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Monday, September 22, 2014

Documentary Review: Earthling

2005 Documentary, Earthling is narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and centers on the ethics of using animals...for...well...pretty much any reason.

It divides up topics such as: Pets (covering puppy mills, strays, shelters, spay and neutering, euthanasia), Food (all aspects of commercial production from breeding, to raising, transporting, and slaughtering), Clothing (leather and fur trades), Entertainment (bullfighting, fighting of dogs/cocks, rodeos, animal racing, hunting, zoos, circuses and even the implication of riding horses), Science (product testing, disease testing, experimentation, military research).

The documentary is producted by the National Earth Organization and images have been provided by PETA, LCA, HSUS, SHAC, HFA, Farm Sanctuary, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Greenpeace, and NASA (and probably others).

I believe the documentary is aimed to trigger every emotional response a person can have, and they aid this with dramatic music and some of the most graphic images I've ever seen in my life.

Many would call this documentary completely extremist, and that might be accurate.  I'm sure many found fault with it as showing only the worst of the worst, and not what is common practice.  That may be true also.  Their facts and figures and assessments about the environmental impact may not be accurate.  I'm sure there is a defense both for and against every aspect of this documentary and it is probably an exceedingly controversial one.  Without coming out and saying it explicitly, the only conclusion one could come away with is that there is NO VALID REASON TO USE AN ANIMAL IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM.  They didn't say you couldn't have a pet...but almost.  I think it might be seen as exploitive, and certainly suspect if you paid for the animal and in-so-doing, supported commercial gain from animals.

I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater quite so easily.  Although I wanted to.  I wanted to turn it off several times. I nearly threw up, and I DID cry.

Even if the practices depicted are NOT the norm, none of them should happen, ever.  If we are to utilize animals, there must be better ways.

Even if the figures of environmental impact are skewed...there must be negative impact that should be addressed.  How is a whole other story.

I'm not here to argue for or against the premise.  Just know that this is one of the most graphic films I have ever seen.  And it's real footage, not Hollywood-slasher-make-believe.  It is not for the feint of heart...by any means.  So be forewarned.  For SURE not for kids...probably not for most adults.  And yet...to look away, I told myself, is to be in denial and to sanitize what I am participating in by being a meat eater and animal product user, and animal user in most every shape and form.  I need to be aware and conscious of my choices with my eyes open.  If I saw this film every day, I would be vegan and probably on psych meds.  I will no doubt, have nightmares.  I almost couldn't eat dinner...and it just had cheese in it.

Even if it is extremist....there are very valid points to consider.  We are participating in some pretty horrific stuff through our purchase and consumption choices and our decisions to look away because it is hard and painful.

Did it turn me into banner waving extremist?  Hardly.  But I will ponder what my choices mean and their cost.  I do believe that all living things are sentient in some way...and that even to eat plants has a cost somewhere.  The choices are very personal and for me the issue is about pondering if I have the right to dominate ANY being for my gain...and where will I draw the line in order to survive...cuz a person has to eat something.

I will say it makes you think.  It's not a pleasant process at all, but provocative.  There are parallels made between our use of animals and Nazi Germany...racism, sexism and the broader issue of speciesism.

...and yeah...not so interested in hearing arguments about how the Bible says we will have dominion over all the plants and animals...don't go there.  Don't flip out pat answers ESPECIALLY if you are commenting without seeing the documentary.  If you are brave enough to go there...I would love to hear your reactions after you have sat with it a bit and let the ideas gel.  Yes there is an obvious "agenda" and "slant", but sift through to the heart of it and let it speak without disregarding extremism outright.  What are the ideas that spoke to your heart, no matter what your position is or has been on the use of animals.

I'm not espousing any specific way of being.  I'm processing.  My relationship to living beings is a process I will more than likely struggle with and adjust my actions to for the remainder of my life.  Cuz, yeah...I'm the one that posted a meatball recipe yesterday.

Also, no inflammatory ranting in this space.  Think through your responses AFTER you watch the documentary and be respectful.  Everyone is on a different place in their own life paths.  I rented the DVD from Netflix but you can watch the documentary in its entirety via YouTube.  I skipped the deleted scenes because I could barely handle what was there as it was.  But I stood witness to it.  Time will tell how more awareness will shape action...or if it does.  I hope it does.  The issues are complex.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.  Be aware that even this trailer is extremely graphic in nature.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Recipe: Authentic Swedish Meatballs

When we were in Sweden, we became aware that Swedish meatballs are a traditional food.  We had them once at an upscale restaurant in Stockholm, and we had them twice in a local IKEA store.  Both were very similar...except one was super expensive, and the other was super inexpensive.

