a fun, more pragmatic life philosophy.

Live your life like a road trip.

Plan, execute, adjust to changes and enjoy the detours that come your way. Eventually we all get to the same place, its what we encounter along the way that matters.

Works for me.


First, he single-handedly loses his company one billion dollars, he is politely relieved of his badge and key. Then, his faux-suicide attempt, done in hillariously dark comedy, is interrupted by a phone call from his sister; his estranged father has died and the family decided he would return to Kentucky to handle the final details. So, you might say that our main character, Drew (Orlando Bloom) is not having the best day.

The red-eye special from Portland to Louisville provides the path-crossing for Drew to meet Claire (Kirsten Dunst), the road-trip philosophy queen. The chance encounter starts an uplifting, touching, off-beat comedy of errors.

The supporting cast playing the Kentucky family are incredible. If you haven't spent time in small southern towns, you may not fully appreciate the subtle, southern personality quirks these actors nail to the wall with screaming accuracy. I've lived in these kind of towns, so I was crying I was laughing so hard.

When its time for him to leave Kentucky, Drew takes a road trip back to Oregon rather than keeping his scheduled flight. No major highways, no high-visibility sights. The road less travelled proves cathartic, providing everything he didn't realize he truly needed.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Forever Young

Everyone, say Hi to Joyce, its her birthday. She is 85 today.

Joyce was my neighbor for 6 years before moving to Jacksonville, Florida. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed listening to her stories. She was born in London and raised on a plantation in Jamaica, where she lived for over 40 years. Her family finally relocated her to this country because they didn't feel it was safe for her to be in Jamaica alone.

Joyce never looked even close to her age, never acted it either. I remember when I met her she was gardening in her back yard. She was wearing a haltar top and short shorts. I thought, we should all look that good when we are 80-something.

I asked Joyce what her secret was for seeming so young.

Oh dahling, its easy, never look in a mirror and never admit to yourself that you're over 25.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Brazil 69

I'm sure Sangroncito or Suzy could give you much more detail about the history of Brazil during this era, since they both lived in and know much more about the country than I.

However, let me set the stage for this true-story film.

Four Days In September

O Que É Isso Companheiro?

In 1964 the government of Brazil was overthrown by the military and a dictatorship was established. What followed was a 25-year black mark characterized by prisons filled with political enemies who were systematically tortured, executed and discarded like farm animals. Desaparecidos.

Fast forward, 1969, a couple of 'middle-class' students decide to join a small revolutionary group intending to free these political prisoners using 'fight fire with fire' tactics.

The story revolves about one of these students, his idea to capture and hold hostage the American Ambassador to Brazil in exchange for prisoners, and the very tense drama that unfolds between the students and Brazilian junta.

The story itself is a well-crafted riptide that will suck you under in an instant. You are never given an opportunity to side with the junta nor the revolutionaries, both are portrayed in an as-is light, good and bad working together to accomplish equal but opposite agendas. While the junta is obviously corrupt and evil, the revoutionaries employ similar tactics; you can't condemn one without dragging along the other. Players on both sides reveal their humanity: guilt, shame, fear, insecurity all allowing the viewer to relate but not necessarily align.

Throughout the film I felt like the agendas of the junta and revolutionary group were somewhat secondary to another agenda more indigenous to human nature - ego; as if the director and writer had purposely rigged an ego bomb. One that never exploded, yet you knew somewhere, someone's finger was itching for the detonator.

The student-lead kidnapping is executed professionally, followed by a aggressive man-hunt from the opposition. Cat and mouse psychology twists the cord, each turn becoming almost unbearably tense as the pressure starts to cook out all reasonable thought from each side.

The introduction of the movie blends still photos of the era with fast-moving scene fragments of the film, it creates a powerfully discordant, stop-go feeling that continues throughout. I thought that was clever intro artistry.

The acting is great with Fernanda Torres, daughter of Brazil's finest actress, Fernanda Montenegro, leading the pack. Her character is the leader of the revolution. In the beginning she is hard and calculating but as the story progresses and she becomes romantically involved with one of the others, her character becomes more colorful, more afraid, more human.

Alan Arkin delivers one big performance as the Ambassador. Once he is kidnapped he strikes the perfect balance between political saavy and human fear. Through his paternal character we get back-narration of the revolutionaries in chilling detail, both their humanity and the lack thereof.

While the film gives you a whopping dose of power = corruption and a clear example of extreme situations calling for extreme measures, in the end I felt as though this was all delivered through a vaseline filter; as if the writer, producer and director were still living under the oppressive censorship of the junta itself.


Friday, June 16, 2006


For those not familiar with the incredible variety of weather here in North Texas, allow me to illuminate.

