Monday, June 30, 2008

GI Bill Signed

Today, President Bush signed the new GI Bill. No idea how it fits into the context of this blog, but I couldn't help writing about it. I think this is a pretty awesome event and provides an opportunity for a lot of people.
I've been hearing from friends as well as the web, that the GI bill hasn't been what it used to be and only covers 60-70% of public school costs.
According to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), "the GI Bill passed today closely resembles the education benefits that were offered to World War II veterans...It provides the full cost of tuition and enrollment fees up to the most expensive public college in each state and includes a monthly housing stipend and $1000 per year for books and supplies."
For more information about the GI Bill 2008, click here.
Yay, for a brighter future!
The Goth Bunny Read more!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Short Story Part #2

Part one is posted on June 27th or just click here .

Mommy changed, but it wasn’t the good kind of change like when cookie dough turns into cookies. She got grouchy and worked a lot more, even when it was supposed to be Patrice-and-Mommy time. She kept the door closed in the office and said the sooner she finished, the sooner she could play with him. Patrice hoped it would be like a change that started bad and turned out okay, like school. He remembered how he had really really missed Mommy at first, but then he made friends and learned all these neat things like reading and songs. Now he was sad that first grade was over. Perhaps the baby would be like that, too. The change wasn’t so bad at times like when he would sing to Mommy’s tummy and feel the baby dance under his palms.

Patrice didn’t know what to think of the baby. Both Mommy and Professor thought it was a very good thing. But Patrice had learned that different people thought different things were good. Professor thought coffee was yummy, but to Patrice, it tasted bad. Sometimes liking different things was even good. When Mommy bought a box of popsicles, Alex always took the red ones and Patrice took the purple. But this baby who made Mommy’s tummy big, who made her grumpy and tired, who made her back and feet hurt. This baby who made Professor climb into the attic and come down with boxes and boxes and spider webs in his hair and bug bites on his wrists and ankles. He didn’t know what to think of this baby.

It took up a lot of space, that’s for sure. It made a big space between him and Mommy so it was hard to hug her. He had to hug the baby just to hug Mommy. They couldn’t do hugs in family meetings anymore. They held hands or air hugged. But it wasn’t just that space either. There were boxes and boxes in the hallway for Professor to unpack. There was a big jar of vitamins on the counter where the peanut butter used to be. And you couldn’t play hide and go seek in the cabinets anymore, because there was too much baby shower stuff. Sometimes the baby seemed to take up so much space, that there wasn’t enough room for Patrice, but that was okay, he guessed, because Mommy really wanted the baby. He wanted Mommy to be happy, though he didn’t understand what was so wonderful about it.

There were times when the baby wouldn’t stop kicking in the middle of the night and Mommy would turn the lights on and walk around the house.

Patrice would kiss Mommy’s tummy and say, “Baby, stop hurting her.” And then sometimes it would stop.

And Mommy would smile and say, “You’re such a good brother.”

At those times, he was happy and excited to be a big brother. But he also wanted to stay Mommy’s Baby. He didn’t want to change.


Chess class was a not-so-bad change. They went every Saturday. Saturdays used to be Mommy-and-Patrice days, but when she started throwing up, he stayed with Alex and Professor. Since Professor was the teacher, they always got there early and Patrice would put green and white chess mats on the desks that Alex and Professor had pushed together. Usually, there was a another grownup or two in the room. They were college students and sometimes they helped, but a lot of the times they just asked you questions. It reminded him to theraPEE. He called it that because the yellow walls of the room were pee-colored.

He remembered the day he learned with just Professor and Cici. Professor told a story about each piece.

“This little guy is a pawn,” he said, holding a small piece of white plastic. “He looks a little like a bowling pin, but he’s really special. You can move him two spaces your first turn and only one after. He attacks diagonally and wait, here’s the kicker: if you can get him across the board, you can change him into any other piece.”

“Like he grows up?” Cici said.

“Exactly.” Professor beamed. “Now the knight is tricky fellow, he moves in a L…”

Patrice decided his favorite piece was the pawn. Not because it changed, but because if it didn’t cross to the other side, it could stay exactly the same. He liked how, besides the knights, the pawns always got to move before any of the other pieces. And he liked how pawns only moved one way and how they could make a strong V that marched across the board. He liked how they could create a little fence and protect the king. And Professor said that pawns were the most important pieces. Even though the king was supposed to be the guy, he liked to imagine it was Mommy and that he needed to protect her. Daddy was like the Queen, who also protected the king. And Alex was a knight because he was tricky.

