Sunday, January 25, 2009

Google tip #347

This is one of those either you already know it and you're going to think I'm an idiot for pointing it out as one of the coolest things since mint chocolate chip ice cream—or—you don't know it, and therefore you're going to think I'm the coolest thing since mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Have you ever known that you saw something on a particular site, but when you use that site's search box, if it even has a search box, you can't find it? Or it's really slow? Or you get 10,000 results in some crazy mixed up Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler way that could be fascinating if you were interested in getting on the game show "How does their algorithm work?", but since you don't want to get on that game show, you're just frustrated you can't find what you're looking for?

I have another option. Use site specific search in Google. You know those chocolate chip cookies I keep raving about? Well, since for some reason I keep forgetting to save and print, or print and save, the recipe, I have to keep looking for it. You'd think going to the NYT website and searching for chocolate chip cookies would be the fastest way to do that. You'd think that, but you'd be wrong. The fastest way to find that recipe is to Google the following: "chocolate chip cookie". And if you want to get around Rotten Tomatoes' new and, IMHO absolutely not, improved interface, typing unforgiven (or swordfish, or charade, or whatever movie you happen to be interested in) is a much better way to go.

From me to you. Don't say I never gave you anything.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Special schmecial

You all probably know by now, I'm a big fan of fat red wines. Plummy, juicy, raisiny, pruny, a little spicy and all around yummy — whatever it takes to make that nice big pow in your mouth, count me in.

But that's not to say I'm not a fan of other types of wine. And lately I've found that often as not, a cold glass of a sparkling rose — be it champagne, cava, spumante, frizzante or prosecco — tastes just right. (And that's with or without the three bears.)

This current fizzy predilection has sent me on a quest for affordable sparklers, because although I'd like to indulge in Billecart Salmon and Nicholas Feuillat on a daily basis, that's just not possible at the moment. There is joy in the hunt, however, and I have found a handful of bubblies under $15 that fall into that "all around yummy" category. What more could you ask for? I mean, really?

So who needs a special occasion? or Valentine's Day? or even company? (Okay, maybe company.)

Cristalino makes a cava rose that is my fave, though many reviewers actually prefer the blanc de noir. Presto makes a rose prosecco that is so easy to drink I went through half a bottle and practically didn't notice (practically, I said "practically").

As a side note — I did have a fat red wine the other night, from a winery I'd never heard of, CG Di Arie. It was a 2006 Syrah, it was about $25, and it was very, very tasty. And — because would I be me if I didn't share this piece of data with you? — the winemaker and owner of this winery is the very same gentleman who developed the technology for the breakfast cereal Cap'n Crunch. That's right. The technology. And you thought cereal was just cereal.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Redux - in pictures this time

(It's a video, video, video-about Benjamin Gump, or Forrest Button, or, well, you get the point. If you can't see it, click here.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

So, I missed some

A gfted long distance runner dies tragically young, but not before, with the help of a waffle iron, his coach starts a small company with a familiar logo:
Pre released January 24, 1997 (Jared Leto, R. Lee Emery)
Without Limits released September 11, 1998 (Billy Crudup, Donald Sutherland; written & directed by Robert Towne, filmed by Conrad Hall, and, fyi, the second film produced by Tom Cruise & Paula Wagner)

The tale of, you'll never believe this, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, his friend, Doc Holliday, and the gunfight at OK Corral in Tombstone, AZ:
Tombstone released December 25 1993 (Kurt Russell, a phenomenal Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Powers Boothe, Dana Delany, Bill Paxton, Paula Malcomson... both Powers Boothe and Paula Malcomson were in Deadwood)
Wyatt Earp released June 24, 1994 (Kevin Costner, a very, very skinny Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman; this is Larry Kasdan's version)

And, deserving almost of a post all by themselves, think about this (okay, not exactly the same concept, but still...):

D'Artagnan and his three friends, who are, well, musketeers, spy, spar and sleep around in 17th c France:
The Three Musketeers

