Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Spaghetti

Watching 'Requiem for a Dream'

I have no idea why I rented this movie - somehow it got on my netflix queue and arrived in the mail.

Here's the editorial review from

"Employing shock techniques and sound design in a relentless sensory assault, Requiem for a Dream is about nothing less than the systematic destruction of hope. Based on the novel by Hubert Selby Jr., and adapted by Selby and director Darren Aronofsky, this is undoubtedly one of the most effective films ever made about the experience of drug addiction (both euphoric and nightmarish), and few would deny that Aronofsky, in following his breakthrough film Pi, has pushed the medium to a disturbing extreme, thrusting conventional narrative into a panic zone of traumatized psyches and bodies pushed to the furthest boundaries of chemical tolerance. It's too easy to call this a cautionary tale; it's a guided tour through hell, with Aronofsky as our bold and ruthless host.

The film focuses on a quartet of doomed souls, but it's Ellen Burstyn--in a raw and bravely triumphant performance--who most desperately embodies the downward spiral of drug abuse. As lonely widow Sara Goldfarb, she invests all of her dreams in an absurd self-help TV game show, jolting her bloodstream with diet pills and coffee while her son Harry (Jared Leto) shoots heroin with his best friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) and slumming girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly). They're careening toward madness at varying speeds, and Aronofsky tracks this gloomy process by endlessly repeating the imagery of their deadly routines. Tormented by her dietary regime, Sara even imagines a carnivorous refrigerator in one of the film's most memorable scenes. And yet... does any of this have a point? Is Aronofsky telling us anything that any sane person doesn't already know? Requiem for a Dream is a noteworthy film, but watching it twice would qualify as masochistic behavior. --Jeff Shannon"

I felt very uncomfortable after watching this movie. The final sequence where it intersperses shots between Jared Leto getting his arm amputated where it has rotted from his heroin injections, Jennifer Connelly performing lewd sex acts for drugs in front of a room of slobbering men all whilst Ellen Burstyn receives Electric Shock therapy for her insanity brought on by her addiction to barbiturates that she was told were diet pills, was shocking.

Disturbing is an understatement in the case of this movie, and yet it contained some incredible performances and scenes. Ellen Burstyn was incredible and heart wrenching.

I don't know how to rate it on netflix. It's not a movie I would recommend to 99% of the world, it's not a movie I enjoyed - but surely a movie like this is not meant to be enjoyed. It was an experience I wish I had not had, but in some strange way I am stronger for. I was at no real danger of ever taking drugs before this movie - after it I'm even further away from that end of the spectrum.

The emotional experiences I had watching the movie were strong and I'm sure that was the Director's intent. From that point of view the movie was powerful and effective - but enjoyable? Not so much. Did I enjoy it? No. Would I watch it again? No. Do I want the time back that the movie took - don't know, it's one of those movies I have to let work through my system before forming any long term judgements.

Has anyone else seen it?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stove Callibration

As you can tell from other posts, I like to cook. With any hobby it is important to check your equipment is functioning correctly. After some suspicious roast cooking times I decided to check out my oven - so I purchased an oven thermometer and a quick plea at work produced 2 more.

I set the oven at 400F and hit bake. The model of oven I have automatically preheats, so I waited the 9 1/2 minutes that the oven requested and then took temperatures.

Left Thermometer - 300F

Center Thermometer - 295F

Right Thermometer - 250F

Not good. I decided to wait another 10 minutes and check the temperatures again.

Left Thermometer - 370F

Center Thermometer - 370F

Right Thermometer - 325F

I waited another 10 minutes and the results were the same. It looks like something is definitely off with the thermostat, it could need a simple recalibration, but more tests are needed first :(

I'm going to test it again at 300F to see if the thermostat is off by:

a) 30F which would mean a simple reset is in order or

b) Off by a different amount, which would mean the oven may need to be replaced.

Results will be forthcoming!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cellulite, Farmers Tans and Spirituality

Whenever we drove to the coast as kids, my brother and competed to see who could get a view of the Ocean first. We signalled our sighting with a cry of 'I can see the sea!' I calculated yesterday that I had not been to 'see the sea' in 9 months, so I decided to rectify the situation.

