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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lost: Strangers In a Strange Land

I'm really trying to get caught up so please bear with me with all the posts.

This episode brought us back to the major pre-Desmond island events. In exchange for helping Ben get well, Jack requests Juliet’s execution be staid. Ben submits, but brands Juliet. And they all begin to sail back to the Island. Kate and Sawyer get back to the original Island with Karl, but they fight the whole time.

Jackbacks: Jack visits Thailand to find himself, and hooks up with a crazy sexy non-tattoo artist who ’sees who people are’ and, against traditions, tattoos Jack (at his coercion) with who he is: “He walks among us, but is not one of us.” But, Jack insists “that’s not what it means.”

I still don’t like Bai Ling.I don’t think Jack would have hooked up so pointlessly with someone for such a long time. Hence, his stalkage AGAIN. He MUST have more control.He only got a piece of the full tattoo.Bai Ling, in Thailand, gave him a Chinese tattoo? Jack’s known all along that he’s a leader, an angry reluctant born leader. He ‘forced’ Achara to tattoo it on him so he’d never forget.

Jack/Juliet: They make perfect sense as a couple, but is any of it still a ploy? The goal all along was to get Jack to go for Juliet. Now he seems to be. Is that part of the Others ploy or part of Jack’s ploy? Or is it honest to goodness aloe-spreadin’ love?

Killing and the Others: Apparently it’s terrible to kill one of your own. So eye for an eye. Juliet kills Danny, she should be executed. But they seem to have no problem threatening to kill anyone else. And apparently killing Karl is OK.What the heck did Karl do?? He was caged, then brainwashed for who knows how long, and who knows what else. And Alex and Juliet were clear that Ben would kill him.

Now we know Cindy and the children are “better off.” And clearly they were there to watch Juliet’s execution. Which of course, didn’t come to pass. But creepy that they want the children to watch trials or executions or whatever. But they gotta learn NOW, right?Poor Emma, asking about Ana-Lucia. More “God loves you as He loved Jacob.”

New creepy character: Sheriff Isabel!

The Others have several boats! Surely that wasn’t the same tugboat Michael and Walt left in. So I’m guessing since there was a ferry system, they had more than one ferry.Turns out Ethan was their good doctor. So why did Ben send him to explore the losties?

Kate likely really did only sleep with Sawyer because she thought he was a dead man. I think she would have waffled for much much longer, and possibly never chose, under normal circumstances.

Yeah, I get it: Juliet and Jack are both marked people now. Was that part of the ploy too? Would she be willing to go that far? If it really is that she’s marked, then what does that mean, and why do they do it? Why in a nonvisible place? Why THAT mark? Does Danielle have that mark too?? EH??

Book Review: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The Great Readers of M read this book for their March selection. It was actually chosen by me and I do have to say it was just beautiful. I cried my eyes out, yet I didn't find it depressing. I learned so much about the Chinese culture in the 19th century while soaking in every word of this rich story. Even though I read at night to help put me to sleep, it was hard to put this book down for a second.

Lisa See's style in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is much like the strokes in the women's secret writing described in the book: flowing, personal, and nostalgic. This novel describes nineteenth century China when young girls' feet were still bound and their lives were determined by the outcome of that experience. Obedience was the ultimate characteristic in a girl and woman, and this was represented by their feet, which were crushed and bound until an ideal seven centimeters - about 3" long. To compare, I wear a perfect shoe size 6, which is considered small in today's world, but my foot measures just about 9" long.

The theme of the book is relationships and Lisa See explores the relationship between mother and daughter, husband and wife, and the most important in this case, friendship, more specifically arranged friendships between a laotong, or an "old same". Lily, the narrator, is telling the story as a guilt-ridden old woman. She reflects on her past and the experiences she shared with her laotong, Snow Flower.

Although at the start the two seem to be completely different due to their social classes, they find a way to love each other and share their deepest secrets by way of a fan and the women's secret writing referred to as nu shu. The novel begins with the two girls finishing their childhood separately but at age six they have their feet bound and they come together.

At this time in the nineteenth century in China, a foot binding was considered the most important event in a young girl's life. See describes the binding so vividly that I myself was in pain, but was also very much intrigued by that part of Chinese culture (I later looked up pictures of a bound foot and to my surprise found it looked exactly as it was described, a lily).

As women, the pair continues to be inseparable and the connection they share touched me. Together they go through the pains of handling their in-laws and meeting their husbands, which ironically is what jeopardizes their friendship. When the new relationships with their husbands become a major part of each laotong's life and Lily finds herself getting competitive about becoming pregnant with a son, a change in character seems evident in both women.

It seems both characters swap personalities. Lily becomes harder, stronger, and surer of herself. Snow Flower on the other hand, retreats into what seems like a weaker character. Although Lily seems heartless nearing the end of the novel, See made me sympathize with both characters by showing how vulnerable both women truly were.

The novel, although it describes a completely different culture and set of times from modern day, I found, was very relatable. The pressures on women and their duties are different, but the importance and sensitivity of friendships is still a significant part of a girl and a woman's life. See combines history and modern day, and reality and fiction carefully and beautifully making the novel exciting and absorbing.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Night Lights: I Think We Should Have Sex

Well, they certainly are hitting all the hot buttons. The big sex episode is nothing new for a drama that deals with high school kids. Even though I knew going in that we would be traveling a familiar path, I was looking forward to it for the simple reason that we would get to see Tami Taylor's reaction.

The scene where she confronts Julie about having seen Saracen buying condoms was the highlight for me. It was a nice setup to the discussion she had with Eric later. With no real idea of what she was supposed to do, she just jumped right in. "I saw Matt Saracen buying condoms today." There's an icebreaker.

The interaction between Tami and Eric as they tried to deal with all of it was also very good. "Well they're sure as hell not mine, so what would our 15 year old daughter be doing with these?" Eric was wound up so tight. Her resolution at the end to just have faith in Julie doing the right thing, and Eric coming around to her side was a nice scene. It all wrapped up nicely with the covert little, "Thanks for the talk." line too.

Away from the parents, there was some good stuff too. Julie's reaction to the whole thing was a little odd, approaching the whole affair as some sort of odd science project. Her little scene with Tyra was interesting. After the big blowup where Eric and Tami explained that Tyra was a bad influence, there she is telling Julie that she doesn't have to do this.

Saracen reacted just as one would expect having seen the previous 16 episodes. A big ol' bag of unsure of himself nerves. I liked the way it ended, with him giving Julie the out. She seemed so relieved.

I think we have probably seen the last of Walt Riggins. The story has run its course and there really isn't a lot to be added. It did serve its purpose though, giving us a good understanding of why Tim is the way he is.

This might have been my favorite part of Street's story so far. Hearing him tell Susan the story of how the accident happened, and how he has been dealing with it, showed some good growth for Street. Herc continues to be a good influence and it looks like the rugby team may be just what he needs.

And then there is Buddy Garrity. We all saw that one coming. Heck, I think people that don't watch the show saw it coming. The altercation at the church is certainly going to play in to future episodes. I think the best part of the story was Eric's reaction. Before Buddy could even get the words out Eric was just as uncomfortable as everyone watching. And he shared the viewers sentiment when he told Buddy, "You're a stupid man."

