"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Music Downloads

Musicians have long used songwriting as a form of therapy, but rarely as eloquently as Lucinda Williams. On her eighth CD, West, Lucinda works through both a failed love affair and the death of her mother, which makes this one of the first great CD's of 2007. "Unsuffer Me," helps her get right to the bluesy heart of a song.

After selling an impressive amount of their self-released, self-titled debut CD, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah bypass the major-label machine once again on this follow-up, Some Loud Thunder. "Satan Said Dance" is a devilishly disco gem.

Britain's Bloc Party's second CD, A Weekend in the City, is a more downbeat and down-tempo CD. "Kreuzberg" is a moody, Cure-esque tune, is more for Sunday morning than a Saturday night.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dinner & A DVD - Flightplan

Even though I didn't get home until about 7pm. I was able to fix this mouth-watering entree in less than 30 minutes. Turn orange marmalade, mustard and a hint of ginger into a fast-to-fix glaze for ham.

Spiced Ham Steak

1 ham steak
1/4 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon corn syrup
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

In a large skillet coated with a nonstick cooking spray, cook ham for 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned; drain. Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. spoon over ham. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.

Featured Attraction: Flightplan

At the end of "Flightplan," you wonder how could a film that began so promisingly end so tepidly? What went wrong? At what point did the director and writers decide they had to abandon an enticing psychological thriller and give in to turning their story into yet another typical Hollywood thriller?

It's a pity, because the first hour or so of "Flightplan" is actually interesting and exciting, raising delightful possibilities. A woman Kyle (Jodie Foster), suffering from just having lost her husband tragically, winds up losing her young daughter in a new jumbo jet that Kyle just happened to design.

The first act raises enticing questions. Is Kyle telling the truth or is she just nuts, imagining a child that doesn't exist, that no one else seems to have seen? Foster is terrific in the opening act. We buy her anguish and, yet, she causes enough confusion in her character for us to doubt her sanity. There's some nice supporting work from Peter Sarsgaard as Carson, an air marshal, and Sean Bean, as the plane's captain.

But about an hour into the film, the story veers off-course.What had been building as a tense, intriguing mind game turns into a standard thriller. We find characters tossing aside any logic and turn into conveyor-belt characters. It's almost as if the writers ran out of ideas and so decided to tack on the second half by essentially stealing from every other thriller set on a plane.
What are supposed to be surprises only resulted in me being bored. We even get the cliched talking killer who not only reveals all his plans, but explains previous actions. And, if you think about it, the villain's actions make no sense. It's purely a plot device and a terribly weak one at that.

What's ultimately disappointing about "Flightplan" is that given its cast, it had the potential to be an intense thriller. Instead, the only real difference between this film and, say, a Steven Seagal film is the lead actor.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Pistachio Bread & Studio 60: The Harriet Dinner Part 2

My yoga class was canceled tonight so I'm home early for once on a Monday night. I didn't know our class was going to be canceled until last night and I had already baked a bread to take. So I took it to work today to share.

As some of you know, I used to bake a lot, which is something I am proud to say I am good at. But over the past couple of years I rarely bake that much basically because I was eating most it and it wasn't that healthy for me. So whenever I do put on my "baking" cap, it is always a treat.

I was amazed how many compliments I received on this bread. Some people were a little put off that it was green and Lauren doesn't care for nuts. But those that ate it, loved it. Every time Marty walked by my desk he had to swipe a piece. He finally had to leave the building to get away from it.

This green-hued bread has a pistachio flavor, light & moist cake-like texture, and a crunch topping. Enjoy!

Pistachio Loaf

1 package yellow cake mix
1 package (3.4 oz) instant pistachio pudding mix
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream
4 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Combine cake and pudding mixes. Add sour cream, eggs, oil and water; beat until blended. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Combine the pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter. BEWARE: My bread ran over so you may want to use two loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes (my bread took about 55 minutes though) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire racks.

Studio 60: The Harriet Dinner - Part 2

I’m really torn on how to write this review of Studio 60, which first aired February 5, as I don’t quite know yet how I’m feeling about the show. I will freely admit that I am very wishy washy about Studio 60 and sometimes love and the next scene loathe it. So, how to proceed?

I guess I’ll start by saying that Harriett’s Dinner ended much like it began, without much direction. The show continues to shove the forced relationship of Harriett and Matt down our throats. For a while I was excited to see this relationship in its varying stages but I don’t really understand the rushed urgency Sorkin and Company have placed upon it. I mean, next week is a flashback episode that will show us how Matt and Harriett met. Do we need that? Maybe. Do we need it now? Doubtful.

I’m over the coupling on the show. I know many folks are into the whole relationship aspects of Studio 60 but I’m far more interested in the politics in putting on a left wing show like Studio 60 and the diverse characters that make up the genius and the flaws within.

Danny and Jordan are still trapped on the roof and are forced to talk to each other, where we find out that Jordan doesn’t want to date Danny because she thinks his crush on her is the result of addiction recovery. After Cal saves them, Danny finds a piece of paper in his watch band that says “I’m crazy about you!” (Jordan does magic – so lame). Then he finds her waiting for him on the set and they… have one of the most anti-climactic kisses in a serial drama I’ve ever seen.
While Danny and Jordan are sharing their anticlimactic moment, Tom and Jack are trying to sober up the Chinese investor’s daughter. The scene where Jack and the Chinese investor finally come to terms with each other was a little strange, as if some lines had been edited out for time but no one checked the continuity of the entire scene.

One minute Jack is calling the guy a Commie prick, and then the next minute he agrees to help him and they’re best buddies? What happened to this “sense of honor” motivation that they’ve been building for the Chinese investor? We’re just supposed to forget that? Jack insults the guy’s parenting skills, then calls him a Communist, and the guy just lets it go and agrees to help him? Something’s off.

