Hannibal Rising

November 13th, 2006

Thomas Harris has given us only a few books, though each is worth reading. He is the author who brought us Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal Rising, to be released on December 5, 2006, will be the fourth book about Dr. Lecter and appears to be a prequel to Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.



Hannibal Lecter emerges from the nightmare of the Eastern Front, a boy in the snow, mute, with a chain around his neck.

He seems utterly alone, but he has brought his demons with him.

Hannibal's uncle, a noted painter, finds him in a Soviet orphanage and brings him to France, where Hannibal will live with his uncle and his uncle's beautiful and exotic wife, Lady Murasaki.

Lady Murasaki helps Hannibal to heal. With her help he flourishes, becoming the youngest person ever admitted to medical school in France.

But Hannibal's demons visit him and torment him. When he is old enough, he visits them in turn.

He discovers he has gifts beyond the academic, and in that epiphany, Hannibal Lecter becomes death's prodigy.

Consider me excited.

November 12th, 2006
Tom Robbins - Still Life With Woodpecker - 96Those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death.

November 11th, 2006
CaddyshackJudge Smails: You know, you should play with Dr. Beeper and myself. I mean, he's been club champion for three years running and I'm no slouch myself.
Ty Webb: Don't sell yourself short Judge, you're a tremendous slouch.


November 10th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0396857/

ShadowboxerShadowboxer is an emotionally-charged, full-throttle thriller, which delves deep into the harsh underworld of organized crime and uncovers the complex lives of trained assassins, Mikey (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and Rose (Helen Mirren). But when a brutal crime boss wants his wife dead, Rose has a change of heart when they find her pregnant. And so, the three begin a harrowing life on the run. Driven by fierce love, Rose and Mikey protect their adopted family from present danger -- looking to redeem their tragic past.

As the movie began to pick up steam, it really began to rub me the wrong way. There were ridiculous scenes at the beginning that I figured only set the stage for more to come. Luckily the weird beginning did not become the weird middle or the weird ending. The movie got less bizarre, but the story never really seemed to do much for me. The only redeeming factors in Shadowboxer were a few performances. The cast was decent and some of the actors did a respectful job.

The bad guy: I like Stephen Dorff; he reminds me of a young, Lost Boys-esque Kiefer Sutherland. But maybe the vampire vibe comes from his part in Blade. The world may never know. He plays the over-the-top crime boss. We see that his men are fiercely loyal, though we never know why. We never find out what he does or why he is so good at it. All we know is that he is heartless and wants his wife killed. I like him, but he wasn't great here. Though some of you may enjoy his full-frontal scene...

The good guy: Cuba Gooding, Jr. has played some brilliant parts over his well-respected career. He has done great work in great films and he has done great work in some lesser films. Shadowboxer will fall into the latter category. Cuba's role was not one many other actors would covet, especially if they had his name recognition, but he was impressive in it. Another "lesser" movie in which Cuba excelled is A Murder of Crows.

The doctor: Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Out of nowhere, Gordon-Levitt has given me two great performances. He did not have a lead role in Shadowboxer like he did in Brick, but he is still worth mentioning. I can talk about how good Cuba was and I can talk about how excited I get when a movie is set in Philadelphia and someone makes a run to Pat's for cheesesteaks, but it was really Gordon-Levitt's performance that was the highlight of the movie for me. His part was much less serious than his character in Brick, and it was hilarious. Maybe it wasn't intended to make me laugh so hard, but Gordon-Levitt as the crime boss's go-to doctor when "accidents" occur, who also has an affinity for large black women...if you would not laugh you don't have a sense of humor.

If you take a "Hey, I think you'll like this" recommendation from someone who has not even seen the movie you could enjoy parts of it. That is the brief version of how I ended up seeing Shadowboxer. I went through it so now you don't have to. And now I can do my small part to educate you on a movie you are probably better off avoiding.

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Top 5 Movies: Based on Well-Known Books

November 9th, 2006

Parker's Beef Stew

November 8th, 2006

A Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) recipe.

2 1/2 pounds good quality chuck beef, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
1 (750-ml bottle) good red wine
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed
3 bay leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Good olive oil
2 yellow onions, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 pound white mushrooms, stems discarded and cut in 1/2
1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 cups or 1 (14 1/2-ounce can) chicken stock or broth
1 large (or 2 small) branch fresh rosemary
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas

Place the beef in a bowl with red wine, garlic, and bay leaves. Place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift the beef out of the marinade with a slotted spoon and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef in a large oven-proof Dutch oven and continue to brown the remaining beef, adding oil as necessary. (If the beef is very lean, you'll need more oil.) Place all the beef in the Dutch oven.

Heat another 2 tablespoons of oil to the large pot and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven over the beef. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade to the empty pot and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the chicken stock, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat on top of the stove. Cover the pot and place it in the oven to bake it for about 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250 or 275 degrees F.

Before serving, stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve hot.

This is a good stick-to-your-ribs recipe. It would really be good any time, but it has special magic on a cold night. We served the stew with dinner rolls, but to add to the experience I felt like we should have loaves of bread from which I may tear off a chunk and dunk in my stew. Who even needs silverware?!

I didn't make the stew, otherwise there would have been a few things omitted from the recipe. I am all for peas when first trying a recipe; in a dutch oven full of browned meats and vegetables, I am not necessarily opposed to a little color. Having tried the stew with the peas once, I no longer need them added to any subsequent stews. I also don't require the sun-dried tomatoes or the rosemary. They are unnecessary flavor as far as I am concerned.

My mom made the stew and she commented on how much she preferred browning the beef, vegetables and mushrooms before adding them to the dutch oven. It adds a little extra work in preparation of the meal, but it adds flavor.

