Monday, June 30, 2014

Pow! Right In the KIsser!

There are a gazillion food sources online.  I use quite a few of them. However, my post today is not calculated to join the legion of online food bloggers. No, I am solely interested in achieving the shortest distance between two points: food and our mouths. And by achieving this shortest point, it is also possible to win over others to pitch in even if they hate to do food prep or clean up. In any cooking, I will use a microwave to achieve that shortest distance. Many of you are certainly better cooks than I. Jim is a better cook that I am. Where I might have the edge is in speed and ingenuity, which is what I want you to take away from today's entry.

Of course, you must love the microwave as much as Jack Donaghy and I do. He was the head of NBC Programming & GE Microwave Ovens played by Alec Baldwin on the tv show 30 Rock. (GE owns both.) In his mind there was no question that the microwave was more important than tv programs. If something was going to get the axe, it was a tv show, not his beloved microwave ovens! Here was a man who had his priorities straight in my book. (BTW, this is a great show and is on Netflix Streaming.)

If you do not have a Trader Joe's store in your area, you can order many of its products online through Amazon. I have listed some of my favorite products you can order here.

With no further ado, let's look at food and doing it the fastest, more ingenious way. I have not owned measuring cups or spoons in at least a decade so forget about that kind of precision in my way of cooking.

Puttanesca Spaghetti

Buy these four products at Trader Joe's with two cans of the sauce and single container of anchovies, cheese and pasta. Put the spaghetti in a large bowl in your microwave. Barely cover with water. Zap for twenty minutes. (Go away and do something else.) If you used little enough water, there is no draining, all water is absorbed. Mix in two cans of sauce with cooked pasta, same bowl. Mash one tin of anchovies, without oil it was packed in, with the back of a spoon and it turns into paste. Add into bowl too; mix in. Microwave everything together for another five minutes. Throw some Parmesan cheese on top. Use the one pictured. Serve. You will think you are in an Italian restaurant. Also good without anchovies but anchovies give it added zap. Also good cold in hot weather.

Where did I get the recipe? As I prowl TJ's aisles, I am always looking for things to combine super fast. These come down to 2-5 things I can combine quickly and have a meal. These combinations pop into my head as I stop to inspect products. I have to try it once or twice to get it the way I like it best. On this one I used the non-organic pasta at first but did not like it nearly as well as the organic one. I also tried it without anchovies first but added the anchovies the next time when I thought it lacked zap.

Pesto Pine Nut Orzo

Buy these three products at Trader Joe's with two cans of the sauce and single container each of orzo and pine nuts. Put the orzo in a large bowl in your microwave. Barely cover with water. Zap for 15 minutes. (Go away and do something else.) If you used little enough water, there is no draining, all water is absorbed. Mix in two cans of sauce with cooked pasta, same bowl. (To get all of it out, swirl in a little olive oil in jars.) Add in several handfuls of pine nuts into bowl too; mix in. Microwave everything together for another five minutes.  Also good cold in hot weather. Tip: if you use Nutritional Yeast, that makes a good topping to sprinkle of top of this dish.

Throw It Together Salad

This salad is the easiest of all. Buy one of each of the above at Trader Joe's. Everything is ready to go as is. Add handfuls of each into salad bowl. Put on dressing. Done. Optional: you may want to cut up beets and tomatoes into halves or quarters but it is not strictly necessary as they are already small.

Brie Goat Cheese

Jim has only gradually come around to this as a meal and even then he's rejecting the chutney and cornichons. If you are like me, you can set out the goat Brie, mango ginger chutney, the cornichons and the pane guttiau crackers, and boy, dig right in and enjoy a fabulous repast. I use mainly the cheese and crackers but the mango and cornichons, a French pickle, are a nice complementary flavor to accompany them. They are all at Trader Joe's. Use the chutney sparingly at first as a little goes a long way. Perfect. If you did not take the cheese out in advance, just microwave it 20 seconds at a time till you have the desired warmth. I love this "dinner"!

Chili with Tempeh

I taught this one to Jim and he really likes it but, of course, he had to Felix it. So there is my method, the Oscar method, or his. You choose. 

You go to Walmart and buy Margaret Holmes' Chili Fixins plus one of her Cajun or Southern style veggie cans, like the Triple Succotash, above. In my version you put those two cans' contents into a big bowl. You then crumble in your Trader Joe's Tempeh. Mix together. Zap in microwave for about ten minutes. You may need more heat and time after tasting at the ten minutes so adjust as needed. I throw low fat or no fat sour cream on top and serve. All but the sour cream is pictured above.