Something was definitely on with Cal’s scenes though – he and the animal handler were hilarious. I laughed out loud when he delivered the line “Yes, we will get them out of there…and then EAT them!” to the animal rights girl. This storyline was a refreshing break from all of the annoying love stories – another testament to how much better the show is when it actually focuses on television production instead of relationships. I have loved Cal’s character from the beginning, though – Timothy Busfield is certainly doing a great job with this one.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Soup of the Week & Prison Break: Chicago

Using chicken bouillon and frozen hash browns makes this soup easy to fix.

Cream Cheese Potato Soup

3 cups water
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1 page (8 oz) cream cheese, cubed
15 oz (1/2 of a 30 oz bag) cubed hash brown potatoes
Cubed fully cooked ham
Chopped onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dill weed

Combine the water and bouillon. Add the cream cheese; cook and stir until cheese is melted. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender.

Prison Break: Chicago

A lot going on during this solid episode of Prison Break that first aired February 5.

We learned why the President sounded all robot-y on the phone, just saying the same things over and over again -- because it wasn't actually her! And frankly, this plot development helped Kim become more of a character too. All season long, he's just been this mustache-twirling "shadowy figure" on one end of a phone spewing cliche dialogue. This episode, he actually showed some intelligence in knowing exactly how to bait Paul Kellerman. (It just happened Paul was smarter still.)

It was touching to finally see Sara and Michael connect. We'll see how that plays out over the last few episodes of the season. Hopefully it won't be too much of a distraction from their overall quest to be set free.

The T-Bag plot continues to interest me, even though it's growing ever more bizarre. The creepy family home becomes the creepy family road trip. Where are they going and, more importantly, what fate awaits them? I don't even want to consider it.

Bellick has instantly become compelling and relevant to the plot again. Fantastic that his trip to prison was just a short side trip, and that he's now back on the hunt for the escapees. The "bulldog" analogy Mahone used was absolutely perfect. Bellick really is a bulldog, and in any other role, he simply wasn't fun to watch. Though frankly, Mahone could probably confide his real mission regarding the fugitives. "Bellick with the Bureau" doesn't strike me as the sort of person who would shy away from killing the Fox River Gang rather than bringing them in.

The Haywire story closed tonight, as it inevitably had to. I liked that this death was not the execution that Abruzzi and Tweener faced earlier this season. Mahone used more finesse this time, pushing the crazy man just that last bit over the edge. It was fascinating and sad. Without ever actually saying it, Mahone leads Haywire to believe that the only way out of his mess is death. And the beloved Crazy guy is gone for good. Another tick mark in Mahone's "dead" column.

And then... well, there was C-Note. Again, the weakest plot of the night. But this time was a little better. I guess where I found a soft spot for this plot thread was in how the other people at the restaurant reacted at the end, covering for C-Note and helping him escape even after learning he was a convict. Sure, perhaps they would not all have done so had they known he was one of the famous "Fox River Eight," but in that moment, with the information they had and the experience they'd just had with C-Note saving their lives, it made sense.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Book Review - The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

Charles Lindbergh challenges Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1940 presidential election and wins on a “stay out of Europe’s war” ticket. He then signs a peace treaty with Nazi Germany, and America begins to change. The story is told from the viewpoint of a little boy, Philip Roth, who lives with his family in a Jewish enclave of Newark, New Jersey. Roth’s (the author’s, not the narrator’s) exploration of this alternative history is fascinating, in large part because he builds it up just slow enough to feel plausible. Little changes here and there in treatment of the Jews seem inauspicious but none are terrible enough to seem completely absurd.

At times, the rhetoric in the book reminded me of some of the post 9/11 rhetoric, not because we live in a fascist state (we definitely don’t) and obviously not because our government has tried to keep us out of war (it clearly hasn’t). Rather, the use of patriotic language and symbolism to political ends, to the suppression of civil liberties for certain groups, feels just familiar enough to be scary.

Unfortunately, the story was simply to boring for me, nothing really ever happened. The unneeded detail bugged me. Plus the book falls apart at the end. The slow build-up that Roth so carefully engineers suddenly jumps to a fever pitch that feels absurd, followed by a terribly abrupt ending.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Mr. Monk Is On The Air

Jingle me timbers! Any episode that has Monk jumping a desk and beating on someone is an incredible show! This episode first aired February 2, 2007.

Steven Weber is this episode's villain that ends up managing to kill his wife in a rather ingenious way. I am not really spoiling anything by telling you who the killer is as Monk tends to show you the murderer first thing and then the rest of the show is Monk solving the case.

Needless to say, Steven Weber's character, Max Hudson, is a Howard Stern like shock jock who meets Monk on the air after Monk is approached by the dead wife's sister, who believes that Max Hudson is responsible. The on air escapades are hysterical, as is the next 30 or so minutes

Monk takes joking insult after insult and feels like he is back in school, but he manages to approach Max Hudson and the Goon Platoon again on the air, prepared this time with a box of jokes given to him by Kevin.

But this is where the episode takes a huge turn from comedy to drama when Weber's character uses Trudy's death as a punch line. I felt Monk's anger and I was cheering when he beat the living daylights out of Max. Eventually Monk figure out that while Max had a perfect alibi, he used his neighbor's dog to commit the crime. Monk got the last word over Max Hudson at the end - "You don't look like your laughing now."

The "shock jock" combined with Monk's OCD and mannerisms did a lot for this episode, and closing it off with a such a powerful moment really made this episode great.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Music Downloads - Earnhardt Tails, Cold Matter

It has been so cold this winter, but thank Bast I have a warm home to live in. (Bast is reputed to be the head deity of cats since Ramses hot-rodded up and down the Nile in a two-tone chariot. Talk about your low-riders).

I do not ordinarily put my faith in supernatural agencies, especially since those ancient Egyptians used to mummify my forebears – no way to treat a gent of any species. Longevity in a form resembling dried parsley flakes does not appeal to my sense of dignity, not to mention my joie de vivre.

My warm blooded Ms. Pam and I have been staying warm listening to music in the evenings. She reads and I snuggle in on her lap. Talk about the easy life.

This week she downloaded a couple of new songs that I have to admit I like and both get my tail a tapping.

