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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Across the Universe

It is a story about a boy and a girl, falling in love. Throw in bowling, psychedelia, Bono, Ohioan cheerleaders, the draft, Selma Hayek(s), strawberries, the Beatles, and a whole lot of heart.

And it was quite simply, beautiful...

Some of our favorite scenes [don't click if you don't want to be spoiled!]
1) An incandescent scene at the bowling alley when Jude first falls in love with Lucy. (feat. "I Just Saw a Face")
2) A brilliantly choreographed scene at the enlistment office. (feat. "I Want You")
3) A soulful rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" in the wake of Martin Luther King's assassination.
4) For everyone who feels that "Hey Jude" is one of the most overwrought Beatles song (I'm living with one such person...), watching this in the context of the film will change your mind.

Love, Love, Love.
Love, Love, Love.
Love, Love, Love.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It's easy.

Nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love (All together, now!)
All you need is love. (Everybody!)
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need (love is all you need).

Oh yeah!
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.

- "All You Need is Love", The Beatles, from one of the most uplifting final scenes you'll see in a while.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Soup kitchen

Roasted sweet potato soup
Originally uploaded by jyew.
So it was officially Fall on Sunday. And you can tell- the leaves are slowly turning color (yay!), and the weather's becoming cooler too. Which makes it a perfect time to make some hearty, soulful soup. Actually, more importantly, Jude's in the middle of a root canal procedure, so rather than just subsist on jello and yogurt, I thought a more substantial soup would be good for him (menu for the following week: mac n' cheese, leftover soup, mashed potato, more soup, rice porridge, noodle soup, did I mention soup?...)

Considering how simple this soup was to make, the end result is really quite satisfying. I cubed up sweet potato, some carrots and onions and roasted them for about 30 minutes with 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and olive oil. Throw that into 3 cups of simmering chicken stock and puree. I used a hand immersion blender but a regular blender or food processor works. We don't have either one and a hand immersion blender's just easier coz you do everything in the same pot. Simmer for a little while longer. Garnish with spring onions/ chives/ cilantro and serve.

I like the consistency of any kind of pureed soup to begin with- full-textured, rich and hearty. This one was nice coz the sweetness of the vegetables was rounded with just a hint of spicy cumin dancing on your palate without overwhelming it. The best thing is that the starch in the root veggies turns into this creamy goodness when you puree so you don't need any cream to make the soup smooth and velvety. Which means it's uber-healthy too! You probably can use a mix of other "roastable" veggies as the base- squash, pumpkin, potato, parsnip. But I love the golden saffron colour of the sweet potato and carrot- it was like putting sunshine in my mouth :)

It was truly comfort food on a chilly evening, and Jude went back for seconds, so I think my roasted sweet potato soup did good :)

Promises kept

It took me a few days to write about it since it's one of those movies that startles you as you're watching it- assaults you almost- then it sits in your mind for a while, lingers on for a few days after, and then begins to take new forms...

We saw Eastern Promises over the weekend. And it was good. Elegantly and unnervingly good. There were parts of it that I found really hard to watch, and I haven't had such an intense experience at the cinema in a while. There were scenes you weren't just watching, but actually experiencing on a very physical and visceral level, and that made me uncomfortable. But not in a bad way. There are movies that annoy you because they push all your wrong buttons, but gratuitously; and then there are movies like Eastern Promises that move you by precisely pushing the wrong buttons, and subverting your expectations, but in a way that makes you question why you harbored those expectations to begin with... Does that make sense?

And Viggo Mortensen is a fascinating actor to watch. He scares you almost with all that tight, taut control, and then suddenly offers a glimmer of compassion that's at once a surprise, but also so natural in retrospect. The contrast between him and Vincent Cassel's impulsive, explosive personality is exquisitely conceived; their complex relationship is almost- but only almost- more riveting to watch than what simmers just beneath him and Naomi Watts.

Jude and I had initially thought the ending was a little abrupt, but as I mulled over it- I told you this movie lingers- it could have ended no other way. So many layers left for you to contemplate on your own, motivations to question, and intentions left unknown. But it all makes sense in the grand scheme of the film. It's uncomfortable alright, but you're watching a David Cronenberg film- I suppose one does not expect a warm blanket and a kiss goodnight...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Adieu Marcel...

