Indian Hills, Colorado

Indian Hills is a small town (pop. about 1300) in Colorado, about 30 minutes by car from Denver.

In 2013, with time on his hands, Vince Rozmiarek (above), a father of three grown sons, and a volunteer at the Indian Hills Community Center, took over managing the roadside sign for the Center. On April 1, 2013 (of course, April Fool’s Day) he took his sense of humour from home to highway. The result: puns and Dad jokes – usually two a week – that entertain travelers and some 100,000 Facebook followers around the world. His favourite pun? “Cows have hooves because they lactose.”

And for your viewing pleasure, here are just several more of the hundreds that Vince has posted.  The last one is my personal favourite. The Indian Hills puns don’t stop with Mr. Rozmiarek. To take in some of the local color while visiting Indian Hills, just head on down to the Sit N Bull Saloon.

Sir David Attenborough

Perhaps too often I have dwelt on those who have parted this earth, but not without reason, as many have contributed so much. I have written about Sir Winston Churchill, George Mallory, Sir Nicholas Winton, Albert Finney, Nancy Wake, among others, and rightly so. Then there are Harry and Meghan, Elmyr de Hory and the Ecclestones, who may or not be with us, but who serve to create a bit of a balance to those more worthy. After all, what do Harry and Meghan really have to offer, other than tabloid fodder?

Then I arrive at David Attenborough. I just now watched the Netflix documentary, “David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet” and was truly struck by its content, and not the least by its narrator. Sir David paints a grim picture, detailing, albeit with glorious photography, the damage humankind has done to planet earth, just in his lifetime. No part of the planet is immune – the plains, the forests (especially the rainforests), the oceans, the ice shelves of the Arctic and Antarctica.

In its review of the documentary, the New York Times said this in part: “The most devastating sequence finds Attenborough charting the disasters we face in future decades — global crises that he, as a man now in his 90s, will not experience. Yet he finds hope by extrapolating small successes. Sustainable farming in the Netherlands has made the country one of the worldwide leaders in food exports. Fishing restrictions around the Pacific archipelago nation of Palau enabled marine life to rebound. The film’s grand achievement is that it positions its subject as a mediator between humans and the natural world. Life cycles on, and if we make the right choices, ruin can become regrowth.”

The population of the world in 1937 was 2.3 billion. Today it is 7.8 billion, and according to Sir David, by the end of this century there will be 11 billion people on the planet, which would strain the supply of food resources and further add to the stress on natural resources and indirectly accelerate global warming. Two thirds of this documentary provided alarming commentary. Throughout the remaining one third Sir David offers some hope. I cannot do this film its due here, except to write that it is well worth viewing, especially by our children and grandchildren.

But I can give Sir David his due, if for no other reason that a soon-to-be 95 year old cares about his planet, and his passion has been there for all of us to see for eight decades. Sir David starting working with BBC TV in the 1950s, despite not owning a television himself. I took stock of his productivity in producing, writing and presenting documentaries and stopped at 127. It seems that he is even busier now than ever before. Some Attenborough facts:

  • Sir David was knighted in 1985.
  • He does not drive a car, having not passed the driver’s exam.
  • He has had more than a dozen animal species and plants named for him, but he does not like rats.
  • For one documentary, “The Life of Birds,” he traveled more than 250,000 miles – a distance equal to circumnavigating the globe 10 times (think of the Frequent Flyer miles!).
  • During the Second World War, his parents adopted two refugee Jewish girls from Europe.

Sir David is the younger brother of Richard Attenborough (Baron Attenborough, no less); a two time Oscar winner (best picture and directing Oscars for “Gandhi”), four time BAFTA winner, and forever remembered for “The Great Escape” and “Jurassic Park.” In the following: David and Richard enjoying a light moment. The two of them seemed to have a lot of these moments before Richard passed on in 2014.

Koalas

“Koala rescued after causing five-car pileup on Australian freeway …”
OK, when I saw this headline and the accompanying photograph (below), my immediate reaction was WTH! (“What The Heck,” as I am aware QBBlogue has younger readers) — as I was certain this little gaffer couldn’t possibly reach the gas pedal.

It turns out that the little guy was wandering across the freeway, and, as Aussies are acutely aware that koalas are a protected species, drivers swerved to avoid him, and five cars piled into one another.

Fortunately, no serious injuries were reported, and a motorist carefully picked up the koala and put him in the trunk of her SUV. He then made his way to the front seat and took over the steering wheel. He was eventually turned over to wildlife officials.

