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Prodigal Sons - all of us

Jul. 22nd, 2010 | 03:38 pm

For two of my blog friends:

There but for the grace of God go I.

I don't believe in God, but I do believe in grace. None of us merit our lives or deserve them, we just have to live them, or not. How we attribute the incidents of our lives to cause and effect, or fate, or chance is more evidence of our own hubris than anything else. We strive to make stories of our lives, to impose order, and at best we have chains of coincidence that seem to form patterns. We think that there are good and bad patterns and that following those will bring us happiness or sadness, but we live in chaos, we live in a universe that constantly decays and cools, and nothing is more ephemeral than our conception of meaning and order.

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"Synecdoche, New York" > "Inception"

Jul. 19th, 2010 | 12:14 pm

I hadn't seen "Synecdoche, New York" when it played in theaters a while ago, but I saw that it was available on Netflix Instant view, so I saw it last night on the TV using my Roku device [recommended]. It was so much better a movie than "Inception," much more dreamlike and surreal, but less CGI-ey, and really more touching and gentle and funny and sad. There's no explanatory crap - no "and now we're in a dream in a dream, with kicks and 6 seconds means 10 minutes means 60 years." The emotions that characters had in "Synecdoche" are nuanced and conflicting and amorphous, whereas in "Inception" all the emotions are shorthand, like comic book panels or anime expressions.

When I went to go see "Inception" with The Complication on Saturday, he was less than impressed, and looking on the bright side, I tried to convince him that at least seeing that movie meant that you could discuss the concept of solipsism with a wide range of people, and have a ready illustration for it. I enjoyed "Inception" I like James Bond movies, and the musical score emulated a lot of 007 moments. But later I read Andrew O'Hehir's review in Salon, and he really pegged why it isn't a "Great Film" - that lack of femaleness, that total boy geekery of Chris Nolan that robs the movie of emotional subtlety. There's no emotional reality in "Inception", whereas "Synecdoche, New York" is so emotionally true that all the fantasy and weirdness of the plot just fades away, just the same way real dreams fade away when we wake up.

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The same way I feel after eating fast food......

May. 24th, 2010 | 12:13 pm

I couldn't help feeling moved by the ending. But still it was a massive copout. It was Magic instead of Science Fiction. It was a Fantasy story that used science fiction elements to hook viewers in who didn't care about the soap opera elements. To be completely cynical you could say that Lost was just 6 years of making people watch car commercials with a whackadoodle story interspersed. If there's no reason behind the whackadoodle, then it might as well have been "Harry Potter goes to Club Med."

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Where the Hell's the New Energy Economy?

May. 6th, 2010 | 10:12 am

Why can't I go down to Home Depot and order solar panels to be installed on my roof? Why the hell are we still importing wind turbines from Germany instead of building them here? Where are the million jobs that people need to retool America and get it off the crack pipe of oil? When was Obama's Energy, Commerce, and Labor Departments going to get around to it?

NASA Satellite image of BP oil spill off Louisiana

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Wherez Duh Gabbagul?

Mar. 31st, 2010 | 11:59 am

Feast youse eyez on dis byoodeeful manshun - youse can have it for only 3 andduh half large! What a steal! Wannuh see moah?

Saw this today in the Houston Press Hair Balls Blog - this pile of Italianate Glamour used to belong to Vincent Palermo - who under the name Vincent Cabella - was relocated from the New York City area to Houston as part of the Witness Protection Program. after he was a witness against a Family in the Cosa Nostra, whose history was one of the sources for "The Sopranos".

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Film Festival...On Vacation...Rare Restoration...

Mar. 25th, 2010 | 09:41 am

are the only instances where I think I will ever go see a movie in a movie theater ever again. I went with the Complication to go see Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" last night and was wholly unimpressed. CGI - Shmee Gee Eye, and Burton completely missed the point of the original work by sexualizing Alice, and turning into just another hero on a fucking quest. Against a goddam dragon? The Jabberwock wasn't a dragon! the whole point of that poem is that it's unfathomably horrible and indeterminate, whatever nightmare the reader has. And how could a 20 year old Alice be so much thicker than her little girl incarnation? Also Newsflash! - Alice and stupid Americans ignorant of geography and history - England was trading with China since 1600, and the Portuguese were doing it even earlier. But who the hell cares if Alice is just a dimwitted stubborn ill-educated dunce? Personal development? Finding herself? Summoning up the courage to avenge the weak? Saving the Day?


