Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cinema, San Diego Style

While not as well known as Robert Redford's Sundance Film Festival or Robert DeNiro's Tribeca Film Festival, San Diego's Film Festival " is one of the fastest growing film festivals in the country. SDFF is THE destination for film; a launch pad for creative filmmakers to bring the best of independent cinema to San Diego's progressive community. Where urban edge meets perfect weather escapism - thousands of filmmakers and film enthusiasts unite. "

Check out the festival's link ( http://www.sdff.org/) for further details.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Shakespeare in the Park

The sculpture shown above sits in the courtyard of San Diego's Old Globe theatre complex (it has been renamed the Conrad Prebys Theatre Center but "locals" still call it The Old Globe) in Balboa Park. Said complex consists of three stages - The Old Globe Theatre, the newly soon to be opened remodeled Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre which replaces the Cassius Carter Theatre and The Lowell Davies Festival Theatre. Every summer, from mid-June through the latter part of September, the Old Globe presents its Summer Shakespeare Festival in the Lowell Davies outdoor theatre show below. This year's offerings include "Twelfth Night" and "Coriolanus". And, for the first time in over five years, the festival is offering a different playwright's work during the festival - Edmond Rostand's "Cyrano De Bergerac".

Last evening "Cyrano De Bergerac" was on the boards and it was a delight! Now, everyone should be familiar with this play (it was even retooled and adapted by Steve Martin into the 1987 movie entitled "Roxanne" - Steve Martin also starred in the title role. Of course the masses loved the film ... me, I prefer the original stage version...). Or, you might be familiar with the 1990 film version starring Gerard Depardieu (as a side note, it uses the same translation of the play that the Old Globe is using). In any event, for those of you unfamiliar with the play here's the synopsis from the Old Globe: "One of the greatest and most produced plays of all time, this big and audacious production is equal parts, drama, comedy, action-adventure and old fashioned love story. Poet, war hero, philosopher and dazzling swordsman, Cyrano has it all - except the woman of his dreams - the lovely Roxane. Ashamed of his large nose, Cyrano is unable to woo her. When the handsome but inarticulate Christian also falls for Roxane, Cyrano gives Christian the poetic words to win her heart. Cyrano’s hopes seem dashed forever, until fate steps in."
For those of you wanting a bit more explanation here 'tis:
Set in Paris in 1640, Cyrano de Bergerac is a classic tale of romance and tragedy. Talented poet, swordsman and Cadet in the French army, Cyrano falls in love with the beautiful Roxane but lacks the confidence to reveal his true feelings due to his abnormally large nose. Resigned to his loss, Cyrano offers to help his fellow soldier Christian win her affections by writing love letters on his behalf. Roxane falls in love with author of the letters not realizing it is Cyrano. His tender verse gives voice to the inarticulate, dashing Christian, gaining him her heart just before both men depart for war. This classic romantic story is laced with swagger, gallantry and sacrifice, and some of the most beautiful verse ever written.

Anyway, back to last eve. As usual, the Old Globe did a fantastic job. The actor who played Cyrano, Patrick Page, was fabulous. The rest of the cast was just as wonderful. With 39 roles, and scores of costumes, shoes, wigs and accessories "Cyrano" is the festival's biggest production this year. So, as would be expected the production was lavish and indeed lived up to its director's (Darko Trensnjak) statement that the play is "a painting come to life." Not to be redundant, but the performance 'twas fabulous and reminds me to encourage all reading this blog to go see live theatre.

The evening was, as always, chilly, nippy or cold, depending on your perspective. Anyone familiar with attending plays in the outdoor theatre knows to either bring an extra layer of clothing to cover one's self up with or else rent a blanket at the theatre - besides who would be uncouth enough to come to the theatre in shorts and flip flops! One also knows to bring or rent a seat cushion. Rather than stand in the long lines during intermission drinks were ordered beforehand and were long finished before some patrons had even gotten their turn in line. Dinner before the play was enjoyed at one of my favorite restaurants - The Prado. It's located in the park and if you tell your wait staff that you have theatre tickets they're very good about getting you in and out in a timely fashion(of course, don't be silly enough to make 7 PM dinner reservations when the play has an 8 PM curtain call). Starting the culinary quest at 5:30ish pre-dinner drinks included mojitos and martinis. Black bean soups with chiles & spices, garnished with red onion, sour cream & lime and cesear salads of fresh romaine hearts with herbed croutons, cotija cheese & fire-roasted poblano chile caesar dressing followed. Main entrees included rosemary roasted half jidori chicken with field greens, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted garlic pan gravy, grilled chicken & orecchiette pasta tossed with pancetta, red onions and toasted pinenuts in a gorgonzola cream sauce and slow roasted center cut pork prime rib with aged white cheddar potato croquette, medley of squash, wild mushrooms, fennel & blue lake beans and roasted apple demi. After ALL THAT belgian chocolate mousse with grand marnier, peach ice cream puff & candied orange peel, a pear, forestberry & mango sorbet trio served in an almond-poppyseed florentine with a raspberry coulis, and tahitian vanilla bean cream cheese flan with a lattice tuile globe and fresh flower confetti made its way to the table. It's a good thing there is a bit of a walk between The Prado and The Old Globe as the high calories consumed needed to be walked off as much as could be in the distance covered.

