Sunday, February 15, 2015

50 Shades

50 Shades of Gray

I didn't read the book so I went into this movie totally blind, which for a change is good.  I was waiting to see for myself what the hype was all about.  I was sitting there waiting to see that something, perhaps it's an indescribable magic, that just is.  Some would call it chemistry, but it's more than that.  Whatever that missing element for this story was, it wasn't there for me.  All I could do was to break it down into predictable elements that were going to progress into areas that were just going to build up with violence against a woman that this Anastasia-character was going to trade in order to get more from Christian, who I guessed had an abusive childhood and felt this need to abuse women and not have any sort of a normal relationship.

The Anastasia character rejects a boy who has been nice to her for years to accept a rich asshole who has a fetish for chaining and beating women with riding crops and belts.  This is the first time in a very long time where I have gone to a movie and actually walked out of the theater because I just didn't want to watch a woman get hit with a belt after she tells the dominant character "I want to see how bad it really is."  After the second hit with the belt, I hit the door.  It's empty.  It's soulless and perhaps pain is the message of needing to feel alive somehow.

To me, it was the classic cycle of the abused becoming the abuser.  However, this guy makes it legitimate with contracts and non-disclosure agreements.  The naive girl believes she can fix him and ignores her first instinct to leave him to his untreated sickness.  Perhaps I personalized my response to this train wreck of a movie that is making a ton of money worldwide.  All I could see was a girl who is being led down a road that would leave her with physical and emotional scars.  Her purpose, persumably she's in love with Grey.  She's consenting to being physically hit.  He's aware that he has issues that he choses not to deal with, but rather he is feeding something very dark indeed.

Some press has called this a woman's fantasy.  I agree, it perhaps is a singular woman's fantasy, I rather think of it as giving up your free will and power over your body.  True, there is surrender with sex, but this domination type of sex is a response in a fear of being vulnerable.  It reminded me of what Anais Nin wrote,  “Man can never know the loneliness a woman knows. Man lies in the woman's womb only to gather strength, he nourishes himself from this fusion, and then he rises and goes into the world, into his work, into battle, into art. He is not lonely. He is busy. The memory of the swim in amniotic fluid gives him energy, completion. Woman may be busy too, but she feels empty. Sensuality for her is not only a wave of pleasure in which she is bathed, and a charge of electric joy at contact with another. When man lies in her womb, she is fulfilled, each act of love a taking of man within her, an act of birth and rebirth, of child rearing and man bearing. Man lies in her womb and is reborn each time anew with a desire to act, to be. But for woman, the climax is not in the birth, but in the moment man rests inside of her.”  

And yet, Grey fights this very notion.  He fed off her pain and the causing pain.  Sadism has never appealed to me for many reasons.  Perhaps it is because I would never submit to cruelty in any form in my life.  It flies in the face of all that is sensual and passionate.  The senses and pleasures have been distorted just so some people can feel they are alive.  My brain would not shut up during the movie.  I watched and realized I was watching a woman throwing herself at a man, an unrequited love.  He saw he could do anything he wanted with her and that made him want her as a vessel to use for his purposes.  

I saw enough.  She wan't going to fix him and he was using her.  In another socio-economic class this would have been an episode on "Cops" where the man is in a wife beater and the woman has a black eye.  Yeah, that's hot.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Interview - The Streisand Effect in Motion.

How do you make a picture go from 'not watch' to 'must see'?  Give it global attention.  It's called the Streisand Effect.  Years ago when Barbara Streisand called attention to how Google maps had included her house, she tried in vain to have the information removed from public view.
Sony Pictures (C) 2014

The Streisand Effect is now officially defined as a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information having the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely via the Internet.   

I never planned on seeing "The Interview".  I am not into the stoner buddy movies.  However, it's like being compelled to watch what people thought was worth threatening others over.  This was it?  It was like watching the antics of high school boys who obsess over the usual things of their lives, drugs, sex, success and how to be more successful, get laid the most and then doing it the "American" way.  Weave that in with CIA intrigue, a Leader that people are afraid of because of his access to nuclear weapons laced with emotional daddy issues.  A fantasy assasination plot with bitten off fingers.  I think none of these are really spoilers for the movie, because it's much like "Christmas Vacation", where you know every time you see it; the cat still gets torched and people still laugh.  It's absurd.