1921 - Douglas Fairbanks
1939 - Don Ameche
1948 - Gene Kelly (a musical, no less)
1973 - Michael York, Oliver Reed, Richard Chamberlain
1993 - Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O'Donnell, Oliver Platt

A thief who, wait, have you heard this before? steals from the rich and gives to the poor. No, really.
The Adventures of Robin Hood
1922 - Douglas Fairbanks
1938 - Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone (directed by Michael Curtiz - Casablanca? anyone? anyone?)
1973 - Disney's animated version
1976 - Sean Connery, Audrey Hepburn (technically titled "Robin and Marian")
1991 - Kevin Costner, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Morgan Freeman, Christian Slater (sigh), Oliver Platt (this one is technically titled "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves")
1993 - Cary Elwes, Dave Chappelle, Richard Lewis (directed by Mel Brooks, this one is actually "Robin Hood: Men in Tights")

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It's the simple things

I'm waiting for the next wave of celebrity confessions. Any day now. "It's true. I'm addicted. I can't give it up. I admit it. I can't leave the house without it. I can't start my day... learn my lines... take a meeting... I can't even text my assistant to get it for me. If I go too long my hands start to shake."

It's not surprising. After all, it's widely available. And just about anyone can get their hands on the cheap stuff. Or the bad stuff, for that matter. Which is often, but not always, the same.

But let's talk the good stuff. The real thing. The full monty. The whole nine yards. Coffee. And not just coffee. Espresso. The deep, dark, majestic monarch of joe. Black gold. The morning cup that makes the difference between "huh?" and the perfect witty riposte. Here's the thing about that. There's brown stuff. And then there's coffee. And then there's the "get your hand off that right now, or be prepared to pull back a nub." That's where Black Cat Espresso comes in.

Burnt espresso fixes, I mean drinks, are a dime a dozen at ye olde Starbucks (to be found, according to Jonathan Gold, at "every street corner and shopping mall in the known universe"). Well, to be accurate, not a dime, more like a Benjamin, but you get my point.

That's actually part of my point. A pound of espresso—off-the-charts, your-world-will-never-be-the-same espresso—and a few pints of cream will run you less than twenty bucks. That's maybe four drinks at Starbucks. FOUR. 1. 2. 3. 4. One, two, three, four. 1 —— 2 —— 3 —— 4.

Let me repeat that for you. You can spend more money for worse coffee, or you can make your way over to Intelligentsia Coffee and order some of the best espresso you'll ever pipe into your veins. Or drink. Whatever.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Winter has its advantages

If I could start every morning off with this... I think every day would be a good day.

Of course, this came from a great story about where to get the best hot chocolate in Boston, which does me no good at all, except to tell my sister about it. So, okay, it does me good in a karmic sort of way, but not in a real, hot, dark chocolatey-goodness sort of way.

The closest I found to a guide to hot chocolate in Los Angeles, something of an unnecessary luxury, which is redundant or oxymoronic or both, so leave me alone already, was an article on LAWeekly that's almost four years old for crying out loud. What he had to say, however, this Jonathan Gold, was pretty enticing, despite its age:

Angelina’s hot chocolate, known as Africain, is made with black, dense bars of Valrhona chocolate, melted, patiently boiled down with heavy cream, and served in tiny, elegant teapots at concentrations high enough to give an endorphin rush to the entire Rue de Rivoli. You could probably walk on this chocolate if you were to gather enough of it together, caulk a leak with it, or power a chocolate-fueled rocket to Alpha Centauri. The first time you down a cup of the stuff ranks with the first time you consummate a romantic encounter or smoke a decent cigar — it feels as if your head is ready to explode, and you can’t wait to do it again.

That right there qualifies as food porn if I've ever read it. Wow. Sadly, Angelina is a teahouse in Paris, so unless you've got a G4 gassed up and ready to go, we won't be indulging in that particular cup of perfection any time soon, but clearly this man knows from whence he speaks to review a good cup of cocoa.

