Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guess Where We'll Be on Friday....

Thankfully, the sinus-congestion-cough-up-lung thing hit last Friday instead of this week. I wouldn't want to spend my birthday in bed with an empty box of tissues and a full nose....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: The Boy Detective Fails

The past few days of recuperation allowed me to read. A lot. I started re-reading a collection of ghost stories from one of the best in the genre and managed to read almost 160 pages. I finally started a book that I found years ago form one of my favorite gay authors. And, I finished the last two hundred pages (in only about two hours) of a novel I picked up only a few months ago on a whim: The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno.
I usually don't read a book so soon after buying it. Makes me feel guilty for ignoring all the other books that have been stagnating on my "to be read" bookpile. But this one sounded so interesting, about Billy Argo, a once amazing boy detective who solved the most difficult puzzles and cases with his sister Caroline and their friend Fenton. His world turned upside down when his sister mysteriously committed suicide, and suddenly Billy didn't have an answer or know how to solve this one mystery. And his world crumbled. The novel followed Billy's picked up his quest years later, upon being released from a mental hospital for trying to kill himself. The world turned into a mystical place, where buildings disappeared into thin air, flipping the light switch in his room started a gently falling snow flurry, and coded messages appear from nowhere. (He also befriended two neighborhood children trying to discover who decapitated their pet rabbit.)

An intriguing fantasy -- almost like reading a Tim Burton film -- world that was a bit difficult for me to get into, at first. I found it too bizarre for my tastes, but I stuck with it not only because the story of Billy trying to solve his sister's suicide held my interest, but because Meno included a few puzzles for the reader to solve. (Many of the pages have an encrypted word at the bottom of the page, in much smaller font; also the "narrator" of the tale invites the reader to use a decoder key, presented at the back of the book, to help Billy decipher the mysterious notes he finds.) Gimmicky, yes, yet it added a bit of insight into Billy's character, his fascination with puzzles and with solving them. And I was hooked. And I was satisfied.

And it helped to while away a few hours during my feverish Friday.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Suck It Out!

That's what needs to happen: someone shove a liposuction tube up my nose and vacuum out all the crud! A slight fever, too much congestion and a voice almost as deep as Barry White's convinced me to stay home from work today. So I'm catching up on reading, sleeping and watching a DVD or two. (The Great Ziegfeld arrived yesterday!)

I'll catch up with everyone on Monday. Have a good weekend and stay healthy!!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: Dancer from the Dance
My friend CS decided that we should read Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran as our next book for discussion. I agreed since I've had a copy for at least three to four years and hadn't yet found the time to read it. So about a month ago, I finally opened my copy at stretched out on my bed to read it.

It tells the story of two men: Malone, a handsome young lawyer who finds himself falling for the wrong sort of person -- a man; Sutherland, a socialite and drag queen who takes in Malone after finding him bruised and beaten on the streets of New York. Together, they show the highs and lows of gay life in New York, a world of parties, drugs, prostitution and the never-ending search for love. While Sutherland seems content to gad about from all-night party to all-night disco, Malone dreams of finding that one right person. He wants the picket fence, the two kids and the dog, but resigns himself to the life of a homosexual, knowing that that dreamlife is not for him. In the meantime, he finds himself sinking farther into the darker side of New York life, easily going along with Sutherland's ideas of pimping him out and trying to marry him off to a young millionaire who his head-over-heels for Malone.

I wholeheartedly agree with many reviewers/critics that Holleran's language is incredible. His descriptions of New York, the parties, the people offered a very detailed and romantic picture of gay life in the 1970's. As a (supposed) writer, I'm envious of what comes across as an easy ability to create something so rich and detailed. But sometimes, his descriptions tended to be tedious, such as when describing all the people being invited to a party, he describes every single person and all their baggage. And he seems to have a habit of re-iterating what he said two sentences prior, just in case you missed it the first time.

