Saturday, May 29, 2010

More Great Texas Stuff

Curators Note: We do not live in Texas. We were both born there(Leah 99% raised there and I got a full eight years out of it), met in California, but we will always have a special place for our original home. My list will be incomplete as I haven't been or seen everything that Texas has to offer. Feel free to comment to add to the list or email us to have me add something to the next grouping.

Marble Falls - We've driven through Marble Falls on our Wichita Falls - San Antonio trips. It has a great semi-small city feel. In some ways it's a lot like Palm Desert without the California feel. You won't go to Marble Falls and feel like you've stepped into Dallas proper. You can have a bite to eat at the River City Grille that's on Lake Marble Falls. Unfortunately I forget the name of this little design shop that Leah really enjoyed. It's across the 281 from the River City Grille. The folks were friendly and if you needed to get your home done in Texas or California they could be a fun group to work with.

Mineral Wells - Home of the Scariest Derelict Building Ever! The Baker Hotel was an exclusive stop for Mineral Wells at one point. It was a happening place for Hollywood stars and Presidents alike. We didn't know that when we first arrived. It looked like it was a mental institution that was no longer in use, but that the souls of those that lived there still haunted. There are windows busted out in the ominous building. I guess a company has purchased the building to attempt to restore it to it's former glory. I wish them the best of luck as that town does need a face lift. I don't recommend stopping in Mineral Wells unless to take a few pictures. Sorry for any offense. I'll update the page with a few pictures once I get on the repository laptop.

Wiseman House Chocolates - Here's another place that I wouldn't have stopped at if Leah had not seen it and wanted to go in. It's a cute chocolate shop in Hico, Texas that has a very renowned chocolatier helming a great little store. I have no desire to stick chocolate in my body.. the taste has never been something for me, but everyone else on the planet seems to enjoy it. If you are a fan of chocolate go and visit. If you can't visit grab yourself something online. You could tell them I recommended you, but it's not going to make a difference to people that don't know me.

Wichita Falls - The birthplace of my parents! It's where my family resides; honorable mentions of Mamaw and Aunt Nell. I've been going back to Wichita Falls year after year to visit family for reunions or Christmas or just because; except for a small hiatus right after high school where work wouldn't allow me. It'll always have a special place reserved for it. This is 99% for the family I've known that's lived there. The house my father grew up in is now underneath the freeway! But, you can still go by his grandparents dance studio and the school both parents went to. There's a great little BBQ joint called Stanley's - HOME OF THE BEANIE BURGER. It may sound disgusting, but it's the best heart stopping burger that I've ever had. It has beans, nacho cheese, fritos, and jalapeƱos on it. It's excellent. And where else are you going to get service from a fella' that has his cigarette's rolled up in his shirt sleeve. But family is the important part. I still get excited turning onto Mamaw's street. I'm always a little sad leaving - We always plan X amount of days and by the end of those it never feels like enough time. We love playing Rummy. It's also nice to just sit and enjoy reading a book with family. Perfect vacation time.

Well, I think that's it for the time being. We've worked our way up the main highlights that I found along the 281. In the next grouping, I think we'll go up into the panhandle and possibly down into Dallas - near where I was born.


Reliques du Cinema: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was intended to provide "thrilling horror," "to curdle the blood," "quicken the beatings of the heart."  In a world saturated with torture porn, sadly, the story of Frankenstein's monster appears hackneyed and unbelievable.  It is this way in the book, and even more so in this version of the film, directed by Kenneth Branagh.  The star-studded cast is a who's who of actors and actresses one would want to cast in a film today.  Starting with Kenneth Branagh in the titular role, Helena Bonham Carter as his love interest; John Cleese, his professor; Tom Hulce (most noted for Amadeus), his best friend; and lastly, Robert DeNiro in the role of the monster. 

Most people don't even understand the monster is not named Frankenstein.  This is due, in part, to the previous and earliest incarnations of Frankenstein for the stage and in early film.  This is due, in other part, to ignorance (I too, was once counted in this category). I watched the original movie from the thirties last year after reading the book and was shocked at it's inaccuracies.  This version of Frankenstein was very much more wasn't.  I was rocking along in the movie and then, suddenly, out of nowhere, I found myself in the midst of the ill-advised sequel to Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein.  I am not quite sure why the director and writer wanted to go there.  It makes almost no sense, but there are many things in this movie that make little sense.

It seems this team of adaptors wanted to make sure the audience understood exactly how Frankenstein was able to create his monster.  The novel leaves this very much up to the imagination of the reader, which is the interesting part of the mystery.  It seems the modern day story-tellers wanted to use all the technological theories in their heads (Amniotic fluid, anybody? How about some electric eels? Yes, I said electric eels) to create a living being.  It seems they liked it so much the first time; inexplicably, they did it again.  It seems, they didn't know how to edit. 