In the 2004 movie Garden State, Natalie Portman declared that The Shins "will change your life." Since then the group has transformed from indie-scene darlings to Saturday Night Live headliners with the release of Wincing the Night Away. The Shins are adopting to life in the spotlight with their new song of "Australia," where their gift for melody remains evident.

After two CDs with Gorillaz, Damon Albarn steps out with a new cast of characters on one of 2007's early musical highlights. The Good, the Bad & The Queen released their debut CD, by the same name, is a royal effort. A highlight is the single "Herculean."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

CSI: Meet Market

Bones and tissue, and male "hosts" - oh my! Grissom's writing letters, but not sending them and I don't know why. Maybe I'll figure it out before the hatching of the butterfly?

"Meet Market", a classic CSI episode, first aired February 1, 2007.

Last week I was too involved in the "mutiny" of the CSIs to notice Grissom was gone. This week, there is a very short scene of Grissom (with a full beard again) writing a letter to Sara. The cameras linger on a line that says he misses her. But when Grissom goes to address the envelope, something causes him to stop midway through. I got the feeling that he won't be sending that letter after all.

There were a couple of cases going on too. First, Keppler and Nick investigate the theft of bones and tissue. I have a tough stomach, but even I was a little grossed out for this one. Just the thought of someone placing an umbrella inside the body of my deceased loved one - ick. Nick seems to have gotten over his anger from last week when Keppler and Catherine kept the rest of the team in the dark. Or maybe he was just mad at Catherine for not trusting him.

Sara and Warrick investigate the case of a male relationship Host Club, where women pay men for "companionship." A women was found bludgeoned to death in her home. The vic spent a lot of time with a particular host named Jesse. It doesn't take long for me to figure out that he is the killer. The only remaining question is why, and of course, I soon discover this lady gave up Jesse for adoption when he was infant and now just wanted to get closer him. A very messed up reversed Oedipal complex.

Another strange incident involved a card that Keppler received in the mail. It had a picture of young girl and clearly indicated that she died in 1985 at the age of 16. And at the end, Keppler went into the morgue to finish up some work. There is a corpse on the table, but in his mind he sees the young girl. Then a whispered voice behind him calls out "Keppler ..." and the show fades out. It's all very creepy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dinner & DVD - Flags of Our Fathers

Served over noodles, this effortless entree is great for weeknight meals.

Creamy Tomato Chicken

Boneless skinless chicken breasts halves
EVOO (olive oil)
1 can (14 1/2 oz) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of chicken soup
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Mozzarella cheese slices
Hot cooked noodles

In a large skillet, cook chicken in oil over medium heat until juices run clear. Remove and keep warm. Combine the tomatoes, soup and cinnamon; add to the skillet. Cook and stir until heated through. Return chicken to the skillet; top with cheese. Cover and heat until the cheese is melted. Server over noodles.

Featured Attraction: Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood's "Flags of Our Fathers" tells the stories that were never told in a film before, or anywhere all that much. That picture on Iwo Jima of the flag raising (the second flag raising) was taken out of context. The people raising the flag were used as poster-boys for war bonds, they didn't want to be exploited and turned into nation-wide icons. They didn't want to be called 'heroes.'

The film is narrated by old soldiers and later by the son of one of the flag-raisers. The men went on the island and fought to survive in a vicious battle. After the battle settles for a second, they put up a flag to raise spirits, that flag is later taken down (because a politician wanted it) and replaced, this is the one that is photographed.

The photograph, of course, has a huge affect on the public. The different raisers of the different flags are confused and the people in the photo aren't who the public think, but the men agree to go on tour even though they hate being in the public eye. Why do they go? To raise morale and sell war bonds, they can't win the war without money.

The three of them face difficulties along the way especially the Native American, Ira Hayes, who deals with racism.There are frequent flashbacks to the war. The war violence is very, very graphic. Some of the goriest sequences this side of "Saving Private Ryan." Also like "Saving Private Ryan," the fight scenes aren't overly dramatic, there is no slow-motion and no theatrics. The battles are realistic, there is confusion, and anyone can be killed at any second.

The acting is admirable all around: Ryan Phillipe (John "Doc" Bradley) creates a honourable figure persevering throughout war time while his friends fall away. Jesse Bradford (Rene Gagon) copes best after the war but fame is short-lived. And Adam Beach (Ira Hayes) is a man tormented by the effect of war; a man who has lost his personal identity. He struggles with the concept of "we are what we do".

Eastwood seems to age like fine wine. He has been making the best films of his career lately and and he can also direct wide-scale war action. In this film he stresses how there are no such things as 'heroes.' The men who marched around the country in the photograph weren't proud of the horrifying things they saw and did, they hated being called heroic. Like the film says, 'heroes' are things we make up to make sense of things, to give us hope, but the truth is that they only exist in comic books and movies.

"Flags of Our Fathers" is a moving, stirring and, above all, clear-eyed tribute to those who serve.

Monday, February 19, 2007

My Name is Earl: Foreign Exchange Student

Item # 44 from Earl's list: Picked on a French kid. First aired February 1, 2007.

Earl flies Pierre back to America to make up for teasing him when they were children. Earl tries to show him all the great stuff in America, but finally Pierre lets him in on why he left. The only thing French guys have going for them is their accent when they are in America (obviously everyone sounds like him in France). He came over for the girls. So Earl takes him around to seduce and kiss all the girls he didn’t get to in school.

Randy tells Catalina he loves her, and she replies she loves him too, but she was lying. Joy convinces Catalina to gross herself up for her and Randy’s consummation so he won’t want her anymore. She does it but realizes Randy is wonderful, whereas Randy is now totally turned off by her.

Funny stuff:

  • It’s a French booger!
  • Picture of Earl with his eyes closed
  • Randy’s giggling when thinking about sex with Catalina
  • Everyone thinks France is shaped like a boot
  • Pierre’s perspective on E.T.
  • Pierre’s perspective on how we treated their gift of the Statue of Liberty
  • “Mrs. Frogger…We don’t have that one yet, but I’m sure scientists are working on it.”
  • “1812! That one was close!”
  • Yuk! Shoving the toilet biscuit at Earl’s face!
  • Feeding Pierre rainbow sugar bits through a bullet hole in the wall.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Soup of the Week & Friday Night Lights: Upping the Ante

This has become one of my favorite comfort foods.