Holleran did provide a glimpse at how superficial the gay community can sometimes be as far as age, penis size, and beauty are concerned, and yet, I found the characters to be a bit boring, perhaps "one note". For example, Malone's "woe is me, I can't find love so I'll just sleep with a lot of people" attitude grated after a while, mostly because he never does anything to change it and after two hundred pages of the same thing, I fought myself to stop reading altogether. I also distrusted the unnamed narrator, who is a character as well. He provided quite a bit of background about Malone but never let on how he knew so much, especially intimate thoughts and actions. The narrator wasn't present at the time those events happened; did he hear about them from Malone? from Sutherland? from someone else involved? This nagged at me the entire time I was reading.

Overall, though, Holleran's book is a beautifully written glimpse into the gay world of the 1970's. In spite of my issues with it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Call Me Irresponsible

Most workdays during lunch, I visit the food court across the street. Which means having to stand on the corner until the bright red hand changes to the walking green man. And most workdays, this isn't a problem. the light changes, I look both ways and happily cross the street to quiet my growling stomach.

There are times, though, as I'm waiting for the red hand to change that I notice a shiny, über-expensive BMW or Mercedes slowly inching around the corner, the driver turned to the left facing oncoming traffic, cell-phone seemingly glued to his right ear. He occasionally glances forward to see if the light has changed, lips mumbling and laughing something into his phone, and when the red hand changes, he darts around the corner. Just as my foot touches the asphalt and quickly recoils. Only when he's halfway into the crosswalk does he notice me giving him the finger.

He shrugs his shoulders, as if in apology, and continues through without stopping.
This should be a rare thing, given that the California signed legislation back in 2006 to prohibit handheld cell phone usage beginning July 2008. You would never know just by watching traffic in Southern California. Young twenty-somethings wavering about in their freeway lanes while they chitchat with someone about this boy or those clothes or can you believe she said that?! Or oblivious drivers on surface streets. Or even, as CM saw on his way to have his car checked on Saturday, a police officer driving down the freeway, left arm propped against the window and pressing a cell phone into his ear.

On paper, those laws sound terrific: for those 18 and over, no usage of handheld cell phones while driving; for those under 18, no use of cell phones of any kind. But in practice, just how feasible is it to enforce? I spot at least one or two drivers both to and from work each day, zooming along the freeway while holding cell phones in one hand and the steering wheel in another, and no police or highway patrol within sight. Now, before anyone gets annoyed and screams at me that I can't expect an office to be around at all times, stopping every single car that violates the law.

I don't expect it. That would be impossible, especially knowing how understaffed the agencies already are. Instead, I would raise the fine from $20.00 for the first offense to $100.00. $20 doesn't mean much nowadays. Use an ATM and all it spits out are $20 bills. Start the fine higher to encourage more people to stop using handheld cell phones while driving. And keeping the incremental changes with each subsequent infraction is a good idea, too. $100 for the first $150 for the second, $300 and phone confiscation for the third. Just imagine the rulebreaker having to get a new phone from T-Mobile or AT&T, in the end probably cost more than the $300.

Hit them in the pocket book and their social connectedness.

Just a thought.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not What I Expected

I visited my folks today down in Laguna, and my Dad had a hankering for Chinese food so we drove to a Chinese buffet they frequent for lunch called Dragon Buffet. "Be prepared for a lot of food," my Mom warned as we pulled into the parking lot. As we rounded the corner, the unmistakable odor of cooked fish hovered in the air, almost like a fog, and became stronger once inside.

The place was packed. Booths and tables near the front of the restaurant hammed with families; the tables at the back of the restaruant also overflowing, as were the two side party rooms. Smack dab in the middle of all the diners were four long self-serve counters, accessible on both sides. As we walked past, I saw huge pots of Hot & Sour and Egg Drop soups, white rice and a fried orange rice with vegetables, and traipsing back and forth between the counters were dozens of hispanic kids carrying plates of coconut shrimp and crab legs and lo mein and chocolate soft serve and pizza.

Chocolate soft serve? Pizza?? In a Chinese restaurant?! And spinach lasagna, meatballs and something I never expected at such a place: frogs' legs. I immeditaley placed a few on my plate once we were loosed from the table. I also added some Sweet & Sour chicken, vegetable lo mein, barbecued chicken, dumplings and rice.