Settle down, now.

The places to make his list four years ago included City Bakery in New York, as at that time it hadn't yet made its west coast debut — a fact happily now corrected. Also on his list was the hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows at Clementine's; Senor Fred's in Sherman Oaks where they also serve churros (I have a weakness for churros); and Leonidas, a reason to go to a movie on the Promenade or in Century City a tad early, perhaps?

Get out while the getting's cold, friends. 'Cuz in this town, that's a short window.

The man in the white suit

If you're of a certain age, you'll remember Saturday nights one way and one way only.
9 o'clock was Love Boat (love. exciting and new. come aboard. we're expecting you... ), and 10 o'clock was Fantasy Island ("Da plane! Da plane!"). Now that I consider it, both of those shows were helmed by a man dressed in a white suit, but there is really no contest between Captain Stubing and Mr. Roarke. Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke was suave, elegant, unflappable. He was precisely what he was supposed to be.

And then there was Montalban as Khan, or, you know, "Khaaaaaan!" Which was actually a reprisal; he played Khan in an episode on the original TV series in 1967. He was in musicals in old Hollywood, was the face, really more the voice, of Cadillac in the 70s, and who could forget him in Spy Kids 2?

Sadly, Ricardo Montalban died today, at the ripe old age of 88.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A game show coming to a tv near you

I've been having an ongoing conversation with some friends about movies coming out in doubles - specifically, our conversation has been about movies with the same plot that come out right on top of each other.

Meteor on a crash course with earth:
Deep Impact released May 8, 1998 (Tea Leoni, Maximilian Schell, Vanessa Redgrave, Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, James Cromwell, etc. etc. etc.)
Armageddon released July 1, 1998 (Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Will Patton, Steve Buscemi, Owen Wilson, etc. etc. etc.)

Truman Capote writes about gruesome murder in small town:
Capote released February 3, 2006 (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Infamous released November 16, 2006 (Toby Jones)

Volcano inactive for centuries suddenly threatens to blow:
Dante's Peak released February 7, 1997 (Linda Hamilton, Pierce Brosnan)
Volcano released April 25, 1997 (Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Heche)

But it also raises another question--how many films out there, if reduced to plot, could be mistaken for other films? Check out these plot summaries. The one that caught my eye was this one:

Name that film:

A white man is born fatherless in the south with birth defects that lead many to think he may never walk nor live a normal life. His saintly mother believes in his potential anyway. At a young age, the man learns to walk and sheds his exoskeleton of locomotive aids. Around this time, he also meets the love of his life, a vivacious girl who grows into a bold woman who parts ways with the man to have her own wild adventures. Meanwhile, the man reaches adulthood, and puts in a wartime stint in the U.S. military. During this stint, the man proves at first an indifferent asset, but during his one firefight, he turns out to be very valuable, saving the day singlehandedly, while also witnessing the death of one of his best friends. The man also spends much time on a small ocean vessel, serving alongside a rowdy, grizzled, hard-drinking man of the sea. This salty sailor serves as one of our man's two best male friends; the other is a black man who first teaches our man the lessons of friendship before departing forever.

Our man wanders all around the world, his life brushing up against key historical moments of the 20th century. At some point he returns to his childhood home, and his mother dies. The man comes into considerable wealth through blind luck. Around this time, his lifelong love returns from her adventures, ready to commit to him. During their brief time together, they conceive a child. The couple part ways, due to the woman's perceived inability to take care of the man. He does not raise the child through its early years but later makes an appearance in its life. The woman eventually dies in bed from illness. The man's later years are hardly touched on, even though the movie has lavished much attention on his early and middle years.

The entire story dwells repeatedly on the theme of life's uncertainty and, in contrast, on the notion of fate or coincidence. The film's symbol for these themes is a small object seen hovering improbably in the air. A narrative frame scene punctuates the story, as does the main character's drawling voice-over.

