Sunday, January 31, 2010


"Shooting a movie is like a stagecoach ride in the Old West. At first you hope for a nice trip. Soon you just hope to reach your destination." - La nuit américaine
Sunday afternoons are for cinema whether you haul yourself to the cineplex, or watch a DVD from the comfort of your own home. This afternoon I cozied up with La nuit américaine (1974), François Truffaut's homage to cinema and the art of film-making. Everything about this film is delightful and entertaining. It's a film within a film, a peek into the often frenetic but satisfying process of making movies, its frustrations and triumphs. The story follows the film production of Je Vous Présente Pamela (Meet Pamela), a melodrama about a young bride who runs away with her father-in-law. From the onset the director (played by Truffaut) has to contend not only with all the day-to-day logistics of film production, but the real life dramas being played out by his cast and crew. The lead actress can't be insured because of a previous nervous breakdown, her heartthrob co-star is more interested in romance than playing his part, the temperamental aging actress can't remember her lines, and a former matinee idol playing a central role is killed in a car accident before the completion of the film. Not to mention, the egos, romances, breakups, and other complications that occur on and off set. In fact the tensions and problems behind-the-scenes far surpasses the drama of the film being made.

film within the film, Truffuat playing the role of director Ferrand

The English translation of the title, Day for Night, is a technical term for night scenes which are shot in daylight with special filters. It's apt in that the film offers us a glimpse into the reality behind the artifice of moviemaking. Truffaut allows us to peek behind the movie-magic curtain by showing us tricks of the trade, but it doesn't by any means spoil the illusion, rather it enhances our enjoyment by allowing us to share in the moviemaking experience. He shows us everything from prop tricks, to set cheats, car stunts, and how to achieve fake rain and snow, not only to create a scene but to build a mood. A make-believe world in which to lose ourselves, a complete experience for the audience to enjoy. One of the underlying themes of the film is whether movies are better than real life. And the answer would seem to be no, although certainly movies can be more easily controlled than life. It also begs the question, where does the make-believe end and reality take over? And demonstrates how often one crosses into the other, as we borrow from one to enhance the other, as in the scenes where the director rewrites dialogue for the film with snippets of real life conversations.

Day for Night wasn't the first, nor will it be the last film made about movie-making but I think it's one of the best. As I was watched it, I couldn't help but draw from my own personal experiences, and appreciate how real to life so much of it was. Some of the bits were so cliche, but it was that very fact that made me laugh. The skinny prop guy that never sits still, the cat that won't perform on cue, the prima donnas, the incestuous set romances, and the constant fires that need putting out. Film-making is a huge production, and everyone has their specific role to play. As they say, there are no small parts, just small people. And believe me, I'm not referring to the actors. La nuit américaine is definitely a film worth checking out if you haven't done so already. Not only did it unanimously garner critical acclaim, it also won an oscar for best foreign film.

Jacqueline Bisset, Julie and Jean-Pierre Leaud, Alphonse

What's a movie without popcorn, right? Popcorn has been popular since the 1840's, sold by vendors at fairs, rallies, vaudevilles, burlesques, and other large public gatherings. With the advent of the the nickelodeons and motion pictures, popcorn vendors quickly set up their carts outside to entice audiences to indulge in their snacks. At first movie theaters weren't so keen on customers eating snacks in their pristine venues, leaving a big mess to be cleaned up afterwards. It wasn't until the 1930's that concession stands were built into the design of the theaters, making snacks available inside for customers. The cheap admission prices were off-set by the purchase of popcorn and other snacks. And just like that popcorn became part of the movie experience.

Chocolate Popcorn Pie
2 quarts popcorn
Light Glaze (*see recipe below)
1 6-oz package of chocolate pie filling
Whipped cream (garnish)
  1. Drizzle glaze over popcorn and stir until uniformly coated. Press into 9-inch pie plate, building edges higher than pie plate edge and allow to cool.
  2. Prepare pie filling according to package directions. Spoon into popcorn pie shell. Garnish with whipped cream.
Light Popcorn Glaze
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
  1. Cook to 260 degrees (hard ball stage). Pour over popcorn and mix thoroughly.
recipe via eatmycakehere

Saturday, January 30, 2010


By definition cowboys are herders on horseback who tend cattle, and perform other ranch-related duties. However, the historic American cowboy is the stuff of legend, a hero, the lone spirit of independence and self-reliance. What every kid dreamed of as he re-enacted the wild frontier with cowboys and Indians, his holster hanging low on his hips, a sharp-shooter in hand, cowboy hat tilted just so, spurs on his boots, but most of all a whole lot of attitude. A cowboy lives what he believes, and doesn't care about fitting into anybody else's idea of how he should live, act, or be. He's got his own moral code, one based on substance, strength, courage, and chivalry. He's a short-hand for honest labor, wide open spaces, and western traditions. The "every man"' you can count on to "cowboy up" in tough times.