Back at the table, my Mom spotted the frogs' legs. "Ooo! Tell me what they taste like!" I poked the meat with my fork, tore a hunk from the bone (which resembled a mini chicken drumstick) and forced it into my mouth, chewing and chewing, allowing the Kung Pao spiciness to coat my mouth. "Well?" she asked as my Dad sat down.

I told her it tasted like chicken drowned in fish oil.

She grimaced and dove into her Egg Drop Soup.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Dirty Mail

The property manager for our office spaced stopped by this morning, frowning and tightly gripping a white envelope. "We're moving your mailbox."


"Yes," she almost spat. "The Post Office ordered us to because some boxes were broken. So you're now --" she riffled through the keys clanging in the envelope "-- number 48." She triumphantly slammed the key onto my desk's counter. I grabbed the office key ring from a drawer and carefully pried the old key from its round ring, setting it in her outstretched palm. "When you have a chance, you should put a business card or two in the new box. So the postman will know which is which." She stomped down the hallway and disappeared.

I made a label with the new number to stick on the back of the key ring -- for easy identification on the off chance I should take another vacation. (It could happen, you know.) Then, after excusing myself from the office, I hurried down the hall and stairs to the mailboxes. Another tenant stood before the wall of boxes, arms crossed, carefully perusing them. "She changed yours, too?" she asked and smirked. I smiled, offered a polite laugh and found our box.

The inside was covered with a thin layer of what I thought was dust. Until I ran my fingers across it and they came away as if I'd been fingerprinted. Yuck! No one had probably been assigned that particular box since the building's construction in the early '70s. I dashed to the nearest restroom and grabbed a handful of papertowels, dowsing a few in the sink before rushing back. That first white papertowel quickly darkened after two quick swipes. I felt my brow furrow, the gorge rise in my throat. The second damp towel wasn't as dirty after a dragging it back and forth over the metal box so I wiped the moisture away and used packing tape to affix two business cards to the interior.

I ran my hands under hot water for about 10 minutes afterwards.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: Heart-Shaped Box

One of my favorite genres of books/stories/films is horror. As if you couldn't tell from my short forays into fiction writing. I'm always on the lookout for anything that has to do with ghosts, haunted houses or zombies when I hit a bookstore, quickly scanning the horror section (because almost everything is vampire-related) and spending much more time browsing the fiction shelves.
It was while browsing the regular fiction at Barnes and Noble that I came across Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. The brief excerpt description inside the cover was all it took for me to rush to the counter with a twenty in my hand.

Heart-Shaped Box tells the story of Judas Coyne, a former rocker who has amassed quite a collection of oddities: a snuff film, a used noose, a sketch of the Seven Dwarfs drawn by John Wayne Gacey, and much more. Most of the items were given by fans, but on occasion, Jude does buy an item on his own. Such as when his personal assitant Danny opens an email with a link to a very special auction to buy your own ghost. An intrigued Jude give the okay to buy the suit and the ghost that comes along with it.

But when the suit finally arrives, Jude realizes that something isn't quite right. His girlfriend Georgia (a.k.a. Marybeth) picks up the suit and is pricked by a pin or something that neither of them can find. One evening after Danny's gone home for the night, Jude walks into the home office wondering why it's so cold and where that awful smell is coming from. Then, there's the strange old man with black scratches where his eyes should be sitting on a chair in the hallway, dangling a razor blade from a chain in his hand, waiting for Jude to acknowledge him.

Jude decides to find out more about the man who wore the suit and calls the woman in Florida who sold it. He finds out from her that the ghost is much more than he bargained for, someone out for revenge against him for the suicide of his step-daughter.

This was one wicked ghost story, fast-paced and with an interesting idea behind it: haven't you always wondered if you could buy a ghost or spirit? Joe Hill manages to bring a new angle to the ghost story with one of the creepiest spectres I've ever read about: Craddock James McDermott, a hypnotist who did some work for the military during the Vietnam War. And just when I thought I knew what was about to happen, Hill threw a huge (and very logical) curveball that held on and would not let me set the book down until I finished it. A fast-paced, creepy read that earned many shivers.