The accident was reported over the Valentine’s Day weekend, remarkably coincident with my own musings about getting a pet. I love dogs, and am especially fond of dachshunds, schnauzers and cockapoos, if only because these breeds belong to friends, and each breed has character and is cute, something I judge to be important in a dog. And as we are working our way through the Covid-19 pandemic, I thought that owning a dog would fill several voids: for example, getting out in the fresh air, meeting friends walking their dogs and without doubt comparing their less appealing dogs to mine; or playing “fetch” with a ball that only occasionally is returned, and when returned, is drenched in mucous; or taking money that might otherwise be spent traveling south and re-purposing it to pay vet bills.

Then it occurred to me earlier this morning, “I should look into getting a koala as a pet.” How cool would it be to take my koala out for a walk, amidst the crowds of dogs and dog walkers. There are some real pluses to the idea. Koalas are cute (think, “chick magnet,” which might have been relevant five decades ago), koalas don’t bark, and they have to climb a tree to pee and poop, so no need to carry a bag.

Perhaps I might share some background on koalas. The name “koala” is of Australian aboriginal origin, and means “no drink.” It seems that koalas are able to obtain water from eucalyptus leaves, their main source of food.

Koala bears are not bears of course, but marsupials; mammals with pouches to accommodate newborns. Depending on location in Australia, koalas weigh between 10 to 14, to as much as 25 pounds. They may live for 20 years. Koalas are related to wombats, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, and to opossums, which are the only marsupials found in North America. The following is a photo of a Virginia opossum. Nowhere near as cuddly as a koala.

According to the Australian Koala Foundation, between 47,000 and 85,000 koalas exist in the wild. Those numbers, while seemingly impressive, are concerning, as koala habitat (including eucalyptus trees) are under pressure from human encroachment, and during the last several years, from the destruction caused by wildfires. A real concern among wildlife authorities and scientists is infection in koalas caused by chlamydia. Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection in humans, and while koalas are often infected by a different strain of chlamydia, the consequences may be serious, including blindness, infertility and bladder dysfunction.

Cute and cuddly, yes, but contact with humans causes stress in koalas. Better to be left to their habitat. In Australia it is forbidden to have koalas as pets, and they are left alone, save for the relative few in zoos. Koalas are herbivores, but they will attack humans with sharp claws and teeth, especially when shielding their young.

Koalas sleep for 18 to 22 hours a day, so taking a koala for a walk may prove fruitless when he wants stop every few yards for a nap. Plus koalas need eucalyptus leaves to survive, at least a pound or two a day. I went on the PetSmart website and searched “eucalyptus leaves” only to find “Dog Urine Destroyer – Eucalyptus and Rosemary Scent.” Not helpful.

And so, in the time it has taken to write this, the idea of having a pet koala has vaporized. What with chlamydia; cuteness and cuddliness that disguises potential viciousness; the penchant for sleeping for all but a couple of hours a day; and the fact that it is illegal to have a pet koala, I am done … although not quite done with this blogue entry.

It seems that the Royal Family has this thing about photo ops with koalas. Harry and Meghan have done them, as have William and Kate. And here are Charles and Camilla, possibly with Camilla just informed that koalas carry chlamydia.

The Queen, on the other hand, in this image, perhaps wisely, has chosen to ignore the cute little things.

Cake Salé

This is a wonderful French recipe, and quite easy.  The cake (really bread) is perfect in so many settings.  Great on its own with butter, or as toast, or as a side to soup or dip.

For the dough:

  •     3 eggs
  •     Pepper (a pinch)
  •     50 grams grated parmesan cheese
  •     50 grams grated cheddar
  •     70 ml olive oil
  •     70 ml milk
  •     1 teaspoon salt
  •     150 grams all-purpose flour
  •     1 tablespoon baking powder

In s large bowl blend together the eggs, pepper, salt and cheeses.  Add the olive oil and milk and mix well.  Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix and stir until smooth.

A kitchen scale is a godsend, especially for this sort of recipe, where the measures are largely metric.  I used onion and peppers for the cake filling, although sautéed ham slices may be added for a bit of smokiness.  Here are the veggie ingredients:

  •     50 grams onion, diced
  •     50 grams red bell pepper, diced
  •     50 grams yellow bell pepper, diced
  •     50 grams orange bell pepper, diced
  •     1 tablespoon olive oil

Sauté the onions and peppers in the olive oil, and once softened, fold into the cake filling.