It's only been the same goddam story since Gilgamesh, which I remind you at least had hairy bearded man-on-man action. 5,000 years of this story and I'm over it. And you can save the day all the day long, and stupid human beings are going to just fuck it up all over again anyway. How about not saving the day huh? How about sounding the trumpets and emptying the vials and just letting the human race end it's filthy pointless existence once and for all and let the dolphins or orangutans take over.

God I hate movies in theaters nowadays. The overly loud 30 minute commercials, the 3 public messages about turning off the cellphones, the trailers that batter your ears and eyes with levels of recorded information shot forth at such an accelerated speed to attract the most severely impaired ADHD patient in the world, the feeling that the $10 or $17 you just forked over was a waste of money, the slack jawed mouth breather latecomers that act like they're surprised they're late, when heaven knows they're always late to everything in their life anyway, the highway robbery and poisonous fare at the snack counter, the idiots that feel that their inane comments are vitally important to convey to their partially deaf or stoned out seatmates.

It's just not entertaining anymore to see movies in a theater. And don't talk to me about the "Big Screen" or the quality of the sound. The amount of retinal real estate that a movie takes up is not any bigger than my TV does from 10 feet away. And movie sound nowadays is so distorted towards explosion effects and the thumping bass that dialogue is muddied and the concept of moments of silence like you would have had for minutes at a time in a Tarkovsky film are long gone. At home I can be comfortable and stretch out, have good popcorn or a beer, or a cigar. I can take a break and pee. Or if the movie is great I can watch a part of it again, or if it sucks I can change the movie or do something else. And I don't have to drive to a theater and park. Or wear pants.

And if the movie is an "indie" or from overseas, then the audiences in those little theaters are a little more bearable, although there's always some old coot that jingles his change in his pocket or a chronic cougher and disease vector close by that can't find her crinkly cellophaned lozenges in the bottom of her suitcase sized megapurse. Just once I'd like to see that Blob monster drop down from the ceiling on that bitch.

The Rant is Over. All Clear. Return to Normal.

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Alas poor Daffy, I knew him Horatio....

Jan. 29th, 2010 | 04:26 pm

For lunch today I joined an adventurous lady friend of mine and went to Feast, a local British style "nose to tail" gastropub style restaurant. Frank Bruni came to town to review it and really liked it. One of today's specials was roasted duck necks. To our surprise and a little bit of trepidation, they showed up 3 to the plate with heads and bills attached. We called them Huey, Dewey, and Louie.

I recommend them highly. The meat from the necks is really tasty and not gamey at all. We also had roasted pork neckbones in an spicy oniony gravy. For main courses we had roasted pork belly with a potato galette and red cabbage, and a fish pie made with scallops and haddock with leeks and a mashed potato crust, with roasted baby Brussels sprouts. A good Spanish garnacha, and then coffee and Sweet Toffee pudding with clotted cream for dessert.

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Dedicated to all the Apple skeptics out there in Computerland!

Jan. 29th, 2010 | 10:22 am

it's funny because it's true...partly

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A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Jan. 26th, 2010 | 10:09 am

I'll be 47 soon, which is a good age to have just finished A Single Man. I recommend that you read this book. It's short, it takes place in 24 hours, sort of like a a gay Ulysses. I haven't seen the movie, but what I've seen in previews and from friends' recommendations seems altered or transformed from what the book laid out. In the book, the character of George doesn't live amongst glamour, in fact instead of luxurious decor and appointments, the real appeal of his life is that he's free from materialist concerns. The funniest passages of the book contrast American preoccupations with ephemeral consumerism to the European over vaunted emphases on pedigree and provenance.

The book is full of pages that you want to read out loud to other people. Smart and funny and perceptive observations about what it means to be gay, and focused on art, and how being discreet to be kind becomes a tedious habit. It's the first novel I'd really like to buy in bulk to give out to all my compadres and straight girlfriends, because if they couldn't "get it" from that book, I wouldn't know what else to choose.

