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I am taking a break from the novel I started because I don’t have the time to do the historical background research that is definitely needed to flush it all out. With the dissertation and all the summer teaching I need to write something that is purely a creature of my mind. Luckily, I have an idea for that. So with any luck the first chapter of this new novel will be up soon. In the mean time, here are a few poems. I like to write poems in a quick and dirty manner. With all of my scholarly work I have to write and rewrite and poetry for me is a burst of thought that I prefer not to touch up, even though it would probably make them better. Anyway here you go.

The Bickering Blacks and Whites

The leaves had begun to fall

The crisp had come

But was not present on this day

A rebirth of summer

If only for a moment.

I drank bottled beer

On the front stoop

Watching the bickering

Blacks and whites,

At least they all bickered together.

I saw you two blocks away

Without acknowledgment.

When you walked past me

In the door

The same.

You came out

Sat in your chair

Next to mine

Twisted the top off your bottled beer

And began watching the bickering

Blacks and whites.

At least they all bicker together

You said.

 

Three Drops

I forged three drops of water in my hands

Then allowed them to drop to the Earth

The land succumbed to the water

Waves overran the prairies

Washing themselves over the mountaintops

The fish and water mammals went on,

Business as usual,

The coyotes and foxes grew wings and webbed feet

The bears,

Blow holes,

Giraffes,

Gills.

The humans swam with all their might

The bravery they speak of was in full display

‘Twas a glorious sight for all to see!’

Many perished in the swim

But a few,

A few reached the last bastion of land

A mountain they have named

There

The survivors embraced

Speaking highly of the human spirit

And began making plans

For the extraction of the water

And the return of the land

A Life in Parts

She led her face away from a cringe

For a moment

Clapsing collapsing her hand around my forefinger

I dared in closing

With no thoughts of risk

Lids which had no business not thinking on their own

And she left

Softly (I did not hear)

With her sparkling blues

No longer reflecting

Lips hands curled hairs minds

No longer reflecting mirrored perfection

No longer two molded from one

Away to dusk in October

With grays whites surrounding a kind face

Meant for one last look then

Releasing her hand from around my forefinger

To wherever it may end

In a face without feature

In a life without

Connected to a life still with what

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My apologies for not writing in a while. I have missed writing, but it is the thing that had to fall by the wayside as life got busy. So where have I been?

Well, there was a wedding back in Delaware (Delawho? Delawhat?). One of the boys who goes back to elementary school. We got the band back together and had a grand time. At the same time, it was finals week (we are on quarters here, which is why we are done so late.), so I have been grading papers like crazy, while…preparing to teach high schoolers for the first time–starting this afternoon. I will be teaching this group of twenty-four, hopefully future first-generation college students how to write a proper collegiate research paper. And I handed in my dissertation proposal to my advisor (a brisk 98 pages-without references or appendices). Oh, and my wife has got strep (antibiotics in full effect), the house was experiencing plumbing issues (resolved for $$), and two of our computers have gone on the fritz (not yet resolved for $$).

It should be stated that while I would prefer that my wife not have strep (I am sure she feels the same way), this is a good kind of life. I am pretty lucky. I am afforded a great deal of time to let my mind wander, and I try to let it wander in positive directions. But, occasionally, it just gets too busy for me to write.

Before getting back to grading, I should review some things, since that is what I normally do here. How about the cuisine of Newark, Delaware?  Don’t go to Newark for fine dining (check Wilmington), but check out the many great takeout options. For the best subs check Capriati’s and Cleveland Avenue Sub Shop (Cleveland Ave is the more traditional philly style sub place–and gigantic–a large is about thirteen feet and they have a jumbo size), Wings to Go and C.R. Wings are the places to go for wings (many wonderful sauces), I hear Cluck-U is good for chicken, though I have not had it myself, and for the best burgers and shakes (the fries are only ok), perhaps in the world, but definitely in all of Delaware, Jake’s Hamburgers. Jake’s looks like a cheap, little dive and it is; a cheap, little dive with fantastic burgers and brilliant milkshakes.

Also, I kind of liked that Polanski documentary on HBO, Polanski: Wanted and Desired. I liked it mostly for the fascinating story, which I had only a cursory knowledge of before. It was a bit of an odd feeling having some sympathy for a person seemingly guilty of statutory rape, but I ended up feeling this way. The film ends up being a pretty interesting examination of Hollywood, complete with the interweaving relationships between the judicial system, big business, and media, and how the person who should be the focus–the young girl-who has the most important needs to be met, got abandoned and lost in the spectacle (luckily, she seems to have turned out fine, though it is unfortunate that her life is defined by this event). I’ll give it a 71.

Back to grading.

