Photo Theme of the Month - February, 2009

January 16th, 2009

The Cabinet of Curiosities - Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

January 15th, 2009

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Douglas Preston and Lincoln ChildIn an ancient tunnel underneath New York City a charnel house is discovered. Inside are thirty-six bodies -- all murdered and mutilated more than a century ago. While FBI agent Pendergast investigates the old crimes, identical killings start to terrorize the city. The nightmare has begun. Again.

FBI Special Agent Pendergast is in New York City on unofficial business. He is deeply interested in a crime scene that is over 100-years old, yet he refuses to tell anyone why. Once again he enlists the help of someone who works at the Museum of Natural History to aid him in his rogue investigation. Like the first two books in the Pendergast series, Agent Pendergast is a unique man. He is almost like a more bookish James Bond. Unlike the first two books in the series, in The Cabinet of Curiosities Agent Pendergast is acting very much on his own behalf and receives little to no help from the NYPD.

Pendergast has always marched to the beat of his own drum, but in this book he really has gone rogue. His intentions are not always clear and his messages are more cryptic than ever. This book focused more on him and his work, so maybe that is why there was a different feel. If that is all it takes to change my opinion of this series, please let Agent Pendergast take a step back. He seems to make a better supporting cast member than lead.

I am about to make a statement that even I think sounds ridiculous. The story in this book was a little too far-fetched for me. Yes that means that I had no problems with a reptile/human hybrid creature that terrorized a museum feasting on any hypothalemus it encountered. All I can say was that was within my limits, but this story was not. Some sci-fi works for you and some does not. This sci-fi did not work for me.

And I thought the conclusion to this conflict to be quite poor. The entire book we wonder what this antagonist's great life purpose was. And when you find out the entire story falls flat on its face. I am not saying that I can do any better than the two men who authored this book. Ultimately all I am saying is that I recommend only the first two books of the Pendergast series. I will not keep reading these books.

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January 14th, 2009
Robin Hobb - Assassin's Apprentice - 174It's a wonder we did not all break our necks. But there it is; sometimes luck belongs to children and madmen. That night I felt we were both.

2006 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec

January 13th, 2009

I've had the pleasure to taste (and buy two bottles of) the 2005 Malbec Reserva from Terrazas de los Andes, which I really liked. That wine runs $25-30, so I was excited to see this 2006 (non-Reserva) for less than $15. The wine has a brilliant dark color that you expect from a malbec. It has a fuller flavor, like a cabernet, but without the tannic dryness. This was less complex than the Reserva, but that was expected. I still enjoyed this wine and would buy it again. I think this now means that I will keep an eye out for the other Terrazas de los Andes varietals and vintages.

Wendy's kicked me right in the nuggets!

January 12th, 2009

It is a sad day any time the honeymoon is over. Consoling words never help. "It was a good run...while it lasted." "You will always have the memories." "It is better to have had $0.99 5-piece chicken nuggets and lost than to never have had $0.99 5-piece chicken nuggets at all." The tough economic times have finally trickled down all the way to the house that Dave Thomas built. Sure that redhead on the sign is cute, but she no longer shines like a $0.99 5-piece chicken nugget beacon in the night.

I know that each Wendy's location has the option to play along with various price initiatives. That is what gives us the "at participating locations" disclaimer. And I know that not every Wendy's offered 5 tasty chicken nuggets for $0.99. But mine did. And now it is gone.

The Reader

January 9th, 2009


A boy of 15 years is away from home when he becomes violently ill. But not for the kindness of a passing woman, he does not know how he would have made it home. To express his gratitude he goes back to her with flowers. His innocent act of thanks then leads to a torrid affair with this older woman. Their time together lasts only a few months before the woman disappears without saying goodbye, but the boy, Michael, will never be the same. Later, in law school, Michael's class goes to the courthouse to learn from courtroom experience. On trial is Hanna, the woman who changed Michael's life forever.

After a few days of soul searching I am finally ready to say if I liked this movie or not. And I did. I thought that there were a few things that detracted from the movie, but there are almost always things that detract from movies. I will try to be brief and discuss my main complaint with the movie first. It was in English. The movie bounces between different chapters of Michael's life, but except for a short scene at the end (that I would have left out if I had edited this film) the entire movie takes place in Germany. The movie, based on more than just the countless scenes of passion between Michael and Hanna, strives to become intimate with the audience. I found it strange that the movie was not in German with subtitles. I feel this would have given the movie a more authentic feel and bridged that final gap of intimacy.