Monday, September 15, 2008

10 Years Is a Long Time

My friend joela came across a job posting online a few years ago and forwarded to me. I hated the job I was in at the time -- very low pay, little chance for advancement -- and he thought the duties of an Office Manager suited my tastes. How right he was. I wasted no time in faxing my résumé and within minutes received a phone call. Two weeks and two interviews later, on September 15, 1998, I started my new career.
In 10 years, I've met and worked with many incredibly talented people, learned quite a few new computer programs and skills, been given the opportunity to put my own knowledge to use, traveled to different offices around the US and Canada. I don't know many people who can say that they love the company they work for and truly mean it, but I count myself as one of them. And in honor of my 10th year here, the company allowed me to choose my own gift so I selected a Bulova watch similar to the one pictured here.

It was that or the golf clubs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why Men Should Not Be Invited to Baby Showers

CM and I attended the baby shower of one of his niece's yesterday. We gorged on wonderful chicken and charro beans and Spanish rice, gigantic slabs of cake filled with a creamy mixture of bananas and strawberries, drank a bit too much soda. By the time the games started, many of us could barely move so the opportunity to sit down while playing silly party games sounded like a good idea.

For the first game, we were each handed a list of 26 adult animals and, within a minute's time, had to jot down the baby names for their offspring (i.e., for kangaroo I wrote down joey). CM's sister shouted "Go!", and I started wracking my brain for a baby Swan, Goose, Platypus, Penguin and so on. Most of the party joked about the names, barely writing anything on their papers, but I -- somehow -- named 12 of them. Much to my surprise and to the joshing of the group. And I won. The prize bag included sticky notes, a flowery journal, a scented candle and two bottles of scented body lotion (Enchanted Orchid and Wild Cherry).

For the second game, we had to unscramble 17 words related to all things baby. I solved 16 of them and won another gift bag (which I presented to my Mother this afternoon). I sat out the third game, feeling a bit self-conscious about the first two, but one of CM's brothers managed to scoop the most cotton balls onto a plate while blindfolded, earning himself a bag with more body lotion in it. For the final game, everyone received a scratcher. The winning scratcher would uncover the words You Have Won; thankfully, it wasn't me, but another person of the male persuasion won the final gift bag, complete with lotions and creams and strawberry shampoo.

The moral of the story: don't invite men to a baby shower because we will dominate the party games!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: The Living Reed

A few days ago, Matt posted a question on his blog asking if we followed awards when choosing reading material. I do, though not the Lambda Awards or the Edgars or Pulitzers. I tend to choose many of my books from the list of Nobel Prize winners for Literature. Not because I'm trying to be a pseudo-intellectual (I think many of my past posts will prove beyond any doubt that I'm nowhere near being an intellectual). I just want to know what all the fuss is about.
One such writer is American author and Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck. She was the first American woman to win the award, using her novels to describe life in China and many other Asian countries and using her noteriety to bring light to the atrocities of the adpotion system in Asia and creating Welcome House, Inc.. Recently, I finished her novel the Living Reed, a history of Korea from the mid-1800s through invasion by Japan and two World Wars. The story follows four generations of one family, the Kims -- beginning with Il-han and his father, both advisors to the royal family. Where his father wants to remain with tradition, adhering to Korea's policy of isolationism, Il-han forsees problems with a battle between China and Japan both wanting Korea as a bridge for commerce and tries to convince the Queen to open relations with the West -- in particular the United states -- in order to learn new ways to protect themselves from invasion.

When Japan does invade and the Queen killed, Il-han takes his family into hiding and tries to find a way to rally his people against the invaders. In the ensuing years, both his children take part in the secret war against the Japanese -- one son by becoming a teacher at a Christian school (and ultimately marrying a Christian), the other by becoming a revolutionary known as the Living Reed. The Living Reed becomes the face of hope in the trying times of occupation, especially when all hopes that President Woodrow Wilson will keep America's promise of protection fall on deaf ears.