"I wasn't really shot with a silver bullet," she confessed to no one in particular. "Or was I?"
She smiled the deliciously secret smile of one who instinctively recognizes the reality of myth.

- tom robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
But what about cowgirls? How do they fit into the Western tradition? Women worked on ranches from the get-go, not just as wives and daughters but hired ranch-hands who worked side by side with the men, and during wartime they even ran them. But it wasn't really until Wild West Shows became popular worldwide that cowgirls started to get noticed as skilled performers. Women like Annie Oakley suddenly became household names, showing off riding skills, bulls-eye marksmanship, and trick roping. Their stars were further hitched by the Hollywood Western, and the increasing popularity of the rodeo. But when I think of cowgirls, my mind hollers trailblazers! Gals with gumption who weren't afraid of hard work, or rough conditions. I imagine back in the day, the notion of women kicking up dust, wrangling horses and herding cattle, or riding bulls on the rodeo circuit, probably just wasn't done, or at least not in polite society. It's reassuring to know that the times didn't necessarily dictate to all women. That there were more than a handful willing to stir up a cuss to assert their own individuality, and wouldn't settle for just rustling up grub for the men. That just like the cowboy, they could "buck up" and pull their own weight. Go get 'em, girl! Yee Hawww!

Cowboy cookery in the Old West was usually served up by chuck wagons. Cowboys were often on the move, and ravenous from the long days and hard work driving cattle. On the long trail, the chuck wagon was "home" on the range. It was Cookie's (as the wagon chef was often called) job to have breakfast ready at the crack of dawn, and hot meals ready at the next camp. At chow time he'd yell, "Chuck away, come an' get it!" If the cowhands got lucky, they'd get something sweet to eat. The most common dessert on the range was dried fruit like peaches, apple, or apricots, stewed up with a lot of sugar. Sometimes sugar was added to biscuit dough and fried up as a make-shift donut. More enterprising Cookies married the two and made hand-pies, as well single-crust, two-crust, and cobblers. On double-crusted varieties, the top crusts were often cut with the outfit's brand, not just for decoration but to let the steam out.

Dried and Fried Fruit Pies
1 1/2 cups dried apricots
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup apricot jam or preserves
1/4 cup finely mince pecans or dry bread crumbs
1 Flaky Pie Crust (*see recipe below)

shortening for frying
  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the apricots with the water. Simmer over low heat until the fruit is plump and soft and most of the water absorbed, about 25 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
  2. Drain the apricots, and chop them. Mix the apricots in a small bowl with the jam or preserves, and the nuts or bread crumbs. Can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.
  3. Roll the pie dough out 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick. Cut it into rounds with the tope of a coffee can or with a large biscuit or cookie cutter. Spread equal portions of filling on each round, moisten the dough edges lightly, and fold the rounds over into half moon shapes. Crimp the edges with a fork.
  4. In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat at least 4 inches of shortening to 350° F. Fry the pies in batches, turning them over midway through the cooking, after they rise to the surface. Remove them when they are golden brown and crispy, about 3 minutes. Drain them, and sprinkle them with sugar. Let them cool for at least 5 minutes before eating. Makes 8 pies.
Note: The pies can be baked rather than fried. Placed them on greased baking sheets, brush them with a little beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at 375° F for about 20 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.

Flaky Pie Crust
1/4 cup lard, chilled
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
5 to 7 tbsp ice water

Using a food processor, a bow with a pastry blender, or your fingers, cut the lard, butter, and vegetable shortening into the flour and salt. Whatever your method, don't overwork the dough, which reduces flakiness. Add the ice water a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough holds together. Divide the dough into 2 disks, wrap them in plastic, and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling out.

recipe via foodgeeks

Friday, January 29, 2010


"a red-letter day" - a day that is very important or special

via flickr
"He liked to observe emotions; they were like red lanterns strung along the dark unknown of another's personality, marking vulnerable points." - ayn rand
On the color wheel red is the warmest of all colors, chosen by extroverts and a favorite among men. What is it about a tantalizing glimpse of scarlet that immediately snags our attention? Red tights, ruby slippers, a crimson cape, flushed cheeks, flaming lips - a bouquet of titillating possibilities to tease, arouse and inflame. A conflagrant fireball of emotions that chafe at the skin, but burn you up from the inside out. Red symbolizes fiery heat, warmth, danger, passion, lust, life, and vitality. Blood, and all the emotions that stir it. Red for love. It can also mean courage and sacrifice, or Mars, the God of War, and if you're "red-blooded", you're robust or virile.