Overall, another really good episode.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Studio 60: 4am Miracle

I knew watching that this might be the last Studio 60 I'd ever see on NBC so I really didn't know what to expect since I haven't really been thrilled with this show. However, this was a 90% great episode with an ending that was enough of a predictable sour-note to remind me of why this show has had trouble living up to its lofty expectations.

But let's deal with the good first, shall I? There was a lot of it...Jordan and Danny and the Robot Baby. Funny and cute with a dash of sparkling dialog ("You don't drive a baby... ever" and "Now we know not to put it in a guillotine" being two of my personal favorites). I know I don't think that Jordan and Danny have chemistry, but this episode almost changed my mind! They were not bad together.

Tom and Simon. Though I thought that Simon's speech about the warning labels on consumer products was a little lame, everything else between them was great. I don't think there's been a bigger laugh-out-loud moment in the whole run of the show than when Danny leaves the Robot Baby with them and the first thing they do is throw it on the ground. Simon forgetting who he seduced was pretty funny too.

Matt and the lawyer. It was really interesting watching the discussion about the link between writing and ratings. It certainly seemed like Sorkin was acknowledging his own culpability for the Studio 60 slide in ratings, didn't it? I don't think I've ever seen a television show make such a self-aware pronouncement regarding its own place in the TV universe. I thought it was a cool touch but also a little sad (considering that the show might not be back). When the lawyer showed, I thought that the Russian-Roulette that was the Matt and Harriet relationship was finally going to splat against the wall like that teenager's brain from the moview Harriet is making.

But, no...Harriet is back. Again. Ugh. (If you haven't guessed, I'm up to the 10% that wasn't so great tonight).Listen, I need to say this: Harriet is still shrill and annoying. There's no way around it. I think she's a fine actress who can do a really good English accent and who can also make a dolphin sound, but her character is death. If I were that kid in bed with her, I would have asked for a real gun so I could end the hell of being around her and all her silly drama.

When Harriet showed up at Matt's office and Matt muttered "The 4am Miracle", my first thought was to scream "Noooooooo" like when Luke Skywalker found out that Darth Vader was his father. Then I collected myself.

My second thought was that the ultimate frustration that I have with this show is that there is so much great stuff there (like the other 90% of this episode) that is being weighed down by the anchor of their relationship.Matt started the episode by talking about Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." I think he would have been better off talking about another poem that Coleridge wrote: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Because Harriet is an albatross, both for Matt and the whole of Studio 60. And yes, I am unduly proud of myself for that literary reference.

(Final sidenote: what happened to Matt's pill popping? They showed it in the recap at the beginning of the episode and then... nothing. Has he stopped taking pills? Or am I to assume that the pills have something to do with his writer's block. I'll be interested to see, if the show comes back, if this is a storyline they're keeping or if it's just going to disappear...)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Prison Break: Bad Blood

Man, that felt good. Seriously, the best part of the season was in the second half of this episode, when Bill Kim got a beat down by the front end of an SUV and then Lincoln's fist a few times. It's almost too bad he didn't get a few slugs in the process, but we already knew that wouldn't happen ... yet.This was actually one of the better episodes of the season, though not without its own set of problems.

The T-Bag portion of this story was well played out. We got a revealing view into the terrible past Ted had as a kid and how it clearly affected him as a man. Now I know this show isn't necessarily known for being deep on social values, but what we're seeing here is how T-Bag's life after breaking out of prison is having a better effect at "fixing" him (for lack of a better word) than prison was.

I'm actually sorry to see that C-Note is still in the picture, as next to Lincoln he may be the stupidest escapee of the bunch, including Haywire. Ever since he revealed his intent on escaping, I knew he was one person not to trust. He just couldn't bear to live without his selfish intentions, almost killing his daughter in the process. And now he has to throw Michael to the wolves (aka FBI)? That's just great.

For once the conspiracy surrounding Lincoln's setup was interesting to me. I've always liked Stacy Keach's character as Pope, and to see him come back again was a treat. I'm also very interested to know what could possibly be on that recording that would help Lincoln so much -- could there really be a recording that's convincing enough not to be a forgery?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dinner & a DVD: Four Feathers

Ready in just 10 minutes and very good.

Ham 'N' Noodle Toss

2 cups broccoli florets
1 3/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 packages (3 oz/e) oriental-flavored ramen noodles
Sliced ripe olives, optional

In a large saucepan, combine broccoli, water, ham, soy sauce and one flavoring packet from the noddles (discard second packet). Break noodles into small pieces; add to pan. simmer, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes or until noodles are tender, stirring frequently. top with olives if desired.

Featured Attraction: Four Feathers

"Four Feathers" was a bit of a surprise. I watched it on a whim and was duly impressed. I'm not really a Heath Ledger fan, spoiled by "A Knight's Tale" and "Ten Things I Hate About You" which are really teen fare. (Sorry, haven't seen Brokeback Mountain yet.) However, Ledger manages to carry off a truly adult role believably and with passion.

The movie brings to life, in the tradition of "Zulu", the arrogance and brutality of the English Empire. In their mission to make the world English, the troops in this film find themselves fatally underestimating the Sudanese fighters (I think there's a rule somewhere that says imperialists must lose in any film made after 1970).

The sets are phenomenal and the acting is superb. Djimon Hounsou (Juba in "Gladiator") is fantastic. Wes Bentley (Jack) creeped me out a little, remembering him from "American Beauty", but convincingly maintains the British 'stiff upper lip'. Kate Hudson was a bit useless as the role demanded more emotion than she was really capable of, but fortunately it was a fairly small part.

I liked the film, although some points in the film were a little confusing. Several scenes which ought to have been key (particularly at the prison and at the end) I thought were a little off because I didn't understand what was happening and these points were never fully clarified.

Also, while the film did an excellent job of portraying Sudanese cultures and eighteenth century English, our hero's motives were at times a little suspect (since an awful lot of his actions seem very precipitous - heading off to Africa might be considered rash) Other than that, I highly recommend this film to anyone who enjoys a sweeping historical drama.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Book Review - Villages by John Updike

Since I haven't read any of John Updike's novels, I felt it was about time. The brief and humorous description of Cabot City and Haskell's Crossing made it momentarily interesting. However, my dislike of the main character, Owen, made it painful.

The sexual history of a fearless adulterer is at times a work of pornography, with repeated scenes of hardcore sex. One would think that the sexual escapades of a successful businessman might be a quick read, but it was just the opposite. Owen lacked passion in his extracurricular activities, or for that matter anything in his life.

And the last chapter, when Owen at 70 turns away from his wife's caresses and takes up oil painting, is full of reflection on his relations with women throughout his entire life -- from his doting mother in Pennsylvania to his girl friend in high school, to his first wife, Phyllis, who gave him four children before killing herself in an automobile accident when he asked for divorce, to his succession of creative lovers who taught him the joys of sex, to his second wife, Julia, first married to a minister, who loves Owen for 25 years and gives him a feeling of everlasting contentment.

Also in this book, an examination of the early years of the computer industry, including the creation of the mouse, as Owen starts a software business with his friend Ed that will make him rich.

