Sunday, August 26, 2007


Just saw the most amazing movie last night. It had an incredibly simple story to tell. It's about an Irish busker -- street musician -- who meets a Czech immigrant struggling to support her son and mother by selling flowers, magazines and cleaning houses. She's also a musician and the movie is about them bonding through music.

It sounds so plain when you describe it, but the music is wonderful. The "guy" is the lead singer for an Irish band called The Frames. I'm going to have to check out their tunes. The "girl" is good, too, in a Bjork kind of way.

Here's a live performance of one of their songs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Farewell, Tre

My favorite Top Chef candidate was eliminated last night. Now I have no one to root for. The only reason to watch is to hope Howie goes down before the final three. There is no justice. Really, even though I like the guy, CJ should have gone home. I also thought they should have brought Daniel B back as a judge. The new judge was pretentious.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Is the U.S. replacing the U.S.S.R.? Sure, we're a capitalistic country, but as China shows us, you can have an oppressive government and flourishing market-based economy. Of all the rights being curtailed and trammeled, the right to travel freely is, to me, one of the greatest.

I keep thinking of this because of the tightening restrictions on travel and identification. There's a news item about how people in states that rejected the REAL ID program might have to show their passports to travel domestically or visit National Parks. That comes on top of the hideous restrictions that have led to foreigners refusing to visit the U.S. I don't blame them. If a country demanded that I be fingerprinted and all data on my politics, my sexual orientation, my faith be transmitted, well, I'd skip visiting, thank you very much. One of the most haunting parts of visiting the USSR back when it was the USSR was the oppressive restrictions on travel -- for both foreigners and citizens. As a foreigner, you had to register where you were visiting. As a resident or citizen, you had to have internal travel papers that you had to show.

And even the USSR, for God's sakes, didn't go as far as fingerprinting people entering the country. And at least they let S come in even though he stupidly decided to read Richard Rhodes' "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" on the plane. Can you imagine someone named Ali Q Hussein from Egypt getting the same respect here if he decided to read the book on a plane from Cairo to New York? And if the feds play chicken with the states refusing to implement REAL ID, Ali Q Hussein traveling from Boston to Las Vegas might run into the same problem.

I also keep thinking of the Palestinian Kuwaiti we met in Moscow during Gorbachev's reign. He hated the USSR and refused to leave the hotel while his daughter was getting operated on by a famous Russian eye doctor because the USSR had such tight restrictions on travel. He described his last trip to the U.S. to us and how he rented a car in Chicago and traveled down the Mississippi River, visiting Graceland and wound up at Disney World in Orlando. "What a great country you have!" he exclaimed. I don't think he could do that trip today. If he's still alive, I wonder what he thinks of things of the U.S. now.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Italian food disillusionment

One of my books to read on the cruise was Heat by Bill Buford. It's a wonderful account of a former New Yorker editor's quest to learn Italian cooking, first from Mario Batali and then in Italy itself. His obsession is so great, he learns the Tuscan way of butchering. It's a wonderful read, especially to me since Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain and Top Chef have made me such a foodie.

It gave me a craving for all things Italian, especially pork and pasta. And olive oil. I had been savvily buying olive oil from Literi's, the wonderful Italian deli near our home even before reading Heat.

Well, I just finished reading an article in the New Yorker about the extra virgin olive oil ripoff going on in Italy. They import Tunisian and Turkish oil -- not even olive oil, but sometimes hazelnut and other things, and even the dregs of olive oil that's used as lantern oil -- and mix it into the olive oil, then sell it as the real deal. It's hurting small farmers in Italy because it's the big corporations pulling this stunt and choking out the little guy trying to make an honest living. The EC is trying to crack down, but not hard enough. And of course the US doesn't have the manpower to investigate and relies on trade association evaluations -- and of course, these companies are on the trade association board. Guess I'll avoid Italian and try Spanish or Greek next time.

Here Bill Buford built up my romantic views and how quickly they're demolished!

Bermuda, the only way to get married

So S and I did it. We bowed to the patriarchy and got hitched. But we did it the only way you should -- eloping on a cruise boat to Bermuda. We had to get married in Baltimore on the boat because that's the only way we could legally with only a six-week turnaround time. And here's a myth for you: Captains can't marry people, unless they're licensed officiants. The only cruise that offers that option is Princess. We were on Royal Caribbean. Can't complain about the wedding -- it turned out well. I got a lovely corsage, the female Lutheran minister was great and the wedding coordinators very accommodating. In fact, we carefully laid out ties for S and promptly forgot to pack them. The cruise director loaned us one of his ties at the behest of RCI's wedding liason.
Do have complaints about the photographs. The photographer herself was a sweet thing from Croatia. But the company wanted to charge us $1,200 or more to get a CD of -- not all -- but about half the pictures. Naturally, already being broke from the cruise (we splurged on a balcony) and the wedding, we weren't about to do that. We bought 5 electronic copies and probably will scan in others.
Bermuda was beautiful. Unfortunately, our pics of Horseshoe Bay didn't come out. S accidentally put the camera on internal memory instead of flash card when showing the WC how to shoot a picture of us in wedding gear on our balcony. So we ran out of memory while shooting pictures there. The sand does appear pink from a distance -- if you're peering at it through lush green foliage. Up close it has a pink tint, but is pretty normal otherwise. The water is stunningly blue, sapphire, turquoise, aquamarine. Pick your jewel.
We want to do a cruise again. Unfortunately we're now hooked on balconies, so that limits our options.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Random thoughts

Daily Show was spot on about the Clinton/Obama fracas over nothing last night.

The metro was delayed this morning. Of course. Anytime I'm running early, it's always running late. Then I tried to scoot by a woman who was blocking the way, muttering 'excuse me.' She apparently didn't hear me and yelled at me for not saying excuse me. Well excuse me, but what the hell are you doing blocking lots of empty space on a crowded train? Self-righteous prig? I have some kind of circuit block between my brain and my tongue so of course I didn't make that retort.

Just have to get through today and then off to cruise.