Friday, December 23, 2011

Childhood Stories: At The Movies

Earlier this week, Carlos and I were watching a new series on the Turner Classic Movies channel called TCM's Night at the Movies, with the first episode concentrating on Thrillers.

Other episodes - that have been aired, but we haven't seen yet - are entitled:
The Horrors of Stephen King (which I'm looking forward to)
The Gigantic World of Epics

The discussion of thrillers and movies reminded me of a couple of stories from my childhood.

When my sister Christine and I were kids, our parents thought that the movie theater was a great babysitter when they got tired of us and couldn't send us off to the local swimming pool.

Our mom would bring us to Lakeside Theatre, pick out a movie, and come back for us two hours later.

I remember one specific time our mom was trying to pick a movie for us to see, she saw the title The Boys from Brazil. Since she usually picked our movies by the titles - she rarely read about them beforehand - she remarked: "That sounds like a great adventure movie."

The plot to The Boys from Brazil: "In this thriller based on Ira Levin's novel, young Nazi seeker Barry Kohler (Steve Guttenberg) stumbles on the trail of the infamous "Angel of Death," Dr. Josef Mengele (Gregory Peck), who is planning to resurrect Hitler's vision in South America. But when Kohler shares this information with seasoned Nazi hunter Ezra Lieberman (Sir Laurence Olivier), Lieberman doesn't take the information seriously until he makes his own grim discovery."

I was 10 years old.

Lucky for us kids, we decided on another movie.


Growing up, our family didn't bother with the concept of movie start times. Whenever we were ready to see a movie, we would all pile into the car, buy tickets for the movie we wanted to see, and walk into the theater. 

More often than not, we were walking into the middle of the movie. No worries. We would stay until the end of the movie, wait during the break, see the movie from the beginning to the part that we had walked into - and then leave.

I didn't realize until I was in high school that movies were much more enjoyable in order.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Recipe: Potato Salad

This is the dish I am bring to Christmas Day dinner - the BEST Potato Salad I have ever eaten. I have made it a few times and gotten rave reviews each time.

The Best Potato Salad

The recipe is originally from All Recipes.


6 eggs
10 red potatoes
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/3 cup dill pickle relish
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup pepperoncini (optional)
1/4 cup sliced black olives (optional)

Place the eggs into a saucepan in a single layer and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Cover the saucepan and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 15 minutes. Pour out the hot water; cool the eggs under cold running water in the sink. Peel and chop the cooled eggs.

Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until cold. Peel and cube once cold.

Stir together the mayonnaise, ranch dressing, relish, mustard, salt, pepper, paprika, and celery seed in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs, potatoes, onion, pepperoncini, and olives; stir until evenly mixed. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

My Notes: 

I do not peal the potatoes, but leave the skins on.

I don't add the pepperoncini, but do add the black olives. Since I'm in New Orleans, I use Creole Mustard instead of Yellow Mustard.

Four Rooms; Four People

I haven't posted an update on my office goings on in awhile.

This past week, our office turned into a logic puzzle. First the set up...

Our office consists of four rooms.

Room 1: Monica
Room 2: Pat and I
Room 3: Keisa and our large (70 copies per minute) copy machine
Room 4: Storage and our lunch room

When we moved into our current office three years ago, I was in Room 3 by myself. That lasted about a week when I switched with Keisa because I didn't want to be in a room by myself.

Early last week, Pat requested that she and the copy machine be moved closer to each other. She is our Copy Coordinator and uses the copy machine the most. She is also our, uh, most senior employee - in her late 50's - and says that her feet sometimes hurt her. Plus, she has arthritis.

The obvious answer was to switch Keisa and Pat. Keisa didn't want to switch. She likes the solitude. Even though I'm the boss, I didn't feel it my place to force the move.

Our next solution was to move the copy machine closer to Pat's desk. We tried that for less than a day, but - because our building and electrical set up is from the 1930's - we kept blowing circuits.

Switching Pat with Monica was not an option. Monica's office has exactly one plug. See previous paragraph.

As we were having our third brainstorming meeting, I mentioned to everyone the puzzle about the fox, the goose and the bag of beans - and how our situation could be viewed as a logic puzzle.

After a few more moves, we ended up moving the copy machine and Pat into Room 4 - and are hoping the electrical set up supports our plan. I also advised Pat that she should keep her original desk in Room 2. I believe that she'll get "lonely" in Room 4 by herself. She's the type of person that needs to talk to someone all day long.

We'll see how this move evolves. For now, we have an office of four people in four rooms.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Paris Trip - The Details II

Continuing from this post...

On Monday, after another petit dejeuner, we walked down Boulevard Henry IV...

stopped in a park...

walked down to the Seine...

over Pont Sully...

and stopped at the Institut du Monde Arabe or Arab World Institute, per Jason's request. Unfortunately, the Institute was closed. Too bad: The architecture outside was cool...