In the movie, you see the battle of censorship to have the removal of mythology of the leader.  Absurd myths, such as, President Kim Jong-Un doesn't have an anus.  It's this over-the-top nature that this movie takes that quite possibly is viewed as a personal attack of laughter.  We are laughing at the situation, the means, Sony pictures, fear, nukes, the CIA, the North Korean hackers and ourselves.  I never had any plans of watching this movie.  Yet, thoughout this movie, all I could think of was how "The Marriage of Figaro", a comedy, written by Pierre Beaumarchais helped to fire up the French Revolution.  

It's a dangerous movie in North Korea, because they could see their leader is not a God.  They could see that all they are led into is just 'honey-dicking'.  Because words still hold power and that is why they weren't laughing with the world.  So, why was the movie pulled from theaters?  Quite possibly for one reason.  Perhaps they believe their own caricature of  North Korea's Kim Jong-Un.  If they believed he was as unstable as their fictions version, maybe they were being socially responsible by pulling the movie from theaters, but at the same time, they are validating the insanity of Kim Jong-Un.  

For the west, who is incredibly used to the satirization of EVERYTHING, where there is nothing sacred, and not used to remaining silent, it's a culture shock.  When we don't like something, we joke about it.  Create movies that blow up our governments.  We don't view it as profane.  With our imaginations, we create new worlds to escape from in 120 minute segments.  Dreaming for a moment that the world is either worse or better.  

Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw said, "When you tell people the truth, you have better make them laugh, or they will kill you."  

We were laughing so hard that we couldn't hear the silence of North Korea.  In a world where everything is a form of propaganda for profit or power, not even a comedy is overlooked.  Now that the "Interview" is released into the world, what impact might this have on the people of North Korea?   Perhaps that is the next act in this play.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to Sony Pictures, President Obama, President Kim Jong-Un, Seth Rogan and Pierre Beaumarchais.  I wonder, what is the real revolution?  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice or The Longest Night

 All I do know is I don't have to eat the elephant in one sitting. It's one bite at a time.  
I always remind myself that praise and criticism are the same coin.  
A lot of good has come this year.  Another 5-Star review, a lot of lobster and today, the shortest day of the year, received word that I have been accepted into a very fine externship (not internship) in Grinnell.

How many people say you can't do certain things at certain ages?  I once saw a flash of an old movie, where the young man had stated he was a failure at 20.  Why?  What an insane way to view a life.  When a person measures their life by the standards of others, is that wise?  We may live to be 100.  We may only live to be 20.  That isn't the point.  Those are YOUR years, live them well.

I was sad about it being cooked.  

I don't feel very good reading this...kind of stomach churning.
Ah...better now.
Why make a fruit tart when you can make a savory one.

"Not Quite" Head Cheese.  
So as we, broke bread together, ate curries, drank beers and contemplated our futures...
The Motley Crew of Badasses - My Friends
I thought to myself, what a wonderful year it has been.  I wouldn't have had it at all if I would have said to myself, "I am too...(insert disqualifying statement)."  I can't think of how many conversations I had with various young people who were concerned with either being too young or too old.  Let me just say, that while you are ALIVE is the time that is just right.  When did we start putting a time limit on what we can do with our lives?  It's a distracting thought that seems to come up as I continue to do many things with my life.  It's a happy day.  I keep learning that I know nothing.  The more I learn, the more I don't know.  It's hard to be arrogant when you know nothing.  
So, as I began, I will end with...
 All I do know is I don't have to eat the elephant in one sitting. It's one bite at a time.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lago Tacos in Uptown

Lago Tacos in Uptown is located at the former Heidi's, where Chef Stuart Woodman once served up an amazing menu and it flamed out in complete chaos.  This was a bittersweet visit for me, since I actually love the Heidi's menu more, but I wanted to give Lago Tacos a chance.  I sat at the bar, where it is peppered with big screen TVs, happy hour menus and a traditional toast (out of their book of toasts) at sunset, tequila sunset shot glasses are sent around the house.  It complements the house margarita I am drinking, and I am on foot, so I feel safe enough to indulge.
Fried Avocado with Jalapeño Ranch
I decided my meal in advance, but look over the menu for about 5 minutes.  For the appetizer, I have never had deep fried Avocados.  The batter is light, almost like a tempura.  The seasoning is great and there is a great balance of heat and the acidity of the ranch dressing.  This works.  This would be a great appetizer to share, a bit much for one person to consume.

