Saturday, August 25, 2007

Feeling Down? Want Good Looking Skin? Have A Ramen Curry Bath!

Link from Japan Probe
The bath, shaped like a ramen bowl, contains pepper-flavored water colored a light, milky brown, to like tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen soup. The special bath was created jointly by the theme park and a famous ramen shop, Nantsuttei in Hadano, Kanagawa Prefecture.

The bath was completed at the unveiling event, with the owner of Nantsuttei adding “noodles” made of bathwater additives into the tub.

The water contains collagen and garlic extracts, and theme park officials claim it can help produce beautiful skin and aid moisture retention.

“The aroma of pepper is said to have the effects of refreshing your mind, warming your burned-out heart and inflaming your passion,” explained a statement by spa complex Hakone Kowakien Yunessun in Hakone, one of Japan’s most popular hot spring resorts.

Ramen lovers in bathing suits turned into ingredients in the broth, jumping into the three tubs shaped like ramen bowls underneath noodle decorations hanging over their heads.

There is a Youtube video too, link

There are also green tea, coffee and red wine themed baths, I would not mind trying these just for the heck of it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

This Blog Is Dying...
Just a metaphor for me being very busy at work and not being able to post or visit very many blogs.

So while I still have a few readers left would like to say this blog will not have regular posts for sometime. I really don't know when I will get enough time to write, and by the time I do I may not have anyone reading.

Mais c'est la vie..

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Tender Bar: A Memoir.. Not A Review

The Tender Bar: A Memoir by J.R. Moehringer (Paperback - Aug 1, 2006)
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English

One may not have to be familiar with the custom of going out to a bar as a part of one’s social activity, or even be a guy to read and enjoy J.R. Moehringer’s memoir “The Tender Bar”, the coming of age story of a boy who grows up without his biological father, is never quite able to escape his shadow for the longest time. Absent though he is. He is still omnipresent, seared into J.R.’s memory as a disembodied voice on the radio (he is a disc jockey). This is a funny, sad, engaging, endearing and a poignant read of a hard to tell story that resonates with humanity.

In the absence of his father the bar (where J.R.’s uncle Charlie works) and men who inhabit that bar play a big role in his life. We get to meet a rich, colorful and a quirky cast of characters including his extended family living in his grandfather’s dilapidated house, and the denizens of “the bar” formerly known as “Dickens” and then “Publicans”. They are also mostly men, who assume a larger than life significance for the boy as he is growing up becoming a composite role model of a missing father. The normal rituals, ballgames, going to the beach and more happen for the author under the tutelage of these men. And acceptance does not come easy initially especially as a kid. He is there, acknowledged but ignored until one day he helps the men out with a word puzzle and everything changes.

Eventually J.R. moves to Arizona (with his mother) and then goes to college, and works at the New York Times, the bar remains a motif and a central character in his life as he comes back to it a number of times. Yes it almost has a life of its own and the author has done a great job describing the place and the characters, and I could feel it coming alive as I read it. I could visualize and even smell the place (or maybe I have been to too many bars).

Publicans becomes a refuge for him at different points in his life (stints at the Home Fashions section at Lord & Taylors after finishing Yale, the seemingly dead end job of a copyboy at the New York Times with only a slim chance to become a reporter) and at times of heartbreak. The issue of alcohol abuse lurks in the background without quite being mentioned, but this worked fine at least for me, most readers will notice at times as the author almost seems to spiral down into it. He walks away from it though.

“Deciding to quit drinking was the easiest thing I ever did. Describing how I did it, and why, and whether or not I will drink again, is much harder.”

A quote simple as it is has a lot of meaning to it.

J.R.’s relationship with his mother (like the rest of the book) is handled in a very even handed manner without being too sentimental. Her desire that he go to Yale or Harvard resonated with me as did a lot of other parts of this excellent memoir.

