Best Picture Baking Project: Around the World in Eighty Days

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Compared to my last attempt, the dessert portion of this Best Picture Baking Project, was a great success. As for the movie…

Had I seen this one before? 

Nope. I think I’ve seen the hot air balloon scene at some point, but that’s all I knew about it.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

1. This movie is ridiculously racist. Seriously, it’s basically just a white British man (David Niven) with his vaguely “ethnic” manservant (Cantinflas) (who refers to Niven’s character as “Master”) traveling to all the hot-spots of British colonization to laugh at/shoot the natives. They rescue one girl in India from a ritual burning, but only after learning she was educated in England. And that Indian Princess, is played by Shirley MacLaine.

2. It’s really long. I appreciate a movie with an intermission, but so many sequences – especially anything performative, like the flamenco dance or the bull-fight – just go on at least two minutes too long. And when the movie is nothing but a series of sequences that drag on a bit, it can feel like a bit of a slog to get through. But, it’s sort of rescued by the endless cameos (according to the trivia Miró looked up) this was the first movie to bill “cameo” rolls, and they got everyone from Buster Keaton to this guy:

3. Visually it was stunning. There were great pictures of the sunset and the Technicolor were beautiful and director, Michael Anderson showed off the various landscapes very well. In fact, the spectacle was reminiscent of old MGM musicals, to the point where I kept expecting people to break out in song.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Friendly Persuasion – This is the first time I’ve heard of this.

Giant – Has been on my “to watch” list for years.

The King and I – Oh more racism cloaked as good family fun. But with pretty ballads this time.

The Ten Commandments – Another one I haven’t seen. But if you have asked I probably would have guessed that it won.

Even without seeing it, I’m going to guess that Giant, probably holds up the best of this group.

Bechdel Test pass? 

Nope. Not even a little bit. MacLaine’s Princess Aouda is the only woman with a name. Another woman (a pushy American broad) talks in her presence at one point, but only to hit on Niven and be stopped by (presumably) her knife-wielding pimp. Other women appear from time to time, to wordlessly perform and or hand the men food. I wish I was exagerating.

This is what came up when I did a Google search for “women in Around the World in Eighty Days” – seems about right

But more importantly – I made chocolate bowls! Using balloons! And it worked! (The recipe is actually pretty simple…)

Candy Chocolate Bowls 

Ingredients 

– 1 package of candy coating (in the baking aisle at mainstream grocery stores – you can also temper your own chocolate, if you like making things difficult for yourself)

– small party or water balloons

Directions 

– Melt the coating chocolate and stir, let sit until cool to the touch

– While it’s cooling, blow up and tie off the balloons (Don’t over inflate! They will pop and send chocolate everywhere.) 

– Dip each balloon into the chocolate into the depth you want your balloons to be and place onto a baking sheet covered in parchment paper

– Let sit to harden.

– Before serving, place in refrigerator.

– Remove from fridge, and cut the balloon at the knot to release the air slowly. It should look something like this:

– Remove the balloon from the chocolate and fill with ice cream, mousse, or other yummy dessert!

(Inadvertently) B.S. Playlist

I started making a playlist a while ago and then realized that half of them started with B and the others started with S. So I went with the accidental theme and came up with this playlist, filled with songs I love (that aren’t BS at all of course.)

Blank Space – Taylor Swift

Boy in the Bubble – Paul Simon

Bourbon in Kentucky – Dierks Bentley and Kacey Musgraves

Believe – Mumford & Sons 

(I don’t actually know how I feel about this whole synth-happy Mumford sound, but I needed another ‘B’ song and well…they’re still Mumford, even if this sounds weirdly like Coldplay.) 

Just don’t forget where you came from boys…#bringbackthebanjo

Beating Heart – Ellie Goulding 

She’s Got A Way – Wes Taylor’s live cover 

Somewhere Else – Lydia Loveless 

Reason #1 the week of April 18th is going to be amazing. 

She’s Always a Woman – Aaron Tveit’s live cover version 

(I may have bought this CD, even though the whole thing is on YouTube, because musical theater crushes never die.)

Strange Overtones – David Byrne and Brian Eno

(Miró introduced me to this song on our way home from Houston, and it’s just as strange but still catchy as you expect from both of these brilliant weirdos.) 

Someone New – Hozier 

Reason #2 the week of April 18th will be one of the best ever. 

