Saturday, May 31, 2008

April Round-Up

Ahhh, April....Wait. April? What the hell happened in April?

Movies Seen:
Eleven, with, once again, none in a theater. Of the DVDs watched, the worst was probably "Reservation Road," which I basically saw just because Mark Ruffalo is in it. And it's not bad in the sense that it's badly directed, or badly acted; it's just disappointing, depressing, and kind of pointless. In the best camps are "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," which was also depressing, but also quite inspiring, and refreshingly different, and "Starting Out In the Evening," which is not groundbreaking in any way, but I think Frank Langella was really good and at times heartbreaking in his role as an aging novelist, and I was pleased with the way the movie handled its older man, younger woman plot line. It was both touching and kind of icky.

Books Read: I read an astounding six books in April, although one kind of doesn't count because I read the majority of it in March. That would be "The Know It All: One Man's Humble Quest To Become the Smartest Person In the World" by A.J. Jacobs, in which the author reads the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in one year. It was a fun read, but once again, as tends to be my problem with nonfiction, I just wasn't able to retain any useful knowledge once I finished the book. Except for this fascinating fact: Rene Descartes had a thing for cross-eyed women.

Next up was “Walking In Circles Before Lying Down” by Merrill Markoe, and once again I came away from one of her novels wishing she'd go back to writing nonfiction, because her nonfiction essays are just much, much funnier. I followed that with “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks, who also wrote the novel "World War Z," and both take the zombie genre very seriously. Almost too seriously. Both of his books left me wanting just a little more levity, because come on. There's just something inherently funny about zombies, and that should not be ignored.

Despite my taking an oath to not get any books from the library, or buy any new books until I had made a dent into the huge stack of unread books I have piling up in my bedroom, I could not resist buying Mary Roach's new book "Bonk." Being such a fan of her previous works, "Stiff" and "Spook," there was no way I was going to put off reading her latest. And, while I'm glad I did, I'd have to say of her three, it's probably my least favorite. Which isn't to say it isn't incredibly funny, because it is. It's just not as funny as her other books, which is ironic, since those other two kind of dealt with death, and this one deals with the scientific study of human sexuality, a topic with much more comedic potential. But maybe her real gift is finding the humor in less obvious places...

The No New Books rule meant I finally started getting to books that had been given to me years ago, which is just kind of pathetic, really. One of those was “Yarn Harlot” by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, and it was a fast and mildly entertaining read, but I've kind of come to the realization that reading about other people's knitting addictions is not nearly as interesting as...just sitting down and knitting something.

Finally, I broke my No New Books rule once again when I had the overwhelming urge to read something by Stephen King. Now, I used to LOVE Stephen King. From my pre-teens into young adulthood, I basically read everything he wrote, and I read his stuff voraciously. I read "It," which is about 10,000 pages long, in the course of a single weekend. I did the same thing with "The Stand," (at least the first time I read it). But as I grew older, it seemed his stuff just started to get...bad. I remember the book that turned me off him for years was "The Tommyknockers," which literally made me sick to my stomach. Not sure if it was the content of the book or the fact that I read most of it while riding MUNI, but whatever the cause, I decided to give him a rest. And for a number of years I did. I think the first new book of his I decided to read was "Bag of Bones" several years ago, and I enjoyed it, but not enough to catch up on everything I had missed. And then last year I tried the first book in his "Dark Tower" series, and it just didn't cut it for me. I had the same reaction to it that I have with most fantasy stories: not worth the effort to try and understand what the hell is going on.

But, for whatever reason, I started to get a hankering for some Stephen King again, so I bought “Cell," in which a cell phone pulse turns the majority of the people in the world into something akin to zombies, though there's no real flesh-eating involved. And I could not. Put the book. Down! I read it straight through and finished in about two days, and once again remembered what it was I had liked about Stephen King all those years ago. We're not talking groundbreaking writing here. We're just talking about a suspenseful story that is so well-told that you want to keep reading because you can't wait to see what happens next. Of course, like the majority of King's books, it ends with a huge explosion, and I don't think I'm giving away anything by saying that because, like I said, he does that a lot. So, like a lot of his books it was kind of anti-climactic, but it was still an incredibly entertaining read and an experience I enjoyed so much that I wanted to go out and read everything of his I had avoided for so long.

Big mistake. But that's a story I will have to save until the next round-up...

Fancy Dinners Out: One, a rather impromptu dinner at Izzy's, but it was mmm-mmm good. Meeeeaaaaat! And potatooooooeeees! And creaaaamed spinach. *Droooool*

Live Shows Seen: None.