When I got home, I thought it would be fun to try to make them.  It appeared most common for them to be served with mashed potatoes, Lingonberry sauce and a thinly sliced cucumber salad.  Potatoes are served along side the meatballs and gravy rather than being served over them.




This is a photo I took in Stockholm of the expensive plate we had.  Well over $25 U.S. I think.  It tasted good, but I was left not at all full!











...and this is a photo of the place of meatballs I got at IKEA in Linkoping, Sweden.  It probably cost around $10 U.S.  Sure, the presentation is a bit sloppy, but I'm not fussy...I would rather have more good food for a good price.  And honestly, I could not tell a difference in flavor between the two.

We didn't get around to having them or making them with our host family but when I got home I found a recipe that claims to be authentic from some Swedish grandmother and "as good as IKEA".

First I'll show you the recipe, then my process photos, and then my conclusion comments.  This is the link where I found the recipe.  Giving credit where credit is due.

Swedish Meatballs
 

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ pound lean ground pork
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (3 slices)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Gravy (for a whole batch; reduce amounts if cooking fewer meatballs)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken or beef broth
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Combine all meatball ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with paddle attachment until very smooth. Alternatively, mix by hand until smooth.
  2. Form into about 40 1-inch balls and arrange on waxed paper-lined baking tray. Chill 30 minutes. (Or freeze until solid, then pack into airtight containers to save for another meal. Do not thaw before cooking; add an extra 5-10 minutes cook time.)
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high in a large skillet and fry half the meatballs, turning frequently, until browned. They should not be cooked through at this point. Remove.
  4. Add remaining butter and cook rest of meatballs the same way. Remove.
  5. Add flour to skillet and whisk to cook until toasted.
  6. Whisk in stock until smooth.
  7. Add meatballs back to skillet and stir gently to coat in gravy. Simmer 10-15 minutes until thickened and meatballs are cooked through.
  8. Turn heat to low and gently stir in cream.
  9. Serve over egg noodles, mashed potatoes or rice.
Hmmmm, so as always...the question is...where did I cut corners and what did I do differently?

Holy crap...I did a lot of things differently.  No wonder nothing ever turns out right?

  • I used one l lb beef and 1 lb pork..what the heck am I going to do with a half lb of ground left over pork?
  • I didn't use fresh breadcrumbs.  I used pkg'd breadcrumbs.
  • I didn't feel like buying whole milk just for a 1/2 cup, so I used 2% I had on hand
  • I didn't feel like cutting 1/4 cup of onion OR the garlic...so I looked up the equivalents for dehydrated minced onion AND the equivalent for garlic powder.  Sue me...it had been a trying week so far!
  • I didn't put cream in the gravy because again...I didn't feel like buying it for such a small amount.  I also have a budget to watch, ya know?  So the liquid was all beef broth.
  • My food processor is a panty-waist weakling and it doesn't process meat...even ground meat.  I need a new one.  And I don't have a stand mixer.  So I put all of the meatball ingredients together and worked it with my hands.  BTW, making tiny bite-sized meatballs is tedious and not nearly as fun as you might imagine.



Here is the basic gist:  Mix and form the meatballs and then chill them.  Brown them in a pan while you boil potatoes (or noodles, or rice).  Make the sauce in the same pan and return the meatballs to the pan to simmer, while you mash your potatoes.

Oh...and...that's not MY hairy arm, that's Baboo's.  Or that's my story and I'm sticking to it.




Ready to serve.  We froze leftovers.














MY presentation :-)

So...hmmm, my conclusions?  I don't like the work of making meatballs.  I like the bitesized ones and not big ones that I have to cut, but I would much rather someone else make them.  Once THAT is done, the rest is pretty easy.

To me, they tasted pretty much like meatloaf, so I was thinking that meatloaf would be WAY easier to make.

I would say that the smooth processing of the meat would be a good idea...and since I don't want to waste or figure out what to do with that extra half lb of ground pork, if I do it again I will double it and then the meat ratio will be more accurate.  But I think the meat should be processed very smooth.  With a good food processor, all of it would have mixed up smooth in a snap.  My friend Janet in Sweden tells me they add cream to the meatball mix and that next time she is in the U.S., we will have a cooking class on Swedish meatballs.

Hubby liked it, but he loves meatloaf, and Salsberry steak and this is in that neighborhood.  So I'm undecided if this will happen again.  Hubby helped...if he makes the meatballs...maybe.

Janet, when you read this...how would you like to contribute a post with your recipe and process and photos?  A guest spot from Sweden!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Television Series Review: Witches of East End (Lifetime Television and Netflix)

We recently watched the first season of Witches of East End (2013) on Netflix.  It was originally aired on Lifetime Network.  Season two is not yet available on Netflix and aired on Lifetime this summer (2014).