The Felix version of all of this is to do it all on the range in a pot, first sautéing the tempeh with olive oil and seasoning and then adding the other ingredients slowly and letting it all simmer together for about an hour. He now puts the sour cream on top too when serving.

I eat both of these versions. His is probably better and I am just as happy to let him do it his way if he wants to take over. In a hurry? Do it my way and you'll have a super fast and very good meal.

Small Potatoes

Combine all of the above except sour creams into bowl. Leave bowl uncovered. Microwave mix. It will take about 20 minutes for them to be done. The smaller the potatoes, the less time spent microwaving them. Serve with either light or fat free sour cream. This can be the meal. It need not be a side dish.  This evening Jim cooked Swiss Chard from the Basket of Life Farm in olive oil with garlic and lemon juice (on the range) and served the potatoes (microwaved) with it. It was wonderful. Ten years ago he wouldn't have touched the microwave for any part of any meal.

The pink salt is not sodium based salt so is better for varied health conditions. My TJ olive oil is not virgin or extra virgin. I can't tell the difference. Felix, er, Jim, says he can taste the difference and thus sticks to extra virgin or extra extra virgin olive oil when he cooks instead.  

Peanut Butter Sandwich

I prefer the sourdough bread but any good bread will do. Use this TJ peanut butter and one of the above toppings. Done. For both of us, we couldn't live without this to fall back on. I have been this way since I was in grade school. As for the peanut butter, we have gone through several TJ varieties. Jim does not do well with change so when TJ's messed around with the formula a few times, he was very unhappy. "What happened to my Valencia peanuts?" was the first crisis when TJ's changed the peanuts. Second crisis was when it added flax seeds into the peanuts. The above container is now our standard and, of course, it must be stirred when first opened.

Some Booze at Trader Joe's

For those of us who drink, Vinho Verde White Wine  from Portugal at Trader Joe's is quite nice and is less than six bucks. A fine treat is Pêche Lambic Belgian beer which comes in a big bottle and is ten bucks.

Coffee Drinks

1/3 chocolate almond milk + 1/3 vanilla almond milk + 1/3 black coffee zapped in microwave 2-2.5 minutes = Café Mocha

1/2 vanilla almond milk + 1/2 black coffee zapped in microwave 2-2.5 minutes = Café au lait

Dark chocolate almond milk is at Walmart and everything else is at TJ's.

Supermarket Salad Bar

And sometimes you just want the fastest solution around short of going to an eat-in restaurant. Once a week one of us stops at Heinen's (locally) and makes an absolutely gigantic salad and brings it home as a feast for 1-2 days. Whole Foods (nationally) is farther away from us but I use that if in that direction as well. 

Don't put the dressing on there. Wait until you eat it. I recommend these two dressings at Trader Joe's:

Once a week one of us will also stop at Subway and get a flatbread sub filled with every single veggie, including Jalapeños, on its BMT sub. We specify the Chipolte Southwestern dressing on it. Second choice is the Bacon, Turkey and Avocado with all of the same trimmings.

Let me close by saying that those of us in these senior years generally have to choose where we spend our time as our energy and stamina are limited. If you need to give yourself a break in the cooking department, these "recipes" and my approach will give you a new lease on life for your other interests.

If you have a Felix in your house, tell him how to do it and then lay back and let him prepare it with his new, improved fussier version. When you are on your own, use my versions.

When Jim's Mom, Filomena, was alive I used to joke about their fussiness regarding food. I'd say that if the three of us were washed ashore on a deserted jungle island, the two of them would be bickering about what to eat while I would ignore them and eat everything I could find on the island. By the time they were done squabbling, the best food would be gone and I'd be lying in a hammock between trees taking a siesta from my meal. They knew this was true and just shook their heads in disgust at me.

