Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pasta & mustard greens

Whole-Wheat Rotini with Wilted Mustard Greens
January/February 2011

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“More mustard greens!” That’s what the VT staff asked for when they tasted the first version of this recipe. Now it’s an even better source of vitamins C and E. Shaved Parmesan provides tryptophan, and canola oil offers omega-3s.

1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add mustard greens, and blanch 3 minutes. Remove greens to colander with slotted spoon. Add rotini to 
water, and cook according to package directions.
2. Heat oil in large skillet or wok over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add greens, increase heat to medium, and cook 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Drain pasta, and reserve 1/4 cup cooking water. Stir pasta and reserved cooking water into mustard green mixture, and cook 2 to 3 minutes, or until sauce is hot and bubbly. Serve 1 cup pasta sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
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ingredient list
Serves 4
1 1/2 lb. mustard greens, trimmed and coarsely chopped (9 cups)
1/2 lb. whole-wheat rotini pasta
1/4 cup canola oil
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (4 tsp.)
1 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese, optional

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Black Swan:" A review

Continuing on our pre-Oscar film tour, a few evenings ago we saw Black Swan.To paraphrase someone who wrote a lot better than I ever will: it's a lot of sound & fury signifying very little. In other words, if you want to see a great ballet film, rent The Red Shoes. However before I say anything else it's really important to point out that Natalie Portman gives a magnificent performance as Nina the newly anointed prima ballerina of a New York ballet company, which is about to perform Swan Lake. (Portman's performance should compete neck-and-neck with Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone)

The plot of the film lies in ballet master Thomas Leroy's (Vincent Cassel) struggle to get the virginal introverted Nina (perfect for the White Swan) to come out of her shell and express the sexuality and dominance of the Black Swan. It seems to me that this confuses an actor or dancer's life experience with what they can perform. But the core of the film is the disintegration of Nina's personality. Unfortunately because you never meet her before her crisis ensues, it's very hard to relate to her and care about what happens to her. Sometimes it's hard to tell what's real and what's nightmare in Nina's life. I think most of them begin with a real moment which Nina then turns into a horror focused on herself. I would like to think that real people are far more complex than the stereotypical characters in this film. Perhaps the best way to conclude this review is to say: If you want to see All About Eve, rent it. It's about real people.

Image Credit: Niko Tavernise

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune": a review

I certainly wanted "Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune" to be allot better than it was. As my friend Judith Pasternack said "The material was better than the movie they made from it." But you have to say the music was wonderful and it was great to be immersed once again in the optimism of the 60s, even if only for 1 hr & 36 min. There's also no question that Phil could write a political song that energized people. "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" is truly one of the great anti-war songs. I think only someone without a soul could hear it and not want to march against the war, any war.

But I couldn't help but compare it with "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song." Whereas "The Power of Song" was such an up, "There But for Fortune" is the exact opposite. No matter how much the U.S. tried to destroy Pete, he survived, actually he prevailed. Not so for Phil who was ultimately another casualty of this society. But we don't really learn very much about the person behind Ochs the movement star. For example, Alice Skinner, his wife and Meegan, his daughter are in the film at the beginning and at the end, but their missing for all the rest. We never really learn what happened to his relationship with Alice (they stayed married but didn't live together) and toward the end of his life he did spend some time with Meegan, but they didn't have much of a relationship either. But we don't learn much of this from the movie. Again the comparison with Pete Seeger is striking. Some of the weakness of the movie in telling the story of Phil Ochs life, may have resulted from the fact that his brother, Michael, was an executive producer and may have tried to shape the view of his brother it showed.

In August 1971, he became close to Chilean folksinger Victor Jara. And Jara's public torture and murder after the anti-Allende coup seemed to have begun the slide which ended in his suicide in 1976 at age 36. His tragic end may have been over-determined. He, like his father, was manic-depressive and an incident in Tanzania, when he was "mugged and strangled resulting in the loss of the higher end of his vocal range" heightened his depression. And as the movie says, he organized the "end of war" rally in Central Park, but it depressed him rather than energizing him. After all, what was an anti-war singer/songwriter going to do when the war was over. Obviously, there could be many answers to that question, but for someone deep in depression perhaps there was only one.

Maybe Phil Ochs life can be summarized in his less than comradely relationship with Bob Dylan, who he idolized. He wanted to be the best songwriter of his generation until he met Dylan and then he wanted to be the second best. I think, perhaps, second best just wasn't good enough for Phil Ochs.

Friday, January 07, 2011

An era in NYC journalism comes to an end

With the firing of investigative reporter and editor Wayne Barrett and the resignation of Tom Robbins in solidarity, the the story of the Village Voice as the conscience of New York City journalism has come to an end. The death of the Voice began in 2006 when it merged with New Times Media. That merger was immediately followed by the firing of Washington correspondent James Ridgway (at which point two others resigned). Two years later Nat Hentoff was also fired, despite the 50-year tenure of his column. These are just the investigative reporters; many others in the arts coverage and behind the scenes were also dismissed.

I don't mean to downplay the Voice's faults even in those years, especially its homophobia in the aftermath of the Stonewall Rebellion. Nor do I mean to put it in a class with the Guardian Newsweekly (where I worked) or the Pacifica radio network both of which were/are clearly more to the Left politically. But The Voice played a unique role in New York City politics and those days are over. And that is worth our bitter regret.

Legendary Muckraking Reporter Wayne Barrett Laid Off from Village Voice