Archive for July 2009

Unflattering Politician Photo of the Week

“Where’s She Going? I Dunno, Alaska” Edition

Sarah Palin

“See ya … wouldn’t wanna be ya!”

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is now just Sarah Plain and Tall, after leaving office this week for … well, no one’s really sure.

In her farewell speech, Palin said:

It is because I love Alaska this much that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics as usual, lame duck session in one’s last year in office. How does that benefit you? No, with this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right, for truth. And I have never felt like you need a title to do that.

So, it’s her duty to avoid her last year in office. She’s doing this to benefit us. And for once, I think she’s right.

Now, for someone who says she wants The Media to leave her alone, it would be kinda great if she just went away.

William Shatner attempts to make some sense of Sarah Palin’s farewell poem, … I mean speech.


Saturday Snack — Bison on a Stick

Tried this for a quick lunch today. It comes from Cooking Light and is South Beach Diet friendly. Grilled meat on a stick is always a good thing.


bison kebabs


bison kebabs


Unflattering Politician Photo of the Week

Facing His Waterloo Edition

Jim Demint in healthcare ad

If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”

Sen. Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, was caught in the accidental act of telling the truth this week, when he took an issue that affects all Americans — their access to affordable heathcare — and reduced it to an act of political one-upsmanship.

It seems Sen. DeMint doesn’t care whether or not President Obama’s plan will help address the problem of the uninsured or reform a system that rewards insurance companies and hospitals at the expense of doctors and patients. He just wants to stick it to the president, like the patriotic American he is.

Interesting stat I heard today: five out of six Americans have health insurance. And three out of four of those are satisfied (if not happy) with that health insurance. Some in Washington take this to mean that Americans don’t really care about healthcare reform.

Ya know the stat I’d like to see? I’d like to know how many Americans have a horror story — or, if not a horror story, a story of major inconvenience — about their experiences with their health insurance company? How many have waded through forms and phone calls, endured clerical errors, been denied a claim, etc., because or the vagaries of their health insurance provider?

Having lived in Scotland for a time, I just wish we could have a system like other civilized countries. You know – one where people don’t go bankrupt because they’ve been diagnosed with cancer or because their husband was hit by a motorcycle. Must be nice.

How the other half (and by “half” I mean “just about every other Western democracy”) lives.


Saturday Snack — Broken Glass Jello

I was looking for a sugar-free dessert to make for a baby shower, where the mom-to-be needs to watch her sugar intake. I thought about jello, since sugar-free jello is such a staple for South Beach Diet-ers. Plus jello has a kind of fun, 1950s vibe to it.

So I found this recipe for Broken Glass Jello at the ‘Ono Kine Grindz website, and swapped in sugar-free jello. It’s time-consuming but easy and very pretty.

Broken Glass Jello
4 3-ounce boxes of sugar-free JELL-O
1 12-ounce can of evaporated milk (NOT condensed milk if you want to keep it sugar-free)
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (like Knox brand)

Mix each of the packets of jello with one cup of boiling water and pour each into four separate 8 X 8 cake pans. Chill until set, at least four hours.

jello in pans

Cut each of the jello pans into cubes and mix in a 9 X 13 dish and set aside in the fridge.

jello cut into cubes

Mix the four envelopes of unflavored gelatin with one cup of boiling water. Dissolve completely. Strain and combine with evaporated milk. Allow to cool completely, then pour over the cubed jello in the 9 X 13 dish.

milk poured onto jello

Chill until set, at least four hours. Serve by cutting into pretty slices.

broken glass jello slice


Five Harry Potter Films, One Saturday

I’ve already finished my traditional re-reading of all the Harry Potter books, so on this rainy Saturday I thought I’d get myself in the proper frame of mind for this week’s premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by watching all five Harry Potter films in a 12-hour Potter-thon.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Story
Harry learns he’s a wizard and leaves his miserable life with the Dursley’s behind for the wonders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  He makes friends (Ron and Hermione) and enemies (Draco Malfoy and Professor Snape), and learns about his connection to Lord Voldemort, a wizard who “went as bad as you can go.”

While Voldemort may be gone, he’s not dead. Harry and his friends learn of the presence within Hogwarts of the Sorcerer’s Stone, a substance that grants eternal life. Voldemort — lacking a body of his own — possesses poor Professor Quirrel and plans to outwit the many magical obstacles guarding the stone.  Harry, Ron, and Hermione beat him to it, and in the end Harry Potter defeats Voldemort once more.

The Best Bit
Ron Weasley screws up an 11-year-old’s courage and sacrifices himself during an epic chess match so Harry can retrieve the Sorcerer’s Stone.

My Take
Director Chris Columbus sets the appropriate tone of child-like wonder in this first film. The look of the Harry Potter universe that he establishes — Hogwarts Castle, Diagon Alley — is fantastic fun, though it is marred a bit by some spectacularly bad special effects (the troll battle, the Quidditch match). The three stars are *sooo* ickle, and all very good.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

The Story
A visit from Dobby the House Elf makes life with the Dursley’s even more miserable, but no sooner does Harry finally make it back to Hogwarts then odd and scary things start happening. Harry hears threatening voices in the walls, ominous messages about the mysterious Chamber of Secrets appear written in blood, and students start turning up petrified.