All in all this is a faithful adaptation, to a point.  It leaves off many of the plot points of the novel, to it's detriment.  But, the addition of extraneous plot points is maddening.  So in that vein, I guess it was a "horror" and it did "curdle the blood!"  One accomplishment the filmmakers can claim is an Academy Award nomination for best makeup.  It holds up pretty well after 15 years as the makeup for Robert DeNiro makes him al-most unrecognizable.   This is true of John Cleese, as well.  If all of mankind did not know him by the sound of his voice, he would have passed through this movie without notice. 

I think this is the last Frankenstein adaptation I will watch for a while. It is frustrating when a filmmaker loves a novel so much, he wants to make a movie of that novel.  And then, while making that movie, he thinks he can rewrite it to make it "better."  It rarely happens that this is achieved (once, in my recollection: Forrest Gump).  Although the Mary Shelley classic is a tough-to-get-through read, it is still better than the movie versions I have seen.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reliques du Cinema: High Noon

Do not forsake me, Oh, my darlin'
On this our wedding day...
I do not know what fate awaits me
I only know I must be brave.
Now that you are well initiated into the world of High Noon, via the lyrics to it's very own Oscar-winning ballad, let's dissect it, modern-day style. The bravery of the main character, Marshall Will Kane (played by Gary Cooper, who won the Oscar for this role), is legendary to the town where he resides.  Unfortunately, no one wants his brand of old-fashioned bravery anymore.  He faces an old we-thought-he-was-vanquished enemy returning for vengeance on the noon train.  He must face him alone, because even the woman he married at 10:30 AM has decided she won't stand by him.  This could be due to the fact that she seems half his age and must have been thinking another man will come along, any minute. 

The device that must have grabbed all the critics and movie-goers at the time is the "real-time" progression of events.  The movie is one hour twenty four minutes in duration.  The action of the movie begins a couple minutes past 10:30 AM and ends at a quarter past noon.  In other words, this is the first "24."  Replete with Jack Bauer, his daughter Kim, and the villain of seasons 1 and 3, Nina; the real time story unfolds much like a really boring season of "24" (i.e. season 7). 

Jack, of course, is played by Gary Cooper. 

Kim is played by Grace Kelly, note the resemblance:


And Nina is played by Ian MacDonald and, like her, is not revealed until the last 15 minutes of the movie.  He remains such a mysterious villain that no pictures are available of him. 
Also playing a big role in High noon, just as it does in "24," is the clock (it appears no fewer than 10 times in the movie).

I won't give away the ending, but you might have guessed it by now, based on the comparisons to "24."

And so, in watching High Noon, we find the original inspiration for "24," with a few tweaks.  I can understand how it was interesting at the time, but the dialogue is plodding.  This is a movie featuring a classic actor at the end of an era.  Soon, Marlon Brando would be successful in his search for an Oscar and would change the face of movie acting forever.  He would usher in an era where actors do not wait patiently for the other actors in a scene to finish their lines before quickly spouting their own line.  Thankfully, the big screen has changed for the more realistic in that area.  What remains of the legacy of High Noon is the thrill of real time action.  Also remaining is the classic good guy Marshall who gets his man.  In short, what remains are Jack Bauer and a race against time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reliques du cinema: A Starting Point

After being offered the position of co-curator of this strange, little museum and humbly accepting, I set about thinking what would I offer.  What would be of interest to our reader(s)? 
Thus, the starting point: a semi-regular post about the movies I should have seen because they are acclaimed in some way, but never did.  In the interest of preserving my opinions, I will be watching these and reviewing/recapping them here. 
The reason:  I tend to forget all the movies I don't like.  I forget all major plot points, all major character names, and most importantly, the ending.  I do remember, however, the fact that my eyes and ears were active during the movie and information passed into my brain.  It is an amazing phenomenon to me.  I have always considered myself to have an amazing memory in most things personal, but I cannot for the life of me remember anything about AI (from what I understand from my co-curator to be a great film).
So all future posts regarding movies not currently playing at a theater near you will be tagged with this title.  When I can convince my co-curator to watch with me, we might comment together. 
I would use some great line from a movie like: "This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship," but I saw that one and don't remember anything about it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My first at-home tasting

