Monday, May 14, 2018

Balsamic Chicken with Capers


I've been experimenting with Mediterranean cooking and recently ordered The Mediterranean Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone. I love this book! Here's a healthy recipe I made last week and served with rice and a salad. It's really delicious and Hubby gave it two thumbs up. Did I mention that it's really easy to make? That's my favorite part. Enjoy!

Balsamic Chicken with Capers

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T Dijon Mustard
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I used 1 t garlic powder)
1 T chopped fresh rosemary (I used 1 t dried rosemary)
2 T drained capers, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper (I used 1 t of each)
4 pounds of bone-in chicken breasts, legs and thighs (I used 3 lbs of boneless, skinless thighs)

Spray the insert of a large slow cooke rwith non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, garlic, rosemary, capers, 1/2 t salt and pepper to taste. Dip the chicken pieces into the mixture, turning to coat on all sides. Place the chicken in the cooker and pour on any remaining sauce.

Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours, or until the chicken is very tender and coming away from the bone.  Serve hot.

Do you like Mediterranean food? Thanks for  visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Korla Pandit — Disguising Identity: From Black to Indian

http://www.nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/34_43/ae_korla.jpg
Korla Pandit
In searching the Internet for something interesting to blog about, I stumbled upon this fascinating celebrity named Korla Pandit. I'll start by saying before there was Liberace, there was Korla Pandit. Check out this captivating article by Andrew Hamlin from Northwest Asian Weekly
Two hands hold a large censer.  A voice speaks of wisdom and rubies.  A deep, slightly scraggly voice.  The action fades-in to a man in a turban with a jewel mounted between his eyes.  Fixing his eyes upon the camera, Korla Pandit begins his act.
And his act was the Hammond Organ, augmented with a Steinway piano to his right.  Playing mostly organ, occasionally piano, sometimes one with each hand, Pandit played for fifteen minutes on Los Angeles’ KTLA-TV from 1949 until 1951.  He did not rock and roll and he did not get down and dirty with the blues, but he flitted easily between all other types of music, playing popular tunes, show tunes, traditional, and ethnic music from around the world. He was one of the first television stars, but he never spoke on camera.  The narrator off-screen was someone else.
And Korla Pandit had reason to never speak.  Speaking might have given away his secret.
John Turner’s film “Korla” covers the organist’s life from start to finish, but not in that order.  He starts with the censer, the myth, the exotica (for Korla Pandit was a pioneer of “exotica”) and goes considerably into Pandit’s keyboard skills combined with his elegance and mystery, his easy way of wining over an audience.  Pandit’s work grew popular with folks who ironically were into tiki torches and vintage cocktails, folks who wanted to overlook rock and roll or step into a time machine and come out back before rock and roll first rolled.
But Pandit’s work, cheesy as it could get, transcended kitsch. He knew how to play to the camera and reach his audience through the camera, with his galvanizing eyes bolstered with the glinting jewel, the white of the turban combined with the milk chocolate of his skin.  He hammered down Hammond keys with the heel of his hand, his palms, and even his forearms. He took chestnuts such as “Over The Rainbow” and gave them fresh illumination with rapid runs, melancholy swells, double-time breaks, and piano intermezzos.
Pandit never admitted to anyone that he was not actually Indian—not from India or elsewhere.  He was not from the Far East or the Near East.  He was born John Roland Redd, in St. Louis in 1921.
The “exotic” persona came partially from his wife, a white lady Beryl June DeBeeson, and partially from a film the future Pandit’s sister appeared in—a film featuring a black man disguised as an Indian.  With a turban and a jewel.
And the fascinating, damnable thing was that passing for Indian worked wonders for him.  He was no longer a black man, but he was one of the first black men to have his own TV show.  His birth certificate lists him as “colored”; his death certificate asserts he was “white.”  His family appears to have gone along with his fake background, although his wife and older son have since died, and his younger son, for whatever reason, does not appear in the film.
He exploited the exotic background story for his own ends and to that extent must be deemed selfish.  But not solely selfish.  Many black people who could, passed for white.  And as Pandit/Redd demonstrated, passing as anything was preferable to being black.
He preached the universal language of music.  He was a fraud, but he was a spiritual optimist.  And as Carlos Santana remarks, he opened vortexes.  Anything seemed possible when he pressed the keys.  Any dimension, any identity.  Any form.  Any triumph.
I had never heard of Kora Pandit. Had you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 30, 2018