But while I appreciate Updike's agility with language, I just cannot get past that this story is 90% sexual exploits. Who cares? It's just not interesting to me to read that a man, a supposedly well-educated man, would engage in one affair after another, with one bad consequence following the last, never learning or growing. Owen was totally unsympathetic to me.

I enjoy a good read, and this wasn't one.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Soup of the Week & The Dresden Files: Rules of Engagement

This hearty three-bean soup is very easy to fix.

Taco Bean Soup

1 lb pork sausage
1 lb ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning
4 cups water
2 cans (16 oz/e) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 oz/e) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 oz/e) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (14 1/2 oz/e) stewed tomatoes
2 cans (14 1/2 oz/e) Mexican diced tomatoes, undrained.
1 jar (16 oz) chunky salsa
Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced ripe olives - all optional

In a soup kettle, cook sausage & beef; drain. Add taco seasoning and mix well. Stir in the water, beans, tomatoes, and salsa. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, and olives if desired.

The Dresden Files: Rules of Engagement

Another enjoyable episode, with some good plotting, a chance for Harry to showcase some more magical abilities, and some nice snide remarks from Bob. I'm liking Bob more as the show progresses--of course I'm also liking the show itself more as it progresses, so I suppose the two go hand-in-hand.

The hi-jinks get underway when Harry's new client, Nikki, walks in the door, wanting him to help her find her Aunt Frida's boyfriend, a Mr. Primko, who apparently high-tailed it with Aunt Frida's money. Searching for Primko, Harry finds a body that's been scorched to death by a hellion. Morgan, from the White Council, sticks his nose in, as he has some interest in the case, then Murphy arrives. They both seem convinced Harry had something to do with Primko's death.

Then Harry discovers that Nikki isn't Nikki at all, but a Caryn Harris, and she's being pursued by Sarota, a menacing sort who destroys Harry's wand and otherwise causes problems. I don't like him. Things gradually become clear as I discover that Primko was himself a hellion, a recruit of Sarota. Sarota makes hellions, one of whom is Caryn's boyfriend Matthew Jacobs, who's gone free agent as an unrestricted hellion. Sarota wants to get him back under control by getting hold of Jacobs' Chain of Sin, and has entered into a bargain with Morgan and the White Council in order to do so.

Then Harry finds out Jacobs isn't trying to go Hellion Free Agent to wreak destruction, but is actually trying to make himself mortal again, because he's truly in love with Caryn. Harry can't let go of the case, in spite of several opportunities to do just that (including Caryn firing him at one point), and against Bob's advice he cooks up a plan to help the star crossed lovers. In the end all is well, but Harry has double-crossed Sarota, who seems to be a pretty powerful figure in the world of Dark Magic. He's also double-crossed Morgan, ostensibly one of the good guys. And you know one or both of those things is going to come back and bite him in the ass sooner or later.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and it seems to me the show is largely going in the right direction. The plot had enough twists and turns that I actually had to pay a bit of attention. I liked the banter this week between Harry and Bob, and between Harry and Murphy. I didn't quite buy Harry's sudden devotion to the case, which seemed to be rooted in an attraction to Caryn that didn't quite make sense the way it was set up, and the ending was a bit pat, but overall a good installment of a show that seems to be beginning to find its footing.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Wicked The Musical

St. Patrick's Day in Chicago and tickets to see Wicked - what a wonderful combination.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better? But because I knew you...I have been changed for good...This is my first musical review. Tony and I met in Chicago to see Wicked. We sat in H26 & H24, the right-most seats pretty near the front. So it was a bit hard to see as some parts of the right stage were blocked off. Despite this it was the best musical experience I ever had. As I was telling people later, it was the most wonderful afternoon for me in a few months. And I'm sure many in the audience felt the same way - the standing ovation was itself nothing short of dramatic.

The plot is taken directly from Gregory Maguire's Wicked, the untold story of the Witches of Oz - in particular how the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch got their titles.
The story traces Elphaba's (Wicked Witch) ascent/descent: from a schoolgirl in a Harry Potter type magic school to a talented magician who gets to meet the Wizard of Oz to the feared and hated Wicked Witch of the West. Juxtaposed against this style is Glinda's rise to becoming the Good Witch. Unlike Elphaba the outcast, she is superficial, popular, "blonde" as Elphaba says. They start off hating each other but it later becomes a strong friendship despite them going separate paths, one standing up for what she believes in and generally doing very action things while the other remains the favorite of the people.

References to the original Wizard of Oz abound, most prominently seen in the depiction of how the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow came to be. The production is typically splendid. The props and stuff are quite nice, though I think they can't beat Phantom's Chandelier scene. The Emerald City part was ok too, though the sheer splendour is probably edged out by Phantom's Masquerade scene.

The script was quite funny, but most of all it was really engaging. There was political commentary too but that part, to me, was merely a prop, a backdrop for Elphaba's story. However, I do have to admit that I had never heard any of the songs until a co-worker loaned me her CD and after I listened to it a handful of times, I felt that they did grow on me.

So now I'll talk about the songs. Like I said, not too memorable. But there are a few which stand out. For me, the two songs that really seared this musical into me were Defying Gravity and For Good.
The first one hints of a "genius-type" witch. Elphaba, of course, has super magical powers, a talent that is not discovered until she activates it in rage that kinda thing. On the basis of her talent, she defies social conventions and what people say about her, choosing to go her own path rather than follow well-trodden ones. Thus defying gravity, which pulls people back to reality. It was very very exciting to see her gaining all her equipment and accessories, slowly decking herself out in black and becoming the Wicked Witch of the West that everyone is familiar with. At the end of Act 1 and the song, she flies into the sky in all her black and green glory and it's a really cool moment. The best part of this song, I think, is when she says "So if you care to find me look to the western sky."

But the second song is the one that sealed it. In the musical, it's slightly tragic because the friendship is doomed, but even without the context, I think the song is really beautiful. I guess it just gets to the heart of what I want to say to all my closest friends, and I'm not ashamed to admit that when the two actresses did this song I was moved to tears (slightly).

So I'll just end with some of the lyrics.

Glinda: I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return
Well I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Simpsons: Springfield Up

I didn't love it, and I didn't hate it -- for the most part, the February 18 episode was "just okay" in my opinion. It was nice to see Eric Idle return as the snooty muck-raking journalist Declan Desmond (first seen in the episode "Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky"), but the episode felt like two different episodes battling for the same thirty-minute space.

I always enjoy it when the writers come up with ways to incorporate all the secondary and tertiary characters into an episode, but this one tried to tack on the bit about Homer being depressed with what he's become in life, leading he and his family to take over Burns' summer home and pretend it's their own.

One of my minor beefs with these latter day Simpsons episodes is that I don't think they always earn the emotional pay off for which they strive. In this episode we spend a lot of time learning about those who grew up in Springfield, but Homer's story is also wedged into the mix -- it seems the episode should have just been about Homer feeling depressed about his life, or a lighter episode focusing on all the resident of Springfield.

I'm not saying the episode was a complete write off, because I think it was still funny, just a little thinner than I come to expect from this series. Nevertheless, I loved Homer's "open casket caricatures" and Frink's invention of the "'eight-months-after' pill." Also, we finally know of the insane cat lady's origin: who knew she went to Harvard medical and Yale law?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

MTTT- O'Duffy's

Mark this date: March 22 - Pam wore sandles for the first time in Michigan in 2007. Spring is here!

