Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What'd I Say?

I just finished watching Ray, starring Jamie Foxx. The film chronicles the life and career of Ray Charles, the legendary piano player and jazz/blues/country singer. Charles went blind from glaucoma when he was about seven years old, but he overcame that obstacle, as well as many others, to forge a very successful career in show business. The movie tells the story of Charles' triumph over drug addiction as well.

I was dancing around my living room during some of the band scenes! I also especially loved the flashbacks to Charles' childhood, and how all of those scenes seemed to be shot in such bright contrasting colors - the red clay of the earth, the bright green of the grass, the multi-hued bottle trees. It made sense to me that, remembering, Charles would recall the world in such color.

Performances by Foxx, Kerry Washington (Della Charles), and Regina King (Margie Hendrix) were all especially notable. I've seen Regina King in several other films, and I've always thought she was one of the most talented actresses around. She proves it in this film.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New reviews and other news

I've recently posted new reviews to Amazon.com, including my thoughts on A Map of the World, Gangs of New York, and some other tidbits. You can read them here.

I have heard that Anthony Michael Hall will be a guest on the Bob and Bender Showgram on Y101 this week! Whoopee! You might not think it to look at me, but I am a HUGE Dead Zone fan. I've got that thing set on Tivo's Season Pass so that I never miss an episode! Sometimes, Johnny Smith has a habit of taking himself a little too seriously, but, most of the time, it's just indulgent fun. (I'm also a lover of The 4400. I don't watch too much sci-fi, but when I latch onto something, it's all over.)

I spent a few days down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast this week, and I had the chance to enjoy some new experiences, namely eating at Mary Mahoney's! Oddly enough, I'd never eaten there before. They served me some of the most delicious fried oyesters that I think I've ever had. Now, it's a little spendy, but it's worth every penny. The homemade tartar sauce is divine. When the time comes for dessert, they'll tell you that they are famous for their bread pudding. Pah. While the bread pudding is excellent, the dessert you want is the Mississippi Mud Pie. Service is fabulous, so tip well.

I stayed at the Beau Rivage while in the area, and I cannot say enough about the service at the property. We were waited on hand and foot. I was there for a conference, and the food was consistently sublime. In addition, the surroundings are absolutely beautiful. The only two complaints I have are: 1.) my mattress was as hard as a rock and 2.) they charged guests $15 per day to use the gym. (A gym fee is preposterous. Even low-service hotels often have complimentary gym services. It's becoming, not an amenity, but something that travelers expect. It's like charging guests for pool access. Sniff.) Anyway, other than that, I was a happy camper.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Vacation plans and other terrible ideas

I finalized most of the details for our upcoming trip to Phoenix, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon! Woo-hoo! All of the hotels are booked, the rental car is reserved, and I even booked us a Pink Jeep Tour for Sedona. (Pink Jeep Tours is probably the most prominent tour company in Sedona. I've booked their Broken Arrow Tour, which is supposed to be a best-seller. I'll let you know how it turns out!) I think I'll make a few dinner reservations at swanky restaurants and call it good. (I've had my eye on El Portal in Sedona.)

In Phoenix, we'll stay at the Legacy Golf Resort, which is a full-service resort and golf course right next to South Mountain Park. (I'm hoping to do some early morning hiking in the park.) In Sedona, we'll be staying at Los Abrigados Resort and Spa in a studio suite. This resort is actually fairly centrally located, so I hope it works out as far as atmosphere and cleanliness goes. At the Grand Canyon, we're booked in Yavapai Lodge. It's one of the lodges that is within the park, but not directly on the rim. (We hope to avoid the crowds that way.) Also, the room we booked was recently renovated, so we feel like we'll be getting a great room for the money.

Ok, so I haven't even BEEN on the trip I've already planned, and I've already hatched a terrible, evil idea for what I'd like to do next. Because of my job, I won't be able to vacation again until next fall. That's also around the time that hubby and I think we might want to start our family. Well, wouldn't it be fabulous to do one last, huge, hurrah before I get pregnant and resign myself to the selfless life of motherhood? I haven't made any firm decisions, but this could be big. VERY big. Halfway around the world big. I've been lucky enough to visit most of the places I dreamed about in high school - Paris, London, Ediburgh, Madrid, the Carribbean, Mexico, Hawaii. I even made it back to my father's homeland in Lebanon. I only have one last must-see destination on my list . . .

Next fall would also be just before I turn the big 3-0, so I think that a big adventure would be rather symbolic in other ways. The last jaunt of my twenties. (And perhaps my last jaunt in quite a while. Children have a way of sucking up disposable income.) Anyway, I'll keep you posted.

Not all who wander are lost . . .

The Forgotten is, well, kinda forgettable.

Hubby and I watched The Forgotten, with Julianne Moore, over the weekend. I know that it was poorly received critically, and I have no idea what this film's numbers were at the box office. I really can't honestly reccommend this movie, so I suppose I don't have much new information to report! The movie was good enough, I guess, but the premise was so fantastical that I had a hard time staying engaged. And the ending was even more improbable. I tend to stay with plots that are unbelieveable more in adventure-type stories than in sci-fi plots. (Not sure why; just a quirk, I guess.)

