List # xxxx: Things Dearest Mum Thought It Would Be a Good Idea for Self to Learn to Cook

After two years of graduate school at Stanford, self can say with certainty that she could cook only four things well:  bacon, pan-fried steak, rice and scrambled eggs.  She was too busy writing papers!  Or perhaps she was simply too lazy.

Then self broke the news to her family that she was planning to get married.  Dearest Mum then had self enroll in a cooking class taught by Lorivi Reynoso (graduate of an actual French culinary school!).

Here are the items Chef Lorivi taught self to prepare:

  • Waldorf Salad (Very easy!  You only need four apples, 1 stick of celery, 1/2 cup of walnuts . . . )
  • Crepes Suzette (Very easy!  You only need to prepare the crepe batter, then make the orange batter . . . )
  • Pears in Red Wine (Very easy!  You only need 2 Tbsps. of apple jelly, 1/2 cup red wine, 4 pears . . . )
  • Blue Cheese Canapé Spread (Very easy!  You only need blue or roquefort cheese and 1/2 cup cream cheese . . . )
  • Chicken Liver Paté (Very easy!  You only need chicken livers, 1 Tbsp. brandy, a dash of thyme, 2/3 cup butter . . . )
  • Smoked Tanguingue in Dill Sauce (Very easy!  Until self wondered what store in California would sell tanguingue . . . )
  • Mussels Mariniere (Very easy!  One only needs 1 kilo mussels, sprigs of parsley, 1 cup white wine, 1/3 cup cream . . . )
  • Banana Flambee (Very easy!  One only needs 8 large bananas, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup rum . . . )  NOTE:  Self used to adore bananas, until the day she was chatting with a fellow artist in the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and learned that bananas were the most fattening fruit in the entire world.  Then self banished bananas from her sight, forever.  Dear blog readers might wonder why two artists supposedly engaged in strenuous creative work would even care about what they weighed, but just because you are crazy doesn’t mean you can’t be vain!

Wow, self never entertained and unfortunately these were not the type of comestibles one could pass off as dinner . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Waldorf Salad

It’s All About the Dress: Clothesonfilm’s Take on Kirsten Dunst’s Character in MELANCHOLIA

Self loves clothesonfilm’s review of Lars von Trier’s new movie, “Melancholia.”  It’s one of his best (The other one she really likes is his review of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” because of the mileage he gets out of the description of a creaking leather coat).  She’s read the “Melancholia” review at least twice.  Below is an excerpt.  Prior to this passage, clothesonfilm has referred to Dunst’s “spectacular ruche wedding dress” as a “corset prison” which Dunst’s character feels compelled to tear, soil, and eventually pollute “with shame” (Self shudders to think what that could possibly mean, but since she has an ancient, farting beagle who has almost zero control of her bodily functions, the only image self can bring to mind is —  CRAP)

. . .  when Justine is released from the dress later that evening, she immediately asks her bewildered husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgaard), to strap her back in.  Her psychosis actually enjoys the dress’ suffocating constrictiveness; it gives her justification to rebel, which she then proceeds to do in the most divisive way imaginable.

WHOA!  Dunst’s character needs to be constricted, so that she can rebel:  Is that brilliant character analysis or what ???

So, what lies in store for our dear Justine?  Read on:

What is easy to overlook in analysis of Justine is that she absolutely cannot help herself.  Depression is not a choice, it is a compulsion; a deep, gut-dwelling pain that refuses to abate.  For Justine the best she can hope for is a reprieve.

Which leads self to ask:  What, then, is in store for the people who surround this wrecked personality?  Do they, too, get sucked into the vortex?  Or do they manage to escape?  Or what?

Self is not sure she can actually endure a Lars von Trier movie, so close to the holidays!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Looking Back: The American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

Self once served on a selection panel for an artists grant.  The granting organization was in Baltimore, and they flew her over for one night.  Self supposes there must be crazier things than that, but she is still amazed every time she thinks of herself flying clear across the country, staying one night, attending a day-long meeting, and then taking a late flight back to California.  And teaching a full load, the very next day.

In Baltimore, she was put up in a Hilton which was close to the seaport.  Her shoulders and neck flared with accumulated tension but she was determined to see as much of the city as she could.  As soon as she was done with her committee duties, and in the few hours of daylight left before she had to head to the airport, she decided to visit the American Visionary Art Museum.  The museum was the brainchild of a man named James Rouse, who happens to be the grandfather of the actor Edward Norton.

The museum is a commemmoration of “outsider art,” art created by people who have no artistic training, who created out of a deep need to express themselves (Just so you know how committed the museum’s curators are to its vision, there is a whole gallery devoted to finger paintings made by one Betsy the Chimp, whose dates of birth and death are very carefully recorded:  1951- 1960)

She remembers another artwork, a sculpture of a gigantic man, caught in mid-stride.  The image seems to radiate vitality and power.  You have to go close to see:  the figure was constructed entirely out of matchsticks.