Line an 8 inch loaf pan with parchment paper and heat your oven to 375°F.  Pour the mixture into your loaf pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.  Voilà!

 

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a North African vegetarian dish, tomato based, nicely spiced – spices that include harissa paste. Harissa paste incorporates red chile pepper, red pepper, salt, vinegar, garlic and olive oil, and a little goes a long way. You can make your own mix of harissa, but easier to head to your supermarket and the ethnic food section (for those of you in British Columbia, harissa paste is available at Thrifty’s.)
Here is a recipe for shakshuka …

Ingredients:

  • 1 large red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons diced jalapeño pepper
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon harissa
  • 100 grams crumpled feta cheese
  • 4 large eggs
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish

Putting it together:

In a 10 inch cast iron pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the peppers and onion and cook slowly for 15 minutes until quite soft. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika and coriander, stir well, and cook for another couple of minutes.
Mix in the canned tomatoes, (I prefer plum), chop them up and simmer until the mixture thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes; while your oven is heating to 375 degrees F.

Take two thirds of the feta and the harissa and add to the tomato mixture. Taste and add salt if needed.

With the skillet off the heat, use a spoon to make a well in the mixture,
With due care, crack an egg into the well, then repeat with each egg.
Put the skillet in the oven, then bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the eggs are set.

It makes for a pretty dish, but you have to like tomatoes: And, it is a great way to have eggs for dinner. Serve in a bowl with fresh bread (you can ladle over slices of bread or simply dip in).

20 Favorite Movies

It is January, and we are deep into Covid time. The infection numbers are up, and now, more than ever, is a good time to stay home. Cook, bake, play games, including chess, as my 12 year old granddaughter has just taken on; cribbage, a favourite at home; or scrabble; then there is golf, out in the Covid-free fresh air; and of course, there is TV. I have access to Netflix, more recently to Amazon Prime, and a collection of DVDs, all adding up to hours of mindless (but thankful) diversion.

Hoping to make your lives easier, I thought I would provide a list of my “20 Favourite Movies.” This is not movie criticism, but rather favouritism. What makes a favourite movie you might ask? A great cast helps, as does great writing, and perhaps an idea outside the box. Above all, my favourite movies are those I want to see time after time.

With the various streaming and “on-demand” services, it should not be difficult to latch onto any of the movies listed. Here they are:

“My Man Godfrey”

There is the 1936 version, and then the 1957 re-make. Some movies should never be re-made, and this is the proof. “My Man Godfrey” stars William Powell and Carole Lombard (pictured), supported by a cast of some of Hollywood’s most unforgettable character actors.
According to the reviewer on the Roger Ebert website, (“Godfrey,”) “as one of the treasures of 1930s screwball comedy, doesn’t merely use Lombard and Powell, it loves them. She plays Irene, a petulant kid who wants what she wants when she wants it. (Powell’s) Godfrey employs an attentive posture and a deep, precise voice that bespeaks an exact measurement of the situation he finds himself in. These two actors, who were briefly married (1931-33) before the film was made in 1936, embody personal style in a way that is (to use a cliché that I mean sincerely) effortlessly magical.”

I have sat through “Godfrey” countless times and it never wears. Eugene Palette, Mischa Auer, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick, Alan Mowbray and Jean Dixon make up the perfect supporting cast.

Sadly, and at the zenith of her acting career, Carole Lombard was killed in a plane crash, five years after “Godfrey.” She was just 33 years old.

 

”Tom Jones”

I wrote in February, 2018, about the passing of Albert Finney. It was was the movie “Tom Jones” that confirmed Finney as a movie icon. “Tom Jones” was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning four, including for best picture and director. The movie was based on an 18th century novel by Henry Fielding.

What is truly entertaining about “Tom Jones” – and it still entertains 57 years later – are the performances, notably by Finney, of course; Hugh Griffiths (who almost steals the movie); Joyce Redman (below, and who together with Albert Finney creates what has to be the most erotic dinner sequence in movie history), and others.

“Tom Jones” was directed by Tony Richardson, who, while briefly married to Vanessa Redgrave, fathered Joely and Natasha Richardson. Natasha, in turn married Liam Neeson, but died in 2009 after a skiing accident in Quebec.

 

”The Godfather”

There are critics who opt for “The Godfather Part II” as the better movie, but I will take this one, as it was transformative. Oscars for best picture and best actor (Marlon Brando, who apparently read his lines off cue cards, and who famously rejected his Oscar); and what amounted to a breakthrough role for Al Pacino. Pacino subsequently won an Oscar, two Tony awards and two Emmy awards, one of a handful of performers to win the “Triple Crown” of acting.