If anyone has a food idea that can be done in the same amount of time, please post it here in comments, below, or send it to me and I will post it for you. There is a contact box in the right hand column which sends emails to me. It is fine if your "recipe" is vegan or vegetarian or any other specialty food.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

Film: Le Passé (The Past)

Another excellent movie by Irani director, Asghar Farhadi

Bérénice Bejo plays Marie, a Parisian woman who has unresolved relationships with two Arab men. Her present husband has just returned to France from Iran to see to the finalization of her divorce. They have been separated for several years since he felt the need to return to Iran. He is her second husband. She had two daughters with a first husband. He was not Arab and her daughters almost look Nordic next to everyone else. The mother is now involved with another Arab man, living in Paris, and wants to marry him. Neither her daughters nor his son are reacting well to all of this domestic upheaval, especially since his wife is in a coma in a nearby hospital. 

This coma keeps intruding into the story and for good reason. Tahar Rahim as the Iranian husband is the most likable of all of these characters but that may be because the worst thing he's done is move back to Iran. As the story unfolds, this is very minor indeed compared to everyone else's acts in the past. Marie and her soon-to-be husband really start to grate on your nerves and then you start finding out more and more about them. This director and writer has a wonderful understanding of the complexity of human relationships and families. This is what all of his films are about. He carefully builds a story around these complex personalities, nuances them with every fine detail imaginable and then brings an emotional powerhouse down on everyone in the 11th hour. His film from the year before The Separation was also outstanding.

Novel: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

This is a novel but done through emails, legal documents in a divorce case and professional documents, such as a psychiatry report regarding child custody disposition. I used to practice divorce law and the author has captured the reality of divorce law perfectly since she too is a lawyer. Once committed to the story, I stuck with it and read it to the end. 

My favorite character is the wife sued for divorce, called 3M. She is a hoot. The divorcing husband's being a doctor is perfect too as that profession is well represented in divorce courts throughout America. He even lives down to its usual problem in divorce court: everything and everyone comes behind his being a doctor. He's a pediatric oncologist and as his own daughter puts it, "Sickness doesn't cut it with him unless you're dying of cancer." So, of course, he initially wants custody! He is also a pretty delightful character to dislike. 

I read this while in bed recovering from eye surgery and a horrible summer cold. It did the job of cheering me up while I felt pretty lousy overall. Although my first reaction was not to like the way this was written, via emails and documents, I completely forgot about that the further I got into it as the story swept me along. It is actually perfect summer reading material.

For those of you who are avid New Yorker readers, the author is married to its film critic, David Denby. 

TV: Orphan Black

Season Two is just about as jam packed as the first season with action and adventure. This is all to the good as the same actress, Tatiana Maslany, plays multiple roles as clones of one woman. She does a terrific job. My favorite clone remains the housewife out in the burbs, Alison, who can often be unexpectedly deadly. She is a riot and I love every minute she is on screen. Felix, the faithful gay friend, is back as well. I like him best when he is with Alison too. They are funny together. Perhaps the very best moments though are when Alison is forced into rehab, her husband Donny confronts her there and then Donny, in one of the funniest tv moments ever, accidentally kills one of her worst enemies by pounding a gun against his steering wheel in frustration.

The other clones vary. Sarah has a very big role and she gets in the most fixes of any of them. However, her clone "sister" a Russian terminator is great at killing off anyone who gets in Sarah's way. Another great moment is when the Russian clone is dancing in a bar with a fellow and someone bothers her partner. Her partner is overwhelmed but she is not. She beats the crap out of guy bothering them! There are more clones as well but just tune in and watch Tatiana Maslany act her butt off playing all of them.

This is a BBC production and Tatiana Maslany is from Toronto. One warning, you definitely need to see this in order. So watch season one first.

Music: Everly Brothers, 29 Golden Greats

I really surprised myself by listening to these songs one afternoon and enjoying them a lot. Even more surprising is that I could remember every single one of them! I do not know if someone who had never heard them as a younger person back in the day would enjoy these as much. Certainly this style of singing and even their whole look and mode is not being done today. However, this is what I found refreshing. I think the Everly Brothers were quite good within their very limited range. They are very white bread 1950s and if you are expecting a 2014 multicultural musical experience this is not for you. As a 65 year old woman brought up in that era though, I thoroughly enjoyed these songs and the live performance.

Everything reviewed above is carried by Amazon, iTunes, Audible, the Overdrive app for your public library and most other outlets both online and in the real world. These are taken from my five star reviews at Amazon where I am a Top Reviewer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Basket of Life Farm Summer

As I've mentioned before, we live adjacent to The Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is the third most used park in the country but because that is every day use by primarily people in our region, it is never crowded. One thing the park did was grandfather in all the farms and homesteads and such so that those existing entities continued. Hence we now have quite a few local farms and even a few wineries. The park also lists related events on Facebook CVNP.