March’s MTTT was held at O’Duffy’s Pub, Kalamazoo’s True Irish Bar, on March 15. We dubbed it “Saint Practice Day”. Another great turnout with nearly 20 of us taking over half the pub. Our sales managers were in town so they joined this lively drinking group. Plus a few newbies showed up. Since there are no TV’s in this pub to watch the NCAA basketball games, a small contingent headed to Wayside West later that night. As many know because I’m pretty vocal about it, I loathe Wayside, but they twisted my arm and I swallowed my pride and made an appearance. Luckily, the place was not that busy so the clientele wasn’t the normal college-age, drunken idiots that normally frequent this place. We played pool and had some good laughs. Luckily I had Friday off, which was a blessing since it was pretty late night.
Pam, John, & Bob

O’Duffy’s is an often overlooked Kalamazoo pub. It is located in an old residential neighborhood near old Central High School. The owners, Jamie and his wife, have created a nice establishment. O’Duffy’s is on the main floor and Cosmos Cucina is upstairs and is the main dining area.

With Saint Patrick’s Day just around the corner, the pub had a wonderful Irish Stew, which was very popular and delicious. Plus, of course, Guinness and Harps on tap.

Did you know there is a little-known art to pouring a pint of Guinness? While most bars transformed into madhouses full of green-clad patrons on Saturday for Saint Patrick's Day, I thought it would be appropriate to ease the foot off the pedal and take a careful look at one of Ireland's most famous exports.

If you prefer a green-dyed domestic beer, you may not have the patience to wait for the perfect Guinness, but to discerning beer drinkers -- or beer snobs, as those watery-beer-drinkers may call them -- there is a point to the proper pour. Few local bars follow the guidelines and fewer did it Saturday as I’m sure elbow-to-elbow patrons barked for drinks, but on Saint Patrick's Day it seems only proper to enjoy a pint as it was intended.

The best is O'Duffy's Pub where head bartender Amy Steger employs a rare three-stage pour and tops it off by drawing a shamrock in the head. Most bars pour Guinness all at once, and some will take two pours to finish the pint as recommended by Guinness. O'Duffy's was recently given the "gold standard award'' by Guinness for its delicate pour. When it’s done right, the rich smooth flavor of Guinness will be brought out.
Check out all my O'Duffy photos at: http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?mode=fromshare&Uc=4wl3f2j.665tcwv&Uy=-4fucz3&Ux=0

The April MTTT will be April 19 at an undetermined location. I’m open for any and all suggestions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CSI: Monster in the Box

After the great four episode story arc with Keppler, Grissom is back on track hunting down his latest arch-nemesis -- The Miniature Replica Killer.

They thought they had him with the death of Ernie Dell, but no. The CSI writers have crafted quite the story here, possibly one of the best multi-episode arcs this show has seen yet.
Grissom finally got around to opening the large cardboard box that was delivered to his office right before he left on sabbatical. We knew what was inside of it though since we got a sneak peek right before he left. It's another replica. The only problem? The murder hadn't occurred... yet.

At first, going into this, I thought they whole mystery was going to be wrapped up. Not so. Now I can only hope that this is something that plays out over the course of the rest of the season.
It started off with a revelation when Grissom found the hidden message spread across all the replicas ("YOU WERE WRONG") and it ended with a shock and more questions. Every episode should be this good.

First off, I love how intelligent our killer has become. He (she?) actually set up a meticulous timer programmed to open and close the fireplace flue of the latest victim, and the effect was that it slowly released carbon monoxide into the apartment. I'm surprised no one caught on to that though when they tried to stage the scene. I know carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer, but neither Sofia nor Brass noticed that the undercover female cop had stopped talking or taking their commands? That was the only part that was a bit of a stretch for me.

My question though is how in the world did the killer get the lady’s cat to die in the same spot?

Tying the case to Ernie's biological son was smart but I loved the twist when we found out that the Dell's had been caregivers to dozens of foster children over the years. The killer, whom Ernie had shot himself for, could be any of those kids. As Sara pointed out, it'll take forever to subpoena all those social services records. The real question is why has the killer now targeted Grissom as a connection to the LVPD?

The end of the episode caught me completely off guard too. I honestly thought the killer had come back to finish the job. That made perfect sense. Throwing the doctor's brother into the mess as her own Dr. Kevorkian was just plain disturbing. However, now it's just one more piece of the puzzle because what would have been a huge help in finding the killer quickly became another dead end. A nice finishing touch to a great episode.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dinner & DVD: For Your Consideration

I found this recipe in a magazine and then made a few changes to it to suit my taste.

Easy Chicken Divan

1 cup cubed cooked chicken*
Salt & Pepper
1 package (10 oz) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1 cup shredded taco or Mexican cheese

* I used the precooked Butterball Chicken Breasts strips - who has time to cook a chicken!

In a greased dish, combine the chicken, salt & pepper. Top with broccoli. In a bowl, combine the soup, mayonnaise, milk and 1/2 of the cheese; pour over broccoli. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Featured Attraction: For Your Consideration

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. In an impressive string of wonderful mockumentary farces over the past few years, guiding lights Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, and their brilliant comedic acting ensemble, have joyfully savaged the self-important cultural "worlds" of small town amateur theater ("Waiting for Guffman"), dog shows ("Best in Show") and folk music ("A Mighty Wind").

But a winning formula can't go on forever unchanged, nor should we expect it to. Inevitably, the group have hit a bump in the road with their latest film, "For Your Consideration," a send-up of Hollywood movie making and the assorted vanities of movie makers. Not that it's bad. But compared to those earlier works, it isn't inspired; it doesn't grab you with its efforts to lampoon; and the performances of the actors - always uniformly of a high caliber in most of their movies – is highly variable in this new movie. Perhaps the theme hits too close to home: it's hard to gain the distance necessary to properly ridicule your own cultural world. Or maybe it's just that the recipe Guest and Levy have used to such delightful advantage has just gotten old, for viewers and for Guest's company.

The plot, for what it's worth, concerns a film within a film: the making of a new movie, the ethnically charged "Home for Purim," which is later rewritten and retitled "Home for Thanksgiving" to broaden its commercial box office appeal. All the stereotypes one expects are on hand: the avaricious executive producers; the harried director; the screenwriters, pained by the incremental decimation of their work; the aging stars in decline; the young up and comings; the vain chase after that holiest of grails: an Oscar, the hangers on – the parasitic, disingenuous talent agent, talk show hosts, film critics and entertainment reporters. They're all here.

Parker Posey (young actress possibly on the way up), Catherine O'Hara (veteran actress on the way out), Jennifer Coolidge (ditzy producer), and Eugene Levy (actors' agent) provide decent turns but none of these superb talents gives a truly inspired performance here. Harry Shearer is better as a long-suffering actor who is glad enough just to star in a feature film after years of making commercials, Oscar or no Oscar.

But the comedic scene stealers in this movie are three pairs of actors who play off each other to a wonderful effect: Fred Willard and Jane Lynch as a TV entertainment reporting duo, Bob Balaban and Michael McKean as the beleaguered screenwriters, and Don Lake and Michael Hitchcock as Siskel-Ebert style TV critics.

