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

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Allegorically Yours

Continuing right along with my James Dean obsession, I have now seen all of his three film features. This one was a Steinbeck novel made movie in 1955. I never had to read this in high school like so many others did, so I was a blank slate heading into the film.

James Dean, East Of Eden

If you know the story of Cain and Abel, you know the basic plot of East Of Eden. I didn't realize at the film's beginning that screen brothers Cal(James Dean) and Aron would be playing out a story of biblical proportions. In fact, it wasn't until almost the end when Dean says "I'm not my brother's keeper" that it dawned on me.

Cal constantly battles and competes with his brother, Aron for some scrap of love or approval from their father. While Aron can do no wrong, has the purist of intentions and is generally the good son, Cal is somewhat haphazard, rebellious and unsure of his lot in life. This is the same allegorical good vs. evil match as Cain & Abel, that this story is set against a WW1 backdrop only serves to underscore the tone, albeit more modern.

Even if you know the basic story or you've read the book, you must see this. You'll still enjoy the interpretation through the director's vision, the interesting filming style (considering it is over 50 years old) and most importantly, to see James Dean in a heartbreaking role, which IMHO was his best.


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Monday, January 29, 2007


Interviews continue to go well. It looks like either Atlanta, Houston, Austin or Las Vegas, although there have been some developments in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas as of this evening.

Medical Terminology class is going well, it continues to amaze me how you can have a huge medical vocab with just a few root words, prefixes and suffixes. Now I can read medical journal articles and actually know what they are talking about.

Hebrew class is wonderful. I can now read the following and make all the appropriate sounds come out of my mouth. Just don't ask me what it means, we don't start vocabulary until next week.

What is odd about Hebrew (aside from the different letters and reading right to left) is that the alphabet you learn in class is not not the alphabet used in newspapers and on the internet. Bascially they leave out the vowels in modern publication, which of course means you have to know the words and the context before you can make sense of anything. Nice. Anyway, I can recite that "Barooch atah" blessing thingy now, so let me know if you need me to bless something, lol ;)

Realtor Girl and I have a walk through this week, we discussed a price and did some initial paperwork - the townhouse goes on the market in March.

I managed to spend some time in Austin over the weekend so I'll blab about that later!



Sorry, Ive been away in interview land again. I'll update soon!


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Decade & Bruschetta

Three parties over the weekend. I captured some pictures of two, the third was a pass-through.

First up John-John had a birthday, a decade birthday. A big decade birthday. The party was fun, about 50 or so boys spread out around his sprawling house and yard. I ran into alot of people I had not seen in a very long time. Many people I didn't remember because I had met them in clubs years ago, and well everyone knows how my memory works - plus I drink, you know.

I hated to scoot by 11p to make the other party, particularly when I got to other one and everyone was leaving. A Skyy and Tonic later I was leaving too. I thought about joining John & The Gang afterwards but they were going to the Eagle at midnight. I was not dressed Eagle-like, so opted for home and sleep.

John's Cake ablaze

After the fire dept. came - John(L) & Russ(R)

Sunday afternoon Hotel Godess had a Bruschetta Party, I think this was inspired by her recent journey into Italian lessons. Or maybe it was Italian men, or wine, something, I was never good at remembering the fine details. Anyway, it too was fun and the food was incredible!

Bruschetta Girls


Monday, January 22, 2007

Interlocking Chaos

Balal (Hebrew): to confuse or confound. Closely associated to this word.

Everyone knows the Tower Of Babel story, right? Post-deluge, the people of the city of Babel attempted to erect the Tower Of Babel to reach to heaven, which angered G-d, so, poof, he made each person speak a different language, effectively stopping the project cold. I suppose some elements of that biblical story are alive and well in this film, particularly considering its odd collection of locations: Morocco, Mexico and Japan.

