Marwencol (2010) is a curious documentary that is mostly about the fictional world that was created by Mark Hogancamp partially as therapy to recover from a savage beating that he received from five men. Marwencol is a fictional Belgian town built to one-sixth scale in his backyard using dolls and creating his own sets and then reenacts an original story of his own creation and photographs scenes that he has staged. Some of the dolls represent people he knows. About halfway through the film, after he has been established as a sympathetic figure, it is revealed that he is a cross-dresser and was beaten savagely because of it. They also reveal that he was mean-spirited, divorced alcoholic. However, little or no attention is given to his past-as to why he divorced or as to why he became an alcoholic, which isn't central to this film's storyline, but are the questions I wanted to know about after seeing the film. There's no denying that he has talent and created an amazing alternate universe in which to express his imagination.
The Way We Die Now (1988) is the last Hoke Moseley novel as well as the last novel written by Charles Willeford. And, as usual it, was great to inhabit this downtrodden world of late 80s Florida with the engaging Hoke Moseley. It's too bad, because I can see that Willeford ended this novel with the possibility of continuing the series. There are three mysteries that Moseley solves through the course of the novel. However, in the process we gets some great descriptions of food, clothes, and subjects as diverse as: car washes, Haitian migrant workers, truck driving, Florida governors, and Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche. The Hoke Moseley novels have been finished, however, I still have several other books by Willeford to savor and enjoy.
I had a friend visiting from Seattle and decided to take him to my friend's restaurant Bepocah in Harajuku. Earlier this month I went to a soft opening for friends of the owners and really enjoyed it. I was eager to return to see what the regular menu looked like. We started with a three sauce sampling of tiradito (a sashimi-like dish): red chili sauce (rocoto), spicy yellow sauce (aji amarillo), and a cilantro based sauce. I chose this because it is specific to Peru instead of Peruvian ceviche, while distinctive is not uncommon in Latin America. (Not Pictured-sorry, too hungry) It was made with fresh sea bream (tai) and while all sauces were excellent I liked the spicy yellow pepper best.
This was followed by papa rellena: stuffed potato with pork filling (The dish is a baked potato dough into which a filling made of chopped pork and onions, whole olives, hard boiled eggs, cumin and other spices
is stuffed. (Also Not Pictured) This was one of my friend's favorite dishes since it reminded him of Dutch croquettes, and I agreed that it was indeed excellent and a much larger portion than the ones that were sampled at the cold opening.
We also tried a sample of three varieties of stews: chicken with spicy yellow pepper sauce (aji amarillo), olluco with pork and aji panca, and carapulcra (pork and dehydrated potatoes with peanuts, aiji panca and mirasol peppers, garlic and other spices). All were excellent, but I believe we both liked the chicken the best.
The last main was lomo saltado: marinated sirloin stir fried with red onions, parsley and tomatoes over home fries. Excellent beef and a much larger portion than sampled at the soft opening. A treat for me since I rarely eat steak-I need to fix that.
The regular menu also includes a variety of pisco cocktails and I tried a long cocktail that had ginger ale with a garnish and my friend had a dry pisco served like a martini. I need to go back and try more.
I've seen a few films that generally didn't get a lot of love from the critics. For example, Gangster Squad (2013) directed by Ruben Fleiscer, didn't fare well with critics. I had mixed reactions to it, because I like gangster films and crime stories. It was stylishly filmed, but had some stilted dialogue, some poor plotting, and some casting choices didn't work for me: Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Emma Stone to be precise. There's not much good I can say about Ecstasy (2012), perhaps made 15 years too late, I gave it a chance because I used to be an Irvine Welsh fan around that time. I have to say I largely enjoyed the visual spectacle that was David Koepp's Premium Rush (2012) despite one note characters and a contrived plot. The cinematography and stunts were pretty spectacular.
I've been a fan of the Avett Borthers for a while and hear that The Carpenter (2012) was a another good record. So I got a copy as well and while I don't like it as much as Emotionalism, it has some standout tracks like "The Once And Future Carpenter," "February Seven," and "Down With Shame."
