Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ordinary people

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up – I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people."
Stephen Harper after $45 million in cuts to arts and culture funding
Full article: Ordinary folks don't care about arts: Harper (The Star)

Age of Credulity

Roger Ebert's latest blog posting is, as always, fascinating and insightful. There's some important background for the article, but essentially he delves into our ability to perceive irony -- something he suggests is becoming increasingly important in the post-Pulp Fiction age of movies. Basically, we are more ready to believe things and take them at face value, no matter how crazy or ridiculous they seem to sound.

In one example, he pulls an interesting quote from the New York Post's review of the season premiere of Heroes. Reviewer Adam Buckman writes:
...[Heroes], which was once so thrilling and fun, has become full of itself, its characters spouting crazy nonsense.

Here's one I wish someone would translate for me: "There's a divinity that shapes our ends - rough hew them how we will," spouts the enigmatic industrialist Linderman played by Malcolm McDowell, who should win an Emmy for keeping a straight face while reciting these lines.
Ebert responds:
Perhaps McDowell kept a straight face because he knew he was quoting one of the most famous speeches in Hamlet. I don't expect everyone to have read Hamlet, but I would hope a New York critic might have run across it once or twice. Still, we all have our blind spots. After I once quoted Dr. Johnson, I had an editor who asked me who the doctor was, and whether he practiced at a Chicago hospital. So let's assume Buckman knew Hamlet by heart, but had forgotten that one sentence.

Roger Ebert's full post
New York Post review by Adam Buckman

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Sick Critic

I guess if there's a silver lining to being sick as death for several days, it's that it lets you watch a lot of movies. I managed to take in a few last week...

Escape from New York (1981, directed by John Carpenter). Carpenter's The Thing is one of my favorite movies and Halloween has its moments. Unfortunately, this movie hasn't aged as well as as either of those. For an action movie, an awful lot of it is just really boring. The movie aims for grand-scale theatrics, but by modern standards, it feels stilted and decidedly unremarkable. The Manhattan prison island never feels as foreboding or marvelous as I think it deserves. Kurt Russell is great though and Isaac Hayes was a welcome surprise, although he seems wasted; he rarely gets to show how his character, The Duke, earned such a badass reputation. In the end, both the action and the movie itself are a bit anticlimactic.

Doomsday (2008, directed by Neil Marshall). Speaking of gloomy near-future action thrillers, this is also one. Also like Escape, it features a hero who must cross over into a contained area and face perverse dangers on a secret mission to retrieve something important to her government. It doesn't really add much new to the established boundaries of the genre, but it's entertaining, and I guess that's what counts. The premise is enticing and it's wonderfully excessive in all the right places, but it also has a good sense of humor and the actors all seem comfortable in their roles. I've never seen Rhona Mitra in anything else before, but she holds her own quite nicely as an action hero. Malcolm MacDowell plays yet another jaded villain; he could probably do these roles in his sleep by now.

Closer (2004, directed by Mike Nichols). There are some aspects of this movie that I like a lot and some that really annoy me. Infidelity is played like a game between a bunch of people who seem to be almost as ugly on the inside as they are beautiful on the outside. They all have their likeable moments, but I can't say I cared too much if any of them found happiness. Then again, the film works better as character study than as narrative, so maybe I'm just lucky for not finding this relatable at all -- I don't know. It's nice to see Julia Roberts in something a little more sophisticated than I'm used to, but Clive Owen still steals the show.

Versus (2000, directed by Ryuhei Kitamura). I can't even remember where I heard about this movie, but it really wasn't worth tracking down. It's a movie that has a few interesting things going for it, but doesn't actually do anything well. It's a poor gangster movie, a below-average samurai movie, and only a half-hearted zombie movie. Fans tout it as a horror-action-comedy, but it's not particularly scary, funny, or thrilling. There's a lot of posing and other senselessness that I might have found very cool when I was 10 years old, but mostly it's just lame now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Feast of Pizzas

I've been sick all last week and neglectful of all blogging and other internet-related functions. I'm sure you've all been obsessively abusing your "refresh" buttons.

As Meg commented, I do write a lot about food, and I think that's going to continue. In the past, I maintained a "food journal" at a blog called Accidental Hedonist. They feature some insightful writing, but in the end it's not really my site and I feel I'd rather share my creations and ideas directly with my immediate friends. I hope this stuff doesn't bore you.

We recently hosted a dinner for family where I decided to focus everything around pizza. I prepared enough dough for six medium-sized pizzas, which I hoped would let me play with the toppings and provide enough variety to satisfy all seven diners.

Pizza #1: tomato sauce, anchovies, olives, roquette, mozzarella

Pizza #2: tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, roasted red peppers, basil

Pizza #3: basil pesto, chicken, roasted red peppers, parmesan

Pizza #4: caramelized onion, rosemary, blue gouda, pancetta, parmesan

Pizza #5: tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil, (1st half) olives & anchovies, (other half) chicken

Pizza #6 was put up to an informal vote and I produced an encore of pizza #4, featuring the caramelized onions. The sweetness of the onions with the woodsy perfume of the rosemary and sharp cheeses produces a pretty sensational combination, so I'm not entirely surprised it was a favourite.

And there you have it. I think I've made myself hungry again.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Vegetarian's 100

In response to The Omnivore's 100, the blog Tigers & Strawberries has issued The Vegetarian's 100. I guess you know how this works now, so I'll just get to it.