We pretend we are getting old,

That we are slowing

And that there are wisps of gray on the edges of everything

But we are the age that someday we will wish we were.

And still,

I look forward to those far away days

Despite my panicky fear of the impending unknown

And the knowledge that my senses will dim,

Continue to dim—

I am sorry for how loud you will have to speak (YELL!) to me someday—

Because I know,

I know I will be filled with countless moments with you,

Memories of you…and me

Caught up in the simple, brilliant acts of life

Cuddling in on the couch under a cotton fleece blanket

On a night when we just don’t want to see the world

Or a rousing ‘game’ of Rock-Papers-Scissors

Over picking up future dog’s crap in the yard

(I am aware that regardless of the outcome of this mental battle, I will be picking up the crap.)

And those life altering moments

As I stand beside you

When you achieve your inevitable great success, which

You will wear beautifully…after a bit of emotional tumult

And you beside me

Picking up the pieces,

Putting me back together better than I ever was before

As I finally finish that novel …

That never does get sold.

 

And on it will go.

Moments and memories I cannot fathom

Will fill my stuttering heart and my obnoxious head

And calm them.

I will look around us—

I like to think we will be on a front porch swing—

At whomever and whatever surrounds our life, smile

And disappear off into the cobwebs

Remembering the elements of this day,

This wonderful day,

That we took just for us:

 

There was one of four restaurants;

There were small, but sweet gifts;

There was a haircut in our uneven TV room; and

It ended as beautifully as the next one began,

With you holding me tight and me kissing your soft, brown hair

 

 

OK. The title of this post is a bit bold. There are probably better French Toast recipes out there (there is probably this recipe out there too, but I have not seen it), but this one has to be up there near the top of the heap. Give it a shot and let me know what you think and if there are any ways to improve it. Enjoy!

First, there is only one type of bread that can be used: Challah. Challah is a traditional Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath, holidays, etc. What makes Challah perfect for french toast is that it is an egg and yeast based bread.  There is a harmony created by the egg in the Challah and the egg mixture that will turn it into french toast (Challah also receives an egg wash before going in the oven, adding a third level of egg to the toast.). The yeast element is important, especially when combined with the proteins in the egg, to create a semi-dense, but sufficiently airy loaf. This will come in handy when…you purchase the challah a good three days before using it for the french toast. All bread used for french toast should be stale because it allows the bread to soak in more of the egg mixture, and this is especially true with Challah. Additionally, you should cut the Challah into slices at least a few hours before using it. The slices should be roughly an inch in thickness (definitely no less) and after cutting off the nubs, you should get eight slices out of your average loaf of Challah. The recipe for the egg mixture will be based on one loaf of Challah. Here it is:

10 large eggs (organic, free-range)

3 Tablespoons of heavy cream

1 Tablespoon of organic sugar

1.5 Tablespoons of maple syrup (I think you should use the real stuff.)

1 teaspoon of sea salt  

1 teaspoon of cinnamon (This is negotiable; you could add more or less depending on your love of cinnamon. Also, you can throw in a pinch of nutmeg if you so desire.)

Mix it all together vigorously.

Take one or two of your Challah slices, put them into your egg mixture, press down and release. The Challah should behave like a sponge. Once it reforms to its original size, flip it over and press down and release again. There should be just about nothing left of your mixture after you go through the whole loaf. Put your pieces on a griddle (I like a griddle for this, but you surely can use a frying pan-you just can’t fit eight pieces.) set to 375. Flip them every two to three minutes and cook to desired doneness. French toast is like steak. Some folks like it cooked through and some like it bloody (runny). Six to fifteen minutes should cover the range; I think eight or nine minutes is about perfect.

As for toppings, that is up to you. Mascarpone and fresh berries adds a nice, little upscale touch, but you can go with nothing, but syrup and be alright.

In preparation for the new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, I spent a Saturday watching the first three films in the series. Here is what I learned: They are great fun, but not great films. They are an ode to pulp novels, which are: great fun, but not great literature. The first three Indiana Jones films were a series of wonderful set pieces and great chase and adventure sequences led by a pure red-blooded, rough and tumble, brilliant, everyman. These movies are good popcorn flicks–nothing more. I have read a good many reviews on this new Indy, and some don’t recognize this real heritage of the film and give it overly poor reviews, and others recognize its true nature, but let it off the hook for the mistakes it makes because it is meant to be a fun, frivolous ride, and give it overly good reviews. Let us talk about why this is a film that ultimately does no disservice to the series, but doesn’t add a great deal to it either.