West Side Story: How it All Began


Yesterday, hubby took me to see what we thought would be a theatrical production of West Side Story. I've actually seen it onstage before, but I prefer the motion picture. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out what we'd be seeing was the movie with live orchestral accompaniment! There's a new technology that strips the music from the vocals of the film, so a live orchestra (in this case The Cincinnati Pops) can play the score. Needless to say, it was quite an enjoyable experience! But something I learned from our program was that West Side Story was originally conceived as East Side Story and the two conflicting sides were Catholics and Jews. I had to find out more, so here's what I discovered in Wikipedia:
In 1947, Jerome Robbins approached Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents about collaborating on a contemporary musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. He proposed that the plot focus on the conflict between an Irish Catholic family and a Jewish family living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, during the Easter–Passover season. The girl has survived the Holocaust and emigrated from Israel; the conflict was to be centered around anti-Semitism of the Catholic "Jets" towards the Jewish "Emeralds" (a name that made its way into the script as a reference). 
Eager to write his first musical, Laurents immediately agreed. Bernstein wanted to present the material in operatic form, but Robbins and Laurents resisted the suggestion. They described the project as "lyric theater", and Laurents wrote a first draft he called East Side Story. Only after he completed it did the group realize it was little more than a musicalization of themes that had already been covered in plays like Abie's Irish Rose. When he opted to drop out, the three men went their separate ways, and the piece was shelved for almost five years.
In 1955, theatrical producer Martin Gabel was working on a stage adaptation of the James M. Cain novel Serenade, about an opera singer who comes to the realization he is homosexual, and he invited Laurents to write the book. Laurents accepted and suggested Bernstein and Robbins join the creative team. Robbins felt if the three were going to join forces, they should return to East Side Story, and Bernstein agreed. Laurents, however, was committed to Gabel, who introduced him to the young composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim auditioned by playing the score for Saturday Night, his musical that was scheduled to open in the fall. Laurents liked the lyrics but was not impressed with the music. Sondheim did not care for Laurents' opinion. Serenade ultimately was shelved.
Laurents was soon hired to write the screenplay for a remake of the 1934 Greta Garbo film The Painted Veil for Ava Gardner. While in Hollywood, he contacted Bernstein, who was in town conducting at the Hollywood Bowl. The two met at The Beverly Hills Hotel, and the conversation turned to juvenile delinquent gangs, a fairly recent social phenomenon that had received major coverage on the front pages of the morning newspapers due to a Chicano turf war. Bernstein suggested they rework East Side Story and set it in Los Angeles, but Laurents felt he was more familiar with Puerto Rican immigrants and Harlem than he was with Mexican Americans and Olvera Street. 
The two contacted Robbins, who was enthusiastic about a musical with a Latin beat. He arrived in Hollywood to choreograph the dance sequences for The King and I, and he and Laurents began developing the musical while working on their respective projects, keeping in touch with Bernstein, who had returned to New York. When the producer of The Painted Veil replaced Gardner with Eleanor Parker and asked Laurents to revise his script with her in mind, he backed out of the film, freeing him to devote all his time to the stage musical.

And the rest is history! For more on the story, click here. Have you seen the movie version or a stage production of West Side Story? It's one of my favorite movies! Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Ava Gardner: Beauty Privilege

 I love old movies and reading about Hollywood's Golden Era. I lived in North Carolina for a number of years and regret that I never made it to Smithfield to visit the Ava Gardner Museum.

Although I admire her work, I'm not a huge Ava Gardner fan and I haven't seen too many of her movies, but there's certainly no doubt she was a superstar and a true beauty! Nowadays people talk about certain types of "privilege." Ava had what I'll refer to as beauty privilege. 

Wikipedia says: Gardner was visiting her sister Beatrice in New York in 1941 when Beatrice's husband Larry Tarr, a professional photographer, offered to take her portrait. He was so pleased with the results that he displayed the finished product in the front window of his Tarr Photography Studio on Fifth Avenue.


A Loews Theatres legal clerk, Barnard Duhan, spotted Gardner's photo in Tarr's studio. At the time, Duhan often posed as an MGM talent scout to meet girls, using the fact that MGM was a subsidiary of Loews. Duhan entered Tarr's and tried to get Gardner's number, but was rebuffed by the receptionist. Duhan made the offhand comment, "Somebody should send her info to MGM", and the Tarrs did so immediately. Shortly after, Gardner, who at the time was a student at Atlantic Christian College, traveled to New York to be interviewed at MGM's New York office by Al Altman, head of MGM's New York talent department.