I am sad I never got to see you perform live...

Others have whitened their faces, blacked their lips and eyes, and leaned into a nonexistent wind. Others have plucked petals from invisible flowers, struggled to win a ropeless tug-of-war, and chased after butterflies only they can see.

But no one has ever done this sort of clowning with more absolute belief than Marcel Marceau. His lithe and expressive body and his gestures — so liquid, his hands sometimes appeared to have no bones at all — are only part of it.

The mechanics of his craft — the boiling down of gesture to its essence — can be learned. But not his ability to "mine" mime for the veins of emotion and pathos he found in it. Wistfulness, yes. Street mimes can manage that. But anguish, hope, innocence. These are harder...
-Bob Mondello, All Things Considered

To hear/ read the rest of this remembrance, click here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Otters holding hands...

You've got to have a heart of stone to not go awwww.... over and over :) And watch it all the way till the end!

[seen in Nicole's]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Really achieving your childhood dreams - Randy Pausch

I was alerted to this webcast by Rick and Emilee and I have to say that this is the second time that I have watched a webcast and wished I was present in the audience (the first being Noam Chomsky's presentation in UM). This lecture and the Chomsky one were well worth the hour and a half I spent watching them.

This is a capture of the webcast lecture given by Prof. Randy Pausch of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. This was advertised to be Prof. Pausch's last lecture. What makes this lecture even more poignant is the back story of Prof. Pausch's battle with cancer and how he realizes the fact that he doesn't have much time left.

Prof. Pausch's lecture was at once inspiring, a little sad and renewed my faith in the field Human-Computer Interaction. Those of you working in the field of HCI know that you can easily lose the forest for the trees. Prof. Pausch's lecture tells you to stop for a while and savour the forest that you are in. And more importantly to work to grow that forest to inspire others. I have already recommended this lecture to several friends and thought that I would share it on this blog as well. You don't have to be in the field of HCI to appreciate Prof. Pausch's message.

(As a footnote, I managed to get this webcast as a torrent. I have shared it on the blog because I thought that it was a very inspiring lecture. I do not own the rights to the video and would happily take it down if asked to.)

Hello Aiden!

It wasn't so long ago that I introduced our adorable niece, Amelia on the blog, and now it's time to welcome her little brother, Aiden! The little one arrived over the weekend, and we're so happy for Jude's brother and sister-in-law :) Congrats, Joe & Carol!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

RIP "Shakey" Jake Woods September 16, 2007

A nice article about Shakey Jake from the Ann Arbor News can be found here.

Audio file from WFMU's 365 days project (2003) accompanied by a nice little write up.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


So the weather's been doing that freaky thing when it's Summer one day and Fall the next. We've been having 60 (sometimes 50) degree days (10- 15C) the past week or so and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I'm excited about Fall coming, but the weather transition's been so sudden that I don't think I'm quite prepared. The trees aren't even turning color yet! We've been so tempted to turn on the heat the last few nights but told ourselves no- we've never had to turn the heat on before end-October and we're not going to cave in so easily. It's the freaking middle of September!

So I was stuck at home doing a whole bunch of transcribing yesterday and decided to "warm" myself up by going for a run. The sun was shining really brightly and I figured it was probably warmer outside than in our chilly bedroom. Bad mistake. It was frigid outside (by September standards) and although I did warm up after the first 10 minutes or so, I think I caught a chill. My work-out wardrobe clearly needs some work. I'm not have a fever or anything, and I don't have a cold, so I don't think I'm sick. It's just that lethargic feeling you get when you know you're on the cusp of coming down with something... So I've been pumping myself with juice and hot tea all day (I know, strange combination, but it seems to be working). And I'm sitting here in my flannel PJs simultaneously trying to transcribe some more and resisting the urge to just crawl under the covers and sleep the day away...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Yes I can...