 First, there is not much in the way of plot here. This does not bother me much, though it would have been nice had the ‘legend’ (every Indy is based around a legend) that is being uncovered been related to all the attention paid to how old Indy and his cohorts have become. I suppose there is a lose connection dealing with wisdom, but this is weak. As I think about it, it is unfortunate that the third Indy film had already used the fountain of youth as its legend because it would have worked really nicely in this new film. Anyway, what bothered me more than the lack of plot was the convoluted story based around the legend. This is similar to the problem facing the worst of the first three films, The Temple of Doom. The legends surrounding the ark and the fountain of youth are familiar tales to us in the Western Hemisphere, making the basing of a story around these legends much easier to unfold. There is much less or no familiarity with either a temple of doom or a crystal skull, and so much more explanation is needed and in both cases both films suffered for it. I do like, and I will try not spoil anything even though it is really obvious very early in the film, what the crystal skull ultimately stems from–it fits well with pulp set in the 1950s–I just wish they could have found a different, simpler way to get there.

Second, Harrison Ford was only intermittently Indiana Jones. This was never a problem in the first three films, but in Crystal Skull he was about half Indy, half Harrison. Luckily, he was mostly Indy in the second two acts of the film.

Finally, and this is an odd statement but, there was too much action. It almost got boring. After the initial 30-45 minutes of the film where there was a balance between action and acting, it was all action for the last hour and fifteen minutes of the film and it really wore thin. Some of the action was classic Indy and great fun; other action sequences were tedious (I did not have the problem with all the CGI that many a reviewer has had. I did hate it when they used with animals though.). This problem obviously relates back to the failings in story and plot, but the action still should have stood better on its own.

These are the problems with the film, but it is still definitely worth checking out. It is nice to see some old familiar faces (I wish there could have been more; I especially missed Marcus Brody), there are plenty of fun references to films past to pick out, and when Indy lands one of his classic quips or performs another death-defying act a good chuckle or a collective awe is sure to be  heard throughout the theatre.     

My score…61

As I was about to ‘publish’ chapter 4 in my attempt to write a first draft of a novel, I decided to look back over chapters 1-3. I found that I left off the ending of chapter 2. Endings tend to be kind of important. So to anyone reading this, sorry. You should probably go back and read chapter 2 again before reading chapter 4. You can even read chapters 1 and 3 again if you want to; they are all short, so it should not take too long.

Oh, and don’t worry, not everyone’s ‘story’ is going to be so damn depressing.

When Lars and the Real Girl came out in theaters, I was on the fence on going to see it. The reviews were good and bad, some folks I know hated it, others really liked. So I stayed on the fence, and stayed and stayed and then it was not in theaters any more. When it came out on video (or DVD or blu ray or whatever) I decided to lay down the three bucks and see if I had missed out on anything.

I was right about being on the fence. I am still on the fence.

Lars and the Real Girl is a very small movie about a socially awkward, anxious man (Ryan Gosling) who clearly fits some DSM-IV classification. Reasons from his very early past explain his neuroses. Gosling finally steps over the edge of sanity and gets himself a life-like doll to be his future bride. The small town Gosling lives in loves him so much that they play along, and in so doing, learn about themselves.

This film would have to fall under the category of fantasy, and is using fantasy as a less harsh mode of discussing loneliness. Getting past the mistakes that are made regarding psychology, the film works pretty well as a lesson on loneliness and the power of community and social connectedness. The film has a lot of heart and a decent amount of comedy.

The unfortunate part of this film, and why I remain on the fence about it, is that all of the heart comes from the supporting cast, and I don’t know if that is enough to carry the film. Emily Mortimer is excellent as Gosling’s sister-in-law, as is Patricia Clarkson as Gosling’s doll’s physician and his therapist (though he does not know she is this). Kelli Garner as a potential ‘real’ love interest and Paul Schneider as the brother are also good. The rest of the town fills the role of wholesome, sweet, caring small town (northern midwest) America, which may or may not exist in real life.

For Gosling, this film is an acting exercise. I can imagine the conversation he had with himself before filming:

“How nuanced a performance can I create?”

“I don’t know Ryan. Since my character does not talk very much why don’t I pull from all the great silent comedians, especially alternating between Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin (but mostly Chaplin) and mix them with my natural charm and ability to portray hurt.”

“Perfect. That should totally get us a nomination.”

“YEAH!!”

Look, I actually like Ryan Gosling. He has been good in good movies, and sometimes good in bad movies. But in this, I had a similar, though not nearly as extreme,  visceral distaste for Gosling’s performance as I had toward Sean Penn in I Am Sam. I have a brother with severe mental retardation and have worked with autistic children and was deeply offended by Penn’s performance. That he was acting like a person with…was very clear and he was pompous in doing it (side note: for a fantastic performance of a person with a disability see Leonardo DiCaprio in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.). Gosling was just too into himself to make his role have the heart and the hurt needed to make the film work. 

So where does that leave me? On the fence wondering what if.

My score…59    

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