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

Saturday, December 30, 2006

All Things

I do most of my non-technical reading while I'm in the air. Here is one I read while flying from Atlanta to Savannah (45 minutes, so its a quick read).

Let me give you the summary - Dude dies and in "heaven", 5 people he encountered while alive show him the importance of his life on earth.

I've read gobs of books like this one, usually falling neatly into the bucket of "Buddhism for the curious". Written in a typically Christian tone, it still had the familiar texture of the Buddhist belief that your soul is evaluated after you die and only then do you learn why you lived this life.

The author's style is smooth, weaving believable characters and imagery into a digestable, weighty story. The story of the seemingly ordinary man living a life of almost banal quality does a neat perspective alteration trick, leaving you feeling in awe of the power he had to change the course of events in the lives of the five people he meets in heaven.

In Buddhist tradition, books like this, these life-answering, what-is-the-nature-of all-things books, are not to be kept. After reading them, you give them away to the first person who comes to mind. If you get this in the mail, I was thinking of you.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Substance D

I haven't watched much anime but of all that I have watched this one is my favorite. The animation is incredible! I'm very curious about the process they used to create the sequences, at times they looked very close to real images. The animation is so close to true that you won't need to know the cast beforehand, you will recognize Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson as soon as you see their animated renditions.

In a future Los Angeles, the mood is dark and Substance D is the new drug. D is a particularly addictive one that polarizes the left brain from the right, causing its users to lose memory of everyday objects and to hallucinate horrific images, post-high. A group of undercover cops are sent out to break the ring of Substance D sellers but this proves to be somewhat counter-productive since undercover cops themselves become users and instant addicts.

The film is a very pointed finger at modern day drug abuse, although not quite as scary as the reality of right here, right now. But the film also makes a heavier point of the Orwellian tactics of government to try to control the flow of drugs, pointing out how it is still not effective and simple economics, supply and demand, tend to override good intentions.


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Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Use For Sweet Potatoes

Generally I don't like sweet potatoes but this sounded good with the addition of rosemary and pancetta. If you're looking for a good winter soup to wow the guests, this one might work.

Sweet Potato Soup With Fried Pancetta and Rosemary Croutons

  • 4 Ounce Pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbls Butter, divided
  • 1 C Shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 t Rosemary, chopped
  • 2 C Sweet Potatoes, cooked, skinned and mashed
  • 3 1/2 C Chicken Stock (or broth)
  • 1 1/2 C Sourdough bread, cubed
  • 2 T Whipping cream
  • 1 t Black pepper
  • salt

1 Chop the pancetta into small bits. Sautee pancetta over high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

2 Add half the butter to the same pan and sautee shallot over medium heat until soft and golden. Stir in 1 t of the rosemary, then add the sweet potatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook and stir occasionally for 30 minutes.

3 Remove from heat, add 2T of whipping cream and pepper, stir to blend. Taste, adjust, adding salt and pepper if necessary.

4 Add remaining butter to a pan. Over medium high heat melt butter, then add remaining rosemary, stir. Add sourdough bread cubes and pan fry until all sides are golden and crisp.

5 Ladel soup into bowls, top with mound of croutons and a sprinkle of fried pancetta.

As is, this soup will be chunky. I kinda like it like that but you could take a hand liquidiser to it and make it more smooth.

If you are using low-sodium stock, you will probably need to add a bit of salt (I added about 1 t) , otherwise you probably won't. Also, speaking of stock, in this particular soup the stock is a feature flavor, if you are buying stock off the rack rather than making it from scratch, I'd suggest choosing something high-grade.

Pancetta is an Italian bacon with a very distinct flavor. If your taste buds cannot detect the difference, I would use regular bacon, its easier to find and way less expensive.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Belief and Suspension of Disbelief

Pursuit Of Happyness

This is a great movie to see during the holidays, particularly if you suffer from holiday-induced depression; its a feel-good injection.

The true story of a man with a dream struggling to make ends meet, gets worse and worse and worse. For the bulk of this film I felt exhausted watching this poor guy chasing a dream only to get clobbered and run ragged all over San Francisco. But the message seems to be that if you truly believe in yourself, you will prevail. Its just a matter of how much crap you can take before belief starts to fade.

I love Will Smith, I don't know why, I just do. I go to see all of his films and usually I am not disappointed. This one was particularly good in the context of story-line and acting, although I think they could have left out the wife character and had a more fluid progression of events and tighter focus on the goal he was trying to achieve.