Chili Cheese Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 carrots shredded
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons ground mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cans (14 1/2 oz each) chicken broth
3 cups milk
1 or 2 cans (4 oz each) chopped green chilies
1 jar (16 oz) process cheese sauce

Saute the onion, celery and carrots in butter until tender. Stir in the flour, mustard, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce until blended. Gradually add broth and milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; stir in chilies. Stir in cheese sauce until melted. **Note** I had leftover sausage I added, which was a great addition.

Friday Night Lights: Upping the Ante

This episode first aired January 31.

This week leads up to the Panther’s big playoff game and the pressure is on everyone and everything. The most compelling plot line continues to be Smash, as he tries to get back in the coach’s good graces and back onto the field. When he confronts his mother about the abuse he’s taking to try to get back on the team, you have to feel for the guy even though deep down you know he brought this all on himself. Then, when he and Coach Taylor reconnect at a pick-up game of football, reminding them both why they play the game and what it is about it they love so much. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this show finds a way to take what could be melodramatic moments and turn them into authentic, real moments where its not so much characters on a screen but it feels like you’re watching real people.

Poor Coach Taylor–he’s not having a great week. He’s got to go to court for a preliminary hearing for the Jason Street trial. Meanwhile, Buddy Garrity asks Taylor to intervene with news of the Jason/Lyla engagement is brought out into the light of day. Taylor talks to Jason outside the courtroom, telling him that marriage is a bit commitment, a lot of hard work and won’t be the end of the problems he’s having. It’s honest and you can tell despite what’s happening legally, Taylor cares deeply about Jason…and all of his players, for that matter.

This also leads to a stronger Lyla. We’ve seen her suffer at the hands of the gossip mill at school and the scorn of her peers. She’s come through it stronger and more capable and it shows here. She challenges Jason on why he’s so angry all the time and what are his plans for the future. I have a feeling this may be leading to an eventual breaking of the engagement, but again by doing this, when it happens it will feel real and not manufactured as part of an on-going soap opera storyline.

It’s not a rosy path for any couples this week. After figuring out Julie is the best girlfriend in the world (how great was it where he slipped and called her that, without apparently asked if she’d be his girlfriend?), he screws it up completely by lying to her. And getting caught in it. Matt, you’re an idiot.

Meanwhile, Julie is forging some kind of friendship with Tyra, which that should be interesting to see where it goes.

And finally, Riggins goes to see his estranged father.
That’s a lot happening in one story. And it never feels rushed.

Scary part of this one–we don’t even find out how the outcome of the game. We see the Panthers head out to take the field. It goes along toward feeling like this is one big on-going storyline and not just an individual episode or two of storyline development. It helps me feel like this world is real…and it ensures I will be watching the next episode, to find out how the game comes out. I sure to do hope the Panthers win. I’m pulling for them. And I’m pulling for this show.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Studio 60 - The Harriet Dinner

Cliched. That’s not something I would have associated with the work of Aaron Sorkin…. until this episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip that first aired on January 29.

Danny asked Jordan to join him on the roof of the building so he could apologize to her for you know, stalking her. In the back of my mind I was thinking ‘hmm I bet they’ll get locked on the roof’ but then I thought, ‘no, this is Sorkin, he wouldn’t use that. Only hacks use that trick….’ Guess where this is going? So yeah, he went there. The trick led to Jordan and Danny talking for pretty much an entire episode. Jordan thinks Danny’s love is really just pity, Danny denies it. Wash, rinse, repeat. For like an hour.

Matt continues to bid on Harriet. Eventually the bids are so high that Harriet agrees to go out with both of the top bidders. In another "’shock", Lukes5858 turns out not to be Luke the Director but a 15 yr old skateboard/Star Wars geek. Matt tells Harriet that he spent money not only on her but on the polyamorous group and she gets pissed. They fight, a lot, and Harriet tells Matt that it’s over for good. No more being in limbo, no more flirting.

Tom lies to Lucy and says that he has to cancel their date in order to do some NBS press for the critics press tour. Lucy’s really sweet about it. She sets a time to reschedule their date and even kisses him. These two are adorable. Too bad the lie is gonna come back to bit Tom in the ass. So Tom goes to the event where the Violist from Julliard is sexed up with one thing in mind. He tries to rebuff her but she’s persistent. In an event so predictable any four year old could see it coming, Lucy shows up at the event and gets her heartbroken when she sees Tom with the Violist. She makes a comment that he was supposed to sleep with her and then turn out to be a sleaze. Poor guy. He really is one of the decent ones.

In other news Simon is still pissed at Darius because Simon is an egotistical nitwit who thinks that he’s god. Also, there’s a snake loose on the set. It’s supposed to be comic relief. Supposed to.

So nothing really happened in this episode. It’s now painfully obvious that Studio 60 is a relationship show. I don’t know how I feel about that.

Friday, February 16, 2007

MTTT - Thirsty Third Thursday - Damon's

February's MTTT was held at Damon's Grill. Damon's has been around Kalamazoo for over 15 years and is probably the one of the best places for ribs and pulled pork sandwiches.

Sadly, Steve Montayne is selling the building (very hot intersection) and they are tearing it down to build a strip mall this spring. He said they will have small "Subway" type Damon's in the new strip mall for people to pick up ribs and BBQ. He is also refurbishing an old restaurant on the west-side of Kalamazoo and turning it into a Texas Corral. How many Texas-type places does this town need?? I personally don't care for these loud, obnoxious places so I highly doubt I will be frequenting it. I have always like Damon's and will miss it.

What a great turn-out for MTTT. Nearly 20+ people showed up. Fortunately, we had a large group of employees visiting this week from our other locations. Jillian was here from Tampa, Gina from Las Vegas, Jane from Indianapolis, Dave from Seattle, Larry from Raleigh, Walt from Chattanooga, and Catherine from Austin. Plus, of course, our regulars.

