Monthly Archives: January 2013

January Photo shoot: Optical Illusions

For My monthly photo shoot, I will come up with a theme and document it to the best of my ability and talent- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and strike a pose.

This month I’m trying my hand at photos of optical illusions.

First up- an accidental find – but funny! A new kind of creature:

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So guys, I learned how to levitate:

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Look twice, and then look again. Which way am I looking? Two-face Kelly:

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And finally, my personal favorite. I dub it ‘Shadow of an invisible girl’:

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What other photo shoots should I try? I’ve got some ideas, but I’d love yours too! Leave em’ in the comments!

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1 Year, 100 Movies: #95 The Last Picture Show (1971)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

The Last Picture Show- set in a dying town in the middle of nowhere, Texas- everything in this movie is flat, hard and hopeless. The situations, the emotions, the expectations. These are not simple or stupid people, yet they have a distain for those who would have hope. It is a stark and unflinching film.

The shining stars from this movie are two of it’s actors. First- Cloris Leachman in her role as Ruth Popper. She is -I believe- the truest and most honest voice in the film, and it’s no surprise she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in this role. The second is Ben Johnson’s portrayal of Sam the Lion. Another actor could have taken this role over the top into a caricature, but his restraint and just plain good acting earned him an Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor. The movie is shot well, and certainly gives a view of the small town community. But it is just so depressing.

All in all not my favorite movie, but I can see why it’s on the list.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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1 Year, 100 Movies: #96 Do The Right Thing (1989)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Do the Right Thing is a great movie featuring many actors that I know from more recent movies. I have to special mention Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee who I adore as Da Mayor and Mother Sister. I was also pleased to see John Turtutto- whom I recognized from Transformers- give a wonderful dramatic performance as Sal’s son Pino. The movie focuses on love and hate, and racial tensions, throwing together the fate of African Americans, Italian Americans, Korean Americans and Caucasians all on one block in Brooklyn, NY.

The movie is set in the course of one day and starts out (after the “Fight the Power” dance montage) with”Mister Señor Love Daddy” (Samuel L. Jackson) as the local radio disc jockey waking up everyone and noting the stifling heat expected for the day. The tension starts with Buggin’ Out, who lashes out at Sal for the having no ‘brothers’ on his Wall of Fame at his pizzeria, only Italian Americans. On the one hand it is Sal’s restaurant, but the viewer is reminded that on the other hand that this restaurant serves mostly African Americans. The day goes on in a similar fashion. There are many moments with minor decisions that shape the mood of the residents on the block as well as those employed there and the police officers that show up multiple times. The movie climax reaches the point of a riot when Buggin’ Out, Radio Raheem and Smiley enter the pizzeria and demand pictures of African Americans on the wall- which leads to an obscenity and racial slur laced tirade on both sides that leads to Radio Raheem’s  death and the pizzeria being ransacked and gutted by fire.

This movie doesn’t blame anyone or point fingers. If it implicates anyone it implicates us all. It never lets anyone off the hook and invites the viewer to analyze the choices made. Often the choices made were for the right reasons. Of course these decisions- made by all of the people on the block- lead to some terrible results, but we feel hope at the final scene. Spike Lee’s character, Mookie- shares a moment with Sal, his employer. Even though they are both mad at each other after the events that transpired the evening before they reach a place where forgiveness can begin.

During the credits of the movie a couple of quotes scroll across the scene, one from Malcom X, and one that I believe sums up this movie in a very eloquent and hopeful way from Martin Luther King Jr:

“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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A warm day in winter… 2nd January Recipe test with Anna!

Last Saturday was a beautiful sunny day in the 50’s here in the Midwest in the dead of winter. It was so great to have a feeling of spring in the air, if only for the day. Ironically I chose my menu of recipes anticipating a cold January day. Tomato Tortellini Soup, Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Parmesan & Cilantro, and Soft Almond Sugar Cookies.

The cast of characters for the Soft Almond Sugar Cookies:

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Mixing the ingredients:

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The cast of characters for the Tomato Tortellini Soup:

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The cast of characters for the Sweet Potatoes (Yes, I cheated and used store-bought french fries. Apparently Target doesn’t sell sweet potatoes!):

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Adding olive oil to the fries. Probably unnecessary if you are cooking with store-bought fries.