“The Godfather” re-vitalized Brando’s movie acting career. He followed with “Last Tango in Paris,” “Superman,” Apocalypse Now,” and a movie, lesser known, “The Freshman.” “The Freshman,” also starring Mathew Broderick, is a personal favourite. Brando, as Vito Corleone, “The Godfather,” below.

 

”No Country for Old Men”

I am a real fan of the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan), whose movies span comedy (“Raising Arizona”), dark comedy (“Fargo”), farces (“Burn after Reading”), westerns (“True Grit”) and dramas. The brothers produce, write, direct and edit their movies, with hardly a misstep. I recommend all of the preceding, with a special nod to “Fargo,” which spawned the FX/Netflix series of the same name.

My favourite of all the Coen movies is the thriller, “No Country for Old Men.” It is a chilling movie that promises to test one’s nerves, as it follows the movements of the psychopathic killer played by Javier Bardem. The movie won three Oscars – best picture, adapted screenplay, and direction for the Coen brothers – plus an Oscar for Bardem as best supporting actor. Javier Bardem in the following, with a hair-do that is quite unnerving in itself.

 

“Star Wars”

It was 1977 when “Star Wars” came out and we went as a family. We were not too far into the movie when our sons, then 3 and 4 years old respectively, climbed onto my lap. I wouldn’t say they were frightened, but maybe feeling a little cautious. “Star Wars” is on the favourites list because it was also transformative, truly creating the genre. Fans of “Star Trek,” which pre-dated “Star Wars” by a decade, might dispute that, but with “Star Trek” you had a guy with pointy ears and William Shatner; while “Star Wars” gave you Chewbacca, Harrison Ford, and special effects that were entirely believable. After watching “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” I opted out, feeling no real need to view the last 6 sequels/prequels.

 

”Raiders of the Lost Ark”

While on the subject of Harrison Ford, he also starred in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” released in 1981; directed by Steven Spielberg, based on a story by George Lucas and Philip Kaufman. Lucas was the main man (writer, director, producer) behind “Star Wars,” and his genius spilled over into “Raiders.” He also wrote and directed “American Graffiti” and THX 1138. In 2012, Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilm, to the Walt Disney Company for a little more than $4 billion.

 

”Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

Just never seems to get old, even though it came out in 1969. Mr. Newman is no longer with us, while Mr. Redford is, having turned 84. George Roy Hill directed “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” then directed Newman and Redford in 1973’s “The Sting.” Both movies are hugely entertaining, but my preference would be Butch and Sundance. And it was during a visit to Sundance, Utah, where I first noticed this image on a poster of Redford/Newman as Sundance/Butch (which I had referenced in any earlier blogue). And again I say, “how cool are these guys?”

Katherine Ross played Etta Place, Robert Redford’s love interest. You will also remember her from “The Graduate” and “The Stepford Wives.” Ms. Ross will turn 81 early in 2021. She is married to Sam Elliott (both pictured below).

 

”The Ladykillers”

The 1955 version, not the 2004 re-make (with Tom Hanks, regrettably, as he should have known better). The “Ladykillers” featured a killer cast, with Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom (the latter two would re-unite for the “Pink Panther” series), Cecil Parker, and others, not the least of whom was Katie Johnson as the elderly landlady, Mrs. Wilberforce. Katie was 76 at the time, and won the British Film Academy award for best British actress. She pretty much stole the film; quite a feat considering the other cast members. And you could do worse by watching just about anything that Sir Alec Guinness was in – think “Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Dr. Zhivago,” the “Star Wars” trilogy, and “Great Expectations,” to name a handful.

 

”Lawrence of Arabia”

Best picture, best director among other Academy Awards. Probably the most beautifully photographed movie in my memory. In the image below are Anthony Quinn, Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif. Peter O’Toole was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of T. E. Lawrence, and he did not win. He was nominated for performances an additional six times, and did not win. A record.

The movie career of Omar Sharif (born Michel Dimitri Chalhoub) took off after “Lawrence of Arabia.” He was, after all, “Doctor Zhivago.” And to mention, in real life, a world class bridge player. One more note: Alec Guinness appeared in “Lawrence of Arabia” as Prince Faisal. The man was everywhere.