What made this film more interesting was that Will Smith's real son was playing his son on screen. I didn't realize it until the credit roll but I kept thinking to myself - "You know, this kid looks alot like Jada Pinkett Smith". I think little Jaden Smith has a career at a mere 8 years old.


Deja Vu

This film was not at all what I was expecting but I found it utterly fascinating!

Much like The Matrix there is a sizeable suspension of disbelief you have to engage before it will be enjoyable. My advice, swallow it in one big gulp and enjoy.

Imagine, if you will, that you can tweek little bits of the past then watch how it effects the present, understanding of course, that you have no power to predict any specific future. This is exactly what happens to the characters in this film. What makes Deja Vu so interesting is the way they visually present the juxtapostion of past and present simultaneously while cloaking the future in a very suspenseful way.

What might make this film a little tricky is keeping up with what is past and what is present. I followed it well but Mistress Lauren was having some difficulty at the end (I think she was looking at the new ring her husband bought her rather than the screen during a critical scene :)

Denzel Washington does a great job, as always, but as we both noticed he seemed way more natural in this film than he has in other recent ones. I still can't believe he is 52, we should all look that good at 52.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Past

Girl Cousin, Boy Cousin, Sister and Me - Dallas, 1977

I spent most of yesterday morning clearing out one closet and packing up for the inevitable move. I came across a box that had been sealed up since I left California in 1989. Most of the contents were pictures from the 70's, I laughed alot going through them.

One of my aunts had lived in Dallas since the 60's. It was through visiting her that I became familiar with the city and met many people long before I actually moved here. Sadly she moved to Austin this year, now all the family I had in Dallas lives elsewhere in the state.

I always thought my girl cousin looked alot like Sissy Spacek. To this day she still does a wicked impression of Carrie after they spilled the blood on her prom dress, lol.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Random Party View

Me, The Happy Drunk

Never give the gays ribbon and wine. You know better, you know we will only put the ribbon in our hair and make a funny face. I warned them, they didn't listen.

Esther, Me, Cute Straight Boy and Jimbo

Here I am pointing out that there is a huge freaking table of food. Eat people, EAT! (Good grief, I'm becoming my grandma)

Dad and Groovy Bartender

What happened to my dad? I had never seen him in full-on party mode. He was all over the place talking to everyone. I could hear him laughing and joking from the other side of the bar. I realized at that moment that my dad and I have exactly the same laugh - loud and infectious.

My dad walked right up to Former Boyfriend, introduced himself and asked him how he knew me. Former Boyfriend looked at my mom who then looked at my dad with a puzzled look. I guess those three Christmases he spent at our house didn't register with my dad. Maybe if Former Boyfriend had blonde hair and boobs my dad might remember him better, lol.

Dad was shocked to find out that most everyone already knew him for his rendition of Santa. Raised in Brooklyn, he does a wicked Brooklyn Santa, yo. If you missed those shots you can trip back to the archives of Dec 2005. Or just wait a few weeks, I'm pretty sure he'll do it again this year.

Noeha and HEU Tara

Noeha had to work an 80 hour week to be able to take time for the party, a huge thanks! HEU Tara, organized the list of things to see and do after the party, the music, took photos and she transported my drunken butt all over Dallas, hugest thanks to her!


Friday, December 15, 2006

I Be Graduate

Thanks to everyone who took time out of their busy holiday season to help me celebrate my Master's. The party was fun! I arrived late and well on my way out of sobriety, so you know I was off to a good start. Food was awesome, wine was better, and of course, the people made the event.

Funny, about 15 people who said the were coming, didn't, but that was ok since 15 people who said they weren't coming, did. I think we had 65 or so but they came in staggered batches so it flowed well throughout the evening.

Leslie & Dave

Leslie and I have known each other for 22 years. We lived together back in the San Francisco chapter. I left California in 1989, Leslie followed quickly behind me, 10 years later. Ironic hat we both landed in Texas.

Oklahoma Mom & Leslie

Oklahoma Mom is also from the San Francisco era, again odd that she planted herself in Oklahoma, only 3 hours away. Oklahoma Mom adopted me after my parents moved to New Orleans ( I stayed in Ca. to finish university).

Real Mom & Washington DC Mom

Washington DC Mom has known me since I was 6, so at least 20 years! (snort). Our family lived next door to hers in Mobile, AL. She is also the real mom of my friend Suzy, who blogs "Sleepless in Babyland".