The Living Reed is a beautifully written epic of Korea and delves into a history that many people outside of Korea (especially myself) don't know or understand. She paints an amazing portrait of the country and its citizens during a terrible time in history, and with her vividly drawn characters, makes us empathize with their struggle for sovereignty.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another Movie Meme

Borrowed from Tiger Yogi. With a few changes to the directions.

The point of the Meme is this:

Bold the movies that you have seen, strike-through if it’s a film that you disliked, and italicize films you would like to see.

Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Beautiful Thing (1996)
Shelter (2007)
Latter Days (2003)
Maurice (1987)
Trick (1999)
Get Real (1998)
Big Eden (2000)
The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000)
The Adventures of Pricilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Longtime Companion (1990)
Torch Song Trilogy (1988)
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Parting Glances (1986)
Just a Question of Love (2000)
Mysterious Skin (2004)
Summer Storm (2004)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The Birdcage (1996)
Sordid Lives (2000)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Shortbus (2006)
All Over The Guy (2001)
Another Gay Movie (2006)
Boys in the Band (1970)
Philadelphia (1993)
To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
Boy Culture (2006)
The Wedding Banquet (1993)
C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Jeffery (1995)
The Trip (2002)
Edge of Seventeen (1998)
Priest (1994)
In & Out (1997)
Eating Out (2004)
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Angels in America (2003)
Love! Valor! Compassion (1997)
The Sum of Us (1994)
Burnt Money (2000)
Transamerica (2005)
Victor Victoria (1982)
Bent (1997)
Yossi & Jagger (2002)
Bad Education (2004)
Gods & Monsters (1998)
Making Love (1992)
Rent (2005)

Anyone who like to give this a go is welcome to do so!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: The Twelve Chairs

I discovered an online service late last year, a new way to give and to receive books. BookMooch allows anyone to list books that they no longer want and to request books that they do. The cost to register? $0. The cost to receive a book? $0. The only cost I've incurred since joining is the price of postage, to send a book anywhere from California to Maryland and occasionally outside the States. Since joining in October of lat year, I've given away 19 books, the most recent of which was this afternoon -- a guidebook for Myst V -- and still have seven books awaiting mooching. In return, I've received 8 books, the first of which was the Russian classic The Twelve Chairs by Ilya Ilf and Yevgenii Petrov.
The Twelve Chairs begins in late 1920's Soviet Russia. Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a once wealthy man, learns from his dying Mother-in-law that she sewed the family jewels into one of the twelve chairs from their old drawing-room suite in Stargorod. The effects of the Revolution having removed him from his once-high position to that of an office worker in the city of N., the thought of jewels and wealth immediately set Vorobyaninov's senses spinning and upon his Mother-in-law's death, he sets out for his former home in Stargorod. But Vorobyaninov is not the only person she told of the jewels. She confessed also to Father Fyodor Vostrikov of their whereabouts. The potential wealth also piques his interest so he sets aside his duties and follows the trail of the jewels to Stargorod. The chairs have also fallen victim of the revolution and have been divvied up, sold to high-ranking Soviet officers and as well as to an acting troupe, scattered across Russia. Once in Stargorod, Vorobyaninov runs into a con-man -- a foreigner named Ostap Bender -- at his former home who blindsides him into joining together to find the jewels, taking control of the search, and somehow leading Father Fyodor on a wild goose hunt in the opposite direction.

This darkly comic novel offers an interesting glimpse into Soviet Russia just after the revolution, showing how the country and the economy changed. Each of the characters -- and not just the main ones -- seemed to represent some aspect of society, from the dethroned nobility of Vorobyaninov to the corrupt church of Father Fyodor, the sly and manipulative foreigners of Ostap Bender and the change in members of the community. I found myself laughing not so much at what was said by the characters but by how they acted, shaking my head in disbelief at times when something went contrary to what I believed should have happened. Definitely a fun read.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Thunderous Tropics
We finally watched Tropic Thunder on Saturday. I say "finally" because this year, we haven't gone to the movies as much as we would like. Fewer movies piqued our interest so far this year, and with the prices what they are, we chose only those that we felt to me "must sees". (Sorry, Disaster Movie. Maybe next time.) And now, onto the movie....