 

”His Girl Friday”

Cary Grant, possibly at his best ever, stars as newspaper editor Walter Burns in “His Girl Friday,” a re-working of the Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play, “The Front Page.” Rosalind Russell plays Grant’s (Walter’s) ex-wife and reporter Hildy Johnson. In the play, both editor and reporter were men. In a 1974 version of “The Front Page,” Walter and Hildy were played by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, respectively.

“His Girl Friday” was released in 1940. Remarkably, it received not a single Oscar nomination. Also remarkable, Ms. Russell (pictured above with Mr. Grant) only won the part of Hildy after at least a half dozen actresses – Irene Dunne and Carole Lombard among them – declined to do the movie. Their loss and our gain.

 

”The Philadelphia Story”

Some things are just better in black and white: “His Girl Friday,” “My Man Godfrey,” Dalmatian dogs, plus “The Philadelphia Story.” Cary Grant again, along with Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Ruth Hussey, with Mr. Stewart winning the Oscar for best actor. Donald Ogden Stewart won an Oscar for his screenplay, and in accepting the award, said, “I have no one to thank but myself.”
Brilliant movie, without question. But if I had to choose between “His Girl Friday” and “The Philadelphia Story,” I would go with “Friday,” then make some popcorn and immediately watch “The Philadelphia Story.”

”Amelie”

Have you seen “Amelie” yet? I did provide fair warning in a June, 2018 blogue entry, which is paraphrased below.

”There is something about the ladies of France, Audrey Tautou (below) being a case in point. Beauty underscored by a look of innocence, yet with the potential for mischief. Audrey is the heroine of the 2001 film “Amelie.” Nominated for five Academy Awards, winning none, but ranked, at that time, as the greatest box office success in French cinema history.

“Amelie” is one of those movies you sit through with a smile, knowing that you have stumbled upon a gem; not quite knowing what to expect, yet expecting nonetheless to be captivated by Audrey’s portrayal of Amelie. Remarkably, “Amelie” was not screened at the Cannes Film Festival, but was well received pretty much everywhere else. To me, it is a wonderful representation of French cinema. There are lots of layers to this movie – all constructed by Amelie. Most importantly for the viewer, there is Amelie in pursuit of Nino; but more importantly for Amelie, it’s what she does for those around her – whether she is playing cupid for a co-worker; or surreptitiously working to convince her father to travel his way out of his sadness; or gaslighting a store owner to the point where he no longer abuses his employee; and much more.”

 

”The Intouchables”

I wrote about “The Intouchables” in June of 2018. In the meantime, there have been re-makes in various countries, including the U.S., where the movie was re-named “The Upside” and starred Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman. Not even close to the French version. Here is what I described in 2018:

”Not to be confused with “The Untouchables,” the 1987 movie starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery, “The Intouchables” is a French production starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, neither of whom you may know. This is a wonderful movie, with M. Sy as Driss, the care-giver for M. Cluzet, as Phillippe, who is a quadriplegic. The opening scene, with M. Sy driving M. Cluzet at high speeds through the streets of Paris in M. Cluzet’s Maserati, is worthy of any car chase comparison. And the outcome of that scene is a thing of hilarity. M. Sy won the Cesar Award (think French Oscar) for best actor. He seems to me to be an engaging combination of a young Eddie Murphy and Dave Chapelle. M. Cluzet is no slouch either, having won his Cesar in 2007 for the movie “Tell No One.” I was touched by M. Cluzet’s character as he was able to convey so much emotion despite his disability. Above all, he seemed to truly relish the performance of his co-star, M. Sy, who is a dude (below).

Don’t mind the subtitles, as with “Amelie” you will find yourself quickly lost in the charm of the characters. In the image following, Driss takes the wheel of the Maserati, much to the delight of Philippe. I think I want a Maserati.”

 

”Goodbye Mr. Chips”

There are few movies that actually move me as much as “Goodbye Mr. Chips,” from 1939, with Robert Donat and Green Garson. It tells the story of Chipping, a boarding school teacher who, through a series of events that saw him overcame biases and the passage of time, becomes the school’s headmaster. And it was his love for Ms. Garson’s character, Kathy, in what is surely one of filmdom’s most romantic pairings, that set Chips on a path to reveal his true self, respected and beloved by all. Sadly, Ms. Garson’s character and child die in childbirth, and it is the silent grief expressed by Chips that is so moving. Mr. Donat and Ms. Garson below.