Shoes Bought: Two pairs. One was a replacement pair of standard black ballet flats, and the other were these wedges from Target. Except I put in some heel guards in the back of them which made them too tight and incredibly painful to wear, so I had to give them away. Doh! I'm hoping to get another pair in a bigger size at some point because they were awfully cute.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Crab Dip, Salsa, and POLISH SAUSAGE!

A new reality TV locals post is now up on SFist!

Once again I've been given a three-day-weekend and have managed to put off doing all the stuff I need to do until today. Must. Not. Nap!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's the Time, the Time, of a Derby Winner!

This week's Tube Tops is now up on the SFGate Culture Blog!

Oh, I am so glad it's a three-day weekend! Tonight I am going to partake in a "Sex and the City" marathon with Jess, and yes, we plan on seeing the movie next weekend along with every other loser female in the city. I baked some cupcakes, and will be making a cornbread and beef skillet pie for dinner. I guess there's no real "SATC" connection with that dish...except for the beef part.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Me and Mr. Jones

When "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came out in 1981, I had no real interest in seeing it, even though by that time, at the tender age of 11, I was a becoming a pretty big movie freak. I'm not sure why the film wasn't really on my radar, but for whatever reason, I was under the impression it was a boring movie about archeology, and who wants to see that? And even though a friend at school was totally in love with the movie, and had a poster for it in her bedroom, I was still a little skeptical. She also had pictures of Nadia Comaneci all over her walls; what did she know from movies?

But eventually my parents decided it was going to be that weekend's movie, and we drove out to Marin to see it on a big screen. And despite the theater's annoyingly dim projector bulb, I was immediately enraptured, and became an instant fan.

Cut to three years later. It's May 1984, and "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" is one of the summer's most eagerly awaited movies, at least at my junior high. On opening day several friends and I, including the gymnast/"Raiders" lover, raced to the Regency I theater after school, humming the "Indy" theme at the top of our lungs, much to the chagrin of our fellow MUNI riders. I don't think we bought tickets in advance in those days, so I imagine we spent a long time in line that day. The details are foggy. What I do remember once we got inside and the movie started was a feeling of great disappointment that Marion had been replaced by a completely annoying blonde, and Marion's monkey had been replaced by a completely annoying and downright embarrassing Chinese kid. I also remember thinking when that dude reached into that guy's chest and pulled out his heart that it was pretty rad that I was being allowed to see this without adult supervision. While it was a fun time in all, "Raiders" was still the better movie in my book.

Cut to five years later. I am a jaded 19-year-old, but still a big movie fan, which is why I agreed to wake up early on a Saturday in March to see a free sneak preview screening of some movie called "Major League." For whatever reason, my friend Chris agreed to come along, and we met at the Northpoint Theater in the pouring rain and waited in line like a couple of dopes. Corbin Bernsen? And baseball? There was no way this movie was going to be any good. Once we got inside, the waiting went on, and it was about 30 minutes after the time the movie was supposed to start when some guy went up to the front of theater and addressed the crowd. He said there had been a big accident on the Golden Gate Bridge involving the truck carrying the movie to the theater, and the film reels ended up in the bottom of the Bay. How would we like to see the new, yet to be released "Indiana Jones" movie instead?

Now, some people in the theater actually bought that likely story, but we knew the whole thing had been a ruse to get people to the theater unawares for a secret sneak preview. And we especially knew it was all a ruse when we turned around and saw George Lucas sitting in the seat behind us. Uh oh. There went making fun of the movie aloud! Since "The Last Crusade" wasn't set to open for another two months, we were told that the print hadn't been color corrected yet, and many of the effects weren't finished. And in watching the movie it was apparent much about that movie wasn't finished. Like the screenplay. (Ha! See what I did there?) (I later saw it after its real release, and many of the bluescreen effects still didn't look finished. There's some shoddy F/X in that flick.)

After the screening we had to fill out comment cards and despite wanting to say "How come you made two kinda crappy sequels to an awesome movie?" the only thing I remember writing was something like, "Why was that old dude all happy that his cave was being turned to rubble at the end?" I don't think any changes were made as a result of that insightful commentary. Also, for the record, there's no need to worry about dim bulbs, people talking, or the sound being too low when George Mutherfuckin' Lucas is sitting in the theater with you.