1. Real macaroni and cheese, made from scratch and baked
2. Tabouleh
3. Freshly baked bread, straight from the oven (preferably with homemade strawberry jam)
4. Fresh figs
5. Fresh pomegranate
6. Indian dal of any sort
7. Imam bayildi
8. Pressed spiced Chinese tofu
9. Freshly made hummus
10. Tahini
11. Kimchi
12. Miso
13. Falafel
14. Potato and pea filled samosas
15. Homemade yogurt
16. Muhammara
17. Brie en croute
18. Spanikopita
19. Fresh, vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes
20. Insalata caprese
21. Stir-fried greens (gai lan, bok choi, pea shoots, kale, chard or collards)
22. Freshly made salsa
23. Freshly made guacamole
24. Creme brulee
25. Fava beans
26. Chinese cold sesame peanut noodles
27. Fattoush
28. New potatoes
29. Coleslaw

30. Ratatouille
31. Baba ganoush
32. Winter squash
33. Roasted beets
34. Baked sweet potatoes
35. Plantains
36. Chocolate truffles
37. Garlic mashed potatoes
38. Fresh water chestnuts
39. Steel cut oats
40. Quinoa
41. Grilled portabello mushrooms
42. Chipotle en adobo
43. Stone ground whole grain cornmeal
44. Freshly made corn or wheat tortillas
45. Frittata
46. Basil pesto
47. Roasted garlic
48. Raita of any type
49. Mango lassi
50. Jasmine rice (white or brown)
51. Thai vegetarian coconut milk curry
52. Pumpkin in any form other than pie
53. Fresh apple pear or plum gallette
54. Quince in any form
55. Escarole, endive or arugula
56. Sprouts other than mung bean
57. Naturally brewed soy sauce
58. Dried shiitake mushrooms
59. Unusually colored vegetables (purple cauliflower, blue potatoes, chocolate bell peppers…)
60. Fresh peach ice cream
61. Chevre
62. Medjool dates
63. Kheer
64. Flourless chocolate cake
65. Grilled corn on the cob
66. Black bean (or any other bean) vegetarian chili

67. Tempeh
68. Seitan or wheat gluten
69. Gorgonzola or any other blue veined cheese
70. Sweet potato fries

71. Homemade au gratin potatoes

72. Cream of asparagus soup
73. Artichoke-Parmesan dip

74. Mushroom risotto
75. Fermented black beans
76. Garlic scapes
77. Fresh new baby peas

78. Kalamata olives

79. Preserved lemons
80. Fried green tomatoes
81. Chinese scallion pancakes
82. Cheese souffle
83. Fried apples
84. Homemade frijoles refritos

85. Pasta fagiole
86. Macadamia nuts in any form
87. Paw paw in any form
88. Grilled cheese sandwich of any kind
89. Paneer cheese

90. Ma Po Tofu (vegetarian style–no pork!)
91. Fresh pasta in any form
92. Grilled leeks, scallions or ramps
93. Green papaya salad
94. Baked grain and vegetable stuffed tomatoes
95. Pickled ginger
96. Methi greens
97. Aloo paratha
98. Kedgeree
99. Okra
100. Roasted brussels sprouts

That gives me 68/100. Apparently I make a much better vegetarian than an omnivore. Or maybe it just looks that way because the Omnivore's 100 list contained a lot of items that seemed purposely put there to make it look more adventurous, whereas this list contains a lot of real food.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

...27, 28, 29, 30 Rock

Two 30 Rock-related items:

Jennifer Aniston to guest star in Season 3 (Coming Soon)
I happen to know some people who are big fans of "Friends," so this should interest them. Since David Schwimmer also appeared last season, maybe we can still expect more of them to show up eventually.

A revealing interview with Alec Baldwin (The New Yorker)
Baldwin is extremely candid as both highlights and lowlights of his career are revisited.

Palin' in comparison

From People Magazine:
Given her young age and relatively short resume, why is [Sarah Palin] any more ready to be president than Sen. Barack Obama?

JOHN McCAIN: I don't think it's a short resume. She first ran for office back in 1992. I don't know what Senator Obama was doing then, but the first time she ran was 1992. That's 16 years... (full interview)
A few clarifications: by "office," he means she ran for city council of Wasilla, a town that had a population of less than 6,000 people at the time. Palin became mayor in '96 and held that until 2002. From 2003-04 she worked on an energy committee and in 2006 she made her way up to Governor. As for what Obama was doing back in 1992 (since McCain asks), he was lecturing on constitutional law at University of Chicago Law School and directing a voter registration drive for Illinois. He became a state legislator in 1996 and a US senator in 2004.

Chrome Dome

I don't normally get all that excited about computer geek stuff (that may be a half truth), but this new Google browser, Chrome, sounds fascinating. For starters, it looks pretty sleek. And if any of the tech jargon I've been reading is true, it seems to have some unique properties under the hood as well.

New Google browser takes on Microsoft (Globe & Mail)
News article.

Chrome: The Comic Book (Google Books)
Google-produced comic book the explains the ins and outs of the new browser.

Chrome download page

In a world...

Don LaFontaine, whose voice you may recognize from thousands of movie trailers, died Monday at the age of 68.

Voice of movie trailers dies (Globe & Mail)
News article that includes some details about LaFontaine's life and achievements.

5 Men and a Limo (YouTube)
A short film made for the 26th Annual Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards. Features LaFontaine and four of his contemporaries from the voice over field. Pure gold.

Trailer for "The Terminator" (YouTube)
An example of LaFontaine's work.