 

”Casablanca”

I had seen “Casablanca” countless times, but it wasn’t until I saw it on the big screen, fairly recently, that it finally hit me – that Bergman (Ilsa) truly loved Bogie (Rick)! What had I been thinking? Thinking like a man, obviously. “Casablanca” is my all-time favourite movie. The actors – Bogie, Bergman, Lorre, Rains, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt and Dooley Wilson – formed the most memorable cast. Madeleine Lebeau, who played Rick’s shunned lover, was the last surviving cast member, passing away in 2018 at the age of 92. The whole of “Casablanca” was filmed in southern California. But never mind …

 

”The Maltese Falcon”

If I had to rank my favourite actors (the guys), I would have Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart and William Powell in that order. It is amazing to many that Bogie in fact became a movie star. Not physically imposing (5 feet 8 inches), not particularly handsome, and with a sort of lisp, Bogie nonetheless rose to the top of the Hollywood game. His legacy includes “The African Queen,” “The Caine Mutiny,” The Big Sleep,” and “The Petrified Forest,” among many others. All worth watching, even today. And above all (with the exception of “Casablanca”), I still delight in “The Maltese Falcon,” released in 1941, with John Huston in his directorial debut. Again, great casting, with Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. The “Maltese Falcon” is to my mind the definitive film noire.

 

”Midnight In Paris”

If you can get past Woody Allen’s personal life, you may have to admit that the man is a bit of a genius. He writes and directs, and the results are “Annie Hall,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” “Hannah and her Sisters,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” and more. Woody Allen has been Oscar-nominated 16 times for his original screenplays. Of all his movies, I have most enjoyed “Midnight in Paris,” in which the protagonist is played by Owen Wilson (below), playing a character one would normally expect Woody Allen to play; a screenwriter (imagine that!) slightly neurotic, curious, detached and easily distracted. At the stroke of midnight in Paris, Owen (as Gil) finds himself taken back in time, meeting the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Hugely entertaining.

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow were “partners” for a dozen years, and in that time Mia made 11 movies with Woody. The whole thing fell apart when Woody decided to take up with Mia’s daughter (adopted with Andre Previn), married her and they have been together for more than 20 years. Mia, reportedly, was not happy.

 

”E.T. The Extraterrestrial”

Thank you Steven Spielberg. And Mellisa Mathison. The two co-wrote “E.T.” and Mr. Spielberg directed. The movie won 4 Oscars, mainly of the technical nature, and upon its release in 1982, became the highest grossing movie of all time. I still get a charge out of “E.T.” – a great flick to watch with the grandkids.

Ms. Mathison was married to Harrison Ford until 2004, and she passed away in 2015. E.T. below … somehow lovable.

 

”Forrest Gump”

Tom Hanks has made so many great movies. I loved “Splash,” “Big,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail,” “Cast Away,” “Road to Perdition,” “Saving Private Ryan” (truly one of my favourites, although I find war movies difficult to sit through), “Charlie Wilson’s War” (not necessarily on everyone’s radar, but truly entertaining), and lots more. “Forrest Gump” is a flick that I need to see every few years. And it is Hanks who makes it so watchable. “Forrest Gump” is the story of an intellectually challenged man who, nonetheless finds himself in history-defining situations. Not unlike certain politicians. Six Oscars, including those for acting (Hanks), directing (Robert Zemickis) and best picture. And “Forrest Gump” reminds us that life is indeed like a box of chocolates.

 

“The Wind and the Lion”

I was having dinner in New York (at the Monkey Bar) and asked the waiter who his favourite celebrity guest was. Without hesitation he said, “Sean Connery.” And my favourite movie starring Sir Sean, is “The Wind and the Lion.” Of the 26 movies featuring 007, only Sean Connery and Daniel Craig truly fit my mind’s image of Jame Bond. “Dr. No,” “Goldfinger” and “From Russia with Love” would be on any number of favourites lists, as might “The Untouchables,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” “Robin and Marian,” and “The Hunt for Red October” the last several offering proof that Sean Connery was much more than a James Bond.

Above, Sean Connery as “the Raisuli” in “The Wind and the Lion.” Oh yes, my waiter’s least favourite celebrity guest? Michael Douglas.

”Schindler’s List”

“Schindler’s List” is difficult to view, but it must be viewed. The storyline is familiar to all, and with a stellar cast (Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Ben Kingsley), and with director Steven Spielberg’s decision to shoot the film in black and white, the viewer is transported to a truly binary time in history.