This summer we decided to join a produce club from one of those farms in the park, The Basket of Life Farm. The park is vast and those that got grandfathered in cannot make use changes to the land. So the farm cannot be sold to make a condo or office development or anything else more commercial and/or ruinous to the enjoyment of the land by park users. There isn't even a drugstore or supermarket in the entirety of the park. So what you see now is pretty much the way it will stay.

We did our first pickup on Sunday of our produce. We had a beautiful convertible ride down to Peninsula, a quaint little town in the heart of the park, and the farm was just down the road from there.

Our box of food was waiting in this shed along with Heather, who runs that part of the operation. Heather's laptop was parked right next to her because that is how she remains on top of running the food program so there is only so primitive this gets!

When Jim walked in he had a real deja vu experience and was shortly asking Heather about a fruit farm near there that he and his family had come to when he was a kid. Heather informed him he was standing in the fruit farm and pointed to an old notice scrawled up on the wall about not handling the fruit.  Yes, it was indeed the old Klein fruit farm. His Mom had them pick fruit there on weekends and then she took it all home and canned it. Jim attempted to give me the honors of picking our box and I said, "You have got to be kidding. You know you are the gardener and are just itching to get in there." With no further ado he all but dove head first into the boxes until he found the most promising one (three tries). Next he got to add in two other crops. The produce was truly beautiful with the greens and reds the most vivid hues possible for produce.

On our way exiting the farm, Jim spotted a sign for his old Boy Scout Camp and shortly we were parked in front of its gates. And we sat. Finally I said, "Well aren't you going to go in?" I have never seen Jim so shy about entering a place but he finally did move the car forward. It is still in operation and we could have been still back in the 1950s or 1960s as those Scouts bring everything in with them and set up camp in full display of their wilderness skills. Jim is going to go back and talk to some people on his own another time.  I said maybe they'd have an alumni camp out for him and others.  So stay tuned on this one as this was a major, major event of his growing up years and I am sure I will have more to relate.

We rode back home and we've been eating huge salads ever since.  They have been wonderful. I have gradually won Jim over into enjoying some of the "weird" but delicious things I throw into salads, such as pine nuts and dried wild blueberries so he threw them in as he made these masterpieces. They were just fabulous and would cost a fortune in a restaurant that knew how to make such a salad. We still have Kale and Swiss Chard to eat.  The below is the plan that the farm offers. We picked the $350 version of the below plan as we are just two people.

Now Jim wants to find Kale and Chard recipes. Here is where apps really pay off. I used my Paprika Recipe Box app on my iPad and found recipes he really liked in a matter of minutes. I just find the recipe in the browser, click on the save recipe button and voila, it is now in my recipe box. This app is also available for the android mobile platform.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Our Wonderful Small Lives; Our Terrible Large Lives

It is hard to reconcile at times how there can be so many opposites in life to handle. So many things are wonderful and yet so many things are terrible. Personally, my major way of handling this has always been to fully enjoy a heightened sense of the absurd. This is why I love Woody Allen and even his occasional leading man, Larry David. They live in the land of the absurd.

For example, I have been making tests for the Teachers Pay Teachers website. One of these tests was on sex based crimes. I don't know exactly how Allen or David would work their way out of the below depressing state of affairs.  But I bet they could do it. (This entry has nothing to do with Mia Farrow's unsubstantiated, continuing attacks against Woody Allen, other than I think people who are still hounded when charges have been validly investigated and dismissed are also victims.)

As background for my test drafting, I knew that sex slave trafficking exists and is a global problem but I did not know that it involved over a million people, the majority being women and children. They are taken from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and brought here and to Japan and to some other affluent sections of the world. This info was necessary for my test on sex based crimes. From that I vaulted right into another fairly new crime called Child Sex Tourism. This is where people from the US go to Thailand, for example, to have sex with children. So these are my questions for my TPT test:

1. This sex crime committed in a foreign country can be prosecuted against an American in America regardless of whether the offense is punishable in the country where it occurred:

a. Child Sex Tourism  
b. menage a trois
c. sado masochism
d. bestiality

2. Global Sex Trafficking involves sexual servitude by women and children and also some men, recruited from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. This is not true about this crime affecting over one million people:

a.  these sex slaves work in the United States  
b.  gangs, especially Russian ones, are the criminals behind these enterprises
c.  sex traffickers are often women who began as coerced sex workers themselves
d.  conviction rates are high for Global Sex Trafficking in the United States

Correct answers are given in red above. Conviction rates are extremely low.