Christopher Isherwood, 1959 (S. Roth)

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Forest Hills State of Mind with Billy Eichner and Rachel Dratch

Jan. 19th, 2010 | 11:23 am

Dan would have loved this.

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My blog friend, gone

Dec. 29th, 2009 | 06:02 pm

I haven't been reading LJ the last week, and today I found out that danbearnyc died from the posts by wescobear and oscarlikesbugsy. I liked Dan so much, he always had hilarious comments and posted so many funny pictures and observations. I regret so much that I never met him in person, or even heard his voice, but am so grateful that I got to laugh and think and enjoy his blog and repartee over the years.

At a party a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that a "blog friend" of mine had made a funny comment, and the friends I was talking to laughed and asked me what the hell was a "blog friend"? "Like a penpal I guess but with more visuals and video to look at." But the sadness I feel at losing Dan is just as real as I'd feel with any friend's death. I envy the New Yorkers that knew him well, and I'm sorry for your loss. Cherish your friends, of all sorts, and savor the good times you share.

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Child is No Longer Child....Child is MOUSE!

Dec. 18th, 2009 | 09:41 am

I nabbed Mr. Mouse last night in one of these cute little traps, and released him 2 miles away in a wooded bayou area. It seems that just a little dab of ripe avocado was enough to entice him inside, because previously when I put the saltine and peanut butter in the end panel it didn't work. I ordered some more traps, and I'm headed out for some ripe avocados. I'd like to believe there was just one mouse, but that's statistically unlikely. I didn't want to have to get a cat for a few more years, but I'd rather have a cat to take care of even with the litter and hair and hairballs than Mr. Mouse.

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Christmas in the Heights 2009

Dec. 16th, 2009 | 02:36 pm

Have a look at my tree and the angel I made for the top.

Remember, the shepherds were afraid.

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When I opened my pantry door the other night......

Dec. 8th, 2009 | 12:56 pm

I have taken measures, and now the pantry is inviolate to incursion.

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Gee Thanks for the Climate Change Canada!

Dec. 4th, 2009 | 12:24 pm

Today in Houston. WTF?

Yesterday slate_canada posted about an article on environmental damage from oil processing in Canada. I don't think Canada is actually more guilty than the USA and their oil smack culture, or for that matter the UK that got the greenhouse gas ball rolling with coal power in the 19th century.

George Monbiot's exposé of the Alberta tar sands debacle.

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Miami (Underwater) Art Museum

Nov. 24th, 2009 | 10:03 am

Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of Herzog and de Meuron's new Miami Art Museum design

I find Ouroussoff's architectural criticism to be focused on formalistic issues to the detriment of addressing other equally important criteria in architecture, like building technology, contextualism, and "user-friendliness". I wrote him this:

Mr. Ouroussoff, I enjoyed your take on the new Miami museum design, but how could you possibly not address the issue of siting an art museum yards away from the ocean in a world that will see the oceans rise with global warming? Doesn't that seem a little strange to you? And can Americans afford to build disposable museums anymore?

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Lucky 8

Nov. 19th, 2009 | 11:24 am

Our favorite dish of the evening: Thai Style Hot Pot Seafood Soup

Last night I joined 7 friends for the first Gourmet Group outing to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Kim Son on Jefferson St, in Old Chinatown. We had mostly Vietnamese dishes - Cha Gio - the little eggrolls wrapped with lettuce and herbs and dipped in clear nuoc nam - fish sauce, grilled shrimp paste around sugar cane "bones", Singapore style omelette with bean sprouts and shrimp, fried squid with sweet spicy sauce, Thai Style Hot Pot soup made with whole Kaffir Lime leaves and drizzles of chili oil on the top, and a homey soup made of Mustard Greens with Pork Ribs. And for entrées we had garlic butter soft shell crab, coconut curry beef, Mekong style seafood with tomato, catfish in a claypot, Treasure duck, and Beef 3 ways, which was grilled scallopinis of beef wrapped around different herbs with different spices that were rolled into rice paper dipped in hot water with pineapple and Thai basil and cilantro and bean sprouts. We also had Lychee martinis, soda lemonade, and Café Su Da (iced espresso with condensed milk) and Choclatinis for dessert. All that and a 20% tip for $40 a person.

