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

 

 

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I have never written about a tv show before, but last night changed all of that with the premiere of the new CBS show, Swingtown.

There is a lot of crap on television. The networks have very little to offer (Lost and 30 Rock are two notable exceptions–and ok. I admit it. I love CSI. I know, I know. I can’t help it. But only the original. That Miami one is laughably bad and I have never stayed awake past the opening credits for the NY one.). Cable actually has some decent shows (The Closer, Madmen, Monk, Psych, Top Chef, Weeds, My Boys (new season starts June 12!)), but the seasons are short and sporadic. Given the slim pickings, and my love of lazing about on the couch at night, I am always on the lookout for new shows that will allow me to continue to not move. It is for this reason that I gave Swingtown a shot.

Swingtown, perhaps the title tells you this, is about a neighborhood somewhere in 1970’s suburbia filled with swinging couples; that’s right: partner swapping; that’s right: fireworks, blow and a basement orgy room. The show ostensibly follows two couples: one just moves to the neighborhood and has never heard of this crazy swinging (they were high school sweethearts and had kids right away, so they missed the decade of the 60s; oh and they only moved from a few blocks away–where swinging does not exist.), the other is the collective yoda of swinging; plenty of platitudes about how having sex with others has made their marriage stronger. The second couple seduces the first couple and here we go. There are some other elements to this show, involving kids and old friends, but really who cares. What is important is that all interactions in this show, whether involving the kids or adults, is about sex. Oh, and a bunch of camera shots of stereotypical things from the 70s, like $64,000 Pyramid, stupid clothes, and stupid hairstyles. It is very important that the viewer knows it is the 1970s. I am pretty sure that in the next episode an afro and an eight-track player will have an intellectually stimulating conversation about the Watergate scandal…and then have sex.

I don’t know if you have gathered this yet from my review, but I did not like Swingtown. In fact, it is one of the most insanely and inanely stupid things that has ever existed. And it is not because it is about swinging. There can probably be a decent show with swinging at its core (look at Big Love and polygamy), but this is not it. No, it is because the direction is awful and the cinematography is awful and the acting is awful, though it would be hard for the acting to be any good when…they have to spout the most ludicrously abhorrent writing ever put to paper. The wife and I could not watch more than five minutes of Swingtown without cracking up and changing the channel (we had to give ourselves breaks, so we could make it through. Even when something is laughably bad, it is still really irritating to watch.). What more can I say: Awful. I have never applied my movie rating system to tv, but I will give it a shot…

My score…6.*

* The 6 points that get Swingtown above a 0, come from a wonderful scene when a 12 year old girl kicks the everloving shit out of a twelve year old boy because he had told friends that they had almost had…wait for it…sex. And the way this girl gave delivered her vitriolic speech after the ass-whopping was priceless. It was like the best of Training Day, The Sopranos and Fight Club all wrapped up in braces and pigtails.

Here is another one of those year end movies that I just couldn’t pull the trigger on seeing in the theatres. So here is the DVD review:

I am a big fan of Tim Burton and a very big fan of Johnny Depp. Their work together has generally been good, if not the best of their respective careers. I still find their first collaboration, Edward Scissorhands, to be their best, but I have also really enjoyed Ed Wood and Corpse Bride and liked Charlie and Chocolate Factory (I still prefer the original). Sleepy Hollow was a disappointment, though I still liked the look of the film and Depp’s performance. Sweeney Todd, unfortunately, falls toward the bottom of this list, just above Sleepy Hollow.

Oddly, the reason for this has little to do, so far as I can tell, with either Burton or Depp or any of the other actors for that matter. I loved the look of the film and all of the actors (singers) were good to excellent depending upon their singing abilities. Their is a ton of blood–cartoonish blood–in this film, and I thought it was handled appropriately given the fairy talish type of story. The pacing is a little slow, but this does no real damage to the film. No, my real problem with Sweeney Todd; the reason I don’t like it, is the source material. There are, by my tastes, fatal flaws in the story of Sweeney Todd that I could just not look past.