Grilled Chicken Lago Taco served doubled up on Corn Tortillas with Refried Pinto Beans
From their extensive menu of tacos and burritos, I went a little more traditional and had wanted some heat.  I didn't understand why they felt they needed to double up on the tortillas, I tasted more corn than chicken with the first one.    After that appetizer, there was no way to finish this.  I like the presentation, but I think they could have gone with a hard shell.  A doubled up soft shell, without anything in between the tortillas seemed a bit of a carb overload.  You walk away feeling bloated. Underwhelmed.
White Chocolate Banana Quesadilla With Caramel sauce, Cinnamon Ice Cream
This is the sole dessert on the menu.  The White Chocolate Banana Quesadilla with caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream.  Presentation is nice, but delivery is not.  How do you normally eat a quesadilla?  You either pick it up with your hands or you use a knife and fork.  Utensil provided, a spoon.  That caramel sauce is sticky.  As soon as you bite into it, the bananas slide around and not to mention, the white chocolate sauce is dripping.  You are best served by opening up the quesadilla and taking the bananas and mixing it with the cinnamon ice cream.  The ice cream was assertive and smooth.  There wasn't a grainy texture, so if this is an in-house concoction, extremely well-made.

So for me, the appetizer works, but would request a half-order.  The tacos didn't work for me, but I would probably order one of their salads instead.  The dessert, well, I love the ice cream and the bananas had a nice flavor.  So I would order without the cumbersome tortilla.  They could restyle this as a banana split and I would love it.  I get what they were going for, but unless they bring out a finger bowl, it is honestly too messy to deal with.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Car Karma and Climate Change Warnings

There is the myth of the one owner car.  You know, the one with incredibly low mileage in spite of its age.  We have heard of this legend, scoffed at it and the truth is, whenever buying a used car, many people are afraid.  True, there are internet tools out there to report on title history, because well, people are not always forthcoming when selling a vehicle or even worse, they may not have a clue on how to maintain a vehicle.

I have not driven since 2008.  That is 42 dog years.  There has been a certain amount of freedom I have enjoyed by not driving, but the reality is, I do finally have a need for a vehicle.  So I turned to Craigslist and was considering a vehicle from a friend of a friend...but timing wasn't right, etc.  I was going through my options, reading over everything, when suddenly a new ad was posted for a 1999 VW Jetta, with relatively low miles for its age.

Joan Jetta when reconditioning is complete.

I called, I went, I purchased.  I have already named her, Joan Jetta.  I insured her, registered her and began going through the reconditioning phase.  The actual truth was Joan Jetta was not a one-owner vehicle, but she was close to being one.  The vehicle was transferred from one family member to another and I decided to run a VIN history report, which can be done on number sites.  The title was clean.  No hail, no water damage, no accidents and no odometer roll backs...which made me decide, that in concert with the low mileage this was the vehicle to recondition.

When you run your list of pros and cons, as I ran mine, was the condition of the body was excellent.  Minor rust, good bones, and a solid engine.  I budgeted a target amount for reconditioning her.  I weighed out not having to pay a high sales tax for vehicle registering, no car payment, lower insurance costs and researched existing Jettas, same year and found a lot of them were still on the road, had upwards of 300K on engines and read over maintenance issues and recommendations.  So I decided then and there "Joan" was going to be worth the investment.

So, starting from the inside out, you take care of all of the fluids.  replace the timing belt and other drive belts, hoses, spark plugs, distributor cap, ignition wires, oil change, coolant flush, engine flush and it becomes apparent that this girl has got a lot of life left in her.  Her battery was changed out and she already had a new exhaust system and new brakes, so she's in pretty good shape for a teen-ager.