The series is based on a book series by Melissa de la Cruz and centers on a family of 4 female witches; two sisters and two sisters...or a Mom (played by Julia Ormond of Legends of the Fall fame), her sister and her two daughters.

In season one, the younger daughters find out that Mom has kept a secret about them being witches.  And, of course their are curses and shape shifters and double crosses and spells aplenty.

We enjoyed the series and are looking forward to hopefully seeing season 2 on Netflix in the near future.  At the writing of this post, it is uncertain or as yet undecided by Lifetime if the series will be brought back for a third season.

I will say in term of criticism, that some of the acting is corny and not believable (well, as much as you would want to believe a story about a family of witches, I guess).  I grew weary of the character Freya Beauchamp played by Jenna Dewan Tatum (who happens to be married to Channing Tatum).  While beautiful, to me she is the weakest actress and they gave her way too much air time making-out and showing off her boobs.  Seemed to weaken the program overall by over-using the easy, cheap thrills.

I'm intrigued by the topic and despite some eye-rolling over the cheesiness at times, I was compelled to keep watching.  Is that how guilty pleasures start?

The reviews are similar to my way of thinking.  One even calling it "ridiculously soapy".  So...you'll either like it or you won't.  But the beauty of Netflix streaming is you can watch one episode or even part of an episode and shut it off if it doesn't blow your skirt up.

I also rather dug some of the fashion in the series.  That makes me a bit soapy too I realize.

Watch the trailer below (which really tells you nothing, and the series doesn't have nearly as much artistry as the trailer implies...but...well...whatever.  Or you can watch it via this link.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Movie Review: Psycho

Alfred Hitchcock's, Psycho (1960) is a classic film, oft referenced.  I've seen plenty of clips but had not seen the entire film start to finish.

Starring Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins, this black and white psychological thriller has achieved cult classic status.

Marian (Leigh) is has motel trysts with her boyfriend and is chomping at the bit to get married but his excuse is, they don't have enough money.  So she embezzles some from her employer and hits the road to join her lover.  Along the way she stops at an off-the-beaten-path, deserted motel and things get really dicey after that.  Norman Bates runs the Bates motel...and he's got a few issues.

The film is rated R.  I have no idea why or how.  The MPAA rating system didn't come into being until 1968.  There is no swearing.  There is no nudity (although nudity is implied), there is violence but it is also implied and not shown explicitly.  There is psychological drama and creepiness, but have you ever watched Criminal Minds????  Janet Leigh is shown in her bra on occasion.  And, shock and gasp, Marian is having premarital sex.  Nope...don't get the R rating.  Probably a little creepy for kids though, ya know?

I can't really say I "enjoyed" it because creepy thrillers are not my thing.  But, for it's time, it is an incredible piece of work and like I said, a cult classic.  So I'm glad I saw it.

Oh...and you see Alfred Hitchcock's appearance either in the first scene or at the very beginning of the second scene of the movie.  Watch for his "Where's Waldo?" moment.  Watch the trailer below, or via this link.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Getting Back on Track

Yeah, I've been a slacker.  It is my intention to get back on track and start posting more reviews about my recent trips to Sweden, and then to Eugene, Oregon.  I've been playing catch up and have had some family health issues to deal with and just can't seem to catch my tail.

Hang in there with me.  "I'll be back".

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Saphires

The Saphires (2012) is categorized as a musical comedy drama.  Based on a true story of a group of Aboriginal singers in Australia, the film is full of Glee quality musical numbers from 60's soul.

Faced with poverty, and extreme racial prejudice, the girls must overcome barriers to hitting the big-time.  They bump into an unlikely mentor and manager and work out their personal and professional issues on the road.

I really enjoyed this film.  The comedy and drama were light-hearted, and the music utterly toe-tapping.

Watch the trailer below or via this link.



Saturday, September 6, 2014

Business Review: Wal-Mart Super Center in Yakima Washington

First off...don't even start with me if you're a Wal-Mart hater...those comments won't get printed.  I shop there and you'll just have to cope.

This review pertains to a specific Wal-Mart Supercenter in Yakima, Washington just off of Hwy 82 on Chestnut Avenue.

On our way to Seattle, we stopped there for water, to stretch our legs and to look for some cheap headphones hubby could take on the plane.

I've been in several Wal-Marts but this one was a surprise and a shock and not in a good way.  Despite being very busy, there are not nearly enough open cashier lanes and the lines were long and moved very slowly.  The store is disorganized and dirty.  The restrooms were ATROCIOUS.  I mean, they may as well have been Sani-huts.  They were filthy, sticky, sloppy, dirty, paper towels and toilet paper on the floor...gross.

Whoever manages this store needs a wake-up call and a visit from corporate.  The standard is not acceptable.