December 16th, 2008
F. Scott Fitzgerald - This Side of Paradise - 195"Life is too huge and complex. The world is so overgrown that it can't lift its own fingers, and I was planning to be such an important finger --"

Black Powder War - Naomi Novik

December 15th, 2008

Black Powder War by Naomi NovikAfter their fateful adventure in China, Capt. Will Laurence of His Majesty's Aerial Corps and his extraordinary dragon, Temeraire, are waylaid by a mysterious envoy bearing urgent new orders from Britain. Three valuable dragon eggs have been purchased from the Ottoman Empire, and Laurence and Temeraire must detour to Istanbul to escort the precious cargo back to England. Time is of the essence if the eggs are to be borne home before hatching.

Yet disaster threatens the mission at every turn -- thanks to the diabolical machinations of the Chinese dragon Lien, who blames Temeraire for her master's death and vows to ally herself with Napoleon and take vengeance. Then, faced with shattering betrayal in an unexpected place, Laurence, Temeraire, and their squad must launch a daring offensive. But what chance do they have against the massed forces of Bonaparte's implacable army?

As Captain Laurence is about to make his slow way back to England, an urgent message is delivered to him. Ultimately, his orders change so that he must hurry to Turkey to pick up three dragon eggs that England has purchased. To make it in time, Capt. Laurence, his crew, and his dragon Temeraire must travel across the uncharted expanses of land that lie between China and Turkey.

Barring some unforeseen event, this is the last book in the Temeraire series that I plan to read. In my review of book 1 (I left it out of the review for book 2) I have described before that Captain Will Laurence is a drab and uncharismatic leading man. I was hoping to see a change in his demeanor and that has not yet happened. It still may, but there are too many other books I could read instead of waiting for him to become more interesting. And to make matters worse he seems to be really affecting Temeraire. The dragon has always been a free thinker and has bucked authority, trying to balance out how obsequious Capt. Laurence is. Through three books, now the relationship is beginning to strain and it is frustrating.

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Rhetorical? Maybe.

December 10th, 2008

If Parker Lewis couldn't lose in 2008 rather than in 1990, would he and his Buds still synchronize Swatches? Or would they synchronize something else? Smartphones maybe...

Bogle Old Vine 2006 Zinfandel

December 9th, 2008

If you have spent a fair amount of time around wine, Bogle is a name you probably recognize. It's a name even I knew before I bought this wine, but this was the first I've tasted. This wine is very easy to sum up: This wine is my everyday wine. The 2006 Zinfandel from Bogle doesn't rewrite the book on Zinfandel, but it is a very affordable wine that tastes good. You should be able to find this Old Vine Zin for around $10. I'm sorry, that should read like this, "You should be able to find this Old Vine Zin for around $10!!" Don't misunderstand my enthusiasm; this is not the best wine I have ever had. I am excited to have found something that I enjoy at such a great price.

I will admit I am probably still in the honeymoon phase with Zinfandel, a wine varietal that I met on vacation a few months ago and have had a wonderful affair with ever since (I hope Rioja doesn't mind). I have found Zinfandel to be a flavorful, medium-bodied wine.

Recipe of the Month - December, 2008

December 8th, 2008

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

Flour, for work surface
1 frozen puff pastry
5 1/2 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce pastry inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

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December 5th, 2008
John Irving - The World According to Garp - 76"And any place can be artistic," Garp later wrote, "if there's an artist working there."

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja 2001 Crianza

December 4th, 2008

To my undeveloped appreciation for wine, I consider Rioja to be a less-peppery version of Shiraz. It has some of the big flavor without the spice, which works well for me. And it is smooth like a Pinot Noir, which makes for easy drinking, but it has a little more body. I have really taken a shine to Rioja, and I've had some great bottles from 2001 specifically.

For lack of a better description, a Crianza is the least complex of Riojas, so be wary. This bottle, however, was quite good. I have had a few Crianzas, 2001 even, and this was the best. And even 7 years later it is very drinkable. I think you'll have a hard time finding the 2001 in stores, but if you do I hope you enjoy it like I did.

Book of the Month - December, 2008

December 3rd, 2008

Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Tree of Smoke by Denis JohnsonTree of Smoke is the story of William "Skip" Sands, CIA -- engaged in Psychological Operations against the Vietcong -- and the disasters that befall him. It is also the story of the Houston brothers, Bill and James, young men who drift out of the Arizona desert and into a war where the line between disinformation and delusion has blurred away. In the words of Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times, Tree of Smoke is "bound to become one of the classic works of literature produced by that tragic and uncannily familiar war."

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December 2nd, 2008

Hellboy II - The Golden Army

Select "Bonus Materials" from the main DVD screen. With the top option (Feature Commentary) highlighted, move the cursor to the right and the statue on the side of the screen will light up. Press your select/enter button to see a few outtakes. As a practice tip, they might be a little funnier after you've seen the movie. Nothing is spoiled by watching them first, but they're out of context.

Photo Theme of the Month - December, 2008

December 1st, 2008