We had the pleasure of having a small dinner party at our house Sunday evening and some good use out of a new cookbook magazine that Leah and I found at Target. It's strictly for Mexican cuisine, but what piqued my interest was the section on Tequila. For more information on the food and how that turned out please go to Leah's blog SeldomMade. The link will take you directly to that specific post. If you want to browse through other recipes/dinner just click through to the main page - I would highly recommend this method.
But back to the review, the food was excellent. While Leah was working on creating dinner, I was working away at making Sangrita. It has nothing to do with Sangria so don't think this is some type of watered down alcoholic beverage. It's a wierd combination of items that you wouldn't think worked well. You use 2c Tomato Juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup orange juice(fresh squeezed for sure), 2tbsp Worcestershire, 2tbsp Grenadine(yup, wierd one), and then salt, pepper, and chili powder. I added a little cayenne pepper for safe measure since we didn't have any hot chili powder. What you end up with is a decent v8 like drink that's used as a palette cleanser. Add a little salt on the side to give a little more to the senses. I used it in conjunction with a little lime juice to add more flavour.
 I was planning a good sampling out of my tequila cabinet. We have Gran Centenario Anejo. I learned about this one from a bartender at Z'Tejas in Phoenix, AZ. After finishing off one of our favourite meals, Leah asked the bartender if he knew of Los Azulejos Anejo( which he didn't), but recommended this as his favourite. It is very good and I ended up with a bottle of it after we finished our vacation. The second is Los Azulejos Reposado. I "settled" for the reposado in hopes that would be as good as it's older brother, the Anejo. That's the tequila that my cousin introduced me to in Oklahoma. The Anejo is the best I've ever had! This one is good, but it's on a different level. The last one on the list is Tonala Suprema Reserva Anejo. I was out looking for an extra aged Anejo and came across this one. It's a very inexpensive bottle compared to other Extra Anejo's out there, but came highly recommended.
The tasting would be with dinner so no one is actually going nuts with the tequila. This is only to taste and find out what you like. You use about 1/2 oz. of tequila per taste. To be honest, I don't care what kind of glass you use. Some folks use snifters for sipping tequilas, but I am just as happy with a caballito - tall, thin shot glass. Before you down the tequila, you'll want to smell it first. You do this through both the mouth and the nose. Surprisingly, it does add something to the mix! You'll then want to take a small sip and leave it on your tongue for a few seconds. Then take a larger sip and swallow. Depending on the type and manufacturer of the tequila  this could be smooth or have some fire at the end. Also, most reposado's and anejo's are at room temperature with a silver/blanco tequila chilled. You can see that I tend towards the room temperature types.
The tastings certainly went well. This was my first time using any of my store bought tequila to do this. I think it does add a little more complexity to drinking. This isn't to get drunk. It's to enjoy the beverage and the social interaction that comes with it. You actually have more to say about each tequila than just making a drink and saying that's good. You can talk about smell, feel, taste, and enjoyment. So if you're looking to do something like this you certainly don't need to get the same items as above. You can also get some mini's and spend less money to see if this is something you'd prefer. Be smart with it.


P.S. - no need to go overboard on explaining how the tequila's tasted. That's for the more adventurous that are willing to go out and try this method out.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Great Things in Texas - Or Stuff I can't live without - Part One

Yah, I know that I don't post much on my blog right now. It's tough to stay motivated when I'm also doing a book blog with my wife. So far that's been going pretty smooth. We have a lot more content on that one. But in the meantime, I feel like posting stuff that's great about Texas and the book blog isn't the proper spot for it.

Locations: - Music/Drinks. I'm putting this up there without going in Gruene Hall. I spent my time outside staring at it while I was getting prepared to go eat some good food. I needed food more than the interior of a bar. Others may differ with that belief, but I'm sticking to it. It leads to the next location: - Great food, Great Location(on the Guadalupe river), and excellent architecture. Used to be the Gruene, TX cotton gin until it became one of the best restaurants for casual food. Go there, take a ton of pictures, eat the wings and a burger, and be happy. - Yah, I know that this is also the home to my interstate rivals, the Spurs. It also happens to be one of my favourite places to just chill out. You will have to walk around, but you get to be below street level and on the river. Plenty of places to stay and eat at. They've also increased the length of the Riverwalk since we've been there so I am uber-excited to be there. - Lockhart is on my list of places to see before I die.... in Texas. I mainly want to go b/c it's the BBQ capital of Texas. Smitty's, Kreuz, and Black's are renowned. I imagine myself going for two days so I can get BBQ twice in one day, and then the final one on the way out of town(probably going down to the Riverwalk). I love BBQ! - Mystic Shores, but really all of Canyon Lake. This is the hill country and one of the most beautiful parts of Texas. The folks have land down by Canyon Lake. The land is gorgeous, reasonably priced, and close enough to those places I mentioned above. I wish I had 30,000 laying around to purchase 1-2ac of land down there. - I'm sure you're seeing a trend here. Some of the best places in Texas involve great food. It'll get worse as this list grows. =D Cooper's was introduced to the family by the parents through my Uncle(I'm pretty sure). They have one down in Mason, but also a new location in New Braunfels; which is where Gruene, TX is. You can order Cooper's online. I would recommend the brisket.

The 281 - It's a beautiful drive from San Antonio, TX to Wichita Falls, TX. It might be a little slower than taking the 35, but you just see some great Texas. It's amazing to be driving through the hills just full of trees. It's like nothing you get down here in Southern California. There are plenty of little towns along the way that just remind you of what life used to be like. And a few favourites that i'll mention in a bit.

So this is part one - I need to head for bed and I'll take us up through the 281 and maybe a couple stops off the 20 West Side