Winter: This lasts from about Thanksgiving to about March. It can be anywhere from 20 to 90 degrees during the day. And about the same at night. Mild precip can be expected, meaning sleet, snow, hail, ice, rain, chickens, cows or pigs could fall in amounts from 1 inch to 1 foot an hour.

Spring: On even years this is March 13th. On odd years there is no Spring.

Fall: LOL, right, we don't do Fall.

Summer: From March through November, sometimes December, maybe even February. Its a stable season; 90-100 something during the day, 80 at night, humid, 20% of rain.

Thank goodness for the genius who invented Daylight Savings Time, this affords us the opportunity to, even at 11pm, step outside and feel like we are wearing a nice moist, warm, wool body-blanket.

During the summer months, its important to stay hydrated, so we are happy about this new hydration station.

4140 Lemmon Ave
Dallas, TX 75219
(214) 252-9494

I wandered in here a while back and liked the format. Half retail and half wine bar. The retail section, while not extensive, is well-selected and moderately priced. Just don't buy your Clicquot here, its about $15 over market. The wine bar half, is approachable. I really got into the 60+ wines by the glass, an very good way to try something unfamiliar without risking $20-60.

The guy who owns it must be pretty smart, he just graduated from MIT with an MBA, he is 26. I think he chose the perfect location in the densely populated Oaklawn neighborhood; good street visibility, lots of walk-by traffic and plenty of convenient underground parking.

A couple of times a month they have wine tastings. A group of friends and I tried their Rose tasting. At $14 you just couldn't pass it up, this is far cry from the $50-90 tastings at other venues.

Five almost full glasses of Roses later, we were mixed on the Rose. Some of us really liked the lighter, crisper flavors for the hot summer months, while some others were ambivalent, still preferring the heavy reds with their delicious complexity and prominent body. We were all very surprised at how dry these wine were, I guess the pink color reminds us of the dreaded White Zinfandel, but there was no sweetness at all to the Rose.

The winner for me in the Rose category was this one:

Guigal Tavel 2004 - France - $21
Big, big fruit on this one, heavy Strawberry influence with some subtle herby notes. Clean and crisp with lingering body. Definitely an addition to the collection, you know, in the name of hydration.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Lyrical Hell

And I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I've forgotten what I started fighting for.
It's time to bring this ship into the shore,
And throw away the oars, forever.
Cause I can't fight this feeling anymore.
I've forgotten what I started fighting for.
And if I have to crawl upon the floor,
Come crashing through your door,
Baby, I can't fight this feeling anymore.

Don't you hate it when cheesy REO Speedwagon songs pop into you head and won't leave.

Please G-d, make it stop.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Modern Fort Worth

Before the Savannah jaunt, I spent a weekend in Fort Worth. I love Fort Worth. I would live there in a minute, if only it supported more of my industry.

Fort Worth and Dallas are like sisters; Fort Worth is the intelligent, well-traveled, even-tempered, old money brunette sister who can converse on any topic, loves the arts, fine dining and can feel just as comfortable in formalwear as in jeans-n-boots.

Dallas is the high-maintenance, drama-queen blonde sister with the nice rack and the Platinum AmEx.

It still baffles me that Fort Worth, not Dallas, is the seat of culture for North Texas, this is so far from the pokey cowtown that most people make it out to be. The largest Modern Art Museum in this country is in Fort Worth, seriously. When NYC's MoMa reopens (if it hasnt already), Fort Worth will have the second largest.

Fort Worth's Modern Art Museum, The Modern , is an artistic wonder that Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, gave birth to in 2002. Its such an interesting building, inside and out, that sometimes I spend more time looking at the features of the building than the exhibits.

Photo Collection: The Modern, Fort Worth

I went to The Modern to see 4 exhibits, 3 of which were going away that weekend. Instead of seeing all 4, I spent 4 hours looking at the work of Chuck Close. Mind boggling. He can take an image in his head, divide it into hundreds of little squares, carve each square on a large wooden sheet in reverse image, apply the correct color to the wooden sheet, then apply the wooden sheet to canvas to make what appears to the eye as a photograph. (Actually its a group of 7-8 wooden sheets, each intended for a different color, which is more mind boggling).

It defies conventional thought, Close defies conventional thought. If this collection comes to your city, definitely set aside a few hours for a viewing.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Low Country

Water Lilies: Skidaway Island, Georgia

You can see the rest of the Savannah photos here - Savannah Photos. The same link is on the right hand side of the blog under the new addition, Photo Collections.

The only city in the South that wasn't burned to the ground in that silly 1800's war was Savannah. As a result, when you traverse the streets of the inner city, you will find a wide variety of architecture from the 1700's.