After the normally scheduled previews, the audience was treated to a series of ads and trailers featuring the four main actors of Tropic thunder: a commercial for a new energy drink called Booty Sweat from rapper-turned-actor Alpa Chino (Brandon T. Jackson); the 6th installment of the action movie series Scourge starring Tugg Speedman (Ben Stiller); the second in a very popular series of fart comedies starting Jeff Portnoy (Jack Black); a heavy drama about homosexuality in a monastery featuring 5-time Oscar-winner Kirk Lazarus (Robert Downey, Jr.). Tropic Thunder tells the story of a movie crew trying to direct a Vietnam War picture about an American hero named "Four Leaf" Tayback (Nick Nolte). At the on-location set in Vietnam, nothing's going well for first-time director Damien Cockburn (Steve Coogan): temperamental actors, the press saying that the shoot is already 1 month behind schedule (though they've only been filming for less than a week), an asshat executive producer breathing down his neck. So, thanks to a tip from Four Leaf, Cockburn decides to shoot the rest of the film guerrilla-style, dropping his actors in the heart of the jungle with hidden video cameras filming their every move.

The helicopter drops Cockburn and the actors in a remote location, and after informing the cast what they need to do, Cockburn accidentally steps on a landmine. Not sure if that was real or part of the guerrilla filming, the cast sets off to make their movie, to get into the roles of war-tired soldiers trying to escape the jungle. But egos soon take a firm hold turning Speedman against Lazarus, and Speedman sets off on his own, eventually being captured by what he believes to be movie extras but are actually drug runners.

I'd heard mixed reviews about the film, how the humor isn't consistent. I agree in some respect: the scenes with Stiller on his own seemed like forced humor. To me, Stiller's Speedman was just like the majority of the other characters he's played: goofy, over-the-top and not as funny as it could have been. The other four actors, Black, Jackson, Downey Jr. and Jay Baruchel, were hysterical. Their bantering (and bickering) -- especially between Jackson and Downey Jr. -- came across as very natural and fun. And I will say right here that Robert Downey, Jr. was amazing as a method actor who has his skin surgically dyed to play an African-American soldier.

Though I wasn't a fan of his acting, Stiller's writing (with Ethan Cohen and Justin Theroux) and directing were spot on, lampooning every aspect of the movie mills. From the music to the slow motion effects to the characters themselves, this was a top-notch send-up of how Hollywood makes a war movie. A genuinely funny film.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Family Values?

If you look through my blog archives, I doubt you will find any posts of a political nature. I have my opinions but rarely discuss them because so many others have already said what I feel...and have said it much better than I ever could.

But two things struck me as odd after listening to Governor Palin's speech last night. (Okay, many things she said last night were bothersome and coupled with the fact that the conventioneers ate everything up like pablum and that I remember seeing very few people of color -- Black, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, Native American, etc. -- in the crowd, well I could go on, but that's not what this post is about.) First, Governor Palin supports abstinence-only education -- I think. I've found quite a few articles on-line written within the past few days regarding a gubernatorial questionnaire from 2006 but can't find anything about her actual stance. If she's advocating abstinence-only, then doesn't her 17-year-old, unwed daughter's pregnancy and Gov. Palin's subsequent "change of heart" to say that the pregnancy is okay because she's keeping the baby and marrying the young father, provide a glaring display of hypocrisy? How can Gov. Palin tout that the abstinence programs work when her own family visibly disproves that?

Second, I'm actually glad she said that if elected as Vice President, that parents of special needs children would have a voice in the White House. However, a 5-month old child living with Down Syndrome requires much love, care and attention. Will Gov. Palin be able to balance the possible Vice Presidency and the country's affairs with the needs of her child? I know I'm going to get slammed for saying this, but wouldn't the child come first? Shouldn't the child come first?