All in all, the evening was just delightful except for one "thing". During the first half of the play there were a lout who seemed to feel the need to "review" the play with his companion as it unfolded. Said companion tried to hush The Lout but The Lout either choose to ignore said requests or else was just attempting to break the "world's biggest boor" record. The two must have "had words" during intermission because they weren't in attendance after the intermission - thank god for the "theatre gods" - they must have interceded on the audience's behalf and sent these two to an environment more conducive to The Lout's behavior. Anyway, this bump in the road reminded me of a recent article by the UK's Benedict Nightingale. I'll share it below, with some additional rules offered by readers of the article (for the most part the article is right on the mark but I hope you'll "hear" some of Nightingale's humor).

"The 15 golden rules of theatre etiquette"
1. Don’t just switch off your mobile in response to what’s very likely a cute invitation from some fake-friendly voice. Make sure it’s off before you enter the theatre, thus making sure that you’re not publicly humiliated by Richard Griffiths or A.N. Other.
2. Never whisper, let alone talk, during the performance. If you’re hard of hearing, hire a loop rather than bother your companion for info about the plot. And don’t hum along with songs, even if they’re by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
3. Don’t bring picnics. In fact, don’t eat anything, not even your fingernails, even if the play is, well, nail-biting. If you must buy an ice cream in the interval, make sure you finish it and dispose of the carton before the restart. The scraping at remnants sounds like scratching on a wall.
4. If you fear that you’ll cough, bring a handkerchief to smother your mouth and pastilles to put in it. Considerate theatregoers would rather asphyxiate than interrupt a good actor.
5. Always apologise if someone is forced to stand as you make your way to your seat, but if you are late (and you should never be) reduce your apology to a quick, sorrowful nod.
6. Don’t clap actors’s entrances, even if they’re famous, or their exits, even if they make them in the swaggering style that half-invites applause. All this is dated and naff and makes you look like a celeb-hungry prat.
7. Have nothing to do with standing ovations unless a performance is close to a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In America such ovations have become meaningless and, if they don’t occur, they indicate disapproval. We don’t want them to become regular here.
8. If a friend is on stage in a comedy or farce, or has written one, don’t pile on the laughter. The artificiality is usually transparent enough to make failure more and not less likely.
9. If you must go to that often obnoxious, spuriously glitzy occasion, the first night, don’t ponce about pretending to be an important guest, even if you are one. Think of your fellow audience members and the actors, both of whom want to get on with the show. And that the show isn’t about you (I know people who think everything in the universe is about them).
10. No need to dress up, let alone wear dinner jackets and evening gowns, as was once the case. But try to be a little better dressed than the critics, who often look as they’ve been grabbed from a washing machine that hasn’t yet been turned on.
1.1 If you see a sleeping critic don’t necessarily wake him or her up, as guilt is likely to ensure that his or her review is more favourable than it might otherwise be. But don’t let him sleep too deeply or he may (and this has happened) crash into or across an aisle, causing injury to the innocent. And snoring is unacceptable, whoever does it and however awful the show.
12. If critics irk you by scratching notes on a pad, be forgiving. They’re only doing their jobs. And virtually all critics accept that lighted pens, once common, are now verboten. If you see a critic turn one on, whisper something tactfully germane, like “you blind sod, switch it off”.
13. If the child you’re bringing is chatty, gag it. If it’s fidgety, handcuff and shackle it. And if you’re altruistic enough to bring a school party to a Shakespeare matinée, threaten potential wrongdoers with tickets to the next revival of Timon of Athens, to be followed by a ten-page essay on the ethics of Apemantus.
14. Try your hardest not to be tall, which means shunning headgear and primped-up hair. And if you can’t help your height, ask for a seat on the aisle or somewhere where you won’t interfere with people’s sightlines.
15. If you are maddened by a fellow member of the audience, postpone a serious or violent encounter until a suitable pause in the action, preferably the interval. But usually a schoolmarmy stare and an English sniff, followed by a reproachful smile, will suffice.

Now some readers' advice:
16. Preferably don't go straight from pub or restaurant to theatre roaring drunk. If you must,get plastered after the show, when your ravings, mad laughter, dropping of possessions, sliding to the floor and snoring will be less disturbing, especially to the actors
17. don't just SILENCE your mobile phone, turn it OFF! Texting on a silenced phone disturbs those in the audience and on stage - the lighting designer worked hard to create his/her template, and does not wish to have blue cell phone light added to the palette.