Me, Girts and Lindsey

I had my favorite sandwich - BBQ Pulled Pork. As always, it was perfect. Although, I was disappointed that Damon's discontinued their onion straws so I had to go with fries. I started the evening off with my favorite beer - Blue Moon. But after one glass (it is a very heavy Belgium beer) moved to their raspberry margaritas.

It was evening of laughs. Most notably, the group visiting us had asked me to set them up separately for dinner so they could talk shop. I told the waitress that at 7pm I needed a reservation for nine in the dining room. We were in the "clubhouse" area. The group settled up their bill around 7pm and everyone followed each other to the dining room. Seconds later, the hostess brought them back into the clubhouse and sat them at the table next to us. It was probably one of those things you had to be there, but those of us sitting at our table had never laughed so hard. I was tears and am still laughing as I type this.

Next month's MTTT is our Annual St. Patrick's Celebration at O'Duffy's on March 15.

Check out my photos at:

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Prison Break - the Message

There were many explosive moments and cast reappearances in this episode of Prison Break that first aired January 29. "The Message" can be best summed up in something I will call "The Good, the Bad, and the Pretty."

The Good

Only on Prison Break can three guys manage to walk out of the front door in a place surrounded by cops and the media and still manage to get away. Sucre returns and he is getting closer to Maricruz. He encounters help along the way. Mahone shows his FBI savvy skills when he figures out Michael and Lincoln's declaration of innocence. All I can say is "how does he do it?"

The Bad

Haywire, my favorite Whack Shack Graduate, returns but his new friend's abusive father brings back terrible memories of his own. So he ends up dealing with her problem the same way he dealt with his. Nice to see that Bellick got the beating of his life from Banks and company. Certainly a twist of fate. And asking Katie to leave the door open for you?! Oh no, he did not go there! Caroline, President of U.S., calls Kellerman and tries to win him back. Whose side is he really on?

The Pretty

What an elaborate way to send out a message! Twenty-six minutes of hidden messages hoping that his lady love would figure it out. Sara does and sends her own message to "Michael Crane." I personally liked "Origami" better.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Simpsons: Revenge is a Dish Best Served Three Times

Marge: Revenge never solves anything!
Homer: Then what's America doing in Iraq?

It was time for a Simpsons mainstay: an episode divided into three parts, with three separate stories. Usually, this format is used in the Halloween episodes, but the last few years have had a Spring time counterpart to this Fall tradition. "Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Three Times" is such an episode, with Marge, Lisa and Bart trying to convince Homer that revenge isn't the way to go when The Rich Texan cuts him off in traffic.

"The Count of Monte Fatso" is a Simpsonian take on the classic revenge story "The Count of Monte Cristo". Like the Hamlet parody they did a while back, Moe eliminates Homer from the rest of his family. While in jail, Homer plots his revenge and kills Moe when he escapes. The twist is, even though he got his revenge, Homer's family rejects him. That's the plot, now the fun jokes: Homer and Marge snoring in French, Moe only has a door in his name, Homer's escape, and his Uncle Scrooge-like swimming in his new riches. This opening stanza had me in laughter and started the episode off great.

Unfortunately, the next tale, Lisa' "Revenge of the Geeks" was poor. It was the standard story about absolute power corrupting, with Milhouse seeking revenge on the bullies with a glove that grants him power. Milhouse then turns his powers on his friends, finally getting punished by Nelson with Nelson's own use of the glove. There really wasn't anything I found particularly funny in this second act, save for maybe a cardboard cutout of Hitler urging the kids to read and Bart's brief cameo in Lisa's story.
Luckily, the last revenge saga, Bart's "Bartman Begins" perfectly made up for Lisa's section. "Bartman Begins" is the reimagining of Batman's origins and adventures with Bart in the lead role. He seeks revenge against Snake, who killed Homer and Marge. He trains with Grandpa with old-timey activities (throwing a medicine ball, the classic vibrating belt) and dons the Bartman costume.
To get to Snake he has to go through visual and puny villains like The Toker (Otto as The Joker), The Diddler (Flanders as The Riddler) and Poison Lenny (Lenny as a transvestite Poison Ivy). By this point, I'm in stitches. When he finally gets Snake, now called The Serpent, he actually feels good about his revenge. Bart's moral? Revenge is certainly sweet.

Of course, by this time, Homer has caught up the Texan and they find they have a lot in common. The episode ends with a completely random memorial for all those who died in the Star Wars movie. This cracked me up, if only because it basically came out of nowhere. And yes, I understand the connection the episode's theme of "revenge."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Dinner and a DVD

I've had enough of winter! Another winter storm has blown into my area and I'm really getting tired of shoveling and dealing with the driving conditions. This has got to be one of the coldest and snowiest seasons Michigan has had in a long time. How many more weeks until Spring?? According to Phil the Groundhog, I'm thinking about four more, I hope, I hope.

But at least I'm staying nice and warm by fixing this comforting casserole that takes advantage of convenience products.

Spaghetti Casserole

1 lb ground beef
Chopped green pepper
Chopped onion
1 20 oz can prepared spaghetti
1 can of sliced mushrooms, drained
1 can sliced ripe olives, drained
Shredded cheddar cheese
Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, cook the beef, green pepper, onion, garlic, salt and pepper until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the spaghetti, mushrooms, and olives. Transfer to a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with cheeses. Bake casserole, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Tonight's Feature Attraction: First Daughter

Plot: The first daughter of the U.S. President heads off to college where she falls for a graduate student with a secret agenda.

Pam's Review: I watched this movie, not really hoping for a lot, but expecting to kill time on this extremely cold Tuesday night with another of those misguidedly romantic teenage boy-meets-girl kinda flicks. The kind that is generally worth that couple of hours worth of your time. Well, to make it short, this movie failed to do any such thing.

