Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Bewitched! (2005)

The world offers many disturbing topics worthy of concern these days. I'm choosing to put nuclear proliferation on my mind's back burner for the time being so that I can focus instead on whether or not the retooling of Bewitched for the big-screen will be worth seeing. There are at least three high hurdles to overcome.

1. Director Nora Ephron. I know "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally" were charming, but did you see "You've Got Mail"? And how about the incredibly bad "Hanging Up?" (I am slow to admit that I saw both!) I believe Delia Ephron's horrible writing could have been the culprit on these projects and she's getting credit for writing Bewitched, too. In a strange twist, however, Adam McKay who wrote for Will Ferrill's "Anchorman" and "Old School" is also involved. No Shakespearean masterpieces these, but they are campy, and that is just what Dr. Bombay would prescribe for the schmaltz hangover an Ephron-only script might produce. Meg Ryan-worshiper meets Ron Burgundy--could be interesting.

2. TV-show to Big-screen remakes. These hardly ever work. The one inspired exception that I can think of is "The Brady Bunch Movie", in which pop culture postmodernism ignored chronological syntax in order to contextualize the "ideal" family within a tainted world. The result was sophomoric sophistication at its best.

3. There are no good-humored cultural jabs in our society right now. In the 60s and 70s, television used humor to poke fun at conservative crumudgeons--see Darin Stephens' entire family, Gladys Kravitz, and later Archie Bunker and George Jefferson. Our culture isn't much on finding humorous sides to debates these days. I'll be surprised if the subtle, but highly prevelant sub-text of confronting oppression gets much attention in the Bewitched remake. If not, the movie may be an accurate reflection of our culture's current proclivities, but it will lack a key spark that made the original series work.

Why it Might Work:

1. Nicole Kidman's supernatural hair and frame. She would look otherworldy on a catwalk in Milan. Can she look down home enough to seem very human at the same time? With the right make-up artist she can. See "The Hours."

2. Casting. Never a sure thing. Cloris Leachman, Lily Tomlin and Dabney Coleman couldn't save the remake of the Beverly Hillbillies (to my complete dismay--I love the BH as much as Bewitched). Still I'm intrigued by the thought of seeing a movie where Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy) as Gladys Kravitz shows up alongside Joan Plowright (Enchanted April) as Aunt Clara. Could have the same effect as distinguished actress Agnes Moorehead working with Paul Lynde in the original series. And I would be happy hearing Stephen Colbert (The Daily Show) read a soup can label.

What it Will Need in Order to Work:

1. Character chemistry--all of those great stars have to click and not get in each others' way. They need to look like they are having fun and not working from an overwrought script.

2. Pointed, but not sullen sense of humor (eek--when has Ephron pulled this off?)

3. Tiny bit of darkness

4. Physical comedy (Ferrill is a modern master in this area)

5. Good set design--in the series Darin's office was cool, bachelor modern and their house was fashionable and comfortable Colonial Revival. All of the sets were places where I would want to see myself (unlike the kind of dark garagey feel of the Partridge Family home, which relied solely on Shirley Jones' million watt smile and Susan Dey's shiny hair for lighting).

6. Great costumes, makeup and lighting. Uplights were a sure hint you were in the supernatural realm in Bewitched, and I'm convinced a drag queen dressed Agnes Moorehead's Endora every day. Her caftans were almost another cast of characters. And that hair!

7. Mod sensibility. The new movie shouldn't try to recapture the feel of the 60s and early 70s, but perhaps it can grab a little of what made the original Bewitched work so well, namely that the hip and progressive world of Samantha's family danced on the rim of conventional society with a matrixy and somewhat dismissive view of it.

8. Insight without insult. Samantha, for the most part, did not look down on the mortals that surrounded her, unless they presented themselves as better than her.

If you think I'm geeking out over Bewitched in THIS post, take a look at my October 28, 2004 entry about the cultural impact of the original series called The Chiffon's Too Crinkly.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Moonie Mania (repost)

I promised some friends at a dinner party tonight that I would repost my article on Moonie Mania from January 9 on the blog. It appears below.