O.K., back to the festival lineup. Next to be seen, in July, will be Shakespeare's comedy "Twelfth Night". Then, in August, it'll be the political drama "Coriolanus", his final tragedy and considered by most, if not all, to be one of his greatest. I'm sure I'll blog on both. However, a) there will not be such a high caloric pre-theatre intake as this old hippie doesn't need the calories and b) I think I'll take a copy of Nightingale's "rules" just in case The Lout shows up!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Diego Rivera's Cubist Period

Well, since we were looking at Picasso a couple of blogs ago I thought it might be interesting to see some cubist works by an artist not particularly know for said type of paintings - Diego Rivera. Rivera, born in Mexico in 1886, worked in Europe from 1907 to 1921 (the cubist portraits came from the years between 1913-1917), and the pieces below show some of Rivera’s artistic production during the formative years he spent in literary and art circles in Paris during World War I, providing a new perspective on this lesser known and crucial period of the Mexican artist’s career. Rivera came somewhat late to cubism and who, as he was exploring cubism and almost goes to abstraction, said that from the beginning, he accepted Pablo Picasso's mastery. "I readily proclaimed myself Picasso's disciple," he wrote. "I have always been proud that Picasso was not only my teacher, but my very dear and close friend." The pieces shown below explore the artist's experimentation with the style of art that uses geometric forms while he was in Europe, before he became much more famous for his signature murals and his marriage to Frida Kahlo. Abandoning cubism in 1917 after physically assaulting an art critic who disparaged the style, Rivera returned to Mexico in 1921 and began his work on the aforementioned murals for which he is best known.

According to his official biography, Diego Rivera "was at the forefront of the Mexico's revival of mural painting. Initially, upon his return from Europe, he concentrated largely on creating frescos portraying the history and social problems of Mexico. Commonly referred to as a painter of the people and for the people, Diego Rivera held fast to his firm belief that art could be used to bring attention to matters that need to be addressed. He is known as a Mexican social realist muralist whose famous monumental frescoes gave life to revolutionary themes, a subject close to his heart. Diego Rivera paintings focus specifically on social issues and the hardships of everyday life. His art also champions the causes of the oppressed. He was an artist who used his work politically to speak for the underprivileged masses in his home land of Mexico. Moreover, Diego Rivera was a talented printmaker, sculptor and book illustrator."

In 1957, Rivera died of heart failure in his San Angel studio in Mexico.

While I'm going to share some information on the first portrait shown below, my favorite is the second piece shown - Retrato Jacques Lipschitz.

Rivera's Portrait of Ilya Ehrenburg shows his attentiveness to Cubism, especially in its second, synthetic phase in which the use of flatly colored and clearly defined shapes and varied textures combine to emphasize the two-dimensional perception of the image. At the same time, the artist seems to defy his painting’s two dimensionality by giving each of its colors and shapes its own, frequently three-dimensional, texture. This is particularly evident in his depiction of Ehrenburg’s pipe and pen, the prominently displayed symbol of the writer’s profession, whose modeled gesso protrudes from the surface of the painting. In this way, the work demonstrates that through oblique and simultaneous fragmentation of the picture plane and the transformation of perspective, Rivera opted for a hybridization of processes (Orphism, pointillism, futurism, abstraction) and, occasionally, of techniques steeped in a creative use of materials—including sand, sawdust, and paper—in oil paintings. The rusty red pigments of this canvas are pocked with sticky sand and Ehrenburg’s hair is formed by greasy ridges of black paint.

Portrait of Ilya Ehrenburg, 1915

Retrato Jacques Lipschitz, Paris 1916
This is my favorite piece amongst the pieces shown.

Martín Luis Guzmán, 1915

Sailor at Lunch (Navy Rifleman,1914

Seated Woman [Mujer Sentada], 1917

Girl with Artichokes [Muchacha con alcachofas], 1913

Dos mujeres, 1914

Portrait of Madame Marguerite Lhote, 1917

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bobby Flay's Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf with Balsamic Glaze

The photo is not that great but the meatloaf (or, in my case, the turkeyloaf) is fabulous! The only changes I make are that I only use turkey not the pork, veal and ground beef chuck (although I have made it with the pork and beef and it's great - I've never used veal because I am not a veal fan); I use Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese instead of the cheeses listed; I saute some sliced mushrooms and throw them in as well; I use Macadamia Nut Oil (it's a bit pricey but it's healthier and the taste is wonderful); I use sea salt instead of regular salt (and not much salt as I don't need the sodium). Finally, I add some regular mustard, some Jack Daniels honey dijon mustard and some worcestershire sauce. If you don't want to "present" it and it's just for family time you can cook it in a large baking dish rather than the baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I must admit, though, it does get oohs and ahs when it placed on a serving plate and then sliced according to each person's size request). However, be sure to use Panko bread crumbs. Sometimes I use the plain ones, sometimes the Italian seasoned. Whichever one you use, once you use Panko bread crumbs you'll be hooked - they are fabulous and sooooo much better than regular bread crumbs. If you don't want the sticky balsamic vinegar glaze just go the ketchup topping route. Add mashed potatoes, greens beans (or whatever green vegie you like), a Caesar salad, a nice wine of your choice or whatever 'tis you prefer to drink with dinner and voila, a easy and delicious dinner. And the leftovers (if you have any) reheat quite nicely.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 yellow pepper, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, smashed to a paste with coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 cup panko (Japanese) bread crumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan
1 cup ketchup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the zucchini, peppers, garlic paste, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste, and cook until almost soft, 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and herbs in a large bowl. Add the meat, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 cup of the ketchup, 2 tablespoons of the balsamic vinegar, and the cooled vegetables and mix until just combined.