O.k. so the Gulf down around Galveston is not exactly the most picturesque but I did the best I could to record the moment, with my cellphone camera.
The water was very brown, and it was very windy due to the Hurricane that was forming and due to make landfall south of us, but it was the beach on a warm early evening so people were swimming. It gave me lots of opportunity to validify Peter's first rule of beachware - 'Just because they make it in your size, doesn't mean you will look good wearing it'. Come to think of it that should be a rule of Fashion in general - I know, I've seen some of the disasters on Project Runway.

I just stayed covered up and sat on the seawall reading 'Discernment - The Art of Choosing Well', which is one of the required reading books for my class for this Fall.

I was so energized by my soiree to the seaside that I stopped off at the store on the way home and bought the ingredients for a massive noodle stir fry.

I'm going to be reheating leftovers for quite a while.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Babies and Monasteries

I spent this past weekend visiting Rich and Ginger in Grand Prairie, and meeting the newest addition to their family - baby Jack.

He is, of course, adorable!

The entire weekend was based on the rhythm of Jack. His needs for food, sleep, bathing, changing etc controlled what the rest of us did. We managed some boardgames, but if Jack was calling then gaming was put on hold. Meal times were about rushing to the restaurant just after Jack fed so that he would be content (and possibly sleep) while we crammed a few carbs.

It is a different way of living.

It got me thinking about Monasteries - not a place known for babies :)

Many monasteries organize their days around the Liturgy of the Hours. Set times of prayer and worship that repeat daily and are signaled by the sounding of a bell. No matter what task you are doing, when the bell calls, you respond.

The bell is very humbling, it reminds you that the work of your hands, the thoughts of your brain, even the very emotions of your soul, are secondary to the call of the bell. It's frustrating, it's not the way most of us live our lives. We want to believe that my work, my thoughts, my feelings are all the most important on the planet.

We are wrong.

So when the bell tolls -

Work stops for it.
Thoughts get put aside for it.
Emotions don't excuse you from it.
Sleep is interrupted for it.

When the bell calls - you go to worship.

When the baby cries - you respond.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

California Gay Marriage - One Month on

Today marks the 1 month anniversary of California legalizing same sex marriage.

I'm disappointed.

Given the fervor of campaigning by protesters claiming that same sex marriage would cause 'the breakdown of society' and be 'the thin end of the wedge leading to moral turpitude' I would have expected to see some symptoms by now.

Riots in San Francisco.

Orgies on the streets of L.A.

San Diego reduced to ruins.

But I've seen nothing. Nothing to indicate 'the extreme moral rot' that is supposed to be taking place because of California's stand on this issue. I was hoping for some gripping television- shaky camera footage and life and death struggles, instead I've been reduced to watching reruns of old reality t.v. shows! If society is breaking down I would have expected to have seen something in the media, or at least had an inbox full of spurious emails decrying California's moral bankruptcy.

I've received nothing - except for one joke about a man trying to marry his brother for tax purposes that wasn't even funny. (I'm actually surprised I haven't received an email suggesting that the current fires in CA are God's judgement on gay marriage. Maybe it's just God's judgement on dry timber and careless use of matches?)

What have I seen?

A picture of George Takei with his Partner Brad Altman with their certificate of marriage. They can now legally wed after having been together over 21 years.

Apparently the 2 people in this picture are a threat to American society.

I don't see it.

How many times has Pamela Anderson been married in 21 years? Surely her actions are more of a 'threat to the sanctity of marriage' than George and Brads?

Shouldn't a 21 year commitment be celebrated rather than vilified?

Well it's not quite midnight yet, there is still time for the West Coast to sink into the sea, drowning 'the moral corruption of our once bright nation.'

Somehow I don't think I'll stay up late to catch the midnight news.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I added a new dish to my culinary repertoire yesterday. This is a summer berry tart, made with blackberries, raspberries and blueberries. I made the graham cracker crust, then made a thick berry puree and then glazed the berries with redcurrant jelly before chilling for a couple of hours.
Very yummy, and not very sweet so it was awesome with ice cream :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

How some Texans view the rest of the U.S.

This is just a caricature - I have many Texan friends who don't view the U.S. this way, but it was just too good to pass up!

A quote to ruminate on

"In our spirit we are not limited to what we can understand or imagine."

Taken from 'The Cloud of Unknowing'

Good stuff!!!

Are you going to eat that?