In another gallery, she saw a series of intensely colorful paintings, all the work of a woman who was a maid for a rich family somewhere in the south.  All the paintings were done in her spare time.

The main exhibit, at the time self visited, was called “Home & Beast”  and featured the paintings of Christine Sefolosha, born 1955 in the Swiss town of Montreux.  Her father was a fruit and vegetable merchant.  From the museum catalogue:  “During a period of her childhood when she experienced unusual insomnia, her mother took some of her drawings to a psychologist.  One of these depicted a huge crocodile devouring a dark-skinned man.”

After reading that, self looked at the paintings, and all of them depicted a dark-skinned man being devoured by a crocodile.  Clearly this image was an obsession for Ms. Sefolosha.  It turns out that she did marry a “dark-skinned man” from Africa (self forgets which country), followed him back to his home country and bore him two children.  Then, the man left her.  Sometime afterwards, Sefolosha began “painting and drawing again, working mostly on the floor with new pigments and watercolors and often with such materials as dripped tar and earth.”  And all she could paint were images of a dark-skinned man being devoured by a crocodile.  Holy Eerie Coincidence!

At the time, self had just finished writing a story called “Dumpster,” which she chose to set in Baltimore.  The story made one of her brothers want to puke.  Its central image was a severed hand.

Why did self choose Baltimore?  As Negrenses might say, “Ambot!”  (“I forget!” or “I don’t know!”)  At the time that she finished the story, she’d never even been to Baltimore.

After seeing the American Visionary Art Museum, however, self could never forget Baltimore.  And, eventually, after not too long, “Dumpster” was picked up by Mark Fitten, then-editor of The Chattahoochee Review.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Vanity Fair “New Establishment” List (2011 Edition)

  • # 1 is Mark Zuckerberg.  Oh, boo.  Nothing at all interesting about that.
  • Netflix founder Reed Hastings is # 7.  That’s more like it.  Self loooves Netflix.
  • Highest Ranking Asian:  Robin Li, whose Baidu is “China’s dominant search engine.”  He comes in at # 25. (Come to think of it, he might be the only Asian on this list.  Quick Fact Check:  Yes, he is!)
  • Highest Ranking woman is Lady Gaga:  she comes in at # 9.  (Even J. K. Rowling only came in at # 16.  Next year, Suzanne Collins, the woman who wrote The Hunger Games, will be on this list, especially if the movie becomes a hit)
  • Highest Ranking author is J. K. Rowling: she is, as already noted above, # 16.
  • There is a two-page spread on Sean Parker.  In that pose, from that angle, self at first mistook him for the actor Bradley Cooper (Parker’s stock must have doubled when Justin Timberlake was cast to play him in “The Social Network”)
  • Justin Timberlake comes in at # 50.  Having just seen him in “In Time,” self thinks she likes his inclusion on this list.  (Speaking of aforementioned film, Olivia Wilde is in it, but — SPOILER ALERT! –why oh why is she again stuck in the role of heroic woman who dies —  anyone see “Cowboys and Aliens”?  People, this woman is beautiful and deserves a chance to live!  At least, she deserves to play a character who finishes a movie alive!)
  • Ashton Kutcher is on this list.  What is wrong with this picture!  He comes in at # 43.

On p. 237 there is a picture of new hottie Elizabeth Olsen.  In that pose, in that hat, with that smile, she is a dead ringer for the “Sex and the City” hottie Kim Cattrall.

Josh Charles (of “The Good Wife”) has the honor of making weird faces for the “In Character” feature.  Congratulations, Josh, you are the only performer who manages to pull off three weird facial expressions and still look HOT!  HOT!  HOT!  Must be the black T-shirt.

The cover of this Vanity Fair issue is Angelina Jolie.  “I’ve never felt more exposed,” she is quoted as saying.  Yawn!  If you didn’t want to be so exposed, Angelina, you could stop making movies and stop giving interviews to Vanity Fair!  Next!  (Speaking of Angelina, does anyone think the woman in NCIS: Los Angeles has very similar eyes?)

On p. 253, there is a portrait of Conrad Black, “the high-flying Canadian-born press lord,” with his wife.  His wife looks remarkably like the English actress Emily Watson.  At least, she does in this picture.

Finally, self arrives at an article that really catches her attention.  Here’s a breathless quote:  “Keith Gessen examines the state of the troubled, confused, and ever unpredictable world of U.S. book publishing in the age of Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and e-readers.”  OMG!  Self must stop blogging so she can attend to this article with maximum concentration.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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