We then headed to one of Carlos's requests: the Paris bookstore filled with English Language books - Shakespeare and Company. Yes, that is me in these pictures...

I bought the book The Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne, which seemed appropriate, making sure I had the clerk stamp my book.

On the way back to our hotel for a nap, we passed by Notre Dame again...

an old building (when Paris calls a building old, it's OLD)...

fantastic food on nearly every corner...

and a random carnival.

After our rest, we had our most traditionally French - and I think best - meal on our trip at a restaurant called Cafe Louis Philippe.

Their website (but in French)

Their Yelp entry

Their Foursquare entry

Our perspective...

And that was Monday (Day 4 of 9).

Video: "I Gave My Kids A Terrible Present"

I have never actually seen Jimmy Kimmel Live, but after the "I Told My Kids I Ate All Their Halloween Candy" video and this new one below - "I Gave My Kids A Terrible Present", I think I may have to start watching.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boycot Lowe's

From Entertainment Weekly's website:

Lowe's pulls ads from "All-American Muslim" after "ordinary" portrayal protested

A TLC reality show offering a positive portrayal of Muslim life has come under protest and at least one advertiser has pulled its support.

Hardware store giant Lowe’s has yanked ads from the series after the Florida Family Association encouraged members to email the program’s advertisers.

“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish,” the group said about the show, a docu-soap chronicling everyday Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan that debuted last month. “Clearly this program is attempting to manipulate Americans into ignoring the threat of jihad and to influence them to believe that being concerned about the jihad threat would somehow victimize these nice people in this show.”

The organization posted a letter allegedly from a Lowe’s representative agreeing to pull its ads: “While we continue to advertise on various cable networks, including TLC, there are certain programs that do not meet Lowe’s advertising guidelines, including the show you brought to our attention. Lowe’s will no longer be advertising on that program.”

Lowe’s then acknowledged and defended its decision on Twitter: “We did not pull our ads based solely on the complaints or emails of any one group. It is never our intent to alienate anyone. Lowe’s values diversity of thought in everyone, including our employees and prospective customers.”

Florida Family Association also suggested Home Depot and Sweet’n Low have been scared off, but emails posted from the companies say they only bought one ad each in the first place. All told, the organization claims its email campaign has convinced 65 companies to stop advertising with the show.

Now the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has weighed in and is calling on its membership to support the show — and to contact Lowe’s. “Sadly corporations, such as Lowe’s, have succumbed to the idiocracy of such garbage campaigns, which are orchestrated by groups and organizations which lack credibility, legitimacy, and are founded on the basic notions of bigotry and racism reminiscent of a shameful era in this country’s history,” said the organization in a statement.

A TLC spokesperson wouldn’t discuss the protest, but told EW: “We stand behind the show All American Muslim and we’re happy the show has strong advertising support.”


Here's a link to the story.

Here's a story about Lowe's sort of apology.


From Kal Penn's Twitter feed: “Our next movie: ‘Harold & Kumar Do Not Go To @Lowes. Please take a sec to sign & support an all-American show.”

Friday, December 02, 2011

Shuggie Otis

A few months ago, I was listening to WTUL and heard Shuggie Otis's song Strawberry Letter 23 for the first time in 30 years.

I heard the song again today and was planning on researching all the songs that sampled it.

Then I came across this video, which did all the work for me...

If you want to see for yourself, here is The Brothers Johnson cover version of the song...

Outkast's Ms. Jackson that samples the song...

And Beyonce's Be With You that samples the song and lyrics...

Paris Trip - The Details I

Carlos, Jason, Brandon and I spent seven days (plus a few travel days) in Paris, returning late night on Saturday, November 26.

If you want the 2:52 Short Attention Span Version of our Trip, click the video below.

If you want the details...

We left Friday morning, November 18 to catch a flight around noon. After a layover in Houston, we arrived in Paris around 8 am Saturday (November 19) morning. On the Paris flight over, I think I slept the most - and I slept only about 90 minutes.

Between finding an ATM, navigating the Metro, getting food and locating our hotel, we arrived around 11 am, tired and ready for some sleep. After checking into our hotel, we napped for about an hour and then went exploring....

Through a market a few blocks from our hotel...

Past the Bastille (now a traffic circle roundabout)...

To Notre Dame, where we spent a few hours, including eating freshly-made crepes and hanging out in the park behind Notre Dame ...

Through the outside of the Louvre and the surrounding area...

And that was Saturday (Day 2 of 9).