Regular readers of my blog (bleeders??!) will know about my penchant for blogging about strange cooking experiments such as the 'Lasagna in a Dishwasher' or the 'Labor Day Cooking on the Dark Side'. Then there are times when I just blog generally about what I'm cooking or even the Spirituality of Recipes.

I intended this post to be just a general cooking entry, but now I'm not sure about whether it belongs in the terrifying category.

I pulled a recipe from because I wanted to make something different but healthy for dinner.

So here are some of the ingredients. 2 large sweet potatoes peeled and chopped and the turkey Italian Sausage. The rest I figure y'all can identify without me spelling it out for you.
Oops I forgot to add the salsa and the garlic to the ingredient pic, so here is a photo with them included plus a demonstration of my chopping skills.
Cook the sweet potato for about 10 minutes just to soften. While you do this remove the sausage meat from it's casings and brown it in a skillet. To be honest I always feel slightly dirty removing sausage from it's casing. It's such a weird feeling. I'm a 'twist the sausage in the middle and pull' kind of guy (having first slit the ends). There is something about the act of the twist that just makes my eyes water.
I'm using turkey Italian sausage in an attempt to make it low-fat, but look how much fat has still come out of the sausage!This is the kitchen towel after draining the fat. Look how much gunk could have been in my intestine!
Saute the onions, and bell peppers for a while and then add the mushrooms and the garlic. The more I cook I've discovered the less time I tend to saute my garlic. When I first started cooking I would almost caramelize it and often would accidentally get that acrid burnt taste. Now I practically just wave it in close proximity of the flame before serving.
Add the potatoes and the salsa and sprinkle in some cumin before letting it sit for 5 minutes to heat through and absorb the flavor.

It looked rather different to what I anticipated. The recipe said that all you need to serve it with is a green salad and you have a delicious meal. I didn't have a green salad, and it looked like I would need more than a limp lettuce leaf to consume this skillet.

Hooray for hard cider!!!!

It tasted interesting! When I was reflecting on it later, I realized that had I made this with normal potatoes instead of Sweet potatoes I would have ravenously consumed the entire skillet and viewed it as some kind of 'Breakfast Hash'. The trouble was those mounds of sweet potatoes.

I didn't eat sweet potatoes growing up - I can't even remember seeing one until I moved to Texas. I've never had one baked in foil, I've just eaten the occasional roasted one and have scarfed down many baskets of Sweet Potato fries (yumm!)

But there is something in the look of this dish that even though my brain said 'Potato' my spirit said 'Mushy carrot lumps'.

So was this a general cooking entry or a strange cooking experiment?

I have yet to decide....but if you want to weigh in with an opinion, I've got leftovers!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Gas Gas Gas!

I sholdn't really complain about gas prices as it's still so much cheaper than what my brother pays in the U.K., but this was too good to pass up!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

4th July Gaming

I spent the holiday as I spend most holidays - board gaming.

This time though a miracle occurred.

We had 10 people - not an unusual occurrence, we often have that many. The miracle was that we actually split into 2 groups instead of playing the limited number of games that can accommodate 10 people and that don't suck.
To commemorate this momentous happening I took a picture from our stairs (and yes there are still boxes to be unpacked)

This is the group I was in playing a very involved game of Starfarers of Catan. This is a game of space exploration, colonization and trade. It's quite involved but a lot of fun. We had to stop the game after 2 hours as two players had to leave though :(

This is the other group playing a game of mine called Masons. This is a game of wall and city building and area control - another fun one from my collection.

Other games included Time's Up - a light party game. Fjords - a two player area control game. Dragon Delta - a race across rickety bridges, and Vegas Showdown - a competition to build the best Hotel and Casino in Vegas.

It was a fun day, alcohol was imbibed, hotdogs were consumed, and I finally made a dip that tasted remarkably similar to the creamy jalapeno dip that serve at chuy's.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Immortalized in Poetry

A good friend of mine wrote a poem about me and how I impact her life - thanks so much, L. I feel humbled and honored to be an influence in your life.

River of Words

My mind is a running river
Words rush under the surface
Rolling like pebbles on the bottom
I'm pulling out one word
When I was reaching to grab another

Then I see you
Cast your net in the river
And draw out stories and songs
You give words to what
I've longed to say

You encourage me to keep reaching for words
My hands are slippery
I can't trust my eyes
But when you pull your story from the current
I open my hands to find a story too

Oh, to believe it is possible!