Before the pregnancy, Mommy and Patrice would have a story time on Friday nights when Alex and Professor watched a scary movie. Sometimes Mommy was too tired but mostly she wanted to finish writing her book. There were times when Professor was too busy to give horsie rides, but Mommy had never been like that. “Kids first,” she used to say. Now on Fridays, Patrice sat in his room with his chess mat, which was full of the baby’s boxes, and act out the moves in Alex’s chess comic book. There some hard words and mostly, he would make up stories about the pieces. Sometimes the baby would be a knight, because it was tricky too but sometimes he pretended the baby didn’t exist. He liked how even if you put the pieces out of order, they still moved exactly the same way. He didn’t win a lot in chess class --­Professor said it was because he was littler than the other kids--, but he always knew how a piece got to a square. There were rules. There were no simple rules to explain Mommy or Professor or Alex, but in Patrice’s chess stories they always acted like their pieces. Sometimes he wished that everything could be like chess.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pixar's Wall-E

I'm one of those people who have been eagerly awaiting for Pixar to mess up. This is not because I have anything particularly against Pixar, but because I think its fall will affirm that all good things come to an end. Unfortunately, I will have to wait a few more years.
Without going into too much of the plot, I'll say that Wall-E offers a lot for all viewers. That is to say that it's strong on all fronts: story, characters, detail, theme, and really nifty looking stuff. I identified with the love story between the naive and rundown Wall-E and the agressive and spiffy Eve which fits in nicely with the larger environmental story. However, my friend, Ryan, was quite taken by the opening scenes which he believed were a homage to two great games in his life: Fallout and The Wasteland.
This movie is a gem and if I say anymore about it, I'd be depriving you the chance to experience it for yourself.
The Goth Bunny and Friend (Ryan)

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Short Story Part #1

This is the first installment of a short story wrote last semester.

It was cold and Patrice’s nose was running. He wiped it with the back of his hand, but it was so wet that he just got snot smeared across his upper lip and cheek. He hiccupped and continued to walk. He knew the way to his friend Cici’s house. He had gone there many times before, to play sometimes, sometimes even just with Alex to get eggs or butter for Mommy. Mommy. He started to cry again as he remembered how red and angry her face had gotten.
It was still warm from the sun and the edge of the sky was slightly pink and the clouds orange. The air was still hot and dry, except when the wind blew. He shivered in his Thomas the Tank Engine pajamas. It was a short walk to Cici’s, except he had gone the long way. Usually, him and Alex took a path that ran in between two lines of houses. There were lots of mean dogs that lived in the houses and they would bark and put their paws on low brick fence. Some of the bigger ones would rattle the metal bars that stuck out of the brick and some the bricks were cracking. Patrice was always afraid that the bars would fall down and the dogs would bite him like the wolves in Beauty and the Beast. Patrice was only brave enough to walk this way when Alex was with him. He liked Alex very much even though he was always so nice. Alex who was almost nine and wasn’t scared of anything. He would stick his tongue at those dogs and bark back. But Alex was sleeping over at his friend Ryan’s house. He had a place to be when the baby came and Patrice had to find a place or he would be sacrificed.

“We all have to make sacrifices,” Professor Daddy had said. It was at the family meeting when Mommy had said they were getting a baby and that it would grow in Mommy’s tummy.
“What’s a sacrifice,” he had asked after swallowing his cookie and raising his hand.
Alex, who knew everything, said, “Well, the Aztecs—“
“Did you raise your hand,” Mommy had asked.
“No,” Alex had said.
“A sacrifice is when you have to give up something to get something better. You’re going to get a new brother or sister, a new friend, but the baby might cry a lot in the beginning. And Mommy and Daddy will have less time to spend with you to make sure that the baby gets to spend time with Mommy and Daddy, too.
“Will you still love me the same?” Patrice had asked.
“Of course,” Mommy had said. “Group hug.”
They ended each meeting with a group hug. Mommy and Professor hugged with Alex and Patrice in the middle. Patrice liked being squished. Alex had touched Mommy’s flat tummy. “How did it get there,” he asked.
And then Professor Daddy said that the meeting time was up and Alex had to bring up the question next week. And next week, there was a book with tadpoles and ponds, but Patrice hadn’t paid much attention because he was worried about Mommy who was throwing up like she was sick. He threw his entire allowance into the fountain to wish that she would get better.