Cut to 19 years later. I am even more jaded, and a slightly less-enthusiastic movie fan, but the approaching release of a new "Indiana Jones" movie still manages to excite me, so much so that I decide to catch one of those special midnight premiere showings with a friend. There is no standing in line; there is no running to the theater while shouting the theme music. But there are a couple of dorks dressed up as Indiana Jones, so there's that. And the crowd was about as pumped as a mid-week, midnight crowd probably can be.

As for the movie, still doesn't come close to "Raiders"--that's about as perfect as a pop movie can get--but I did like it more than either of the sequels. The plot is as silly as the plots in the others, (although the whole Ark plot seems to hold up a lot better, and I'm not really sure why), but I appreciated how the film reflected the pop culture of the '50s (complete with A-bombs, Elvis, and UFOs) and also seemed to reference a lot of Spielberg's cinematic oeuvre. Of course, the movie doesn't really comment on any of that. It's just in there. And I also loved seeing Karen Allen again. And while her monkey wasn't in it, there was a jungle full of new monkeys to take its place. Cate Blanchett, despite being woefully underutilized, is my favorite villain of all the sequels, and as for Shia LaBeouf, well, what can I say? The cougar in me finds him quite tasty.

I'm hoping this is it as far as "Indy" movies are concerned. They made as much comment on Indy's age as needs be made in this one, and nothing could be worse than a movie full of "I'm too old for this shit" jokes. As for a spin-off featuring the Adventures of Mutt? Just no. There's no way I'd go to a midnight screening, wait in the rain, or run to the theater singing the Indy theme to see that.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's Turkey Dinner!

This week's Tube Tops post is now up on the SFGate Culture Blog!

Oh, sweet merciful fog. How I love you so...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

If I Ever Go Missing

I suggest the first place you look for me would be in front of my TV set...

FIRST place. Not the place you decide to finally check after 42 years.

Friday, May 16, 2008


I've got a new Streets of San Fauxcisco post up on the SFGate Culture Blog.

Read it, then go home. In fact, it's still pretty hot out. You should be heading home already.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Feature About Creature Features and Its Upcoming Feature

I've got a brief post about Bob Wilkins and the documentary "Watch Horror Movies - Keep America Strong" up on the SFGate Culture Blog. Go read it now! Unless the heat makes it too difficult to even click on a link, in which case, I totally understand. TOO. HOT!

Edited to add: Peter Hartlaub has another Bob Wilkins-related post up on SFGate, this one focused on his "Captain Cosmic" character.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Oops File

Just in case you missed Stephen Colbert's response to Pappa Bear O'Reilly's freak-out...


I had to deal with my health insurance and the billing department at my hospital today (shouldn't there be a rule that if someone waits over a year to bill you for something, you should just be able to write back "Too late, sucker!"?) and at the end of it, I felt a lot like this. Especially after they started talking about Sting videos.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It's Sublime!

This week's Tube Tops post is now up on the SFGate Culture Blog!

Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the other moms out there! Here's a special greeting just for you.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

This Just In: It Is Possible to Cook Actual Food At Home!

After many years of take-out, delivery, and the always convenient burrito, I decided a couple of weeks ago to start cooking my own dinners. I don't have an aversion to cooking, and I'm actually pretty good at it, but too often I'd be faced with a grocery store full of food and have absolutely no idea what to cook for dinner, and I'd inevitably leave with a frozen pizza or some Lean Cuisines. It finally came to me that I shouldn't be walking into that store with no ideas, and instead enter the store knowing full well what I want to make.

But where to get those ideas? Well, when Martha Stewart Kids magazine went out of business they replaced my subscription to that with a subscription to Everyday Food, and those issues have been piling up for two years. I decided to just go through them, and whenever I found something I'd like to make, I flagged it. I then had a stack of magazines flagged, and all I had to do was pick a week's meals. Then I made a shopping list specific to those recipes, and voila! One trip to the store and I had a refrigerator full of food ready to be cooked each night. Also, cooking dinner is a lot easier when you have a recipe to follow. Who knew?

Here's what I've made this week:

Monday - Pork loin over sauteed spinach with an orange honey mustard vinaigrette.
Tuesday - Penne with shrimp, asparagus, feta, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Wednesday - Salmon with zucchini and shallots en papillote. (Yes, I actually made something en papillote. And it was really easy!)

Tomorrow I'm having a chicken breast wrapped in prosciutto with roasted green beans, and then Friday the rest of the prosciutto will go into a pasta with peas and leeks.

Also, currently chilling in the fridge are some low-fat semi-sweet chocolate panna cottas.

Cooking. How novel!