On the negative side it can mean a volatile temper, anger, or a symbol of guilt and sin. In Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, a puritan woman is forced to sew a red letter 'A' onto her clothing, a symbolic branding for her adultery. Historically red was associated with prostitutes, for those who dyed their hair titian, and later, for 'the red-light districts'. Red is for the "blood of murder", or as a sign of warning or danger. In the 1950's fear of communism, or 'the red scare', swept through America. The phrase "the Woman in Red" was originally coined for the infamous Ana Cumpănaş who fingered John Dillinger to the FBI in 1934. She'd promised to wear red to help the FBI identify the bank-robber, resulting in his shooting death outside the Biograph Theater. And in 1963, Jean Hill became the "Lady in Red" when she witnessed John Kennedy's assassination, she was wearing a long red coat. And what's more iconic than Dorothy's ruby slippers in The Wizard of Oz, the stuff that dreams are made of, or Little Red Riding Hood and her scarlet cape, a warning to innocent girls to beware of wolves who are "hairy on the inside" (Company of Wolves). And the matador's red cape capable of winding up the fury of a raging bull, or Superman's cape that allowed him to "leap tall buildings in a single bound."

Red Hots are small cinnamon-flavored candies created in the early 1930's by the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. They were originally called Cinnamon Imperials. Over the years Red Hots were added as an ingredient or toppings for desserts, giving a new spin or twist to some of the more traditional recipes.

Blush Apple Pie
5 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3 slices of pineapple, chopped
1/4 cup red hots (red cinnamon) candies
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp shortening
pastry for double-crust pie (9-inch)
  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. In a bowl, combine apples, redhots, and pineapples. In a small bowl mix sugar, flour, and salt. Add shortening.
  2. Add to apple mixture and stir gently to mix. Pour into pastry lined pie plate. Cover with top crust. Seal and flute edges.
  3. Bake at 450° F for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350° F and bake for an additional 35 minutes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


"Vision is the art of seeing things invisible to others." - jonathan swift

Sometimes trips are nothing more than that, a journey's end driven by the impatient urge to just get there. We bungle our way through a blur of images, all gone in a blink of an eye, with no lasting impression but a few haphazard snapshots or postcards to remind us of where we've been. But I've always been more interested in the journey that is the destination. I don't travel just to unveil the secrets of an unfamiliar country but to reveal the mysteries of my own inner workings. The destination not just a means to an end, but a journey that unfolds to reveal the dark continent that is the self. I was never one to worry something until it frayed, rather when life got tough, I usually got going. A short respite, while I turned life inside out. My self-imposed exiles took me into pockets of the world where I could lose myself, and rip free all the binds that held me. It was an opportunity to untangle myself from the muck and mire of my daily grind, the gnawing of discontent that chewed you raw. I was driven by the feeling that there was something more, and the compulsion to seek it out. In shedding responsibilities, I shed my identity. And in a strange land where the people had no relationship to me I could become invisible, travel as a ghost unseen. With travel comes a feeling of displacement, as if you don't belong anywhere, to anyone, at any time. You quickly find that it's a very shop-window version of life, in that you're automatically set up for outsider status. Even as you drift from one city into the next, crossing borders, swapping out languages, it's as if you always remain stationary. The world moves without you. It's a strange sensation, as if you can move through a place without leaving a single trace, without making any effect, without making any contact. And even as the threads of my identity lay unraveling, there was a way to pull taut the frayed seams of myself. In losing myself in unfamiliar surrounding, I was somehow revealed. By letting go of all resistance, I learned to surrender, and in that space I found freedom. To me, this was ghost traveling.

In my travels I have met dozens of like-minded people from all over the world. Like myself, they never considered themselves vacationers, but rather travelers in search of something intangible. We were not so unlike the saffron-clad Sadhus who wandered India seeking spiritual enlightenment. We were possibly less holy, had not given up all our earthly possessions, but we had for a short time left behind all that defined us. We too found meditation in the passing days, weeks, and months that followed us. Though we may have started our journeys with the intention of forgetting, we in fact began remembering.