It was getting dark and things looked different now. He knew that when he saw the blue house, he was supposed to turn and Cici’s house had a basketball hoop, but the houses looked the same now. They looked a little like faces and the windows looked like eyes. They were either looking at him, sleeping, or winking. The street lamps made safe circles of light. Soon Patrice would have to run from light to light so the things in the dark wouldn’t get him.
He had to be brave. Alex had told him that Ryan’s cousin’s nanny had said that there was a man in China who stole bad kids that didn’t stay close to their parents, chopped them up, and made them into those barbecue pork buns you get at dim sum. Patrice had stopped eating them so Alex would always get two.
He pretended that he was pawn, marching up across the board. Professor always said that if you “kept a cool head” during the game, you would make less mistakes. If you stayed calm, you would see Alex’s knight coming to kill you and get out of the way. Unlike other board games, there were no dice in chess. In chess, everything stayed the same. Everything made sense.
Patrice squinted and the pools of light under the street lamps turned into the white squares of the board. He was the pawn. And he slowly marched, pausing often to look far ahead to see if a bishop, a rook, or a queen was coming towards him. Read more!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chef Lapin Gothique #1: Pasta Dinner

Chef Lapin GothiqueThis is a semi-homemade dinner when you want to cook but are just too tired. It's also 100% vegetarian. It's comprised of a blue cheese and candied walnut salad, baked asparagus with a balsamic vinaigrette, buttered bread, and spaghetti.
Dinner plate with salad, asparagus, dinner roll, and spaghettiBlue Cheese and Walnut Salad
This is a sweet salad that gets all its flavoring from the blue cheese, fruit, and candied walnuts so you'll want a strong blue cheese. You might also want to temper the sweetness with a little red wine vinegar. Just mix some with the olive oil.
serves 2-4 (4, if everyone gets a handful, 2 if each person gets a plate)
blue cheese (if you have extra, eat it on bread. :)
3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of fresh cherries (halved and pitted)
standard bag of mixed green salad
1 tbsp olive oil
1. First candy the walnuts. Preheat the oven to 350F, spread those walnuts in the baking sheet, and put it in the oven. Depending on how strong your oven is, you might need a minute or two more. They should darken slightly and crunch when you try one. Take them out and put them in a bowl when you're done. Do not turn off the oven, you'll need it for the asparagus.
2. While your walnuts are toasting, melt the sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally and break up lumps. DO NOT BURN THE SUGAR.
3. When the sugar has melted (it should be a nice golden color), add the walnuts, stir to coat, and return to baking sheet. Break those babies up with two forks or you'll have a sheet of walnut glass. Cool completely on tray.
Note: Candied walnuts are also good with ice cream!
4. Rinse salad in a colander and shake to remove water. Put in mixing bowl.
5. Add cranberries, cherries, walnuts, and drizzle 1 tbsp of olive oil. Mix.
6. Using a fork break up the blue cheese over the salad and serve.
Baked Asparagus with Sauce
I like this sauce because it can be both really rich and also sort of healthy.
serves 2-4 (once again, depending on how much you take)
1 standard bunch of asparagus, approx 1 pound
3 tbsp of butter (if it's butter day, you can use half a stick or you can omit this all together)
balsamic vinegar
soy sauce