Mold the meatloaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Whisk together the remaining ketchup, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Brush the mixture over the entire loaf. Bake the meatloaf for 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Got a few million to spend?

Monet's “Au Parc Monceau" (just sold for 10.3 million at Christie's International)

Picasso's “Homme a l’epee" (just sold for 9.4 million at Christie's International)

Sotheby's version of Picasso’s “Homme a l’epee" which just sold for 11.4 million
Of the two Picasso pieces I prefer the Christie's piece, so, if I had an extra 10 million I'd have chosen that one.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Matisse Monday

comments to come

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers and Their Children

'Tis Father's Day, and even though my father passed away (from a rare form of cancer) 6 years ago, I still think of him on this day and revisit memories that the two of us created. My dad was 88 when he passed and he led a full life, doing more things in one lifetime than most do in 3 or 4. He traveled all over the world, both when he was in the Navy and as a civilian with my Mom. We had our "not so positive moments" (all children and parents do) but we also had many many "oh so positive moments" and in the grand scheme of it all our relationship was special - after all, I was his baby, his little girl. Most of all, I know that my father loved me with every fiber of his being. Some of my best memories are the everyday things we did like just hanging out with one another. I cherish our chats, walking with him while he held my hand and gave me that fatherly advice all dads have a propensity for giving. And while I could retell about a billion special times with my Dad I won't because those were "our times". But, as I said before, it was the little things like crying together at those sappy commericals and TV shows (my dad was a very sentimental man), it was the pride and love that shone in his eyes when he spoke to and of me. Most of all, it was the love - the fatherly love that I could always count on, no matter what.

Being raised with that kind of love makes me sad when I think of my brothers and their children. My brother Keith (who's on a liver transplant list) hasn't seen his children (through no fault of his own) since they were little kids. His daughter, Christine, has to be in her late thirties and his son, Alexander, must in his mid-twenties. My oldest brother Randall lives with his second wife and they have 3 children. His daughter, Channing, is 13 (and oh what a "joyful" age that is to deal with...) and is his biological child. His two sons, Chandler and Dylan are 8 and 7, respectively (although Chandler will turn 9 next month - his birthday is the same as my mother's) and both boys are adopted. Randall will turn 62 on the 8th of July and I don't know if you can imagine having children that young at that age - it is not a walk in the park. Randall also has a son, Paul, from his first marriage. Paul will turn 40 at the end of this month and his relationship with his father has been basically non-existent since my brother and his first wife divorced. My parents always saw Paul as he was growing up (while my ex sister-in-law was very good about that she wasn't good about not bashing my brother to his son - in fact, she was relentless about doing it) and he still sees my Mom during most Christmas holidays (he's on the West Coast, she's on the East Coast). However, the first wife was so bitter over the divorce she absolutely ground Randall into the dirt in Paul's eyes. Now I know that there are always two sides to every story and my brother is certainly not guilt free. But he has made overtures over the years which Paul has rebuffed (although they did get along when my Dad died, even taking the same flights together, and every time my Mom comes out to the West Coast Paul will come to my brother's house to visit). Mind you, Paul lives about 30-45 minutes away from my brother but will not make the trip even when he's called and asked him to come visit his half-siblings. What makes me so sad is that Paul won't let go of his anger (and hurt, although he'd never admit the hurt part). Their relationship reminds me of the father/son relationship in the film "Smoke Signals". "Smoke Signals" originates from the short story "This is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona" that is found in Native American writer Sherman Alexie's book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Alexie also wrote the screenplay for the film). The film is a great film that explores the father/son dynamic and I often teach it in my literature classes. It is replete with all that symbolism that we English professors just love and also contains classic Native American humor that I often have to give my students an overview about since many would otherwise not "get" its subtleties and quirks. Anyway, I could give you the basic story but instead I'll share a review that sums it up quite nicely:

"The movie poses two essential questions: 1) If someone else has mistreated, hurt, abandoned, or disrespected you, is it possible to forgive them if they've NEVER asked forgiveness, never done anything to "put it right," never returned in atonement to undo the damage, and never begtun to deserve it? And 2) if it *is* possible--and it may not be--SHOULD you? Because if you do, doesn't that just make you a willing victim by letting them "get away" with what they did, and pretending the relationship is okay again?

Victor lives in the tension of this dilemma. As a 12-year-old youth, he witnessed the effects of alcohol on his family. His father vascillated between being loving and instantly "turning" to become hostile, violent, and humiliating to the young boy. Victor finds himself becoming more deeply embarrassed by his family's domestic abuse and alcohol use, even defiantly scolding his own father that his favorite Indian is "Nobody...nobody...nobody!"

Victor's mother awakens the next morning to see Victor angrily smashing his father's beer bottles on the back of his father's pickup truck (the two things he believes his father loves more than him), and the epiphany stuns the mother, who insists on an immediate end to family drunkenness. Proving Victor's fears true, the father--forced to choose between alcohol and family--flees the family, and never returns. It is within that unchanged arrangement that his father dies, 8 years later, having never returned home.

