Outstreched arm

Friday, September 30, 2005

Bizarro Stuffed Cabbage

This is a recipe for the opposite of stuffed cabbage. Huh? Well, you know how Bizarro, Superman's "polar opposite", wasn't black, didn't live under water, and didn't have two noses and one ear? I don't want to go too deeply into the "theory" of what makes a thing the "precise opposite" of something else - not in a recipe, anyway (but if we ever meet at a party, do ask.) Suffice to say that opposites only work within defined contexts, and in this case, the context is that of some cabbage-and-ground-meat dish.

I took my idea from "unstuffed cabbage", a recipe that makes a moderately difficult dish - rolling those things and making sure they don't fall apart or end up bone-dry, oh boy! - into a fairly simply one. Now, since in addition to this I'm also vegetarian and use meat substitutes, I believe I can call this dish the opposite of stuffed cabbage. Let's start - you'll need:

6 oz Smart Ground or other fake ground beef
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup rice, uncooked
1/2 onion, finely chopped,
salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste

Mix these by hand, in a bowl, and do your best to form meatballs about 2" in diameter. They won't want to stay together, but that's fine. This is not a fancy meal anyway. When you're done, wash your hands and get these out:

1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup tomato juice
8 oz tomato sauce
1 tbsp raisins (yup, raisins)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sugar (or Splenda)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp salt

Heat a little bit of oil in a large pot and add the cabbage. Throw in the salt and simmer, covered, over medium heat, for 10 minutes. Add everything else, including the meatballs, and simmer on medium-low for about an hour. You may have to add a little bit of water - 1/4 cup or so - two or three times if the sauce gets reduced too much. Don't burn the cabbage, but you shouldn't end up with any "soup" by the end of the hour either.

This will serve 2 treehuggers. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Being there, and nothing doing

Hey, you know what's a good slow-person movie? Rain Man. You know why? Because that asshole played by the asshole Tom Cruise is such a dick to his poor, messed-up brother. There's no geeting around it: Raymond is slow, child-like in all the worst ways, and lost in the world. He is maddeningly un-human-like much of the time; Charlie is used to dealing with crooks, liars, and other insincere people, but in his brother's case, he can't accept that behind the cold facade, there is just very little he could ever touch in any way. But Raymond is a person, so he can't be undealt with - and because this is difficult, unavoidable, and not obviously rewarding, it's real.

Raymond's condition is not exactly medically accurate, but it's multidimensional. True, of the dimensions, the savant is way out there, but it's a movie that attempts to be entertaining, so it needs some oomph.

Being There also attempts to entertain, I suppose. I mean, one can only assume that was an intention somewhere in the process. And I know many people who really like it. I'd always had a recollection of seeing it, but I proved myself wrong tonight - I must have been thinking of something else the whole time, like Raising Arizona or Kissing jessica Stein.

Friends, readers, I'm sorry; I didn't like the movie at all. What is this a satire of, exactly - the phoney Washington circles? But no one here is all that phoney - these are the most down-to-earth, sympathetic politicans I've ever seen. How is Chauncey's lame-ass garden metaphor more sincere and direct, and why does anyone buy it? What the heck is the point of the TV motiff anyway? Is the one-joke of the criminally sheltered man (in need of therapy, unless you really get sucked into the movie's paperhouse reality) replying to serious questions with a complete lack of comprehension really ever funny? I could go on and on, but I won't - I hate myself when I'm this bitter about something. But I am.

Here's a very risky and hastily arrived-at proposition: satire of serious, dramatic aspirations needs to be at least a little bit 'meta'. Two obvious examples: Network and ...And Justice For All. Whenever probability, believability, and degree get warped, there's a moment of reflection: wait, is this really happening? To me it says, "viewer, we're with you; this is insane. Let's ride it out together." Not that this is the only thing these two films have over Being There - they both feature fantastic performances, twist-the-knife-in-the-wound scripts, and the human experience exploded to heights of divine power and depths of immoral, alien darkness.