Whenever I'm struck by those moments we all encounter when I am momentarily paralyzed by the fear that I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing with my life, I remember one of my favorite scenes from You've Got Mail (yes, everything in Serene Koh's life can- and has been- explained by that one movie. Shut up.) Anyways... who needs Anthony Robbins and his motivational system when all you have to do is to order a cup of coffee at Starbucks? It's like walking into Chipotle and having them ask you what burrito you want; suddenly, you're in control, all becomes clear, your life has purpose, and you know exactly what you want!: "Carnitas, black beans, less rice, and salsa verde. No sour cream, no cheese. And guac. Please!"

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Clash of the not-so Titans...

[Picture from the Associated Press]

**Update: We won!!!

I'm not a football fan- I don't even understand the game still- but believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow's game against Notre Dame. Jude and I are not going but we'll definitely be keeping tabs on the score. Testimony to how fascinating I'm finding all of this- not so much the game itself- but how Michigan's struggling to keep up its image as the "sacred caretaker of college football", I actually followed the score online for the Oregon game last week (and watched the crushing 39- 7 loss in slow motion so to speak), and for the first time ever, read the sports section of the NYT to see how our fall from glory was being received by the wider press. Sadly, words like "massacre", "a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle falling apart" and "humiliation" were used liberally. This scathing report by the Detroit Free Press seems to suggest that there are more than a few people out there who see this all as "delicious payback" for years of proud- and some say, exploitative- dominance by the two teams.

A winless Michigan facing a winless Notre Dame for the first time provides irrefutable evidence that God has a sense of humor.
- Drew Sharp, The Detroit Free Press

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A perfect roast chicken

It all started when Libby recommended us to get chickens from Ernst Farm, a local farmer that sells all-natural meats at the Farmers' Market. They rear chickens to order so we put in our order for two chickens in July and only picked them up last week. Libby says that they are the best chickens we will ever taste (because they get fed well, plenty of sunshine and fresh air, and basically get to chill out with their other buddies for two months...), and she's right. With this recipe I got from the Barefoot Contessa, this roast chicken was the best thing I have ever made. Ever. And I've NEVER said this before...

I know, you're going: 1) why roast your own chicken when you can get a fairly good tasting one from the store for $6? and 2) how good can roast chicken taste? First of all, there is something deeply satisfying and comforting about roasting your own chicken. Of course you can just run to the store to get that perfectly rotisserie-cooked chicken, and Jude & I do that all the time; but at the end of the day, nothing beats the smell of lemons, garlic and herbs slowly wafting through the house on a chilly, cloudy evening. Which brings me to No. 2: no roast chicken you buy from the store is going to taste like what I just made for dinner. And this has nothing to do with my cooking- it's all in the ingredients. For some strange, mystical reasons, something wondrous happens when you roast a chicken on top of carrots, onions and a head of fennel. For the first 40 minutes or so, the house smelled bright and citrusy from the lemon and herbs; but at some point after that, as the vegetables started caramelizing, the aroma evolved and deepened; it became almost spicy, rich and gloriously tantalizing. And all this without even opening the oven door!

And that's the one drawback of this recipe- how excruciating the wait is before your dinner is ready. An hour and a half to roast a chicken sounds pretty typical, but not when your whole house is smelling like an Italian trattoria. But it is soooooooo worth it. The chicken comes out crisp and golden on the outside, and moist and succulent on the inside (Jude observed that the chicken was not fatty at all and yet very tender; all thanks to the wonders of an all-natural upbringing, no doubt); it was the veggies that really surprised me though. The licorice flavor of the fennel developed into a delicious sweetness that was most unexpected and wonderful. I've never cooked with fennel before and now I'm wondering why not. The carrots and onions roasted into a divine golden brown, and guess what? This carrot-hater finished all her carrots :) And she loved them!

Really, dear readers of this blog, I beseech you; if you want to have the best roast chicken you will taste in a long while, you will go down to your nearest farmer's market and get yourself a free-range chicken and try this recipe out at home. Follow it to a T and I guarantee you a dinner to remember. Either that or you can invite yourself to our place- we have one more Ernst Farm chicken in our freezer, sitting there just full of promise and possibility... :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Once more, with feeling! Again!

Jude and I came to a conclusion last night: he will always have his Big Lebowski, and I will always have Buffy. We're never going to understand each other's devotion to the respective cult phenomenon- in his words, "I can't imagine how much time you spent on this..."- but we'll respect it :) I appreciate the fact that he sat through 2 hours of manic fan singing, dancing, shouting, trivia-answering, a.k.a an all round Buffy love-fest, and so if Big Lebowski comes on TV again, I will sit on the couch with my dear husband as he watches it for the 113th time...