Transparent pie is a popular Southern dessert with many variations, depending on who's making or eating it. It typically has a glossy sweet filling based on brown sugar, molasses, corn or maple syrup, and is thickened with egg. Some folks add tart jellies, lemon or vinegar to cut the sweetness. Transparent pie is in the same family as chess, sugar, or vinegar pies. This particular recipe doesn't include cream, but many do. Some versions even come with meringue tops.

Transparent Pie
1 9-inch unbaked pie shell
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
1 cup corn syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt
For Flavor add: EITHER 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbsp lemon juice OR 2 tbsp tart jelly
  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour mixture into unbaked pie shell.
  2. Bake for 5 minutes. Then, reduce heat to 375° F and bake for an additional 30 - 35 minutes, or until knife inserted between edge and center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


"... the automobile is the handiest tool ever devised for the pursuit of that unholy, unwholesome, all-American trinity of sex, speed and status." - bruce mccall

In 1982 my brother's favorite band was Missing Persons, and he kept the record needle stuck on "Walking in LA". Back then I had no clue what that song actually meant but flash-forward to the year I moved to Los Angeles, and it became glaringly obvious. Seriously, nobody walks in LA. People will literally get in their cars, drive a couple of hundred feet, and re-park to get to the next shop on the same block. I guess Los Angeles has always had a mad love affair with cars, hitching itself early on the bandwagon of forward-thinking, progress, and modern convenience, after all, they gave us Googie architecture. From the time developer AW Ross bought a tract of land that became Wilshire Boulevard, the city has been built almost entirely around automobile travel with its mile-wide boulevards, drive-up and drive-thru consumer culture, and tangled network of freeways. Even in 1920 Los Angeles had more automobiles than any other city, and today there are more registered cars than people. The city still seems to be dictated by, and revolves around car accessibility. Even with public transportation, you feel like a virtual prisoner without your own set of wheels. And of course, driving alongside, on the fast-track to convenience and mobility, are the cons, namely smog and grid-lock traffic.

It's not just California that's a car culture, it's the entire country. Since it's invention the automobile has been woven into the fabric of what we call the American Dream - success, mobility, freedom, and control of one's own destiny. Cars became the nation's symbol of leisure, convenience, and security. From the beginning it promised us so much more than mere transportation. Even during the Depression people were reluctant to give up their automobiles. Car ownership was synonymous with self-respect, individuality, and prosperity. All the romantic mythology associated with the open frontier had transfered to the car. Roadside America with its neon-drenched diners, drive-in movies, last-chance gas stations, and route 66 was a visual proof of our ingenuity. James Morgan, author of The Distance to the Moon, A Road Trip Into the American Dream believes our love affair with the automobile is about "our bone-deep need for clean breaks and fresh beginnings, for self-reinvention, for fleeing the numbing grind of everyday existence."

downtown los angeles traffic, 1949, loomis dean

drive-in-restaurant, 1949, loomis dean

drive-in 3 minute car wash, 1949, loomis dean

drive-in grocery store, 1949, loomis dean

drive-in shoe repair, 1949, loomis dean

von's curbside grocery, 1949, loomis dean

drive-in services North Hollywood, 1965

drive-in movies, 1951, francis miller

Blue, my old but trusty Volvo, has been feeling under the weather lately. I dropped her off for repairs just before the sky cracked open, and dumped another load of rain down on us. Boy, when it rains, it pours. This pie's for when everything has gone to crap, there's nothing left to eat in the cupboards cause you can't get to the grocery store, and you need cheering up.

Fix Anything Pie
8 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
1 can fruit, drained (peaches, apricots, berries, plum, etc.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium sauce pan melt the butter, take off heat and let cool.
  2. Add sugar, egg, flour, shredded coconut, and baking powder until ingredients form a smooth dough. If it looks to buttery, add a little more flour.
  3. Grease 8-inch or 9-inch pie pan. Press about 2/3 of the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Refrigerate and chill for 10-15 minutes to set.
  4. Fill the pie shell with your choice of fruit. Use the remaining dough to crumble over the top of the fruit.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, until the dough is golden brown, but not dried out. Serve warm.