With a cast including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Bernal, you would expect them to be the anchors of the film. They are good but they all pale in comparison to the Moroccan Father, Mexican Nanny, and IMHO, the total show-stealer, the deaf-mute Japanese Student. The girl playing the deaf-mute, Rinko Kikuchi, never says a word but her performance will lodge itself somewhere in the back of your throat and stay there for 2 1/2 hours, she's amazing!

Babel seems to play on a dichotomy; it uses initially disjoint but ultimately interlocking stories in each country to show how we are all fundamentally connected through the human experience yet fatally segmented by its language and interpretation.


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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weekend, Week Ahead

Finally, after a week of gross winter precip there was a break in the weather. Good thing too since there were three parties I needed to make; two down and one to go today. I will upload pictures soon, I'm trying to break my posting with a week's lag habit.

This coming week will be a few interviews, hopefully finishing up my research project (due Jan 30) and starting my Medical Terminology and Hebrew classes.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Use For White Beans

I have a super high-fiber diet, mostly due to beans. I love them, all kinds but I had never made much of anything with the white bean.

Until now. (The following was approved by my official taster, Neighbor Blair)

White Bean Salad With Lemon and Cumin

  • 2 C White (Northern) Beans (dry)
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 1/2 t Salt
  • 1/2 Red Onion, diced
  • 1/2 C Cilantro, chopped
  • 6 Tbls Olive Oil
  • 5 Tbls Lemon juice, fresh
  • 2 t Cumin
  • 1/4 t Chipotle or Cayenne

1 Place beans in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Soak overnight.

2 Drain beans then place in a large saucepan. Add bay leaves and enough water to cover the beans by a couple of inches then bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat then simmer for 40 minutes. Add salt then cook until beans are tender but firm, another 10-20 minutes.

3 Drain beans then place in a large bowl, picking out the bay leaves. Add onion and cilantro. Whisk olive oil, lemon, cumin and hot pepper in a small bowl. Pour over beans then toss lightly.

Notes: Dont use canned white beans, too mushy making the whole thing look and feel like a paste.

If you aren't a cilantro fan, try parsley instead. I liked the cilantro version better but that's me.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Generally I sit out on political discussions. More than sex but less than religion, I find a lengthy discussion of politics to be the fastest and most iron-clad way to polarize a group of people and ruin a perfectly enjoyable evening. But lately most of my friends are compulsive about the discussing the topic, maybe its the excitement of the not-soon-enough 2008 de-Bushing.

There are many contenders for 2008 and many of those I know nothing about. With my Barnes & Noble gift card burning a hole in my wallet since December, I decided to pick up this book and explore Barack Obama. About 100% of my friends have gone ga-ga over him, not to say they would cast a vote in his direction, rather they are intrigued by what he has to say.

Most people can't say his first name without his last, its all strung together into a catchy brand that easily rolls off the tongue. Catchy, so much so that of all the contenders, I hear Barackobama's name the most. Or I remember it the most.

First off, I liked the book. I liked what Barackobama had to say. He is a eloquent writer, obviously intelligent, cautious, witty and often self-effacing. I liked the way he circumnavigated many issues - quietly, inspecting all angles, then crafted a particular stance but acknowledged that his stance was not without fault and did not stand in isolation.

Does that mean I would vote for him should he throw his exotic name into the ring for President. No, it doesnt. Does it mean that I will pay closer attention to what he has to say in the future? Sure I will and I'm certain that was the goal of publishing Audacity of Hope.

Critics of the book and of Barackobama himself constantly mention that his ideas are good but he has no plan or path of how to achieve them. I think that's arguable. Sure, implementation of a plan is what matters but noone should expect to get that from a 360-page book more intended to be an introduction rather than a point-by-point dissertation on policy implementation. Moreover, I've heard him speak and I think he does have a plan, not one that is nailed down at every step but still an inception and direction that will keep me listening.

The other criticism I hear is that he has little experience. Sure, he is junior but I submit this question in rebuttal and with the goal of keeping my own mind open until I have more information. How many times have you cast a vote for "experienced" people only to be disappointed in the outcome?