Harry finds the diary of Tom Riddle, a former student who was at Hogwarts the last time the Chamber was opened.  When Ron’s sister Ginny is abducted, Harry and Ron go in search of the Chamber, where Harry confronts the memory of Tom Riddle, the boy who became Lord Voldemort. Riddle has been using Ginny to do his bidding; as Ginny grows weaker, Voldemort grows stronger. Harry defeats the monster in the Chamber, destroys the diary, saves Ginny, and again thwarts Voldemort’s attempts to return to his full strength.

The Best Bit
Harry takes on the basilisk with the sword of Griffyndor and is saved by Fawkes the phoenix after being pierced by the snake’s poisonous fangs.

My Take
This second installment — much like the three young stars — feels a little stuck between the child-like innocence of the first film and the darker themes and look of the later films.  Rupert Grint’s Ron starts to slide into hammy mugging, but Kenneth Branaugh as the inept and vain Professor Lockhart is inspired.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The Story
When Harry blows up his Aunt Marge and storms out of the Dursley’s house, his runaway routine alarms his friends, as there’s a dangerous murderer on the loose. The dementors of Azkaban are searching everywhere for the escaped Sirius Black, Harry Potter’s godfather and the man who betrayed his parents to Lord Voldemort.

After comforting Hagrid over the death of his hippogriff Buckbeak, Ron’s rat Scabbers escapes and Ron is attacked by a large dog and dragged under the Womping Willow. Harry and Hermione follow and discover that the dog is not a dog, but Sirius Black. What’s more, Ron’s rat is not a rat, but Peter Pettigrew, a friend of James Potter and Sirius Black who is soon revealed to be the true betrayer of Harry’s parents. With the help of new professor Remus Lupin, the group nearly succeed in clearing Black’s name, but Lupin turns into a werewolf and the dementors capture Black. It is up to Harry and Hermione to turn back time and save both Sirius and Buckbeak from a terrible fate.

The Best Bit
The whole mind-bending scene in the Shrieking Shack. Honorable mentions to the stormy Quidditch match … the encounter with the dementors on the Hogwarts Express …  the moment Harry first learns of Sirius Black’s betrayal.

My Take
The look is darker, less colorful. The actors are taller. The story much more mature and complicated. I was annoyed at the movie when I first saw it because the protagonists suddenly looked, well, cool. Chunky haircuts, hoodies: what the hell?! Turns out this is a minor quibble in what is otherwise an excellent bit of storytelling.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The Story
This year, Hogwarts is playing host to the Triwizard Tournament, an event that selects one Champion from each of three schools to compete in a series of magical contests. Though no one under the age of 17 is allowed to enter, Harry’s name is mysteriously called by the Goblet of Fire as the fourth Champion.

Harry makes it past the dragons and the merpeople, and enters the final task — a magical maze — tied for the lead. Cedric Diggory and Harry overcome many obstacles, grab the Twizard Cup together, and are whisked to a mysterious graveyard where Cedric is killed by Peter Pettigrew and Lord Voldemort returns to his full form.  Harry and Voldemort do battle, their wands linked together, until — aided by the remnants of his parents — Harry escapes back to Hogwarts.

The Best Bit
The return of Lord Voldemort and the battle in the graveyard. Honorable mention to the bit when Harry and a jealous Ron make up. The best special effect award goes to the scence where the dragon crawls across the castle roof.

My Take
Mike Newell of Four Wedings and a Funeral fame does a wonderful job mixing the first stirrings of young love with the darkest of tales. This is the movie that turns a corner — the first good character is killed and things will only get darker from here.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Story
When dementors show up in Little Winging, Harry saves his cousin Dudley from their clutches and is then whisked away from the Dursleys by members of the Order of the Phoenix who are organizing to fight Lord Voldemort. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Magic does not believe that Voldemort has returned. Even worse, they’ve planted the evil Professor Umbridge at Hogwarts. Since Umbridge refuses to teach them to defend themselves, Harry and his friends take matters into their own hands, forming “Dumbledore’s Army” with Harry as their leader and teacher.

Harry’s visions into the mind of Voldemort grow stronger until he sees Sirius being tortured by Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries. Members of Dumbledore’s Army deal with Professor Umbridge and escape to the Ministry, where they find the prophecy linking Harry to Lord Voldemort. But it’s a trap; Sirius isn’t there, but the Death Eaters are. The Order of the Phoenix turns up, and Siruis is killed. Dumbledore and Voldemort do battle, and the Ministry is finally forced to admit that Voldemort is back.

The Best Bit
When the prophecies in their glass spheres crash to the ground in the Department of Mysteries.

My Take
My favorite of the films so far, I love the 1930s modernist look of the Ministry of Magic and the moody, adolescent tone.

Whew! OK, now I think I’m ready. Bring onHalf-Blood Prince!