J.R.’s struggles at Yale and his desire and attempts to fit in or not standout in a milieu that seemed populated by the kids of well off parents lead to a number of gaffes and sad/funny situations (he runs a laundering service for his fellow students for some extra money on the side). The book is full of great anecdotes and repartees that will have you smiling and/or shaking your head. Though this book is that, one cannot escape the underlying strands of loneliness (for some) and the realities of life both inside and outside the bar.

Reading about the experiences of J.R. as he works in a bookstore in Arizona, with two eccentric guys who manage the place was one of the most appealing parts of the book for me. His initial love of books that was restricted to his grandfather’s collection in the basement of his house, flowers while working with Bill (chain smokes but never uses an ashtray) and Bud (when excited sniffs his fist) as a teen. It reminded me of how my own love of reading began as a kid, often from the generosity of neighbors who lent me books especially during the slow summer vacations.

And although I did say this book was not overtly sentimental I was moved by many parts of it, especially after J.R. visits Manhasset (which lost almost 50 people following the WTC attacks on 9/11). It is towards the end of the book that the events of that day bring a newer reality in all its nakedness to the bar and those that inhabit it’s world.

“The tender bar” appealed to me for another more personal reason. The author J.R. went to school at Yale University in New Haven, CT. I called this small city home for almost a decade and it holds fond memories for me. J.R. talks about his time at Yale and his time in New Haven which includes memories that center around the lovely campus of Yale and streets and other places in the city. I found myself revisiting some of them as I read this memoir.

I was a bit unsure at the onset if I would really enjoy this book, but I am so glad that I read it. This book to me is about dreaming about dreams that almost seem out of reach and persisting despite the numerous knocks and follies encountered along the way. To use a well worn cliché it is often about the journey and not the destination, which is what “Tender Bar” reminded me of.

And I am glad despite all the struggles things have worked out well for Moehringer. He won the Pulitzer in 2000 for feature writing and was a finalist for his article "Resurrecting the Champ," which originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. The article talked about his attempts to track down former boxing champ "Battlin'" Bob Satterfield and is now a movie “Resurrecting the champ” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Josh Hartnett.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Jindabyne (Not A Review)

Update: I am taking a bit of a break being summer and all, be back soon. I will visit your blogs though. Take care and enjoy the rest of the summer.

Jindabyne, is the rather unusual name of a movie that I saw a couple of weeks back at TheatreN in Wlimington, DE. I was drawn to this movie for two reasons, I love watching independent cinema and I saw the trailer of this movie while watching the lovely French comedy “The Valet” and was intrigued by the story and the mystery that it seemed to convey “The place has a magical/supernatural hold on the 4 male protagonists” the voice over declared. This film was also directed by Ray Lawrence who was also responsible for the excellent Lantana.

Jindabyne ( 36°24′S, 148°37′E) is a town in New South Wales, Australia that overlooks Lake Jindabyne near the Snowy Mountains, in Snowy River Shire. It is a popular holiday resort, especially in winter, due to its proximity to ski resorts in the Kosciuszko National Park, including Thredbo and Perisher Blue.

It is in this town and the region it is in that this film’s story unfolds. The movie begins with a local tradesman sitting behind some rocks off of a desolate road in his truck scanning the road for his prey and she is coming up the road. Cutting back to the town we get to know these 4 working class guys Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) Carl (John Howard), Rocco (Stelios Yiakmis) and Billy (Simon Stone) and their families including Stewart’s wife Claire (Laura Linney), Carl’s wife Jude (Deborra-Lee Furness) as they get ready for their annual fishing trip into the isolated high country. It is this trip and their discovery on it that will alter their lives and those of their loved ones that constitute the central theme of this movie which is based on a short story by Raymond Carver.

The four fishing buddies find the bound and abused body of an Aboriginal woman in the river and rather than make the trek back to where they left their vehicle and report the find as it is late, they decide to spend the next day fishing. It is not just the fact that they don’t report this crime, but Stewart wades in to the water and tethers the victim to the bank with his fishing rope around her ankles as they are worried the body might get washed downstream and in the falls.