Those are my 20 favourites, and I could go on, but will leave it here. Hopefully there will be a gem or two in this list that you may have overlooked or for which you simply needed a reminder; and do not hesitate to send on your own suggestions.

Pork and Chickpea Curry

This recipe came from neighbour Anne, and has been modified to substitute pork, for lamb (I am not a lamb guy.) I used boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat. Chicken would work just as well. The recipe seems lengthy, but once you have the ingredients together, your work is done; it is all about the spicing. I would love to show you a photo – but it is a stew – not necessarily photogenic, only delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound or more of lean pork cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon roughly minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon roughly minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 (13.5-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 stick celery sliced
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 cup carrots sliced
  • 3 small white potatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 can of chick peas (strained)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons Harissa (recipe below)

 

Place the cubed pork in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, combine the curry powder, paprika, cumin, rosemary, thyme, fennel, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the seasonings to the pork, toss well to coat, and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large (11-inch) Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Raise the heat to medium high, add the pork and all the seasonings from the bowl, and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pork is evenly browned. Add the vegetable stock, coconut milk, wine, tomato paste, brown sugar, and harissa (see below). I put everything in a slow cooker on low for 3-4 hours or more.

Two hours before dinner, add the carrots, potatoes, celery, raisins and chick peas. Serve hot in shallow bowls with rice, or roasted potatoes, or roasted cauliflower florets, a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, and a sprinkling of parsley.

Harissa (harissa is something usually presented as a paste or sauce, but the recipe below yields a spicy powder.) It may seem redundant to add harissa when so many spices are involved, but go with me on this, and harissa is always good to have on hand.  Also your supermarket may carry harissa paste in its ethnic foods section (Thrifty Foods in British Columbia carries harissa).

  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. cracked pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • mint if available

 

Mortar and pestle to crush the seeds and you are good to go. Keep the spice mix in the freezer – it will come in handy.

Pecan Pie with Bourbon

My favourite dessert is pecan pie, and I was attracted to a recipe in the New York Times that added bourbon to the mix. How could that be a bad thing? This recipe is modified from the one in the Times.

For the crust, add a quarter teaspoon fine sea salt to a cup and a quarter all-purpose flour in your food processor and mix well. Take a quarter pound of butter, cold, cut into small squares and add to the mix. Slowly add 2 to 4 tablespoons ice water, until the mixture comes together, moist but not wet. You will know the difference. Remove and knead slightly to form a ball, push the ball down to form a disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to overnight.

For the pie filling, beat three eggs together with an egg white from one egg, then mix in 2/3 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 2/3 cup light corn syrup, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3 tablespoons bourbon (you can use rye whiskey or rum in the absence of bourbon), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.

Take your dough from the refrigerator about an hour ahead of baking time, roll it out and place on a well-buttered pie pan, crimping the edges. Roughly chop 1 and 1/4 cups of pecans (I used whole pecans for my first attempt and they make the pie more difficult to slice when serving) and spread on your unbaked crust. Pour the pie filling over the pecans.

Having set your oven to 375 degrees F, bake the pie for 50 minutes, until the crimped edge of the crust is golden brown. Once done, let your pie cool down for about an hour. Slice and serve with whipped or ice cream.

Ventriloquism

While in the car the other day, I was listening to the CBC radio program, “The Current,” which I often do, as I like the host, Matt Galloway. Matt is smart, always well-prepared, and thorough in questioning his guests. And his guests can come from anywhere, with diverse interests. On this particular morning, he interviewed two young (ages 8 and 9) spelling bee enthusiasts, and then moved on to real estate.

Apparently one of the hottest markets for Canadian residential real estate is Nova Scotia. Potential buyers are viewing properties on-line, without conducting in-person visits, before making their purchases.

Matt interviewed Michael Harrison and his fiancé, Jennifer Giesbrecht, who together had just purchased a house in Windsor, Nova Scotia. Windsor is a town of some 4,000 people, about an hour from Halifax. The happy couple, from British Columbia, purchased their new home in Windsor for $225,000. When asked what $225,000 would get them on Vancouver Island, Jennifer’s response was, “a down payment.”

Michael and Jennifer viewed Nova Scotia properties from a distance, putting their trust in their real estate agent (a gentleman named Kevin Spacey, no less) and were quite pleased with the outcome, finally seeing the house in person the day they moved in.