I tell myself not be so quick to assume that experience dictates a favorable outcome, particularly when I already have that experiential knowledge under my belt more times than I care to remember.

The only thing that made me pause a bit was that he admitted he was not in favor of gay marriage but later that he was in favor of same-sex civil unions and equal rights for the G&L community. Maybe I misread or misinterpreted or lost a timeline detail in what he wrote but this sounded a bit self-conflicting to me.

I hope he does throw his name into the ring, not so much that I would want him as President, I'm still learning about him, rather that as a man from a mostly single-parent, multi-racial, multi-spritual background, it would speak volumes that he can and would be able to do so.

(Ironically as I finishing writing this I caught a blip on CNN that he is closer to joining the race)

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Idan Raichel Project

My cousin (in Israel) introduced me to this dreadlocked Israeli artist over the weekend. I suppose we could call him World Fusion, Israel meets Ethiopia. I don't usually think that Hebrew language will blend well with Reggae beats but in this case it really does. Raichel goes well beyond Reggae style but his collaborative efforts with 70 other world-based musicians are mostly funky downtempo, introspective with clever percussion and hauntingly beautiful piano lines. You'll like this for quiet around-the-house days and of course for your next World Fusion Zen Den dinner party.

Idan Raichel

You can read his bio and click 'round to other info here Idan Raichel Project Bio

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A Use For Cauliflower

My brother-in-law refers to cauliflower as 'that dry, lifeless packing material that people continue to call a vegetable'. He changed his tune after trying this.

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

  • 1 Head Cauliflower, broken into flowerettes
  • 1 T Butter
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Sweet Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon

1 Preheat oven to 500. Melt butter and toss with olive oil and cauliflower in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine spices. Toss spices with cauliflower until coated evenly. Spread cauliflower in a single layer in a roasting pan and bake for 20 minutes or until carmelized.

2 Sprinkle with salt and pepper, serve.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Laugh At Yourself

My sister got me these cool Tibetan Prayer Flags for Christmas, I love them. I finally made some time to put them up. You are supposed to hang them outside to weather the elements. In time they will eventually wear away to shreds, at which point you hang another set on top of them. In Tibetan Buddhism this is symbolic of the the cycle of life.

While I was putting them up outside my neighbor, Hot Cop, stopped to ask about them. We were chatting about the flags but all the time he has this goofy grin on his face. I live in a neighborhood that is about half straight and half gay, so ordinarily when some man gives me that goofy grin I have a good idea what it means. But Hot Cop is straight, in theory, he did marry a girl last year, so I wasn't sure what it meant. Shrugging it off I just went about my list of things to do.

Later I discovered why he was giving me that goofy grin. And that would be because of the other present my sister got me - the complete set of travel-sized chakra face masks. If you buy into chakra cosmetics, you are supposed to line up the jars, each a different color, then the first color that comes to your mind is indicative of the chakra that is out of balance. Apply, leave on for 15 minutes and poof, you are in balance again.

So, I did that. My color was green - apparently meaning my heart chakra was out of whack. Well, I had to laugh out loud, I guess I forgot I had it on before I went outside to hang my prayer flags. I'm sure all the other neighbors got a good chuckle. I'll be looking for my bright green face on YouTube soon, at least I had a power drill and hammer with me at the time.

Sheesh, lol.

And on that note, everyone have a good weekend :)


Thursday, January 11, 2007

5-Star Obsession

Crisp and clever script, brilliant direction, tour-de-force acting and dark humor blend effortlessly in this film, destined to snag awards on Big O night.

Not to diminsh Blanchett's incredible performace but Dame Judi Dench owned this one from start to finish. From sudden madness to awkward desperation to soft concern, her deadly accurate delivery and unnerving ability to strike just the right emotional chord with an audience are amazing. I still liked Mrs. Brown better overall but Notes On A Scandal was a huge sweep for Dench.