I thought the dialog was sloppy and very lame. The actors (maybe because of the very unimaginative lines they had to work with) were too wooden for my liking. Micheal Keaton, who has in the past proved that he can pull off romantic comedies (Mr. Mom, Night Shift, Multiplicity, Speechless) was reduced to mere background scenery here. He didn't have a very great role to start with ,and hence had hardly anything to give back.

Katie Holmes, is an actress whom I've never thought too highly of, I'm sorry to say. And her performance here just underscores that. Despite the fact that the script here is just plain lousy, Holmes fails to draw the viewer in. Watching her on screen, I discovered that I really couldn't care less if her character lived or died. She was either too syrupy or too rigid, failing to ever strike the right note.
The only highlight of the movie was seeing Marc Blucas from my old Buffy The Vampire Slayer days. He played Riley Finn, Buffy's boyfriend in Seasons 4 & 5, and he was part of the secret government organization called the "Initiative." I always wondered what happened to him.

For me, the movie was a waste of time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Book Review - Green with Envy

The Great Readers of "M" book discussion is on February 28. I'm amazed I have finished the book already. Normally, I'm up late at night before our discussion group finishing the last couple of chapters.

This month we are reading Green with Envy: Why Keeping Up With the Joneses Is Keeping Us in Debt by Shira Boss.

This is an interesting and well-written book that really does probe the issue of why we feel the need to "keep up with the Joneses." Unlike a lot of authors, Boss delves into the psychology behind the drive, focusing on the fact that without the need to keep up with the Joneses, the American economy would collapse - that essentially as there is always one step up, just out of reach, that will someday make us "happy" (or so the advertisers would like us to believe) that we will always, no matter how much money we have, want for more. It's not a new idea, but Boss explores it well, through interviews from people who are middle class to an actual billionaire.

My only difficulty with the book is the somewhat clunky conclusion section. While Boss certainly does probe some ideas as to how we can recognize the problem of keeping up with the Joneses and get around it - for example, recognizing that there are people on steps below us, focusing on what we have, recognizing that there's never a point where people are "happy" no matter how much they have, etc. - there's a surprising amount of very false-sounding conclusions, such as her statement that no matter what, "the universe will provide." This doesn't fit well with her previous interview with a nice couple who went totally bankrupt, nor does it state how this could possibly help with debt management - what, just ramp up the credit cards, why not, "the universe will provide?"

But other than that, this is a very interesting book, and you come away with a sudden realization that, you know, maybe it doesn't make sense to have the new, best car or digital camera or whatever, just to "impress the neighbors," because that will never happen. The only person you need to impress is yourself, and to stay out of debt traps, which she describes. Boss provides a much-needed reality check on how people are really making ends meet -- or how they're not. That allone is quite helpful.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Soup of the Week & Mr. Monk Is At Your Service

This is quick to fix, yet it tastes like it simmered all day. Serve it with cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

Chili Bean Soup

1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can (16 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin

In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until heated through.

Mr. Monk Is At Your Service

First aired January 26. I watched it February 11.

Monk became a butler for a creepy rich kid, played by the sometimes versatile Sean Astin. It was nice to see him in a less than savory role and he played it well. There were times when I could not believe that Samwise would be acting like that. He was definitely a creep.

I love how Monk became so involved in his job. Being a butler really does seem to be the perfect job for him. The scenes with Monk running the household had me rolling on the floor. From his inspections to the centimeter placement of the silverware, it was OCD run wild. Let alone the housecleaning zone presentation – “We’re doing this the Monk way."

He actually enjoys being a butler for a time, but eventually remembers just who he is, cracking the case yet again in classic Monk style.

A major complaint I do have with this season of Monk so far, the marked decline in screen time for Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher, two characters who I especially enjoy on this show. Hopefully, they'll rectify the situation in future episodes.

Otherwise, this episode of Monk was extremely funny and strangely unique.

CSI - Redrum

It freaks me out every time I think of the word "Redrum" because of The Shining. One freaky movie.

This episode aired Thursday, January 25. I watched it Friday evening, February 9.

While his first episode left me intrigued, Schreiber really won me over with this one right from his first scene. Getting chewed out by Undersheriff McKeen, over a working breakfast with Catherine and Brass, Keppler is more interested in the waitress getting his eggs wrong than what McKeen is saying. He’s clearly not a guy to suck up to the boss and it’s probably the only character trait he shares with Grissom.

Coming up with a plan to catch a missing murder suspect by using “reverse forensics” he convinces Catherine to go along. The only problem is the rest of the team have to be kept in the dark. It’s not long before Nick starts asking questions and, when he doesn’t get answers, he recruits the rest of the team for a little private investigation.

This episode sows the seeds of inner turmoil within the group, with Stokes no longer trusting Catherine even after she explains the reason for the deception. Is Grissom’s team breaking apart in his absence? We’ll have to wait and see.

One of the best things about the show is how, after the revelation that Grissom and Sara Sidle had a relationship at the end of last season, it hasn’t overplayed the storyline. This episode continues in that vein as Sara receives a bizarre gift from Gil in the mail. It’s a nice little scene that doesn’t get in the way of the main plot.

Once again we see that mystery package on Grissom’s desk, foreshadowing things to come.

And finally, what was with Catherine and Keppler having dinner all dressed up at a swanky restaurant? Was it more than dinner? Double entendres were flying between them like crazy during the episode, so it leaves me wondering.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

New Music Downloads

The Grammy Awards are tomorrow night. I refuse to watch award shows since they are usually very boring and who wants to listen to people drone on and on. But I did look at the list of nominations and was happy to see some of my favorite artists.

The Dixie Chicks are up for the Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Corinne Bailey Rae is nominated for Record of the Year and Best New Artist. KT Tunstall provides some much needed fresh blood in the Best Female Pop Vocal catagory. None of the Best Male Pop Vocal nominees were in my top favorites.

Check out these songs I downloaded today:

There something about Norah Jones that just feels like home. Her new CD, Not Too Late, is as if an old friend has returned to offer sweet comfort, the kind you didn't even know you needed. Norah offers a subtle surprise with mellow horns on "Thinking About You".