This really should have been a wacky, surreal, or stylish comedy - the few moments offering opportunity for that are all overdone: the maid's anti-WASP rant, the embarrassing masturbation scene - and if you don't think it's embarrassing, grant me that it's insanely unplausible, at least - and the very last, "whoa" scene. Make sure you dip that umbrella in the lake so we really get it, Chauncey - as if 130 minutes of hearing about how brilliant you are wasn't enough. My own guess was that you'd be crowned King of The Americas. Har! What a silly society we are!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Archer Farms Pasta Pretty

I thought I'd share this swanky piece of design available at Super Target:

Art Deco meets country style, and it all ends up pleasantly upscale-Italian. Not bad for a store brand, huh?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

In an interstellar burst

Yes, I'm alive.

Yes, I'm lazy. Boring, too. And you know what? I blame Jerry. This thoughtful colleague of mine gifted me one month's subscription to TotalFark, thereby rendering me incapable of doing anything else with my free time. What a farker.

Anything else I've been up to has been recorded on Flickr and Netflix, I've just been too "busy" to write reviews and such. Very briefly: John Sayles's Men With Guns is another excellent movie pulled out of thin air; it's a political, social, and ethical parable set in an imaginary (but all too familiar) South American country. It's in Spanish - be as cynical as you want of Sayles's international humanism, but he lives and works it. Excellent performances all around, a confident script, and an eye for the little big things; not a groundbreaking film in itself, but a load-carrying element of Sayles's nonpareil career.

I also saw ...And Justice for All, the movie that's not Scent of A Woman, though it contains Al Pacino and the widely (mis)quoted line "You're out of order! They're out of order!" It may seem odd to begin praising a movie by showing understanding for those who won't like it, but I have to do just that: it's a slightly imperfect, jerky, oddly balanced tragicomedy with uneasy laughs and often overripe pathos. It seems to consist of dozens of seemingly unrelated vignettes centered around the character of Arthur Kirkland (Pacino), an ethical lawyer having to deal with the corruption, malevolence, cynicism, and technical difficulties of the American legal system (as given here). The central plot has him defending a judge he can't personally or professionally stomach, and it's set up so that no course of action would be smart or morally defensible. Does it get resolved, then?

Well, one test of your own answer to this question is to ask another: what did you think of Chayefsky/Lumet's Network? It's a similar kind of movie: obsessed with grand themes, but never too busy taking itself too seriously; funny or disturbing depending on how believable you find it; hilariously exaggerated (it's satire, after all) but with an obvious point to make about the real world. And both films are remembered for their powerful freak-out scenes ("I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!")

And as with Network, the writing is often thunderous in the best of ways - unrestrained like a child genius you'd be crazy to ask to be quiet. I also have to point out perhaps the most bizarre ingredient here: the hilariously inappropriate 1980s soul/jazz that opens and closes the movie. It doesn't really ruin it, but it's shocking.

After reading various reviews of Men With Guns and ...And Justice for All, my feeling is that both are underrated. Perhaps this is a terribly artfag thing to say, but can we please get beyond judging movies on their plausibility alone? It's certainly a factor that needs to be taken into account, but when I rate movies, I give them one free pass: the acting can suck, or the photography can be terrible, or the budget can be shoestringy. Now that we've covered that, let's see what you can do with the rest.

Ah, nearly forgot one: Errol Morris's The Thin Blue Line. After seeing this and Fog of War, I'm scratching my head - I want to like Errol Morris, yet it's not happening. He's a fine director - highly skilled with visuals (though some student-filmish animations in Fog of War had me groaning) and with a unique idea of pacing and story arcs. But somehow, the slow, Phillip Glass-backed lullabies don't really take off. They seem too long and fail to let the characters really speak for themselves. What can I say, I'm a hypocrite for offering advice on criticism and immediately failing to articulate my own.

I've been practicing my keys regularly. I really don't know if I'll ever be any good, but I'll sure try. Props to Miles and Adriano for their help.