As Ryan had mentioned in his review, the ending is somewhat a studio template, primered and unpainted, that bothered me a little. But the ending is a soft landing much as the opening is a quiet launch, so at least it was balanced in terms of energy. What also bothered me a tiny bit were how quietly the plot wrinkles were delivered, considering the huge and immediate impact they had on the story. But these are minor in the end.

I'm not going to mention any plot details since the surprising twists are key to enjoying this one.

Make it a gold star day! (you'll understand the reference later :)


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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Walking Afghanistan

What do you get when you put a guy from Scotland in Afghanistan and let him walk from end to end? Right, you get 300 pages of fascinating story.

Rory Stewart has walked across some interesting countries: India, Tibet, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. These aren't countries that I would imagine open-armed to an obvious Anglo, despite the fact that he could speak the language and knows most of the customs. In some chapters my preconceived idea shouted true through his text, but in others the differences melted out and all that was left was the canonical human spirit.

The Places In Between covers his months of walking from one end of Afghanistan to the other, shortly after the Taliban was dismantled. While Stewart is a good writer, his tone is very matter of fact, so much so as to appear detached when confronted with residual Taliban members armed with semi-automatics.

I enjoyed the way Stewart described his travels, village by village, in beautiful, banal and sometimes horrific imagery. Details of the present superimposed with bits of localized history to illuminate how culture, religion and economics had or more often, had not changed.

Truly an interesting read about a place I'm not likely to ever visit.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

The Best Revenge

Is living well. Or singing well. And acting well. Just ask Jennifer Hudson. After being unceremoniously cut from that hack of a show, American Idol, she burns it down on every front in this film.


I didn't think anyone could belt out soul-wrenching stuff like Jennifer Holiday did in Dreamgirls on Broadway, apparently I was wrong. I have a feeling we will all be paying $110 a seat to see Hudson on Broadway some day soon.

See this one in theatres, you wont regret it.


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Off to Fort Worth again to get a bit of culture. This time a visit to the Modern Art Museum to see the Hiroshi Sugimoto photography exhibit. What an incredible eye he has for light and space.

The installation covers most of the second story and its broken up into themes. I liked the diorama sequence. You remember dioramas, those cheesy installations in natural history museums usually intended to teach you the progression of man throughout history. Or some other crap like that. What Sugimoto did was visit a handful of natural history museums and photograph their dioramas. What I found interesting about this sequence was that the photographs look more real than the actual subjects. Its more a context mind-game, you automatically believe the photograph is real since it is one-dimensional and still, where as the 3 dimensional diorama you view while in real-time motion looks all kinds of fake. Seems backwards, doesn't it?

Hall Of 33 Bays - Hiroshi Sugimoto

This was my favorite photo. Its a shot he took inside of a Buddhist temple in Tokyo. He had to go through all kinds of hoops to be allowed to take this one photo, but what a stunning one it is. Its hard to describe the display and you cannot get a feel for its impact from this photo. It stands in a dimly-lit room by itself, a dozen or so spots hit it from all angles. Its height is only about 18 inches but its width is about 40 feet. It looks like a hall of mirrors when you look at it dead on. The rows of Buddhas change form as you walk from end to end, at each end the subject itself fades and a sequential and infinite "V" pattern emerges.

Elephants - Chinatsu Ban

The other artist on display was Chinatsu Ban. This artist did not speak to me. The paintings and 'sculptures' look like cutesy Hello Kitty animals colliding with Grace Slick acid trip. I would call it motionless anime but I like anime, so I won't call it that. A patron next to me was overwhelmed by Ban's creations, saying they were the height of creativity.

