Thursday, June 26, 2008

To Prove I Am No Weenie

I was able to make it through the entire length of this incredible video. I dare you to try:

The Lost Art of Visiting

We went to see Sweeney Todd on Christmas Day. For me it could not have been worse. Sure, the effects and lyrics and all were very clever and masterful. But can't we find a way to express our creativity without slashing people's throats? Just exactly what about this is entertaining? How far has our society stooped that we find such gratuitous violence cute and clever?

Most mass marketed movies contain such drivel; mindless, pointless violence done in an artful way is no redemption for the subject matter in my view. Now, I am not a weenie (although I do not like horror films), I get the whole adrenaline thing. But I just can't see how this junk is so main stream but movies like The Visitor barely get screened.

This wonderful movie reminded me of the Lives of Others, another pointed look at the ways people can come up with to torture one another without ever having to sharpen a razor. There are much more insidious ways that people can get to one another than slash and burn. The Visitor is the story of a vacuous college professor who unwittingly becomes entwined in an illegal immigration miasma that must be repeated on a daily basis in this country. It is very real, most engaging and so poignant. But at bottom it is about how we interact as human beings with accessible material. It is thought provoking and entertaining and quite cleverly constructed. No blood though.

The Lives of Others the1996 Oscar for best foreign film is another example of this type of movie. This one involves a vacuous Stassi agent becoming caught up in the goings on with the people he is surveil-ing. Add these to your Netflix list for some movie watching that won't be merely a mental diversion but entertainment that gently provokes the use of your brain cells.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The End of War As We Know It?

While watching TV during the nine o'clock hour a couple of nights last week my husband was flipping between channels during commercials to AMC. (Cox ripped TCM from our line up without even telling us and then jacked up the bill $5! There is never anything on so I am not sure why we pay this except we love BRAVO channel, but I digress). AMC was showing Troy one night and The Last Samurai the next. It was clear just how formulaic these films are as both nights when flipping at about the same time of night each movie was in the throes of the huge battle scene.

The striking thing about these battles, aside from the fact that women are never directly involved, is just how ridiculous it all is. How does taking out the young and the strong really accomplish anything in the long run? Not very practical if you ask me. (And I am always amazed at how effervescent and energetically violent these people and their animals are despite the fact that there are thousands of them amassed in one place with no apparent access to food or water or waste facilities. But that is the movies for you. And how coordinated they all are when there were no cell phones!)

Then, on Saturday we went to the local art movie house to watch the Visitor (see next entry for a review). The preview trailer featured a film about treating and rehabbing the wounded soldiers in the middle east. A documentary, the themes were so powerful that people were tearing up just during the short excerpts. Check it out at

I realized that in our progress with technology, it is no longer the case that the people fighting these wars are sequestered from the rest of us. They are surviving at higher and higher rates but often with major physical repercussions. They are subsequently returning to society in large numbers. We will be dealing with the effects of this new warfare in ways that never so apparent in the past. It used to be that the soldiers died and the one's who didn't either compartmentalized the emotional toll and suppressed it or turned to drugs and either ended up homeless or in a half way house. These are all subsections of society that most people don't see on a daily basis.

But now, we have people who are coming back without limbs and with PTSD. They are returning to mainstream society and we are going to be grappling with these issues face to face, in our homes, schools and workplaces. We are more likely to see it in everyday life than in any war ever before. It seems to me that this interaction will bring home with the concept of the actual cost of war and how losing an arm or a life has no relationship whatsoever to the global economy. When we can no longer sequester the effects of this oddly illogical problem solving technique maybe then as a people human kind will truly begin to progress. Just a thought.

Aid for the Spiraling Grocery Bill

I was only somewhat joking the other day when I suggested to my fellow Community Food Connections board members that we adopt the slogan "Eat Local; Don't Die." The salmonella scare which follows the various E.Coli scares have not done enough to get people to notice that having a nationally based food distribution system not only makes food taste bad, it also increases the risk that it is bad. The FDA just cannot handle the massive job and the regulatory practices, like all huge legal schemes, contain a pile of unintended consequences that can actually squeeze producers of healthy and delicious food out of the market.
The other really bad aspect of the system is that we end up treating our food supply like a commodity which has become the victim of our creative financial times and is the subject of the latest economic bubble. All of this is driving up the cost of food.
But it doesn't bother me so much because the bulk of my food comes from the Farmer's Market. The price has remained steady as the shipping distance is small. The risk of bacteria is minimal as the stuff is not sitting around where it can be exposed and it is so fresh that it lasts much longer than store bought so there is less waste.
My food professional pal Judy Walker actually studies this sort of thing and writes about it so here is a link to her suggestions, which no so coincidentally include a number of things that I do:
Let me know what you get out of it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, Sequel

Sometimes you read about seemingly disparate events and the dots start connecting. I thought it most intersting in the news of late that:
1) a Brazilian firm is seeking to buy Freeport McMoran, the largest US mining company headquartered in Phoenix;
2) Abu Dhabi interests are about to purchase the Chrysler Building in Manhattan (an art piece aside from being a functioning building);
3) the Belgian brewers who make Stella Artois and other great beers are making a pitch for Anheuser Busch (lord knows why they would be interested in crappy American beer-it must be the money- and don't they know there is a hops shortage?).
Taking all these together, you know there have to be many more foreign investors making their strike in this country during these interesting economic times. This legal immigration is much more troubling than the illegal immigration everyone is freaking out about because these folks have money and money really does rule the world. This gives a whole new twist to the classic idea of the US being a melting pot: Just think of eating fondu from a pot made of Brazilian metal while sitting in a Middle Eastern building and drinking Belgian beer. Sounds exotic. And you don't even need a passport.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Green Beans are in Season (and this recipe will make you wish they were year round)

From Taunton's Fine Cooking magazine:

Chinese Restaurant Style Green Beans

Trim a pound of fresh green beans and saute them in the straight-sided skillet (or wok) in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter for 12 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until beans are crisp tender and slight browned.
Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and toss. Add a mixture of 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon honey. Stir and cook for another minute or so.