Done with their fishing and pictures with their catch they head back and inform the police.

Stewart gets into bed with Claire and for a moment we think as if he is going to tell her about what happened but instead we see him just sleep, he seems untroubled by what has happened as are his friends.

Claire find out what happened next morning when a police detective stops by to ask Stewart a few questions and she is justifiably livid that he never bothered to tell her even as he grabbed her breast and kissed her as he got into bed. We see similar reactions from the wives/girlfriends of the remaining guys. The difference being Claire single handedly (along with her son) in an attempt to make amends raises money from the people in the town for the poor family to pay for the girls funeral, the rest of the parties involved just seem to want to move on although they seem sorry about their thoughtless act.

Their callous act is soon nationwide news as their pictures get plastered across the newspapers and on television and they become targets of scorn from the townsfolk. But it is not that simple, especially when the victim is a young Aborigine, especially a woman. The state of the indigenous people of Australia has been well documented (link 1, 2) and it is not a surprise that this is a factor in the response to the crime which the viewer will see take the form of callous comments from some of the citizenry and the investigating officers. Some of the outrage from the indigenous community takes the form of attacks and vandalism against the four fishing buddies.

Claire incensed at this whole sorry affair resolves to get to the bottom of it and it drives things to the point where it creates a rift between the families and Stewart, where she finally decides to leave him and attend the victim’s funeral despite her past attempts to reach out to them being rebuffed.

Things come to a head at the funeral. will Claire’s attempt to make amends be welcomed? What about Stewart? Will he be able to stop the slow downward spiral his life threatens to take? What about the rest of his friends? What about the killer who is a part of the community?

These will be answered if any of you are curious enough to see the movie. Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney are brilliant, especially Laura Linney whose portrayal of a woman whose faith in her husband and marriage are shaken to its foundations stands out. The rest of the cast is great too and these characters (even the relatively minor players) are not cardboard cutouts but richly created in all their strengths and foibles, and this may have contributed to making the movie a bit long, but it also made for a more rewarding experience from my point of view. I loved the region in which the movie has been filmed and it was a treat to watch.

I liked the movie and if you have a couple of hours free to catch this one in the theater or on DVD then do try to catch it. It received a 65% freshness rating at rotten tomatoes. As per them

Rotten Tomatoes awards the Certified Fresh accolade to theater releases reviewed by 40 or more Approved Tomatometer Critics (including 5 critics from the Cream of the Crop) that score at least 75% or higher on the Tomatometer. A film remains Certified Fresh unless its Tomatometer falls below 60%. Reserved for the best-reviewed films, the Certified Fresh accolade constitutes a seal of approval, synonymous with quality
So make what you will about that and my “Not a review”.

Having seen both Jindaybye and Lantana, I have to say that the latter was a much better movie and far more engrossing, but then again it was a different movie. This is a movie that will haunt you for a while after you finish watching it. It is a movie about the rituals (ancient and/or modern) that constitute the rhythms of a community and explores the effects of love, grief and loss upon it’s members and the community as a whole.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Don't have a lot to say..

What a fine man eh? link

Bush Insults BBC Political Editor at Press Conference

By E&P StaffPublished: August 01, 2007 10:50 AM ET
NEW YORK At a recent press conference at Camp David, President George Bush insulted BBC political editor Nick Robinson, the Daily Mirror reports.

Robinson, who has asked Bush pointed questions in the past such as whether the president was “in denial” over the Iraq war, posed a question to Bush about whether he could trust visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown not to “cut and run” from Iraq.

Bush replied with a dismissal: “Are you still hanging around?”

Later on, Bush poked fun at the bare-pate of Robinson, joking, “You’d better cover up your bald head, it’s getting hot out.”

The respected British reporter shot back, “I didn’t know you cared.”

Bush responded with a cool, “I don’t.” The Mirror reports that Bush then “snorted disdainfully” and “walked away to laughter.”

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