Acceptable Answers: Forrest Gump; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (Both movies were written by Eric Roth)

That's show biz for you. Or at least Hollywood.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A thousand words? Maybe a million...

Last night I saw... can you guess? Yep, The Wrestler. (98 on RT)

I was mesmerized, as much by watching the veritable definition of "ravaged" up on the screen as anything else. And perhaps I was the only one to wonder this, since it did earn a 98, but I still have to ask, why did we spend so much time looking at his back? No, really. For the first 20 minutes I swear I saw Mickey's face full on for a total of 90 seconds, and maybe his profile for another 120.

Now, supposedly this is as much a comeback for Mr. Aronofsky as it is for Mr. Rourke, and I will admit that it is a far cry from the mess that was The Fountain (51 on RT). All I'm really saying is, it was that much harder for me, and maybe I'm just a sucker for a pretty face, to care about Mickey's character until I got to see his character. You know, like from the front? Face to face? But like I said, maybe that's just me.

Be that as it may, I like small movies (okay, I like big movies too—I like all kinds of movies) and this is a really, really good small movie. By small, I don't mean easy, or simple, or unimportant. Because this movie is none of those things. But it does tell its story in a very close space, with an economy of words and color. And with perhaps a bit of an over-abundance of 80s music. And through it all, it's nearly impossible to take your eyes off Mickey. His front or back.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mission impossible

I had a short list when I went to Costco today. (Note to self: do not, repeat, do not go to Costco at lunchtime. Free samples+old folks=hell.)

  1. Brita water filter
  2. Toilet paper
  3. bagels
  4. Whitefish salad (really, the whitefish salad they sell there is off the charts)
  5. tomatoes
  6. Ziploc bags
  7. Pond's face wipes
This is what I left with:
  1. Pur water filtering system for your faucet (I'm actually happier about that—ever try to fill your spaghetti pot from a Brita carafe?)
  2. Toilet paper
  3. 1 dozen bagels (that's the only way they sell 'em, baby)
  4. No whitefish salad (how could they be OUT?? Everything else on my list was gravy)
  5. No tomatoes (they were for the whitefish salad)
  6. Ziploc bags
  7. Pond's face wipes
  8. Ready to eat edamame
  9. Chicken potstickers
  10. Pita chips
  11. Salami
  12. Cheese
  13. 2 bottles of wine (Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cab—a phenomenal steal at $7.50/btl)
  14. 10-pk of CFL bulbs (60w)

And only by the skin of my skinny chin chin (don't ask, just go with it) did I manage to refrain from buying $100 worth of Starbucks cards for $80. What I want to know is, is it possible to go to Costco and get just those items on your list? Maybe for some people, who alphabetize their spices—no, not even for them.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

You've got a friend...

So you may (or may not) remember a certain rant of mine—that once on Facebook, it is well nigh impossible to get off.

In for a penny, in for a pound; I stuck with it and discovered it wasn't so bad. And then I was friended (when, oh when, did that become a verb—worse, when did I give in and start using it as one??) by someone I hadn't spoken to in over 10 years. That was nifty. And nice. And made me think maybe there was something to this online social networking thing after all.

And then I began to realize it was a good way to get in touch and stay in touch with people I never would—high school, college, work, yadda yadda yadda. Everything it says it is. Go figure.

But that all pales, PALES, in comparison to what happened to me on January 5th. On January 5, 2009, Carole King friended me. Some few of you will understand the magnitude of that. And for those who don't, chew on this: in 2007, my best friend and I flew to Tokyo for a day and a half—just to go to a Carole King concert (Mary J. Blige and Fergie performed too). Which was unbelievable—and which is not the concert pictured above, if you were wondering, I just thought that the happenstance of Carole and JT back together again was a picture worth, well, you know... this was actually a year later and, happily, in Los Angeles and was also un-flipping-believable. I should know—I went twice.

All I'm saying is, I have nothing bad to say about Facebook. Nuthin'.