Overall the film just didn't have the laughs I'm accustomed to in a Guest movie; it didn't quite know what it wanted to be. While most of the acting was good, the never-ending list of cameos got old and confusing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Girl Scout Dessert Bake-off

One of the biggest fund raisers for the local Girl Scouts is their annual Girl Scout Dessert Bake-off. Having been a former Girl Scout and a lover of Girl Scout cookies and sinful sweet tooth, I have always wanted to attend this event. This year I was fortunate to be able to go with my friends Brenda and Lindsey. Brenda's husband sponsored a table so she invited me and a guest to go.

The event was held at the Radisson Hotel last Tuesday and well over 400 people attended. When I walked into the huge ballroom, it was packed with the sweet smell of desserts. People were milling around sampling all the desserts. Voting was very simple, I just placed a penny in the entry box of the dessert I liked best.

Sol World Cafe, which is located in the Radisson Hotel, won the first place and the People's Choice awards. The restaurant was among 11 eateries that participated in the the event. Chefs were asked to come up with desserts that used Girl Scout cookies in creative ways.

The Sol World Cafe team used Girl Scout cookies as one would use crackers to make five types of canapes. Ingredients that topped the dessert canapes included common items such as strawberries and strawberry jam, chocolate chips, peanut butter, apples, raspberries, blackberries, marshmallows and Cool Whip. When I stopped by their table, the chef told me she was trying to think of something that was easy to do. And this was indeed very simple and very delicious.

The second-place winner, Bravo!, used a stunning presentation to show off its Ice Cream Parlor Cheesecake. The Neapolitan-flavored cheesecake was served inside mini ice cream cones.

If there had been a best chocolate award, it would certainly have gone to Food Dance Cafe, which took its popular baked chocolate mousse dessert, the Cat's Meow, and combined Callebaut chocolate with Thin Mints. This dessert came in third.

The Union Cabaret and Grille also impressed me with a triple Chocolate Ganache Torte that had the gold image of a city skyline imprinted around the chocolate edge of the torte.

A simply delicious evening!

Friday, March 16, 2007

My Name Is Earl: The Birthday Party

Earl Hickey has done a lot of good things over the past year. But he's got an enormously long list of bad things to cross off his list, and we've seen him add things he's forgotten or accumulate more misdeeds along his way to karmic balance plenty of times. So it shouldn't be any surprise that if you gather the residents of Camden County into one room, you're going to learn about a lot of things Earl's done that he's now sorry for.At first I thought this episode was going to be the old sit-com staple: the clip show. I'm glad I was wrong, but I'm not entirely convinced it was much better than a clip show.

Some of the funniest moments in My Name is Earl history have come in flashback sequences. They come when you least expect them and often seem somewhat surreal. Of course, Earl's flashbacks usually move the plot forward.But this time was a bit different.

As Earl tries to celebrate all the good things he's done during the last year, every person at his birthday party is there to remind him of more things he's done wrong. At one point, Earl asks his mom why people can't focus on all the good things he's done in the last year, and she replies that there have been a lot of bad years, and "There's only been one good year, Earl. I'm not sure we'd have enough to talk about."

Okay, so I settled in for a list of new items Earl needs to add to his list so that the show can live on for another few decades. He stole a bunch of hub cabs, rudely awakened Randy, swapped Darnell's pot brownies with his real brownies, paid Donnie Jones to peep and run, almost broke up his parents' marriage, and perhaps most devastatingly, left a guy with only one turntable and no microphone.

And then it turns out that the airing of the grievances was really just part of a big birthday surprise. Everyone planned to cross one thing off of Earl's list.

Well, first off, I'm not sure that's how karma works. And second of all, I want the last 22 minutes of my life back. I just don't feel like this episode really took us anywhere. It was like a collection of mini-episodes, where we learn about something Earl needs to make up for, but then we never see him make up for those things. I feel like we were cheated out of each of those episodes.

That's not to say this episode didn't have its laughs. After Darnell's clients pay $5 for the plain brownies, one complains of having to sit through dinner with his parents straight, while Donnie exclaims "I just listened to a whole Phish album, and it sucked!"

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lost: Flashes Before Your Eyes

I can't remember the last time two equally awesome episodes of Lost aired back to back, but here we are. "Flashes Before Your Eyes" was almost better than "Not in Portland." At the very least, it was more complex, and left me with even more questions than last week. I would even hesitate to call this a Desmond flashback episode. At first I thought I was watching a flashback within a flashback, but the writers of Lost had something far more mindbending in store for poor, tragic Desmond.

The opening scene seemed fairly run-of-the-mill given the twists and turns yet to come. Desmond came upon Charlie and Hurley raiding Sawyer's stash for supplies, and led them to Locke and Sayid in the forest. I had completely forgotten that no one at the beach knew about Eko's death; that seems like a million years ago.

During the conversation, Desmond suddenly ran for the beach. He arrived just in time to save Claire from drowning, an event that instantly turned Charlie into a possessive jerk. Hurley, putting two and two together, determined that Desmond can see into the future. He and Charlie came up with a hilarious plan to both figure out Desmond's deal and prevent him from "foreseeing" their intentions: get him drunk.

Desmond initially refused Charlie and Hurley's lame apology attempts, but changed his tune when he saw the MacCutcheon whiskey they brought with them. Charlie went from drunk to confrontational in 0.5 seconds, and sent Desmond into a violent rage by calling him a coward.
Then it got interesting.

Viewers were given another look at the hatch scene of the Season Two finale, in which Desmond deployed the fail-safe. Suddenly Desmond was awake in his flat, covered in red paint. Penny entered the room, apparently having just moved in. At this point it was clear that we were no longer in traditional flashback mode. Desmond began to remember the moment, and was aware that something was off.

Still in the faux-flashback, Desmond noted that the clock in his bedroom read 1:08. Where have we seen those numbers before? Desmond also heard a familiar beep, not unlike the one in the hatch, but it turned out to be the microwave. All signs continued to point back to the island, and Desmond's "interview" with Mr. Widmore was no exception. At the reception desk, the deliveryman had a parcel for 815, which caused Desmond to have a weird hatch-flash again. Once in Widmore's office, Desmond spotted a polar bear painting, a model sailboat, and a bottle of MacCutcheon whiskey. This last discovery led to a pretty brutal scene in which Mr. Widmore berated Desmond and denied him his blessing to marry Penny. If you're going to dash a guy's hopes, you should at least give him a drink, right? That's apparently not how the Widmores roll.

Charlie made a brief, but meaningful, appearance in the non-flashback, singing in the streets for money. Desmond began to recognize Charlie, and to understand his psychic ability/deja vu.

Cut to the jewelry store of mystery. I have no decent guess as to the shop lady's role in the big picture, but she knew Desmond's name, present, and future. Her only interest was getting Desmond to dump Penny, go to the island, and apparently save everyone's lives. She introduced Desmond to the notion of "course-correcting" by letting a red-shoed man get creamed by scaffolding right in front of them. This woman possessed a power Desmond now possesses--the ability to foresee the deaths of others. The trick of it is, neither of them can stop the deaths from occurring.