The principles of the Mangiafesto were observed - the Imposition of a $1 a minute tarriff for lateness made sure that everyone was actually a bit early. I'm going to add a codicil to the Mangiafesto: The best leftover goes to the person who has the tiniest stomach who most valiantly tried to try a bite of everything. Because the bears at the table can really eat, and it's not fair for ladies or wee people to not get their fair share. Actually the only violation of the Mangiafesto was a couple of minutes of exposition on "Work" which unless it involves being a SuperSpy or a SuperVilain is expressly forbidden as dinner conversation.

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Starry Saturday

Nov. 15th, 2009 | 03:58 pm

The cast of Io sono l'amore (I am love), with Tilda Swinton and Marisa Berenson.

Last night, a friend joined me to a special advance screening of Luca Guadagnino's collaboration with Tilda Swinton at the Cinema Arts Festival. The Festival was organized by local film curators from museums and universities, so all the films shown were similar in their emphasis on formal visual approaches as opposed to storytelling or even character development. After the movie the director and star discussed the movie and influences from Hitchcock and Visconti and Sirk.

I sat a couple of rows behind Tilda Swinton and Guadagnino. She's charismatic, tall, very pale, beautiful but not pretty, and her hair was blond and short. She was wearing a black Lanvin(?) cocktail dress with a boat neck in the front that plunged in a V in the back with an ivory faille bow above the butt. Plain black patent stilettos. She airkissed socialite and longtime couture customer Lynn Wyatt, once close friend of Princess Grace, who was right in front of me.

Swinton asked that journalists not review the movie yet, since it wasn't completely finished. So I won't criticize the film, even though I'm not a journalist. It reminded me in some ways of Pasolini's Teorema, and Visconti's Senso and Ophul's Earrings of Madame de and Antonioni's La Notte, but it also had a 70s European film vibe to it. I recommend it.

One of the amazing features of the movie is that it had a score by John Adams who's probably the most prominent living modern classical composer, and this is the first time he allowed his music to be used in a film. Some of the score was new material but a lot of it was taken from previous works like Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer..

It was wonderful to see Marisa Berenson in a movie again, and it was fascinating to see her portray a descendant of the sort of Milan colloborator fascist culture that her grandmother Elsa Schiaparelli shunned when she left for Paris and then New York back in World War II.

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Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Nov. 13th, 2009 | 11:28 am

From the self-portrait challenge thrown down by thornyc yesterday, I took advantage of the low afternoon light coming from my window to take a one arm shot.

Yesterday, to celebrate my friend Jennie's birthday we went to see Mariza, the Portuguese diva of the fado. We sat on the front row, a little to stage right, and got to see her sing about 8 feet away. She gave 6 encores, sang songs in Spanish and Angolan patois and had us all dancing at the end of the show. I highly recommend sitting on the first row for concerts, it was the first time I had done so at Jones Hall, and when at the end of the concert when Mariza came to the front of the stage with two guitar players and sang without amplification, it was so tender and moving. Afterwards we crossed the street and had a post concert snack of excellent fatty unagi sashimi with agadashi tofu and shared a beer.

Today - I just got a call from an old friend who is in town for the weekend for Homecoming at the U, who only last year was battling cancer down to the nitty gritty, and had basically at that time said her goodbyes to her friends. So that's a stunning joy. I wish she had used this newfangled little thing called email to let me know beforehand that she was dropping by, but warriors don't have the same priorities as civilians. I can't wait to see her later.

Tomorrow night, I'm going with a young friend to go see the premiere of Tilda Swinton's new movie at the small theater at the MFA and she's going to be there! With the director to answer questions later. It's a big secret what the movie is, there's a clue that it's set in Italy. She's in town as the major draw for the new Houston Cinema Arts Festival, which focuses on artist made films, not necessarily independents as that term has come to mean, and not exactly experimental either. Tilda is appearing several times to talk about her film Derek about Derek Jarman, and her work in Teknolust, and she's going to introduce the Red Shoes at a big free show at Discovery Green, the downtown park.