Weekly Adventure: Daytrip to Johnson City

So it’s South by Southwest time here in Austin, which so far for me has meant that I’ve seen a lot of lost hipsters looking blankly at street signs and the buses are running more efficiently than ever before. I’ve yet to have a famous person siting, but I’m going to an actual SXSW event on Friday, where at least one is guaranteed. With all this excitement happening in town, Miró and I narutally decided it was time to drive an hour away to look at places a former President used to live. You know, like I do. I’ve been to the LBJ Library here in town, but hadn’t yet been to his National Historical Park, which is fittingly in Johnson City, Texas. I assumed until yesterday that it was named for him, but apparently it was his grandfather’s cousin who earned that honor. (Or something like that, the docent at his boyhood home was a little fuzzy on a lot of details.

His boyhood home

His boyhood home

She did tell us that his mother used to teach public speaking and etiquette on this porch. She generally sounded pretty cool and I knew nothing about her going in. (I’m adding her to the list of women in history I may write a biography of, so that one will exist).This was their house in town, which feels a little silly when you see how small Johnson city is, until you drive out to the ranch, and see how truly isolated it is. Beautiful, but isolated.

Miró reading about LBJ's first school

Miró reading about LBJ’s first school

The one room school house he went to when he was 4

The one room school house he went to when he was 4

View from the schoolhouse

View from the schoolhouse

And here is the truly isolated house LBJ was born in

And here is the truly isolated house LBJ was born in 

The property is still a working ranch in addition to a National Park, and the cows were not at all shy about the visitors

The property is still a working ranch in addition to a National Park, and the cows were not at all shy about the visitors 

Seriously, they were like cow models

Seriously, they were like cow models

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The Presidential Jukebox - there was a song or 2 for each state.

The Presidential Jukebox – there was a song or 2 for each state. 

I'm not sure how "This Land Is Our Land" isn't 'ethnic'....

I’m not sure how “This Land Is Our Land” isn’t ‘ethnic’…. 

M and I in front of the "Texas White House," which was gorgeous and homier than I expected

M and I in front of the “Texas White House,” which was gorgeous and homier than I expected

Cover Chain vol. 3

I expanded the definition of cover a bit for this installment of the chain, mostly so I could bring it back into this century and eventually, hopefully get it back around to Hozier. The idea is the same, but I included a couple of award show collaborations (where the original artist is also present). Anyway enjoy!

Last time, we ended with this gentleman.

“New York State of Mind” by Billy Joel covered by Leon Russell

“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John covered* by Billy Joel 

(*There are versions of Mr. Joel singing this on his own, but this is just so much better.)

“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen covered by Elton John (and Axl Rose, but he is not officially included in the chain) 

“New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra covered by Queen 

(I accidentally saw a clip from this movie while looking for the above video, and now I will be having nightmares for weeks. Thanks YouTube.)

“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel covered by Frank Sinatra 

(The fact that this exists has always made me really happy. It’s just so incongruous and wonderful.)

“Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison covered by Paul Simon (I’m fully aware I’m cheating on a lot of accounts with this one, but I don’t care.)

(I also highly recommend the YouTube rabbit hole of Conan’s George Harrison week.)

“Bye, Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers covered by George Harrison 

“Carolina in My Mind” by James Taylor covered by The Everly Brothers

“Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band covered by James Taylor 

“Gin-N-Juice” by Snoop Dogg covered by Zac Brown Band

This video is really a medley, but the Gin-N-Juice part is my favorite it’s around the 6:40 mark.

And we end here…somehow…

Vol. 1Vol. 2 

Playlist I Made Months Ago

I was just flipping through my notebook, because I’m starting to put together Poem of the Day posts for this year’s Poetry Month, and I came across a playlist that I made a few months ago but for some reason never posted. (To give you a sense it’s on the page opposite of my reactions to Force Majeur.) I guess it got lost in the awards season shuffle, but it’s got some good stuff on it, so I decided to share it with you all today!

Ghost – Ella Henderson

Space Captain – Joe Cocker 

Oh gosh, I think I meant to include this as my RIP moment for the late great Mr. Cocker (he died right before Christmas)…I guess better late than never…I do think he may have been one of the coolest humans ever.

 Hero – Family of the Year

Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars

I actually avoided listening to this for a while after it started to blow up, until my Mom told me about their appearance on Ellen and how she thought there might be something wrong with Mark Ronson, which was hilarious. I think it stems from her undying love for Bruno. (I come by this pop culture obsession thing honestly.) Anyway, this song just makes me happy.

22 – Lily Allen 

Jackie and Wilson – Hozier

I get to see him in just 41 days you guys!

The Weary Kind – Ryan Bingham

I wish I could find a full clip of Colin Farrell singing this in Crazy Heart, because that movie kills me too much to ever watch it again, but I really liked the parts of him singing.