1. Wash and trim asparagus. Lightly coat a baking tray with cooking spray or use a tsp of olive oil and rub it all over. Spread asparagus on the tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350F.
2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once melted add a tbsp of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce. Let your taste buds do the rest. I like it on the sour side so I add more vinegar. If you like it sweet, add more soy sauce. You don't need salt because soy sauce is really high in sodium. The butter gives it a nice creaminess, but the main stars are the vinegar and soy sauce. If you want to save on calories, just omit the butter and mix the other ingredients in a small bowl. Add pepper to taste.
3. Sprinkle cooked asparagus with salt and pour on the sauce. You can eat it right out of the baking pan or cut the asparagus horizontally and serve on a plate with the sauce on the side. That's extra dishes, though.
This spaghetti is from a jar, but I've added my own ingredients to make it taste better. You can actually heat up the sauce and pour it over spaghetti and eat it just like that, if you want. serves 4.
4 tomatoes (doesn't matter which kind)
1 package of mushrooms (sliced)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
1 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 package of spaghetti (linguine)
Parmesan cheese
1. Boil water in a large pan. You don't need a lot of water, maybe just 2-3 inches. When water is boiling, throw in the tomatoes for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You just want the skins to burst so you can peel it easily.
2. Spoon the tomatoes and run them over cold water. The skins should have split so you can peel them. If they don't, just cut them in half and the skins will rip. Peel off the skins, cut them in half, remove the seeds, and then dice them. They don't have to be very small, between the size of a nickel and a dime.
3. Brown garlic in some olive oil over medium heat. About 1 minute.
4. Dump in the mushroom and sprinkle with salt. Cook until limp. 5 minutes.
5. Add dice tomatoes and cook until they've broken down to the desired amount. At least 15-20 minutes.
6. Dump in the jar of tomato sauce.
7. Cook pasta according to directions on package. It's probably around 10-12 minutes after the water has begun boiling.
8. When the pasta is done, the sauce should have heated through. Add salt or pepper to taste. You can also add Italian seasoning, if you have it or want it, but usually the sauce is flavored enough.
9. Serve pasta with spaghetti sauce with Parmesan cheese.

And that's it. You've done it. A fancy dinner in under an hour. If you cheated on the sauce and just bought a fancy kind with mushrooms or mixed a can of diced tomatoes with a jar of spaghetti sauce, you might even make a 30 minute meal.

The Goth Bunny
The Goth Bunny and his Dinner Read more!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Interview with the Admirable James P. Blaylock

James P. BlaylockJames P. Blaylock is a Philip K. Dick (Homunculus) and World Fantasy Award ("Paper Dragons") winning writer. My favorite novel of his is The Rainy Season, which is a really neat ghost story that takes place in Southern California. For more information, you can google him. Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an interview. Here it is, folks:

1. Why write?
It seems to be the thing that I do. Some writers insist that they're "compelled" to write by some inner pressure, but I don't know that that's true for me. I'm compelled to write because that's what I do. A potential story (in the form of a concept, a character, a setting) comes into my mind. It swirls around and begins to generate interesting stuff, and sooner or later I find myself meddling with it on paper (or the machine). If the language works, it draws me into the story, and there I go. Over the past 37 years or so I've never not been writing something, just as I've never not been reading something. I've developed the habit, I guess. Some writers refer to the "burden" of the writer, but for me writing is not a burden. If it were I wouldn't do it. Also, since 1976 or so, I've been paid to write. Money is a great incentive. There's no doubt in my mind that I'll finish the novella I'm currently working on. Knowing that there's a check waiting at the end, however, means that I write first and go surfing second. If I weren't paid to write, I'd be a dabbler, and there's no doubt that I'd be at the beach right now instead of writing (which I was doing before I stopped to answer this). So that's it: I seem early-on to have been developing the habit of the writer (to paraphrase Flannery O'Connor) and in so doing became a writer. That I was paid to do it was further, and perhaps at some point necessary, incentive.

2. I hear you have a new book coming out, what's it about?
My new novel is titled Knights of the Cornerstone. It's a contemporary fantasy involving religious relics thought to have been taken out of Constantinople by the Knights Templar back in the 13th Century. It's set on the Colorado River in a made up town upriver from Needles, in unincorporated territory. My narrator innocently drives out there to visit his uncle and his dying aunt and gets whirled up in dangerous and mysterious doings. I won't say more, because it's my most competently plotted novel, and any revelations on my part now would give things away. It's also my best book to date, I think.

3. Any random advice?
Yeah, don't be a writer unless you're a writer -- unless it's the thing you do. In that case, you don't care about my answer. If you're considering doing it, or are fixing to do it, or whatever, you're already through, because you haven't got going, which means it's not the thing you do. Also, there are way better ways to earn a living. The Orange County Yellow Pages lists, literally, thousands of doctors and lawyers. We know that medical school and law school are tough to get into and to get through, and yet doctors and lawyers abound. Working creative writers do not abound. If there are more than a hundred (comparatively speaking) who have continuing careers locally, I'll eat my hat. There are a number who have published one book, say, or who write stories and sell them now and then (and good for them) but writers who earn something like a living at it are few and far between. My fifteen-plus novels and collections are published all over the world, but I pay my mortgage as a teacher. Just say "no" in other words. Unless, of course, it's the thing you do (should be a title!) and then you're indifferent to what I just said.