I would not be concerned if you decide to make this last minute. I don't think the overnight marinating was essential to the meal. The red wine adds beautiful flavor, but the recipe could be made just as easily without it.

If you open your dutch oven and think the stew looks a little thin, stir it up. Moving the potatoes around should loosen up the starch and thicken the stew without you having to add anything.


November 7th, 2006

Link: http://imdb.com/title/tt0418773/

JUNEBUGRising stars Amy Adams (The Wedding Date) and Ben McKenzie (TV's "The O.C.") light up the screen in this award-winning comedy about love, family, ambition, and the choices that come with each. Worldly gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) and her husband (Alessandro Nivola) travel to North Carolina, where she hopes to woo a brilliant, but eccentric, folk painter. During this Southern journey, Madeleine also meets her new in-laws: George's skeptical mother, Peg (Celia Weston); his silent and withdrawn father, Eugene (Scott Wilson); and his surly brother, Johnny (McKenzie). The only welcoming member of the family is Johnny's affectionate, enthusiastic, and extremely pregnant wife, Ashley (Adams). Struggling to balance church socials with delicate business negotiations, Madeleine finds that she must choose what matters to her most. JUNEBUG is the powerful, funny gem that critics are hailing as "one of the best pictures of the year!" (Andrew Sarris, The New York Observer)

This is one of the rare occasions that I have a difficult time actually deciding if I liked a movie or not. The distinction, I guess, could be made by clarifying the wording of the question. Did I enjoy the movie? No, not really. Did I enjoy the story? Not particularly. Did I enjoy the message? I did.

To overuse the word "important" and its variations, I think any story that highlights the importance of family is an important one to see. I would not say that the concept of family is often undervalued, but I would argue that too many times it goes overlooked. Too many movies make money in today's society by focusing on familial faults and their individual disfunctionalities. I admit that I am part of the problem; I support the very movies I describe above. But I can still appreciate the once-in-a-blue-moon appearance of a movie like Junebug.

The movie was drawn out by many (I feel) unnecessary "artsy" camera shots. Full clips of the neighbor woman walking up her yard to her house. Cut scenes to the bugs flying over a small patch of wildflowers. Maybe these were avenues through which the makers of the movie were able to express themselves, but they succeeded in doing nothing more than taking a movie with a too-slow-to-develop plot and draw it out.

The story has left me with some internal conflict. I cannot decide if I am frustrated with the fact that there was much more to the relationships within the family than we are shown or if I actually preferred it that way. Johnny harbors an incredible amount of resentment towards his brother. Is it because George is the all-American son, liked by everyone in town, though he chose to leave North Carolina for more Midwestern surroundings? Or is there more to it? It would surely help us to understand the characters better if we could have a brief monologue by someone to describe for us a few major events that happened years before this story takes place.

The flip side of the coin is that we are better off being left to our own imaginative and investigative devices. If you do not opt to watch Junebug alone, as I unfortunately did, there could be some wonderful conversation born from the movie. This theory is maybe the strongest influence from which I recommend Junebug.

The synopsis provided with the DVD highlights the performances by Amy Adams and Ben McKenzie. Amy Adams earned herself an Oscar nomination for this part. That is pretty expressive on its own, but I will add my admiration to it. I support her nomination; it was well deserved.

Ben McKenzie did little for me. I think his performance was showcased due only to the popularity of the TV show he is/was on as an attempt to get more people to watch Junebug.

I am still on the fence about whether I liked it or not, but either way I think Junebug is still worth seeing once.

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Simple Lasagna

November 6th, 2006

Simple, though delicious.

1 large jar plain marinara sauce
3 C ricotta
1/2 C grated parmesan
2 eggs
2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 Lb. grated mozzarella
1 box no-boil* noodles

Soften the no-boil noodles in hot water while you make your filling. For the filling mix the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt and pepper together. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Begin to layer your pan with noodles on the bottom, 1/3 of your filling, 1/3 of your mozzarella cheese, then 1/3 of your sauce. Repeat until you are out. Sprinkle the top with any leftover mozzarella.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before serving so the lasagna is not soupy.

*If you use boilable noodles, use 9 of them boiled for 5-7 minutes.

November 4th, 2006
Patch AdamsHunter Patch Adams: What's wrong with death sir? What are we so mortally afraid of? Why can't we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and God forbid, maybe even humor. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. If we're going to fight a disease, let's fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference.


November 3rd, 2006

Michael Crichton's newest work, called "Next," will be released on November 28, 2006. I can't wait! Get your copy here.

Next by Michael CrichtonWelcome to our genetic world.
Fast, furious, and out of control.
This is not the world of the future-it's the world right now.

Is a loved one missing some body parts? Are blondes becoming extinct? Is everyone at your dinner table of the same species? Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 400 genes; is that why an adult human being resembles a chimp fetus? And should that worry us? There's a new genetic cure for drug addiction-is it worse than the disease?

We live in a time of momentous scientific leaps; a time when it's possible to sell our eggs and sperm online for thousands of dollars; test our spouses for genetic maladies and even frame someone for a genetic crime.

We live in a time when one fifth of all our genes are owned by someone else, and an unsuspecting person and his family can be pursued cross-country because they happen to have certain valuable genes within their chromosomes. . . .

Devilishly clever, Next blends fact and fiction into a breathless tale of a new world where nothing is what it seems, and a set of new possibilities can open at every turn. Next challenges our sense of reality and notions of morality. Balancing the comic and bizarre with the genuinely frightening and disturbing, Next shatters our assumptions, and reveals shocking new choices where we least expect.

The future is closer than you think. Get used to it.

Mr. Crichton has been my favorite author since, and largely due in part to the fact that, I good hooked on reading from two tremendous books that he wrote: Sphere and Congo.