After the Fire Is Gone – Lydia Loveless & Robbie Fulks 

I added this one to the earlier list I found, because watching a week or so ago made me really sad and Chicago sick, because if I still lived there I would have dragged someone to this show with me. To make myself feel better I bought two tickets to Lydia’s show here in Austin on April 18th, so if you want to go with me let me know!

Kodachrome – Paul Simon 

I was reading a textbook about archival processing for photographs and I literally could not stop humming this tune. (Sometimes it’s good that a lot of my work gets done in the privacy of my own room.)

It’s All Coming Back To Me Now – Jeremy Jordan cover at Broadway Loves Celine Dion 

This is my new happy place.

Thing I Love: The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 I don’t tend to binge watch comedies. Part of the appeal of a good sitcom is the comfort of the familiar, but when episodes are taken all at once that can seem very repetitive. But I made an exception for the new Tina Fey/Robert Carlock show The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt which you should all be watching on Netflix right now. Especially if you love:

Theme Songs!

Celebrity cameos!

 Cults! (That was a weird thing to write with an exclamation point, but I felt like I had started the pattern. Anyway, I’m fascinated by cults and so this show was basically made for me)

 Diverse casting and many different types of women!

Ellie Kemper is amazing as the Pollyannaesque title character, who is so sunny in the face of horrific treatment that it can be hard to remember what she’s been through (until the show undercuts the sappiness with a cynical reference – because Tina Fey wrote this people).

But more impressive to me are Broadway vet Tituss Burgess as her hilarious roommate, and the galaxy of crazy that surrounds them. What I love about Fey and Carlock’s universe is how it is at once completely over the top outrageous and somehow biting and real.

If you want to understand any of the jokes I make in the next month or so you should watch it. (I’ll quote it even if you don’t – just ask anyone that was around Lys and I after the first season of Please Like Me came out).

Best Picture Baking Project: Argo

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I’m totally aware, that ‘cake’ looks unappealing, and it was. But more on that later. The important thing is that I’m finally starting the Best Picture Baking Project again! For those of you are new to the blog, the idea is that I’m watching all the movies that have won the Oscar for Best Picture and pairing them with a dessert. Yesterday Miró and I watched Argo and I attempted to make Persian Love Cake, which didn’t really work out. But first, the movie:

Had I seen this one before?

Yep! I liked it a lot when it first came out, and it was in first ever “And the Nominees Are” post.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

1. What impresses me most about this movie is the fact even though I both know the historical outcome and have seen the movie before, I still get swept up in the suspense. Are they going to make it out? (Spoiler alert: Of course they are.) But the pacing is close to perfect.

2. They did a really good job of casting people that looked like the actual people (with the obvious exception of the not even a little bit Mexican Affleck as Tony Mendez:

And they were actually really great actors, which that combination couldn’t have been easy to find.

3. Though I’m sure there were historical inaccuracies, I feel like this is a good example of how Hollywood can shed light on historical events that have slipped from recent attention. My understanding of the Iranian hostage crisis before was mostly based on having to memorize what “Iran-Contra” meant for the AP US History test (I don’t think I could explain it now if I was asked to) but Argo made me empathize with the people who were held in the embassy for 444 days. It must have been so beyond terrifying to be cut off like that and not sure when you were going to be able to leave, if ever. And though it’s clearly an American movie, I don’t think it shies away from the context that led to the Revolution – the Shah was not some helpless victim and America certainly had blood on its hands.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Amour – Gorgeous, heartbreaking, was never going to win in a million years.

Beasts of the Southern Wild – Unpopular opinion: this movie is distressing and hard to follow. I just wanted to save her the whole time.

Django Unchained – Haven’t seen it due to Tarrentino aversion.

Les Misérables – Not my favorite musical, but I did like the adaption mostly because Eddie Redmayne and Aaron Tveit are very pretty and sing.

Life of Pi – Technologically wonderful, but philosophically problematic (in my opinion).

Lincoln – Probably the only movie on this list that I think actually gave Argo a run for it’s money.

Silver Linings Playbook – I remember liking this, but I haven’t seen it since it came out, and none of it really stuck with me. Is there ballroom dance involved?

Zero Dark Thirty – A less flattering view of the clandestine service, but I respect Kathryn Bigelow and Jessica Chastain a lot, and I think I remember liking the ensemble too.

Overall though I was happy when it won, and I still feel like it deserved it.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Yes. But, barely. There are 4 named women (maybe 5 if you count Mendez’s wife who shows up at the end to look sad and hug him). And while the 2 female hostages never talk to each other, the Candian ambassador’s wife and her housekeeper talk about the hostages.

