Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"It's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

She is the author of one of the most beloved and seminal books in the English language yet Nelle Harper Lee herself remains mostly a mystery. Within the pages of Mockingbird one is granted a very personal, if fleeting, portrait of Ms. Lee's childhood (along with that of her lifelong friend Truman Capote, one of my favourite authors and of whom I do a spot on impersonation). A fair bit is also known about her life immediately after Mockingbird came out, what with its immediate success and with the immediate success of the equally beloved movie adaptation.

A short time after however Lee resigned herself to a life out of the spotlight. She has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances, and with the exception of a few short essays, has published no further writings (two other novels were started but never finished). Over the years Lee has accepted many awards and honorary degrees but has always declined to give a speech. All of this results in a wonderfully talented individual who is ingrained into our collective consciousness, yet as little more than a vague outline.

Filmmaker and author Mary McDonagh Murphy’s new documentary looks to erase at least some of the mystery. Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill A Mockingbird (click here to order) explores Lee’s retreat from the public eye and offers a rare glimpse into her life, including never-before-seen documents and photos and an interview with her ninety-nine-year-old sister, Alice Finch Lee. The trailer alone is compelling enough to make one want to immediately buy the DVD, I did.

Coming across this documentary has made me think about reading Mockingbird again...for the umpteenth time. It is also pretty certain that there will be another viewing of the movie very soon. On that note, here is  the original trailer for the movie, enjoy.

Happy Viewing,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday morning classics.

The Great Composers
For some time now it has been rare for me to take a peaceful Sunday morning for myself. With great delight I say that this is one of those Sundays, as such I am very pleased to share with everyone once again a Sunday morning classic.

This morning I find myself with a very deep mood for Mozart, something light and airy, something allegro. Thusly, for our listening pleasure may I submit " Eine kleine Nachtmusik".


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Heureuse Fête Nationale!

Happy Bastille Day. In France, it is formally called La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration) and commonly le quatorze juillet (the fourteenth of July). It commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789; the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison was seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation, and of the reconciliation of all the French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic, during the French Revolution.

''Prise de la Bastille'' ("The storm of the Bastille") by Jean-Pierre Louis Laurent Houel

Festivities and official ceremonies are held all over France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign guests.

"Rue Montorgueil" by Claude Monet

Bien à vous,

Friday, July 8, 2011

A taste of New England.

Summer is most definitely here and with that comes a longing for the tastes of my much beloved New England. While clam bakes are calling (something which there is a definite dearth of in Chicago) it is also lobster season and the grill is calling too.

Of late I have been culling through my lobster recipes to find a few to use this season for picnics, dinner parties and the like. This one by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez of Gourmet Magazine is one of my favourites, use it at your next gathering and it will definitely help you make friends and influence people. This recipe is luxuriously delicious, so get yourself to a great seafood store and break out the grill because you don’t want to miss this New England style feast.

Grilled Lobster and Potatoes with Garlic Vinaigrette

(photograph by Romulo Yanes)

  • 4(1 1/4- to 1 1/2-lb) live lobsters
  • 2 lb small (1 1/2- to 2-inch) boiling potatoes (preferably yellow-fleshed)
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 lb baby arugula (about 10 cups loosely packed)
  1. Plunge lobsters headfirst into a 12-quart pot of boiling salted water. Cook, covered, over high heat 4 minutes (for 1 1/4-lb lobster) to 5 minutes (for 1 1/2-lb lobster) from time they enter water. Transfer with tongs to a large colander to drain and cool. (Lobsters will not be fully cooked.) Return cooking water to a boil.
  2. Add potatoes to boiling water and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain in a colander. 
  3. When lobsters are cool enough to handle, twist off claws (including knuckles) and crack with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Halve lobsters lengthwise using a large heavy knife.
  4. Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderately high heat for gas).
  5. While grill heats, whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, red-pepper flakes, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended, then stir in basil.
  6. Halve potatoes. Oil grill rack, then grill potatoes, cut sides down, covered only if using a gas grill, turning over once, until grill marks appear, about 4 minutes total. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette. Keep potatoes warm, covered.
  7. Oil grill rack, then grill 4 lobster halves, cut sides down, and all of claws, covered only if using a gas grill, until grill marks appear on meat, about 4 minutes. Turn over bodies and claws and grill in same manner 4 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1/4 cup vinaigrette, then keep warm, covered. Grill remaining lobster halves in same manner and add to same bowl, tossing to coat.
  8. Arrange arugula on a large platter and top with grilled lobster and potatoes. Drizzle with 1/2 cup vinaigrette and serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Note: Serves = 4, Active Time = 45 minutes, Start to Finish = 1 1/2 Hours.

Bon Appétit,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When giants fall, RIP Mr. Twombly.

Today we say goodbye to a true artist. Announced this morning by the Gagosian Gallery, which represented his work, Cy Twombly died in Rome on Tuesday at the age of 83.

Twombly has been a major force in the art world since the early 50's with a style that has transcended many of the movements he has been associated with. He is perhaps known for his works that possess a sense of childlike playfulness that blurred the lines between painting, drawing and scribbling. The style and almost poetic feel of his paintings have influences generations of artists, most well known of these would assuredly be Jean-Micheal Basquiat, who often talked about his love of Twombly's paintings (the influence is quite visible in many Basquiat paintings).

Twombly works have been displayed in nearly all of the major galleries and museums around the world with many special shows and exhibitions. In 2010, he painted a ceiling of the Louvre museum in Paris, the first artist given the honor since Georges Braque in the 1950s.

If you are unfamiliar with his work I would definitely encourage you to learn a bit more about him and his work. In the meantime please allow me to leave you with a few of my favourite pieces.

Lepanto, 2001

Bacchanalia Fall (5 Days in November), 1977

Untitled, 1969

The Four Seasons  Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, 1993

Untitled, 2003

Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor, Panel A, 1994

Rest in peace Mr. Twombly, you shall indeed be missed.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Independence Day.

Whether your attending a family barbecue, planning a casual picnic with a loved one or simply gathering with friends to watch the fireworks please allow me to pass along the best of wishes to you and yours on this 4th of July weekend.

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