With cameras rolling, he directed the 18-year-old to walk towards the camera, turn and walk away, then rearrange some flowers in a vase. He did not attempt to record her voice because her Southern accent made it almost impossible for him to understand her. Louis B. Mayer, head of the studio, however, sent a telegram to Altman: "She can't sing, she can't act, she can't talk, She's terrific!" She was offered a standard contract by MGM, and left school for Hollywood in 1941 with her sister Beatrice accompanying her. MGM's first order of business was to provide her with a speech coach, as her Carolina drawl was nearly incomprehensible to them.
There was certainly more to Ava Gardner than her sultry good looks, so to read more about her, click here.
Are you an Ava Gardner fan? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The History of the Avengers

My kids are looking forward to seeing Avengers: Infinity War and I am too! I've lost track of all the Avengers movies that have been released and I haven't seen them all, but I would like to better understand the history of the series.  Here's what I found at Desertnews.com:
In order to help get you started on your Avengers history, here is a brief introduction to the Avengers comics and some of the important changes that have taken place in the team over the past 50 years.
The Avengers were first assembled late in 1963. In the previous two decades, superhero comics had fallen out of favor with audiences, being replaced instead by Westerns, horror, sci-fi and World War II series (including one of particular significance to the Avengers titled “Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos”).

In 1960, though, rival publisher DC had found huge success with an all-star superhero group called “Justice League of America” — a book that featured the combined selling power of pre-World War II icons Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. The Fantastic Four and the Avengers were created as Marvel’s responses to DC’s superhero revival.
The original lineup of the Avengers, though, was a hodgepodge of recent characters co-created by the legendary duo of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (and in some cases, Lee’s brother, Larry Lieber).
Issue No. 1 might sound a little familiar to anyone who has seen the new movie. The disenfranchised Loki plots revenge on his brother Thor, but this time by tricking the hammer-wielding demigod into battling the Hulk. Thanks to the fortuitous appearances of Iron Man, Wasp and Ant-Man, Loki is defeated, and after the dust settles, the five heroes decide to band together and call themselves, at Wasp’s suggestion, “something colorful and dramatic, like … the Avengers!”

Notably absent in all of this, however, is the star-spangled super soldier himself. Although Captain America has become the heart and soul of the Avengers more than any other character, he didn’t actually make an appearance until issue No. 4, when the existing team (minus the Hulk, who had already left for PR reasons) found him trapped in a layer of ice.
Another Kirby creation (together with Joe Simon), Captain America’s origins date back to 1941 and the pre-Marvel days of Timely Comics. It’s hard to not see the symbolic significance of thawing out a relic of America’s more patriotic past (both Kirby and Lee were war veterans) so that he could lead Earth’s mightiest heroes at the height of the Cold War.
From the beginning, though, the Avengers team has been characterized by its rotating roster of heroes. In 1965, the original members were disbanded, leaving Captain America to start a new team with one particularly important new recruit: Clint Barton (aka “Hawkeye”).

In the years following, literally dozens of characters have cycled through the Avengers and its spinoff teams (including the West Coast Avengers and the Great Lakes Avengers). Everyone from Spider-Man and Spider-Woman to Wolverine and about seven different versions of the Hulk (including “Nerd Hulk”) have all at one time or another been major players in loosely related super groups.
Teams have been disbanded, killed off, sent to other dimensions and reassembled countless times.
One of the only heroes to ever turn down the offer of membership in the Avengers, in fact, is the man without fear himself, Daredevil.
If you’re looking for a decent place to hop onboard the speeding locomotive that is the Avengers, don’t worry. In the early 2000s, Marvel launched the Ultimate line of comics, which was intended to restart all of the major titles from scratch to attract new readership. The Utlimate comics also significantly alter many of the origin stories and characters to make them feel more modern.
One of the most successful updates has actually been to the character of Nick Fury. In an odd bit of life imitating art, the Ultimate version was actually modeled on Samuel L. Jackson before the actor was ever cast in any of the movies.
For those interested, many of the current movies, including “The Avengers,” are based to some extent on the Ultimate comics. Specifically, Joss Whedon’s film bears a noticeable resemblance to the first volume of the Ultimate version of the Avengers (simply called “The Ultimates”). Although its main story (in an homage to the original 1963 comic) involves a team brought together by Nick Fury to fight a rampaging Hulk, the heroes also encounter a race of shape-shifting aliens known as the Chitauri.
That's a lot of history and it's all new to me! Is any of it new to you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!