The shocking twist? Desmond's premonitions were not of Claire's impending death, but of Charlie's, a fact that Desmond was kind enough to communicate to Charlie. I will not even pretend that I saw that coming. As with Juliet, Desmond became far more intriguing with his flashback

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

DVD: Finding Nemo

Marlin loses his son, Nemo, after he ventures into the open sea, despite his father's constant warnings about many of the ocean's dangers. Nemo is abducted by a boat, netted up, and sent to a dentist's office in Sydney.

Marlin takes off to try and retrieve Nemo and meets a fish named Dory, a blue tang suffering from short-term memory loss. The companions travel a great distance, encountering various dangerous sea creatures such as sharks, angelfish and jellyfishes, in order to rescue Nemo from the dentist's office, which is situated by the Sydney Harbor.

While the two are doing this, Nemo and the other sea animals in the dentist's fish tank plot a way to returning to Sydney Harbor to live their lives free again....

I put the DVD in my player this past weekend with great reluctance thinking this would be a cutesy children's movie. I had originally rented this about a month ago, but the DVD was bad. My first thought this was an omen, but my good friend's Brian & Laura loaned me their copy.

What a surprise. Expecting the normal saccharine slush I find in family viewing, I watched a fantastic comedy, with very sympathetic characters, great set-pieces and very clever movie references (Scarface, The Shining, Psycho and The Birds to name a few). It's also packed to the gills (pun intended) with eccentric characters, such as a trio of sharks trying to kick the habit of eating other fish, a pack of surfer-dude sea turtles, and some dim-witted birds.

But what stood out for me the most was the attention to detail with the ocean and the way the sea life moved around. The detail hypnotises you into enjoyment and some of the scenes almost become psychedelic with their beauty (the jelly fish sequence is one of theses). The voice work is very good, and for once there wasn't any cultural references to animals and no ethnicity was used to capture a creature's likeness.

All of the cast were great and if you want a movie that will entertain, excite and humor you, then this is the movie for you. It even gave me a lump in my throat at the end. It's just a shame that I never saw this at the movie theater, because I could imagine that the spectacle was even more enjoyable on a big screen. A fantastic story, with great narrative, and characters and goals that you really care about.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Black Eyes & Broken Hearts

They’re in the playoffs baby! But they are off to a rather rocky if not riotous start. The racial tension still lingering from the previous episodes has spread like a cancer to the other team making Smash’s life just a notch harder.

Smash spends the majority of the episode feeling responsible for the fate of the players that have walked after Mac’s racist rants. It doesn’t help that the self-righteous Waverly won’t let him back down and just play. It took Mama Smash to slap the possibility of rising above and making a stand by playing and being the bigger man for Smash to swallow his pride and lead the rest of the team back to the field just in time for the playoffs.

The Panthers were back in action once Smash and the rest of the team hit the field and though he was willing to ignore Mac, he found it damn hard to ignore the opposition that refused to let the racist hype die. A near riot ensues and I’m proud to say that Smash did not throw the first punch, Riggins did!

The game’s called and the Panthers win as they were ahead before the fight broke out, but Coach Taylor’s not allowing them the chance to celebrate. While on the bus ride back to Dillon they are pulled over by the police who are claiming that witnesses say Smash threw the first punch and they’re arresting him. After a tense standoff, Mac steps in and demands a search warrant to enter the bus. Mac made the only move he could to ease the tensions on the team and it was touching.
By the end of the episode I felt like Texas was the scariest place on Earth. The whole football obsession and small town mentality is frightening enough, then you add in vigilante justice and racism by local yokel cops and there’s not a chance in hell I’d set foot in that place.

There was plenty of Landry (plus a cameo by his Crucifixion shirt) and his metro sexual know how. Matt and Julie finally made up. Tyra, Julie, Matt, and Landry were busted for being underage in a strip joint. Street left Dillon with Herc to follow his dream of quad rugby in Austin. And there was very little Lyla Garrity.

We were given one of the best Coach Taylor/Tami Taylor scene since the under table argument last fall. The whole “let me talk to the guidance counselor; let me talk to my wife; is there anyone else I can talk to” scene was amazing!

Oh, I almost forgot. Mac’s resignation was hard to watch. Though he was wrong and he is possibly a racist bigot, it broke my heart (and Coach Taylor’s) to see him give up something he’s given 20 years of his blood, sweat, and tears to for the good of the team.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Soup of the Week & Studio 60: Friday Night Slaughter

Mexican Beef-Cheese Soup - Ready in 30 minutes or less

1 lb ground beef
Onion, chopped
1 can (14 1/2oz) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 can (11oz) Mexicorn, drained
1 lb Mexican or plain process American cheese, cubed

In a large saucepan, cook beef and onion; drain. Stir in the tomatoes, corn and cheese. Cook and stir until cheese is melted.

Studio 60: Friday Night Slaughter

Aaron Sorkin runs to the well of his life yet again and now Matt Albie is abusing drugs. As Matthew Perry did there for a while. which makes the story interesting and challenging - which the series hasn't really been so far.

Sorkin has a fondness for flashback episodes to flesh out his main characters - he did it so beautifully on The West Wing. Here it seems like an easy get - but he proves how strong a storyteller he can be, by making the flashbacks serve an unreliable narrator.

In the present, we have two actors desperate to survive the Friday Night slaughter - where sketches are deep-sixed from the show when rehearsal goes long. And in the past, it's Matt versus Luke - to survive the slaughter and to impress Harriet. I'm not sure I remembered or even registered that Luke was a member of the Studio 60 staff - and didn't recognise him with the beard.

Well-written flashbacks and the fleshing out of a show's history are always going to suck me in - particularly when they are done as well as this. Matt becomes the most interesting character on the show and his relationship with Harriet gets a new layer - because their relationship didn't begin as perfectly as it seemed (when they have discussed it previously).

Meanwhile, Danny/Jordan continue to bore me. I find Danny particularly patronising to Jordan and wonder if her hormones are getting her into trouble here - because I'm still in denial about her 180-degree about-face in last week's episode.

What I'm so glad about is that Sorkin is taking risks again and this twist promises to make a strong statement - which is what the show has been missing all along.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Dresden Files: Hair of the Dog

The episode opens with a man fleeing through a graveyard. He is violently attacked. Murphy calls Harry about a dead body found in the park. However, the body is a women's and she has been partially scalped, and her upper canines have been extracted. Murphy connects the death to 7 similar murders, including one found in the river last week. There's no immediately cause of death, but silver iodide is found in her mouth and lungs, as if she inhaled it.

Harry, of course, is immediately clued in that the woman is a lycanthrope (werewolf, though they never use that word in the episode). The FBI moves in and takes the case over, pushing Murphy and Dresden both out of the way and threatening Dresden with jail time.

Instead Dresden focuses on the victim's roommate, Heather, and is able to put the pieces together as to what happened to her. But there's a twist he's not aware of--the hostile female FBI agent is also a lycanthrope, and her partner is killing lycanthropes in order to cure her of her affliction. Unfortunately, he's been bitten, too.

This was a episode, with some genuine creepiness and strong emotion, and I hope the show continues with this trend.

Quote of the night: "I'm turning my sense of smell up to eleven."