Victor and his oddball companion Thomas make a side-splittingly funny journey south from Idaho to Phoenix together to make arrangements for the father's possessions, confronted by the racism, peculiarities, and hostilities of the non-Indian "outside" world. Thomas, having never seen the dark side of Victor's father, irritates Victor with incessant stories and tales about the dad's greatness.

Victor, having been so deeply wounded and sold-out by his father's abandonment, has become tough, fierce, aggressive...and lonely. "You can't trust anyone!" he scolds. "People will walk all over you!" His mistrust poisons his friendships, family, and feelings about his father. He's become just another tough guy, hardened by family violence and substance use.

In Phoenix, Victor finds an essential artifact of his father's life: a worn-out photo with "HOME" written sloppily on it. At once, Victor begins to realize that his father's fatal flaw was COWARDICE: the father could confess his sins to new companions a thousand miles from home, but could never return home and undo the damage he'd caused. And so his son has suffered for 8 years. Victor begins to realize that he himself is allowing his actions to damage others, and that it is cowardice, not manly independence, that controls his decision to remain distant and fierce.

Victor slowly begins to repent of his own abusive toughness, cutting his hair in symbolic repentance (traditional hair-cutting is done either in grief, or in repentence for shameful behavior). The process of discovery continues when Thomas angrily confronts Victor about Victor's own behavior: remaining cold and distant from his own mother, acting forceful and ruthless to others, etc.

Victor ends the film by freeing himself of his 8-year hostility toward his unforgiven father, and in that final act of forgiveness we find that the greatest benefit is for VICTOR, who becomes kinder, funnier, gentler, and more confident in his friendships. The significance of forgiveness, he learns, isn't to let someone else off the hook, but to let one's own self off the hook of the pain caused by another, rather than carrying that pain inside for years.

In the final scene, this release of aged anger is represented by the cathartic release of his father's ashes into a river, meaningfully shown in film montage as expanding in power from streams into torrents, much like the energy of either a person enraged or a person set free.

It is at the end of the film that we really begin to understand Thomas' original cryptic remark at the beginning, "Some children aren't really children at all. They're just pillars of flame that burn everything they touch. And some children are just pillars of ash, and they fall apart as soon as you touch them."

The final scene when Victor finally sets everything free is shown below:

The young man you'll see at the beginning of the clip is Thomas-Builds-the-Fire who serves the role of the Native American storyteller and is also the narrator in the film. His voiceover is part of a piece by Dick Lourie entitled "Forgiving Our Fathers." The young man on the bridge scattering his father's ashes is Victor.

Take a look at the included clip but, more importantly, rent this film - it'll be well worth your time and, as sons and daughters, we've all had parental issues (even those of you who won't admit it) that, while not as extreme as Victor's, need forgiving.

As I stated earlier, my nephew Paul will be turning 40 next month and still has ongoing issues with letting go of his pain and anger at his father. I think I'll send him a copy of "Smoke Signals" - if he watches it with his heart it just may be the best present anyone will ever give him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Brief Getaway

For the next four days I am going on a getaway to Barona Resort and Casino. Of course, everybody thinks anytime anyone goes to a resort that has a casino that the casino is the place to spend one's time. Not me. I may not even set foot in the casino, unless it's on my way to one of their restaurants that I particularily like (I always sit in its portico facing the golf course whenever I dine there). No, I am going for rest and relaxation. This resort has a truly tranquil setting. Their hotel rooms are expansive. The golf course is a championship caliber golf course, with five tees ranging for players of all skill levels, from "regular" players to professionals. Golfweek rates it in the top five of all golf courses in California, in company with Pebble Beach and Spyglass. Golf Digest ranks the course in the top 5 in the country (resort courses). Now, it would be a challenge for me to play their course due to my ACL limitation but I might just noodle around on the putting range and perhaps reserve a round just to drive the cart and enjoy the natural scenery (can't get lost as all their carts have GPS systems).

The resort meticulously maintains and manicures the grounds and there is a variety of nature just ready and waiting for exploration - I'm going to go to their Chekwaa Gardens nursery for a walking map so I can explore said nature and grounds. I'm also going to visit their Rose Garden, selected as one of only 10 evaluation sites in the country for the world-renowned David Austin Roses. While the resort is at the forefront of conservation, and operates an award-winning on-site water treatment facility and innovative water recovery program I doubt I'll visit the treatment facility. I will, however, visit the waterfalls and koi pond (it also has rosy reds). It goes without saying that I'll make at least one visit to the Spa for massages and pampering.

Today, I heard some news that truly saddened me - Kenny Rankin died at age 69 from advanced lung cancer. Perhaps many of you have never heard of him but he was quite infuential and played with everyone from the Beatles to Bob Dylan. In fact, he collaborated with and played on Dylan's landmark 1965 "Bringing It All Back Home" album. Paul McCartney was so blown away by Rankin that when he (McCartney) and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Hall Paul McCartney asked Rankin to perform "Blackbird", among other McCartney-Lennon pieces. He sang jazz, he sang acoustic, he sang everything. A respected guitarist, it's been said that his career almost defied categorization as he made music from one end of the spectrum to the other. Born in New York City, Rankin said that Laura Nyro was one of his major influences, stating in 2007, "She profoundly changed my musical life and affected it to this day, more than anyone or anything else. She was deep, dark and light, the spectrum of passion." His voice was golden, a salve for troubled times and a joyfulness during good times. Now, you may be wondering why this blog took a turn from me talking about my resort getaway to talking about the death of this musician. Whenever I think of Kenny Rankin certain songs just automatically pop into my heard, "What Matters Most","Like a Seed", "Blackbird" (although he didn't write this one), "Lost Up in Loving You" (especially "Lost Up in Loving You") and, most of all, "Peaceful".