4. What's one of your guilty pleasures?
I've got enough guilt to satisfy me, but very little of it has to do with pleasure. Doughnuts, certainly.

5. Is there a stuffed animal past or present who had/ has a strong influence in your life?
Never had any as far as I know. Deprived in that area. I'm partial, however, to some of the stuffed animals that my sons treasured. The small, goofy looking bear, for instance, who was lost for a couple of years under my son Danny's mattress and then rediscovered and named Pancake Bear. We had a sort of Winnie the Pooh-like household in some ways. Read more!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Vikram Chandra's Love and Longing in Bombay

Chandra's Love and Longing in Bombay is a collection of five loosely connected short stories. The titles are in Sanskrit and they are as follows: Dharma (duty), Shakti (creative female power), Kama (desire), Artha (gain), Shanti (peace). I looked it up on an online Sanskrit-English dictionary. They are all told by a retired military man named Mr. Subramaniam to a young, unnamed hotshot in the software business. Though that being said, it is much more than a moral education through story-telling. The writing is beautiful, organic, and expansive.

This is a book that you can read purely for its craft, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. The prose is thoughtful and powerful. His stories sprawl, I guess like big cats sprawl. It may look elegantly languid, but there's something lurking underneath, a wry sense of humor and the more traditional lurkers (ghosts, gangsters, and lovesick men). My favorite stories were the first Dharma (a ghost story) and Shanti (a sort of courtship of story exchange). My least favorite was Artha, because though acknowledges and emphasizes that not everything ends neatly, the handling of Artha's characters and plot felt more clumsy then his other stories which were neatly plotted (Kama) or seemed to magically fall into place (Shanti and Dharma).

In Chandra's 2001 essay titled "The Cult of Authenticity" he does battle with the accusation that since he writes in English his writing is packaged for western consumption. This couldn't be farther from the truth, well because if it was, I shouldn’t have to work so hard. Vikram Chandra is not taking us around Bombay in an auto rickshaw labeled “Bombay Tours” with one of those nifty tour guide mikes. Chandra does not take up the mantle of explaining India. If he does anything at all, he’s shoved us down a flight of stairs into a murky bar where an old man is telling a young man stories in English, yes, but an Indian English. It is both one of the intrigues and frustrations of this book. A stranger to Indian culture loses out on a lot of the subtext and it’s not just foreign words which can be looked up, it’s how certain lines are set up. There's the dramatic pause, I can sense it but I don't know what it means.

Reading Chandra is a strange experience. While it has those deep underlying "human" themes, a great deal is culturally based. The "Bombay" in Love and Longing in Bombay occupies a central place. And if you don't know Bombay, too bad. It's one of those books that dares you to "keep up, if you can." This is not a book that everyone will love, but it's a book that everyone should try.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Bunny Goes to Berkeley Marina

This is our third photo adventure and I thought we would shake things up a trip to Berkeley Marina, instead of more food places, though food is oh-so-good. Besides, it was a beautiful day. You could smell the wild anise. It's the yellow flowering plant you can see in the background of some of the pictures.

I went with my friend Angie who participated in the 2008 AIDS/ LifeCycle. This means that she biked 545 miles in 7 days and is a biking pro. Me, not so much.

In fact, I spent most of the time riding in Angie's saddle bag. It protected me from the wind or else, I would get blown away. That was how windy it was. Brrr.

We took a gander at the sights...

and the squirrels. They're everywhere! And I tried to talk to them and share with them the wonders of domesticated life, but they didn't care to listen. They did really like our bicycles, though.

The Goth Bunny

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bunny Goes to Cheeseboard Pizza

This is a mini-adventure to Cheeseboard, my favorite pizza shop in Berkeley. It's located at 1512 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley. They also have a cheese shop next door that has awesome yummies.

Today their pizza had fresh corn, onions, chiles, feta, cilantro.

The pizza tastes best right when you buy it, but you can also heat it up in the oven. I like to keep my eye on it while it's heating up. (Warning: Do not actually heat the pizza in the box.)