Friday, March 9, 2007

Book Review - The Falls

This was my first foray into the literary world of author Joyce Carol Oates. I visited Niagara Falls once a long time ago and remember the subject of Love Canal, so I thought that this would be a good novel to read. I have thus discovered I am not at all a fan of her writing style.

All that aside, I'm not sure I could identify with much of what the characters did. The insufferable, bitchy Ariah Burnaby was one whom I would have gladly pushed over the Falls myself if given the opportunity. The bitterness and fear she instilled in her children was unforgivable. Her sense of "I care for you/I don't care for you" feelings towards them left me feeling sorry for her children and it was a wonder they ever spoke to her again.

Although I do admit, I think Dirk was neglecting his own family during the course of the trial. But Ariah was already a woman driven to desperation and drama way before that. In a way I was expecting Oates to spend much more time on the history and ramifications of the Love Canal Disaster. But as much as Ariah tried to separate herself from the tragedy and convince herself she was of a higher standard than many of those 'low income people,' Love Canal came to her door and thus her husband was, although indirectly, a casualty of it.

As a result, the ending, although long-overdue, was predictable (the link with Bud and Juliet and his father) and rushed. In contrast, the hostage situation was so drawn out and long I easily skipped whole paragraphs, thinking aloud "Get it over with, already!!"

I also found the Lady in Black character totally ridiculous, especially her encounter with Royall. If we are to assume she is the Lois Gibbs character of this story (the central activist in the Love Canal case), then how on earth would she have the energy, interest in an affair? Why would she then disappear into obscurity in the end? If the woman was as passionate about her cause as Ms. Gibbs was, in reality, she didn't have time enough for her own husband (thus their real life divorce) and her total attention to Love Canal and saving her children.

I was equally surprised and disappointed with the number of typos and grammatical errors in Oates' book. I would think someone of her caliber would have a good editor or spell check on her computer. Some may think it's a big nitpick, but when you're reading along full steam and suddenly come across someone's name spelled wrong or a word accidentally repeated, it makes you stop and go "Wha...??" I returned this book back to the library faster than you could say "Shame, shame. Burnaby's the name!"

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Simpsons: Little Big Girl

Homer: Why would I go to Utah? I love booze, caffeine and monogamy.

This episode, which first aired February 11, really felt like two episodes in one, with both Lisa's story about her made up Native American heritage and Bart becoming involved with an older girl (played by Natalie Portman). Overall, my first reaction --having only seen the episode once-- is that it felt like the quintessential Simpsons episode with plenty of smart dialogue and enough hidden gags.

The one thing that struck me about this episode, and some others before it, is how the writers will "cheat" in order to tackle issues that would usually be impossible because of the fact that none of the characters age. If this were a live-action sitcom, Bart would have received a driver's license at some point, but since he's perpetually a ten year old, they had to come up with another way of getting him behind the wheel. In this case, he's awarded with a license when he inadvertently puts out a town fire using stolen fire extinguishers (which caused the fire to spread out of control in the first place).
There's a kind of poetic correlation between Bart's desire to run away to avoid having to run errands for Homer all the time, and his new girlfriend's belief that marrying a ten year old will solve her problem of being a pregnant teen. They're both convinced they can handle things on their own, but neither really knows the first thing about what it means to be an adult.

Here's a few things I caught in this episode:
  • Ralph Wiggum, at the school assembly to celebrate family history, is dressed as a puppy.

  • Mr. Burns striking a Jack Benny pose when Smithers catches on fire and exclaims, "but sir, I'm flaming!"

  • When Lisa is giving her speech, a Native American is wearing a shirt with the same corncob curtain design as Lisa's.

  • The best exchange in the episode:
    Utah minister: How many brides will you be marrying today, Mr. Simpson?
    Bart: Just one.
    Utah minister: What are you, gay?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

New Music Downloads

After the successes of Coldplay and Snow Patrol, the Brit-pop brigade continues its stateside march with a new debut by The Feeling, Twelve Stops and Home, that is jolly good. Although the lyrics to the song "Sewn" are not particularly sunny, their peppy pop sounds and lush harmonies, straight from the Beatles school, make it hard to stay bummed.

The energetic Melbourne, Australia, six-piece combo group, The Cat Empire, hits the States with Two Shoes, a magnetic blend of funk, soul, and frat-party raucousness. Two Shoes trumpets the band's arrival with Harry Angus's blaring horn on the irresistible opener "Sly."

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Flushed Away - Slugs

Dinner & DVD: Flushed Away

Watch the slug video above for a sneak preview on why I loved this movie!

Featured Attraction: Flushed Away

I thought that this movie was so funny and absolutely loved it. There is so much laugh-out-loud humor as well as a subtler humor running through it.

Quick synopsis: Roddy, a pet rat, is left home alone while his family goes on vacation. Sid, a sewer rat, gets caught in an updraft and arrives in Roddy's house. He quickly takes over and ends up flushing Roddy down the toilet where he discovers a complete rat city in the sewers. As he is searching for a way home, he meets Rita, a rat who runs a river boat, and gets caught in her run from The Toad.

If you like Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, you will love it.It is wacky and silly, but great. The slugs are roll off the sofa funny and the French frogs (Le Frog is hysterical) are also very funny. Be sure to watch for a cameo by Wolverine's costume and another from "Nemo".

The voice artists (main voices by Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslett & Ian McKellan) are great at capturing their characters and the animation is great. It is a blend of claymation and computers and they do it very well.Although it has a few elements of gross humor, the rest is kid-friendly and clean. There is also a whole level of humor running through the movie that the parents will enjoy even if the kids don't get it.

Beef Burgundy

1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat


Chopped carrots

1 can condensed golden mushroom soup

Onion, cut into wedges

1/2 cup Burgundy wine or beef broth

1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

Salt, Thyme, and Pepper to taste

Hot cooked egg noodles

In a slow cooker, combine the first 10 ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 5 1/2 to 6 hours or until meat is tender. Serve over noodles.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Monk: Visits A Farm

I like Monk, I really do. But as they make more and more episodes, it just seems lately all are the same. I liked when he made a little progress toward something, like his wife's murder case. But now he just goes somewhere where he is uncomfortable and solves a lame case.

This episode was especially bad since they didn't even have many suspects. We all know who it was from the get-go. Well, that's not fair. A lot of times they will show the murder in the teaser before the credits, and it's a matter of watching Monk solve it rather than a whodunit.

Anyway, about the episode.When I say it was bad, it wasn't so much the episode. It was fairly funny, and there was the added sympathetic Randy Disher story. Randy messes up a lot though so until he mentioned it was his uncle who died, I didn't really get why he was taking it so hard.

He asks Monk to come and see if he can find out anything in case his uncle was murdered, which of course he was. And Monk has to take "a bus? a bus? to a farm?" It's funny when Monk almost turns down cases because of his fears. Although lately they seem to be focusing more on that, rather than the subtlety of his affliction and how it affects his work. But it was funny when he was counting the chicken feed instead of just throwing handfuls in.

Another very funny part was when Monk thought he was high. He handcuffed himself to a tractor and was going insane about how he was getting the munchies. This was hysterical.