Lily Allen's "Smile" is impossible not to grin when you hear it. The deliciously catty and catchy single on this Brit's debut CD, Alright, Still rebuffs her cheating ex's attempts to reunite, taking spiteful delight in his misery.

Scottish-born singer-songerwriter, Paolo Nutini possesses an old soul and gritty voice that belies his young age (he's 20) and pretty-boy looks. On his debut CD, These Streets, Nutini seems to be channeling a bit of Ray Charles on the soulful ballad "Last Request," where, on the verge of a breakup, he tenderly pleads for a temporary reprieve.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Blink - Book Review

How much information can you gather in an instant? Well, if I walked past Malcolm Gladwell, the author of "Blink" on the street, I could infer he was 1) a professional of some type 2) a mix of races, probably black and white, 3) a man in need of a haircut, and 4) possibly related to TV's Screech (from Saved by the Bell), Dustin Diamond...

Anyway, I recently read "Blink", at times a fascinating look at what many call gut reactions. His argument, called "thin-slicing," argues that the judgments we make in a split second, those weird premonitions sometimes called intuition, are incredibly powerful and accurate . . . sometimes much more accurate than years of research.

If you take the theory far enough, it has amazing ramifications for our own psyches and the world. For example, how can everyone tell Kevin Federline is a dirtbag at a first glance? It might be hard to explain accurately. There's just something about his face, his clothes and body language, which all scream "I'm white trash," but you're just not quite sure exactly what it is. But all you know is that your intuition tells you so, and as it turns out, that's usually the right voice to listen to.

The material is much more suited to a magazine article or maybe 100 pages at best (I had the same comment about Gladwell's previous book "The Tipping Point".) Unfortunately, "Blink" goes on for much longer, and "thin-slicing" starts to feel stretched especially when trying to draw parallels between autism and cops who "thin-sliced" an unarmed black immigrant, named Amadou Diallo, in the Bronx late at night and then brutally killed him.

There were a lot of interesting observations in this book, and I really enjoyed reading it, but I remember when finishing it that I didn't come away with any big conclusions that would help with decisions at work and in my personal life . . . just that I'd consider trusting my instincts more.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Friday Night Lights - Little Girl I Want To Marry You

This episode of Friday Night Lights continues to enforce exactly why I watch this show. Another top notion episode "Little Girl I Want to Marry You" first aired January 24.

It was the night of a million tangential plotlines. The Panthers have to win another game to make the playoffs, which I really thought they already did. The mayor reveals a secret, Tyra gives her mom a lesson in women's empowerment, and Smash gets busted. Oh, and there's the little matter of that proposal.

So Smash's mom finds his drug baggie, syringes and all, while cleaning his room. She marches down to the school and drags her son into Coach's office, where she demands to know what kind of operation Coach is running. Coach assures her he didn't know anything about the drugs, and Coach tells Smash he won't be playing on Friday, but he can't decide whether to kick Smash off the team for good.

Matt's dad gets sent back to Iraq, and Matt fills his time by drawing up some plays he thinks will work in Friday's game. Coach isn't impressed, which shatters Matt's hopes that Coach will give him all the love and encouragement his father never did. Seriously, they're hammering just a wee bit hard on that one.

Buddy sets Lyla up on a date with a college kid, telling her that she's just supposed to help him with some paper he's writing about football and cheerleaders. Jason's totally jealous, and he gets Herc to drive him by the restaurant to peer in the window. Of course Lyla spots them, given that their wheelchairs are clearly visible from the cab of Herc's truck — some spies they make!

Jason then moves on to his second undercover tactic: lurking in the shadows of the Garrity house to confront various members of the family.

Meanwhile, Coach and Tami go to dinner with the mayor and her secret lesbian partner. Gracious me! The mayor asks Tami to work on her re-election campaign, which doesn't sit well with Coach, who hates politics and isn't comfortable with this "alternative lifestyle" business. Tami does it anyway, because that's the kind of sassy woman she is.

Speaking of sassy, Tyra decides to get her mom a job as the secretary at Buddy's auto dealership. Her mom protests that she's allergic to the Garritys and couldn't even get an interview. Tyra asks Riggins to talk to Buddy — and I'm not really sure why that would work, given that Riggins slept with Buddy's daughter and made her the laughingstock of the whole school — but for whatever reason, Buddy decides to give Tyra's mom a chance.

On the way to her interview, they blow a tire, which Tyra's mom decides is God's way of telling her not to take the job. But Tyra pronounces that if they don't change the tire right there, by themselves, they're both doomed. Which seems like a bit much importance to assign to a tire, but OK. Later, Buddy gets one look at Tyra's mom's low-cut top and decides to dump his current secretary and give Tyra's mom the job. I'm not sure what getting a job with your boobs says about empowerment, but: moving on.

The Panthers win the game with one of Matt's plays. Coach then takes Smash to a diner where washed-up high school players go to flip burgers and tells Smash he won't report him if he agrees to get clean and take random drug tests.

And Jason lurks again, waiting for Lyla to come home. He tells her she's beautiful and talented, and she thinks Jason's breaking up with her. Instead, Jason says the magic words: "Lyla Garrity, will you marry me?" She leans in to kiss him, and someone needs to tell that girl that making out is not a yes or no answer.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Studio 60 - "Monday"

After being gone for five days, I'm really behind watching my TV shows. This episode of Studio 60 called "Monday" first aired on January 22. I finally finished watching it yesterday, February 6.
Studio 60 is a TV show about a fictional sketch-comedy series on the NBS broadcast network. Aaron Sorkin, the mastermind behind "West Wing" is the producer and main writer. So far, I'm still in limbo whether I really like this show. I keep watching it and it's like I really have no deep feelings toward it yet. Some of the characters I detest and others are okay. The same with the story lines. But this seems to be the same sentiments I have read from TV critics. So I guess I'll keep taping it and see if it improves.

Plot: Danny continues his pursuit of Jordan while Matt competes on an online bid for a date with Harriet. Jack and Wilson must deal with their pending situation about Macau, while Jordan meets with Hallie Gallway regarding a new reality show pitch.