After the party, Highly Elusive Urban Tara and I went out with Cute Straight Boy. HEU Tara and I thought it would be fun to play a round of that very popular game, Shock The Straight Boy, so we took him out bar hopping, gay bar hopping. He was far from shocked, actually he seemed to enjoy it.

And I quote from CS Boy - "When the gays find your atttractive, thats when you know you're really hot!". Who knew we were the official hot-ness thermometer for all mankind? :)

I had a wonderful time. Too wonderful, I didnt get to sleep until 3am. Getting up at 7am to see everyone off to the airport was quite the challenge!

If I get more pictures I'll post them out to yahoo.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Interview in Houston today went well, so thats sort of good news - bad news. I like Houston as a city, particularly the people but the weather, yikes. Well, its all about the job, so we will see.

Still dont have pictures from the Grad party since I wasn't sober enough to operate a camera, hopefully the pic takers will send them tomorrow.

If you are on Beta Blogger (Ryan, Bunny Lynn) please be aware I (and other non beta-bloggers) are not able to leave named comments on your blog anymore.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Decoration, Conclusion

Unpack 3 more ornaments. Unpack 3 more holders. Hang the ornaments on the holders. Move the candles off the coffee table. Re-center the southwestern pottery.

Whew! The stress of holiday decoration is unbearable!


Thursday, December 07, 2006


Starting this morning I have a number of people coming into town to verify that I have indeed graduated. I think they are expecting me to do things with them. See you all next week.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The 4th Choice

In a 1938 pre-independence India, change has already set itself in high gear. The British have released Gandhi from jail and the Indian people are beginning to assert themselves beyond colonial rule.

Change, but overshadowed by higher traditional fences. Women of the era, according to holy text, have three choices when their husbands die: 1) burn with them at their cremation 2) marry the husband's younger brother, if available or 3) live in a house of widows. The third choice amounts to being a nun, living in poverty and celebacy for the rest of their days.

Water, a film by Deepa Mehta

Water chronicles an eight year old widow (yes, 8) and her time spent in a house of widows. The house is largely a self-contained entity since during the era, to be a widow was to be shamed and shunned by the rest of society. The interaction between the confused but rebellious 8 year old and the members of her new family was extraordinary, particularly when you consider that this actually happened. And in some cases still happens.

Although the house of widows was sealed to the outside, they still needed cash flow. To that end they allowed one woman, the resident prostitute-elect, to leave the complex nightly to bring home the cash by helping out some needy, mostly married men. She was a beautiful girl, the pro. So beautiful, in fact, that a liberal Gandhi follower (John Abraham) turned his nose up at tradition and fell madly in love with her. This he does much to the dismay of his parents, particularly his father, who makes use of her services regularly.

Naturally, drama ensues.

John Abraham

The acting is good with flecks of brilliance, particularly from the little girl playing the 8 year old widow (Sarala), the house pro (Lisa Ray) and the quiet but firm house guardian with a conscience (Seema Biswas). John Abraham, apparently India's male version of a supermodel, does a decent job but really, I wouldn't mind just looking at him for hours, even if he didn't talk or move.

While the acting wont move you to tears, the story, filming and the production will carry you away. Some of the scenes are so urgently and beautifully shot they will leave a permanent impression.

The soundtrack to Water is awesome; from the raw and primal drum beats to the soft but painful low chants.

This film is sad, sometimes enraging but ultimately beautiful.


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Decoration, Inception

Inception Complete

Unpack the holder. Unpack the ornament. Hang the ornament on the holder.
Whew! I'm spent.

Definitely cause for a martini.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Decoration, Planning

I started the planning phase of the annual holiday coffee table decorations. I believe I have a solid project plan and can get the entire event successfully completed by week's end.

While seemingly a simple task, what you may not realize are the many factors that go into this event. For example, each decoration must be placed strategically to enhanced the existing decor. While that was no small feat last year, it is now infinitely more difficult considering there have been changes in accessories and of course, new paint. The angle of placement is of grave concern since the decorations are reflective and must make clever use of both internal and external light.

Blank Slate

There is also procurement. Not for the holiday decorations but the vodka and olives to make the celebratory martinis that will follow. No small task, but I know how much you all enjoy my week's worth of effort, lol :)

In other news, I found my new favorite artist, Ahmed Soultan. He's kinda like Moroccan R&B, sung in Arabic, French and English. Persian Ex recommended him, and as usual, he was right on. We always did have exactly the same taste in music.