Sweeney Todd is clearly a tragedy, in the Greek sense (filtered through Shakespeare and Jack the Ripper). This is clear from the beginning, and I have no problem with a tragic tale. There is a moral resonance to a tragedy that can be felt across cultures, which is why this brand of story has been around as long as it has had. The problem with Sweeney Todd–For anyone who has not seen the film, I am not going to spoil anything for you, so this will be brief–is that to achieve the arc of a tragedy it sets up too many silly coincidences and absurd (and absurdly obvious) twists that when they go to their inevitable conclusions feel, to me, completely unearned. I know people love Sweeney Todd, particularly as a play and a lot have liked this film, but it simply did not work for me at the story level.

My score…57

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.

This is a bit pretentious, but…

Great writing and great cooking carry a distinct bond: Every word in every sentence contributes significantly to the whole work, just as every ingredient contributes significantly to the whole meal. Most writing and most cooking is not great. Words are bandied about, tossed in because they elicit a visceral reaction, but add nothing thematically. Ingredients are thrown into a dish because they may be appealing for their individual flavors or visual flare, but do not work well with the other ingredients. 

An example of this great writing is The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder. An example of this great cooking is Nicola’s. I recommend trying both as quickly as possible (Unfortunately, Nicola’s is not in everyone’s price range, including ours, though it is less expensive than it could be, so this is probably a special occasion restaurant. The Bridge of San Luis Rey can be purchased for $2 at a used book store.).

The wife and I got the Four Course Tasting Menu with wine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuscan  Fava beans with pecorino fresco, fried croutons, red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil

Sauvignon blanc San Pietro, Alto Adige 2006

Crispy potato Gnocchi with four cheeses fondue and Italian Truffle shavings

Barbera d’Asti Montaribaldi, Piemonte 2005

6 hours braised American Kobe beef short ribs with parsnip puree and spring vegetables

Chianti classico Le Cinciole, Toscana 2004

Dessert

Moscato di Asti La Spinetta 2006

Every course was a beautiful blend of textures and consistencies and flavors. Every ingredient works really well together, and every course was at its best when every ingredient was eaten together. Despite all of this, the food is very simple and unpretentious. If I had to pick out problems, I would say that the short ribs were cooked perfectly, but were underseasoned, and that the creme brulee component of the dessert was not fully congealed. The problems were minor. These elements were merely good as compared to the greatness of everything else. There are no more words that need be said.

My score…91

 

 

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

In the wife and I’s first ‘dinner and a movie’ exploration of Levee food, we went to Aoi, and loved it. For our second trip, we wanted to go back to Aoi, but the integrity of the reviewer in me won out and we tried Aoi’s competition, Pacific Moon. Stupid integrity.

Pacific Moon is everything that Aoi is not, and none of it is good. Before even talking about the food, what is up with the decor? I felt toward the end of dinner, the tables were going to be magically swooshed to the side, disco balls were going to lower down from the ceiling and a club was going to break out. The whole place was a weird mix of turquoise and gray with an industrial, ‘exposed’ feel, none of which says ‘get your fine Japanese/Asian cuisine here’. But, hey, I have been to many a place where the quality of the decor does not match the quality of the food, so there is still hope right?

No.

The wife and I have been into sharing meals recently, especially when sushi is involved, so we started with a shared bowl of chicken hot and sour soup. The soup base was fair; more sour than hot, with the hot sinking to the bottom. The real problem with the soup was the chicken. It managed to be extremely dry and chewy, and would have added nothing to the soup even if it had been prepared well.

For the second course we ordered some basic sushi, a tuna roll and a spicy tuna roll. It came out to the table after the rest of our food, however. Things are going downhill quickly. Both the wife and I agreed, this was some of the worst sushi we have had in town. The tuna tasted old and fishy and had a mushy texture. On top of that, the rice was undercooked. We didn’t even finish the two rolls. How bad does a roll have to be not to be finished?

Finally, the wife and I shared an order of orange faux ribs. The sauce was overly sweet, but decent. The accompanying vegetables were steamed to a respectable, edible level. The big problem here were the faux ribs. Some pieces were crunchy–too crunchy; clearly over-fried. Other pieces were soggy, with no crunch at all. If you want orange faux ribs, I would definitely head to Shanghai Mama’s; not Pacific Moon.

Overall, Pacific Moon was a real disappointment. With Aoi a hundred feet away, the wife and I will never go back to Pacific Moon.

Score…38.