The lyrics for "Peaceful" are as follows:
In the morning fun when no one will be drinking any more wine
I'll wake the sun up by givin' him a fresh air full of the wind cup
And I won't be found in the shadows hiding sorrow
And I can wait for fate to bring around to me any part of my tomorrow,

'cause it's oh, so peaceful here
There's no one bending over my shoulder
Nobody breathing in my ear
Oh, so peaceful here

In the evening shadows are callin' me and the dew settles in my mind
And I think of friends in the yesterday when my plans were giggled in rhyme
I had a son while on the run and his love brought a tear to my eye
And maybe some day he'll up and say "We had a pretty nice time", oh, oh,
oh, my

'cause it's oh, so peaceful here
There's no one bending over my shoulder
Nobody breathing in my ear
Oh, so peaceful here

Of course you "get" the song more when you listen to him sing it ( could include a link here but I'm too tired to do so) and it would be more impactful if you bought one of the CDs that includes it (perhaps "The Best of Kenny Rankin - Peaceful" if it's still available) but that song got me through many a dark time. And that's why I'm going out to the resort - because it's "oh so peaceful [there]."

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bobby Flay's Sixteen-Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breast with Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce

I've been meaning to add this post for a while now but just haven't gotten around to it. A few weeks before I got bronchitis (which is a whole 'nother story...) I tried this recipe on some friends. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I do not cook on a regular basis but this was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon times when I found this recipe and wanted to try it. Since I don't have a grill and my friend's husband is the grill king of all time the dinner was at their home. There was also a lovely Caesar salad (what am I saying - all Caesar salads are lovely- how can anyone screw up a Caesar salad?). However, when making said salad be sure to use a wooden bowl and wooden salad bowl utensils only and don't forget to do the lemon rub. Also, use Caesar croutons, not regular croutons, and don't use parmesan cheese - the only cheese to use is parmigiano-reggiano. Once you try parmigiano-reggiano you'll be hooked and it can be used in a variety of dishes. Desert was simple as well - fresh berries with balsamic drizzle and almond cream (recipe is below). The two people in charge of the wine selection decided to make it an all-chardonnay selection which consisted of the following - Chalk Hill, Grgich Hills, Chateau St. Jean, Hanzell Vineyards and Kendall-Jackson (and yes, all bottles had been sampled, most completely drained, by the evening's end). The only deviation from the recipe was I reduced the rub on the pieces that I would be eating as I have a sensitive tummy (and even took my Prevacid before eating). The rest of the chicken pieces got the full amount. We also used more than 4 pieces of chicken as there were more than 4 of us eating.

In any event, the chicken was ROCKING and everyone raved. This is a simple simple recipe and I think you'll find it to your liking so try it, try it, try it.

1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon pasilla chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon chile de arbol
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
Heaping 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 (8-ounce) boneless chicken breasts, skin on
1/4 cup canola oil
Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce

Black Pepper Vinegar Sauce: 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 2 teaspoons honey 1 teaspoon kosher salt 3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper Combine the vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. The sauce can be made 1 day in advance, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Heat your grill to high.

Stir together the ancho powder, pasilla powder, cumin, coriander, ginger, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, chile de arbol, 2 tablespoons salt, black pepper and cayenne in a small bowl.

Brush both sides of the breasts with the oil and season with salt. Rub the top side of each breast with a few tablespoons of the rub and place on the grill, rub side down.

Grill until golden brown and slightly charred, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn the breasts over and continue grilling until just cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes longer.

Remove the chicken from the grill and drizzle with the black pepper vinegar sauce.

Tent loosely with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.
Fresh Berries with Balsamic Drizzle and Almond Cream

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 pound sliced or quartered strawberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blackberries
3 tablespoons lightly toasted sliced almonds

Place the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until reduced to about half the original volume and vinegar has a syrupy consistency, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone, sugar, and almond extract and whisk until very smooth and sugar has dissolved.

When ready to serve the dessert, divide the strawberries, raspberries and blackberries evenly between 4 or 6 small dessert coupes. Place a generous dollop of the cream mixture over the top of the fruit, then drizzle with a teaspoon or two of the reduced balsamic vinegar. Garnish with almonds and serve immediately.

At Odds of Almost 12-1 (11.90-1 to be exact), 'Twas the Other Son of Birdstone Who Brought It Home in the Belmont


I have a lot to say about this race but I need to germinate a bit so my comments will be forthcoming.