Okay, I've been poking around in cyberspace to explore this Bush and Sun Myung Moon business. It is fascinating. Moon is the Sam Walton of self-proclaimed messiahs. We're talking loaded! No wonder Bush and right-wingers all over creation treat him like an ATM. All I can say is the Moonies must have sold a gazillion flowers back in the 70s.

So the recent info I got was from an article by John Gorenfeld who tracks Moonie business. Thanks to John Avarosis at Americablog for the tip. Gorenfeld follows Moon pretty closely and all of the political and religious suckups who tow or dance close to his line. Some of the documented events are truly bizarre, like the crowning of Moon in one of the Senate buildings back in 2004. The event was attended by a lot of Hill folk who later denied being there. Unfortunately, cameras on duty don't lie. And by the way, a simple google search of Sun Myung Moon and Bush will keep you busy reading for hours on the subject.

If you don't want to wade through the mounds of what seems to be a preface to the apocalypse (let's just say Jesus is coming soon, but just to ask Tim Lahaye to revise his Left Behind series*), go to this Washington Times article for an account of a bizarre Moon-sponsered event. Bush Sr. sent a videotaped greeting, Bush Jr. wrote a letter that was read to the crowd, and Bob Dole rolled in for the main event. BTW, Moon owns the Washington Times. I won't make a big deal out of that, since a lot of big money people who influence politics own major news outlets (Ted Turner=CNN, Roger Ailes=Fox), but just so you know. It is also important to note that a few democrats also support Moon (Rep. Danny Davis, D-IL presented the crown the coronation ceremony I mentioned!), though none with profiles as high as the president and former president. And Moon hates Clinton.

By and large it is the right, and especialy the religious right, who take Moon's money. In the admittedly mild interest of fairness, I looked for any shred of defense from the right regarding its connection with Moon. The only thing I could find, and curiosity had me searching pretty hard in the end, was from the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, right up there with the Wash. Times in terms of its conservative bent. Here.

In the end, is unapologetic adulation for Moon from people like George Bush, Sr. that big a deal? Say what you will about ethically sound contribution sources, but the fact that the more scary brand of conservativism has a fathoms deep money source is probably nothing the democrats don't also wish they had. Moon is likely viewed by many on the right as a deluded and generous donor who hopes to gain credibility and influence through their acceptance of his donations. While they may laugh off Moon's ultimate goals as they take his money, he uses the photo ops and quotes from people like Bush, Dole, Falwell, etc., (often reprinted in his Washington Times) to recruit scores of emotionally vulnerable folks into his pseudo-messianic efforts to control the world. Crowns, robes, world domination-- 21st century baroque camp at its finest. Too bad Moon's hurting people.

But none of that matters to people like Bush and Falwell. They just keep living by their "I got mine" philosophy and forget the effect of their actions on everyone else. What is truly strange is that the ground level supporters of the conservative right don't seem to have a problem with Moon's many-tentacled connection to their leaders (though there are a few websites even further to the right of Falwell who are hopping mad about it). One of my more conservative commenters recently warned me to beware of the political Koolaid I drink. For my younger readers he was referring to the Jim Jones cult mass-suicide where everyone drank poison Koolaid (Jim Jones was a Hoosier by the way. We're so proud). From what I can gather observing cult caution is good advice for both sides of the aisle.

*Wait! Jesus can't have Lahaye do the rewrites! He and his wife accept money from Moon, too (read down to section 6)!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

John and Linda Figure it Out

John and Linda Figure it Out
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
While my mom and dad were visiting us, John's mom, Linda and he cooked Steak Au Poive, which is a crushed peppercorn covered steak, cooked in cream and a brandy sauce. Linda makes amazing yeast rolls, which Jim is inspecting.