To answer in my own way any who will say, "Why are you even talking about her family? That doesn't have anything to do with her ability to govern. Stick to her stances on the real issues," (or something like that), these are real issues. These actions show how she handles difficult situations, and should she become Vice President, those issues will increase in both number and difficulty. And with her being such an unknown political quantity to most of the country, I don't see how the above-mentioned issues can be ignored.

(And if the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate or even former President Clinton and his family were in similar situations, the GOP would be all over it, muckraking, loosing the hounds and trying to beat the Democrats to a bloody pulp with it.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Rock Me, Sexy Jesus

CM and I weren't sure what to expect when the lights dimmed in the movie theater. The trailers for Hamlet 2 had us laughing as a man dressed as Jesus floated to the stage (on film) and ripped off his clothes to reveal a Jesus clad in jeans and a wifebeater as the other actors sang Rock Me, Sexy Jesus so we figured it would be a nice little diversion for the Labor Day weekend.
In Hamlet 2, Steve Coogan plays Dana Marshcz, a high school drama teacher who at one time wanted desperately to be an actor, even starring in a few commercials for herpes and other health products, but never making the big time. He now spends is days re-working films, such as Erin Brokovich into dramatic plays for his students to perform. After the school's critic trashed his last play, the school board decides to cut the theater program, leaving Marshcz with only one option to try to save his beloved drama program -- finish the original play he's been working on for years, Hamlet 2 and have his students perform it. Marshcz gets his play written and begins rehearsals. But an upset actor gives a copy of the play to the school's principal who threatens to shut the play down. News of this threat makes it all the way to ACLU attorney Cricket Feldstein, played by Amy Poehler, who vows to keep the show going.

In the meantime, he and his wife Brie (played by Catherine Keener), have taken in a boarder because the teaching job doesn't pay well. Actually, it only pays for the gas money. AND, he and Brie are trying to become pregnant, which leads to an excellent supporting performance by Elisabeth Shue as herself who has left Hollywood to become a nurse at a sperm bank in Tucson, AZ.

Sights gags, great comedic writing, kickass songs, and the Gay Men's Chorus of Tucson helped to turn this into one of the funnier films I've seen in quite a while. But what really makes the film is Steve Coogan's performance as the clueless but determined teacher who only wants to pass on his love for the theater to future generations. He's over the top, but in a way that made me sympathize with him. Funny, funny performance. And a funny, funny film.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Because You Asked

I didn't take pictures last Thursday night after baking the tortilla pie. I was too tired after a birthday dinner at Hamburger Mary's then having to rush home to make lunch for the office (which I didn't remove from the oven until 11:30PM). But a few loyal readers have asked what this scrumptious meal looked like so I had to make another one for dinner tonight. I snapped this first picture immediatley after pulling it from the oven.

And this one I took after the first slice. Melted cheese, black beans, a pinto bean-garlic-salsa mash all meshing into seven layers of goodness. Add to that some cool sour cream, and CM clamored for seconds. I must confess that I bought the wrong type of pinto beans for this second pie; this time, they included small pieces of jalapeño which added a nice kick to it. We ate half the pie between us and saved the rest for lunches tomorrow.

Here's the recipe for the Seven Layer Tortilla Pie:


2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup salsa, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
7 (8 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1 cup salsa
1/2 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mash pinto beans. Stir in 3/4 cup salsa and garlic.
In a separate bowl, mix together 1/4 cup salsa, cilantro, black beans and tomatoes.
Place 1 tortilla in a pie plate or tart dish. Spread 3/4 cup pinto bean mixture over tortilla to within 1/2 inch of edge. Top with 1/4 cup cheese, and cover with another tortilla. Spread with 2/3 cup black bean mixture, and top with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layering twice. Cover with remaining tortilla, and spread with remaining pinto bean mixture and cheese.
Cover with foil, and bake in preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Cut into wedges, and serve with salsa and sour cream.

I do recommend visiting the website at All Recipes because it has a feature which will re-calcuate the ingredients based upon how many people you want to feed.