A Cheerful Goth Bunny
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Three Keys to Enjoying Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I was disappointed after watching the latest Indiana Jones movie. As a fan of the originals and of the TV series The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, I couldn't be satisfied with anything less than perfection. Here are three pointers to maximize your enjoyment.
#1: Indiana Jones is not a normal human being. He is as indestructible as Chuck Norris and some early Christian saints.
#2: Indiana Jones is so extraordinary that he does not have to explain himself. This behavior has rubbed off on other characters, including the villains, and also apparently the screenwriters. If there is some sort of inconsistency (ie how did those natives just break out of behind that temple wall and how long have they been hiding there?), just think WWID (what would Indy do?). The answer is, of course, kick ass and not think about it. Enjoy it, it's not everyday that you get to experience WWID in an Indiana Jones movie.
#3: Indiana Jones does not believe in Oscars. In the realm of Indy-verse, you shouldn't believe in it, either. Just enjoy the show. Besides, he would probably craftily replace it with a bag of sand, anyway.
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Friday, June 20, 2008

10 Famous Forebears

10 rabbits that should be at my holiday family gatherings. Imagine these 10+ fellows around the kitchen table, talking over turkey and punch.

1. Rabbit from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh
2. Peter Rabbit
3. The Velveteen Rabbit
4. The White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in the Wonderland
5. Thumper from the Disney movie Bambi
6. Bunnicula from Bunnicula
7. Marshmallow from Clare Turley Newberry’s 1942 picture book Marshmallow
8. Roger Rabbit (Because everyone loves the crazy uncle.)
9. Bugs Bunny (Because two crazy uncles are better than one.)
10. The entire cast of Andy Riley’s The Book of Bunny Suicides

The table will be divided into three distinct sections. There will be Peter Rabbit and the Velveteen Rabbit in one corner talking in hushed disaproving British voices while casting occasional glances at the far side of the side. There, Bugs Bunny and Roger Rabbit will be egging the cast of The Book of Bunny Suicides to do dangerous stunts with Peter Rabbit's mother's best china and silverware. The White Rabbit and Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh will be worrying about their stock portfolios, wallowing through dinner because they must get to work and do more important things. Bunnicula will be sucking on a carrot and Thumper will be doing a drum roll. Marshmallow will be asleep quietly in a chair.

The night will end in at least one fist fight and one hospitalization and wonderful memories. The best kind of family reunion.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bunny Goes to Ritz Carlton: San Francisco

This is the first installment of photo adventures. The Goth Bunny (me) will travel to interesting locales. Don't I look smashing my chef hat and napkin?
It was signed by Sous Chef Chang of the Terrace Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. He gave me and a few others a personal tour of the kitchens.

This is a picture of me in the main lobby. There is a tea party going on in the room behind me to the left where teenage girls with pearls eat eclairs. There's also a genuine live harpist.

Francois, a potential future chef, is holding me as me begin our descent into the kitchens. Chef Chang explained that they try to use local organic produce. They do as much of the preparation as possible, even making their own marinara sauce and pizza dough!

We saw veal, prime rib, salmon, tuna (sushi grade), kobe beef sliders, but thankfully no bunnies.

We are hanging with Franz, a member of the kitchen.

Here is Chef Chang showing us cured salmon. They buy fresh salmon and cure it overnight in the kitchens.

Desserts! Yum.

And then, the favorite part of the
tour: the eating. I'm making sad eyes, because I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life. A medium cooked beef patty of pinky perfection with a slice of melted cheddar cheese. The patty is strangely light and not one of those condensed bricks that you buy at the supermarket. They grind their beef in the kitchen. And for dessert, strawberry ice cream with fresh berries. We also got a creme brulee with an almond tuile, but alas it did not last long enough for a photo opportunity.

Heavenly, isn't it?

