Sunday, March 30, 2008

Black Eyed Pea Salsa

2 15 oz cans Black Eyed Peas, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
One half red bell pepper diced
One jalepeno pepper, seeds removed, diced
Small bunch green onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in large bowl, stir and mash some of the beans coarsely with a fork. This recipe is especially good if you can make it in advance and let the mixture meld overnight. Serve with tortilla chips. Cody likes to make nachos with the leftovers.

Chunky Guacamole

5 large ripe avacados
3 roma tomatoes
1/2 small red onion
1 jalepeno pepper, seeds removed
1/2 large bell pepper, whatever color is on sale at the store
5 cloves garlic
1 lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice roma tomatoes in half, scoop out the seeds and discard. Coarsely chop tomatoes, onion, jalepeno and bell pepper into a large bowl. Add minced garlic. Squeeze juice of lime over ingredients, add avocado and mash with fork. Continue to mash / stir and add olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve with anything at all, because seriously, this guacamole is that good.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Last night Katie took me as her special guest to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Company at the Paramount. I was thankful once again to the lovely people at Seattlest for being a big deal, because our tickets were phenomenal. Row F center aisle seats - the last time I was so close to the stage at the Paramount was when Belle & Sebastian was supporting The Life Pursuit and Kim and I had to flirt with awkward Canadian boys to fight our way forward in the crowd. Even then we were all the way off to stage left. So walking in last night, I felt pretty fancy, despite knowing little to nothing about modern dance. My formal dance experience begins and ends with an adult beginning ballet class, an unsuccessful foray into Irish Step Dance, and a childhood full of of competitive Greek Folk Dancing. See below:

So, I arrived at the Paramount last night with the very bare-bones background knowledge that can be gleaned from a Wikipedia article on Mr. Alvin Ailey and having a brief but informative discussion with Marie at Happy Hour about why what I was about to experience was important.

Overall, I enjoyed the performance. I thought most, if not all, of the costumes were pretty stupid. In the first dance, Firebird, the chorus looked like it was wearing dirty dockworking jumpsuits, and the main male dancers were wearing red spandex pants that were a fabulous color and would have been beautiful except for a bizarre strip of fabric that covered their nipples like a bra top and was very distracting. The second main dance had much better costumes, rich and gold with awesome bootie socks. Unfortunately, this was the Twyla Tharp choreographed piece, and the actual dance felt a little too cheesy and 80's for me. The final act was the one Alvin Ailey piece I had ever heard of, Revelations, and was as fabulous as it was rumoured to be, but the women wore these long skirts. While I understand how the costumes fit into the story and theme that the dance was telling, I couldn't help but be dissappointed that because the female dancers were covered in copious yards of fabric, it was difficult to fully appreciate the crispness of their movements and skill.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

As preface, two short things:

1. Last night I watched Across the Universe, which I did not think was a good movie. I get it, it was an intertwining of personal and generational experience, wrapped up in iconic blah blah blah, but it doesn't matter because it was straight up not interesting or pleasurable to watch. I loved the music though. I wish I would have had it on in the background while I was doing something that averted my eyes elsewhere, because I think then I wouldn't have been so annoyed with the whole thing.

2. After a 6 year hiatus, I have started to watch American Idol again. The only reason I have rekindled my relationship with this show on a trial basis is that thanks to my new DVR subscription, I can record the Tuesday night show and watch it free of all the infuriating product placement, sappy banter and boring backstory videos of the contestants' stupid families and hometowns. No one will ever be as charming and likable as Kelly Clarkson, so they should all stop trying and just sing already.

Now, as I said, I did not like Across the Universe. However, I watched the film shortly after watching two blessedly truncated episodes of American Idol where the contestants sang Beatles songs. The first episode was ok, with some decent performances, but the second week of Beatles songs was a hot hot mess with nary a passable moment to justify the show's existence. And maybe it wasn't fair to make those idiots pick two Beatles songs in a row to not butcher, but I refuse to believe that in the vast discography of songs written by Lennon, Harrison and McCartney, that it is really that hard to pick a song which is at least in your range.

And then my contempt for these mediocre Idol contestants increases with a viewing of Across the Universe, where almost every single song sounds fresh and new and exciting. And the actual film was a steaming-hot-pile-of-garbage-pie, but the actors were excellent vocalists and managed to sing those Beatles songs in different styles and arrangements without ruining Eight Days a Week.

The devil's advocate might argue that it's not fair to compare professional actors to the fount of America's best undiscovered and untapped diamonds in the rough, but the biggest scandal surrounding this season is that many of these contestants really are neither undiscovered or unvetted. Carly and Kristy Lee and one or two of those boys all had record deals and screwed the pooch with that, just like they did two weeks of Beatles songs. And I'm not arguing that I think that previous music industry experience should disqualify them from being on American Idol, I just think that it is a testament to how absolutely irrelevant to actual musical achievement American Idol is that it would give us this pool of failed mediocrity and try and pass it off as the best talent the universe has to offer at this very moment. (Ditto to the Grammys on that front as well.) And that millions and millions of my fellow citizens watch and know markedly more about the nuances of this show that has no reflection on the state of music as an art in our world than they know about the impending Presidential Election. Also, I hate how David Cook in his quest to turn everything into a rock anthem just sings cover songs of cover songs. That is annoying.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Most of the year, the enthusiasm I attempt to feign for sporting events is rather forced and lackluster. I've been dating Cody for almost 4 years, so my personal knowledge of professional sports has been expanding, albeit at not a particularly accelerated rate. The one time a year when I get truly excited is NCAA March Madness. Part of it is that I like basketball, but have a hard time caring about the NBA, because of all the professional sports leagues, it seems like the NBA is one where playing as a team is particularly valued. Obviously, the unpredictable nature of the NCAA bracket is also a draw, where someone who doesn't know anything about the teams and doesn't go into the tournament with preconceived notions has just as good a chance of picking the winners as someone who thinks they've forseen the outcome based on past performance. Not that it has actually helped me win pools of money in any of the years I've been playing March Madness, but I appreciate the notion of an even playing field.