Pam's Review: After a long break, this was definitely a filler episode for the next two shows. We meet Hallie, the new VP for Reality TV telling Jordan she can't just paint all reality shows with the same crappy label. I also like how Hallie shows she's not intimidated by Jordan, a move way overdue.

Fighting to keep the integrity of news is a good plot and I like how Jack is ready to do it. I also enjoy the sadly realistic bit that the board would rather remove Wilson White (Ed Asner) than risk a multi-billion dollar battle, showing Sorkin does indeed realize that in life, money would come before quality for these people.
I wince at them restarting the whole "foreign girl going after Tom" bit again but Jack had a great scene working with them all. The romances seem a bit too much now, especially the online auction and Danny's borderline stalking of Jordan. But at least she calls him on the fact it's more infatuation than real love.

But the highlight of this episode was the Simon/Darius bit. I always found it presumptuous of Simon that it was his duty to give other black comedians a break and save them from the inevitable life on the streets. It makes sense that Darius, an educated writer, doesn't want to be just "the black sketch" writer. That built to one of the best scenes yet where Simon blasts Darius for doing this after all Simon did to save him and Darius fires back "Yassa, Mistuh Simon, you sure is good to us." It's a great thing for Darius to let Simon know that not every black man feels like he does and they don't have to be shoe-horned like this. This is the Aaron Sorkin I've been waiting to see and hopefully the second half of the season will show more of that.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Movie Review - Finding Neverland

No dinner tonight, except for frozen eggrolls. My kitchen cupboards are bare since I haven't been grocery shopping in nearly two weeks. Plus I didn't get home until nearly 730pm tonight due to a hair appointment.

But I did pick up a video to watch on this extremely cold evening.

Tuesday Night's Featured Attraction: Finding Neverland is the story of J. M. Barrie's friendship with a family who inspired him to create Peter Pan.

Pam's Review: This is an absolutely wonderful movie that is so very touching. I'm still drying my eyes after having a good cry. Johnny Depp as J.M. Barrie, author of "Peter Pan", is simply awesome. Depp again demonstrates that he is the most gifted and versatile actor of his generation.

Peter Davies, the muse of Peter Pan, is amazing. Peter's on screen relationship with James Barrie is deeply compassionate and inspiring, and makes "Finding Neverland" a very special movie and experience.

"Neverland" tells the story of how James Barrie created Peter Pan in 1904. Barrie at the time was a renowned play-write, who is in the midst of a dry spell. He, along with his benefactor and producer, Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman, who injects a great light touch), have weathered a stage flop. Barrie must create something that audiences will embrace. He develops a relationship with a widow, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslett), and her four young boys, George, Jack, Peter, and Michael.

Barrie is married, and his wife Mary is not pleased that her husband is spending all his time with another family. Though their marriage seems to have died years ago. Also displeased is Sylvia's mother. By Barrie spending so much time with the family, Sylvia's value is depreciated. In a more contemporary sense people start talking about Barrie, in particular his spending time with the Davies boys.

Barrie notices that Peter, who is at first resistant to him, seems in a hurry to grow up, thinking that things are less painful as an adult. Peter has taken the death of his father especially hard. In a stirring scene with Barrie, Peter tells him that he will not tolerate adults "lying" to him. That had happened with his father.

The last 20 minutes of "Finding Neverland" is so very touching and inspiring. "Peter Pan" is not just a fairy tale, rather a metaphor. We all grow old, in this we don't have a choice in the matter. However, if a part of us remains young, the part that makes the world always new and miraculous, not necessarily believing in fairies, rather remembering what that was like, then we grow old, without being truly old.

Maybe that is finding Neverland. Barrie says to Peter at the end, "Just believe." That is well said. Just believe. The whole ending, I was just in tears. I don't think they were tears of sadness, but tears of joy. This movie just made me feel so good inside.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Florida & Book Review - Public Enemies

I have returned from a wonderful four days in mostly sunny Ft. Myers, Florida. My short vacation was just what I needed to get through the rest of the winter. I played golf (did horrible), went shopping, ate out, and best of all - relaxed.

Now I'm home and wondering why I returned to this subzero degree temperature. Too see more photos of my trip to Florida go to:


While in Florida, I had plenty of time to catch up on my reading. I finished a very good book called Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 by Bryan Burrough. I have always had a fascination regarding this era of our history and this book gave me a chance to learn more. I also read Blink by Malcom Gladwell (review to come later), and started Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner .

Public Enemies is a fascinating book that tells, in detail, the events of the War on Crime waged in the years 1933 and '34. A rich and colorful cast of characters parades through the pages. On the bad guy side, we find Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd and Alvin Karpis and the Barker family. On the side of law and order, there was J. Edgar Hoover and his FBI along with local police and other officials. The battle unfolded amid an amazing epidemic of bank robberies, part of what some people saw as a great crime wave. More than anything else, it was probably the Kansas City Massacre -- a bloody incident in June 1933, which left a pile of dead detectives and law enforcement officers -- that touched off the war. This massacre shocked the country -- and the FBI -- into action.

Truth is often not only stranger than fiction but also a lot more interesting. Burrough's research is careful and extraordinarily thorough. He debunks many of the tall tales that have accrued around these almost mythical figures. The famous woman in a red dress who betrayed John Dillinger was actually wearing an orange skirt. Machine Gun Kelly was "inept" and "never a menacing figure." Bonnie and Clyde were totally unlike the characters in the famous movie; they were "lazy drifters who murdered nearly a dozen innocent men." Most striking, perhaps, was the case of Ma Barker, grandmother and head of a family of violent crooks. That was the image. In reality, Ma Barker was a rather stupid old woman who liked to work jigsaw puzzles and had never been mastermind of anything, including crime. When she ended up with a bullet through her head, the FBI had some explaining to do. Hoover then concocted the tale of Ma Barker the master criminal, the "brains" of the gang, an evil genius who died with a machine gun in her hands, "spidery, crafty Ma Barker," whose "withered fingers" controlled the fate of her family of "desperadoes." Not a word of this was true.