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Adding basil to the tomato soup:

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Chopping the fresh cilantro for the french fries:

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Rolling the cookie dough in the sugar in the raw:

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Adding the tortellini to the soup:

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The finished french fries, yum!

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The finished cookies, YUM!

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It was a great meal, I really liked everything, and these cookies will definitely be made again soon! 🙂

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Somehow I managed to ‘zorro’ the ketchup all over my hand:

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A fun day shooting my January photoshoot outside with Anna- which I’ll be posting soon- and watching ‘The Hunger Games’ after dinner!

Recipes:

Baked Sweet Potato French Fries with Parmesan & Cilantro
Ingredients:
4 sweet potatoes
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
A handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper, optional

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Peel, rinse and dry the potatoes.

3. Now, you can either:
a. Use the proper blade on a mandolin to create ‘french fry’ shape or
b. Cut it by hand. Depending on the size of the sweet potato, you may wish to cut it in half lengthwise but if it is small/short, don’t worry about it. Take a half of the sweet potato and cut it into large slices about 3/4 inch thick. Then cut them lengthwise at about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick.

4. Toss them into a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and mix well so that they are coated evenly. Bake them for 20-25 minutes depending on their thickness and how you prefer your fries.

5. Place the fries in a bowl and sprinkle on the cheese and cilantro. Season with salt & pepper if necessary.

Tomato Tortellini Soup Recipe

  • Prep/Total Time: 25 min.
  • Yield: 10 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) reduced-sodium condensed tomato soup, undiluted
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Additional shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

Directions

  • Cook tortellini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the soup, broth, milk, cream, tomatoes and seasonings. Heat through, stirring frequently. Drain tortellini; carefully add to soup. Stir in cheese. Sprinkle each serving with additional cheese if desired. Yield: 10 servings (2-1/2 quarts

Soft Almond Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 C white sugar

2/3 C butter (cold)

2/3 C shortening (room temp)

2 eggs

2 tsp almond extract

2 3/4 C cake flour

1 C all purpose flour

1 Tbsp cornstarch

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

sugar in the raw (I like raw sugar for this, but any coarse sugar would work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheet.

Cream sugar, butter and shortening.  Stir in eggs and almond extract.  Combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt and add to butter/egg mixture.  Use electric mixer to ensure dough is thoroughly combined.

Chill dough in fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll 2 tsp of dough (I used a small cookie scoop) into a ball and roll in raw sugar.  Place on prepared pan.

Bake cookies for 7 minutes.  Remove from oven and gently press rounded tops of cookies flat with the back of a spoon while the cookies are still warm and pliable.  The cornstarch will keep the dough from spreading, so this step just makes them look better!

Return remaining dough to fridge in between baking each batch.

Allow to cool on pan for 1 minute.

Remove to cooling rack.  Allow to cool completely.

A tip:

~DO NOT bake longer than 8 minutes!!  They may seem under-baked, but when they cool they will firm up.

1 Year, 100 Movies: #97 Blade Runner (1982)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Blade Runner. I realize I will offend the diehards here- but it’s not my cup of tea. The synopsis is good- and even many of the characters, but the tone is just depressing. The entire movie is filled with squalor and filth- and we follow the story of the world-weary Blade Runner Deckard. As a Blade Runner it is his job to hunt down and “retire” the four replicants that are running around in the year 2019’s Los Angeles. Replicants are robots that the humans have built which look the same, have up to the same level of intelligence, and superior strength- the ones in question only have a four year lifespan. The movie follows Deckard as he falls for one of the replicants- a woman named Rachel. She saves his life once as he goes about the business of hunting down the other replicants. It’s a story that explores what it means to be human. It’s a mess of chases, shoot-outs, and desperate characters with lots of blood and depressing 80’s background music.