I am going to be honest, I had missed driving, but today, I heard about the new Climate Warnings issued by the UN.  "Invest NOW or change will be irreversible." I had just rejoined the millions of drivers on the road and tried to soothe myself by stating that at least it wasn't a gas guzzler and that I was doing my part by reconditioning her.  However, what it made me want to ask was what if there was a way to hybridize this vehicle?  Since she is getting reconditioned, why not make the existing vehicle greener and not contribute to the waste cycle we seem to have with our vehicle cycle in the USA.  That is a huge waste problem right there, but there is change, with more owners holding on to their cars longer with the average vehicle age being 11.4 years old (

As a renewed driver on the road, what could I do to minimize my impact?  There are some obvious things I can do, like minimize by drive time and whenever I am in the city, I use public transportation.  It's when I have to go out to the 'burbs, I need to drive.  Car Karma, is one way to look at how to minimize a negative impact and turn it into a positive one.  There is use and then there is abuse and disuse.  As this journey continues, hopefully we can look at ways for transformation of what we have instead of just trying to sell each other new stuff to replace our old stuff.  If we are going to even begin to take climate change seriously, the impact to our food supply, the impact to our environment and all of the steps that this global society needs to take will have to be voluntary for us to thrive.

It's not really about whether or not anyone believes in climate change...we all have seen the ill-effects of pollution.  We are poisoning ourselves, corporately and individually by chasing after little bits of paper, to live.  What if chasing after those little bits of paper was what was killing us?  Just a thought...that perhaps we could really be smarter than a pigeon in B. F. Skinner's box.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Death Sentence - A Preview

When I first viewed the art, associated with this film in 2007, it rendered me speechless. At the time I worked with survivors who had lost their military spouses. Many of them had an emotional nakedness about them, often feeling like they were lost in the world without their partners. 2007 had been a particularly hard year for me. It was a year of multiple losses for me, so I did not share the view that others had expressed. Where others saw objectification, I saw vulnerability that made me feel the coldness of a world at war. I thought about our national history. At the time of the first world war, many families were left without any sort of safety net. There was little in the way of death benefits. There was no such thing as "SGLI" or "Survivor's Benefits". During this time, they truly were left to their own devices to survive. Women were not known to serve during the first World War, and often were left destitute. 

The artist, Philip Brooker, started this project after reading a series of letters, the last letters home by servicemen who were often at the front of the war, where real horror visited daily.  In that era, men came face to face in conflict. Not at all like the remote warfare that is practiced in our age. This film, aptly reminds us of the real violence of war, no matter where they are fought. It's been seven years since I have seen this series in person, and I still come away with that feeling of being deeply moved by my perception of his work. After nearly a decade of work, it's evolved into this project. This is just a preview that I have been graced with and the privilege of sharing it with you now.  For more information about the artist, Philip Brooker, please visit

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Hammer and Sickle in Uptown Minneapolis

In the midst of Apple's release of the iPhone 6 (and plus) this weekend, I happened to get caught in a downpour along Lagoon in Uptown that forced my way into another realm.  A little Russian hideaway that I have fallen in love with.  However, this is not the Cold War Russian faire with bread lines and MIGs.  This is the post-Berlin War era, despite the bathroom poster calling for wealth redistribution through capitalism via gift card purchases (though that would be a gift much appreciated after looking over this menu).  The winds of change, after all, had blown me into this venue and I decided it was time to warm up with an Irish coffee, for medicinal purposes.

When is the right time for caviar?  It's a luxury, true enough, but if you go through life telling yourself what you can never have, you will never have it.  The Hammer and Sickle makes this adventure achievable for many.  From domestic roes to true caviar (from Sturgeon), the market price will vary depending on what you select.  If you already know what you like, you can order a single caviar and have it presented with the traditional accompaniments.  However, this is caviar that is dressed to the 9s.

The only thing that didn't make any sense to me was the huge clove of pickled garlic that was served as a garnish.  That was the only item that I sent back to the kitchen.  Everything else was a straight 9 out of 10 for me.

The dill infusion vodka is also a must.  The wait staff went through an incredible list of choices of in-house infusions, and I was very happy with her recommendation.  Incredibly smooth, no queen olives needed.

Up next, one of their small plates, the Kobe beef sliders.  In a word,  SUCCULENT.  Lardons of bacon, farm cheese, micro greens, and their own crafted ketchup.  Just about everything served is made in house.

You do get what you pay for here, great service and great food.

So if you are ever in Uptown, want something a little different from your normal routine, live a little.  The Hammer and Sickle is a must.