Steak Au Poive

Steak Au Poive
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
The brandy sauce is always a little theatrical, but John was up for the task.


Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
John flaming the Steak Au Poive. Notice there is no one else around. I was standing near the cabinet with the fire extinguisher.

Happy Eaters

Happy Eaters
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Once the fire went out we all had a really good meal. Thanks fire (and John and Linda). From left, Katy and Jim (my mom and dad), John, Jim and John's mom, Linda.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Foodie Fest

Randi and Gail
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Randi (left) and Gail (right) were two of the folks who cooked up a storm at our house during the American Association of Museums (AAM) conference. (Don't miss Kris's Maple Ice Cream recipe hidden in the comments section of Museum Friends.) Once we started cooking we realized we needed an appetizer (yeah, I know, some host I was). I started calling out things we had in our frig. When I came to Raclette cheese and capers, Randi suggested we slice the capers, put them on crackers, top them with bits of cheese and broil them until the cheese melted. They were great! When asked, Randi said they didn't have a name, so we tried to call them "Randi's". She insisted, however, that her husband, Daniel, came up with the recipe, so we changed the name to "Randi-Daniels."

Gail, who years ago let me talk her into hiring me for my first museum job, made Six O'Clock Pasta, a dish from Dean Fearing, the chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. She actually made enough for 12, but the original recipe serves four:

Six O'Clock Pasta

10 oz. penne pasta
Olive oil as needed
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 redish bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
2 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then sliced
2 tomatoes, skinned, seeded, chopped
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 large shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups watercress, tough stems discarded
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
2 to 3 dashes hot pepper sauce
1/4 pound mozerella, cut in medium dice
Freshly grated parmeson cheese.

Cook pasta, coat with oil to keep from sticking.

Saute mushrooms in 2 tbs. olive oil until they begin to wilt and change color; add pepper and zucchini, cook 2 to 3 minutes stirring occassionally until veggies start to soften. Pour mixture into large bowl. Add tomatoes and mix lightly. Set aside.

Heat 3 tbs. olive oil in pan over medium heat, saute garlic and shallots until they just start to change color. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and add salt and black pepper. Add herbs, watercress and vegetable mixture, and again bring it to a boil. Add pasta and hot pepper sauce.

Toss to combine all ingredients. Add mozerella. Grate Parmesan on top to garnish. Still to come: Shrimp Diane and Pepper Barbecued Shrimp, if I can talk Honee into sharing the recipes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Side Garden

The Side Garden
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
Our little side garden. It's so skinny that not much will fit into it. Of course, I'll cram what I can in there before it's all over.

Spirea and Tiny Azeleas

Spirea and Tiny Azeleas
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
I like these spirea. To me they look like snow fountains. The flowers on the azeleas are big, but they are on new plants so they look out of proportion--kind of like little girls in frilly first communion dresses.

Tulips and Hydrangeas

Tulips and Hydrangeas
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
More Spring 2005. We planted these tulips last spring. I'm so happy they came back up. Our hydrangeas (back by the porch) are about to bloom.

Big Tulip Tree

Big Tulip Tree
Originally uploaded by Troy Smythe.
I'm playing with Flickr and working on blogging pictures of Spring in our backyard.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Museum Friends

This week the American Association of Museums conference is here in Indianapolis. It is fun to have this event in our hometown because all of my museum friends from across the nation come for it. Museum people are huge foodies and often good cooks, so we've had people over cooking almost every night. I'll try to post some of the recipes people brought with them at a later time. Here are some highlights: Shrimp Diane, Tante Lucia's family pasta sauce and pasta (involves sauteing the pasta in olive oil, garlic and nutmeg), homemade Maple Ice Cream, pane cada (sp?), and a pasta recipe from the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Also lots of great sangria and John made the best lemoncello I've ever had. Our kitchen is getting a workout. My friends Kris and Scott, also consultants, are staying with us and we've been having a great time (they contributed the Maple Ice Cream and the freezer to make it in and also the pane cada).