Sunday (November 20) we spent at the Louvre. The last time I was in Paris, I went to the Louvre, but in the six hours I was there, I was only able to see the Denon wing. This time - in our kind-of-rushed-eight-hour journey - we made it all the way through the Denon wing, through all of the Richelieu wing (including the Medieval Louvre, which I find fascinating) and through the majority of the Sully wing. I feel there is still so much that we didn't see that I could go back again. Next time.

Here are some pictures to help convey how large the museum is...

After 9+ hours at the Louvre, we decided to tackle walking down the entire distance of the Champs-Élysées...

(stopping in shops along the way) to the Arc de Triomphe - and then walking up these steps to the top!

The view made it worth the trip (and the leg cramps)...

And that was Sunday (Day 3 of 9).


I'll fill in more details, day by day, as I have time in the coming weeks.

Have you been to Paris? We're going back in 2013. Let me know your recommendations for places to go.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tourist In Your Own Town - 2011

For the 5th year in a row, Carlos and I spent a long weekend (the first weekend in October) playing tourist in the New Orleans French Quarter.

This year's theme was Live Music, though we ignored the theme once we arrived.

As we have the past three years, we stayed at my parent’s bed and breakfast. I keep lobbying for us to stay at a proper hotel as we did the first year, but Carlos likes the family aspect.

I live strolling through the French Market. Carlos loves taking the streetcar. We both love eating out and movies. 

I am definitely not a food writer and I have forgotten most of what we actually ate, but I do remember my general feeling about the food and the restaurant - so here's a description of our weekend guided by our food choices.
Friday Lunch
I had the Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo to see if it was better than what I cook. It wasn’t. We have traditionally started off our Tourist Weekend here, but I think we’ll find a new tradition. If I can cook gumbo better than a place called The Gumbo Shop, it's time for us to move on.

Friday Dinner
Better than we thought it would be. I think we pre-judged the place because it has changed names so many times over the years. The outside courtyard was packed, with everyone listening to the band. We ended up inside, which was sparsely filled. Very nice.
Saturday Breakfast
We arrived a little before 9 am. By 9:15, there was a serious line out the door – and limited seating. If you want to eat here, go early. Carlos, Jason, Brandon and I are going to Paris for a week for Thanksgiving. When I return, I'll re-judge this place against the best Patisseries in the world.

Saturday Lunch
Pie and Slice are my top two pizza places in the city, but Mona Lisa is a close third.

Saturday Dinner
Charbroiled Oysters: A+
Everything else in our meal: C-
Carlos had the Shrimp and Grits with Tasso. I had the Shuckee Duckee: "Blackened duck breast over linguini pasta with oysters and cream sauce". We both ate about 1/4 of our main dishes and later on tossing the To Go boxes. This is another Tourist Weekend tradition that we’re going to change next year.

Sunday Breakfast
A wonderful new tradition. The rating is for the El Gato Negro in the French Quarter, not the one on Harrison Avenue. I have heard that location is terrible.

Our Other Activities


Though I thought it would be more of a comedy. Carlos’s response: “It’s about a guy getting cancer. How funny did you think it would be?”

My thinking is a bit shallow, but I don't follow Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an actor because I don't think he's cute.

I have to respect his talent, however, because he's starred in some of my favorite movies:
Brick (still one of my all-time favorite movies - I sat Jason and Carlos through it one New Year's Eve a few years ago during our night of "Everyone bring the best movie/TV show right now you want to share".) I still agree with my decision.
Latter Days (one of the best ever gay-themed movies)
A huge selection of spices and teas. 

I bought:
Black Chocolate Tea (my favorite)

Plus the sales guy was cute.

This was Carlos's idea. We both museums. He saw the promotion for this exhibit during last year's trip.

Of course, we both lived through Katrina so it was very moving.We spent nearly three hours watching the videos and looking at the photos. It's definitely a must see!

I bought Purple, Green and Gold ornaments for two people on my Christmas list. This business has been around since the 1980's. With such a niche marketing idea, I don't understand how, but if you're in New Orleans - no matter what season - it's definitely worth the stop.


We also stopped at numerous art galleries on Royal Street. I'm always looking for wall art. But none of their wares struck me. Maybe next year.

We also spent a couple of hours perusing the French Market along Decatur Street - both on Saturday afternoon, before waiting for the Riverfront Streetcar to go to Drago's and then again Sunday morning after breakfast. I bought presents for my cousin Casie - I picked her name in this year's family gift giving - and my brother-in-law Jeff. Casie lives in Austin and Jeff lives in Atlanta. I bought them gifts to remind them of New Orleans.

By the time Carlos and I left Sunday afternoon, our stomachs were full and our wallets were empty.

I feel that's a great way to give back to my city.

New Orleans. Proud To Call It Home.

Carlos wants to move our Tourist Town weekends to the spring so we're going to skip October 2012 and have Tourist In Own Town VI in March 2013.

Stay tuned.