Monday, January 25, 2010


ansel adams photographing Yosemite, 1942 , cedric wright

I started thinking about sacred space and what that means to each of us. Not just as a refuge from the minutiae of everyday life but a buffer from the distractions that steal our focus and cloud our creativity. We all yearn for a haven in which to hone our crafts, succor from the critics that crush us so easily, a little corner of our own to nurture our fragile ideas. When the sky’s the limit, where would we go? Maybe you dream of “the city of light”, a small atelier in Paris in which to paint to your hearts content, or an apartment in Montparnasse witness to your artistic struggles, and miraculous breakthroughs as you toil away at your craft. Or maybe it’s an isolated cabin high in the mountains or deep in the woods, a place to hide away comforted by the bliss of simple living. Or maybe your sacred space isn’t a destination but an intangible pocket within your mind, one that seems more real than any place you’ve visited countless times. Most of us believe the answer is obvious, that when we’re allowed to dream, we dream big. But I think we’d be surprised to discover that our choices more often than not are dictated by immediate needs rather than a true excavation into the dark continent that is the self. For instance, if you can’t ever seem to escape from noisy abodes, or are plagued by nonstop interruptions while working, then maybe you wish for quiet and solitude. But what if your wish was granted, and suddenly you find that you lack inspiration because you need the stimulation that being in a bustling environment gives you. We all have our own distinctive catalysts that help us tap into the well of creativity that lurks within all of us. Whether it’s order or chaos, solitude or camaraderie, a quiet cabin or a bustling urban sprawl, a desk at home or a local cafe, the options are more than just personal tastes. It's what the soul craves, and hungers for. As Joseph Campbell said, "Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again."

new york, rudy burchhardt via kimmco

Le Dôme, Terrasse abritée, by séeberger freres, 1931
henry miller hangout

This heavenly pie lives up to its name. During WWII, one-crust pies became popular because of rations on shortening. Many were filled with JELL-O gelatin or pudding, easily accessible at the time.

Dream Pie
2 envelopes Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix
2 3/4 cups cold milk, divided
1 tsp vanilla
2 packs (4-serving size) JELL-O instant pudding & pie filling, any flavor
1 9-inch baked pastry shell, or graham cracker or chocolate flavor crumb crust (6-oz)
  1. Beat whipped topping mix, 1 cup of the milk and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on high-speed until topping thickens and forms peaks, or as directed on package.
  2. Add remaining 1 3/4 cup of milk and pudding mixes; blend on low speed until blended. Then, blend an additional 2 minutes on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally.
  3. Spoon into pastry shell. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Recipe by: JELL-O Posted to recipelu-digest Volume 01 Number 390 by ctlindab@... on Dec 21, 1997


    tom ford

    visually stunning
    reminiscent of old 1960's ads

    colin firth

    julianne moore

    love interrupted

    loneliness an inherent part of the human condition

    small moments in life

    john lautner, glendale, ca, 1949

    Chiffon pies, along with cocktail parties, and after-dinner drinks were very popular in the early 1960's. Chiffon pies are light, airy desserts made with gelatin and beaten egg whites. Grasshopper pie, a type of mint-chocolate chiffon pie, derives its name from a green-colored cocktail made by mixing 1/2 ounce cream, 1/2 ounce white creme de cacao, and 1 ounce creme de menthe together with ice cubes in a shaker, then strained. There's speculation the pie was invented by food and drink companies to promote their products, and may be a variation of a dessert that appeared in a recipe flier published jointly by Knox Unflavored Gelatine and Heublein Cordials called High Spirited Desserts. The leaflet begins, "Dinner guests sometimes click their heels with glee over a superb dessert." And urges the reader to be "devil-may-care. Knox Unflavored Gelatine provides a variety of handsome and delectable dishes. Heublein Cordials provide the spirits that give each sweet masterpiece inimitable flavor. Serve with Pride. Await applause modestly."

    Grasshopper Pie
    crumb shell:
    1 1/4 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/3 cup butter, melted
    1 envelope gelatin
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/8 tsp salt
    1/2 cold water
    3 eggs, separated
    1/4 cup green creme de menthe
    2 tbsp cognac or creme de cacao
    1 cup heavy cream, whipped
    1. Preheat oven to 450° F. To make crust, mix the chocolate crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press the mixture against the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake 5 minutes and chill.
    2. Combine in the top of a double boiler the gelatin, half the sugar and salt. Stir in the water and blend in the egg yolks, one at a time. Place the mixture over boiling water, stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved and mixture thickens slightly, 4 to 5 minutes.
    3. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the creme de menthe and cognac. Chill, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has a consistency resembling unbeaten egg white.
    4. Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, then gradually stir in remaining sugar. Continue beating until whites are very stiff. Fold them into the gelatin mixture. Fold in the whipped cream and turn mixture into chocolate crumb shell. Chill until firm and garnish. If desired, with additional whipped cream.
    from "New Menus and Recipes Suggested for Weekend," New York Times, May 9, 1963 (p. 43)