The city reminds me of a smaller, cleaner, more eccentric version of New Orleans. Yes, more eccentric. This is due, in part, to Savannians themselves. Savannah is strangely devoid of middle-aged residents. On one side of the age spectrum there are 18-24 year olds, mostly due to SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. SCAD is a focal point in the inner city. The college has developed an unparalled reputation in the art world, dozens of programs costing many tens of thousands of dollars a semester, continue to attract young creative types by the thousands. This is a hands-on college, they have purchased, saved and reconstructed almost 60 historic buildings in the inner city, some of which now serve as SCAD classrooms. SCAD brings a progessive and creative element into a city that, at least on the surface, is old-world.

On the other end of the age spectrum there are the umpteenth generation of Savannah-born old money and a growing number of 60-something retirees. Well-funded and copious amounts of free time, this segement of the community keeps the cash flow liquid when the tourists schlep back to their workaday lives. These disparate groups blend prefectly and create an unusual contrast and balance much the way the 1700's Bay St conversions do to their more modern 21st century architectural neighbors.

My parents retired here 5 years ago, it was an excellent choice for me, um, I mean them. I love visiting this city, if only for the fact that I could spend an entire day on one street unearthing it's history with the help of the unnerving friendliness of Savannah's residents.

Two friends, Noeha & Galina, came with me this time. Neither had been to Savannah, nieither had met my parents. I think it was successful on all fronts, everyone had an incredible time. Here are some highlights, you can add them to your list of things to do and see when you visit.

Carriage Ride
This is a fun way to see the inner city sights in abbreviated form before you head out on foot. Its a one-hour perimeter trip through the inner city, complete with onry horse, history lesson and a driver with a soft lilting accent.

$20, pick it up at the Hyatt on Bay St.

King And I
7098 Hodgson Memorial Dr
Savannah, GA 31406

Hello, my name is Jim and I'm a Thai food whore. I try Thai everywhere I go. Frankly, this place has the best Thai anywhere, including Thailand. The Flounder in Red Curry Sauce and the Salmon In Chili Garlic Sauce are my favorites.

The Pink House
23 Abercorn Street
Savannah, GA. 31401

I keep wanting to try Paula Dean's place downtown but the locals keep directing me elsewhere. This time my dad recommended that we try The Pink House.

Good choice. This is the de facto 5-star Low Country restaurant. Expensive? You bet, you can expect about $50 an entree, but its worth every penny. Housed in a old 1800's residence, it oozes old-world charm; white linen, polished service, food and wine that will leave their mark.

Items to try: She Crab Soup, Fried Green Tomatoes, Crab-stuffed Grouper, Shrimp and Grits. You can't go wrong with anything here but these are local favorites with regional flare.

This place took off after it was featured in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil. There are two now, don't go to the downtown location, too touristy. Drive out a bit to the second location like the locals do. Breakfast is regional and stellar here. Items to try - Grits, Crab Cakes Benedict and the ENORMOUS pecan pancakes. Very addictive, very delicious, pass the maple syrup, please.

Tybee Island
About 30 minutes out of Savannah you run into Tybee Island, one of the dozens of little islands hugging the coastline of Georgia and South Carolina. Its a local hang out, a place to get away from the BIG city of Savannah (smirk :) The beaches are not worth mentioning but it is relaxing just to walk in the sand and listen to wind compete with the crashing waves.

Bay St./River St.
Its touristy like most river front areas but 1700's architecture add some dimension to River St and Bay St. that is lacking from other river fronts. River St. is right on the river, literally. Bay St. is some 40 feet above it at the surface level of the city. Its a mix of hotel, dining and retail - some chain but mostly small independents.

On the first Saturday of the month, Bay St. hosts the 'First Saturday Of The Month Fair'. Clever, I know. Basically, every artist sets up shop along the brick street and every local orders Strawberry Daquiris from street vendors. Its a race to see how much they can drink before spending all their money or falling into the river. You will find some interesting art, jewelry and crafts here, as well as some tasty drinks.

Galina's Margaritas
The girl from Ukraine can mix up some mean Margaritas. Whew, you only need one of these to make you feel like running through the island naked and singing gospel.

Galina divulged her secret recipe.

1 part Tequila (good Tequila)
1 part Grand Marinier
1 part Cointreau
1/2 to 1 part Key lime juice
1/2 to 1 part lemon juice

Mix all that in a blender full of ice, pour into glasses then top each with a 1/2 shot of Grand Mariner. My parents don't normally drink Margaritas but they both insisted that Galina write down the recipe.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Checking In

Just checking in, having a short break in Savannah with the folks. Actually a few friends joined me to meet my parents for the first time. Now they understand me a lot better :)

I'll catch up with everyone at the end of the week!