So like I said- the movie isn’t really my cup of tea. I much prefer the futuristic movies like Star Wars or The Fifth Element. What I did like about this movie however, was their attempt at creating the futuristic background. For example, the spaceships and advertisements that are everywhere. The film is more art than movie- every scene could be a painting. Maybe a painting set in a  filthy ghetto, but a painting nonetheless.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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1 Year, 100 Movies: #98 Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Yankee Doodle Dandy is the biographical musical film of the actor/singer/songwriter/playwright, dancer/producer George M. Cohan- known as “The man Who Owns Broadway”. The movie starts toward the end of Cohan’s career, with him chatting in the White House with president Roosevelt- he tells him about his entire career, and the scenes in the White House bookend the movie.

Cohan started out with his family in a vaudeville act- known as The Four Cohans- as soon as he could walk and talk with his mother and father and his sister Josie. He began writing his own skits and made it to Broadway, where he had his family join him. Cohan wrote hundreds of songs including, “Give my Regards to Broadway,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, “Forty-Five Minutes from Braodway”, “Over There” and “The Yankee Doodle Boy” aka “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. Cohan created and produced over fifty musicals from 1904 to 1920.

Cohan himself was a consultant for this film, although due to his health he had a limited involvement. He did see the film before he died and approved of Cagney’s portrayal. Cohan is one of the most honored American entertainers- the movie is based around President Roosevelt presenting Cohan with the Congressional Gold Medal for his contributions to World War I morale, in particular for the songs “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There”. In 1959 a statue of his likeness was dedicated in Times Square at Broadway and 46th Street in Manhattan. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, into the American Folklore Hall of Fame in 2003 and into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. He also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

My favorite scene after all the the song and dance- which is great- is when Cohan tap dances his way down the stairs of the White House after meeting with President Roosevelt. This film is a wonderful depiction of Cohan’s contributions to the entertainment business in America and also to his long and very interesting career that I previously knew nothing about.

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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1 Year, 100 Movies: #99 Toy Story (1995)

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For 1 Year, 100 Movies, I will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year- and will complete a goal on my 2013 Manifesto. Come along on the ride with me- oh, and please pass the popcorn!

Growing up I loved Toy Story- #99 on AFI’s  top 100 of the last 100 years list. This movie changed the scene of animated feature films forever- creating the market for 3D animation and raising the bar of technical innovation as well as the quality of the story. This movie is really great because of the characters and the lessons learned. The characters- Andy’s toys, are so real and learn throughout the movie how to deal with jealousy and adversity and also learn the value of friendship, loyalty and working together.  You can succeed when you put your heart into your goal.

Toy Story was the first film produced by PIXAR and was released by Disney- starting the duel-company takeover. It follows the story of Woody, a pull-string cowboy doll as the human boy Andy’s favorite toy with the competing Buzz Lightyear, the new space ranger action figure that Andy gets for his birthday. After an accident and a bit of a misunderstanding in which Andy’s other toys think Woody tried to kill Buzz, hijinks ensue in which Woody and Buzz have to learn to help each other find their way back to to Andy and clear up the misunderstanding with the other toys.

It was interesting to watch this movie after so many years, I found so much more humor in the movie. It really is a movie for children and adults. For some reason Woody’s announcement of “Tuesday night’s plastic corrosion awareness meeting” struck me as hilarious. It was neat to notice among the toy characters toys that I had when I was younger like the Tinker toys and the toy microphone. I enjoyed the aspect of the toys interacting with the environment they found themselves in- for example, knowing how to move around Andy’s family’s home, and how to find their way to ‘Pizza Shuttle’ when they are lost. It also has adult themes –  Buzz Lightyear’s existential crisis after he discovers he is “just” a toy and not a space ranger on a mission to save the galaxy. Also Woody’s fear of being a ‘lost toy’ and not having Andy to care for- and also loosing the position of being his favorite toy. Then there is also the toy’s fear of the next door neighbor Sid, and his love of blowing up toys- essentially killing them.

Despite the adult themes this movie successfully bridges that gap between children and adult movies- and was very enjoyable to re-watch.

Walt Disney would have loved this movie. To infinity and beyond! ;D

In my humble, non-professional, average movie-goer opinion this movie earns:

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