A friend recommend My Morning Jacket to me and I was a fan of the collaboration of their front man Jim James with Calexico on the song "Going To Apaculco" on the I'm Not There sound track. So I decided to start with Z (2005). And I can see that I will going through their catalogue, because this is a really good album. My favorite tracks are: "Wordless Chorus," "What A Wonderful Man," and "Lay Low."
Yo La Tengo has long been a favorite, so when I saw that they had released a new album I was thinking it would probably be a good bet, since I think all of their albums have stood the test of time so far. The latest is Fade (2013) and has lots of great tracks like: "Ohm," "Is That Enough," "Stupid Things," and "Well You Better."
I have been won over by the convenience of ebooks, however, I expect that there will always be reasons to buy a book as an artifact. Case in point, is the beautiful Watkins Publishing version of Miyamoto Musashi's The Five Rings (2012) translated by David K. Groff. This wonderfully designed book is made from high quality materials and is adorned throughout by paintings, photographs, maps, scrolls, elaborate print designs including kanji, and includes intricate border designs on the pages throughout. Groff's informative introduction give important background knowledge in which to consider Musashi's philosophical task at hand and understand it in context of the times he lived through. I have not had a particular interest in martial arts or ancient Japanese history before. However, I must admit that I come to find interest in it through viewings of samurai films from the likes of Kurosawa, Kobayashi, Shinoda, and others. This volume will serve as a gateway into further study of samurai and Japanese history.
Page 63: A kabuki depiction of of an afficer of the lawarmed with naganata, being overpowered, woodblock print. The paragraphs from this section, Ground, are separated by the kanji character 地 chi.
Martini Burger is a relatively new addition to the Tokyo burger scene. It is relatively obscurely placed in between Kagarazaka and Waseda for a trendy gourmet burger joint that also specializes in martinis. I decided to go for the Fifth Avenue which has gouda and cheddar cheese and mustard aioli. They don't serve fries, which was a bit of a disappointment, so I got mac and cheese instead-it's just not the same. The burgers are served medium rare unless specified and I should have asked for it to be done medium well, it was a bit too pink in the middle for me, which resulted in some gamey gristle. It is a high quality burger, but I can get better burgers closer by at Blackcows or in Harajuku at the two The Great Burger locations. I might be tempted to go back and check out their Cubano sandwich, which has become a recent favorite.
Believe the hype, Michale Haneke's Amour (2012), is a masterpiece. It won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Festival and Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards (Haneke was even nominated for best director). It seems like somewhat of an unlikely masterpiece given the types of films Haneke was making until recently-dark, sinister films like Cache and Funny Games. The strength of the films lies in the script and the mesmerising performances of the two leads Jean-Louise Trintignant (for whom Haneke wrote the part for) and Emauella Riva. It is a powerful story of love, aging, and hard choices that come late in life.
I have to admit that the film version of James Dickey's novel, Deliverance (1970), loomed large as I read the book. I think there is a lot to admire about Dickey's novel, especially the sections where the action takes place. I was curious to see how Dickey would describe the central scenes that are engraved into my memory from the film. But ultimately, it pales in comparison to that large shadow that was looming as I read the novel. I wanted "Dueling Banjos," Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ned Beatty, and "Squeal like a pig!" It was entertaining, but now I want to see the film again.
Bobby Fischer was a very curious individual. My memory of him is dominated by his America-hate comments after 9/11 and getting detained in Japan for nine months between 2004 and 2005 after traveling through after having his passport revoked by the US government for violating sanction against Yugoslavia. Iceland, the site of his famous victory over Boris Spassy in 1972 came to the rescue and granted him a passport and asylum. Bobby Fischer Against The World might be seen as a warning of obsessive focus on a single goal and explains the effect he had on culture and the world during the cold war late 60s and early 70s. I was too young to remember his impact and celebrity. He seems to have lived a troubled life as a child and adolescent, but took no measures to make himself liked. A very interesting look at a former cultural icon who seemingly cracked under pressure