Cooking Harvest Vegetable and Lentil Casserole Monday, Oct 26 2009 

Yesterday I decided to cook for a change. On weekdays, I’m usually so tired after a long day at the office that we have started going out to eat a lot. I therefore try to cook at least once on the weekends.

So, yesterday I opened up one of our vegetarian cookbooks and liked the first recipe I saw: Harvest Vegetable and Lentil Casserole. The picture in the cookbook actually looked like a soup, but apparently anything you bake can be a casserole. Here’s what the final product looked like:

I really liked it. I tend to like lentils anyway, and the vegetables came out great. Plus, it was really easy to make. I even saved some so that I could come home today for lunch and heat up a serving.

I’ll post the recipe after the break.

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Paolo Baruffaldi’s Le Rasoir 2009 Thursday, Oct 22 2009 

While walking to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice this summer, PJ and I were window shopping as we passed various art galleries. One in particular caught our eyes, the Galleria d’Arte Bac Art Studio.

This studio stood out to us for two reasons. First, most of the paintings in the window were etchings and watercolors, a medium that we both really like. And second, many of the works seemed to exemplify a queer aesthetic, also something we both really like.

After we visited the Guggenheim, we went back to the Bac Art Studio. This time we went inside and had a good look around. The work that PJ instantly expressed a fondness for depicts two men shaving. It’s called “The Razor”:

This painting is by Paolo Baruffaldi, a Venetian artist who has a few series of paintings displayed in the gallery. Even though “The Razor” was our favorite, we liked how a lot of his work seems to depict Venice as a homoerotic locale, something that we definitely did not pick up on while we were there. In fact, we felt that Italy as a whole was severely lacking in visible gay people, though we just might not have been looking in the right places.

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SotW: Give It to Me Right by Melanie Fiona Tuesday, Oct 20 2009 

While browsing through the new albums on iTunes today I ran across Melanie Fiona‘s The Bridge, which I’ve downloaded and started listening to. In many ways, The Bridge is an R&B/Soul album in the vein of Amy Winehouses’s Back to Black. I really like it.

The first single off the album is “Give It to Me Right,” a great song that is representative of the album’s neo-soul, adult, and totally catchy vibe. The official video is here. Here’s a YouTube video of a live version of “Give It to Me Right” from a British t.v. show:

So far, I love every track on The Bridge. My favorite so far is “Monday Morning.” Here’s a live version of this track:

Hot! Melanie Fiona can sing, not just in a technical way but also in an interpretative way — she knows how to tell the song’s emotional story. She’s amazing!

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Bright Star: A Review Sunday, Oct 18 2009 

Last night, PJ and I went out to see Jane Campion‘s new movie, Bright Star, which depicts the love story between the English poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. PJ is an admirer of her work, especially The Piano, and we’ve heard lots of Oscar buzz for this film, so we were really looking forward to seeing it. We both really liked it.

Here’s the trailer:

English professors like me and PJ know of Brawne solely as the woman Keats loved but couldn’t marry. Practically penniless, Keats couldn’t afford to marry, and within a year of their meeting in 1818 Keats began to show the early signs of tuberculosis. The entire length of their romance was less than two years, and much of it was conducted by correspondence.

The fact that few facts about their relationship are known beyond the existing letters written from Keats to Brawne (he had her letters burned at his death) poses a huge problem for the filmmaker who wants to tell their story. The temptation would be to completely fictionalize the story, veering into either melodrama or romantic comedy.

What I like most about Campion’s take on this story is that she has clearly avoided the pitfalls of modern romantic films, choosing instead to work toward cinematic realism. While there are lyrical elements to her film, she attempts to present this love story as quietly and simply as possible. She includes many of the elements contained in the letters and contemporary accounts, but she never speaks down to the audience. She shows us these characters and their story without wasting a lot of time on exposition. In doing so, she creates a very affective story, which, if not completely historically accurate, creates a pair of lovers that are believable and enthralling to watch.

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SotW: Celebration by Madonna Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

This week’s song of the week is Madonna’s “Celebration,” which is one of the new tracks on her greatest hits album of the same title. It’s a great dance song:

This collection shows just how amazing Madonna’s career has been (so far).I wish it had a few more of the slower hits, especially “This Used to Be My Playground,” which is one of my favorites. But just about everything you would imagine is represented in this collection. (“Material Girl” is also one of my favs. And of course “Like a Prayer,” “Like a Virgin,” “Human Nature,” “Ray of Light,” and “Holiday.”)