As for the Buffy Sing-a-long, it was most wonderful! :) It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I was in the same room with 1400 other fans, all of whom knew exactly when to scream, groan, shriek and cheer at the same priceless Buffy moments, especially during the 3-minute recap of the eight seasons of Buffy. Everyone sang resoundingly along to the episode (I doubt having the lyrics on screen really made a difference- these people had dialogue committed to memory, lest of all lyrics...) and gamely partook of all the activities sprinkled throughout the hour, like yelling at Dawn and waving our cell-phones in the air during Giles', Styx-esque power ballad, "Standing In Your Way". Both a little amused and flabbergasted, Jude just sat back and captured it on video:

Last night brought back many great memories, and while I wasn't exactly young when I first became a Buffy fan, I still associate those years with something quite distinct from where I am now. And for that 2 hours last night, it was wonderful to revist those memories again... :)
Spike: You listen to me. I've been alive a bit longer than you and dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine and done things I'd prefer you didn't. I don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker. I follow my blood which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain so I make a lot of mistakes. A lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of. You. Hey, look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it's not because I want you, or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You are a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy.

Buffy: [teary] I don't want to be the one.

Spike: I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Once more, with feeling!

It's time to sing about dry cleaning, parking tickets and evil bunnies- the Buffy musical episode, "Once More, With Feeling" will be shown on the big-screen at the Michigan Theatre tonight! Always a fan favorite and voted the 13th greatest musical of all time by British television, this episode translates exceptionally well onto the movie screen, what with all the dancing, singing, twirling, and of course, combusting...

The Buffy Musical Big Screen Interactive Extravaganza begins at midnight in the rollicking tradition of interactive favorites like The Rocky Horror Show. Jude and I have no idea what to expect, but it looks set to be awesome fun! I'm looking forward to the pre-show of fan videos, Buffy trivia, and a Buffy-oke contest, where fans show off their own acting skills- you try out-brooding Angel and out-whining Dawn :)

There will always be a special place in my heart for the Buffy series, and in that special place is a small little shrine erected just for this episode.** It helps of course that it comes complete with a Broadway diva of a demon and lovelorn Spike :) Oh Spike...

Spike: You should go back inside. Finish the big group sing. Get your kumbaya-yas out.
Buffy: I don't want to.
Spike: The day you do suss out what you want, there'll probably be a parade. Seventy-six bloody trombones...

** [And this episode where conversely, very few words are spoken at all. Sigh... I miss Buffy...]

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Tamale party!

tamale n. Mexican/Spanish. Traditional Native/ Latin American food consisting of steam-cooked corn meal dough with or without a filling. Tamales can be filled with meats, cheese (post-colonial), and sliced chiles or any preparation according to taste. The tamal is generally wrapped in a corn husk or plantain leaves before cooking, depending on the region they come from. (Source: Wikipedia)

tamale party n. A Labor Day gathering of 17 people producing piles of said food over several days of boiling, drying, simmering, boiling, wrapping, steaming, waiting, and eating.

1. Sondra drying out the corn husks, 2. ingredients for a tamale party ..., 3. then you put the filling on top of the masa ., 4. then you fold the husk like so ..., 5. Jude is a tamale making machine, 6. Valerie shows us how again, 7. Pot o' tamales, 8. Mountains of tamales!!!, 9. Tasteful placement ...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Good morning, Baltimore!

Every summer, there's always that one movie that just makes me smile. Throughout the movie. And then some after. Last year, It was Little Miss Sunshine, this year, it was Ratatouille; until Friday when another summer sweetie brought a smile to my face and a song to my heart, literally.

Hairspray was gloriously fun. Just fun :) Considering the social commentary it was trying to make, at the end of it all, its message is one of hope, innocence and a throwback to a time when anything was possible. There were few moments when my feet weren't tapping or my head wasn't bopping to the joyousness of it all. This version doesn't have the same subversive camp of the John Waters original (see here for a musical montage of some of the original scenes), but it's hard to fault it when you're so completely and utterly swept up by its ebullience and good cheer.