And thus, my bracket:
Rounds one and two are over and my bracket is feeling decidedly sickly. Specific teams that betrayed my trust were UConn, CSU Fullerton, Notre Dame and Marquette. One of the few losses sustained that I did not begrudge at all was Indiana and Arkansas. I had picked the Hoosiers, but had I known about the awesome and fantastic Steve Hill, well, I might have done something stupid and picked Arkanas to beat North Carolina. Case in point:

Um, totally sweet. Also, huge crush.
That being said, even though I'm wallowing at the bottom of all my bracket pools at the moment, all four of my Final Four picks are still viable, so I am alive. Further, I'm still feeling optimistic about Memphis, the team I picked to win it all because their superstar point guard, Derrick Rose, goes by the nickname "Pooh" and has a wizard tattoo. Yes. A tattoo of a wizard. And I think that's all I need to say about that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cody and I watched The King of Kong last night, and it was as excellent as the reviews and recommendations from friends promised it would be. I never got around to seeing the film in theaters (which is why I'm undoubtedly a part of the crappiness of modern cinema. When 16 year old boys are the country's largest theater-going demographic, and I can't find the time or enthusiasm to visit the multiplex even with my free weekends and disposable income, no wonder they keep making crap like Meet the Spartans. Not that I plan on apologizing or ceasing to see most movies for practically free thanks to my Netflix account. Maybe in the future everything of substance or value will go straight to video and only the idiots will pay to see movies in the theater.), but it's been on my radar for months. Recently, interest was rekindled thanks to the bizarre and compelling interview with Billy Mitchell on The AV Club, and on Wednesday, the disc finally arrived in my mailbox.

As reported, the documentary hit all the right notes. It was at turns funny, sincere, heartbreaking and infuriating. No one will be surprised that I thought one of the strongest moments reminded me of a favorite scene from Pride and Prejudice. When Steve Wiebe is playing Donkey Kong and says hello to Billy Mitchell, who ignores him and observes to his wife that "He doesn't want to spend too much time talking to some people," obviously my mind jumped to the scene at Lucas Lodge when Mr. Darcy shuns our hero, Elizabeth. The difference being, of course, that sociopath Billy Mitchell did not eventually learn to correct his personality faults and lapses of judgement.

Well, that, and also that I have absolutely zero interest in seeing Billy Mitchell emerge from the pond at Pemberley in a wet shirt.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Who cares whether or not SNL is Pro-Clinton?

A. Does anyone even watch SNL anymore? Are there really people whose political opinions are informed by a culturally-irrelevant late night crapfest? It's not like this is the Daily Show.

B. The Hillary sketch was really not that funny. It was awkward, forced and way too long.

C. Unrelated, but I was also disappointed by the much-touted Project Runway sketch.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Things I forgot yesterday:

1. My new "work bowl" for meals at my desk. Sitting on the coffee table at home.

2. My gym bag in the locker room. I got all the way back to the steps of my building before I realized I was traveling a giant tote bag light. Ooops.

3. My pink umbrella hooked onto the coat rack. Thusly, I arrived home soaking wet.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I watched 2 Days in Paris on Sunday night and pretty much hated it. I didn't want to hate it, but I couldn't find a single moment to cling to and say 'yes, these are my people, they act like normal human beings.' I have such a hard time identifying with people who make obviously poor decisions and insist on seeing them through. I also can not sympathize with being in relationships where your partner makes you miserable and all you do is bicker, yet you remain because you can not imagine an existence less miserable than your current misery. The people I've spoken with who enjoyed the movie say, 'Oh, but the film was so realistic and honest' or 'But the point was that they were such difficult people,' which I can see, but there was no counterweight to this couple's horribleness to one another, no redemptive factors that showed that we should care about whether they were unhappy as a couple or as single beings. Also, if this movie was a realistic portrait of your romantic relationships, then I'm sorry, that is truly terrible for you. I do not think that I like movies that fixate so pointedly on the dissolution of relationships.
Arguably Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind could be subject to the same criticism, but I think the difference there is that both Kate Winslet and Jim Carey's characters were likable on some level, the story showed a time when it was plausible to think of the couple as compatible, and the plot explicated on additional themes more philosophical and interesting than how hard it is to stay in love with a challenging person.
Everyone who reviewed this movie compared it to Annie Hall, which is obviously valid, but since so many other people who get paid to think about movies hit that note, I'm not going to waste my breath. Further, I didn't really enjoy Annie Hall at all, which most likely gives some insight into why I was so disappointed with 2 Days in Paris.