For now, here's the race:

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Night Poetry - Baca Style

“Language to me is what sunrise is to the birds…what water is to a man that just crossed the desert" - Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca's work speaks to me in ways that few authors can. For whatever reason it reaches and touches me with an unexplainable force and power as it dives directly to my depths - intellectually, artistically, and emotionally. A while ago Jimmy was our featured author at a campus literary arts event. The night before his reading and book signing there were a "by invitation only" select few of us who dined with Jimmy at a fellow professor's home. Our appetites were sated with the tenderest, most delicious Carne Asada I've ever eaten (and I've eaten more Carne Asada in my life than I can even begin to remember), guacamole nestled atop lettuce leafs in the mortar and accompanied by the pestle with which it was created, both appearing (the mortar and pestle, not the guacamole) to have been carved by ancient Mayan gods and tortillas, warm and freshly made on the premises by our host's abuela. Our thirsts were quenched with cervezas so cold it's as if each one was plucked from the icy streams of Oregon or Alaska, rivulets of ice "sweats" artistically dancing down each bottle as it was lifted from its temporary beer tub housing. We communed as English Professors, poets and writers do when given the chance and Jimmy honored us with a reading of never before heard sections from the galley of his new book which will be on bookshelves in the latter part of this year. The next night, after Jimmy's reading and book signing (which was SRO, even spilling out of the venue's doors), a select few of us took Jimmy to a nearby establishment for more communing, food (not anywhere near as good as the night before but satisfying nonetheless), music and, of course, "adult beverages" (the choice of this night was margaritas and tequila shots...are you getting the idea that English Professors, on occasion, indulge in "adult beverages"...hmm...). The night ended sooner to sunrise than not and I made my way home reflecting on conversations with him I will never forget. He is such an inspirational human being and his life story is beyond compelling. By the by, as a side note, Jimmy's performance on campus was filmed and one of my students is friends with the young man who did the filming (actually the young man who did the filming works for my student). Devon (my student) gave me a rough cut, an unedited copy (with the promise that he would give me the edited version next semester when he takes another one of my classes) of the performance at the end of the semester - it's fabulous.

Anyway, the whole reason I even started this blog is because I was reading some of his work earlier tonight and my mind wandered back to the aforementioned events, compelling me to go to YouTube and open the link to a performance he did on Def Poetry Jam in 2003. The clip below is "Untitled" but actually the poem he reads is entitled "Julia". I hope when you watch the clip you'll be able to tune in to the passion and power of his work.

Now that you've heard Jimmy tell you a little bit about Julia (he wrote a entire book about her that was published last year - it's titled Rita and Julia and it intensely transcends) , here's another link for you: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.poetrypoetry.com/Features/JSBaca/JimmySantiagoBaca.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.poetrypoetry.com/Features/JSBaca/JSBaca.html&h=222&w=317&sz=11&tbnid=AY9E7HO546XUfM:&tbnh=83&tbnw=118&prev=/images%3Fq%3DJimmy%2BSantiago%2BBaca%2Bimages&hl=en&usg=__Nw4uHafSJRFzjKnExUgC4ShFocw=&ei=YJEpSv-5Lo-eMofc2cgJ&sa=X&oi=image_result&resnum=2&ct=image
This link gives you the audio from a reading of his at the Chicago Field Museum.
I'll share brief comments on each selection but you really need to listen to all of the pieces, preferably as one continuous streaming listen. Seriously, listen to the whole thing and listen with more than your mind - listen with your heart.
What's really cool about the audio selections is the backstory Jimmy gives the audience before he reads each piece.
"Introduction" - Good to hear - gives some of Baca's backstory.
"Transvestite Poem #1 & Transvestite Poem #2" - Artist/photographer James Drake asked Jimmy to collaborate with him on a project wherein Drake took photos of transvestites in Mexico. He asked Jimmy to write a series of poems to accompany said photographs and that collaboration has been exhibited in numerous galleries and art venues. They have since done other projects together. I know that some of you reading this blog may have issues with the subject matter. However, if you'll look to the core of every human being having that basic need for love, for connection, for belonging, for identity I think you'll be able to get the message he's sending.
"What Kind of Poem is Appropriate" - A must listen. Very very powerful. I just hope that when I die someone is able to speak as lovingingly about me as he does about his friend who has just been murdered.
"Grandma" - I never knew any of my grandparents but the poem is still applicable to us all.
"I Called It Love" - Reflective and effective. Looking back, something we all should do and a message about not apologizing for who one is - very cool. Talks to one's inner sense of self.
"Set This Book on Fire" - This will grab you by your guts and not let go - very powerful.
"Little Girl" - Talks about a painting but primarily about his work with young students and how he feels about making sure "the light" doesn't go out in this particular child (and, on a grander scale, all of us). Compelling.
"Parting Words" - Another must listen. Very poignant. I don't want to give you too much detail because I want you to listen to his story and how it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to make sure we let the light live in all of us and how it's imperative that we don't put another person's light out - how we asbsolutely have to do whatever is necessary to keep the light burning.