It seems incredible to me that the last time I talked about slavery was in a spirited conversation with my neighbor Rebecca after we both saw Daniel Day-Lewis play Lincoln. Why were we talking about slavery from two centuries ago when it is ongoing in our own time?

So this is what I mean about life can be terrible. However, at one and the same time I am going about my day and there is a lot about my day that is wonderful. I am reading a good book called Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta about people out in the wilderness in Montana being hunted by two bad guys and using their survival skills to thwart them. Inbetween I will play scrabble, gin rummy and do a crossword on my ipad. (I have greatly improved on all three by just playing against the computer.)

Jim and I are going today to pick up our first food basket from our summer of produce from a local farm in the national park. His old boy scout camp is right around the corner and we are going to poke our heads in there too. He will later make one of his world class salads from the produce for our dinner. It is another nice, cool day in the mid 70s which is perfect for swimming since hardly anyone will be at our pool. Our pool is only used hard when it is much, much hotter. I just had a nice lunch of my favorite sandwich from Subway which is on flat bread and filled with Italian meats, cheeses and veggies. I've got two episodes of Orphan Black here to catch up on from BBC America, a sci fi series. I am ready to attempt closing up those sleeves on my animal print dress and it is now sitting beside my sewing machine waiting for me. And I will either be sipping a gin gimlet or a campari and soda in late afternoon or early evening which will be pleasant. I check my email with Rebecca and I see she is now filing her own blog entries with photos. These are computer skills which I taught her so I feel good about that entry.

Most importantly, I can see better than I was seeing due to my two eye surgeries. I could go on and on but in sum, my daily, hourly, minutely life is not bad at all.  It is actually very nice. I am stretched out as usual on my low sofa which overlooks the woods two stories up, as if I am in a tree house. I have four floor to ceiling windows in that spot for light and fresh air. My Mac Air is propped up on my belly as I write and look for photos from my favorite absurdists to go with this piece.
But I am hardly repining about not going out further into the world than those activities. I think some of the key to happiness, or at least senior happiness, is to think small. There is nothing that can go too wrong with my day as I've just outlined it to you. But make my plans more grandiose and I could be cruising for a major fall, especially with iffy health conditions. Presently my idea for more grandiose would be to get into the car and drive to Lake Erie on Geneva on Huntington Beaches, either this day or another summer's day.  How is that for risk taking? For me it is a just fine level although I am sure some of you are being a bit more Lewis & Clark than I am this summer.

I feel bad for the sex slaves but in the end I do what we all do, get on with my life in my microscopic section of the universe as best I can. I can't get through my own day with too much bad stuff. And why should I pick bad things I have not even the slightest amount of ability to control? So it is beautiful June Sunday and I will instead seize the day and enjoy it.

P.S. I have been trying to think of an inspirational person to write about for days and this is as close as I can get to that idea. If I could subtract Woody Allen's personal life from his equation he would be my choice. While a person is still alive, however, that is very hard to do. Let's just say I find him tremendously inspiring based on what he's accomplished professionally.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Weekend Entertainment Recs for Seniors & Others

TV: In Treatment, Season 3 Gabriel Byrne
The Way It Really Is

There was a great deal of unipolar depression littered along my family genetic tree. So that I got it as a young adult and needed this kind of long term treatment seemed inevitable. The way treatment is usually depicted in films and tv is that patient and therapist achieve a complete catharsis for the patient and the patient strides off towards what will now be a brilliant future which he or she will be able to handle without emotional turmoil. Sadly, this rosy treatment plan only exists in most screenwriters' imaginations.

The reality is that therapy is messy, as messy as life itself. It starts and stops like the rest of life starts and stops, not at any great dramatic points but at quite ordinary and often unresolved points. The patient teeters off to do life on his or her own for awhile and after some missteps will often come shakily back into therapy again with perhaps a different therapist. Although the therapist comes across as all knowing and wise in session, if you stumble across your therapist's personal life, you discover his or her personal life eclipses your own in sheer messiness.