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"Back" by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson

Nov. 11th, 2009 | 12:47 pm

They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone, just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Slew men in foreign lands …
Though I must bear the blame
Because he bore my name.

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Nigella's Slutty Moroccan Lamb Stew

Nov. 10th, 2009 | 02:10 pm

I adapted Nigella Lawson's recipe:


and made lamb shanks with onions, a can of Cento chef cut tomatoes, carrots, and red lentils last night, with a lot of turmeric, cinnamon, fenugreek, cardomom, and the juice of two little clementines. It was excellent, the lamb falls off the bone, and easy to make, just remember not to put the lentils in until 25 minutes until you sit down to eat.. You could do it in a crockpot after you brown the lamb. It's a good way to add a healthier less expensive cut of red meat to your diet, and the stew has a lot of Vitamin A.

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Gourmet Group Mangiafesto

Nov. 8th, 2009 | 05:22 pm

I started a monthly gourmet group with my Houston area friends on Facebook.

Eat adventurously
Try new things, new countries, new cultures.
Dine at a dinner hour, lunch at leisure.

Share your dish with others.
Savor, don't bolt.
A bite of this won't kill you, try it.

According to St. Anthony Bourdain, Tuesday through Thursday are the best nights to dine - best for chefs and fresh food (especially fish) and Sundays are the best day to lunch.
Fridays and Saturdays are for dates, romance, and weekends in the countryside.

Wine is a food.
Strive to eat sustainably and seasonally.
Be open about your "finds" - a successful restaurant helps families sustain themselves and prosper, and encourages other restaurants to get better and provide good value.

Eat together like a family and split checks evenly, because separate checks or nickle and diming at the end of a meal is a crashing boor. If you don't drink alcohol or eat a particular animal protein, then order an extra vegetable dish or another dessert to try.

Thou Shalt NOT Flake. If you can't keep your dinner commitment you short everyone else of a round of dishes to sample. The very least you can do is send a replacement or perhaps a call to the restaurant to put a sample of dishes on your tab for the others to try. (I'm not kidding about this.)

Thou Shalt NOT Be Late. On time means 5 minutes early actually. If you're over 15 minutes late you owe everybody a bottle of wine or a couple of appetizers or desserts. (I'm really not kidding about this.)

Thou Shalt NOT talk about work or weather in depth unless you are a Super Spy or Super Vilain, or the weather includes hurricanes or rains of frogs.

Thou Shalt NOT be so high or tipsy that you fail to be charming or attentive. No dozing or fisticuffs at table.

Dinners are scheduled to last 2 hours. Sunday lunch 3 hours. No bolting your food and twiddling your thumbs for the check. Gourmets do not rush.

No icky facial expressions - if you do not appreciate Tail of Jabberwocky keep your distaste politely private.

We expect to be seated with 2/3rd of a party has arrived.
We expect to tip 20% for service in restaurants in the USA or other countries where waiters can not rely on being paid a professional salary, unless the waiting is absolutely egregious.
We expect that the chef would enjoy making something especially creative for us all, if we ask politely.

Couples should ideally be separated at table to provide more interesting conversational gambits, perhaps a bit of intrigue, smouldering looks, and harmless flirtations.

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Why I'm Mostly Vegetarian

Nov. 7th, 2009 | 05:46 pm

Here's a picture from the Fantasy Ball held two weeks ago.

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Creeped Out

Nov. 4th, 2009 | 11:25 am

What can you expect of a state that's still ruled over by Cthulu and the Great Old Ones?

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Not to be a Debbie Downer or anything..

Nov. 2nd, 2009 | 02:25 pm

but I saw this on the Joe.My.God. blog today, a very sobering article from New York magazine about exacerbated aging disorders for people with HIV.


As far as news go, it's not easy to read. It makes me worry for my friends, and I hesitate to tell them about the article because it is pretty tough to read, but every day that they can guard their health better is a day saved, so I'm going to tell them all the same.

I was shocked to read that bone density is so adversely affected in men with HIV, and insulin resistance. And that the recent trend of delaying treatment after seroconversion until a target T-cell limit is reached, has had severely adverse effects over time.

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