One last link clip - this was a reading that Baca did in San Diego for the Museum of Contemporary Arts and UCSD's "Artists on the Cutting Edge" series. I'm too tired to provide commentary on this blog - perhaps I'll come back another day and update this entry. Anyway, it's well worth your time to watch and listen. You'll hear truth as he speaks from his soul to yours. I've seen Baca perform in person many times and, without fail, he's moved me to tears on every occasion.

OK, it's late, tomorrow is the Belmont Stakes and I still need to handicap the race. I hope you'll enjoy the Baca work I've provided. Don't just focus on his poetry that I've included in this entry - he's written some prose that will shake you to your core and I can turn you on to that work as well. He's someone you'll not forget, and his voice should (no, needs to) be shared and experienced.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

There Will Never Be Another One Like Him

As the Belmont Stakes is but 2 days away it's time to remember the greatest horse of all time and his amazing 1973 Belmont Stakes race ( I still weep every time I see it) when he won by an astounding 31 lengths. Secretariat was, is, and will always be the best thoroughbred of all time - bar none. But more importantly, he was beauty in its truest form and watching him in action is akin to drinking nectar from the gods. Secretariat was perfection, he was dignity, he was grace, he was that spirit we should all aspire to.
It's important to note that during his Triple Crown season he broke records in every one of the races - records that still stand 30 plus years later.
Below are some great videos of "Big Red" - you should watch each and every one of them. And, if you don't get a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye watching this horse, especially his Belmont race, you have no soul. He was truly a gift from the gods and he is indeed a work of art, as much as anything hanging in any gallery or museum. Enjoy watching the artistry that is Secretariat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vl-IVl-UGE4&feature=related (wonderful piece with Penny Chenery - Secretariat's owner - input as well as jockey and industry input - shows his Derby run and, of course, the Belmont)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zHvR7K1btQ&feature=related (great video - includes Belmont Stakes post parade and after the race)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBTGvi1hWQ4&feature=related (Secretariat's Triple Crown - Part 1 - Sportscentury - this is a must view)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-KvaeuIIsw&feature=related (Secretariat's Triple Crown - Part 2 - Sportscentury - this is a must view)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyqllleV6WA (his Kentucky Derby - remember he ran each quarter faster than the previous - his time still stands today and will never be broken)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEOlWDz2KBw (his Preakness - not so fond of the music but the footage is great)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIH1cJqlVKU (another view of his Preakness - some stuff at the beginning of the video, then the race, then the whole time controversy where Secretariat got screwed by the Maryland Racing Officials - however, his time still stands as the "official" time has been tied, never broken. Anyone who views the footage and knows anything knows that "Big Red" ran faster than he was credited and it is deplorable what the Maryland officials did)
http://www.iviewtube.com/videos/200/secretariat-1973-belmont-stakes (his Belmont. A ad will pop up - just close it and continue to enjoy the race. Even though the race announcer says he won by 25 lenghts it was really 31 lengths as has been documented. Also, he does the 1 1/2 mie race is 2:24 - beyond incredible, amazing, whatever word you want to use it was unfriggingbelievable. Shows some post race footage at well)
http://www.iviewtube.com/v/199/secretariat-1973-triple-crown-winner (another view - in color - some really nice images following the race of him running free just for the pure joy of running, etc - worth viewing even though you just viewed the previous clip)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02IRNl1jrws&feature=related (his last race - the 1973 Canadian International)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1xW9YqPKS8 (another view of his last race with some nice closeups and front views. The only thing that really upsets me about this race is that Eddie Maple - his regular rider, Ron Turcotte, was unable to ride that day due to a technicality - whipped him - he didn't need to be whipped and Maple knew that)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O57qMR45Y1o&feature=related (just running around in the field, having fun. Absolute joy and poetry in motion)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Behind The Scenes of Big Whiskey and The GrooGrux King Album That Came Out Today

This is a great CD that finds DMB returning to form. It is also a fitting tribute to LeRoi Moore (founding member and saxophonist who died from complications following an ATV accident in 2008. "GrooGrux" was LeRoi's nickname. He had been expected to recover from his injuries and Jeff Coffin from Bela Fleck's Flecktones was filling in for him while the band was on tour - the tour where the band heard of Moore's unexpected death. This CD hadn't been completed before LeRoi's accident and he does play on some of the tracks although the album credits don't note which tracks he played on and which tracks he didn't. In fact, he opens and closes the CD - note that on the last cut you need to let it play all the way through - there is some blank airtime from the end of the vocals to the start of LeRoi finishing the piece. After Moore died Coffin played on the unfinished tracks and does justice to both Leroi and the band).
Although Moore isn't on the entire album his spirit is found in every note and every word.
Dave Matthews drew the detailed artwork for the CD cover, as well as the drawings found in the super deluxe edition (as Matthews says in the DVD, "all I used to was draw until I got interrupted by playing music") .
Pick up this album - it is an elegant tribute to a fallen friend- you won't be disappointed.
The link above takes you to scenes from the DVD that comes with the CD (if you buy the special edition). Before the piece airs you'll get a choice to see one commercial and then the special uninterrupted or to see multiple commericals. Pick the first choice - one commercial and the uninterrupted special. The special (not the commercial) is 29 minutes so get your favorite adult beverage or whatever it is you have whenever watching visuals and get comfortable.