This show captures the above like no other film or tv show ever has. It has done so for three seasons. It may have done it best in this season. Gabriel Byrne does a tour de force job as therapist Paul Weston and indeed very much reminds me of my own first therapist. This season we see him in therapy with a new woman therapist plus him as the therapist with three new patients. My personal favorite has always been to see Byrne's Paul Weston in therapy and this season is no exception to that. He is just a complete mess but in a wholly believable way.

His three patients are a gay adopted boy, a retired widower from Calcuttan forced to live with his son and his family in New York and a middle aged actress (Debra Winger), whose sister is dying of breast cancer, like their mother did. All three are compelling stories and the only sense you have at closing is that although certain issues have been resolved, manifold problems lay ahead for all of them at therapy's end. Is this how it goes for people in real life? Of course it is.

Amazon Instant Video is currently carrying all three seasons and they are free for members of its Prime Program. All three seasons are excellent. It would be best to see them in order but not essential. This series is also available on DVD. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Film: Bad Timing, A Sensual Obsession 
by Nicholas Roeg 
starring Theresa Russell & Art Garfunkel

Nicholas Roeg used his real life wife, Theresa Russell, as the female love interest in this, his best film. Art Garfunkel plays the male lead, a professor, in that phase of his life when he was acting instead of singing. This film has been compared to Last Tango In Paris. Its theme of sexual obsession between an unlikely man and woman is similar. However, the obsession in Last Tango In Paris is kicked off by Brando's wife's suicide. 

There is no cause in Bad Timing which similarly explains the man's obsession. These two come together with wild, animalistic lust and it never seems like there is any more than that. However, it is apparent that these two are terrible for one another. The film is shot in a jerky fashion (deliberately) with flashes back and forward in time. It produces a very clashing effect. If the couple were a musical composition, you would judge it/them as atonal and dissonant. There is not one element of harmony to this couple other than when they animalistically mate. 

What does a musician dread as his worst nightmare? He fears losing his timing. The timing is bad throughout and thus the affair is always poised on the edge of oblivion, the disharmony threatening to shatter it. Harvey Keitel also plays a police officer in this movie. This was before he only played leading roles.

Art Garfunkel's roles in both this and Carnal Knowledge were supposed to turn him into a major movie star. It never happened. He was a fine enough actor. He was just too peculiar looking to fit the leading man roles he wanted to play. Had he been content to play smaller character parts, the experiment would have worked.

Amazon Instant Video is currently carrying this film and it is free for members of its Prime Program. It is also playing on iTunesI am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Music: Lazaretto by Jack White
He Knows His Music & Art

Some people do not like Jack White as a person, finding him fairly unbearable. He is peculiar. That comes out in every interview, including every interview in connection with this album's release. His appearance is weird too: odd hats, black hair dye, vintage clothing, facial makeup including eye liner. He even color coordinates his albums because he's also an artist and is always building things and coordinating them together. This album's color is blue, which means everything in connection with it is blue including every outfit White wears. When he was the front man for the White Stripes, he made everything in red, white and black.

Frankly, I think all of the above goes with the territory. The guy was given an astounding amount of musical and artistic talent. He composes the music, writes the lyrics, produces all of his own albums, plays in other bands, etc., etc., One could never fault this guy on his work ethic. He's 38 and this is the 45th album he's produced!

So is he good and is this album any good? Yes and Yes. How could the answer be anything else?He is a huge talent. No matter what he turns to, it comes out fresh, original, vibrant and uncompromising. In particular, he really lets loose with his guitar on this album and even his worst detractors admit he is one heck of a guitarist. It is fair to say that he is on fire with the guitar with this album. This album also has a distinctly Southern twang to it. I can now tell he lives in Nashville, TN. He was originally a kid out of the Motor City (Detroit) so this is a big transformation. This is the first time I would take him for a native Southerner on an album. He has been moving steadily in this direction for quite a few years. As for his voice, it always works with his own material. If he sang someone else's songs, one might not like his voice. But his voice is perfectly suited to his own material. This is also true of Billy Joel and Bob Dylan.

In short, I do not really want to know my artists as people. Instead, I want to enjoy their work. In that respect, Jack White scores yet again.

