Up until the train wreck that was Friday night's Something's Gotta Give, I was having an unusually good run of luck with my media consumption. These are few and far between and therefore I feel obligated to share (or brag, depending on your perspective). In order of completion, then:
- After almost two months, I finished The Seven Storey Mountain this past week. For the first 200 pages or so I couldn't help the feeling that Merton was indulging a little too much in the unimportant details of his life. Perhaps my lack of experience with autobiographies can be blamed. He spent over 100 pages describing his pre-teen life. He talked about going to the dentist no less than three times. Luckily the final 200 pages improved dramatically and by the end I couldn't put it down, further solidifying my opinion of Merton as one of the best contemporary religious writers.
- I have been a Brando fan since I first saw him in The Godfather. My local Blockbuster doesn't carry many of the classics but our recent subscription to Netflix has allowed me to catch up on his earlier work. Last Friday, I watched A Streetcar Named Desire and was mightily impressed by his nuanced portrayal of Stanley Kowalski. Having grown up a few generations of cinema later, it's difficult for me to recognize exactly how influential this film was but there's no denying the brilliance of Brando.
- I wanted to see Amores Perros when it came out in 2001 but put it off for fear of its reported grittiness and realism. As it turns out I had nothing to fear. In parts it is hard to watch but the director puts the emotional power of the violence to good use in making his points about love and humanity. Plus I'm a sucker for the intersecting stories/multiple viewpoints-type films (Magnolia, Traffic, etc.) and it is well done here.
On the movie front, I have also added an exciting new feature to the Souzek Republic main page. If you scroll down past the Briefs and About sections on the left, you will notice a section entitled Now Playing with a few movies below. Through the wonder of the Movable Type Netflix Suite plug-in, I am able to display the movies I currently have checked out from Netflix. Now you can instantly know what I am watching on any given day, which is information I'm sure you were dying to have at your fingertips.
April 25, 2004
- Pnin: my first Nabokov
- The Office, Series 2: I'm enjoying the anticipation now because I know that once we start watching we won't be able to stop.
- 21 Grams: Alejandro González Iñárritu's second film (after Amores Perros) with a strangely similar plot.
Weights and Measures
About six months ago I started working out at the local YMCA again after taking almost two years off. I didn't start lifting weights until college but when I finally got over my "oh no, I'll be the smallest guy there" fears (I was, it didn't matter), I found that I actually enjoyed it. It makes you feel good, physically and mentally, and it's a good way to get in some exercise in the winter months for those of us that can't seem to stick with running. I also like to think of it as off-season training for my devastating tennis game.
Another perk of the weight room is the rare company you meet there and the gems of conversation you overhear. These are a few of my favorite people from the past months:
- The sinewy seventy-year-old guy that comes in and does more pull-ups than most people could do at twenty.
- The guy that knows the protein content of every food on earth and will eagerly explain how to get well over 100 grams per day (it involves a lot of tuna).
- The textbook tool that came in one night, on break from his first year at college, highlights in his hair and all, and told all the high school kids about life at IU. He then proceeded to sit on the bench as if preparing to do some bench press but instead talked to a girl on his cell phone for a half-hour. At some point in the call he must have gotten bored because he started doing crunches.
- The obnoxiously overconfident high school football player with peroxide hair and a focus on "keeping tone while getting big."
- The high school girl that was fawning over said football player to the point where I had to leave the room. High school is unbearably embarrassing.
- The Air Force guy that put on an absolute clinic for his enraptured audience of, you guessed it, high schoolers. My favorite points of his lecture were the instructive tips on the exercises of Navy Seals and his elaboration on how "foreign women looove Americans." Later the conversation moved to foreign affairs and a young man chipped in with "I can never remember which Korea is the good one and which is the bad one. I think South Korea is the bad one."
- The ordinary-looking, middle-aged guy dressed in a Flanders-style sweater that rolled up his sleeves to reveal forearms full of tattoos and benched 225 on the incline press with a close grip.
- The guy of average build that tried to bench press 225 lbs but couldn't budge it from his chest and had to call for my help. I respect his ambition and all but I saw him loading up that bar and knew that he didn't stand a chance.
- And finally, me, for finally being able to do enough pull-ups to pass the Presidential Physical Fitness Test for twelve-year-olds. Seriously, weren't those some ridiculous standards? That's just setting kids up for failure.
So if you've never lifted weights before, consider starting for the culture.
April 19, 2004
This past Sunday marked two important annual events in the Western World: 1) Easter and 2) the official start of the grilling season at our house. It was not the first time I had grilled this year--I made burgers and brats once each as well as an ambitious warm-up of salmon grilled in grape leaves (a recipe from the Bible) the week before--but it was the first project substantial enough to ring in the beginning of what I hope will be my greatest season to date.
The decision of which type of meat to prepare for this Easter feast was simple--it could only be lamb. This is not a tradition in my family but it is in my wife's and I share their affection for this wonderful animal so I decided to get in touch with the roots I inherited through marriage. I had grilled lamb chops before and done a leg of lamb in the oven for Christmas Eve but grilling a leg of lamb requires the slow, even heat and gentle internal basting that only the rotisserie can provide. Being a dedicated charcoal man, this was a capability that my grill did not possess and adding it required a certain amount of improvisation. Some people modify their cars or electronics, I modify my grill. With a few jigsaw cuts, some drilling and a "universal" rotisserie kit I soon had a setup capable of the job at hand.
From there on it was all downhill. I applied generous amounts of butter, oil, pepper and oregano at every stage, diligently monitored the coals to ensure an even temperature and in an hour and a half I had about four pounds of crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside lamb. Everyone at the table helped themselves to thirds and fourths (the best compliment a cook can receive) and washed it down with some unusually good Austrian red wine (Rubin Carnuntum, who knew?).
I am quite excited about the new opportunities that my new rotisserie setup will allow. I dream of chickens and game hens that are never dry, giant stuffed rib roasts without the charred exterior, and a bit more lamb, naturally. There is a long summer ahead and I have much work to do. Feel free to come but be sure to bring wine.
April 14, 2004