It takes all kinds.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

NYE 2006

Austin was the destination for NYE this year. Normally when I go to Austin I spend more time with friends than family, so I decided to transpose the two this time. I don't think I had seen my cousin and her family for a couple of years. While I was at my cousin's house, her son, who is 14, came clumping down the stairs. Everyone said they wished they had a camera to capture my face when I saw him. The last time I remember seeing him he was 8 and shorter than me. Now he is 6' tall and looks like a college student. Even their 8 year old is almost looking eye-level at me. Giants, all of them! lol

2nd Cousins

Actual NYE was a small house party with friends, complete with overtaking the drive outside as our personal (and slightly illegal) fireworks launching pad. Beautiful! It was cold but me managed to drink enough wine to stay warm.

New Year's day Auntee and I went to the new Whole Foods in downtown. I've been to a Whole Foods before but Auntee insisted that I had not been to one like this one. She was right, this makes Central Market look like a Stuckeys truck stop. Seriously, you have to love a grocery that has a whole nut roasting station, 50 varieties, all freshly roasted. The produce 'ailse' was bigger than my neighborhood Krogers. I would have to live next door to this place if I lived in Austin.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Christmas 2006

I finally uploaded pictures from Christmas and New Years, only a little over a week's lag.

This year we converged on my parents in Savannah rather than going to my sister's house in Cincinatti. It was a great trip, if only because this was the first year I had no travel drama at all: no lines, no delays, no miscommunications. Since it was so warm for most of the visit, my sister and I went for really long walks around the island; she is preparing to run a marathon, which is really amazing considering she had heart surgery a few years back.

I noticed this year that my nieces, 5 and 8, are still kids, witness the use of my dad as the propelling force in a round of floor surfing, but they are starting to grow up. I'm pretty sure my older niece has the Santa thing figured out but she is still playing along. I'm sure she does this to make us adults happy. The younger niece, while watching my dad (as Santa) delivering presents under the tree, turned and asked my sister "Don't you think Santa sounds alot like Grandpa?". Well, what do you say to that. It looks like my dad's career as Santa may be coming to end soon.

Floor Surfing with Grandpa

Christmas morning I was the first one up. The person that gets up first in our family has the pleasure of barging into the rooms of the sleeping, jumping on their beds and jolting them out of a nice, deep sleep. My sister and bro-in-law were particularly pleased with their awakenings, considering the volume of wine they had the night before :)

Christmas Morning, post present opening

Christmas dinner was different this year, sister and I made a large selection of tapas. I liked the format better than huge amounts of turkey, ham and twice baked stuffed potatoes! Did the Sweet Potato soup as a start and everyone really liked it, there's something about the super buttery rosemary croutons that has general appeal :)

My dad's golden always gets freaked out during the holidays, she cant stand for anything new to be in the house. When she sees something that doesnt belong she sits down and barks at it until you move it. You can imagine with all of the decorations and presents that she was beside herself at every turn.

Maggie, taking a barking break


Wednesday, January 03, 2007


If you are a gay man you will definitely think the opening of this film is homoerotic, maybe even porn. Who could blame you, two men naked on a bed, abstractly shot to look like wrestling. Or something. But when you learn that it is father and son, father trying to contain son while he is having a bad dream, you might be forced to rethink. You may rethink your previous re-thunk thought when the embraces between them last a little too long, they speak to each other with no personal space and they look at each other with the look of a really good first date. You're sure there is going to be a wild kiss followed by something you will peek through your fingers to see.

But you're wrong. What this Russian director, Alexandr Sokurov, so brilliantly and provocatively depicts is the love between father and son. Father & Son traces a quietly intense and advant-garde portrait of a necessary bond, what happens when that bond is severed and how some will forever seek to replace or repair until a facsimile exists or they die trying.

I loved the way they filmed this one, like everything was shot through a gold or silver gauze, giving the whole 70 minutes a serene, dream-like feeling, putting you, the viewer, in the perspective of uninformed voyeur, destined to unearth something you are not at all prepared to see.

The casting was particularly strategic, father (Andrei Shchetinin) and son (Aleksei Nejmyshev) are both good-looking, well-built Russian men that catch your eye and hold you down while whispering a poignant message you didn't come to hear.


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