This album is available everywhere online and in real world stores. It is available for instant download at both Amazon and iTunes. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

Novel: Remember Me Like This

Bret Anthony Johnston

Terrific Writing About Family Under Siege
A family living on the Gulf Coast of Texas experiences a tragedy. One of their sons disappears when he is 11. Four years go by and all efforts to recover him have petered out. The parents still post flyers and have a toll free number and a reward but the rest of the world has moved on. This family cannot move on, the mother, father and other son. They are just getting by, day by day. Then they get a call from Corpus Christi from the police. A street vendor called the police when she seemingly recognized him from the flyers. He had an older man with him who was buying him mice to feed the snake he'd bought him. To tell you anymore would ruin this story. It went in NO direction that I was thinking it would go, which is a good thing. All the scenarios which occurred to me as the usual kind of resolution were not used. The writing is terrific. The emotions of every character captured in this story are just sensational. I read this in a day while recovering from surgery. I went to bed after 3am.

This novel is available everywhere and in every format, both digital and real world. I am a top reviewer at Amazon. You can see my reviews here.

new feature: Entertainment Bombs!

Music: Ghost Stories, Coldplay

More Conscious Uncoupling? 

Lead singer Chris Martin has always had a lovely voice and delivery. I can't say that fails him here and he is certainly accompanied by the lushest musical sound possible. Somehow this just doesn't do it for me though. Part of the problem might be that I came straight from listening to Jack White's LAZARETTO. Here are two men with recent breakups from their wives. White is on fire in a spare, minimalist environment and style whereas Martin sounds as if he's on a Hollywood soundstage supported by a cast of thousands. I saw Martin perform two of these songs on SNL and was somewhat underwhelmed then as well. I think he is a lovely man but I also think he might not be quite as heartbroken as he needs to be for this album to work. I don't blame him for this. I think being married to Gwyneth Paltrow for ten years was probably not good for him or his art. Too much New Agey, flakey influence and it is showing on this album. I think he needs to get back to his roots, back to where he was musically before being influenced by Paltrow's whole Hollywood Princess lifestyle. Perhaps the worst thing I can say is unfortunately the truest: it SOUNDS like he is broken up with an American movie star, not the love of his life. Move on, Chris, in every sense of the word.

However, whoever did the art on this album did a fantastic job. You can see everyone involved in the Paltrow-Martin family in those wings. Click on above image to see biggest version.

Novel: Double Image
by David Morrell

his is a very bizarre book. It has its entertaining moments but it became so disjointed as to lose believability. First, we start off with one villain for about a third of the book and this villain is totally over the top. He is a Bosnian after an American photographer who took photos of his war atrocities and he kills anyone in his path. Then we abruptly shift directions but with the same hero who now is obsessively tracking the movements of a film starlet from the thirties whose photographs he discovered in the home he just bought. This has nothing to do with the Bosnian or any of the people the Bosnian killed. Meanwhile, the hero has lost all of his friends because the Bosnian killed them. He is down to just his ex girlfriend vis a vis the movie starlet who would be nearing 100 if still alive. And it just gets weirder from there. I was half expecting the last third to turn into a ghost story but it did not. If this had been two or three different books, there may have been one good book there. There are enjoyable parts but the whole is a mess.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Clothing Imagined Every Step of the Way (Patternless)

You have read a variety of my blog entries on my philosophy of clothing. What you have not seen until now are my efforts putting that philosophy to the test with actual garments. This entry changes that. I give you explanations to go with the pictures. If you find my explanations hard to understand, just keep in mind my overall plan. I cut the holes for the head, arms and legs and just go from there as my imagination takes me. I have no idea what the garment will look like when I am done when I am at this starting point. There is no plan. This flies in the face of all recommendations about making clothing. Home economics teachers everywhere would consider this nothing short of outright anarchy. But, hey, I'm 65 years old and am just going to stick it on myself so what difference does it make? This is also the method I use when making a quilt, blanket, pillow and so forth. Those are easier, however, because they do not have to go over the three dimensional human body. Anyway, just look at the pictures if you find my explanations incomprehensible.

Note: all fabrics were machine washed and machine dried on normal cycles and heats before I began work. I do not baby clothing. I expect to toss it into the machines with the rest of my wash load without a second thought. Again, heresy.