Ahmed Soultan Website


Saturday, December 02, 2006


Probability Theory, done. DNA Knot Topology, done. Well, almost done. Just one more 20-pg paper, a Spanish Oral (careful :) and Spanish final to go. I will be completely finished on Dec 15th. Yay, me.

Gay Men Rule
Over the past week I ran a little experiment. I asked 75 gay men one question. The question and the responses I will post to GMR soon. Ok, soon-ish.

In Defence of English Cookery
John, from over the pond in London, sent a good-natured objection to my post indicating that IMHO, England had no great national dishes. He sent several of his family recipies from the West region, one of which I will be trying tomorrow, Leek Pie. Thanks John!

Grad Party
Big Mike reminded me that my party is next weekend. I was sure it was 3 weeks away. While I certainly know which day of the week it is, I am never quite sure of the actual date. I'm ready, so ready. If you are coming, look forward to seeing you. If you arent, I'm sure to blog afterwards.

For those of you who asked about what gift to bring, well, nothing says love like cold, hard cash. Seriously though, none necessary, just enjoy and meet everyone else in my life.

Foodie Concerns
My sister and I cook Christmas dinner for my parents. From Thanksgiving on we pick out our menu for this year's gathering, which usually involves alot of experimenting for the first few weeks of Decemeber. Those experiements that succeed, I will try to post.

Mom Update
We were concerned that she might have to have yet another back surgery next year but the doc says no. Yay, mom.

So many I've seen and would like to write about but alas, so little time. The "to write about" list.

  • Water
  • Rebel without A Cause
  • Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
  • Borat
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Dangerous Beauty

Also, thanks to Tommy who recommended Hate Crime, its in my Q!

New Job Thing
I had 2 offers this week, one from Ft. Worth, the other from San Antonio. Both were under market by about 40% so I thanked them kindly and asked them to keep me in mind for more senior level positions (as it is obvious what they want is someone with no experience). Surely these people realize that everyone has access to, lol. Sheesh.

Home Depot Guy
He's doing very well in NYC. Loves his new job and being near family. He did however complain that there was noone to date in the city. Of course I find this amusing since he is 20-something, intelligent, witty, makes a good living and is very good looking. What I found out was that he is only attracted to blondes. Interesting, I never picked up on that before. He claims NYC is a city of dark, smoldering men, none of which he finds himself particularly attracted to. Poor thing, I feel a tear coming on. My mistake, it was just allergies.

Israeli Update
My cousin, who works for the Israeli Police, just send me a newspaper clipping showing herself and her team after arresting a ring of people defrauding the elderly of their social security payments. This comes on the heels of her shutting down the prostitution ring in her city. We are very proud of her, particularly considering the less than ideal surroundings in which she works.

Its kind of surreal for me to think that fraud and prostitution are happening in the Land Of G-d, but I suppose people are people regardless of geography.

Holiday Decorations
Since Big Mike reminded me it was December now, I will be doing my anual coffee table decorations. As you may recall from last year, the decorations are extremely elaborate so it takes me about 3 days to complete. I'll update you along the way.


Friday, December 01, 2006


After receiving recommedations from Steve and Suzy for Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, I went down to Blockbuster's to rent but unfortunately all the copies were gone. But they were not short on other Elizabeth Taylor flicks.

Since everyone has rushed out to see her in Giant, then we are all familiar with Optomistic-Pragmatic-Justice-Seeker Liz. Now you must see Caustic-Abusive-Alcoholic Liz.

Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?

No soundtrack, no special effects, no flashbacks, no subplots. Its just four people filmed at close range and dialogue, that's it. And its fantastic.

Bitter, abusive middle-aged couple meets happy, fresh and young couple for a evening of drinks and light conversation. Or so the premise goes. But the reality is somewhat different. Bitter, abusive, middle-aged couple drag happy, fresh and young couple into a very tense, awkward and powerful 4-way psychological boxing match that continues all night and into the next morning.

The dialogue in this film is brilliantly vicious. Vicious, even by today's standards, so you have to wonder how it was received back in the day when it was released (1966). But even as well-written as it is, it even better delivered by the four people locked in a tight, tense frame for two hours you will never forget. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis and George Segal simply set this black-and-white classic on fire.

What I liked the most about ET was the ease with which she could manipulate an audience. In the beginning she has you screaming for someone to punch her in the face. Then, at the end, she makes you want to console her and tell her it will be OK.

Taylor won an Oscar for her role, as did Dennis, both very well-deserved. In fact, the film itself was nominated in every category, winning in 5.

I feel bad it took me so many years to see this one.


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