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a gay man of the Madonna generation — her career started at just about the same time that I started becoming aware that I was attracted to boys instead of girls. It’s so difficult to explain to younger gay guys just how important Madonna was to gay men my age. She was the first pop icon to embrace gay men openly and aggressively. She put her gay dancers front and center in her videos and then argued for a sexual liberation that included us all.

Britney is nothing like Madonna in this regard; in fact, her whole virgin thing early in her career was the exact opposite of Madonna. Christina is a little closer, at least in that she routinely includes gay people in her videos. But really there’s no one carrying Madonna’s message of living life fully regardless of who you are, which is why we’re fortunate to still have Madonna herself carrying the torch!

And I, for one, am delighted that she’s still pushing some of those boundaries. Why not trade in the hubby for a hot, young Brazilian model/DJ? (Made in Brazil, one of my favorite blogs, follows Jesus Luz fairly closely, so I feel that I’m up on — and loving — the Madonna/Luz gossip!) If anyone’s earned the right to have great sex with a yummy boytoy, it’s definitely Madonna. And if their relationship is about more than sex, than good for her. If not, good for her too.

As she sings in “Celebration,” Madonna has spent her career whispering “An invitation to the dance of life” in our ears. I’m glad that she continues to dance it too.

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Grand Slam Tennis for Wii Saturday, Oct 10 2009 

I love tennis. I’ve loved watching tennis on t.v. since the mid-1980s. When I first started watching, my favorite players were Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. Their rivalry was amazing. Then I fell in love with watching Pete Sampras and Monica Seles. More recently, I enjoy watching Venus Williams, Roger Federer, and, of course, my one true tennis love, Rafael Nadal (Isn’t he lovely? I’m so glad he’s healthy again!).

Spains Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Croatias Marin Cilic during the semi-finals of the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Cilic beat Nadal 6-1, 6-3. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Croatia's Marin Cilic during the semi-finals of the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009. Cilic beat Nadal 6-1, 6-3. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

While I love watching tennis, I’ve never played it much. I played with my sister a bit when we were young. And PJ and I hit the ball back and forth a little in grad school just for exercise. I wish I could play (and play well). If I thought there was any hope at all, I’d probably be on the court as much as possible.

But finally there is a way for me to play, or at least to imagine that I’m playing — and that I’m playing against the greatest players, past and present: Grand Slam Tennis for Wii.

I’m the first to admit that I spend most of my free times these days playing GST4W. I bought it over the summer, and I love it. After a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is sit and think about anything; playing GST4W allows me to get the blood pumping a bit and let my mind forget all of the day’s work and just focus on strategy — should I hit a drop shot, cross-court with topspin, or a lob?

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SotW: Heavy Cross by Gossip Wednesday, Oct 7 2009 

I remember when Gossip was “The Gossip,” but they’ve apparently dropped the “The” now that their new album, Music for Men, is out. Regardless, I’ve been listening to the album this week, and I’ve chosen “Heavy Cross” as my song of the week.

You can click here to see the official video of the song. It can’t be embedded. While looking for a vide that can be embedded, I stumbled across one of the remixes, the Fred Falke Remix, that I really like:

In the past few months, I’ve started really getting into remixes. Now I even look for them on YouTube and on iTunes. One of the things I like about this remix is that it sounds like an almost entirely different song from the original. Obviously the vocals are the same, but the change in music from rock to dance is a bigger shift than most of the remixes I tend to like use.

I could therefore imagine that, if you like the original version, you might not like this remix because of the huge generic shift. But I like them both. The synth/electronica vibe seems really cool to me. There are several more remixes on YouTube. I hope they come out as a single.

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The Class: A Review Sunday, Oct 4 2009 

Yesterday, PJ and I watched Entre Les Murs, or The Class, a French film that was nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars this year. I wasn’t going to watch it with him at first, but then I was too tried to get off the couch. I’m glad I saw it: I loved it!

Here’s the trailer:

The film’s plot is deceptively simple: novelist and teacher François Bégaudeau plays a version of himself as the film follows his class over the course of a school year. The students in the class are played by non-actors; they’re kids from Paris who helped develop the dialogue and action through improvisation workshops with the director, Laurent Cantet, and Bégaudeau.

Nothing terribly dramatic happens over the course of the film. We see the teachers and their discussions in the teachers’ lounge. We see the kids, mostly in French class but also in the school yard, a concrete playground on which they sometimes play soccer. Some kids excel in class; others get into trouble. So in this way, The Class feels more like a documentary about a relatively nondescript junior class on French grammar.

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