That’s not their house. I don’t have a photo of the Harrison/Giesbrecht home to show you, but this 5 bed, 2 bath Windsor, NS, Victorian shown above, is listed for $269,000. Comes with an in-ground pool. Before you start thinking about Windsor as a place to land, consider this: While summers are warm, winters are not, and Windsor gets about 100 inches of snow annually, often at one time.

OK. Now you might ask, “what does Nova Scotia real estate have to do with ventriloquism?”

Well, it seems that the aforementioned Michael Harrison is a ventriloquist employed by cruise lines. Michael and Jennifer (she had recently quit her job to join Michael at sea), were in Mexico waiting for a cruise assignment, when Michael got the word he was out of a job due to Covid-19’s impact on cruise travel. It was that bit of news that caused the couple to contemplate a move to affordable Nova Scotia from their base on Vancouver Island.

And, as it so often happens when I am doing my “blogue,” one thing leads to another; so I started to do some research on ventriloquism. I did recall the appearances of Edgar Bergen and his dummy, Charlie McCarthy, Jimmy Nelson and his Danny O’Day, all of whom appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. And then there was Shari Lewis with Lamb Chop. She was a hottie – Shari – not Lamb Chop.

As strange as Michael Harrison’s profession might sound, there are a lot of ventriloquists around. I went on-line and discovered you could rent a ventriloquist, starting for as little as $100 an hour. A really good one might set you back $800 for an hour’s work. Might be a great way to liven up a party. And for those of you looking to fill your days, there are ventriloquism classes. A dummy can be had for under a hundred bucks on Amazon (free delivery with Prime). Perhaps a great way to one day impress your friends in the cul-de-sac.

Jeff Dunham, currently the most famous ventriloquist, might pass on a neighbourhood event. Jeff makes between $15 and $30 million a year from personal appearances, shows, DVD’s and streaming revenues. This is Jeff below, with his puppet (better “puppet” than “dummy” don’t you agree?) “Walter.” Think of Walter as a puppet version of Don Rickles.

Quite funny, and Jeff does not move his lips when Walter speaks. It’s remarkable when watching “their” show, that Walter (and other puppets) can say pretty much anything, and nothing sticks to Jeff.  He comes off rather saintly.  Catch them on Netflix and YouTube.

And what of Michael Harrison? Content to be employed as a custodian at Acadia University. Jennifer works in a medical office.

Sigourney Weaver

As I scroll down the “Archives” list there seems to be a preponderance of entries about those who have left this earth. Fortunately, Sigourney Weaver (born Susan Alexandra Weaver) is still with us, and at age 71, she remains the picture of stunning elegance. I came face-to-face with Ms. Weaver many years ago, as she was strolling down New York’s Fifth Avenue, with me giving her the subtle up-and-down. Sadly, she didn’t return my wide-eyed look, as she was more intent on window shopping at Saks. No matter. Here is Ms. Weaver as she was photographed for a NY Times Style Magazine article.

According to the article, Ms. Weaver (and I will start to call her Sigourney, because we came just that close to meeting), doesn’t take herself seriously, having appeared in more than 50 movies of much diversity, starting with a brief appearance in 1977’s “Annie Hall.” Followed by “Alien” in 1979, “Aliens” in 1986 (I still squirm when I see both), with “Ghostbusters” in between. Here she is as Ellen Ripley in “Alien.”

To quote the article, there were, “serious roles, silly roles, roles steeped in romance, roles drenched in sweat: She set no trajectory. Established no pattern. Even at her commercial peak, she took minor roles, as in “Working Girl,” in 1988, which gave her a fraction of the screen time of (Melanie) Griffith and Harrison Ford. That performance led to an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress in the same year that she was nominated for best actress for her portrayal of the doomed primatologist Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist.” Her co-stars in “Gorillas” were the silverback mountain gorillas of Rwanda, where much of the movie was shot. She just plopped herself down in the jungle among them. “Of course, I had to pay attention,” she said, “as the babies were climbing all over me and urinating on me and pulling my hair.”

Sigourney is a true New Yorker; having attended boarding school in Connecticut, moving on to complete an English degree at Stanford, before studying acting at Yale. Her drama teachers referred to her as “talent-less” before acquiescing to at least encourage her to stick to comedy, and avoid drama. What did they know? Sigourney will take on pretty much anything, and then does “anything” quite well.

This particular issue of the Times Style Magazine featured clips of celebrities telling jokes. Sigourney had the best of the lot, which I quote here:

“I went to my doctor, and he told me to stop masturbating.

And I said why? And he said, because I’m trying to examine you.”

Thereby proving that she IS good at comedy.