A Cheerful Goth Bunny

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men

Warning: Spoilers Abound
Normally, I dislike giving spoilers because I think the point of a review is to inform the potential readers/ watchers what they're getting themselves into. However, the only part of Children of Men that I have issues with is the end.
The premise of the movie is a future where there are no children. It opens with Clive Owen's character Theo Faron ordering coffee at a cafe. On the TV screens above him, a newscaster is announcing that Baby Diego, the youngest person in the world was just killed at the age of 18. Over the next hour or so, Theo gets embroiled in a terrorist plot to transport a young pregnant woman, Kee, out of a totalitarian Britain and into the hands of another organization reportedly made up of scientists called The Human Project.
I really enjoyed the movie. It had the perfect dystopian atmosphere, strange yet painfully familiar. It struck a nice balance between portraying two separate components: a world and the people who live in it. There's a pretty sweet interplay between characters being used as vehicles for the plot and setting and vice versa. One great example of this is the portrayal of Michael Caine's character Jasper, a former political cartoonist turned hippie who has retreated to the woods to care for catatonic wife Janice and to grow weed. Carefully placed newspaper articles reveal that Janice had been journalist that the government had denied torturing. It's both a character study and an example of influential people who err.
Overall, despite the setting and the atmosphere, this is a hopeful story. Amidst all the ugliness of a world dominated by a violent totalitarian government and just as violent underground groups, there are still brief moments of tenderness and humor. It's not a happy story, but it proposes the potential for happiness. It's a story of human endurance. Theo Faron goes from being a character that cares more about his coffee than the death of Baby Diego, a man who's accepted that the world has gone to shit, to running through a glass littered street in flip flops, dodging bullets, to rescue Kee and her baby. I'm emphasizing this because I believe that Children of Men at its core is about people and the complexities of people rather than ideals. I'm citing the word "men" in the title as evidence. It's a movie grounded in reality rather than concept and I feel like the ending was much too conceptual which is a sad departure from the grittiness of the movie.
SPOILER: The movie ends with Kee, the baby, and a severely wounded Theo in a rowboat with a ship coming out of the mist. A close up gives up the name of the ship Tomorrow (which is the that was arranged by the Human Project to pick Kee) but has a disconcerting lack of people. There are shadowy figures on the deck, but no faces. After 90 minutes of Alfonso Cuaron painstakingly injecting humanity into of most minor of characters, I’ve expected that salvation will also have a human face.
The friend that I watched this with accused me of wanting sunshine and rainbows. However, I wasn't dissatisfied with the ending because it wasn’t happy—the end credits have the sound of laughing children--, but because it was too simple. The ending lends itself too easily to symbolism, to science, to the future, to some broad ideal disconnected from people and also the mistakes that people make. It’s folly to takes humans out of The Human Project.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jim Butcher's Storm Front

So I went to a Jim Butcher reading a while back and figured I might as well buy a book. It's not every day that you see a New York Times Best Selling author and I should get his autograph. I was already going to spend about 8 bucks on transportation and had dragged one very unwilling, hungry, and grumpy human being along for the ride.
So, who is this Jim Butcher guy anyway?
From the Q&A/ signing, he's a nerd/ dork of the highest order in a lovable, endearing, if-I-drank-beer,-I'd-like-to-drink-with-him sort of guy. (I wouldn't drink with George Bush, just so you know.) Even though I'm fairly sure that he would be open to milk and cookies, too. Not the kind of guy that I'd have coffee with or an in depth conversation about craft or style, but fun, cool, nice, and laidback nevertheless.
So, how was Storm Front?
I liked Storm Front. The title was a little too badass, vague, and abstract for my taste, but I liked the story and besides thumbing through the first thirty pages before the signing, I finished it in one sitting.
It involves a normal guy named Harry Dresden who has fairly normal problems like paying rent, getting laid, and not getting along with his co-workers. Except he's a wizard and he's having trouble paying rent because he hasn't been getting jobs, the only girl who's remotely interested is a tabloid reporter who's milking him for information, and lots of the guys he's working with at the Chicago Police Department think he's a hack, a looney, or both. And on top of it, there's dark magic, murders, drugs, and mafia.
If you're looking for a book in which you weep from the sheer beauty of the prose, then this ain't the book for you. It neither pretends, promises, or delivers literary fireworks. It would impede the plot and detract from the real explosions. Who knows, you might get confused if Jim Butcher included extended metaphors. This is the sort of book you read on planes, while walking, when you're having a bad day, hate men, and want to see a guy roasted over a pit.
The scenes are okay. I had a few quibbles about the characters. Most were decently described, but the good people were a little too good-looking and the bad people were ugly, and the badass people were a little too hot. Toot-toot, the fairy, and Morgan, the scary sword wielding warden are more ridiculous than they need to be. But I was impressed by the plot and as a whole, I've read many worse first novels, some of which did endeavour to be high art.
It's a fast read that doesn't take itself too seriously and neither should its readers.
My books are like water; those of the great geniuses are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water. -Mark Twain
Though, it should be pointed out that not everyone drinks supernatural water. Read more!