But the movie overall is overwhelmingly male.

And now the cake…well attempt at a cake. My springform pan opened in the oven and the batter dripped out, so that picture above is of what I could salvage and attempt to bake. But the recipe is also based on almond meal and raw sugar and frankly it was grainy and gross. So I can’t say I recommend trying it, but just in case:

Persian Love Cake

Ingredients

– 3 cups almond meal

– 1 cup raw sugar

– 1 cup brown sugar

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 1 stick unsalted butter

– 2 eggs, lightly beaten

– 250g Greek yogurt

-4 tablespoons nutmeg

Directions 

– Preheat over to 350F

– Combine almond meal, sugars, butter, and alt in a bowl.

– Rub with your fingertips until coarse crumbs form.

– Pour half of the mixture into a lightly buttered 26cm diameter springform pan (try to make sure the latch is actually working)

– Gently press in to evenly cover the base of the tin.

– Add the eggs, nutmeg, and yogurt to the remaining cake mixture.

– Beat until smooth and creamy

– Pour over the cake base in the tin and smooth the top

– Bake until golden, approx 30-35 minutes.

– Cool completely and serve with extra Greek yogurt or cream.

Weekly Adventure: San Antonio Art and Food Whirlwind Edition

I’ve been in Texas now for 7 months (!) and yet other than my weekend in Houston in December, I haven’t really ventured out of Austin very much, despite the fact that I’ve been meaning to go see the Alamo pretty much since I got here.

Well…

IMG_2070 As you can see, it was really rainy and gray, but that didn’t stop Victoria and I from having a fabulous time, (although it was legitimately too wet and chilly to be walking around as much as I usually like to when traveling.)

The whole motivation for the trip was my desire to see the Alamo, based mostly on repeated childhood viewings of the John Wayne movie, and the strange reaction I got from pretty much every Texan when I told them I wanted to see it. Based on those conversations I was told to expect a small, uninteresting place. And yes, it was a small, short trip, but I found it very interesting. You can’t take pictures inside, but I thought the memorial itself, essentially an altar with the list of the men killed there, was very well done. I especially liked the way that they handled the fact that many of the men were immigrants from Ireland and Scotland and other countries as well as the free black man who died there whose last name was unrecorded. These were layers I never knew of the story (or had forgotten) and I found the inclusion moving.

The same goes for a plaque marking the room where the women and children waited out the search. It was a small room within the cavernous architecture and all I could think about was how the noise from the battle outside must have reverberated around.

IMG_2073 That being said, the current exhibit on guns of the frontier is definitely not designed for me, and while it was an armory I wish they would have kept those cases out of the spaces that felt sacred and somber to me.

Another surprise, despite being right in the heart of downtown, the gardens were gorgeous:

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Victoria making a wish outside of the Alamo research library

Victoria making a wish outside of the Alamo research library

We then quickly walked through the Riverwalk, which was very pretty, but again it was raining:

IMG_2091 So we made our way to the San Antonio Museum of Art which we managed to arrive at 20 minutes before closing. So we ran through the Contemporary Art wing, which was really great, but by then I had Instagrammed too much and my phone was dead, but Victoria took a really cool picture of this piece in the parking lot:

photo (80) That night, on Miró’s recommendation, we went to Ocho, the restaurant at the super fancy Hotel Havana, for a really good, fancy dinner.

It was very old world, but it was a little too cold for the glass walled patio.

It was very old world, but it was a little too cold for the glass walled patio.

The next day we continued our plan of eating a ton of food, starting our day at The Guenther House, which is a combination historical house museum and brunch place, which may be what my personal Heaven is like:

IMG_2113 IMG_2115IMG_2119 After that we made our way to The McNay Art Museum, which is one of my new favorite places in the world. An art museum in a converted mansion, it has a really impressive collection and a delightful vibe. They seemed to have a sense of humor about their collection, and they were having a screening of Footloose the afternoon we visited. We only made it through like a 3rd of the museum, but managed to see a Rodin, a Warhol, the set designs from the original Broadway run of Spring Awakening and another Gary Sweeney:

 I really fell in love with place, and I cannot wait to go back and see the rest of the collection.

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The entrance lobby wall

The entrance lobby wall 

The birds are made of records!

The birds are made of records!

Also we stayed at the very nice, Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, which had great service and was very comfortable, but was trying very hard to seem hip, and for some reason had this weird grating on the hallway ceilings that made the hallways reminiscent of post-apocalyptic movies, but it led to my favorite picture of me:

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