With that out of the way, I may continue with what I enjoyed. Much early press suggests that Kate Winslet will take home an award or two for her role as Hanna. I have not seen every movie she is nominated, or might be nominated, against so I will not comment on that. I will say that in this movie alone her performance was second best. David Kross was young Michael. He is our protagonist. While it is hard to overlook Ralph Fiennes, who plays older Michael, most of the movie happens while Michael is young. David Kross, a young actor with very little experience, shows strong talent in The Reader.

I wanted to argue against the amount of nudity and "adult situations" that make up essentially the entire first half of the movie. I have gone so far as to jokingly call this movie pornography, but I think it was all necessary to lend credibility to the impact Michael and Hanna had on each other. Here were two people who yearned to be together and were physically intimate beyond all boundaries, yet secrets were kept. And the secrets drove them apart.

I cannot say that The Reader was any better or worse than the other movies I have seen where a boy has an affair with an older woman then sees her tried in a court of law. Shockingly, this is the only movie I have seen in that category. Since I cannot compare it to anything, I will say that I found the story to be deeply moving at times. I thought the characters were developed well and the things I didn't like did not make the movie unwatchable.

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January 8th, 2009
Wall-ECaptain: AUTO! Earth is amazing! These are called "farms." Humans who put seeds in the ground pour water on them, and they grow food - like, pizza!

The difference between Tawny and Ruby Port

January 7th, 2009

Port is a fortified wine made with Brandy, which stops the fermentation process. This process allows the port to keep the residual sugars and increases the alcohol content.

So you see the after-dinner drink menu and some ports are listed as Ruby and others Tawny. Or you visit your local wine seller and you see the bottles labeled Ruby or Tawny. And you wonder what the difference is, naturally. To the casual observer, there isn't much difference. Both wines are aged in barrels, but Ruby is aged for less time than the Tawny. This creates the differences between them.

Ruby Port is aged for a few years in concrete or stainless steel barrels. It will retain its dark red color and generally is sweet and fruity.

Tawny Port will age much longer, sometimes 20 years or more in typically wooden barrels. During that period it will begin to lose it's red color as it turns brown. It will lose some of the sweetness as the flavors gain other complexities. Note: The number of years of aging on the label is only an average.

(References: OregonWines - WineTrail - Wikipedia)


January 6th, 2009


A very serious allegation is brought against a priest when Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) suspects that Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has developed an inappropriate relationship with an altar boy. The boy's history teacher, Sister James (Amy Adams) tells Sister Aloysius that the boy came back from a private meeting with Father Flynn acting peculiarly. Does Sister Aloysius suspect Father Flynn because he has done something wrong or is she biased against him because she disagrees with his progressive methodologies?

The story is an important one, but it is used as a vehicle to debate a broader topic. The movie specifically addresses an allegation of misconduct by a priest, but the characters generally disagree on the role the Church plays in people's lives. Should the Church continue as strict disciplinarian? or adapt to the changing times to become part of the family?

John Patrick Shanley wrote Doubt for the stage, and then adapted his own story into this movie, which he also directed. The story is brilliantly controversial. While you are left to form your own opinion of guilt or innocence, the arguments on both sides are incredibly persuasive.

I have not seen a movie with acting this good in a long time. (Stay with me because I will actually praise Philip Seymour Hoffman, something I normally do as infrequently as possible.) With three strong performances from the movie's three main players (Streep, Hoffman and Adams) one somehow managed to outshine the others. Both Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman were great. Meryl Streep brought the house down; she was fantastic.

Another performance worth noting was Viola Davis, who plays the boy's mother. She has maybe 5 minutes of screen time, but they are 5 of the most powerful minutes in an already powerful movie. It is probably a name you will hear again.

I will not delve into any conclusions I may have drawn from the movie, particularly because I opted against drawing any. The movie may leave you with a burning curiosity to know if he did it, but I invite you to see this movie with friends so you may discuss your thoughts. But I do recommend the movie; it is surely on my short list for best movies of 2008.

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January 5th, 2009
Brotherhood of the WolfSylvia: Do you know how Florentine women ensure their husbands come home? Every morning they slip him a slow poison, and every evening the antidote. That way, when the husband spends the night away, he has a very bad night.
Gregoire De Fronsac: You needn't resort to that.