And the funny thing is, like Ratatouille, in the end, my heart didn't so much go out to the protagonist than to someone in a more supporting role. In Ratatouille, it was the deliciously dour Anton Ego, and in Hairspray, it's Tracy's shy mother, Edna Turnbald. You're like, ok, John Trvolta. In drag... Nah... But honestly, he does a wonderful job. About 30 minutes into the movie, and you almost forget it's a man playing a woman's role, and she becomes one of the more fully-realized character in what is essentially a musical of stock characters- heart-throb, beauty queen, underdog, etc... Edna's timidity and shame about her size comes across so sweetly and sadly sometimes that her own little triumph at the end of the movie, almost rivals her daughter's.

Which is also why I found the relationship between her and her gallant, devoted husband, Wilbur the real emotional core of the movie. Christopher Walken is fantastic as always, and in one of the high-points of the film, when they sing, "You're Timeless to Me", you forget momentarily that it's two men in a love duet. Mr. Walken looks like he was truly enjoying himself (and reprising some of his nifty footwork from the out-of-this-world Spike Jonze/Fatboy Slim video); either that or he was barely containing his laughter at John Travolta flirting with him as his wife, and there was just a honesty and genuineness to the scene that was most delightful.

Go watch Hairspray, you too will believe that a can of Ultra-Clutch Hairspray can make the world a better place :)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Akan datang**

[** Coming soon in Malay]

There are so many reasons why I love Fall, and one of them is all the interesting movies that always come our way during this season. Yes, there are of course the inevitable ponderous, poseur "this-will-win-me-the-Oscar" ones, but there are also those gems that really make the Fall movie season so wonderfully exciting. So yes, it's time for ghetto of our mind's annual "What We'll be Watching in Fall" preview. Like I said in last year's post, don't read on or click on any of the links if you don't want to be spoiled- Emilee knows what I'm talking about... :)

In no particular order:

1) Lust, Caution
Ang Lee's follow-up to Brokeback Mountain and set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, this love story/ political thriller maintains similar themes of love and loss. Did I say Tony Leung's in it? Enough said.

2) Across the Universe
Those of you who have been dying to watch Cirque du Soleil's Love but don't have a mini trust fund to afford the ticket, maybe this quirky, surrealistic "musical" will satisfy. Set to the Beatles music, there is only 30 minutes of dialogue in the movie. And just for the heck of it, Bono makes a cameo too...

3) Control
Jude can barely wait for this biopic of Joy Division's Ian Curtis. And directed by Anton Corbijn (best known for his Depeche Mode videos) no less. The trailer is awesome. (See here for an interview with Corbijn about the movie.)

4) Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium
With a magnificent title like this, how is a girl to resist? :)

5) Elizabeth: The Golden Age
I know, the first one wasn't historically accurate (because who plays Mozart at an English coronation?), but I love Cate Blanchett, and I loved her in the role of Elizabeth. Who cares what stuffy historians say?...

6) Persepolis
I can't believe they've turned one of my favorite graphic novels into a movie! And by the writer, Marjane Satrapi herself! I don't understand French, but if there's anything I remember from book, just looking at this French teaser is making me ecstatically excited!

7) Sleuth
Two words, Harold Pinter.

8) Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (official website coming soon)
I've watched every collaboration between Johnny Deep and Tim Burton. And loved something, if not everything about each one. Their latest- a homicidal barber and his human-pie-making partner. And it's a musical. Oh goody... :)

9) I'm Not There
More for Jude, the Bob Dylan fan in the household, this indie project by Todd Haynes has Cate Blanchett, Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Richard Gere all playing Bob Dylan at various stages of his life. Here's a brilliant clip of Cate Blanchett as a twitchy, scratchy Dylan during his Blonde on Blonde period...

10) Heima
Sigur Rós's documentary homage to Iceland, and what home means to them. It's not enough that we love their music, if the gorgeous trailer is anything to go by, we will love them as film makers as well... As reported on Boing Boing, "You ain't human if SR don't make you weep."

11) The Darjeeling Limited
A Wes Anderson movie. Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody as brothers. On a road-trip. Through India. Do you really need to know more?