This started out as a cotton print dress I made a year ago that I cut on the square (on the straight grain of the fabric). It was ok but I was unsatisfied. I ripped it apart to try some of my new ideas with it. When I cut the dress apart, I cut the pieces at an angle instead of on the square. I next decided to use an olive colored silk for half of the new dress. I cut those pieces on an angle too (on the bias). I did this because the human body is not square so square cut fabric will not flatter it. Then I started joining everything together on the sewing machine. I sewed the seams on the outside, making the seams part of the dress. The result is a caftan style dress which is quite comfortable. I am leaving sleeves big and open on everything. This gives me coolness during the summer and the option of putting a top underneath it for winter warmness. Below is the back of the garment.

My first step on this or any other project is to cut the hole for the head.  I then put the fabric on myself and decide what to do next with it. As each idea comes, I go ahead and do it, finish that step, put it back on over my head and again decide what to do next. Often I need to stick it on Jim as I near the end so I can walk around it and adjust it. There are no patterns, no sketches, no kit, no plans. In other words, there is nothing to go on other than the fabrics themselves and holes for head, arms and legs. This is how I imagine people used to make their clothing when they had to make it themselves and had nothing but the cloth, thread and cutting sewing implements.  It is as far from mass produced ready to wear as one can get.

The above is a top made using the same ideas as before. However, I made a much smaller piece of fabric for the head opening, cut a chunk off at an angle, and started adding pieces to that cut off angle. This forced me to add pieces of fabric in non square format. Quilters generally use squares or rectangles in their pieces but I find odd shapes more intriguing to join together.  This meant that I was constantly recutting the entire top to get the pieces to fit.  That is ok as the pieces get more interesting with constant recutting. The blue fabrics are silk and the print fabrics are cotton. The sides ended up way too long when I was done so I had to put it on Jim so I could cut the excess away and then resew the sides together. Everything always ends up uneven as I do not want any garment to square off at its ends.

The above top is not done yet. I will keep working on it but I'm not sure I can pull off the sleeves in this one.  I have been very far off in the sleeves and that is not good. My central idea was to use up these pieces of cotton animal fabric I had in my stash. I like animal fabric but I don't like it in one continuous piece. The other pieces are all silks. This one was a lot more complicated because my animal pieces were already in irregular piece format as were the dark blue and purple fabrics. The only fabrics in continuous yardage were the blue silk and orange silk. Working with small pieces right from the beginning makes it a lot harder. This was the most difficult garment to date and I doubt I would do another.  It is much easier initially having bigger, continuous yardage at the start point. Although I was able to cut the hole for the head out of the orange yardage, I was not able to do that for the sleeves. Thus, the seeds of my destruction! I've had to build up the sleeves instead by adding on fabric. I never want to do this again. Starting out with my holes in place: head, arms, legs, seems to be the only sane way to do this. If I ever pull this together, I will take another picture. The back view of this garment shows my sleeve problem better, below.

The above garment had to be completely recut. It was first a top made with the opening holes made out of just the orange-yellow cotton and purple silk. It did not work in any respect. I kept the hole openings but recut the body of the top so that I added more and more joined pieces to it. It reshaped as a caftan instead of a top.The other problem I had with this was that it was too orange and yellow. Very few of us can wear huge amounts of these colors. So I had to get other colors going in there to make it a better color. Turquoise was a great color saver. Most people can wear turquoise. In fact, most people can wear blue which is why you see so much of it. Below is a back view of this garment. Below is the back of this garment.

In general, if you are having a color problem with your clothing, look at the world around you outdoors. Anything you see as a color in the earth will look good on anyone. This is because we are earth ourselves and earth complements earth. So I know that the blue of water or sky is going to work because it is all around me in the natural world and in harmony. If a color is not working, it is probably a derivative shade of that color in the earth and thus riskier to use.

This has given you a lot to absorb.  I will be revisiting this topic from time to time. Essentially this is my continual quest to avoid the straight-jacket method of clothing construction.

Note: A big thank you to Jim for modeling these clothes for the pictures. I then took him out of the pictures with my Photoshop clone program, GIMP. I used the eraser tool to remove as much of him as I could. If you look closely you will see in some photos I could not get rid of his arms. It should be noted that in many countries of the world, men do wear clothes like this. Africa and Asia have many men in this kind of clothing. So this is a lot more unisex than a ball gown with heels. As a humorous aside, he mentioned that he now thought of himself as the Naomi Campbell of my blog. I thought it was interesting that he picked the most difficult super model in the world as his mentor. She has been sued by countless assistants when she slugged them for not getting her orders right! Once a Felix, always a Felix.