Monk solves the case and uses Randy's sleep-hypnosis self-help tape to tell him what happened so he can solve the case and become a cop again, which gives him faux confidence that he can solve cases in his sleep.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Soup of the Week & CSI: Law of Gravity

Hamburger Stew

1 lb ground beef
Onion, chopped
2 cans (14 1/2 oz each) stewed tomatoes
4 carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs sliced
1 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 to 2 cups of water
1/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
Salt & Pepper to taste

Cook beef and onion until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, water, rice , salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until vegetables and rice are tender.

CSI: Law of Gravity

I've been waiting for it ever since Grissom left and I’m not just talking about whether or not Grissom would be back. But what the full story was behind the Keppler character, played by Liev Schrieber. I really liked the mystery behind the character and was wondering if he might end up being used to start a new series somewhere when Grissom returned. If you’ve seen the episode, you know that’s not to be now

The episode started off pretty weird. It reminded me of a previous episode that Quentin Tarantino directed that was just odd, as would be expected from Tarantino.

We’re introduced a little more to Keppler’s history through a nightmare he experiences. He also gets a visit from an old friend in a diner who says he needs his help, which Keppler refuses. It ends up that the old friend is from the Trenton, New Jersey, police department who is in town with another TPD cop.
Long story short, the other cop and a hooker end up dead in their hotel room and Keppler’s friend needs his help. Keppler’s cop friend turns out to be his father-in-law (or soon-to-have-been). It seems the dad raped the daughter but blamed it on someone else, who Keppler ended up killing, which was then covered up by the dad. Convoluted yes, but made for a great story line.

So, when Keppler is called to the hotel room to provide the forensics, he ends up trying to get to the bottom of things before anyone else so he can figure out what’s going on and potentially help his friend.

One thing leads to another, the team begins to figure out that Keppler is messing with evidence and he become a suspect. Keppler, the dad, and a kidnapped hooker end up meeting in an old hotel. Keppler gets shot and then shoots his cop friend dead as well.
Oh yeah, Grissom comes back and let’s us know he’s not going anywhere. But you know what I think the weirdest part of the episode was? How much Catherine Willow’s character cried over Keppler’s death. Is there something we don't know about the relationship between Catherine & Keppler?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

My Name Is Earl: Blow

Earl takes on number 101 on his list, "Stole a girl's identity." Years ago, Earl and Joy stole the credit card of Joy’s sworn enemy: Liberty Washington. Now turns out, Liberty is Joy’s half-sister, spawned during one of her dad’s interracial trysts.
Liberty wants to be a professional wrestler, her husband wants a baby (My dad was a Ray. I’m a Ray Ray. I want a Ray Ray Ray!), Joy wants to get pregnant to make the jury like her better, Crabman doesn’t want to have to take care of another child without a mother if Joy goes to jail. In the end, Liberty deals with her jealousy of the attention Joy got from their shared father, and Joy becomes Liberty’s surrogate.

Funny stuff:

  • Joy: “Yeah, great like a weenie wart!”
  • The stuff Joy and Earl used Liberty’s money for: Paid for a homeless guy to get laser eye surgery and hired him as their butler for the day: “Your pockets are hot!”
  • Klanimal!
  • Randy gets to live his dream of “getting beat up by a woman in tights.
  • Joy whips open her robe at Randy, and growls sexily, “You know where babies come from Randy?” He points at her “Yeah, at the bottom of that fuzzy lightning bolt.”
  • Catalina sniffs Randy’s hair!
  • Black Ladies of Wrestling (BLOW)
  • Joy: “And that’s for paying my prom date to stab me!”

Friday, March 2, 2007

Lost: Not In Portland

The producers claim that this season will answer quite a bit of questions about the others and the island. This episode, which aired February 7, 2007, begins to do exactly that while leaving a lot of the more important questions still a mystery.
Lost returned with an action packed episode, something that was really required in this 3rd season. The pace of this episode actually lives up to previous episodes and everything from the name, to the flashbacks, and to most of the scenes in this episode were quite revealing. "Not in Portland" is the title and the reason for this is explained in the flashbacks.

It seems that Juliet was hired by someone working with good ole Ethan off the coast of Portland. Now Portland is a common name, ranging from places in the UK and US,well as islands in the Australia. Australia being the place where Flight 815 took off when it crashed on the island.

A little more is explained about the mysterious Alex and it seems she refers to Ben as her dad. This could either be a makeshift relationship to keep her on that island or a revelation that Ben is in fact Alex's dad and was once with Rousseau.

The flashbacks of Juliet were interesting and it was great to see her recruitment into the Others. It also, to an extent, explains how she is so knowledgeable about medicine when she isn't a doctor or nurse. The revelation that she wanted off the island and Ben was holding her back will be interesting and play out well through this season.

Finally! Kate and Sawyer escape. We should get a lot more beach episodes with the whole gang. This aspect of Lost has been seriously lacking in the past episodes this season. Though based on the preview for next week, it does seem like there is going to be a hiccup in the plan with Kate wanting to turn back.

The brainwashing of Carl will hopefully be answered in the episodes to come and it will be interesting to see if this is in anyway similar to what happened to Walt in the last season.

All in all a very good start to the 16 episodes left of Season 3. Producers did claim that this episode would do a lot of answering and this was definitely a start.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Friday Night Lights: Blinders

This episode of Friday Night Lights, which aired on February 7, was a wonderful installment (do I say that every week?) that managed to incorporate every character in an interesting way; some as comic relief, some in very serious situations, some as both.

The main brunt of the story dealt with the major fallout that occurred when the Panther's assistant coach Mac makes some highly questionable comments regarding the natural prowess of black players versus white players, during an interview. Ultimately, Smash is at the forefront of a protest against Mac, as he and the other black players on the team walk off the field during practice.

Tim was put to much more comical use however, in a plotline focusing on a girls Powder-puff Football game. Tyra and Julie were forced to participate after Tami busted them for ditching class. This was a wonderful storyline, which offered the hysterical juxtaposition of poor, soft spoken Matt coaching one team of girls, while fierce, determined Tim coaches the other. A great moment cut between Matt's, stammering proclamation that, "No matter what happens today, we're all gonna be winners," with Tim's, "We will not accept a loss! We will not accept it!"

And Lyla better watch out, as Tyra noted a probable affair brewing, if not already occurring, between her mother and Buddy, and aimed all of her anger at the situation towards Lyla. It was hard not to both wince, and laugh a bit, as Tyra ran at Lyla with a vengeance on the football field. Oh, and lest we forget, the Powder-puff game gave us a sight we never thought we'd see: Landry, in his role as referee, actually ordering Coach Taylor around, which was absolutely classic.

The one storyline that felt a bit rushed was Jason's. He returned to school for the first time since the accident. It was heart wrenching seeing Jason struggle to dissect a frog with his crippled hands, and have a science teacher tell him he only has to observe, because, "It's all anybody expects." It will be interesting to see where his quest to get on the National Quad Rugby Squad takes him.

As for the Taylor family . . .Eric and Tami had a fantastic scene together as he comforted her after a discussion she organized about the situation with Mac went horribly bad. Also especially sweet was Eric tearing into Julie for skipping classes, only to suddenly light up when he learned Matt had made her quarterback. Eric Taylor was truly having the time of his life, as he got to spend time coaching his little girl.