Anyway, despite all of the above, Julianne Moore did her best to turn in a good performance. She dealt with the far-fetched plot as well as any actor could. I will never forget the first time I really noticed that Julianne Moore could act. (And I mean, really act.) I was a theatre student at Millsaps College. We were in a small, blue room (with crummy acoustics) for an acting class one afternoon. The professor rolled out a television on a cart and started playing Vanya on 42nd Street, directed by Louis Malle. The production was adapted by David Mamet (a playwright I LOVE), based on Chekhov's Uncle Vanya. The show was rather improbably cast, but all the performances in it were absolutely enthralling. If you have not seen this treatment of Uncle Vanya, I urge you to rent it, buy it, or do whatever you have to do to see it. Talk about acting. I don't think I really understood what acting was until I saw this. As far as performances go, it was a tour de force. Brooke Smith was heartbreaking, just heartbreaking, as Sonya.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Back to school

I had a meeting over at the Smith Robertson Museum on Wednesday. (The museum is housed in the final site of the first public school built for African-American students in Jackson.) What a treasure! I had been there a few years ago, and I remember noticing that parts of the facility were closed and/or in disrepair. Well, the staff of the museum (and its generous donors) have made a huge renovation possible. The facility is now freshly updated, and practically every room of the building is open to the public.

The museum has wonderful handmade quilts on display, as well as artifacts from the school itself and work by local African-American artists. I noticed some beautiful black and white photographs by Roland Freeman as well as several large, colorful pieces in a light-filled atrium. On the upper floor, artifact displays depict African-American life, including period clothing and furniture. The museum also has a fabulous gift shop featuring African-inspired pieces, including baskets, vases, wall hangings, and more. (Note: prices in the gift shop are extremely reasonable. Please budget for the "must-have" syndrome that will overtake you when you walk into the gift shop.)

The museum, which is owned by the City of Jackson, is open every day of the week. Admission is $4 for adults, with discounts for children and seniors. For additional information, call the museum at 601-960-1457.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Restaurants, and books, and movies! Oh my!

Lots to report this time! I just finished reading The Orchid Thief (at last) by Susan Orlean. Orlean is a journalist, and the novel definitely reads like a journalist wrote it. First of all, there is no real plot line. This is not a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Rather, it reads like a feature story: an in-depth look at Florida and its history, the society of orchid collectors and hunters, and Orlean's own experiences with John Laroche, the orchid thief of the book's title. (The book was actually born out of a story that Orlean wrote for The New Yorker.)

While it can be a bit slow at times, the book offers fascinating insight into several microcosms of Florida. Orlean explores the history of land scheming in the state, the treatment of the Seminole Indians, and the smuggling of plants and animals that occurs in Florida. She also invites the reader to join her in the high-stakes world of orchid collecting, in which one plant might fetch thousands of dollars. Orlean continually refers back to the passion of orchid collectors, characterizing their affinity for the plants as a type of mania. It was interesting to me, though, that Orlean herself experiences a similar mania - that of reporting. About half way through the book, I noticed that Orlean had gone to ALOT of trouble to write The Orchid Thief. She'd moved down to her parents house in Florida. She was driving all over the state of Florida to plant shows, orchid businesses, growers' fairs, etc. She was slogging through the Florida swamp in increasingly hot and buggy weather. She was spending copious amounts of time with John Laroche, a sometimes-irritating personality at best. It was interesting to me that she herself possessed a kind of mania, but that her mania (reporting/her job) is one that's much more acceptable to society. In other words, if you are in love with your job, fine. But if it's flowers you like, well, you're a little off kilter.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and I do recommend it. It can be a little slow in places, but it's worth forging ahead.

Next up - I had a fabulous dinner at a new restaurant in Ridgeland called Trio's. It's a great new Mediterranean-inspired place on Old Canton Road. For starters, we had the kaftedes, and they were definitely authentic. (Kafta is gound beef mixed with parsley, onions, and spices; it can be grilled or baked.) The only thing about the kaftedes that I didn't recognize was the sauce (we always served ours plain), but it was delicious. The Greek salad, which comes with most entrees, is wonderful at Trio's. They serve it with olives, feta cheese, and a fabulous house dressing. My entree, the scallops, was wonderful. I had requested it with an herbed beurre blanc sauce, but they forgot to put it on the plate. The scallops were so good on their own, though, that I didn't even remind them about the sauce! I chose potatoes au gratin as my side dish, and I later wished I'd picked something else. For dessert, we chose a very dense, very chocolatey brownie with whipped cream and strawberry sauce. All in all, it was a wonderful meal. The service was also impeccable. I noticed, as well, that the restaurant seems to have an inventive cocktail menu, and the patrons I observed at the bar were definitely enjoying themselves!

Lastly, I saw Mona Lisa Smile over the weekend. For the most part, I thought it was a pretty good movie. There were some things that really bothered me in it, though. For example, Betty (Kirsten Dunst) spends the whole movie hating Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts). Then, all of a sudden, at the end, she decides she absolutely LOVES her. It made no sense. The movie features an impressive cast of young female stars. Gennifer Goodwin as Connie was particularly convincing and lovable. I saw her performance in Win a Date with Tad Hamilton, and I think she's star material. All of the stars look GREAT in this movie; the makeup and hair was beautifully done. Some of the shots of the college campus are also gorgeous as well. This is a fun little chick flick. I don't think it would be on the top of my list, but it's a good movie for a night in with the girls.